Celebrating Life on Mother’s Day

April 23, 2016 in Abortion, Adoption, Adversity, Depression, Fertility, Grief, Heavenly Mother, Lani, Loss, Motherhood, Pain, Parenting, Waiting

 

Image SourceMother’s Day can be really hard.

Hard because you want to be a mother, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Hard because you recently lost a child through miscarriage or stillbirth.

Hard because you’re healing from an abortion.

Hard because you have been waiting to adopt for a very long time.

Hard because you weren’t able to have as many children as you wanted.

Hard because your mother passed away, and you miss her terribly.

Hard because you wish you could spend more time with your children.

Hard because you’re a single father without a partner.

Hard because you’re a single mother, and you’re tired of doing it alone.

Hard because you’re unable to be with your husband or wife because of military, work, or other reasons.

Hard because your stepchildren reject you.

Hard because your mother struggled to give you the love you needed.

Hard because you struggle yourself to be the mother you want to be.

Hard because your mother was brutally abusive.

Hard because your mother committed suicide.

Hard because you gave your heart and soul to raising your kids, and now you never hear from them.

Hard because you long to know your Mother in Heaven.

So hard.

It’s OK if you love Mother’s Day. It’s OK if you hate Mother’s Day. Your feelings about Mother’s Day are valid and real, and I want you to let yourself feel them. You don’t have to pretend. You don’t have to hide your tears. Because I believe Dr. Aletha Solter’s words about children are also true about adults:

No matter what the source of stress, children will not feel better until they have been allowed to cry and rage as much as needed (Tears and Tantrums, p. 12).

Sometimes we will cry and rage for years.

I can’t take away your pain. I won’t take away your pain. Your pain belongs to you. But I do want you to know that I celebrate you.

I have carried some heavy rocks in my backpack. One of the heaviest was labeled: no-will-to-live. It was so heavy that when it was gone I felt like I might float right up to cloud nine-hundred-and-nine from the relief of it. I never could have imagined how much joy and hope my future would hold. I thank God every day that I chose life. This Mother’s Day I have so much to celebrate.

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These words quoted in our most recent General Conference are brutally true:

Each one of us experiences dark days when our loved ones pass away, painful times when our health is lost, feelings of being forsaken when those we love seem to have abandoned us. These and other trials present us with the real test of our ability to endure. –Thomas S. Monson

I know you have carried, are carrying, and will carry some of your own heavy rocks. You too have known indescribable sorrows. You have dragged yourself, bloody and bruised, over piercing paths and menacing mountains.

But.

You are still here. You are still breathing. You have successfully endured. All of your days. And all of your nights. And you are still here.

That is why I celebrate you.

Yes, let’s celebrate mothers. Because there are some inspiring and remarkable mothers out there, and thank the Lord for those nurturing souls who heal humanity with their presence. Yes, let’s celebrate women. Because women give life in so many ways beyond what happens in the womb. But even if you don’t personally feel like celebrating anything on May 8th this year (and that is totally OK), I will still be celebrating you.

That’s what Mother’s Day will be for me this year… A celebration of the gift of life. A celebration of the ones who gave us this messy, brutal, exquisitely beautiful thing we’re living every day.

I will celebrate those who have had the courage to give life, and with an extra measure of compassion and awe I will also celebrate those who have had the courage to give life a chance. And to keep giving life a chance… day in and day out… even when those days are full of ache.

I am so glad your mother gave you the gift of life. I am so glad you exist. And every day that you choose to keep going is a gift to humanity and yourself.

On May 8th I’ll be holding you in my heart.

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Sale begins April 24th

Sale begins April 24th

Laboring Through

October 3, 2015 in Adversity, Depression, Doulas, Fear, Gratitude, Heavenly Mother, Lani, Love, Motherhood, Pain, Uncategorized

So Elder Holland hit another home run. I’d say his talk today ranks right up there in my heart with “Like a Broken Vessel” from two Octobers ago. Today Elder Holland honored women and mothers and the ways their service is nearer to Jesus Christ’s role as deliverer than any other service in mortality. He called mothers “messianic figures” and “saviors on Mt. Zion.” He even publicly thanked our dear Mother in Heaven.

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All of the talk was beautiful, but do you know what my absolute favorite part was? My favorite phrase Elder Holland uttered today was this: “laboring through the battered landscape of his despair.” As Elder Holland spoke of a mother striving to bear up her son as he traveled through the darkest days and nights of his intense anguish… I can’t even really describe to you what I felt inside. Perhaps those words and that story impacted me so deeply because I know so intimately what the battered landscape of despair looks like and feels like. Perhaps more intensely, however, I know the sheer magnitude and magnificence of the gratitude that can be felt toward those who have labored with us through the battered landscapes of our despair and anguish.

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself thinking a lot about where I was last year. I went to my blog and re-read old posts full of the raw reality of what I went through. The more time passes, the more I forget just how bad it was. But in those moments of remembering, I felt it all come back to me… the utterly bleak and painful reality of what I had experienced. But the overriding and prevailing emotion I felt that night was gratitude. Gratitude beyond my capacity to describe. Gratitude so intense that it gathered with fierceness in my tear ducts and flooded down my face for a very long time.

