Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Becoming: Am I Ruining My Kids Because of My Choices?

"Your kids have the same access to the Atonement that you do."

I sat in the office of a dear friend who just listened to the latest on my divorce. I had just attended the court-ordered family class discussing the steps I should take to eliminate trauma for our children as much as possible. There were 12 steps introduced by an amazing instructor that followed the concepts and practices of love and logic. I loved the class and was exhilarated by learning more tips on how to help our kids process this decision. Then, I was hit over the head with an immense feeling of guilt that led to a more intense feeling of shame.

The number 1 rule was around eliminating/mitigating as much change as possible from our lives. At the time of this instruction, I was offered a job in Utah (I lived in Idaho at the time) and was also filing for full custody. I remember distinctly the instructor saying that even changing wall colors could be detrimental to the kids, and here I was....making the decision to uproot our little family, new walls, new people, new church, new routine, new family dynamic, new....EVERYTHING.

The reality of my choices came crashing down on me. I couldn't get through a sentence without crying. I even remember thinking, "Maybe they will let me keep my old job. They haven't started the hiring process yet." It would have been easy, and the kids would have access to their dad, which is also what I wanted. 

The voice inside me kept saying, "I am ruining my kids, and they will be forever traumatized because of me."

I shared my thoughts with others, not necessarily seeking sympathy, but more because I am not very good at hiding my feelings and also see the value in sharing truth. I had several who helped me remember several things:
  1. Remember the original witness: Over the course of planning to move, I didn't get a triumphant feeling that "YES!! THIS IS THE DECISION YOU NEED TO MAKE," but everything lined up - a clear sign that I was headed in the right direction. As more and more chaos ensued, it got harder and harder to remember the original witness. Similarly, I also had to remember how I came to the decision to not carry on in my marital relationship.
  2. God will never interfere with my agency: During this experience, I became more aware of Heavenly Father's love for me particularly as I struggled through making the decision to go through with the divorce in the first place. How grateful I am to know that Heavenly Father cares about my agency so much that even when I am in the most painful space, He will not stop my progression by interfering.

  3. The Atonement is for everyone: In the moment, it was as if I was hearing this for the very first time. Even if I changed everything, even down to the color of the walls, I have to believe in the Atonement and my kids ability to reach out to the Savior in their trauma. This moment was beautiful for me. 
The one thing I felt I could control in all the scenarios that played out in my mind over and over is helping my kids know that they can turn to the Savior for strength - like I am trying to do. I am still working through this, but here are some thoughts:
  1. I can be vulnerable. Every time my kids see me cry, or if I am struggling with the divorce or choice to move, try to share with them (as much as a 3 year old and a 1 year old can understand) where I go to find strength. This will also help me make sure I am turning to the right place. I can share with them how I feel my relationship with the Savior is helping me through this.
  2. I can be sincere about my feelings for their dad. I will always love their dad. Even though things didn't work between us, there is no reason to disparage him or cut him out of our lives. I shouldn't feel guilt for wanting great things for him and great things for them through him. I can still pray for him. I can still hope for him. I can still empathize with him. I can teach them about forgiveness, repentance, compassion and kindness.
I am so grateful to have been surrounded by my earthly angels at this crucial time in my process of "becoming". I am comforted knowing that even though God will not interfere with my agency, that His plan includes allowing my path to cross with other sons and daughters of God who have been so very instrumental in my development and growth. 

This journey, while quick and fast, has not been easy. I still have a lot to work through. But one thing in sure, as read in Philippians 4:13 "I can do all things through aChrist which bstrengtheneth me."

Here are some scriptures that have helped me come to some of these conclusions:

Doctrine and Covenants 6:21-23

21 Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the aSon of God. I am the same that came unto mine bown, and mine own received me not. I am the clight which shineth in ddarkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not.
22 Verily, verily, I say unto you, if you desire a further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might aknow concerning the truth of these things.
23 Did I not speak apeace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater bwitness can you have than from God?

