Sunday, October 20, 2013

False Summit

When I first started hiking mountains with Jordan I was continually fooled by the false summit.  Surely this is the end, I would think.  Just a few more switchbacks, then one last scramble to the summit.  

I lacked strength and endurance, so after hours of switchbacks and rock scrambling my eyes would settle on the closest rocky peak. Time after time I would tap into what seemed like my final reserve of energy to scale the peak ahead, only to gain a new perspective.  Once we attained higher ground it would become clear that the true summit was merely hidden from our view, and was still distant.  A false summit always looks like the highest point, until you reach it.

Two weeks ago I thought we had reached a summit in our lives.  After two years of doctor's appointments, surgical procedures, $20,000, countless blood draws, and even more shots I spent an anxious afternoon waiting for a phone call.  I tried to distract myself by folding laundry, napping, and cleaning, but my anxiety was palpable and coursed through me.  When the phone call finally came, the nurse gave me the news I had hoped for.  I was pregnant.  My hormone levels looked fantastic, higher than expected, and I felt so grateful.

Now two weeks later the blood draws continue, but the phone calls have changed.  My hormone levels are dropping.  The doctor has taken me off my medication.  This week promises a painful miscarriage instead of a healthy growing baby; a false summit and more mountains to climb.

I knew this was a possibility.  I knew that a positive could become a negative.  I knew that it was still early.  But I had so much hope, we both did.

I prayed for a different outcome.  I did everything within my power to improve our chances.  I endured shots every morning, and sometimes at night.  I didn't eat blue cheese or deli meat.  I took prenatal vitamins, and baby aspirin, and fish oil tablets.  And yet I find myself on a foothill, and can't help but wonder if I have been climbing the wrong mountain all this time.

I have discovered when you arrive at a false summit your choices are limited, but you still have choices.

You can decide that the path ahead of you is too difficult, too dangerous, too steep, or too far.  Or maybe you are just too tired of trying.  You can abandon the time and energy you have invested, and the goal you have set, and return to your starting point. Sometimes starting over is necessary.

You can rest.  Sometimes you just need to take a break, eat a snack, and replenish your reserves. Often we are replenished by stopping our frantic efforts, reflecting on the distance we've gained, and then taking a moment to see the beauty around us.

Finally, you can choose to acknowledge the reality of the situation, and continue on.  You can accept the reality that although you have climbed difficult peaks there are more to come.  You can cling to the knowledge that there is strength and endurance to be gained by continuing on a difficult path.  You can hold to the promises of those who have reached the summit.  The promise that the true journey's end will be worth the pain and struggle.

Last Tuesday I had a breakdown.  It was the usual kind, full of questions, tears, and disappointment. But I found that I could not sustain my tears, and that my questions felt hollow.  I recognized them as questions that I've asked before; questions that have been answered.  I am finding it harder to dwell in this heartache, because I know that God will lift me out of it.  I feel like I should be devastated, but instead I feel faithful and hopeful.

I don't know where Jordan and I are headed.  I don't know how many false summits we will have to climb, but I do know that I am stronger than I used to be.  I know that I want to keep climbing with Jordan.  I am wiser than I was before.  I am really tired, but I am not finished.

Today I have chosen to rest.  I feel overwhelmed by the idea of moving forward.  But today I can rest and recognize the distance I have traveled, the strength I have gained, and the new perspective that comes even at the peak of a false summit.

Sunday, September 29, 2013


Today it has been two years.  Two years since Jonah's sweet spirit left his beautiful little body.  Two years since I last sang him a lullaby and held him in my arms.  Two years since we had a busy little toddler creating chaos in our home.  Oh, how we miss our Jonah.

The last two years have been filled with sorrow and disappointment; work and struggle; peace and hope.  We have cried a lot, prayed a lot, and loved more deeply because of our loss.  We have hoped for more children and endured difficult setbacks.  We have served in new ways, met new people, and found a new kind of happiness to hold onto.

Today I have been reflecting on how my heart has been changed by the experience of losing my son.  My thoughts keep returning to the way I pray to my Heavenly Father.  My approach, my practice, and my purpose have shifted. 

I used to be a negotiator.  When life became challenging, or I wanted something deeply I would begin the process of bargaining with God.  My prayers went something like this.

 Dear Heavenly Father, I really want (to ace this test, to buy this house, to get this job, etc.)  
If you give me this I will (read my scriptures, say my prayers, serve others, etc.)

