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.

0Y2iHoElPoCxKzfxinbNRbiZ29aJTv1r_lg.jpg

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 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.

Day 30: Thank YOU

Well, we’ve made it. You’re at day 30. Aren’t you impressed with yourself? As you’ve guessed, yesterday was a doosey for me; but honestly, after so long, I’m still chugging. This challenge has been such a blessing to me.

dareToday, our challenge is to thank ourselves. How often do we do that? I think most people see all their flaws and have such a generally negative attitude about themselves. The world is starting to address that issue, but is only scratching the surface.

In writing out all of my feelings yesterday, I find it funny how much I’ve learned about today’s challenge. In the extreme thick of things, I was so upset about not getting pregnant that I was actually subconsciously rejecting my womanhood and femininity, which was a huge disservice to myself! It was really throwing things out of whack, right down to my hormones. I’m serious, I consciously wasn’t doing it (because logically that would be ridiculous, and I was quite happy with the divinity of womanhood), but subconsciously, I was basically telling myself that if I couldn’t have babies, I didn’t deserve to be female. Big stuff. When I finally put that piece into place and realized what lies I was telling myself, I spent time falling in love with being a woman again, and it has taught me so much. Women are amazing, and I am proud to be one. But that isn’t enough!

I am amazing not just because I am a woman! Not just because I am a daughter of God. I am amazing because of all the things I do that I never expect credit for. I am amazing because no one else is like me. Do you know how much one-of-a-kind items are worth? And I’m worth more than even they. And so is every other person in this world.

There have been studies showing that people are much more likely to keep a good habit if they are recognized for them. They will be much more generous if they have received gratitude some time in the past. Do you realize the potential, therefore, in thanking yourself? Think of all the skills and habits you could master! I think we beat ourselves up for negative habits and never thank ourselves, ever. What a backwards concept, if you really think about it. How do you feel when someone else is always nagging? Then why are you doing it to yourself!?! It’s such a detrimental, yet overlooked thing. I know I’m guilty of it.

In truth, we should thank ourselves for everything we do for ourselves.

Thank you for showering today.

Thank you for getting dressed.

Thank you for looking at the mirror and finding beauty.

Thank you for doing your hair/makeup; You’re beautiful without it, but putting effort in yourself is valuable.

Thank you for eating breakfast/ lunch/ dinner; Giving yourself nutrients is very important.

Thank you for using the stairs instead of the elevator.

Thank you for cleaning the house, I like living in a clean environment.

Thank you for doing the basic things that keep us and our lives running smoothly.

There are really a million things we’d be grateful if someone else did for us (even showering. If you doubt me ask my 85-year-old grandmother). Yet we’re not thankful to ourselves for the same simple acts of kindness.

Let’s put it to the test. See how much happier you are at the end of the day after you’ve listened to mental thank you’s all day!

Day 29: Waiting.

[warning]Warning: This post is two days after it should have been written and it’s still emotionally triggering.[/warning]

Major confession: This is the challenge that is the toughest for me. If something is good, why do I have to wait for it? The only answer I have is Garth Brooks’ Unanswered Prayers.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wU9ovUxiwGo

(sorry for the TV show playing with it. It’s the best vid I could find on Youtube) My dad was a thorough Garth Brooks fan; had all the CD’s (or tapes; some of them were tapes). I heard this song throughout my entire childhood. Still doesn’t mean it’s easy though.

dare

And I know people always say you’ll value it more because you have to wait for it. I am willing to say that that might be true. But it’s still not a comfort when you have to wait.

I was hoping from the get-go that by building up to this for a month, I’d have some answers, but I don’t. I researched it to find answers, but the truth is, I really don’t know. I’m sure it’s pride getting in the way of not knowing and not wanting to accept, and I’ll work on that; But I still just don’t know.

Ready for a secret? We’ve been trying to have a baby for two and a half years. At first it was just the “whatever happens, happens.” But with an already-mature 7 (now eight, and eventually 9-year-old), we didn’t want to stay in that phase too long. The gap is forever growing; and it’s growing rapidly.

And I don’t talk about it because it’s too raw. So very raw. There have been miscarriages, there have been months I was convinced it’d finally happen. And here I am, Nursery leader and baby-less. Sometimes I think I’m finally over it and moved on and then something will happen and I’m thrown right back into it, and it’ll prove how so un-over it I really am. And then I’ll spend countless days trying to figure out why I am still so stuck in the same place. I’m not the type to want pity, though; that doesn’t work for me. That’s yet another reason I don’t talk about it.

