Thank You, Thomas

Our family has been studying faith lately. It has been a great scripture study path for us. Every time we started the Book of Mormon again, it seemed like we weren’t getting much out of it. And we had trouble staying dedicated. Some days we’d have long chapters. Some days the chapters were beautifully short (sadly, that was the thought) and we’d be longing for a short one the next night, too. It breaks up stories too much to go by pages. And how do you know where exactly to end? So, the topic study came as inspiration. It allows us to study as long as we’d like, and since we’re starting with faith (the first principle, and something I have been struggling with lately), we get to delve into stories. We’ve studied Christ’s miracles, and the great examples of faith in the scriptures. It has been such a blessing.

But today, I woke up with the beginnings of a migraine. I blame the “family slumber party” on the couches. I agreed to stay up and watch a movie as long as we were all in PJ’s and all ready to fall asleep. I picked the long couch, but it has a bar running in the middle of it. The bar started out where my back is, but when my back hurt, I slid down and it ended up kinking my neck funny. At least, that’s what I’m guessing happened. At any rate, I grabbed my caffeine pills (the only think I’ve found to help my headaches), and we anxiously waited to see if church would be a good idea. Of course my kiddo was crossing her fingers. She’s too much like her mother. When she’s at church, she loves it there. But GOING always raises anxiety. While waiting for my headache to dissipate to see if I could stand being at church, we sat down and (quietly) watched church videos.

My favorite church video is Finding Faith in Christ. I’ve always loved the testimony it shares. Today was no different, I greatly enjoyed it. But today, I thought about WHY I enjoy it. It is a bold testimony, and as a teen, that is what spoke to me. But as an adult, my faith is very different than it was before. It is even different than it was 5 years ago. I feel like 5 years ago, my testimony was an impenetrable wall. I was in the middle of a battle for my soul, and it was still holding. Then I entered a very different battle. Instead of constant barrage, the tactic became slow and persistent banging in the exact same spot.

Infertility.

I never knew that infertility would rock my testimony harder than divorce. It still baffles me. I still look over my faith from past years and can’t quite figure out why it needs such reinforcement now. A slow and steady banging does more damage than an entire life upheaval. I struggle with feelings of impatience and a thought that God hasn’t kept  his promise. I feel that He hasn’t made a great friend lately, and that has made it hard to talk with him.

When we were married 6 months, I was given a priesthood blessing that my body would be able to bear children. It stated that God was pleased with my desire and that my body would be made whole so that I could carry them. I’ve been married for 3 1/2 years. I have no other children. This paragraph sums up the gaping hole in my faith. I know it can be fixed, and I know that God does keep his promises… and yet a niggling voice says “yeah, just not to me.” And that voice has been working for 3 years. It screams loudly about 1 week out of four. When I get to heaven, I’m going to ask why he had to make our bodies go through torture once a month. Isn’t it bad enough that we’ve got to deal with the fact that we’re, once again, not pregnant? That we’ve got to wait a whole other month to go through the same torture because maybe, just maybe, it might work this time?

I’ve got to admit that after 3 years, the sting has gone out of it. You learn to deal with it in a way I hope no one ever has to accept. It honestly, really and truly doesn’t hurt like it used to. It doesn’t even hurt when I see so many pregnant women around me. Or when I see kids that are celebrating birthdays and reminisce that that the news of their future arrival added one more rock to the catapult, one more swing with the battering ram.  But for a while, it really, really hurt. It hurt when I accepted the calling of nursery assistant. It hurt knowing I could have had a kid in nursery. It hurt making quilts for everyone else’s babies, and finding out exactly how many women that weren’t me were expecting in our ward. It hurt finding out first because of the calling.

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It hurt when my sister announced her pregnancy. But I think that that wound is actually the one that helped push me past the pain and into gratitude. The pain of my sister’s impending bundle was at its strongest the day I yelled at her husband. He’s not known as one with much tact. It causes conflict in his life, though I don’t know if he really understands the degree. He’s learning, and I commend him for it. But somehow, he always finds my tender heartstrings and yanks on them. This one was especially tender.

My sister had announced the name she was planning on using for her baby, and it was a name that was one of my favorites. A name that if I had already been able to have kids, might have already been taken. When I said something about it, I was severely cut in half. From the sister who rarely cuts with her words. She told me that “she was having a baby, first, so she would use it.”

Ouch. Seriously. I don’t have words to express how much that got to me. It was more than rubbing my face in my lack of child-bearing. I was more than taking something I really wanted. It was … pure pain. Twisting the knife in my side.