Or, I would promise to give something up (swearing, skipping church, lying, drinking coke, etc.)  It was a naive exchange of efforts and blessings.  The amazing thing is, that although I often fell short on the promises I made, my prayers were answered, and I felt like God knew me and loved me.   Looking back, I feel like even though my prayers were imperfect, and sometimes selfish, they came from a place of sincerity and represented my simple yet imperfect understanding of God and his ways.  This is a testament to me that life is not about perfection, but about learning.

When Jonah died, my prayers changed.  

I began asking God to give me understanding, to bless me with patience, to help me feel strong again. The thing is I felt like I had nothing to offer in return.  I was weak, broken, and struggling.  I had to abandon my previous technique, because I couldn't even get out of bed.  How could I promise to do my visiting teaching?  So I just asked God to bless me, not because of my works or my promises, but because He loved me.  And He did.  In the past two years He has blessed me with all of the things I have asked for; with love and patience and strength and incredible peace -- a peace that surpasses understanding.  

Now after two years of learning how to pray, I find myself wanting something so badly.  I want to be a mother again.  I want to see Jordan be a father again; He is such a good father.  I want another chance.  I find myself praying earnestly and fervently for God to grant us the opportunity to be parents again.  But something has changed in me. 

I no longer negotiate with God; I trust Him.  I no longer use the covenants and promises I have made as a bargaining chip.  As I pray to my Heavenly Father, I ask for the things I desire most, and then I promise Him that no matter what the outcome I will do my best to keep my covenants.  And I mean it.  I will mourn with those that mourn.  I will comfort those that stand in need of comfort.  I will be faithful and loyal to my husband.  I will care for my parents and siblings.  I will clothe the naked, feed the hungry, visit the sick.  I will give everything I have to Him, not because He is a genie that grants wishes.  Although, I believe all good gifts come from Him.  Not because I'm afraid of everlasting punishment or damnation for falling short.  But because I love Him, and because I am His daughter. 

On this two year anniversary I am astounded that my heart feels whole again. My life has not been restored to what it once was.  It has been transformed.  I don't have everything I hope for, but I find myself genuinely laughing, and smiling.  The day Jonah died I feared that Jordan would stop loving me and that our relationship would crumble.  And yet we are stronger and more in love than we have ever been.  

As we left the hospital on September 29, 2011 I was sure I would never feel true happiness again.  Life would only be an exercise in endurance and pain.  And yet happiness is here.  It is in my home and in my heart. 

Now when I review my negotiations with God they seem so petty.  The exchange has always been so lopsided.  I hoped for small temporary blessings in exchange for a temporary change of heart.  Now, I hope for something more, something eternal.  I promise to give Him my whole heart, and I know that he will fill it until it overflows with love, and hope, and peace, and laughter, and joy. 

My dear sisters, the Lord allows us to be tried and tested, sometimes to our maximum capacity. We have seen the lives of loved ones, and maybe our own, figuratively burned to the ground and have wondered why a loving and caring Heavenly Father would allow such things to happen. But he doesn't leave us in the ashes; he stands with open arms, eagerly inviting us to come to him. He is building our lives into magnificent temples where his spirit can dwell eternally.  Linda S. Reeves

P.S. This was all on my mind before watching the General Relief Society broadcast last night.  I was so inspired by their messages about making a keeping covenants, and so grateful for the incredible spirit I felt as they shared their messages.   If you missed it, watch it here.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

...Sorrow That the Eye Can't See

You need to meet these people.  They have incredible hearts, incredible testimonies, and incredible challenges.  They are all featured in a new video called "Special Challenges" that was created by my dear friend Katie Steed.  Katie was my roommate at Brigham Young University, and is now a professor of special education at BYU.  She is an inspiration to me.  From the time she was in high school she has felt a special calling to be an advocate for individuals with special needs and their families.  She has been a voice for those who are often unheard or ignored in our neighborhoods, schools, and congregations.  She has taught me over and over again that love and faith can move mountains and heal hearts. 

This video features three families that have children with special needs. It highlights their unique joys, but also paints a very realistic and heartbreaking picture of their pains and struggles.

As Katie shared this video with me a few weeks ago I wept. I wept because I felt inspired by the deep love these parents have for their children.  I wept because I recognize in them some of the pain I have felt as I struggle through my own life.  But mostly I wept as one mother shared her connection to the song "Lord, I Would Follow Thee."  The title of this blog comes from the second verse of that very song. This sweet mother talked about her new understanding of the lyrics in the quiet heart is hidden, sorrow that the eye can't see.  As I listened to her share her connection to those words my heart connected to hers and I knew I needed to share her message, because it is my message too.

