Truth

Trenton: Mom, you were right about what you said. You used to be good at baking, but now? Crappy.
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It’s true. Going gluten free has it’s ugly moments. I’m so glad I have people around me to point them out MORE and LOUD. Feels good.

Angels for Ashton

A year ago, my heart opened up and burst when I received word that a friend of mine, Candace, had lost her brother, Ashton.

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Ashton suffered from depression and took his own life on January 28th, 2014. His family has been continually in my prayers this last year (has it really been an entire year?). I lit up when I woke up one morning to a facebook event invitation titled, “Angels for Ashton.” On January 28th -the year mark -friends, family, and friends of family and friends of friends of friends of Ashton’s loving circle are participating in a day-long event -a truly beautiful way to honor Ashton. They’re issuing an invitation to perform acts of service in Ashton’s honor.

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I just wanted to invite you, too… just in case an invitation didn’t pop up on your facebook feed. CLICK HERE to navigate to the event page on facebook (and join!)

When I was first married, I spent some quality time with Candace. She told me about her family, and I met them a few times. Candace told me how her mother spent one of her own birthdays baking bread to deliver to other people -it was what brought her the most joy. I never forgot that story, and seeing the “Angels for Ashtons” event brought that memory back full force.

What an incredible legacy -what a wonderful family. How excited am I to be part of this family for one day? VERY!

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This is taken from the facebook event page:

This event was created to honor the day Ashton Mayberry became an Angel. On January 28th, we would like to invite any and all people to join us in doing small acts of anonymous service in Ashton’s name. Examples of things you can do: pay for someone’s meal behind you in the lunch line/drive-thru, leave an envelope of money for someone in need, leave a nice note to lift someone else, send an anonymous bouquet of flowers, or any kind act of service you see needed or feel inspired to do! Coming soon, we will have a printable page of small note cards so you can leave one when you perform your act of kindness. We know that wherever we are, whatever we do, together our small acts of service can make a difference in a big way. We can’t think of a better way to honor Ashton on this special day. We hope you will join us, and please spread the word! And don’t forget to include all family members in your service. (Children often have the best “angelic” ideas!)
Once you have completed your act of service, feel free to post your experience on this page so we can read and see the impact our service together will have. Thank you for being an Angel for Ashton!

I hope you’ll join in – this is your chance to be an honorary Mayberry for a day!
Ashton’s parents blog at Ashton’s Legacy.

Yesses to Messes

A few weeks ago, we had family coming into town for Lacy’s birthday and baptism. I was working so hard to get the final push of holiday messes out of the way. I was busy packing away, throwing away, and dusting away.
“Mom,” Lacy sat next to me during one of my many collapses on the couch, “WHY are we cleaning so much?”
I laughed out loud.
“I don’t know,” I said when I’d quit laughing so hard, “Because my mom always cleaned a lot before people came to visit?” I laughed some more, and this only furthered her insatiable curiosity.
“But WHY?”

The real answer was that there was going to be a lot of people in a small space and I needed some semblance of tidy so the busy weekend would have a canvas to play out smoothly on.

My house is currently a disaster.

I have spent YEARS. YEARS feeling intense shame about this. I have studied people who clean well, read articles with tips! I have tried. so. hard. In my mind, if my house was clean, I could accept myself.

I don’t know why, but I have always believed that there was ONE RIGHT WAY of doing things, and when I couldn’t seem to nail myself down to that ONE ideal I had mustered up in my head, I felt so much shame -self-loathing, worthlessness, hopelessness.

In college, I worked as an English tutor. I had a very frustrated freshman boy come in and vent, “I wish English was like math. In math, there’s only ONE RIGHT ANSWER.”
I remember lighting up like a Christmas tree, “But that’s what’s SO GREAT about English -there’s so many ways to get it right!”

Glass half empty meet glass half full, I guess.

I’m just a little amazed at finding myself on the other end of the tutoring table… so frustrated, thinking there was only one right answer for everything. It seemed to me that once my stomach was a little more on the flat side and my house a little more on the clean and organized side, I’d be able to love myself more.
I worked really hard at it, and I was so good at working hard.
I lost inches doing hard work outs. My house smelled good. Things were most always in their proper places, and the food I put on the table was homemade (this was when I was at home full time). Things ran like clock work and I found a new respect for current self, but every time I pulled out old home movies and saw the empty pizza boxes on the counter (next to the stack of unopened mail and unfinished crafting projects…) I would HATE and JUDGE my old self.
How could I have LIVED with myself? Thank goodness THAT part of me is dead.

I didn’t want to admit it out loud -or even silently to myself -that running a routine of working out and cleaning, cooking, and so on was kind of… stifling. I didn’t feel like myself at all and the only true “joy” I gleaned from any of it was self-earned loved. I had no genuine self-love. Any love I gave myself was EARNED.

After I became pregnant with Alice, I wasn’t able to keep up and I haven’t caught up since. She’s two, dear. TWO.

During my pregnancy and the years there after, I came to learn something priceless (though the counseling it took to get here cost a pretty penny) and it is: I love myself.

I don’t work out hard anymore. I don’t clean so I’ll quit hating myself.

I walk and do yoga because I LOVE MY BODY. I clean when I feel I can or when there’s no more spoons. I follow a new routine… one of creativity and acceptance. There’s no more earning love in this house.

