Sunday, December 27, 2015

He Sees What I Don’t See


One of the biggest struggles that I have is not complaining, whining, and resisting my new life situation. It's hard because this isn't something that I can just forget about; it's in my face everyday. When I roll over in the morning, when I walk by the family photos in our home, when a child calls with a problem that dad would handle better, or when I'm handed the microphone to say something "light" at my son's wedding reception.  It hits me in surprising moments too, catching me unaware.  It's only natural to sigh... "If Scott were here, then..." But it's hard to leave it at that.

I used to get angry and frustrated a lot.  I used to cry and rant about what a stupid plan this was for my life, but honestly that got me nowwhere... It only caused me to spiral downward into an all-out-fit of despair and hopelessness.  For the most part, I have given that tactic up. (For the most part) It's way to emotionally draining and totally unproductive, but I still resist on a lesser level.  

Sometimes I wish that I wasn't here, that I didn't have to still do this alone.  It's hard not to look at other families and feel pangs of jealousy.  But those thoughts also take me nowhere but down.  The kicker is that I know that every time I allow myself to complain about my life, I am doing the equivalent of shooting myself in the foot.  

It lessens my faith.

It cripples my ability to act.

It pulls me from the spirit.

It destroys hope and replaces it with despair.

It is so easy to loose sight of what this trial can teach me and to focus on the pain involved in that lesson. I can choose to let grief cloud my vision.  I can let discouragement blind me to my own potential.  I can focus on my weakness and become paralyzed... or I can ask to see what God sees in me.

I believe that each one of us has a plan to fulfill in this life. I believe that God allows us to go through difficulties so we can prove ourselves... prove who we are and what we are capable of, not just to God, but to ourselves.  Those challenges can strengthen us... They can strengthen our confidence in the power He can give us to overcome these challenges.

Overcoming is hard work... It's tiring and sometimes I just feel like I want to quit. Sometimes I don't feel like I am strong enough, but when I think of the end game... When I go back to my understanding of the purpose of the plan, then I fall to my knees and desperately plead for extra help to see more clearly and to have the strength I need to keep pressing forward. 

It's there... I have felt it. Somedays I loose it... But on my knees I find it again. He is there to strengthen and help us through all of the difficulties, and He knows that is the best way for us to really develop a relationship with Him... and He knows that relationship is critical if we are to achieve our potential.

When I loose sight, I go back to the basics.  I go back to prayer and scripture study.  I go back to trusting God.  

No, I don't have a clear vision of the future.  None of us do.  That is also part of the plan and part of growing our faith, but I can have confidence that He sees it.  For now that can be enough.  I can choose to trust and put my faith in Him.  I can choose to improve that relationship by trying to be like Him.  As I do that, I feel that power reenter and the previous struggles become easier to bear.
Questions to Ponder:
  1. What potential does God see in you?
  2. What can your struggles teach you?

Friday, December 4, 2015

Battling the Dark

Some days I really work hard to fight the darkness.  The other morning was one of those days. 5:15 AM the alarm sounded. My early morning bible study class started in a hour, yet this dark forbidding blanket enveloped me.  I uttered a quick prayer as I rolled out of bed and my feet hit the cold tile bathroom floor.  "Please, Heavenly Father, I have to feel the spirit to teach... please... help the darkness to go away."  As I brushed my teeth and starred blankly into the mirror, I kept rehearsing that prayer in my mind. At that moment all I felt like doing was crying, but determined not to let the darkness control me, I kept moving forward.

After breakfast, morning prayers and scriptures with my two teens, I was in the car by 6:00.  "Please, help me today,”  I repeated as I drove down the dark unlit country road, still feeling that oppressive feeling. 

Is there something I have done to bring this darkness on?  
Why do I need to suffer through this again?  

These were the questions swirling through my mind during the drive. "Please, help me to feel the spirit.  Help me to teach today." I hustled into the church building to set up my class.  With a smile on my face, I greeted my first student.  The darkness miraculously left and I was able to teach. However, later at the store, I felt the darkness settle back in.  I sighed and just kept moving.

One of the regular cashiers, who knew about my husband’s death, noticed my expression and asked me how I was doing. I just couldn't help it, right there in the store, I broke down and cried.  The words just spilled out of my mouth, toppling over one another,  "This is just a really hard time of year for me..."

After 10 minutes of empathizing and a hug, I headed to my car. During the drive home, I cried, not just tears but gasping sobs.  Try as I might, I couldn't make myself stop.  The weight of the darkness was so oppressive that I literally wanted to crumble to the floor.

As I sobbed, I worked to put the groceries away and get ready for my morning service project.  The more I sobbed the more angry I got... not at God, or the people responsible for the accident, but at the darkness.  I was sick and tired of having this overwhelming, oppressive feeling come over me.  I was tired of being hounded and thwarted when I was trying to focus my life on doing good.

So I let the darkness have it! Right there in my house I screamed out to this dark unseen force that we bent on ruining my day.

"I don't care what you do... how hard you try... you are not going to win!  I am not listening to you!  In fact… I'm going to do more good today than you can imagine! You picked the wrong girl to mess with!”

