Sunday, February 11, 2018

What Your Spouse Wants You to Know About Valentine's Day--Thinking Outside the Heart-Shaped Box

In college, my best friend and I always called it Singles Awareness Day, laughing at how hard it was to watch happy couples floating around on clouds of chocolate, balloons, and roses every year.  How could we have known how boring red roses can get after a few years of true love?  If you're tired of the same old thing, here are a few ideas to make Valentine's Day fun and romantic again.

Husbands--Preparation Shows Love

It's sad but true: Valentine's Day was, in fact, invented by a greeting card company so they could sell more stuff, and it's easy to fell cynical and get in the habit of jumping through hoops just so your wife won't feel sad or neglected.  But instead of sighing over the how the price of flowers and movie tickets go up every year, ask yourself: Why do you celebrate Valentine's Day at all?  You're not trying to stay out of the doghouse--you're trying to have fun with your favorite person and strengthen your relationship with her. 

Get proactive about your gifts and the date you plan.  Your wife will feel treasured when you put in advance time and planning to do something special, and you'll be surprised how much more fun it is than just following your February 14 formula.  Talk to her about what she would like, and then be creative.

The basic concept behind a great gift or date is to remember great memories together or to make new memories, Gabby Turner from The Dating Divas explains.    Did you share a special night under the stars?  Go to and order a print of that night, from that location.  If you met at a Jazz game, surprise her with tickets.  Get a hood ornament from the make and model of your car that died on the honeymoon, and turn it into a key ring.  Organize old photos of your dating years into a scrapbook.  Frame your wedding certificate.  Take her to the temple for sealings and then to her favorite restaurant. 

"Some of our most popular things are the Year of Dates Kit... and Love Letter of the Month prompts," Turner says of her website, which focuses on making fun dating easy for married couples.  These gifts keep giving all year long as they help you have fun together and strengthen the relationship.  A coupon book is another great option for the woman who has it all. 

Still stumped?  There's no shame in doing a little research!  A half hour of searching and a half hour of preparation willl avail you of some of the most fun you've ever had together.  Remember, advance planning is where most guys fumble.  Don't become a statistic.

Wives--Take the Pressure Off

If you've never been disappointed on Valentine's Day, I don't believe you exist.  This year, give your husband (and yourself) the gift of a carefree night together by communicating clearly and helping with planning. 

You may think you're communicating clearly when you say, "Whatever you think will be fine," but this is the stuff husbands' nightmares are made of.  If you really do love a dozen red roses, tell him so.  if you'd love for him to put his woodworking skills to work, tell him exactly what you'd like him to make.  Husbands hate hints almost as much as they hate the cold shoulder on February 15, so cut the guy some slack and say exactly what you mean. 

You've likely seen more romantic comedies than your husband would care to count.  Be careful not to try and fit him into that box.

If it's your turn to plan the date this year, ditch the dinner reservations and surprise your husband with something more up his alley.  "What constitutes a good gift or a good time depends on love language and family of origin traditions," says Mark Clayton, a licensed clinical social worker specializing in marriage and family counseling.  You want to try and think outside of your box but inside of your spouse's box." 

A beautifully crafted, themed date complete with color-coordinated gift wrapping and decor may be what you'd hope he'd do for you--but he's hoping you'll plan a fun game for the bedroom instead.  Again, there are a million resources online ranging from super easy to more adventurous.  Shake it up and make it fun for both of you.

Couples--Celebrate Your Way

Remember, Valentine's Day is all about connecting with the one you love, so ditch the Hollywood version and infuse it with all the fun and personality you share as a couple.  You might find it's your favorite holiday after all.

Originally posted on on February 9, 2018 under my pseudonym, Kari Monet.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

4 Ways to Help when a Loved One is Depressed

I seem to be between battles in this lifelong war with depression, thanks be to God, which gives me the time and energy to help other fighters.  In a strange role-reversal, I have often lately found myself the caretaker of one who for years has looked after me.  Often I’ve had to call to mind what she has done for me, so I can do it for her.