One thing I learned while studying women who take naturally to cleaning and organizing is that they don’t have to put monumental physical and emotional effort into it. Cleaning and organizing have always been great mysteries to me. I have to work SO HARD to pull them off. Women who clean efficiently have given me cleaning tips that have blown my mind. I stare at them in wonder and say, “That makes SO much sense.” And they shrug it off like the most natural thing in the world and IN THOSE MOMENTS I see how much we need each other. I have friends who are great cleaners who rely on me for ideas, crafting and the like.

I find immediately after cleaning my kitchen the need to MUCK IT UP. My counters are no sooner cleaned than I’ve spread all manner of ingredients all over them. My house is my canvas. I clean only to create.
I create BETTER when the house isn’t clean.
THERE.
There, I said it.

My best ideas come in the middle of a mess. I can find a figurative needle in a haystack, and if you ask me where the “blank” is, I will be able to find it UNLESS someone has deep cleaned.

Yesterday, I traveled an old road of shame and worthlessness over my messy house (and yes, there were TWO empty pizza boxes on my counter) and this morning, I hit my knees and asked God to please help me either clean or stop hating myself.
As I read my scriptures, I didn’t absorb much of what I read. I tried, but I Was tired. I pried myself out of the recliner I spent the night in (I drowned out my shame with a movie and fell asleep. It happens). As I went to take a bath, the scripture came to mind, “Prepare every needful thing… Establish a house… A house of order.”

(D&C 88:119)
This scripture has been our family theme for years. Danny and I picked it, and I can’t count how many hours I have spent focusing on what I thought “A House of Order” meant.
I have HATED myself for SO LONG over this.
I have come up with charts, graphs, sources and so many different things to help me keep my house clean. All have failed me. I have made most every guest in my home uncomfortable with strings of apologies and excuses over messes. And as I stepped over dirty clothes to get to the tub, it hit me.
A House of Order.
Has Nothing.
To Do.
With Dirty Clothes.

A House in Order is a house with it’s priorities in line. A House of Order is a house where God sits in the center.

Because my home is next in line of importance to the temple does not mean that it needs to LOOK LIKE A TEMPLE INSIDE. Small children aren’t allowed to roam and tumble inside of the LDS Temples. But my home functions pretty much exactly for that purpose.

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Would I be embarrassed if Christ himself walked into my home right now? NO! I mean, it’s my SAVIOR, for crying out loud!  In my HOUSE! I would fall on his neck and at his feet, and I would welcome his Grace with open arms. I would ask him questions -SO MANY QUESTIONS.

We are taught that Christ is the Master Teacher -the Greatest Example, and WHERE WHERE WHERE in the scriptures does it say that He kept a pristine house? Where is that written? I do know Christ speaks of having no place to lay his head, and that speaks pretty loudly of how important He felt it was to keep Himself housed neatly. Jesus came to earth to make the ultimate sacrifice, to open the way of Heaven to us through HEALING. That was his mission. He taught the importance of love through example, and nowhere in the scriptures can I find reference of His teaching the importance of having a counter clean of all things at all times! When Martha got caught up in cleaning and hosting, Christ didn’t join in to teach the importance of cleaning and hosting!  He sat with Mary and taught her the BETTER part.

If cleaning were a vital part of God’s plan, I would never be saved. I would have no hope for salvation.

Historically, there are many great messy people. Ben Franklin strove for organization but failed… but look at everything he accomplished!  He established the first library system, sanitation committee, and POLICE FORCE.  And that’s just a few of the lesser knowns! Mark Twain wrote amazing novels that have enriched us all… but his desk was a mess.

Loving myself means loving ALL of myself -learning to see the glass half full in the traits I wish I didn’t have. Can I force myself to be a clean, organized person? The answer is YES. I know because I’ve done it. But when I do that, I LOSE the parts of myself I love MORE than the parts of myself who can’t figure out a smooth method to scrubbing.
My creative energy dwindles, my writing suffers, my crochet projects tend more toward bland coloring and I have trouble getting on board with myself. In fact, the only pacification I have during the entire process is that my couch is clean enough to lay on.
And so I lie down and enjoy a clean house and a more flat stomach.

BUT THAT IS NO LIFE FOR ME BECAUSE IT LACKS DEPTH AND MEANING AND DIRECTION and has nothing at all to do with the talents God has endowed me with.

My life is lived to it’s fullest when I access Christ’s will for me… when I put HIM in the center of my disorganized life and go from there. My potential is realized in HIM! My potential is not limited to the state of my shelves and thighs.

When Sister Reeves gave this talk in Conference, I had to excuse myself after she said, “Amen.” I went into the kitchen and cried. I cried a lot. Tears of RELIEF. SOMEONE FINALLY SAID IT. Someone finally understood what I was going through and spoke absolute peace to my soul.

A House of Order, Alicia, is a House where priorities are in place: God, Love, Peace.

