Sunday, April 22, 2018

[recognizing the hand of God]

[a bit of back story into today's writing...]

I've been a little weepy this week.

Our first graduation announcement arrived the other day. I knew it was coming because Tiff, with her wonderfully sensitive and caring heart, had asked if Max could send one or if it would be too painful. How grateful I am for friends who continue to carry our hearts in such personal and thoughtful ways.

Even with the advance notice, I have to admit, opening that announcement was bittersweet. It opened a whole new level of grief to be dealt with. And that's okay. It needed to happen. And now it's open and we can begin to heal that level.

Yesterday, selfishly, I ran away for a while. 
I went to the craft expo in Sandy. 
All alone. A long time in the quiet car. 
Feeling defeated and sad.

On the way home, I needed to stop at WinCo to grab a couple of things. I missed the exit and had to take the next exit, backtracking several miles. I was frustrated because I was ready to be home.

Little did I know then that I was being placed exactly in a position to recognize Heavenly Father's hand in my life as He gave me an opportunity to serve.

I wandered the store, grabbing what we needed. And a few extras of course. 

As I approached the checkout, I chose a line that had one gentleman in line with just a few groceries. Some bananas, some bread, and a few other things. Necessity things. The cashier scanned the gentleman's items and told him the total [$21.28] as I unloaded my very full cart onto the belt.

The gentleman swiped his card. It was declined. 
Embarrassed, he swiped another. It was also declined.
He opened his wallet and several cards fell to the floor.
He asked the cashier to take the bananas and bread off his total.
He tried another card. And another. Both declined.
His hands shook as he tried to put the cards back into his wallet. 
He was ashamed. Hurt. 
Ready to give up and walk away without his groceries.

Suddenly, I felt myself being pushed forward [pretty sure Kenton had been standing there all along just waiting for me to step up on my own, and when I didn't, he gave me a little push!], opening my wallet, and hearing myself say, "Please add the bananas and bread back to his order. Sir, please may I pay for your groceries today?" 

With tears streaming down his weathered cheeks, he humbly nodded and stepped aside so I could swipe my card. Tears welled up in my eyes as I realized then that I had been given that moment to minister to someone. To step outside myself and share the love of our Savior with someone in need.

As this kind gentleman bagged his groceries, he did so with a smile on his face and tears still in his eyes. He thanked me profusely, again, took his bags, and left. I paid for my groceries and began to bag them. The lady behind me put her hand on my arm and said, "Thank you for reminding me how important it is to be kind. You have inspired me to do something for someone today. That was very touching."

I don't share this story as a "look at me" moment. I would rather not share. But I also do not want to forget.

Today during ward conference, and again at standards night, President Acevedo gave us some direction to help us get closer to our Savior. 

He said, "Each morning ask God to put you in someone's path to minister to them."

And each night we should write down the moment we recognized Heavenly Father directing our service. 

I am looking forward to following President's counsel. I know that in doing so I will be able to work through this new level of grief without getting lost in my own sadness. 

A few weeks ago at another ward conference, President said, "We are given many promises, but the storms don't always stop. The enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ is to give us the ability to go on through our trials, to make us like Him by giving us the strength to overcome."

I'm grateful for the opportunity I had to serve yesterday. President Acevedo said, "It is a privilege and duty to lift and to serve others. When we're serving someone else, it's REALLY hard to think about ourselves."

That service I was called to give was simple. It was profound. It reminded me that Heavenly Father is acutely aware of each of us. And he often uses us to answer prayers, spoken and unspoken, of those around us.

"What we think is what we become. What we do is who we are. Choose to be armed with power."

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

[Faith to Conquer Fear]

Sunday at church, the primary kids sang the song "To Be a Pioneer." It had been a rough couple of weeks, and, honestly, I really wasn't paying attention. I was just kind of there. But as they finished the first verse and chorus, and then started the second verse, my heart opened as I heard these words...

"You do need to have great courage, faith to conquer fear..."

Faith to conquer fear. I love that. 

The next verse is exactly what this life is...

"We are marching, ever marching,
We are marching, ever marching,
Marching onward, ever onward..."

That's what life is. Marching onward. With faith enough to conquer fear.

This morning I was reading in 2nd Nephi 31. I challenged my cute Mia Maids on Sunday to read from the Book of Mormon daily like President Acevedo asked us to at Stake Conference in January. His challenge was also to find those verses that had special meaning to us and to write why.

