Wednesday, April 12, 2017

You Are Not Alone

Shortly after my car accident last Wednesday, where I was hit while turning left by a man who ran a red light while texting on his phone, I was given a special gift that meant a great deal to me.


No, it wasn't flowers. No, not even a meal (although I DID receive meals and assistance of all kinds that DID mean a great deal to me).

But this was different. It was a gift of words. My friend, Maren Scriven Alitagtag, whom I seem to talk about constantly (because she is amazing and we share a love of stretchy pants and musical theatre) has started writing a blog about the ways theatre has enriched her life and given her insights she needed at crucial times.

This time, the words were for me. And, as I sat in my crunched vehicle and read them, the tears were not a few. I felt so, so alone. So, so single. So, so invisible and afraid. Through her words she lifted me and made me feel seen and loved.

Her blog can remain a secret no longer. She feels maybe five people will read it.
I say, at least ten.
Thousand.

Her blog can be found HERE: MAREN'S MANY MOMENTS

Here is her original post, in it's entirety:

WHEN YOU'RE BROKEN ON THE GROUND


 You are not alone



Today I found out a friend of mine that I care about a great deal was in a car accident.  Life has been a challenge for this friend. She is divorced, in school, dealing with children and life and loneliness several states away from her family.  I am the type that wants to run to the side of those in need and help in any way that I can, which is very frustrating when I am far away and cannot do anything. This time, it hurts even more, because, I was her. Alone and scared and frustrated and far from those whom I love. 

 As I drove home, the words from Dear Evan Hansen struck me:

 "Have you ever felt like nobody was there? Have you felt forgotten in the middle of nowhere?  Have you ever felt like you could disappear?  Like you could fall and no one would hear?"

Yes, I have felt that.  I have felt the darkness come in around me.  I have read that JK Rowling based the idea of the dementors on her experience with depression, and I have to admit it is a precise definition for me.  I have felt many times that I could fall and no one would ever hear.
 
"Even when the dark comes crashing through, When you need a friend to carry you, And when you're broken on the ground."

I have an image seared in my brain of myself, lying broken on the ground.  In a small apartment in Chicago.  In the span of a short amount of time it felt like I had destroyed my career and lost my marriage and my purpose and everything I had worked on for years.  That feeling of despair and misery was so strong that I am not sure it will ever fully leave me.  

But, let's look at the next line of the song.  You will be found.  Sometimes that means a person.  And it is wonderful when it is someone who comes running, picks you up, and carries you.  I have a slightly different view of it. 
I found me.  It was hard to do it alone.  It was hard to be alone.  It was tempting to just go and run to anyone who would be there to save me.  Somehow, I learned that sometimes, while I have friends and family who love me more than anything, I am the one who is going to help me at many points in my life.  I am the reason to believe I will be ok. I am the one who will come running to me. 

"So let the sun come streaming in, Cause you'll reach up and you'll rise again,  Lift your head and look around, You will be found."

You are a talented, fabulous, wonderful woman. You have been through more than you deserve.  But, you are not alone.  You will rise again.  You have so much ahead of you.  The beauty that you bring to this world will not be forgotten. The challenges you face make the beauty more poignant. Look around.  Find you.  You will rise again.  Of anyone I know, you have the ability to continue to rise and rise and rise.  Let that sun in. 

"Out of the shadows, The morning is breaking,  And all is new, All is new. It's feeling awfully empty.
And suddenly I see, That all is new, All is new."

I am not who I was four years ago when I was laying broken on the ground.  Along the way, I was found by you.  I was found by other friends who helped me see that the pieces of me were still worthwhile.  Most of all, I was found by me.  I figured out that I would be ok.  I saw that my world may have felt empty, but what was before me was a new, beautiful path.
I cannot be there to physically come running as you reach out your hand. But I can say that "From across the silence, your voice is heard." 

I love you.  Today hurts. Tomorrow will be better. You will be found. You are not alone.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

And it Came to Pass that the Wind Did Never Cease to Blow Towards the Promised Land



My favorite chapter in all of scripture is found in the Book of Mormon - the sixth chapter of Ether.

I have lots and lots of favorite scriptures - in fact, when I do our nightly scripture reading with my children, it's a rare night that I don't say a phrase similar to: "This is one of my favorite scriptures!" To which one of my children will invariably say "You always say that."

It is true, however, that I have so many favorite scriptures. Not in a way that I am prone to boast at my scriptural knowledge (which is still so minimal), but in the way that these words, these precious gifts of records of other people's testimony of and experiences with the gospel of Jesus Christ, have become friends to me.