How do we lead our children to deep conversion and to access our Savior’s Atonement? I love the prophet Nephi’s declaration of what his people did to fortify the youth of his day: “We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, [and] we prophesy of Christ … that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.”4

How can we do this in our homes? Some of you have heard me tell how overwhelmed my husband, Mel, and I felt as the parents of four young children. As we faced the challenges of parenting and keeping up with the demands of life, we were desperate for help. We prayed and pleaded to know what to do. The answer that came was clear: “It is OK if the house is a mess and the children are still in their pajamas and some responsibilities are left undone. The only things that really need to be accomplished in the home are daily scripture study and prayer and weekly family home evening.”
~Sister Reeves

I do still clean my house, but only when I can do it from a place of love and not fear, pressure, or shame.
I clean when it feels natural.
But I know now that I can look to God -I can look up heavenward from my where I stand amid my clutter -and say, “I consecrate myself, my messes and my heart unto Thee.”

He can do great things where there is love.

When Channeling My Zombie is the Only Option

I really like being connected to God.

It’s hard right now, though, today it is hard. This weekend, it was hard. Aside from the boomerang head cold that’s decided I’m the coolest person in the world, I have this one little toddler who manages to drain and sap the head cold’s leftovers.
After that? All that’s left is Zombie. I sit in front of the television and ask for someone to bring me food.

I took a bath with the baby a few days ago. Purposefully? No. She heard my bath water running, and like a moth to a flame… Within SECONDS, she had nakified herself and was stepping nimbly over the tub edge.
“A splash splash, Mama?”

A splash splash must also be a pop pop if you have Alice with you, so I added some shampoo to the running bath water.
“A POP POP, Mama!”

After she was washed, I plopped her out, wrapped her in a towel and finished my bath. When I walked out into the living room, I found marker. everywhere. On the bathroom door, on the wall, on the front door, and ALL OVER HER OWN LITTLE BODY: head to toe.  Even her tongue was covered in royal blue.

I don’t even have pictures because I’m so tired. She doesn’t sleep, she doesn’t stop, and I’m trying to pray to God to connect and see what He’d have for me to do, but all I can really do is muster is another episode of “Death Comes to Pemberley” and a fat plate of nachos with a side of lotion-infused tissues.
(“Death Comes to Pemberley” just came on Netflix. It’s the best thing that’s happened all week!)

The past few days, the weather has been so beautiful. I keep thinking, “I SHOULD be doing yard work. I SHOULD be outside.”
I ask the kids if they want to go outside, hoping their presence will motivate me.
“No, Mom…” They’re feeling it too.
We are beaten. We are bloodied.
All
Except
Alice.

Death by Toddler.
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A Letter From My Sick Bed

My sister and I have a shared devotion for the movie, “Persuasion” -particularly Mary… the attention-starved diva who feigns illness every chance she gets.
“I am so ill… I can hardly speak.”
(warning: this trailer is misleading in that it gives off the movie being filled with action and passion, and it’s kind of really not)

And so my sickbed has been filled with Sister Maryisms, “What if I were to be seized in some dreadful way? I’m not able to ring the bell!”

Thursday after work, I came home and tangled myself up in a few comforters in my Dad’s old recliner and there I stayed until the middle of the night. My body ached ALL over. I napped for three hours and watched movie after movie with a groggy head and a fire-filled throat.
The bright side to all of this is that I have a few movie recommends for ya. And you do know that I’m always TAKING movie recommends, right? I mean, I’m so starved for movie recommends that I’ve started loosely watching, “Once Upon a Time” which goes grossly against what my Inner Hipster labels as acceptable behavior.
We might as well start there: Hipstering.
I’ve been streaming “Liberal Arts” and falling in love.

I want everyone to watch it, but if you can’t or won’t… just watch The Best Parts:
This scene -though the video isn’t the best -won me over.

But this is really the scene that sealed my devotion to the movie because I am a music major/lover/appreciator and a literary person:

The first half of “Liberal Arts” is irresistible, but the second half? eh. The amazingness of the first half nearly negates the mediocrity of the second half.
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I’ve tried getting into “John Adams” on Amazon Prime Instant Streaming, but there’s something about it that I can’t connect with. I think it’s the shaky-camera-close-up-scalping-at-a-drama-filled-angle that is distracting me.
See it in action:

Who needs scalps and steady cameras? Philistines. *spit*

I did find a gem on Amazon, though, in “London Hospital” which was cancelled -fair warning to those of us obsessed with cinematic closure -and which is not for anyone with a weak stomach. The children and I hid under blankets for every surgery scene.

I’m still pretty bummed over Thursday -it was a rapid succession of movie fails on a sick day. Isn’t that sad? The only nice thing about sick days is movies, and I didn’t watch a single one worth watching.
Lemon, lemon, lemon and no jackpot to show for it.

The worst part about it? I actually own some truly amazing movies and I haven’t watched them in years.
(#netflix)

This morning, my husband dusted off our DVD collection and put in “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” which has significant meaning in our household for reasons I’ll list here:
1) I once went on a date with a man kid to see this movie in theaters. I was so deeply moved and touched by the breathtaking cinematography, the realistic plot, and the music (oh! the MUSIC!) that I turned to share my rapture with my date and found him soundly asleep. And that’s when I knew: Philistine.
2) My husband bought me the movie and soundtrack (Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World)
for my 19th birthday (two weeks later I married him. I was SO YOUNG).
3) On our honeymoon, we stumbled -though I like to think God led us by the hand -onto THE SHIP THEY USED IN THE MOVIE. It was amazing. We toured it and soaked it all in, got burned by the California sun and fed pigeons.

