Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Patience in Reverse

(Written June 16, 2014)

Monday night we had a family home evening lesson...on patience.

Taylor, who is now home from his mission to Guatemala, shared some thoughts he had, and distributed gifts & souvenirs that he brought back for us.

It has been such a sweet blessing to have all of the siblings together.  Especially as we will only get to be together like this for a short while.  And Taylor, especially, has brought a light with him back home.  He is always happy.  He is always smiling.  He is always determined. He's always thoughtful of others & pays serious attention to the kids - as if they're the most important people around. It's the same Taylor we sent away on his mission, but now he's grown, and he still inspires all of us to grow.

As Taylor was sharing his message, he mentioned that each week he focuses on a different topic to improve on.  Basically if you focus on everything you ever need to work on at once, you're going to fail, but if you focus on one at a time, you can make improvements that last.  That week he had been working on Faith.  This week he was going to focus on Hope.  All too often I pat myself on the back just for simply reading scriptures at all - it's quite an ordeal to round up squirmy kids and get a prayer in in the morning, and before bed, and teach a spiritual thought each day.  It takes so much energy just to keep going thru the motions that in my mommy phase, I had never considered rotating gospel principles each week as a main focus ON TOP OF our usual spiritual goals of JUST DOING IT.  However, at the same time that he shared this, I felt inside that he was sharing his SECRET - the reason he is so happy.  His heart is in the right place.  He is always striving to draw himself nearer to God, and he is using effective methods.

We all decided to try to be more like Taylor, and as a family we decided to study the same topic together this week: PATIENCE.  It felt like the right thing It felt like a good thing.  It felt like we were going to instantly feel more spiritual and have a wonderful experience.  Now that we were all going to have a laser focus on practicing patience, then we'd all live in peace and harmony, right?  It was going to be like Heaven.

Well, God had another plan for me.

This week was not easy.  Don't worry - I was actually pretty patient.  A few times I consciously reminded myself to be more patient, but I didn't have to deal with any major temper tantrums from the kids like I imagined.  But what I did end up having to experience was being the one who desperately needed others to demonstrate patience on MY behalf!

So Monday night, we had the lesson on patience.  THEN.....

1) Tuesday, I woke up to an early morning phone call.  The previous day when I left work, I left one task undone.  That usually wouldn't have been a problem.  However, there were about 3 other pieces to the puzzle and mistakes of omission that caused a potentially major company issue.  Had I worked anywhere else besides a family business, this particular mistake would have cost me my job....   Fortunately by the end of the day it was corrected, but I still felt terrible for inadvertently causing my mom major stress and for giving her the need to be patient with me. 

2)  After work one day this week, I was supposed to follow Mitch home.  I decided to make a quick detour and visit a friend in the hospital.  When I called Mitch to tell him, he didn't answer the phone.  So I called the home phone.  Nothing.  I called the cell phone.  Nothing.  I called the home phone again. *UGH!*  In my head I thought, "Well, if he wants to know where I am, he's just going to have to or call me back."  So I went to the hospital, but while I was there, my phone was on silent and I didn't realize he was trying to call me back.  He was genuinely worried about me by the time I got home.  Once again, I caused someone else the need to have patience with me.  Then I realized WHY he hadn't answered when I called, and I felt EVEN WORSE.  He and the boys had been outside washing my car to SURPRISE ME, and they couldn't hear the phones ringing inside.  I realized that if I had had more patience with them not answering the phone - had I even left a message or a text to tell him where I was, they wouldn't have had the need to practice having patience because of me.

With TWO major whammies in a row, I was ready to quit studying patience.

But it got worse.

3)  I am trying to help throw a party for a friend.  SHE is VERY nice.  However, when we coordinated this week, even though she didn't say anything negative whatsoever, and even though the point of trying to help her with this party is so that she can sit back and relax, I'm still pretty sure that with all my good intentions, I am still causing her the need to have patience with me, because we work differently.  Luckily for me she's kind & she's still my friend, and I know that she knows that if I am stressing her out I am not doing it intentionally.  But I still feel badly!

