Why the LDS Church?

First off I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and I hope everyone has a wonderful time spending the day with family and friends. My family and I will be spending the day with our close friends and it’s bound to be a great day.

Now let’s get right down to my post name. As a convert to the church, I often get asked why I chose the LDS church. When I visit with the missionaries and tell them about myself they always want to know what prompted me to pick the church that I did. I have my stock answer which involves the telling of a story. The story goes like this, when I was fresh out of college I went out to Arizona to visit a good friend of mine and while I was there her family and I went to church and they just so happened to be LDS. We only stayed for the sacrament meeting and honestly at the time I had thought very little about the experience. Back then religion wasn’t something I thought much about, nor was it something that I had any interest in learning more about. However, when my son was born I did start thinking about religion. I wanted him to have a strong belief system, I wanted him to have something more than what I did. I thought about it for several months before I decided to actually do something about it. As Wyatt’s first Easter rolled around I made the decision that I would go to church on Easter Sunday. Of course, this prompted the question: which church did I go to? I was out of my depth, I had never really gone to church, I had no personal experiences really to call upon in my search. Yet, I did have that one sacrament meeting that I had gone to with my friend from Arizona. It had been nice enough, people had been warm and welcoming. It was really the only one I had any experience with so by default that’s what I chose. So I got on LDS.org and looked up where the church building was and showed up Sunday morning. And that was that.

So that’s the why behind why I picked the church that I did. It’s a nice story really, I mean how cool is it that the one time that I had been to church that I really remembered it was an LDS church? As far as these things go that seems like a pretty clear message to me that God is everywhere all the time wanting us to choose the right.

Despite that though, it’s not why I chose to stay. I don’t often discuss why I stayed with the LDS church, why even after three and a half years (two of which have been really rough) I still remain an active member of the church – or at least I try to be an active member. It’s not really something that gets talked about because I don’t often talk with nonmembers about my religion and I feel like this question would only be asked by a nonmember. Members of the church undoubtedly get it or maybe they just assume why other members stay apart of the church.

This why is pretty simple and straightforward though. I stayed because it’s not just a church. It’s not just about religion and God. Yes every Sunday we learn and grow and hopefully, we come a little closer to God and our faith is strengthed, our covenants renewed for another week. All of the things that you would expect from church happen, we pray and we study scriptures and we try to better ourselves in an effort to be more like our Savior. However, that’s not all there is to it. The LDS church is a family, the members take the time to get to know you, to reach out to you, to help you. The LDS church is a community.

Now I can’t speak about other churches and how they work. I can’t say that other churches don’t do what the LDS church does. There is the possibility that they do. However, being as I am a mostly inactive member I don’t know if there is any other church that would do for me what the LDS church does for me. While I’m sure other churches support their members and help them when they can, I’ve gotten a sense that they don’t necessarily try to reach out to the members who struggle to make it to church, they don’t reach out to completely nonactive members in an effort to help them. I could be wrong about that, but as I say I’ve never had any real experience with any church other than the LDS one.

I do not make it to church most Sundays, between not being able to drive and having two kids… Sometimes it’s more than I can manage. That, however, has not stopped others from coming to me. My visiting teachers still come once a month to visit with me and make sure there isn’t anything I need. One (sometimes both) of my visiting teachers also volunteers to babysit both of my kids for me and my husband so that we can have a night to ourselves. My home teachers still come to visit me as well, bringing a message with them to share with me and in that small way they help bring God into my home and keep me connected to the church. The missionaries will often stop by as well to bring me a message, or to read scriptures with me.

You might be thinking, well that’s all good, but that’s all religion-related so how is that really anything more than what a good LDS Christian would do? You would be right, but that’s not all that my church family does for me. This month I received a simple message in the mail with cash, “Merry Christmas” was all the note said. It wasn’t signed and there was no return address on it, but there are really only a very small handful of people who know that my family has been struggling financially for most of the year and every single one of them is a part of the church. Then last week one of my friends from the church stopped by to see me. She wanted to drop off some cookies and a card from the bishopric for me since her husband (who is my home teacher) wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t drop it off himself. When I opened the card from the bishopric and saw that they too had sent me money I was nearly reduced to tears because it really cemented the idea in my head that I am not alone. It reminded me that even while I am not the most active member, the church is still there for me when I need them, helping me and caring about me.

The reason I’ve stayed with the LDS church despite all the struggles I’ve had is because it’s my family. They are there if ever I need them, sometimes they are there even when I don’t ask, supporting me and helping me and really I couldn’t ask for more from a church than that.

Giving Thanks – Today and Everyday

So it’s been about two months since I last posted. I didn’t intend to actually let it go this long between posts, but sometimes life just gets away from me. Those with kids and families and jobs will understand. Life gets chaotic and we often get caught up in the day to day of it all and don’t often take the time to do everything we want to do.