Just as I might see an item of clothing in a certain color and instantly think of my friend who would look so good wearing it, there are daily triggers all around me that bring different scriptures to my mind, even involuntarily. They have become life jackets to me in the uncertain waters of life, helping me to hold my head above water through turbulent times, and instilling peace into my heart when the surface of life may seem smooth and unruffled while underneath my legs are kicking furiously to keep myself afloat. They have celebrated achievements with me, they have mourned losses with me, they have laughed with me.

Notwithstanding the myriad of scriptures that I may call my favorite, the sixth chapter of Ether holds such a special place within my heart.

For those who may be unfamiliar with the Book of Mormon, an introduction and brief explanation can be found here.

For those who may be unfamiliar with the Book of Ether, it is a record of the Jaredites, a group of people who lived a very long time ago, at the time of the Tower of Babel spoken of in Genesis 11, where the people gathered to build a tower, after which the Lord confounded the languages of all of the people so that they could not understand one another. Among these people was a leader named Jared. He, his brother, family and friends, were told by the Lord that they should build barges to travel across the sea to the promised land - an unknown place, in unknown territory.

Imagine the bravery it must have taken to do this.

Similar to Noah, similar to Nephi, similar to countless others throughout history who felt compelled to follow their God out onto the open sea, there was no internet to peruse, no Zillow to troll, no weather reports or Bing images to familiarize them with where they were headed - and even if there were, they didn't know the destination.

They had to trust that the Lord did, and that as they followed His guidance, He would get them there, wherever "there" was.

I think all of us have felt apprehensive at times about where our lives are headed. Why things seem to keep getting worse instead of getting better. Why, even after all we can do, the storms of life keep coming, the water keeps getting deeper, the shore ever more distant, the winds never ceasing.

The first five chapters of Ether chronicle the building of these barges (there were eight of them), by Jared and his brother. I still have much to learn, but according to my understanding, Jared was the political leader of this group of people, but his brother - referred to always as "the brother of Jared" - was the spiritual leader, or a prophet. Jared would turn to and consult with his brother in all things, showing he was a god-fearing man who was free from pride, seeking insight and knowledge from the Lord.

After the barges had been built, the brother of Jared went to ask of the Lord how they were going to be able to have light, as the ships were described as being "tight like a dish" - which, we can surmise, means without windows, etc., but being seamless and flush in all respects. The Lord didn't solve the problem, but asked him instead "What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels?" showing His great confidence and wisdom in allowing the brother of Jared to think and come up with a solution.

I don't know about you, but I would much rather be told the answer sometimes than have to think one up on my own.

But, the brother of Jared didn't complain, he set to work. Essentially, he made sixteen stones out of glass (like, melted the sand himself and everything) and brought them to the Lord. He asked the Lord to touch them with His finger to cause them to be lighted, to be used like lamps inside of the ships. The Lord not only did this for him, He also presented him with two more stones of a similar fashion and bade him seal them up with the record that he was keeping of their journey.

The brother of Jared is also at this time privileged to see the Lord in person, face to face, which had never before happened on earth until that time. That is a whole other story, and one worthy of its own blog post, or even a series of them, so we won't go into that now. It will be sufficient to say -

- His mind done got BLOWN, ya'll. It was a singular experience.

Chapter 6, verse 3: "And thus the Lord caused stones to shine in darkness, to give light unto men, women, and children, that they might not cross the great water in darkness."

This verse, so beautiful in its simplicity and so poetic in its meaning, is one of the many scriptural anchors in my heart that my Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, love us ALL.

Not just men.

Not just women.

Not just children.

The Lord does not want us to cross the waters of this life in the darkness. He has provided stones of light for each one of us to keep close as we are tossed side to side by our trials and struggles, no matter our gender, no matter our age.

He loves you.

He loves me.

The stones of light are the scriptures, the Holy Ghost, the experiences we have had that have built our testimony; and sometimes they are the testimonies of others that we cling to when our own seems to be growing dim.

He was aware of them. He is aware of YOU. He is aware of me.


The Jaredites prepared and checked off their lists:

The ships are built.

The people are ready.

The animals are ready.

They've gathered food for themselves and food for their animals...

verse 4: "...and it came to pass that when they had done all these things they got aboard of their vessels or barges, and set forth into the sea, commending themselves unto the Lord their God."

How hard would it have been to finally shut the door for that last time?

How much faith would it have taken to get in that boat, leave everything familiar behind, and know that, for the unforeseen future, you will be in the dark - literally and figuratively - as you head toward some unknown place.