I thought you might like a few pointers, and I even made up an awesome mnemonic device to help you remember these steps. (Yes, I’m very pleased with myself.)  PLAN!

P is for Pray

Prayer has been my lifeline through years of this illness, but maybe not in the way you’d think.  When you’re depressed, it can be difficult to feel the Spirit or receive any comfort—even when investing the time to study, pray and worship.  Still, I have come out of these years with a burning testimony that prayer works. 

When I'm in danger of drowning in despair, I call on my primary caretakers to pray for me; it always makes a difference.  My burden gets lighter, or I get stronger, or I see evidence of the Lord’s love.  Almost immediately.  Take the time to pray faithfully over your loved one who is struggling.  Pray specifically for blessings sought on his or her behalf.  During the day when you are reminded of the struggle, instead of worrying, take just a moment to pray in your heart. 

L is for Listen

Some of the greatest healing comes when someone is willing to sit and listen without judgement.  Hold your loved one and ask questions.  Allow them, even encourage them to cry—thinking of tears as a cleansing agent, a way for pain to exit the body so your loved one feels lighter.

Listening to someone dealing with depression can be confusing sometimes, because our logic is often skewed by our feelings.  Resist the temptation to correct thinking that you see as clouded judgement.  There are times for advice, but we all listen better when we feel we’ve really been heard.  Save it for when your loved one has the strength to hear and take counsel.

A is for Advocate

When the time is right, be an advocate for your loved one by helping her find the next step in her healing process.  Know what helps her individually and help her to do it.  Know what helps others and when she’s stuck, get her moving in that direction.  This takes research, talking, listening, thinking, counseling, watching and especially praying.  And then comes the pushing.  Depression can cloud our judgement and impair our ability to act—which often stymies even the best intentions for progress; so if you have earned the trust of someone who’s been struggling, be a strong voice for the next step.  Help them call a therapist.  Point out flawed thinking, especially as regards their own worth and value.  Help them find the right medication.  Get out and exercise with them.  They will thank you for it, right after they finish whining. 

N is for New Thinking

In most relationships, the more you put in, the more you get out.  In other words, you may be accustomed to seeing real results every time you invest in a person you love.  However, if you’re the primary caretaker of someone struggling with depression—that is, if you are the person closest to them—you may feel a sense of hopelessness and futility when even your best efforts can’t get so much as a smile.

Think long-game here.  It’s extremely important to be able to give as much as you can and trust God with the rest.  Sometimes you won’t see any immediate results, but that doesn’t mean your efforts are wasted.  Your goal is not to change circumstances anymore, but simply to be there and give support.  Start measuring success by how much love and effort you’ve invested.  At the end of the day, give yourself a pat on the back just for being fully present and helping as much as you can.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

As Elder Holland famously taught,

“Don’t assume you can fix everything, but fix what you can.  If those are only small victories, be grateful for them and be patient.  Dozens of times in the scriptures, the Lord commands someone to ‘stand still’ or ‘be still’—and wait.  Patiently enduring some things is part of our mortal education.”

God bless you patient spouses, siblings, parents and friends.  As I said, I’m new to this caretaking business, but I’ve watched my loved ones master the art over years and years of patient loving care.  They have, perhaps, saved my life.  They have definitely made it worthwhile.  God bless you for being there and sharing the burden.  

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

I Make the Living Worthwhile--Part II

Hello, friends.  I feel like every time I write, I'm full of an awesome new plan for my life and telling you all about how great it's going to be...then I forget to share how it actually turns out--and come back months later with my NEW new plan.

So just by way of an update--and also an acknowledgement of all the great excuses I have for not writing--here's my life in just a few words.

Having the kids in school has been heavenly.  I know, I must either be crazy now or I was crazy to home school for four years.  The truth is halfway between, I suspect.  I'm just a little crazy all the time.  Happier, now, though, and so I suspect that I wasn't quite cut out for it after all.  No regrets, of course, we all learned so much and in a way I think it was meant to be.  But I'm glad to have my house to myself now, and six glorious hours of quiet every day.