2 Nephi 31 is heavily marked in my scriptures. Nearly every verse is highlighted, and I have added notes from each time I've read or highlighted over the years. This morning there were a few things that I absolutely really loved. 

Verse 3...for my soul delighteth in plainness...for the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding.

Living the gospel is simple. Understanding the gospel is simple. Read the Book of Mormon. It's true. The gospel is true. Heavenly Father loves us. The Atonement is a real and a wonderful gift that allows us access to the faith we need to conquer the fears of living in a time where everything we believe is under attack.

And verse 20...wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, FEASTING upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.

On Sunday I talked with my cute Mia Maids about why they thought President Acevedo asked us to read daily and find why certain scriptures reached out to us during our reading. The answer is right there. FEAST upon the word of Christ. Not nibble. Not snack. Not graze. FEAST. Daily reading helps develop our "scripture voice." That ability to "hear" what messages our Heavenly Father is sending us that day. I know that as we read more consistently, the messages come through so much more clearly.

The reminders throughout chapter 21 to endure to the end and the simpleness that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ always help me realign my will with Heavenly Father's will. They truly give me faith to conquer fear. 

I don't need to know everything right now. Someday I will understand it all. Until then, I will rely on my Savior's perfect love and Atonement to get through the days when I'm ready to quit.

Guys, the church is true and we are so loved.

Monday, May 16, 2016

[you can say yes today...]

3 weeks ago this evening, Luke handed me the phone and shrugged. Anyone who knows me doesn't call. They text. I was confused.

I answered and heard, "Sister Reynolds, this is President Keller..." and then I think I stopped listening for a minute because I couldn't hear over the rapid fire pounding of my heart.

Eventually I heard, "...tomorrow, 8:00? Will that work?" 


Fast forward to the next night at 8. I'm sitting at the stake center facing President Keller and he is telling me that they're calling me to be [you can laugh here, I did - because this is not a calling I have ever heard of!] the stake girl's camp food coordinator.

We chatted for a minute and then he said something that I keep thinking back to.

"You can accept this calling and say yes right now. Or you can say you'll think about it and come back tomorrow to talk to me and say yes then. You are the only one for this calling."

The funny thing is, I didn't feel pressured to accept that calling. Just reassurance that it was, indeed, my calling.

Now, this post really has nothing to do with [ahem] being the stake girl's camp food coordinator, and everything about those 5 words - YOU CAN SAY YES TODAY.

This grief road is a tricky one to navigate. 

There are pitfalls and hidden traps that suck you in without warning and take away your ability to think, to breathe, to move forward for a while.

There are moments of brilliant, heart soothing comfort that give you respite and help rebuild the foundation of your faith.

And there are moments in between. I sometimes wonder if those in between moments are the hardest. They're the ones where you aren't sure what to feel. Are you sad? Angry? Happy? Confused? Unsettled? Anxious? Okay? Worried? More than likely it's all of those all at once.

You start to doubt just about everything about yourself.
And you can feel yourself pulling away from the people who love you and want to help you.
You feel yourself pulling away from the things you love to do.
Why? Because in those in between moments, you can't make things matter.

But here's the deal.
Those things do matter.
Those people matter.
You matter.

What is it that you need on one of those in between days? Is it a nap? Is it a chocolate bar? Is it a milkshake or a big cheeseburger or a little retail therapy? Possibly, yes. And if that's the case, I highly recommend getting that. Within reason of course.

Here's where, at least for me, those five words - YOU CAN SAY YES TODAY - come in to play. 

I can say yes to prayer.
I can say yes to scripture study.
I can say yes to a friend asking if they can help [oh is this ever a hard one for me!!!].
I can say yes to a hug.
I can say yes to Luke bringing dinner home instead of me feeling beaten down because I couldn't manage to get dinner on the table that night. Again.

But here's the biggest one...
I can say yes to service.
I can say yes to helping someone else.
I can say yes to sending a text or a card or a pizza to someone that is struggling.

Because in doing that, I'm saying yes, I see you. 
I understand you.
I'm not judging you.
I love you.

We all need someone to see us.
To love us.

Once in a while, those around us ask for help.
Most of the time they don't.
We have to be listening. 
That's my calling.

So when I'm listening and I get that prompting to just be nice...
And so can you...

