Thursday, May 28, 2015

A Father/Daughter Dance

She got in the car, and I started to drive. It was time for another girls’ night at Pizza Pie CafĂ©, our favorite. We talked about boys, our crushes, our frustrations. Somehow, the conversation led to the wedding topic. What will we have at our weddings? What is the most important thing?
I answered without hesitation. “The most important thing to me is to have a Daddy/Daughter dance. You know, my dad and I are really close, so to me, I feel that would be like our last moment with him as my authority figure, before he hands me off to whoever my husband is. Everything else doesn't really matter. Just a dance with my husband, and a dance with my dad.”

***

The walls were white, and surrounded the gym. The doors held pictures of our younger selves, both together and separately, from the years before. The chandelier hung in the center of the tent, and the cake was beneath it. The music filled my ears as I stood, welcoming the line of guests who so graciously came on our behalf.

It could not have been more beautiful! As I marveled at it all, I still couldn't believe that it was for us. I was now a married woman. As a girl, you always imagine what your wedding day is going to be like; the colors, the dress, the groom. Certain things are important.

The line lasted 2 hours exactly. After that, we were definitely ready for some fun! The sharing of the drinks was sweet, and the stuffing each other’s face with cake was hilarious! He asked me to dance to our song, “I’m Yours,” and it was wonderful.

Then, my aunt announced that there would be a Mother/Son dance, as well as a Brother/Sister dance. It seemed only fitting. Ian took me by the hand, and we danced. I thought that I would cry, but I didn't. I smiled, and he smiled, and he made it as enjoyable as he could. He understood this was important to me, and he was so positive.

Then something happened that I did not anticipate.

I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around, and it was one of my uncles. He asked, “May I cut in?” Ian smiled, and said “Yes.” I was surprised, but so happy. He took me by the hand and danced with me. My throat became choked up, and I could feel the tears coming to my eyes. I could see my uncle also had tears filling his eyes. We danced for a while.

I felt another tap, and turned around. There was my second uncle, the younger brother of the first. I had been living with his family since everything happened. At this point, I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing. I let them. He held me close, and we danced.

There was a third tap on my shoulder. I turned around to see my dad’s best friend, who, like my uncles, I look to as another father figure.  He took me by the hand and we danced.

After a few moments, there was a final tap. I turned to see my grandfather, my mother’s father. We both had tears. He took my hand, and we danced. He said, “This is the first dance I’ve danced in about 20 years, you know?”

It is moments like this that makes the world stop for even just a moment.

***


I realized something a few days ago. Something that is taking me some time to accept, but I know it is true.

As much as my Mom, Dad, Keegan and Liam love me, and would be there for me always, I think that there are going to be times when they won’t be.

Maybe that’s shocking for some people. When everything happened, I felt their presence a lot. I felt that they were with me through the initial shock and hardship of everything. I felt that they were with me through dark moments, and even happy moments.

I felt them so strongly in the temple when I was sealed to the love of my life. I swear I could have reached out and touched them, it was so strong. It was special. It was personal. They were there for me. For us.

But… I did not feel them at my reception. I did not feel my father standing beside me while I danced with those important men in my family. And if his presence was there, it had to have been fleeting, as if to say, “Jens, I love you more than you could ever know. And right now, I am needed elsewhere. But I want you to know I am proud of you.”

The more that I experience, both happy and hard, I am coming to understand that I will feel each one of them specifically when it is the Lord’s will, or when He sees fit.

I don’t know why they had to pass when they did. I don’t know why they passed the way that they did. I don’t know when I will see them again. I don’t know when I will feel them again.

I have a firm belief that for whatever reason, they are where they are because they need to be there. I firmly believe that Ian and I were saved because we need to be here. Is that doctrine? I cannot say. But one day, I believe that I will know.

