My sisters and I gave this hibiscus plant to another sister for her birthday during a challenge in her life. I’m babysitting it for a few years while she’s in Australia.
I received her healthy, beautiful plant with multiple blooms a couple of years ago. But last year, it didn’t bloom. And when we moved this winter, it dropped all of its leaves. They came back, but now I can’t seem to find the fertilizer in the garage boxes.
Despite all this, yesterday I discovered a bud.
The bud changed my focus.
After a highly disagreeable encounter with a woman last week, I drafted a post that identified the tactics of women bullies and how to counteract them. I edited it multiple times during the week, but it felt wrong—counter to the positive experiences I was having with the women right around me.
A walk with my daughter. Lunch with friends. An invitation to our family for games and dessert. Time spent assembling a birthday box for my oldest daughter. A girls’ day out with my youngest birthday girl. Receiving a visit from friends from church. Cherished phone calls.
After seeing that resilient bud with its promise of a bloom by Mother’s Day, I didn’t want to perpetuate the negativity from one woman’s aggressive actions. While emotionally large, her negative influence should be proportionally small compared to all these other positive emotional experiences with other women.
Do you have good women in your life?
Just as I focus on the newly formed bud, this is the week to see their resilient beauty and hold it above all else.
Good women can lift you to see your potential, inspire you with ideas to solve simple daily challenges or instill a greater vision for a new direction.
I need good women in my life for how they build me to build others. That positivity generates energy, love and meaningful action.
On Sunday after a pre-Mother’s Day challenge to consider examples of nurturing in our lives, I became aware of a touching story published in the St. Cloud Times that reflects the essence of a good woman to me.
Take a moment right now and read Lynn and Hannah’s story.
Lynn, a Mormon who lives in central Minnesota, donated her kidney to an 18-year-old young woman in her congregation who suffers from kidney disease. Frank Lee, a talented reporter and writer, concluded their story with this quote from Lynn:
“As a mother, I kept thinking if this was my son or daughter . . . that if this was my child having to have surgeries, dialysis and be sick all the time . . . how grateful I would be if somebody would do that for my child.”
We were all created to be good women. Our choice to disengage from negative thoughts and choices and engage in the sometimes subtle but always meaningful chances to build others determines how and when we will bloom.
Normal, consistent structure calms my anxieties and stress. It reduces the need to make dozens of decisions on a daily basis, minimizes misunderstandings, and moves me toward desired goals.
Just when I left work a year ago to write from home–my own manuscripts, blog and other freelance writing projects–our normal life erupted. You don’t need the Christmas-letter version, but here’s a brief summary of what the year’s brought:
My husband took a new job, we moved 100 miles south of the community where we lived for 13 years, and we sold the family home we built.
Our first child graduated from high school. started college, and chose to stay three states away to work this summer.
Our son earned his Eagle Scout, received his driver’s permit and then his license, started his first job, moved schools and started playing rugby.
Our youngest daughter became a teenager in the middle of all this chaos. Need I say more?
We had a familiar structure in place, but circumstances tore it up and scattered its parts. Together, we’ve been busy resembling it, trying to find a foothold in normality again.
Three months after our move, an extra-long winter, and a week of full-time nurturing caused me to wonder if this season of life is intentionally void of structure and normality.
My friend and I talked about how the toddler years give way to a “honeymoon period” of parenting, the time between 7-12 when few changes to that structure need to happen. But then, the teen years, and the time of children leaving home is an even more dynamic time of growth for them and for me.
I’m working with my teens to learn to adjust their expectations, but maybe this is also a good lesson for me.
I can’t standardize my life anymore. I can’t enact bedtime, control choices, or require conformance just to suit my own way. I left that behind with the rigid and expected life I thought I was creating.
Maybe the foothold I’m seeking should not be normality, but the daily peace that comes in affirming prayers.
And a reminder to cheer for change, even though it’s a challenge.
