It has been a little while since we had a new post. We started this blog very spontaneously, and have always been uncertain of where it was going to go. It seems that we have a little more certainty now. Greg has found a new side business opportunity – 101 Financial. It is a very exciting opportunity, and he has been very busy with it. He has decided he will no longer be a contributor to Because We Have Today.
This has left me wondering what to do with this blog! We started it as a way to tell our story together, so not having Greg contributing changes things up quite a bit. I have thought about all the options. Do I quit doing the blog? Maybe I could continue it along the same lines of telling our story with vEDS? Or maybe I could change it up and make it my own? After much thought and prayer, I have decided to make it mine.
I feel that for some reason it is important to tell my story (part of why this blog is in existence). Maybe it’s for me. Maybe it’s for someone else. I don’t really know why. Up to this point I haven’t been as real and vulnerable as I could be, and I plan to change that. This blog is going to be the real story with all of its ups and downs and in betweens. I am excited to continue talking about our journey as we deal with vEDS. I also am excited to add some variety to my posts as I talk about motherhood, faith, parenting special needs children, homeschooling, and other things I am involved and interested in.
I have been asking this question of a variety of people: What is the most difficult thing about going through a life-changing trial? I have asked various people from all walks of life, and in a variety of situations. Hands down, the biggest thing I hear people saying is, “Nobody understands what I’m going through”. Isn’t that interesting that we all feel this way? It’s quite ironic that we all feel alone together.
I think it is very true! Nobody understands what I’m going through. Nobody truly can. I have had this feeling a lot myself. I have a different life than my neighbors, friends, and family. They don’t understand my life or my choices. They don’t understand the stresses I’m under. Even those who think they are in a similar situation don’t understand what I’m going through. Nobody understands what I’m going through. I think that may be one of the most difficult truths in this life. It makes us feel alone in the world.
What do you do when you feel alone? Is there an answer to this problem? I think there are a few answers.
I have experienced a huge amount of love and kindness from others. Others have been there for me in my biggest crises. They have taken care of my children, been a shoulder to cry on, cleaned my house, done my laundry, and the list goes on and on. It is wonderful to have people helping and supporting. Having someone who cares can make all the difference during a difficult time or in a difficult moment.
I have found that the hardest part comes after the crisis seems to be over. Everything has settled down, and the people around you don’t always realize you are still struggling. For me, this is the hardest time. I feel that I have to deal with all the emotions and responsibilities myself, and it is easy to feel alone and that nobody understands what I’m going through.
It is very hard to do, but I have found that letting someone know I’m having a hard day can make all the difference. People want to help. They just usually don’t know how and when to help. Sometimes you have to tell them.
See the Good
It is easy to be frustrated with those around us. Sometimes they say things that are hurtful. They may throw judgment around about things they have no clue about. Sometimes you feel a complete lack of support when you need it most. These things are frustrating because you need support more than ever, and it’s hard to feel it.
You are the only one who you have control of. This is a truth that holds a lot of power. Yes, it means you can’t control anyone else, but the power is in you. You can choose to see the good in others. You can choose your response to the actions of others
I believe that for the most part people are doing their very best with the knowledge and experience they have. They may say things that are hurtful, or give you bad advice, etc, but their intentions may be good. Even if their intentions are not good, you can always find something that is good about them. Maybe you will have to look hard, but it gets easier with practice.
I choose to see the good. It is incredibly helpful to consciously think of good things about someone when I may be feeling frustrated or unsupported. We are all just doing our best. Giving people the benefit of the doubt is very helpful to you and to them.
A Truth and a Lie
While I believe it is a truth that no one on understands what I’m going through, I think it is also a lie.We all have each other. We are brothers and sisters, and we all go through hard things. The hard things we go through may be different, and they have varying degrees of hardship.
However, I believe that every difficult experience has similarities. Different trials can teach us the same things. Hard equals hard. It isn’t right to compare trials. For someone else, something I don’t even see as difficult could be as difficult for them as what I’m going through. While this fact in and of itself can be very frustrating and triggering, I think it can also be very helpful to understand. We ALL know what it’s like to go through something difficult. Because we all experience trials, we all have some extent of empathy for others going through hard things. We have each other in this crazy, difficult life. Don’t we all understand each other to an extent?