4)  I had a hair-brained idea to re-do the music video we made for our wedding as a fun & sentimental way to celebrate our 10th anniversary this year.  Of course that meant there were 10 adults involved & despite everything else going on...I had to coordinate ALL of their schedules in order to make it happen.  Have you ever tried to coordinate 3 or 4 schedules for visiting teaching or for lunch?  Sometimes it's a nightmare, right?  That's nothing in comparison to this.  Getting 10 schedules to align was NOT easy.  In the mix of it all, one person was in charge of putting up flags for Flag Day with the Boy Scouts immediately before we met up, another only gets so many Saturdays off & had to take it off of work, another cancelled & rescheduled reservations & vacation plans to make it work, another is leaving for 2 years so it was now or never for them, another had a commitment to do service for a friend that morning, and the videographer could only do it in the morning, but nothing was able to be finalized until a couple days before.  So of course it went awry, and of course there were conflicts with the only time we were able to film the music video!  Fortunately for me they all ended up being supportive & flexible to help make something that was important to me and Mitch happen, but none of that happened without a lesson in patience first - once again WITHOUT EVEN TRYING to be difficult, I was the cause for someone else to have to have patience.

I wanted to say, "Stick a fork in me, I'm done!"

No more "patience" lessons, because I'm sick of feeling like a living hurricane, thoughtlessly destroying everything in my path!

5) I had one day off, and then I had yet another awkward moment where a previous fault or weakness of mine was pointed out by another. Sometimes when this particular subject comes up, I just wish that people would try to look at what's good in me instead of what's not perfect, yet.  I happen to be a perfectionist, which means that day after day I stare at what's wrong with myself, and just like everyone else, I have to fight discouragement all the time. I'm not perfect and I know it.  I'm more acutely aware of my own imperfections than anyone else is.  That's how it is for all of us, right?  So thru this experience, I once again realized how important it is to cut each other some slack & try to focus on everything else BESIDES the one thing you can't stand about each other.

Another lesson in patience the painful way.

I know this isn't true, but in some ways I think it might would feel better to purposely cause other people grief, because then I would have a REASON to feel down in the dumps.  Especially when you are TRYING to keep people happy, and are innately a person who worries about how others feel (I'm a BLUE - I'm an "empath" - it's my trait), then you purposely try to look at the world through other people's shoes and not step on their toes.  So THEN when you step on another's toes anyway, even though you didn't even try for that to happen, then you feel like even more of a failure because you do care about the people around you but you let them down anyway.  That's when you're tempted to think, "I don't even have to TRY to be a loser - I just am."  But those kinds of thoughts and feelings really are lies & you can't focus on them.

The whole week felt PAINFUL as my eyes were opened to the REASONS we need to have patience with others.  I learned how to have PATIENCE IN REVERSE.  Time and time again I felt the cringes of my unintentional mistakes causing others grief, and each time in my heart all I wanted was for them to understand where I was coming from, to give me the benefit of the doubt, and for them to forgive me.  Because I felt that way every single day this week, I felt like God was opening my eyes to how others might feel when they do similar things to me - just because someone inconvenienced me doesn't mean that they did it intentionally.  I want to be the first to give them the benefit of the doubt - to believe that any grief they caused me was not intended - I need to be the first to be kind and flexible and do whatever I can to help them not feel like a loser.  That's my goal.  It's so crazy, because I generally have viewed myself as a patient person, but until this week, I have never truly considered how often I may cause others to have patience. 

Now the greatest lesson of all came from my Dad.

Apparently we must be alike, because his experience this week was almost exactly like mine.  He reminded me that we need to be patient with ourselves.

That's what the Lord would have us do.  Be patient with others, and be patient with yourself.  Look for the good in others, and look for the good in yourself.  Jesus Christ himself saw enough good in all of us - in mankind as a whole, and in every single one of us as individuals, that He sacrificed Himself so that we could be with HIM - and He's perfect.  We must have hope. We must have patience.  We must have long-suffering, and brotherly kindness.  We must be patient as we improve ourselves & wait for the "perfect" day....

Does Service HURT or HELP Your Family?

