It’s Time To Encase Your Jagged Pill With JOY

The Hurt

He is so still. Snuggled up to him in bed, I gently put my hand on his back and wait. I wait to feel him inhale and exhale to make sure he is still alive. He is. My heart is broken for my husband who had been unwell for so long. He was 33, in the prime of life and working as an R&D scientist, when an experiment at work went wrong, leaving him in constant, unsolvable, untreatable, unbelievable pain.

Friends watched our two kids so I could take him to see specialists all over creation, hoping to find some kind of relief for him. Now three years later, not one of those twenty-two doctors, quasi-doctors, or pseudo-doctors has been able to help.

The amazing thing is he hasn’t complained. Not a peep. Ever. He can’t drink water, eat food, sit up straight, stand up straight, bend over, or walk without some level of discomfort. Every morning, I know when he’s waking up because he lets out a sharp gust of breath, telling me the pain woke up too, also ready for a new day. It is his constant companion.

When it first happened, I was doing the best I could to take care of our two kids (neither was in school yet), handle all the responsibilities of the home (including what I would definitely consider the “man chores”), and keep him alive. My own emotional pain increased as I watched him go from a fit, endurance cyclist to an emaciated shadow of himself. I was often overcome with worry, grief, and what-ifs. One of the stealthier what-ifs quietly hovered around the thought of becoming a widow. Months went by like this. He still wasn’t any better, and I was becoming threadbare.

I found myself falling in and out of anger. I was angry that this had happened. I was impatient for God to answer our prayers and just heal him already. Please?? Then I became despondent as more time passed and I realized that this might not just be a short-term detour. This might be the tour.

The Call

And then a phone rang. Would it be possible for me to meet with Bishop on Wednesday? Of course. Not being dullest knife in the drawer, I knew a new calling was waiting. What I had not expected was to be called as the Gospel Doctrine teacher. I can understand why most people aren’t thrilled about receiving a relatively intense calling during an already difficult time. It can seem overwhelming when there is already too much to stress out about. But, despite what was going on in my life, I immediately accepted. I would not allow doubt to sit down and order an appetizer.

It was the best thing that could have happened.

First, here’s what the calling does not do: It doesn’t allow my husband to eat homemade chicken pot pie—his favorite food in all of creation. It doesn’t decrease his pain in any form or fashion. It doesn’t keep my children from constantly squabbling. It doesn’t take me on dates because my husband couldn’t leave the house, even as birthdays and anniversaries came and went. It doesn’t do the dishes.

Here’s what it does: It takes my jagged pill of adversity and encases it in peace. I choose to take the work God wants me to do and do my real, actual, bona fide best. I throw myself headfirst into the scriptures to prepare each lesson. I shut off Netflix, put my fiction books in a stack to the side, ponder rather than rock out when I exercise, read from the manual, read the scriptures, read other sources, and don’t stop until I am satisfied with the result. I channel my best mental and spiritual energy into understanding the doctrine well enough to teach it clearly and to try to teach it in a way that makes those particular points of doctrine important, necessary, and beautiful.

And The Rest

My spirit is fed and energized as I work to prepare my lessons. I find I have fresh strength straight off the vine to put one foot in front of the other, to do the dishes for the 27th time this week, to be the tree my two little squirrels need to climb up, to be resilient enough to suspend my own emotional needs that my husband has become incapable of meeting, to handle coming home and finding him fighting off unconsciousness on the floor. Three years into this plot twist and his health issue has remained unchanged. I, however, have not.

Does this mean I have overcome my part in this story of adversity? I don’t know. Maybe that is the wrong question to ask. The verb often paired with trial, adversity, etc. is “overcome.” With “over,” there is an intrinsic and implicit understanding that the way is up. And after quite some time living with this gut punch, I have noticed that the view from where I am now standing is considerably different from the view from where I started. This adversity has changed my altitude. Up.

As an avid couch-sitting mountain climber (there’s not a Mt. Everest documentary on Netflix or YouTube that I haven’t seen), I know that high-peak climbers have to spend time within certain elevations to acclimatize their bodies before continuing up to areas that require greater strength, stamina, and skill. At first, I felt like my husband’s health challenge was surely a Mt. Everest-y trial for our family. But as my altitude began to change, my perspective also increased, and I saw that this was only one feature on a larger mountain still. This adversity is a skills course intentionally placed in the path and designed to help me and my family acquire, increase, and improve skills we need to survive the conditions ahead.

