Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Readiest

I almost went to the cemetery today. It's Christmas, it's cold, and I miss them.

I don't know why, but I thought going to the cemetery would be... I don't know, therapeutic? Give me some closure? I haven't been there since well before I got married. Maybe staring at the headstones would make me feel better? Make me feel close to them? Make me feel like I'm with them?
I left school.

I got in the car, waited for the cars to pass, moving slowly so as to not slide on the slush. It was sunny today, so some of the snow was beginning to melt. Cars were going slightly slower. I followed them. I had to go around the block because of the way the car was parked, so the drive was taking longer than anticipated. I was alone.

I drove mindlessly, barely listening to the Christmas music that blared  "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year." My mind wasn't really on Christmas. Just family.

As I drove, my thinking relying more on my emotions, thinking about how I miss them, my rational side kicked in; the Bill Parrish part of me, I call it. My mind suddenly stopped thinking, "Maybe I'll feel better seeing their headstones." Instead it thought, "Will going to the cemetery really make you feel any better?" I realized it wouldn't, not really. It would just make it worse.

I turned the car around.
***

They aren't at the cemetery. Sure, their bodies may be. But they aren't there.
Why are we sad when people die? Physically, they are here. The bodies are here. But the spirit is not. The personality is not. The souls that we connect with, the hearts that we grow to love, the spirits that we are knit together with... they are not there, and that is what we miss. That is what we long for.

And when that spirit is called home, the person isn't here.

***

Humans are so interesting. Humans are conflicting. We say one thing, and mean the next. We want one thing, then we want the next thing. We want evidence. We want proof. We want to see.

And when someone that we love die, and they are placed into the ground, no longer physically in our lives, no longer physically in our sight, we become sad, depressed, angry, confused, irritated, irrational, conflicted, hurt. We experience so many emotions.
But why?
Because it's not just the person we miss. It's the soul.

We want that soul with us. We want to see them, touch them, hear them, smell them, experience life with them by our side. We want them here, holding our hands, wiping our tears, kissing our cheeks, squeezing us in their embrace.
And when the spirit leaves, there is only the body. And therefore, the soul is temporarily parted. The body is here, the spirit is there, and the soul is waiting.

I don't know how it all works, but when I think of those who pass on, I wonder if those spirits watch over us; that spirits of loved ones who pass through into another life watch us, perhaps like watching through another dimension that we are unable to see with our mortal eyes. I wouldn't be surprised if they walk besides us sometimes. Maybe not all the time, but when they can. I wonder if they watch us during our hardest moments, and our happiest moments.

I wonder if they miss us. I wonder if it's harder for them than it is for us. I wonder if they see us, wanting to comfort us, wanting to tell us, "Hey, it's ok! Really, if you could just see and understand what I see and understand, you wouldn't be so sad. You wouldn't be so hurt." I wonder if they cry when we cry, yearn to hold us in their arms, and hurt even more when they realize that because of the separation, we can't feel them. I wonder if it hurts for them to realize that due to mortality, we can't feel them, knowing full well that we only can comprehend and understand such physical contact. I wonder...

All the better reason to prepare. All the more reason to be that soul that is ready.

I can't see them today. Or tomorrow. Or for however long. But I know they were ready, some of the readiest people that I know. They are just waiting to be reunited.
I want my soul to be as lovely as theirs.

 “His soul sat up. It met me. Those kinds of souls always do - the best ones. The ones who rise up and say "I know who you are and I am ready. Not that I want to go, of course, but I will come." Those souls are always light because more of them have been put out."  - The Book Thief 

   

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Good Life

My Great Grandpa "Grape" is 99 years old. He has lived almost an entire century. And wow, a century is a long, long time. My Grandpa Grape is someone that I love and respect.

