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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

 

 

I can do without: Lessons from a one-legged crow

Mother nature can be a funny thing.

I don’t think it means to be smart or inspiring, even though it often is.

I mean, think about it.

The sun doesn’t set out each day to look absolutely breathtaking and I don’t think the mountains realize they’re being painted and hung in living rooms. Rivers don’t mean to be calming and the clouds don’t mean to form shapes. They simply obey the commands of time and of motion and of the hand of God, not pausing for a second or considering what it means.

And it’s inspiring somehow.

Today it wasn’t anything very beautiful that got me thinking–actually, it could be considered anything but. It was a one-legged crow.

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I was sitting at a traffic light on my way to work this morning with my window rolled down, thankful that the mornings are beginning to grow warmer. My thoughts were wandering when I spotted a crow, smaller than the rest of the pack on the other side of the street, who hopped across two lanes of traffic toward where my car sat. From a distance I noticed he was slower, and one of his wings worked unusually hard to somehow give him the balance he needed to make the short little jaunt. It wasn’t until he was an arm’s length away from my arm that was draped out my window that I realized he only had one leg.

So, something to know about me: I’m an animal lover. Sometimes to a fault. I make my husband brake for packs of pigeons that are a little slow to fly out of the way and if I had the space to house them all, I’d probably become a puppy hoarder or keep adorable rodents in my cupboards, each with personalized little beds. But alas, I am realistic–even when it comes to simply watching a one-legged crow struggle to eat his half-eaten carton of fries in the median and restraining myself from scooping him up and making him a crutch. I watched him, saddened a little, until I saw another crow *with both legs, might I add* swoop down beside him to share the treat. But the one-legged crow wouldn’t have it. He snatched up the box and hobbled away, finally breaking into flight after a few failed and clumsy attempts.

I can do without, I almost heard him whisper to me.

Touche, little crow, I almost said back.

We can all do without.

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How many times do we sit back and feel sorry for ourselves when our car breaks down and public transit is the only option for a few weeks? How many times do we complain when our friends always seem to have the bigger house, the better job, the more picture-perfect life? How often do we struggle with being the “less-attractive” one, the one with the speech impediment, the one without the college education, the one without the leg? And to each of us, there’s a whispered lesson from the spirit simply saying: You can do without.

I’m often inspired by stories of triumph by those who have lost a limb in a war and then go on to compete in the Olympics or by those who are entirely burned and stripped of their physical beauty, only to find love again and go on to be a motivational speaker and inspiration. But then, when it comes to the little, unfair disadvantages we sometimes freeze in place.

You have a learning disability. You’re diabetic. You grew up with just one parent. You’re twice divorced. You’re living paycheck to paycheck. There’s that one something that threatens to make you hobble and complain and slow down.

We’re all a one-legged crow.

Moses–one of the greatest prophets of all time–complained to God about a speech problem he had.

“O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue” Moses said in Exodus 4:10. But Heavenly Father assured Moses, and he’s assuring us every day, that despite a speech problem–despite any problem or hindrance or setback– “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

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I’m grateful for little reminders in nature and in life that testify to God’s law. I’m grateful for one-legged crows whose wings grow stronger and whose one remaining leg takes compensates for the lack of the other, lifting off in flight, proving that it simply takes determination.

And it only takes His strength.

I’m grateful that his grace is sufficient–and because of that, I can do without a lot.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

 

It’s your turn to rise again: A letter to a sinner

I thought of you today.

It’s a day before Easter Sunday and I was finally able to see “Son of God” in theaters. A fitting time, if you ask me.

Throughout the movie I tended to focus on a particular person: The sinner.

Judas, who betrayed Jesus all for a handful of coins and ended his life because of the shame of it. Peter, who denied Christ three times and couldn’t even bear to sit at the foot of the cross because of his shame. The woman caught in the act of adultery, who cried at Christ’s feet and expected nothing except a stone.

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The woman in the crowd who reached out to simply touch the hem of His garment–hoping that it would simply make her clean again. The pharisees, who within their doubt and corrupted laws, hammered nails through the purest hands that ever came to earth and then fell to their knees when the skies went dark and they realized they had killed the Messiah. Thomas, who doubted that Jesus would rise, and then fell in a guilty heap at the master’s feet when he saw for himself the holes in His hands.