Like with real climbers, resting and acclimatizing are essential to making spiritual gains. Paradoxically, as I work to magnify my calling, my spirit rests. In the Old Testament, entering into “God’s rest” was synonymous with being in the presence of God. And being in the presence of God happens physically (more or less) by showing up on His doorstep at the temple to do temple work. It also happens when what I’m working on invites the Holy Ghost to come in without knocking.  When I need His presence—His rest—the most so I can keep going, He mercifully gives me the spiritual work to find it. I find it in synthesizing scriptures, I find it in preparing for my calling, I find it in service to others, I find it in playing the hymns on the piano, I find it in sharing clippings of my testimony on Facebook for all the digital world to read, I find it in strengthening someone else through kind words, I find it in temple work, family history work, and my family’s history-making work. This work—His work—brings me rest because through it I am sanctified, quickened, and healed.

Today is the day to encase your jagged pill with joy. Not just any kind of joy, but the joy of Christ. The joy of Christ is found in the emulation of him. Take your burden and wrap it with service, love, acts and words of kindness, staying true to the light in you by keeping the commandments you know the best you can, offering forgiveness, surrendering grudges, putting an arm around the lonely, praying for your friends, praying for people you can’t stand, verbalizing your gratitude for someone to that someone, strengthen the faith of another by filling an unmet need. The burden is still there, but you can no longer taste it. You taste the juicy sweetness of the fruits of the Spirit. You collect a crate of joy fruit for yourself and everyone in your life. This fruit will sustain you on your journey as you ascend the mountain of the Lord.

I know that I will find His rest someday at the very top of the mountain and stay there in His presence forever. Come with me.

 

6 Ways Our Family is Preparing to Be Sealed in the Temple

I’ve been to 4 temples before and only ever been on the outside. But the temple had a HUGE influence as to why I first started investigating the church. Every time I waited outside of a temple I always felt like I could hear the Spirit whispering to me and each time His message grew louder and louder. All I could think of was “if it is this powerful and I’m only waiting outside, I can only imagine how incredible it will be if I ever get to go inside.”

Years after my first experience like this at a temple, I made the choice to get baptized. After my baptism, I was given the gift of the Holy Ghost. Since I received the gift of the Holy Ghost that whisper has now transformed into a melody that seems to be playing in my mind all day long. Sometimes I feel like I could sing it at the top of my lungs, and other times it is a soft humming. I know my Savior wants me to come be with Him again and I know by getting sealed in the Temple I can.

What will make my sealing so special is that I will get to experience it with not only my husband but with my two daughters as well. We are all going to go through this sacred experience together and we are preparing as a family for the day that we will all be able to become closer to our Heavenly Father. These are some ways we are preparing:

1)Prayer. During our daily family prayer, we ask our Heavenly Father to help us be prepared for our day to be sealed.

2)Scripture study. We read the scriptures slowly and we take time to discuss what it means to be sealed.

3)Journaling. I write in my journal when I am concerned and I ask questions when I am curious.

4)Strengthening faith and testimony through learning. I am learning more about personal testimonies through church books which is then helping me build my own testimony.

5)Improving through repentance. I can recognize my faults better now and repentance is gradually becoming less difficult.

6)Visiting the temple grounds together. Above all, my favorite way to prepare to enter the temple is by visiting the temple grounds as a family and feeling the Spirit there.

It amazes me how excited my two girls get just by seeing the tip of Angel Moroni when we drive around Gilbert. Every time we go to the temple it is as if they have never seen it before. The Spirit they feel and the things they notice leave perfect memories carved into my heart. Those moments are what help me know that the temple truly is His home here on earth. Flowers become more colorful, the sun shines brighter, and the bond between us becomes undeniable. The only word you can use to describe it is LOVE.

I want to be sealed in the temple because I want my family to grow closer together while we build testimonies individually. I want our love to be strong enough to conquer anything influenced by hate and I want our faith to be more valuable than facts. I know that trust in my Savior is more powerful than any vaccine to any illness and I know if I follow His commandments I can have all those blessings and more. So I will play this beautiful melody on repeat every day from now until my family and I walk out of the temple sealed together for all eternity.