I remember being really little, and my family going over to Grandpa Grape's and Nonny's house. I remember having sleepovers there when I just wanted Nonny-Grandpa-Jensen time. The thing about Nonny and Grandpa Grape is, they always made you feel like you were the favorite grandchild. (I'm pretty sure every single one of us feel like we are the favorite.) Whenever I went over, Nonny made sure that she had a can of Dinty Moore stew for me to have for lunch, because she knew it was my favorite. That, and Minute Maid fruit punch. They had squirrels that lived in the trees of their yard, and they would take me out, peanuts in my little hands, and Grandpa would pick me up to place the peanuts along the gate for the squirrels to get later. Then, Grandpa Grape would take me out to have Grandpa Grape-Jensen time while Nonny did her business around the house. Grandpa would take me on a walk around the block, or the park down the street, or every once in a special while, miniature golfing.

Years pass. Aging happens. Nonny fell down the stairs one day, and she was never the same. At first, it was just an infection. Eventually, it turned into dementia. Nonny and Grandpa Grape moved out of there home they have always lived in since they moved to Pocatello, and moved into a little apartment with no stairs. Nonny became worse, and had to be moved to the retirement home. Grandpa Grape lived with his daughter, my grandmother, Granna. For the next couple of years, everyday, without fail, the first thing Grandpa Grape would do in the morning would get himself ready for the day and drive down to be with Nonny, and there he would stay all day in his chair, to be with his love, while she laid in a bed. We would come and visit weekly, and there was never a time when my family would go that Grandpa was not there.

Nonny died February 22, 2012.

Grandpa "Grape" is 99 years old. That's almost a century of living. That's three years without his love. When I go over to visit him, I like to ask him what his life was like. He still has a witty mind. I asked him what made him love Nonny. He smiled and said, "She was the prettiest girl in the dancing hall."

Grandpa Grape had to go the hospital last week. My husband and I went over to visit him with Granna and her husband, Bill Al. A young nurse came in to help him with some therapy. She was a sweet thing, asking him questions while they worked with his arms. She asked him about Nonny, referring to her as "his wife." He smiled and told her briefly about their marriage, and that she passed away about three years ago. The nurse responded, "I just got engaged. Do you have any good advice for me?"

I think the rest of us in the room were slightly curious what he was going to say. I was at least. He was married a majority of his life. He gave up athletic scholarships to marry her. He and she went through the Great Depression together. They moved several times together. What was the secret.

His answer was simple. "Oh, just live a good life."

...

Just live a good life. A good life? It struck into my heart, and for the rest of the day, and really the week, it was on my mind. What is a good life?

Perhaps the good life is simply to live and love and sacrifice. Perhaps living a good life is putting others' needs before your own. We live in a world of defenses and offenses, a time of "If it doesn't fit my needs, or satisfies my desires, it's bad." We live in a world of "Good Guy vs. Bad Guy."

But what if we stopped? What if we changed?

What if we stopped worrying about ourselves and started being more concerned about others? On a personal level? What if instead of pointing fingers, we opened our arms? What if we accepted? I'm not saying always agree. There is a huge difference between accepting someone and agreeing with someone.

What if we sacrificed something we want for something better? What if we sacrificed ourselves for someone else? That may not mean your mortal life, but something of value, like time?

I think that it is in our spiritual nature to want to help others. If we were to look into the very depths of ourselves, and find the hidden treasure that is our gift for others, we would make a difference in the world. When we are honest with ourselves, understanding that not everything makes sense, and not everything may seem fair, but there is a purpose in life. That purpose is to live, and to do good.

With everything that have been happening in the world, Paris, Kenya... it's easy to be afraid. It's easy to be hurt. It's easy to think, "This isn't fair. This isn't right." We change our profiles pictures to show the flag. We share Facebook posts of the various news. We try to show our support.

I think that's great. But maybe we could do more.

Living the good life is living with love, compassion. Living the good life is to be the change you want to see in the world, especially during times like these. Being the good in this world is by starting small, and improving, not being stagnant.

We all have the power to change things. We have been given that gift.