A Look in the Mirror
After my youngest, August, was born, there was a time that I wasn’t feeling very much support. He was needing surgery, and I was having a difficult time with my emotions. We were planning to travel to Philadelphia for the surgery, which required a lot of planning and outside help. I was frustrated with others for not being able to see and anticipate my needs. I felt very alone, and that nobody understood what I was going through.
As I was feeling sorry for myself, I realized that I was wanting others to be something that I wasn’t myself. I wasn’t the friend, sister, daughter, etc. that I was expecting others to be for me. I made a goal right then and there that I was going to be the friend, the sister, the daughter, the mother that I wanted others to be for me. It is amazing how that changed everything! I started finding myself giving out of love. I felt the joy of serving others, and it was amazing how my love for them increased as I served them. The other amazing thing that happened is that others started doing the same for me. It was incredible!
I most definitely am not perfect at this. It is a work in progress! It is always important to know when to say yes and when to say no, as I describe here.
Feeling Alone Forces us to Look to God
Maybe it’s a good thing that we feel alone sometimes. Sometimes we are given challenges so big that we can’t handle them alone. I think that’s part of the plan. We aren’t supposed to do this life alone. We aren’t supposed to rely on our own strength.
Sometimes, I think we are given challenges that are outside of our capacity to handle because we will be more likely to turn to God. I believe that even when no one else understands, there is One who does. Jesus Christ felt all of our sadness and pain and loneliness. He understands how we feel and what we need. We can always find empathy there. He is the only one who truly understands what you are going through. He can help us and comfort us like no one on this Earth can.
I have felt my burdens be lightened as I have turned to God for help. Because of the hard things I have gone through, I have a much stronger relationship with Him. I know that even I feel that I am all alone and that no one understands, He does. He is always there.
3 Strategies to Feel More Understood
In summary, we have discussed 3 ways to feel more understood (with a few other little gold nuggets scattered throughout). If you can truly do these things, you will see that while it is true that nobody truly understands what you’re going through, there are ways to feel less alone.
See the good in others. Notice that while they may be imperfect (just like you), they are doing their best. Find something good about them and/or their efforts
Look in the mirror. Be the kind of friend or family member you want for yourself. You will find this to be extremely rewarding.
Look to God. Remember that Jesus Christ understands exactly what you are going through. You always have someone who truly understands. Sometimes we are given things we can’t handle alone so we will look to God and ask for help. He is there. You are not alone!
I know that as you do these 3 things, you will feel empowered. You will feel more understood and much less like nobody understands what you’re going through.
We have taken quite the unexpected break this summer! We have had a busy summer full of adventure, and we were having too much fun to write blog posts. We are excited to get back into the swing of things now that school has started again and we are getting into a routine.
In the spring, we received an email from the school district asking for volunteers to host exchange students this summer. I quickly skimmed it, discounted it, and went on with my day, but Greg had different ideas. He really wanted to do it. As a kid, he had many exchange students stay with his family, and he had fond memories of those times. He wanted our family to experience it. I had so many reasons that it wasn’t a good time for us to have them: we don’t have an extra bedroom; we don’t have room in the car unless we caravan; we are already so busy; we are already stressed; we just don’t need more! These are are all good, reasonable reasons to say no, but Greg really really wanted to do it, so in the end, I relented.
Our summer was quite packed, which is another reason I was hesitant to say yes to having the students. We started our summer with an almost two week trip to Canada to visit family. It was a really great trip, and we made a lot of memories. We did a lot of driving, and got to see a lot of Southern Alberta. It was a fun, but very tiring trip with six kids!
When we got home from Canada, we had one full week to prepare for our two Chinese foreign exchange students to stay with us for two weeks. It was a lot of work to get ready for them, and then to get them where they needed to be, entertain them, and take care of their needs. But overall, it was such a fun and educational experience to have these two girls in our home. We learned a lot about a much different culture, and we got to experience a lot of firsts with them. They had never been camping, fishing, had a water fight, cooked, seen a parade, walked on grass, eaten donuts and so many other things. It was very eye opening.