I wrote this post 2 years ago (don't think I'm pregnant right now, because I'm not - but I was then, haha, my mom just texted me with my last post-dated blog, "Are you pregnant")....  Sorry for the heart attack, Mom.  My baby is still my baby right now. :)

Then she asked me why I am publishing things from 2014....

I think I never published this one because of lack of confidence.  Deep inside myself I have the words resonating from others who say: "You need to learn the word no."  But I have passion on topics like this, and I have been inspired by others who live busier lives than I do.  Deep down, I still feel like I know the answer to the question at hand, but sometimes I still let the nay-saying gnaw at me from the inside....

Especially now that my husband and I have jumped into the journey of getting licensed for foster care & adoption, this question has been rolling around in my head again, so here we are 2 years later, and the question is still in the air....

(Written in Oct. 2014)

Here's a question for debate:  
Does serving HURT or HELP your family?  
I kid you not, I asked my husband this very question during our 10th anniversary date and since then I have come across the dilemma many times since in circumstances I didn't expect it to.  To clarify, I have been searching for volunteers to sing in the church choir - our church time has recently changed, and with it has come a change to the rehearsal time for the choir.  I have had several people tell me they can't come, because their family time is really important to them.  I get it - choir practice interferes with my family time, too - that's for sure.  Maybe this is meant to teach me that I need to get choir moved to an earlier time - like before church...but as I think about whether or not I want to lobby the Bishop for change in our congregation, I get to thinking about HOW MUCH I am willing to go down that road - I'm the director, and I have 3 little kids with 1 on the way, my house is supposed to be "presentable" for practice, and we're supposed to have treats for rehearsal, and my husband has meetings BEFORE meeting before church is not technically practical for MY family fact our time before church is critically chaotic family time preparing for church.  I do think it is possible that maybe the main reason I've had these experiences - is so I can advocate a different choir time - but in all honesty:  My personal philosophy is that there is no "good" time for choir practice.   My other personal philosophy is that service isn't really service unless it's a pain.  I don't really mean that - I have participated in various opportunities to serve that have been fun to do.  Even if service comes at an inconvenient time, it can be totally fulfilling when you have a good attitude.  What I truly mean is that more often than not, when someone I love truly needs something, it doesn't come at a time that is easy for me, but I think that happens for a reason.  I also know I'm not the only one that this happens to.  I think it's a test for us.  Can we drop what we're doing and help a friend?  If we're not able to make it to help them, will we find someone who is?  More often than not, service is not something that happens on our own terms, or it wouldn't be classified as service.  

At any rate, I DO understand that there are times and seasons for all of us - sometimes we can serve in certain capacities - maybe at choir, or at the food bank, or in the hospital, at a pet shelter, you name it, but once in a while life changes and we have to take a little break and then go back when we can.  I have had my own seasons of faithful or sporatic attendance at church choir practice.  I TOTALLY GET IT!  In this particular situation, I am not upset with anyone who cannot make it in their current time & season, BUT I am left to ponder....

Maybe all these instances happened for a different reason.   How strange is it that this topic has been brought up 5 times - once by me personally to my husband, and 4 times by others within a week and a half?  I think that maybe I need to ponder this very question I asked to my husband and find myself a REAL answer:  


Based off of my last post, it's obvious that I have been in over my head lately.  That's still true - even more so because my son turned 5, and I promised him a party.  I know that sounds simple, but sometimes simple can be stressful, and the stress makes it hard for me to function when I'm pregnant.  I have noticed that when I am stressed out, I throw up involuntarily, and frequently.  Someone I know and love has called me a wimp for this. :) Don't worry - she's nice, too.  She mercifully brought me a large Barq's Root Beer today - for some weird reason it makes me feel so much better, even though I'm an A&W girl by heart, this pregnancy makes me CRAVE Barq's.  I really don't get it, but I digress.