Start small. Do something to make a change.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A Daily Affirmation

I still vividly remember the night that I found out. I can tell you where I was, what I was doing, what I was wearing.
(New apartment, on the living room couch, old EFY T-shirt and pink cotton pants. I had just finished saying a prayer.)

I vividly remember the looks on my "mission parents'" faces. When I think about President's tight hug, I remember how crushing it felt, him not wanting to let me go, not wanting to be the one to tell me that my parents and brothers were gone. I remember it took him a little while to say it, and how it crushed him, and his wife. I remember my companion and the Hermanas were also in the living room sitting on the floor in their pajamas, shocked, speechless, not knowing if they should say anything. I remember that the only light in the room was the bright light coming from the open kitchen.

I remember saying, "Give me a minute," and running into my room, falling on my knees at my bed, crying, saying "Why, God? What did I do wrong?" My companion came into my room, knelt beside me, and called me by my real name.

Jensen, you didn't do anything wrong. 

Everything after that is a blur to me. I have flashbulb memories, like how the next morning, the other two ASL sisters, one of which is my best friend, came to the mission home and hugged me so tight, I couldn't breathe. I remember my mission "baby" (who I trained) bought my a pillow pet to have and to hold and to cuddle, because she didn't know what else she could do.

I still have that pillow, by the way. It's a brown puppy. I cuddled and held that pillow for months afterwards.

I remember FaceBook had photos and images of my parents and brothers messages galore, FaceBook posts galore, emails galore.

One email was from Mom from the week before. I had missed it before I signed off.
That hurt the most.

I remember seeing Ian at the airport, for the first time in 18 months. I remember sitting on the plane, and all the eyes that glanced at us, some of them knowing exactly who we were, some of them thinking that they knew. The woman sitting behind us asked, "Are you the missionaries who..." then started to cry and couldn't finish. Some people looked at us from time to time all the way back to Pocatello.

And when I say all the way back, it was only 45 minutes; the longest 45 minutes of my life.

I remember landing. I remember my brother putting his arm around me. No words were needed. We stood up, arm around each other, and walked side by side off the plane. I remember seeing my extended family, all who were close. I remember seeing my bishop, my stake president. And tears.

Not Mom, or Dad, or Keegan or Liam.

I remember.
But most of all, I remember feeling
Overwhelmed.
Unprepared.
So small.
So scared.
Strong.
Weak.
Numb.
Unsure.

I remember thinking...
I can't do this. 
I just can't.

It's been 20 months.

Overtime, I've learned a truth.  Seeing them when I got home is not the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. Shutting the caskets is not the hardest thing I've done in my life. Even burying them is not the hardest thing I've done in my life.

The hardest thing I've ever had to do even up until now, and quite possibly will be for the rest of my life is living without them. That is the hard part.
The hardest part isn't necessarily that I don't see them everyday. Even if they were still here, I probably wouldn't. The hardest part is that I can't see them here, and oh, how I want to see them.
The hardest part is not knowing. Even if I could have a time frame, like Heavenly Father saying, "Hey Jens, I need them now, I have a work for them to do. But when you are 83 years old, your time will come and it will all be ok." Even that would be better than not knowing.
The hardest part is learning to accept things exactly as they are. The hardest part is still feeling even slightly out of place at family "get togethers." The hardest part is dealing with the anxiety and nervous breakdowns, and retraining my brain to be happy. The hardest part... is subconscious mourning.

I'm not talking about just mourning as in wearing black all the time and crying out loud and publicly. I think mourning is deeper than that.
Mourning is hurting.
Mourning is feeling.

To all of you that are fighting your battles, whatever they are...
To all of you hurting...
To all of you struggling, not knowing what to do, where to go, who to trust...

You are strong. You are created to do hard things. And you strengthen me everyday.
Look how far you've come. You're still here, aren't you? You're still breathing, aren't you? You're still standing, aren't you? You're still trying, aren't you?
You are a fighter. A conqueror. No matter how low you feel or how insecure you are.
You conquer by being a mother, a father, a friend, a teacher. You conquer mourning by loving, accepting, trying. You conquer by standing along with someone, anyone.
Just by stepping forward, you conquer.