I did watch “Moonstruck” for the first time and laughed out loud -and not because I was supposed to but because (for the love) Nicholas Cage pointing at his “false” hand and yelling, “HE TOOK MY HAND! HE TOOK MY BRIDE!” while wearing a wife beater that showed his sweat and tattoo in the light of the brick oven fires below his bakery.


I couldn’t take it seriously. Not even -nay, especially -when Cher’s hair thought it was a disco ball.
The only truly touching part of the movie was the bits of Italian Opera, but all that came crashing down when Cher slept with her the ridiculous brother of her ridiculous fiance and I couldn’t help but wonder why CHER was the one slapping and yelling, “Snap out of it!” when it’s more or less (or more) of a black kettle situation.

I guess it’s a classic, but it’s no “Philadelphia Story” or “You’ve Got Mail” or even “While You Were Sleeping” and that’s all I’ll say about that.
Except maybe “The Shop Around the Corner” which is really “You’ve Got Mail Senior.”

And if, when you’re done watching “Liberal Arts” and find yourself hankering for more classical education, the music major and mortal in me highly recommends BYU’s documentary on Handel’s Messiah which is guaranteed to change (at the most) your life and (at the least) your perspective:
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Satan’s Midnight Felony

I don’t know if this has ever happened to you, but Satan accosted my Sandman last night.

My toddler skipped her nap, so I was looking forward to a full night’s rest… but apparently having her sleep schedule messed with (even though SHE did her OWN messing) doesn’t sit right with her, and she got up every two hours to tell me about it.
Between her sob stories, I had dreams. Oh, the dreams!
I was pick-pocketed by a troubled teen  in the lobby of a darkened movie theater where children weren’t allowed to play video games -apparently they had need of a new hobby, video games being out of the question, and so turned to thievery. Minutes after leaving the theater, I was passenger in a car that drove off of a bridge and plummeted into rippling, dark waters. I escaped and found my way to the local police station where they refused to take me seriously despite my being victimized and narrowly escaping death all in one night.
That’s when I woke up -yet again -to find Satan’s hell-fire infested sand IN MY THROAT and yea though I coughed and spat, the fire would not subside.
And Alice wanted milk.
And I couldn’t not find her bottle.  The only pleasantness to be found was in Alice’s groggy, “Bless you’s” after I’d hack up phlegm.

I wanted all at once for night to end and night to not end because daylight meant GETTING UP.

My body aches, and Alice shows no sign of having ever passed The Evil Night with me.
But me? I?
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I don’t want to talk about it.
Unless you’re the Nocturnal Dream Police. Because I have a warrant for Satan’s arrest and SOMEone needs to be doing something about it.
I would, you understand, but I’m foggy -as foggy as the thick fog hanging over my town this very cold Northern Arizona morning -and I’m going to spend time with my herbal tea and blankies and vengeance.

Other Gods I Have

My newsfeed seems to be suddenly filled with articles on marriage… 5 ways to lose your husband, 3 ways to keep him. 10 ways to read her mind, 7 things you’re doing wrong.
There’s articles about how to make it work, and there’s even a few about forcing it to work. There’s advice, so much advice.  Answers!  Answers everywhere!

(One might wonder HOW MARRIAGES ARE STILL FALLING APART?!  There’s so many answers out there to PREVENT THEM FROM ENDING.)

I haven’t read any of them.
Why?
Because I used to read ALL of them. I could have been a walking advertisement for Dr. Laura. I can now proudly say that I have her Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands in my burn pile.  It was not for me.

My life used to be a chaotic roller coaster with highs and lows that could make Evil Knievel lose his breakfast. One word from my husband, and I was riding high or low. The highs made the lows worth it… And I pandered along in this warped sense of normalcy, rationalizing away unhealthy behavior on both our parts. Still, no matter how hard I worked, I couldn’t seem to tap into marital bliss or even true marital happiness. I didn’t expect perfection, but I hungered for a human connection that lasted beyond appearances. I could feel something substantial missing. I couldn’t understand it because I read the books! I followed the articles! I followed dating blogs and took their advice! I worked out so my body would stay thin for him.
I cleaned for him.
I cooked for him.
I worked hard to be interesting to him.

Why wasn’t I whole?

I turned to my friends for answers, and I was sure I needed a counselor. I needed answers! Something was wrong, something was definitely wrong, and I needed to fix it.

Phone calls were made to friends and family, comparing my relationship to theirs. I worked tirelessly to prove that I was right when my husband shrugged off any marital issues.

I felt crazy, and that crazy feeling drove me forward. I felt the need to control the outcome. I was capable, so… Why not?

What it all came down to was this: I knew in my heart something was wrong.
I knew in my heart.

Did I handle it in a healthy way? No, because I didn’t know any better.
Again and again I put myself in the role of savior. God let me know in my heart and gut that something was amiss, but I failed to reach out to Him in reply.

My God, and the center of my life, had become my husband. My savior was myself. Everyone around me existed as a secondary God. I looked to them for answers, for insights. I vented to them thoughts. When I felt the lows of my roller coater, I voiced my pain and hurt! I laid it at the feet of my friends.

All the time, God waited patiently on the sidelines. All knowing, all understanding… He knew why I felt so capable, why I felt the driving need to handle things on my own… Because He knows me.
He has walked my entire life with me, has seen everything I’ve seen, felt everything I’ve felt and understood everything I could or would not.

