Hinges

May 13, 2022

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

This morning I got a notification from Google photos from four years ago.  I tapped on it and it was a picture of my mom and dad sitting next to a small Layne.  I scrolled through the photos of that visit that seems like a lifetime ago.  It wasn’t a perfect visit.  It was awkward, but we could sit in the same room and at least on the surface, everything was okay.  

And then I watched as pictures and videos of joyous times scrolled past.  Austin with his chubby baby cheeks, Pepper in her tiny puppyhood, and then later as her body leaned out into adolescence.  Every moment was so beautiful and yet tinged with the pain of loss.  My boys are growing up.  Things will never be as they were.  Also the crushing feelings of inadequacy.  I should have loved them better!  I should have enjoyed those moments more!  If I had been someone else, something else…… I know it doesn’t make sense.  Even as the tears pour down my face, it doesn’t make sense.  It just hurts.

I hate depression.  I hate the self loathing.  I hate the negative self talk stream in my head.  I hate the fog that leeches the beauty away from my eyes.  I wish I could banish it.  Like Pandora in reverse, I could trap it away in a box.  But it never goes away forever.  I can come up for air sometimes.  Sometimes I actually feel good for a while.  I just have to remember that those times exist and will come back again.  

I just came off my period.  I didn’t bleed much but I had more flow than usual.  I also had abdominal pain, bloating, weight gain, and mood issues.  I also am still recovering from Covid.  I tested positive about a month ago. It was a mild case and although I haven’t had symptoms of the actual illness for a couple of weeks, I am still trying to dig myself out of a hole of housework and garden chores that have piled up.  Also, my oldest son has been taking all his end of the year AP exams and auditioning for marching band leadership so he hasn’t been doing his chores.  (Not that he was doing much before.)  Whenever I ask the other boys for help with his chores they get resentful and whiney.  

I wish I was someone who could stand up to my kids, be confident, and not wallow in self conscious indecision! I’m weak.  I know it.  And all I can do is wish things were different. Or do I? Can I shame myself into becoming that person? Can I force myself; to squeeze the last drop of physical and emotional energy to reshape myself into the assertive and powerful persona I desire?

As I reflect on that, I remember some thoughts I had a while back about how through therapy, I’ve come to see how little control we really have over our lives.  We are born to parents who are given the impossible task of nurturing us in a fallen world full of problems.  Those parents have scars from their own childhoods and they pass on the injuries to their children.  Like a blight in the garden, young and old, no one is spared.  This world is not a Garden of Eden full of fruit and flowers. It is a wilderness full of disease and decay.

That realization has given me compassion for myself, my parents, and all the other miserable hurting humans on this planet.  It has taken away the sting of my judgement.  I have set down the judge’s gavel to extend a hand of fellowship.  I know, even in this season of doubt when the mustard tree of faith goes limp in the hot sun, that a better being will come along who is worthy of that mantle.  As for me, I will be a friend to mankind.  

Just as important as that vital truth is its opposite.  I may not have much control over my life.  I may be a victim of a myriad of circumstances.  Still, I have more control over my life than anyone else does.  I have the power I need.  God has given me what I need to accomplish His purposes, I just have to figure out how.  Like a gate, the power is in the hinge.  The gate cannot control the weather, the soil, the material it is constructed of, or anything else, but it can swing open and shut.  It is small, but the hinge is key.

I am swimming today in an ocean of hormonal chaos.  I can’t change that cocktail, but I can choose to have faith in the Master who calmed the tempest.  This storm will pass.  The laundry will get done- or not.  The kids will finish out the school year.  There will be many messes and too much screen time this summer.  There will be imperfect family outings and many things broken.  I can choose to embrace broken things.  I can choose to see the beauty in myself and my imperfect life.  

I can choose to take the emotional energy I have and give myself a hug.  I visualized myself split into two beings.  One a mother, and one a sad young teenaged girl.  The girl was overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy in a changing body she didn’t understand.  The mother just sat next to her on the couch and cradled her head.  The mother couldn’t tell her that someday she would understand the strange cycle of physical and emotional changes of womanhood.  She couldn’t reassure her that it wouldn’t get worse and more difficult to manage.  She could only just sit with her; both of them conscious of the complexity and challenge of it all, but knowing that they weren’t alone.  

I’ve been embracing my inner teenager lately. As my oldest son enters his senior year, I am awash in memories of my own high school days. Life is too short to have boring hair. Teenagers understand that and so do I!
Ben and I raised some black swallowtail butterflies. Saturday I looked in the cage and saw that a butterfly had slipped out of his chrysalis and onto the floor. He was struggling in a wrinkled and mishappen tangle, his abdomen swollen with fluid that could not fill his wings. I picked him up and suspended him for many desperate moments as he made the transition to his new life as a butterfly. Here he is all ready to make his way in the world! As Mother Theresa would say, “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.”

Fighting Monsters

Photo by Marjan Blan | @marjanblan on Unsplash

It seems like a different world today than the one in which I watched Kamiela Valieva skate. With the world, I was horrified as the abuse of that child was revealed. She was drugged by her coaches in a vile bid to boost her performance for their own gain. What kind of people give heart medication to a fifteen year old child? As a mother of teenagers, I was enraged. Russia was again revealed as guilty of cheating, but this case was especially horrific because they had drugged a child. Then, in the aftermath, Valieva was allowed to skate. It was a dicey situation because while she should not be punished for her abuse allowing her to skate ended up compounding the trauma. Under the incredible pressure from the controversy she humiliated herself with the worst performance of her career. Favored to win the gold, she didn’t get a medal at all.

And so the beautiful and talented Valineva takes her place with the other girls who have been abused by the Olympic system. I can’t help but see it as fundamentally exploitative at best, and blatantly abusive and harmful at worst. Even the United States has had problems with child abuse. Larry Nassar was allowed access to girls for years, so we are not without our own problems, but Russia is on another level and not just in sports.

Even before the Olympics ended, Russia began to put in motion its diabolical plan to invade Ukraine. I braced myself to endure another humiliating defeat for Democracy on the world stage. After Syria and Afghanistan, I thought I knew the plot of this story fairly well. The West fears an escalating confrontation, we retreat, and evil men seize power and victimize the innocent. The forces of tyranny get the upper hand because they care nothing for the suffering of the people and the forces of civilization don’t care enough to stop it. Enter Ukraine.