Love is the answer. We each carry our own personal heartache and yet we each have the capacity to choose love. We can each learn the healer's art and reach out to those around us who carry sometimes deep and often unseen sorrow.

Katie has taught me about love.  She has mourned with me, listened to me, and comforted me in my darkest hours.  She is an incredible example of Christlike love, and the love she feels for these families is evident in the powerful message this video shares.

Please take a few minutes to listen to these families and their experiences, share this message with others, and let it guide your actions.

Special Challenges

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. John 13:34-35

Friday, July 12, 2013

Jonah's Gift

This week I've been thinking a lot about Jonah.  Three years ago this week I was very overdue and anxiously awaiting his arrival.  I spent my days wondering if Jordan and I would ever agree on a name for him.  I spent my nights walking around our neighborhood, eating spicy curry, and turning like an alligator in a death roll instead of sleeping.  I imagined that Jonah's birth would change me.  But I could not possibly comprehend how his life would shape mine.   

I am so grateful to Jonah for helping me understand what it means to be a child of God.  His life helped me learn to love with my whole heart.  His challenges helped me grasp the beauty of an imperfect life.  His laugh made me laugh.  His smile made me smile.  Serving him helped me redefine exhaustion. Losing him taught me that pain is inevitably linked with love. 

Tonight as I sit in a dimly lit motel room in Rangely, Colorado I feel disoriented by the divergent paths our lives have taken.  I feel like I should be in the midst of potty-training and preschool preparation.  My heart still aches, and my arms long to hold him.  And yet, I have come to accept his absence as time has passed.  I accept it, but I still want to honor his life and celebrate my sweet Jonah on his third birthday. 

This year, like last year, I hope to honor Jonah's life through simple acts of service.  I invite you  to celebrate his life with me by mirroring his generous spirit.  Do something good on Jonah's birthday, July 14.  Be unusually kind.  Pay attention to the people around you.  Hug someone you love.  Call an old friend.  When you see someone in need help them. 

Keep it simple.  Jonah taught me that love is the simplest gift we give.  

P.S. I would love to hear what gifts you give in Jonah's memory this year. 

Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.  Maya Angelou

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Mormon Women Project Interview

I was recently interviewed by my friend Kathryn for the Mormon Women Project.  I was so grateful for the invitation, and for the opportunity to share my experience and my testimony with a new audience.  But most of all I was grateful to talk about Jonah.  It felt so good to say his name.  I'm so grateful for the simple conversations in life.  There is so much healing in sharing our stories, and so much love in a listening ear.

Thanks to Kathryn Peterson for taking the time to listen, and to each of you for reading my words and sharing your own stories with me.

If a story is in you, it has got to come out.
William Faulkner 

Friday, June 28, 2013


A month ago I sat in the peaceful silence of the Draper Temple, waiting. I stared at the two stark white tube socks that shrouded my feet and contemplated their strange presence in a place of such beauty and refinement.  They seemed to me the perfect representation of Mormon practicality - a simple and unpretentious solution born to protect the purity of a sacred space.

My eyes drifted up to take in the elegant vaulted ceiling, the understated stained glass, and the expansive mirror that hung directly across the room.  I took in the beauty and light that surrounded me, but could not seem to look at the people around me - my family.  My mom and dad sat beside me; my aunt and uncle and cousins throughout the room; my grandmother nearby.  I could not look into their eyes because I knew I would fall apart. I did not want to distract or draw attention to myself so my gaze returned to the safety of my cotton clad feet, and my thoughts turned inward.

As my eyes scanned the cream-colored carpet I thought about my lovely cousin Lisa.  After all it was her joy that brought me and my family to the temple.  I thought about the drawn-out heartache she faced on her road to motherhood and the miracle we witnessed as she and her husband adopted two sweet boys from Ethiopia. This day was their day; a day to be sealed together as an eternal family.  My brimming emotion was the result of joy, love, grace, and heartache colliding.  I prayed that I could contain the overflow, but my control seemed tenuous at best.

All at once, I felt the intense physical yearning of my heart to be with Jonah again; to be a whole family again. If only I could hold him for a moment, and feel him in my arms.  I felt like singing and praising God for the miracle of my cousin's joy.  At the same time, I couldn't help but imagine how and when our miracle would come.  I wondered if my return to motherhood would find finality in this life or the next.

