Today’s “Best” Might Not Be Yesterday’s Best…..and That’s Okay.

I woke up the other morning just wanting to take a “sick day” from mom-ing. I was tired, I had terrible pregnancy aches, and I was battling the ever-familiar antenatal depression. I just felt defeated by the day before it even began. 

By 11 AM, my son had already watched way too much Dinosaur Train, and I found myself figuratively banging my head against the wall in frustration every time he asked me for something. I felt like I was being ungrateful and lazy. I ate Twizzler bites by the handful and sipped Dr. Pepper just to keep my eyes open. The simplest task of unloading the dishwasher felt like a mammoth of an assignment, and I found myself mostly ignoring things I needed to do. In fact, I spent most of the day counting down the minutes until I could crawl back into bed. 

I was being extra hard on myself because the day prior had been particularly good. Because I felt good physically and emotionally and mentally, I accomplished much and complained little. I felt energetic and positive and more like “myself” than I had in a long time. As I compared my day to the one before it, I felt strangely doomed. It was just a hard day. A long day. A lonely day. 

So there I was around dinner time, driving home with a Little Caesar’s pizza in my lap and a destructive inner monologue reminding me of all of my failures. 

Thankfully, Heaven intervened at that moment and to my mind came these words—Today’s “best” might not be yesterday’s best…..and that’s okay. 

I’m grateful that even on those days when my offering is so small, the offering still counts. Christ completely understands our limits and the unique challenges that each individual day presents. He empathizes with those raw emotions that seize our mortal frames and prevent us from accomplishing all that we might hope to. He perfectly knows our capacity to do and to be in any given situation, amid any challenge, and in the midst of every circumstance. 

He understands that today’s migraine might mean Netflix is your babysitter for a few hours or that the difficult news you received from a relative meant you weren’t very productive. He knows how your sick baby needed you all through the night, causing you to be late for church because you overslept. He knows when your social anxiety peaks you just can’t reach out to your neighbor like you should.

He knows. He just gets it. 

On that five-minute drive home, I finally understood that. My entire perspective changed. 

My loving Savior allowed me to see myself in a more forgiving light. He helped me see those small victories—how I responded to several tantrums with patience, how I braved the community sandbox even though I felt antisocial and miserable, how I took Milo on a walk to the park even though I spent the entire commute crying behind a pair of Ray Bans. He reminded me that I sent an encouraging text to a struggling friend even though I was struggling myself. He brought to mind that mountain of laundry I conquered even though I just wanted to plop down on the couch and do nothing. I really did do some good despite a lot of “even thoughs.” 

It was as if Christ handed me a permission slip of grace and reminded me that He measures our efforts after He measures our hearts. He assesses our faith after He considers what obstacles the adversary placed in our path. He determines what our “best” really is after He contemplates our situation, the load we carry, our weaknesses. And He does this each and every day because our circumstances and obstacles vary each and every day. 

Sometimes I think of progression strictly as an  upward climb, but our growth isn’t always linear. There might be an obstacle one day that wasn’t there before. A few switchbacks or detours may make progress seem slow and imperceptible. Mortality is a difficult mountain to climb and surely there will be times when we stumble and fall, but we’re still headed for the top. And that’s all that really matters. 

I’ll forever be “Confused at the grace that so fully He—[Christ]—proffers me.” I don’t always deserve His mercy, but grace wouldn’t be grace if I did. 

So just remember:  Today’s “best” might not be yesterday’s best…..and that is totally and completely okay.

“TURN ON YOUR EYES, MOM!”

Last week my two-year-old taught me a profound lesson, as our little offspring tend to do. In an effort to get Milo to fall asleep, I laid down next to him, closed my eyes, and pretended to be snoozing. Milo is convinced that if there is even a sliver of light creeping through the blinds then it can’t possibly be nighttime (it was 8:20 PM). Despite his continuous jabbering, bouncing, and climbing all over me, I nearly fell asleep for real (because I was just that tired).