Freedom of choice is a God-given eternal principle. The great plan of liberty is the plan of the gospel. There is no coercion about it; no force, no intimidation.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Confidence Check: Being Confident in Not Being Bubbly

I work with students who often question their capacity to have a certain characteristic/personality trait. It is easy to think we lack or possess certain characteristics that might be a classification of Mormon culture. For example, when I was single, I dated some introverts. They often described the church as being an 'extroverted' church, and felt that they didn't have a place to be introverted. This mean they tried all the could to become extroverted in some ways in order to appease the culture - and really, they were unhappy. 

I might add too that, it isn't the church that is extroverted, it is the culture. 

During one of our council meetings in Relief Society, we talked about ministering and its difference to the visiting teaching program. I found it interesting that our conversation turned from the higher meaning of creating true genuine friendships into 'the how-to's of ministering,' which seemed to portray the 'check off the box' and (potentially frightening extroverted) approach we are trying to get away from. 

I couldn't help but think of my introverted sisters, who have a gift of honing strong bonds, yes....but whose approach is so very different. All the 'how to's' that we kept escaping to seemed to go against all of the approaches that this group would use to cultivate true relational experiences.

Today, my friend shared this quote from Pat Holland (speaking in the third person), wife of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the church, which I find profound and beautiful - not just as it relates to the situation above, but to any of us who find ourselves in situations where we aren't being our true self. I made some highlights of areas that stuck out to me:

"For many years I tried to measure the ofttimes quiet, reflective, thoughtful Pat Holland against the robust, bubbly, talkative, and energetic Jeff Holland and others with like qualities. I have learned through several fatiguing failures that you can’t have joy in being bubbly if you are not a bubbly person. It is a contradiction in terms. I have given up seeing myself as a flawed person because my energy level is lower than Jeff’s, and I don’t talk as much as he does, nor as fast. Giving this up has freed me to embrace and rejoice in my own manner and personality in the measure of my creation. Ironically, that has allowed me to admire and enjoy Jeff’s ebullience even more.
Somewhere, somehow the Lord “blipped the message onto my screen” that my personality was created to fit precisely the mission and talents he gave me. For example, the quieter, calmer talent of playing the piano reveals much about the real Pat Holland. I would never have learned to play the piano if I hadn’t enjoyed the long hours of solitude required for its development. This same principle applies to my love of writing, reading, meditation, and especially teaching and talking with my children. Miraculously, I have found that I have untold abundant sources of energy to be myself. But the moment I indulge in imitation of my neighbor, I feel fractured and fatigued and find myself forever swimming upstream. When we frustrate God’s plan for us, we deprive this world and God’s kingdom of our unique contributions, and a serious schism settles in our soul. God never gave us any task beyond our ability to accomplish it. We just have to be willing to do it our own way. We will always have enough resources for being who we are and what we can become. (LDS Women’s Treasury: Insights and Inspiration for Today’s Woman, p.98)

As a follow up, I do not think this means that we shouldn't try to improve by learning other characteristics. For example, I am not a very meek person, but know this is a quality and strength that I would like (and really need) to gain. If there are areas that you want to strengthen, absolutely seek guidance in strengthening those areas....even if you choose to be more bubbly.

On a separate note, I also discovered something beautiful in the wisdom of learning how to do this thing called marriage. Here is a poem to demonstrate my thoughts.

On Marriage

Kahlil Gibran

You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.
Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

God is Bound to Our Choice: When God Doesn't Answer

I had two experiences in the last several days where I was delighted to pull out this quote from Brigham Young. Those of you who know me, know that I rarely receive direct guidance from the Lord saying - YES, go that way. The Lord speaks to me in very personal and specifically designed ways that are very sacred to me. I truly believe part of my learning and growth on this earth is to learn to appreciate agency. I am not one of those that likes options when it comes to life-changing decisions. I don't mind agency for other things, but those moments between good, better, and best....nope, not a fan.