I stood again in front of the mirror starring at a very different face.  The eyes were not darkened with sadness... they were are on fire with determination.

I cheerfully pitched in at the service project. Afterwards I met up with a former student. As I listened to him tell me about his recent struggles with feeling the darkness, I knew exactly what to say.  The words just flowed and my experience fit perfectly. The spirit was there.  We both felt it.  A smile crept on my face as I watched him leave. Not only was the darkness gone, but I felt incredible, amazing light!

It was all so clear to me now. I knew why the darkness had attacked me and tried to thwart the good I would do today, and I had won.

We don't like to think about the unseen forces of evil in this world, but they are real. They exist, and we have to face them. The darkness has power but not more than what we give it. It only wins when we give up and choose not to actively fight against it. 

There are time when we are lifted and protected, when we are cradled by the light, but there are also times when God in his wisdom pulls back and lets us feel the dark. Those times are temporary, and if we keep asking for help and moving forward, the light always returns and banishes the dark.  

God is there to help us fight our battles.  He will come, but he will also let us learn how to fight.  He gives us light and strength so that we can learn to be powerfully on His side.

Today was a temporary win.  The darkness will return, but each time I overcome it, I get stronger for the next encounter. God lets me grow in confidence and faith and bit by bit into the person He wants me to become.

Questions to Ponder:

1. How will you respond when you feel the dark?

2. What are the steps to overcome and feel the light again?

Monday, November 9, 2015

Avoiding The Trap


Sometimes we let Satan get the better of us. We listen to that wrong voice in our head and he wreaks all kinds of havoc.  He particularly loves to get issues started in families, and I played right into his hand.

This summer when my oldest son returned home from his mission, my family gathered together for a luncheon at my house after he spoke in church.  I was stressed about getting the food on the table because Brett, my husband's brother, had a long drive ahead with two little girls, and I had promised that we would be quick because I really wanted him to come over and eat with us.  Just as I was pulling food out of the oven, My dad called everyone into the living room.  They had moved my furniture and he was intent on having a family picture.  I listened to the little voice in my head, "Why is he doing that?  Brett needs to leave and you promised you would be quick. This is your house?  Why is he taking over?  He didn't even ask you. You don't want a family picture without Scott... "

Everything that had been joyful suddenly got squashed by those thoughts. I was frustrated and grumbled my objection to my mother.  She brushed off my concerns and told me to just go along with it. More voices, "Your mom doesn't even care how you feel.  No one understands."

With irritation showing I cooperated, apologizing profusely to my brother-in-law.  I was embarrassed. "Your dad wouldn't have done that if Scott were here."  But I took a deep breath, put food on the table and enjoyed the rest of the day.  My son was home after all, and it had been a long two years with him far, far away in Chile.  I was not going to let my dad or anyone else ruin my day... but the story was far from over.  The stage had simply been set for a much bigger drama to play out.  A drama that I didn't even see coming.

satan ploy
A few weeks later I got an text from my dad about the family reunion.  He wanted to do another family picture.  Apparently the one at my house was burry and he wanted to hire a professional photographer.  "NOOOOOO!  After everything that had just happened he wants to do another one! You don't want another family picture! Cooper won't be there (my other son, still in Ecuador on his mission). Scott won't be there.  You just have a broken family.  You don't want a picture to remind you that you are broken.  He will replace the old picture with Scott.  You don't want him to replace that picture. The old picture helps everyone remember.  Everyone is forgetting.  Everyone is moving on.  No one understands."  I didn't respond to the email, but the thoughts began to brew.  They became an underlying current in my days, a sliver under the skin that festered and when bumped caused more pain and hurt.

Talk started about creating a family t-shirt for the reunion.  Honestly, I didn't want to spend money on another t-shirt I wouldn't wear, I wasn't even excited about the reunion anymore.  I kept dreading the picture.  "You are only together for two days and you will spend at least half of a day getting ready for a picture.  You don't even want to be in the picture.  Maybe you will just break down cry and have to run away.  You will definitely break down crying.  Everyone will be mad that you are ruining the picture.  No on understands..." Then someone posted an idea for the t-shirt.  It had the family picture, the one taken against my will at my house, right in the middle.  That was the straw that broke the camel's back.  All of those feelings came flooding back on top of the new ones being systematically and methodically implanted in my brain. "No one understands you.  You need to write your parents and tell them that you don't want to be in the picture."  I wrote an email hoping that the vent would stop my hurting.

My daughter Rachel walked into the room and I vented to her too.

"Can you believe it.  They want us to do a picture at the family reunion?  We are only going to be there two days.  Everyone will waste all of their time getting ready and we won't even spend time together.  Cooper won't be in the picture, Dad won't be in the picture, and they want us to use the family picture we just took without dad in it!"