I feel this way. Right now.

I became a single mother this last year, and in so doing, left behind all that had been familiar and known to me. I no longer have a  spouse. I no longer have financial security. I no longer have the knowledge of my future that I always took for granted. This is not a place I ever thought I would be. Sometimes I feel that all around me are people speaking in languages I don't understand, words that should make sense, but don't. I have comfort knowing that the Lord loves me and is aware of me, but that doesn't make the dark any less dark, the unknowns any more known, or the journey any less tumultuous.


verse 5: "And it came to pass that the Lord God caused that there should be a furious wind blow upon the face of the waters, towards the promised land; and thus they were tossed upon the waves of the sea before the wind."


6: "And it came to pass that they were many times buried in the depths of the sea, because of the mountain waves which broke upon them, and also the great and terrible tempests which were caused by the fierceness of the wind."


Here are the verses that really get me:

7: "And it came to pass that when they were buried in the deep there was no water that could hurt them...therefore when they were encompassed about by many waters they did cry unto the Lord, and he did bring them forth again upon the top of the waters."

8: "And it came to pass that the wind did never cease to blow towards the promised land while they were upon the waters: and thus they were driven forth before the wind."

Any sailor will tell you that in order to get anywhere, you need a sail, and you need wind. Heavenly Father knows that the quickest way to get us safely to the promised land is to cause the winds of life to blow, and to blow hard. 

He could let us putter around out there on our canoe. He could let us stubbornly try to swim ourselves there, only to realize that we put our trust in the flesh and not the power of God to do all things. But no - He knows, in His infinite wisdom, the best way to help us get where we need to be is to:

1. Provide us with a gospel plan that can surround us with purpose and structure and protection, helping our faith and testimony seal the leaks and weaknesses in themselves;

2. Give us light to help while being surrounded by the dark uncertainties of life by providing us with scriptures and the Holy Ghost, which are lighted by the power of the Son of God;

3. To place us upon those waters, and let the wind BLOW.


I can see many similarities when I consider things I do to help my children in a more simple way, like ripping off a band-aid or asking the nurses to team up and give all four immunization shots at once. In my more mature wisdom I know I am affording them the peace of getting to the end of the trial more quickly, but to them it may seem cruel to inflict a higher level of pain all at once.

To us, the trials of this life may seem to drag on and on and on. We are in the time of our eternal journey where time seems slow and it isn't possible for us to perceive how short of a time we really spend here in the eternal scope of our existence. The ripping off of this band-aid can sure feel a lot more like being daily drawn and quartered, because of our limited understanding.


We have times where things go relatively well, where we feel on top of the waters - only to find ourselves swallowed up once again. Finding the emotional resources like the Jaredites did to do the following can be really difficult:

verse 9: "And they did sing praises unto the Lord; yea the brother of Jared did sing praises unto the Lord, and he did thank and praise the Lord all the day long; and when the night came, they did not cease to praise the Lord."


After which follows a statement that I hold fast as a symbolic and very personal promise to me from my Father and Mother in Heaven, and my Savior Jesus Christ, that they will see me through all of this:

verse 10: "And thus they were driven forth; and no monster of the sea could break them, neither whale that could mar them; and they did have light continually, whether it was above the water or under the water."

 In some ways I wish I were standing on a stage to read that verse to all of you, because afterward, I would just leave silence.

Silence...for at least a full minute.

They did not promise there would be no monsters.

They did not promise there would be no whale-sized problems, like worry over being homeless, or struggling to know how to help a certain child, or finding a way to pass this class.

They didn't promise that if I hold on, I will never go under the water, never find myself struggling to stay on top.

What They did promise me is this:

That NO monster in this life can break me, with Them by my side.

That NO whale of a problem will ever mar me - meaning not that I will never be hurt or damaged or changed by my trials, but that nothing can or ever will tarnish my priceless, individual worth. My worth stays a brilliant, shining Truth, always, NO MATTER WHAT.

and - That I WILL ALWAYS HAVE LIGHT AVAILABLE TO ME, at all times, and in all things, and in all places.


I have no doubt in my mind, heart or being that every thing I have shared with you today is TRUE.

You have a Heavenly Father who is aware of you in a way that you could never comprehend in this short, confusing, darkened life.

You have a Heavenly Mother who watches over you with tenderness, care and worry, and who, together with our Father, places helps and guides and tender mercies on your path.

