Thursday, November 24, 2011

My heart is very full tonight. There is so much that is good in my life. It was my year to have my sweet girls for Thanksgiving. We got to spend time with my family, including some of the cousins that my girls just adore, and to top it off, the girls are unexpectedly sleeping at our house tonight.

As we drove home, listening to Christmas carols and looking at the lights, I felt a peace that's been bouncing in and out of my life lately. We saw the Bountiful Temple shining on the hillside, and I felt blessed beyond measure.

This life may be different than what I envisioned, but it is beautiful; and it is good! There's a scripture in Malachi that sort of sums up just how I've been feeling:

 ... and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. (Malachi 3:10, Holy Bible, KJV)
I have been truly and abundantly blessed.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Building Stars from the Rubble of My Broken Dreams ...

Life is a collection of memories, events, and people. Sometimes it's good; sometimes? Eh ... not so much. Like anyone else, I have my own piles of rubble -- leftovers from the times when life and my dreams collided. Broken dreams make quite a mess, but broken dreams are a new dream (or twelve) just waiting to be pieced together. There are sparkling bits of beauty in that pile; it's simply a matter of recognizing them.

My life has not turned out how I expected. Nope, it has turned out better. There is so much that is good and beautiful in my world. The imperfections of my days -- the messes, the challenges of making ends meet, and even the struggle to fit in my homework -- are just oppositional echoes that can help me to see just how beautiful my life is. The messes are, in large part, a very visual representation that I have two very active, healthy children and that we have been blessed with such an abundance. The challenges of making ends meet are miracles waiting to happen. They are reminders to be thankful when I am surprised by how well things work out -- and I am often surprised. They are reminders that we have still been blessed with so much more than we need. And the struggles to fit in my homework? A beautiful reminder that I have the opportunity to further my education, to provide a better future for my daughters ... Of course it's a struggle. Most worthwhile things are.

I am thankful for the broken dreams, for the chance to build more with my life than I ever thought possible. I am thankful that the sorrows help us to better value the joys. I'm grateful that God knows His plan for me, that He knows what to build with the shards of what I thought was best for myself and my children, and that He is the Master Architect building what's actually best for my little family.

I am not that mother ...

It is a basic statement of fact that we live in a world eager to place labels on us. While we hope not to be judged based on our circumstances, our momentary abandonment of wisdom, or our acts of basic stupidity, the reality is that people are making snap judgments and labeling us all the time; and whether we are conscious of it or not, we are all guilty of doing it. These last two years have prompted me to step back and look a little more closely at my own gut reactions -- at the labels that I mentally place on people when I am barely conscious that I've done so. There are times that the labels others place on me in ignorance feel like a brick wall. Sometimes, it's just another rock in my pocket. I've come to realize that perhaps my own initial impressions of others are at times equally ignorant and equally hurtful. We all carry our own burdens, and the truth is that most people will never know those burdens exist. I have found that I could certainly afford to be a little kinder in my own thoughts and actions.

For every label given, there is a backstory. These are some of the things that I wish people knew about mine:

* Yes, I'm a single mother. Don't judge. You don't know the circumstances that led me here. I'm not blame-free. Every failed marriage is a two-way street, but there were a lot of elements beyond my control that played into it as well.

*Every failed marriage hurts. Underneath the pile of rubble lays another pile of broken dreams -- somebody's broken happily ever after. Be gentle, no matter how culpable you think someone might be. You don't need to go out of your way to help, but you don't need to toss more rocks on the pile either.

* I am not that mother who:

lets others raise my children for me because it is easier than doing it myself.

expects others to provide for us the life that I dreamed we'd have.

puts my kids' needs, both physical, mental, and emotional, on the backburner because of my own hurts.

who feeds my children on a steady diet of my own hurt and bitterness.

* I am that mother who:

wants the very best for my kids.

who loves my daughters with all that's in me.

who tries to teach my children the value of work, independence, and belief in the goodness of mankind.

who takes every opportunity that I can to be a positive part of my children's lives -- helping in their classes, playing with them, and teaching them.

*I'm doing the best I can with the hand that I've been dealt. It is what it is ... and it's okay.