I remember needing to make a very life-altering decision a couple years ago, but not knowing how it would play out, how I should plan for it, and what that would do to the circumstances of my little family. To say it was a test of my faith is an understatement. I spoke with one of my best friends, who is very inspired who directed me to this quote from Brigham Young: 

“If I do not know the will of my Father, and what He requires of me in a certain transaction, if I ask Him to give me wisdom concerning any requirement in my life, or in regard to my own course, or that of my friends, my family, my children, or those that I preside over, and get no answer from Him, and then do the very best that my judgement will teach me, He is bound to own and honor that transaction, and He will do so to all intents and purposes.”

― Brigham YoungJournal of Discourses, Volume 3

I am grateful to a Heavenly Father who respects my agency so much that He will bind Himself to my decisions, after I have done the work and preparation to make a decision. I know that if I am living my life right, that this blessing of support will not be denied from a loving Heavenly Father.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

My dad

The Family History Prompt this time was to talk about my dad. 

My dad....where do I even start? This could be a long post, but I will stay brief to those things that I remember the most...the things that rocked me and helped me become the person I am today.

Kisses and Love: I have photos of my dad loving me...and I love it! By love I mean, kisses, hugs, laughter, and gaze. There is no refuting the photos - he loved us kids.

I see my current sweetheart and the love he has for his children...and this was the way my dad loved me. He would kiss, hug, tickle - in a very appropriate way, as a loving father would. I remember watching him father his infant and toddler children - and he loved this phase of parenting. Well, infant parenting, maybe a little less, but he was responsible and helped where he could with the infants. With toddlers, he would laugh, play, and cuddle. He was always wary of allowing toddlers too much freedom, but loved when they discovered or came up with new ways of doing things. He didn't talk much, but watched them in this freedom. When he did talk to them/me, it would always be to try to get them to laugh. He would back away from them, start 'aahing' and come closer until he could surprise them, or tickle them into laughing. That is when I would hearing him genuinely laugh. Growing up, I didn't hear my dad laugh too frequently, but he would always laugh at a toddler's laughter....and that was a treat.

Seeing my dad as a grandpa has been so beautiful. He loves on my infant whenever he can. He helps when Baby #2 is screaming, and puts him in what I call "the magic hold" that only good grandpas know how to do. Tucked in next to his belly and under his armpit. The babies get so cozy, they fall asleep.

Parent Versus Friend: Understanding His Purpose in Life: In my teenage years, I remember my dad saying, "I am not here to love you, I am here to be your dad." At the time, I believe we were arguing and my go to was "But, don't you love me." At first, his comment stung. It hurt for many years, even after we resolved that particular conflict. In my youth, I couldn't recognize that what he was trying to do was offer his guidance by controlling the particular outcome - which was probably foolish for me at the time. 

As I have grown, changed, and become a mother, I have truly evaluated this moment that I remember so distinctly. Did it mean he didn't love me....of course not. What he was trying to do was teach me (even if his teaching could be viewed as flawed) the value of why he is here on earth. 

In my moments of parenting, a child doesn't get what they want, but what they need. My dad understands and understood that concept very well. He is very aware of his spiritual capacities and his responsibility toward raising a family in this Plan of Salvation. He has never questioned this part of his identity and has never waned from what could be a debilitating responsibility. He has taken it head-on. 

While I am not sure of the intimate spiritual connecting he has to Jesus Christ because he doesn't share this with us too much (most likely he keeps that sacred), I AM sure that he has a channel with Him - just because my dad IS so steady, so immovable in his testimony...and always has been

I feel like I could have a full blog about my dad, but I will stop at these two memories and will continue as time allows.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

My Name

Question: What inspired your name? Were you named after anyone in particular?