You have a Savior, an elder Brother, who loves YOU so much that He - a perfect, sinless Deity, willingly came down to this fallen world to experience all the heartache and pain you have experienced, that we all have experienced, so that He could better understand, Love, and help you. He offered to pay the infinite price of your sins for YOU so that you won't have to, if you will but repent and turn to Him - not an easy thing, but with His help, a very possible and real thing. He died and was resurrected so that you, too, can experience the joy that only comes through our spirit and our body being reunited, never again to be separated.

And last of all, but certainly not the least, They have provided us with the Holy Ghost, that indispensable third member of the Godhead, through whom we are able to be taught and receive a witness of all of these things, else all would be lost and for naught, had we no chance or means whereby to have it's validity enter into our hearts and change us, forever.


May we all be brave enough to gather the things we need to be prepared in this life - our scriptures, our family, the gospel plan, our testimony - and then fully climb on the boat, ready and willing to "commen[d] [our]selves unto the Lord [our] God."


How have you been tossed by the waves of the sea, and how did the Lord see you through it?

As always, you can comment below or email me at amotherwhoknows@outlook.com.

Blessings,

Holly















Wednesday, August 3, 2016

When Life Hands You Lemons, Try Not to Squirt them in your Eyes

My life has changed - and will continue to change - quite drastically. The last six months have been some of the most excruciating of my life, and I am ready to share a lesson I have learned:

Lemons and human eyeballs are NOT FRIENDS.


I know, I know - life is not meant to be easy and all that jazz, and I thoroughly understand the saying "No pain, no gain."



...but does it have to hurt THIS BAD?

When I started this blog ten years ago I could never have foreseen the things that would be happening in my life today. That Holly that I was ten years ago, trying desperately to keep things together, had no idea that I would endure two more high-risk pregnancies, miscarry a twin, have a son diagnosed with Autism and another son with Type 1 Diabetes, and now this-

Becoming a single mother.

I feel I am a pretty tough cookie. I can do hard things. However, in the still of the night when my Father in Heaven draws close, I still weep. Often.

This blog is quickly evolving into a form of therapy for me. I am a writer, through and through, and have always kept journals.  I figured that all of these private, heartfelt thoughts were meant for those pages and, out of respect for myself and for others, should remain there and only there.

I was wrong.

As I have gone through a painful divorce I can say firsthand how healing it has been to connect with and read the words of others who have been there before. Who have been brave enough to share whatever tender shreds are left of their hearts. This doesn't mean I will be specifically pointing others out, blaming them, etc. It is possible to share experience in general terms while still respecting the privacy of others.

And while I am on the topic of others, can I just say -

What in the world is happening out there?!

It seems that as I have confided my struggles and worries to others that women with the same heartbreaking experiences have been coming out of the woodwork to share their stories. Amazing women, trying their best to live the gospel and raise their children while clinging to their marriages which are plagued by porn, video gaming, and other addictions; emotional, verbal and physical abuse; infidelity and more.

Disclaimer - I will be the first to say that I know not all men fall into this category, and that there are many wonderful priesthood holders out there who do all they can to keep their covenants and treat their families with love and respect. I will also be the first to say that, sadly, these wonderful men seem to be fewer and farther between than ever before.

I have had six - count 'em, SIX - friends in the last week who have come to me with their spirits broken and torn over the words and actions of their husbands. Women who, like me, wanted nothing more than to be married happily and raise their children, and who now must worry over things like:

Do I leave him?

Do I stay?

What will people think of me?

How will this affect my children?

How will I be able to support myself?

Do I stay for the money?

How can I finish school and take care of my children?

How many times do I forgive before it is just too many?

How can I tell if he is sincere this time?

Why is this happening?!


It also seems as though a great plague of narcissism is sweeping over the earth, with story after story of disturbing and selfish episodes about both men AND women mistreating those whom they should be holding the most dear....but dare I say it? Mostly men.

I am not a feminist in the traditional sense of the word. I am not at all a man hater. I think there is nothing more wonderful in the world than a righteous, kind man who treats his family with love and respect. I'm just starting to wonder more and more...


Where are you guys?



Maybe this is less of a post about what the women have been experiencing and more a CALL TO THE GOOD MEN OF THE WORLD TO STEP UP their example and encourage those around them to rise to a higher standard of manhood.

How would the tides turn if good men everywhere began sharing their insights and feelings about marriage and family? What kind of influence could these good men have on both society and also their children as they watch their father happily devote his life to them and their mother? How much good could be done by choosing to not be silent when that degrading joke is told at work, or that inappropriate picture is shared? What if these good men decided to say "Hey - I love my wife and I don't appreciate that kind of language," or asked their coworkers what they have done to surprise their wife recently.  Or found offhand opportunities to share their testimony about family and it's blessings, and the joy it brings to them.