By the time we said goodbye to them, I truly loved them, almost as if they were my own daughters. It was incredible how quickly we all started to care for them. They felt like part of the family, and they still do. We even have a group chat named “We Are Family”, named by one of our Chinese girls.
As we shared time with the girls, I started to see how now is the perfect time to say YES! It’s true that it was inconvenient. It was a lot of work! But the positive impact on our family far outweighs any negative. It was wonderful to welcome them into our home. It was wonderful to share with them and to give to someone else. It filled our cups, and it inspired the entire family. Now we have friends on the other side of the world. We will keep in touch as much as we can, and hopefully meet in person again someday. It was an experience I would never take back. I’m so glad we said yes.
What is the thing you have always wanted to do but haven’t? I think we all have things we have always wanted to do. Things we are saving for later. We wait for the perfect time when all the stars align, and we can finally have our dreams. Something that has become more clear to Greg and me the past year and a half is that we don’t always have later. We have learned to live for now, and it has helped us to make some good choices, and to say yes to some things we may not have said yes to in the past. It has also helped us to know when it is a good idea to say no.
I have started saying yes to quite a few things that I wouldn’t have in the past. I have started to consciously make goals and reach for them instead of waiting for the ‘perfect’ time to get started. We were much less likely to go on adventures because they required a lot of work and sacrifice of time, and sometimes money. We could always do those things later in our minds. It is too hard with 6 kids, we said. It will be easier in a year, or 5 years, or 10 years. That is when we will do those things on our bucket list. I have learned some important lessons about saying yes for myself and for my family.
I say yes to opportunities for memories. This summer we went on two camping trips, to Canada, and hosted foreign exchange students. That is a record for us. It was tiring! But, it was so worth it. We made memories, and we will never forget this summer.
I say yes to new experiences. We go on little excursions as often as possible. When we have a chance to spend family time we do. We love to explore and learn and grow as a family. It is definitely exhausting and a lot of work, but so worthwhile! Even the not so awesome adventures are memorable, if only for laughs later on.
I say yes to service. When I have the capacity to help others, I do. I have found that service, if done out of love, actually increases my capacity to deal with things. It is amazing, but it is true. Maybe it isn’t always big things, but I do my best to give back in the ways I can.
I say yes to opportunities that get me closer to my goals. These opportunities usually stretch me and scare me, but the things that stretch me are the things that are worthwhile. They help me grow and get me closer to who I want to be and what I want to do with my life.
I do believe that there is a season for everything, and sometimes that means saying no. The day after the exchange students left, we were given the opportunity to have an exchange student for an entire year. Greg really really wanted to say yes, but I said no to that one, and I ended up winning. A year is a whole other story than two weeks! This isn’t the season in our family’s life to host an exchange student for an entire year for the same reasons I was hesitant to saying yes to exchange students for two weeks. Those reasons really matter when we are talking about a whole year.
It can feel selfish to say no. It means that you are putting yourself first. That is important sometimes! You have to learn to love and care for yourself before you can truly love and care for someone else. Saying no doesn’t mean you’re selfish. It means you respect yourself and your family, and you value your time. When you say yes to one thing, you are saying no to everything else, so it is important to say yes to the right things.
I say no when it isn’t in my best interest, my husband’s best interest, or my family’s best interest. If any of them will suffer, it is best to say no. Even if it seems like a worthwhile thing, it is important to make sure my family is taken care of before I take care of those outside of my family.
I say no when I don’t have time. If I truly can’t do everything that is important AND the thing in question, I say no to it. It is a disservice to myself if I am short-changing my own time.
I say no if it will distract me from my goals and dreams. If I can’t say yes AND make steps toward my goals, the answer is no.
Knowing when to say yes and when to say no is a very important skill. Both have their place. This has been a difficult concept for me to learn, and I am still learning. I’m grateful for the times this summer that I said yes. They stretched me in good ways. I’m also grateful that I have had the strength to say no when I knew it wasn’t in my own or my family’s best interest.