When My Husband Is Away for His Calling

Every parent of littles knows what the hours between 3:30 and bedtime look like. Kids start to get tired, stir crazy and hungry. Often Mom does too. Patience wears thin and tantrums become more and more frequent. Believe me, no one sings “I’m So Glad When Daddy Comes Home” more enthusiastically than Yours Truly. I look forward so much to having a reinforcement, someone to help with the most hectic stage of the day – dinner, clean-up, and tuck-ins for three children under five.

Shortly after we moved into our current ward, my husband received a calling that requires a lot of him. Often he will be gone two nights a week for meetings and visits, Saturday mornings doing service (like moving someone or painting or yard work) and Sunday mornings for meetings before church. He serves willingly and enthusiastically, without a sign of complaint.

For most of our first year here I was pregnant with our third child. The pregnancy was a challenging one.  I experienced intense and constant morning sickness which was coupled with some complications that put me on modified bed rest. 700 miles from the nearest family member and still new and without close friends, I felt like I had no support system other than my husband. I desperately needed his help and support in the evenings when he came home from work. I was unable to be up and about cooking and cleaning very much, which meant a whole lot of chaos in our house with two constant mess-makers.

During this period, it really felt like a sacrifice to support my husband in fulfilling his calling. I knew our family would be blessed through his service, but I murmured in my heart. Because he was still new in his job and working later, our evening family time window on such nights was very small. He would often come home, eat dinner with us, and leave straight from the table to fulfill his responsibilities. With a grim smile I would send him off and then face the bedtime circus solo – feeling nauseous, exhausted and resentful.

I did not complain verbally, but I sure murmured in my heart. I remembered Sariah and how she sometimes gets shamed in Sunday School lessons for murmuring about the things Lehi was called by God to do. I felt like now I could understand where she was coming from. I was feeling resentful over some evening and weekend hours without my main squeeze. She, on the other hand, left her home, belongings, relatives and everything she knew to journey into the desert with her family. Then she watched her sons leave for Jerusalem, knowing they were risking their lives and might never return. Her husband was a prophet, but he was also human. Surely he had made mistakes and bad judgement calls in the past. How tempting it must have been to her to question his judgement in that situation and to murmur at him fulfilling his calling in the way he understood he needed to.

I recall one evening after our daughter was born, my husband had left after dinner to attend to his calling. I felt discouraged that the kids had only seen him for 30 minutes that day. I was lonely and desperate for adult conversation with my best friend. Our newborn was crying inconsolably and the other two would not fall asleep and kept calling to me and crying from their beds. Everyone was crying. Everybody needed me. And I felt that there was none of Me left to give.

After I managed to get the baby calmed down and the other two finally fell asleep, I went into our bedroom and sunk into the armchair in a totally exhausted state. My thoughts wandered towards my husband’s calling and I felt resentment begin to bubble inside me. The Holy Ghost interrupted my thoughts and I saw the situation clearly, perhaps for the first time. I had always known it was a blessing to serve. But the Spirit made it clear to me that night that in fulfilling his duties to God, my husband was also fulfilling his duties to us.

Having a husband who is away fulfilling his calling does not mean I have a husband who does not love me or care about our family and our needs. It means I have a husband who is keeping his covenants.

Having a husband who is gone to administer a blessing to someone means that I am married to a man who can call down the powers of heaven to bless me and my children. He is worthy to exercise the priesthood.

Having a husband who is away at a service project means that I have a companion who loves to serve the Lord and his fellow men and who will likewise serve our family with every chance he gets.

Having a husband who fulfills his duty to the Lord means that I have a husband who feels deeply the call of duty and will always strive to protect and provide for us.

That evening, when I was feeling so drained and spent, the Lord opened my eyes. I realized that underneath all the exhaustion of raising a young family, I am so deeply grateful to have a husband who serves God and others faithfully. His character, obedience, and commitment bless our family on a daily basis.

Of course, there have been occasions when I told my husband that I was the ward member who needed him most that night, and he rearranged his appointments to stay home and minister to me. The stake president and his counselors have made sure I know to communicate to him when I need him to put his calling on hold. I have done so when I have felt the need. But on the evenings when he does take off after dinner, I now strive to remember what the Spirit spoke so clearly to me that night. I have a new perspective on his service and on the opportunity I have to be a “helpmeet” in helping him meet his responsibilities to serve others.