Well, my mother told my sister that she was justified. It’s expected. My personality is completely opposite from my mother’s and my sister’s is exactly the same. It is really easy for my mother to understand my sister’s point of view and very hard for her to understand mine. My sister is meek and timid, and often too submissive. I am bold and loud and often too oppressive. I don’t expect my mother to ever understand how much it hurts. Or to understand that I have feelings and am not just being mean. I also didn’t expect my sister to understand. My sister, who would never hurt on purpose (I call her my angel sister, which she hates; but she’s got a soul like Mother Teresa’s. She’s born to do and be good. There is no question that her strongest personality color is white), had no intention of hurting me. I knew she didn’t mean it.

And then, I was visiting with her and her husband, and she jokingly said, “are you ever going to forgive me for calling my baby that?” and I seriously said, “no.” … and her husband opened his mouth. Gave the same line I’d already heard. “Well, we figure, she’s having a baby first, so we get to use it.” Still not meant to hurt. But I had had it with that line. I looked him square in the face and said “STOP saying that! I’m so sick of hearing that.” Well, her husband back-peddled, and mumbled he didn’t mean to upset me, and I left.

Then, when my sister and I were together again, she told me that she and her husband had talked about it and had decided to use another name. I told her I didn’t care. It wasn’t the name that had hurt me. This is true. Though before finally saying what I was thinking, I would never have called the girl by her name (ever), it wasn’t about her name at all. We had a nice long talk about loss and infertility (if you’ll recall, she lost her baby last year at 28 weeks). It gives a strong bond most sisters don’t share. We know mutual suffering. She talked about how she understood the agony of trying. I know she does. I’ve watched her. She’s been such a blessing in my life because of all she has taught me through her own trials and how they correspond with my own. Then she used another well-overused line. ” when you get your baby, you’re going to get a very special spirit.” It’s a nice thought, isn’t it? But it is so shallow! It doesn’t soothe the pain. It doesn’t make up for anything. I’ve learned that God doesn’t reward our suffering with exactly what we want, and that saying I’ll get a special spirit doesn’t make it even. Nor does God really work that way. It is what we learn that matters, not what we get. But even the learning doesn’t seem to be enough while we are in the midst of the storm. In fact, I was so done even trying. It seemed like I was faced with continuing to try, continuing to be mad at God every month when once again, he “failed to keep his promise,” and continuing to be exhausted or to just stop caring. I expressed with her my struggling faith, and she understood. She just listened. It comes down to choosing God or choosing to try for a baby.

It was so much easier to just not try, not care. After 3 years, that’s where I was at. It was easier not to care. I’ve been through the wringer with my faith. And what have I learned from it?

  1. You have to believe in God to be mad at Him. It seems like a silly thing to learn, and a silly place to start, but when you’re severely struggling with your testimony, it gives you rope to hold on to when you’re spiraling downward with your faith. When I was questioning what I believed in, it gave me a foundation. You have to believe He is real if you’re going to be angry. First stone in the foundation. He exists.
  2. You have to believe He CAN keep His promises, if you are going to be frustrated that He isn’t. Once again, I realized that if I believe in God, I have to believe he CAN keep his promises. If I was going to be angry with Him, I had to believe that he really could fulfill his promises. Second foundation stone.
  3. You can’t gain faith by “praying” to gain it. Praying isn’t enough. Neither is holding an ultimatum. “God, I’ll believe if you will give me a baby.” “Lord, help my faith by giving me what I want.” and “Can I just learn the lesson already, so I can move on?” are not words that bring faith. Nor do they work, just FYI. I was constantly seeking the answers to building my own faith, but  I wasn’t actually doing it right. I couldn’t find a clear-cut formula for faith-building anywhere I looked.
  4. Instead of seeking to understand faith, seek to understand the atonement. True story. As we are reading about faith in the scriptures, it is not in the miracles that faith is found. It is not in the stories or examples. It is in understanding the atonement. Luckily, the book of Romans discusses the connection between faith and the atonement so well, that I discovered the connection in our studies. Faith must be founded on the atonement in order to take root in the soul. All the studies of faith just slip out unless there is also a study of the atonement.
  5. When you believe in the atonement, you must question your proximity to God and his will. This is the walls of a testimony. There was a beautiful talk about this in conference, though I confess I had a pretty snide answer to the opening questions (“Why, yes, I would “confidently walk up to” Heavenly Father. I’d look Him in the face and ask him why on earth he’s doing this to me!”). Seriously, that talk was meant for me! He expresses the struggles of my soul! I’ve made it this far in my faith. I’ve stripped down my testimony to it’s foundation, but it will go no further. So instead of continuing to attack my testimony in God, Satan tried to attack my testimony in myself. In all the blessings I have received in the past 3 years, one phrase is always there. “God loves you.”  And, sadly, I don’t think I ever accepted it. In fact, I rolled my eyes. I feel like my testimony is going through it’s teen years. You know, like every time your parent told you they love you and you just rolled your eyes and think, “Whatever. If you loved me you’d let me go to Stacy’s party.” [Yeah, I never thought that, either. I don’t know where that thought came from. I was a perfect child. And if you believe that, I invite you to re-read this post]. There are 3 parts to questioning your proximity to God:
    1. you must ask yourself if you believe that he loves you.
    2. You must ask yourself if you love  Him.
    3. You must ask yourself if there is anything in your life that is keeping you from following God’s plan for you. For me, the answer here is my own stubbornness and hurt feelings. My need for justice and fulfilled promises.
  6. Question C leads directly to where I’m at. Once you put away those things that are keeping you from drawing closer to God, there is just simple faith left. You’ve stripped away the doubts and hurt feelings. You’ve come to just accept Him and His will… yeah, it’s just that. It is the “peace, be still” of the soul. It is the calming of the personal storm. It is the acceptance of who you are and where you are. Giving God back the wheel. Just… Being. And being okay with just being. It is the roof on the testimony-fortress. Acceptance of God’s will is the protection we all need.