One image kept coming back to me and renewing the flood of my tears. It was an image of me lying on my friend’s tan leather couch, our kids playing in front of me watching something on Netflix, my friend sitting at her kitchen table sewing together a quilt for her youngest son. If someone were to take a snapshot of that moment, they might conclude all sorts of things. They might wonder why we were “ignoring” each other. They might think it odd that I was seemingly sleeping through my visit with a friend. They might question the depth of our friendship. But all of those assumptions would miss the profound beauty of what was happening in that room.

I couldn’t tell you how many days I spent on my friends’ couches last summer. Sometimes I could have semi-normal conversations. Sometimes all I could do was stare at the wall or ceiling and try to breathe. Sometimes I closed my eyes and attempted (usually with very minimal success) to sleep. My friends really didn’t understand what I was going through. But it didn’t matter. I never once felt like a burden. I never once felt like an intrusion. I knew I could just be… just be… in whatever state I was in, and it was OK. If I wanted to talk, my friends would talk. If I was paralyzed by my body and mind and could only endure, my friends held space for me to endure. They played games with my daughter and fed her lunch. They made it OK for me to do whatever I needed to do. They sat with me, but not in a way that made me feel like a spectacle. They sewed quilts, did their dishes, folded laundry, but all the while bearing me up with their presence, their willingness to witness my pain, their open doors and couches always there whenever I needed them.

As I lay on my friend’s tan leather couch, my body was wracked with agonizing withdrawals, my mind was a whirl of fear and darkness. I didn’t know when the darkness was going to end. But in that moment, despite the fear and pain overwhelming me, I knew I was loved. I knew I was safe. I knew that I had support anytime I needed it. I knew that my friends and family believed in me, prayed for me, and most importantly that they were laboring with me in that landscape of horrific despair.

Elder Holland thanked mothers for their pure Christ-like love and service, and I myself do feel deep gratitude for my mother’s efforts to lift me in my deepest days of darkness. But beyond that I feel gratitude more profound than human language can convey to all the people in my life who labored and bore with me last year through my life’s most painful test of faith. Thank you. More than I can say.

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Towers of Strength: a Call for Stories

January 28, 2015 in Adversity, Atonement, Book, Book reviews, Depression, Divine nature, Fear, Grace, Grief, joy, Lani, Miracles, Pain, Postpartum Depression

Last weekend I attended Felice’s Therapeutic Imagery Facilitator Training. It was five billion times more awesome than I ever could have imagined it would be. I’ve been guiding my daughters on imagery journeys nearly every night since, and I can’t wait to share these new skills with everyone and anyone I can. So much healing happened in that sacred space last weekend. What an honor and privilege to have been a part of it. I love these women!

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After the workshop was over, I was talking with the lovely Anna Hargadon (one of the creators of the awesome film Women of Faith). She asked me, “So what’s your next project? Do you have anything you’re working on?” Maybe it was God’s way of nudging me to get moving. One of the first things that happened after I recovered my will to live last fall was that God gave me an assignment. It’s time to write another book, He said.

So this is me acting on that prompting. Last Sunday, as I drove home from church, the book’s title came to me. It was inspired by something I learned reading Heather’s new book, Walking with the Women of the New Testament. In my review of her book, I wrote:

Heather writes, “While we don’t know the details of Mary Magdalene’s infirmity, we might deduce based on what we know of the others whom Christ healed from evil spirits that she was tormented with some sort of mental infirmity. The fact that she had seven devils cast out of her suggests that her infirmity may have been severe” (p. 77).

Heather explains that Christ called Mary “Magdalene” (meaning “tower of strength”) probably in much the same way that he called Simon “Peter” (meaning “rock”). After her healing, Mary became a devoted follower of Christ and a likely “tower of strength” to those around her, including Christ Himself. Of all the people Christ could have appeared to immediately after His resurrection, He chose Mary Magdalene.

Being a woman who struggles with “mental infirmities,” I gather peace from Mary’s remarkable recovery. If Christ can turn an infirm and darkness-plagued Mary into a “tower of strength,” maybe then there is hope for me too?

The title God gave to me for this book is inspired by Mary Magdalene, the original “Tower of Strength” and one of my heroes.

Towers of Strength: Stories of Triumph over Darkness. What do you think? This probably isn’t what the book will look like, but I had fun making a pretend cover. A quick search on Deseret Book’s website only brought up a few titles discussing mental illness, and none of them (as far as I could tell) is written from the perspective of the “mentally ill.” Mental health practitioners and caregivers certainly have valuable insights and perspectives to share, but I just feel strongly that we need to give a voice to the ones living with the illnesses. I feel like there is a sort of assumption that the mentally ill aren’t capable of speaking for themselves, but I couldn’t disagree more. Our voices need to be heard. It’s time.