In the meantime, I believe that life will go on. Now that life has been moving at a faster pace, and more things have been happening, maybe it is time that I start doing things on my own, with my husband. Maybe I don’t need that constant feeling of them pushing me along, getting me on my feet again. Perhaps, that point has come when it is time for all of us to do our part.

And how can they do their part if I’m constantly begging them to come back and comfort me, when I already know what I need do? How can they progress if I’m constantly feeling like they need to be with me at all times?

They can’t. Nor can I.

What I need to do to progress is simple:
1. Keep the commandments.
2. Repent when I don’t.
3. Let the Atonement figure out the rest.

Life is meant to be enjoyed. Relationships are meant to last forever. Why would we come here and create families, only to have them split and separated after death?

Heavenly Father would never be that cruel. He provided a way. So, do I need to worry about that? 

No, I don’t. It’s already taken care of.


It’s all taken care of. We just need to do our part. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Happy Ever After

Life is a glass, and there is water in that glass. We have all heard that phrase before. Sometimes, the glass is half empty, sometimes it's half full, but nevertheless, it's all the same. It's a glass cup, and there is water, waiting to be consumed.

I've always been fascinated by people. We really are quite incredible. Being an English major, I've kind of started thinking in terms of stories. All of us have a story. We all want a Happy Ever After.

I'm getting married in 9 days. It's crazy when I think about it! I was that girl on the mission that thought that I would never get married. It wasn't my thing. Ya, it's a nice thought, but things are too scary things in the world, and I just don't want to deal with the drama. It's too much.

I was very wrong. I'm getting married to an amazing guy, one who has been there for me for years, and especially this year. There are days that I'm shocked that he still wants me around, that he still cares for me, because I'm kind of a nut. He is strong for me when I'm not myself, when I'm depressed, when I'm angry at the world, at the people around me, at the situation that we are in.

I consider myself a realist, though people may think it's pessimism. Maybe I'm a little bit more on the pessimistic side nowadays. I live in fear a lot. It's hard not to sometimes, when the biggest thing that I've feared has already been realized; when one minute, my life was perfect and normal and happy, and then literally the next minute, it was flipped upside down; four people that I loved more than anything else on this planet were gone in an instant, and I didn't even get to say goodbye.

For me, it's really hard not to live in fear. Fear takes over me, causing extreme anxiety attacks, causing the littlest things to push me over the edge. It eats at me, making me expect the worst sometimes. At times, it even gets me to a point where I am too afraid to try anything new, because what's the point?

And this guy is the absolute opposite. He tries because to him, failure is not trying at all. He puts himself out there because why not? "Life is short, so try things" is his philosophy.

***

It was late, and we were hungry. We had an amazing date, walking around old town Pocatello, admiring the art and architecture that was on display that night, but we had forgotten about dinner. Trying to limit our eating out, we ran to WinCo to buy us some food. 

Driving down the road, we were discussing marriage; what were our expectations, what were our goals, and lots of things. I mentioned, "You know, I think sometimes people are shocked, because they get married expecting it to be a fairy tale, and it's not."

He got wide eyed. "WHAT! It's not a fairy tale?" He smirked a little, indicating that he was trying to be funny.

Nonsensically, I responded, "Hate to break it to you, but it's not."

Going along with it, he said, "Hmm, well, I'm planning on it to be a fairy tale."

"Oh, really? I'd love to see that. People are still human, you know. Things still get hard. There aren't any white horses or pretty princesses or magic spells. Bad things still happen." I was trying to get my point across.

His answer threw me in for a loop. "Let's think about this, Jens. Life is a fairy tale. Let's think about all the fairy tales that we know:

Snow White: evil step-mother, both her biological parents die, she's pretty much an orphan, and step-mother hates her and wants to kill her because she is jealous. She has to run away, and she lives with SEVEN MEN! What a night mare! And she still lived happily ever after, yes?"

"Yes, but..."

"Sleeping Beauty: Gorgeous, and has to sleep for however long (which sounds nice in my opinion). Prince has to cut through thorns and bristles, and kill a dragon before he can even get to her in the highest tower! Trials, no?"

