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All is well

I love music.  I always have.  When I was a little girl and couldn’t fall asleep, I would lie in bed and sing myself to sleep. It’s a little embarrassing to think of my parents hearing me singing in bed, but it made me happy.

As I was studying things to do to reduce stress, I found a list that included listening to music, which I’m sure is helpful, but for me, it is 10 times more helpful to be a part of the music.  Whether singing to the car radio, or playing an instrument. I used to play the piano as a teen, in order to work out my frustrations.

Music really can be therapeutic.  In church I was asked to share some thoughts on my favorite hymn, and although I really don’t have a favorite hymn (I like lots of them for lots of different reasons) I choose to talk about a pioneer song, “Come, Come Ye Saints.”

This song was written specifically about the trials and hardships of the pioneers and early members of the church who sacrificed so much for their religious freedom, but also for the building of and survival of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  When I think of the final anthem of this song “All is well,” the first thing I think is “all was not well.”  They had just been chased from their homes, had property stolen from them.  Many had been physically assaulted, and had suffered sicknesses and injuries.  Many women had already lost their husbands to the violence, and many others died from illnesses and exposure.  The beginning of this journey west, was a dark, scary and difficult time.  But it was also a time of great bravery and hope for a better future.  It was a huge hardship for those who chose to stay with the church, and I believe that this song helped to give them courage to continue.

I have more than a few ancestors who were a part of this pioneer trek west.  Two of them, Gardner and Sarah Snow gave a record of their travels. It reads

In February the Exodus began. Two more grandchildren died. The women walked, rain or shine, until arrival at Winter Quarters. Twenty-two Bishops were called, Gardner being one of them. This was a sad time, for outside of Winter Quarters were 300 graves. One was their daughter-in-law’s, which resulted in Sarah raising two more grandchildren.”

I can’t even imagine having to bury and leave behind so many people, including family members.

I think this song was meant to lift their spirits and help them to have the courage to keep going each and every day.  I think it can do the same for us, in the trials that we face also.

The second verse of this song can be especially meaningful in our world.

It starts

Why should we mourn, or think our lot is hard? ‘Tis not so, all is right”

When I look at the “lot” of these pioneer ancestors, I think they have every reason to say that they have it hard.

I can’t tell you how many times in my own life, I have felt like my load was just too big to carry .  I learned not to ask the question “Why me?”  of the Lord, when my trials become more that I think that I can bear, because I have talked to so many other people who go through trials just as difficult or more so than mine.  If I ever dare to say “why me”, I have to remind myself “why not me?” Why would the Lord have me avoid the trials of earth life that are meant to stretch us, and strengthen us.  Each person on this earth has their own set of difficulties that they have to deal with. The difference in how we come through is how we look at it.  Can we say in the midst of trials, “Why should we mourn, or think our lot is hard?”

The next line in the song,

Why should we think to earn a great reward, if we now shun the fight.”

Sometimes it really is a fight against the evil spirit that wants us to give up, and give in to despair.  But unlike the pioneers, our fight is not physical, our fight is spiritual, mental and emotional.  And sometimes the “great reward” that I want to earn is just to be in a place of peace, for at least a little bit of time, and ultimately to be living with God, in a place of ultimate peace.

The song continues

Gird up your loins”

Meaning, get up and get ready. Choose to stand up and face the challenge that you probably can’t avoid anyway.

Fresh courage take”

Find the courage inside of you to choose to do something – what that something is will be different for each of us, in our own trials, and the most important part is remembering that

Our God will never us forsake.”

Even if we are in a place of sadness, that we can’t feel the spirit anymore, the Spirit is still there.  God will not leave us.  He has a plan for us.  And sometimes we just need to remember that He allowed us to be put into this situation, because He knows us well enough to trust in us to be able to overcome.

And soon we’ll have, this tale to tell.”

When do you tell that tale?  Long after the trial is over, and you can see the lessons that were learned, and the strength that was gained from the trial.  When the trial has past, and you have endured it well, then you can see that the trial may have actually been a blessing.  That is when you can proclaim

All is well, all is well.”