So far this is what I have in mind:

  • Spiritual thoughts and stories about mental illness from the perspective of Latter-day Saints, emphasis on stories of triumph.
  • Written by those who have lived with and/or overcome mental illness.
  • Stories of all types of triumph (through counseling, medication, meditation, energy healing, temple work, prayer, priesthood, etc.)
  • Similar to The Gift of Giving Life with stories from a wide variety of people with a wide variety of challenges.
  • Intended to bring hope to those who are still struggling in darkness and their loved ones and to help doctors, counselors, and caregivers to better understand the perspective of “patients.”

If you feel impressed that you have a story to share or know someone who might, please send me an email (askbusca at gmail dot com). And please spread the word on whatever groups, forums, and facebook pages you feel might generate interest. The deadline for story submissions is May 1st. And if you know of a publisher who might be interested, please pass the word along to them too! Thank you!

**Posted today, January 28, 2015, in memory of Ashton Mayberry who suffered from depression and anxiety and took his own life on January 28, 2014.**

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Why Having a December Birthday is NOT a Bummer

December 19, 2014 in Christmas, Heather, Mary, Uncategorized

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A week before my first son was born I spent a very special afternoon with my Grandmother.  She is famous for making wonderful chocolates, especially carmel turtles. They are the best. It was getting near Christmas and I’d convinced her to let me help her make her Christmas chocolates. I went with the hope that I’d be able to learn how to make chocolates, but it turned out that she taught me something much more important.

It was a beautiful afternoon and were sitting at her kitchen table rolling the centers for the mints we were going to dip. My baby was due soon and I was complaining to her how bad I felt that my baby would probably have a birthday around Christmas time. “It is such a bummer,” I told her, “His birthday will always be eclipsed by Christmas and he’ll have to wait a whole year before he gets any presents again!” She listened to me and then smiled at me in a knowing way. My father, her fourth child, was born only a few days before Christmas. She told me about how she’d worried she’d be in the hospital on Christmas and prayed that he would come before then.  But then she looked at me with her deep, wise eyes and said, “But you know Heather, there is something really special about having a baby– especially a baby boy– at Christmas time.”

Those words really touched my heart, and that night as I snuggled into my bed and felt the little boy inside of me wiggle I thought about what my Grandmother meant.

I thought of Mary and of the precious baby boy that she carried inside of her. I wondered if she felt a lot of the same apprehension and fear that I did. If she ever doubted her ability to be a mother, or worried about her capacity to handle what would be placed on her shoulders. I wondered how she would have prepared to give birth and I imagined what it must have been like for her to become a mother. As I thought about her, I began to see what my Grandmother meant. There was something very special about having a baby at Christmas. I saw things in a way I never had before.

It was real.

Mary was a real woman, with real feelings and real Braxton-Hicks contractions, and Jesus was a real baby. A real baby who was delivered by His mother in the same way I was going to deliver mine. And that changed my whole perspective. I began to feel a deep kinship with Mary and rejoice that I would get to celebrate the birth of my baby at the same time as the world celebrated the birth of Mary’s son.

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A week later, my little boy was born, and I felt love like I’d never felt it before. It made that Christmas the most special one of my whole life, one full of complete joy and awe. It turned my heart to my Savior Jesus Christ in way that is hard to describe, and taught me things deep in my heart.

I often hear people say that they feel bad for people with December birthday’s, especially if they are near Christmas. They lament the fact, much like I did at my Grandmother’s house, that their special day doesn’t get the attention it might have gotten at any other time of the year. If that is something that you have said, or felt, I hope that perhaps my Grandmother’s words can change the way you look at it, because it IS an incredible thing to give birth to a baby in December. To be heavy with child as you read about Mary traveling to Jerusalem, and holding your own newborn child in your arms as you read about Jesus being wrapped in swaddling clothes. It is a living demonstration of the Love of God.

I know that each year I celebrate my son’s birthday (we’ve done 7 of them now) I am reminded of how it felt to hold him in my arms for the first time, to feel the miracle and joy of birth and know that with God ALL things are possible.  And each year I reflect on Mary and Jesus, and know that it was real. That He really was born, and that God– the Creator of the World– came to Earth as a helpless baby. And there is NOTHING more incredible than that.

So if you are expecting a baby this Christmas season, don’t despair. There is so much more to Christmas that presents and parties.. and having a baby will remind you of that. God knows when your baby needs to be born, so trust that. There are incredible things to be learned from Christmas babies.

And if you have a birthday in December  I hope that my Grandmother’s words will help you remember that there is very something special about being born around Christmastime–  you are a tangible reminder to everyone of what the holiday is all about.

A celebration of Life. Your life. Jesus’s life. Eternal life.

So Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas!

Don’t Quit, Keep Playing

May 4, 2014 in Adversity, Atonement, Depression, Grace, Lani, Savior, Thoughts

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The Sunday School and Relief Society lessons at church today were so inspiring, and I felt impressed to spill some of my thoughts about those lessons onto paper (or screen) here.