"Well..."

"And let's not forget RAPUNZEL! Locked in a tower for 18 years, no social experience whatsoever, creepy handsome guy comes along. A few frying pan smacks later, she has to go on an adventure to find out who she is... Then she finds out she's a princess, gets married, and lived happily ever after! You know I could go on and on!"

At this point, I couldn't respond. I knew he was winning his argument. He smiled, and said, "You best believe in happily ever after, because that's what I am shooting for." 

***

Life is a glass, and there is water in that glass. Is it half empty? Is it half full? It's up to you. 

I could focus on the emptiness of my life. My mom and my dad are gone. My two youngest brothers are gone. I won't see them again in this life. Mom and Dad aren't here to help plan my wedding with me. I won't dance with Dad at my reception, or my Mom won't be able to sit by my side. I struggle with many emotional and mental effects because of it, more than most people ever witness. I struggle with a lot of things. I struggle in school. I struggle to connect with people. Sometimes, I feel like an outsider.

Or... I could focus on the fullness of my life. I have a great family and friend support system. We have each other for when we have bad days. I have an amazing fiance' who has been there for me since day one and beyond, with an amazing family who have helped me in so many ways. My wonderful family and friends are helping us with wedding planning. Maybe Ian and I will dance at my reception. I can use my experience to help others. I am going to school and getting a degree in English. Maybe I'll do something amazing with writing. I can be someone who opens her arms to anyone who needs it.

The ones who live happily ever after are the ones that hope for and shoots for it. And the beautiful thing about happily ever after is... it doesn't end.

It's an eternal journey. 


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Wise Words of a Seminary Teacher

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times...

High school. That's a whole new world in it of itself. A new bizarre world where everything that you do or don't do may be a pivotal choice in your life. Boys like girls, girls like boys. Dating becomes a new adventure. Friends can make or break you. If you're like me, you were also exposed to many things that may have traumatized your young teenage mind.

I was a sophomore in high school when I had my first "official" boyfriend.  I was head over heels "in like" with him, and I felt that he felt the same way.  We couldn't actually go on dates, but we saw each other in school everyday. He held my hand. He kissed me in the parking lot. (It was awful, by the way.)

We started "dating" on November 7, 2007. It was great, I thought. Then, he sent me a text message on December 5, 2007 to tell me he didn't want to date me anymore. (I sure did know how to pick them.) We didn't even last a month.

He played his cards well, I'll give him that. He didn't start dating my best friend until at least 3 weeks later. He made sure that there was at least a little bit of time for the blow to settle before asking her to be his new girlfriend as he sat next to me at the movie theatre. There was a group of us there. I thought it was just going to be us girls. I guess he couldn't wait any longer. I was 3 weeks from becoming 16.

The following week or 2 were what I deemed to be the hardest 2 weeks of my life. Not only did my best friend start dating my ex, but she also became better best friend with another friend of mine. Soon, they didn't want me around. My ex didn't like me because they didn't like me. They left me out of the loop. I felt that sides were being created. I did have one friend, thank goodness, but she was involved with clubs during lunch some days, and so I would be alone in the hallway.

For me, being alone was the worst thing in the world. I was less outgoing then, and so I sat by myself. I hated going to school for those 2 weeks.

On a day that was particularly hard, when I was by myself, I went across the street to the seminary building. I walked into the classroom that I was attending and I saw my seminary teacher. He was a good friend of my dad, and I had known him for a while. Maybe it was the look on my face, or maybe it was my countenance, but he could tell that something was up.

We started talking. I vented, telling the whole story about the boy, the breakup, the betrayal, and now the loneliness that I felt. I talked about how I was just trying to do what was right. I complained about the hardships of high school, and how I couldn't wait to get out and be done and move and yada... the list went on.

