Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Confessions of a LuLaRoe Retailer

  I have so many thoughts jumbling together in my head right now.  I hope that by writing them down I can sort them and make sense of them. So, fair warning....this may be a roller coaster of thoughts so buckle up and enjoy the ride.

These past few weeks have been really difficult.  Not just because we bought our very first home (yay us) and moved many States away to start a new chapter of our lives. No, that has been difficult in its own right, for sure.  But, what has really been weighing heavy is the fact that I should be delivering my sweet little Elliott Milton right around now with all my other maternal friends.  It has been a gut wrenching, confusing, dizzying experience.  But, I am trudging through and learning a lot about myself, the Lord, and His plan for us.

During all of this upheaval, I have been working diligently on my business, Liv's LuLaRoe Boutique. This has also been a very fun and stressful experience. ;)  I have a new space that I am fitting up right proper to hold all of the things.  It is just taking a LOT of time.  Construction, paint, more construction, counting, hanging, sorting.  It's coming together, but it is slow.  I am also working on starting a new branch of my Boutique and because I am who I am, I need to finish doing some accounting and "paper pushing" before I can start it.

I have been so down on myself. So frustrated.  So overwhelmed.

Balancing mom-life, wife-life, work-life, teacher-life (I homeschool...and we are working through the Summer since our vacations took up some school days)...  unpacking, sorting, settling, etc.  It's been a real challenge finding my center.

Another aspect of me is that I struggle with depression.  So add that fun little layer and you can imagine (maybe) how that has effected everything else.

But enough about that. ;)

What I really want to talk about it how I am planning on changing all of that and really sorting out my priorities.
---
Recently, I listened to a commentary from a fellow retailer talking about what she thought success looked like.  I have to admit, I was really put off by what she said and I think it was just the right catalyst I needed to take a good, honest look at my life and make some necessary changes.

I decided I needed to decide what success looked like to me.

I think the greatest discovery (and it really shouldn't have been a discovery) was that this was MY BUSINESS and I could run it however I wanted!  I was putting deadlines and expectations on myself that were not in line with my values.  I would constantly tell myself, "I have so much to do!  I am so behind!"  Oh my goodness!  How laughable.  This is MY life.  My business.  MY family!  I am the CEO of all three and I get to decide how far behind or ahead I was so I decided to change my dialog.  Now all of a sudden, I am ahead of schedule! I don't have all that much to do.  I have exactly enough to be happy and enjoy my personal journey.  What a light bulb moment!!

While I have been writing this, I have taken numerous breaks to set young men up with their assignments for the day, played dinosaurs with my 2 year old, taken a picture for Instagram, updated my hostesses, and laughed!  My life is what I make of it and I am deciding to take time to enjoy the beauty that surrounds me!  Yes, there are boxes to be unpacked, dishes to wash, floors to vacuum, but also trees to be gazed at, plastic snakes that need to be snatched from the grasps of the infamous plastic T-rex's, hugs to be given, and while I type, a pile of 'artifacts' to be received with gratitude from a helpful 2 year old.
So far, I have a blanket, an eraser, a stuffed unicorn, a plastic Allosaurus, and a cat toy.

I have allowed myself to get out of sync with my vision, my core, my why.  I did not start selling LuLaRoe to make thousands or yes even millions of dollars.  I decided to start selling LuLaRoe to admittedly pay for school in the beginning and then it became a part of my core.  I always wanted a little Boutique that was my little corner of the world.  A place where I could express myself, bless others lives, make lifelong friends.  Am I not accomplishing just that?  Why yes!  Yes I am!

I don't need to sacrifice sleep, family time, a clean house, or personal grooming to be successful!   If I did, then I could surely say that I was not a success at all!  I choose to have balance.  I choose to be a great Mommy, an amazing and supportive wife, a great chef and housekeeper, a fabulous and fun Fashion Retailer, and most importantly, a grounded, Christ-centered daughter of God.  

I can love more, read my scriptures and pray more, laugh more, take time to enjoy the beauty around me, serve with kindness, take care of my personal needs, read a novel, and sing!  I can take time to WRITE!  I love writing.  It's therapeutic.  I can plan trips to the Temple.  I can take a walk with my kids.  I can turn down the lights and draw the curtains closed during nap time and just sit and think. 

I don't have to fill every available moment WITH something.  

Will I always have 3 fresh loaves of bread made from wheat I ground myself?  Bathed children with great haircuts and clean clothes?  A freezer full of prepped meals?  A meticulous lawn with flowers, fruits and vegetables growing unheeded in abundance?  No.  But I may have 1 loaf of homemade, home ground bread a week that gets consumed almost immediately ;), bathed children on Sunday looking dapper, and a few meals or ingredients on hand, and a flower bed full of weeds and flowers with a desire for vegetables to grow. 

Does this measure my success?  No, it does not.  

I can be great at a lot of things!  I can be pretty good or terrible at a lot of things too.  

Does this measure my success?  No, it does not.

Today, I choose.