They refused to accept defeat in the face of Russian aggression. Their President, Vlodomir Zelenskyy, the man Donald Trump tried to exploit to hurt Joe Biden’s campaign, has become an unlikely hero. Refusing to evacuate to safety, he has stayed in Kiev. He has rallied his people and the world to the defense of freedom, insisting that the capitulation and retreat of the West must end. He has cast this battle for Ukraine as a battle for the survival of Democratic values.

Ukraine has suffered greatly in the past week. It is hard to comprehend what is going on because the reports and video clips are only fragments of the larger picture. There are millions of refugees. Men of fighting age are forbidden from leaving the country. They must stay and fight. Many are staying and fighting. The scenes are part horrifying and part inspiring as untrained civilians are handed high powered assault rifles. Video clips and images of brave Ukrainians have gone viral.

The Russian state has become a pariah with almost all nations rallying behind Ukraine and refusing to do business with it. Airlines won’t fly to Russia or allow Russian planes to land. Financial sanctions have caused economic devastation. Brave Russians have taken to the streets to protest the war. Russian soldiers are horrified to be fighting against civilians who hate them, taunt them, and thwart them at every turn. The Russian propaganda disintegrates in the sunshine of Ukrainian reality. This is no just war of liberation, it is a naked aggression against innocent people who just want to be left in peace. Putin’s position both at home and abroad has never been so weak.

It is an inflection point and we have Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people to thank. Large gates swing on small hinges and they have turned the tide against authoritarianism. Their fate as a nation is far from certain, but the movement they have set in motion is extraordinary. They have united the badly fractured population of free people and changed the world.

Zelenskyy in particular is a remarkable figure. He is a modern day David staring down a modern day Goliath. People will be writing songs, books, and movies about this for centuries. Only time will tell how the story will end, but even if they go out Alamo style, they will still be heroes and their story will inspire generations. Zelenskyy may die, but Putin will not outlive him long I think.  And Zelenskyy has earned immortality with the courage of his leadership; Putin with his villainy.  

I told my boys that I’ve never seen anything like Zelenskyy in my lifetime.  The only comparison I can think of is George Washington, but even he wasn’t the sitting President during the war.  Also Zelenskyy is a lawyer, an actor, and a neophyte politician.  He’s never been a soldier.  He’s the perfect projection for the everyman called to save the world.  He’s small and inexperienced.  His entire persona is comedic.  He reminds me of Mr. Bean.  And yet, he has managed to transform his persona in the past few days into a tough guy who makes Vladimir Putin himself look like an imitation.  (And he is.)  It is as though the monomyth has come to life; the hero’s journey.

Each day of this conflict I have prayed that Zelenskyy would survive.  Each morning, I unlock my phone to see if he lives and if Kiev is still standing.  The words to the Star Spangled Banner run through my mind…..”oh say does that star spangled banner yet wave?”  Have they been overcome?  Each morning I have exclaimed, “Oh thus be it ever when free men shall stand, between their loved homes and the war’s desolation; blessed with victory and peace, may the heaven rescued land praise the power that has made and preserved us a nation!”  

My prayers and the prayers of so many of God’s children have been answered.  Putin has not overcome Ukraine.  Yet.  Today I am going to fast for Ukraine.  I don’t fast.  I haven’t fasted in over seven years.  Because my depression medication has to metabolize, I must eat every day.  Still, I must fast for them.  Even if it kills me, I must do it.  If my faith can be even a mustard seed right now, maybe it can make a difference.  Ukraine must not fall to Putin’s Russia.  

In a world of discouragement, Ukraine and her leader have inspired me to fight. Fight depression, fight cynicism, fight the voice that says I can’t make a difference. The American experiment isn’t over.

Watching the tenacity and resolve of the Ukrainians has healed a part of my soul that was broken when we betrayed the Kurds.  That trauma, compounded by my mom and my aunts, birthed a stone in my heart.  I felt like my patriotism died.  It would stir a little bit every so often, but it was on life support.  Ukraine has given it new life.  We have rallied behind Ukraine as I wish we had Rojava.  The Kurds were no less valorous and worthy, but they were stateless and so few people were aware of them.  Also, we have a real President now and not a Putin sympathizer. 

My country is not dead after all.  It was gravely wounded by Trump’s betrayal, first of the Kurds and later of our Afgan allies.  Biden handled the Afganistan pullout badly, but he never would have been put in the situation if it wasn’t for Trump.  I am convinced Trump orchestrated the treaty with the taliban as a favor to Putin.  There is a special place in hell for men like Trump and Putin and their ilk.  They stand next to Satan and do his bidding as the rivers run with the blood of the innocent.  They spit on the graves of brave and valiant men they cannot understand and secretly fear.  They seize power they aren’t fit to have and use it to terrorize and destroy everything good and beautiful.  

There is no legitimate compromise with evil like that.  It sticks to the soul like tar to a shoe.  Don’t touch it.  Stay far away from it.  Don’t fear it because it can smell fear and exploit it.  The only solvent is resolve; the kind of determination that has no boundaries.  What are you afraid to lose?  Resolve that you sacrifice it if you have to in order to win because losing isn’t an option.  Nothing can be held back.  The Ukrainians understand that, but as Americans we have become soft.  We have allowed our enemies to divide us and pit us against one another.  Ukraine has shown us what real courage in a real fight for freedom looks like. 

I couldn’t sleep last night.  Even with sedatives and a sleeping pill, I still was up with my mind racing until after 1:00 am.  I thought of how I would like to talk to the Ukrainians and tell them stories about the Marquis de Lafayette and the Baron Von Stuben; about the birthing of the first international fight for freedom in the American revolution.  I would tell them about Washington and how he would ride out in front of enemy lines on his horse to rally his troops with courage.  I would tell them about the Valley Forge where America was smelted in the bitter cold of that dark night; that from the hell of that winter, America rose in triumph.  We surprised the world because no one believed we could win against a far superior army.  It was an imperialist army of mercenaries and they were fighting the resolve of a people just coming into their own identity. 

I imagined I looked into their eyes. I could see them and feel their pain, their fear, their discouragement.  And then I prayed.  I felt the sleeping pill taking effect and I don’t think my words were very coherent.  I know they were probably slurred.  I prayed for God to forgive me my sins.  I prayed for Ukraine, and especially Zelenskyy.  I prayed for the refugees.  I prayed for the Russians that God would soften their hearts.  I stumbled my way to my bed and fell asleep at last.  In the morning, I could not get up.  I couldn’t even pick up my phone.  I just laid there and felt waves of despair and self loathing.  Why can I not be strong like the Ukrainians?  