Not much has changed in the last two months. We did get an appointment at Children’s Mercy hospital for Wyatt that will be in January. The appointment will last 3 hours and it will tell us exactly where on the spectrum Wyatt is. It’s a step in the process, but really I don’t feel like it’s going to tell us very much that we don’t already know. Still progress is progress and that is always good. Kenzie on the other hand continues to excel at everything she does. She’s got quite a few words already and will no doubt soon be putting them together to make short sentences. While Wyatt tends to lag behind, she soars forward.

So that’s the updates on the kids, now on to the real reason for my post. Last Sunday I was able to make it to church. Hurrah! In our sacrament meeting (that’s the first hour where we renew our covenants) we sang a song that really just stuck with me. I had sang it many times before, but it had never really jumped out at me until Sunday. The hymn is call Count Your Blessings. So that part that really got me was these lines: “Count your blessings; Name them one by one.”. It got me thinking about what blessings I had in my life. I know that I am blessed and when asked I can usually come up with one or two blessings in my life.

This time of year though that just doesn’t seem to be enough. This time of year where we spend time with our families and our friends and give thanks for all that we have it didn’t seem like enough to just come up with one or two blessings as if they were just a simple stock answer. So I started to think about my blessings, I started listing them out in my head – naming them – as I thought about writing this post. My blessings are numerous, endless really and naming them only makes it so much more apparent how much I have to be thankful for.

It might seem simple or silly even to list out blessings, but for someone like me who struggles with so much on a daily basis I’ve found that if I make even a short list in my head about the blessings I have – or try to find a blessing that I was given that day it helps me feel connected to my God.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving I will list out a handful of my blessings and I will challenge each and every one of you to come up with a list yourself. Obviously I can’t make you, but just spend a few minutes thinking about why you’re truly thankful this year. Don’t just do it today though – today it is easy to give thanks, to come up with your reasons and your blessings – keep doing it each and every day. As you go to work or school or you stay at home with your kids, name your blessings. Name them one by one and even try to find what you have to be thankful for that day. As I’ve learned with Wyatt, naming the thing gives it so much more power. If something is already a blessing in our life that is powerful all in itself, but it we were to give it a name, if we were to call attention to it each and everyday just think how powerful it could become.

Warning some of these will no doubt feel very common, but as I said – naming them gives them more power.

  1. I am in generally good health
  2. I am married to my best friend
  3. I have two beautiful, unique and healthy children
  4. I have a job that I love to do that is capable of supporting my family
  5. I have a warm apartment to live in
  6. I have food in my fridge and pantry
  7. I had enough money to go see a movie with my husband for the first time in months
  8. My son now calls me “mom”
  9. My daughter doesn’t have OCA and as far as we can tell is not delayed in any aspect of her development
  10. I have a few wonderful friends that feel more like family than mere friends
  11. I have managed to pay off about half of the debt that I’m in
  12. My son can now put three to four words together in one sentence

These are simply only a few of my many blessings, I am so thankful for the blessings in my life, I am so thankful for everything that I have been given and I hope each and every one of you that reads this had a very happy Thanksgiving.

Losing My Religion

Alright so my last post was a pretty long one about the journey we’ve been on with my son and trying to get a diagnosis for him. As of September 14th we have the official diagnosis of ASD (autism spectrum disorder). It’s official he’s autistic and now we have an even longer journey ahead of us to not only get him fully evaluated so that he can be ranked on the spectrum (to determine just how severe his autism is in each area), but to also get him the therapy that he needs that he isn’t already receiving. The therapy that was recommended to us was ABA therapy. This stands for Applied Behavior Analysis and what it boils down to is behavior therapy that is geared towards reducing unwanted behaviors (such as tantrums) and increasing desired behaviors (like eating dinner or heck being potty trained). A lot of the ideas behind this train of therapy stem from classic conditioning and a whole host of other things that gave me flashbacks to my Psych 101 class from college.

So this is great right? We have the diagnosis. We’re even on the waiting list to get the extensive evaluation (it will be a few months though before we get an appointment). AND we’ve sent in the application to the state’s Regional office to enlist their help with getting ABA setup (and paid for). We’re doing all the right things. We’re moving in the right direction at least. We have all of these things to do and read and learn. It’s all great. Except none of this makes days like today any better. Days like today make it hard to see the good. Days like today make it hard to see past this bad spot, to see beyond to what could one day be. Tonight we made spaghetti for dinner. Now most of you will ask: what’s the big deal? Spaghetti is great, it’s an all around favorite and despite the mess is pretty kid friendly. Yes, well not in my household. Tonight we made the spaghetti with panini noodles instead of the typical spaghetti noodles. We did this because they’re so much easier for our daughter (who’s 18 months) to eat. Well Wyatt doesn’t like panini noodles (apparently) and so he refused to even touch his plate let alone try a single bite of his food. He spent the entirety of dinner crying in his chair while the rest of us ate. Afterwards he subsequently went to bed without having eaten anything.

The thing that no one seems to get is that this is an every day thing for us. Every day we struggle to get him to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. Every day we deal with fits and meltdowns over food that he has even asked for. It is exhausting, it is frustrating and it is heartbreaking.

