More Than Conquerors

More Than Conquerors

I am taking part in a worldwide campaign to share a celebration of Easter and how Jesus Christ has changed the world. This is a slightly edited version of something I wrote last year.

In the midst of my wondering about life and death and Joy–I came to the conclusion that the Easter season is about death…and the overcoming of it.  But it is still about death.

Christ's Burial

Christ’s Burial

Maybe that’s why we people get caught up in Easter basket shopping and gift giving and parties and eating and hunting games and resurrection cakes, because who wants to celebrate death?

I know we are celebrating the overcoming of it, but that is something we wholly base on faith.  And, when it has hit too close, it can become something we wrestle with.  And, who wants to celebrate wrestling with their own faith on Easter?

Easter reminds us that there is that death.  The Holy Spirit gently tries to teach us that it is overcome through Jesus Christ.  If we are listening, Easter becomes a holy day, to try and understand what this means in our own lives.

He Is Not Here, Walter Rane

C.S. Lewis once said:

You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted it?…Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief.

So, for some, if we would think about it deeply enough, Easter is a time to wonder and ponder how much we trust the truth of the Resurrection.  And for others, we have been given the chance to experience the matter of life and death, and been hung over that precipice of grief and sadness beyond comprehension–and what have we discovered?

This Easter, I have contemplated why our family does not say “Joy died” very often in our conversations.  I found out, quite accidentally, why, when one afternoon my three year old son spoke up in a very loud voice after I had said something about “when Joy died”:

Mom. Mom. Mom! Mom!! Joy didn’t die. She’s alive!

Our Joy

Our Joy

I knew exactly what he meant.  And so did he.  He was reminding me–echoing the words of President Ezra Taft Benson:

Yes, there is the ever expectancy of death, but in reality there is no death—no permanent parting. The resurrection is a reality.

The spirit world is not far away. Sometimes the veil between this life and the life beyond becomes very thin. Our loved ones who have passed on are not far from us. One great spiritual leader asked, “But where is the spirit world?” and then answered his own question. “It is here.”

Yes, Joy is here–and I am sure my son sees her and knows her in a way I cannot comprehend, because my grief is still too great to rend that veil–and maybe it’s because I have not yet become as a little child, as the Savior commanded.

For Of Such Is The Kingdom, Jared Barnes

To understand the resurrection fully, I think we have to get there–to be as children. So then Easter becomes a celebration of being as a pure, submissive, loving, faithful child in the arms of her Father.

President Hinckley also said:

…death is not final. Though it seems so when its dark shroud overshadows mortal life, to those who accept the Christ and His eternal mission there is light and comfort, there is assurance, there is certainty.

Certainty.

So, for me Easter becomes a question in my mind:

Am I certain?  Am I sure that I will see her again?  Am I certain that all things will be restored to me?

And, then there is weeping–because of that comforting wave of absolute certainty that flows over and through and in me.

Why are there so many tears?

Why do I cry almost harder when the balm of the Savior’s resurrection and the overpowering sense of His Living Presence surround me?

The tears of relief that come are the most precious to me because they are tears of faith and hope.  They are the cleansing tears of being washed clean through the blood of the Lamb.

Yes, this pattern can be repeated in our tears, when we repent and come closer to Christ, and through His blood and the Spirit we are cleansed, too.

And with that cleansing and that certainty, many things that are supposedly real are washed away and fade like sidewalk chalk drawings on a rainy day, and many things that are not “real” becoming adamant stone–impervious to any vacillating thought or foolish fear with which the adversary tempts to pierce my heart.

But the eyes are blind. One must look with the heart…

So Easter becomes for me a miracle of healing. About the Living Christ healing my blind eyes so that I may see rightly. So  I might become whole again.

Touch mine eyes, and bid them see

That my gaze might pierce the veil

And behold the wond’rous scene

That in dreams I’ve long beheld.

Oh, touch my heart and bid it know–

That every sorrow here

Is but a moment’s tear

And thou wilt make me whole again…

Easter, then for me, is a time for my questioning and faithless self to die and to be born again, through the Atonement.  To see clearly and pierce the veil. To understand that in reality there is no death.

Elder Richard G. Scott said this (quoting President Joseph F. Smith):

“We are not separate from them. … We are closely related to our kindred… who have preceded us into the spirit world. We are associated and united to them by ties that we can not break. … If this is the case with us in our finite condition, surrounded by our mortal weaknesses, … how much more certain it is … to believe that those who have been faithful, who have gone beyond … can see us better than we can see them; that they know us better than we know them. … We live in their presence, they see us, they are solicitous for our welfare, they love us now more than ever. For now they see the dangers that beset us; … their love for us and their desire for our well being must be greater than that which we feel for ourselves.”

Relationships can be strengthened through the veil with people we know and love. That is done by our determined effort to continually do what is right. We can strengthen our relationship with the departed individual we love by recognizing that the separation is temporary and that covenants made in the temple are eternal.

Easter for me is a challenge–how can I better see Joy?  Maybe not with my eyes–but with my heart?

I remember the last time I visited Joy’s marker.  We call it her marker, because “grave” did not fit.

Where Joy’s Marker Is

We say that little spot is her “marker”.  The beautiful hill, the pine trees, and the Tetons combine to mark that she was here–that she did make a short appearance on this earth –she was here only three short years.  For me, the remembrance of that perfect time could be marked by nothing less than the Tetons.  Only that valley and those mountains could do her justice.

So, I went there to ponder.  I looked around and tried to grasp the juxtaposition of such beauty and such sharp, stabbing grief in one spot.  While I was thus sitting, a whisper came to me, almost an audible voice asking me this question–the same asked of another weeping woman long ago:

Why seek ye the living among the dead?

I paused, taken aback, because I was–to be perfectly honest–in the midst of somewhat feeling sorry for myself, and I just didn’t want to leave that valley. It was the nearest thing I’ve ever experienced to heaven in my life.

I couldn’t leave.

I was in the middle of telling Heavenly Father that was just something I could not do when the Spirit said with more conviction:

Why seek ye the living among the dead?

I thought about it–I would not find her here.  Over the months since she had gone back to her Heavenly Father, I had come closest to finding her in the most mundane situations and places.  But not here.  I would not find her here.

Why Seek Ye The Living Among The Dead?

I needed to realize that I could spend my whole life staying in this place–this moment in time where I could imagine she would just come running around the corner, her one little curl bouncing and her smile and her chubby little cheeks and feet–or I could seek to find the reality–I could seek her through living hand in hand with Christ, her Friend and her Companion.

So, now, Easter–it’s really not so much a holiday for me–it truly has become a holy day–one of the holiest days in my life, as year after year my eyes are repeatedly stripped of their blindness that seems to continually build up throughout my days, so that I may see with certainty that Christ is Risen.  That through water, blood and spirit, I may repeatedly die and be born again, each time coming (hopefully) closer to Joy, through Christ.

Hope Will Come

What I have also come to see is that it is a miracle whether Christ chooses to raise a daughter from the dead within minutes after that death, or after centuries–the separation is still temporary–

Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth.  And they laughed him to scorn. But when he had put them all out, he taketh the father and the mother of the damsel, and them that were with him, and entereth in where the damsel was lying.  And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise.

And, for me, this Easter I was able to begin to understand why I must not seek the living among the dead…why there is no reason for this ado–because of Jesus Christ, I know that like Jairus’ daughter, my damsel only sleepeth–and one day–and it will only seem a moment–He will gather me and my family together and we will enter in and He will take her by the hand and say unto her “Talitha cumi,” and she, too, will arise.

