Seeing the Hand of God in My Life

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Two weeks ago at church I gave a lesson to my Sunday school class about the importance of keeping a journal. One of the things we discussed they could write in a journal are times they have seen the hand of God in their lives. I challenged them to try to notice, in the upcoming week, a time when they could see the hand of God in their daily lives. I told them we would discuss it in class the next week. Unfortunately I was sick last Sunday, so we talked about it at the beginning of class today. A couple of the boys shared experiences they had. They were little things, but enough to have left an impression. I, too, had noticed little things that week. I think most of the time that is how God manifests Himself in our lives, but sometimes—well, sometimes we need something bigger.

Back in November I wrote about my experience almost taking my own life when I was seventeen. I stood looking out over a cliff at Bryce Canyon National Park and almost jumped. Coming home from that beautiful place was hard. Figuring out how to deal with the aftermath of nearly committing suicide was also a challenge.

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A few days after we got home from our trip my older brother, who had recently gotten home from serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in England, and I got on the freeway to head to the nearest Walmart. The light at the end of the off-ramp turned red as we neared it, so my brother slowed then stopped—we were the first car in line. We chatted while waiting for the light to turn green, then once it did, he turned left—into the left-hand lane! I screamed, “What are you doing?!” He noticed his error, quickly swerved over through the other left lane, a turn lane and finally into the right lane, where we should have been in the first place. “I forgot I wasn’t in England anymore,” he said.

As he continued down the road, and my heart stopped feeling like it was about to explode inside my chest, I realized how amazing it was that we hadn’t hit into any other cars. That area of the city, and especially that very intersection, were always busy and full of traffic. I even looked back and could see a ton of cars. The fact that my brother had been able to quickly move over three lanes without even scratching another car was truly miraculous. It was no coincidence. I felt it burning deep within my soul. This was a message from God telling me that I wasn’t supposed to die yet. I look back on that experience now and still know that His hand intervened. It felt as though angels had been looking over and protecting me.

At the time I didn’t know why He had sent me this message. I didn’t know why it was so important for me to live, just that it was. Even now I couldn’t give you a specific answer. I’m no one important. I hold no influence over a great number of people. It’s not like anything I have done, am doing or will do will make any sort of impact or change in the world. But I have been able to live my life and learn, grow, develop . . . become. I gave birth to two beautiful, amazing, perfect little beings. I brought them into this world, and they are my world. I don’t know if any of that is why God wanted me to know—to know—that my time on this earth wasn’t meant to be finished at that time, but I’m grateful He gave me that witness. I’m grateful for the experience, as I am for so many of my experiences in life that give me the opportunity to learn, to grow, to develop . . . to become.

As a side-note, when we got out of the car at Walmart I told my brother to give me the keys because I was going to drive home. Still a bit shaken up from what had happened himself, he willingly dropped the keys into my hand with no hesitation!

Roses and Thorns

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Roses are my favorite flower. I know it sounds cliché, but beyond the fact that I find them very beautiful, the symbolism attached to them is meaningful to me.

I love symbolism. I suppose that is the literary nerd in me coming out! One of the things I love about my religion is all the symbolism. I don’t always understand all of it, but the imagery is amazing, and again, the symbolism means something to me.

Roses can symbolize various things. Love and romance are probably the first thing that come to mind. In ancient times it meant secrecy and confidentiality to the Romans. In the Middle Ages a rose hung from the ceiling of a meeting room meant everyone in the room was sworn to secrecy. For me, it’s about the flower and the thorns. I love roses because of their beauty and because of the thorns. It’s like life. Life is full of thorns, of hurts, obstacles, suffering. Yet life is so beautiful as well. There is beauty and love everywhere, if you can just allow yourself to see it. And maybe, just maybe, the thorns are part of the beauty. Maybe we need them to truly be grateful for what we do have. That’s why I love roses, thorns and all, so much.

A Vent

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I’ve recently been reminded of why I hate Facebook so much and why I got completely off of it (deleted my account) many years ago. People love using it to vomit their opinions in a passive-aggressive way that they claim is them doing what’s right, what their conscience demands of them, when really they just want everyone else to know that what they believe, whether politically, religiously, socially or personally is absolute truth and anyone who doesn’t believe the same is a pathetic low-life who deserves to be trampled under the refuse of guilt and shame. Now these people will act like they are all open-minded and they aren’t trying to be aggressive or make others feel bad, but I’m telling you—that’s bull*#@%! In my opinion. Insert smiling emoji now!