“Sometimes the most scenic roads in life are the detours you didn’t mean to take” – Angela N. Blount
Life doesn’t always go as planned. In fact, it rarely does! What do we do when things don’t go our way? The choice is always ours. That is where our power lies.
One morning a few months ago, as I was driving to an appointment, I came upon some construction at a 4 way stop. I wanted to go left, but when my turn came, the construction worker motioned for me to go straight. I signaled to her that I wanted to go left, and she shook her head no. So, I went straight, which set me back a few minutes.
After this experience, I burst into tears, and cried the entire 20 minute trip. This reaction was very interesting to me. What in the world?! Why did I react so emotionally to such a small setback? I knew it really wasn’t about what had just happened, but about what had been going on in my life. Greg had recently had some health scares, and my children had been diagnosed with vEDS only days before.
As I was thinking about my reaction, I thought about how a lot of the time we don’t get to follow the road we want to choose. No matter how much we plan, sometimes we get taken on a detour, and a lot of the time we want to throw a fit about it. I think this is a natural reaction. Sometimes the detour gets us there faster, sometimes it takes longer. Sometimes the road is uphill, sometimes it goes downhill. Sometimes it is a dirt road full of lots of dips and bumps, and we end up on it for a long time, or maybe even the rest of our lives.
There are other people on our detours – people we would never meet otherwise. Other people teach us and need us to help them out of pot holes, etc. Maybe sometimes we are led to these detour roads so we can help others on their way. Others are led to help us on our detours. Sometimes the road seems lonely, but if you only wait, you will realize you’re not really alone. There are other people. There is God. There are angels.
The view is often the most beautiful from the dirt roads. The remote roads hold great beauty as well. Some of the most difficult roads take us up so we can see things from an amazing, new angle. We have a more clear view of the world around us.
In the end we might be grateful for the detour, for the different scenery we got to see, and for the experiences we had. Sometimes we don’t know or understand why we took the detour for a long time, if ever.
What will we do when life doesn’t go as planned? Sometimes this is the test. Do we turn around? Do we pull over to the side of the road and quit? Do we cry and despair about it? Do we find adventure, and get our Jeep out? How do you react when life doesn’t go as planned? I have learned some things about this.
1. Lean into negative emotion
It’s okay, and even good, to feel negative emotion when things don’t go your way. No emotion is ‘bad’. There are emotions that are uncomfortable, but not bad. When I say lean in, I mean let yourself feel it. Be okay with feeling it. This is the only way to truly process your emotions. I have had a lot of reactions as I have gone on some pretty big detours the past couple years with the birth of our son, and shortly after, the diagnoses of vEDS for half of my family. I have thrown fits, I have cried, I have wished I could do a U-turn and go back to the road I wanted to be on. I think it’s very important to go through all of this and to feel all of the emotions, to lean into them. That is how to get through them. It’s important to not let the negative emotions take over your life, but so so important to let them come and to feel them. It definitely helps to use techniques to release negative emotion, such as in this post by Greg.
2. Remember that you have power in any situation
The power you always have is choice. You get to choose how you react, and this makes all the difference in the outcome. How you react and conduct yourself is really the only thing you have control over. I have learned that I get to control what happens inside of me. Outside of me can be a complete whirlwind around me, but can I stay calm? Can I find joy? Can I still love my life? Yes! I have found this to be true. It is all about mindset.
3. Enjoy the journey
Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, “So often we become so focused on the finish line that we fail to enjoy the journey”. Greg and I watched “The Shack” a while back. In the movie, the main character was being taken on a journey, and he asked where he was going. He was told to not worry about the destination, and to just enjoy the journey. That really stuck with me. It’s easy to jump to the future and wonder where I’m going, how long it will take, etc. There is so much uncertainty. It’s easy to be afraid. But the journey can also be beautiful, even when it’s full of pot holes and mud. There is beauty and joy everywhere, even in the uncertainty and the sadness. It’s always there. Sometimes you just have to look harder.