Whatever you might be going through right now, know that God is on your side and He will help you overcome.  Also know that He has put other people in your path to help you. Whether they be friends, family, counselors, doctors, teachers etc., let people in with the understanding that they may just be the angel that was sent to help you when you needed it most.

Laura

Ps: we would love to hear any stories you would like to share, on how you have overcome trials. Feel free to leave a comment or send us an email.

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There was a time I rocked my babies to sleep in a rocking chair that my own mother rocked me in. The day’s seemed long back then and the nights even longer. Crying was the only form of communication from those sweet babies, and there were nights I cried right along with them.

Motherhood would be one of the hardest things I had ever done. But the love I would feel would be deeper than any I would ever know.

Well intentioned older mothers would tell me how fast the time would fly by so I should enjoy those babies. I didn’t understand. How could those long nights ever be missed and yearned for again?  I wished time would go by faster.

At some point along the journey my heart changed. I distinctly recall an evening when I was looking at my children, my oldest was 12 and my youngest was 2, and my heart swelled up and I wanted time to freeze. No one should  grow up anymore. How I wished I had relished in the moments a little more. Loved a little deeper.

They are all still in my house, for now at least. And I try a lot harder now to enjoy the moments. Their fleeting time with me has become so very clear. More evident than I care for it to be.

So when I came across this quote the other day tears welled up in my eyes. For I understood all too clearly what the author was portraying. I am not raising babies. I never was. They are adults much mightier than I just temporarily in childhood form.

Susan

Anna Quindlen on Motherhood
All my babies are gone now. I say this not in sorrow but in disbelief. I take great satisfaction in what I have today: three almost adults, two taller than I am, one closing in fast. Three people who read the same books I do and have learned not to be afraid of disagreeing with me in their opinion of them, who sometimes tell vulgar jokes that make me laugh until I choke and cry, who need razor blades and shower gel and privacy, who want to keep their doors closed more than I like. Who, miraculously, go to the bathroom, zip up their jackets and move food from plate to mouth all by themselves.

Like the trick soap I bought for the bathroom with a rubber ducky at its center, the baby is buried deep within each, barely discernible except through the unreliable haze of the past.

Everything in all the books I once pored over is finished for me now. Penelope Leach., T. Berry Brazelton., Dr. Spock. The ones on sibling rivalry and sleeping through the night and early-childhood education, all grown obsolete. Along with “Goodnight Moon” and “Where the Wild Things Are,” they are battered, spotted, well used. But I suspect that if you flipped the pages dust would rise like memories. What those books taught me, finally, and what the women on the playground taught me, and the well-meaning relations –what they taught me was that they couldn’t really teach me very much at all.

Raising children is presented at first as a true-false test, then becomes multiple choice, until finally, far along, you realize that it is an endless essay. No one knows anything. One child responds well to positive reinforcement, another can be managed only with a stern voice and a timeout. One boy is toilet trained at 3, his brother at 2. When my first child was born, parents were told to put baby to bed on his belly so that he would not choke on his own spit-up. By the time my last arrived, babies were put down on their backs because of research on sudden infant death syndrome. To a new parent this ever-shifting certainty is terrifying, and then soothing. Eventually you must learn to trust yourself. Eventually the research will follow.

I remember 15 years ago poring over one of Dr. Brazelton’s wonderful books on child development, in which he describes three different sorts of infants: average, quiet, and active. I was looking for a sub-quiet codicil for an 18-month-old who did not walk. Was there something wrong with his fat little legs? Was there something wrong with his tiny little mind? Was he developmentally delayed, physically challenged? Was I insane? Last year he went to China. Next year he goes to college. He can talk just fine. He can walk, too.

Every part of raising children is humbling, too. Believe me, mistakes were made. They have all been enshrined in the Remember-When-Mom-Did Hall of Fame. The outbursts, the temper tantrums, the bad language – mine, not theirs. The times the baby fell off the bed. The times I arrived late for preschool pickup. The nightmare sleepover. The horrible summer camp. The day when the youngest came barreling out of the classroom with a 98 on her geography test, and I responded, What did you get wrong? (She insisted I include that.) The time I ordered food at the McDonald’s drive-through speaker and then drove away without picking it up from the window. (They all insisted I include that.) I did not allow them to watch the Simpsons for the first two seasons. What was I thinking?