On our 10th Anniversary, my husband and I got some sad news about some of our close friends who are getting a divorce.  It was an eye opening moment - this couple we thought was perfect for each other, who never showed any obvious signs of incompatibility, who we thought would make it forever, is splitting up, and I believe that by now it's final.  This is all so devastating to me, actually.  It's scary to me, too, even though I'm still married.  I hate hearing stories like this, because I know for whatever reason someone has a divorce, it's got to be a not-fun reason, I know it's not what they envisioned when they tied the not all those years ago, and I know there had to be heartache involved at some point along the way, if it's not still on-going, and it makes me sad for them.

Essentially, we were thrilled to make it to our 10th anniversary milestone, but the news about our friends that same day actually made us pause in the middle of our celebration, and it caused us to remember - 10 years is really just the beginning.  What are we going to do to make sure this marriage will last another 10, 15, 20, 30, 50, 100+ years?  What's the secret?  Is there a secret?  I don't know.  What I do know and believe is that the Adversary...the Devil, if you will, is ALWAYS doing everything He can to break up the family, because "The family is essential to the Creator's Plan for the eternal destiny of His children. (A Proclamation to the World by the LDS church)."  I do know that NOT ONE OF US is exempt from temptation or weakness.  I do know that the Lord can help us through any weakness, and that He can make weak things become strong to us.  However, there are still times when weaknesses, and addictions, and choices have consequences that affect the family.  In our family, a lot of the craziness our family experiences comes because of the way I schedule our lives & Mitch sometimes seems like he's along for the ride.  So in an effort to evaluate our marriage, I asked Mitchell if he felt like the amount of service our family participates in is helping or if it's hurting our family.  I wish I had written down his million dollar response, but it was totally different than I expected.  I expected him to tell me I take the family out of control too often, and that I need to quit doing so many things, and that we need more time for our family.  But he didn't.  He said that we need to serve.  I personally think the way we go about serving the church & our community as a family can still improve to make sure our family doesn't suffer,but I do still agree with him.  We need to serve.  I do believe it will help our family learn the lessons we are trying to instill in our children.  But even though I know that, there are times that I do pray, "Heavenly Father, please bless that this time we are giving will not hurt our family, but help us."  Only time will tell how it will affect our family.

So...back to my original question.  It is essential that we protect our families.  It is essential that we nurture our marriages.  It is critical to give these endeavors our full attention.  However, we are also told to serve others and to give our time and talents to build the Kingdom of God.  I have heard time and time again, "Family Comes First".  And it should.  We need to support each other at functions in both the immediate & extended families where possible and that's one way to put your family first.  But can I justify NOT serving in the church because there will be a sacrifice of family time?  Is there such a thing as a calling that doesn't interfere in some way with family time?  I'm pretty sure the Bishop & his family serve their hearts out. I'm pretty sure the Apostles & Prophets miss out on a lot of family things the rest of us get to enjoy.  Does that sacrifice hurt their families or does it help them?

I know MANY, MANY, MANY others who RUN CIRCLES around us and who give MORE of their time and talents to their churches, families, and communities than we do.  These examples seem to say to me that service HELPS your family.  In fact, in some ways, it almost seems that your own family cannot thrive without serving others.  I think I found my answer tonight.  Sometimes our life gets a little crazy.  Sometimes the price of serving someone else means the laundry and dishes get out of control, but let's be honest, they can get out of control anyway, so how is that a real sacrifice?  If we can keep the proper perspective, adding some craziness into your family time will not hurt you, your spouse, and kids.  It will help you.

Bro. Bess
Brother Bess hosted the missionary discussions for my friend, Jenny.  He worked with Young Single Adults, and always made us feel welcome and like we had a friend in the Bess family. He died early and it was so sad to me.  At his funeral, a story was told about how he LOVED stereo systems and had been saving up money to get a new one...we're talking thousands and thousands of dollars.  There was a moment in time where there was someone within his realm of influence who needed help, and if I got the story straight, his Bishop asked him if he would be willing & able help this individual with their circumstance.  Doing so, meant sacrificing that special stereo fund he had worked so hard to build up.  Bro. Bess did it, though.  The friend who told this story said he was shocked, but Bro. Bess essentially told him, "I'm not worried about the stereo system.  The Lord knows of our sacrifices.  I'm sure someday I'll get an even better one."  He understood that you can't make a sacrifice of any sort without getting a blessing that's worth more in the end.  It will still take faith to move forward when service requires sacrifice, and sometimes the blessings for our sacrifices are not monetary, but in the end Bro. Bess did get an awesome stereo.  Did serving someone else by giving of his funds hurt him or his family?  I think not.