My thoughts drifted to the reality of a doctor's office.  Months ago, I found myself looking intently at a small white blip floating across the grey undulating ocean of an ultrasound.   

Scar tissue, my doctor explained.
How?, I wondered.
Probably from Jonah's birth, he said.

His explanation continued. Abnormal. Surgery. Insurance.  Throughout this dialogue my thoughts drifted to the symbolism or maybe the irony of an unseen scar; a life-altering change born of joy and pain. How is it that my new heartache is the product of previous joys?

My eyes were drawn from their downward gaze and my thoughts returned to the present, as Lisa and her family arrived in the sealing room. I looked at her and felt so much gratitude for her journey, and her own unseen scars.  Those scars brought such beauty and meaning to the moment.  I looked at her mother, my endlessly-compassionate aunt, and quietly acknowledged the scars that grace her heart.  I felt very aware that my sweet parents and my wise grandmother share the scars of their children and grandchildren.  I contemplated the scars that are added with each passing generation.  Then I thanked my Heavenly Father for the beauty of my own scarred life

In that moment of gratitude the tears finally escaped.  I felt such joy in my wounded family.  I felt a wholeness that I can only describe as Jonah's sweet spirit, and I felt a perfect peace that is still lingering in the corners of my heart and mind.

It's a shallow life that doesn't give a person a few scars.  
Garrison Keillor

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A New Heart

Last week I found myself wandering across a talus hillside in Colorado. Crumbling sandstone,  wind-twisted junipers, and gatherings of sage brush repeated across the slope.  My eyes were once again trained to the ground, searching for fossils, bones, any evidence of ancient life.  Together Jordan and I crested each monotonous hill, turning rocks and scanning for anything important or unusual.  I took pictures and scribbled notes about the unchanging landscape, while a frigid wind whipped my neck.  I looked hopefully for unexpected signs of spring; perhaps a small desert flower amid the dust and barbed wire.  I discovered that spring comes late to the high desert.

In the solitude and quiet of the desert my mind began to wander.  I thought about the weather, Jordan, lunch, money, the Grateful Dead, insurance, Jonah, babies...   Then my ambling mind fixated on questions, not in anger, but with sincerity.  "Why am I here again?" "Why am I still doing this?"

Last year after losing Jonah I began working with Jordan in the oil fields looking for fossils.  It was a blessing.  It felt good to wander, to slow down, and to spend my days and nights with Jordan. I needed to be in a new place without expectations and memories.  I needed time to think.  "This is just temporary," I thought.  "Just until my life is restored to what it once was...Just until I'm a mom again."

Roaming the Colorado desert only punctuated the knowledge that my return to motherhood still seems distant.  Nineteen months after Jonah's death we are still just two instead of three.  And like my thoughts we are still wandering.

As I pondered my purpose and place in the desert I picked up a wide flat stone.  One reddish-brown stone among millions.  I was drawn to the bumps and ridges dotting its beveled surface.  I brushed my hand across its ripples, then turned it to discover the opposing side.  I was surprised to see a perfect heart shape worn by time on its face. I wondered how it was formed.  What forces of wind and water could have caused such symmetry? Why did the rock around it remain unchanged?  Was I the first to find and see this graven heart?

I thought of the scripture in Ezekiel,

A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.

I understood more deeply in that moment that a new heart and a new spirit do not come through a simple transaction.  Our hearts are not simply traded and replaced.  God's work on our hearts is more like the eroding and shaping power of the elements.  Each mineral or grain of sand is removed by a drop of water or a gust of wind.  Each miniscule erosion is replaced and renewed with purpose.  Our hearts are changed one thought, one tear, and one trial at a time.  We rarely understand what we are becoming, but God is shaping us.  I could feel in that moment that He was shaping me.

I wrapped my stony heart in a blue bandana, and carried it with me as I wandered. I felt its weight in my hand throughout the day.  With each step my own stony heart felt more submissive, more willing to accept the momentary chill of the desert wind.  As I meandered through the junipers my thoughts wandered again.  This time to a simple reflection.   I pondered the new heart being carefully shaped by my creator and felt at peace as I began to climb yet another hill. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


My journal and this blog often feel monopolized by struggle.  My writing has always been this way.  I am an excellent journal writer when life is boring, when I'm disappointed, when I feel lonely or forgotten.  For me, writing is therapy, not record keeping.  I'm quick to abandon recording the history of my life when times are good.  I would rather be living my life, laughing with friends, and seeing the world,  than writing it all down. But this tendency leaves my written life in a lurch, lacking the balance of joy that accompanies the life I live each day.  There is joy...I promise.