The sinner is also you. Me. The man next to me who I’ve never met.

We often talk about Christ and his atonement and we praise faithful acts of John and Matthew while also scoffing at the fear of Peter. We shake our heads at the Pharisees who refuse to believe. We wonder how Thomas could doubt.

But then– ahhh yes. We come to a point in our lives when it hits us harder than usual that we too have sinned. That we too have slipped so far away. That we–just like Peter or the adulterous woman or the tax collector within the temple–have messed up horribly.

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Sometimes that realization and the shame of what we’ve done is enough to keep us away from the foot of the cross. Sometimes our sins seem “so dark” or so beyond recovery that, like Peter, we decide to step back. That might entail skipping church every sunday morning. Maybe it means we stop praying. Sometimes we decide we’re too far gone and we let other mindsets or beliefs take the seat of what once was reserved just for Him. Then there are the times when we decide to put our scriptures in a drawer that never really gets opened again.

Sometimes we just stop believing altogether.

I write this to you, Sinner, because I’m a sinner too. And maybe, just maybe, this is more for me than it is for you today. Maybe not. But either way, I write this because I think that as humans we have the habit of seeing the beauty in the gospel and the faithfulness and power in others while telling ourselves beneath muttered breaths that we’re no good. That we’re lost. That we don’t fit in with the mold. That we’ll never be up to par. That Christ is beyond disappointed with us.

And I think that when we buy into that thinking, we step so far back that we trick ourselves into thinking that Christ was the one that stepped back first.

This painting was my Dad’s favorite.

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While he was hospitalized during the last month of his life before coming home to hospice, this painting was hanging on the wall opposite of his bed, and I would catch him staring at it often, amidst the muffled beeps of machines and the chatter of visitors. The one time I asked about the picture he told me that it’s his favorite because he feels like he’s the man in the picture. No matter what I’ve done or how bad I’ve messed up in the past, he said, Jesus will welcome me home with open arms and say ‘Well done’.

I wish, especially this Easter, that you’ll remember the same thing my Dad did.

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I don’t know what kind of mistakes you’ve made. You might be a teenager who slipped up in a relationship and didn’t quite wait for marriage. Maybe you’re a victim of something that made you feel less than what you are. Maybe you’re overcoming an addiction or have spent the last fifteen years convincing yourself that church isn’t a place for you. Or maybe–I’m actually quite certain–you’re a sinner just like me who sometimes pushes Christ away when all He really wants to do is give a hug and show us the escape. We’re forgiven.

Christ came for the sinner. Not for the perfect. That’s my cue that we can let him into our damaged, fragile, beaten and bruised hearts. We can let him see into those dark shadows of our minds and those painful remnants of the past. He can see our scarred hands and tear-filled eyes and he can see all of our second, third, fourth, fifth chances and all the times we fell short. We can rise again out of the ashes and still be confident that he loves us. Each and every time.

Let him rescue you, fellow sinner.

Let him be your Savior.

 

The four simple truths that matter most: And why we often forget them

My favorite teachers are three and a half feet tall.

They snort when they laugh, they get sticky hands when they eat suckers, and they hoard the crayons when they draw pictures.

My favorite teachers have barely filled in their school shoes, they still wear bows in their braids, and they dream of being astronauts, doctors, and missionaries in different countries.

They come in the shape of my nieces and nephews–and also my primary kids.

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Primary is a class we teach every sunday at church–and for the past year I’ve seen the same group of kids go from pre-school to Kindergarten. And from barely talking *because they’re playing the shy card* to barely letting me get a word in edgewise.

They’ve been my pseudo-children in a sense–and they’ve been some of my greatest teachers.

It really hit me yesterday how much they’ve grown in front of my very eyes, reminding me every week of why we’re here on earth, what we’re meant to do, and who we’re called to be like. Back to the basics, they teach me. Keep life simple.

And simplicity can be so hard.

Yesterday was one of those *Wow, I’m learning more from these kids than they are from me* days. I have those days a lot. But yesterday was something out of the ordinary, really.

