Tag Archives: Strength

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Last week I dropped my first grader off for her first day of school. She was feeling a bit nervous and wanted me to take her. And I secretly dread the start of every school year so I was more than happy to comply and bask in the glow of being needed. It was especially helpful to my ego that she clung to me and wanted me to stay in her class. I talked all about her bravery and her love of school and we both moved on.

On my way back down the hallway there were two moms that I assumed had just completed such a mission engaged in conversation. Hence my surprise at the tone and direction of said conversation. It became abundantly clear that they were there to pass the buck, to shift this endless responsibility of parenting elsewhere. I didn't exactly mean to listen to their "private" conversation the entire way out of the building, but as they stomped and fumed and vented behind me I couldn't exactly help it.

One mother was adamant that she was going to switch her child to another district because she has "these same issues every year." At first I was wondering how you could possibly have issues before the first bell of the school year even rang. But mom #2 cleared up my confusion. "Seriously! I called yesterday and chewed them out until they switched my daughter into the class with the male teacher. I mean, she has no male influence in her life and she doesn't listen for crap. Maybe he can fix her. I'm so sick of them not doing what's best for my kid." Uh . . . surely I'm not hearing this correctly.

But I was. I heard it loud and clear. And it's the same thing I hear everywhere. Somebody else is responsible for our happiness. Nothing is anybody's problem. The responsibility is someone else's. Our children's behavior. Their success. Our success. Our behavior. Our happiness. Blame when the said area of our life is less than stellar can be swiftly and easily placed elsewhere, anywhere really, but it never seems to be placed right where it belongs.

We, as a society, have literally wiped away a basic truth from our existence. Maybe "wiped away" is extreme. Maybe "chosen to ignore in all of our narcissistic glory" would be more appropriate here. But we have failed to take responsibility for ourselves. We have failed to be the masters of our own happiness. We've shifted that responsibility to a plethora of external stimuli, blaming everyone and everything and every circumstance.

Please, let's be clear, happiness is a state of being, not a result of being.

Honestly, anyone in any circumstance can be happy. That might be tough to hear, but it's the truth. And this is something God intended for us to figure out. The most critical part of our existence falls squarely on our own shoulders. That misery that we feel that we claim to be unable to do anything about is completely ours to own. We parade around sporting our victimhood as if it's the blue ribbon of a hard knock life, earning us the right to wallow and to complain and to blame. We do it because we're weak.

And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.   - 2 Nephi 2:26

Did you hear what he said? We're free. Free to act for ourselves and not to be acted upon. Our freedom to choose gives us the ability to control the very state of our existence. We do not fall prey to misery because of circumstance or outside influence, and we most certainly do not stumble upon happiness as we bound through fields of butterflies and rainbows. We're stronger than that. And we've been created to be more powerful than that.

I'm as guilty as anyone. I'm an angry grump because my kids choose not to listen or because my husband doesn't do exactly what I think he should. I choose misery because sometimes things are hard and it's easier to wallow in self pity than it is to choose to find the inner strength and character to rise above it.

Look, I get it. We are frequently victims; victims of circumstance, victims of crime, and even victims to the poor decisions of myriads of other people. But I'll tell  you what. We are NOT victims to misery. We voluntarily join that club.

Happiness is my responsibility and it's your responsibility. It's not my husband's job to "make me happy." The responsibility doesn't fall to your child's teacher. It doesn't fall to my friends or to your neighbor down the street. My children's momentary disobedience doesn't send me spiraling head first into a pool of misery. I voluntarily dive right in.

We're suddenly failing to take responsibility for everything. We act like helpless pawns being forced to agonizingly suffer through life. We shift blame to all sorts of places where it doesn't belong.

The truth is simple. It's been the truth since the beginning.  We are free; free to choose, free to act, and free to be. We're free to be miserable, but we're also free to be happy. We don't need to be bogged down because of the decisions or behaviors of others. We don't need to despair because life is hard. We can choose happiness every morning when we wake up. And we can continue to choose happiness under whatever circumstances we may be in.

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I didn't want to let today pass by without honoring my son, Hunter. I already told him how proud I am of him and I know that he hears me, but I'm not sure how much it actually sinks in. I hope that someday when he's an amazing, grown man that he'll read this and know how much I appreciated all that he was and how hard he fought to overcome his weaknesses. blog1

Hunter has battled anxiety since he was two years old. At least that's as early as I remember it starting. It alleviated some when he was 5 and 6 years old, but then it came back with a vengeance.

