Friday, November 16, 2012

Life is an hourglass

I feel as though I'm watching the sand slip through an hourglass, trying to decide whether to allow it to keep gently pouring through or struggle to find a way to stop it. If anyone has discovered how to stop time- do not tell me. Do not tempt me. Kate is growing up way too fast! Zach's evolving career path has taken another turn, we are moving to the South- and a myriad of little changes sprinkled throughout. A hard thing for a Sentamentalist like me to do is accept change. Especially a big change like moving from your home and family and friends. Moving on from somewhere you've lived for a decade- and where you became you- can make a Sentamentalist worry it will all be forgotten and change forever. I never thought I'd do this- but I lamenting about leaving Provo. Ha! Why? Because this is where I went through countless failures and triumphs. Where I got a degree- the fulfillment of my mother's dream! It's where I fulfilled a few of my own I never thought I was capable of achieving. Where I learned hard lessons about love and loss, the real depths of God's reach, where I met and married my dreamboat husband, where I had my first child. Some kinds of change are thrilling and I used to feed off it- but the changes (a.k.a. blessings) piling up on me right now are making my sentimental side cringe.

But- without change, where would we be? We would stay in comfort zones that unintenionally become prisons of mediocrity. Change is a beautiful opportunity for real growth. We are meant to become incredible people, and who we are now is just a fraction of who we will become if we allow all the changes and embrace the challenges. That possibility that I may actually acheive greatness drives me on to quiet the fears of my sentamental side, looking at the changes soon to come as keys to doors previously locked to me. I feel one of my goals in this life is to gain experience- and I can't do that staying where I'm comfortable for too long.

During these changes, in my thirst for security, I am tempted to try and draw water from the wrong wells of relief. It only makes me thirstier. So far- the basics are what works. Service. Kindness. Praying. Meditating on an expanded perspective of the things to come, or the things to make peace with. Drawing strength from a source greater than my own.

In the words of Jason Mraz- God knows we are worth it. So if He knows I'm worth all this trouble, I'd better act like I'm worth it! This is a trust thing. For all the perks of our situation, I had some doubts about moving my family to a small town in the South. We're moving to a gorgeous lakehouse to live with my strong, sweet father in law. But we will be moving from my side of the family, from many of Zach's siblings we're so close with, and friends that have become family after a decade of experiences together. And who would Kate play with? There are no children I know of there. Will I become lost out there? As these and other fears led me to a dark corner of the possibilities that await, quiet reassurance pulled me back, realizing that if there is just ONE person out there to help, I will be contented. One part of receiving relief from fears is gratitude. It's a powerful thing- as powerful as change I think. What was a few weeks ago a fear-filled future is now an exciting one, that I look forward to. I'm grateful for such a merciful offer from my father in law. I'm grateful for the beauty that will surround us. Very, VERY grateful for our health and my little family. Grateful Zach will be working from home and that Kate and I are such good buds that hopefully I'll be a good playmate for awhile. Grateful Zach has found something he will love to do, and I'm grateful there is a purpose in going out there that I don't yet know. And grateful for planes. :)

I guess the conclusion for all these ramblings is- when fear is trying to prevent you from making a change, try to ditch the fear and give that opportunity a real chance. Whether it's moving, a job change, deciding to get married, or when to have your first kid, or your second, whether it's finally letting go of something you've been holding on to for too long, or forgiving, or find a realtionship with God- just give change a chance. You may be one decision away from something really great. And life is an hourglass- time is ticking.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Catch-up.

In the interest of quieting my conscience, I am finally going to give blogging another try. Kudos to my friends who inspire me by their consistent and brilliant posts. Herein shall lie a summer recap and then on to writing the good stuff- my outlet for all the great stuff life has taught me lately.