So, here I am. I am not pregnant. And I’m okay. I’ve since learned that in order for me to get and stay pregnant, I’m going to have to give myself shots every day. Shots that aren’t cheap. Shots that cost more than my house payment. And did I mention that they’re SHOTS? Self-injected shots? I’ve also learned, through more blessings, that there is a divine reason for this, though I don’t know what it is. And that’s okay.

Thomas, too, needed a testimony boost. His testimony walls were severely shaken. I think that Thomas was the last to see the Savior, because although he truly wanted to see Him, he was so caught up in his own head, so busy, that it was impossible for him to accept and understand. It was through the agony of waiting that Thomas began to accept the truth of God’s miracle for him (The agony of waiting. Nope, can’t relate…).Through the desperate sorrow of the loss he felt, he eventually came to be still. And when he was still, Christ was there. I am grateful for Thomas, and that through Thomas’s example, I, too, can learn to wait and be still. I’m grateful that he didn’t have perfect faith. I’m grateful that he needed to see to believe. Because we can see that God loved him, anyway. Chastised him, yes, but still loved him. And by feeling the nail-marks, a physical representation of what Christ did for us – you could say it was by understanding the magnitude of the atonement – Thomas’ testimony became stronger than it had been before.

Why Christ Used Stories

Did you know that Disney movie makers and our brain have something in common? No joke! Okay, I’m sure there are a lot of jokes tied into that revelation, but I’m being serious here. Both Disney movie makers and our brains process things in story-board-like glimpses. That is why stories are so entertaining to us. Our brains are designed to grab new data out of stories. That is why when someone throws facts at you, it is hard to remember them, but when they tell you a story, it is easier to remember. Let’s think for a moment of the Master Teacher. Christ taught in parables; He taught in stories. Whenever Widow's Mite - Ancient Roman Bronze Coinspeople in Sunday School discuss why Christ taught  stories, the answer is usually “so that anyone can understand them.” They are talking about how there are layers of a story for every understanding. There are those who are only  able to take it at face value, there are those who understand symbolism, and there are those that take that story and get out of it a personal meaning just for them. Like the parable of the lost coin. To some, it is just about a woman who lost a coin and wants to find it. To others, it is a story about how our Heavenly Father feels about lost children. And to some, it is the story about a time when they felt lost and didn’t think that they were worth more than a few cents, and they suddenly had a paradigm shift because someone found them and was so excited for their return. Or maybe a person finds personification in the role of the friend. Or as the one looking for a coin. There are multiple connections to be made with each parable. While that is a very good reason for Christ to teach in parables, I don’t believe it’s the whole reason. Christ, as the creator of this world and the co-creator of man, as well as the Son of the Omnipotent would have more understanding of how the brain worked than just because there are multiple levels to a story. He would have known that his disciples would need to remember the lessons he taught long after he was gone. He had a short ministry. Most of our history of Him was written after he was crucified. His stories needed to be remembered in order to make it down the funnel of time to be available to us now, in the last dispensation.

Call to Arms

We’ve been going to the new ward, even though we aren’t moved in yet. It gives me the opportunity to have a half hour drive before we get to church. Today, I was observing all of the people in white shirts and ties out in the community.