Grandpa Tenney
My Grandpa Tenney had an assignment from the church to watch over certain families in his congregation, and to check up with them at least once a month, and help meet their needs in any way possible.  He was faithful in this endeavor while he was feeling well, but even when he was sick and on his deathbed, he didn't turn it over to someone else - he fulfilled his assignment and was checking up on these other families.  Grandpa took care of his own family, too, but he didn't stop his service because he was afraid it would hurt his own family for him to devote energy in his final days to caring about someone else.  In fact, it means more to me that my Grandpa was being selfless in his service. I still think of his example time and time again when I've been given assignments from my church to check up on others in my congregation.  I am sick and pregnant, and it's easy to use that as an excuse, but then I think of Grandpa.  He was DYING.  Literally dying must feel worse than being pregnant.  It's not a good excuse to be worried only about myself when I'm pregnant.  I love Grandpa & his example.  I miss him.

My friends Liane & Becky
I have been getting my feet wet with the Distinguished Young Women of AZ program.  Everything is run by volunteers and takes a lot of man power and hours to pull off this wonderful program that teaches young women to "Be Your Best Self" and to also award scholarships to these stellar young women.  The craziness lasts for a month or more depending on the assignment you help with, but these women are the directors, so their craziness lasts much longer.   This year they both suffered the death of a loved one during the heart of the competition.  This last month, Becky lost her mother in law, and Liane lost her best friend.  Both of these ladies served their friends and families, and continued to run the program & rehearsals without a hitch, and without complaining.  Most people didn't even know the burdens they carried as they served 29 young women from the State of Az.  Did service this year hurt them, or help their families?  They're still happy. They're still moving.  They're still going to do it again next year.  They both amaze me.

Dad & Mom
My dad is a very busy man.  Like, actually, he's ridiculously busy of his own accord, running a business.  But he is also an Assistant Director of the Easter Pageant, and he puts on amazing, highly professional, 3 day Community Christmas Concerts for free, and he speaks publicly whenever asked, and almost always whenever anyone asks him to sing he will pull strings & is able to make it work out, and now he's the Bishop of a Young Single Adult Ward in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, too.  My mom is the same way - she jointly runs the business, she cheerleads my dad in his musical endeavors, she feeds hundreds of missionaries at conferences, she decorates for large events, she keeps the family together, she makes visits to others in need, she makes dinners for people in need, and I only hear her complaining about how imperfect things the dinners she makes - never is her focus on how hard it is for her to do so much for so many people.  When I grew up, my parents taught me & my siblings that NO MATTER WHAT the Bishop might ask us to do to serve in the church, that we need to go on faith that the Lord will help us do it.  The Lord will help us develop the skills we need to do the job we were asked to do.  I have never considered saying no to the Bishop, because that's what my parents taught me, and I have always been enriched in the end by the service to my congregation, even when I had a responsibility that was completely new to me.  Does it hurt my family that my parents do so much in their church and community?  No.  I talk to my mom every day.   And my dad calls his kids individually - multiple times a week.  He thinks about us.  He shares his feelings immediately, and he teaches us the lessons he's learning as he's serving.  I cannot tell you how many times my testimony has been strengthened by the service of my parents, because they have a story to tell or a deep insight to share that they would have received in no other way, but through serving others.  I actually get many opportunities to spend time with my family because they need my help with the projects they're working on to serve the community.  So in this instance, even though it usually feels like insanity in their schedules, service brings our family closer.

