Why? Because writing is discovery process and I’m not sure I’ll like what I find there. But I’m feeling encouraged by Nightbirde who has been so real that she’s a complete inspiration.
I don’t want to spend all my time telling you all the hard parts of this year. It will make me feel depressed and you as well. But if I delete all of the hard, then you lose the context. Stories about light are stories of overcoming- and the light is that much more brilliant because of what came before it. The story I want to tell is that darkness loses its hold when light is present.
I’m the first to say that if you’re feeling darkness, that doesn’t mean that you must be doing something wrong. Sometimes, like a favorite song of mine, the darkness can come from up above, down below, or just comes flying at you from across the room. Why is it there? Where did it come from? When will it go away? I don’t know. What I DO know is that light is more powerful, and your experience with darkness will always be overcome by light. Always. Just like midnight will eventually turn into dawn, no matter how long the night feels to you or me. Dawn always comes.
I used to see challenges as things I had to problem solve my way through, interruptions from the real reason I was here on earth. “Let’s get this over with,” I used to think, “so I can get back to real life.” Now I see it as part of the reason I’m here. I couldn’t speed up the healing process by learning tricks and gadgets and distractors…I simply had to walk through the process each day. And here I am, many months later, stronger than before. I wonder how much of our suffering in life comes from not accepting our current reality. We play all kinds of games to try to smother our awareness of what is really happening, but somehow we end up causing more problems than we solve. Peace gradually settles on us as we recognize that this is the hand we are dealt, we accept that this is the reality as ours to live, and trust that God will walk with us through each day of it.
A few days ago I texted a friend who I found out later was having a really rough day. I shared with her these two quotes that had stuck with me recently.
Suffering is a gap. Like a wedge. It’s the gap between the world you want and the world you got.(Quoted by Stephanie Ingram, found on instagram.)
Just because you’re sad doesn’t mean you’re not grateful and you’re not hopeful…Sadness and grief and mourning and lamenting and crying and screaming and being angry- these are ways we honor what was lost…Sadness is the soul’s way of saying “THIS MATTERED!” I think grieving and feeling all the emotions you feel…I think its a holy work. And its scary to go down those dark roads but those feelings don’t leave you. You have to feel it. You can’t fake the rest of your life like nothing bad happened and whistle a happy tune all day. That’s not what it is to be human…You don’t have to feel guilty about. being sad…I used to believe if I was sad, it meant I wasn’t fighting hard enough or I wasn’t grateful enough, and that’s not true. Be sad and be grateful. And look at the twinkly lights and feel your feelings. It’s all real. The joy and the pain are all real and you don’t have to pick one or the other; life is beautiful or life is garbage. It’s kinda both sometimes. ~Nightbirde
I wonder why as people of faith we often think that grieving, sadness, and anger are not ok, when it’s part of our human experience. I have spent a year learning to feel my feelings- all the ones I wasn’t willing to acknowledge and let my gut feel instead. I’ve learned that it’s healthy to grieve when we have lost something or someone we love. It is healthy to cry, and to even acknowledge our anger. Those things are not incompatible with faith. I used to think it was unrighteous to yell at God, and then I did it. But I think He could handle it. I was telling him exactly how I felt and He listened to me. And then he helped me find my way through the anger to a more soothing place. I thought I shouldn’t feel so much fear because I was a woman of faith so I tried to push is down and ignore it…and yet it took me a long time to realize that God is the one who can help me overcome fear so acknowledging the fear is a big part of moving past it and overcoming it. I think we sometimes think God expects us to be more than human- and he does…eventually. But today I am VERY human- and I’m pretty darn sure that He knows that, and that all He expects of me is one small step today. And even if I trip doing that, or get stuck, or fall, or paralyzed or any number of things, He’ll still help me with the next part. And the next. He loves me no matter what, and is so merciful and compassionate- way more than I can possibly understand. His love is never-ending for me…and you.
Yesterday I felt like I broke down some walls about motherhood. It was another big victory. I can see now that for a long time- years- there has been a lot of fear in regards to motherhood and music. And in both, I started functioning with not my full self. It wasn’t intentional. I think I got scared of my desires with music and was afraid that I couldn’t be a good mom and pursue this growing passion in me. I thought they threatened each other- and yet I wasn’t willing to give up either one. Well that’s not totally true: I knew that if one thing had to get the short end of the stick, it was music. I was in a “pleaser/don’t screw it up” mode often, and I was afraid that I was failing at it all. It turned out that being MYSELF is where the joy and peace were waiting all along. I was trying to mother the way I was supposed to (and music too) and couldn’t figure out why it was feeling like motherhood was literally going to kill me. I resented the cost- to my body and spirit- and knew something needed to change, but I didn’t know how.