That was just the fuel my daughter needed to jump on board.  She picked up my phone and typed a response.  I didn't stop her.  Everything completely fell apart from there.  It was as if Satan had minions posed ready to feed negative thoughts to every person involved. Unkind things were said, people were offended and I felt worse and less understood than I had before. I tried to explain that Rachel's comments were fueled by our family's desire not to have a picture without Scott. I told them that I felt the same, but that only made things worse. I finally opted out of the text.  I was so hurt by the comments.  "See, no one understands you.  Not even your family understands."

I got a reply email from my parents.  They said they didn't even know what to say.  That wasn't what I wanted to hear.  I just wanted someone to say, "I'm sorry.  We had no idea that this would be so hard for you.  What can we do to help you?  Do you need to not do the picture?  We can wait until Cooper is home next year.  Maybe you will be ready then.  We can wait for you to be ready.  No one is going to push you to do something you aren't ready to do."  No one had said that.  I cried myself to sleep that night.

The next morning I woke to the same cloud.  I had to decide what to do now.  What a mess!  Was I going to keep fighting and stick to my guns? My mom sent me an email.  I scanned through it and only saw judgement.  I clicked it shut.  "You should just not go to the reunion.  They don't understand you anyway.  They need to apologize to you.  You are the one who lost a husband.  That definitely trumps a picture."  Then I took that path to completion in my mind... It was very, very dark. "That's only going to make things worse," I thought.  "How would I ever get back?  I don't like my family being mad at me.  I don't want that."

For the first time I exerted control over my thoughts.  I thought about it and I chose to ignore the voice to estrange myself.  I chose the light. "How do I fix this?" I reopened the email from my mom and read it with new eyes.  My parents weren't happy about me not being in the picture, but they respected my choice not to be in it.  

I had to choose.... taking the picture was going to be hard.  I had lots of feelings of anxiety and fear about how I would feel that day. But if I didn't take it, then next time would also be hard.  What was I going to do when one of my kids got married? "If you take the picture it will help heal things with your family... I will help you do it."  This voice was different than the first.  It wasn't pushing me to escalate things.  It wasn't rioting my emotions... it was calming them.  There was a feeling of peace in the idea that hadn't been present in any of the ideas before.  

I knew what I needed to do.  Now I just had to do it.  Apologies were made and we had an awesome time at the reunion.  Taking the picture wasn't even as close to as difficult as I had imagined.  Everything had been blown out of proportion in my mind.  I really do have a great and supportive family.  No wonder Satan wants to thwart that!  He wants me to feel isolated and he wants to create contention.

family reunion

As I have reflected on this experience, I have had eyes to see more than I did at first.  I recognized the three voices in my head that day.  One was from Satan, one was my own and one was the Spirit.

No matter what happens to us, no matter what trials come into our lives we are ultimately more than our thoughts, feelings and emotions. We are the SELECTORS of our feelings and emotions. That means that as we control and direct those thoughts and feelings we determine our destiny.  We become a product of what we choose to dwell on and what we choose to do with the external circumstances of our life.

Understanding that we have the power to choose our thoughts begins to give us the strength to resist the bad ones.  It also helps us to start to discern the evil ploys that Satan uses to try to get us to be paralyzed or to act in ways that will limit our happiness. 

Satan is subtle.  He is sneaky and he wants us to instinctively act on his suggestions. That is exactly what I did.  He used my grief to goad me into being offended.  He lied and told me that no one cared about me.  He isolated me and talked me into seeking outward validation instead of going to the true source for peace.  Those thoughts made me angry and pulled me from the Spirit.  He talked me into acting when my emotions were strong and raw and unfiltered.  

When Satan strikes, his attacks come on suddenly. They are stinging, mind-gripping unsettling thoughts. I have learned that Satan can use grief to pull me into selfish, inward thoughts. I did the wrong thing that day and Satan scored.  What I should have done was to take those bad feelings to the Lord.  Instead of turning to my family for reassurance and emotional help, if I would have prayed for help to deal with those feelings... if I would have asked for His grace to fill me, then I would have avoided all of the bad feelings and hurt that happened that day.  Relationships wouldn't have been injured and needed to be repaired. 

When I finally chose to go to the family reunion with the intent to strengthen family relationships then I  received more help to get through it.  I wasn't perfect at it, but I was enabled as I tried to act. If we go to the Lord in prayer and specifically ask for grace, and then find a way to positively act and give grace, His grace can begin to flow through us.  As the scriptures describe, we can receive, "grace for grace." We can get help to overcome those bad feelings.

I recently learned this strategy at a widows conference and I can't wait to purposefully test it out.  I have inadvertently done this before, and it worked really well, but I think if I do it consciously it can be so much more powerful. 

If we can learn to recognize Satan's ploys and then choose to go the opposite way 200%, we can teach those evil voices that their ploys won't work on us.  We can make their efforts backfire and that will limit their recurrence.

Just think about it for a minute... If Satan knows that his efforts will unleash a powerful force for good.  He may just choose to let the sleeping dog lie.  We can choose to just ignore the voice, but if we identify it and actively choose to fight him, I believe our result can be powerful.  I believe that he will stop his attacks sooner if they cause a response that thwarts his plan.