And then, I feel it–Easter is about hope and intense, eternal happiness.  And, while death is a part of that, it is only a small part.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?…Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

how did it happen?

how did it happen?

When I talk to people about Joy and her dying, the first thing most people ask, without even really thinking about it is:

How did it happen?

I don’t know if it’s just human nature or an involuntary reflex, but that is what people say. And, at first, I was so unprepared for that question because I don’t want to talk about how it happened. Ever. Not really. I mean, is it that important? To know how it happened? Isn’t it just enough to know that it happened?

I know the how makes a huge difference in how a family grieves–but I am not sure that people realize when they ask, it’s like a stab in the heart, because the question inevitably jerks my entire consciousness to the night she died, and I relive it every time someone asks.

I have learned the best way to respond is to say it quickly, like when you rip off a Band-aid. You know it’s going to hurt either way, and the quicker the better. I always think:

Maybe if I do it fast enough I won’t cry this time.

When I meet people who have experienced loss like this, I never ask how. I wait–and I listen and I am ready to listen to how if they are willing to share it with me. If not, I am just grateful to be able to help comfort them or carry their load without knowing the details.

Does knowing how someone died bring some measure of comfort to people? Does knowing how merely satisfy curiosity?

I like to think that people ask the question because it helps them to know how to help better–or mourn better.

I wish it got easier with time. It is still just as hard as it was when everything was fresh and the grass hadn’t grown over her grave yet.

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Daddy Carrying Joy at Badger Creek

It still makes my heart stop beating. It still makes me catch my breath and swallow hard. It still threatens stinging tears in my eyes that I try to hold back because I don’t want to make other people uncomfortable.

I am not shy about sharing our story, though. I have found that it is important to share my feelings when I feel inspired to do it. I have found it can bless others and I am not afraid to answer the question

How did it happen?

The words tumble out and I have gotten it down to one sentence, which I think is pretty incredible.

The most terrible, darkest, spirit filled night of my life in less than 140 characters. It’s easier that way.

Lately, I have gotten some very kind emails from people who were thoughtful enough not to just ask, “How did it happen?” but to sincerely express their desire to know more about our story and the circumstances of Joy’s death, because they care.

I think the thoughtful, sweet kindness expressed in these emails gave me courage to do what I am about to do–to share what happened to our family on July 5, 2008.

Lightning in the Valley, Leland Howard

The 4th was unusual, because we just stayed home. Being in the valley, it was easy to watch fireworks from the backyard, and there was lightning, too. It never rained. Just lightning. And lightning in the valley is better than fireworks. I remember we baked chocolate chip cookies that night and stayed up too late with the kids. And I sat on the back porch feeling melancholy. Weeks, even months before, I had been feeling a sense of dread.

I had been having dreams.

And I have dreams a lot. I think it’s because I have Native American blood coursing through my veins. Even though I am as white as a sheet, I am a good 25% Indian, and Native Americans have dreams.

Dreams that foretell things. Dreams that mean things.

And, so, I had been having warning dreams about an impending death.

Two days before, we had been driving home from a day trip and I was holding Joy in my arms. Everything seemed normal, but I got this overwhelming urge to beg God that if He took one of us, He would have to take all of us, because I could not conceive that we could get through this life losing any one of us.

No. It simply could not happen. As I held her fiercely close to me, I prayed that we could all die together.

Please don’t take just one of us. We would rather all die.

A few months before, both of our dogs were hit by cars. Both times, I felt it was in preparation for something. I felt that God was helping us learn about death. In both cases, I felt that they were going before someone in our family.

And I prayed again that He would just take all of us. Because we were close. Very close.

And I held my breath those last few months, always panicking a little when someone was missing for 2 seconds, which toddlers and children are wont to do.

My kids thought I was going crazy because I would sometimes almost cry in relief when everyone was okay.

My husband was traveling then. Every time he got on a plane, I thought it might be him. And I held my breath throughout his whole flight until he pulled into the driveway and we were together again.

Finally, that 4th of July, I had accepted that something was coming. I prayed fervently that if there was any way God could keep it from being mortally permanent, that He would. And then, I went to bed.

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Joy

The next day, we played and got some clothes in the mail from Land’s End, and I got mad at Joy for breaking something, and we played some more and we went in the pool, and it wasn’t really warm enough, and Joy started climbing into a pillowcase stark naked as she was changing from swimming to get warm because I was folding the laundry.

I made the most disgusting brown fried rice I’ve ever made for dinner.

She threw a fit before she went to bed, and I was getting ready for a date, so John took her downstairs to bed.

That’s the last time I saw her alive.

She and John had a sweet time saying goodnight, and we left to go on a date.

We had a great date, and we came home and read scriptures.

Esther, our daughter, had fallen asleep in our bed. She shared a room with Joy and John took her downstairs to put her to bed.

Then, that’s when I heard him scream.

It was the worst sound I will ever hear. There is nothing that could ever be worse in time and eternity.

And then my dreams all fit together, and God showed me what was happening, and I knew she was gone.

Joy With Her Brothers and Sisters On Her Second Birthday

Joy With Her Brothers and Sisters On Her Second Birthday

And immediately, there was adrenaline and my body went into overdrive, but God Himself was there, and my heart was in a place of absolute peace and calm.

I called 911. I knew they would be late. She was already gone. John needed time with her, to feel he could help her in his own way. I watched the ambulance pass by our road as I sat on the phone with the 911 operator.

She asked me:

Is there anyone I can call for you–your bishop? Your home teacher?

The 911 operator was asking me Mormon questions. Things only a Mormon would know. I can’t tell you how comforting it was to have her ask if she could call my bishop.

Our best friends were not home. They lived across from us. As I looked at their empty house and looked up at the star filled, moonless night, I heard a voice,

You will be alone for awhile. But I am with you.

And I called our friends at Badger Creek, a ranch not far from us. Josh and Roxanne rushed over.

Roxanne had cried at church one day during sacrament meeting, and Joy, only 2 1/2, had gotten up out of her seat, and walked back to where Roxanne was and climbed on her lap and put her arms around her.

Josh and Roxanne were angels. They would be there that night and for many, many nights to come–and they are still a strength to me after all these years. And still angels.

Joy had gotten caught in her bed railing and suffocated to death.

And she was gone.

And there was this ending, but not the one that would have been a fabulous Ensign story where everything feels like it worked out alright.

Sometimes, the miracle is that there is no miracle.

And this was one of those times.

I told Roxanne I felt like I had to do something. She suggested I say a prayer. I remember praying for what God would have me say and the words were simply that we would be able to get through this time and that if Joy needed to be with God, we would find a way to accept it.

Josh and Roxanne stayed with the children as we rode the ambulance to the hospital.

Teton-Valley-Hospital-goes-nonprofit

Teton Valley Hospital

The same road we had just driven with Joy to the grocery store to get honey sticks.

The same road that took us to fun memories and now it was just so long and dark.

It was so dark.

At the hospital, we sat in the waiting room and I couldn’t stand. I couldn’t breathe.

God asked me if I would take her even if she couldn’t walk or talk or function. I didn’t know it, but God was asking my husband this question at the same time.

YES!

I screamed at Him. Just give her back! But, there was this calm feeling that I had answered rightly, but it was not required.

Even then, He was testing me, trying me in any way He could to help forge my character and show me the kind of person I was and what I would be willing to do for my children.

For a moment, I felt guilty. I mean, shouldn’t I be fighting for her to live? But, no. I knew. I had known for awhile. I had been prepared and I knew I needed to submit and be a strength for my family.