4. Open mindedness
This goes along with #2 and #3. Can you be open minded about the road you are on? Can you find the opportunities? Every situation, whether you define it as good or bad, comes with opportunities. I truly believe that everything is going to be okay in any situation. Maybe my definition of okay has to change a little bit, but in the end, I will accept whatever happens in life and find joy in the life I have. Can I be open minded enough to see the beauty on the bumpiest, muddiest, steepest road? Can I look past the hard and find the beauty? Can I look outside of myself and find opportunities to lift others on my way?
5. Faith and Gratitude
I’m grateful that on my detours, I can have faith in One who is much bigger than me; faith that somehow it will be for my good, and that His plans for me are better than my own. Maybe someday it will make more sense why I’m on this road. Maybe it won’t. But I am grateful for the things I have learned on my detours, for the things I have seen, for the people I have met along the way. As I have learned to express gratitude for the good, and even the bad things in my life, I have found increased peace and joy.
Life is full of ups and downs, and it is full of detours. I have often joked that God laughs when we make plans because He knows the true path your life will take, and sometimes it isn’t the one you are planning on. Despite this fact, it is important to keep making plans, keep dreaming, keep living. And when the detours come, take them with excitement for the opportunities they will present. I am grateful for the new perspective I have and for the view I see from the road I am on.
Our sixth child was about to be born, and we were so excited to welcome him into our family. We were ready, and I had planned a beautiful birth. Things went fine until the very end when his head came out. Suddenly there was panic, and he was pulled out of me quickly. His cord had ruptured during his birth, and he was not responsive. VEDS was not on our radar at the time, but this would later be the first clue that our youngest child, August, has vEDS. We found out the day after his birth that his right arm was not moving at all. When he was so forcefully pulled out at his birth, the nerves in his neck that control his arm were torn and/or stretched. His right arm was completely paralyzed. He has what is called a global Brachial Plexus Injury.
The doctors originally told us that his arm would heal on its own, but thanks to my mother’s intuition and training as an Occupational Therapy Assistant, I knew we needed to find a specialist. There are no doctors in Utah who are skilled at dealing with brachial plexus injuries like August’s. After some research, we found Doctor Kozin in Philadelphia, and decided he was the one who we would go to. He is the best of the best when it comes to brachial plexus injuries. Doctor Kozin had us send him a video of August’s movement, and from that short video alone, he knew August needed surgery. He told us to schedule a date and come to Philadelphia for the surgery. This surgery was to last all day long, and no imaging would tell us the degree of damage to the nerves. We just had to trust that Dr. Kozin knew what he was seeing from August’s videos. That is some kind of faith, especially in a doctor we had never met!
This was a very difficult time for me personally. The experience of August’s birth was very traumatic, and I had a lot of work to do to get past the trauma. On top of that I was dealing with feelings of intense grief, guilt, and anxiety. The thought of my baby having major surgery was terrifying to say the least. I was so distraught, and I prayed that it wouldn’t have to happen. That somehow we would get a miracle and he would be healed.
When August was 4 months old, we flew from Utah to Philadelphia for the surgery. I was so nervous for that day. How could I be calm all day while my baby was intubated and undergoing surgery? How could everything be okay? I didn’t sleep at all the night before the surgery. Early the next morning, exactly two years ago tomorrow, we took August to the hospital for surgery. The anesthesiologist took August to the Operating Room, and all I felt was peace. I had been so wound up that I didn’t know I was capable of feeling peace in this moment. This was a miracle in and of itself, and I marveled at it.
During surgery, Dr. Kozin found that the two nerves that control August’s shoulder and elbow were completely torn. The three nerves that control his hand and wrist were pulled like taffy and were a big bundle of scar tissue. Dr. Kozin took nerves out of the backs of August’s calves, and grafted them into the two torn nerves. He decided to leave the other 3 alone since we had started to see some movement in his hand and wrist. All went well during the surgery, and Dr. Kozin felt confident that we would start to see some movement in the next 6-12 months.
August is 2 now. He has had two surgeries so far, and he is doing great. He has handled all of the hard things in his life with a smile on his face and determination to get past it. He has never let his arm slow him down. He now can move his shoulder and elbow quite well, and his hand and wrist work ok. His arm is quite limited, but it is so much better than what it could be. I am so grateful for that surgery. It is amazing how much progress August has made and continues to make. It is a miracle.