While this is what I wish people knew about my own story, these things could equally apply to so many others in so many other situations. We're all just trying to be happy where we are. This holiday season, my hope is that I remember to be a little kinder, that I'll be able to pull a rock or two out of someone else's pile. I hope that I will remember to take a step back, realize that I don't have all the facts -- and that it's probably not my place to -- and be a little more understanding.
23 But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.
24 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men ... (2 Timothy 2:23-24, Holy Bible, KJV)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Tonight, my girls and I were reading together. One of the things that I read to them is found in a little book by Britney Rule called It's Never Too Late -- Simple Acts to Enhance Your Life. (Once upon a time, I did a lot of book reviews, and this was a book I received as part of that process. You can check out my original review here: It's Never Too Late Book Review )

The page that we chose to read in this book (the book is set up almost like a small book of devotionals -- but not) was about journal keeping. It states:
It's never too late ... to keep a journal
It doesn't matter if you've never kept one before.
Each day is a new chance to start.
Keep one your way.
It may be full of drawings. or photographs.
It might be a collection of letters you've written.
It might be one sentence per day.
Whichever way you choose,
it will become a treasure. (p.1)
The author then shares a quote by Spencer W. Kimball found in the talk "Hold Fast to the Iron Rod," published in the Ensign Magazine, Nov. 1978.

"I promise you that if you will keep your journals and records, they will indeed be a source of great inspiration ... through generations."

What a beautiful promise from a prophet of the Lord. While I sometimes get embarrassed at my own thoughts that I've recorded for generations (mainly because I can be a bit silly sometimes ... ) I have found strength in reading again about the experiences that I've been through. I've been able to share some of those things with my children as teaching moments have come up. It seems to make some of these challenges seem more real to them when they can put it in the context of a real person. It has brought my children and I closer together as I've been willing to share my journals with them. Don't get me wrong, I don't let them have free rein with my journals. Some -- especially some entries in more recent journals -- document things that the girls don't need to read right now; however, having my journals means that when my children are having their own set of struggles, I can share things that I've been through, and perhaps it will give them some direction. If nothing else, it lets them know that they're not alone.

I'm thankful for the opportunity to write: in my journals, on my blogs, and for school and hobbies. It is a blessing for me to be able to go back and see my own growth and how I was forced into it. I hope that someday my writings will be a source of inspiration to my posterity -- that perhaps they will enjoy getting to know me a bit. Even if this doesn't happen, I don't feel like the time that I've spent writing will ever be wasted. It's helped me to know myself better. It's helped me to understand my own life more clearly. It's brought me closer to my Father in Heaven, and it's brought me strength in the times that I've felt like life was more than I can handle. My writings remind me that I can do hard things -- because I already have. They remind me that the Lord has been with me in those hard times before and that He will be there again.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

My Daughter -- Moments of Maturity ...

It's been a beautiful day so far, filled with beautiful reminders of just how truly blessed I really am.

L woke up today with a slight fever and what her sister calls "the barking dog cough". She's getting a new permanent tooth, and her gums around it are red and inflamed. (She was a difficult teether when she was younger and breathing problems and fevers were a common occurrence.) At any rate, while I think a lot of it is tied into her new tooth, I did feel like the better option would be to keep her home so that we don't share anything that she might have ...

I suggested to M that I could drop her off at church and find a friend to bring her home. She refused-- said that no way was she going by herself. Because it was the primary program today, I called a member of the Primary Presidency (the ladies who run the children's program/classes in our church) to see if they wanted me to find a sub to sit with my class while they did their parts. She said that they would be fine, but she did offer to take M with her. I told her that I didn't think M was willing to this time, but I appreciated the offer.

When I told M that Sister "B" was willing to take her to church, I barely finished my sentence before M was announcing, "I'll go! If it's Sister 'B', I'll do it!!" M was so excited that she was completely ready in 10 minutes. She spent the next half hour telling us that she was going to church all by herself.

After church, M walked in the door, beaming with pride. The program had gone well; she did her part and felt good about it. The first thing that she had to tell us was that she'd gone to church all by herself and that she was super glad that she had. She was almost giddy.

I'm so grateful that today was such a positive experience for M. I'm especially grateful for the help of a kind person that I trust who made it possible for M. I'm grateful to live in a good area where my children feel loved and safe with the ward (local congregation) members. I'm especially grateful that now M knows that she can do this on her own if she has to.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Trailing Behind in the Gratitude Department ...

Always easy to get away from seeing things as I should. Time to refocus -- again ...

Thankful that I've had the kids all week this week. I'm never quite sure when to expect it, but I sure love the times that I have them extra.

Thankful for the time I've had throughout the years to attend church with my children. What a blessing -- one that has forged special bonds between us.

Thankful for the good things in my life. I'm grateful to have something to reach for when the bad things seem too prominent.

Thankful for good neighbors.

Thankful to know that tests and trials are temporary. Thankful for faith to hope for the rainbow after the storm. Thankful for the chance to learn to dance in the tornado ... (I'm just hoping to learn it soon ... )

Thankful to know that most people are good and kind; thankful for the reminders come when those who would make life difficult are the most visible. They're just squeaky wheels -- not the whole car.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Something that I've realized lately ...

is that my perspective's been a bit off lately. I find myself seeing things in extremes. I'm realizing that I need to find a bit more balance in the way that I see things. Hopefully, it'll bring a bit more wisdom ...