The morning after General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints lets me down every time. Real life returns.
I’m embarrassed to admit that my good intentions, great answers, and uplifted spirit recede back to the learning slot in my brain and my actions automatically head back to comfortable habits.
It’s one of those Monday morning crashes after a spiritual high. Anyone else?
Admittedly, I’m trying new tactics, especially in those chats with my teenagers about the reminders I think they need, but those flopped. I wonder why.
One of the best insights I received this conference weekend came the night before it even started. Mormon Newsroom released this video interview with top women leaders of the church. Linda K. Burton, General Relief Society president, shared how she faces a puzzling question or situation:
Form a question. Ponder it — for many months if you need to. Search out. Look in the scriptures. Sometimes we go to the Internet to get all our answers, but if we will be humble and kneel on our knees and ask our Heavenly Father, ”I have a question,” and search it out and propose an answer and let Him help us, we are entitled to that.
So, I did that as I approached conference. I formed one question and wrote it down, “How do I use my time?” I listened to scriptures, words of leaders, and the Spirit. Ideas came to help me adapt to my new community and new season of life.
But another question, one I didn’t write down, haunted me throughout. “How do I love and nurture my teenagers who want to pull away and be independent?”
I heard good answers. I felt insight and understanding. One came from Rosemary M. Wixom. She encouraged us to use a “firm voice of perfect mildness,” to encourage and speak to a child’s heart.
Her counsel sounded to my heart as if she’d been thinking on a question I asked her personally a couple of years ago and was now giving the answer.
She had sat down beside me and a couple of other women in a women’s meeting at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico where my husband was attending LDS priesthood leadership training. I struggled then with the same question about raising and talking to teenagers as I do now. I had asked her, “How do you parent teenagers?”
I don’t remember her exact words so much as her encouragement that those interactions with our kids, even as teenagers, are real and individual and they take time and patience. Her talk this weekend reinforced that experience.
But then with this desire to be a real disciple of Jesus Christ, especially in my home, Monday morning came. And it didn’t all line up in a pretty package with the best of outcomes.
In between sessions, I read how we selectively choose what we share on the Internet and, as a result, we perceive perfection in other’s lives that is just not real, since it is only a partial truth.
Is this why I felt discouraged today?
Gospel truths are not partial truths. The uplift from General Conference comes from hearing real truth, understood by the Spirit, for our real lives.
So what’s the disconnect? Why didn’t my Monday morning after conference blossom from all the answers and insights I received?
Specific inspiration will still come to me. The day-today application of my faith refines these general answers into specific moment-by-moment insights for my own individual relationship with each person. The right answer may not come until I open my mouth. And, hopefully, if I focus on how to say it, what I say will follow in the same spirit.
Even when I try, my efforts won’t be perfect. Linda Burton reminded me that I also “get into this perfection mode.” I put a lot of pressure on myself to make immediate changes to the truths I learned. But as she said, “We think we have to be perfect all at once and all right now. And we’re a hospital here; we aren’t a hotel for perfect people in the Church, we are a hospital. We’re all flawed and we all need each other for the gifts and talents we bring.”
The final outcome is not complete. I babysat some young children last week and remembered what it meant to be a mother of young children. Although I felt sad at that the days that are gone, I happily grinned that the daily busyness leaves more time for other pursuits. But more importantly, I could see how we’ve all progressed and grown since then. I must trust that the teenage years will bring the same development in time.
So, on this Monday morning, when my moments of real-life living may not appear “conference worthy,” at least I know who I can turn to every morning, afternoon and evening for real-life answers and real-life faith to act on what comes.Read More
I rushed into Great Clips a couple of Saturdays ago to try to fit in a trim between errands. With one look at the waiting crowd huddled hip to hip, I knew I wouldn’t stay, even after I gave my name. I stepped out to my car and took a call from my realtor.
“You have water on your kitchen floor,” she reported.