Then, perhaps in a final effort to get my attention,  Milo got about an inch away from my face and shouted, “TURN ON YOUR EYES, MOM!”

Yes, I know he was just trying to wake me up, but those five words contained a powerful sermon that I desperately needed to hear. Milo’s demanding little phrase suggested this need for an attitude shift and it was, quite literally, the wake up call I needed.

Things have been hard and uncomfortable lately. It seems every genre of hardship—physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual—has been applied simultaneously to my life. When things feel overwhelming and hopeless, I tend to view my circumstances like I might my face in one of those horrific magnifying mirrors that highlight every single flaw. You know what I’m talking about. The ones that make your pores look enormous and draw attention to blemishes you didn’t even know you had. Until Milo’s tutelage, what was “wrong” about my life slipped into the foreground and I became utterly blind to the countless blessings God is merciful enough to grant.

But this past week, per Milo’s request, I have “turned on my eyes.”

And the scene before me is truly something breathtaking.

I’ve turned on my eyes to the truths I was blessed to find early in life—the very answers to the questions of the soul that so many spend a lifetime seeking.

I’ve turned on my eyes to the knowledge that I can be freed from all pain and guilt because the Savior of the World gave His life for me. I’ve turned on my eyes and opened my heart to His mercy and all-encompassing love.

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I’ve turned on my eyes to the comforting truth that when I feel alone or when I need answers to the most difficult of questions, I can speak to my all-knowing Father in Heaven. I’ve turned on my eyes to the assurance that though He may not immediately remove a trial, He will always offer peace.

I’ve turned on my eyes to the needs and suffering of those around me, and as I’ve shed my selfish skin long enough to reach out in sympathy and love, I’ve found healing.

I’ve turned on my eyes to the fact that every experience in this mortal journey, even the bad (perhaps especially the bad), has a grand purpose.

I’ve turned on my eyes (and ears) to the way Milo belly laughs when you pretend to eat his toes. I’ve turned on my eyes to how lucky I am to raise this little person bursting with life and spirit and enthusiasm for the most simple of things. I’ve turned on my eyes to the sobering truth that he won’t be this little forever and that I need enjoy every moment while I can.

I’ve turned on my eyes to the pure goodness radiating from my husband. I’ve turned on my eyes to the covenants we made years ago that bond us eternally.

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I’ve turned on my eyes to what future happiness awaits, including this little baby boy inside of me who will join our family next month.

I’ve turned on my eyes to the promise that the relationships that make this life meaningful can last forever.

And that all suffering, sorrow, and pain will permanently end.

Too often I fall into this trap of living my life as if it were unextraordinary, when really the Plan of Happiness is at my fingertips. When I see the world around me through a lens of gratitude, everything changes even when nothing changes.

Gratitude and joy are synonymous.

I don’t think it’s so much about God wanting credit for all that He does for us. I think it is more so about a perfect Father who yearns for His children to be happy—really truly happy despite the bad, the sad, and the ugly that inevitably come.

President Nelson has said, “The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.”

I think our dear prophet is, in essence, telling us to TURN ON OUR EYES.

It is empowering to live life this way. It makes me want to jump out of bed in the morning, and not just because I’ve got this pregnant bladder working overtime. The notion that our children teach us far more than we will ever teach them is the oldest cliche in the book, but it’s the truth. So thanks be to Milo for teaching me to turn on my eyes and really see the blessings and miracles that are mine for the taking.

 

What Goes Down Must Come Up (HG Awareness Month)

Several posts back I told the world that my only resolution for 2019 was to simply survive. Even just surviving felt like an impossible task at the beginning of the year because I was so miserably sick.

It was too early to divulge the details back then, but now I can share that we will be adding another one of THESE to our family:

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I’m beyond thrilled for our baby BOY to arrive in July! We are ecstatic and giddy and grateful, but getting him here has not been easy.