Satan knows my triggers.  He knows how to get me going, but if he repeatedly doesn't get a response, he backs off.  I know this from personal experience.  The beginning of a diet is always the hardest.  The beginning of an exercise program is filled with the desire to just skip today, but after repeated action, those voices begin to diminish and just fade away.  When they pop back in, it doesn't take near the effort to dismiss them.

The key then become the ability to recognize and discern that voice that pulls you inward.  Never act on that voice, and when it comes, commit to do an about face and run the other way.

I know God gives us power to overcome.  I feel it daily in my life.  It's amazing, it's enabling and it's worth every effort to get. It always flows when I turn outside of myself and try to do good.

I love this poem by Henry Van Dyke 

I hold it true that thoughts are things:
They're endowed with bodies, breath and wings;
And that we send them forth to fill 
The world with good results or ill.

That which we call our secret thought
Speeds forth to earth's remotest spot,
Leaving its blessings or its woes
Like tracks behind it as it goes.

We build our future, thought by thought
For good or ill, yet know it not.
Yet, so the universe was wrought.

Thought is another name for fate;
Choose, then, thy destiny and wait,
For love brings love and hate brings hate.

May we all sow seeds of love... even in our loss and grief, and may God fill you with His grace.

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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Regrets that Paralyze You


Regrets can paralyze you.  They can serve as roadblocks to keep you from moving forward.  They can snatch you, suck you back and spiral you down into grief. We all have regrets... it's simply part of living and part of making mistakes, but what we choose to do with those regrets or how we choose to come to terms with them either propels us forward or slams us back.

After my husband's death I dealt with regret on a level that I had previously never experienced.  There was so much that couldn't be undone, fixed or changed, so I was just left with all of the 'could have,' 'should have,' and 'would have' beens swirling around in my head.  

The accident was one of the biggest issues. I remember the conversation like it was yesterday... I had suggested that Scott take his plane on the trip with his dad.  For a long time, that really bothered me.  I felt responsible.  I wondered, "What if I had not suggested that, and he had just flown commercial? Would I still have my husband?"  A good friend pointed out to me one night, when I was crying on the phone about my regrets, that the accident would have simply happened the next time he flew.  As I thought about that, I realized that he was going to take the four kids and fly to Omaha for a Nebraska game the following weekend without me.  The depressurization of the plane played out in my mind with my husband and four children onboard.  My stomach sank at the thought of loosing my entire family.  My mind went back to the night before the accident and the quiet assurance that I had had about our family being aright even if something happened to Scott. (Before the Accident) It jumped forward to the phone call the broke the news and the words of peace and comfort that circulated in my head, "This was supposed to happen."  All of these things testified to me that this was not my fault and that it was part of a bigger plan that I could not yet see.

I was also tormented by the idea that Scott had missed or ignored the prompting to not get in that plane that night because he didn't want to disappoint me.  He knew I was making a special dinner and he didn't want to hurt me or make me mad by missing it.  The investigators questioned me, "Why was he in such a hurry to get home?  Did he have patients to see or something pressing?  Why didn't he just wait another day for the part?  What was so important that he needed to leave that night?"  They had no idea how their questions ignited my fears. As my heart sunk, I could only respond with the truth, "It was just me.  He wanted to get home to me."  Then the tears came as I explained about the dinner I had been making.  They didn't know what to say.  I could feel the uncomfortable silence on the other side of the phone.  I hadn't given them the information they needed, but they had confirmed my worst fear.  It was all my fault.  He got in that plane because of me.
I lived with that conversation for months, going back and forth in my mind between the idea that God had incorporated this tragedy into his great plan for our lives and the thought that I had been the cause of something so very wrong, something that would never be set right and something that would assuredly destroy us. This regret would resurface and cause my stomach to churn.  It would start me crying and make me doubt everything good that I had felt.  

Finally, I got an answer that gave me some relief.  About 4 months out, I attended a conference for young widows and widowers out in Utah where Chris Williams spoke about his pregnant wife and all but two of his children dying in a car accident caused by a drunk driver. His whole talk was touching, but as he described the night of the accident, his words hit me in a different way than anything else he had yet said.  He described how it had been a wonderful, fun evening together, and then he told of the feeling of peace and love for his family that came over him right before the impact that would take their lives. My mind went back to my experience and feeling those same feelings before the crash.  I listened more intently as he said, "There was no prompting to not get in the car that night.  No warning from the spirit came.  What happened, God allowed to happen for a greater purpose that I did not yet understand."  As he said those words, all of the weight of the regret I had carried fell from me like water running down a roof in a rain storm.  

I can't describe how I knew, but deep down the realization pierced me, "They didn't ignore a warning because of me.  It simply was not there."  I saw them laughing and talking about the fun weekend they had enjoyed together and the cars they had raced.  I knew that they had felt peace too, just like I had that night.  God had not intervened to stop what was going to take place, instead He brought us feelings of love for one another, comfort and reassurance.  He knew that this tragedy would hurt and cripple us, but he knew that it would change and refine us too.  He wanted us to gain everything we could learn from this  and so He didn't stop it.