I choose to train my T.E.A.M.  to the best of my ability.  
I choose to serve my clients with amazing pieces that will bless their lives and support their dreams and goals.  
I choose to stop and watch crazy You Tube videos with my kids when they run in excited to show me something and NOT say, "Ya, but just not right now" and then watch the enthusiasm go out of them like a loose balloon.  
I choose to wake up with my husband at the crack of dawn so he is not alone and has a sleepy face to kiss goodbye on his way to work.  
I choose to go bed with him at night and not stay up late taking pictures of inventory or prepping shipments for the next day.  
I choose to exercise and take a shower before my 2 year old wakes up and SOMETIMES I choose to exercise while he is watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on my bed and taking an Olympic, gold medal winning, fast shower with the door open while telling him, "Uh oh buddy!  We don't play with the toilet brush!"  
I choose to set realistic expectations and goals for myself and then triumph in the small 'wins'.
I choose to LIVE!  Not tomorrow, not when I have more money, not next week, not when it stops raining.  RIGHT NOW. Today!  ...and everyday.

I choose happiness.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Jesus Wept...then so can I

It's been a week.  A week and one day to be exact.  Has it gotten easier?  No.  No it hasn't.  It's gotten different.

Now I am angry.... Stage 2.

I am angry that my baby is not inside of me anymore. I am angry that I don't get to hold his hand in 6 months and look in his eyes and give him kisses.  I am angry and sad and lonely.

Does this mean I have lost my faith?  Does this mean I don't trust God?  Does this mean that I am not letting the Atonement heal my broken heart?  No. None of that.

I KNOW Elliott Milton Heilmann is mine forever.  I KNOW I will see him again.  I KNOW that he is with God.  I KNOW that he was here and now he is not for reasons unknown to me but known to God and I accept that.

Does it take away the pain?
No.

Does it take away the despair?
No.

Does it make me feel sunshine and rainbows?
No.

John 11:35

Jesus wept.


Why?  He knew where Lazarus was better than any of us could comprehend!!  So why did he weep?  He WEPT.  He didn't get teary eyed and offer condolences.  He wept!  I can only guess but I am sure it has something to do with

Mosiah 18:9 and Romans 12:15

It is what we do as children of God.  We FEEL.  We HURT.  We CRY.  But we still have faith.  We still trust.

I am not sitting here stomping around my house and crying non stop.  It comes and goes.  I let it come and I let it go.  Then I let it come again.  I don't push it down or hide it away.

I CHOSE to share this.  I CHOOSE to keep sharing it.  I don't know why other than it feels like the right thing to do for me and maybe, just maybe, it will help someone else who is grieving too.

Will I always be sad?
No.

Will I eventually stop crying?
Probably.

Is it ok to be sad and angry and lonely and depressed and empty?
ABSOLUTELY!!

I feel buoyed up by all the prayers.  I also feel the loving arms of my Father in Heaven and my Savior Jesus Christ around me as I cry and scream and stomp my feet and ya know what?  I know they are crying with me.  You know why?  Because they know how to mourn with those that mourn.

Elliott is fine.  He is GREAT!  We will be together for eternity.  I just don't get to have him right now and that super sucks.  I hate it.  I am allowed to hate it.

My Savior lives. He suffered my pain so I don't have to suffer alone.  Crying is part of the human experience.

So, when I post on facebook that I am feeling down or I am angry, it's because I am giving the raw truth.  You won't see me sugar coat my life. I refuse to be sad and ALONE.

But I will be sad.  I will be depressed.  I will cry.  I will be angry.  I will also smile.  I will also laugh.  I will also get dressed and love my children and my husband and have good days. Heck!  I will even have GREAT days!

Will those days have moments of sadness in them?
Absolutely.

Will those days have moments of angry tears?
Probably.

Will you find me in quiet moments holding my precious statue a dear friend sent to me and talking to my little Elliott about how much I love him and can't wait to see him someday?
You bet!  

Will I sometimes turn away offers of hanging out sometimes and other times call people up desperate to get out of the house?
Ya.

Is all of that ok?  
YES!

Jesus Wept...so that I CAN TOO

Monday, January 9, 2017

For This Child I Prayed....

  A few months ago, I decided I needed to resurrect the idea of going on a trip to Europe with my sweet girl friends.  We had wanted to spend our 35th Birthday's touring Ireland but I ended up getting pregnant with Emery which in itself was a healing miracle. We decided to try again another year and this felt like our year!
  I contacted my girls and we started throwing around dates.  None of our dates coincided and then we also talked about the possibility of my getting pregnant and I told the girls it made me feel sick to my stomach thinking about putting off getting pregnant just to go on our trip.  We all agreed to just put off our trip and find an alternative way to get together and celebrate.  This time it would be our 37th Birthday. 
  
  Fast forward to November 1st.  My dear friend, Angel, messaged me on Facebook asking if I was pregnant.  She said, "Are you pregnant again?  I just had the thought that you are..."  I assured her that indeed I was not but that is was up for negotiation.    
 
  I don't know the actual date but I do remember the exact moment with perfect clarity that the world got a little sparkly, everything seemed to go in slow motion, and I heard the Spirit of God whisper YOUR PREGNANT!  I kept that close to my heart for many weeks while I waited for my monthly cycle to appear again. 
  On November 21st, we had a Family Home Evening activity of watching a Christmas movie. I kept receiving a distinct impression that someone was missing.  I kept looking around the room counting my family members and saying to myself.."Yes, that's all of us, right?"  
  On November 27th, we were in our Bishops office for Tithing Settlement and he said the same thing!  We all walked in and he stood at the door looking out as if he was waiting for more to come in.  He said, "Is this everyone?  I feel like someone is missing?  You only have 3 kids?"  We just had to laugh and tell him of our previous experience and of course crossed our fingers that we were indeed expecting a little angel.  