First, for whatever reason, I get really excited when I find scriptures that demonstrate the humanity and weakness of the Lord’s prophets (Mosiah 2:11 and 2 Nephi 4:17, I love you guys). Seeing their struggles helps me let go of shame about my own. Maybe you’ve always known about this time in Moses’ life, but I must have been asleep that day in seminary. I’m not a prophet leading thousands of frustrated people to the Promised Land, but these verses (from Numbers 11) were a gift to me today:

11 And Moses said unto the Lord, Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant? and wherefore have I not found favour in thy sight, that thou layest the burden of all this people upon me? . . .

14 I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me.

15 And if thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray thee, out of hand, if I have found favour in thy sight; and let me not see my wretchedness.

The footnote for “out of hand” in the last verse lets us know that it could be translated as “immediately.” So Moses was basically saying, “God, this is too hard. If this is how it’s going to be, please just kill me now.” I turned to my husband, grinned wide, and laughed as I heard those verses. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve uttered words like that to God and my husband on dark days. Moses, you are a guy I can relate to!

Then, in Relief Society, the lesson was about grace. It seems such a hard thing to define something so divine as grace. I still don’t feel that I could necessarily give you a definition of grace. But I loved this story our teacher shared from President Faust about a young piano student:

His mother, wishing to encourage him, “bought tickets for a performance of the great Polish pianist, Paderewski. The night of the concert arrived and the mother and son found their seats near the front of the concert hall. While the mother visited with friends, the boy slipped quietly away.

“Suddenly, it was time for the performance to begin and a single spotlight cut through the darkness of the concert hall to illuminate the grand piano on stage. Only then did the audience notice the little boy on the bench, innocently picking out ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.’

“His mother gasped, but before she could move, Paderewski appeared on stage and quickly moved to the keyboard. He whispered to the boy, ‘Don’t quit. Keep playing.’ And then, leaning over, the master reached down with his left hand and began filling in the bass part. Soon his right arm reached around the other side, encircling the child, to add a running obbligato. Together, the old master and the young novice held the crowd mesmerized.

“In our lives, unpolished though we may be, it is the Master who surrounds us and whispers in our ear, time and time again, ‘Don’t quit. Keep playing.’ And as we do, He augments and supplements until a work of amazing beauty is created. He is right there with all of us, telling us over and over, ‘Keep playing’” (Source).

As I heard this story, my eyes welled up with tears. Sometimes, playing my little “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” feels like the hardest thing in the world. And the Master’s request, “Don’t quit. Keep playing,” feels like the tallest order ever given. Endure to the end? Really? I so often respond, as Moses did, “It is too heavy for me,” and in my darkest moments, “Kill me, I pray thee.”

But grace. Grace.

God told Moses: “Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel. . . . and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone” (Numbers 11:16-17).

Grace comes to us in so many different ways. For me, in my life, grace has so often come to me in the same way it came to Moses here… people. God gives me people to help me bear my burden–doulas to give me counter-pressure through the hardest contractions. In October of 2012, after surviving many months of intense darkness and despair, I wrote a thank you letter to some of the “doulas” who had been the grace that kept me going. To them, I said:

And now, looking back over that valley of heartbreak behind me, I can see just how beautiful it was. Your words and actions have illustrated in vivid detail the beauty and perfection of God’s loving, tender mercies. You have painted a magnificent masterpiece on the canvas of my suffering. If I hadn’t needed you so desperately, I would never have had the privilege of witnessing those countless acts of love and friendship.

Grace is the reason I’m still here. Grace is the reason I haven’t quit. Grace is the reason I keep playing my little song. Grace is the Master turning that feeble song into something beautiful. Grace is God painting a magnificent masterpiece on the canvas of my suffering.

Grace is yours too.

Don’t quit. Keep playing.

God Keeps His Promises

March 12, 2014 in Adversity, Book, Dads, Depression, Faith, Fear, Grief, Lani, Loss, Miracles, Personal Revelation, Postpartum Depression, Priesthood blessings

It has been nearly two years since I experienced what I can only describe as a “nervous breakdown.”

It started in April of 2012, coinciding with the birth of our book, The Gift of Giving Life, a year and two months after my fourth child’s birth.

And then my Grandma died. And I fell. Fast.

After several months of struggling to breathe, struggling to eat, struggling to keep the panic and despair from crushing me, God sent a friend to my home. She said, “I think maybe it’s time for you to try medication.” I had resisted medicine for a long time, trying countless natural remedies for anxiety and depression to no avail. But my friend had been where I was before, and she could see that I needed more help. She went with me to the doctor. I got my prescription. I held the bottle in my hands, but I was terrified to take it.

So I did the one thing that I always do when I don’t know what to do: I asked my husband for a blessing. In the blessing, God told me that “the medication would be of benefit to me” and that I would “be healed.” With that promise to give me courage, I took my first dose the next day, August 1, 2012. Adjusting to the medication took many weeks, but I clung to that promise despite horrific medication-induced insomnia, emotional ups and downs, and an even-more-horrific spiritual numbness that came over me.