You might be wondering what this has to do with religion (if not, well you’re going to find out anyways). Over the last two and a half years as we’ve been dealing with everything it has been hard to stay connected to my religion. It’s been hard to make it to church (impossible at times). It’s been a daily struggle to even pray. Reflecting on the last few years I find it rather ironic that early on I had a friend who envied my faith and my resolve to endure to the end. The thing is, it’s not easy. It’s easy to have faith without being tried. It’s easy to have faith when you’re not being tested. It’s easy to have faith when you’re not struggling every single minute of every day just to make it through.

It is not easy to keep faith when you feel beaten down. It is not easy to keep faith when every moment is a struggle. It is not easy to keep faith when you can’t even see that ray of hope, that light at the end of the tunnel. When you go weeks and months and years struggling for something better only to be denied at every turn, to watch time and time again that better thing slip through your grasp it is near impossible to not lose your faith. You start to question what you believe. If my God loves me why does he let me struggle so? If my God loves me then why does he continue to deny me the things that would help me?

It is easy to blame your circumstances on God. It is easy to even convince yourself that there is no God because your circumstances are so bad. The thing that I’ve come to learn though is that this isn’t how God works. He will bless us, he will guide us and he will help us. However for us to get these things from him we must first put forth our own effort. We must first do everything that we should be doing. We need to try every single day to be the best version of ourselves. We need to try every single day to do what we can to be like Christ. We need to be kind and patient and understanding and giving and caring. We need to pray and study the scriptures we need to not only ask for God’s help, but show him that we are doing everything we can in order to help ourselves.

God gave us this life to live, he’s ensured that we have the freewill to make decision for ourselves, to learn and grow and become our own person. It is our actions or lack of actions that bring about our own circumstances not something God has or hasn’t done. We have grown into adults and we are responsible for each and every one of our actions. We are responsible for our circumstances. Even more so we are responsible for how we choose to look at our circumstances. My life is hard, there is true struggle in my life and I can either feel defeated by that or I can look at all that I have in my life that is good. Anyone can focus on the bad things in life, all of the things that make it hard to make it through the day. Not everyone can look at the good things, the small things that add up to so much more than all of the bad.

Through all of this I have learned that I need to keep my focus on the good things, the small blessing that I see in my life each and every day. It doesn’t mean that having faith will be any easier. It doesn’t mean my life will be any less hard. It sure doesn’t mean that Wyatt won’t throw the exact same fit tomorrow at breakfast, lunch, and dinner that he did today. It does mean though that I will cling to my faith, I will continue to strive each and every day to be the best version of myself and do all of the things that I need to do and in that I know that God will continue to watch over me and my family and bless us.

Why can’t you just tell me what’s wrong?

Sorry this is a day late – had a friend get into town yesterday afternoon and was busy visiting with her and wasn’t able to finish this until today.

Alright so this story starts back in September of 2016.

For those who don’t know me well and who don’t know my son Wyatt well we’ve always struggled with keeping him up with his peers and we’ve always struggled with tantrums and behavior issues. Now before you start saying that he’s only 3 (going on 4) and toddlers have tantrums and they all develop at different rates, thank you for this very helpful and meaningful advice. However when your kid will drop to the ground outside or in the store and immediately try to slam his head into the concrete/tiled floor I think it goes beyond the fact that toddlers have tantrums. I’m not even exaggerating these instances, we’ve had on numerous occasions had to snatch Wyatt off the ground before he could bash his head into the hard surface and cause great harm to himself.

Now for those who would suggest that we try the “cry it out” method of parenting: I will tell you that I am a huge supporter of this method. My daughter does on many occasions throughout the week cry it out when she’s gotten overtired and doesn’t actually want to go to sleep. However this approach is useless against Wyatt. We have done what we can to the point of letting him throw his tantrum (head banging and all) in his room and on several occasions he went strong for over four hours and still showed no signs of letting up.

So as we tried to deal with this the best we could – mostly with lots of stress and frustration on everyone’s part – Wyatt had his 3 year well check with his Primary Care Physician. We love his doctor, she is truly awesome, but she is however not an expert in all things. So knowing that there was clearly something going (something more than normal toddler behaviors) she started the process of getting us to a specialist. The first person we were sent to was a Developmental-Behavioral pediatrician that was about 30-45 minutes from us. So really not horribly far to go to get answers. Only problem was that there wasn’t an opening until April. So between the months of September and April we could do nothing except exist as we had for the last few months with no answers and no good way to actually handle Wyatt or is tantrums. We had hope though, we had an appointment and that appointment would give us answers.

When April finally did roll around – at which point Wyatt had improved slightly at least in the realm of banging his head against things – we were more than ready for his appointment. An hour and a half long appointment and dozens of questions and detailing out Wyatt’s life the doctor – the specialist – said rather definitively that Wyatt did not have Autism and that while she couldn’t diagnosis him with ADHD because of his age that he would get that diagnosis in a year or two if his symptoms didn’t regulate per his age. In the meantime it was recommended that we take Wyatt to therapy. This could help in the interim to address his behavior issues.

