Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Sending My Daughter on a Mormon Mission

I got married when I was twenty.  Twenty years old seemed so mature.  So wise.  So ready for independence.  So ready to start my own life and choose my own way.  It seemed that way when I was the one who was twenty.

But now my daughter is twenty.  And today we took her to the MTC (Missionary Training Center).  And today twenty seems so very young.

Today, as I watched her walking away, I saw a five-year old girl.  The little girl she was walking into kindergarten.  Head tucked a little.  Shy smile.  Eager.  Anxious.  Trusting.  Quietly walking away to start something new.  Something so important for her growth.

But that day she came home to me.  This time I won't see her again for eighteen months.

One day soon my son will go on a mission.  He will leave for two years, to serve wherever the Lord calls him.  I've been preparing for this his whole life.  I wasn't prepared for my daughter to leave.

In the Mormon church, we are taught that every worthy young man should serve a mission.  And every young man should spend his life working toward this goal, making himself ready.  Young women are able to serve a mission if they feel so directed, but it isn't pushed the same way for them.

And none of my daughters ever expressed any interest in serving a mission.  Until last November.  My second daughter came to me and my husband, crying, saying she needed to go on a mission.  It had not been in her plans either.  She never had any intention of going.  Until God asked her to.

And being the person she is, she said yes.

She is my most shy child.  She is my most anxious child.  My least independent child.  But when God asked her to serve, she said yes.

I admire her.  I am so proud of her.  But, even though we dropped her off only five hours ago, I miss her terribly already.

Her mission will be eighteen months (for young men it's two years).  In that eighteen months we will not see her.  We will only talk to her on the phone (or Skype) on Mother's Day and Christmas.  The rest of the time we will exchange letters the old fashioned way.  And she will get to email one day a week.

We are giving her up for a year and a half.  She is giving a year and a half of her life to leave her world behind and serve God exclusively.

She will teach others about the gospel and about God and Jesus Christ.  She will tell them that they are loved and valuable.  That they matter.  That there is so much more to life than what the world has to offer.  That there is so much more to each of us than just this life.  She will perform many acts and hours of service.  She will give and give and give.

And she will grow.  She will learn to believe in herself and in her ability to do hard things.  She will learn to reach out to God when things are difficult (partly because we won't be there for her).  She will learn to lose herself in service.  She will experience miracles.  She will learn and grow in ways I can't yet imagine.

Our family will grow, too.  We will be blessed through her service.  We will learn from her letters and her experiences.  We will grow in some ways just because she isn't here.

And, as a mother, I will learn a little more about God.  He gave His Son.  In a way I cannot ever understand, He offered His child for me.  And for you.  And for all mankind.  This experience will give me a glimpse.  As I offer my child to Him, I will gain a tiny bit of understanding.  Like when I became a mother and learned a little about how He loves us.  I will learn more about God as our Heavenly Father.

There will be so many wonderful things that happen in our lives because of her willingness to serve a mission.  And it will get easier.

But right now, I just want to hold her in my arms.  It hurts so much.  Because a piece of my heart is gone and won't be back for eighteen months.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Priesthood

I apologize to all my non-Mormon readers who may not understand the reason for this post. 

I have a firm testimony of the Priesthood and the way it is distributed in our church.  I do not want to tell anyone else how to feel or what to think.  I do not wish to involve myself in the current debate over this issue.  I make no judgments and offer no acceptance of people/opinions on either side of the argument.  There is more than enough viscera and self-righteousness on both sides to go around.  And also much truth and honest seeking.

The purpose of this post is simply to share a bit of personal revelation I received when studying this issue and pondering it in my heart.  I hope it helps someone find the answers they are looking for.

It is this.  Men are not given the responsibilities and callings they are given because they hold the Priesthood; they are given the Priesthood in order that they might fulfill the roles which are divinely theirs.

I offer this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


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Friday, March 7, 2014

Uterine Prolapse -- I'm a Little Obsessed

Last week I wrote about how much I've been hurting, that I was going to see the doctor, and that I was afraid I'd need surgery or they'd find nothing wrong and I'd get no answers.

