Flammable

Today I am thinking about words. Words are some of my favorite things. Words can warm, shed light, sustain, comfort. Basically…

Words are fire.

Words can burn, scar, destroy.

I was talking with my friend yesterday about things we remember. I remember walking toward my first period class in 7th grade. I passed the portable classrooms and could see my classroom’s building in the distance. The library was behind me. Two girls walked by me, and in passing the one girl said to the other, “These 7th graders and their crappy outfits.”

I was wearing brown pants and a brown button up shirt with a square pattern on it.

I can probably count on two hands the number of things I can specifically remember from being 12. And that is one of them.

Do I care now what one 8th grade girl thought? (Or maybe didn’t even think but was trying to look cool? Puberty is so hard!) No, I don’t. But somewhere inside me is a 12 year old girl who still remembers.

Words can burn. Words can scar.

When I had been dating my husband for a few weeks, I was introduced to one of his best friends. Upon meeting me, he said: “So, you’re the girlfriend. I didn’t recognize you without the wings. That’s how he described you.” That was more than 15 years ago and I still smile as I remember it. Best introduction I ever had.

Words can warm. Words can sustain.

Every time we write or speak, we light a match. Will we create a fire to warm and light and sustain? Or burn and scar and destroy? I pray that I can think before I release such a powerful force. May I listen so that my fire may be guided for good.

1. A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness. The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good. A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit. -Proverbs 15:1-4 Holy Bible KJV

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Fullness of Joy

I was going to have six kids. That always seemed like a good number to me. They would probably be really close together, too, like my siblings and I were. That was a good plan. I knew it from the time I was small. Yes, six kids sounded good.

In 2002, while talking with my boyfriend, we imagined a yard scattered with toys and surrounded by a white picket fence. You know, like maybe one of those plastic red and yellow cars and a couple of bikes. Yes, that sounded good.

In 2003 we were married. Our daughter was born in 2005. I spoiled her a bit on her first Christmas because I figured it would be her only Christmas that she was an only child.

They say that God only gives us what we can handle. I don’t believe that. I believe that God helps us to handle what comes our way. God sent my miracle baby to me first to help me handle all that followed.

I have lost two babies and have spent years in between and after trying to get pregnant again. I grieved.

I longed for another baby. I longed for a sibling for my daughter. I longed for a son. I longed for a house full of littles. I scrolled through my news feed and saw birth announcements, birthdays, and even sibling rivalry challenges and envied them. Oh how I envied them.

My daughter would achieve a milestone: starting kindergarten, no longer believing in Santa, being baptized. It was all tinged with a little sadness because this was the first and last time I would be experiencing this – and my only child was getting farther from me.

I waited. And I prayed. And I waited.

Eventually, or rather, gradually, I have come, or am coming, to a realization. It is okay. My baby is 12 years old. She has grown up an only child. I am almost 37 and may not ever have more children. And it is okay.

The life I live is so full. It is full of happiness and sorrow. It is full of love and pain. It is full with a daughter who rolls her eyes at me, and hugs me, and is compassionate and sarcastic. It is full with a husband who loves me in all his deeds. It is full with a family that surrounds my daughter with aunts and uncles and cousins who love her. It is full with me crying at a computer screen and just trying to do the best I can. And it is full of joy.

It’s more than my specific blessings, though. I know that I have a Father in Heaven and a Savior who love me. My Savior has felt my sorrow and cries when I cry. He takes care of the babies I cannot. And as much as I love my daughter and want her to be happy – our Heavenly Father cares infinitely more for both of us – which is something very hard to comprehend.

I am not saying it’s easy. It isn’t. I’m not saying that I am perfect at it, I’m not. But I can look for the joy – and most days I can find it. And really, what more can I ask for than that?

 

 

 

 

To Mom and Dad

Hello, Mom and Dad. What can I say? Thank you for loving me as much now as you did when I was adorable. (I know what you just said, Mom, and I am not still adorable). Thank you for changing 6,387 of my diapers – seriously, I did the math. That’s a lot of dirty diapers, and mine weren’t disposable. Gross.