So we had a direction to go. We had a tentative diagnosis. The problem was that actually getting him in to see a therapist was much easier said than done. Most places had waiting lists that were years out. Something that I found more than frustrating. How can there be such a lack of qualified people to help children who need therapy? Especially in the cases where the situation might be time sensitive? At the time we were under the belief that given time and therapy Wyatt would grow out of his behaviors. If that was truly the case then what was the point of being on a waiting list for a year or more? It was not going to help us in any way because there was a possibility that at the end of the waiting list (when it was finally our turn to get an appointment) his behaviors would be resolved. If they weren’t then we would’ve spent a year in stress and frustration trying our best to manage without any help or direction. I can’t imagine what that would be like. How is it okay to allow this to continue? How is it okay as a society to leave parents and children waiting living a life that isn’t good for any involved? There has got to be a better way to get those who need this type of support the help they need when they actually need it.

Well back to my story. We did manage to get Wyatt into therapy back in June. Any guesses on how this started? You guessed it! With us detailing out Wyatt’s life, with explaining every aspect of his life and our lives together. We had to go over his routine, things he doesn’t like, things he does like, things that trigger his tantrums, things he does, things he doesn’t do, areas in which he is delayed, areas in which he excels. At the end of the first hour long appointment – in which we didn’t even finish all of the intake process – the therapist brought up the possibility that Wyatt might need further testing by Children’s Mercy’s Neuro-Developmental department.

Okay, fine, I called up Children’s and asked about getting an appointment, at which point the person on the phone asked me what for. Apparently him needing tested for neuro-developmental delays is actually too broad a category and they needed a more specific area to test, such as Autism (or more specifically Autism Spectrum Disorder). So I had to call the therapist back to get more clarification on what she actually wanted him tested for. Can I just say how stupid it is that so much responsibility is placed on the parent to get these appointments right? We are responsible to not only fully understand and comprehend what the doctor is telling us (generally in not so simple terms) is wrong with our child and then relay that information accurately and effectively to another person who may or may not have medical knowledge so that they can in turn make a decision that will then impact the future of your child.

Alright, stupidness of appointment scheduling aside we did figure out that, yes, we in fact did want Wyatt tested for Autism Spectrum Disorder. Now to get such an appointment through Children’s requires us to gather and fill out information which we then have to mail back to them so they can evaluate it. Once that is reviewed they will determine if you qualify for an appointment. At this stage they will send you EVEN more paperwork to fill out which has to be finished and sent back in before the child is placed on the waiting list for an appointment. The waiting list itself can take up to several months for the child to reach the top of the list and get an appointment.

Now we made our current therapist aware of this process and the length of time it would take to get in for an appointment so to potentially help offset all of this filling out and waiting around she also recommended us having him evaluated by the psychologist in the office to see if he thought Autism Spectrum Disorder was an appropriate diagnosis. This appointment actually only took a little over a month of waiting. We scheduled it in June and the appointment was at the beginning of August. Once more we were hopeful that we would get answers, that we would be able to get the right help for Wyatt that would help us help him.

Going in we were told that the appointment would take at least an hour and a half. It took almost exactly an hour and a half. Any guesses on what we did for that hour and a half? That’s right! For the third time in almost as many months we detailed out Wyatt’s life. Everything we talked about in the first two sessions with his therapist we talked about again with this new doctor. When there was about half an hour left to this appointment the doctor’s supervisor (probably not the correct term) and was given an overview of what was talked about in the first hour of the appointment. At which point the two doctors stepped out to confer about everything that was discussed and how they wanted to proceed. When they returned we were told that Wyatt has a “Unspecified Neurological Disorder”. What exactly does this mean?

Well it means that after almost a year of waiting and bouncing around different appointments – with more waiting to be done in the next several months or more – they agree that there is something wrong with Wyatt. They can’t say what is wrong with him because even after everything they don’t have enough information to give a definitive diagnosis, but they will continue to see him and gather information in order to be able to make the diagnosis that actually stands between us and getting him the correct therapy. The therapy they think Wyatt could actually benefit from is actually really hard to get the insurance companies to agree with meaning that he will first need to be given a diagnosis with all the correct documentation and data in order for the insurance company to agree to pay for it.

This is another thing that baffles me, diagnosis aside, how can the treatment that is going to help my son be denied because he doesn’t have the right diagnosis? If the doctors all agree that this is what will help him and this is what will get him to the end point where he’ll be able to socialize with others and excel at school then how can it not be approved? How can it not be accepted? How can they tell me that I can’t pursue that course of treatment for my son simply because he doesn’t have a certain diagnosis?

There is something fundamentally broken with our society if this is the common experience parents have to go through in order to find not only the right diagnosis for the child, but also the right treatment. It should not take almost a year to get your child into treatment, the treatment should not be denied simply because the doctors can’t make a definitive diagnosis based on an hour to an hour and a half appointment.