It was during this dark period of adjustment that I hit my deepest lows, losing my very will to live. But, with time, as my body adjusted, my mind and spirit began to come back into balance. My co-authors prayed me well enough to join them in the Los Angeles temple in September, a miraculous feat.

As we celebrated my 32nd birthday, nearly three months after I started my medication, I was truly happy again. I was eating (and finally gaining some weight back). I was enjoying life. I had endured so much discomfort, despair, fear, and doubt in those weeks of adjustment, but God’s word was true. The medication had been of benefit to me. It had helped save my life. God’s promise was fulfilled.

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The relief was so magnificent that I couldn’t help but exclaim in joy and complete sincerity (on a nearly daily basis), smiling from ear to ear to my husband: “I don’t want to die today!” The victory of that declaration filled me with overwhelming gratitude to God and to my many friends and family who had helped me reach that triumphant place, most especially my husband.

The next question that filled my heart and mind was: “How long?” I wondered, “Will I need to take this medicine for the rest of my life?” I was willing to accept whatever I needed to do to stay stable so that I could take care of my family, but I also hoped that I would find a way to heal whatever needed to be healed so that I could move forward without medical assistance.

In another priesthood blessing, God answered my question: “You will be able to be happy without medication.” He didn’t tell me how long it would take, but I was satisfied with just knowing that someday I’d get there. And so I went on, taking my medication, feeling grateful for my rescue from the darkness. 2013 came and then 2014.

It has now been a week since I took any medicine.

About a year ago, I started cutting back on my dose, little by little, very slowly, adding in supplements recommended by readers and friends to ease the withdrawal. I took a dose last Tuesday, but when I was due for another dose I felt restrained from taking it. The next day I felt restrained, and the next, and the next. I didn’t hear a voice, but I felt a message in my gut: “You’re ready. It’s time.”

I have said to my husband more than once in the past few days, “Now watch, I’ll probably crash next week.” (<—That’s a text message from “Anxiety Girl,” of course.) He shakes his head and says, “Nope. You won’t.” And I think I believe him.

The other night, I asked him for another priesthood blessing. He said, “God wants to remind you of the promises He has made to you. He will keep those promises.”

God kept His promises to me.

I am happy (without medication). (!!!)

Disarmament

February 8, 2014 in Adversity, Book, Forgiveness, Lani, Marriage, Parenting, Personal Revelation, Zion

For [Satan] hath no power over the hearts of the people,
for they dwell in righteousness.
 -1 Nephi 22:26

I originally wrote this on my private family blog. It was August 28, 2011. Felice, Sheridan, Heather, Robyn and I were in the process of selecting the final cover for our book in addition to revising, editing, and polishing the essays and stories we were eager to share with all of you. But Satan was hard at work on us. He did not want The Gift of Giving Life in the hands of the women of the world. He did not want my friendships with my TGOGL sisters to crystalize into the forever kind. But he failed. The book is out there. Little by little, it is touching hearts and changing lives. And the love I have for my TGOGL sisters has deepened with a fierceness that takes my breath away.

We are all together!

This morning I felt impressed that I should share this post, revised today with added insight. God wants you to take the bricks Satan throws at you and build a magnificent house with them. Four ways you can do that…

1) Protect the Achilles’ heels.

Satan has been perfecting his skills for thousands and thousands of years.  He knows where you are weakest. He knows where your loved ones are weakest. An article by Elder Hales, “A Little Heaven on Earth,” in September’s Ensign really struck me.  He says:

achilles-heel2Everyone has weaknesses.  The adversary knows the Achilles’ heel of your loved ones, your friends, your roommates, your brothers and sisters, and your parents.  Do you understand your Achilles’ heel? The secret to a happy marriage [or any relationship] is to protect the Achilles’ heel and not take advantage of the weaknesses of those you know best, love the most, and ultimately can hurt the most.

I know that’s the truth.  I love the image of protecting our loved ones’ Achilles’ heels and our own. If there’s one place we have to reinforce our armor, that’s the place!  I’ve resolved to do better at protecting my loved ones and myself from those awful exploitations.

2) Disarm with love.

Those negative thoughts that sneak into your head–those assumptions, suspicions, and suggestions about a person’s ill intentions–you can pretty much rest assured that those come from the master of all lies.  He wants you to feel hurt and angry and upset.  So, really, when you feel hurt by someone, the counter-intuitive thing is actually the best thing you could do. Put a stopper in your emotional gut reaction, bridle yourself, step back and recognize what’s happening (i.e. Satan is trying to hurt both of you), smile because you’ve beat him in his game, and do the one thing Satan doesn’t want you to do… send love to that person. The people in your life are squeezing you in just the right ways to show you what’s inside of you, teaching you. Some of these people will be crucial in your life’s most important missions. Disarm him (and them) with love.

3) Take courage if you encounter interference.