There were the 2 missionaries standing waist-deep in a garden, helping out the man in the nice clothes. I assume that he had to pick his produce before he would go to church.

Then there was the family of strapping men helping the car in front of them with the loose tie-down strap (or something else on his trailer).

Then there was the row upon row of cars from out of town that pulled into the stake center building, I assume for a baby blessing (Future/returning missionaries don’t give talks on fast Sunday).

And while driving, and thinking of all of these people, this song comes on the radio.


I found the added messages appropriate, thought they weren’t in the song I heard on the radio. (I’m sorry if you have safety on and it doesn’t play. I could only find one video and it was deemed “inappropriate.” but I can’t figure out why. I was pretty frustrated to have to turn safety off to watch it… If you don’t want to turn off safety, here’s the lyrics.)

I thought of all of these examples of refugees receiving aid today. Sometimes all it takes is tightening a tie-down strap with a stranger. Or caring for a neighbor’s garden. Or inviting a loved one to church.

And sometimes, even the members become refugees. Sometimes we’re the ones caught up in the storm. How blessed we are to help others and also receive help. How blessed we are to enjoy the feelings of camaraderie by knowing that we share a common heritage. We are all children of the same Heavenly Father. May we always remember our brothers, refugees from the storm.

We sang this song in sacrament meeting today. I found it relevant to the thoughts I am sharing.

 

Grandma’s hands

These are my grandmother’s hands. I’d like to tell you about them.

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This summer, I have taken the drive to visit my grandparents during frequent intervals in order to help them out and give my grandma a haircut. I’m not very good at it, but she can’t tell me that anymore, so I do it anyway. It helps out Grandpa, and the nurse that comes in to help them always raves about how great the new haircut is, so that’s good enough. Even though I am nervous every time. Hair grows back, right?

But let me tell you about my grandmother’s hands. These hands picked and shelled peas and snapped beans to fill jars destined for the canner. These hands served lunch to hundreds of school kids (the rolls were amazing!). These hands made one heck of a “squamwich,” taught me how to embroider (while never giving up on me), and thumped my head with a thimble when I got too rambunctious under her quilt.  These hands were never still! When she was sick, or resting, they’d tie knots in all of the quilt strings. When she was listening to conference or the radio, these hands would knit bandages for foreign aide. When she was talking on the phone, these hands did crossword puzzles and doodled on any paper available. Especially little swirly flowers. Those were her favorite. Even eating dinner, grandma would run her hands over the tablecloth texture or across her buttons under the table. If there was absolutely nothing else for her hands to do, grandma would resort to twiddling her thumbs.

Grandma’s hands cut out cute sayings and glued them to magnets for her magnet board. They bought magnets from all the places Grandma visited. These hands gave hugs that always made you feel loved and wanted. These hands sent secret messages when no one was looking. If she caught you at something, she’d rub one pointer finger down the pointer and index from the other hand. It was grandma’s way of saying “shame shame” when she didn’t want the grownups to hear she’d caught us. She’d also rub her thumb across the pads of her first two fingers to show  mock sympathy (“this is the world’s smallest violin”) Grandma’s hands would even laugh when she laughed, resting across her tummy and jiggling when her grandkids would so something funny and clever. Her hands were connected to relief society arms, which always made her embarrassed, but gave much better hugs.

One time, these hands threw a fork at me in a restaurant! We were teasing my grandpa about fliping food in a restaurant, and grandma’s hands slipped! That fork ended up right in my chin.

Oh, and these hands threw away all the skip cards in every new deck of phase 10 cards Grandpa would buy! She hated the skips. She said they weren’t good for anyone! The person playing them had to get rid of a card, the person being skipped didn’t get a turn, and the person at the other end of the skip couldn’t pick up a card to keep playing.

Now these hands have a lot less to do. Grandma doesn’t say much anymore. Grandma doesn’t do too much, either. Unless reading the same Friend magazine or watching the same rotation of pictures in hr digital picture frame count. Grandma’s hands can barely feed herself breakfast. But They’re still Grandma’s… They still twiddle or feel the texture of the tablecloth. They still jiggle when you make her laugh. Some things don’t change with age.

 

see her hand feeling the tablecloth?

 

Grandpa gets pretty tired lately. It’s hard to make up the difference of all that those hands used to  do. I am so glad I get to go “help out,” because it lets me reminisce in what life was like with this bubbly old lady, her jolly husband, and her hands.

I love you Grandma.