Pity is so inadequate when your sister calls you Christmas morning and tells you that your Christmas present is that she gets to hold a new baby soon. And that it’s due on your birthday.  Or all of the times your sister calls to brag about her expanding abdomen. Or the incredible loss and shame when that same sister calls and tells you that the baby you’ve been dreading isn’t going to live in this world and knowing that even though you struggled with your feelings, you never wanted that. Or holding your sister’s hand while she buries the baby she rubbed in your face. And then there’s all of the times she needs your shoulder to cry on because she doesn’t have a baby to hold and you just wish you had the guts to lose it and scream at her that at least it was only one! At least she was barely trying. At least she got to see and hold and caress a body! At least, at least, at least. But you know that wont help. And that even though she is naive, she doesn’t deserve that. No one deserves that. But no one deserves the hurt I’ve had to face, either. And she needs you, and you’re the protector. So you just take it.

Pity doesn’t cover the fact that your ex has had two babies all in the time you’ve been trying.  And that both he and your ex-best-friend he’s currently married to have complained about having so many kids… Before these two were even conceived. It doesn’t help the agony of knowing that they get pregnant with oops babies they don’t even want and you’re begging for a family that isn’t coming. The first one really got to me. I at least had my head on a little better by the time they announced the second one. Wherein they told my daughter (remember, she’s 8), they didn’t even want it, and that it was a surprise.

Or all of the people advising you on how awesome babies are, in case you were needing encouragement.

Or realizing that some of the sunbeams you are watching were born during the countless months you were trying, and miscarrying, and still trying. Or the hours bawling that they’d even call you to nursery! And as the baby-quilt maker for the ward. At the same time.

People mourned with my sister. And I’m glad they did. But no one mourns with me. No one sees my grief. My best friends both know how much I want it, but both admit they can’t really understand. At least they listen. At least they are there for me, but no one else even knows. Because the pain is too real to tell anyone. Not even my mother knows. Well, she knows enough that we never talk about it and pretend the elephant in the room doesn’t exist, but otherwise, she doesn’t know.

I’ve had blessing after blessing where the Lord says he’s so grateful for my desire to be a mother. One time, the person blessing me didn’t even know my heart, started bawling through the blessing and told me that my body would heal itself and I’d be able to bear children. That was a year and a half ago.

And there’s countless conference talks about waiting patiently. President Eyering even gave one recently on having to wait for a baby. I’ve read the talk countless times, begged for everything I could think of, and I’m still here, wondering what my mission in life really is.

And then there’s my husband. At first I think he just wanted a baby because I wanted one. But now… His level of sorrow is just as intense as mine. Mostly more than mine, as now I’m mostly numb.

And I’ve got all of this added burden because sometimes, after years of heartbreak every month, I wonder if it’s all worth it. 9 years is a big gap. And I’m not used to babies any more. And I enjoy my free time. And even though women my age have babies all the time, I feel so OLD. But I feel so guilty for those thoughts creeping in; something I’ve wanted for so long and now I don’t? It’s such a complicated place to be. I don’t even really know if I don’t, but the tears currently streaming down my face could testify to the fact that most of this paragraph is a lie I’ve been telling myself to make it okay. To make two years worth of hidden battles I’ve faced somehow be okay. Even wanted.

That’s why I have no advice on being grateful for the chance to wait. Some day, I’ll change this day’s answer in the Gratitude Dare. But for now… for now this is what I’ve got.

Day 28: Imperfections

I touched on this earlier. Our strengths are our greatest weaknesses and our weaknesses can be our greatest strengths. Do you believe that?

dareI love how Paul describes it in 2 Corinthians 12. Over and over he states that God gives us weaknesses in order for us to triumph over them. He allows us to feel the joy and exhilaration of accomplishing something, perfecting ourselves and coming to him. He allows us to create ourselves. If we were already perfected, we would have no need to grow and we would not feel the immense triumph from overcoming an obstacle.

And what if everyone were perfect? Well, certainly we would not need one another. We would all stick to ourselves and never communicate. That defeats a main purpose of mortality: Family. Also, I love that part of economics class when they talk about trade and specialization.  It fascinates me that by working together with someone, everyone can have a higher and more rewarding production possibility. And that’s not to mention the benefits of social interaction and human touch.