  On December 5th I confirmed my suspicion.  I was pregnant!!!  I couldn't believe it!  We had JUST decided to try for baby number 4. But everything leading up to this was so special, I just wanted to share it with the world!  
  I immediately contacted a friend of mine, Nikita, to see if she would take family pictures for me and document the moment when I told Tim and the boys about my exciting surprise.  She, of course, was overjoyed to do so and we set it up. 
 We wasted no time and on December 7th, we shared the joy as a family during our family picture session.  The moments were perfectly documented.

We sent Emery towards Tim with a shirt that said, "Big Brother"

We asked Tim, "What is Emery wearing, Tim!"

He read the shirt and exclaimed, "REALLY?!?"

The moment couldn't have been more perfect.

  We decided to not only share the news as a family, but to share it with our extended family and friends.  We knew it was early but every time I questioned my idea of telling everyone, I told myself that if something went wrong, and we lost the baby, I didn't want to be alone.  (Never thinking that could be a reality).

So, we shared it with the world!!

  Over the next 3 1/2 weeks, everything seemed a little off.  That feeling of my baby's presence started to fade and I started to fear the worst.  I didn't experience many typical normal pregnancy symptoms other than fatigue, some emotional roller coaster rides, and only a few nauseous moments. Often, I had to remind myself that I was pregnant because it still didn't feel real. When the realization came to me, I would get really excited but still had that feeling of "something isn't right" tickling the peripheral of my thoughts. 
  Nightmares of losing my baby were becoming a nightly ritual. I would often tell Tim and friends that I felt something was off but I just didn't know why.  I would get the same reassuring comments, "You are just having a fabulous pregnancy!" "Everything is surely fine!" "Every pregnancy is different."
  I didn't want to admit that I wasn't sure that was true.  But I held it back not wanting to admit anything to myself. 

  This past week, I started having strange discharge that was brownish in color.  I really began to worry.  Again, the reassurances of "That can be normal"  "Not to worry" but again, I couldn't help but worry.  
  I went ahead with all my lab work and scheduling of my appts.  
  By Saturday night, I started to bleed.  My worries got the best of me and I decided to go to the ER.  I waited until the boys went to bed so they wouldn't worry and I drove myself to the ER.  At this point, I feared the worst but I tried to remain positive.  I brought 2 books and an extra sweater figuring I was probably in for a very long and cold night.  
  The nurse came in and attempted to draw blood via IV.  She rooted around for a while in my left arm until she decided to give up and call in reinforcements.  The next nurse arrived and tried on my right arm in the SAME vein that was just recently shish kabobbed but within enough time it was deemed safe.  She also struggled with my tiny vein and her large IV needle and she ended up just extracting enough blood with a syringe for the lab.
  The waiting was the hardest part in between each procedure.  I had an internal exam and then it was time for the ultrasound.
  The sweet Grandma tech talked me through the entire procedure. Since my uterus is so tilted to the back, she had to do an internal exam.  She was lovely as she talked to me about each thing she was measuring.  Then she got to my womb....and all I saw was a black hole.  No baby.  
  She slowly panned in and out an my heart shattered.  I was expecting to see my little green olive sized baby.  Expecting to see little hands and feet.  Expecting to hear my precious babies heart beating telling me everything was ok.  Instead?  Nothing.  Just an empty, lonely, black hole.  
  She sweetly helped me up and invited me to clean off.  I courageously tried to not fall to the ground and fall apart.  She wrapped a warm blanket around my shoulders and sweetly tucked me in to my wheel chair and parked me to wait for me escort.  
  I couldn't hold it in any longer and the flood gates opened.  My shattered heart broke free and I cried as silently as I could for what seemed like an eternity.  I tried to be brave as the cleaning lady walked back and forth in front of me and the next patient lay quietly beside me waiting for her turn in the ultrasound room.
  I sat and cried for probably 15 min and then I was wheeled back into my room.  I mustered up a smile and a thank you to my tech and complimented her on her shoes.  She left the room and I lost the ability to breath.
  My baby.  My sweet baby was gone.  Just, gone.  All that was left was a black hole.  An empty, lonely, black hole.  At this point it was in the wee hours of Sunday and I messaged Tim out of bed and tried to understand what was happening.  I was left to cry and learn to breath once more in silence.  While I waited, the two nurses came back in and requested more blood.  This time, they used the butterfly needle on the back of my hand. All I could think of was, "I am full of holes.  Empty, lonely, painful, holes."  
  Where was my baby?  
  The Dr. came in with that look that no mother EVER wants to see.  He had already established a rapport with me and it was a comfortable, confusing, devastating explanation. 
  My baby failed to grow.  For the last 10 weeks my body was trying to make a baby but something went wrong.  Every test was positive.  The Dr. said my pregnancy tests would still read positive for a few days.  My HCG was over 10,000.  
  He told me that I likely had a blighted ovum.  Basically my baby never really made it past fertilization.  
  He gently, kindly, gave me my instructions for follow up care and sent me on my way.  
  