Why My Mom Likes Thorns (an archived post)

Originally posted on my old blog Feb 25, 2011.
I don’t know what Mom was going through. I was only a kid. But as an adult, I look back, and I realize there must have been SOMETHING going on in her life, when she first came across this story. Otherwise, it would not have meant what it did and still does.
For at least 15 years, but probably more, my mother has had a vase of dried, rose-less thorns sitting in a prominent place in her house. They’re quiet and unobtrusive, but distinctly different, And if you ask her what they’re doing there, she will tell you this story…

THE THANKSGIVING “SPECIAL” BOUQUET
by: Author unknown

Sandra felt as low as the heels of her Birkenstocks as she pushed against a November gust and the florist shop door. Her life had been easy, like spring breeze. Then in the fourth month of her second pregnancy, a minor automobile accident stole her ease.

During this Thanksgiving week she would have delivered a son. She grieved over her loss. As if that weren’t enough, her husband’s company threatened a transfer. Then her sister, whose holiday visit she coveted, called saying she could not come. What’s worse, Sandra’s friend infuriated her by suggesting her grief was a God-given path to maturity that would allow her to empathize with others who suffer.

“She has no idea what I’m feeling,” thought Sandra with a shudder.

Thanksgiving? Thankful for what? She wondered. For a careless driver whose truck was hardly scratched when he rear-ended her? For an air bag that saved her life but took that of her child?

“Good afternoon, may I help you?” The shop clerk’s approach startled her.

“I….I need an arrangement,” stammered Sandra.

“For Thanksgiving? Do you want beautiful but ordinary, or would you like to challenge the day with a customer favorite I call the Thanksgiving “Special?” asked the shop clerk. “I’m convinced that flowers tell stories,” she continued. “Are you looking for something that conveys ‘gratitude’ this Thanksgiving?”

“Not exactly!” Sandra blurted out. “In the last five months, everything that could go wrong has gone wrong.”

Sandra regretted her outburst, and was surprised when the shop clerk said, “I have the perfect arrangement for you.”

Then the door’s small bell rang, and the shop clerk said, “Hi, Barbara…let me get your order.”

She politely excused herself and walked toward a small workroom, then quickly reappeared, carrying an arrangement of greenery, bows, and long-stemmed thorny roses; Except the ends of the rose stems were neatly snipped: there were no flowers.

“Want this in a box?” asked the clerk.

Sandra watched for the customer’s response. Was this a joke? Who would want rose stems with no flowers! She waited for laughter, but neither woman laughed.

“Yes, please,” Barbara replied with an appreciative smile. “You’d think after three years of getting the special, I wouldn’t be so moved by its significance, but I can feel it right here, all over again,” she said as she gently tapped her chest.

“Uh,” stammered Sandra, “that lady just left with, uh….she just left with no flowers!”

“Right, said the clerk, “I cut off the flowers. That’s the Special. I call it the Thanksgiving Thorns Bouquet.”

“Oh, come on, you can’t tell me someone is willing to pay for that!” exclaimed Sandra.

“Barbara came into the shop three years ago feeling much like you feel today,” explained the clerk. “She thought she had very little to be thankful for. She had lost her father to cancer, the family business was failing, her son was into drugs, and she was facing major surgery.”

“That same year I had lost my husband,” continued the clerk, “and for the first time in my life, had just spent the holidays alone. I had no children, no husband, no family nearby, and too great a debt to allow any travel.”

“So what did you do?” asked Sandra.

“I learned to be thankful for thorns,” answered the clerk quietly. “I’ve always thanked God for good things in life and never to ask Him why those good things happened to me, but when bad stuff hit, did I ever ask! It took time for me to learn that dark times are important. I have always enjoyed the ‘flowers’ of life, but it took thorns to show me the beauty of God’s comfort. You know, the Bible says that God comforts us when we’re afflicted, and from His consolation we learn to comfort others.”

Sandra sucked in her breath as she thought about the very thing her friend had tried to tell her. “I guess the truth is I don’t want comfort. I’ve lost a baby and I’m angry with God.”

Just then someone else walked in the shop.

“Hey, Phil!” shouted the clerk to the balding, rotund man.

“My wife sent me in to get our usual Thanksgiving arrangement…twelve thorny, long-stemmed stems,” laughed Phil as the clerk handed him a tissue-wrapped arrangement from the refrigerator.

“Those are for your wife?” asked Sandra incredulously. “Do you mind me asking why she wants something that looks like that?”