Answer: My parents are movie people. I get my amazing taste in movies from them. As such, I am named after an actress. Not necessarily because they think she was the most amazing actress of her day, but because when they watched the show, they liked the name of both the actress and the character she played. I am named after Lindsay Wagner when she played a character named Jaime Summers in Bionic Showdown: The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman, my sister's name. My parents decided to change the spelling of both names.

My middle name comes from my grandma Connie Rae Searle/Burton, whom I have never met. I cherish this name the most, and can't seem to part with it. There are varying feelings about what happened the day my grandma passed away when my mom was 9 - a lot of hurt, a lot of questions, a lot of 'what ifs' or 'if only's'.

This isn't my history with Connie. My history is knowing about an amazing woman through the eyes of my 9-year old mom.

I recently started watching our family movies, and had a chance to watch as grandma danced the percolator, giggling and laughing. Then it cuts to a scene at the beach with all the kids running around and grandma smiling and laughing. That is the woman my mom remembers. My mom also recalled how her mom would let them do 'experiments' in the kitchen. Messes were no matter. My mom said, "Mom loved being a mom and wanted her kids to experience everything they could, and to be kids....she was never really allowed to be a kid growing up."

I still get to hear little pieces of my grandma's history. I remember first hearing about her intentional drug overdose and not really understanding. I was so young but remember hearing the word 'suicide'. With my limited understanding, I made judgements and only equated her life with the memory of her unfortunate death - which was 'bad'. I don't recall exactly the moment where this woman became my hero. Perhaps it was in my sad moments and finally being able to concretely empathize with people who have a constant sadness...because I felt it. Perhaps it was when I attended a funeral of a friend who took their life. Perhaps it was when I heard a beautiful conference talk addressing similar matters and other matters of the sad heart. All I know - my tune has changed.

Regardless, I have come to so thoroughly love this woman I have never met, and feel like the memory of her life is not tragic, but complicated and beautiful. Stories of her life have allowed me to comprehend and recognize people for the good they bring to the world. 

Perhaps this is a sugar-coated view of what could be viewed as true tragedy, but - in quoting from Smallville (my current Hulu-binge) - "I prefer to seek the good in people." 

And that is why my middle name stays, and why it will also be the namesake for my first little girl. The hope is that she too will be able to carry this on, if she chooses.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Rain in the Desert: a Memory

The smell of water on unadulterated dirt - seeping in and pouring out a fresh scent of life. The temperature changing 10 degrees cooler. The wind rustling sage bushes, swirling around trying to catch anything, but there wasn't anything to catch, so it swirled to and fro.

My family and I sit on our back porch, drinking peach shakes. Lighting strikes, and audible ooh's and aah's echo in the wind. Some come quick like the sound of a firework, others fade and rumble ever so slightly over 2-3 minutes. Sometimes the storm lasts for a couple hours. More often, it  comes and goes, leaving a fresh scent of newly watered earth.

There was always a certain silence after a storm. Sometimes we sat and enjoyed it as we licked the remnants of our shakes.

I heard once that our memories can start to combine, and the truth of the moment shifts over time. When speaking to my siblings, they each remember those times as vividly as I do, except the youngest. My memory of these storms and our family time together has certainly altered. Yet, the description of the events hold true. 

In my recollection, I know that we didn't sit outside for every storm.

In this way, I am grateful for my memory; for the fact that all the storms combined, because I will cherish them forever.

Now I am married and have a baby. Trying to instill this excitement in my sweetheart has been hard to do, because his memories of a storm are very different than mine. When I see thunder clouds coming in, I check my freezer for vanilla bean ice cream and my refrigerator and pantry for peaches, any peaches, so we can relive those moments.

I open all the blinds and pray that one day I will have a porch to sit on where I can watch as we did when I was younger. We don't get very many thunder and lightning storms in Idaho, but when we do, I have relished them.

I still ooh and aah. The hope is that my son will be able to create those memories with me. 

It is truly amazing what the mind and memories can do for the present. If only I could bring those times back and relive them. It seems we are constantly busy....too busy to enjoy these small moments in time. And so I will strive to bring this small little joy to my family and hope that one day, they will have a similar memory.