Uncle Lewis
My Uncle Lewis was an amazing man.  I didn't realize how "famous" he was until he died.  I just knew he thought I was special, because he told me.  But he was well known throughout all of Northern Arizona.  At his funeral, the church building we were in was packed to the back, and the service was BROADCAST to at least 2 other church buildings.  Family out of town could watch the stream online.  I know the people in the buildings felt the same way about my Uncle Lewis - he made them feel special, but they probably didn't realize he was as famous as he was, either, because when around Uncle Lewis, it was never about him, it was about the person he was talking to.  He touched so many lives, and so many people came to honor him.  He even had a letter read at his funeral that was sent from the First Presidency of the Church to thank him and his wife & family for the service they rendered.  When my cousin Dave gave his life sketch, I couldn't even count the amount of organizations he had served in.  There was seemingly no end to the way he gave to his community.  There was even a story of Aunt Mary and the way she supported him - one time, there was an early morning church meeting for Priesthood leaders, and Uncle Lewis slept thru his alarm - it was early like 4am, but she wasn't about to have it.  She put her cold feet on his back and pushed him out of bed...she could have let him sleep thru so they could have breakfast together, but instead, it wasn't about her, or him, it was about what they could do to serve the Lord.  I have never been so motivated in my life than I was by that funeral.  I left with a commitment to do an act of service every day besides my normal daily tasks for my family.  My Uncle Lewis has changed my life and my outlook on service.  I have found that as I have taken this challenge that I felt the Spirit prompted me to do, that I have had my life enriched in ways I didn't expect.  I have also found that when I do service I almost always need someone else to help me...I don't know what I need to learn from that, but it seems like every endeavor to serve takes more than one person.  Sometimes I cannot serve the community unless someone watches my kids.  Sometimes I cannot make dinner on time without having a helper in the kitchen.  Sometimes I cannot fulfill any assignment, even if it's musical, unless I have my hubby at my side (for example, HE was my right hand during the Gilbert Temple Cultural Celebration, and still is during Choir Practice...he makes copies, he keeps the kids entertained, he makes treats sometimes...I CANNOT do it without him).  But I think about Uncle Lewis & Aunt Mary.  They had a TON of kids - double the size of family I grew up in, and yet, they still served their community.  Did that hurt or help their family?  I think it only helped them - all of their kids are grown and are successfully providing for their families - all of their kids are serving their community in major and time consuming ways, and they attend church regularly & serve there - many as Bishops & priesthood leaders, they leave Secret Santa's yearly as tradition started by their parents, and there are positive waves rippling across the world because of the Lewis & Mary Tenney Family.

Since I attended Uncle Lewis' funeral I have also started to pray that the Lord will increase my capacity & capability to serve.  I have seen the Lord do this, and I have had so many fulfilling moments of joy that would have come in no other way, but by helping a friend.  (I have also had an increase in feeling crazy, but that's okay.)

So what is it folks - is service helping us or is it hurting us?  

All any of us can do is have faith and trust in the Lord that He will bless your efforts to serve in a way that helps your family.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Of God's Will, the Effects of People's Choices, and Sprinkles....

"God doesn't just sprinkle children on the earth as if it's a giant cupcake and hope they land in a good spot on the frosting.  
He knows where He's sending them, and 
God has a plan for ALL His children." 
--Merri Cox--

There is an insurmountable amount of suffering in the world.  In order to cope with all the sadness, people have to turn it off in their minds and maybe sometimes even in their hearts, because if they don't, they might actually go crazy.  So they compartmentalize each terrible headline in the news, and they try to forget about it in some way.  It's not that they're NOT affected - they might send up a prayer for an individual who was hurt or abused, they may send a card or money to a fund for someone who needs it, they may be sad and think about it, or share the story with another, but in the end, they still have to compartmentalize the sadness so they can focus on their own family and responsibilities.

When you choose to become a foster or adoptive parent, you choose to open your heart and home to the effects of suffering.