Well, I did get an answer and I do need surgery.

I have uterine prolapse.  Prolapse means to fall out of place.  Basically, my uterus is falling out.

Take a minute to wrap your brain around that.  An internal part of my body is no longer where it's supposed to be and is on a path that will eventually take it outside of me.  Yeah, kind of funny and creepy at the same time.

And I'm having difficulty thinking about anything else.

I meet with the surgeon on April 23.  We'll discuss my options then.  But, of course, I've already researched it a ton online.

It used to be that the standard answer to this problem was a hysterectomy.  Now there is an option for reparative surgery, much like a hernia repair.  There are pros and cons to both options and several types of hysterectomies possible.  My brain is swimming with possibilities and trying to anticipate the negatives of every choice possible.

But I can't decide anything until I get more specifics on my case when I meet with the surgeon.  In six and a half weeks.  Doesn't that seem like a long time?

It does to me, too.  But that was his first opening for a consult and I've heard good things about him and my life doesn't facilitate surgery any time in the next month anyway, so I'm sticking with that plan.

But I have to find a way to pay attention to other things.

Okay, so I only found out four days ago.  I guess it's okay to take some time to adjust.  At least I've noticed that I'm not attending to anything else.  Maybe that's the first step.

So tomorrow I'll start making a list of the things I think of that I need to pay attention to.  And I'll try to pay attention to at least one thing a day that doesn't involve my uterus.  But I think it's unrealistic to expect that I can just move on with life and forget about it.

Because it still hurts.  And it's not where it's supposed to be.  And that kind of freaks me out.

Friday, February 28, 2014

What's Got Me Scared

I hate to use the word scared.  I hate admitting something frightens me.  It means a level of vulnerability that I try to deny I have.  I can admit when things make me nervous.  I can admit when I'm anxious.  But scared.  Scared is bigger.  Scared makes me feel like a little girl again.  A little girl in a big, mean world.

But I am scared.  I'm going to tell you why and it probably won't make sense to most of you.  But there will be a few who will totally get it.

I'm having intense pelvic pain again.  Last time it lasted almost two months.  So far this time, it's been a couple of weeks.  And it's been off and on in between those two major episodes.

Here's what I'm not afraid of.  I'm not afraid it's cancer.  It could be, but for some reason that's not really a fear I have.  I'm not afraid I'm going to die or anything.

I went to my doctor with this problem in October.  That's when I'd already been hurting for a month.  He did an exam, a pap smear, and ordered an ultrasound.  When nothing showed he suggested that I see a gynecologist.

I know it's possible that it's something non-female-problem related.  It could be intestinal.  Let me tell you why I don't think it is.  It feels like I have a rock in place of my uterus.

As a woman, I went years and years without being aware of my uterus or being able to feel it inside me unless I was cramping during my period.  I mean, how often are you aware of your pancreas or your liver?  Can you feel them?  Would you know if they hurt?  So I understand when my husband says, "How do you know it's your uterus?"  And, seriously, sometimes intestinal cramping and uterine cramping feel a lot alike.

But after going through labor, my awareness of my uterus increased quite a bit.  I remember when it tightened and felt like a boulder inside me.  And this feels kind of like that.  On a much smaller scale, of course.

And then there are the twinges in my ovaries.  Again, how can I know that's what's twinging?  Well, let me tell you.  If you've ever been to the doctor and said you think your ovaries are hurting this is what he/she will do.  He (because my doctor is a he) will have you lie down and will palpate (which means push around on) your abdomen.  And when he pushes in a certain spot and you practically jump off the table and he says, "Yep.  It's your ovary." then you remember that.  From then on, when it hurts, you know what's hurting.

And, yes, at my exam he palpated my abdomen and confirmed that it was my uterus and ovaries that were hurting.  (And let me just tell you, they hurt a lot worse for a while after someone pushes on them repeatedly.)

So I'm not completely ruling out something else, but I'm pretty sure it's my internal girl parts that are causing me so much pain.

My primary care physician thinks it's probably endometriosis.

Well, you know what happens when a doctor tells you they think you have such and such.  You start researching such and such until you see the specialist.