 

I came to church straight from a work meeting, and I was frazzled beyond belief. Is there even enough hours in the day? I’m not convinced quite yet that 24 are enough. My mind was nowhere where it should have been, but I quickly rushed to class and tried to get in the mindset of the lesson.

We were teaching about the holy spirit. As we talked, the kids, one by one, all wanted to share stories. That’s not an uncommon thing really–but these stories seemed uncommon. Uncommonly simple and profound all at the same time. With these stories I was reminded of four simple things that I think we ALL tend to forget as soon as we grow out of our size four shoes, stop coloring out of the lines and no longer consider Spider Man our greatest hero.

It was good to get a reminder.

Kindness matters. 

David–one of the boys in my class– reminded me of a motto that I’ve always tried to live by. He told a story of a little boy in his kindergarten class who isn’t very nice. He says rude things to people and kind of likes to be alone. One day at recess the boy was coloring outside and the breeze whisked away a couple of his pages. Without even thinking David scrambled after them and retrieved the papers, bringing them back to the boy and letting him know that a good trick is to keep the loose papers under his foot while he’s drawing so they won’t blow away. I asked David why he helped the little boy out when he’s been nothing but mean to him. “Because it doesn’t matter how he is,” he responded matter-of-factly. “I’m supposed to be kind.”

How often do we forget kindness? We live in a society and a world where many believe that kindness is something to be earned, deserved, or given if the mood is right. But kindness–in its simplest and truest form–is actually running after those runaway papers in the wind simply because that’s what Christ would do.

Prayer works.

After David’s story, Kali’s hand shot up. It wasn’t about kindness, she prefaced, but prayer. Her dad had recently traveled to Mexico and when he came back from the trip he had given her a charm bracelet with beautiful stones. Well one day, she explained, the bracelet went missing and she couldn’t find it anywhere. She searched and searched and searched and finally she fell on her knees and prayed that she would PLEASE find that pretty bracelet from her Dad. After saying amen she had a feeling to check under the stairs. And there it was. Does Heavenly Father care about your bracelet? I asked. “Probably not,” she shrugged. “But he cares about me.”

Did you think to pray?

Count your blessings–then share them.

I sometimes forget this one and I bet you do too. Count your blessings, we hear. Count your blessing, Name them one by one, we sing. But what good is hoarding the blessings and not sharing them? As I watch these kids I’m reminded of the importance of sharing every piece of everything. They don’t hesitate to tell the new kid in class about Jesus. They don’t hesitate to share their jelly beans or share how to spell the word Heaven on the chalk board. They go to school each day and share with their teachers what they did at church, not even giving a second thought about how it may be perceived. They share the good news of everything that comes their way. Why don’t we?

“A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle” is one of my favorite quotes. And as I observe my class I often see a class full of blazing candles–all flaming like torches as they seek out wicks that have dried out.

Follow where others try to lead.

We’re a society aimed toward being revolutionary. Changing the world. Discovering new planets, changing the way politics operate, or being top in sales at our firm. And that’s perfectly okay to aim high. But whatever happened to the virtue of following? In the attempts to forge a new path I think it can be easy to forget that we’ve had many saints, prophets–even the Savior himself– pave the way already. We’ve had pioneers walk miles to reach a common place of rest, hearts all turned toward the same Zion. We’ve had prophets teach the same stories and generations of family members instill the same traditions and morals. We have so many heroes to emulate. “She wants to be just like you,” I’ve had mothers say to me when talking about their kids in my class. They never say, “She hopes to be way better than you”.

There’s so much fear nowadays in mediocrity and not enough desire to uphold the things that generations before us fought for.

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I could honestly go on and on about the things I’ve learned from these kids. But the simple things are my favorite. And the older I get the more I need to be reminded of the basics. The simple things that keep families together and the beggars with change in their pockets. It’s the simple things that were once preached on mountain tops and etched in stone and written by hand on parchment only to be passed down to us. It’s the simple things that turn us from a hardened, bustling, distracted adult into a child again– fresh from Heaven, and at the Savior’s feet. The beauty in the gospel–and in life– lies in its simplicity.