But if not, helping them create a memory of their very own that reminds them of rain will suffice.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

We Can Finish Hard Things

Elder Lynn G. Robbins addressed employees at BYU-Idaho yesterday. I was inspired and grateful for the message he shared. There is a significant trend in higher education, and in other post-high school opportunities, showing remarkable and growing drop out rates. In addition, many institutions are also seeing a rise in mental illness, particularly fear of failure/anxiety.

Elder Robbins focused on the Christ-like virtue of resilience. Some refer to this as 'grit,' or the ability to bounce back. We watched this awesome TED talk by Angelee Duckworth that started the conversation.

Following the clip, he posed several questions, including:
  • How can we, as teachers/ those who support students, stress the importance of giving something new a chance, or something old another chance?
  • How can we teach them about follow through on commitments and the joy this integrity brings?
  • How can we separate the behavior from the person, so we can truly minister with no barriers?
He said that often we hear the popular phrase, you can do hard things. He thinks this is a great phrase. However, in this idea of resilience and grit, he suggests that we need to encourage others that they can finish hard things.

He then shared the following paraphrased story: Once upon a time, there was a man stuck
in the middle of the ocean. He was in a rowboat, had plenty of supplies, and ores to paddle. At first, there was hope that he would not be stuck in the middle of the ocean, so he rowed and rowed. After a while, he stopped rowing. He had given up; it was too difficult. What was his purpose anyway. All that he hoped to achieve drifted.

But then, the man spotted land. Do you think he picked up his ores and started rowing again? YES! 

It is often that we are headed on a journey and hit a major roadblock or something we need to overcome. When we lose sight of that vision (island) it is harder for us to be resilient and carry on. Elder Robbins suggests that we have the opportunity to restore vision to those who are up against a rock and a hard place.

To provoke thought and discussion, he asked: what is the ONE perfect parent doing for us to help us become more resilient?  What else can we do to help raise children or teach our students grit? Below are some suggestions from the employees at BYU-Idaho.
  1. Allow them to see and understand natural consequences of their actions.
  2. Teach reverence and humility toward God and the gospel. 
    • For example, Nephi wasn't trying to 'run the show' as they made their way through the wilderness, but he was humble enough to know that God wouldn't let him starve. This allowed him to persevere when things got tough.
  3. Teach patience and respect toward our children and recognize that they were adults before they came to earth - see our children as they really are - sons/daughters of God also on this journey.
  4. The only way to learn how to ride a horse is to get back on when you are bucked from it - finish the ride.
  5. When we focus too much on the do's and don't's we stop focusing on the 'become'. 
    • He gave an example of a close friend who wouldn't let the baby feed themselves as a baby because it was messy. As the baby grew older, the baby (now toddler) demanded that his parents feed him, because that was the only thing he knew. When we are focusing on the do, we are not focusing on the be - letting them do hard things so they know they can finish, and loving them enough to tolerate messes at the high chair.
  6. Praise their diligence and hard work. If you say things like 'you are smart' they may not know HOW they are smart. But when you praise their diligence and hard work, hey can make the connection.
  7. Teach that if they start something, they need to finish it
  8. It is not a reflection of parenting if your children fail - it is a natural consequence of agency. Our Heavenly Father does not base his success on if we fail. He know that we grow as a result of our suffering.
  9. Teach them how to fall well. When you teach failure as an opportunity, teaching them HOW to take it is just as important.
  10. Communicate their potential to them and remind them of who they really are and what they are capable of.
  11. Encourage them to take risks even if they might fail.
  12. Let their hands go so they can learn.
  13. Express confidence in their ability and show them by example. Praise them for their efforts.
Our Heavenly Father never forces us to do anything. He will not give us a decision to make if it is not in our power to decide. He will inspire us at the crossroads when we are living worthy of the Holy Ghost and seeking direction.