But I am strong.  I asked for help. I rested a few hours.  I got out of bed.  I put on my workout clothes and now I am going to exercise.  I will fight the depression.  I will win.  I always do.  I will fight the discouragement and self loathing.  I am beautiful.  I am empathic.  I am sensitive.  I was created by God to be who I am and I deserve to exist; just like Ukraine deserves to exist.  I will stand up and fight another day against the monster in my head.  

Beauty in Broken Places

I watched Kamila Varieva skate last night.  There is something different about her.  The announcers see it and struggle to describe it.  It isn’t that she’s an excellent athlete, artist, and performer.  It is all those things, but there is a secret ingredient that is impossible to define.  I have watched hundreds of skaters perform, but Varieva is different.  I’ve turned it over and over in my mind.  Why?

Kamila Varieva performs her short program in which she broke the record with her score. She is currently competing in the 2022 olympic winter games.

I can only think she has tapped into something inside herself; a divine spark or a secret knowledge about who she is and what her purpose is.  She is able to express on the ice something that every person on the planet longs for whether they know it or not.  She is her authentic self. Without excuse, without deception, without holding anything back; she bares her soul for the world to see.  

Everyone knows she has dedicated her life to skating.  She lives and breathes it.  It is almost as though she is some kind of ice creature who was born with skates on her feet and sleeps on a bed of snow. She reveals herself without shame to be judged.  She is the product of Russian discipline, intellect, and skill.  I try to imagine what her life as been.  

I had a childhood friend who was a German exchange student.  She was a beautiful dancer with long blonde hair.  Once we talked about ballet.  She told me her grandmother was a professional ballerina in Hitler’s Germany and she even danced for Hitler once.  She explained how difficult the life of a dancer is in Germany because of the pressure.  She said her grandmother’s feet were badly deformed and she had a lot of problems with them as she aged.  My friend had no desire to become a professional dancer.  She told me stories about Russian dancers.  I remember her look of fear as her gentle accented voice said, “Very few dancers can survive in a Russian school.”  

I assume Kamila Varieva is not a ballet dancer, but she dances like one.  What has she survived in her young life?  Is she like the widows in the Marvel Universe; a slave to forces beyond her control?  Life is complicated and I can only imagine what her life has been and what it will be ten or twenty years from now.  I do know that her skating has inspired me.  I know that somehow, she has taken the life she was given and made something incredibly beautiful that communicates with me across the miles and miles between us; across language and national barriers; beyond culture or race.  She showed me what is possible when you dare to find yourself.  She has done this because of, or perhaps in spite of, the life she was given and the choices she has made.

Sometimes my life feels meaningless.  Living in the city has a soul sucking effect on me.  I am just another person in the line, another face in the crowd, another car on the endless conveyor belt of the metroplex machine.  And yet, I exist.  In this broken world, I can gather up the pieces of my broken self and make something beautiful, something inspiring, something authentic and vulnerable and original.  I can follow the example of that Russian child of fifteen and dare to express the hope that beauty and love and joy are possible.  

In the past two years of this endless pandemic, we have all suffered mentally.  I have been so fortunate to have a counselor to talk to every week even though I can’t see her in person.  In the past six years she has been more than a counselor, she has been a friend.  In spite of the incredible difficulties I have faced, I have thrived.  I feel strong as I find solutions to problems and build a better life for myself.  

I got a set of mandala stencils that I’ve been playing with. I did this in Prisma colored pencils.

Last week I was hit by various triggers.  Like Jack-in-the-Box toys, they all seemed to pop the weasel at the same time.  I did my art.  I allowed myself to feel those feelings I had tucked away because I wasn’t able to process them at the time.  I felt the sadness, the fear, and the anger, and then I spilled them onto the pages of my journal.  Funny thing about Jack-in-the-Box, he can only be triggered if you shut him in the box.  If you open the lid, and let him out on your terms, he loses his power.  It takes so much courage to face your triggers.  It’s worth it.  The feelings aren’t as scary as you think they are.  Just like Jack.    

This mandala is also from a stencil. I am coloring it with Prisma colored pencils, gel pens, and Tombow brush markers.

Today as I did my SuperNatural Oculus Quest workout, sweat was pouring down my face and into my mouth.  I could feel aching muscles as I hit each target.  I remembered Varieva’s grace under enormous pressure, I remembered her falling on the ice after an impossible quad.  She pushed herself past the limit of any woman ever to skate in the olympics.  And she fell.  She got back up and finished her performance.  She wasn’t perfect.  She was still world class; she broke the world record; she was inspiring.  I hope she knows somehow that her fall doesn’t define her.  I hope she will learn the lesson it has taken me a lifetime to learn; that perfection is an illusion.  It limits you.  No one and nothing in the world is perfect.  We can only dare to dance beneath the bar of perfection, and maybe touch it.  Briefly.  Perfection isn’t the goal.  It isn’t the destination.  It can be part of the journey, but God requires us to dance by faith; the faith that grace and beauty can live in broken places and in broken people.

Drawn from stencil with gel pens and brush markers.

When I took off the headset at the end of my workout, I had to blink.  It wasn’t real.  It felt so real!  I thought of the miracle of VR.  I hit targets in China, Scotland, and a dozen other places I didn’t recognize.  Some I couldn’t even pronounce, but I felt like I was there.  I interacted with a coach I’ve never met.   I thought of the science and technology that made such an experience possible.  People can do such incredible things!  God has made us a little below the angels.  He waits for us to find ourselves.  We are the greatest gift he has given us and if we unlock the potential within, we will amaze ourselves with the majesty of his creation.  

Because there are so many people on this planet, it is easy to forget the worth of a soul.  Infinite.  The value of infinite things is a constant.  It doesn’t matter if there are billions of people on this planet, each person is still of infinite value.  Each person, no matter their circumstances or their choices, is touched by the finger of God.  If we want to know God, we can find him by understanding his creation.  The self.  

Thanks for taking this journey with me as I find myself.  Let us join our faith together, take on discouragement and fear, lift ourselves up to dance on this mortal stage, and if we fail, we can pick ourselves up and try again.  The rewards are worth the effort.  