The truth is that you are making people feel bad, and you know it. You know you’re creating controversy, you know you’ll anger people, you know you’ll start a fight and you don’t care because YOU ARE RIGHT, and anyone who doesn’t agree with you is an idiot. My question is, why? Why do you care so much about what other people believe? Just because someone believes differently than you doesn’t mean they aren’t educated, it doesn’t mean they don’t care, it doesn’t mean they haven’t done any research themselves, and it certainly doesn’t mean they are wrong. Maybe they are actually more educated, care more and have done more research than you have. Maybe we’re just all different. And maybe that’s okay. So why start the conflict? Why not show love and compassion for EVERYONE instead?

I came across a scripture tonight while reading with my kids that I feel applies. In my religion as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we have a book of scripture called The Book of Mormon. In it we learn that, after Christ was resurrected, He visited people who lived in what is now the American continent. One of the very first things Christ taught the people was that contention is of the devil. In 3 Nephi chapter 11 verse 29 He says Satan is the one who, “stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.” In verse 30 Jesus continues, “Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.” Facebook, lately, has been full of people who want to “stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another.”

Now I completely understand being passionate about what you believe in and wanting to share that, but this contentious way is not the right way. I know because that’s the way I went about it when I was a young, arrogant girl at college. Thank goodness I grew up! And thank goodness I learned that using your passion in the wrong way doesn’t change minds, it doesn’t build up, it doesn’t include. It does the opposite. It hardens people, it cements their own opinions, it tears down, it excludes and it causes anger, which is not Christ’s way.

Facebook has been a great tool in getting the word out about my blog here. In fact that’s the only reason I even got back on it last summer. But lately I’ve been seriously considering deleting my account again because of all the people who use it in Satan’s way—as a tool to hurt and tear down others.

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I feel as though I’ve tried and done a reasonably good job of teaching my children that it’s okay when other people believe differently than we do. As a result, my kids have a pretty wide variety of friends religiously, politically, socially, personally. And the great example my kids give to me is that those differences don’t really matter. Kids don’t care about changing someone’s opinion. They talk about their differing opinions in a very brief and civil (sometimes funny) way, then they move on. They don’t fight about it, they just move on. Their passion is about friendship, not politics, not opinions. Friendship and love.

Time and Seasons

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Today was what we refer to in my church as “fast and testimony” meeting. Usually, the first Sunday of each month is dedicated to fasting, and at church, in sacrament meeting, all members of the congregation are invited, if they so feel the need, to get up and share their testimonies of the gospel. The first person to do so today shared an amazing story of incredible miracles she had seen on a recent trip. The Spirit was so strong, when she sat down I thought to myself, “I love coming to church!”

This has been my thought every Sunday for quite awhile now. Every time I’m at church I leave feeling so uplifted and inspired. I’m always able to feel the Spirit, to learn something, to hear something I needed to hear and I leave with something to ponder. I love Sundays, and I love church!

This hasn’t always been the case, though. I remember going into the bathroom this one Sunday many years ago, feeling tired and frustrated. My youngest was a toddler at the time, or, as I liked to refer to him, my little monster. It was always a near-impossible task just getting to church at all, let alone actually being able to pay attention while I was there. When I walked into the bathroom this other lady in my ward (what we call an LDS congregation) asked me how I was.

“I hate Sundays,” I told her. “Sundays are the worst day of the week.”

I almost couldn’t believe I had let the words out of my mouth, but she leaned toward me and said, “I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels that way sometimes.”

Church with babies and toddlers can be frustrating. But I realized today it is only a time and a season. There are still times I have to get after my ten-year-old daughter and six-year-old son during sacrament meeting for being too loud or for bugging and picking on each other, but for the most part they are pretty good—good enough that I can listen to and enjoy the majority of church.

I think there are many things in our lives that are part of a time and season. Things come and go. As frustrating as those days were in regards to the Sabbath, in many ways I miss them. It’s hard to see your kids grow up. But sometimes it helps to remember that hard times can pass and good times can grow.

Doing Your Best

Last Saturday I cleaned my house. At least, that was the goal. I had an event to be to that afternoon, but I thought I could get my entire house cleaned in the morning. I started with my bedroom and bathroom, had my kids clean their bathroom and help me as I started on the kitchen. I soon realized, however, there was no way I was going to get my entire house cleaned. I didn’t do a single thing in the basement which is ridiculously messy. I was so frustrated and angry at myself and hoping no one would come over that day to see how I hadn’t done enough. I’m not sure why I thought that. It’s rare for anyone but my kid’s friends to step foot in my basement, and they don’t care about the mess! But that nervous thought plagued me as I got ready to go out that afternoon.