My best friends and neighbors came into the hospital. To this day, I don’t know how they got there in time–they were out camping somewhere. I don’t even know how they knew. I am just eternally grateful they were there. My bishop (somwhat like a pastor), was there. There were others from church–I don’t really remember.

Then I said, “I need something to help me feel more calm. I can’t catch my breath.”

The nurse thought I meant medication. She had no idea that I was not the sort of person to frequent hospitals and my idea of medicine most of the time is good food and lots of water.

We’ll have to find a doctor to see if he can prescribe something.

I remember thinking, “Why would I want to block my feelings right now? It’s the only way I am feeling God.” but I just shook my head and said,

No, no, no. I just need a glass of water.

And I took a gulp of water.

And then the doctor was there. He looked awful. I often wonder if he might have felt better if he had known that I already knew. He looked at us. My friends were behind him.

He sat down.

It was a really small waiting room. It felt really, really small and warm.

And then it got cold as he told us that they had done everything they could, but there was nothing more to do.

And my husband, he sobbed. And then it got one degree colder. And then another. And another. Until it seemed very cold. It was only a few seconds, but it felt like eternity went by, as in our minds, every moment we had ever looked forward to with Joy was ripped from us.

Every laugh we knew would have come. Every tear. Every smile. Every milestone. Every quarrel. Every heartache.

Gone.

And John just wanted to see her. And the kids were on there way to the hospital. And I was sitting there.

And three seconds later, the doctor said

I hate to ask, but how do you feel about her being an organ donor?

And I didn’t hesitate, because I had already thought about this before, because I know people who are alive now because of organ donation, and I don’t care if you are against it because you think the government is going to kill you to harvest your kidneys, I said

Of course.

The doctor looked startled, and tears welled up in his eyes.

I wish more people could be like you.

He said.

And then I was with my friends, and John was with Joy. I was not ready to see her, yet. I just needed a blessing.

In our faith, if you are going through something hard, or if you are sick, or if you need comfort, you can ask for a blessing from your husband or pastor or someone who is worthy and an active member in our church. We actually believe that a blessing is a gift straight from God, given through someone who holds the power of God to administer this, which in this case, was my bishop.

My bishop’s words were prophetic. He blessed me to be able to stand. He had no idea how I would rely on those words throughout the next part of my life.

And then, the kids were there.

Frightened, scared, worried. They sat down in the waiting room. My friends were behind me. The nurses were in there. The paramedics.

And I said,

Do you all remember how I have always told you that we will have house in heaven? And how our dogs are there? And how it’s going to be beautiful with flowers and places to run and streams? And it’s going to be lovely?

My two eldest children began to cry. They knew. The littler ones just looked at me with complete faith that my words would make it better.

“Well,” I said, “Joy is going to be there first to get it all ready for us. You know how she loves wildflowers? She is going to make sure we have gardens filled with butterflies and she is going to keep our dogs company, and she is going to make sure it is perfect for us when we get there.”

Joy Meeting Her Baby Sister

I remember my friends crying. I remember looking at the nurses sobbing. I remember seeing paramedics, big tough men, with tears streaming down there faces.

At that moment, it wasn’t a waiting room. It was a temple.

And then, I remembered.

I remembered when my little sister April passed away at the age of 10 months. One moment, my eight year old self was awakened to paramedics doing CPR on my baby sister on the kitchen table. I remember my dad’s face. And the next day, she was gone. And I never saw her again. And it always bothered me that the last time I saw my sister was on our kitchen table surrounded by strangers.

So, I told the nurses that we all needed to go where Joy was.

The nurse told me the kids wouldn’t be able to handle it.

She clearly did not understand my kids.

We walked into the trauma room. Thousands of dollars of equipment that couldn’t save Joy.

We saw John. He was still crying, but more softly now.

I walked to Joy. We all stood by her.

The kids were crying softly.

I was trying to be brave.

I think I was brave.

I said, “You know, I think we should sing a song. Let’s sing Joy’s favorite.”

Again, the nurses. The doctor. The paramedics. Somehow, they needed this. I felt it.

And then we all sang, “Love One Another,” Joy’s favorite song. And Heaven was in that room and fire and there was a cleansing in the tears. It was so bitterly beautiful.

And then, I hugged my children fiercely, and they went home with Josh and Roxanne.

And then, we had to go home.

The worst part had come. We had to leave without her.

Our friends gave us a ride home in the truck we had just been laughing in a few days before on a double date.

I called my mother-in-law. The worst part was hearing her sobbings. It hurt me so much, because for her, there is no life after death. There is just dark. And I hated having to tell her.

I couldn’t do that again, so I didn’t call anyone else that night. We just went home.

And the kids slept in our room–everyone all together. And John and I sat on the black couch, the black couch that weeks ago Joy had smeared and covered with Desitin, and we cried.

And we held each other. And we got through the dark night. And we promised each other we would get through this together.

Sunday Came

Sunday Came

And then Sunday came, and the sun rose. And she wasn’t with us.

And Josh and Roxanne came and stayed with us and took care of the kids and helped protect us from some of the well-meaning people who may not have understood how painful some of the things they said could be.

Most people were wonderful.

John retreated into a space alone. He was gone most of the next two weeks in his room.

I was in the living room, answering the door. Taking flowers. Crying at the generosity of people who hardly knew us. At a case of oranges left on my doorstep from the lady who ran the market where we shopped.

At the vase of flowers from an old cowboy that he picked himself.

Crying when the funeral home director told our friends from Utah that they couldn’t pay for the funeral, because someone already had paid for the entire thing.

Crying when the bishop gave us a place to bury our daughter.

Where Joy Is Buried

Crying when it hit me just how influential we as human beings are to others.

How the short, almost three year life and death of a little girl touched an entire community.

And how prayers can be tangibly felt.

How they lift and carry and soothe.

I will never be the same. My family will never be the same. There are just some things in this mortality that we don’t get over. We just get through it and we wait patiently on Christ, having faith that someday, we will be healed. Because of Him, I know we will be.

Christ

Until then, I have found comfort in many things, most especially, these words from Joseph Smith:

We have again the warning voice sounded in our midst, which shows the uncertainty of human life; and in my leisure moments I have meditated upon the subject, and asked the question, why it is that infants, innocent children, are taken away from us, especially those that seem to be the most intelligent and interesting. The strongest reasons that present themselves to my mind are these: This world is a very wicked world; and it … grows more wicked and corrupt. … The Lord takes many away, even in infancy, that they may escape the envy of man, and the sorrows and evils of this present world; they were too pure, too lovely, to live on earth; therefore, if rightly considered, instead of mourning we have reason to rejoice as they are delivered from evil, and we shall soon have them again. …
“… The only difference between the old and young dying is, one lives longer in heaven and eternal light and glory than the other, and is freed a little sooner from this miserable, wicked world. Notwithstanding all this glory, we for a moment lose sight of it, and mourn the loss, but we do not mourn as those without hope.”

Yes, there is always hope.

Joy

Joy

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,

Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or ever eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

i would give it away…

i would give it away…

I want to read through General Conference. This time, especially, it filled me like rain on parched ground. As I get older, time flies, but the time between conferences seems almost too long these days….Maybe because it is my lower light, and I am out in the storm, and when you are in a storm, it seems longer than it is.

I need those lower lights, let me tell you.

I Need The Lower Light

I Need The Lower Light

One thing I have been thinking isn’t exactly something I want to make into a meme or a quotable, and I am struggling with how I feel about feeling the way I feel about it.