This wise seminary teacher took a little while to let it all sink in. He didn't say much at first; nothing more than the "huh... mmm-mmm... okay..." I sat there, waiting. Waiting for him to tell me what to do, waiting for him to tell me that because I've been through these "hard times", I would be blessed. You know, something that would validate my concerns.

Instead, he looked me right in the eyes and said, "Do you know what you're real problem is?"

I was shocked. I had a problem? Are you serious? I was being what I felt was persecuted and betrayed by other people, and I was the one with the problem?? But I could see he was being totally serious. So, I responded, "No. What is my problem?"

His answer changed my life. "The problem here is, you're not trusting the Lord." 

I don't remember much about the rest of the conversation. I know that we talked about ways to trust the Lord and to have faith. But that one statement changed the way that I viewed my trials.

And now, 7 years later, when things can be what I deem in my young adult life the hardest thing that I've ever done, when there are days that I feel alone, days where I just want to talk to my dad face to face, days where I wish that Mom was here to help me plan a wedding, days where I miss Keegan's happy-go-lucky personality, and days where I miss seeing Liam playing with his friends... sometimes it's hard to trust. Sometimes, it's really hard to believe that there is a purpose with their passing. Or, maybe not that it's hard to believe in A PURPOSE. Rather, it's hard to understand what THAT PURPOSE is.

I think that's what it really comes down to. I don't think that we as people don't believe in a purpose. We just want to know THE purpose.

And yet, sometimes that's the point. We just continue to move, to plan, to live. Because of the Atonement of Christ, we are able to do that.

Just think. Whatever trial you are going through RIGHT NOW, whatever feelings of inadequacies you are feeling RIGHT NOW, whatever feelings of anger, depression, confusion, heartache... it has already been felt FOR YOU.

Take a moment. Think about the hardest thing you've ever experienced. To know that the Savior went through that exact feeling (which, if you really think about it, is amazing. Because since no two people are exactly alike, we all feel and experience differently.) creates a remarkable connection between you and the most powerful being who ever walked upon the earth. A connection that can literally give you an ability to move not only forward, but also upward in your life, no matter how far along the path you may seem, no matter how unpopular you may be, no matter how ugly you feel.

Perhaps one of THE PURPOSE is to be able to create that relationship with our Savior.

So... what happened after that dramatic 2 week fight? 

Things did get better. Things did calm down. We became friends again, but it was never quite the same. We all got involved in different things because of that. Soon, I made more friends. Those friends are still some of my closest friends 7 years later. (One of those friends is now my fiance!) Because of the influence of my friends, I decided to go on a mission. I served for a year. I'm still alive today because of it.

Did all of that happen because of one fight? Probably not all of it, but it definitely influenced me in many ways. I look back now, and I realize... "Wow. I'm so glad that happened. Because who knows where I would be now."

Alma 36:3
... Thou are in thy youth, and therefore, I beseech of thee that thou wilt hear my words and learn of me; for I do know that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions... 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A note for you, My Reader

A year ago today, this blog was created.

I am sure that many of you are aware of how it came to be. I felt inspired to do it after my Mom, Dad, and two youngest brothers, Keegan and Liam, passed away, due to carbon monoxide poisoning that filled our house, because of a faulty water heater.

I had thought that it might be something good for me. Maybe it would help me with my grief. It would be therapeutic for me. An escape from the world that I felt swarmed by. This would be the pathway to a world where I could go into the innermost parts of my mind and heart, and really discern what I believe to be true. It would help me to discern what I was really feeling.

But I never dreamed that this blog would receive the attention and the reaction that it did.
I didn't think that you, my reader, would read it and learn from it. I didn't think that because of you, my reader, I would continue to write for as long as I did. I've never been a Blogger. I didn't know how it worked. But because of you, I felt the desire to keep going.

And so, this blog post is for you.

This is a personal thank you from me to you.