So this post was definitely more on the ranting side of things with a decent amount of complaining, but I did want to share what we’ve been going through in this last year. I wanted to get it all out because it has been one of the most stressful and frustrating experiences I’ve ever had to go through and my sympathies go out to any parents going through the same struggles as me. I feel your pain and all I can say is we’ve got to keep hanging in there. We just have to keep going and doing until we get to the right doctor who is going to make the right diagnosis and get our kids the right treatment. That’s our burdens as parents, to do everything we can to help our children be the best they can be.

Thanks for reading! I hope everyone has a great week!

It should’ve been…

So this is another video post. I plan on posting a longer post around motherhood and the challenges I’ve been facing in that department probably Saturday.

In the meantime I wanted to share this song with everyone. Every time I hear this song I stop to think about the words of it. For those of us that have faith, who go to church, who do everything that their religion says they should do have you ever stopped and thought beyond what you were doing? You’re being faithful it’s true, you’re praying every day, you’re going to church every week, you’re reading scriptures, you’re paying your tithing, you’re paying your fast offerings. You’re doing everything you know you’re supposed to be doing (and if you’re not, well maybe you’re trying – I’m trying, every day I try and every day I do as much as I can and I leave the rest up to God and his mercy), yet is it really enough?

Is it enough to do all of those things? To have them be habit, to have them so engrained in us that we don’t even have to think about them anymore? Or should we be striving for more? Should we be striving for greater? What is the true meaning behind those actions if they are simply habit? What is the true power behind our prayer if we don’t put any true thought into it? Can we do better? Can we be better? Can we make these things a part of our life, can we keep them sacred and holy, but at the same time strive to remind ourselves daily – hourly, minutely – that all that we have been given, all that we can achieve is because of His sacrifice.

He sacrificed himself for us, so that we could be redeemed of our sins. He took our place, he endured our sins and gave us the ultimate gift: the chance at redemption, the chance at being cleansed of our sins so that we might return to Heaven and live with our families for all eternity.

I think it would be a most cruel injustice to Him and His sacrifice for us if we let our responsibilities become habitual. I believe in the value of praying daily, in studying scriptures, of paying tithing, of going to church, of everything else we do in accordance to the gospel (even when I fail to do these things, but I am woefully human and filled with faults and misgivings that I strive every day to make up for and improve upon), but it’s not enough to simply go through the motions. We cannot let ourselves slip into daily habits. We have to stay vigilant and excited about our faith. We need to stay interested in our studies of the scriptures, always searching for new meaning or new understanding in passages we’ve read before. We have to find those moments throughout the day that we can feel The Spirit with us and when we feel it we need to take that moment to revel in it, to say a small prayer in that moment.

There are so many people that I know who pray at church or at specific times in the day (typically morning and night) and they convince themselves that that is enough. They pray when they believe they are supposed to, but I would challenge that and say there is no schedule on which to pray. God is everywhere and in everything we do and so there is no better opportunity to pray than throughout the day; maybe when we need him the most, or simply because we’ve seen a blessing he has given us and we want to give thanks.

I know so many people who have read The Bible and The Book of Mormon and that is a great and mighty thing, but there are others I know who have not only read them both numerous times, but who continue to read them. They read and study and they learn something new every single time. I want to strive for that: I want to strive to be the person who doesn’t just read the scriptures, but to be the person who is continuously looking for meaning and understanding, seeking it out from others who might have read it and understood it differently because then their testimony becomes part of your testimony and vice versa. It is an amazing thing to strengthen one another and form those bonds.

So this ended up being a bit longer than I expected it to be and maybe a bit more preachy than I intended. Do not get me wrong: I do not mean to offend anyone, I am not judging anyone or how they are living their life or practicing their faith. I am simply challenging my own in the hopes of bettering myself each and every day.

Thanks, as I always I hope you enjoyed my thoughts!

Thankful for the chaos

Alright, so not a requirement to listen to the song, but it is what my post is about today. This is actually one of my favorite songs by Scotty McCreery. Also this will probably be a shorter post, mostly me reflecting on the song and what it makes me think about every time I hear it.

Have you ever stopped and thought about your life? Have you thought about your day to day and how even if it’s total chaos there are so many blessings to be thankful? What exactly are you thankful in your life? Are you only thankful for the good things? What about that every day chaos? You might think me crazy but I am so thankful for every aspect of my life.

Now that’s not to say that it’s easy. I struggle, most days it’s hard to see any good at all because we are literally drowning in the chaos and worrying about the future. I mean there is just so much: the debt, Wyatt’s therapy and trying to figure out what’s actually wrong with him, worrying about my job and if I’m doing enough. When there’s only one income there’s a lot of pressure to do everything you can to make sure your family is provided for, there are a lot of worries that plague me every day around money: will we be able to afford food for the month, will we be able to afford diapers and wipes for both kids, what about gas for the car to get to Wyatt’s therapy appointments and then to work after, what about the rent payment, what about the car payment? It is so easy to only look at the negative things, to only think about the what ifs.