Most things make this fantastic son of mine anxious; playing sports, going to school every morning, taking tests, talking to people (adults and kids alike) that aren't his nearest and dearest, being in front of people, and trying absolutely anything new. He is anxious to the point of tears every time he walks to the school bus or out onto a baseball field or like this weekend, out into a 4-H show ring.

I have no personal experience with anxiety in any way and therefore I can't even imagine the level of panic or the insane emotions he must experience on ordinary days, let alone what he must feel on extraordinary ones. And I can only guess at the level of courage it takes for him to fight it. But he does. He fights it every day. Sometimes we push him to fight it and sometimes he comes out throwing punches all on his own.

When we moved to Naches Hunter wanted to join 4-H and show pigs. He has practiced and worked so hard for this weekend. It was his first time showing an animal.  blog2

He made the All Star Baseball team this  year and I cannot even express in words the breakdown he experienced before tryouts. He almost bailed and we cajoled and nearly forced him out the door.

But this weekend we didn't have to push. I could see the anxiety all over his face. The emotions raging through that tired boy were almost too much for him. He wouldn't even talk to me. If he had he would have cried. So he's moped around for two days fighting his own internal battle. But he's also walked into that show ring twice.

Today was a rough one. His pig ended up being in heat and there was a male pig that wouldn't leave her alone. It kept running her into corners making it fairly difficult for Hunter to show what he could do. I could see the frustration and the panic, but he continued to work. He came out of that ring with his head up.  blog3

I don't tell this story because it turned out perfectly or because he walked out of the ring with a miraculous comeback victory. In fact, it turned out a far cry from where he would've liked it to. But there my sweet 9 year old was . . . continuing to work until they told him to stop, braving every emotion he's working so hard to learn to control.

I'm incredibly proud of this boy of mine. This year I've watched him walk into a brand new classroom and sit down. I've watched him stand in a batter's box almost paralyzed by nerves. I've watched him victoriously walk to a pitcher's mound with mastered serenity and confidence. And now I've watched him walk into a show ring and give his all when everything went wrong.

I know that everybody loves their children as much as I do mine. And I hope everyone can find reasons to be proud of them. Today my pride in my son turned into an incredible amount of respect. I admire him for the internal and very emotional battle that he fights every day. I admire his goodness and his sweetness. And I very much admire his courage and his willpower to fight the battle that's fallen into his lap. He will forever have my respect. I can't even imagine the strength of the man that will leave my home in the not very distant future. I love you, Hunter.

 

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Lying about it would be futile. The reality is that I spend an enormous amount of time thinking about my children. I put a lot of mental, emotional, and spiritual effort into them. I worry over them, I pray for them, and I try to anticipate problems. I do my best to teach them the principles of courage and strength, obedience and faith.

Lately, as I've watched the state of this country spiraling out of control at an ever increasing rate I've darn near had a panic attack because of them. The political chaos, the rapid moral decline, and the attacks on our God-given freedoms leave me feeling almost desperately afraid when I focus on them too much.  And by too much I mean any longer than 3 minutes.

I've sat around wondering how my children are going to survive it. I've prayed for answers on how to help them survive it.

I didn't discover a magical solution, but I did remember a time-tested one.

There's so much more going on with a tree than what we see on the surface. The healthiest trees have root systems underneath the ground that are larger than what is visible. These trees have extensive and efficient tangles of roots that not only nourish them, but that also help all that is visible to withstand the blows. Trees make sure that there is the same amount of work, if not more, going on underneath the surface.

About 65 years before Christ, Helaman led an army of young, teenage boys to battle in defense of Captain Moroni's Title of Liberty. That Title of Liberty was flown throughout the land. It said, "In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children." This battle had raged on for years when these young boys joined the fight.

But even a man as faithful as Helaman was nervous about these boys. He didn't want to lose any of them in battle. However, his observation of them helped quench some of his fears. "Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives; yea they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them. And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it."

When the Lamanites surrendered as prisoners of war, Helaman went to count how many of those 2,000 boys he had lost."But behold, to my great joy, there had not one soul of them fallen to the earth; yea, and they had fought as if with the strength of God; yea, never were men known to have fought with such miraculous strength; and with such mighty power did they fall upon the Lamanites, that they did frighten them; and for this cause did the Lamanites deliver themselves up as prisoners of war."