Some of you, I know well. Some of you are family. Some of you are friends. Some of you were first hand witnesses of my hard days, and my good days. Some of you were there for me when I needed to cry. Some of you were there when I needed to vent, or scream, or throw martini glasses and old cheap porcelain plates. Some of you were there to give me a physical hug. Some of you took me in as your own.

And I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Some of you don't know me, and I don't know you. Some of you may be from far away places that is nowhere near this little town called Pocatello, Idaho. Some of you maybe heard about me on the news, or saw me in the LDS Living Magazine. Some of you, because of the goodness of your hearts, wanted to help out in some way, extend a hand for me to hold onto. They came in forms of cards, emails, Facebook messages, gifts even. They came in the forms of prayers and fasting.

And I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I do not know how else to say exactly how I feel. This year has been... well, A New Normal. Things nowadays are becoming... comfortable, to an extent. Things are as they are, and they can't go back to the way it was.

I'm starting to accept that.
I guess you could say, I'm entering into the acceptance phase of grief.
But, let's be real, I don't think grief really goes away. It gets easier, and I find new ways to cope with it, and new strategies.
I thought that once I hit a year, I would be 100% better. I would be healed, and move on. Such is not the case, not when you love someone (let alone four people) that much, with your whole heart.

And that's ok. It's ok to not be completely better right now.

I may know you, and I may not know you. But I feel like we all have something in common.

We are human, and we go through hard things.
And maybe my trials are not deemed to be as "hard" as your trials, and maybe your trials are not deemed as "hard" as mine. Nevertheless, we go through hard things. Who defines hard, anyways? Pain is pain, and hard is hard.

We are children of a Father in Heaven. I really truly believe that. And I truly believe that these things that happen are for our good. If there's anything that I learned for myself this year, is that hard things will happen. And we decide if it's going to strengthen us, or weaken us.
Which, of course, is so much easier said than done. Believe me, I GET THAT.
But, it's true.

To you, my reader, I want to thank you for enduring. Thank you for not giving up, even when your life is down, and hard, and you lose someone you love. Thank you for still going on when you just want to crumble. Thank you for holding on to the hope that life will get better.

You strengthen me.

I've been asked the questions a few times in the past:

"Will you continue to blog, even when it's up to the year?"

I've thought about it a lot. And I decided, yes, maybe I will. Maybe when I feel that there is something that needs to be shared. And hopefully, someone out there, will need it.

I am grateful for this opportunity to share with you my testimony of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and his Atonement. That's another thing that I've learned. It's the MOST IMPORTANT THING. If it wasn't for that, none of this would matter.
I invite all to come unto him. I would invite everyone who is seeking something in your life, go to him. I promise, he is there.

My reader, thank you for giving me something to strive for. You have helped me through so much.

Life is always becoming A New Normal. Because, we are always changing. It's constantly new.
Isn't that just so cool?

Monday, March 2, 2015

If I were to go back...

If I could go back in time, and see myself in different phases of my life, would I? And if I did, which parts of my life would I visit?
Would I change anything? 
Would I say anything?

If I could go back and tell Younger Me anything, what would it be? 
I been thinking about that a lot the last couple of days.

If I could go back, maybe I'd go to newborn baby me. I'd want to see myself, connected to tubes and machines. I'd want to see my lifeless body. I want to really know what it was like. 
I would want to approach 25 year old Dad, as he is worried, crying, praying and begging Heavenly Father to allow me to live. I'd want to say, "Daddy, it's me. I'm 23 now, and I'm alive. You taught me well. You taught me how a man should be. You taught me to be strong. Don't worry, Daddy. I'm gonna be ok."
I would approach 23 year old Mom, exhausted in the hospital bed, uncertain and afraid and traumatized of what had just happened. I'd want to say, "Mom, it's me. I'm going to live. You are strong. So very strong. You've set an example of how I should be as a mother and a wife. And so much more than that, you taught me how to be a friend, and a confidant. You taught me the importance of having a Christ-centered home. You have done so well. Don't be scared, Mom. It's all going to be ok." 