My pregnancies are beyond awful. It’s not just morning sickness either. I am part of the lucky 1% of pregnant women who suffer from Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG for short). It is HG Awareness Month, by the way, so now felt like an appropriate time to write this post. In case you’re like me and don’t speak medical, Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) is the term for the following:

-SEVERE (and constant) nausea and vomiting

-dehydration

-loss of 5-10% of body weight

-low blood pressure

-electrolyte imbalance

-paralyzing fatigue and dizziness

There were days in the beginning when I couldn’t even get out of bed because my body had entirely shut down. I puked so much throughout the day that eventually only bile came up (I’ve heard horror stories about HG sufferers who literally break ribs from puking so forcefully). I was so dehydrated that IV therapy at the hospital was my only hope for relief. And the nausea…..oh, it was relentless for the first 18 weeks!  

I learned a simple yet profound lesson that all who suffer with HG come to learn quickly:  WHAT GOES DOWN, MUST COME UP.

What little I could eat inevitably came back up, and I spent more time with my toilet than I did my husband. As a side note, I’ll never drink lemonade again. It was pure agony barfing that up…the acid nearly burned my throat off. I’ll spare you the details of other horrible things to regurgitate.

Before I go on, I just have to say that I know there are women who would give anything just to have the struggle at all. I ache for you. I see you. Those of you I know on a personal level, please know that I am praying for you and for miracles to come your way.

I also know that unlike most trials this particular one has a timeline, a clear expiration date. At the end of this difficult pregnancy and draining battle with HG, I will hold in my arms a piece of heaven. I’m nearly 30 weeks now and feeling significantly better than I did, but rewind 10 weeks ago and I was helplessly seeking the “lesson” in all of my suffering (besides NEVER EVER DRINK LEMONADE WHILE PREGNANT).  

I remember falling to my knees one particularly miserable night months ago and praying, “Heavenly Father, I know I’m supposed to learn something from all of this, but what?”

It occurred to me in that moment that maybe this trial wasn’t really about me at all.  

Maybe you’re not supposed to learn anything about yourself. Maybe you’re supposed to learn something about those you love—and those who love you back.

I began thinking about all of the people who put their lives on hold to make mine a little bit easier.

My mother-in-law and father-in-law who took Milo on adventures every Tuesday and Thursday.

Friends (two of whom had also suffered from HG) who sent kind notes and offered words of encouragement.

My husband who stepped up and took on so many added responsibilities even though he already had so much on his plate.  

My siblings and my dad who helped out with Milo, brought me food when I could think of something tolerable to eat, and put up with some pretty dramatic “poor-me” moments 🙂    

And of course my angel mother who basically did everything for me. She did my laundry, bathed Milo each day, and made sure we were fed. In fact, I stayed with my parents for 3 weeks during the worst of it all, during which my mom dropped everything already going on in her life to take care of us.

I have learned SO MUCH about sacrificial love throughout this pregnancy. I have learned so much about discipleship-in-action from those closest to me.

I have also learned (and am still learning) a lesson you can never learn enough–that Christ is aware of me and understands perfectly what I am going through. He is the only man who can fully understand the full scope of pregnancy challenges, including the additional misery of HG. I am so acutely grateful for an infinitely compassionate Savior whose atoning sacrifice includes anything and everything you and I will ever face. I’m grateful to know that Heavenly Father has a plan. We have to trust that His plan and the adversity we face will always be for our good–no matter what.          

I can’t wait to hold my baby boy in my arms and know that all of this was without a doubt worth it. Until baby boy gets here, I’ll just keep revisiting this picture of his cute face from the 20-week ultrasound:

You’re Not Going to Feel Like This Forever

A couple weeks ago I took Milo to the aquarium with some family. I dare say it was the happiest day of his life (he is only two, after all). He was fascinated and thrilled by everything he saw, especially the penguins. I forgot how adorable those chubby little birds are.

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“I so excited! I so excited!” He squealed from one exhibit to the next. When you experience something through your child’s eyes, it becomes that much more magical.