About a year ago I was struggling to find purpose in my days.  I had nothing but free time.  Time to think, and sleep, and garden, and write.  I had more free time than any modern person has the right to claim and it was hard for me.  I felt like I was going through some sort of motherhood withdrawal.  The regression from full-time mom to self-centered 30-something was dramatic and surprisingly difficult.  I spent many nights praying that God would help me find some purpose.

It has taken time - time I'm sure I needed - but purpose has come in the most amazing ways.

After months of applying for jobs, having great interviews, and being rejected...I stopped looking.  Then one day the perfect job flashed across my Facebook news feed.  I applied, and they hired me.  My job combines my love of art, education, and museums.  It is about 7 minutes from my home, and allows me the flexibility to travel with Jordan when he goes to work.  The best part: I love the people I work with. They are kind, and thoughtful, and amazing.

Not romantic love... I mean the selfless kind of love you give to your child.  In the months that followed Jonah's death I really missed feeling that kind of love.  Its the kind of love that needs to be given.  The kind of love that grows through time and energy spent, and sacrifice.  I needed an outlet for the stockpile of love I had for Jonah.  I needed to give it to someone else.

In September, my inspired neighbor asked me if I would consider serving on a development board for Primary Children's Medical Center.  I was nervous at first, but said "yes" and have been healed and strengthened by the experience.  I get to work and serve with 30 incredible women who care deeply about children. Each time I visit the hospital I interact with families who are struggling and worried, and I get to help ease some of their burden. I meet ordinary people - waitresses, cashiers, and store managers - who tell me they are donating their tips, their time, and sometimes their paychecks to help families in need.  It is humbling and healing.

On the anniversary of Jonah's death I decided to break some rules.  I was tired of going to Jonah's grave and seeing dead flowers and faded toys.  I wanted a symbol of life and a reason to return to his resting place.  So I planned a covert op.  At least it felt covert.  I ignored the sign at the cemetery gate that says "no planting" and I planted crocus bulbs around Jonah's headstone.  I worried all winter  that the bulbs would not come up.  I worried that the cemetery would mow them down, or spray them before I could see their life and beauty.  But my plan worked, the crocuses are in bloom, and they make me so happy.

Life is good.  There is pain, but there is also joy.  I have been hurt, but I have also been blessed.  I know that God loves me because he has opened doors for me that seemed locked, maybe even dead-bolted.  My problems and worries are still present, but they are beautifully balanced by a renewed feeling of purpose.

Wednesday, March 27 is Cookies for Kids day at all Utah Chick-fil-A stores.  

When you buy a cookie 100% of your purchase goes directly to charity care for sick children at Primary Children's Medical Center.  

So tomorrow treat yourself for a good cause!

Friday, March 22, 2013


Last week as I was trying to fall asleep I had a perfect memory of Jonah.  The kind of memory that I have often hoped for.  A memory where I see Jonah fluidly, instead of as a jumble of frozen moments and fractured images.  I closed my eyes and I saw him...climbing up on a chair, wearing his red and black moose shirt and denim overalls, waiting for a doctor to arrive.  He moved around the room opening drawers, and checking cupboards, and for a moment I felt the physical sensation of being his mother again.

It was so vivid and instantly shattering.  It made me angry instead of whole.  It brought me back to the pain that I have tried to set aside, or subdue, or maybe repress.

Tears began to fill the crease between my pillow and cheek.  My shoulders shuddered with each sob.  And then things fell apart.  My strength disappeared and I tumbled into a free-flowing question-filled rant about life.  Here are some of the highlights:

"Why is life so hard?"
"Why can't we just get a break?"
"Why do other people get to just have healthy babies whenever they want?"
"Haven't we experienced enough heartache?"
"Why did Jonah have to die?"
"Why does insurance dictate our life?

Followed by...

"I'm done with this"
"I hate this"
"I can't take it anymore"
"I'm so angry"

Poor Jordan didn't know what to make of me.  Our day had been normal and productive.  Our evening was pleasant and ordinary.  There were no signs of an imminent breakdown.  And suddenly he was at ground zero.  Ground zero looks like me angrily throwing snot-filled tissues across the room while I ask incoherent questions and sob uncontrollably.  What's a boy to do?