Chasing Rainbows and Fleeing Shadows

Photo by Anton Murygin on Unsplash

Sport’s Illustrated did a story on Shawn Bradley this month.  Shawn Bradley was a larger than life figure for me growing up.  I remember a New Era article showing him with his girlfriend who had to stand on a chair to dance with him.  Basketball was a big deal to me and the small town I grew up in.  Shawn Bradley seemed to have it all.  He was likable, tall, athletic, good looking, and Mormon.  He was everything I wanted in a husband and I happened to marry a man who has all of those same qualities.  I heard vague stories in the background of my life about Shawn Bradley playing professional basketball, but when this Sport’s Illustrated feature came up on my Twitter feed, I was curious.  Surely he was retired by now and coaching or working part-time with speaking engagements or maybe owning car dealerships.  Why would Sport’s Illustrated be interested in that?

Imagine my shock when I read the article describing his life now.  He and his wife of 25 years divorced. The article said that he is estranged from the six children from his first marriage.  Wow.  He remarried and rebuilt a life for himself including the hobby of bicycling.  Unfortunately, he had a tragic biking accident a year ago that left him paralyzed.  Now he is faced with rebuilding his life again as a paraplegic.  My mind keeps returning to Shawn Bradley and the shocking turns his life has taken.

It has been a year since I left the church.  My life is so different today than it was just a year ago.  As I read the article about Shawn Bradley and the state he is in now I see stark parallels between us.  When that New Era article came out, we were different people.  Who could have looked down the long lens of time and seen who we would become?  Who could have anticipated the strange and winding path that would lead us to where we are today in January of 2022?

This January has been different in so many ways.  This month I have been thinking about the concept of self-improvement.  Usually I am busy drafting New Year’s resolutions, but I have been conflicted this year.  My husband is a teacher in the Elder’s Quorum now and he taught a lesson last week based on a talk by Elder Dunn called “One Percent Better.”  I haven’t read or listened to the talk, but the title spurred a lot of thoughts about the concept of self-improvement and the moral imperative to improve the self that I have internalized over my lifetime.  The church is hardly the only source of pressure to improve the self and be constantly striving toward self-improvement.  Schools and workplaces demand it.  Corporations market millions of products promised to improve the self.  Beauty and hygiene commercials stoke fears and anxieties in their audience which they then promise to alleviate. Self-help books persuade us that the drab life we have can be transformed with a few easy steps.  How could I help but internalize the message that the self must be constantly challenged to achievement? The problem with that is that self improvement isn’t always easy or even possible.

What about Shawn Bradley?  Is he a better athlete today than he was a year ago?  Did he fail to improve because he didn’t read the right self-help book?  Did he fail to draft the right New Year’s resolutions?  No.  He fell victim to a condition that all of us will fall to sooner or later.  He fell to mortality.  To live in mortality is to be at constant risk of accident, illness, or death.  To live in mortality is to walk the slow march to the grave.  Rather than a program in self-improvement, mortality is the opposite.  It is a story of decay.  We don’t improve as we age.  Our brains and bodies become less capable as time passes.  We can work to delay this, but we can’t stop it.  

Rather than become despondent in the face of this grim reality, I choose to meditate on it.  What is God trying to teach me?  Obviously, he doesn’t care nearly as much about self improvement as I do.  If he did, he would have designed a mortal experience in which I could incrementally improve over time.  Like a video game, each level I pass I would gain greater skills and freedoms.  At ninety, I would be able to fly, have lightning fast reflexes, a flawless complexion, and the ability to do calculus in my head.  If self improvement, at least as I have internalized the concept, were His goal, He would have designed this world differently.  

Perhaps, I reasoned, the goal is to fight mortality.  I will be 43 this year, but what if I could look and feel like I was 30?  What if I dedicate my life to this end?  I could use plastic surgery, creams, sudoku puzzles, hair dye, and exercise programs in order to cheat mortality and delay the inevitable?  But, what is the purpose in fighting an enemy you will never be able to beat?  And if I did, I would feel like a rabbit trying to outwit a prowling fox; constantly living in fear.  Is that the life God wants for me?  

I don’t have any answers right now and I find I’m okay with that.  A good question takes time to answer and this one won’t likely be answered any time soon.  There is one thing I do know.  The way I have internalized moral self-improvement is toxic.  It has stolen so much joy from my life.  Christ paid the price for me.  I don’t have to earn entrance into His kingdom.  It is a gift.  I wish I could have learned that decades ago.  I have lost teeth to anxiety grinding.  I have trouble with chronic inflammation and joint pain.  My face is etched in worry lines.  Why?  Because I believed for so long that I had to earn God’s love by being more than who I was and always achieving more.  I fear I have set my children’s feet on the same destructive path.  

I had a conversation with my teenager as he was planning his school schedule last year.  He loaded up on AP and pre-AP classes and I wondered why.  Why is he so driven?  Why does he surround himself with friends who are smarter and more talented than he is?  Why does he push himself so hard?  Will he find himself burned out and plagued with numerous health problems in twenty years?  I just told him that I would love him no matter what classes he takes and I warned him that driving himself and pushing himself can have health consequences.  I don’t think my words carried too much weight since he is a teenager and thinks he is invincible.  I am in no rush to convince him otherwise.  He has a whole lifetime to learn the sad truth.  Maybe someday my words will come back to him and help him learn to love himself better.  

Self improvement isn’t always a bad thing, when you know what you’re doing.  My exercise program is in full swing.  It helps me manage my anxiety and sleep better.  It reduces my arthritis and inflammation symptoms.  It especially helps my mood.  When you don’t know what you’re doing, self improvement quests are a different story.  When Ben and I were first married, we lived in a basement apartment underneath a couple from India who were in graduate school.  The man’s name was Ravi and he owned a nice looking red Jeep Cherokee.  Unfortunately, he kept making “improvements” to it.  First, he attached tinted window film that was badly bubbled.  Then, he taped up the car and spray painted it with aerosol cans.  Each month Ben and I would cringe as our neighbor made new changes to his vehicle.  The paint job was especially egregious with patchy coverage and long lines of streaky drips.  I think at some point he jacked up the tires. Ravi had started out with a decent car and ended up with an eyesore.  Sometimes I think my own projects of self improvement have been as amateurish and ill advised as Ravi’s.  Overconfident, I was sure I knew how to improve on God’s creation.  Time and experience have proved I would have been better off just letting myself become who God designed me to be.  He is my creator and I need to learn first about what exactly he has created before I start trying to make changes.  