Looking back over the past couple years, I have had many experiences where I felt peace and calm in the most stormy, heartbreaking times. Even though August’s birth was extremely traumatic, I also felt immense peace and a certainty that everything would be okay. The day Greg was ambulanced from Zion to St. George (the day that changed our lives) was scary, but I also felt such peace and strength. The day we told our children they have vEDS was heartbreaking, but it was also beautiful, and I felt so much peace and love surrounding us. I have no doubt that I’m not alone. I have a loving Heavenly Father who is always there. His grace is amazing. I know that I have angels surrounding me, especially during the hardest times. There are also earthly angels, whose thoughts, prayers, and acts of service and kindness have strengthened me during the hard times.
For me, the times I have the hardest time feeling peace are when things are feeling more calm and nothing big is going on. When I’m trying to process all the things happening in my life. I have had many moments that weren’t filled with peace. I have felt alone and like no one cares and no one understands. I have searched for ways to feel peace so I can continue living the life I want to live.
The best and only place I have ever found true peace is through Christ. He cares, and He understands. He is very possibly the only one who truly understands what I’m going through and how I feel. He said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27). He is the Prince of Peace. If I can be connected to myself and to God, it is so much easier to feel the peace I need to feel. Remembering how peaceful I have felt during the extremely hard times helps too. I know I am not alone.
I can’t say I’m grateful for what happened to August at his birth, but I can say that I am grateful for the things I have learned through my experiences being his mother. He has taught me about peace and calm in the storm better than anyone else. He is one of my greatest teachers.
“I think your husband has Vascular Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome,” said the Doctor as we were sitting in the ER. Greg was in extreme pain, and the scan results showed that his kidney was dying due to a dissection of his renal artery, which blocked off blood flow. As rare as vEDS is, some of my previous research had led me to learn a bit about it. I knew what it was, and I knew it wasn’t good. I went into shock, and was very close to passing out. Part of what caused the shock is that I knew vEDS is genetic. I knew my kids each had a 50% chance of having vEDS as well.
This was a lot to process at the same time. I think it’s accurate to say that I still haven’t completely processed it all. It is so much to deal with. Greg was in critical condition in the ICU for 13 days, which was enough to deal with all on its own. The reality that my husband has a life threatening condition has been a lot to deal with. But that is only the beginning of the story.
Through the following months, I had a lot of anxiety about which of my children have vEDS. I analyzed every facial feature, looked at their veins, checked their joints for hypermobility. Not knowing was its own kind of torture! The questions that went through my mind were difficult. What if all of my kids have vEDS? What if I have to bury ALL of my babies? Even burying one of my babies seems unbearable. No mother should have to outlive her child. Do I get grandkids? Will my children have the opportunity to get married and have children of their own? Will this ruin their lives? Will I be raising my grandkids and burying them as well? And on and on.
Nine months after Greg’s hospitalization, we felt that it was time to have our children tested. It was time to know. We have always been fairly open with our kids about what is going on, and they all knew that they had a 50/50 chance of having vEDS. They all knew what they were being tested for. It was a stressful time for our entire family. The anticipation was difficult. We had scheduled an appointment with just Greg and me to meet with the geneticist afterwards for results, but a week before the scheduled appointment, the Doctor called. He said he had the results and wanted to know if we wanted to know them. I felt shocky again just like that day in the ER. My heart started racing. I didn’t know if I was ready to know. How could I bear this? We decided to get the results right then. He told us that 3 of our children tested positive and 3 tested negative. I have to admit that my first reaction was relief. I was so relieved that some of my children do not have vEDS. I was so afraid they all had it. Knowing that half of my kids have vEDS has been hard to deal with, but the knowledge has been easier than the anticipation and wondering was.
How has this news changed my parenting? I can honestly say it hasn’t. Of course, I am more watchful for certain things with my kids who have vEDS. They take certain precautions, and I am definitely more likely to take any injury they have seriously. Otherwise, I feel I am the same mom to them that I was before the knowledge of vEDS. I feel that I have been prepared for this through other parenting experiences that I will go into more detail on in another blog post.