History has taught me two incredible lessons. First is that even amidst incredible fear, deep roots of faith instill courage and hope. The faith of these boys didn't grant them some invisible force field that guaranteed their protection. But what their faith did do was give them the courage to fight. It gave them the courage to lose because truthfully, they knew that even had they lost that battle, they were still winning an even greater one. Their motivation to fight was greater than any possible outcome.

The second thing I've learned that has planted itself firmly in my heart is the incredible power of a faithful mother.

I have come to know that faith is a real power, not just an expression of belief. There are few things more powerful than the faithful prayers of a righteous mother. -Boyd K. Packer

So to mothers and fathers everywhere: Hang onto hope. We are not helpless. We don't have to sit idly by while a decaying world steals our children. We have power; power granted to us from on high; power to lift and power to save. The conversations and the prayers and the scriptures that are being shared in our homes will do more to combat the insanity that is occurring every day than any amount of worrying ever will. Be courageous. Be faithful. Make sure you leave no question in the hearts of your children about the reality of your faith or the power of the Savior of mankind to save. Stand on the winning side, regardless of how small that side becomes. Victory is certain. Just make sure there is more good happening underneath the surface than storm raging up above.

 

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I wrote a column a couple of weeks ago about bullying. A reader sent in a letter to the editor that was forwarded on to me. The man was very complimentary and polite and his response was well-written. His discussion of our behavior as adults shifted a little bit from bullying to forgiveness. He made a statement that I may have agreed with in the past. In fact, I may have agreed with him as little as three months ago. But not today.

The statement was this: "The problem with forgiveness is that you can't forgive until the other person stops offending."

I'm writing this because I've been feeling a compelling need to share with the world what I know about forgiveness. And so I say to this man and to everyone else that's listening that yes, actually you can.

Forgiveness is more complex than a definition. I know that. But I want to share a definition with you anyway. Merriam-Webster says that forgiveness is "to give up resentment of or claim to requital for." It also says that forgiveness is "to cease to feel resentment against (an offender); pardon."

Nowhere in any definition that I've read does it say that forgiveness has anything to do with the offense or the offender. Nowhere. Not in a dictionary. Not in the scriptures. Not anywhere.

Forgiveness has everything to do with the state of your own heart and not a thing to do with anyone else's. In fact, I'd go as a far as to say that your situation or whatever issue is at hand is deeply and profoundly irrelevant. Where you are emotionally has nothing to do with your battle or the guilty party in relation to your distress.

This is easy to say, I know.

I find it relatively easy to forgive most people. Casual acquaintances, relative strangers and even good friends can receive my instant forgiveness for almost anything. And it's sincere. Whether they apologize or not, I see no need to hang onto petty offenses and trivial things. I just don't. I tend to value kindness more than I do vindication.

It's been a completely different story when it's a person who's close to me; a person who I feel should know better. I hold those who are close to me to a very high standard when it comes to their relationship with me. Maybe it's because the people closest to us are the ones we trust with our hearts. Maybe it's because they are the only ones to whom we are emotionally vulnerable. Maybe the fact that they're a member of our family or one of our dearest friends makes the blow go that much deeper. Maybe it's because the pain they're capable of inflicting is severe and the cost is steep.

What I'm saying is, if you're inflicted with deep wounds, wounds that seem irreparable, wounds that were caused by someone who took emotional advantage of your relationship, you have my sincerest empathy. I know how brutal it is. I know that your parents, siblings, spouses, children, or other relatives aren't supposed to inflict that kind of harm. I know that your best friends should never cross that line.

I've been there. In fact, I am there. I have a person in a my life that has caused offense for years. And that harm has continued unrelenting. I have a firm grasp on my own self-worth and so the result of these offenses was hard to come to terms with. I initially felt really betrayed and hurt. That continued for awhile until I decided that feeling that way was uncomfortable and I'd rather fight instead. So I spent years fighting and felt justified in doing so. They deserved what they got and I was just defending myself, after all.

But here's the thing: we don't get to take on the supreme role of deciding what someone else deserves. It doesn't matter if their guilt is obvious and it certainly doesn't matter if they ever correct it. They will be dealt with by a just and merciful God who knows and sees and understands all. And so will we, leaving with us zero justification for withholding forgiveness.