Thank you for teaching me to walk and being there when I fell.

Thank you for teaching me how to eat with a fork, and tie my shoes, and read.

Thank you for loving me when I was moody and confused and trying to find myself.  Thank you for putting up with the fits of a twelve, and fifteen, and eighteen year old. Thank you for pointing me in the right direction. Again and again.

I am starting to get little glimpses now as my daughter grows…glimpses of not only how much you have done for me, but how hard it is. I don’t really mean the getting up for school every day (again) or the bake sales, or the school functions, or the awards assemblies, or the keeping up with grades, or the new clothes, or the toys, or the Christmas gifts…not just those, anyway.

I am getting a glimpse of loving someone so much and so suddenly and so fiercely that you  just want to stick them on that straight and narrow and have them walk on your feet until they get to their happily ever after – but knowing that is not what you should do.

Thank you for the late night talks and midnight blessings. Thank you for the million ways you showed me that God loves me, that I am special to Him, that I am a Child of God.

I have not always found my way on the right path – children don’t always, I guess – but there has always been one thing in my life that was steady. You loved me. You prayed for me. You had my best interests at heart. You would be there.

Thank you, Mom and Dad. Thank you for teaching me to walk and for being there when I fell.

With love,

Jenny

Compared and Contrasted

The other day, I was looking at some old posts of mine, and I found a quote from my daughter when she was around 9 years old. She said, “Mom, I feel compared and contrasted.”  I’m not sure what she was thinking of at the time, but I agreed.

Don’t we all feel compared and contrasted? In this age of social media, we may have 400 friends on Facebook and 30 of them ever see us in real life. So, basically, on our own “feed” we get to choose what people see of our lives. We get to “feed” them what we like, if you will pardon the pun. It is like Christmas Cards all year long. “This is what is super cool about my life” “This is what fun things I am doing” “This is what I’ve accomplished” “This is the best picture we got after the 300 you didn’t see”.

The problem is, we seldom think about the fact that 90 percent (I made up that statistic, but I’m betting I’m close) of the people on social media are doing the same thing. I try to be positive on my feeds, but in doing so, I do create an off balance look at my life, I’m sure. That, and (full disclosure here) I take about 20 selfies from up turned (the better to hide my double chin with, my dear) angles before posting one. Also making sure the laundry pile is not seen behind me. But do I forget that I am probably not the only person doing so?

Am I saying that I think everyone should air their dirty laundry (literal laundry in my case) on social media? No. Heavens, no. But, I do think we need to remember, that when we are looking at someone’s posts, we are seeing about 10 percent of their carefully worded lives. So…on to the comparing and contrasting.

Don’t. When you see someone’s awesome pictures of their trip to Disneyland/Aruba/ Timbuktu and you are sitting on the couch staring at a pile of laundry from yesterday/last week/August sometime – someone is looking at the pictures of your cute new puppy/car/house. We are all comparing ourselves to other people’s 10 percent.

Then we start the contrasting and that is even more dangerous. The definition of contrast, in this sense is: compare in such a way as to emphasize differences. (I googled it). So, when we think “so-and-so is in Aruba and I am not doing my laundry” how does that make us feel? Not awesome. And when so-and-so is in Aruba and looking at your posts and thinking, “look how happy so-and-so looks – I wish I was that happy all the time” How does it make them feel? Not awesome, either.

There is also a flip side to this coin. You know, the darker one. The one that makes us think that because we can see this ten percent of someone’s life we might just be able to tell that we are a bit better than “so-and-so” that maybe we know what they should do to improve their lives or themselves.

So, if I was given a paper that said: “Compare and Contrast your life to so-and-so’s life. Make sure to use specific examples based on the information given. Include a conclusion on who is doing better at life in general, listing specific goals and success criteria.” I think the best answer I could give would be something like this:

Insufficient information to finish prompt.