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It was the perfect day.

Until it wasn’t.

All at once on the drive home, and for no apparent reason, all the happiness and gratitude I felt that day was swallowed up by this tsunami of sadness. It hit so unexpectedly and with such force that I literally felt sick to my stomach. My head started to spin and darkness consumed me. I was completely blindsided by these feelings of despair and discouragement that weren’t there just seconds before. It didn’t make any sense.

Oh no, I thought. I’m spiraling into a depression. I can’t do this again.

Once we got home, I still couldn’t shake the feelings. I felt anxious and paranoid and fearful all night. After I got Milo to bed, I paced around the house, dwelling on my thoughts, sending silent please heavenward for relief and the ability to calm down.

I fell asleep feeling like the world—my world—was ending…..and nothing had even happened!

The very second I gained consciousness the next morning, I remembered my wave-of-sadness-for-no-apparent-reason incident from the day before, and it felt like all of those emotions were hovering over me, just waiting to taunt me.

Again, I prayed for some relief and for the blanket of sadness to just lift. Later in the day while folding laundry, I had the thought, You’re not going to feel like this forever.

I believe that was Heavenly Father’s answer to my prayers. He was reminding me that the darkness and unexplainable sorrow (the beginnings of another bout of depression) WOULD pass and that everything would be okay. Even though that thought didn’t necessarily change how I felt in that moment, it did give me something I hadn’t had the night before. It gave me HOPE.

It has been almost fourteen days since the onset of that all-consuming darkness. My brain has felt foggy yet my heart has felt poignantly sad and discouraged. But I keep telling myself that I won’t feel like this forever, and clinging to that thought has truly been an act of faith.

There’s a poem by Nayyirah Waheed that I love:

i don’t pay attention to the
world ending.
it has ended for me
many times
and began again in the morning.

That is exactly how I’ve felt over the past two weeks—that my world is ending. Is this irrational? Of course. Depression is illogical. But is it real and terrifying in my mind? Absolutely. I love Waheed’s poem though. While “the morning” might not literally mean tomorrow morning, because of the Gospel and because of Jesus Christ, we can someday have that bright new beginning free of darkness that we so long for. The Savior is our metaphorical sunrise; He disperses the darkness in our lives with His infinite light.

Sister Sharon Eubank gave an amazing talk about Christ’s light last weekend. She quoted the Savior Himself, who said, “I am the light [that] shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not.” And then she added, “That means no matter how hard it tries, the darkness cannot put out that light. Ever. You can trust that His light will be there for you.”

A full standing portrait of Christ in white robes, seen from the side, gesturing to the left in front of a wash of orange and yellow colors.

When it comes to depression, I believe that every time someone who suffers is willing to share about it, someone else feels a little less lonely. My goal with this blog has always been to be completely candid about my struggles, but to simultaneously offer hope to anyone who might feel like I do. I was worried when I started writing this particular post that I wouldn’t have anything comforting to say. But even as I type this, I can truly feel Christ’s light enter my life, easing, ever so slightly, the burden I’ve carried this month. Those words I felt from on high—You’re not going to feel like this forever—ring true in this very moment. I can feel the darkness starting to lift.

May this be a message of hope for anyone who wonders if they are doomed to forever feel what they are feeling right now. I can say with all of the energy of my heart that I know I’m not going to feel like this forever…..and neither are you!

 

So Human & So Holy

688CA6FC-995E-472A-92FA-DA1B428664D2.jpegLast weekend, Milo was sitting across from me in the living room when he chucked his monster truck in my direction. I don’t think he intended to hit me, but when the heavy plastic on that little truck bounced off the back of my hand, I was frustrated. It hurt, ya know?

So I picked up his monster truck and threw it to the side of me and stated firmly, “We DO NOT throw monster trucks!”

The irony of that moment caught up to me and I couldn’t help but laugh at my obvious parenting fail. Here I was telling my toddler to not throw monster trucks while I was in the very act of doing so.