If that makes any sense.

Sister Stevens shared a story about a family who battled a devastating cancer diagnosis. She quoted one of the daughters as saying that while she would never have asked for the trial they had gone through, she would never give it away.

As I sat there listening to her words, my first and only thought at that moment was:

I would give it away.

I thought that if somehow Heaven were to come and say I could have Joy back, or I could erase that night she died, I would give that experience back and all that I have learned from it without even taking a breath or batting an eye.

joylaughing

Joy

And I wonder if that makes me not as good as I should be.

I know that I have learned a lot from my experience with Joy’s death–for me it was either make it count or just give up, and I am not someone who gives up. So, I learned from it.

today

I learn from it every day. Because it is either that or cry, and I would rather choose Joy and hope.

I learn from it every second, actually, because I think of her every time I breathe in and out.

And I have gained lots of learning.

But the cost is too high, and it is not something I would keep.

I don’t know how to explain how I felt when Sister Stevens said that. I guess it was kind of like being gut punched, and I am not sure why I felt that way. I guess I just felt bad that I am so absolutely certain that I don’t want it–this trial, this challenge, this learning experience.

I can’t say I wouldn’t jump at the chance to have her back and have that night be a bad dream or obliterated out of existence–I can’t say that I appreciate the collateral damage of broken hearted, scared children and the years John and I have lost to grief and pain.

It’s not like we don’t have faith and know all is well–but in between the faith and the “all is well,” are times when it isn’t well, and it is painful and we can’t make those parts go any faster. It just takes as long as it takes, and it’s not a year, or when the other kids get older, or when you have another baby–it’s not really ever over.

We are getting better at living with it–it’s like a disability that no one can see. Things are not the same and never will be, and we see differently and walk differently and talk differently than we did before, and there is nothing to be done but learn how to live with it. We can’t undo it, we can’t overcome it (only the Resurrection can do that), we can’t make it disappear with positive thinking–we just have to accept our limitations and go forward with faith.

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It has taken years to get to the point where we even feel like we are starting to understand how to navigate our lives with this experience as an integral part of it. And I don’t mean we are living in the past or dwelling on it.  With the knowledge of the gospel and forever families comes a unique challenge.

While other people can live in their memories to find comfort, we can’t so much.

We would sometimes like to, but our knowledge that she is alive and well and present makes it impossible to find a whole lot of comfort in living in the past. So, we have to find comfort through the Spirit. There are no shortcuts here. We can only assuage the pain with our confidence that we are living well and close to Heaven, because that is the only way we can feel her close.

Memories don’t feel nearly as tangible as actually feeling her close when we are living well.

But, we aren’t that good at living well all the time. We fight. We contend. We whine sometimes.

I would give it away, and I don’t know what that makes me–less faithful? I am pondering and thinking and wondering and I don’t know the answer. I just know I would give it away.

What I do know is that while I don’t want it and would give it away, I am always, with every breath grateful that God’s grace is sufficient for even thorns in the flesh. Thorns that will never be removed, and that we don’t want. I know that He is aware of how much I don’t want this and He also knows that I praise Him anyway.

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And, in spite of the pain and the agony and the fact that I can’t give it back–this experience–I will sing.

I will trust in His goodness and mercy when every molecule in my body still sears from her being ripped away from me…

I will praise His name forever, even though I hurt.

I guess that is the best I can do. I can also feel good about the fact that I really did like the quotable in her talk:

Bkja6g4CYAATTQn And I feel comforted that perhaps the reason something inside me rebels against my physical separation with Joy is just my conviction that, as President Uchtdorf said, I am “made up of the stuff of eternity. Endings are not my destiny…”

my big secrets

my big secrets

I have secrets.

I’ve been keeping things from you, my dear readers, and I feel like I need to come clean.

I think I’ve been trying to shield you from the nuclear fusion that is my life. I mean, I feel like if I divulge too much, you’ll be saying,

“Whoa. Can’t click on Misty’s blog unless I fasten the safety restraints, wear goggles and put on a HAZMAT suit!”

What I Want

What I Want

Yes, I don’t want it to be like that. I have always wanted it to be a cozy cup of hot chocolate kind of place.

But, I can’t help it. I am verbose. And I feel compelled to share with you my stuff. Maybe it makes me feel like I am somehow connected to you and your lives and all that comes with the messy miracle of mortality.

But, I digress.

Noah Bear (And Siblings Wrestling Behind Him)

Noah Bear (And Siblings Wrestling Behind Him)

There is Noah. He is on the verge of we need to start finding out what is…unsettling…about his different-ness. There are some physical things that are making us a little nervous and we have felt the beginnings of the kind of prompting that says “it’s almost time.”

(One of the few things we do know.)

I wonder if any of you moms know the feeling–the one that kind of takes your breath away and you get this unsettled calm come over you when you look at him, and you just feel like something’s not quite right.

And you tell yourself you are overworrying and you are just being dramatic or he’s just tired or it’s just because he didn’t eat breakfast, or it’s because you just finished an emotional book, or a thousand other things, but it keeps coming back.

The worst part is the calm. Because then you know it’s not just you being dramatic. It’s something. You’ve felt it before and you were right then, and you recognize the feeling. Does anyone else know what I am talking about?

He's A Ninja. (But He Still Needs A Day Job)

He’s A Ninja. (But He Still Needs A Day Job)

And then there is the job change. Yes, indeed, my ninja husband (I love John!) is changing jobs almost as swiftly as he wields his wushu staff.

In an unexpected, yet perfectly-normal-for-us turn of events, things didn’t work out the way we expected and we are entering a new and exciting chapter of our lives known as,

“Wow. Didn’t see that one coming.”

Luckily, we have many options from which to choose, although sometimes I think it is difficult and we are waiting for a few more options, just to be sure.

Like when two wonderful boys liked you, and they asked you to the prom, but you waited because you knew the most wonderful, handsome, amazing boy was going to ask you out in a few days, even though waiting was hard

(of course, that never happened to me, so I am only imagining what that would be like).

Actually, I think it’s an exciting, flamboyant retelling of an old familiar story that seems to run throughout the epic series that is our lives. The excitement in the surprise endings never gets old.

It’s a page turner, let me tell you.

You know, we have had some interesting conversations, John and I. Both of us sometimes think that we are just the biggest idiots in the universe–like why can’t we figure it all out and act normal? Or at least be somewhat quirky rather than completely eccentric?

(I mean, I can only blame so much on brain damage, right?)

So, I am here to come clean and tell you that from now on I freely admit that I have no idea what I am doing and am absolutely not in control of the supernova that is our life. But if you want to keep reading my blog, it will be like looking a front row seat to, well…this.

My Life.

My Life.

And don’t get me wrong. It is incredibly, indescribably beautiful. I mean, have you seen a supernova?

My life is like an ultra-luminous supernova and I love it.

I just don’t want you all to be blinded by the brilliance that are the successive explosions of my life.

You know what I think? I think the older I get the more beautiful the bad news and the good news and the plot twists become because I finally see it is what makes my sky light up in the darkest night with brilliant, breathtaking colorful hues.

Colors

Colors

Like Dostoyevksy once wrote:

It’s life that matters, nothing but life—the process of discovering, the everlasting and perpetual process, not the discovery itself, at all. Dostoyevsky

It’s what makes everything vibrant and perpetually surprising.

I suppose, even though sometimes I feel like we are just completely failing, it’s not really like that.

We’re just exploding. And processing.

