Saturday, July 9, 2011

Families are Eternal

I made reference in my last post that I needed to write about family and this journey. First I need to clarify my beliefs about family, mostly because I have friends that I consider family in more ways than one. Some of those friends know me better than some of the people I am actually related too. However, I believe that regardless of the details of the ties or the amount of time spent together…….. Family Ties are Eternal.

We were sent to our specific family for a reason. The family environment helps us develop and become who we are. Family is the best option to help us through our mortal journey and the return trip to our Father in Heaven.

I believe that in the life before we carefully decided who we wanted to walk this road with and they became our family. Living and growing up with these same people can be the best grounding we can have for who we are and who we are meant to be. Siblings are a critical part of our support system regardless of how much time we spend with each other as we move from children to adults with our own little families.

It is impossible to separate from those we spent our developmental moments with even, if they drive us crazy! Not that I have any siblings that fit that category. I am so grateful for those great souls I have walked with and I look forward to passing the years as their families grow and change too.

It needs to be said here that I am aware that there are many childhood homes that can be filled with dysfunction and it can be a hindering component in our lives too. I actually believe that ALL homes have some kind of weirdness, mild or severe whether we are open about it or not.

It is innate in the family structure that parents are not able to “perfectly” build an environment for each person. We live in a group setting, with many characters with different needs and personalities. This diversity in our own family leads to the life long road of acceptance, forgiveness and tolerance.

But, I believe that even in those struggles they still help define who we are. As we rise above those difficulties we gain strength in ways that would not be available to us otherwise. That is not to glorify abuse or mistreatment but to testify that we all have things in our lives that are stumbling blocks but I have faith that we can climb over, under or around those detours and still find our way on the path.

I don’t personally have the ancient history with John’s family or the spouses of my siblings, but can barely remember a time that they were not part of my family. I love them all regardless of how they became family to me. So when I mention family and siblings, I am referring to parents; in-laws or not, siblings I grew up with and siblings that I acquired through marriage. I don’t make a distinction between the two groups. All of them have made an impact on my life and I am grateful for my association with them. I am better for having known them.

Parents (myself included) are not perfect but they are endowed with gifts that allow us to develop in a way that will help us in our future lives. I believe in giving time and respect for those that invested time and energy in our developmental years, perfect or not. I cannot even begin to account for all of the time and money John and I have spent to maintain these relationships.

For us, those relationships require a large investment because of the distance. We have no regrets! We live just far enough to make visiting a huge sacrifice of time and money but not far enough away to relieve us of the desire to be a part of what is going on. Spending time is the only way these relationships are maintained. That knowledge makes all the miles clicking a way on my odometer worthwhile. History proves family as a priority in our lives.

Strict biology dictates that at some point we will celebrate without our parents and that we step up to fill the role of matriarch and patriarch in our own clan. I hope it is far off and in the distant future. Time spent with family now gives perspective, clarity, focus and peace for the time when we are expected to fly solo with our loved ones watching from an unseen place.

I believe that generations before me sacrificed for the gifts I take for granted today. Those who have passed on watch over us on in mortality. We owe a debt of gratitude for the struggles they endured to give us the strength to endure our own trials.

I believe that families have distinct skill and mind sets. I don’t know many of the characters in my dad’s family line but I do believe that one day I will and I will be able to trace many of my own characteristics there as well.

In my mother’s family line there is a distinction known as the “Prince Women”. This trait could be spoken with revered awe or complete disdain depending on the situation and both would be accurate.

I believe that these characteristics were developed through generations to help this “breed” of women along in their lives. It is a two edged sword for sure. These women are strong willed, independent, intelligent, opinionated, hardworking, relentless, and realistic and are not easily controlled. So if you want a passive woman you better look elsewhere.

I am often referred to as a “spitfire, feisty or a fireball” and rarely, a “Prince Woman”. Sometimes it is a compliment but more often as a chastisement or an insult. I really have tried to tame that beast here, but it comes from my double helix.