I pray for Shawn Bradley, his broken family and his broken body.  I pray that as we both face the challenges of mortality, that God will take us by the hand and help us rebuild.  There is a plan and a purpose to our suffering and we are never alone even though it feels like it.  One thing I know, there can be joy during hard times just as there are oases in the desert. Talent and skill don’t produce happiness. Self-improvement is a seductive illusion; the idea that we can craft our own destiny by sheer will is a lie that sells a lot of products but leaves us chasing rainbows and fleeing shadows.  This year I want to focus on understanding myself better.  Maybe then I can cast the beam out of my eye and see myself clearly before attempting my self improvements.  

To all my readers, may you have a blessed new year.  May you recover from your illnesses, may friends be near you to bind up your hurts, may blessings rain down on you from unexpected places.  Thank you again for walking this path with me.  

Codependency Virtue/Vices

Photo by Jonny Gios on Unsplash

Today I’ve been thinking about Thanksgiving and gratitude and creating the life I want to live. This month has been hard. My Kindergartener got sick and was home from school almost a whole week. Then I crashed on my bike and sustained some injuries. Then I got sick and was in bed for several days with fever, chills, a wicked sore throat, and the usual yuck of fall illnesses. Finally, I strained my ankle at the trampoline park. With all of this I have had a resurgence of depression symptoms including some pretty intense episodes of suicidal ideation. My counselor contracted pneumonia and has not been available. Naturally I was very unhappy when family-of-origin drama began.

At the beginning of this year I did a cut off with my parents. I have avoided writing on my blog about this for a couple of reasons. First, it is extremely painful and for those who have experienced it, you understand just how painful and why I wouldn’t want to post about it. Another reason is that I’ve been afraid of the backlash I might get from well meaning family members with little to no mental health experience. I thought that perhaps if I veiled some of my expressions in poetry that I might avoid some of the latter. Unfortunately, I have still managed to garner the backlash I tried to prevent.

As I have reflected on my blog’s purpose, I realize that I have been holding back useful information from my intended readers. My intended readers are those who have some experience with mental health or at least some desire to learn more, help loved ones, and build a more nurturing environment for our minds. My intended readers are familiar with phrases like “family of origin,” “childhood trauma,” “suicidal ideation,” and “recovery journey.” My intended readers understand that the world of mental health is complicated and that it is best to withhold judgement of those who suffer and their loved ones who suffer with them. My intended readers deserve more vulnerable and direct communications than my poetry posts this year.

This is not the first cutoff I have done with my parents, but this is the longest one. I tried to resume some limited contact with my mom around mother’s day, but we are back to no contact until after the holidays. Family of origin drama is just too much for me right now. I have to be there for my children for the next six weeks.

It’s hard to cope with the reality that you experienced serious trauma as a child. It is almost unbearable when those you love who hurt you so badly deny and minimize your experience, make excuses for themselves, and then shame you for the pain. I have been accused of being ungrateful, unforgiving, and cruel. Those minimizations and accusations hurt more than the original offense. I am comforted to think that the Savior knows the pain I feel. Perhaps he alone will ever truly understand. He whose piercing gaze fell upon the leper and resisted looking away will not fail to see me in my broken state. Like them, I cry out to him, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

This post is for those who, like me, who find that in their recovery journey, that they must limit contact with people they love. Love is not a purchased commodity. Those we love have not earned our love. In order for love to be real it must be freely given with no expectation of reciprocation. Sometimes we have built empathetic connections of love with people who continually hurt us and keep us from building a healthy and happy life. They sabotage our efforts, contradict our therapists, and pressure us to continue harmful behaviors. These relationships are unlikely to change unless the empathetic connection changes. Sometimes the relationship can’t continue without great harm to recovery.

Cut offs are so hard. We love the person. We want them to understand. We want them to see that they are hurting us and for it to matter to them. We want the unconditional love from them that we have been giving. Some people are just unable to give that kind of love. It’s okay to let go. Sometimes it’s important to let go. This is hard for people raised in codependency.

My family of origin has a lot of problems with codependency. I was raised to believe that I needed to be unselfish to be good. That belief system has driven me repeatedly into burnout. I am finally making some progress in rooting out those codependent virtue/vices and replacing them with healthier values.

Virtue/Vice One: I need to put others first. Selfish women don’t deserve love. I was taught that women feel fulfilled in the home taking care of their family. I was taught that good wives and mothers put their husband and children’s needs first, often go without and make sacrifices for their family. I thought that when I skipped meals, showers, personal growth opportunities, and social activities that I was being a good person. Over time, resent built up and motivation evaporated. I thought that my sacrifices would make me feel fulfilled and that my efforts would be reciprocated and rewarded. Instead it seemed that everyone became accustomed to my behavior and even felt entitled to it. The love I craved felt insufficient and it was. I wasn’t behaving virtuously, I was being codependent. I was expecting my husband and children’s love to sustain me and make up for my neglect of myself. It left everyone frustrated and resentful.

Now I understand that putting others first doesn’t make me a good person, it makes me a resentful person. I understand that I don’t have to earn love. My husband and children love me because they are empathetic and loving people. I love them because I am an empathetic and loving person. I don’t earn their love with my unselfish behavior. I model healthy self care for them and teach them to do the same. They aren’t responsible for my happiness and I am not responsible for theirs.

Codependency keeps us in unhealthy relationships for too long. It is a habit of thinking that shifts responsibility. “I am responsible for everything,” says one codependent person. “You are responsible for everything,” says the other. Because neither of those statements is true, no progress is made. Codependency is like a tug of war, two people waste time and energy pulling against one another and getting nowhere. It isn’t going to be enough to stop pulling. Its okay to put the rope down and walk away.

Virtue/Vice Two: It is unkind to distance myself from people who hurt me. Christ commanded me to love everyone which means I need to put my mental health at risk rather than set healthy boundaries. This is a classic codependent virtue/vice. Keeping toxic relationships and people in your life is not healthy. Proper self care requires you to keep yourself safe from harm. Sacrificing your safety to enable someone’s toxic behavior is not a virtue, its a codependent vice.

Virtue/Vice Three: Doing family cut-offs is cruel. Family relationships need to be preserved no matter how detrimental they are to your mental health. For many years I have kept family relationships in my life that have hurt my recovery. Some family members have repeatedly reinforced toxic narratives, minimized abusive behavior, and blamed victims. Because I believed in the sanctity of eternal families, I kept trying to change toxic family members.

The truth is, eternal families are healthy families. Each individual is accountable for their own behavior within the family system. Not every individual has equal power within the family system. The parents have the bulk of the power and the responsibility for the overall health of the system. Children within the system, even adult children, have little power to change the system. Eventually healthy adult children will outgrow an unhealthy family system. That’s not cruelty, that’s life. If you want an eternal family, you need a healthy family. If your family isn’t healthy, it won’t last anyway.