What are any of us supposed to do when the world feels overwhelming?

I felt a little crazy that night, and in the morning I wondered why my reaction was so intense.

Obviously I'm still grieving.  Even when everything around me seems to move on, the most important parts of me are still with Jonah.  Life is still hard.  Jordan and I are dealing with incredibly difficult challenges and sometimes optimism and faith and hope seem like a poor substitute for a full-blown cathartic breakdown. 

It feels unnatural to discuss topics like death, and grief, and infertility, while you talk about your weekend at work, or stumble on a friend at the grocery store.  It becomes harder with each passing day.

I haven't been allowing myself to grieve like I used to.  I'm keeping it to myself, and that's not working.  I need to write.  I stopped writing on this blog because I thought I was past the pain, and ready to move forward.  But apparently I'm not.  I'm still knee deep in the struggle. 

I have also stopped writing out of fear.  What if people are tired of my breakdowns?  What if I get stuck in the past, and can't move on?  What if it is too personal?  What if more heartache and disappointment is ahead?

I have to remind myself that I started this blog with a promise to myself: to be truthful, to be authentic, and to write it for no one but myself.  So I will try to write again, for Jordan's sake, and most importantly my own.

There is something about the process of writing— perhaps because it usually takes place in the privacy of one’s own room— that allows and indeed encourages the expression of thoughts one would never say aloud.
Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey, A Woman of Independent Means

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Tender Mercy

Today I had the incredible opportunity to share my testimony with a living apostle and about 1000 BYU students.  Elder Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles came to our Stake Conference (regional church meeting) to speak to us, and I was invited to speak at the meeting with him.  I felt as if I was enveloped in the spirit, and at the same time felt as if my heart would escape my body.  It was a transformative experience to listen to Elder Bednar, to shake his hand, and to have him speak to me.  Being there was another witness to me that God knows me, and that he knows my heart.  I feel so blessed to have been there...It was a tender mercy.

This is what I shared:

Last night I was having trouble sleeping.  I felt so anxious as I anticipated the opportunity to stand before you today.  So instead of sleeping I turned to my scriptures and read Alma 37:35-36, where we find the theme for this conference.  I wanted to understand the context of that scripture, so I read the chapter.  In Alma 37, Alma is speaking to his son Helaman and giving him advice.  For the first half of the chapter Alma teaches Helaman about the importance of keeping and preserving the record, and remembering.  In verse 8, He talks about the power of a record to “enlarge the memory of the people and bring them to a knowledge of their God.” I would like to testify of the truth of that statement, and share an experience that illustrates this point.  I hope that as I do you will pay close attention to the blessings of record-keeping and remembering.

Seventeen months ago my day-to-day life was very different.  I was a full-time mom to my incredibly curious little boy Jonah.  Jonah was born in the summer of 2010 with a rare genetic disorder called Treacher-Collins Syndrome. The syndrome affected the development of his ears, cheekbones, jaw and palate.  He looked a little different than other babies, but he was so beautiful, and his condition never really slowed him down.  As he got older he climbed to the top of everything, loved meeting new people, learned to sign, and for the first year of his life it seemed as if he never really slept.  I was exhausted trying to keep up with him, yet really blissfully happy being his mother.  And then one September morning my life changed. 

I suddenly found myself in the front of speeding ambulance, praying for strength, as paramedics tried to resuscitate my sweet boy.  Jonah and I spent the morning playing at a friend’s house, and I gave him a fruit snack.  That small fruit snack became lodged in his airway and he stopped breathing.  I tried desperately to save him, as did the paramedics and the ER doctors, but nothing could be done.  Within a half an hour my life changed dramatically, and instead of putting my busy boy down for his afternoon nap, my husband and I returned home with empty arms and broken hearts to a too quiet home. 

The minutes and hours that followed Jonah’s death were the most excruciating of my life.  I couldn’t eat or sleep and I found myself simultaneously praying for God to take the pain away, and then wondering if He was even there…if He knew me…and why we had not received a miracle.  Maybe some of you have asked the same questions.

I also felt fear.  I was afraid of forgetting Jonah, and how it felt to hold him, and how he smelled, and the sound of his laugh.  So I turned to my journal to remember. 

I have rarely been an everyday journal writer, but I try to record things that feel important.  I began to write everything I could remember about Jonah so I wouldn’t forget, and then I started to read through the record of his life that I had already kept.  My son’s whole life is held in the pages of this small book, my own “small plates.” They are my greatest material treasure.