This song helps me to remember that even those things that make it so hard to get through the day are things I should be thankful for because they are blessings, they are everyday reminders of how much we do have. So just like the song says I am thankful for all of the laundry I have to do, I’m thankful for the sink full of dishes, I’m thankful for my screaming kids and the messes they make. I’m thankful because it means my kids have clothes, and we have food and despite it all our kids are just like every other kid with their tantrums and their messes.

So just take a moment and think about your life. What are you most thankful for in your life? Is it all the nice things you might have or is it all the things you think of as burdensome or as chores and work? Is it those things that give proof to the love in your home? To the great family that you have? Mine are.

See, shortest post yet 🙂

As always thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed!

Blessings and Baptisms

Now I know I mentioned in my last post that I would talk about baptisms in my next post and I will be. First though I wanted to talk about blessings. 

My life is filled with blessings. Sometimes it’s easy to overlook them when my days are long or my kids are being difficult, but they’re always there and I try to always remind myself that I am so very blessed in my life. I have a husband who I love and who loves me. I have two beautiful and healthy children. I have a job. I have a roof over my head and food in my belly. There is so much to be thankful that are just simply a part of my daily life that it can be so easy to get used to them, to overlook them or even take them for granted. Today someone mentioned that it was so nice of me to give away some of the baby stuff we still had and while I definitely appreciated the thanks and getting that acknowledgement (who doesn’t like to feel appreciated?) I also however found it odd because I had just been glad to get rid of the stuff that had been taking up space in my son’s closet and impeding my everyday routine for the last couple of months. Still it got me thinking about how doing what I do by giving away things we no longer a use for is just one way that I am able to give to others, to help them in hopefully a similar way that I have been helped. My friends and family have helped us so much along the way raising our kids and I find it really satisfying to be able to do the same for others. It’s like paying it forward. I think that in itself is also a blessing. To me and to those I am able to help. I’m blessed that I have the luxury to give to others and they are blessed by being able to receive things they need. I have found that this really is a natural high and just puts me in such a better mood.

Okay! On to the business of baptisms!

So in the LDS church those who are eight or older can be baptized, up until the age of eight it’s believed that you’re not old enough to sin and thus do not need to be baptized in order to go to Heaven. This was huge to me. I mean I could never fully comprehend why a baby would need to be baptized. What could the baby have possibly done that needed forgiving, that needed repented? That’s how I saw it, whether that’s correct or not. Still I thought it was amazing that the LDS church believed similar to what I already did.

So before I was baptized, but after I had met with the Elders and learned from them about the church and the plan of salvation, a good friend of mine said something to me that gave me peace. “You shouldn’t get baptized until you have a testimony of your own.”. It was the truest thing that had ever been said to me. Now at this point I had already read parts of the Book of Mormon and prayed about the truthfulness of it, I had started living by the Word of Wisdom, and I had met with the Elders on quite a few occasions (side note: I had three great Elders who really made the entire experience amazing and fun). While I had understood everything they had taught me and I believed that what I was reading was true and right I still felt wary of being baptized. 

After my friend said that to me though it made think. What was my testimony? If someone was to walk up to me on the street and ask me why I believed in God what would I tell them? How would I explain my faith to that person? And if I couldn’t what business did I really have being baptized? I believe wholeheartedly that you should be sure (at the very least for yourself) about your faith, about your own beliefs before ever being baptized. It’s an important decision and it’s not something I think should be done lightly or on a whim. You should be sure it’s what you want and if you’re not then you’re not and that’s perfectly fine.

Alright so what is my testimony? What would I tell that person on the street demanding me to explain my faith? Well here’s what I’d have to say to them: 

As a child I never attended church, I never prayed, never put much thought in God or religion. If I had maybe I would’ve understood much sooner that despite all the bad my life has had in it, God has a plan for me and everything I’ve gone through and dealt with has brought me to this moment with my kids and my husband. I know now that I am exactly where I should be, where He intended me to be all along.

When I was a teenager I told myself and others that there was no God. I held fast to that false belief because the truth was that I was angry, and not just at God but at just about everyone in my life and myself, for things that weren’t my fault or God’s fault. If I admitted that God was real, that I believed in him then I would’ve had to deal with my anger and my pain and I wasn’t ready to do either. The thing is though, you can’t be angry at someone you don’t believe exists, so even when I denied my belief it was always there.

Now, I cannot point to one event in my life that has made me believe in God. I cannot say that there was this one moment or time where things were insurmountable and that’s when I turned to God and my faith was restored or made stronger. I do not believe that God goes around showing off by granting big and flashy miracles, but that is not to say big flashy miracles don’t happen because they do, I’ve just never seen one for myself and since I haven’t seen one for myself I cannot testify to them. However what I can testify to is the small everyday miracles that people often over look, but that I am ever searching for.