Because, really, we never have enough information to do something like that. Even if we see a person every day – in real life – we do not have the information necessary to judge them or to compare our seemingly less productive lives to theirs. Never.

There is only One who knows each of us that well – and thank goodness He will be the one to judge.  He knows I haven’t put away the laundry because I’m in pain that doesn’t show in my selfies. He knows me on days when my best is “I got the whole house clean and read my scriptures and helped me kid with her homework” and on days when my best is “I got up this morning and my kid is fed” – He knows when I sit and look at pictures and comments on social media or in the real world and think “I will never be that good/beautiful/smart” – and I think a tear may just roll down His face on those days. Because He sees the whole picture – for us and our 400 Facebook friends and the rest of humanity. And, we, well, don’t.

— If you want to hear the talk that made me start to really think about this – here is the link: Be Ye Therefore Perfect – Eventually

Things You Are Doing Right And You Didn’t Even Know It

You know what? I am doing so much stuff wrong! So often, I have noticed, there are articles popping out at me from the internet telling me I am doing something wrong – or 10 things or 100. I was curious, so I typed into the MSN search: “things you are doing wrong” – here are the suggestions that popped up: “Things you are doing wrong everyday…in the kitchen…with your hair…on your android…and you don’t know it. 10 things you are doing wrong. 100 things you are doing wrong.”

Then I typed: “Things you are doing right” – Guess what came up as suggestions? Nothing. Nada. Zilch. When I hit the search button anyway, a few things came up about doing things right, but mostly it was “How to do things right” or, in other words, what you are doing wrong.

Really? Is this what we need? To be told a we are doing at least 10 things wrong in every aspect of our lives? “10 things you are doing wrong before you even get out of bed” – OK, I just made that up, but I bet it’s out there.

So, here’s 5 things you are doing right, and you didn’t even know it

  1. Your presence made someone happy. Whether it is online or in person, something you did touched someone’s life – and you don’t even know it. Truth.
  2. You created something new. Think about it – whether it was a physical thing (dinner, a blog post, a craft, a letter, a smile) or a feeling (gratitude, happiness, laughter) YOU created something new. Wow.
  3. You did what was needed even when it was hard. You did – if you can’t remember when, ask someone who knows you. They’ll remember.
  4. You were there for someone when no one else was. Yes, you were. Don’t deny it.
  5. You got out of bed (or got your day started by reading my blog in bed, either way)! Seriously, sometimes that is hard work. And you did it! I don’t even care which side you got off on!

So, there we have it. Five things you are doing right and you didn’t even know it. There are more, and I challenge you to think of them – maybe even write them down if you have a moment. Because you are doing 100s of things right, and you may not even know it.

 

Todd

Please bear with me, as this could be the most personal story I have ever sent into the blog-o-sphere:

Sometimes moments happen in life that are very hard to put into words. The following happened to me 16 years ago, and I am only now attempting to make what occurred form meaning in the English language.

I was about 20 years old when I volunteered for a few days in a friend’s elementary school class. The class she taught was a specialized one. It had only about 10 children in it, aged from about 8 to 10 years old. All of the children in the class had mental and/or emotional disabilities or diseases that they had had since birth.

One day I was asked to escort one of the boys, I’ll call him Todd, to the office. He was leaving early that day and needed to wait for his ride there. All was well until another little boy walked into the office. Suddenly, Todd became very agitated and started yelling profanity at the other boy.

I immediately took Todd out of the office to wait outside. There was a large raised planter with a tree and some bushes in it near the office door. I had Todd sit on the concrete rim of the planter and I stood next to him. By this time, he was very agitated and was yelling the worse profanity I had ever heard at every child that walked past. Mostly they just looked very surprised and kept walking.

I had never been in a situation like this before. I’m sure I said some things along the lines of, “Todd, you need to stop that.” But he kept shouting – oblivious to me standing there at all.