I have less free time than I thought I would, which will come as no surprise to those of you who told me so.  I am busy with housework and helping loved ones for most of the day, leaving a little bit left over for my own fun projects.  My home is prettier and better-organized than it was four months ago.  I spend more time in the temple, more time exercising, and yes, more time reading and napping.  And I've been investing a lot more time in my writing--just not here, but I'll tell you all about it when I have something to tell. 

Also, my latest antidepressant is doing a good job.  Not perfect, of course, but I'm in better shape mentally than I've been in a very long time.  I'll forever be grateful for the amazing care of my therapist, doctor, and especially my loved ones.

I hope you, too, have someone to watch over you in times of trouble.  Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

He Makes the Living, I Make the Living Worthwhile

Yesterday ALL my kids went to school ALL day for the first time ever.  And I know I'm supposed to say it was bittersweet, so, okay, there was the tiniest twinge of a pang.  It lasted approximately three seconds.

And then I did a happy dance.  Guys!  This is a whole new life for me!  I have never, NEVER spent more than an hour or two alone in my whole life, and now I have potentially SIX every single day. My introverted little heart just can't stop singing.

It has been a long summer.  A long life, come to think of it, and particularly the last fifteen years since I first clocked in as a stay-at-home mom.  There have been diapers. There has been drama. There has been depression. And thanks to the grace of God, there has been a boatload of joy as well.

But honestly? I am delighted to be starting a new chapter of mothering.

I'm not exactly sure about my plan.  As you read this, I am celebrating by binge-watching whatever people binge-watch these days and eating copious amounts of good chocolate.  But don't worry, that kind of behavior won't last long.  Eventually I will transition into sitting by the pool and reading.  I am taking a long-deserved break.

(If indeed this version of stay-at-home-mommying turns out to be a break.  I have my doubts.)

I have seriously thought about going out and getting a job or continuing my education right away.  I have a some dreams that are brewing, dreams that have been on the back burner many years while I have focused on the kids.  And I wouldn't have it any other way.  They and TJ are the real dream.  So yes, I can feel the pull to get out in the world now that I have a little more freedom.  But for now I'm going to let those dreams brew a little longer while I enjoy success at this job I've been doing for so long.

Don't get me wrong, we are so far, so good.  None of the kids seem to be considering a life of crime, so I think my life's work has yielded good results.

But I have felt underwater for most of the time I've been mothering. While I've been raising kids, an enormous amount of homemaking and self-care has gone completely untouched, and I'm pretty stoked to try my hand at it.  I want to balance our budget.  I want to paint our ugly walls.  I want to plant roses to give to friends.  I want to do more yoga.

I even plan on trying out the previously unheard-of arts of dusting and window washing.  And maybe I'll figure out the mystery of why our dishwasher makes things dirtier instead of cleaner.

My dream is to cultivate a happy family.  My dream is to have a home where the Proclamation on the Family is a way of life.  I want to make this place a respite from the world when my kids are tired from their battles.  I want my husband to find good food and happy faces here.  I want to be a listening ear, a messenger of love, a supporter of dreams, a fighter for freedom.  I want to be healthy enough myself, well-cared for enough myself, to overflow with nurture for the ones around me.

Is this to say that women should always stay home?  Nope.  It's not even to say that I'll be here for long.  But maybe I will.  Even without the kids at home during the day, I think I might still be more valuable here than anywhere else.

Yesterday being the first day, I ignored previous plans to veg out in favor of getting the house in shape and walking the dog.  Then my brother dropped in and we had a nice, long heart-to-heart. Then, more housework, and as it was almost time to pick up the kids, I forced myself to read and nap for about an hour.  So, mostly work.

But when I picked the kids up, I felt like a whole different mommy.  I had dinner prepped already, so I sat around and listened to Eliza and Ezra chat about their first day of high school.  I saved Eliza's life by driving her to get some jandals to replace the ones the dog had eaten.  I read to them after dinner.