“No…I’m glad you asked,” Phil replied. “Four years ago my wife and I nearly divorced. After forty years, we were in a real mess, but with the Lord’s grace and guidance, we slogged through problem after problem. He rescued our marriage. Jenny here (the clerk) told me she kept a vase of rose stems to remind her of what she learned from “thorny” times, and that was good enough for me. I took home some of those stems. My wife and I decided to label each one for a specific “problem” and give thanks for what that problem taught us.”

As Phil paid the clerk, he said to Sandra, “I highly recommend the Special.”

I don’t know if I can be thankful for the thorns in my life,” Sandra said to the clerk. “It’s all too…fresh.”

“Well,” the clerk replied carefully, “my experience has shown me that thorns make roses more precious. We treasure God’s providential care more during trouble than at any other time. Remember, it was a crown of thorns that Jesus wore so we might know His love. Don’t resent the thorns.”

Tears rolled down Sandra’s cheeks. For the first time since the accident, she loosened her grip on resentment.

“I’ll take those twelve long-stemmed thorns, please,” she managed to choke out.

“I hoped you would,” said the clerk gently. “I’ll have them ready in a minute.”

“Thank you. What do I owe you?” Sarah asked.

“Nothing; nothing but a promise to allow God to heal your heart. The first year’s arrangement is always on me.” The clerk smiled and handed a card to Sandra. “I’ll attach this card to your arrangement, but maybe you would like to read it first.”

It read:

“My God, I have never thanked You for my thorns. I have thanked You a thousand times for my roses, but never once for my thorns. Teach me the glory of the life I bear; teach me the value of my thorns. Show me that I have climbed closer to You along the path of pain. Show me that, through my tears, the colors of Your rainbow look much more brilliant.”

Praise Him for your roses, thank him for your thorns.

Fascinating

How our brain works
provided by Flickr user _DJ_

My schedule has completely deviated from it’s outline today. I just have to deviate. It would be a shame to stick to the planned itinerary when this information is so fascinating and crucial and important. I don’t want to forget what I’m learning and I don’t want to miss a chance to tell you about it. The best opportunities are often seized and not plotted. Especially when it comes to learning and teaching. So instead of doing the baby quilt on my floor, the half-finished mending projects, and reading the rest of my homework without taking a break to jot down what I’m learning, I’m doing some major note-taking and blogging today I’ve also just spent about 3 hours staring at the same page on Flickr to try to add a picture to this new thread. I gave up. No picture. Sorry. Flickr’s back! Yea for less frustration!

Can I say this again: This stuff is FASCINATING!

FIrst off, let me just say I highly recommend Once Upon a Brain: How Neuroscience Can Be Your Colleague in the Classroom by Thomas Morley for any teachers, homeschoolers, PSR workers, or anyone involved in a relationship with any other human that wants to improve upon understanding . I’m finding it incredibly valuable. I think it links so many pieces I have gleaned from other sources, like Charlotte Mason teaching methods, Thomas Jefferson Education methods, Love and Logic, and even LDS principals of accountability and how we do the “weird” thinks we do. I’m only in chapter 4 and I’m pretty impressed. I’d like to share about a million things from its pages.

2013 Review

In an effort to close old things in order to better open new things, I was looking over my journals and old papers from last year. It’s amazing what hindsight does for clarity. Last year was soooo frustrating! I was spinning my wheels in the mud for an entire year! And now I’m looking  back at the goals I made last year, and over my nasty court battle with my ex. I am amazed at what I’ve gained.

Last year, I was timid, scared, and hoping. This year, I’m confident, patient (okay, more patient), and determined.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

Last year I was a tiny seedling screaming for justice. This year I’m a massive oak, standing firm while winds try to stir me.

Last year, the slightest breeze sent me swerving. This year, gales of wind don’t make me bend.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Last year, the slightest flaw in my diet, my mentality, or my day-to-day life, and I’d have to pick up the pieces of my tumbling tower of strength. This year, I’m in control of my fate. This year, I’m placing the stones.

I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

For the first time in my mortal existence, though I don’t know exactly when it happened, I am my own strength.I guess  I feel like I have a wider base, a higher center of gravity. I have gained so much strength! Last year, I let so many outside forces crush me. I had less control and less serenity.I think if I’ve mastered one skill over the last year, it would be that: SERENITY. And by golly, that’s a worthwhile skill! And one I wasn’t even looking for. It was the exact skill I needed, though.

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

I can’t get over how much I needed last year. I needed one exhausting year of pushing against a mountain in order to know my own strength. The mountain never moved, but now I am strong enough to make my own mountains.