When you're faced with a potential placement, you have to open your heart to the story of that child, and whether or not they get placed with you.  Your HEART is on the line FOR THEM because they COULD be the child you were meant to help heal, or maybe they are going to be one of the children who needs a home forever - you just don't know for sure, yet.  The problem is that many of these children are affected by the choices of too many other people.  The process is so slow to get them what they need because choices of the adults in their lives send them here there and everywhere.  Sometimes these kids can't rely on anyone - not the home they came from, not the home they were sent to, not the people involved with all the laws made...even if laws were made with good intensions, heartbreak still happens in many situations because it's a broken system.  There are so many instances where the choices in this large line of adults scatters these kids to and fro.  The scattering creates within them a feeling of hopelessness, loss, grief, fear, attachment issues, and an ever so fleeting childhood....  I've come to feel that it's CHOICES that scatter these children across the earth like sprinkles on a cupcake.  

At least that's how I was feeling last week.

THAT PART of all of this (the part of innocent children who are abused and neglected, and then sent to new homes, who learn to bond, but then are forced to let go of the next person they love, and maybe the next, and maybe the next, and then maybe back to their families)...THAT PART of all of this has been trying my faith lately.  I have felt like God's will is so easily thwarted by our choices.  A few months back, I posted a quote from Dallin H Oaks on my Facebook page - it says that God WILL NOT intervene on someone's agency for the benefit of another one of His children.  As you think about that you realize God will not intervene for even babies, and not even for helpless, tender, and fragile little children.  I know that God has the power to move mountains and create the Universe, and calm storms, and work mighty wonders, but why WILL HE NOT INTERFERE with someone's choices even for the benefit of the most innocent and helpless of all His children???  It just hurts my heart so much to try to understand this concept while I'm watching events unfold that cause suffering to someone else who may be one of MY future children, whether they're "mine" for a season as a foster child, or eventually going to be one of my children forever through adoption.

I think that it is very possible that God has His will for certain situations, but our choices & our own will can affect the outcome of what He wished for us, and our choices really can mess everything up.  That is one reason why it's such a gift for us to give God our will and our hearts - it is such a gift to strip ourselves of pride and turn our will over to Him - it's actually the ONLY thing we have that we can give back to Him.

I know that Jesus Christ can heal every broken heart, and He can heal every poor mistake that's ever happened on this earth.  It's just really hard in the mean time, though, in the moments where it hurts.  Sometimes our own choices or the choices of others cause so much distress to ourselves and to others that it takes years, or a lifetime to heal.  Some people on this earth may not ever be fully healed until it's all over.

Someone asked me if I'm trying to save the world by going on this journey.  I absolutely know that I cannot.  But I have noticed as I have been "mourning with those that mourn" in the situations that have been presented to me that I may potentially have a positive influence with that I have been so emotionally drawn into some situations of children that I'm worried about, that it has actually had a physical effect on me - certain situations - especially the ones where I knew someone was in current danger, caused me to start cycling through grief.  It is so exhausting. Especially because I'm supposed to be able to be one of the people who can "help" these kids, but because of the choices of others, I am still in a position of absolutely NO CONTROL - no ability to help alleviate their pain, or to help ensure their safety.  The overwhelming greif and sadness can get better in a moment when you know the imminent danger is over & the kids and birth families are safe & healing.  And then when it's over, I feel ready to open my heart again.

This journey has opened my mind and heart to a greater sense of awe at God's ability to love.  If I have felt this way over just one or two situations that I have been asked to open my heart to...and if my heart and being were almost to burst with emotions I'd never felt before, then HOW on earth is our Father in Heaven able to cope with the suffering and wrong choices made across the world - every day - among BILLIONS of individuals - His heart is open and concerned with the INTRICATE DETAILS OF ALL HIS CHILDREN.  How is He even able to handle the pain?  Day in and day out?

I asked my friend Merri if she was really SURE that God doesn't just sprinkle His children on the earth and then just hope for the best for them, as our destinies are left up to choices. I asked her, because she has walked the path of adoption, both as an adoptee, and as an adoptive parent, and she's the one who came up with the cupcake and sprinkles analogy anyway to explain how God works to her kids.  She promised me, and affirmed that she is ABSOLUTELY SURE.  (So I have been leaning on her testimony and her testimony alone these last few weeks so that mine can grow in this area.)  She says that even though people's choices mess everything up, that God KNOWS the end from the beginning, and He has a plan for all of His children.  He knows the choices we're going to make before we make them, and He is there to help us get through them.  She says that He sends us on a path where we're meant to be and He helps us so that we can learn what we need to learn. He knows the choices we're going to make before we make them. He KNOWS.