Counting the time I spent taking care of the kids before and after school yesterday, I still worked a seven-hour day.  Add five hours of housework and I still worked a twelve-hour day.  But I was more relaxed and happy than I've been in a long time.  That mysterious back pain of mine almost disappeared.  And those hours of silence recharged me and gave me a sincere enthusiasm for time with my kids I haven't felt in a long time.

Today I'm aiming for more play and less work, because I'm pretty sure a happy mama is the best gift I can give my family.  Three cheers for a husband who makes the living so I can make the living worthwhile!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Christ Has Boundaries

Is "boundaries" a buzz word this year, or have I been hiding under a rock my whole life?   I never even heard the word before last year when my world exploded.  But it turns out that a lack of boundaries can make your world explode.  Haha!  So I'm learning now.  It's uphill work: imposing boundaries typically makes me feel un-Christlike because I've internalized some ideas about the Savior that aren't quite right.   The best antidote I have found to this unhealthy sense of shame is a study of Christ's life and teachings.

What are Boundaries?
Simply stated, my boundaries define my own knowledge of who I am and what kind of treatment I will accept within a relationship.  Boundaries do not dictate others' actions, but guide my own in providing safety for myself when others fail to show respect.

Within a relationship we issue invitations to interact in ways that work for us.  When our loved ones can respect our boundaries and help us feel healthy and safe within the relationship, those boundaries can move in a little.  When they refuse to respect those boundaries, the boundary moves out to provide protection.

Boundaries often get the bad rap of killing intimacy, while really it is the fertilizer that grows closeness.  For example, say my best friend knows that trust is a basic principle for me within a relationship.  I let her know that it's important she doesn't share anything confidential with others.  If she honors that need and can keep a secret, I feel safe letting her see more and more of me, hence the boundary moves in toward greater closeness.  If she chooses not to honor that boundary, it moves out and I no longer feel safe sharing personal things with her.  I find a safe place in the relationship either way.  The quality of the relationship, the closeness and intimacy are determined by both members knowing and respecting each other's boundaries.  

Does Christ Have Boundaries?
In Christ's mortal ministry, he demonstrated boundaries in his daily life and taught them in precept. Christ knew who he was and did not allow others to define him.  Christ knew his personal mission on the earth did not extend in every direction, and so focused his efforts where he knew they should be.
Christ took time to rest physically, ate when he was hungry, and took time to be alone when he was tired or heartsick.  Christ didn't comply with unreasonable demands.

Christ's teachings are replete with these principles, too.  I would copy Matthew 18 word for word here, but for the sake of brevity, consider these (and read the rest as soon as you can!)

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!
Wherefore if they hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire.
My translation?  Relationships are important, but only insofar as they promote our health, happiness, and progression back to Heavenly Father's presence.  

The ultimate example of Christ's boundaries is that he has decreed only those who love him will enter into his presence.  This very simple concept is the basis for a healthy life for us as well.

There is a little devil on every covenant woman's shoulder, telling her to be "Christlike" whenever she starts to establish boundaries.  Search the scriptures carefully and see Christ for who he really is, not who he is painted to be.  True disciples of Christ must emulate his example in kindness towards themselves before they can ever minister to anyone else.

If you desire to be a blessing in the lives of those around you, start by becoming the happy, loved woman God created you to be.  Only from a full heart can flow those acts of genuine kindness and those principles of truth that will lift the world each day.  Only from healthy relationships founded on Christ's teachings can come the light we are commanded to shine.

I had a very tender experience recently as the Lord set about to teach me what boundaries are about. I had felt some pressure to let down a boundary in order to see family members who have recently hurt me very much, had held firm to protect myself (yay!) and had felt immediately guilty about it (boo!) I took my problem to the Lord and he asked me if I would ever force my 10-year-old self to participate in a family gathering with people who had been mean to her and most likely would do so again.  My mind recoiled at the thought of forcing a child to be with people who make her uncomfortable, and the Lord told me, "that's how I feel about you."  I felt a flood of peace and love from the Savior, and perhaps just as important, for myself.