As I read my journal a miracle happened in my heart. While I read my own words, I really read my own testimony, and I felt an incredible peace that Jonah would not be forgotten.  And more importantly I began to remember how my Heavenly Father had never forgotten me.    

I read and remembered the peace that flooded my anxious heart as I sat in the temple trying to decide if I should marry Jordan.  I read and remembered the quiet promptings that came when we were newly married urging me to prepare and strengthen myself spiritually. I read and remembered praying for the opportunity to be a mother, and then dreaming about a unique blond haired blue-eyed boy.  I remembered looking into Jonah’s slanted little eyes for the first time and knowing that his spirit was not my own creation, but that it had come from God.  And most importantly I remembered all the joy of becoming a family, and being his mother.

As I read, I recognized that in order to deny God’s existence or His goodness in my moment of grief, I would have to deny the truth and record of my own hand.  I could not deny it. 

Reading my journal, and remembering, opened my spiritual eyes and helped me see again.  I could see again how God was helping me, in the days that followed Jonah’s death.  I saw it in the kindness of my friends and neighbors, and in the beautiful rainbow the covered our home on the day of Jonah's funeral.  Then upon deeper reflection I could see how God helped in the moment that Jonah died. 

I have been struck as I’ve read the Book of Mormon this week how often the ancient prophets warn against forgetting.  Nephi continually asks his brothers “how is it you have forgotten?” when they murmur and drift after seeing angels and witnessing miracles. 

As imperfect beings forgetting is our default.  Our minds are designed to forget for a reason.  If we could remember perfectly, I think we would be paralyzed by our fears, our pains, and by our sins.  As a result remembering requires action and intention. 

President Henry B. Eyring taught us that “Trying to remember allows God to show us what he has done in our lives.”

Keeping a record has helped me remember, and has strengthened my testimony, so I can stand before you today and testify without reservation that God knows me and that He loves me.  He loves me so much that...

“He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

God is a God of miracles and the greatest miracle he works in our lives is on our hearts.  Through the atonement of His son he can heal the broken-hearted, and bind up our wounds.  I testify that He can ease our burdens, and strengthen us, because I have felt strength beyond my own.  I believe that God wants us to be joyful, and I can testify that joy and happiness can be part of our lives in the midst of great difficulty, if we turn to Him.

I urge you to keep a record.  Follow Elder Bednar’s counsel to write on your own "small plates" the inspiration and revelation and blessing you receive.  I promise that in your times of greatest need your record will have the power to “enlarge your memory, and bring you to a knowledge of your God.”

I am truly grateful to know my Heavenly Father and to have this testimony, and I leave it with you in the name of His son, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Thursday, January 24, 2013


A few days ago a kind man shared some advice with me. The advice was given in love, and came from a place of understanding.  This man lost his son to suicide a few years ago, and was trying to comfort me in my grief.  He shared with me some advice about a mother who lost her child and sought counsel from a religious leader.  The leader listened to the mother in her mourning and grief and then said she should be grateful that she had a child, and to think of those women who are unable to have children.

I have been thinking about this anecdote all week.  I'm not sure what the source is, or if the story was told correctly, but I understand the point. The point, I think, is to be grateful.  Be grateful for what you recognize that you are blessed even in the midst of trials.  Gratitude is a principle I believe in, but true gratitude seems somewhat twisted by this story.  I keep thinking about the story because it feels wrong to me on some level.

Gratitude is not born of comparison. Teddy Roosevelt said that "Comparison is the thief of joy." I believe that is true whether we are comparing ourselves to individuals we consider to be "above" us or those who seem to be "below" us.  Comparison robs us of joy because it forces us to rank ourselves on some imaginary scale of happiness, when no such scale exists.  Happiness is not linear, it's not a ladder to be climbed.  It is more fluid like water.  It moves around us and through us.  Sometimes it fills us, and sometimes we thirst for it.

When I traveled to Africa with a humanitarian group I was unprepared for the abundant joy I found among starving women and children. These children would be considered at the bottom of the happiness ladder by many.  They were experiencing the trials of death, and starvation, and sickness.  Yet they sang when they greeted us and smiled freely.  They were simply grateful, and their gratitude was not tied to the prosperity and health of others.

I don't believe we can rank life's adversity.  Sometimes I find myself trying to evaluate someone else's pain in comparison to my own...would it be harder to lose a child to an accident in infancy, or to a drug overdose in adulthood? Is it harder to miss someone after a lifetime of memories, or to be left with only 14 short months of joy to remember?