If I could go back and see the Younger Me, I think I would go back to elementary days. I would see the happy go lucky me, and I would say, "Jensen, make sure you stay that way. The world need more happy people." 
I would want to tell her, "Don't be insecure about your hearing impairment, no matter what. You don't know this now, but someday, you are going to serve a mission. You are going to learn Sign Language! And it's going to be hard, but you will be able to do it. When you get the prompting to go, don't fight it. Go! There will be people there that will change your life, and things you will learn and teach that you will have to hold on to when times become super tough. But you're going to be able to do it." 


If I could go back, I'd go to middle school me. I'd say, "Stop WORRYING about how you look! I can assure you, nobody really cares, and no one is really eyeing you. Instead, focus on who you are! This is critical. You NEED to know who you are, and more importantly, WHOSE you are. Yes, this is an awkward point in your life, but I promise, braces and glasses aren't going to last forever. Just be happy with who you are. Don't fall into the trap of negativity and depression. It's not worth it. And it will affect you for a long time after. So please, just don't do it."


If I could go back and visit the Younger Me, I would probably go to 15-16 year old me. I'd approach myself as I'm sitting alone in the hallway, and I'd say, "Jensen, GOOD RIDDANCE! Seriously, friends like that aren't friends at all. What you did was right, and don't think otherwise! Next year, you are going to gain so many new friends, and these friends will remain your friends long after high school. You're 23 now, and you're still friends with most all of these new people you are going to meet. These friends are going to get you through so much, through the hardest trial of your life, and you need friends like that; friends that helps you to remember the positive. Ya, this sucks right now. It does. 2 more weeks, and things will start looking up again. You just need to keep going."

If I could go back, I'd also visit 17-18 year old me. I might say, "Focus on school. You're so close to being done with high school and then you NEVER have to go back! Don't waste your breath on the uncertainty of what's going to happen. I promise, things work out for you. It's not easy, but it works out. That's how life is, really." 

Maybe I'd go back to my college years in Rexburg, Idaho, at BYU-Idaho. I'd watch how I was. I'd see the friends I've gained. I'd smile, because slightly Younger Me doesn't realize yet that these friends are still her best friends 2-3 years later.

I would definitely go back to my mission. I'd want to watch the transformation. I'd see stressed out me in the MTC, in a silent room, with hands waving at me. When Younger Me starts to cry on the third day, I'd say to her, "Don't you dare quit! Don't you dare go back! Don't you dare go back to what you used to be. Your mission will literally save you! You need to be here! One day, you will get this language. I promise! It's not going to happen overnight, but it is going to happen!"
When I would come upon the days when Younger Me feels alone and small, I'd say, "Don't underestimate your work. You have to drink up everything that you learn here, because in just a few short months, you are going to need this. You will hold to it, cling to it. People here love you, and they will miss you when you are gone."

On February 23, 2013, I would sit by Younger Me, and I would let her cry. On that night, I don't think that I would say anything.
On February 26, 27, and 28, I would be standing by her and her brother. I would watch her when she cries as they close her family's caskets. I think I would be waiting for her for when she runs out of the room. I'd make sure to be close for the viewing and the funeral.

And then, on March 1, I would come to her and say, "Jensen. This is going to be the hardest year you have ever experienced, even more so than your mission was. Because, this is part of your mission. But, look at yourself. Look at me. Next year, you will be engaged to that boy you love so much all those years, and you will be doing things that you never thought you would be able to do. You'll be a speaker, a teacher, a friend, a confidant. You will do things because when things are hard, it's better to just DO. Don't give up. Don't do nothing. Be something. Be someone."

If I could go back...
But would I?
Maybe not.

Things are looking up. They really are. Things get better.

When I look back on all of those experiences, I see the Lord's hand from the get go. He was always there. He never left. He never would. He never will.

Life is unfigureoutable.