How have we dealt with the fact that our kids have a hard life reality? How have we helped our children during this difficult time? We have been honest with them (age appropriately). We have been there with love and support and validation. We will go into more detail on how we told our kids at a later time. I have noticed that as parents we naturally want to bail our kids out of hard things. We sometimes take it upon ourselves to make sure our kids don’t have any struggles. I know that has been my tendency in the past. When my kids had hurt feelings, I would have hurt feelings for them. I would do my best to make it better. If they forgot their lunch, I would rush it to them. The question I have learned to ask is, Why? Why do I want to jump in and save them? It is usually because their discomfort makes me feel uncomfortable. It is really kind of selfish. If they are hurt, it hurts me, so I want to make it better. Notice that most of my heart wrenching questions above were about me. We of course want our kids to have a fulfilling and joyful life. We want the best for them in every way. But I believe that usually the reason we want save our kids from heartache and trial is because it is uncomfortable for us to see them go through hard things or make mistakes.
In the past few years, I have had a new outlook on parenting. My job is to love my children, nurture them, and teach them the things they need to know to make it through the hard things in life. In the LDS church we believe that we came to this Earth to be tested and tried so we can gain experience, and if worthy, return to live with Heavenly Father again. We signed up for this. We all came to this Earth to go through hard things. Our children are included in this. It doesn’t help them when we try to take their trials away. These are the things that will help them grow and develop great qualities. These are their ‘classes’ in life. We can’t take classes for our kids and expect them to pass.
As painful as it is for me as the mom to watch my kids deal with some extremely hard things, I have learned that it doesn’t help for me to take on their pain or trial in any way. Not physically, and not emotionally. It actually makes it worse. I had a great mentor teach me through example that the best things I can do to help my kids when they are having a hard time is to:
Listen. Truly listen. Let them tell me how they feel and just listen.
Validate. It helps so much to be validated! Sometimes all I need is to have someone say, “Wow, that’s hard!”, or “I bet that really hurts”. It doesn’t help much when someone tries to tell me why I shouldn’t feel that way. This is the same for my kids, or for anyone.
Love. Love is so powerful. If instead of trying to take away my children’s pain I can just feel love for them, it changes everything. It takes away the need for me to fix things. It helps my children to know they can come to me when they are having a hard time, and they will be loved no matter what.
The kids all know whether they have vEDS or not. That has been some hard news for some of them. Very hard. We did our best to prepare them beforehand, and they continue to receive professional support as needed. But, I don’t feel like this news has changed much about our family dynamics. We are still the same people with the same strengths and weaknesses. I am grateful for the parenting lessons I have learned to this point. I feel that I have been prepared for this.
My challenge for you is to become more aware of your tendencies as parents. Do you tend to try to run in and save your children? If so, ask yourself why. Is it to relieve your own discomfort? Try to listen, validate, and love, and see how it changes your relationships. It has made parenting so much easier for me.
I won’t lie and tell you this past year has been wonderful. It has been the hardest year of my entire life. It has been filled with deep emotion and grief. But, I will say that it has also been one of the most educational years of my life. I have learned so much about life, living, and love. It’s interesting how some of your darkest times are also some of the brightest. It is amazing, and such a tender mercy. The power of Gratitude is probably one of the biggest I have learned this year.
The Greek philosopher Epictetus said, “He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” There are so many benefits to practicing daily gratitude. Our brains are wired to notice and focus on the negative, so when we practice gratitude, we are rewiring our brains to notice more of the positive.
Simply writing in a gratitude journal for 5 minutes per day has proven to help with sleep, anxiety, health, and a variety of other issues. As you practice expressing gratitude, you will train your brain to see the good things happening in your life. Gratitude is more than just an emotion. It is a tool, and I have used it a lot in the past year. Even with my world feeling like it is crumbling apart, I can look around and see what I have. I have so much to be grateful for. I have my husband and children. I have them today and for eternity, even though we will most likely be separated on this Earth. I have wonderful, supportive family and friends. We have a beautiful home and neighborhood. I have the gospel of Jesus Christ and the peace and joy that it gives. This life is hard, but the good outweighs the hard. It truly does if you can learn to look for it.