When you’re feeling especially hard-hit by the adversary, take note.  He will try to tear apart the projects and relationships that have the potential to be the most positive things in your life and the lives of those around you. My sister shared a really wonderful story with me years ago.  I’ll cut and paste it from her email here:

A couple of years ago we had a Stake RS Enrichment meeting where a woman spoke who was from Africa. Her unique circumstances growing up made her ideally suited to translate the Book of Mormon into an obscure native language. She accepted the assignment and then Satan set to work trying to stop her. She experienced extreme trials with her family, and in other relationships, as well as financially, among other things. Listening to those experiences made me wonder if I could/would have given up in her situation. She persevered, however, and was able to finish the task she’d started. She spoke of how glad she was that she didn’t let Satan stop her, and how it was so worth all of the trials she faced, knowing that the people who spoke this language would now have the Book of Mormon. In fact, I remember her saying that the severity of the trials she experienced showed her just how important her assignment was, that Satan would work that hard to stop her. It was a very inspiring story!

There are people Satan is desperate to tear away from you. There are things Satan is desperate to keep you from doing. These are the areas where you must accelerate your efforts. When Satan hits you hard, don’t give up. Arm yourself, fill yourself with love, and work even harder ’cause whatever you’re doing is probably going to be magnificently wonderful… which is why he can’t stand it!

4) Shield yourself, and establish clear boundaries.

nephi-subdues-rebellious-brothers-39641-galleryYes, we are instructed to love our enemies. Yes, sometimes strained relationships are those we should cling to with even more fierceness. BUT… boundaries are important. Shield yourself. Every day. Multiple times a day. Ask God to place a shield of light and love around you. Loving a person despite their weaknesses is good. But allowing someone’s toxic behavior to weaken you is not. If you find there is someone in your life whose behavior is damaging to your soul, establish clear boundaries. Protect yourself and your family in whatever ways God directs you, always sending love to that person. Sometimes strained relationships can blossom into something beautiful. But toxic relationships can also be very harmful. Satan will try to confuse you. But God will guide you to know exactly how to respond to a toxic situation.

*****

When I was in my freshman year of college, a dear friend and I used to repeat a favorite statement to encourage each other: “Bind Satan now.” We know there will come a time when Satan will be literally bound and unable to influence us, but my friend and I often talked about our deep desires to “bind Satan now” within our own hearts and lives, to strive in every way we could to put ourselves beyond his reach.

I often think of the scene in one of the Harry Potter movies where Voldemort gets inside of Harry, torturing him with horrible thoughts and images.  Harry writhes on the floor, in agony.  And then he starts to fight back, filling his mind with happy memories and people who love him.  And love wins.  Voldemort can’t withstand the power of love and flees Harry.  It is one of my all-time favorite movie scenes.

I have felt that struggle between evil/darkness/hate and good/light/love within my own self.  When we feed the love, the light within us burns brighter and brighter until the powers of evil cannot tolerate our presence. As the scriptures teach, “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day. And again, verily I say unto you, and I say it that you may know the truth, that you may chase darkness from among you” (D&C 50:24-25).

That kind of brightness is within our reach. Keep reaching. Keep on pushing back the dark.

He will make her wilderness like Eden

December 13, 2013 in Adversity, Depression, Lani, Nourishment, Pain, Personal Revelation, Savior, Waiting, Zion

A few days ago I opened my scriptures in a random place… Jacob 5:

21 And it came to pass that the servant said unto his master: How comest thou hither to plant this tree, or this branch of the tree? For behold, it was the poorest spot in all the land of thy vineyard.

22 And the Lord of the vineyard said unto him: Counsel me not; I knew that it was a poor spot of ground; wherefore, I said unto thee, I have nourished it this long time, and thou beholdest that it hath brought forth much fruit.

I’ve been feeling pretty sorry for myself lately. Lamenting this weak and flawed body/mind I’ve been given. It often feels like my spirit was planted in a very “poor spot of ground,” a very screwed-up, broken body/mind. I have a crooked and sometimes painful back, very poor eyesight, multiple food and chemical sensitivities that sometimes give me head and body aches, anxiety and panic attacks, depression, and other ailments. It’s exhausting living in this body. Sometimes I sincerely doubt my ability to endure to the end.

As I pondered the scriptures I opened to, I saw what God was trying to tell me. Yes, I was planted in what could be called a “poor spot of ground.” But God knew exactly where He was planting me. In fact, my patriarchal blessing specifies that I was placed exactly where I am for a reason: “It is in this environment that you have been brought forth and placed in the families that you have been raised.” And even in this poor spot of ground, God has nourished me with intellect, talents, spiritual gifts, and lots of family and friends who love and support me. Through that abundant nourishment from God, I have, indeed, brought forth much fruit.

Then yesterday, I opened up my scriptures to Mosiah 2, to the beginning of King Benjamin’s address. And I noticed a scripture I hadn’t really “seen” before:

9 And these are the words which he spake and caused to be written, saying: My brethren, all ye that have assembled yourselves together, . . . hearken unto me, and open your ears that ye may hear, and your hearts that ye may understand, and your minds that the mysteries of God may be unfolded to your view.