The “Prince Women” are also honest to a fault, extremely sensitive, intuitive, trusting, loving, compassionate and full of faith and optimism. These women are fiercely loyal and dependable.

You just have to hope and pray with all you have, that they are headed in the right direction because trying to change their mind is not an easy task and not one I would encourage. Gladly, most of the time they stand on the side of right.

I can look through the family stories and see where these characteristics became a life line to those in past generations. I can also look into my own life and see how many of those same traits have shaped my life and helped me through the worst of times, especially during this most recent journey. I see those traits being essential for Maddi as she struggles to accept her limitations and her new life. I am grateful for the legacy.

Sometimes our lives push us beyond our own abilities. We are faced with disappointments and struggles that are completely out of our control. Families not only support us in this life but our ancestors offer their strength, faith and abilities as well.

As Maddi was coming out of her coma she kept talking about the people who were with her in her “still” time. I can testify that she wasn’t alone in that place. I could feel the presence of people remembered and those unknown. I remember thinking I wish I had a calendar to write down the names of the people I felt with us during that time. It was real and undeniable. Most of the characters Maddi talked about I barely knew. I remember recognizing distinctly when Grandma Dorothy and Grandma Beth were with Maddi.

I spent many Wednesdays visiting with Grandma Dorothy and I love her deeply! I know her and I recognized when she was there. My Grandma Beth lived with us for a couple of winters while I was growing up. I learned so many lessons while working side by side with her. I love her also, she is a rare woman. It was like running into an old friend when you least expected, but at the time you needed them the most.

Maddi mentioned many other deceased family members but I didn’t recognize them. I knew we weren’t alone but I couldn’t tell you who was there. Maybe it was because I didn’t know the others as well. Maybe it was because I was tired, stressed or just not in tune at that moment. I don’t know but it isn’t an issue for me.

It was interesting that all of those attending Maddi were in some way related. I don’t think that was an accident and I know it was not a fabrication of what she expected to find on that side of the veil.

Grandma Beth and Dorothy died when Maddi was under the age of 2. She has no memory of ever meeting Grandma Beth in this life. I have no pictures of either of these women displayed in my home. Maddi was able to tell me things about these women that she could not have known.

My Grandma Beth had severe osteoporosis at the end of her life. Where once she stood tall and erect she died, small and hunched over. One of the things Maddi said about Grandma Beth was; “I thought Grandma Beth was supposed to be short. She was tall. I didn’t know she was tall” she also said, “I thought grandmas were supposed to be old. She wasn’t old or young”

It gives credence to the divine nature of the family. Why would those people come to Maddi instead of someone else? Why not have a generic greeter like those found at Wal-mart? Families have eternal significance not just genealogical. We are meant to strengthen each other and I know for a fact that family support doesn’t just stop in this life.

I wonder how many times we have been surrounded by past loved ones without knowing. I wonder how often they look in on us to see how we are doing. It gives reason to pause to think how many family cheerleaders we have beyond the veil. It gives us a reason to keep on trying even during the worst experiences. It gives us a reservoir of strength to draw from that is completely out of view.

I am so grateful for the tiny inkling I did recognize from beyond the veil of mortality. I am overwhelmed at the detail given to this plan of salvation. I am grateful for family members living on earth and those gone before. My faith moved to knowledge as I was given a deeper glimpse into the divine structure of families.

Families are Eternal!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Faith To Live–By Maddi

My journey through recovery has made me realize how much faith it takes to just live an ordinary life. Ordinary, for me, now is not the ordinary it used to be.The more I go about my daily life the more I realize how much faith and a testimony is needed. Faith is always important but especially during trials.

Knowing that Heavenly Father is there and knows each and every one of us gives me an assurance that He will help us through each and every trial and that He does hear and answer our prayers. One thing I've learned is that mortality and our physical bodies influence many of our flaws.