My hope:

To learn to see people as God sees them, to see all of the beautiful potential inside even the "ugliest" of souls. I hope to be able to learn to see the treasures of divine worth in each person that I meet.

At the same time, I hope:

To be able to recognize that such potential does not always mean that I have to put myself or my children in the way to be harmed by some of the choices that come from the imperfections of human nature. That seeing the glorious possibilities of what one can be does not mean embracing the bad things.

Can't decide ...

if I'm more thankful today for Excedrin or warm, comfortable hoodies that look nice enough that I can get away with wearing them to work. It might have to be both.

What a blessing to live in a time when we have modern medicine. Migraines run in my family, and I can't imagine trying to function through them in a time when there weren't some of the helps that there are today. Seriously thankful!!

I love hoodies and cowboy boots. My very favorite winter outfit-- especially on days like today where my joints and bones just feel achy. While I miss the days where people dressed with a bit more class, and I LOVE a good classic, tailored look, I'm thankful for warm, cozy hoodies too.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Time to start digging for sunshine ...

B.A.D. A.T.T.I.T.U.D.E!

Yup, that's me ... (think pity pot-- I know, for shame!) The time has come to turn things around. I need a mantra.

Hmm ...

"The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad." Psalms 126:3 (Holy Bible, KJV)

I LIKE IT! It's simple. I can think of it quickly & easily. It's an instant kick in the pants for those rotten outlook kind of days ... (Can one call a scripture a kick in the pants?)

Watch out, Grumpy Gus! I'm diggin' for sunshine ... Gladness, here I come!
Earlier, this is how I was feeling ...

Nobody likes me,
Everybody hates me,
I guess I'll go eat worms ...
Okay, maybe I wasn't all that ready to feast on funk.

I had just received one more disappointment-- you know, the kind that seem like they might be better for everyone involved except me? It's one of those things that -- if fully realized -- will mean beautiful things for my kids; it just means that I have to learn to adjust all over again.

I guess, in the end, it's not so much a disappointment as one more climb on one of life's roller coasters. Lately, I've felt like things were finally starting to settle into a sort-of even keel, so I was a bit blindsided by this one.

Neal A. Maxwell once said,

A good friend, who knows whereof he speaks, has observed of trials, "If it's fair, it is not a true trial!" That is, without the added presence of some inexplicableness and some irony and injustice, the experience may not stretch us or lift us sufficiently. The crucifixion of Christ was clearly the greatest injustice in human history, but the Savior bore up under it with majesty and indescribable valor. (The Neal A. Maxwell Quote Book)
Obviously, I've got a long way to go. Life isn't fair. I don't think that's really possible ... It doesn't mean that it can't be beautiful and wonderful; it just means that I need to be a bit better about rolling with the punches. Perhaps feel a little less picked on when things are thrown at me suddenly ...

Neal A. Maxwell also said,

Even when we are wise enough to count our blessings, we usually do it without also weighing them. A numerical inventory, by itself, is not sufficient. Some blessings are of extraordinary size and significance. (The Neal A. Maxwell Quote Book)

Lately especially, I've had a hard time remembering to weigh my blessings. Such wisdom is a bit beyond my emotional maturity level at the moment, but I hope that one day I'll be there. I have to admit that I'm self-driven enough to hope that I learn the lesson sooner than later, but I suppose that as long as I get there, we'll call it good ...

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Thankful ...

For cooler weather, not having to run my a.c., thick piles of blankets, warm hoodies, etc. Delicious time of year ...

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Thankful for:

Good food and modern appliances, kitchen tools, etc. I'm grateful to live in a time when even the worst ovens are still more reliable and consistent than the options that were once available. I'm grateful to have the things that I need in order to easily prepare good food for my family. What a blessing!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Thankfuls 4, 5, and 6

Lots of thankfuls today:

4. I am SO thankful that I get to spend time helping in my kids' classes one or two times a week. It's a blessing that a couple of years ago, I wasn't sure I'd still have. I love being there. I love seeing how things are going. Mostly though, I love that my kids want me there and that it makes them feel special to have me there.

5. I am thankful for the changing seasons. I love the transition from warm to cool and even from cool to cold. I love watching the changes in the trees and plants. It's a beautiful thing, and it makes my heart happy.

6. SNOW! I adore snow. It's lovely, and I'm so glad that the first snow came when I wasn't already at work. This way I can enjoy it a bit before I go.