It is Easter. I am 35 and it feels like maybe I’m wholly celebrating it for the first time. I’ve spent the past 2 years seeking to put an autoimmune condition into remission. In the process of working with healers, both in heaven and earth, to accomplish this seemingly miraculous feat, I have cultivated a deeply affectionate and respectful relationship with my body, this friend of my soul. I have sought to understand the way it communicates to me, to come to terms with it’s vulnerabilities and utilize it’s incredible strengths. I have learned how to nourish its different systems and respect the interplay of this intricate work of God. I have had a front row seat to some of the inherent rebalancing capabilities that are built into it and I have grown to love it in a way that you love an old worn set of scriptures or a favorite book, one that you re-visit many times because it contains more wisdom than you’ll ever glean in a lifetime of study. You see, this body of mine, it carries both the signature of God and the story of my life, manifesting so much of how I have lived and been treated and what I have chosen to make a part of me, all of it written in the fleshy tables of my heart.
When my spirit is called home, it will still the beating of that heart which has guided me to so much goodness. It will lay aside this mind which has sought to make sense of my experiences in ways that lead to learning and growth. The eyes that have watched many a sunrise will close and the ears that have heard laughter and birdsong and music will cease to collect sound. The departure of my soul will quiet the breathe that allows life to flow to all of me. Life will withdraw from these bones which have structured my work and it will leave the muscles which have given strength to my endeavors. It will leave the arms that have cradled my child and held my spouse and the hands that have opened books, written words, prepared meals, dried tears, planted seeds and pulled weeds. The legs and feet that have kicked soccer balls, walked the dog and held me firmly to the earth each day will cease to carry me. Without the atonement, that separation of my soul from my experiences would be permanent.
Inviting myself to make peace with the inevitability of this moment has encouraged my soul and body to weave themselves together to create a life where I don’t waste the moments I spend in this body, I own and cherish them. It is with tear-filled eyes that I consider the gracious redemptive work of the Savior that we commemorate today, wherein He gave me the opportunity to inhabit this body and to choose how to use it to grow and experience living as I seek to glorify and serve Him. What a blessing that the labor of connecting my soul and body need not be a finite work, but a timeless and eternal one. Happy Easter.
to experience life. Sometimes it feels confusing, oftentimes it’s messy, it can hurt and be overwhelming, it has the potential to be peaceful, joyful & exquisite.
to inhabit a body. Sometimes you’ll feel at odds with it, oftentimes you’ll forget that so much of life is written in it, it can weaken and break, it has powerful potential to heal and guide you to wholeness.
to be part of a family. Sometimes it will surprise you, oftentimes you won’t realize how much it has shaped you, membership is forever soul-altering, it has the potential to support your growth & nourish you in a way nothing else can.
to make choices. Sometimes they feel daunting, oftentimes you’ll realize you can’t control the consequences, it can be hard to make the same one consistently, they create your response to the invitation and they will shape your experience.
So much depends on how you receive and respond to the invitation. The invitation itself isn’t out to get you. It may be offering to teach you a few things. If you are snugly cloaked in the awareness that you are incredible and that you’ll have the strength you need when you need it, you respond with your inherent goodness.
If you draw on your strength of soul (yes, you have it) and seek to learn and grow, no matter how hard some moments may be and no matter how many times you have to get back up after you stumble, beautiful things are in store for you. I promise.
A little over two years ago I found myself coaxing my lungs to pull in some air after receiving a blow that reverberated to my soul. The nurse at our IVF clinic had just informed me that I was no longer carrying the babies I had been cradling in my womb. I fumbled through a few more blurred conversations with Ritchie and Jessica and my close friend Cindi and wrote this email to our family and close friends later that evening:
I am writing to tell you that this little miracle that we are experiencing has a beautiful sequel. We look forward to experiencing it just as soon as we process the cliffhanger we’re currently sitting on. The Dr’s office called earlier this afternoon to tell us that we are no longer pregnant. On Tuesday when they called, my hCG level was 68. It has to be 5 to confirm pregnancy and it should double every day. Today it was 43. Just as soon as I started breathing again, I asked the nurse a few questions, all the while thinking she had to be holding someone else’s result because we have two babies coming. She sensitively sat in my shock with me and led me through the rest of the conversation. Afterwards, I prompted myself to breathe again and sat down on my bed, reeling.