Hopefully, there will be a time when the explosions settle down and we can look in wonder at what we’ve begun, and finally be able to stand still long enough to create order out of the chaos we’ve either stumbled upon, been given, or created.

serenity

Maybe This Year.

Maybe that will be this year. A girl can wish, can’t she?

standing…resolute.

standing…resolute.

Last year I was writing about how I needed a one word for the year, and how I stood resolute with my resolutions.

All in perfect ignorance of what was in front of me.

What a year.

This year, well, there are no words. And I don’t know if I am standing resolute or not.

Sometimes, I am barely standing.

And, I wonder what is in store for me this year. This time. And if I can handle it.

And sometimes I wonder if I am failing at…well…everything?

I know I’m not, but sometimes those thoughts seep into my spirit and leave a bad taste in my mouth–like Florida tap water.

And I feel like I am spiraling into the Abyss of Loserdom. Or something. I don’t know. Am I the only one that feels this way? Maybe I am.

Like, I think to myself,

“Shouldn’t I have resolutions? I wrote last year that I loved them. Do I still love them? If I don’t still love them, does that mean I have digressed to a lower level of spirituality? I mean, am I a total hypocrite or what?”

And, finally, “What if I am doing it all wrong?”

What kind of new year is this? This new year doesn’t feel like me, but what does that even mean? Maybe it is like me now? Maybe I am a new me or something?  I don’t know.

Still a conquer or die dragon fighting kind of girl?

Still a conquer or die dragon fighting kind of girl?

Am I still the girl who wants to fight dragons? Conquer or die? Is that me or have I changed?

It’s scary, being here in a place I’ve never been. I guess I am not so resolute because I feel like I am in uncharted territory. I feel like I am shipwrecked where “there be dragons” without a compass or a plan, and I am not quite sure what to do next.

the_shipwreck

Shipwrecked.

How does a person make goals on a deserted island surrounded by insurmountable, inhospitable-ness? Maybe that’s why I feel a sense of dreadful trepidation.

Trepidation is not in my personality, and yet here I am. Trepidatious.

I mean, sure, there are goals when you are shipwrecked. Survive. Don’t do anything stupid. Sleep. Forage.

(Is it completely mediocre of me to admit that those actually come pretty close to my goals at this point?)

So, who am I, anyway? Is this really me? Lying here wondering if there are any grand resolutions hiding behind a rock somewhere? Or buried in the sand like some forgotten treasure? Do I want to risk trying to unearth them? And what good would it be to find them, anyway, if I am shipwrecked? Is it worthless? Is it vain to even attempt?

I am stammering in my head–trying to cobble something together and I just don’t  know if it’s even in me.

Well, of course it is, but it’s hard to find it. The resolution. The standing…it’s hard.

So–here I am. Somewhat trembling and a little resolute.

Because it’s hard when things are hard. Good hard, bad hard. Still hard. And mine is all good hard. And I am not worried about the hardness. Or the trials or any of that. I am worried that I am becoming battle worn and war weary.

I am worried that I am some hardened old soldier who has decided to go live in a cave to find solitude after getting burnt out on fighting dragons.

Is This The New Me?

Is This The New Me?

But, in the stories, someone always has to go find the old dragon fighter and ask him to re-enlist in the fight against evil.

You know, out of his passion for what he believes to be Right and Good.

And the grizzled old fighter comes out again for the greater good.

Of course, then he usually dies at some pivotal point in the story as a plot device to get the main character to quit saying “Why me?” and man up.

So, maybe that wasn’t the right analogy.

I guess I don’t want to live in a cave, anyway.

Sometimes I do, but most of the time, I have a crush on people in general. I think they are wonderful overall and I love them. Most of them.

And I guess sometimes it could be considered a grand resolution to simply say that I will survive.

Endure it well.

That I will stand.

Resolute.

Resolute.

And maybe, after all of this, I need to feel the peace that comes with the sureness of knowing that, no matter what it feels like–the whispering of “failure” and “not enough” and “you can’t,” that standing is a grand, glorious, intensely profound resolution.

To endure it well is pretty spectacular.

And maybe, I am becoming more like the lighthouse at the edge of the dark, daring to stand firm and resolute on the fringes of comfort and normal and safe because I can see, out in the storm, people who are where I have been–and I want to reach out and shine a light and stand.

Conference Is My Lower Light

At The Edge of Safe.

Not to be a “good example.” Heaven knows I am not always that.

Not to be anything, really, except–enduring. Constant.

Because I want to Be There when they land on shore. I want to be there and tell them that to stand, it’s enough.

That even though they feel like they may have somehow failed as they look down at their disheveled, battered, worn selves–that this is what makes them…grand.

Magnificent. Divine.

That the war weariness and the scars and the rips and bruises and roughness is what has polished them and made them diamonds.

And, in a way, maybe seeing them will remind me of the divine in myself.

So, I will stand.

Resolute.

And that is what I will do.

No lists. No “goals.” No intricately detailed plan.

I will stand.

Here’s to another year of fighting dragons.

thanksgiving thoughts from the ranch

thanksgiving thoughts from the ranch

Well, it’s almost here. The official beginning of the holidays is not very far away and I find myself sitting up in my room wondering if I am ready.

Probably not.

But, I wanted to take the time to talk about it with you, because maybe it will help.

Thanksgiving is a mercy to me, because it has become a dress rehearsal, a chance to help me prepare for Christmas.

Because the holidays are a little different here at the ranch.

The first year after Joy went Home, I somehow felt the need to completely overcompensate during Thanksgiving and Christmas. I channeled Martha Stewart, Mrs. Claus, Ree Drummond and Mary Poppins all at once. It was somewhat insane. It was a little crazy. It was fun, though. Just not normal.

I couldn’t keep up that pace in real life, and the first year after she died was not real life–it was like watercolor.

Over the following years, I have not really found myself figuring out how to make sense of the holidays. They are wonderful. I love them. But, sometimes it feels like I have stepped outside of them and can only enjoy them like a child who looks through windows all lit up and glowing.

window2

Looking Through The Glass

I find happiness and delight in every aspect of the season, but sometimes–sometimes it feels like there is a wall of glass that keeps it from being truly tangible to me.

Thanksgiving is my time to see how thick and dark the glass is between me and the holidays. Between me and the celebration.

Part of the problem is that it hurts. It’s the beauty that hurts the worst. The intensity of the happiness intensifies the pain. I can’t feel the beauty of the wonder without feeling the agony of her absence.

And I want to squash the tears that threaten. I don’t think other people will understand the concept of agonizing joy. And it’s exhausting to keep it inside of me.

Some years, I want to almost ignore it all, because the thought of facing all that beauty and sweetness without her is simply more than I can bear. But, I can’t do that, can I? Because I love that during this one time of year, people actually remember their humanity. They remember what it means to care. And feeling that love and the sweetness of the season is part of who I am.

Decorated-Christmas-Trees-Pictures-1

Breathing in the Pine

I want to reach out and lift up my heart to the heavens and smell the pine and the cinnamon and hear the slightly off key “herald angels sing,” and I want to join in, but it catches in my throat and I stand, silent, the glass between me and everyone else, and I wonder if it will ever be any different.

This Thanksgiving season, I am sitting in my room thinking about typhoons and addictions and broken covenants and car accidents and shootings and strokes and babies taking their last breaths…and I know it sounds awfully depressing, but it isn’t.

I think about the ones who are suffering more than I can ever comprehend, and I am praying for them from the depths of my soul, from the deepest parts of my heart where I feel the pain of losing Joy. I pray for them until I can hardly breathe anymore. I pray for them until I can’t cry any more tears. And I pray for me.