“Have you looked in the basement?” I wondered out loud.
Never mind that this came days after a young driver hit my car. I wished I were Chicken Little and Henny Penny and this was just a case of worry about an acorn falling out of the tree and an imagination that the sky was falling.
Keep Calm and Carry On, right? That phrase is all over the place—on mugs, on jewelry, on Pinterest, on our tongues—but do you know its origins?
Apparently, the British government created it for a war-time poster to boost morale if Germany invaded Britain. Others in a series were used, but not this one. The message resurfaced in the past decade with reproduction posters and tongue-in-cheek parodies.
For my own recent emergencies, I wish more for my “Fruit of the Spirit” wall art to remind me to temper my reactions rather than a coffee cup to minimize them. Temperance just doesn’t sound as catchy as, Keep Calm and Carry on, but it certainly lasts longer than an understated slogan when the sky really is falling on top of you.
Like a friend who surprised herself with a calmer-than-usual reaction to pumpkin muffins dumped into the bottom of her oven, I surprised myself with this attribute I’ve been working toward.
Moderate Passion But Still Act in the Moment: Sky-falling emergencies bring panic, frustration, even anger. Moderation and self-control brought clear thinking about what to bring. I knew we were going to have to drive north immediately, clean up, assess any damage and make repairs to our house. I acted by creating a list (fans, a stack of old towels, a bucket, a step stool, even toilet paper and drink bottles) and gathering the items, and those actions moderated what could have been extreme reactions.
Small Amounts of Stress Bring Strength Over Time: Tempered glass is created through a process of heating and then rapidly cooling the glass that makes it five to ten times stronger than normal glass. My husband said this recently, “We’ve suffered through this for so long, we can suffer through anything.” He’s right. I didn’t just stay calm when that young man hit my car, I brought new strength to the situation, turned the wheel away from his oncoming car, prevented more serious damage, and stepped out of my car with actions that I’d like a stranger to use with my son if he were ever in the same place.
This, Too, Will Pass: My mom’s saying may be better than any of the “Keep Calm” ones. And I may add, that after the emergency has passed and calm returns, you will prize the calm much more. The passing of the “Oh no, not again,” with our sky-falling leak began as soon as hours later when we stopped the flow and began the clean up. With the help of neighbors, our realtor, a contractor and another trip to our house for repairs, the emergency proved more manageable and less severe than expected.
About the time we cleaned up the pieces from these incidents, I took my kids to a trampoline park. The last time we’d been to one of these places, Kirsten had an injury that affected our whole vacation. But I suggested it anyway. First of all, I missed out the last time, and I wanted to just be free from the challenges and jump. And secondly, I wanted my daughter to revisit her earlier painful experience and value the strength that she’d gained.
Even if we feel like Chicken Little or we face very real things, problems are solvable. And, you and I are more resilient than we think.
My holy week has not been one of quiet contemplation or Hallelujah worship. But, hands-on moments with my teenagers on spring break have still prepared me for Easter.
We’ve played, yelled, laughed, talked, disagreed, worked, relaxed, fought, and hugged.
In this life we run into each other’s expectations with our own emotions attached. That gives us daily chances to practice the teachings of Jesus Christ—faith, repentance, patience, forgiveness, humility, justice and mercy, and, best of all, love.
We grasp for those attributes inside ourselves, but if you are like me, another negative emotion triggers something less than ideal. How glad I am to know that through the His atonement and resurrection, I can overcome sin, injustice, distress, even death.
I didn’t sleep in on Friday morning with my kids like I did all week. That gave me some uninterrupted time to study, ponder and discover this Easter message, He is Risen, from Henry B. Eyring. He suggested a tradition that I’ll start this Easter.
Best of all, it’s not one that I have to keep in a box labeled Easter and only pull out with the plastic grass. I love that the Savior’s mission is for our peace-filled moments and the real life ones, too. And, I’m sure we’ll have some of both this Easter day.