That honest, kind, nurturing love toward myself has been a lifetime in coming.  It swells when I listen carefully to my own feelings and honor them as I would a tender child.  Because I am safe and loved, I have a lot more love and tenderness to share with those around me.  But I must resist the impulse to say that is the whole point--that kind of martyr attitude hurts after awhile.  While the ability to minister to others certainly increases with a true sense of self, the point for me is that I can feel the love of my Heavenly Father.

Christ did and does have boundaries.  He provided them for us not to keep us out, but to draw us ever farther in toward the center of his love by making us more like him.  As we allow his love to refine us and feel it burn more brightly, we will guard that light from the winds around us so that those who want to, can draw closer and feel it, too.

PS:  After you've read Matthew 18 (for real), you should really take a look at this article, which details many instances of the Lord showing a healthy sense of his boundaries.  It greatly influenced my progress and helped me to write this post!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Choosing to See

What I Had to do Before I Could See Christ in My Troubled Past   

Since the family pictures have fled with all their cheer and beauty to Instagram lately, this blog has experienced a bit of an existential crisis.  Why did I write here and why did you read here?  Do I continue my ruminations on what pain means to a woman of faith?  I guess part of the reason I've been silent lately is because my story has expanded from the lonely battle of depression to the wider war of family dysfunction--and I don't know how much of that you need or even want to know.

But I'm still here and the major theme of pain through the lense of faith persists in my life.  I assume it persists in yours as well, or you would not be brave enough to keep coming back.

And so as long as this soapbox of mine continues to bear my weight, you will still see me here, whining just as little as I can, but mostly sharing my hope of a better world to come.  This blog is a love song to my perfect Savior, and so...I write.

.     .     .

If you've missed the basic outline of my last eighteen months, and just so you can have some context, here it is.  My brother admitted to a major pornography addiction, left his wife, and left the church. My parents separated, then divorced.  My dysfunctional relationship with Dad has painfully exploded into complete rupture.  The counseling I've resorted to in order to help me cope has sometimes been a cocoon of validation and support, but more frequently a brutally painful opening and scrubbing of old wounds so that they can heal properly.  And the past year has been very physically painful as I've battled chronic pain and tension in my neck and shoulders, which no amount of medication, yoga, exercise, massage, chiropractic care, or physical therapy seems able to touch.

There is a lot of good news, though.  I've won a lot of battles with anxiety and depression this year because of all the great therapy, medication, and especially love and support from family and friends. My kids have thrived in their new Montessori School, alleviating my responsibility to home school them and also the guilt that I would have struggled with if they didn't love their school.  My relationships with TJ, the kids, my mom and my siblings have grown in intimacy and joy--more, I think, than they ever could have without these struggles to pull us together.  I spend hours and hours every week connecting with my loved ones as we do everything from Muppet movies to serious discussions about our feelings and our lives.  The adults in my family have given me the most important validation, counsel, feedback, and support, despite my excellent professional counselor.  And I'm learning to make friends for the first time since college, fighting my way out of the self-imposed isolation and loneliness depression often brings.  Girl friends!  Thanks for loving me even though I have no social skills.

.     .     .

I suppose the best news of all is what you hoped it would be.  My testimony of Jesus Christ becomes brighter and more hopeful as time passes and I learn more fully what he has done and continues to do for me.

As I said, I've had to revisit some very painful facts about my childhood, and there have been some very dark times when I've wondered where God was when I was suffering so much.  Those who enjoyed relatively healthy childhoods will struggle to understand this, but examining my past has brought home the painful reality that I'm not sure God loves me--and the closer my therapist has helped/forced me to look at the painful circumstances of my childhood, the more this wound has hurt. It's not the age-old philosophic debate, if God existed he would not allow so much pain in this world. It's worse than that: He does exist and He is full of love, but he doesn't love me--or I would have felt his love during that dark time.  

One of the most painful and lingering effects of childhood abuse is that it can be difficult and even impossible to believe in a loving Heavenly Father.  Feeling unloved and unlovable is also a classic symptom of depression.  And this can rec havoc on our faith.  It's a pretty awful irony--those of us who feel unloved by parents will also struggle to feel God's love.