Human beings are, by nature, a bit self centered. It only makes sense that we would mostly focus on what directly affects us. And in my short 20 years of life I had occasion only every once in awhile to go outside my little world. In situations I couldn’t control, especially one such as this, my reaction would most likely have been to become quite agitated about the whole thing…and maybe even a bit angry at the one causing all the commotion. But – that is not what happened that sunny day that I stood next to little Todd as he yelled obscenities out into the world.

In that moment, I changed.

All was still inside me and I was overcome with love for this little boy. I walked up to him and hugged him. I’m sure it broke all kinds of rules. But in that moment, I wasn’t thinking about being a school volunteer or Todd being a kid I met last week. We were just a brother and sister on this planet – children of God – both just doing the best that we knew how. And in that moment – we were both still.

I don’t know what happened to Todd. I hope he had more good teachers like that friend of mine. I hope he has mentors and helpers and people who lift him up. I hope he was able to realize his amazing potential. I sure owe him – because he taught me something in that moment.

As I stood there next to Todd and felt that overwhelming love – I got a glimpse of God’s love for Todd. He loved Todd as he shouted and cursed – he loved me as I stood there not knowing what to do.

When we are so confused that all we can do is yell obscenities out into the world – God still loves us. He felt the pain of that little boy that day as He has felt all our pain. He is sad when we are sad. He is standing ready to wrap us in His arms so that we may be still.

I’ve shared this scripture before, but it bears repeating: Isiah 49:16 “Behold I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.”

Strength Beyond the Reef

DISCLAIMER: This post contains spoilers in reference to Disney’s movie, Moana.

A few months  ago, my husband and I took our daughter to see Disney’s Moana. Moana is a girl who lives on an island and is destined to become her tribe’s leader one day. For reasons in the island’s past, the people never go beyond the reef of their home. From the time Moana is little she longs to explore outside her little world. She and her father, the chief, have constant friction over this. After a particularly tough argument, Moana’s mother, Sina, comes to talk to her. She tells Moana more about her father’s own past, and why it is dangerous to go beyond the reef. She says, “Sometimes, who we wish we were, what we wish we could do – it’s just not meant to be.”

Soon after this, things escalate to the point that Moana must leave her island in order to save it. She knows her parents will not let her go, so she runs to hurriedly pack supplies. Suddenly, her mother is standing in the doorway – looking scared and out of breath from following her daughter. Moana and the audience are ready for another argument. I was ready for a mother’s hurt look as her daughter leaves.  Without a  word, Sina kneels down in front of her daughter. She puts the last of the supplies into the basket and holds it up to Moana – tears in her eyes.

Granted, I am a movie crier, it usually doesn’t take much. But of all the moments in the movie that one might guess was tear worthy (at least from me) this is the one that got me. Nothing moved me more than the moment that Sina realizes it is time to let her baby go and do the things she needs to do. The expression on her face said to me, “Okay, I know you need to do this, and I really don’t want that to be true. But I am behind you. You go now.” In her face, I saw my own.

My daughter will be 12 this year. Still a few years from going beyond the reef. But those years do go by so quickly. Even before she’s gone that far the storms are there. Am I doing enough? Have I done enough? So when the day comes when she has to go, she will be ready to face winds and rain and even a realm of monsters? Unfortunately, we don’t even have to go beyond our reef to come into contact with these things. But someday she will have to do so without me. I can help her pack her bags, but I cannot go with her.

Does she know that she is beautiful? Does she know that she is strong? Does she know that she is smart? Does she know that when no one else can be there that God is? That she is never truly alone? Have I given her these truths to take with her into the storm?

I hope so. I hope that I can do as Sina did. That I can help her pack her bag, and though I may not want it to be true, I can say, “I know you need to do this. I am behind you. You can do it.”

Big Deal

I want to share something with all of you. I have been thinking about this a lot lately. I hesitated to share it at first, because it actually feels quite personal. But I finally decided that I wanted to share it. Someone may feel the same way that I do.

Television is bringing me down lately: bringing me down spirit and soul. I think I finally put my finger on it. It seems that every show I’ve tried watching lately is bombarding me with lies.