And one day, when my God of a husband and secondary Gods of people failed me -as mortals will do because it’s part of the role- I rode my roller coaster in stunned silence.
The twists and turns and loops that I had once seen as a challenge to be controlled and fixed became sickening to me.
I had to get off.  So I jumped.

Once on the ground, I found rest.
I laid out flat on the hard, solid ground and inhaled the serenity that came from not spinning. I closed my eyes to the drama of the roller coaster raging in front of me and slept for months. In my real-time life, this equated to spending six months in heaps of broken tears, wondering what was to be done.

Occasionally, I’d get on the roller coaster again as a means of habit only to hit the first loop and remember with nauseation (it’s a word now) that I DID NOT WANT TO BE THERE AGAIN.
I’d get off, lie down, and I would rest.
After a few months of this cycle, I opened my eyes and found God.
He was standing over me, and He raised me up. I walked with him, never quite ready to leave the circus grounds… but my walks with God began building my trust in Him. Around this time, I’d given up any and all self-help articles, books… but I did read one.
I read it on my walks with God.

There was entire chapter on allowing yourself to be romanced by God, and it made me squirm. It was weird.
But even so.
Suddenly all of the love songs took on a new meaning. Tears would fill my eyes as I could hear -instead of a man singing to his mistress -God. I could hear God singing to me, and I cried a lot.

I started to see God in the sunset -as if He arranged my favorite shades to come out to play just as I took my routine spot at the kitchen sink. I started to see God in the air around me, in the eyes of my children. I began to stand still, and in those still moments, God took my hand and everything missing in my marriage faded in the background. The “something missing” wasn’t missing anymore.
I looked forward to walking with God, and the more trust I felt in our walks, the more I started to feel like reaching back, replying.
As I streamed Pandora one afternoon, Josh Groban belted, “You Raise Me Up” and my eyes filled with tears. God raises me up.

It was during this period that God let me know… not only was the roller coaster NOT mine, but the circus was not MINE. It wasn’t ME.
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Hand in hand with God, I left the circus.

I left behind the articles, the debates, the trends, the flashy fashions. I left The Land of Answers and embarked into The Land of Questions.
Leaving the circus didn’t mean leaving pain… though admittedly, I have left so much self-inflicting pain behind.

With my hand in God’s, I ask what He needs. I ask what I need. I find, little by little, that all of the answers I was working to earn and find were there all along: the answers were within me. God knew it, and He patiently waited for me to know it as well.
God can be at my center, but it’s a decision -a choice -I make moment by moment.

The big thing missing in my marriage, in my relationship, in ME was God.

There are days I choose to return to the circus: to take offenses personally when what they really are… are responses from other broken people that have NOTHING to do with me and everything to do with their own struggles.
There are days when I find others at my center, when I find myself obsessing over something said or done, wondering if I’m despised, hated, judged or (this is the biggest one for me) rejected.

In those moments, I remember my walks with God. I remember to take one. I remember the feeling of creating safety from WITHIN instead of waiting on others to create my safety and sanity for me.

This all equates to my life being one big mess, but the remarkable -yea, miraculous -part of ALL of this is that I feel peace. I feel my feet on the ground.

I feel the answers within myself.

So many Nicholas Sparks novels-turned-movies have lost their luster now that I see life is so much more than about worshiping others. It’s more than earning love, more than climbing the steep roller coaster in anticipation for your emptiness to be filled only to be let down, let down, let down low.

God never lets me down. God raises me up.


And while I’m sure there’s so many way that I can break my marriage or lose/annoy/frustrate my husband/neighbors/sister/daughter/cat, I also know that when I put God in the center and talk my life over with Him, I find within myself in incomparable peace, an immeasurable wholeness that defies any amount of searching, earning, and self-expectations.

I find myself outside of myself, more aware, more alive and totally, completely ENOUGH.
My answers aren’t your answers, save one: Go to God. Let Him fill your “something missing” and you will find within yourself a wholeness that needs no debate, no defensiveness, no explanation, no apology, no ego… just an encompassing peace that defies fear. Pain isn’t as scary anymore, and life becomes -instead of a rapid succession of anxiety ridden preventative measures -one beautiful embrace of reality with it’s injustices, calamities, unknowns, unfairs, and beautiful mysteries.
I have no control over my husband, my relationships, my cat! And this is freeing.
It’s freeing to NOT read articles with answers.
It’s freeing to know that I DO KNOW FOR ME, that I can tap into my own soul, be honest (even if it’s not easy) and true (even if I don’t like what I need) to myself.

There is no one right way. There is no one right person because Jesus died.

He died for me because I am wrong, do wrong, and am a fully broken human… knowing this, I can finally embrace that I can not manage my marriage and other people. I can, however, go to God and therein will my life take the best course for me.

Just do the next right thing for me.