I listened to a podcast recently featuring Deborah Pegues, who wrote "Forgive, Let Go, and Live," and identified so much with her story.  My heart especially resonated with what she said about facing the fact that God has allowed our suffering.

"First of all, you understand that everything that has happened in your life--this is a hard one--God saw it before it happened.  He saw it before it happened and He saw it while it was happening.  And He could've stopped it.  That has been a big pill to swallow.  God saw that.  He could've stopped it.  So it must gonna be something that's gonna work together for my good ultimately...I'm gonna grow.  Something good is gonna happen.  If you don't take a divine perspective towards that kind of pain, you're gonna get stuck in it. You're gonna say, "It shouldn't have happened."  And it probably "shouldn't have happened," but in His divine providence, God knows..."All the days ordained for me were already written in His book."  Not the good days, the bad days, too.  And so, yes, I can relax.  So I'm gonna choose how I remember this...When you walk by faith, at some point, you gotta start abandoning the "why" and just say, "it did and that I'm gonna trust God."
I like what Joseph said when his brothers came to him.  And you know the story, how he was sold into slavery and they came and they knew they were mean to him and they said, "Forgive us, we're sorry."  And he said, "Listen, you meant it for bad, but God meant it for good."  
I've been grieving this year, hard.  I have been shedding a lifetime of bottled up tears.  I have been kneading and beating on my grief like a big wad of bread dough, trying to pound out my anger and expel my pain.  It's been necessary, completely awful emotional work to say goodbye to the blessings denied me over all these years of  life.  And even through this latest installment of pain, I've asked Him, "where were you all those years?  and where are you now?"

I planned on wearing this t-shirt for a picture in a canyon
just for you guys.  I didn't plan on waking up feeling alone
and unloved on the day of the trip--and I almost didn't go.
Yet the combination of a favorite t-shirt and God's glorious
creation tuned me right in to his love.  Not always that simple,
sadly.  But sometimes it is.  
So this painful, painful year has been very much about forcing me to face The Big Question: does my painful past prove that He doesn't love me, or is it just the opposite? Emotionally this year would look like a V on a bar graph, with my grieving over all I've lost, feeling abandoned and forgotten, and generally unloading a lifetime of repressed sorrow.  Down toward the bottom of the V, I was still hanging on to some kind of hope that Heavenly Father loved me, but it was very academic at that point.  My whole life is based on the assumption, the trust, that it's true, but I needed to know.  And so God has been teaching me in real time that the hardest trials are proof of his love, because this, the hardest of years, has taken me to the nadir that I needed to reach in order to be ready to believe.  I had to climb to the bottom of the canyon before I could ascend the mountain on the other side.  And God let me do it, because it was part of his plan for me to feel the joy that can only come when we're willing to face our fears down.

I reached the bottom of that canyon, and I'm climbing up the other side now.  The height of the mountain will crown me with sure knowledge of my Father in Heaven's love, but for now it's just wonderful to take step after step up into the sunshine.

My sense of how much Heavenly Father loves me has deepened as I have looked back over my troubled past and have seen the multitude of tender mercies He gave to me.  My vision has cleared , and now when I look back on the pain of my past, I see that Father in Heaven tempered my troubles. He cleared dangerous obstacles out of my path and saved me from many snares.  He sent care packages, always at the right time: teachers, friends, mentors, siblings, great books and beautiful music--to inspire me, give me hope and joy, and to teach me about a beautiful life just out of reach but worth hoping for.

But the most important thing he did was to provide a Savior.  My Savior redeemed me from my many follies and mistakes, making me worthy through his grace of the Comforter.  He gave me hope for a bright future in the company of the most loving Father a girl could have.  And at great personal cost, Heavenly Father allowed his precious son to suffer with me.  

I have come to know that I never cried alone.  That sad little girl who has always lived in my memory as very alone and unloved--had her Savior beside her, helping her bear her burden, comforting her, protecting her from trauma that would have undone her, and this is the most important part, crying with her.