When my court battle was over, I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t see any benefit. But when it ended, I asked my lawyer, “what now?” and she said something that I think back on now and know she spoke truth. She told me she was proud of how much I’d come into my own, and how she didn’t think I’d let anything stop me. I looked back on all the old paperwork the other day, and all the stuff from the most recent endeavor this morning. It’s amazing how much I’ve changed. I think of all the turmoil of emotions I experienced then, and if I were to do it all now, I’d be much calmer. I’d be solid. And a judge would be able to see that. Since that court date, I think about all the bull my ex has pulled. Some of it I let slide. I just add it up. Other stuff, I smile to myself and say nice try. I don’t react any more. I learned how to use his “use-y-ness” against him. I learned to give no reaction. Except a smile. I’m grateful to have learned that skill. I’m also grateful to know that I am worth more than any outside force tries to tell me. I have the power to do what is right, what is needed. And I can use my assets to achieve it. I feel free from the clutches of my ex like never before. The last chains of control are off. The statement that it takes just as long to get out of trouble as it did to get into trouble is apparently true. But the chains were deeper than just court cases. They were locking up my mentality and my emotions. And now… I’m free to feel how I want and what I want. It’s been such a blessing with my daughter and with my husband. It’s also helped me have stronger relationships with my friends and even acquaintances. because I’m allowed to have boundaries now.

But I’m stronger than even that! Last year, I spent so much time so sick! I had to work my way out of every second of illness. It was like climbing a rock-faced pit. Sometimes I’d fall down and have to start all over. I just wanted to be at the top. I just wanted to be all better. No more food-allergies. No more weak moments of eating garbage and then paying for it later. I was so frustrated that people, especially friends and family, didn’t understand what processed food was doing to me! I would let down my boundaries just to keep the peace, then feel sick, berate myself for eating garbage just to please everyone, and then do the whole fiasco again. But then a glorious thing happened. I cut ties. I told the loudest nay-sayers in my life that I deserved better treatment. When they responded and proved that their status-quo was more important than my well-being, I both knew where I stood and that I was enough with or without their approval. I didn’t talk to some for quite a while. When I started a relationship up again, it was on my terms. Can I just say, that was amazing! I’ve learned that toxic people are not necessary in my life. I’ve learned that I don’t have to solve problems for people who don’t care about me for me. I have also learned that people can try to tell you how to run your life, but you don’t have to listen.

I’ve watched my husband experience many of the same lessons, if a bit grudgingly, at times. I’ve watched him grow right along with me. We can grow together, now, instead of just growing individually. It’s so interesting to look back on life… In my past marriage, we grew colder and further apart. The more time went on, the weaker our marriage was. But with Ranger, the longer we’re married, the stronger we are. The stronger our feelings are. I’m so blessed to have this experience of marriage and love.

And all this from a year that I really didn’t like very much.

Invictus by William Earnest Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

“In my old school…”

Lately, I’ve privately felt as Phoebe from The Magic Schoolbus; only in reverse. I see something that needs fixed, and I think: “In my NEW school…”

Let me back up for a bit. Remember how I kept hinting that things were changing in my life? The main motivation for that has been a snowball that started out as just an idea. When I told people about my glorious month of homeschool, I was fed so many varieties of, “I’d love to do that, but I just can’t.” followed by some reason they couldn’t. Then they’d say something like, I just wish there was a better option out there.” That started the little snowball.

Then I attended a homeschool co-op meeting, and it was asked what happens when they reach the max amount of students the current structure would hold. The elected officials discussed how they would not oppose anyone starting another co-op, in fact, they’d rejoice in it.That added a heap of snow.

And then I took the Praxis, and aced it; better than most state-funded teachers. That boosted my ego a bit.

So I entertained the idea of starting a private school for a while. Every step of the way, I intended to find a road block, a reason not to do it.

I talked to a high-ranking member of education department at the local college, waiting for him to tell me to stop rocking the boat. I got exactly the opposite. If words could be a standing ovation, I got it. He suggested resources. Then he said he admired my motivation to stand up for a needed change, thanked me, and we parted ways.

I called the state board of education. Clearly, they’d have a reason not to start this. I won’t say I got a standing ovation. But I was told, in a tired and unenthusiastic voice that the state washes its hands of all private education. They gave me the information to become accredited, which I am not interested in, and which I don’t need (I researched ways around it. Word of mouth is better than a paper on my wall, anyway).

At first, my husband was hesitant. I  don’t blame him. It was frustrating to not be on the same page as he, but I understand where his frustrations were coming from. We talked and talked and talked. I think he just needed to see that I meant this, and that I wasn’t going to jump in blindly. I showed him the steps I am taking, and that they’re in order. I invited him to come with me to meetings. He was present, not supportive, until we finally just sat down and listened to one another. I asked him what his hold-ups were. We talked about them. I expressed my fears, and why I felt it was right.