Endometriosis isn't something incredibly dangerous.  It won't kill me.  The worst side effects are pain and infertility.  And since I'm done using my fertility I don't mind if that goes away.  And I already have the pain.

So why am I scared?

I am scared because I read up on how they treat and diagnose it.  Often they use hormones to reduce the symptoms.  Well, I am incredibly sensitive to hormonal changes of any kind.  I've had PMS since my first menstrual cycle at fourteen.  I've been on birth control pills a few times in my life and had horrible results.  They either make me homicidal or suicidal or a bit of both.  Having just come through a nasty mental prison, I'm not anxious to go back there.  One of the treatments if they do find endometriosis and it's severe is a complete hysterectomy. 

Again, I'm done with those parts so I wouldn't mind giving them up.  Except for the whole hormone thing.  It's called surgical menopause because the surgery instantly does what is supposed to take a woman's body years to complete.  If small hormonal changes like my natural cycle and birth control pills can send me out of whack, just think about what surgical menopause could do.  And it's not like we can change our minds afterward and say, "This isn't working.  Let's put it all back."

So there are those issues.  But still those aren't my biggest fears.

My biggest fears are these:  sedation and no answers. 

The only way to confirm endometriosis is through surgery.  Laparoscopic these days, but still full sedation.  The surgery doesn't scare me.  Being put under terrifies me.  Not for the typical, "What if I don't wake up?" reason.  Sedation terrifies me because I will have no control over what is done to my body.  I have a history of sexual assault.  Things were done to my body without my permission.  At least once it happened when I was asleep.  This is when I became a light sleeper.  Being aware of and in control of what happens to my body is very important to me.  It's not that I don't trust the medical personnel.  They have no reason to hurt me.  But giving up that control just doesn't feel safe to me at all.  It terrifies me.

And I fear that after all of the tests and possible surgery, they won't find evidence of anything wrong with me.  It will be another time that we've spent lots of money and caused lots of worry for nothing.  Another time that the people around me wonder if I'm faking it.  If I'm just a big baby.  Another time when I doubt myself and wonder if everything really is all in my head.  Another time I hurt so badly but can't say why.  Another time of feeling embarrassed because I'm such an idiot who can't handle a few of the twinges that are normal in life.

But I can't just not get it checked.  Because it could be something else.  It could be something serious.  I can't take that chance.

I see the gynecologist on Monday.  Your prayers and happy thoughts are welcome.  Again.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

A Few Recent ZIA Pieces

In order for something to be called a Zentangle, it has to stick to the basic formula.  On a 3.5" tile, black and white only, true Zentangle patterns (not intended to look like anything or really have a right side up).

Most of what I do (and much of what shows up in a Zentangle search) is actually Zentangle Inspired Art (ZIA).

I haven't felt up to writing, but I've been drawing some.  Here are a few of my recent ZIA pieces, all on 8.5" x 11" linen paper.

I asked my son (17) to tag this wall and then cleaned it up a bit and added details.  It was fun to include him on my project and he did an awesome job!

I was going for a stained glass feel with this one.  I really like the way it turned out.  Unfortunately, now I'm having trouble deciding what to do with the sections.  I like it so much the way it is; I don't want to mess it up.  Some day inspiration will strike and I will finish it.  Inspiration always strikes eventually.
One of my favorite patterns is Widgets.  I've used it a lot.  It's usually small and used to fill a space.  For this piece I used the Widgets shapes as the design to fill.  It was fun to work with them on a larger scale.
I sometimes struggle to leave edges open, without solid borders drawn in pen.  This was an exercise for that.  I used pencil to lightly draw outlines for the petal shapes (just the sides, I left the tops open).  I used different grid-based patterns because I've found myself steering away from them and felt like I needed to practice.  I tried to let the grid hit the edge in such a way that when I removed the pencil line it would just feel like the shape ended naturally instead of being contained with a border.  I like the difference.  I'll have to try this more often.
This one was by far the most time consuming (I just might have stayed up until three in the morning with an obsessive need to finish it), but was also super fun.  The globe idea was inspired by a piece by Erin at The Bright Owl.  I saw it months ago and have wanted to try it ever since.  Again, I tried the no-actual-border-line thing.  The shading creates the border and helps the circle become a sphere.  My daughter said it reminds her of art from people on drugs, like The Yellow Submarine movie.  Art that looks like I was stoned?  Hm. Not sure if that's a compliment, but she captured the feel of the craziness of the background.  I'm kind of picturing it in psychedelic colors now in my head.  Far out, man.
And that's what I've been doing lately.  I'm feeling much better.  Oh, so much better.  I'm still having some anxiety moments and hurting a lot, but I feel like myself again.  Everything is easier when my brain and I get along.