  I packed my bag.  Cleaned myself up.  And tried to walk with dignity out to my car and drive home...alone...at 4am.

  We awoke on Sunday morning and spent the day as a family crying, hugging, and watching movies.  After the time that Church ended, my sweet friend Lura dropped by to bring a box of fudge.  I heard a familiar voice at the door and I got up from my couch cocoon and fell into her arms and burst into tears on her shoulder.  All I could say was, "My baby is gone!  My baby is gone!"  
  She just held me and whispered sweet words and let me cry.  It was everything that I needed.  She said that she just had a feeling that she needed to bring fudge by after church.  Oh how right she was.  Thankfully, her entire family had come and her husband was able to come in and assist Tim in a beautiful, healing blessing.

  Today, Monday, I woke up to extreme, rolling, contractions.  It was a desperate circumstance and thankfully Tim was still home.  I had trouble focusing as the pain was so intense.  Emotionally, it just felt oh so wrong to feel like I was getting ready to deliver...but what?  Nothing.  It lasted for an eternity that was probably more like 30 min.  Finally, I felt like I had to run to the bathroom and before I knew it, it was over.  
  I think I felt more empty in that moment than I had ever felt.  As the day has gone on, I am just left with pains, emotional and physical, fatigue, dizziness, shakiness, and then the most intense, blinding series of stomach cramps that empty me some more. 
  
  The realization is coming in waves.  

  I called to cancel Tristan's Occupational Therapy appt and was told that I was going to have a cancellation fee.  It was such a punch in the gut.  I had to tell them that I simply COULDN'T bring him in because I was experiencing a miscarriage.  The receptionist on the line just callously said, "I will make a note on your file.  Ok, goodbye."  UGH.  It was emotionally horrible to feel shut down and punished for something completely out of my control.  
  I was able to text Tristan's Applied Behavioral Analysis appts for the week of which there are 3.  Thankfully, I was able to just say we were dealing with a family tragedy and needed to cancel the week.  They replied in perfect sympathy and even asked what they could do for our family.  What a relief that was! 
  Tim came home early.  He said he went to work and his Physicians Assistant asked him how his weekend was.  He said, "Not great!  My wife is having a miscarriage!"  His P.A. offered to take over his patients today and he was able to come home.  He then spent the rest of the morning rescheduling our Orthodonitist appt., cancelling my OB Nurse intake appt., my OB Nutrition class and called to get me an Acute Care Follow Up with an OB for tomorrow.  
  So, tomorrow, I have to drive about an hour to the Military Hospital and do yet ANOTHER blood draw, and then wait for 2 hours for my appt.  This isn't over yet but each moment is easier than the last.  I do have to cope with the waves of emotion that come as I have to answer questions for well meaning friends and family or receive a hug from my boys with an inquiry of how I am doing. 
  I hope that writing this all out will give me the ability to recover, understand, and move forward in this bizarre process.  
  So, now I have an angel in heaven.  Did my sweet angel try to come and break his/her 'ship' from shear awesomeness?  Is he/her waiting for take two for a turn sailing on earth?  Or was that all that this amazing little person needed and now he/she is waiting with the Lord, my GG, and others who have gone before me for the day when I can meet them again?  I keep praying and asking but for now I am just going to think on the last 10 weeks and try to find peace.  


 



Saturday, April 16, 2016

Who is your Warrior?

This is my big sister, Amanda. I am so proud of her. Many nights, I would fear for her life. Now I rejoice in it.
https://youtu.be/KiTlRHmjxhA

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

God is Real

Every week, I have experiences in life.  Some good.  Some bad.  But each of them teach me a lesson about life and sometimes about what I need to change and what not to do.  Then without fail, every single Sunday, the lessons taught in Sacrament meeting, in Sunday School, and in Relief Society perfectly coincide with the experiences that I have had the previous week.

I can tell that God is changing my heart, one Sunday at a time.  He knows what I need to learn and He prepares my heart each week to be receptive to the lessons He wants me to learn.

This coming Sunday, our Relief Society lesson is entitled "Beware of Pride". This week has taught me that this is a major stumbling block for me.  I can honestly say that I was not aware of the intensity of this problem in my heart until this last Sunday.

Last week, we attended the Ozark 2nd Branch in Ozark, Alabama.  I walked into the building with the prideful thought of how good I looked and how everyone was going to see that I was Tim's wife that he had been talking about the last few weeks.  I was thinking how impressed they would be and how impressive I was.

Now, mind you, I didn't sit their in my head and have these long drawn out conversations about this.  These were the works of those little fleeting thoughts that brush through your mind as your mind sits idle.  I did not pay them much heed...but they were still definitely whispering somewhere inside of me.

I entered the chapel and immediately started to type everyone. First of all, I was a bit surprised at how beautiful and fashionable this little Branch was.  This was Alabama after all and I had it in my mind that Alabama....and a Branch no less...was going to be a bit of a throw back to Huckleberry Fin!  I expected to see a lot of suspenders and plaid and was surprised that these folks were every bit as Urban as I was.

Folly number one.

This Sunday was Fast and Testimony meeting, where the members of the congregation have the opportunity to share their personal testimonies as prompted by the Spirit.  As each person approached the pulpit, I judged them.  I sat their with a smile on my face thinking that I knew exactly what was coming.