I love these little people deeply, but I through the last several years, I have struggled to enjoy much of my mothering. Part of it has to do with poor health for a long time, but it’s not just that. Yesterday I tried to access more of my excitement about being a mom. I asked a lot of “what matters”? as my mind sifted through laundry and dishes and kisses, and bandaids. I have known for a while that I’ve been doing too much with too much stress, but as I have been looking for a new normal, I’ve been baffled as I tried to sort out what matters. As I journaled, I started having big ideas about how to change the way things are currently running in our home, and got very excited about a new program I wanted to establish. It was big, fresh, and dynamic, and I felt excited in a way I hadn’t in a while. But as I stepped back and looked at it, I wondered if perhaps I was missing something. I asked myself “Could the regular things be just as special if I am present and open? Maybe no sweeping changes are needed. Maybe I just need to uncover my love for mothering that has been buried in fear, and find the joy in the normal, everyday things. It was simple, it was pivotal, and most of all, it was peaceful. It was the heaven-sent message I have kept getting for about two years- “Slow Down.” The peace, the joy- it’s there and available in each moment.
You know what I discovered? As I continued to ask myself what mattered, I realized that every little thing I choose to do from my mother heart matters! A kiss, here, a note there, a bed made there…it matters because it’s an act of love from me to them. Big things, small things- all of them matter. They don’t have more value if I rush around and do more of them, and then I’m burnt out and frustrated. They matter as I give what I have to offer that only I can give- because it is coming from my mother heart.
Here’s my 3 takeaways about motherhood that I have learned through my thoughts this week:
1- Bring all of me to mothering. I will feel settled and peaceful mothering when I do it Laura’s way, and with all my quirks, passions, personality and love. MY love is what they need- and that is enough.
2- Each small and simple thing matters- not just to get it done, but because it is a holy offering from my mother heart. Often only God will know, and that is enough. It changes my heart more than anyone else’s.
3- My work, like the big cathedrals in Europe, will not be finished in my lifetime, so pacing is important. Each day I have some to give and also need to nurture and refill myself. Both are important. (Have you read, “The Invisible Woman: When Only God Sees”? A great read for Mother’s Day if you haven’t read it. The cathedral reference is an idea I got from that book).
I am grateful to be back here in my little corner of the universe. It is good to be here. In the last few minutes I reviewed my last few posts. One in October 2021, another in May 2021. Not a lot going on here. But a lot going on in here. Inside of me, Jesus Christ has been working a mighty transformation. You probably won’t notice much of a difference, but to me is a big difference. I’m so grateful for Him. He has taught me so much this year. It would have been nice to experience it in a less painful and more comfortable way, but I’m learning that the pathway to Him usually includes the really hard stuff.
I’ve thought a lot this week about music. After quite a break, I’m toe-dipping back into music again. I’ve realized something: I will enjoy this blog more if I approach it like you’re watching over my shoulder. I show up here to think, to sing, to play, and honestly, it may be mostly for me. I’m ok with that now… because I have learned that probably, someone else in the world is thinking or feeling or needing the same thing as I do. Heavenly Father works through small and simple things- not big huge things- usually. I’m small and simple. I can’t do mighty miracles myself. But I wonder if the miracle He will work through me is that I can reach through this blog to someone that’s having a hard time and encourage, shine a light, offer a ray of hope, and help them in their pathway toward Christ- one person at a time. One thought at a time. One recording at a time. And perhaps that person that I will reach is me. Because as I share, invite, sing, write and play, put myself in His hands as an instrument, I will be coming closer to Christ.
God is good. Life is full of beauty. There is always ALWAYS hope. More thoughts soon…
Can you see it? The light, peeking through the darkness, promising that light is (still) more powerful? And the darkness must retreat as light is introduced?
I’m so grateful for light. Buoyant, steady, settled, contented, lovely light. I hate darkness- the kind that makes us feel discouraged, freaked out, down, and weary…that too, is part of our life experience here. But it’s not the whole story. And we don’t have to stay there in the dark, or out in the storm, all alone.
As I’ve worked with doctors to progress toward full physical recovery, I’ve been working with a counselor to help me in my mental recovery. I have been so grateful for her support, counsel, resources, and guidance that have been essential. I sure give professional counselors a lot of credit. But if I look back over the past several months, I can see a much more important figure guiding my recovery, both physical and mental. Overseeing the entire process, guiding me toward this or that answer as it was needed, and providing hope, strength, and comfort. And without Him, I surely would not have been able to make the progress I have. Jesus Christ, my Savior, has been by nearby through it all.
A few years ago, I was in the hospital bleeding, and my sweet and loving doctor who has a calm, reserved demeanor, was rattled. “What in the world is your body doing?” he asked, kindly. And he really didn’t know. It was quite a shock to feel like I had reached the edge of medical knowledge. Of course a few years, a few procedures and several tests later we did figure out what it was (so I wasn’t a complete anomaly!) but that was a few YEARS later. It wasn’t enough to rely on medicine to help me feel peace.