Keep going. Don't quit.

I remember thinking I can't do this. I just can't.
But I did, and I'm still doing it. Still learning, still growing. And there has been help along the way.

I'm absolutely am not perfect. I hope this doesn't come across that way. I have days when I am just plain mad, or sad, or lazy, or forgetful, or ignorant.
And then, sometimes I become overwhelmed, wanting to be progressing, comparing myself to others, wishing I was as patient, or caring, or selfless as them.

But I'm stepping forward.
During my mission, one of my leaders once said, "I may not be perfect, and I may not know exactly where I stand, but I'm moving up. And that's all that really matters."
It's so true.
Keep it up.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Power of Words

It's been a while. Hello again.

Sometimes, I just need to write. I want to write, because I think words are beautiful. I want to write, because I want to create. I want to write, because maybe, just maybe, my thoughts can be powerful one day.

But, what happens when words fail me?
Because, sometimes that happen. Sometimes, feelings are just so powerful, so passionate, so painful, so wonderful, it becomes impossible to describe.

Feelings are quite something. They sneak up on you.
I still think about Mom, Dad, Keegs and Liam everyday, but now, it's not always as painful. They don't control my thoughts. Their memories are there, and they are beautiful. I can say things like, "Oh, Keegan and Liam would LOVE the new Wellness Center," and I won't burst into tears. I am growing up. I am moving along everyday, and it is beautiful. I have a wonderful husband, and wonderful family and friends, and life is beautiful.

And then, sometimes, all I have to do is something simple. Something as simple as playing the piano, and I remember those times when Dad would come stand next to me, studying my fingers hit the keys, perplexed at my ability to play the keys while staring at a piece of music. Sometimes, if he knew the song, he would try to sing along. The memory is so vivid, so alive, that sometimes, it's almost like I can feel him.
And it's amazing how the smallest thing like that, something so simple, makes me tear up a little. Sometimes, even a lot. And no word can describe the feeling.

I don't want to write to say "Woe is me" or "Let's look back on the past and remember how amazing they were." I don't want to continue writing about pain, because that just causes more pain and more hurt and more reminding. And I don't want that. Nobody does.

And so, I stopped. I stopped writing because I didn't know what else to write about. What do you write about when you feel like you've said it all, and nothing is really that different? What do I say?

But maybe it's ok to still write about the simple things. It's ok to write about happy things. I don't need to dwell on sadness. Yes, they are gone, and yes, sometimes, once in a while, I will still have a good cry and let it out. But, those are rare.

It's time to focus on good things. Happy things. Things that reminded me of them. Things that will bring me closer to them.

I've missed writing, because it was words that comforted me. It was words that sometimes I felt, even saved me; words from family and friends, words from the scriptures, words from blessings, words from writing.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

I Believe in Santa Claus

I was on my dad's shoulders. It was a cold night on Christmas Eve, back when Santa Claus was still real. We had just finished at Grandma's house. (For as long as I can remember, every Christmas Eve, Santa came to Grandma's and left us something. It was there that we would also give our gifts to each other within the extended family. I always loved Christmas Eve.)

I was admiring some present I got, when Daddy said, "Jensen! Look at the sky! Do you see him?"
I looked up, trying to see. There it was... a flashing red light! Surely, that could only mean one thing...
"RUDOLF!"
My dad chuckled, "Yes, you're right! It's Rudolf! That means we have to hurry so that you can go to bed! We don't want to be late for when Santa comes!"

I remember telling Ian to hurry up, and telling Mom and Dad to hurry to get us home! (Keegan and Liam didn't exist yet.) As soon as I got home, I got into my new Christmas pajamas, brushed my teeth, made sure that there were some cookies and milk for Santa, and hopped right in bed! It took me some time, but eventually, the adrenaline wore off, and I drifted off to sleep.