But the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three of them sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4 and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.

Even today I’m not sure what worked and what didn’t, what was me and what was simply life. When they were very small, I suppose I thought someday they would become who they were because of what I’d done. Now I suspect they simply grew into their true selves because they demanded in a thousand ways that I back off and let them be. The books said to be relaxed and I was often tense, matter-of-fact and I was sometimes over the top. And look how it all turned out. I wound up with the three people I like best in the world, who have done more than anyone to excavate my essential humanity.

That’s what the books never told me. I was bound and determined to learn from the experts. It just took me a while to figure out who the experts were.

–Anna Quindlen is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and bestselling author.

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“That’s just so perfect”

“Isn’t this perfect?”

“I want to make it just perfect”

Coming from a recovering perfectionist these phrases used to be sprinkled into my daily communications. Always striving to be the best I thought I could be, yet never truly measuring up. There is nothing above perfection. No more growth is needed when you finally reach that goal.

Over the years I have learned a lot about myself and the role perfection truly plays in my life.

One of the most empowering statements I have ever heard was this “I, of myself, am imperfect. I can not grow and progress on my own.” What a splendid relief it is to say that out loud and really believe that I am still a beloved daughter of God.

The beauty of this life is that none of us can move forward towards becoming like our Father in Heaven, or perfect, on our own. In this last general conference for my church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) an old bishop of ours gave a talk titled Remembering in Whom We Have Trusted.

I felt compelled to listen to it again this morning and this is what stood out to me.

When our Father in Heaven announced the need for a Savior, I believe all of us turned and looked at Jesus Christ, the Firstborn in the Spirit, the one who had progressed to the point of becoming like the Father. I believe all of us knew it had to be Him, that none of the rest of us could do it, but that He could and that He would.

We looked to our Savior before the world was, knowing it had to be Him and that we could not do it ourselves.

 We could not perfect ourselves no matter how hard we worked and pushed ourselves. We could not forgive ourselves of sin without the atonement He gave for us. We could not even try.

So why do we try to go this life alone? If we knew we could not endure this life alone even before we came to this earth why do we so often forget this?  We forget to ask for His help and guidance. We forget that He can make us more than we can make of ourselves. When we sin and fall short of our own expectations for ourselves we have a tendency to let it get us down instead of turning to the one who can, in the end, make us perfect.

Matthew 5:46 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

This passage of scripture is not a reminder of your inability to be perfect in this life. It’s intent is not to make you feel poorly about yourself because you have yet to reach such a glorious goal. No, it is a gentle reminder that when we follow the Savior, He will guide is in the direction of perfection. One tiny minuscule step at time, often unperceivable in the moment.

I was talking with my sister-in-law who is about to have her first baby and I remembered how difficult that time of life was for me. I was filled with anxieties and fears that now no longer bother me. The passage of time helped me to see how far My Lord has taken me. Those little tiny steps have added up to miles of accomplishment.

How grateful I am that my Savior suffered for me so that I can make mistakes and fall short. What joy feels my soul to know that His suffering will cover every single sorrow I face if I simply let it. I feel to sing the song of redeeming Joy. Life is meant to be so beautifully messy and I love it.

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How can being beaten with many stripes and thrown into jail, unjustly, be a blessing?  Would we be willing to suffer such adversity if it meant blessing someone else’s life?

As I read the bible this week, in the New Testament, I recognized something special in the story of Paul, when he and his companion were imprisoned.

Although they hadn’t done anything wrong, and it may have seemed like a tragedy that they were thrown into prison, God had a purpose for them to be there.

They were stripped of their clothes, beaten with many stripes and put into jail, in the inner prison with their feet being placed into stocks.  Then at midnight, they prayed and sang praises to God, loud enough for the other prisoners to hear.