I know that ultimately she is right.  I want her to be right - even when I know God's will isn't being done (because I do not believe for one second that it's God's will for people to hurt helpless children).  But I have to believe that someday, somehow, His will will ultimately guide these kids that I've come to love to where they can heal.  I have to believe that He has a plan for all His children (not just the ones who were born into happy homes).  I know I just have to discover what part I can play in His plan, and I know that His will can happen easier if we use our choices to make good things happen in the world.

I have been pondering and thinking about why God will not interfere with anyone's choices (even if someone is making evil choices) when such intervention could benefit another one of His children (even if they are perfectly helpless and deserve to be helped).

As I've been thinking about it, I have thought that God will also NOT intervene with our positive choices - for the benefit of anyone.  If God intervened with Jesus Christ's choices, then Jesus wouldn't actually be WHO HE CHOSE TO BE.  If God intervened and told Him He couldn't do it, or stopped Him for any reason, then that pivitol moment that saved us wouldn't have happened!  Jesus' choices DID benefit other children...ALL of God's other children.  How I wish that the evil choices of those who hated Him, and persecuted Him, and crucified Him could have been reversed.  I imagine how much our Father in Heaven must have wished He could have stopped them.  How much His heart must have agonized.  I am sure it was unbearable, but God did not intervene to stop the choices of anyone involved.  He allowed them to choose for themselves, and that is the ONLY reason we have any reason to hope, because Jesus Christ CHOSE to do something He didn't actually have to do, but He did it for us.  He did it because He loved us.  And I'm so grateful God didn't intervene.

So - now I need to apply these concepts to myself, and remember these things even in the moments when it hurts.  I have to remember as I open my heart and home to children who have been suffering that God has a plan for them, and that God CAN heal them, and I am going to continue to do everything I possibly can to try to use my choices in the best ways I can so that I can help make a difference.

My faith is getting stronger that we're not just thrown on this earth like sprinkles (and my faith is strengthening that not even SOME of us are tossed to the world as sprinkles).  I am leaning on the faith of my friend, Merri, that God KNOWS where ALL of His children are sent to on this earth, and He KNOWS how to help them.  I believe that HE WILL help them by opening up pathways for them, and also THROUGH the good choices of others.  I believe that even in well wishing, Heavenly Father knows that we have NO CONTROL.  I believe He knows that feeling, too, because He chooses to NOT CONTROL our choices - even though He wants us to choose well.  I know that He's always there to help us choose well, and He's always there to help us even when we don't make the right choices. He can help us to fix the things that are broken.  He knows what we'll choose before we choose it, because He knows the end from the beginning. He knows how to help us even when we mess things up with our choices.  He has a plan for each and every one of His children, and He can help us get where we need to be, if we just turn to Him and ask.

Within the past couple of weeks I was asked to help with a musical number in church - "Consider the Lilies" by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  Because of the sadness of a situation that I am not allowed to share publicly, my heart was hardened towards God in some ways, but my heart has been softening - because each time I had to practice for church, I had to think about the sermon in these words.  I feel this message was not a coincidence, and it wasn't for the congregation that week -  it was actually for me to help my faith & to help heal my heart:

"Consider the lilies of the field,
How they grow, how they grow.
Consider the birds in the sky,
How they fly, how they fly.

He clothes the lilies of the field.
He feeds the birds in the sky.
And He will feed those who trust Him,
And guide them with His eye.

Consider the sheep of His fold,
How they follow where He leads.
Though the path may wind across the mountains,
He knows the meadows where they feed.

He clothes the lilies of the field.
He feeds the birds in the sky,
And He will feed those who trust Him,
And guide them with His eye.

Consider the sweet, tender children
Who must suffer on this earth.
The pains of all of them He carried
From the day of His birth.

He clothes the lilies of the field,
He feeds the lambs in His fold,
And He will heal those who trust Him,
And make their hearts as gold."