Friday, May 13, 2016

[In the arena]

Wow, guys! I didn't realize that so many of you were still here. My heart smiled with each comment you left, whether here, on Facebook, or in a text. Thank you for loving us still.

My heart has been pretty tender this week.

Mother's Day does that more than most other days.

I see post after post of Skype calls home from missionaries.
That still really rocks me to the core.
I try so hard not to be jealous.
Or angry.
Sometimes I'm successful.
Usually I retreat for a while instead.
Allow myself to just feel.
Eventually, I can be happy for those moms that get the phone call home.
It just takes some time.

On each of the past two Mother's Days, I have one friend who, in the midst of her excitement to talk to her own missionary, has taken a moment to text me - a simple text - "I wish they had Skype in Heaven so you could get a call today too." The text that always brings me to tears. Tears of gratitude for her concern, her friendship, her love, her unselfish heart.

Other texts come - they range from long thoughts to simply "Love you - thinking of you - praying for you" kinds of texts. Texts from friends who have lived our story with us.

And this year, two new friends touched my heart so profoundly. One simply wrapped her arms around me and said, "I just love you." The other pulled me into a hug and said, "You're so brave." And while I certainly didn't feel completely brave - I felt exposed and scared and angry and sad - I showed up at church anyway.

Because that's what we do.
We show up.
We show up when we feel brave.
We show up when we feel scared.
We show up when we feel angry.
We show up when we feel sad.

Some people see only our brave, but seem to instinctively know that there is fear under that bravery. Fear and anger and hurt and grief. And sadness. They encourage our brave by allowing those other feelings a place as well. By not walking away when those other things show up so much more glaringly.

Others choose to only see our sad.

I know that's the easiest to see.
It's so much more visual than brave.

You know what I've learned though?
It takes bravery to be sad.
No, that's not quite right.
It takes bravery to show sad.

"I've learned that the people who love me, the people I really depend on, were never the critics who were pointing at me while I stumbled. They weren't in the bleachers at all. They were with me in the arena. Fighting for me and with me.

"Nothing has transformed my life more than realizing that it's a waste of time to evaluate my worthiness by weighing the reaction of the people in the stands. The people who love me and will be there regardless of the outcome are within arm's reach. This realization changed everything." - Brene' Brown

So why do we do it?
Why do we allow you to see these parts of us?
The parts that are terrifying and uncomfortable for both us and you.
Why don't we choose to show only the brave?

"We simply can't learn to be more vulnerable and courageous on our own. Sometimes, our first and greatest dare is asking for support." - Brene' Brown

I have a friend who is going through a very deep and personal trial right now.
It would be so much easier for me to stay on the sidelines and allow someone else to fight with her in the arena.
But she needs me.
She needs what I've learned.
What I've experienced.
And so, I'm stepping into the arena.
I'll stand with her.
I'll fight with her.
And for her.
Because she shouldn't have to do this alone.
None of us should have to do this alone.

Are you willing to step into the arena with someone?
To stand with them instead of walking away?
It doesn't have to be a grand show.
Choose to engage instead of disengage.
To love instead of judge.
It's hard.
Sometimes it's dang hard.
Chances are you'll probably cry.
I can almost guarantee you'll be uncomfortable.
No one ever grew without a little bit of discomfort.

Please pray for us.
For me.
For my family.
And for my friend.
The story is hers to share when and if she chooses.
But I'm pretty sure that Heavenly Father will know who you're talking about when you ask for strength, guidance, courage, peace, and comfort for "Deb's friend."
He's pretty great that way.

Guys, we need each other.
We all need each other.
You can give someone courage by standing with them and fighting for them.
And in the end, you'll be surprised by how much that act of standing changes you too.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

[Daring Greatly]

For a few months, close to a year now, ever since I decided to take a leave of absence from teaching, Heather has been hinting flat out telling me that I need to read a few books - Daring Greatly, Rising Strong, and Big Magic.

I don't like to be told what to do. ;)
So I resisted.

Until now.

Yesterday afternoon, knowing that I couldn't do much of anything since my back is still being super awesome, I went to the library and picked up Daring Greatly. I thought for sure it would be good and would give me something to do while I sit around recuperating, but questioned whether it would be that good. Like, do I really need to fork out ten bucks for a book on being brave?!