Then I sit in the dark and I wait. And something happens.

There is Light and a peace.

And then I feel something that I never had even considered.

I realize that these feelings, these tears and prayers are an important beginning to my holy days…my holidays...

I realize that the command “O, Come, let us adore Him,” cannot be answered for me without my tears.

I cannot adore Jesus Christ without momentarily being swallowed up in the reality that she is gone and without experiencing the intensity of that grief.

I cannot adore Him as my Savior fully without realizing and remembering that there are so very many others who suffer as I do, and many far worse, for whom He has carried the burden.

adoration_angel_comforts_jesus_Gethsemane_Carl_Bloch_600x383

Christ in Gethsemane, Carl Bloch

Before I suffered, He suffered it. He suffered it willingly and perfectly.

How can I fully adore Him without spending some of my soul on remembering that? And feeling it as deeply as I possibly can?

How can I receive Christ into my heart without attempting to at least understand His children and their pain?

How can I truly serve them if I don’t feel it?

And as I embrace that pain and sadness and grief, He is there, and He carries it for me.

christus-temple-square-christmas-613722-print

The Christus

He lifts if off of me and I can breathe again and I feel this intense, beautiful peace and the aching is gone and I feel Heaven.

And then I reach out and touch that wall of glass. And as my finger touches it, a tiny crack appears. It slowly grows larger and spreads, branching out all over, until it shatters and I find myself on the other side of the glass, feeling the snowflakes on my cheeks, smelling the cinnamon, and breathing in the laughter of those who have never tasted the pain I have, and I am full of pure joy and He holds the agony so I don’t have to do it.

And I am thankful that they don’t have to suffer what I have suffered. I pray they never will.

But if they ever do, He will be there to carry them.

And I pray and hope and plead that somehow I will be able to help.

thanksgiving-prayer

A Thanksgiving Prayer

Praise ye the Lord: for it is good to sing praises unto our God;
The Lord…gathereth together the outcasts of Israel.
 He healeth the broken in heart,
and bindeth up their wounds.
He telleth the number of the stars;
he calleth them all by their names.
Sing unto the Lord with thanksgiving; sing praise unto our God!

fighting gratitude

fighting gratitude

So, I have been noticing how everyone is thankful this month. And that’s not surprising because it’s going to be Thanksgiving.

Everyone’s internet personas are posting all kinds of gratitude all over the social media and I have been silent.

And I almost felt guilty and then I felt like, “Well, what if people see my silence and think that I am an ungrateful person?”

And then I thought maybe that was silly because my internet persona is not all of me–it’s only a part of me. (Maybe the ungrateful part?)

And then I tried to go and type up something about being thankful. And I just froze as my fingers went to touch my keyboard.

And then I thought, “What is going on with me? Of course I am grateful! And if I can’t think of anything myself, all I have to do is look on Facebook and choose from a plethora of ideas! It’s not hard. Why am I not whipping up 1001 Gifts or something?”

And then, I must admit to you, my dear readers, that at that point I decided to engage in the illicit activity of eating Milk Duds.

The Chocolatey Caramel Painful Deliciousness..

The Chocolatey Caramel Painful Deliciousness..

And then, my teeth hurt because I am old and old people shouldn’t eat Milk Duds.

And then I felt sluggish and gross because of the corn syrup because I haven’t had corn syrup in about five years.

Where was I? Oh, yes, gratitude.

I wondered why I was being gratitude shy. Why wasn’t I sharing publicly why I am grateful? And I realized two things about myself.

Our Bishop's Daughter, In the Wake of the Typhoon. Now, That's Gratitude Written All Over Their Beautiful Faces!

Our Bishop’s Daughter, In the Wake of the Typhoon. Now, That’s Gratitude Written All Over Their Beautiful Faces! (She was being carried because her feet were so blistered she couldn’t walk. Made me cry.)

First of all, I just thought some of the things I was grateful for were so, well “first world.” Here I was looking at the genuine suffering of people in the Phillipines after a typhoon and feeling like me saying, “I’m grateful for….,” just felt disingenuous. Those people don’t have anything, and when they are saying, “I am grateful for the clothes on my back,” it was so heartrendingly true–compared to that, I sounded, well, shallow and almost fraudulent.

I wanted to fix it. I really did.

I needed to fix it.

After all, gratitude is what has gotten me through all of this whole SMeE thing, and through a lot of other stuff. And gratitude makes me feel happy, and I know it makes Heaven happy, so everyone wins.

So, in pondering what in the world was going on inside Planet Misty, I learned the second thing about myself.

I needed to ascend to a higher level of gratitude.

Maybe that sounds mystical or something. But, whatever it sounds like, it was true.

I realized that I was having a fight with my gratitude, because, after years of noting my blessings, and thanking God for them, and really being aware of them, and sometimes even trying to be a generally better person because of them, it was no longer enough.

Thankful

Thankful

I knew I was having an issue when I would say my prayers and the oft repeated, “I thank thee for this day,” was like lead on my lips. I struggled to even say it. I could feel a fight within me, and I realized that I was in the same boat as Dallin H. Oaks.

(Yes, I was in the same boat as Elder Oaks for approximately five minutes. I felt pretty spiritual.)

I will let him explain:

A few years ago I showed one of my senior brethren a talk I had prepared for future delivery. He returned it with a stimulating two-word comment: “Therefore, what?” The talk was incomplete because it omitted a vital element: what a listener should do. I had failed to follow the example of King Benjamin, who concluded an important message by saying, “And now, if you believe all these things see that ye do them” (Mosiah 4:10).

For many months we have studied the lives and accomplishments of our pioneers, early and modern. We have thrilled to some modern reenactments, in which many have been blessed to participate. I was humbled to walk in the footsteps and wagon trails of my 31 pioneer ancestors….

You may be wondering how this could make he and I in the same boat. After all, my ancestors consist of alleged pirates and not a few questionable characters.

You know, I realized that for years I have studied gratitude and its effect in my life. I have thrilled and been blessed and been humbled as I have acknowledged my many, many blessings, both terrible and beautiful, and some beautifully terrible. Elder Oaks continues:

Now after all these studies and activities, it is appropriate to ask ourselves, “Therefore, what?” Are these pioneer celebrations academic, merely increasing our fund of experiences and knowledge? Or will they have a profound impact on how we live our lives?

Now, Heaven was pushing me out of my comfort zone and gently prodding me to the next part of my journey.

Therefore, what?

The words stung and pricked my heart. I struggled and fought and, there were tears. There were a few more Milk Duds involved. It was difficult and I am a prideful and somewhat stubborn sassy pants. I didn’t want to have to ascend to the next state of gratefulness.

I am not a monk or a kung fu master or a prophet or a pioneer. (Although my husband is a ninja!)

I am just me.

At some point I ran out of Milk Duds and had to face the reality that if I wanted to progress any further spiritually, I was going to have to do something more about my gratefulness. And I didn’t know if I was willing to do that.

After all, sometimes, when I wake up in the morning and I can’t walk and I am doing lamaze breathing through the pain, and the children are all committing acts of treason and running amuck, it takes all the willpower and gratitude and strength and courage I have to mean it when I say I am thankful for this day.

And then I realized that I was already beginning the path of ascension. Like a powerful ninja or something.

Me, Like A Powerful Ninja, Right?

Me, Like A Powerful Ninja, Right? (I’m The One In Blue)

I couldn’t say I was thankful for this day without realizing there was a responsibility that went along with saying those words and meaning them. If I truly was thankful for this day, then what was I going to do about it? I realized my hesitation was because I was actually concerned about what it really meant to be thankful.