Habits of codependence are reinforced with practice. It takes two to tango in the dance of codependence and the steps are unconscious. I’ve had to surround myself with people who have healthy boundaries in order to begin to see my own codependent habits.

Unfortunately, that has restricted my circle of friends to a very small group. Churches sometimes teach codependence as a virtue. Women at church are especially proud of their codependence. It is the whited sepulchre of mental health sins. On the outside they are virtuous servants of mankind while inwardly they are seething with the sickly rot of resentment. From such stay far away!

When it comes to relationships, I’ve prioritized quality over quantity. I have also prioritized relationships I feel I have some power to influence. I’m not investing in relationships with people who are rigid, defensive, and self-righteous. The truth is, there are not a lot of mentally healthy people in this world. There are enough mentally healthy people, but you have to look for them. You might find them in unexpected places.

The holidays are a strange mix of emotions for me. Being in recovery isn’t easy, but I have enough faith to believe it will be worth it. My best to all of you who find yourselves in a complicated place this season. You aren’t alone. As I celebrate the birth of the Savior, my model of mental health and altruistic virtue, this month, I hope I can better emulate Him. I hope my words bring you light and hope and not despair.

The Axe and the Tree

Photo by Christopher Burns on Unsplash
The axe forgets.  Only the tree remembers.
You had an ideal childhood.
We played games
We went on vacations
We loved you
Those things are all true

But you don’t remember
Feeling your throat in your mouth 
As each smash of your hand 
Reverberated through my body.
Afraid to run.
Afraid to breathe.
Seeing stars come into my eyes
Terror mixed with shame 
Dripping down.

You don’t remember the thrill of fear 
Travelling up my spine
When I heard the door open,
And I knew you were home.
The rush to hide.
To make myself small.
You were fear personified

And I ran from you.

Like a child runs from 
A monster in the closet.

You don’t remember
That desperate need to please
To be good enough
To earn your love
Like a famished beast
It consumed joy and peace of mind
In the womb
Before it could be felt.

Or maybe you do remember
But you want to forget
The memories of your own small self
You defend the ones who hurt you.
You side with them.
They still have the power
And you are still trying to earn their love.

The axe forgets, but the tree remembers.
Can the axe remember that it was once a tree?
Long ago before it became a brittle and dead thing 
Designed to destroy its children,
It was green, and it swayed in the wind,
As it flowed through the branches.
Can the axe remember?  

Let’s write a different story. 
Let’s change the ending.
The powerful can remember
The pain of their choices
On those they forget.  
Let’s give the future fertilizer, 
And put the axe in the shed.
A timeout for a while. 

Let's dig a hole in the Earth
And in that soft soil,
We can grow some seedlings.
And they won’t fear the axe.
And they won’t remember
What they don’t have to forget.

The axe can remember 
And the tree can forget.

Bad Art

Making some bad art today,
As seems to be my artist way,
To see the ugly broken me
And learn to love the flaws I see.

There is no other way I guess,
To silence the critic in my chest,
To bring the broken to the page
And release my inner sage

I find the beauty in growing things
In perfect hope that time will bring,
The beauty that I hope to find
Reminds me that I’m blind

To beauty He wants me to see,
The ugly and the broken me.
And find my artist way,
Making some bad art today

Empty Chairs

Photo by Nathan Wright on Unsplash
Cold and hard
Silent and still
My heart raging
My throat bursting
My shoulders constricting.

“YOU DID THIS!”
The echoes reverberate
Off the empty chairs
They stand accused
With no defense

“YOU DID THIS!”
The sound blossoms
Across the generations
Like the ripples of a fetid pool
A pool they made
And I had to live in.

“YOU DID THIS!”
And there was nothing I could do
To help you
To protect myself
Powerless, alone, silent, still.

“YOU DID THIS!”
Tears stick in unfocused eyes
As blood drips down my face
At pain unfelt
At justice denied.

“YOU DID THIS!”
And I paid the price
For your mistake
The scapegoat
The sacrificial lamb
Silent submission

“YOU DID THIS!”
But I won’t become you.
They won’t atone for our sins.
I won’t curse the future
To justify the past.

“YOU DID THIS!”
And it isn’t my fault.
I can walk away
From the darkness
Into a rebirth
A new beginning

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

One of the biggest reasons I started blogging was because I wanted to learn to accept my mental health condition. I had been hiding it for so long behind a mask of normalcy that I had split myself into two people. One version of myself did her best to seem normal, embraced the values of perfection I had been conditioned to persevere toward, and tried not to get in the way of others around me. The other version of myself understood that the world around me and the value system I had been conditioned to accept was fundamentally flawed; that life was messy and hard and full of complex realities. This second version of myself kept wanting to assert herself and push the other, more compliant version, aside. These two sides of me seemed to always be in conflict. On the outside, I was a good Mormon mom who cared for her children, went to church every week, didn’t cause problems, and did what she had been taught. On the inside, I was full of doubts, fears, and building resentment.

This blog was a way for me to give voice to my hidden version of myself; the self that is broken and needs the Savior. The blog became a place I could be proud of my suffering and rejoice in the ways it leads me back to Him who is Mighty to Save. Why then have I struggled these past months to post?

My mental health recovery path has been full of difficulties, but the greatest one has been acceptance. Each time I take my medication, each time I can’t get out of bed, each time I finish another counseling session, each time I fall short, I remember my broken. It is so hard to see the beauty in it! I wish I could be whole and healthy and normal. I wish I wasn’t faced with the reality of my broken mind every day, but that is the life I’ve been given.

There is also so much beauty. I went to the STEM Academy meet the designer night last night. My second son started high school this year. He proudly led us to his various classes and introduced us to his teachers. He’s an excellent student with exceptional teachers who will help him achieve his potential. He’s taking his first AP class, so he will already start earning college credits. His older brother is in the top band as a Junior and is also college bound. My third son is thriving in his STEM Academy. My youngest loves kindergarten. In spite of my failings and flaws, my boys are growing and learning and off to a good start in life.

My second son with his chemistry teacher.

No one has a perfect life. We all struggle mentally and emotionally. Death, disappointment, illness, and accident visit everyone. It’s messy and hard and unfair and complicated; but every life is known to God. He suspends his judgment until the end of our lives. In the meantime, he asks only one thing of us; that we be honest with ourselves and others; that we confess and forsake our sins and follow the Savior. Why is that so hard for me?