Two people in particular stand out for me.

The first gal walked up to the pulpit in a t-shirt and a pair of sweat pants and no makeup.  I thought, oh she must be an investigator.  I bet she also smokes and has a messy house.  She probably is on welfare and yells at her kids.

What came next brought tears to my eyes and a huge dose of humility to my heart.  Her testimony was heartfelt, beautiful, moving, and inspiring. She talked about her personal conversion story.  She told about the miracles in her life that were nothing short of amazing.  I could truly feel the love the God had for this beautiful girl.

I found myself thinking, "I want to know that girl.  I want to be more like her."

It was amazing to me to realize how I was sitting there in judgement of this Daughter of God based on the wrapper but what was inside was the sweetest and most divine goodness I have ever seen.

Now, like I said before.  These were fleeting thoughts.  But they sure were there and I wasn't making a single effort to kick them out.

Then the second gal.  This beautiful woman was well groomed.  Her dress was pressed.  Her hair was perfect as was her makeup.  Her demeanor was confident and her smile ready.  I thought to myself, this woman is so put together.  I bet she is a stalwart Daughter of God.  She looks like she is the perfect example of righteousness and kindness.  I bet she serves and leads.  I bet she reads her scriptures daily and says many prayers.  I bet she has a clean home and is kind to all around her. Then she opened her mouth.

She talked about how this was her once in 5 years testimony because standing in front of people terrifies her.  She talked about how she gained a testimony at 17 and now that she is 60, she still hasn't attended the Temple because she struggles with addiction.  She talked about her family life growing up and how all of her siblings had been arrested at some point and how she was not a great kid either.  She talked about how rough it was and how she still struggles.

I was stunned, humbled, and also I felt a bit chastised by God, and rightly so.

I found myself thinking, "I want to know that girl.  I want to be more like her."

The rest of the meeting that day continued in this way and I wish that I could say that I stopped judging, but I didn't.  But EACH TIME, I was brought to my knees, figuratively, in humility as I realized over and over again how wrong I was.

These wonderful people, and all people, are choice and loved sons and daughters of a Heavenly King.  I am no greater than any of them.  We are all equal and we are all on a life journey together that takes us on different paths but ultimately they lead back to the one who created us.

Our wrappers may differ.  Our experiences may alter us on the outside as they certainly do on the inside.  But without knowing what lies beneath, I and we can in no way know or judge the hearts of others.

I learned a lot that day.  I am still learning from it.  I will probably think back on this experience often as I struggle to let go of pride and conceit.  I am humbled to know that God loves me enough to let me see the follies in myself and then doesn't leave me out to dry wondering how I will ever be able to change.  No, He knows me.  He is real.  He provides a way for me to change my heart as surely as He provided a Savior to atone for my weeknesses.

I love my God.  I love my Savior, Jesus Christ.

I will forever find myself thinking, "I want to know them.  I want to be more like them."


Friday, February 27, 2015

Perspective

This morning, I could tell you with 100% certainty that the dress was white and gold.  The end.  No other way around it.  You may see blue and black, but I think you are playing games with me and frankly, I am getting a little tired of it.

White. And. Gold.

Until it wasn't...

Some of you social media peeps may have seen the 'controversy of the dress' going around on the internet the last week or so.  I saw the pic for the first time on my Facebook app on my phone and clearly saw a white and gold dress.  I couldn't understand the problem.  So, I left it at that.

I was pretty sure it was some elaborate internet secret or game that people were playing.  Perhaps sometimes the dress would be blue and black depending on the IP or source of the pic.  I figured it was just a way to get people to be mad at each other.

I left it alone and didn't play the game.

Until today...

My companion and I were visiting teaching one of our sisters this afternoon and she said, "Ok, I just need to ask REAL LIFE people a question here.  Have you guys seen this?"

She proceeded to show us the dress.  The white and gold dress.

"What do you see?" She asked us.

"A white and gold dress" I replied.

"A blue and gold dress" replied my companion.

She exclaimed, "IT'S BLUE AND BLACK!"

Then we started comparing colors we saw in real time.  In a painting.  On the TV screen.  Nope....perspective remained the same, me seeing white and gold and the other sisters seeing blue and black...and gold.  (new...)

The sister we were visiting is also an artist and she showed us a scientific explanation of why some people see white and gold while others see blue and black.  Rods and cones and yada yada.

I believed that what we were seeing was real for each of us, but it was still hard to comprehend what the other was seeing.  We laughed about it some and then decided to ask the children...

Blue and black.

But wait!  As the laptop was being passed around the screen would shift and holy moly, for a second there, I could have sworn that I saw blue and black!!!

The sister showed us a morph of the picture that someone had created to show us the different perspectives.  She could now see it as white and gold and I could now see it as blue and black.

We continued to marvel and talk about color and perspective and then I looked again at the screen.

The dress was clearly blue and black.

"Show me the original picture again" I said.

"This IS the original picture!" was her reply.

"WAIT!  That dress is clearly blue and black!  Where did the white and gold one go!!"

I rubbed my eyes.  Walked away.  Moved the computer to different light but the white and gold dress was gone.  I could no longer see it!

I can't tell you how strange I started to feel.  I was totally derailed!  I felt like maybe I was on candid camera or something!

Nope.  Perspective.