I felt very human in that moment.

My utter humanness comes out a lot actually. I struggle daily with intrusive thoughts. I’m horribly inconsistent. Just the other day I legitimately struggled to feel happy for a friend who received a blessing that for me is still pending—and I hated myself for the envy that was brewing inside of me.

I’m not very good at managing money. I get discouraged a lot. I’m too sensitive at times and often take things way too personally. I am always tired—literally always, no matter how much sleep I get.

Let’s see, what else?

There is currently an alarming number of Cheerios under my couch cushions. Milo ate a chocolate chip cookie for breakfast. I can’t remember the last time I shaved my legs. There’s a basket of miscellaneous dirty laundry sitting in my laundry room from 6+ months ago that I keep avoiding.

Little things like this, though insignificant, also make me feel very human.

But occasionally, all of my humanness is interrupted by these little moments of holiness. Moments that remind me that I do in fact have a spark of godliness within me. Moments that remind me that perfection, though distant, may not be an impossible feat after all.

One of these “caught-in-the-act-of-holiness” moments occurred last week in a way I didn’t expect.

Milo is prone to ear infections. Last week he ran a high fever off and on for a few days, and nights proved to be especially agonizing for him as his body struggled to fight off the impending infection.

I held him close all three nights, stroked his hair, checked his temperature like clockwork, refilled sippy cup after sippy cup, engaged in the battle of forcing Tylenol down, and told him countless times how sorry I was he felt so crappy.

By the time the fever came and went, I was exhausted (remember I said I am always tired no matter how little or how much sleep I get?). I don’t think I would have thought twice about this experience had Heavenly Father not whispered to my soul, “See! You are a good mom. Look how much you love your child.”

I guess so, I agreed in my head. Then I stopped to really think less about what I did to help Milo when he was suffering and more about how I felt.

I felt pure, sacrificial love. I would have done anything to assuage Milo’s pain. I felt deeply sad that he was the one suffering and not me. I felt frustrated I couldn’t do more to help. I felt a sense of urgency to address his every need.

Simply put, I felt almost…..holy.

I don’t think I’m like saintly for caring for my sick child. That’s what mothers do. But the same feelings I had toward Milo are the same God has for me—always and unconditionally.

Because we are the offspring of God, His spiritual DNA runs through us, and every once in a while when we tap into the reservoirs of goodness within, we act and think like He would.

We are human, yes, but we are also holy. While our personal moments of holiness don’t necessarily cancel out our moments of humanness, I do think they balance them out.

That same person who lost her cool when her two-year-old threw his monster truck is the same person who held her child close and loved him and hurt for him and prayed for him with an intensity I can’t even begin to describe.

We are so human, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t also holy.

 

A Soul’s Supernova

Last year, a friend I hadn’t seen in a while lost her child in a tragic, unexpected way. She demonstrated this amazing strength and inspiring faith as she posted about what happened.

Person after person wrote a message of love and sympathy, including me. And while I was typing and wondering what I could possibly say to be of any comfort whatsoever, it occurred to me in that very moment that someday too soon the notes of sympathy, the flowers, the tight hugs when words just weren’t enough—they would come to an end.

I can’t pretend for a moment to know what it’s like to lose a child, but I hate to think about how this friend of mine must have felt when the sympathy texts faded out and people no longer checked in with her to see how she was coping. It must have been soul-crushing for her as everyone else snapped back into their regular routines when her world would never be the same again.

I hope no one reading this right now has had to bury a child. It’s in the realm of unimaginable trials. But no matter what it is you have faced before, or currently face, or will face in the future, at one time or another we will encounter that one trial that divides our lives in two:  life before it happened and life after.

I know there are many out there who are, right now in this exact moment, treading the waters of unspeakable grief.

Perhaps for you the grief is so poignant you wonder if any other emotions even exist—and if you’ll ever feel any of them again.

Perhaps you feel frustrated as you watch the rest of the world just move on and keep living when it feels your universe has literally stopped.