I just read this really great article, To Women: “Doing Better Doesn’t Mean Doing More”, that has helped put my mind at ease and wanted to share, because I absolutely believe it. Sometimes we need to be told or reminded by other people. The article is by Sharon Eubank and Reyna Aburto, leaders in the women’s organizations in my church. They talked about doing our best and how that doesn’t necessarily mean doing more. Sister Aburto shared how she felt like she had so many things to do and could never accomplish them all by the end of the day. She said, “One day, I realized I will never be done. My lists will never be finished. It isn’t possible. I want to tell every woman what I have learned. You don’t have to do it all, and you are never done, and you can be okay with that, and you can accept that.” So simple, but so true. Even though I got my kitchen totally clean only a couple of days ago, there are dishes on the counter and in the sink, crumbs on the table and the floor. Even when we get something done, we’re never really done, and that’s okay. There is always more to do, and that’s okay. What we do accomplish is enough. puzzle-1727997_1920I thought of it in terms a giant puzzle that has endless pieces. If you only focus on getting the pieces in you miss the beautiful picture you’re already forming. Sometimes we can accomplish a lot, sometimes a little. It’s not about how much we get done, but simply about putting forth the effort and doing our best.

The article ended with the quote from Sister Eubank, “Try. Pray. Trust. You don’t have to do it all.” I’m trying, I’m praying, and I’m going to trust that God will help and supplement me as I do so. So today, I’m telling myself it is enough, and I’m telling you that you are enough, too.

About Being a Parent

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Just based on my own experience being a parent is hard. Being a single parent is harder. You have no one else to help, to lean on, to offer shared experience or support. You’re doing it all alone, and that can be very intimidating, knowing that my kids are counting on me and me alone. Alone is exactly how I was feeling last night as I tried to help my daughter who was struggling because of someone in her school class who had been very mean to her when she was only trying to do the right thing. I immediately turned to scriptures and the words of my church leaders, then spoke of my own experiences and thoughts to try to help her, but I felt so inadequate and wondered if I was really helping her or not. After I finally got her into bed I sat on my own bed and cried, feeling that aloneness, thinking how hard it was being a single parent.

But then I remembered that I wasn’t alone, that I actually had the most knowledgable, wise, kind, perfect parent on my side—my Father in Heaven. He’s the one I can lean on for support and look to for guidance, and I know He can give it to me. I also realized, though, that in order for me to have that I needed to be living my life in a way where I can hear His spirit and His voice speaking to me. It ignited a fire in me to strive to live a more spiritual life. There are little things I know I can do better at, things that will bring the Spirit into my home and into my life. In so doing I truly believe that I can have that help and experience to guide me and that support I need to lean on.

Asking the Right Questions

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Last week I had a conversation with a friend about the question why. It had been on my mind for a month or two because it was brought up in church, and I wanted to write my feelings on the subject. Well, I’m finally getting around to it!

Someone in church one day said something about how trials can make her question why. I’m sure it’s something all of us have done. Why is this happening to me? Why do they have to suffer? Why would God allow this? Most of these questions end with, It’s not fair. Well, who ever said anything about fairness? Life isn’t about what’s fair or unfair. But then, I stopped asking, “Why?” a long time ago.

It’s been years since I’ve asked that question about any of the difficult things I’ve gone through or have seen others go through. The answer, to me, is pretty simple. That’s life. Life happens. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad. And sometimes bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people. It’s just the way the world works. And it’s not that I don’t think we should question. I’m an extremely skeptical, untrusting person. I question pretty much everything. I do, however, think it’s about asking the right questions. For me, it’s what and how. “What can I learn from this?” and, “How can I use what I’ve been through to improve my own life or help the lives of others?”

This is how I’ve tried to live my own life for the last fifteen years, at least. It doesn’t always happen right away. As previously stated in other posts I’m a pessimist. I don’t happily go through difficulties, and I don’t always keep hope intact. But always after I ask myself the what and how questions, then try to implement them. For me, this leads to greater knowledge, understanding, strength, independence, kindness, patience and certainly a better relationship with my Father in Heaven. All asking, “Why?” ever did was lead to a circle of unhappiness.

Of course, everyone is different. This is just my experience, one I hope has some meaning to someone out there.