Came home, had dinner, and posted on Instagram and Facebook about my library choices. Immediately, friends started posting how much they adore Brene' Brown - how she just "gets it" - how "life changing" her books are. 

I was still skeptical.

Bedtime - Luke heated up the big heat pack for my back and I crawled into bed with this book (and a super awesome headlamp, but hey, ya gotta do what ya gotta do!) thinking I'd read a few pages before falling asleep...

56 pages in and I could have kept reading. The problem was - this was not my book. I couldn't write in it. I couldn't highlight things. I couldn't tag pages. 

I ordered my own copy this morning. :)

What's so great about this book? It's hard to pinpoint for me right now. There are phrases that jumped out so strongly. Paragraphs that spoke to my heart. 

Phrases like this one...

Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage.

Heather warned me to be prepared to feel all the feelings. She wasn't wrong.

I had tears. I smiled. I cringed. I was encouraged. I was scared. 

For a long time, I have felt that I needed to return to this blog - Kerry encouraged my return several months ago, but at that point, I was not ready. 

Now, I am. I'm ready to share more of our story. More of our healing process. 

To say that this isn't scary to me would be less than true. But I'm ready.

We get from a lot of people that we should be past this. That we should be happy all the time (which, really?! - is anyone ever happy all the time?!). That our grief timeline has closed.

Truth? You never get past something like this. 
Anyone who says they have is lying.

But how can you know that about us if we don't let you see it? How can you relate to us or to anyone who has had to bury a child if we don't share those parts of us that make us who we are now. We're different than we were before Kenton died. And yet, in some ways, we're the same.

Kenton is such a part of who we are as a family. He is our boy. Forever our boy. And missing him is something we will always feel. 

Some days that grief is like a sliver that only hurts when you pick at it. Some days, that grief is like a stubbed toe that is a dull ache. And some days, that grief is still blinding - hurting so badly that you can't catch your breath.

It's normal. 
We're not crazy. 
We're not focused on our grief. 

We are still living. We work, we play, we serve, we love. But that sadness is part of who we are.

And so, I'm back. You're welcome to stay. Pull up a chair and stay. Or, you're welcome to go. I won't be offended. Sometimes, the story being shared isn't a good fit for where we are in our lives. I get that. 

If you stay, please talk to me. Or don't. Maybe you're not in a place where you're ready to engage in conversation about any of this. Maybe you just need to see my openness for a while. And that's okay.

If you're ready to engage, please leave a comment, a question - let me know that you're here. What of our story touches you? What scares you? What makes you want to be better or stronger or more gentle?

This is our story. This is our life. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

730 days

2 years ago, we were sitting in Kenton's hospital room.  
The 4 of us.  
Our forever family.

Blinds pulled.  
Silent except for the sound of sniffles and tissues wiping tears.

We held on to each other, prayerful, hurting, as we faced a decision that had blind-sided us.  Knocked our feet out from under us.

The facts were sprawled out in front of us, like barbs on a wire fence.  
Each fact tearing at us, leaving us wounded. 

Just a few hours later, our Bishopric would arrive.  
We would talk.  
We would cry.  
We would continue to hold on to each other.  

And then we would know.

After individual priesthood blessings.  
After the hours of prayer and tears.  

We would know.

And just like that.  Decision made.  Not lightly.  Not in a moment of panic or despair.  

But in a moment in that hospital room that was full of angels. We felt them there. Holding us in our moments of heartache and despair.  Sadness and heartbreak. We felt familiar angels. Loved ones gone before sent to comfort. And to grieve with us.

In a moment that was filled with both peace and anguish, we would know.  

We would nod as Kenton looked at each of us, tears spilling out onto his cheeks, telling us, "We stop treatment."

It was a moment pressed into our hearts by a loving Father in Heaven letting us know that Kenton's earthly mission was nearing completion.  That he had served well. Faithfully. Bravely.

There were so many more tears.  
We knew what that decision meant.  

It meant signing DNR papers.  
It meant talking about things like hospice. 

And funerals.

And it meant talking about things like eternal families. 
Heavenly Father. 
The Plan of Salvation. 

How I wish our family been granted an old-man life span for our Kenton. 

Some day this will all make sense.  
Today is not that day.

2 years ago.  
730 days.
It feels like only yesterday.  

And yet, it feels like forever.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

[insert kicking, screaming, weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth]

We're so not ready for the break to be over.

And January is such a hard month anyway....

That's all.