10 I have not commanded you to come up hither that ye should . . . think that I of myself am more than a mortal man.

11 But I am like as yourselves, subject to all manner of infirmities in body and mind.

I know our prophets are not perfect. I know they experience challenges just like the rest of us. But in that moment it just really struck me as a tender mercy to know that King Benjamin himself was open about experiencing “infirmities of the body and mind.” And I loved that he didn’t just say “infirmities.” He specified that both his body and his mind were affected. As one who experiences infirmities of both the body and the mind, it was comforting. King Benjamin did so much good. There’s no disputing that he played a crucial role on this earth. And he didn’t let his infirmities stand in his way. That inspires me.

 

My mom is always telling me that she never expected me to live very long. I don’t know if it was motherly intuition or just her own imagination. She often says things like, “You didn’t need to come here to be proven, but you wanted to come to make a difference in a world full of problems.” I don’t know if that’s true. I don’t know how long God “will suffer that I may live.” But I pray that God’s grace will hold me up and carry me through whatever my future has in store… that I can bring forth more fruit unto the Lord, despite my infirmities. I also hold out hope in the promise found in Ether: “My grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (12:27).

In two days, I’m singing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” with a small group of women in sacrament meeting (pray this sore throat doesn’t get in the way!). I chose the song, in part, because it felt like a very personal prayer/lament. I long for the END. I long for the reign of peace and love. I ache for the day when darkness is destroyed, when the waste places of the world shall blossom like Eden, when my broken body will be made whole. O come, O come. Please come.

Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

Oh, come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

A Glimpse of Heaven

November 6, 2013 in Adoption, Angels, Attachment, Book reviews, Depression, Holy Ghost, Intuition, Lani, Miracles, Motherhood, Parenting, Personal Revelation, Zion

Glimpse_of_Heaven_Joanna_Oblander_coverBack in the summer of 2012, when I had pretty much hit rock bottom emotionally, I received a review copy of A Glimpse of Heaven by JoAnna Oblander in the mail. She and her publisher had contacted me a few weeks before asking if I would be willing to review the book on this blog. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. There I was, struggling to retain my will to live, and I opened up the book to read this on the very first page:

“At day’s end I sat on my bed overcome with convulsive tears. My will to live had been obliterated. . . . Holding onto life had proven itself too hard. . . . My emotional avalanche had battered me so severely that I was unwilling to consider giving life another chance. . . . I was done.”

As JoAnna drifted off to sleep, fully intending it to be her last night on earth, an angel appeared, pulled her spirit from her body, and took her to view heaven, more specifically her pre-mortal preparatory experiences and commitments. After all she saw and felt, she knew she could no longer follow through with her suicide. She would choose to keep fighting for her life. As she describes later in the book, “I, like all of God’s children, was a wreck worth salvaging” (p. 79).

At the time, I wasn’t reading or writing much at all. But JoAnna’s story pulled me in. She had been where I was. She had inhabited those awful depths of despair. And she had lived to tell of a better day. Perhaps I would too. Though I was initially drawn into JoAnna’s story, and despite the book being very short, it has taken me over a year to finally finish A Glimpse of Heaven and feel ready to post this review.

A Glimpse of Heaven covers more than just JoAnna’s brief visit to heaven. It also contains other powerful spiritual experiences, including several pre-birth experiences with her soon-to-be children. If you’ve been following me for awhile you know that I adore pre-birth experiences. So I loved reading about JoAnna’s.

One of the things that struck me as I read the book was just how much JoAnna and I have in common. It was so validating to read about her search to find the son she had been told through the voice of the Spirit to find. In the years she spent searching, she was given more and more information through personal revelation about this son, including his name and the name of the young girl she would find him with. I myself have also been given specific details about a son I have yet to bear. Sometimes I can’t help wondering if I’m making it all up, but at the same time the things I have been taught through the Spirit about my son feel very much real. The connection I feel to him is real. Reading JoAnna’s specific spiritual guidance about her future son felt like another witness from God that I’m not crazy. Mothers really can be given specific details about the children who will be coming to their families.

Another piece of JoAnna’s journey that struck me was her family’s struggle with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). Here’s a brief summary of the condition:

“Reactive attachment disorder develops because the child’s basic needs for comfort, affection and nurturing aren’t met and loving, caring attachments with others are never established. This may permanently change the child’s growing brain, hurting the ability to establish future relationships” (Source).

After adopting two orphans from Russia, JoAnna’s family learned first-hand what RAD was and how painful it can be for those who are dealing with it. Many children who have experienced neglect and/or abandonment in their infancy or early childhood later struggle with RAD. Joanna’s adopted children were among them. She said:

“If there is one lesson I have walked away with after having lived with children with RAD, it is that we must make sure that the infants and toddlers of our world receive the love and nurturing they need. Our children are priceless, and we must not take our responsibility for them lightly” (p. 75).

It breaks my heart to think of all the children out there in the world who do not have loving caregivers. Mothers have so much power! Loving mothers are key to the normal development of children’s brains. Zion, the pure in heart, will never be built without loving mothers to protect those pure hearts in their infancy. We are literally molding the future of humanity. That is no small thing.