Friday, February 14, 2014

My Husband's Zentangle Inspired Art -- and a Valentine!

When I first started doing Zentangle art I was surprised at how simple it could be.  I remember thinking, "Anyone could do this.  Well, anyone except Bill because he can't draw a straight line."  I love him and he's very good at many things, just not anything that has to do with pen and paper.

Imagine my surprise when he came home from work one day and told me that he'd found himself doodling while waiting for something to process at work and wondered if I could teach him to tangle.  What?  Really?

I tried not to let my skepticism show about his chances of success.  "It doesn't matter if it's any good,"  I thought.  "As long as he enjoys it."  Did I believe that?  Kind of.  But I'm a bit of a perfectionist and knew I might be very judgmental of his efforts.  And, honestly, at first I was.

It wasn't simple for him.  His lines were shaky.  He made up weird patterns.  And if you compared it to mine it looked kind of childish.  But that's not what art is.  It's not about everything being the same.  It's not about things being straight and exact.  It's about expressing yourself.

His style is very different from mine.  He isn't as precise (which I know sometimes bothers him).  But he is willing to take chances and jump right in -- yes, like a child.  He enjoys it.  He is proud of it.  And so am I.

I am surprised at how much happiness it brings him.  I am surprised he's stuck with it.  And I am impressed with the progress he's made.

And today, Valentine's Day, he impressed me again.

I am a minimalist.  I don't like things.  I don't want to receive stuff.  Holidays are tough for me because people always want to give me things and I have to pretend to be glad they did when I'm really just thinking, "Oh, great.  More stuff."  (Except for cookies or homemade bread or something like that; those are always welcome -- yum!)

So today when he told me he had a surprise for me for Valentine's Day, I was trying to prepare myself.  Be nice.  Be grateful.  Fake it.  Remember it's from his heart.  Even though you've told him a million times you don't want more stuff.  This is how he shows love; try not to stomp on it (like I have so many times before).

As it turns out, I didn't have to pretend to like it or pretend to be grateful.  Because he made me a tangle!  He knew I didn't want stuff.  He wanted to do something for me, to show his love.  It was perfect.  He used tangle patterns I love.  He used blue and green (his favorite color and mine) to make it represent both of us together.  He even included a Star Trek insignia (inverted) because I love Star Trek.

It was wonderful and sweet and I love him for the effort he put forth and for showing through his offering that he knows me for real. 

So, as my Valentine's Day gift to him, I want to share his art on my blog.  Starting with his valentine.

Isn't it sweet?
His first piece, as he learned the patterns.
He was going for a space theme.  I think he nailed it!
His mountain landscape.
Here's the deal.  Valentine's Day isn't a holiday I particularly care for.  It's another day with too many expectations.  It's another day that makes too many people feel bad.  And the world's idea of romance is cheesy and shallow to me.

But if we want to boil it down to its simplest form, it's about making sure the people we love know we love them.  And his gift to me did that.

It was a good Valentine's Day.

Monday, February 10, 2014

When God Isn't There

All my life I've felt God's presence near.  From the time I was a small child, as young as I can remember, I knew He was there.  As clearly as I can feel it when someone is standing behind my chair, I knew God was with me.  I knew He had my back.

I didn't do anything to seek Him out or work to have Him near.  It was just a gift.  It was a part of me.  Just the way I was made, like my green eyes.  Just who I am.

I think sometimes when we have gifts (of spirituality or intellect or athletic ability or whatever) we have difficulty understanding why those things are harder for other people.  Sometimes to the point of arrogance.  "They could do this, too, if they really tried."  Something like that.