I don't know what regrets and guilt plague your mind.  Sometimes there are things that we can go back and fix.  We can rectify those acts, apologize, make it better the best way we can, and then move forward.  But sometimes there are things that we cannot fix.  Sometimes there are things that we will never know and those can be the regrets that continue to haunt us and hold us back.

I can't answer those questions for you, I cannot bring you peace, but I can share with you how I found my peace.  It didn't come from the investigation or from people assuring me that my fears were unfounded.  It came from the spirit speaking peace to my mind.  The funny thing was, that is didn't happen when I was on my knees crying out to God to give me understanding.  The answers didn't come then, but my prayers were heard.  When the time was right and I was ready, I was placed in the path of people who shared their experiences with me.  My answers were not found in the words they said, but through them, I was touched on a deeper level and peace and understanding came to my heart.

Those are the answers that carry me.  Those are the ones I go back to when I start to fear and spiral down. I remember how I felt.  I reread what I wrote about those experiences and I feel it all again.  Answers can come, maybe not all of the answers we would like, but the ones that we need to move forward can come if we just pray and ask and then wait.  They come often when we don't expect, but if we put ourselves in a place where we can hear and feel those answers, they will come.

Don't live with your regrets.  Fix those things you can and pray for help to understand and feel peace about those that are beyond your control.  God wants to help us change and move forward.  He wants to give us those tender mercies and assurances that keep us going, but He can't if we won't hear and He can't if we aren't prepared.  That is what I make my focus now.  I try to be in a place where I can get those answers.  I am learning how to recognize them better and better.  

Does that make all of the pain go completely away? 

No, but it does help me to manage it.  It helps me to know that I am on the right path.  It helps me to know that there is a higher purpose in all of this and that gives me the drive to keep going and looking for ways to make Scott's death make a difference.  So that is part of the purpose that I have discovered. Yours may be completely different, but what ever it is, I encourage you to get the answers and peace that will help you let go of your regrets, find purpose and move forward.

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Sunday, October 18, 2015

Finding Joy among the Crashing Waves

The holidays are approaching and I watch everyone else filled with excitement and anticipation.  Scott loved the holidays and it was always such a happy time in our house, but I find now that I dread those days.  I have learned to live with all of the normal days of the year... I have had well over 1000 of those days to practice being without him, but this is only our 4th thanksgiving, our 4th Christmas, his 4th birthday, and our 4th wedding anniversary apart.  Four really isn't that much, and I think the lack of practice on these special days makes them all the harder.

Honestly, I am tired of being sad... tired of dreading the day and looking for distractions to make it go quicker... I am tired of faking a smile and tired of the triggers that make me well up with tears. I really truly want to be able to live and enjoy those days again.

My children are growing up and leaving, and already we are not all together on those days.  I suppose this loss is something everyone faces, even without death in the picture.  Children grow up and leave home to create their own families.  Change is constantly in motion in our lives like waves crashing on the shore. We often catch ourselves fearing the next wave to come.

I am reminded of our surfing lessons in Hawaii this summer.  As we were trying to paddle out with the waves crashing in, we were toppled and tossed off our our boards with each new waves.  With eyes stinging from the salt water, we would recover our boards and try to make up the lost distance before the next wave gathered strength.  It was a tiring, loosing battle until our instructor taught us to dive under the wave.  Instead of sitting up on the board and trying to fight our way over the wave, we simply laid flat on the board and bowed our heads to dive beneath it.

It was effortless to get to the other side of the wave this way. We avoided the churning and emerged smoothly on the other side.  So as the waves of change crash upon our lives, we can either fight miserably against them or we can learn to peaceably roll with them.

Maybe I am finally at the point where I am tired enough of being beaten up in the resistance that I am finally willing to embrace the process of change in my life.  Just as we bow our heads to go under the powerful crashing waves, I can bow to the power of He who creates these waves of change, and as I do that, I know that He can help me pass to the other side of them.

So what is holding me back?  As I think about it, it has to be fear.  Fear is that beast that always tries to paralyze me and prevent me from moving forward in faith.  It is what dampens my hope and kills my joy.

What do I fear?  

Unfulfilled expectations, more loss, being alone...

How do I combat those fears?  

There is only one way that I know to combat fear, and that is through prayer.  Through prayer, I can get the power to overcome those fears.  So tonight that is what I was doing.  Not formally on my knees, but pondering through out the evening and when I slipped into the tub tonight.  My mind went back to earlier today and a lesson formulated in my mind.

This afternoon, my daughter sang a solo in the all city choir.  In the audience I was trying to get the camera ready to video her portion of the song that was coming up.  I was fiddling with the settings, when I looked up towards her.  I found myself wishing that I had brought my glasses so that I could see her better, and then in the middle of that thought, superimposed upon it, came a clear voice... "Isn't she so beautiful?"

I stopped everything as tears welled in my mind.  "You're here!" I thought shaking my head slightly, "Of course I'm/you're here... I/You wouldn't miss this." It was if there were two voices thinking the same thing in my head. Then I was still and I just felt... felt the emotions flood me... the love that my husband had for his little girl filled me with such an alarming strength that I fought back more tears.