The next morning, we saw that Santa came! There were presents for us to open, and music for us to listen to. I went and checked Santa's plate. He had eaten all the cookies and drank all the milk.

***  

A couple nights ago, we were parked in our car, waiting for Jake's brother to come out of his apartment. We were going to go to the store. As we were waiting, I looked out the front window. There it was: a flashing red light from those high towers. I smiled a little. The memory broke through and I remembered that cold night on my dad's strong shoulders.

My husband looked at me and smiled. "Hey you, where are you right now?" Now, he just knows. 
I smiled a little and simply said, "During Christmas, Dad used to tell me that those flashing lights was Rudolph. Back in the days of Santa Claus."
He teased me a little, and asked, "What? You don't believe in Santa?"

I was quiet for a little bit. My response surprised even me. "Well, of course I believe in Santa. Santa was my dad." 
And then the tears came.

***

This year, I've been reading from the New Testament. I really wanted to focus my studies on the life and ministry of the Savior. I want to know who he was, not just as the Son of God, but what was his personality like? Was he fun? Serious? Stern? I think (from my perspective) that he was a little bit of everything. 

As I was reading, there was one particular story that stood out to me, and has been on my mind for the last couple of weeks. I refer to the account in Mark 9, though it is told in the other 4 Gospels as well.

Jesus is with his disciples, and a great multitude of people are there, most likely either to listen to him teach or to ask for healing, (it doesn't specify in the scriptures.) As he is there, a man comes through, holding his young son, and says,

"Master, I have brought unto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit. And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not."
He brings his son to Christ, the son still gnashing and foaming. Christ then asks, "How long is it ago since this came unto him?
The father responds, "Of a child. And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us."
To which Christ says, "If thous canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth."

Now, I don't know exactly how this really played out. I don't know how the father sounded, and I don't know what he was thinking. But when he responds to the Savior, it hit me. In tears, he straightway said, "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief."

I know this story could have happened numerous ways. I've heard of different interpretations, and seen different reenactments. When I read this story, though, the way that I saw it was this: I wonder if the father, after years of trying to protect his son, maybe feeling like he failed, maybe feeling like it was a punishment for something that he has done... I wonder if he was holding him close, tears streaming down his face, and begging, "LORD! There are so many things that I believe! I have struggled for years, and it has been so, so hard! I've wanted to give up, but I just can't! He is my child, my only child and I love him so much! There are things that I may struggle with, but I don't want to let faith go! Lord, if I didn't believe, I wouldn't be here. So please, strengthen what I do know, and help me with what I don't know. Help thou my unbelief!"

And after that, the Savior commands the spirit to come out of the child.

Why did the Savior say that to the father? Why didn't he just perform the miracle when the father asked? I wonder, maybe, since he does know us better, he asked the father so that the father could come to terms with himself. Maybe the father was struggling with his testimony. Or maybe it was that he needed to really know for himself if he had the faith enough for the Savior to be able to perform this miracle, the last hope, this father desperately needed. Maybe it was a test.

For whatever reason that was, I'm grateful he did. Because centuries later, I read this story, and it hit me.

There are days that are happy and amazing. There are days when I am overflowing with gratitude for my Savior and for my Father in Heaven and for this amazing plan. I feel elated, as if I could fly, that one day that I will see my family again, and that we are still a family, and that our family will continue to grow, and it will be a joyous wonderful occasion.

And then there are days that I am so heavy. I feel the heaviness of not having my own father or mother to guide me through things. There are days that even though I know and understand that I am not alone, there is still a part of me that feels isolated. I find myself missing them so much, that I just feel the need to have a day and allow the sadness to do its thing, then leave.

And when those moments come, sometimes I wonder... "Am I ungrateful? Am I losing faith? I already know everything will be ok... so why do I feel this way?"