My feelings towards this person became toxic. I went from feeling hurt by them all the way to basically loathing their existence. I even found myself inwardly smirking over the judgments I knew they were sure to face.

Situations like this wreak havoc. This is where withholding forgiveness will lead. You wind up with people estranged from parents or siblings. You see relationships ending in divorce. You witness children who don't come home for 20 years because of the damage that was done. You see valued friendships tossed by the wayside.

I don't want to focus on any of that because that's what emotional hardness does to individuals and families and society. Instead I want to share with you what forgiveness can do. My attitude towards this person put me in an equally ugly place. What kind of person glories in the punishment another is sure to face? What kind of person feels justified in perpetuating meanness and cruelty? The unforgiving kind.

My situation with this other person hasn't changed much. They still cause offense more times than I can count. But something has changed that has altered the course of the entire situation . . . at least for me, personally. I've learned to forgive someone who hasn't stopped offending me.

I've changed. Me. The one who didn't cause this problem and the one who is powerless to stop it.

As my relationship with my Savior has improved, as I've come to understand Him better, I've learned an important secret. And it may not be the secret to life, but it is most certainly one of the secrets to happiness. I am not in a position to demand change before I willingly extend mercy to others. I am required to act with grace and dignity. I am required to forgive. It's not a suggestion. It's a requirement for becoming better acquainted with Him.

I used to think it was impossible. I'd find myself right in the middle of things. I'd find myself the recipient of the doled out offense and think, "How can I possibly forgive this person when they won't stop!?" Or, "If they'd just stop, I could let this go." I would even find myself wondering how a loving Father in Heaven could love this person as much as He loved me considering what they were doing.

I don't know if I'd call myself a seasoned mother yet, but I am a mother nonetheless. And I imagine that our Heavenly Father can love us equally regardless of our behavior, just as I love my own children regardless. I don't love my son any less when he hits his sister. And that's not because I don't love his sister. I adore them both and it hurts me that she's hurt, but it doesn't stop me from taking the opportunity to teach him. And it most certainly doesn't stop me from hoping that my love for him will somehow help to teach him right from wrong.

I've always felt bad for people who think of God as some far-off "concept" rather than the Father of us all. How much easier it is to understand Him and His requirements for us when we understand His role as a parent. And how much easier it is to understand His Son, the Savior of mankind, when we understand His role as our older brother, a brother with the ability and willingness to save us from ourselves.

So I began to pray that I could see my offender in the way that my Father in Heaven sees them. I began to hope that I would be able to love them again. I prayed that I'd be able to let go of the offenses that just keep on rolling in.

My testament to you is that God answers prayers. Every single one. He has given me eyes that see and a heart that understands. A heart that understands that my relationship with Him is all that I need. I don't need vindication or a reprieve or anything really. I can trust Him to handle whatever judgments are required. It's not my job. He doesn't need my help with that.

He needs my help to extend His love to all around me, whether family or friends or strangers. He needs me to be His hands. He needs me to serve and to love and to respect all of His children . . . even when they don't respect and love and serve me. He needs me to grant forgiveness under every circumstance and to leave the judgment to Him.

This knowledge has changed my heart. It hasn't changed my circumstances, but it's changed my attitude towards them. I've been able to learn to love a person who may or may not deserve it. This knowledge has changed the way that my situation use to nag at and torture my soul. I feel peace and contentment and happiness, not necessarily because of the treatment I receive, but because of my attitude toward it.

Forgiveness is powerful in every way. It unleashes a strength that I couldn't have comprehended. It frees us from worry and misery because our understanding reaches a completely elevated level.

I'm not perfect, lest anyone misinterpret what I'm saying. Occasionally I really have to fight with myself to let it go. But each time that I'm successful, each time that I come out victorious, I am that much stronger and that much more at peace.

So I just need you to know that you're not alone. In your darkest hour, in your moment of sincerest need, please know and understand that you are a child of the Most High God. He loves you. He loves your offender. He only wants you to see them the way that He sees them. He promises peace and contentment and a sweet relationship with Him and His Son if you can pull it off. And He'll take care of the rest. Let Him do His job while you concentrate on your own. You're perfectly suited and capable of completing the task.

God lives. His reality is not in question, regardless of how many say that it is. The Savior lives, and His Atonement has rendered us all able to spiritually overcome all. Without Him we would have been hopeless, but He is the Light and the Life and the Hope of the world. Use that gift. Draw from it the power that you need.