Elder Merrill J. Bateman's words on the Atonement have helped me come to this new understanding of my painful past.  He said,

For many years I thought of the Savior's experience in the garden and on the cross as places where a large mass of sin was heaped upon Him.  Through the words of Alma, Abinidi, Isaiah, and other prophets, however, my view has changed.  Instead of an impersonal mass of sin, there was a long line of people, as Jesus felt "our infirmities" (Heb. 4:15), "[bore] our griefs,...carried our sorrows,,,[and] was bruised for our iniquities."  (Isa. 53:4-5).
The memories have gone from bitter to semi-sweet, because that image has changed.  I wasn't alone. He literally shared my pain, felt it in its entirety for as long as I was feeling it.  He experienced the full magnitude of it not only so he could help me heal, but really for the same reason my earthly angels do--because He loves me.  He loves me enough to suffer with me.

My trials will continue to refine me, and I will still struggle to feel loved sometimes, but I'm climbing up into a safer and surer knowledge that feeling alone is not the same as being alone.  My Heavenly Father and my Savior lavish me with more love every day than I can even conceive.  Especially when I'm in pain.  

Sunday, April 23, 2017

There comes a time in your grieving when you're ready to say goodbye to what you had and move forward into a new life, and I think I might be getting there.

Isaiah provided the perfect illustration for me this week.  He has been faking sick lately to stay home from school, and sometimes even if I can get him to go, I get a call from the office asking me to come pick him up.  (Ain't nobody going to face the shame of making her child sit in the office all day because she doesn't believe he's really sick.  He's totally got my number there.)  He even asked recently if I would home school him again, which despite the boost it gave me, also was sad because the answer is almost certainly no.  It's strange because he has enjoyed kindergarten soooo much, and while I know all kids start to burn out in April, this has seemed more serious to me.  Finally I got him talking about school friends, and he started crying and telling me that they're mean to him.

So first you should know that Isaiah is your classic type four child, and I can identify, because I was and am exactly the same.  We type fours can be very intuitive, sensitive, visionary, smart, and honest, but we are also sometimes guilty of dwelling on things that bother us.  We can be so inward focused, too, that we even imagine slights and insults where there are none.  So in an effort to draw him out and honor his feelings, I was careful not to give too much credit to the idea that "no one" at school likes my very likable boy.  I will be talking to his amazing teacher about her observations and making sure she's aware, but I am certain that Isaiah is experiencing normal inconsiderate behavior from kids, and not bullying.

I was a little stuck on what to do.  TJ promised Isaiah a super soaker if he would attend every day of school for the rest of the year, but I didn't know how to address the more serious issue of how he was feeling so insecure socially.  God's grace gave me the answer as I drove Isaiah to school the next day. It was very simple, but very profound--which is how I know it came from the Spirit.  I told Isaiah to keep his eyes open for instances of kindness each day, and tell me about them.  And it's working! Isaiah is learning that we see what we're looking for, and he's looking for evidence that he's loved and respected.

I'm in a similar place with God right now.  Satan has been trying very hard to turn my challenges into evidence that God doesn't care about me, and too often I have fallen into the trap of feeling abandoned and unloved.  But recently I have made the simple but profound decision to believe that the good things in my life truly are evidence of God's love for me, and not the result of chance or circumstance. I'm choosing to believe that He knows and cares about the tiny details that make up my life.  And I'm choosing to believe that my trials are even proof of God's love.  And so, instead of yelling at God for not being kind, I am looking for (and finding!) his kindness.

It's amazing how such a simple thing can be so hard.  I am tempted to doubt God's love.  I am tempted to reserve a corner of my mind for the possibility that my faith is an illusion.  Truthfully, I am afraid of being made a fool and so I keep up a constant Socratic debate in my mind about God's word.  But enough.  I don't want to be smart anymore, I want to be happy.  I want to feel my Savior's love. I want to see clearly the plan He is carrying out in my life.

Too much I have been guilty of focusing on Satan's work instead of Christ's, by sorrowing over the sins of the world.  My Savior has overcome this world, and from now on I will lift my eyes to Him.