I have never known something with the strength that I knew this so I am left to reconcile that kind of knowing (which seemed to have a pretty cut and dry interpretation :)) with this place where we are sitting now which, at this point, still feels a lot like shock. It is uncomfortable to be sure, confusing, devastating and yet hopeful. I have felt the hand of God so clearly these last few months, it’s undeniable. And I am confident that He won’t leave me now although I imagine the answers and understanding will be slow in coming. In the meantime I’m going to grieve the beauty that has been before me.
Thanks for your love,
Welcome to the now-joyful middle. We’ve come a long way these last few years and you’re invited to join us as we recap where we’ve been and live the rest of this beautiful story.
The other day I was having a conversation at the pool with a dear friend. As a fellow traveler on this road of healing, she could relate to the place I find myself in with such gracious understanding that I reveled in the tidbits of divinity we were able to exchange. Among them was the thought that I’m in my “becoming years.” I’ve had many an active, doing year and I’ve hit a stretch of life, of unknown duration, where my task is to use discernment about the things I actually do and to instead utilize the opportunity I have to become. The fullness and grandeur of this phase presents no fewer opportunities but the work, instead of being visible or concentrated on others, is an internal task. As such, the measurement is solely my own, as is much of the effort and reward of this work. It is my intent to take the experiences I am offered or that I seek out and incorporate them into my being in an effort to better understand life, creativity and the Creator. These becoming years seem like a good place to breathe for a minute and reflect on that.
This week I received a lot of kindness. I often am the recipient of kindness but I was kind of surprised at the number of people who were “worried” about me. Perhaps I’m still learning to be an emotive person who showcases more than joy so a blog about poignant sadness was a surprise. Perhaps, like my sister Lisa often reminds me, a few of my dear connections were trying to offer empathy and it came across as sympathy. Empathy is the realization that we can connect on feelings. Sympathy only looks at the similarity in experience and often feels like pity. So one could look at my life and sympathetically say “Wow, yes, I’ve never had infertility, a miscarriage, an autoimmune disorder, a puppy, and severe dietary restrictions all in the same year that sounds like a lot to handle, that must be really hard.” Or you could say “Wow, I can relate to feeling really sad or very vulnerable, broken, worn out and or restricted, or completely overwhelmed. Those are really difficult places to sit, I will sit there with you.” The difference is subtle but the effect is inclusive. With empathy, there is an air of non-judgment regarding the emotion and experience and the recognition that, at our core, we share so much humanity in our vulnerability. With sympathy there is a line in the sand between your experience and mine that often looks like fear, as in ‘I really hope that never happens to me!’ I can relate, I’ve felt my share of fear about my life this year, for sure. But please know that my ability to articulate what I’m feeling is a strength. The words I use to define the experiences I’ve had help me to process them and by sharing the experience I am owning it in a way that simultaneously makes me vulnerable and empowers me. I’ve been thinking a lot about being a muted, faded out version of myself or the real thing. This blog, it’s gonna be the real thing and that’s going to involve emotion. Hang on :).