Then, there are stories like these; stories of real people that experience anguish and sadness, even though they have faith. A story about a father's love so strong, that he held on to the belief that one day, his son would be healed. A story about (in my opinion) a father who understood and knew that he was not perfect, and that he didn't know everything that there was to know... But he did have the faith to know that Christ would help him with his doubts, or unbelief.

Reading that brought me so much comfort and joy, knowing that one day, I can have a full knowledge if I am willing to rely on faith until that day, and knowing that I don't have to know everything right now... is a wonderful feeling...

***

There will still be triggers, like memories of believing in Santa Claus while being on Dad's shoulders. And when those memories happen, I will cherish them. I'll probably cry, because I just want those times back.
But the feelings are still alive, and they are still real.

I'll remember to be grateful for those feelings. The feelings are a result of love. 
I'll remember to be grateful for now, because I don't need to worry about knowing everything now. 
I'll remember to look forward, and not back.  



Way back then :) 


The last hug I gave my Daddy before I entered the MTC.



I am so blessed to be raised by 2 of the Lord's strongest spirits. :) 




Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A post for a Brother

In about a week, it will have been a year since I should have returned from my mission.

Which means it's been about 18 months since the accident.

Mind blown...

***

How am I doing? 
Fine, I guess.
Good. 
Excellent.
Grand.
Isn't that what I am supposed to say? 

***

Nobody likes a "Debbie Downer." But what about a "Rebecca Realist?" Where is that fine line? 


***

How am I doing?
Fine, I guess.
Today is hard.
Good!
So tired. So so tired...
Excellent!
Struggling, but it's just a phase. It will pass.
Grand!
It has to.
Right?

***

Fact: it's time to move on.
I know. I know that.
And I have. For the most part. But there are still triggers. Stupid blasted triggers. They like to hide and shoot at me from out of nowhere. Pretty normal though. It's not even new anymore.
But, they still surprise me.
Like this morning when I was triggered simply because of a phone call. Or  it may be boredom, not doing anything for X amount of hours can put me over the age. 
Or maybe it's just plain depression. That's the only explanation that I can think of.

***
Last night, I couldn't help myself. I got on Keegan's Facebook page.
It was a hard night. Work had not gone as well as planned, which is all part of life, I know. But man, sometimes people are just heartless.
I stared at his picture.
I don't know why I did it. But I started typing him a message on his wall. Maybe I just needed to get things out of me, vent my frustrations. For whatever reason, I just wanted to talk to my brother. I wanted to talk to him about being married. I wanted to talk about work. I wanted to know what he's been up to. Can he still play basketball in heaven? Or date? Or do gymnastics? I just wanted to have a conversation, like we used to.

Mostly though, I wanted to know his secret.
How was it he was always so happy?

How did you do it, Keegs? 

I typed and typed. I typed until I couldn't anymore. I told him everything I was feeling. I wrote it like a letter. I finished and stared.
...
It's not like he's going to read this. 
...
I know it's been 18 months. I know it's been a while. But when it's you, it doesn't matter how much time has passed. The feeling will sometimes last longer than desired. Sometimes, it kicks you in the gut.

I wanted to send it in a private message.
There wasn't any option of that.
I deleted the message.

***

I wonder what it was like for Jesus's disciples. What was it like when their best friend was gone? Where could they turn to? I'm sure they were more than devastated. It had to have been scarring...

I wonder what it was like when he appeared to them again. I wonder what that feeling is like; to see one that you loved so much who have died to come back and see you, and speak to you.

I wonder what it was like even after he was gone. Did it still hurt, even though they knew where he was? Was it still hard even though they knew that his purpose was done? 

Was it hard knowing that his purpose of living was to die? For them? For all

What was it like when the person who literally had ALL the answers was gone? What was it like when they just wanted to talk to their friend, their leader, their brother, but he couldn't physically speak to them? 

How did they go on?
What was their secret? 

Did they have gut-kicking moments? Did they still grieve? Did they still experience heartache? 

I have a hard time believing that they didn't have some moments like that. Maybe that's just me though. But, they were still human, right? Heroes, but human.