What I Have Learned About Mortality:

  • Our bodies are limited
  • We can only do our best and the Lord will pick up the rest
  • Our knowledge of the scheme of things is limited
  • We don't have to know it all
  • Material things don't matter
  • Telling ourselves we don't have flaws doesn't make them go away
  • God made all of us different for a reason
  • What we tell ourselves makes all the difference
  • We cannot tell ourselves that perfect is attainable because it's not, without the Savior
  • All of us fit somewhere in the Lord's plan
  • We have to have faith to fulfill all of our promises to Heavenly Father
  • Family is there to help us
  • Each of us has a purpose here
  • We all chose to come here

My journey is hard, but faith makes it easier. When a started speaking I said, “It takes faith to live.”

I may not have understood how applicable it would be at the time, but I sure do now.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Reflections in Kindness and Unity


I have been reflecting on our experience wanting to be sure I have documented everything that I know one day will be lost in my memory. This experience can be described with so many adjectives, both positive and negative. I am not to the point that I am grateful for my “trials” as people say. I don’t think I will ever be. I can be grateful for the lessons learned and for the beautiful parts and the miraculous outcome, but never to repeat. (I know I am a rebellious sort!)

In fact, if I had the chance to go back in time I would eat that bowl of soup that was waiting on my stove for me. I would relax in my chair after a long day shopping. I would not worry about saving $10 on a pair of Levi’s.

I would bask in the safety of my four little walls with my little family and be content. I would be happy to live my whole life without ever knowing this journey at all but I can’t deny the impact and adjustment it has made to my life. I want to remember all of the wonderful, beautiful parts of this journey and forget the heartache. With my memory, I might just have a chance!

My last post talked about the financial hardship we are enduring because of my inability to work but as I was writing that post examples of the many tender mercies extended to us kept flooding over me like the torrential waters of our rivers this year. I want to remember every wave, drop and ripple in the water of kindness.

We have been blessed by so many generous people; friends, family, neighbors and complete strangers. For me it was unbelievable that people would sacrifice for our needs.

I am a giver and am far more comfortable giving to others than receiving. I still feel unsure what to say besides a sincere thank you. There is no way to convey how much that eased our burden at that time.

We spent nearly $2000 just in fuel to get to the hospital for those 65 days not to mention the food. We were given several gift cards for the cafĂ© at the hospital. Those small rectangular pieces of plastic gave us such peace. If we hadn’t had those gift cards I don’t think I would have eaten at all because of the cost. We left the hospital with $20 left on one of those cards and Maddi found someone who needed it. It was gratifying to see the relief found on their face when we passed on the love.

My colleagues and families at my school pooled their limited resources together and it helped pay part of our mortgage one month. After paying for gas we were left short and they made up the rest and the timing was perfect.

Another time a dear family friend came and gave me a card and in it was the exact amount for something we desperately needed at the time. Just two days before that I had been on my knees expressing frustration, need and faith knowing and hoping the Lord would provide for us. He came through once again.

We were given a basket in the early days at the hospital. We were still in the PICU (pediatric intensive care), and we couldn’t really bring a lot in the room with Maddi. We left the basket in the waiting room. We shared the contents of that basket with others living their worst nightmare. Before Christmas, that basket was refilled 3 times. I don’t know by whom, but I remember the joy I felt when I would walk through and see someone with something from the “basket”, staring off into the distance fighting their private demons.

I was grateful I didn’t have to ask someone for water or have to walk the seemingly four blocks through a guarded station to get some. I am so grateful for the thoughtful person who brought that basket in the first place. I wouldn’t have thought of it, but it was invaluable and I was happy to share it. I consider it a loaves and fishes experience.

All of those donations and those I haven’t specifically mentioned, regardless of how large or small it seemed to you, made a huge impact for us. We cannot begin to express our gratitude for the much needed blessings. No one wants to be in such desperate need but to see the outpouring of love is unbelievable. I hope that the blessings were added upon in their lives. Many of the donations we received were of an anonymous nature.

