Sunday, April 24, 2011

He makes it possible...

None of us, as human beings, are perfect.  That's kinda the whole point of this blog.  But today, as we celebrate the life, Atonement, and resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ, I want to share my faith that Jesus WAS perfect, and that it is because of Him that it's okay for us not to be.  It's okay that we make mistakes and wrong choices and everything else that comes with being a human being.  HE paid the price for us, to give us the chance to learn and grow and take two steps forward and one step back.  He loves us more than we can ever understand, and He will always help us become our best selves if we choose to come to Him.  Through His power we can be forgiven for all those wrong choices and become who HE sees in us.

This Easter message touched my heart today, and I wanted to share it with you:

I wish you a blessed and joyful Easter!

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

In Honor of "You're My Favorite" Day...

 Yesterday marked the 3rd anniversary of the passing of my sweet little sister Carissa.  Words cannot express how much I love her, or how much I still miss her every day.  Carissa was 22 years old and had Down's Syndrome, and I truly believe she was an angel walking on the earth.  She had a greater capacity to love than any person I have ever met, and she used that capacity to lift every person she met.  She told everyone she met: "You're my favorite!" And she truly meant it every time. She made us all feel like the best version of ourselves. She smiled and hugged us and wrote us letters and made silly faces and told ridiculous jokes and always, always told us she loved us. 

My brother Dan of Single Dad Laughing has written a beautiful tribute to her here that everyone should read, and the main focus of what he wrote was about how Carissa was able to love people because she never thought of herself as better than another person.  This could not be more true. And while I could write for days about the things I learned from her, today I want to just write about the flip-side from what Dan wrote.

Carissa also never thought of herself as less than any other person.

Just think about what that means for a second.

My beautiful girl
I truly believe that Carissa never looked at another person and only saw her own shortcomings. She never thought to herself, "Oh, that person thinks they're better than me" or "That person is better than me/smarter than me/richer than me/more beautiful than me/happier than me/more good than me/etc." Carissa saw each person only as a brother or a sister, someone to love and someone who would love her in return.  She never doubted that everyone would love her, and as a result, everyone did.

I have written a lot on this blog about how we let our perception of our own imperfection stand in the way. We don't reach out in love or in service because we're afraid that what we have to give will never be good enough. We don't explore and expand the gifts God has given us because we don't think we'll be able to do it as well as others.

Carissa never let her imperfections hinder her from being who she was meant to be. And I'm not just talking about the limitations inherent to her disability.  She also had normal imperfections -- she was stubborn as a mule, and she got sad and mad and scared just like the rest of us. But she accepted those parts of herself and allowed the beautiful gifts that she'd been given to shine through.  Let me just tell you one story to illustrate this point.

I was with Carissa when she was admitted to the hospital for the last time. She was in serious distress from terrible pneumonia, and she was scared and in pain. A short time after she was admitted, a nurse came to insert a pic line into her arm so they could better administer her meds (any medical people out there will have to excuse my lack of medical expertise here). Carissa's veins were notoriously hard to find and I think they hadn't been able to get an IV in, so they had to go with the pic line.  The nurse told me that inserting a pic line was almost always very, very easy, but that sometimes it because very, very difficult.  Carissa's experience proved to be the latter. The nurse tried for what seemed like forever to get it in, basically digging a needle around in Carissa's arm trying to find the right placement. Carissa was in intense pain, tears rolling down her cheeks.  But that was not her focus. Carissa could see that the nurse was distressed about the pain she was causing.  Carissa started saying, "It's okay! You're doing a good job. Keep trying. I love you. It's okay," all while patting the nurse with her free hand. By the time she was finished, we were all in tears.  I actually don't remember if she was even able to place the pic line in the end.  But the spirit of love in that room was so strong that I will never forget it.

Carissa with my mom and my boys, just a couple days before she died.

Carissa was not focused on her own fear or pain or unhappiness, all things that would have limited her ability to reach out. Her concern was for the person she saw suffering in front of her. That was the suffering she wanted to alleviate. Throughout that last hospital stay, which lasted about a week, she continued to lift everyone who came in contact with her, despite her deteriorating condition.  Her hospital room had large windows facing out into the hallway, and she waved cheerily at everyone who passed.  We were told later that hospital staff and patients were going out of their way to walk by her room and see her smile. And to this day, the memory of her unselfish love pushes everyone who knew her to be a little more loving to everyone they meet.

Love conquers fear.  Love conquers every negative emotion or action in this world.  Because love for others -- others she saw as no better or worse than herself, only brothers and sisters -- was the greatest emotion in Carissa's world, she was able to lift and serve and be the best possible version of herself. 

I miss you, my sweet Carissa.  I will keep trying to remember your example every day.  You're my favorite!

If this post has touched your heart today, please feel free to share it wherever you share things.

***I just realized I never explained -- we call the anniversary of Carissa's passing "You're My Favorite" Day in her honor.  We try to celebrate the life she lived even as we still mourn her loss. I know that we'll be together with her again in heaven, and that even now she's with us in spirit, and I thank God every day for that blessing.***

Monday, April 4, 2011

What defines you?

Today I'd like to share a powerful little nugget to think about from Becky Higgins, who writes about how we define ourselves -- do we let others define us, or do we have faith in our own core self?  Click here to check it out!

I couldn't agree more with what she has written.  Letting others define us only limits our potential, but defining ourselves by our best qualities and beliefs gives us power to become who we really want to be.  Worth two minutes to read today!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Can I get a do-over?

This weekend is General Conference for the LDS Church -- twice a year the prophet and apostles and other leaders of our church come together to speak to all of us members around the world. It is truly my favorite weekend of the year, because it always seems like 90% of the talks focus on just exactly what I need to hear at that moment.

Everyone "reverently" listening to conference...
But yesterday was, I have to admit, not awesome.  In these parts they show the conference on TV, so we watch it from home.  We tried to keep the kids engaged and interested but they were tired and cranky and the day was mostly consumed with us nagging them to be quiet and at least let us listen.  In the evening we went over to my parents' house, and on the way home I was lecturing (again) about how important conference is and how they need to have a good attitude and blah blah blah... (I'm pretty sure that's how it sounded to them.)  But I suddenly had another thought and said, "But you know what, Sammy? [my oldest, who was definitely the only one even pretending to listen at that point] When I was your age, I thought conference was boring, too.  I had a hard time listening to it, too.  It's something you learn to love as you grow up and feel the Spirit more and more.  But it starts by having a good attitude."

There was a moment of silence, and then Sam said, "Thanks for giving me that advice, Mom.  Because for most of the day, I felt like I was the only one..."

His voice sounded so tender and almost tearful.  I realized that I had gone about things in all the wrong way -- just nagging and lecturing without really making an effort to understand things from the kids' point of view -- and instead of creating an environment where they could feel the happiness and peace of the Spirit (even if they didn't understand everything being said), they just felt bored and guilty for feeling bored.  And then I nagged them some more and eventually sent them to their rooms, creating a spirit of contention instead love.

Thankfully, conference is, in fact, a two-day event.  I'm up early preparing some different activities for them to do and also praying for guidance in how to make this the family-and-spirit-strengthening day that it's meant to be.  Thank heavens we do get a do-over once in a while...