Did it feel like how I feel? 
I can only assume it was.

***

So maybe he couldn't read my post. I won't lie and say that's ok. 
But I know that someday... someday it will be. 
One day, we will talk face to face again. 
I'm sure there will be lots to talk about by then. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Personal Love

We stood at the top of the tower, overlooking the magnificent field that was once a battleground. There was a peaceful and even spiritual feeling for me as we pointed out different locations that momentous occasions happened in the history of America. The last time we were in Gettysburg, we were both fourteen years old.

My mind pondered a lot about the history facts that we had relearned, thinking about the young men, both the Confederates as well as the Unions, who sacrificed their lives for what they all believed was right for America. (I realized that it would be like my husband, my brother, my cousin who is now serving a mission, his younger brother, and my cousin's fiance all going out to war, against our own states! They were ridiculously young!)

A few minutes passed, and we decided it was time to head off and see what else Gettysburg had in store for us. As I was about to turn around and go down the stairs, I saw a hawk fly by. Then, another. I allowed myself to watch them. I watched their wings, noting how wide they spread as they flew across the sky.

I've always wished that I could fly. Maybe that's a "lame power," but that's all I've ever wanted; to be able to defy the law of gravity, be able to lift myself off the ground and explore the world, see what it has in store for me. I want to be above the world. For a moment, I was slightly jealous of those hawks.

Then I realized something about the birds. They weren't flapping their wings. Their wings were spread wide, allowing the breeze to move them along. Every once in a while, they would flap to stay on their course, but for the most part, the wind was moving them. They weren't just flying; they were soaring.

For some reason, it intrigued me. All growing up, I've heard things about how the wind could be a symbol of hardships and trials, and how if we are a rock, we can stand up against the trials, and fight against it.
But at this moment, my mind saw the wind from a different perspective.
Perhaps, trials can get us to a destination. Instead of always pushing against it, and hiding from it, and staying mobile... they allow us to push forward.
And by so doing, we don't just get through it. We soar.


***
Two weeks before... 

The air was humid, the sky was cloudy, but I felt free as we whizzed past cars, buses, buildings and people. My smile was so big and so bright. It was the first time that I felt so alive in… months really. I looked to my side and saw my husband on his bike. He smiled at me, and I knew that he was feeling the same way. We both served our missions in cities, but it’s a completely different feeling when you’re not a missionary.
Besides, I never rode a bike during the mission.

At one point, we parked the bikes at the designated station. (Pittsburgh has just started a new biking system the week before. It is called NextBike. You rent a bike for the day for as long as you want, and there are stations throughout the city.) Across the street was an art walk. We walked, hand in hand, admiring the talent of various people. Some worked with wood. Others worked with pottery. One artist had pet frogs that he would photograph doing various poses, and then repaint them. 

The inner imaginations of the mind is an enigma.

At one point, it began to rain. Scratch that. It began to pour! People began to leave, but we didn’t. The rain made me think of Oregon, and I became even happier. This smile was genuine. He smiled back. We continued down the way, stopping and admiring the art. My husband made a point to talk to the artists, and ask them how they create their work. They all appeared to appreciate that. My heart was full of love.

Eventually, the rain stopped, and we continued with our bike ride. We rode for hours. There were no plans, only life. We went where we felt, and we admired it all. It was beautiful.

No one would have guessed that just that morning, I was in tears. No one would have guessed that morning, my heart was seared open. No one would have guessed that for some odd reason, it was as if my mind was reliving everything: from the moment I was told about my family’s passing all the way in Oregon to the moment I heard the gunshot of the military gun as they began to lay them in the ground, and everything in between. It was unplanned, it was uncalled, and it was tearing me inside and out.