Summer ROCKED. Kate, Zach and I traveled our tushies off and are quite content to chill out for awhile. We went to Colorado, South Carolina, Idaho twice (West Yellowstone and up by Coeur D'Alane), and who can forget THE BAHAMAS to see our dear friends the Loboschefsky's seal the deal with style. Congrats to them on their marriage. They are the best God-parents our little squirt could ask for. She just turned one (!!???) last week and they gave her a Kindle Fire because no god-child of Paul Loboschefsky's is going to be a dummy. :) Get this girl reading momma! So far all she likes are the Baby Einstein videos (has anyone ever watched those? I feel like I now know how the world would look on drugs!) and the app where you can draw in neon lights. I'll take it. Oh and we took her to the zoo to celebrate her birthday. It was adorable to see her little fingers pointing at everything that moved. She was as interested in the kids running around as the animals. Which of course is guilt tripping me as I continually procrastinate the fact that someday we will have to give her siblings. That thought is still a little too intimidating so we will procrastinate some more and move onto what life has been teaching me.

Who can say it better than the apostle of the LDS church, Elder Jeffery Holland?

"On this upward and sometimes hazardous journey, each of us meets our share of daily challenges. If we are not careful, as we peer through the narrow lens of self-interest, we may feel that life is bringing us more than our fair share of trials- that somehow others seem to be getting off more lightly.

But the tests of life are tailored for our own best interests, and all will face the burdens best suited to their own mortal experience. In the end we will realize that God is merciful as well as just and that all the rules are fair. We can be reassured that our challenges will be the ones we needed, and conquering them will bring blessings we could have received in no other way."

Zach and I have not been getting pummeled with a long list of large trials. Just the little pokey darts that sting just enough to make you want to be a grumpy, selfish person instead of an awesome, selfless one. The ones that tempt you to compare your life to others and make sure you find your own wanting. It is terrible when you put on your grateful glasses and realize how blessed you are, but I'm pretty sure everyone suffers from this syndrome. I have found this "mild" time of life very educational, because it has been as hard to be unoccupied and feel directionless as it would be to have two million things to do and no time to do them. I will write this from the perspective of a new mother in training but I know it can be applied to any pleateau we find ourselves on- WAITING. Waiting for the next big change or next answered prayer or next adventure to start. Those times in life where you feel restless and unsteady and yucky trying to remember who you are and what direction you are going.

I love spending time with Kate all day. I love watching her grow. Somehow this is just not enough to make the aforementioned blah-dom to go away. No matter the number of walks to the park or naps or new hobby attempts or whatever--I still had a serious case of directionless unhappiness and knew I was missing something. I discussed this at length with my wonderful sisters and sisters in law, with my husband, with anyone who would listen basically and still yielded no real answers. LIGHTBULB-- maybe I should discuss it with He who makes the seasons change?

Here is what he has taught me. "It may not be on the battle front the Lord will have need of me." This is prime-time in many of my friends lives- they're finally getting secure in their careers, they are writing books, they are traveling extensively...and here I sit like like a bird in a cage trying to be content cooking, then cleaning, then cleaning, then cooking, then changing diapers, then wiping noses, you get the picture- just living everyday life with no change in sight. I was drowning in the little things, trying to make those things run perfectly and smoothly so that I would *magically* find time to do the big things my bird-heart wanted to secretly fly away and do. It was affecting my family- the Mom and Wife just have too big an impact on the happiness of the family to be stuck in a rut like this. So I tried to make some changes and so far they are totally working. Here are the new-found (yet familiar) little secrets to my new found happiness and purpose.

1. Pray. A LOT.
2. Plan. As in- make things happen. I love to read and wasn't finding time. It's because as soon as Kate went down for a nap I would clean up (which of course she will destroy as soon as she wakes up, so just let it be Nikki!) and then somehow swim around pointless activities like facebook, pinterest, texting, etc with the excuse that I was relaxing, and suddenly she is awake and I'm frustrated because I still am not showered and haven't gotten anything done. SO. Plan- put my priorities in line and stick to them in order when I find free time. For me that means reading the Good Book first, exercising, getting ready for the day. Different days have different priorities, just make sure you actually know what they are for you.
3. Stop getting in my own way. Accept that there are things about me that are weak and only the Savior can make up for them, so I need to rely on him and not solely on myself. This was stressing my out.
4. The biggest secret of all- SERVE. If I plan and read the Good Book early in the day, the Lord always helps me find time and people to serve. This makes my day feel fulfilled. I didn't realize how selfish I had become and the unhappiness that yields.  
5. Simplify.
6. Look around what I would call spiritual eyes- meaning look deeper than the surface at the life happening around you. Look deeper into the heart of your friends, your neighbors, you family, and see what needs of theirs are screaming for help and perhaps things you can help with.