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Baptismal Birthday

Lacy Gayle turned eight.
It came without much warning, sneaking up on me right after Christmas. Lacy’s life seems to be flying past me too quickly. Her first few months, ironically, seemed to last a lifetime. Her seven hour screaming fits made each minute feel like a lifetime… I never thought as a new mother, never really thought, that Lacy would grow up and become such a separate person from me.
I need more time.
I keep telling her, but she just laughs and laughs. She laughs almost as much as she used to scream, actually.
Her little giggles are so contagious. I despise the clock, knowing her giggles will soon grow up and away from me. My battle against time is waged on the home font, on my insides. I’m working hard on enjoying what’s in front of me, my present.
I worked to be present on Lacy’s birthday, but boy. It was hard. Seeing her in a beautiful white dress reminded me all at once of her blessing day as an infant and the potential she has to wear white as a young woman… And it was super special and super crappy.
Lacy, you must stop growing.
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Planning her baptism reminded me at how unpolished my planning skills are.
I once had a teacher say to me, “poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.”
Haunting little ditty.
I wrote out Lacy’s program, designed it (it took me hours, but it’s the simplest thing), and promptly forgot to ask the names on it if they’d be willing to do the jobs printed neatly next to them.
Thank goodness they were all available and willing.
My computer crashed after I designed the program. Of course it did.
Days before, I’d gone to order a birthday dress for Lacy. On etsy, I found a beautiful jersey 3/4 length sleeve, heavy on the twirl. It was chic, classy, not a typical dress but timeless. It would look at home at a baptism and an afternoon picnic.
“Lacy, look…”
“Yeah, it’s nice.” Lacy shrugged. Shrugging is never a positive thing.
“Not what you’re looking for?” I asked.
“Well, I just thought more decoration on top… And like poof on bottom.”
Amazon.com delivered a thirty dollar dress to us two days before her baptism. Two days.
Two.
This is also about the time I texted out invites to important people I’d forgotten to invite earlier *head slap*
Who lets me plan things, anyway?
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Lacy and I pulled together an hour after her dress was picked up from the post office and we whipped up a quick photo shoot in enough time for me to edit the pictures and order a few for the table display outside the door.
I don’t tend to fuss too much over perfection or planning, so we just plunked her down in her home element… On my bed, outside by the barn. I let her use an old Book of Mormon with my great grandmother’s handwriting in it.
She insisted on her CTR ring showing as frequently as was possible:image
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Of course my camera died, so I used my phone. There wasn’t enough time to charge my camera before the good sunsetty light would be gone. So we made do.
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I auto enhanced the photos as bet I could, downloaded them to my iPad from my online back up storage space, and the ordered prints through wal-mart.com and almost broke my iPad through it all.  I don’t really get along well with touch screens.
Danny and I had bought fixings for a potato bar earlier in the week, but I needed some ice cream and a few extra items.  We made a dash to the store to pick up the pictures, the ice cream, the cake mix… and then we raced home in enough time to speed clean before family arrived.
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(what pink potty in the middle of the living room? I don’t see anything…)
The double running stroller was effectively stashed in my room… along with the clothes, the boxes, the shoes, the “Mom, where do we put this?”s…
“On my bed, baby. Just put it on my bed.”
(I slept on the futon that night. I regret nothing.)

We made the cake at 9:30 pm that night.
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“I want mix mix mix, Lace. I want.”
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I woke up early on Sunday and rolled out my last-minute magic… the same magic I whipped out in high school and college the night before a big project was due.
I wrapped potatoes in foil and started crying.
When did Lacy turn EIGHT?
I did not sign up for THIS.

A song came to mind, and the tears flowed, flowed, flowed and I knew it had to be played at her baptism. And hey! It could be! Because (surprise!) I hadn’t squared away the intermission time between Lacy’s baptism and her confirmation yet.
I found the video, Danny watched it and our friend took care of the downloading and projecting. It was perfect, and I’m so grateful.

As I baked potatoes, Lacy took a bath and then decorated her cake.
“I want a little 8 in every corner, a BIG 8 in the middle and some CTRs around… and like ALL of my CTR rings like stuck in the cake!”
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“And now sprinkles…”
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“It’s a little messy in the middle, Mom,” she sighed. It looked perfect to me. She loves to take the reigns on stuff like this, and I love letting her because hey! more time for me to get stuff done.

I had actually invited guests to a potato bar luncheon at my grandmother’s house without asking my grandmother first. She said yes when I did finally ask, though, because she’s pretty saintly. That morning, I made a list of toppings and pulled out my serving bowls. I said a prayer over what I’d bought -that it would be enough, and if it wasn’t that it would miraculously multiply not unlike loaves of bread and fishes.
Then I dried Lacy’s hair and put it up in rollers while Danny made a special birthday breakfast: bacon, eggs, grits, and orange juice.
“Mom, um, you’re not leaving those in Lacy’s hair, right? Because she looks like an alien…”
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“They’re the new cool thing, Trent. Of COURSE I’m leaving them in.”
“If they’re so cool, why aren’t YOU wearing them, Mom? They’re hurting my head.”
They think they’re so smart.

Once her curlers were out, she got in her dress and slipped into the shoes Sue Ann gave her. Sue Ann used to be Lacy’s Primary Teacher, and is always so thoughtful about Lacy’s important days. These shoes were the highlight of Lacy’s outfit.
“These are the ONES, Mom,” she said, “The ones I tried to show you at Wal-Mart but you were all, ‘Lace, come on… let’s GO’ but now here they are! It’s magic!”
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She slipped her pretty dress on, and my goodness… she glowed beautifully which means I just cried more. We’re a family of feelers.
“Pretty twirl!” Alice cried out, “Oh… Lace. A Pretty Twirl. Want it?” Pretty twirls, as you might have now guessed, are pretty dresses. Luckily I had one of Lacy’s old dresses hanging in the closet (see there IS GOOD that comes from not keeping up on clothing rotation. Sometimes there is):
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Trent didn’t want to take a picture in a pretty twirl. Probably because he assumed it meant getting alien hair and sparkling shoes, and he’s just rather NOT. We went off to church… Lacy with her new dress, new scriptures and a bright smile.