My brain now registered the dress as blue and black and would no longer see white and gold.

I was freaking out!  HAHA.  I tried to compose myself so that I could then share a gospel message but I kept shaking my head in wonder and chuckling nervously.  WHAT HAD JUST HAPPENED?

Perspective.

This is what we learned.

Sometimes, we go through life seeing this as they are.  We have a conviction about something.  Not an opinion.  A true conviction.

"Why can't you just see it my way?" we wonder.  "It is so clear to see! Why are you arguing?  Why are you struggling?  You are WRONG and I am RIGHT!"

Perspective, right?

Someone in my life, whom I dearly love, grew up without a father.  Not until tragedy struck this persons life did a perspective on feelings toward father's come to light.  Unconsciously, this person, throughout her life, felt the role of father was accessory but not necessary.  Clearly a mother could do it on her own and not need a man around.  

This unconscious perspective had effected the outcome of the tragedy.  True, it may have ended the same way, but the perspective of the situation would have been totally and completely different.  Our experiences effect our perspective.

We go through life and have personal life-shaping experiences that effect the way we see things.  One person may see something and not give it a second glance while another may see the same thing and it sends them into a tailspin of panic.

Who's reaction is correct?

Both.

It all depends on perspective.



Monday, February 16, 2015

Like A Broken Vessel



**About a year or so ago, I was asked to speak in my church on depression.  It was a really difficult task and the process of writing all my thoughts down often left me gasping for breath as I recalled, emotionally and physically, the pain I had suffered over the years.  

My Bishop suggested that I submit the talk to our Church's magazines...but I just haven't been able to find the courage to do it.  

Lately, I have been prompted to share this talk and be more open about my personal struggles.  I have tried sitting down to it and revising the talk as it needs to be like 2,000 words less than it is....

Still terrified to do so, I am going forward with faith and promptings and just letting it all out here on my blog.  I don't know if it will help anyone.  Maybe it is just for me, again.  But I hope it does touch someones life in even a small way...letting them know that they are not alone.***

The talks I have been asked to reference in regards to my message today are taken from the Conference talks of our Prophet, President Monson titled , "We Never Walk Alone" and from Elder Holland "Like A Broken Vessel"

My heart is full of remembrances' of past heartaches and the divine hand of God in my life that got me through the greatest trial of my life. That trial was a 5 year battle with debilitating depression. I normally don't write out my talks word for word, but the things that I have felt prompted to share today are so personal and tender, I felt the only way I could get through this without crying uncontrollably was to write it all down. I hope that I can still share the things in my heart and the things that the Lord would have you hear today.  May your prayers be with me so that I can speak boldly and that the words I say will be uplifting to you. 

Let me begin by declaring----Depression is not a choice.  It is not a punishment.  It is not a cry for attention.  It is a very real and very scary thing that afflicts both old and young.  It is not a sign of un-worthiness.  It is not a reflection of your spiritual well being.  It is a mental illness.  Just as real as cancer and often just as debilitating.

To quote Elder Holland, it is "an affliction so severe that it significantly restricts a person's ability to function fully, a crater in the mind so deep that no one can responsibly suggest it would surely go away if those victims would just square their shoulders and think more positively...No, this dark night of the mind and spirit is more than mere discouragement." 

While in the depths of my personal trial, I remember watching Oprah and hearing someone on the show talk about depression in this way. "Depression is like sitting on a couch and 5 feet away from you is a magic wand and you know if you can just pick up that magic wand you will be cured and all the pain will go away...but you just can't get off the couch".

In organizing my thoughts today I have decided to first share some steps that Elder Holland has outlined as ways to prevent a depressive episode and then I want to share the steps of how to get through and survive depression if you are currently on the battlefield.

First--- Prevention:

Elder Holland outlines that the first step is:

#1 Watch for stress indicators: Try to identify the things in your life that cause you stress. Once you have identified them, find ways to avoid those things.  I have identified that I cannot watch certain types of movies that have intense scenes when I am working on preventing a depressive episode.  I once was in a very stressful family situation overseas and we decided to watch the film "Mimsy".   A really cute movie, but also very intense.  My mom said she was watching me as my body became more and more tense and a look passed over my eyes that she had not seen before.  After the movie was over, the family situation escalated and I started to have a panic attack.  

I had never had one before and it was terrifying.  Everything in my mind and body was screaming for me to jump out the window.   Thankfully, my mom and younger sister were able to calm me down and I rested and replenished for the rest of the night.  But I have identified intense films as a stress indicator and I now know to avoid them when I feel a depressive episode coming on.

#2 Make adjustments immediately when you start to feel depleted.  Slow down. Rest up. Replenish.  And Refill.   Recently I had to ask to be released from a Stake calling.  I was serving as the Stake Primary Secretary and at the end of the first year of that calling, I had to make some changes in my life that were very dramatic.  Our family was struggling with a trial that needed more of my attention than I was able to give.  I struggled to juggle it all but realized I was losing and I could feel the cloud of depression and anxiety starting to come over me.  I knew I needed to make a change. 