Why am I so tempted to live a lie? Why am I so determined to put on a mask of conformity to please other people instead of an authentic image that pleases God? Why am I afraid to post on my blog? Why am I afraid of the judgement of those who don’t yet understand? We are broken! Not just me. We are all broken. That makes us all equals. I need not cower in shame.

Yet shame is what I feel and I can’t make the shame go away. And so I wander. I’ve left churches and temples made with hands and return to Eden; to the garden. I feel a pull to plants, animals, water, and soil right now.  The last two months have been intense.  Lots of joy, lots of sadness, lots of change.  Bombs, pandemic, deaths, injustice, man’s inhumanity to man……it takes its toll.  Every day I’m reminded that this world isn’t safe.  The world is not a safe place.

We have a butterfly garden we started four years ago.  The first year, we couldn’t keep enough milkweed in the garden!  The monarchs laid so many eggs, I could hardly keep up.  We released something like 32 monarchs that summer.  Every day we would release the butterflies to fly away to Mexico for the winter.  It was so amazing.  For the past three years, we have grown milkweed and it has had nothing but aphids.  This summer as the months passed, I thought that this year again, the monarchs would miss us.  I was wrong.

We started getting eggs the second week of August.  Lots of them.  We also found little caterpillars everywhere.  We scooped them up and put them in our crates and enclosures.  We didn’t have enough.  We bought more crates.  There were more caterpillars.  We gave some to friends.  We drove along the freeway to find milkweed growing in the wild because we were running low in the garden.  Twice a day we would clean out the cages and check on our babies.  We had over fifty!

The Monarch caterpillar lives encased in a chrysalis for fourteen days before emerging as an adult butterfly. They are motionless and still as though dead, but they are very much alive and busy reforming themselves in preparation for life as a new creature.

Once we brought in a leaf that had predatory eggs on it that we didn’t see.  A caterpillar ate the eggs and got sick.  It split open to reveal the larvae that had killed it.  Even with all our precautions, our caterpillars were not safe.  We started washing every leaf before putting it in a crate.  We felt relief every time a caterpillar would make its silk button and “J hang” because that meant one less caterpillar would be eating and pooping.  The chrysalids began piling up.  

Occasionally we would lose a caterpillar to “the black death” which is assumed to be some kind of bacterial infection.  We would remind ourselves that of all the monarch eggs that are laid each year only about five percent survive to adulthood.  Our efforts were dramatically improving the odds of success for our little friends.

The day we had our first butterfly eclose, or emerge, from chrysalis was magical.  It is a miraculous thing to behold.  The chrysalis begins to darken.  There are no signs of life, and black is usually synonymous with death.  If you look carefully, you can see the muted orange of the wings concealed behind the membrane, but even knowing this is normal, it looks eerie.  Then the chrysalis splits and the animal within unfolds.  At first it looks misshapen and wrinkled, but within ten minutes, the enormous wings flatten out and the transformation is complete.

The second day of school after dropping Austin off for Kindergarten, I took pictures and videos of these animals as they made this miraculous transformation.  I don’t believe that this experience has happened by accident.  I know that God sent the butterflies.  I know that he knew that I needed them.  He knew.  He cared.  He sent his winged messengers.  The world isn’t safe!  The caterpillars know that.  The butterflies know that.  The Afganis know that.  The marines who died in the bombing knew that.  Their families know that.  There is a 100% chance that each one of us will die.  Eventually this world will take our remains back into itself and we will decay and crumble into nothing.  That is our fate.  And yet, today we live.  Today He loves us.  Today He sent His butterflies to me.  He also sent me a dream.

I dreamed I was witnessing a wartorn group of refugees leaving their homes and traveling together in families.  But instead of people, they were monarch caterpillars.  There were large ones, presumably parents, and there were small ones that clung to the backs of the larger ones.  What did this dream mean?  I feel that the caterpillars were Afgan refugees.  The dream made them into caterpillars because to me, the monarch caterpillar is full of beauty and potential.  God sees the refugees as full of beauty and potential too.  The world won’t understand.  They will see the mess and the work of caring for them; the protection they will need and the space they will require.  God sees those things, but also the beauty that comes when his miracle transforms them.  

God works his will in large and small ways.  He sees the refugee and he knows the beggar in his need.  He never will forget his people and his hand will never be stayed.  His majesty will transform the Earth and the inhabitants will rejoice.  I will live each day and pray that I can be the person he wants me to be.  I will serve where he calls me to serve.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.

I am broken and blessed. I can live authentically and honestly, embracing the redeemed person I am, unfettered by the sins of the past. I am broken, just as those who came before we were broken, but the present brings opportunities for renewal and rebirth. Our God is a God of transformations and redemptions, so I rejoice in my broken and I rejoice that my sins have brought me to Christ who heals me; not in the way I want to be healed, but in his wisdom he leaves the scars. I rejoice in my scars and refuse to hide them. They make me His and I rejoice that I am His. Fearfully and wonderfully made.

The Joy of Thy Lord

As I’ve progressed in my faith journey/crisis, I’ve pondered on what values I want to pass onto my children.  Society is at a crisis point in values.  Is it virtuous to wear a mask, or stand for freedom and go without?  Is it virtuous to welcome refugees and desperate migrants into your nation, or to build walls to shut them out for the safety against those who would do us harm?  Conflicting messages, laws and policies are shouted from leaders.  “Defund the police!” “Build the Wall!” “Don’t tread on me!”  This is a confusing time to live as an adult, let alone as a child. I have my work cut out for me in raising my children with a coherent value system. 

As I’ve tried to orient myself and discover my core values, there are a few things I’ve learned.  First, the value of a joyful life.  I’ve lived poor and I’ve lived with money.  I’ve lived in bad weather, and in good weather.  I’ve lived in sickness and in health.  I haven’t lived in joy very often.

I remember in my childhood, my Grandma Henrie’s apartment complex had a swimming pool.  I looked forward to our visits to see her each year mostly because I got to go swimming.  I would cling to an inflatable tube and spin in circles for hours.  That exhilaration was something I looked forward to through all the months of snow and ice in Idaho.  Now as an adult, I have a community swimming pool nearly in my backyard.  It is so close, we can walk to it in less than five minutes.  Yet for the four years I have had access to it, I have hardly ever used it.  When I would take the kids swimming, I would usually stay in the shade on the side of the pool and watch them joyfully splash and play.  Maybe I thought joyful living was supposed to be for kids.