Love conquers all, and it has conquered my slump. No circumstances in my life have changed but I feel changed. I feel in control of my life, I feel hope for an exciting future again. I forgot that God has a plan for me, and that it's probably a dang good one. I forgot that He really has every intention of making every one of our dreams come true, just in His way and His time. In the meantime, I wasn't doing what I was supposed to and *duh* that was not making me the person I want to be.

Thanks to all that make my life so full and the examples I look to for guidance on who I want to become. Life lesson #35548757948: "our challenges will be the ones we needed, and conquering them will bring blessings we could have received in no other way."

Kate just woke up and is quite loudly asking for lunch so here I go to put all this good stuff into practice...

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Our Everests.

On this upward and sometimes hazardous journey, each of us meets our share of daily challenges. If we are not careful, as we peer through the narrow lens of self-interest, we may feel that life is bringing us more than our fair share of trials- that somehow others seem to be getting off more lightly.

But the tests of life are tailored for our own best interests, and all will face the burdens best suited to their own mortal experience. In the end we will realize that God is merciful as well as just and that all the rules are fair. We can be reassured that our challenges will be the ones we needed, and conquering them will bring blessings we could have received in no other way.

-Jeffery R. Holland

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

You reap what you sow

First a darling picture of my Kate for good measure:


Now on to serious business. I remember being outraged about a particular life lesson when I was a teenager. I discovered poignantly at that time that life was not going to be fair. Life would also never get easier- it was going to get harder as I got stronger. I was at the bottom of an uphill climb, and there was no fighting it. Just had to start hiking.
I was also ticked that there were these opposing forces in life- the first one trying to destroy me and second one that would make me the greatest person I could be. The first one was loud and easy to see and follow and too clever for words, and the second was really quiet, didn't beg for attention, and you had to look hard for it. I knew my own smarts and knew before this life was over I would be tricked numerous times into making myself miserable by the first.

I learned during those formative years that everything what we will refer to as society taught me to do was actually the opposite of what would make me happy. I'm aware this term has faults- there is a lot of good to society. I just can't think of a term that embodies the  destructive force I'm going for.

Some examples.
Society: you need to fit in with everyone around you so that they will accept you. This means doing what they do and one-upping their badness just a little. That makes you cooler. You will have more friends. The more you fit in and do what others do, the happier you will be.

Fact: You are a one-and-only. Everyone is unique and has their own adventure to live. Doing things that you know are wrong will make you sad and make your self-esteem self-destruct. This makes you do worse things, that you will continue justifying, until you are in a weird dark place that is hard to pull out of unless you have really good friends. Those really good friends celebrate your individuality and don't try to pour homogenous fit-in-to-be-cool goop all over you.

Society: Gossip makes you more friends. Don't keep your friend's secrets; disperse them with the whisper "but don't tell anyone...I've only told you." It makes you seem like you care about trust.

Fact: Gossip hurts everyone involved and makes people gossip more about you. You lose your real friends because they can't trust you. Don't get caught up in it.
Society: Receiving is way more fun than giving. Take advantage of others.
Fact: Giving is actually way more fun than receiving.

Society: Protect your heart. It is the only way to survive.

Fact: Though a more vulnerable heart will get a lot more beatings, it is also more open to receive love and help the pain of others. An open heart ends up making you real friendships and makes you happier because you're doing good in the world and feel true love.

Society: When someone in your life screws up, hold a grudge. Forego your trust in them. Forgiveness is not an option- hold on to the hurt. It will protect you.

Fact: Hurt protects no one. It just hurts. Forgiveness is healing. The emotional pain is worse at the beginning, but allows you to let go of the hurt and free yourself. It lifts instead of drags. Mercy makes you happy. A hardened heart does not.

Fact: Being healthy makes you happy, whatever that means for your body type. I'm glad there are many movements promoting healthy over skinny now, but we all know deep down we're still thinking- yeah yeah but I still want to be skinny as a twig. That would be the world talking loud in your inner ear. Healthy is the goal, but you don't have to be a gym-rat raw vegan who juices half the month to be healthy. Your body will tell you when you're there.