I’ve looked at locations. I haven’t found the ideal one yet, but I’m being guided. I’ve studied curriculum, and tuition options, and hours after hours of studying how to do this right. And every step of the way, I feel guided.

Finally, today, I let the cat out of the bag. There was a major dispute on state laws and public education in my Facebook news feed this morning. Lots of local parents are unhappy with a current decision. I suggested that instead of complaining, something should be done. That post, along with all of the posts complaining, received lots of likes.

Then I posted that I was in the process of starting a private school. And Suddenly, my corner of Facebook went silent. People are all about badmouthing a decision. But few are okay with changing it. It’s rather disheartening, actually. It might be the roadblock to all of my planning. I guess I will see what happens. In the meantime, I will keep researching, keep studying, and at least I’m growing as a person, even if no actual school ever gets started.

One Life

[warning]This post is kind of scattered, because my thoughts are raw. Also, this post involves death, which might be a trigger.[/warning]

UntitledWritten at about 6: I just got word that my grandma might not survive the weekend. Probably not even until tomorrow night.

It’s silly that I’ve known that this could be coming for more than a month, now, and have felt absolutely no sorrow for it; she’s lived an amazing life, and she gets to be with her husband and daughter again. Her only daughter. And now, in her last hours, I’m so sad! Suddenly, I’m not thinking about how SHE feels about this, I’m suddenly realizing I have feelings, too!

This is the woman who held my hand through the delivery of my daughter. This is the woman who helped me out of so many scrapes, especially when everything hit the fan. She loved me and always had my back.  I guess, up until now, I’ve just been happy for her chance to move on to “the next great adventure.” When I went to visit her a few weeks ago, we talked about life. We talked about everything she was going to have to go through. She told me she wasn’t afraid of the other side, she was just afraid about how long it would take to get there.

I look back on the day my daughter was born differently, now. At the time, I called her because my ex was an hour and a half away and didn’t want to leave his meeting (at the time, I thought he couldn’t leave it. But my perspective has changed since then. No boss would expect a man to miss the birth of a child. Not in Small-town, Snowbank where we used to live). Grandma had told me that if I needed anything, all I had to do was call. Well, when it looked like I was about to have my very first baby all by myself, I called! It was a little awkward having your grandma there. But now… now I’m so glad I did. All of her other grandkids talk about all she did for them. But she never did that for any of them. Just me. Years later, she told me how much it meant for her to be there. She only had one daughter, as I said. She told me at that moment, I became her daughter, too. And she got to hold her daughter all over again, and help her daughter through life, all over again. Her daughter made a lot of hard choices in her life, picking men about like I picked them; some really dangerous and oppressive, and one really, really great guy. Grandma never judged me for my past, just helped me pick up the pieces. She never called my ex names, but helped me through all the problems he left me, even though he caused problems for her, too. Really expensive problems. She’s my hero.

Written at about 10: When I told my daughter about Grandma, she took it really hard. At bedtime, she prayed the sweetest, most inspired prayer. “And please bless Grandma, and let her have fun with Adella. And help her be happy up there. And help us be happy down here. ” It was said just about the time my grandmother actually slipped to the other side. Adella is my sister’s angel baby, she lost last spring.

Help us be happy down here…

Hezekiah

I have been reading the Old Testament for about 4 years. I’m still in Kings. I’ve changed the direction of the goal, though. Instead of reading to a specific point each day, thereby getting exhausted, and not reading for a few days afterwards, I am just going to read every day. Get as far as I get, and embrace the change. I know, sort of a no-brainer solution, huh? That’s what I get for looking so close to the problem.

I do have to say, up until the last few chapters of 2 Kings, I was determined that I would never read through the books of Kings again! So depressing and dry. I’ll take Leviticus any day. And then I come across a humble king in all the history of Kings named Hezekiah. He’s my hero. He saves the whole book for me. Here’s a guy, knowing all is lost, and still fighting for restoring faith to his people. He already knows Judah is going to face the same fate as Israel in a few short years, and yet he gives it all he’s got to save the people. Isaiah even says that it’s too late, that their fate has already been sealed. But that doesn’t stop Hezekiah from going to and doing the work. If you need a hero that fights for lost causes, he’s it. Then, he’s informed by Isaiah of his imminent death, pleads with God for more time, and is granted 15 more years. He’s also granted the opportunity to die before he sees the cause be utterly lost.