If I am thankful for my husband, what am I going to do about it?

I am grateful for my kids, therefore, what?

I feel gratitude that I live in a beautiful home far from most of the terrors of the world–what will I do about it?

Specifically. Not generally, like “Well, I’ll just “like” and “share” some uplifting videos on Facebook, and pin some inspiring quotes on Pinterest. No. I know I need to be specific and I have to act.

It has caused me to be really, well, quiet this November. Because when I let Heaven know I am grateful, I have to listen afteward. I can’t just say, “I am thankful for this food and our home and our abundance, amen,” and then Netflix an episode of _________. I have to listen.

Those of you who have been with me a long time know that I have spiritual ADD, and so this listening part has been difficult. Because I don’t feel right about talking about my blessings without knowing what Heavenly Father wants me to do about it.

But, when I listen and I wait, He always answers me. And then, I feel something profound. It reaches into my soul, into the deepest parts where my best self is, and every time, one more small little fragment of my best self starts to surface, and I know what I am supposed to do.

thankfulme

Bringing Up The Best Parts

And it isn’t always necessarily logically related. Sometimes, when I say I am grateful for my home, I feel like taking extra good care of it, which would be logical. But sometimes, the answer is “Go talk to your sixteen year old and give him your time and love right now,” because being grateful really is just turning my heart to the God who has given me all things, and submitting my will to Him, and sometimes, His plans make no sense to me.

Sometimes it’s, “Then be at peace with your physical limitations right now. Be patient.”

My favorite is when the answer is, “Give John a kiss,” (I love John!), because it’s, well, fun. And pretty easy most of the time.

Unless he’s just had kimchee or something.

So, if you are noticing an absence of thankful related posts from me, I hope you will understand. It’s not ingratitude. It’s just that I’ve grown up a little. Most of you have probably known this for quite some time, but it was a revelation to me.

And I am thankful for it.

waiting for the lights…

waiting for the lights…

After Joy died, I think I really felt done.

It wasn’t just her death. Being a mother with little ones in this world is pretty tough stuff. It’s hard to navigate in a world that seems increasingly bent on self-annihilation. I was just exhausted and discouraged.

It seemed that for all my trying to make my home a heaven on earth, it apparently still wasn’t good enough for an angel to live there.

(Of course, I know that’s not why Joy had to leave, but sometimes, when I am feeling sorry for myself, that’s what I think.)

Tower

Tower

So, I thought I would just kind of enjoy what I had in my little home fortress with my children and try to make time stand still and keep out the world at all costs.

Partly, it’s a good thing–it really is a good thing to keep “the world” out of my home…mostly because, generally speaking, the world is confused.

Just watch television and you’ll see. Totally confused.

Do people in real life really act that way, just randomly kissing people? (To be honest, I could never find that many good looking people willing to just kiss me randomly over morning donuts at work….)

Or disrobing with mere acquaintances?

Or expecting to get high end office jobs by walking in and being cute? Or thinking that they can just take a vanilla cupcake, chicken, avocado, and fermented Korean sauce and turn it into a palatable appetizer?

Anyway, the world is confused and I don’t want myself or my children confused.

So, I locked myself up in a tower of sorts, and I found myself trying to create a world of my own.

rapunzel-s-room-flynn-and-rapunzel-22303429-1280-800

A Beautiful Tower

Which is also good.

It is good when the tower is a refuge. But there is a fine line between a place of refuge and a place of retreat.

Retreating is not so good.

Because the world needs people who will fight for good, not retreat into towers.

All the great men and women who ever lived have known that…and many of them had the ability and the wherewithal to build their own towers and retreat and wait out the storms, but they didn’t. They turned their retreats into places of refuge and went out and fought for good.

They realized somewhere that even though they, themselves could possibly escape the mundane and live a relatively peaceful, pristine life, that they were part of the human race, and that in order to contribute to it, they must choose to intertwine their celestial ideals with the daily “rabble.”

Even the temple has plumbing. And garbage. And dirty laundry (literally, not figuratively). Because they let ordinary, stinky mortals inside.

I was doing everything I could to just bide my time in something as close to heaven as I could replicate.  I was cleaning and cleaning and baking and candle making and improving my talents and trying to do all of that as an excuse to hide from the world.

No More Room

Running Out Of Room

But, at some point, I ran out of room. The tower had become too small. The outside world beckoned–all the best parts–and I started to think that maybe I should go and see.

I wanted to believe that I could make a world within a world–and that we could all be content there.

Waiting For The Lights

The Lights of the World

But there were the lights. The wonderful things that are out there, the possibilities…so much to discover and find and overcome and conquer. It was all out there…waiting.

Sometimes I would feel the pull and tug of what was out there, the tower would start to feel a little claustrophobic; so I would try to increase the size of my home or land to compensate.

But, deep within me, I knew I wanted to go. I wanted to jump. I wanted my children to be able to go with me.

Out there are people who need us. And we need them. And most of them are good. And we can help each other feel loved.

That’s what we are here for. Not to be in a tower learning how to be great at everything for our own benefit and self-satisfaction.

No.

We need to share.

I once said we can’t run for the hills, even though the world is falling apart. How funny that I figuratively did just that.

There are times when we take a break and step away from the world and take time to grow our children or our goodness or our morality–whatever needs tending–but we can’t just stay there…I think we have to go back and get out and be part of the great drama that is the destiny of the human race. The world needs good more than ever before.

I guess that’s why we need to always be moving, changing, growing. Never stagnant. We need to see when we should be in our fortress and when we should fight and dare Out There.

For so long, I dreamed of living in the country, maybe having some chickens, lots of land, and a farmhouse…I got my dream. It’s scary to have a dream come true, because, well, what happens next? (Start video at :33 and end at 1:29)

When Joy died, that dream was fulfilled. For the last five years, I couldn’t let it go. I kept holding on because I didn’t know what else to do.

Now I have to find a new dream. I just didn’t want to because it meant facing the reality that she was gone, and with her, many of my dreams.

So, here I am, on the verge of a new adventure, in which I must uncover the next step in realizing my ultimate destiny–to return to God.

First of all, it’s not in the country living (which I love).

It’s not in a big house where I can have my own little kingdom (which I am now used to).

It’s not learning traditional “homemaking” skills (in which I am now marginally proficient).

It’s not in having goats or chickens (even though I really love chickens. Sorry goats, you stink and make too much noise).

It’s hard to leave a dream behind and seek a new one, but I am doing just that. Or rather, we are doing that. We are a family, and we are in this together, and the dream of chickens in the country was ours and so this new dream will be ours, too. We are taking the leap: (John is portrayed here as Eugene)

We’ve already started by doing things I had never dreamed I’d do–not even when I wasn’t being drop kicked by the SMeE. I never thought I could take children to the Magic Kingdom in the summer and stay for the fireworks.

I never thought I could live in a city again.

I never thought I could consider suburbia again.

I never thought I could find joy in something so consumer driven and insanely loud as DisneyWorld.

I never thought I could handle humidity.

So, here I am. And, I haven’t even really begun, yet, but I am my own worst enemy. Within seconds of landing, my first act was to doubt myself. I’m telling you, I think every woman alive has her own inner Mother Gothel to deal with, constantly filling her with self-doubt, fear, and needless, irrational guilt. (Again, John is pictured here as Eugene:)

I know I can do this. I just need to have faith that I can and realize that this new dream does not negate or diminish the old one. I sometimes wish I hadn’t spent so many years “living in a blur” trying to hang on to something that was gone…I guess when I saw the lanterns at the Magic Kingdom, I realized that even though everything is different, Joy was there, blinking in the starlight, letting me know it was time to really see, time to have a new dream, time to let the old ones go up to heaven  and join her while I remain on earth.