I know he will hold a number of different callings in the future, as will I. Whether he is gone for a campout, service project, meeting or home teaching, I hope to retain the gratitude I have felt to have a husband who serves. And I hope he will extend the same patience towards me when I am the one who is called away to serve.

 

 

 

Parenting When You Have Absolutely Nothing To Give

Recently I had the worst two weeks of my entire life. Yes, I’m being vague. No, I’m not going to tell you what’s been going on. It’s personal and private and It’s going to stay that way. BUT, suffice it to say I had literally NOTHING to give to my kids this past couple of weeks. Can you relate? Have you ever been so consumed with something that you are utterly and completely emotionally, physically, and mentally drained and you have no energy whatsoever to devote to parenting at all? I’m sure most of us has felt this way at some point. Or maybe for you it was sickness, surgery, depression, anxiety, “morning” sickness all day long while you have a toddler to take care of, or some other trial that makes parenting totally impossible. The fact is, sometimes parenting when you have absolutely nothing to give is a reality.

So how do you get through it? How do you parent when you have absolutely nothing to give?

Like nothing. At all.

You pray.

I prayed hard. Harder than I have in my life. Sometimes for specific things, and sometimes for nothing more than “help me.” Just send your pleas for help out into the cosmos. It can be extremely therapeutic, and sometimes brings a little bit of a sense of peace.

You ask (beg?) for help.

I went WAY out of my comfort zone to rely on some of the people who offered me help. Of course people always say, “let me know if I can help you with anything!” and you appreciate the sentiment, but know they are just as busy and frazzled as you are so you never take them up on it. Well, this time I did. Many times. I got my in-laws to baby sit more times than was reasonable, I asked a friend to watch my kids for WAY longer than was typical so I could go to the temple, and I asked someone I usually wouldn’t have asked to take care of the kiddos while I did something completely selfish and just for me. But these things honestly helped me survive the past two weeks. I couldn’t have done it without them.

You talk to someone.

I was lamenting the fact that I needed SOMEONE to confide in, even though I don’t really have any friends that are THAT kind of friends. Don’t get me wrong, I have a ton of really good friends who I hold dear. But I never call them to vent or anything and I just didn’t want to call any of them up out of the blue to dump on them the deepest emotions of my heart. But that’s exactly what I needed to do. So I called up a friend and vented to her the deepest emotions of my heart. She, of course didn’t mind at all and was totally supportive and it turned out to be incredibly cathartic.

You take a break from life.

It’s OK to take it easy. To let a few things go. I didn’t go to all of church, even though I could (should?) have. I didn’t blog at all. I didn’t really do any of the normal stuff I do. I just couldn’t even. And that’s OK. I couldn’t give my kids much attanetion, but they had fun playing at friends’ houses. They were taken care of. It was all OK.

You throw yourself into whatever you can actually stand doing.

Anyone who knows me, knows I ain’t no domestic goddess. I hate to clean and my house is often a mess. Well, not this week. It’s the cleanest it’s ever been. My mind is so consumed with painful thoughts that all I can do is clean. It’s a menial task that doesn’t require me to use the few functioning brain cells I have left. It gives me purpose and keeps me busy. It gives me something to think about that doesn’t make me crazy. So my closet is organized, old clothes are at Goodwill, the dishes are done, the laundry is folded, and the counters are spotless. For once.

You slowly try to go back to normal.

A few days later I started to write. I decided I was ready to do something that always brings me joy, and I finally had the brain functioning to write without being completely distracted. Hopefully I will be able to do more and more, and have more energy and brainpower to give my kids.

Know that kids are resilient.

They’re not just resilient, but I really think they need less from us than we think sometimes. The older kids have been just fine microwaving leftovers for lunch. It’s OK if I’m not the fun mom entertaining them all the time. They can be bored enough to think up their own games. Netflix is not the devil. If they spend a little too much time with technology right now it’s not the end of the world. They can survive this too.

Most of this article focuses on how to survive a bad week, not how to be a great parent when you’re having a bad week. That’s because when you have nothing left to give, it’s OK to give less. It’s OK for your Best Parenting Self to take a back seat to Survival Mode Self. Your kids won’t die, your friends who help you out won’t hate you, and you can nurture yourself for a bit while you slowly get back to normal. You can do this. If I can, you can too.