But that’s not all. Weaknesses remind us of our Savior and all he does for us. Weaknesses help us look to the Creator of our souls. Weaknesses create a father-child bond that could otherwise be unattainable. What would happen if babies came with all the skills they ever needed? What if from the day they were born, they could move out and go to college? Think of that roughly 18-year gap you’d lose out on! Sometimes that sounds just fine to me, but mostly, I’d miss that happy smile. I’d miss the love and bonds we share over an intense game of Sorry!.  I’d miss  the opportunity to learn and grow from being a parent. And my daughter would miss that and more. She’d miss the feeling of someone watching out for her, and the feeling of safety. Learning would be much harder. She’d never have a connection with me. The same is true of us and our Heavenly Father. Our weaknesses give us a chance to come to him.

And that’s all speaking in a general term. Our specific weaknesses have the potential to become our greatest strengths. Because we see that they need work, and we focus on them. I think of Heber J. Grant and his determination to overcome his weaknesses. He was often ridiculed for having chicken scratch for handwriting; so he worked and worked at it. Eventually, people hired him for his beautiful calligraphy. But he didn’t stop there. He applied the same determination to singing and sports. His weaknesses provided all kinds of blessings in his life. I can only imagine the tests he passed that no one saw.

Day 27: Negatives

Let me tell you about my night. My husband hit a deer. At midnight. I think my challenge is teaching me hard-core today. The interesting thing is, instead of getting frustrated, my thoughts sound like this:

Thank heavens that the “commuter” car needed repaired, or he would have taken it and this would have been much worse.

We just checked on our insurance. That’s interesting.

Ranger wanted new lights anyway.

I’m so glad he was in enough control to not swerve to avoid the deer. Swerving creates so many more problems. I’m grateful he had his wits about him.

We’re so lucky the airbags didn’t go off.

At least I didn’t buy the new headlights for Christmas, yet.

Any more to the front and it would have been serious damage. Any more to the side and it would have caused way more problems.

It’s nice to have good insurance.

Thank heavens deer collisions count as incidents and not accidents, so our rates wont increase.

Naturally, I’m grateful he’s up and walking around. Probably a little stiff today, and his nerves are probably on edge, and I understand that. But I’m so glad he’s not unconscious on a road somewhere.  And let’s not even get into anything worse.

OuchAt first, Ranger was pretty frustrated and “why did this have to happen,” and I can see his point of view extremely well. I’m selfishly glad it was him and not me. It’s his “baby” as far as cars go. But so much has come up the past 48 hrs that could have come up any other time, so if he was really supposed to avoid the deer, he would have.  Maybe it was to teach me about being grateful for the negatives. Who really knows. But I can say that if we were supposed to hit a deer, this was probably the best possible way to do it.

That is all finding the silver lining. That was a previous challenge. But being downright grateful for the negatives like today’s challenge is ironically in place for (Yes, I mean situationally ironic; or cosmically ironic, you choose…  Grammar Nazi still resides in my head)? It is a bit tougher but still quite doable.

dareInterestingly enough, after working on gratitude and charity all month, it’s pretty easy to be grateful for the negatives. Here’s why: When you’re more focused on gratitude, you’re willing to look past yourself. You’re willing to trust that the higher power knows what he’s doing, that there is a force stronger than yourself that has watched over every step you’ve taken and won’t set you up for a fall that you can’t rise higher from. When you’ve spent all month working on gratitude, it’s even possible to see potential outcomes. This may take care of some problem in the vehicle that we were currently unaware of, or might have saved us from some bigger woe. Who knows. I’m not far enough away from the life event to see anything in focus, but I can see that this was not just some fluke in life. There are blessings I can’t see yet.

And then there’s the other vehicle. Finding out that it needed to stay home for repairs was a pretty big bummer. But look what a blessing it is now with a little more perspective. It had a lower profile and a curvier front end. It wasn’t as highly insured. It has less-responsive breaks. The list is pretty intense.

Needless to say, instead of teaching gratitude, today, life taught me.