And that, while earth isn’t always heavenly, there can be majesty in the tempests, and beauty in the fight.

(For the record, I just want to say that I think Tangled is a great grown up fairy tale movie. I don’t think it is suitable for children.)

in which i discover that i am kicking against the pricks

in which i discover that i am kicking against the pricks

Saul didn’t start out being a bad guy.

He was, in fact, very loyal and apparently extremely persuasive.

I think he loved his religion.

He loved it so much that he convinced himself it was alright to kill for it.

The Lord appeared to him and asked why he was persecuting Him.

Saul had no idea who He was.

And Saul asked Him,

Who art Thou, Lord?

And Jesus said, “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.”

Then after Saul saw the light literally, he was made blind. A disciple healed him, he even changed his name to Paul, and the rest is history. One of the greatest men in the history of the earth.

This week I found myself kicking against the pricks and in need of conversion–just like Saul. (A prick was a sharp spear people used on animals to make them move. Often the animals would kick back when pricked, which made the spear hurt them even more.)

Ugh. It’s so hard. It hurts, but when I am kicking against the pricks, I am 99.99% convinced that the pain I feel from the kicking is better than the pain I am feeling when I am being prodded by Heaven to move in the right direction–in directions I never dreamed of moving!

Maybe I’m more like the cows I used to watch in Tetonia.

The cows that tend to make people swear.

Silly Cows...

Silly Cows…

You want them to move over to the next hillside that’s covered in deliciously yummy green grass and dotted with shady trees that you saved for August because it’s cool and refreshing rather than stay in the barren, icky, dusty already picked over and eaten brown hill that’s hot and sweaty and has maybe three blades of grass left, but they don’t want to move.

What's On The Other Side...

What’s On The Other Side…

They think they’ve got it made.

I don’t know why.

You’ve never steered them wrong before. You’ve always taken them to beautiful places and treated them so kindly. Yet, they never believe you that what’s around the bend is better. They just want to stay there, chomping on dirty, dried up, nearly dead grass.

Bessie Dearest

Bessie Dearest

Oh my goodness. I’m having another Bessie moment.

Okay, well, maybe I’m not Saul. I’m Bessie. Because I”m also still mostly in my pajamas.

But, you get the idea.

Heaven gently (!?!?!?!) (for me, it didn’t feel very gentle!), prodded me this week to do some hard things.

We are changing some things at the ranch and I am terrified that I won’t like it.

I had to say goodbye to some things that remind me of Joy. Things that I was hanging onto because I thought if I had them I could continue thinking that it was all a dream–that I could somehow make it a dream and I would wake up in my home in Tetonia in that beautiful summer and all of this would have been a dream.

Do You Blame Me?

Do You Blame Me For Wanting It Back?

(I’m not kidding you, here. There have been dozens of times I’ve convinced myself.)

I just didn’t want to say goodbye.

My Joy

My Joy

After she died, I still knew what I didn’t like, but I had no idea what I liked anymore because I didn’t really care. After all, I was in a holding pattern of sorts, just kind of biding my time until I woke up from the dream. So, who cares? Mostly, I didn’t. Whatever. That was mostly how I felt.

Does that even make sense?

Well, this week, Heaven gently prodded me to understand with the spear of truth that this is not a dream.

This is real. And I have to find out what I like in the post-Joy world. Because the world is still a good place, and there are things I will like about it.

And in kicking against the pricks of reality, I am hurting myself the most.

And hurting my family second, I think (Heaven didn’t tell me that, because, presumably, Heaven knew it was already making me feel bad enough, but I am guessing that one all on my own.).

I am so happy for Florida.

Thankful for Florida

Thankful for Florida

It’s so never a place we ever would have lived, but so lovely in a way I never would have imagined.

Just perfect for someone kicking against the pricks who needs to quit.

So, I need to be converted.

I read in a teacher’s manual about Saul’s conversion that they compared it to water converting to ice or vapor.  Scientists call that conversion because it alters its state completely.

That’s what I need to do.

I thought about that–how we need to be converted over and over, not just one time, but frequently–sometimes we need to be converted to ice and sometimes to vapor.

Let me explain…

Water, unlike other substances, expands when it freezes and expands when it changes to vapor.

So both ways cause expansion!

And when water is water, if it doesn’t change or move, it becomes stinky and smelly. So, like water, we need to be converted, and if we are not converted, we need to be moving.

Lest we become stinky and smelly and stagnant.

I think sometimes I have judged others based on what conversion stage they are in, and I shouldn’t…because both are needed and right. And we are, in the end, all water. We are all made of the same substance, after all, even if we look different.

We Are All Water

We Are All Water

We are all little droplets going along our way, and whether we choose to go on paths that lead us to the ocean, to babbling brooks, great glaciers, snowy hillsides, or crystal lakes, dewy meadows, or icy rivers…well, we all have to keep moving, changing–all leading to conversion, over and over until we move on to where Joy is.

We need not be jealous of the the snowflake for its beauty because at the moment we are a dewdrop. Someday we will be snow.

Right now, I am vapor. (After all, this is Florida!) Or maybe the froth on the tips of the waves that turns into condensation and wafts into the atmosphere.

I need to be able to go far and easily without being so bulky. I need to carry my children with me without feeling burdened.

And I need to be able to feel light and airy.

(I know this probably makes ice sound clunky and unattractive, but it’s not. I love ice. Cool, soothing, comforting–expansive. Big enough for everyone. Stationary. Safe. Something you can count on….A refuge…I love ice.)

There is nothing wrong with ice or vapor. I’ve been both. The trick is to know what I am supposed to be and when.

I was stuck wanting to stay ice.

I Love Ice.

I Love Ice.

I love ice.

I think ice is my favorite.

I like ice skating. Long winters. Hot cocoa. Log cabins.

I Can't Not Love This

I Can’t Not Love This

Moose (from a distance). Yellowstone. Tetonia. Quilts. Blizzards. Being snowed in. Christmas. Fall.

Ice doesn’t really work in Florida.

I need to be steamy…

And I do love the ocean. Sunny days.

Refreshing

Refreshing

Lemon infused cucumber water. Hibiscus. Palm trees. Jasmine. Honeysuckle.

There is more, of course.

Big changes coming. I need to lighten the load and simplify. And I am sure you all want to know the details. 🙂

(Maybe not, but it helps me to write about them.)

It’s hard to say good-bye. Especially when I feel like if I let go, I’ll never be able to go back.

But just like the cows, I’ll be back.

One spring someday, I’ll be back on that beautiful hill, and it won’t be all brown and barren and dusty.

She'll Be Waiting

It Will Be Beautiful

 

It will be verdant and beautiful and there will be a little brook and bluebirds…and I will wonder why I kicked against the pricks. And maybe then, I won’t be such a stubborn cow, and I will start to trust Heaven a little more and realize that change is good and change is necessary.

That the only way I can go back is to let it go.

She'll Be Waiting

She’ll Be Waiting

I am not really leaving Joy behind. She will be waiting on that hill, laughing, picking wildflowers, wondering why I was so worried about moving on in the first place.

And I will laugh with her. And everything will be better than I could have imagined.

Please, wish me luck. For this be-pajama-ed Bessie cow, the next hill is still a scary, unknown place!