To take gratitude to another level, I have even practiced being grateful for the things that are hard in my life. Being able to say you are grateful for the hard things is pretty powerful. It sounds crazy, right? How can I be grateful for the hard things that are happening in my life? Well, to be honest, I can’t always. But, I know that because of the hard things that are happening, I am being shaped and changed in a way that can’t happen any other way. I know that opportunities will open up and have opened up. My life has a new path that I didn’t expect a year ago, and someday, I may be able to say that I’m grateful for this path. I’m grateful that I have and will be able to have true empathy for others in hard situations. I also believe that everything happens for a reason. This is the path of my life, and I have to find a way to be ok with it. As I have practiced this new level of gratitude, it has been amazing to see that it is easier every time to truly FEEL the gratitude and not just say I’m grateful.
During a very difficult time in my life, I read this story. I have never forgotten it, and I have shared it multiple times. It is all about being thankful for the hard things in your life. I highly highly recommend taking the time to read it!
Here are 3 ways I challenge you to practice gratitude. Try it for 30 days. It will change your life!
Write in a gratitude journal. It only takes 5 minutes. Write all the things you are grateful for today. Try not to repeat yourself. You can try to express gratitude for hard things here too.
Express gratitude to at least one person every day. This can be in person, by text, in writing, any way. It is powerful for your relationships when you express gratitude to others. I have seen new relationships form in my life through gratitude. I have also seen relationships heal. It is amazing the impact gratitude has on relationships.
Express gratitude to God every day. This is important, and if you are religious and have a habit of praying, you probably already do this. If you don’t, try it. I like to use my gratitude journal to do this as well because God is the source of all of the wonderful things in my life. Writing and prayer can go together in a very powerful way.
Try one or try all three. Try it for 30 days. I promise that if you do, you will find yourself, your relationships, your emotions, and your life changing for the better.
This is a question we have asked ourselves every day for the past year. The reality of our mortality has been forefront on our minds. The truth is that we all have limited days on the Earth. We are all dying in a sense.
Every day we have woken up with the reality that it could be our last together on this Earth. It has taken us the entire year to get past some of the fear from this question. It is a powerful question, but when it is a real possibility, it can be very scary. The what-ifs can be paralyzing. It has been a process to learn to live with such an uncertain future. At first, we didn’t dare plan a week ahead. Now, we are making plans months in advance, which feels really nice. We know that it’s possible that these plans will change, but we have to continue living. It is a hard way to live, but it can also be a beautiful way to live.
What would you do differently if you knew it could be your last day on the Earth, or your last day with a loved one? This question has made us re-evaluate a lot of things. We are quicker to remember what is most important. For us, that is relationships with family, friends, and God. We spend more time making memories. We cherish moments and think to take pictures more often. We seize opportunities when they arise, when, in the past, we may have let them slip by. Greg has recorded his life story. We make God a bigger part of our daily lives and our family life. We are more careful with our time and how we spend it. Each day means something. They are not all good days. There are days we are grateful weren’t our last together, but we have made some positive changes.
Howard W. Hunter gave us all some great food for thought when he said: “Mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust. … Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest your loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Forgo a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Apologize. Try to understand. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Be kind. Be gentle. Laugh a little more. Express your gratitude. Welcome a stranger. Gladden the heart of a child. …Speak your love and then speak it again” (Godoy, Taylor G., April 2018 General Conference), (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Howard W. Hunter , 32; adapted from “what We think Christmas Is,” McCall’s, Dec. 1959, 82-82).
Something we have realized is that Today is truly a gift. It is the only moment in time we have complete control of. We can think about the past all we want. We can worry about the future. Neither does any good. Today is what we have. It is the most important moment in time.
What are you doing with your day? Who do you love, and do they know it? What is one thing you can do today to strengthen a relationship with someone you love? What is one thing you can do today to get closer to your goals? Post in the comments below.