Since last fall our household has been navigating a substantial disappointment. In the aftermath of our experience, amidst the agony of confusion, self-doubt, and just plain hurt, I feel unsettled about my ability to trust myself and anyone else, including God. As I acquaint myself with this rift that has torn my spirituality to shreds, I comfort my soul with the assurance that there is no animosity directed at me. There is no condescension or judgement aimed my way and this moment I speak of didn’t represent a “lesson” or a “trial” that I had to endure. Rather, it’s an experience and it will be what I make it of it. And it doesn’t have to be all sorted out right now. I believe someday I will I look back on this stretch of my life and really respect the substantial work that I’m attempting to do in settling my spirit so that it can begin to heal. Even now, with a small amount of space, a bit more heartbreak and further introspection, I can sometimes see these months as maybe as a prodding, a gentle nudge. It’s surprising, even to me, that moments have the potential to move from ‘near death blow’ status to ‘gentle nudge’ in the space of a few months. In addition to simple time, I think a lot of that has to do with not berating myself or forcing meaning but rather trying to wait compassionately with an eye towards recognizing the hand of God while the rest of my story unfolds.
Last week I watched the beautiful daughter of one of my dearest friends. This sweet little thing has been a gift in my life in so many ways so our family was enthusiastic to welcome her into our fold for several days. Throughout the week, I watched her closely for any signs of missing her parents, feeling distress at the separation or other indicators that she may be questioning her well-being. But her darling smiles and happy play made it clear that she was comfortable in our home. During one of our evening conversations, I expressed to my friend that her parenting must’ve instilled in her daughter a trust that she would be well-cared for, listened to and watched over because she expected as much from us and received it without batting an eye. I found so much beauty in the work that had been done to assure this child that she was cherished and important because I recognize that represents a lot of intentional parenting.
Several days later I was relating this story to another friend as we watched this same babe jump with enthusiasm into our neighborhood pool. She mentioned that it was an interesting observation to consider given the scriptural admonition to “become as a child.” My usual interpretation of that scripture leaves me feeling a bit powerless and desperate to cultivate that kind of “submissive humility” that seems to be desired by the author. As I looked at it with fresh eyes, though, I felt the beauty of that new meaning wash over me. Perhaps that’s what divine parenting can look like, a simple trust and regard built over time with experiences and mutual exchanges, to the point that eventually the mortal child can rest assured that heaven hasn’t forgotten him/her, despite physical and sometimes spiritual distance. Remembering that the Savior is the same yesterday, today and forever, and knowing Him to love me dearly and care for me exquisitely at times in my life, this interpretation didn’t seem so far off.
I’d like to give a shout out to Brene Brown for her contributions to today’s thought. Among many life-changing ideas, she writes about the difference between guilt and shame. Guilt has the potential to be productive, it’s behavior-oriented and capable of inducing change. Shame is debilitating, soul-crushing and ALWAYS destructive. Guilt says I made a mistake and I can change. Shame says I am a mistake and there’s nothing I can do about it.
Although we all pack around far more guilt than necessary, it is important to make sure that it’s guilt we’re carrying as opposed to shame. This distinction is vital when it comes to matters of the soul. The adversary relentlessly uses shame to make us doubt our worthiness to approach God, ask forgiveness, change, grow, serve Him and be loved by Him. This argument, made even easier by our mortal distance from our Father, would have us believe that we are not worthy to approach or be seen as we are by God. Satan works tirelessly to have us to believe this. Do you?
Our relationships, especially the ones that have the power to affect us at our very cores, can elevate us to beautiful views of love, loyalty, sincerity and compassion and also send us crashing into the depths of self-doubt, loneliness and despair; and sometimes we experience both within the same relationship over the course of a few minutes, hours or days. Relationships are so fluid, multifaceted and unique which can leave us feeling content and/or conflicted. Their quirky intricacies are known only to the individuals party to them so it’s nearly impossible to guess at the exact dynamics that play out in other relationships. Oftentimes we keep details about our most treasured relationships pretty close to home. And yet our daily interactions throw us headlong into many situations where relational satisfaction and discord are very deftly displayed. I believe our goal is to learn to relate to each other with the same honesty, compassion and understanding that the Savior offers us. And I believe that any precious time and effort we devote to enhancing our relationships is time well-spent.