As I video taped her part, I just shared that moment with him... the two of us watching together... both soaking it in... and then he was gone.  The song was over and just as quick as it had come over me, it was gone.

After the performance, I told Rachel that her dad was there.  She smiled and said, "I know." So tonight I have been thinking about this and what I wrote earlier about special days being hard.

Why today?  Why did I feel that today?  

I sunk down in the tub in my darkened bathroom letting the water cover my ear to block out every sound but my breathing.  The realization came as I pondered those questions.

I get to be physically here and I get to enjoy all of these special moments with them.  Scott does not, but it's what he wants more than anything.  Together we watched her today, and I felt those emotions in him.  Today I wasn't thinking about him not being here.  I wasn't lamenting it.  Sadness was not blinding me, and it just happened... Maybe his ability to experience and be with us is contingent upon me not being sad and focusing on myself.  Maybe he depends on me to focus on the kids and the joy I can have with them.

This is a new thought for me.  It makes sense in my mind.  I know that for Scott to be with us and for us to feel him, we have to have the spirit with us.  It is absolutely critical. That is why we live the way we do.  It is why we have given up things that drive the spirit away and why we try not to argue or fight, but I had not pulled sadness into that category.  Maybe it's time now for me to understand this... maybe it's time for me to make that change and I needed to know why in order to have the power to do it.

If I choose to turn inward and be sad and dwell on what I do not have, then I block the spirit and I block my husband.  I miss out and he misses out.

I don't have much time left with my children... It's time that I stop missing out on the joy that I felt today.  I have a lot of big things coming up.  My son, Alex, is getting married this Christmas.  They are coming home for Thanksgiving and we are having it together with her family, Scott's birthday is the beginning of December and then the wedding is on our anniversary.  I can't miss this... I can't be sad and miss this... miss all of the joy my husband wants to experience with me and share with me.

Maybe if I view it this way, I will have the incentive to push those bad thoughts away and I will be able to be still and just feel. Maybe this is how I duck my head and dive under the wave.

That is what today and tonight taught me... now I just have to do what I believe to be true.  I have to act in faith and trust that the feelings will come and I will feel a great measure of joy this year.  This new revelation is exciting to me because I think I have somewhere to focus now and I feel like I can do this better this year.

So if you struggle on those special days because you have a loss that eats at your heart, choose to push away the sadness. Choose not to dwell on it and to be grateful. Choose to be still and to see the joy around you.  Open a place in your heart for the spirit to fill you.  You may not have a spouse on the other side of the veil, but you do have a Father in Heaven who loves you beyond description.  He wants us to find joy in this life and He wants to fill us with it, but He can't if we don't want to receive that gift.

If we are so focused in fear on the next wave to come, if we are bracing for the impact then we will miss the ease of the water flowing over us as we bow and dive beneath it.  Choose to bow.  Choose to trust your instructor and you will come out less beaten up on the other side.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Women Conference Inspirational Quotes

I loved, loved loved the General Women's Conference 
my daughter and I watched last night!

There were beautiful messages about the divine role of women, finding the divinity within us, the need to be virtuous, and how we as women can be better followers of Jesus Christ.  You can watch the conference in the link above, but I also wanted to share some of my favorite and inspiring quotes below.  Please feel free to share them, my blog, and a brand new website I created with other bloggers to help people cope with grief, heal and move forward.  You can find it at 

Sometimes when we are in difficult circumstances we don't see an happiness now or ahead. We can get trapped in darkness and blinded by fear. As we reach in faith and hope to a great power for help we can open our eyes to happiness not just at some future point, but right now. We become aware of the tender mercies in our lives and that gratitude brings us light.


"The divine nature within us ignites our desire to reach out to others and prompts us to act."  The knowledge of who we are forever changes us.  We can be gifted with His love for others and we can become changed for the better... to do more and feel more that we ever could alone.


There are times, especially at night, when the busyness of the day is gone and I am left to my thoughts, that I began to fear about the future. I wonder what will happen in my life now. So many of my hopes and dreams are gone and I am trying to replace them, but that can be hard to do when so much of the future is unknown and dependent upon things that I cannot control. In those moments it helps me to remember that someone knows me better than I know myself and He can see in me things that I cannot see. That is when I remember to pray. Those prayers are more heartfelt and pleading than any I have had before in my life. If I am still and I can set my fears aside, I can get a glimpse of what He sees.

"There is a divinity within you... You are a children of God, and because you are His child, He know who you can become. He knows your fears and your dreams. He relishes your potential. He waits for you to come to Him in prayer." 

That divinity that is within me and you allows us to rise above our situations as we seek a great power for help. I may feel weak and incapable and uncertain on my own, but when I reconnect myself with Him, then I can see that spark within me. It gets ignited and I feel that enabling power helping me to go on.


The power to do good flows from us and influences those around us when we seek to know how to 
use our light to do good. 

"We are the Lord's agents and we are always on His errand."