I got an Apple Watch for my birthday this year, and one of the features it has is the ability to track swimming for exercise.  This changed things for me.  By the middle of the summer, I was going to the pool with the kids every day.  I would swim laps while they played and I would get my exercise in.  It was a little boring after a while, but it was refreshing and it was good for the kids.  Austin would cling to my back as I plowed through the water.  I taught him the strokes I was doing and he picked them up.  It was beautiful to see him relax and learn to move in the water with confidence.  Later, I watched a synchronized swimming routine in the Tokyo olympics.  I read about artistic swimming.  I watched videos on how to do a few moves.  I ordered a swim cap and some nose plugs on Amazon.  

I went from swimming laps in the pool for exercise, to doing somersaults, handstands, and all kinds of acrobatics in the water.  It was fun!  I remembered what it felt like to be a child and rejoice in the ability to move joyfully.  I stretched and swam and spun in circles.  I felt alive in a way that I hadn’t felt for years.  I felt awake after years of sleepy depression.  It has been almost a month since I rediscovered the joy of swimming.  I’ve been doing it every day.  After my morning swim, I feel energized, and clear headed.  I feel a rush of ideas about other joyful things I could do to fill up my days.  Planting a new flower, making some delicious food, planning lunch with a friend, or doing some art; these ideas prance through my joyful mind and the anxieties of the pandemic and Afganistan crisis fade into the distance for a while.  No matter how stressful the circumstances of my life are, a few moments of joyful, purposeful living can make those burdens easier to bear.  

This is me after my joyful swim this morning.

The value of joyful living is one I want to pass to my children.  Rather than pack their schedules with classes, chores, and activities and then nag them all the time to practice and work harder, I want to instill in them the need for regular joyful living.  I want them to find the thing that makes them feel alive.  They don’t need to do it for a living or even become good at it.  It isn’t the task or activity itself that matters, it’s how you feel when you do it.  God said that men are that they might have joy.  When we live joyfully, we fulfill our highest purpose.  When we deny ourselves of joyful living, we deprive ourselves of a core need.  

Another value I want to pass on to my children is the value of kindness.  We live in a world full of people.  There are millions of us interacting with one another on the roads, in the stores, and online.  We are witnesses to thousands of deaths, births, sicknesses, failures and triumphs every day.  It is easy to begin to believe that people are not valuable and that our lives have little meaning.  Each act of kindness renews our faith that there is worth in the human soul.  When our act of kindness blesses another person, we make an impact on the world.  We matter.  Even if the person we are kind to is most insignificant and the kind act imperceptibly small, it makes the world better.  

The third value is introspection.  It is so easy to see sin and folly without.  It is much more difficult to see it within.  Introspection is the often uncomfortable scrutinizing of our own selves.  We get to see our flaws with razor precision when we introspect.  When we are familiar with our own soul, its strengths and flaws, its twists and turns, its folds and flaps, we are less vulnerable to flattery, less desperate for affirmation, and more realistic with our expectations.  This leads us to the final virtue.  Compassion.

Anyone who has done much introspection knows that compassion is the only remedy to the pain of self knowledge.  To see yourself accurately, you have to reckon with the painful reality of your own sins and fallen nature.  If you have children, this pain is compounded with the knowledge that you have passed these things on to your posterity where they will likely repeat themselves in an eternal dance of despair through the following generations.  Compassion is the ability to love fallen things; to see beauty in broken.  Our children, our parents, our family, our friends; we are all broken and fallen things.  We cut one another with our broken parts.  We bleed because we are alive and we dare to love one another in spite of the risks.  Compassionate eyes can look at this messy scene and see the beauty in it.  We can love the participants without judgement and without shame; knowing that we are all in need of redemption.  Somehow, all these things will work together for the benefit of all of us.  

These four values are the core values I want to pass on to my children.  I hope that I can teach them through example the benefits of living this way.  I wrote a short parable I am planning to share with them tonight at dinner.  Hopefully this will help instill in them the values I want them to learn.  

The Joy of Thy Lord

“The baby is crying again!” he said with disgust.  “What’s wrong with it now?”

“He just wants a little snuggle,” his mother said softly as she picked up the squalling child.  “See, now he’s feeling better.”

Later, at play, “Mom, I stubbed my toe!” he screamed in pain.  

“Here, let me kiss it better.  Do you need some ice?” his mother replied.

“No, I’m a tough kid,” he said, rubbing the tears from his eyes.  Somehow the kiss always made it feel a little better.

Later at school the child saw a boy teased and rejected, chased away from the others.  “What’s wrong with him?” he thought.  He remembered his mother and thought, maybe he just needs some love.  And he invited him to play with him and his friends.  The playground was a kinder place.

Many years later the boy sat trying to do his schoolwork as his younger siblings played loudly behind him.  “Can’t you make them stop!” he roared to his mother.  

“No, I can’t, and if I could I wouldn’t.  It’s frustrating when you’re trying to concentrate, isn’t it?  Try to be patient.  They are young.  They will learn to be quiet just as you have learned.  Some things cannot be rushed,” she replied.

He went to a quiet place to finish his work.  He thought angrily of how easily the other students seemed to complete their assignments.  Why could he not learn this faster!  Then he remembered his mother and he thought, “Be patient with yourself.  You will learn it, just as they have learned it.  Some things can’t be rushed.”  He took a deep breath and started again.  The bedroom was a kinder place.

Years later the boy came home to visit from college.  He ate a full meal and packed up food for his small apartment pantry.  “Thanks Mom!  I’ve been SO hungry.  I wish I could cook as good as you can!” he thought of the macaroni and cheese he had been eating for a week.  

“It takes time to learn to provide for yourself.  You will learn.  There is always food waiting for you here until you do,” she said as she kissed him goodbye.  

On the way home he saw a weather beaten man with a cardboard sign that said, “Hungry.  Please help me.”  He thought of his mother and wondered why this old man hadn’t learned to provide for himself.  Sometimes these things can take time, he reasoned.  He took some bread he had taken from his mother’s kitchen and gave it to the man.  The neighborhood was a kinder place.

And so the boy became a man and he learned patience and love.  He gave to those in need and he waited patiently as the Lord worked his miracles in the life of each person.  And he knew God.  And the world was a kinder place when he left it.

“Well done, thou good and faithful servant.  Thou hast been faithful over a few things.  I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” Matthew 25:21