My belief comes from these small everyday miracles that go unnoticed by so many so often that it seems like a crime. These miracles include: a baby laughing, a rainbow shinning through after a storm, flowers blooming after a harsh winter, the changing of the leaves in the fall, the pure innocence a child has before they become an adult, the strength a single mother has to provide for her children, the strength a person has to trust another even after being betrayed and broken. I believe that God is all around us, in the very air that we breathe and the sun that warms our skin and if we pay attention to the things around us we will see His work everywhere we go.

I was once a person that subscribed to science and science alone, but I no longer subscribe solely to what science has to offer me because science only goes so far and at the point where science runs out there is God and I believe that he has given us everything we need to be faithful to him so that we might rejoin him when our lives here on earth have ended.

So since this post is getting kind of long let me wrap up with the story of my own baptism. While some of you might have been there or even been a part of it, I still love to tell it. I was baptized on June 7, 2014 by Elder Matthew Parrish and confirmed the same day by Elder Adam Alvey. I also got to share my baptism day with a good friend of mine and that made it all the more memorable. Now I’ve been told that the baptismal font tends to be on the colder side where the water is concerned. However for my baptism this wasn’t the case at all. In fact we had to wait to actually start the baptisms while cold water was added so the water wasn’t scalding! The experience itself is like nothing else I have ever experienced. I don’t know if I’d ever be able to accurately describe what I felt as I was submerged in that water or when I broke the surface. I felt clean, whole, brand new, but none of those even put together really reach the true depth of the experience or the warmth and love I felt.

Now that clean and like new feeling didn’t last, as I am an imperfect person as we all are, but that warmth and love? I can still feel that, sometimes it’s harder to feel now, but when I’m praying or I’m at church or I’m reading my scriptures, or even sometimes when I’m sitting quietly just thinking I can feel it and I know that He is still with me and that I have not been forgotten.

Thanks for reading! I hope you all enjoyed this one!

Don’t lick that!

Okay. Post #3!

This one is going to be about motherhood, while I finish formulating my thoughts on the post I want to write about baptism (so you have that to look forward to in the next week or so! Yay?).

Now I’ve only been a mother for almost 4 years and while it has it’s moments that just melt my heart it is also filled with an infinite number of moments that make me question my sanity and my decision making abilities, because clearly I didn’t learn my lesson from the first one and had to go and have a second one.

What have I learned about being a mother in my whopping 4 years? First and foremost is this: everyone has an opinion. It doesn’t even have to be someone that has kids themselves, they still have an opinion about how you should be raising your kids and how you are quite possibly screwing it up by not doing (or possibly doing) something. In the beginning – I mean like in the very beginning, when I was still pregnant with my son Wyatt – it used to bother me. Now those early months might have had some hormone induced mood swings, but I’ve come to realize something I think is very important. While everyone can have their opinions – and they will, no matter what you choose to do/not do – at the end of the day it’s not up to them. It’s up to you as the parent to make the hard choices; breast fed or bottle fed, cloth diapered or disposables, let them cry it out or pick them up. They can give you their opinion and site all the research in the world, but no one is going to know better than the parent what is best for the kid and honestly so long as the kid isn’t being abused/neglected it’s not really anyone else’s business how you’ve chosen to raise your kid.

Another thing I’ve learned: more with my daughter Kenzie than with Wyatt is that those hormones are out of control. With Kenzie I did try to breast feed. I had lots of opinions about it and I figured I’d give it a go. In the hospital I didn’t have any problems. I nursed and she fed and it was all well and good. When I got home though that first night I was up until 4am trying to get her to go to sleep, but all she wanted to do was nurse. So at 4am I had to wake up my husband so that he could go to the store to buy formula because I was in tears over the entire situation. I was balling like a baby (I know because Kenzie was pretty upset about the not being fed thing since she wasn’t latching correctly no matter what I did) and this was something I hadn’t even really wanted to do – I had agreed because it had mattered to my husband and I agreed to give it a shot for him. Yet there I was crying and completely and totally distraught over something that I hadn’t even been invested in. That however, I have found does end; the hormones even out and life does return to normal at some point: except you have a baby so nothing is ever the same, but hey at least you have control over your emotions!

This leads me into the third thing: it takes a village. Now I thought this was the stupidest saying ever before I had kids. I’ve known plenty of single parents and still do and I honestly don’t know how they do it. I don’t know where we’d be without the great friends we have who are willing to babysit for us, who are willing to lend a helping hand or even simply lend an ear. None of our family lives particularly close so they can’t help as much as they would like to and it makes it hard on everyone. We have been so blessed, so lucky to have the friends that we do. It allows us to be people outside of parents. It allows us to be a husband and a wife without also being a mom and a dad. I feel like this is monumental. For the first several months after we had Wyatt (this was before I had joined the church) it was exhausting. I went to work and then came home and was a mom. While Wyatt was actually a really good baby he still had his moments especially in the beginning where he wasn’t sleeping the greatest and it was hard. I think it was also the rockiest time in the relationship with my husband because we were both tired, we were both stressed and neither one of us was really getting attention from the other because all of our time and energy was going into Wyatt. We had no time to be a couple anymore, we were simply parents and that was it. Once I joined the church and made friends everything changed. Suddenly we could go somewhere and take Wyatt with us, we could have adult interactions with someone else and best of all they offered to watch Wyatt meaning we got to be away from him and be together as a couple. For those who have to do it alone my prayers go out to you and I just have to say you’re amazing because it is hard.