We have the power to share the light within us. When we understand who we are and we feel in our heart what He would have us do and then we act on those promptings more light flows into us... it can fill the wholes we have... it can change us and it can empower us to help fill others.


Monday, September 7, 2015

Fighting My Way to the Distant Light

I have missed blogging....  This morning I ran into a woman who recognized me.  She follows my blog and told me how much she appreciated reading it. She shed tears for me, and I realized how much I need to get back to writing because of the good it does not only me, but others.

This last spring I found myself busy teaching a teen early morning bible study class and working on a grief website.  Both have been worthwhile endeavors, but I found myself feeling very isolated.  A dark cloud seemed to settle on me. I kept working, kept pushing forward, but the darkness seemed so oppressive that I found myself often breaking down in tears.  I felt myself withdraw in self-protection mode.  I knew that I needed to reach out, but I was struggling so much, that I was afraid that I didn't have anything worthwhile to share or that if I tried, I would only end up in a puddle of tears.  Fear was paralyzingly me.

How could I help others when I couldn't help myself? 
I felt like a hypocrite.

The only light I could see was a distant hope that things would be easier when my oldest son returned from his mission.  I held onto that hope and looked to that distant light.

This summer there was a parting of the clouds when Alex came home, but as his departure time for college approached, I began to fear another difficult oppressive year. I knew that I had a lot of work to do to finish my grief website.  So many hours and resources had been expended to do this service project, and I began to doubt my ability to finish it.  I worried that my negative emotional state would return and be detrimental to my teaching and to my parenting. I feared being alone again.

The more I feared, the more paralyzed I became and the more the dark clouds began to surround me.  One evening while walking, I got into an argument with Alex... He went inside and I continued to walk in the dark.

It wasn't just dark outside, I felt it everywhere inside of me.  It consumed me, and I'm honestly glad that no one could hear the voices in my head.  I was sobbing when my son pulled up in his car and opened the passenger door. He told me to get in.  Desperately wanting to escape the way I was feeling, I climbed in and began to sob.

It amazes me the strength that my children have at times, and how wisdom comes to them that is beyond their years.  I heard my husband's voice in his counsel and I know he was directed by the spirit to understand my feelings.  We prayed together and through his words I felt the light again.  It renewed my focus.

I'm keeping my eyes on that light and I am feeling a renewal of strength.  Ideas are flowing again, the crippling feelings of loneliness have abated, and I can see the direction I need to move.  The fear is gone now that I am moving forward with FAITH.

I heard a story in a talk given by Whitney Clayton about a little girl who was the sole survivor of a plane crash with her family.

"Last January, seven-year-old Sailor Gutzler and her family were flying from Florida to Illinois in a private airplane. Sailor’s father was at the controls. Just after nightfall, the aircraft developed mechanical problems and crashed in the pitch-dark hills of Kentucky, upside down in very rough terrain. Everyone but Sailor died in the accident. Her wrist was broken in the crash. She suffered cuts and scrapes and had lost her shoes. The temperature was 38 degrees Fahrenheit -it was a cold, rainy Kentucky winter’s night--and Sailor was wearing only shorts, a T-shirt, and one sock. 

She cried out for her mother and father, but no one answered. Summoning every ounce of courage, she set off barefoot across the countryside in search of help, wading through creeks, crossing ditches, and braving blackberry briars. From the top of one small hill, Sailor spotted a light in the distance, about a mile away. Stumbling through the darkness and brush toward that light, she eventually arrived at the home of a kind man she had never met before who sprang to her care. Sailor was safe. She would soon be taken to a hospital and helped on her way to recovery. 

Sailor survived because she saw a light in the distance and fought her way to it--notwithstanding the wild countryside, the depth of the tragedy she faced, and the injuries she had sustained. It is hard to imagine how Sailor managed to do what she did that night. But what we do know is that she recognized in the light of that distant house a chance for rescue. There was hope. She took courage in the fact that no matter how bad things were, her rescue would be found in that light."

I was struck by Sailor's faith as she moved through the dark that night.  Certainly the light disappeared as she went down hills and trees obscured her view. Yet she chose to move in the direction she had last seen the light.  She chose to have faith that it was still there.

There have been periods for me when that light has been obscured. It's easy to become afraid and discouraged when you can't see the hope of a distant light. Some times I have stopped walking and I have sunk to the forest floor to cry, but it was only when I decided to move forward in faith that the light came back into view.

For me that light is my Savior, Jesus Christ.

When I choose to trust Him, 
walk in obedience to the truth He taught, 
and follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit, 
then the light comes back into view, 
and it fills me with hope and the power to keep walking. 

A teacher told of being caught in the worst snow storm she had ever seen. The road she was on was narrow and had no shoulder on which to pull over. She could not see very well and knew the cars behind her were dealing with the same situation. If she stopped, she knew they would not see her in time, so she kept creeping along. The only thing that gave her hope when she looked up ahead was a small, far off, distant patch of blue sky. A spot in the heavens, where the clouds had parted, gave her a clear view of blue. She realized that if she kept driving eventually she would make it out of the storm.