We lose some. We win many. If we allow it, that is. We are taken care of. We are carried. We are caressed.
We are never alone.

Has he not taken care of me up until now? Would he not continue to do so? 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Little Bit Longer

The whistle was piercing as one of the boys accidentally pushed over other teammate in order to get the ball. Another foul shot. Of course, the crowd was not happy. Some fathers were standing and waving their arms, irritated and screaming down to the referee. Mothers were frustrated at the call, commenting to their friends or husbands. Highland against Madison high, and Madison was catching up.

But I wasn't focused on the game. No. Nor did I really care about the calls that the refs made.

I was focused on the Highland basketball team. 

Those boys were growing up so fast. I recognized most of them. I recognized them because they have been in my home as elementary school boys, playing with Keegan. 

Keegan was not playing basketball. He was not out there hustling. Heck, he wasn't even sitting on the bench, frustrated, planning on how he could be a better teammate and player.
That was a gift of his. Even if he wasn't the best, he worked harder than anyone else, because he truly believed that he could be the best. 

But no, he wasn't there. Nor was Dad screaming at the ref. Nor was Mom talking to her friend. Nor was Liam sitting there with his game system.

They weren't there, and that was all that I noticed.

I forced myself to sit. I forced myself to watch. And it worked... for about 15 minutes. The more I stared out into the court, the more I realized the emptiness that I was witnessing. The more I stared, the more I recognized the gaping hole that was once again, searing wide open in my heart. 

I  couldn't take it anymore, so I left. I walked out of the gym, into the crowded hall, shimmied through students and parents (thanks for the skinny genes, Mom,) and out the side door. 

And I ran. Out by the drama department. Pass the drama department. Into the parking lot. Through the parking lot. Into the neighborhood next door. I kept running, and crying, which eventually turned into heaving sobs. Those still happen, you know, those heaving sobs. I ran until I couldn't run anymore. I walked until I felt too exhausted. I sat on the curb. Stared at the stars.

Orion was staring down at me. So was the Big and Little Dipper. So were all the other constellations that I don't even know. So magnificent and so vast.
And at that moment, I felt so small.
And the questions started rolling through my brain again.

"Why are they gone? Why am I here?"
And even more recently...
"How can you expect me to do this? How much longer do I have to do this?"

There was only wind to answer me for a little while, making my tears become colder. I didn't want to go back in yet. I didn't know what the outcome would be.

A thought came into my head.

"I expect you to do this, because you are of me. I made you to be able to do hard things. Just a little bit longer." 

Did everything become better after that? No, not entirely. No, I did not go back to the game. Yes, I went for a very long eventful walk after that. And I still cried.
But it really struck me. 

For though I need to be preparing for the future, I can only really do that by living in the present, savoring each day, and using it for the benefit of growth and learning. When things are hard, we want them to be done NOW. We want to be strong NOW. We want to come on top NOW. 

But instant gratification is not the Lord's way of doing things. 

The strongest muscle has to be torn. The prettiest flower has to grow. The strongest testimony has to be tested.
That's why it's called a TESTimony. 

Everyone is hurt in one way or another. And hurting is hard. And hurting can damage plans and ambitions. 
But it doesn't have to control it. 

I hope that one day, I will have that happiness again; that FULL happiness. And I know that I will.
It will just take some time.

And I think I can do it for just a little bit longer. 


Monday, January 26, 2015

Gold Stars and Grey Dots

One of my favorite children stories growing up was the book by Max Lucado, "You are Special."

(For anyone who doesn't know this story, I suggest you read it. This is a spoiler alert. So, if you would prefer to go read this story first, do it!)

The synopsis of the story is this: There is a little wooden town with a bunch of little wooden people called Wimmicks. No Wimmick were the same, and they each had their own box of stickers. The stickers were either gold stars, or grey dots. Everyday, these Wimmicks would give out these stickers and stick them to each other. If a Wimmick was tall, beautiful, a good singer, an athlete, a performer, smart, or anything deemed as positive and/or desirable, that Wimmick would receive gold stars. On the other hand, those who may be small, too round, have scratched up wood, if they tripped, or if they made mistakes, would receive grey dots.

