Tuesday, February 12, 2019

[just sit with me]

I had an interesting realization on Sunday.

I was at a ward conference. 2 of my dear friends were sitting in front of me. Both have experienced a profound loss. One buried her husband. And one buried her son. Another dear friend was sitting behind me. She also has experienced profound loss with the recent burial of her son.

After the closing hymn, I watched as the friends in front of me wrapped their arms around each other in a warm hug with tears streaming down their cheeks. As I touched their shoulders, they both turned and we were able to share that moment - heart to heart - no words spoken.

As I was leaving the chapel, I stopped to visit with my other friend, and as we clasped hands and spoke of eternity, there was a strong spirit of kinship and love.

I thought about the 4 of us. Grief runs deep in our veins and occasionally spills out through our eyes. Anyone who knows us also knows the loss we've experienced. Because they know that, they are more lenient with random tears and the sadness that lingers just under the surface, bubbling up now and again and affecting us in different ways.

It was comforting to know that the 4 of us could just sit together in our grief. No words needed. No discomfort at our tears or our sadness. There is something so incredibly profound about having someone just sit with you in your grief. It's healing. And wonderful.

And then I looked around. And I saw others in the congregation with tears in their eyes. I don't know their stories. I don't know their heartache. I don't know what grief runs deep in their veins. I don't know if anyone just sits with them in their grief, or if, because their grief is less known or visible than ours, that they carry that burden alone.

"In the quiet heart is hidden sorrows that the eye can't see."

The other day, through a comment made on Facebook, I inadvertently hurt one of my friends. A newly grieving momma that I should have been more aware of, more encouraging to. Even after apologizing, my heart still carries that prick of guilt for hurting her. I wish I would have chosen, instead, to just sit with her. To just love her. I think this is something that I need to work on.

"I will learn the healer's art. To the wounded and the weary I will show a gentle heart. I will be my brother's keeper. Lord, I will follow thee."

Friday, February 1, 2019


A couple of mornings ago, I stepped outside at still dark-thirty to take Sparky potty. It was that time of morning that is super black, just before dawn. I looked up at the sky and noticed a tiny sliver of the moon shining brightly in perfect alignment with Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn. Because the night was so dark, the moon and stars seemed extra bright.

I kept thinking how pretty that little crescent moon was. How brightly it shined. I'm not an astronomer, so I don't know the reason, but the moon felt extra close too. I could see the "dark" part of the full moon and I noticed that it also seemed to be shining. Dimly for sure, but there was still light there.

And I got to thinking...no one looks at that pretty little crescent moon and decides that because the full moon isn't shining that the moon has no value. No one tells the moon that because it isn't fully illuminated that it's not worthy or valuable or important. In fact, even when the moon is almost completely dark, no one questions its place or its importance. We all simply know that sooner rather than later, the moon will shine again. We accept that. And we honor all of the phases of the moon.

So...why is it different with people?

Why is it when someone is in a crescent moon phase, we think something is wrong with them? Or that we need to fix them somehow? Why can't we just accept that for a minute they're going to need to shine at crescent moon capacity? Why can't we celebrate that they are still shining? And maybe align ourselves with them like Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn?

Why can't we see that even the parts of our friend that have gone dark for a bit are still shining? And why can't we encourage and defend and honor those moments? Even the parts that, momentarily, may have gone dark?

That same day, when I went out to get the mail, there was a card addressed to me from a friend that I have not seen in person since the fall of 2013. Inside that card was the sweetest note and a gift card to my favorite soda shop. And for a few minutes, I felt like that little crescent moon - being seen, loved, and celebrated, even though for most of January, parts of me had gone dark. I thought about the previous week when my friends aligned themselves with me to hold me in place as my heart broke again and I went dark for a time.

As I move out of my crescent moon phase, I look around and see that my friends didn't leave. They didn't question. They didn't try to fix me. They simply let me be sad, and celebrated the fact that I was still shining. Still standing.

I want to be like my friends. I want to be an aligner. A celebrator. A defender.

Perhaps, maybe, especially when someone enters a crescent moon phase, we could all be a little more gentle with each other.
A little more understanding. A little more willing to honor.

And perhaps, maybe, we can all be a lot more willing to celebrate those who shine even when they seem to have gone dark...

Wednesday, January 23, 2019



Not gonna lie. Yesterday was rough.
6 years without our Kenton hit me like a freight train.

How very grateful I am for those who reached out through text, FB, mail, poem, and prayer.

When I crawled into bed last night, I couldn't help but pause in a prayer of gratitude for the people in my life that are my placeholders. 

Let me explain what I mean by placeholder...
Do you remember when you were in elementary school and waiting in line for say, the drinking fountain or your turn while playing HORSE at recess? And all of a sudden you really REALLY had to go to the bathroom? So your friend in front of you and your friend behind you became your placeholder as you left the line - holding your place until you returned.

As an adult, that same thing happens. At least for me. I hope you have placeholders too. Friends in front and friends in back who hold your place when you need a breather. Friends we see and friends we don't.

"In the gospel of Jesus Christ, you have help from both sides of the veil, and you must never forget that. When disappointment and discouragement strike - and they will - you remember and never forget that if our eyes could be opened, we would see horses and chariots of fire as far as the eye can see riding at reckless speed to come to our protection. They will always be there." [Jeffrey R. Holland]

Yesterday I was reminded so clearly that I have many, many placeholders. Some are constant there in line with me. I see them frequently. We interact frequently. Others are what I call my "fringe placeholders." They're the ones that, although we don't interact frequently, and we rarely see each other, are there by my side when I fall out of line for a bit. The card sent in the mail every.single.year to arrive exactly on Kenton's angel day. The text the day before angel day every.single.year that just says, "I'm praying for you guys!" The bouquet of roses that arrive in the arms of one of my dear sweet other daughters. 

I think that placeholders are more crucial to our well-being than we realize. 

They're the ones who catch us when we fall. The ones who carry us when we're weak. The ones who hold a place for us when we just need a minute to breathe. They're the ones who bring us back to ourselves.

Elder Neil L. Andersen, in his talk, Wounded, from October 2018 General Conference said, "We search for happiness. We long for peace. We hope for love. And the Lord showers us with an amazing abundance of blessings. But intermingled with the joy and happiness, one thing is certain: there will be moments, hours, days, sometimes years when your soul will be wounded. Wounds of the soul are not unique to the rich or the poor, to one culture, one nation, or one generation. They come to all and are part of the learning we receive from this mortal experience. Even with your own painful wounds, you will instinctively reach out to others, trusting in the Savior's promise: 'Whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.' The wounded who nurse the wounds of others are God's angels on earth."

"The Lord will surround and protect [us] with chariots of fire, as He did for Elisha, in the form of parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors, leaders, and friends who will vigorously love them. "They that be with us are more than they that be with them." [Sharon G. Larson, October 2001 General Conference: "Fear Not: For They That Be With Us Are More."]

Today, I return to my position as placeholder. Grateful to those angels who held my place as my wounded soul took a day to grieve. Today, I am determined to stand, to ride in those chariots of fire, and to love vigorously. 

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.