Maybe this is the example for us to reach for… I’m afraid that I would have a hard time “singing praises” in a situation like this. I’m afraid I would be singing the blues.  How hard would it be to not feel abandoned.  Here they were, serving the Lord with all that they had, in bringing Christianity to all the nations, and they run up against a wall.  In the moment, it would be hard to be hopeful of their future as missionaries.  We know that this isn’t the first time (or the last) that righteous people were imprisoned for standing up for what they knew to be true.  And it is easy to think, “Of course they could do it, because they were _______ (heroes, saints, apostles, etc.). We don’t often recognize that they are also human. Suffering hurts no matter who is going through it.  Maybe Paul and Silas saw that there was a greater purpose in their time is this prison.  Maybe they thought of Joseph, the son of Jacob, and the years that he spent in prison, and realizing that something good came out of that experience, they hung unto the hope that God had something planned for them also.  But being faced with the choice to praise God or give in to despair, they chose to have faith.

Shortly after, there was an earthquake in the prison that caused the shackles of the prisoners to come off and the doors to come open.  When the jailer woke up and saw that the doors were open, he assumed that the prisoners had all escaped and was so fearful of what might happen to him because of this, he was prepared to kill himself.  Paul called out to him not to harm himself, because they were all still in the prison.

The trust that he felt, for Paul and Silas, led him to ask about being “saved” and allowed the missionaries to teach their message to this jailer and his entire house.  A bond was formed and a family saved and converted. The results of this trial was exactly the thing that Paul had wanted in the first place.  To teach about Jesus Christ to all who would listen.

I wonder how many trials in my life have the potential to bring me the growth and blessings that I am actually wanting.  But if given a choice I might just say “no thank you” to having to suffer some difficulty in the meantime.  I know that I complain whenever things don’t go the way I would expect them to.  What would happen if I looked at the challenges as a gateway to something better that the Lord has in store?  What if I had enough faith to trust that God knows me, and He knows what would be best for me, and I turned to Him in my time of crisis?  What would happen if I asked “What do you want me to do next Lord?” or “What can I learn from this?” or “How can this trial bless someone else’s life?”

It can be really hard to keep the faith in an insecure world. But that doesn’t make it impossible.  Challenges can bring out strength we didn’t realize that we had. Trials can bring blessings that we didn’t know that we wanted.

Sometimes we just need to reach past the sadness and difficulty with the hope of things to come before we can get to that point.

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No one ever wins in a power struggle. I used to feel like I had to win. I couldn’t back down. But I have painfully learned that even when I win, I don’t feel like I have.

This last week I had a couple of parenting moments that reminded me of this very point.

One child had his feelings hurt and another was overly stressed out. I did not respond my best. When it’s my will against theirs, I find myself feeling frustrated, and occasionally a little bit angry. My voice will raise and then theirs will match it. The more I struggle to maintain control of the situation the harder they fight to maintain ground. When I am in this parenting mode and I get them to do what I think is right I see defeat on their faces. And a tinge of sadness. Which usually means I will feel regret for the poor way I handled things.

But I also recognize I cannot give my children whatever they want just because they put up a fight. Then what? What I really want for my children is to learn to become amazing adults who can handle the challenges of adulthood. Who can love and be loved. Adults that can allow God into their hearts so that everyday challenge become more manageable. Fighting with them doesn’t show them any of that.

This morning as I sat outside in the beautiful city of Nauvoo reading my scriptures I came across a simple passage that states

 Trust in the Lord

If my will is not the way and letting the kids have their will is not the way, that only leaves me with the Lord’s will. When I trust that He will guide me in my parenting I am calm. When I remember they are His children before they are mine I am kinder. When I know what He would have me do I am more confident.

Laura told me this last week that when I don’t know what to do in my parenting I should tell the kids such and step away for a minute. Now after reading this scripture with parenting in mind I see the NEED of prayer and supplication to God to understand His will. Maybe I won’t have a long time to do that because of life demands but God knows that. I’m sure I can certainly retreat to the bathroom for a couple of minutes and strive to be right with God so that I can be right by my children. To give Him freely my will and let Him guide me to His will.

There are moments I have done this and experienced the parenting joys that come as the reward. Peace follows instead of guilt, even when the child doesn’t love what I’m saying or doing.

I imagine this will take practice, lots of trying before I have this down. But my children are worth all of my efforts. God loved them before I ever did, and I know He is just waiting for me to ask so that He may intervene on their behalf.  His will is the only will that can win every time.