I prayed and struggled and sought guidance on what I should do, and the answer was clear.  I needed to ask for a release.   It was not easy to do and I felt horrible and unworthy for asking for the release but I was sure that that was what the Lord was telling me to do.  When the High Councilman over Primary, and his wife, the Primary President I served under, came to my home to offer the release, the Sister told me that she had been praying to know if I should be released and felt prompted that I should but that I needed to make that decision for myself.  It needed to come from me; it was a lesson the Lord wanted me to learn. 

She could see how I was struggling and her prayers were heard.  I later found out that one of the Counselors in our Presidency was praying for me as well.  They truly knew my need and they loved me enough to let me go.  

If those steps do not work, and you are cast into the chasm of depression...your first step is to:

#1 Seek Counseling.  Elder Holland states: "If you had appendicitis, God would expect you to seek a priesthood blessing and get the best medical care available.  So too with emotional disorders.  Our Father in Heaven expects us to use all of the marvelous gifts He has provided in this glorious dispensation."

Throughout my life, I have seen many different counselors for many different reasons.  In the first years of our marriage, I sought counseling to heal from a past abuse that was affecting my ability to love my husband the way I wanted to so desperately.  

When my parents divorced about 5 years ago, I sought counseling to heal from the emotional turmoil that shook my core and tormented my soul.
But when I was in the midst of my depression, counseling was the furthest thing from my mind.  I felt crazy.  Un-loveable.  Broken.  Useless.  I felt that no amount of prayer or fasting or scripture reading would ever make me feel better. 

I was so scared.  There was a time that I dealt with agoraphobia, where I was terrified of going outdoors.  I couldn't do my laundry in the laundry center across the parking lot from my apartment, check the mail, or even answer the door.  Even a knock at the door would send me into a panic.  
The things I was feeling and the thoughts in my head were so dark and terrifying that I thought if anyone knew them, surely they would take my child away from me.  I was sure that I would never recover and whatever the counselor had to say to me it surely would not help.  I felt beyond repair.  

At some point, I relented, and the advice I received help quell the storm temporarily.  But the war in my mind was not over just because one battle was won.  

This leads to step:
 #2...BE HONEST and Prayerfully and responsibly consider the counsel and solutions the counselors prescribe.  

It is not enough to just go to counseling and listen to the words of comfort they offer.  You have to actually use the tools given.  It is also imperative that you are completely honest with them, even when the truth is the scariest thing in your mind and telling them feels like the most dangerous and reckless thing to do.  

Trust me when I say that Satan is well aware of the workings in your mind.  He is aware of the dysfunction that is causing this suffering and he is using his greatest tools on you at your weakest point.  The lies he feeds a depressed mind are dark and he wants nothing more than for you to succumb to the darkness and lose that last bit of hope that is in you.   

I was there.  I was in that chasm.  The smile that I wore on my face was a mask that was covering up a deep loneliness and fear.  

At the lowest point in my depression, I was serving as a counselor in my Ward's Primary. One particular Sunday my mask felt heavy and I just couldn't wear it anymore.  The depletion must have shown on my face and on my countenance.  I was pulled aside during sharing time and asked if I was ok by the other counselor in our Presidency.  

I told her I was fine, but the Spirit told her that I wasn't.  She kept pressing and I finally broke down.  I told her that I just couldn't do it anymore.  The world was just too much.  The darkness too great.  I felt that if I just disappeared, everything would be better. 

I felt that eventually my family would get over not having me in their life.  They would move on and be happier for it.  I was so totally convinced that this was the only good and honorable thing to do.  I truly felt that this was the only way out. 

I swore my friend to secrecy and plead with her not to tell anyone what I had told her and then I reassured her that all was well and that I had the situation under control. 

That same afternoon, 2 members of the Bishopric came to my house to check on me.  They asked me how I was feeling. I responded with my famous answer, "I am just fine, thank you."  They told me that a friend of mine was worried about me and thought I could use some immediate help.  I assured them again, with a smile on my face, that all was well and they did not need to worry.  

After they left, I called my friend to tell her how upset I was that she broke a confidence with me.  She replied tearfully and meekly that she would never be able to live with herself if I followed through with the thoughts in my mind knowing that she didn't say anything to help prevent it.  I was very angry with her but also there was a glimmer of  happiness, in that a hand had been extended to me that I was finally willing to take hold of.  

I was sent back to counseling and I was to visit with my Bishop every Sunday after Church to check in with him.  My friend called me every day to check in also and many days she heard the real truth in my voice even when I said I was fine, and she would take the kids for the day and sometimes overnight.  

When I went to my first meeting with my new counselor, I was shocked by his youth and put up immediate walls against him.  

I decided in those first moments that there was no way a young man that seemed nearly my own age had anything worth sharing with me that could possibly help.  I was so irritated and I just wanted to walk out.  He told me, "Olivia, the woman that sits before me now is not the same woman that your Bishop described."  I laughed and with a smile I said, "Oh I know.  This is just a mask.  I don't trust you enough to take it off yet.  But we'll see how this goes and take it from there."  

He replied with a "fair enough" attitude and we did indeed take it from there.  Over the period of our professional relationship, he saw more tears and more honest emotions from me than I was even willing to share with my husband.  

A few Sundays into my transformation, I overheard my Bishop say to my friend, "You know you saved her life."  

She did.  