Danny and I skipped out on church early to set up the luncheon. We meant to take Alice with us, but we forgot. My aunt Julie brought Lacy and Trent to the luncheon, and pretty soon Danny’s phone rang. It was my brother who serves in the Bishopric. He just wanted to know if we planned on picking Alice up from nursery?
*head slap*
My Aunt Ruth and Uncle Gary brought her, and for the 58th time that day, I said, “It takes a village…”

We ended up having enough food -JUST enough, and then we went to set up for the baptism.

I didn’t plan out a table display perfectly, but figured I’d keep my options open, you know, until five minutes before the baptism would start. It worked out pretty well…
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I brought a doily my great-grandmother crocheted… I like to think she saw it.
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I put it next to the book I worked for HOURS to make for Lacy. It came in the mail in time (three days before the baptism). Chairs were set up, Lacy’s hair was braided, prelude music was played, and Lacy maintained a steady glow through it all:
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Her Dad and I worked hard to not make eye contact because we all fuel each other’s FEELER tears.
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Before her baptism, as her PaPa talked to her about baptism, he cried and she almost cried. As I helped her out of the baptism font, out of wet clothes and back into her Pretty Twirl, she confessed she’d almost cried before her Dad put her under the water.
“But I pushed it down,” she shivered. As she dressed she muttered, “All washed away…” It was so sweet -SHE is so sweet.
When the Bishop asked her how she felt after her baptism, she grinned, “Better.”
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Better.
What a wonderful, simple one-word sum-up of how we all feel when the Savior’s Atoning Sacrifice is applied to our lives.

Lacy’s baptism was such a wonderful experience. There was so much love, so much family -the Spirit was very strong. Seeing my sweet 8 year old (WAH) feel the Spirit touched me. I remember having the giggles at my baptism, but Lacy has a better grasp of the step she took on Sunday.
It was truly special to see her get baptized in the same font I was.

I watched her stay up late and journal her feelings in several of the journals she was generously given.
“I am now a member of my Savior’s church,” she wrote.

One journal asked specific questions.
“What did your parents do to prepare for your baptism?” it prompted.
“Set up chairs,” she wrote.

Someday, Lacy… someday far away I’ll show you this blog post and we’ll laugh together about how Mom isn’t the best planner, organizer or anything but how it doesn’t matter.
Because what happened is what needed to happen.
And we all feel better.

New Year, Real Year

Hello, 2015.

We rang you in with a reality bang. You gave us a few inches of perfectly powdery snow -an almost poetic symbol of a clean sheet. We spent 4 billion hours dressing the children appropriately to bask in the winter wonderment which they DID
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… for 20 minutes which is long enough to snap a few pictures and become totally disenchanted with the idea of a clean sheet.
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New leaves and clean sheets always hold more splendor in the first twenty minutes… after the enchantment comes reality.

Our reality check came in the form of a toddler begging to build a snowman but running a 102.5 fever.
“A ‘noman?” her big, hopeful blue eyes would look up at her Dad.
“Honey,” he’d get down to her eye level, “I’m sorry, but we can’t, okay?  You’re SICK.”
Bottom lip Protrude.
Crocodile Tears Shower.
Tiny Shoulders Fall.
Big Daddy Break.

We wrapped her up tight, tight and took her outside where she became VERY angry with the snow for being COLD (the AUDACITY of NATURE -as a woman, I fully get behind her indignation), and she fell asleep against my chest. I wrapped my heavy coat around her and took a short walk in the setting sun.
Once inside, she woke up while I rocked her in the recliner and then she THREW up, coating me with an entirely different kind of sheet which was neither fresh or new.
Same old, same old reality.

Because she couldn’t build her ‘noman, we did the next best and outfitted her in warm Elsa and Ana feety PJs and gave her a bottle with chamomile tea.
So that starts our list.
Everything Alice Needs When Feverish and Bossy:
1) Elsa
2) Bottle
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3) Sibling Support (“want Lace. want Twent.”)
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4) A Dad
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5) …with ears
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6) A Dog
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I’m sure I’m on that list. After all, someone needs to clean up the mess. Catch the mess? Either way, I’m here for you, child.

While the kids did their best to force the powdery snow to pack (so disappointing), I stayed inside and whipped up a fancy gluten-free substitution for my Mom’s orange rolls. I used my gluten free pancake mix, added some full-pulp orange juice to the batter and topped them off with some orange syrup. And there was much joy and rejoicing because it DID the trick! My hunger for her orange rolls was satisfied. We ate warm ham and fresh pineapple with our pancakes.
We ate from REAL plates (even though I had Styrofoam! check me out) and drank Martinelli because our kids like fancy things.
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We rejoiced over the fresh snow on a holiday because it meant we could all stay home and stay close.
We rejoiced over the hot chocolate mixes on our counter because it meant we could treat ourselves on a snow holiday.
We even rejoiced over the sick baby because it meant quarantine, and there’s beauty in quarantines when your house is full of free time, new toys, and yummy food and no sharing. Ha!