Can I be really frank right now? Sex is a big deal. It is sacred. It is life changing and it is a BIG DEAL. On TV it isn’t. On TV sex is as common place as brushing your teeth in the morning and as life changing as an amusement park. That was fun – now it’s over. TV is full of this lie.

Violence. Violence is a big deal. We are surrounded with it so often in life. I don’t want it winking at me from my television set, saying it’s no big deal. The good guy was violent and it’s OK because it’s no big deal. That is a lie, and it is an insult to those who put their lives on the line to protect us everyday. Violence is a BIG DEAL.

Human beings. So many shows just disgrace human beings making us look hurtful or  stupid. They make parents look selfish and kids look like liars and it’s no big deal. There isn’t much market for charity and compassion. But it is out there. Human beings are a big deal. We are children of God who loves us. We are beings with spirits and hopes and lives. Jesus Christ died for us. We are a BIG DEAL.

So, I am tired of television bringing me down. I am tired of allowing it to lie to me. That is not entertainment. I am not saying I am going to shut off my television and never look at it again (not yet, anyway) but I am going to be drastically changing my watching habits. I sat down with my daughter tonight and watched a show that was over 50 years old. And she laughed and I laughed and we were entertained and I am going to go to bed without feeling drained and down. And that is a big deal, too.

 

Happy Thanksgiving

I used to be an early decorator. I wanted my Christmas tree up on November 1st. What can I say? I love Christmas trees. I love Christmas. When I married my husband, we compromised on putting up the tree the day after Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is my husband’s favorite holiday, and he doesn’t like when it is skipped over.

I have been married nearly 13 years now, and I am just beginning to realize that I agree. We all know that Christmas stuff pops up in the store around Oct. 1st. And, granted, there is some Christmas planning that may require more than four weeks of time – but it does seem that Thanksgiving is becoming a day to eat turkey in between Halloween and Christmas. I have been very guilty of that in my life.

Well, I am putting out this vow to the internet universe: no more. No more will I skip over Thanksgiving. I have so much in my life to be grateful for. I want to make November a month of gratitude in my life and in my home. Then when Christmas time comes around, maybe I will be in a better mind set. I won’t be thinking so much about trees and gifts, but about my gratitude for my Savior. What a miracle His birth and life and death and resurrection and Atonement were. May I make this Thanksgiving month one of gratitude: to those around me who bless my life everyday, to my husband and my daughter who bring me eternal joy,to my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ for blessing me with all these things and more.

 Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms. Pslams 95:5

Some Days – a few Mothers’ Day thoughts

Some days.

Some days it feels like you are the only one who has a pile of dirty clothes on the floor and a pile of clean ones on the couch.

Some days it feels like the best thing to do with those dishes in the kitchen would be to throw them in the dumpster and start over.

Some days it feels like the mountain of stuff you did yesterday and the day before and the day before that – didn’t make a dent in what you need to do.

Some days it feels like you haven’t done anything.

Some days it feels like you haven’t done anything right.

Some days it feels like I haven’t done anything right.

This mother’s day I am going to give myself a present. I am going to see what I am doing right – I may even kick it up a notch and for 24 hours see only what I am doing right. I may just banish those bad thoughts to the back of my brain for the day and let the good ones have a parade.

After all, its about time they had a turn.

Some days.

Some days my daughter and I dance in front of the credits at the theater and we don’t care who sees.

Some days I put up a tent in my bedroom at ten o’clock at night because she’s been looking forward to this Mama/ Daughter slumber party all week.

Some days I watch Scooby Doo AGAIN.

Some days I shut Scooby Doo off – and we play – no matter what else is going on.

Some days we read our scriptures together.

Some days I run back to the school with the glasses/lunch/homework.

Some days we laugh so hard we can’t breathe.

Some days it’s hard.

Everyday its worth it.

Happy Mother’s Day, me. Remember that you are doing your best and that your best has the infinite potential to get better.