In Matthew 18:3 Jesus said, “…Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven.”
The Kingdom of Heaven is simple. It really, really is.
And I’m grateful to all my three-foot something giants for showing me that.
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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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(card my sister gave to my Mom today)

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

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

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. 

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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 left Christianity because of the people”

“I left Christianity because of the people.”

The words hurt my heart yesterday as I chatted with a good friend of mine. We were discussing religion. God. People. Mainstream Christianity. Topics that went hand in hand with some e-mails I sifted through while I sat on my break. One email in particular stuck out to me and I shared it with him.

I won’t quote it word for word or tell you who wrote this email (Totally not my style). And I hate giving attention to negativity–but this one, in turn, made me seek for the positive. *That’s “worth-sharing” material in my book*

The long winded email elaborately stated that I’m not a Christian because I don’t read the Bible. He told me Mormons go to Hell. It stated that I’m confused and hurting over the loss of a parent because I’m not a Christian and God isn’t on my side. BUT, *they kindly interjected* if I confess my sins and look for a different church, THEN I’ll be saved.

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When I read this yesterday, I couldn’t help but share some of it with my friend. And that’s when he told me, straight out, “I left Christianity because of the people.”

Now, bear in mind, my friend *We’ll call him Dan* is probably one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. He’s hilarious. He talks about his wife as if she’s made of gold. He works hard every single day. And without saying it, he certainly shows that he believes that kindness matters. So this was a side of Dan I hadn’t seen before as we discussed religion. I never knew that he used to be an active church member, in love with the word of God and over-scheduled with church events. I never knew that people–like the one who sent me that email–taught him a whole different lesson about Christianity.

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So–how could I NOT write about it??

Sitting there with Dan and hearing his story, I rewinded five years back to before I joined the LDS church.

I was what you would call a church floater for a time, bouncing around from one non-denominational church to another, joining different congregations and getting baptized into several different fonts. I floated–never really finding answers to all of my questions–yet settling down in a Pentecostal church until I was 18 and *had* to leave. I just couldn’t stay anymore. It wasn’t anything personal–it was just I really needed to find truth and answers to my nagging questions. Needless to say, through a friend, two missionaries, and 7 sleepless nights reading an old copy of The Book of Mormon, I found the light I’d been craving all along.

Now, five years later, one BYU-Idaho education later, a hundred missionary opportunities later, a dozen temple trips later–I don’t hesitate to still call myself a Christian. Oh–and I sure don’t let dust collect on my Bible either.

I am a Mormon and I am Christian. 

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I strive to be the kind of Christian that people like Dan feel comfortable talking to. The kind of Christian who doesn’t cut into this story and tell him to get his hiney back to church or he’ll face hellfire. The kind of Christian who has about five gay friends who *know* I’m Mormon and actually love it. The kind of Christian who goes to church because it’s a hospital for the sick, not a temple of the proud. The kind of Christian who shares a testimony of Christ simply because I *love* people–not because I love how much I know.

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I strive to be the kind of Christian who continues to adore people of varying faiths and different cultures–enjoying the unique perspectives and different acts of love and worship. I strive to be the kind of Christian who puts kindness before “being right” and love before condemnation. I strive to be the kind of Christian who doesn’t throw scripture in someone’s face, yelling out random verses to prove I’m a “scriptorian”, but to embrace scripture and try to live it to the best of my ability. I strive to be like so many of you reading this now–of all different faiths and backgrounds–who simply have it nailed on the head on how to love, how to serve, and how to emulate the Savior’s example.

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Yes, you choose to be offended. You can read a talk about that right here.

BUT you can also choose to be offensive. To be brash. To be hurtful. To use your status as a Christian to raise yourself up above everyone else and look down with haughty eyes. You can choose. (There’s a talk about that too! Right here)

Don’t be the reason someone leaves Christianity. Don’t be the reason someone feels like the outcast in your world.

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Instead, choose to be more like Him every day.

I found that when I choose that, I can honestly set aside pride and the need to be “right” or “heard”, and in turn–more people will listen to what I believe and even if they don’t believe the same thing–well, at least they feel God’s love in the process.

Because LOVE is what being a Christian is all about.

THAT, you might say, is my religion.