Women can do this as well, of course - but I am just thinking out loud here.

What can we do to change society's idea of men and fathers from this:







To this:




I see things like this for sale:


And we all are supposed to laugh at it, but my heart aches at what this could really mean:

A very lonely wife trying to do her very best to stay positive while her husband spends his days focused on a screen.

This isn't a joke.

This isn't funny.

This is what society has come to accept as okay, as normal, as...EXPECTED even.

How very, very sad.


So... back to those lemons....



We all know that life isn't about constant good times and happiness. We go through hard things and sorrow so that we can know and experience for ourselves the good in comparison with the bad - or else everything would feel the same.

We also know these trials are what make us stronger and help us become better people, if we let them. Lemons are not only sour to the taste, but they are also a natural disinfectant. So, to carry the analogy further, my trials are sour and not fun, but they serve to clean my heart and soul, if I let them. I can take all of that sourness and either focus on it, or put it to good use, cleaning my countertops and making my house smell amazing.

I know. A bit far-fetched.

But I find it incredibly interesting and symbolic that lemons are not only known for their sourness, but also for their incredible energizing scent. Is there anything more divine than walking past the fresh lemonade booth at the farmer's Market? How is it that this one fruit, depending on which way you look at it, is both disagreeable AND uplifting? Are our trials the same way?

I mean, I don't know of anyone who can say that dealing with emotional abuse is hard, but if only they had an "emotional abuse" scented Yankee candle, they would be all over that.

Our Heavenly Father is the one who knows how to take the trials that have been given to us, and then shape them for our good. He is the one who can take the reamer and squeeze that trial, mash us to a pulp, but then bring us at the end to a dessert table that surpasses our wildest dreams. The dessert table will be in the next life, of course, but I believe he gives us little taste tests along the way.

In the October 2015 General Women's Meeting, Linda S. Reeves said this:

Recently I talked to an old friend who has gone through two divorces due to the addictions and unfaithfulness of her husbands. She and her three children have suffered greatly. She pleaded, “I have tried so hard to live righteously. Why have I had so many trials? What have I done wrong? What does Heavenly Father want me to do? I pray and read my scriptures, help my children, and go to the temple often.”

As I listened to this sister, I felt like shouting out, “You are doing it! You are doing all that Heavenly Father wants and hopes you will do!”
Understandably, many have expressed that our Father’s promised blessings are just “way too far away,” particularly when our lives are overflowing with challenges. But Amulek taught that “this life is the time … to prepare to meet God.”8 It is not the time to receive all of our blessings. President Packer explained, “‘And they all lived happily ever after’ is never written into the second act. That line belongs in the third act, when the mysteries are solved and everything is put right.”9 However, a vision of our Father’s incredible promised blessings must be the central focus before our eyes every day—as well as an awareness “of the multitude of his tender mercies”10 that we experience on a daily basis.
And then she said this, which has sustained me through many a tear-filled night:

Sisters, I do not know why we have the many trials that we have, but it is my personal feeling that the reward is so great, so eternal and everlasting, so joyful and beyond our understanding that in that day of reward, we may feel to say to our merciful, loving Father, “Was that all that was required?” I believe that if we could daily remember and recognize the depth of that love our Heavenly Father and our Savior have for us, we would be willing to do anything to be back in Their presence again, surrounded by Their love eternally. What will it matter, dear sisters, what we suffered here if, in the end, those trials are the very things which qualify us for eternal life and exaltation in the kingdom of God with our Father and Savior?

I guess what I am saying, and I am not even close to done saying it, is that WOMEN ARE AMAZING and that as we honestly and lovingly share our experiences with others we will find that not one of us is alone in our trials, and that through sharing them and growing friendships much joy will be brought into our lives as a result.


Look around you. Tell the mom in the grocery store with a screaming child that you believe in her and that she can do this.  When you hear of a hardship in another woman's life, don't hesitate, wondering what to say - pick up the phone. Immediately. Text her. Message her. Reach out to her.  Notice the eyes of your friends. Really LOOK in them and ask, "Are you doing okay?" and then listen, really LISTEN to their answer.


What have you noticed about the way media and society portray men and women?

How have you been blessed by another's willingness to share their experiences with you?

As women, what can we do to better support one another?

I always love hearing from you. This post is just the beginning of my journey to healing.

Holly

amotherwhoknows@outlook.com