#4 Rejoice in the small victories.
The victories may seem silly to some, but taking a shower, getting dressed, or eating a decent meal can be some of the hardest tasks and some of your greatest triumphs.  During those first days of healing, my Bishop counseled me to do only one thing.  Read.  I was not to think, watch TV, go outside or do anything until my husband came home every day.  If I got dressed that day, it was a victory and I should rejoice.  But other than feeding my kids and changing messy diapers, I was to only READ.  

I added a #5 to this list DO NOT GIVE UP or GIVE IN
In President Monson's talk, he shares a story of woman named Tiffany who was in a similar battle with depression.  Tiffany sought comfort from the scriptures and from prayer, but when peace did not come she felt abandoned by God.  Eating became a difficulty to her and she started to lose weight. 
Her friends and family were very worried about her. After an unsuccessful attempt of trying to get her to eat, one day, a friend asked, "'There must be something that sounds good to you.' Tiffany thought for a moment and said, 'The only thing I can think of that sounds good is homemade bread.'  But there was none on hand.  

The following afternoon Tiffany's doorbell rang.  Her husband happened to be home and answered it.  When he returned, he was carrying a loaf of homemade bread.  Tiffany was astonished when he told her it had come from a woman named Sherrie, whom they barely knew.  She was a friend of Tiffany's sister Nicole who lived in Denver, Colorado."  

To summarize the rest of the story, Sherrie felt prompted to not only make a second loaf of bread that day but to take it with her on her errands, and then deliver it to a woman that she had just briefly met who lived 30 min in the opposite direction that she needed to be in to put her crying one year old down for a nap.   

I don't know the rest of the story, but I would venture a guess to say that that loaf of bread saved Tiffany's life.  

Elder Holland further counsels:
#1 To never lose faith in God's love for you

#2 To "FAITHFULLY pursue the time-tested devotional practices that bring the Spirit of the Lord into your life."

#3 To seek counsel and blessings from the priesthood holders in your life.

#4 To take the Sacrament and remember the Atonement.
and finally...

#5 To believe in miracles. 

I testify that these last five steps will help all of us stand the test of trials and refining fires in our lives.  They are tools that are necessary to heal when used with the other tools such as counseling and medication.  

They will also help us when we are simply lonely or having a tough time.  They help us just as much as when all is well.  If I had not used these tools in conjunction with the help of counselors, Drs. and medications, I might still be fighting a battle in my mind.  

I testify that the Lord can and does work miracles in our lives.  He gave me a miracle when he placed my friend in my life at the time when I needed her most.  He gave me a miracle when He gave me the most wonderful, patient, and compassionate husband in the world.  He continues to work miracles in my life will continue to do so as long as I remain faithful to my covenants.
From Elder Holland, "Whatever your struggle, my brothers and sisters- mental or emotional or physical or otherwise- do not vote against the preciousness of life by ending it! Trust in God.  Hold on in His love.  Know that one day the dawn will break brightly and all shadows of mortality will flee.  Though we may feel we are 'like a broken vessel,' as the Psalmist says, we must remember, that vessel is in the hands of the divine potter.  Broken minds can be healed just the way broken bones and broken hearts are healed.  While God is at work making those repairs, the rest of us can help by being merciful, nonjudgmental, and kind." 

Now I would like to address those who are in relationships with people who are suffering from depression. Like Elder Holland says, be patient. I know it is not easy to do.  Let go of the idea that if you could just say the right thing, the right phrase, it would make it all better.  It won't.  I know there are some days when you just want to put your hands on your loved ones shoulders and just shake them out of it!  I am sure some days phrases go through your mind such as: "Just snap out of it!  Stop it!  This is ridiculous! Not this again!  Why are you acting this way?  OR Can't you just feel better?" 

Trust me, your loved one is saying those same things to themselves and would that it were that easy.  They want to feel better just as much as you want them to but the light at the end of the tunnel is simply overshadowed and hope seems like a distant memory.   Just love them.  Love them, love them, love them.  Elder Holland says, "...try not to be overwhelmed with the size of your task.  

Don't assume you can fix everything, but fix what you can.  Whatever else you may or may not be able to provide, you can offer your prayers and you can give 'love unfeigned'.  Charity never faileth" 

 If all you can offer is a shoulder, clean dishes in the cupboard, or a loaf of bread...give what you can.  Don't ask what you can do, just DO SOMETHING.  In the beginning it may make them angry.  They may feel like YOU think they are incapable or lazy.  Keep doing it anyway. Let the Spirit be your guide. Eventually they will be able to let you in and they will be so glad you never.. gave..  up! 

Elder Holland says, "I bear witness of that day when loved ones whom we knew to have disabilities in mortality will stand before us glorified and grand, breathtakingly perfect in body and mind." 

The charity that you give your loved ones will be magnified by God.  Trust Him and continue to serve and give what you can. 

I would like to close by quoting our dear Prophet:
"My dear sisters [- and I add brothers-] your Heavenly Father loves you- each of you.  That love never changes.  It is not influenced by your appearance, by your possessions, or by the amount of money you have in your bank account.  It is not changed by your talents and abilities.  It is simply there.  It is there for you when you are sad or happy, discouraged or hopeful.  God's love is there for you whether or not you feel you deserve love.  It is simply always there."

I add my witness and testimony of this truth as I have felt His unconditional love in my life.  Especially in those moments when I felt unlovable.  He loves us.   All of us....I leave these things with you in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.