No one wanted the grey dots.

The main character of the story is a Wimmick named Punchinello. He is clumsy, he is unpopular, and he always (unintentionally) made mistakes. Pretty soon, he had received so many grey dots that he allowed those dots to become his identity. He was known as the grey dotted Wimmick who didn't do anything right.

Naturally, he began to believe it.

Then one day, he meets a Wimmick name Lucinda, and she is unlike any other Wimmick he has ever met. What made her different? She didn't have any stickers. Neither gold stars or grey dots. And the craziest part of it was, it was because the stickers couldn't stick to her.

Of course, he becomes curious, and asks what it was that made that possible. She answered, "Everyday, I go up the hill and visit Eli." Punchinello had no idea who Eli was, but he decides to go and visit him.

The little puppet goes up the hill one day to Eli's home, and he goes in. Eli knows him by name, and he is so excited to see him! When Punchinello asks, "How do you know me?" Eli response is, "I know you because I made you."

They talk for a little while, and Eli tells Punchinello the secret. He said, "The only way the stickers will stick is if you will let them. When you care about what everyone thinks about you, the stickers will stick on. The stickers will cease to stick once you decide that what I think is more important than what they think. And I think that you are special." (Summary of the actual dialogue.)

They have their conversation, and then Punchinello gets up to leave. As he is walking out the door, the master creator calls out, "Remember, you are special because I made you. And I don't make mistakes."

The story ends with Punchinello thinking to himself, "I think that he really means it." And when he does so, one of the grey dots fall off of him.

Perspective is an interesting concept. Because human perspective, I believe, is never fully true.

I've done a lot of speculating this year, and I realized... I have a lot of stickers.
I may have lots of gold stars: I'm a blogger, I'm well known, I've written articles, I've spoken at events, I've been interviewed. I've gotten a lot of positive feedback from people. Which is nice...

But I also have a lot of grey dots, most of which comes from myself; the feelings of sadness that I beat myself down about, or when I get frustrated that things are not going the way that I want it. Maybe it's because I don't feel that I deserve blessings, due to my lack of faith in one thing or another. A LOT of internal black dots.

Sometimes, I feel absolutely covered. It's suffocating. So many stickers.

I don't want grey dots. I don't want gold stars.
I just want to be clean.

And that kind of cleanliness can and will only come when things are accepted. When I accept myself as I am, when I accept that what happened happened, and when I realize that other things are going to happen and that's how life is. And it's not because Heavenly Father doesn't love me, or wants to push me to a limit.

It's because he is the ultimate strategist.

It happens when the Atonement is accepted, fully and completely. Sometimes, that's hard. Sometimes, it's REALLY HARD to accept the Atonement. I don't know why we do it to ourselves. Maybe we think we are better than that, or that we don't deserve it.

I think it's mainly because we simply don't understand it. Not in its entirety. And as people, it's hard to accept things when it's not fully understood.

Again, that's where faith comes in.

Sometimes, I just need that little reminder that it's ok to be broken. We have to be broken so that we can be fixed, and made into something greater. And that being broken does not mean that you are weak. It means that you're human, and you hurt.

And being hurt takes a lot of strength. Being hurt takes a lot of love.

I can't begin imagine the amount of love Christ had, being in Gethsemane, then the cross, to hurt as much as he did.

I wonder if He ever felt like he had stickers. Stars or dots. But, then again, I don't think so.
I think he was like Lucinda.
In fact, that makes perfect sense.

He was perfect and clean.
But at that moment in his life, he took on everybody else's gold stars and grey dots. It must have been suffocating.

Yet, he is the reason that the stickers can fall off.

He did it because we are special. He loves us.
And he doesn't make mistakes.