People often tell me that losing a child is the hardest trial. I have come to the conclusion that it is all hard.  Wanting children and not having them is hard.  Being alone is hard.  Nursing a parent through old age and death is hard.  Cancer is hard.  Divorce is hard.  Watching your child die is hard.  It is all hard, it is all pain, and finding respite in someone else's suffering is short lived and ultimately extremely unsatisfying. As I grow older and understand more fully the pain of others my heart aches more, not less. 

Since losing Jonah I have discovered that it is possible to feel gratitude in the midst of darkness.  Gratitude brings with it a light and recognition that my life remains full of mercy and grace, even though I have lost someone so precious to me. But gratitude should be able to stand on it's own two feet.  I am grateful for food, because it nourishes me and gives me strength.  I am grateful for my home because it is a refuge and place of safety.  I am grateful for Jordan because he strengthens me and loves me with all of my weakness.  I am grateful that I had the chance to feel Jonah grow inside me and to be his mother because it was a transcendent experience.

My gratitude for these things is not increased in the lack of others. On the other hand I'm learning that my gratitude is not, or should not, be diminished because I desperately want things that others have. 

Gratitude is an illogical response to a world that never had us in mind as an audience; but it is the fitting tribute to an original Creator who anticipated our joy and participates fully in it.  from The God Who Weeps.

Friday, January 4, 2013


I know it's been a while...months even.  I have writer's block.  Every so often, mostly on lazy Sunday afternoons, I sit down at my computer to write.  For the past year writing has been my solace and, more importantly, free therapy.  I have craved your comments and support, and my heart has been soothed by your kindness.  While typing I have released all the messy emotions and complicated thoughts that tend to crowd my brain.  But lately, when I sit at my computer, that is all I do.  I just sit...and stare...and then I get up and do the dishes, or vacuum.  Sometimes I think about an idea all day.  I roll it over in my mind.  I sit and wait for my fingers to move, and they wont.

Its not that I don't have messy emotions anymore, or that I'm not thinking about God, or life, or death. I have not forgotten Jonah or the pain that punctuates my quietest moments, but I can't seem to share it with you. I feel hesitant.

I've been trying to pinpoint why. Why has this once intensely personal free-flowing river diminished to a trickle?  I have shared everything on this blog, my deepest pains, my regrets and my sorrows. What is different now?  I think that fear is at the heart of it.

I realize that I am moving into a new stage of grief now.  I don't cry everyday.  Sometimes I go a whole week without crying. I am distracted by work, and entertainment, and making dinner. My thoughts have shifted from the past, through the present, and now they spend most of their time in the future; worrying and dreaming. My grief is transforming from mourning to rebuilding.  Honestly, I don't know which one is harder.

Mourning is exhausting.  It is a constant physical and emotional struggle. In the depths of mourning I desperately needed help. I needed people to hear me and carry me and cry with me.  The initial stages of grief are so visceral.  It is all about survival.  My daily goals included trying to eat and to get out of bed. When you are in the depths of sorrow all effort and improvement feel impressive. You can't help but be proud when you put on makeup, or go to the store.

Rebuilding is different.  Rebuilding is about faith.

Rebuilding reminds me of playing with Jonah. I used to stack his colorful wooden blocks while he stood anxiously waiting beside me. As the blocks rose higher Jonah's chubby hand would reach wildly to swat it down.  When they crashed to the floor he giggled with delight and waited for me to build again. On my darkest days I wonder if God is like a destructive toddler, waiting to topple my flimsy towers.

That fear compels me to confine and qualify my dreams with the possibility of pain. The possibility of toppled towers. I think to myself be prepared...sometimes things fall apart.

But there is something brighter in me that responds...sometimes miracles happen.

I long to believe that God is a God of miracles.  I want to believe that life is not just about pain and endurance, but it is also about joy. I having been praying lately that God will help me have faith. Not faith that he can heal, because I have felt His healing.  And not faith that he loves me, because I have felt His love. But faith that He will make miracles happen in my life. I want to believe that God cares about my desires. As I have prayed I have felt a growing confidence that He not only hears my prayers, but that he cares about what I want most in life.

Rebuilding is far more personal that pain and grief.  It is the essence of hope.  In order to start again, to try again, I have to let myself dream of brighter days and taller towers.

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. Psalm 30:5