I can admit I sometimes had that problem with my gift.

It was like I could see something standing right before both of us but you couldn't see it and I thought you just weren't looking hard enough.

As a child I didn't know not everyone experienced it.  As children do, I assumed everyone was like me.  I was often confused at the things people chose to do and say, wondering how they could do those things when God was so near. 

As I grew, I heard people describe their search for God.  What?  Um.  He's just there.  Why do you have to search?  I really couldn't wrap my brain around it.

Then I had long, gut-wrenching conversations with people who said they'd never felt God in their lives.  They'd never felt His love for them.  And, honestly, I wondered what they were doing wrong.  What gospel truth were they missing?  What were they neglecting?  These were good people; why couldn't they feel Him?  Why didn't they know Him?

Because He's just there.  Until He isn't.

A little over a month ago, when I got slammed with whatever mental health bomb hit me, I noticed I couldn't feel Him anymore.  He wasn't there.  I couldn't connect.  I didn't understand why.  I tried to reach out.  I tried all the things that have ever brought me closer to God in the past.  Nothing.

I didn't doubt He was still there.  I've had too much evidence in my life to the contrary.  I didn't believe He had pulled away and was refusing me.  I know too much about His nature to believe that.  But for whatever reason, I could no longer connect to God.  I was alone in a way I'd never been before.

It was such an awful state to be.  It hurt.  It was scary.  It was lonely.  It was traumatic.  It made my heart ache.

At first I just thought of myself.  I floundered like someone drowning, splashing and flailing trying to stay alive.  Trying to want to stay in this world that had suddenly become so dark.

Eventually I thought of others.  I sought for what this could teach me.  I questioned all those judgments I'd made throughout my life.

I had done nothing wrong, but I couldn't connect to God.  I was doing everything possible to find Him again, but I still couldn't do it.  Maybe the same was true for the people I'd judged.  Misjudged.

That was last night.  I started letting myself feel what others have felt without being afraid of it.  Without trying to make it stop.  I wanted to let it teach me what it could.  And when I prayed before bed last night (which has been very different and much more difficult without feeling connected to God) I accepted it.  I told God I didn't know if this was an assignment or just a coincidence, but I was willing to accept it and learn what He'd have me learn from it.  I spent last night and today trying to feel what all those people feel who haven't felt God.

I can still only guess.  Even when it was all so dark, I had my past experience to rely on.  I had my testimony through experience to assure me He was there even if I couldn't feel Him.  I had my understanding of His nature to let me know He still loved me and would watch over me even if I wasn't aware of it.  And even with all of that, it was terrifying.

I can't imagine how anyone gets through this life without knowing God is there and loves them and watches over them.  I just can't process it.  But I have a glimpse.  And I am so sorry for all the times I've judged people as unworthy or unwilling to try.  I was so wrong.

I don't know why I had this experience.  It wasn't the medication because it started before I took anything.  I don't know if it was caused by the anxiety and depression or if it was the other way around.  Maybe they were triggered by the loss of God.

Tonight, as I was getting ready for bed, I thought about how lonely I've been without God.  I pondered on what I've learned.  I knew I had to write this post.

And as soon as I committed to write this post, His love came rushing back.  I was flooded with it.  Surrounded and overwhelmed.  Soon I was on my knees, sobbing, thanking Him.  Thanking Him for what I'd learned, but mostly for allowing me to be in His presence again.  To have Him with me.  He reminded me of our previous conversation, "You can't do the work I need you to do if you feel better."  I remembered accepting that assignment.  I reaffirmed my acceptance of it.  I will go through what He needs me to in order to do what He needs me to do.

I don't know if my latest mental health episode is over, but right now I feel peace.  So much peace it is almost overpowering.  And I am so grateful for it.

I know there are those of you reading this who haven't felt His love.  It makes me sad.  I don't know how you will find Him.  But I offer you my experience that maybe you can rely on it until you have your own.

God is real.  He loves you.  He is aware of you and your struggles.  He will reach out to you, in whatever way is best for you.  Watch for it.