Flashback of memories filled my head. Usually, I can shake them out, make myself busy, and put the memories aside. But for some reason, this day was not like that. Both my mind and my body were too tired to fight back, or even move the memories aside. Instead, they allowed the memories to play on the stage that is my mind, and it was like I watched everything from start to finish. The memories became tears, and the tears slid down my face. I let them. I let the memories cover me. It has been the lowest that I felt in such a long time.

There were dishes in the sink. I didn’t want to wash them. The floor needed to be swept. I couldn’t bring myself to get up from bed. Laying around seemed so much nicer and so much easier.

Through my tears, there was a prayer in my heart. I knew that these circumstances couldn’t be fixed the way that I wanted it, so it would be ridiculous for me to pray for that. I wasn’t sure what I needed to ask, but I felt desperate for something, anything.

I found myself asking, “I just need to know that you are aware of me. I know you’re there. But I need to know that you know that I am here, feeling this way. I don’t care how it is. I’m not asking for angels. Just a miracle.”

Seconds later, my phone rang. It was my husband. I answered. He asked how I was doing, and I couldn’t hold it in. I couldn’t help it. I was honest about it. This day was a hard one, for no apparent reason. I wasn’t trying to be sad, going out of my way to gather all the feelings and memories. It just happened. 
But, I'll be fine. I know I will be. I just need a moment. 
We said our goodbyes. I took that as an answer.

I stayed in bed, feeling pathetic, but also slightly justified. Could I help it? I’ve been doing good for a long time! I haven’t had a day like this in months! Before, they were much more frequent. But having that attitude made me feel awful. Thoughts of “Wow, Jens, your life is not hard. Toughen up!” and “The world is full of people that have it far worse than you! Count your blessings!” made it even harder to find the will power to stop feeling so depressed. I laid there longer, facing the wall.

Then, to my surprise, I heard the door open. I knew that I had locked it, which meant that it could only be one person. 
My husband came up to me, and hugged me so tight. I cried some more. (Seriously, where were all these tears coming from? Darn memories!) He looked at me, and simply said, “I think we need to go out.”

After I had calmed down, we left home. We decided to go to downtown Pittsburgh and see the city. As we were driving, curiosity got the better of me. I asked, “What made you come home?”

He answered, “Well, first of all, I was worried. You didn’t seem ok when I left, which is why I called. After we got off the phone, I put in my route for work, but for some reason, it took us the long way, which passed by home. I felt that I should just see how you were doing.”

***
Some days are hard.
Some days are beautiful.
Even after months and months, the days still happen. The thoughts still come. No, not as often. But they still come. 
Perhaps, it's just me. Perhaps, it's how I handle things. 
But every time, the moment lives, and then it passes. Sometimes, they are fleeting, like a bird soaring. Sometimes, they drag me down, like a rock. 
Sometimes, a day is just a day. No abnormal happiness or abnormal sadness. Just a normal day. 

A New Normal Day.

The Lord answers prayers, sometimes by sending miracles. But sometimes, He answers simply by listening. Sometimes, I just need a listener. Sometimes, I need an answer. He sends them when he knows that I really need it.

Sometimes, he answers by giving me little thoughts of soaring birds and working through trials. 
Sometimes, he answers by sending my best friend and confidant to wrap his arms around me.
Sometimes, he lets me live a little. I enjoy the new friendships that I have gained on the other side of the country. We are all in the same boat, and we talk and laugh together, and the moment is beautiful.
Sometimes, it's through feelings. 
Sometimes, it's through the realization of the many blessings that I have.

Regardless of how he answers, I come to learn a little bit more each day how personally he knows me, and how personally he answers me. 

He doesn't answer everyone the same way. Because we aren't the same. We are unique and different and struggle differently. Therefore, he answers differently. 

He knows me because he personally loves me.


*Someone asked if I would start putting some pictures on this blog. I hope you enjoy!*  


Riding downtown with Jacob!

Gettysburg with my husband! 




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. 


Me and Jacob. Mr. and Mrs. Hall! 



Just married! Logan Temple, 5.15.15


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.

Walking along the artwalk. 




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, 2014, 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.