Somedays we get glimps of that blue sky and then the clouds may crowd over the light again. We have to remember that we saw the blue sky and it is still there, just obscured. As we keep moving forward in faith, we are gradually creeping out of that storm. When we remember there is always blue sky above the storm clouds, then we can find the strength to just keep going.

"In those moments, however dark or seemingly hopeless they may be, if we search for it, there will always be a spiritual light that beckons to us, giving us the hope of rescue and relief. That light shines from the Savior of all mankind, who is the Light of the World."- Clayton

Remembering that the light is there and knowing the source of the light gives me the strength and courage to move forward in faith despite my fears. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Let Patience Have Her Perfect Work

Life is about to change again... It has been so very wonderful to have my oldest son home these last two months.  He has grown and changed so much in the two years that he has been gone.  I honestly have just put everything on hold, and I have tried to suck the marrow out of every moment with him.  He reminds me so much of his dad, that I can almost hear his voice through my son.  On our nightly walks, I feel like I have a piece of my companion back, but sadly that is coming to an end.

Ironically, the lost of my husband and the two-year absence of my son has made his coming home all the more wonderful.  There has been more gratitude, more love, more kindness in our relationship than ever before.  I am grateful that this experience has taught me how to love and appreciate my family more.

I can honestly say, that sorrow and suffering does carve out a place in your heart to feel greater joy and love.  

Today, I read my Sandbar post from a few years ago.  Once again, I realized that God has provided me a place to rest and renew my strength for the upcoming swim. But as my oldest son's time to leave approaches, I have been feeling anxiety about getting back in the water.  As wonderful as it has been to have him home, I think it may be all the more painful to have him leave.

If I am not careful, I can overly focus on the pain.  I can begin to get swallowed up in the feeling that I have no choice but to be miserable and to resign myself to the suffering that is surely coming.

As I lay in bed the other night in the dark, a text message sounded on my phone.  My son, knowing that I was struggling, had sent me an article that he was reading in the other room.  I read it and found some counsel that helped me get my head around things again.

"My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into many afflictions: Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." James 1:2-4

My affliction isn't something that is going to go away.  It's something that I have to live with the rest of my life.  Good things happen, even joy at times, but my husband's absence is always a thought in the background that colors those experiences.  This affliction definitely is trying my faith.

But this scripture reminded me that there is a purpose in all of this.  It reminded me that this experience, hard as it is, is actually changing me for the better in a lot of ways.

I am learning patience... I am definitely not there yet, but I have seen progress.  I see glimmers of the wanting nothing and feeling whole in moments when my patience is winning.  That gives me hope in the process of change that I am going through.

God loves me enough to let me hurt sometimes because he know that the hurt will carve a place in my heart for something better... for me to be better.  More than anything, my character refinement is what matters most to Him.  He sees potential in me that I don't see.  He know what he needs me to be and do in the future, and He is working me through the process that will get me prepared for that future roll.

When answers to our prayers are delayed, sometimes even to the end of our mortal lives, we need to choose to commit to patience and trust the Lord, His plan for us, and His timing.

Committing to patience allow patience to better
 do her work with us.  

It allows the change to happen easier and with less pain. Committing to patience isn't just resigning ourselves to be miserable and stuck. It isn't a passive action.  It is demonstrating a inner strength, devotion and trust in God.

"Patience is not indifference. Actually, it means caring very much but being willing, nevertheless, to submit to the Lord and to what the scriptures call 'the process of time.'"  
- Neil A Maxwell

I have been feeling rather anxious about the up coming months without my son.  My anxiety was a manifestation of my lack of confidence in God's plan.  I guess I had resigned myself to the idea that God wanted me to suffer so I could learn, but I really didn't want to suffer.  I think in all of my focus on the pain, I forgot the real reason for suffering.

Suffering humbles us so we remember to turn to God and get help. 

God has promised that He will help us shoulder our burdens if we will but come to Him.  He has promised to bring us the relief of His peace even in the middle of our affliction.  But when I am fearing and feeling anxious, I am not coming to Him in faith.

"Patience is a willingness, in a sense, to watch the unfolding purposes of God with a sense of wonder and awe, rather than pacing up and down within the cell of our circumstances.  Put another way, too much anxious opening of the oven door and the cake falls instead of rising.  So it is with us.  If we are always selfishly taking our temperature to see if we are happy, we will not be."- Neil A Maxwell

I don't understand all of God's plan, but I do know that he loves me and wants my longterm happiness.  As I learn to accept that plan with confidence then I will be in a better place to receive His peace through it all.

So I will be daily reminding myself to let patience do her perfect work on me.  I will be reminding myself to ask God for help to shoulder my burdens.  I will be reminding myself to trust and look for the blessings in my life.

"And now I would that ye should be humble, and be submissive and gentle; easy to be entreated; full of patience and long-suffering; being temperate in all things; being diligent in keeping the commandments of God at all times; asking for whatsoever things ye stand in need, both spiritual and temporal; always returning thanks unto God for whatsoever things ye do receive...and may the peace of God rest upon you" - Alma 7:23, 27