Day 26: Problem Solving

**Sorry this took so long. I got distracted with my map…**

dareIn my family of origin, I was the problem solver. When philosophers discuss how our strengths are also our biggest weaknesses, their discussion holds true in this personal strength. I was so good at problem solving I solved problems that weren’t mine. In recent  years, within my search for “seven,” I’ve learned to let that go; but  I still have to walk a fine line in problem solving. Sometimes I forget that I’ve still got to solve my problems myself instead of expecting them to be solved for me. I also forget that some problems aren’t mine. Interestingly enough, we just had this discussion with our daughter yesterday. We talked about how sometimes God has an answer that he wants you to find and that we need to come to him for help and guidance, because he can see more than we can. Sometimes, however, like with Mohonri Moriancumer (The Brother of Jared), Heavenly Father wants us to come to him with a solution. Today is devoted to recognizing the difference between our problems and someone else’s. It is also devoted to coming up with our own solutions.

First of all, we must weed out the problems that aren’t ours. While I was processing this concept, it got so complicated in my head, I drew a “map.” Then I showed it to my friend and she was so distracted by the boxes and the arrows, that for her I made it more complicated. Sorry if you fall into the latter category. If you do, create a nice  boring outline and work with that. ;c)

problem

How you solve the problem depends on what the problem was. If there was one cut and dry solution to every problem, it’d sure make life easier, but since we’re here to gain experience, I can be grateful that there isn’t. Let me know how it goes. 🙂

Day 25: Mindfulness

I can’t believe we’re almost done. It’s the 25th.

In Eldest, the second book of Christopher Paolini‘s  Inheritance series, Eragon, the protagonist, must learn to look past his own consciousness and the things visible by his own eyes to see everything around him. I believe this skill is achievable to everyone, not just those who befriend dragons. Maybe not to the same extent, but still achievable.

To me mindfulness is being aware; aware of where you step, aware of who is present, aware of needs, desires, and potential actions. We also need to be aware of ourselves, our needs, desires, and actions and how they might be skewed.  There is a force connecting everything to everything else. There is potential to feel what to expect. I read a study once conducted by a man named Cleve Backster. He came up with a profound discovery. Even plants practice mindfulness [check out these links! 1, 2, 3]. Plants can feel intentions and feelings.  If even plants can, why not beings created in the image of the Creator? 

dareI’m not expecting anyone to tap the “other 95%” of their brain, but I am challenging people to be aware today. Sometimes I get so caught up in myself that I forget to think of others. That is what I want to push past. I don’t think meditation is necessary. And I don’t think some major physiological change needs to take place. Just think outside the box. Be present. I am expecting that the result will be a huge sense of light. There is less worry about the future. Less stewing over the past. Those are the blocks of mindfulness.

Mindfulness focuses on heartbeats, breathing, and energy. It focuses on finding the connections inside yourself. It promotes good blood flow and good connections to the world around you. Those connections will create a more grateful heart.

Day 24: Pray

It sounds so easy, and it’s discussed so often that I don’t know what more to explain. Pray.  Take time to thank a higher power. More than 30 seconds, and more in words. Thank Him for specific blessings in your life. They should be easy enough to spot by now. It’s okay to still ask for the things that you need, but do it with a grateful heart. We’ll look at thanking God for the things that you are still in need of this week.

dare

Day 23: Doctrine

Now that you’ve found more time in your day, it’s perfect to add a habit of scripture reading. You may already have a good habit. Mine tends to be all or nothing. Sometimes I do extremely well but I set the goal too high and spend the whole day trying to reach it. Sometimes I don’t even pick up a book of scripture. I’ve had a goal for myself to read the old testament for four years now. I’m about 2/3 of the way through it. I’d like to finish.

dareThere is more than one way to study the scriptures. It’s nice to trade off and try another method and reap the benefits of seeing things you didn’t before. There is an intense study program, like I’ve been working on for four years, where you look up symbolism, study the background, and analyze each verse at a time. There is the quick read so you can see the whole picture. There is the companion study where you read two books at once (my friend reads the Book of Mormon one direction and the OT backwards. She says it’s amazing the parallel. I’ll trust her opinion). There is the topic study, where you pick a topic and research, ponder, etc, by topic (God’s love is a good topic).

There is scripture and doctrine in just about every faith, and no one should feel like they get a freebie because they’re not a particular religion. If you don’t have doctrine, read and study classics. You can follow the same study patterns listed above. The idea is to learn and find understanding in your soul and in the universe. Find your place. Get to know Deity. Reach a new potential.