I remember one that was just in an envelope that said, “My uncle manages a Wal-Mart in Wyoming.” Included was a gift card that I gave to my kids at home so they could buy groceries and household items they needed while I was away. I am lucky that my kids are so responsible. That gift card took care of the milk, eggs, perishable veggies and fruit (and probably toilet paper).

I did not buy one Christmas gift. Every gift that my children opened was given out of love for them and us. I actually can’t remember much of that day but I do remember being overwhelmed with gratitude for the kindness. I couldn’t have mustered up the energy to face a cheery Christmas crowd. My life was surrounded in worry and shock, that even twinkling lights and delightful music couldn’t penetrate.

I had dear friends that invited my children to dinner and cleaned my house. Dinners were brought into my home many times while we were in the hospital. I was not there to personally benefit but it was comforting for me to know that my children were cared for even though they were capable.

I had a dear friend fly in to be with my kids while we were away at a most critical time. They were in shock and hurting too. I feel so blessed to be surrounded by so many great friends.

Our shelves, fridge and freezer were stocked with food that we have needed so dearly! We are still eating the meat given to us during that time. If not for that generosity we would now be vegetarians or more accurately eating just a grain based diet.

Thank goodness for the wisdom of Prophets to ask us to have food storage. It is amazing how many different ways you can make rice and beans. We like them best plain. I know it isn’t the best for getting into your skinny jeans but getting by is way more important than the size of your waist!

We were surprised and humbled by glittering jars of coins at the base of our sad little Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. It served two purposes for us. The first is obvious but the second was that our little family spent Christmas Eve sorting coins. It gave us something to focus on besides what was different or missing. The mindlessness of sorting nickels, pennies, dimes and quarters did a great job numbing our minds and it kept us from thinking about the situation. It was hard to feel like celebrating at all.

What surprised me the most was that people cared enough about us to take the time to gather up their coins. We really try to be invisible, we don’t want to bring any attention to ourselves and so we don’t expect people to be all that invested. So much for flying under the radar! It taught me that we influence people every day just by breathing. You never know who is watching from a far.

So many people reached out to us in kindness. Many of these people were only known to me through this blog. I am so grateful my sister was brilliant enough to suggest the idea of a blog. It was sheer genius! What started out as a way to give information to others became a support for me through your comments of encouragement. Thank you!

The examples of monetary value pale in comparison to the emotional support we were given. That support was given through hugs, prayers, cards, thoughts, phone calls, emails special fasts and candles lit in churches in different countries and religion and dear friend’s homes. Each one of the heartfelt expressions of love overwhelmed me. I never expected that kind of outpouring of love. Like I said I am much more comfortable loving people than being loved.

I was utterly amazed at how many of our friends came to see us in the hospital some of them multiple times in the stretched out weeks. It is a long road from our house and even during a busy Christmas season, with hugely expensive gas prices our friends took the time and spent the money to visit us.

Of course, we had a constant presence of family support but that requires another post.

It may have seemed small to them but for those of us “incarcerated” their visits kept us sane! Knowing that we were cared for and loved made all the difference.

The sheer abundance of kindness and generosity is overwhelming when you put it all in one place. It is a testament to the goodness of people in general. This world has lots of questionable things going on right now but the divine goodness of people will never be questioned by me.

I stand in awe at the generosity and the sheer kindness of people, humbled that we were the recipients of such a pure love of Christ in our time of need. All people, crossing all boundaries have innate beauty and compassion in them.

I wish I could adequately share the vision of the type of unity that was created in this situation. People of all walks of life, religion, political persuasion, culture and beliefs saw our human need had compassion and acted. I am grateful for each one.

Not only did people of my own religion support us but whole communities from different religions. This experience gave me a sacred glimpse of unity that one day will be and I know that it is possible.

What a beautiful picture of……