Perhaps if feels impossible to exist and simply be when you figuratively see the life you once loved in broken pieces on the floor.  

Occasionally, a star will end its life in a massive explosion called a supernova. This occurs when there is so much pressure on the core of the star that it literally collapses, sending debris and creating an incomparable explosion. In some cases, a once brilliantly bright star becomes but a black hole.

Sometimes the trials we face feel like a “soul’s supernova”—when, in a moment it seems, life as we know it crumbles, when there is so much pressure and shock and grief pressing against your heart that you feel it might literally burst, sending the pieces of your soul into the vast abyss of time and space.

And so, like a star that becomes a black hole, you’re left with the tragic remains of a would-be fairytale.

About a year ago, I had my own soul’s supernova. I’m not ready to blast the details of it into cyberspace just yet, but I will say this:  I never thought I’d bounce back from it. My soul, for a time, became a black hole of hopelessness.

It went on for months, this trial I couldn’t really talk about, this sadness so deep it was nearly impossible to even try to explain to anyone else. There were days and moments when it felt the world was mocking me with the happiness everyone else seemed to claim. Everyone else was still moving forward with life when I felt so stuck.

One night, during the worst of it all, I felt the comforting truth that when my universe stops, so does Christ’s.

That’s true for you too.

When we feel engulfed in our own sorrow, the Savior spends time with us there, in that dark place. He’ll come to us when it seems no one else can. He mourns with us. He sends peace. He offers reassurance that some way, somehow, the pieces of our broken hearts can be put back together.

And since this post is kind of about stars, let me draw attention to one of the many titles given to Christ:

The Bright and Morning Star

The Savior is a star that will never stop emitting the light we so desperately need, a star that shines in darkness.

I look at my life now compared to what it was a year ago and everything has changed. That soul-crushing trial is over. It didn’t just magically disappear overnight and it still affects my spirit in some ways, but I’m able to see just how much the Bright and Morning Star has healed me since then.  

It’s as if, in His infinite goodness, Christ reversed this supernova of my soul. He restored happiness and purpose where there was darkness and pain. He undid my heart’s explosion with healing only He can offer.

Elder L. Whitney Clayton said, “All of us will, at some time or another, have to traverse our own spiritual wilderness and undertake our own emotional journeys. In those moments, however dark or seemingly hopeless they may be, if we search for it, there will always be a spiritual light that beckons to us, giving us the hope of rescue and relief. That light shines from the Savior of all mankind, who is the Light of the World.”

Jesus Christ really is the Light of the World. He is the Bright and Morning Star. He is the glorious Savior sent by a loving Father, and He shines unceasingly for us.

Tuning out the Negative Voices in my Head

c0bfab5e-4177-465a-8726-9fa8fcdf39c2The negative self-talk has been particularly loud this past week.

Phrases like these have bombarded my mind:

“You’re useless.”

“You’re a bad mom.”

“You’re falling short in every aspect of your life.”

“Why do you even try?”

I’ve given these words way too much power by even listening at all, so the voices—they continue to taunt and harass and demand my attention.

But I hereby vow to tune out all the negative feedback I inadvertently give myself. It isn’t healthy or helpful.

I have a plan and I intend to be proactive about implementing it.

First, I need to replace those negative phrases with uplifting ones.

“You’re doing the best you know how right now.”

“No one can love Milo quite like you can.”

“God is proud of every effort, no matter how small.”

“Keep trying! You got this!”  

Second, I need to remember that my worth in the sight of God is not contingent on what I accomplish—or don’t accomplish. His love is so pure and without condition. It is, I dare say, the most constant, steady, unfailing truth in existence.

I need to remember that when I try to talk myself into feeling like a failure.

Elder Bruce C. Hafen said, “We never have more value in the Lord’s sight than when we are feeling completely worthless.”

The Father and His Son are ready to pour out Their love for us the second we are ready to listen.

I’m ready now. I hope you are too.