I’m grateful A Glimpse of Heaven appeared in my life when it did. Though I found the structure and organization of the book somewhat scattered, it has many treasures to enjoy in its 111 pages. It would appeal to women struggling with depression, women waiting for future children, women seeking to adopt, those with chronic health difficulties seeking relief, and those who enjoy near-death experience accounts. You can read more about JoAnna and A Glimpse of Heaven on her website HERE.

Sacred Space for Birth, Part 1

November 4, 2013 in Birth Stories, Cesarean, Depression, Education, Faith, home birth, hospital birth, Lani, Midwives, Personal Revelation, Postpartum Depression, Prayer, Preparation, Traumatic Birth, VBAC, Waiting

1011942_669099829783949_352451545_nCherise is an Arizona Mother, Doula, Childbirth Educator, Placenta Crafter, and Creator of the marvelous “Big Baby Project” (a website full of empowering vaginal births of babies 9 lbs and over). I love how her story illustrates what I wrote about in my essay “Unity with Providers of Care” in The Gift of Giving Life. I love that Cherise continued to search and pray until she found the right care provider for her. -Lani

 

Sacred Space for Birth, Part 1
By Cherise Sant

My first encounter with childbirth started with the birth of my first child. That experience was eye opening, disappointing, affirming, traumatic, magical, overwhelming and set the stage for the worst depression of my life. I had resisted an induction but eventually caved to the pressure I was receiving from my obstetrician. The ultimate result was a healthy baby boy born via cesarean and my broken heart and body.

My second birth was an empowering vaginal birth in the hospital, but I was met with mistrust, abandonment and even violence though I had carefully chosen my provider and a “natural birth friendly” hospital. Even more disenchanting was to have my baby caught by a resident student as there was no obstetrician in the hospital at that time. If something catastrophic had occurred, I would either have had to wait until someone arrived or transfer to another hospital. It was then that I asked myself, “Why did I get out of my bathtub at home and tear down the freeway in transition to come here and meet negativity and contention when the help I was going to the hospital to potentially receive wasn’t even there?” I knew my next baby would be born at home. Should a need arise, I would then go to a hospital.

Three and a half years later, the month after my daughter weaned, I became pregnant again. Thankfully, there were a handful of midwives who had extra credentials, allowing them to legally attend me in a VBAC at home. I began to interview them. The first one I interviewed was “the one” – or so I thought, until I knelt down and prayed to know if she was. Very clearly, the answer was “no.” I was stunned. I knelt there in a sour stupor, trying to work out what that meant. Did that mean I wasn’t supposed to pursue a home birth? Was I willing to go back to the hospital? The next couple of weeks reflected no progress on the part of my attitude. I knelt down again and asked, hoping maybe I wasn’t clear that first time, but very clearly, the answer that came again was, “She’s not the one for you.”

I didn’t know whether this birth would involve a tragedy, but there was one person that did know all, and that was the Lord. So I resigned my will and continued the search. I was not only searching for a provider, but also asking whether home birth was the Lord’s will for my family. I really had to search myself- why did I want this? After a lot of prayer and contemplation I concluded that it was because I wanted my birth to be treated as sacred. I wanted the spirit of love to be unrestrained. I knew that would best be achieved in my home, with people I knew beforehand rather than meeting a stranger in a hospital and hoping for the best.

I interviewed another midwife, and then another. Their philosophies clearly did not match my own and I was feeling defeated. At the time I was teaching childbirth education at an obstetrician’s office, and knowing that she was more mother-baby-friendly than most, I considered choosing a hospital birth with her. Still, there was no peace and approaching my 17th week I felt like I was running out of time. I did NOT want a last minute scramble. I continued to pray, search my scriptures and explore my thoughts and feelings about all of the possibilities.

One weekend, I was volunteering at a birth event where a screening of a popular birth movie was taking place. I was sharing my dilemma with a friend and fellow birth worker. She then told me about a midwife who was credentialed to attend VBACs at home and that she’d been in practice for 30 years. In that moment, something came over my body, mind and Spirit that had never happened before. My bosom burned like a fire, and my mind flooded with messages of love and support from my Heavenly Father. I knew for certain that she was the one I was looking for. I got her information and sat down for an “interview,” though I already knew she was the one.

It turned out that not only did our philosophies match but she was the only midwife in the state (of whom I was aware) with the skills and support I was looking for. (And I was pretty picky.) In particular I wanted someone who was comfortable enough to use only her fetoscope during labor instead of the Doppler. I wanted access to herbal knowledge and teas – which she had an abundance of! The Lord knew exactly what I was looking for and wanted, and he was providing for me. I felt so loved.

Even still, the weight of my decision caused me to doubt. I prayed and sat down with my scriptures yet again. I opened right up to scripture which basically said to me, “I already answered your question, don’t keep searching for what you already have.” I prayed prayers of gratitude for my answer and continued to prepare.

Look for Part 2 (the birth story) in a future post…