This year I’ve had some dark nights where I would try and try to use tools I’d been given from my counselor to find some peace, but there was no peace to be found. The wind and the waves were just too strong. Sooner or later (usually sooner!), I get myself all tangled up, and remember again that I don’t have the power to heal my own mind. It’s at those times that I’ve been reminded that I can’t rely on mental health tools to help me find peace.
A few nights ago, my son was scared. Tests coming up and make-up work from being sick were overwhelming him, and he couldn’t sleep. I made a suggestion about focusing his mind on Jesus Christ, and gave him an example. He quickly said, “Mom, that just doesn’t work for me.” I replied without hardly thinking- “It does work,” I said. “You may have to work at it to keep getting that muscle stronger, just like workouts strengthen muscles in your body, but it does work.”
Developing faith in Jesus Christ is like strengthening any muscle in our bodies. And it does work. A few years ago, I was at my parent’s house and my little brother asked me how many pushups I could do. “Um, none,” I said with confidence. I had no doubt that was true. He didn’t believe me, so I had to prove to him how pathetic my arm muscles really were. And…that was that embarrassing episode that let me to a new goal: 20 pushups.
I learned that if you can’t even do one pushup, trying to do a full pushup is basically unproductive. So I started doing half push-ups, which meant that I put a basketball under my stomach and only went down until I touched the basketball and then came back up. I learned to do 4 pushups that way. Unfortunately, my goal stalled out, and I didn’t really get back to it until a few months ago. This time I tried a different approach (using a work-out program) of doing push-ups on a park bench, so my body was inclined a little bit, and I worked up to being able to do 10 of those push-ups. Not impressive, but improved.
A few weeks ago, we surprised my husband and went to a rock climbing gym. This gym was no joke- definitely designed so that expert climbers would have their work cut out for them. But there were still several lower level challenges that we were excited to try. Because of my past filled with impressive arm strength (not!), I figured there wouldn’t be a lot that I could do successfully, but I figured I could at least keep up with my nine-year-old. That I could, and I followed him up several beginner runs. Then, just for the heck of it, I tried out a climb that I didn’t really think I could do. With quite a bit of effort, I finished the climb- and was so pleasantly surprised! My older boys, 12 and 13, were trying harder climbs, and I started trying some of them. Though I didn’t master the harder ones, I was able to go quite far, and was amazed at how much strength I had acquired through these simple workouts where I had worked up to 10 not-even-full push-ups!
Faith is like any other muscle. It needs strength training (praying, reading scriptures, thinking about Jesus Christ, focusing on Him, looking for the good and uplifting around us) and as we work at it, we find ourselves in moments where we would typically spiral into negative thought patterns, or in circumstances that are especially challenging, and we find ourselves surprisingly able to focus on Jesus Christ, and reach out for His help and peace when before we would not have been able to in a similar situation.
Is it hard to figure out where I’m going with this? Keep using those tools from counselors and positive resources, keep taking tylenol when you have a headache or resting when your body is tired. Eat chicken noodle soup when your gut feels angry. All those things are good and needed! But know that even in those things, our Savior is watching over you, and helping you, and supporting you. All these good things come from Him. He cares, and has not abandoned you to solve your problems yourself. Trust that He is the source of all healing and peace, and only the peace He can provide will be enough for any of us to weather the challenges of the future.
This is an excerpt from one of my favorite articles of all time. At the end it talks about the storm being calmed. I have experienced the storm calming as I come to the Savior, but I have also experienced the storm inside of me calming as I come to the Savior, even if the circumstances don’t change. Both are miracles.
“The scriptures speak of the “trial of faith” (Ether 12:6) through which we must pass, indicating that the faith-building process is not automatic. Instead, it is a learning process—a mandatory sequence for all who would inherit eternal life. Each step Peter took away from the ship was a trial of his faith; each step toward Jesus took him a step farther from his accustomed means of survival. And each step was a voluntary one; he was under no compulsion to leave the ship and respond to the Lord’s call to “Come.”
At one point Peter’s attention was drawn from Jesus, the object of his faith, to the boisterous wind and waves around him. In a moment of confusion, fear overpowered his faith, and Peter started to fall.
So like our lives! As we learn the gospel and develop our faith, we reach the point where we feel strong enough to leave the boat; we determine to stand free from worldly supports and voluntarily walk by faith through the tempest toward our Savior. Each step for us may be a trial. The waves around us are as real in their way as Peter’s waves were to him. And, like Peter, we may slip! We may feel the awful descent toward destruction and, in confused desperation, consider the safety of the ship.
But wait! Our efforts to meet the trials of our faith—our footsteps over life’s treacherous waters—have somehow reoriented us, and we reach out for safety, not to the boat, as we would have done in earlier times, but to the outstretched hand of the Savior. Hand grasps hand, and we are pulled to the Master of wind and water. No more is he seen vaguely through the storm; no more is his voice indistinct in the roar of the gale. Now we are home; now the trial is over.