Society: When someone hurts you, get even. Justice will make you happy.

Fact: To be happy, you have to turn the other cheek and let them slap that one too. The happiness is certainly not found in being slapped twice- the happiness is in being a big enough person to not let justice get in the way of charity. Look a little deeper- that person who hurt you probably didn't do it for the surface reason your pride told you they did. There are hidden scars on every heart that we can all relate with. Nope, it doesn't justify their behavior,  but it certainly should call upon your heart to not slap them back. Mercy will give you peace and make you happier.
Society: A sweet shiny car, awesome clothes that fit perfectly, cute shoes, a trendy pad to live in, and a monthly pedicure will make you happy.

Fact: Those are surface things. They cover for the shallow part of happiness than can come and go with a light breeze. True happiness is deeper and come from service and giving and searching. It's cool to watch the good examples of main world figures who have figured this out. Ex: Movie stars that get their kicks from doing non-profit charity work. Or trying to have a semi-normal life with their families. They've tasted the world's happiness and realized it ain't all it's cracked up to be. Which brings me to my last point:

Society: Pretty much everything is more important than your family. You, your work, your looks, your warddrobe, your hobbies, your dreams, your phone, you. Family will always be there when all that stuff is finished and then you can spend time with them.

Fact: Family first = true happiness.
So, my readers. Any others you've discovered from the school of hard knocks?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Keeping the wheels turning

My daughter Kate is almost 8 months old. Before she was born I worried quite a bit about how to keep my brain in full function while staying home with her. I thought I'd be bored and thought I'd become...invisible. I was so wrong in so many ways. First- raising this little child has taken every amount of creativity, patience, stamina, and strength that my college and mission years helped me aquire. Second- the only dull moments during the day are when I'm not trying. There is a whole world here at home that I had no idea existed. I have pretty awesome neighbors that have taught me the joys of motherhood, etc. This blog is about my new life as "maman" but also about the "etc" that I know I'm supposed to be discovering. It's a weird spin zone I'm in right now- I have a lot of time to read, learn to cook, to discover my inner artist and keep up on world events, but instead I spend so much of that time playing peek-a-boo, finding new ways to show Kate old toys (I've learned you've really got to be a good salesman to be a good mom), and observing while Kate discovers trees and leaves and bugs. And tries to eat them all. All the things I thought I'd love to do are almost, almost as fun as watching her eat paper, try and rip her toys apart, and yell and coo at angels only she can see.

The title of this blog- the sentamentalist- embodies what I want this site to be about. Of course I'll write about the present with my family- but also about the past (both my own and that of others), amazing quotes from people who "get it", some spiritual spice because I think we could use a little more than we probably get, and who knows what else. The "etc" will unveil itself as we go.

So- some appetizers.

I was a European studies graduate planning on interning at the European Parliment (never to return to the states...) when I got married to my handsome best friend Zach. The plans flew out the window and I had a lot to learn about how and where to make my mark on the world. Meade MacGuire hit the nail on the head.

 “Father,where shall I work today?”
And my love flowed warm and free.
Then he pointed out a tiny spot
And said, “Tend that for me.”
I answered quickly, “Oh no, not that!
Why, no one would ever see,
No matter how well my work was done.
Not that little place for me.”
And the word he spoke, it was not stern; 
“Art thou working for them or for me?
Nazareth was a little place,
And so was Galilee.” 

I didn't realize all the background work that goes into saving the world- one kid at a time. As I'm writing this, Kate is devouring a measuring tape. I should feed my child...and how did it happen that my best friend is an 8 month girl? I love the mysteries of God. Kate can't even talk to me yet but I feel like she gets me and I get her. Most of the time. Next great poem:

"When God wants a great work done
in the world or a great wrong righted,
he goes about it in a very unusual way.
He doesn't stir up his earthquakes
or send forth his thunderbolts.
Instead, he has a helpless baby born,
perhaps in a simple home and of some obscure mother.
And then God puts the idea into the mother's heart,
and she puts it into the baby's mind.
And then God waits."
E.T. Sullivan

To be continued.