I don’t know if your New Year’s Day looked like ours in some way… if you mentally prepped yourself to bask in a clean sheet. Maybe you did. Maybe you ARE. Maybe you’re still prepping, maybe you’re basking. Maybe you’ve been hit with reality. Maybe you’ve let go of the idea of clean sheets on January 1st and embrace them whenever they show up.
I don’t always make New Year’s Resolutions myself. This year I did. I’ll tell you about it in a second.
But first:

A few years ago, I made a New Year’s Resolution to read three positive wikipedia articles when I said something negative about someone else. Genius, right? You can’t remove an old habit and NOT replace it with something wonderful, right? Otherwise you’ll just be left with a gigantic empty holey vacuum in your soul, right? And that’s scary, right?
I understood this principle, yes I did. Because I read a lot of self-help articles written by intellectuals.

I was diligent and so virtuous about the whole thing. Really, I was. Each wikipedia article I read doused me with everything healthy for me: guilt, shame, a wrist slap, and a healthy education. I had successfully enrolled myself in Boot Straps Boot Camp.
Any pain aimed at me could and would be thwarted with my muscles. My bootstraps! My big girl panties!
All around me were people who WEREN’T pulling themselves up, and I would judge them. WHY? Why weren’t they pulling themselves together? Didn’t they know about the self-help articles? On occasion I would send them a few, just for good measure and to put another gold star on my mental Good Turn Daily chart. Then I’d mentally fold my mental chart up, put it away and move right along to judgement.
This is where my New Year’s Resolution came into high play.
I’d begin to give voice to my judgments, hate what I heard coming out of my own mouth and punish myself. Checks and balances, friends. It’s an age-old system that works political wonders.

I will tell you that after my Boot Straps Boot Camp came my fire.
I am here to tell you that the past 18 months of my life have been a baptism by fire. I found myself somewhere in that inexplicable corner of the universe where my emotional pain morphed into physical pain.
My heart, though it seemed safely encased in the cavity of my chest, felt as if it were bleeding out in my hands.
That’s what addiction does.

I’ve heard addicts say their choices only affected them. But I know someone (because I kind of know myself a little better now) who walked around life for years with her bleeding heart in her hands and on her sleeve and can tell you that it’s just not true.
My husband’s addiction obliterated me.

I know now that addiction isn’t about choice. It isn’t even really about substance.
I remember curling up one day when I couldn’t face the pain of my life and binge watching, “My Strange Addiction” and saw person after person consumed with the same behaviors I witnessed in my husband. It doesn’t matter WHAT the substance is… if there’s a God-hunger, the means and methods and behaviors that go along with filling it are textbook. How harrowing my judgement had become -how deeply rooted, how scathing -so much aimed at my husband.
But the more I bled out and the more the fire burned, the more I realized I, II… needed God. My God-hunger was simply being filled in other ways: pride, judgement, big girl panties.
I was my own Savior, I had no want.

But could I save my own bleeding heart? Could I fix or medicate the pain that flowed through me as I walked through life surrounded by people who couldn’t see my soul wreck?
Everything I once judged my neighbors for… everything I disapproved of… I DID.
I broke in that fire.
My boot straps, big girl panties, and self-help books burned FIERCELY.

Saying, “It really hurt” is honest but insufficient.

This year I don’t resolve to lose weight or get fit. I don’t resolve to eat more greens. I don’t resolve to give more service. I don’t resolve to clean more or organize my closet or read more books or read less books.

What DO I resolve to do?
I’m going to
(oh my goodness, are you ready for this?)
make a family cookbook.

Why? Because God wants me to. I feel prompted to make a cookbook filled with pictures and family quotes and things that bring me true joy. I’m having a blast, taking it slowly (my computer died again), and getting some creative ideas. I’ve titled it, “Grilling Grandma.” It will be Lacy’s dowry.

But really -when I say my New Year’s Resolution is to write a cookbook, what I’m saying in essence is that my New Year’s Resolution is to stand in the middle of life’s fire and tap into God’s incomparable offering of grace: let the fire burn my man-made defenses… pride, intellect, will! As my layers burn to ashes at my feet, the refining fire polishes my core, my center! And in that fire, I find serenity. I find calm. I find God’s will, God’s firmly gentle hand.

I find myself.
I find cookbooks.
I find life’s mess.
I find love.

If I could offer anything to you this brand new year, it would be love.

Would I need self-help with love? Would I need green drinks and Jillian Michaels and thick textbooks to FORCE MYSELF to BE BETTER so I would finally, finally LOVE MYSELF?
No.
For when I love myself, there is health. Therein is abundance.
Surprisingly, therein is imperfection.

I highly, highly recommend this book and I don’t highly recommend any self-help books, so it’s kind of a big deal for me:

And for all the mess, reality is worth it:
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Christmas Short VII -A Photo Finale

Santa-ish:
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Parents-ish:
orangefood - Copy

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Grandparents-ish:
fajitas

pinatas

hats

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Love-ish:

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And just in case your heart is as cold as your ears this morning, here’s a picture of a true cowboy putting tiny pink cowgirl boots on his great-grandgirl. Cue heart melt.
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