So that all sounds super daunting right? It all sounds hard and not so rewarding, but it is. There are days where I’m so exhausted emotionally and physically from my kids, but then Wyatt will curl up with me in the recliner and fall asleep and it is just the most beautiful and gratifying feeling that it does make it all worth it.

Now to the title of this blog. Below I’ve compiled a list of things that I’ve said as a parent that I never thought I would actually need to say to anyone ever and I’m sure most parents can relate to most if not all of them.

Don’t lick ____ – this is like a motto I swear. Some of the things I’ve had to tell my kids not to lick are: doors, windows, floors, tables, chairs, couch cushions, me, their sibling, some other adult, some other kid, TVs, and possibly a few other things that aren’t coming to mind. This is seriously one of the craziest things ever: whoever thought you’d have to tell anyone not to lick the floor of a store? Not me! I mean what exactly possesses kids to explore the world through taste?

Don’t stick your finger in ____ – again another motto. This one isn’t as used as the first, but it does get said pretty often be it them trying to stick their fingers in outlets, down the drain in the tub, in the top of a soda can, or even in the mouth of their sibling or a dog or cat.

Why are your pants off? – This one is said to my daughter multiple times a day every day. I’m not sure why, but she refuses to actually keep her pants on for longer than five minutes. My son on the other hand hates to be naked and will wrap a blanket around him if we don’t clothe him within minutes of him being undressed.

Why are you playing with ____ – A lot of my world revolves around Don’ts and Whys. This one has a bit of an ick factor though because things that I have to tell my kids to not play with include: their poop (my daughter likes to not only strip, but take her diaper off and play with the contents of it), trash, their food, my food, dirty clothes – mine, theirs, their sibling’s.

So be prepared for a roller coast ride of adventures and emotions! I have never done anything that has ever been more completely and utterly exhausting and yet worth every single second of turmoil.

Stayed tuned for my next post that I’m planning to be about my baptism!

What do you mean church is 3 hours long?!

Here we go again! Post 2! What a streak, am I right?

For this post I wanted to touch on some of the things that stood out to me when I joined the church.

First, because I mean this really can’t be overlooked: for a normal Sunday church is three hours long. Now this can seem pretty daunting to those not familiar with the church or who have just started attending. Let me tell you it took me some getting used to early on since Wyatt wasn’t quite old enough to go to nursery yet. What do we do for those three hours? Well that first hour is our sacrament meeting. During which church callings are proposed and or announced that they’re over, we sing some hymns and there is usually someone talking usually a member not necessarily the bishop. In all honesty I don’t know if I’ve ever actually heard my bishop give a talk during sacrament. Then of course probably the most important part is the passing of the sacrament. This is where we renew our covenants with our Heavenly Father.

The second hour is the Sunday School Lesson part. For those just joining the church – or for those investigating – the lesson is Gospel Principles. The missionaries are a big part of this and it goes over a lot of the big pieces of our faith: agency, the fall of Adam and Eve, the Holy Ghost, the Atonement, Baptism. There’s 47 chapters in the Gospel Principles book so I’m not going to list them all, but you get the idea. This is where you can learn about the church, ask questions and find answers (hopefully). Once a member has been with the church for awhile and they feel comfortable enough they can spend the second hour elsewhere like the Gospel Doctrine class. Now I think I’ve been to about three Gospel Doctrine classes so I can’t really say a whole lot about them, but they’re taught by a member and to me it’s always felt like a good place to learn even more about the gospel and the things we believe in, to learn about others’ experiences and come closer together in our faith.

The third hour – at least for the women – is Relief Society. As far as these lessons go they’re all still faith based, but go into topics like marriage and family and living our lives righteously. I find these to be some of the more powerful lessons I go to because I always find it so helpful to get the perspectives of the other mothers/wives that are going through the same things I am and how they continue to strive to keep Christ first in the home (something I tend to fall behind with).

So while it is three hours and there are many a Sunday that my kids make it feel even longer it is at times too short as well. Sundays are powerful, they allow me to focus so much more closely on my Heavenly Father, to be able to pray, to thank him and to draw ever nearer.

 

Next up: you mean you want my kid(s) to sit through three hours of church? I can’t even get them to sit for thirty minutes at home! Alright so this might be picking on the length of our service a bit but really I had this thought pretty early on. When I joined Wyatt was seven-eight months old at the time. It seemed like an impossible task that was being placed before me because for those of you who know my son you know that even as an infant he was always active. However! That being said what I’ve found to be one of the most amazing things about going to church is that it is almost not as bad as anyone thinks it’s going to be. Now there are a lot of families at church and we all have kids who are varying ages, but for those who have older kids well they went through the exact same thing at one point. Meaning that for the most part everyone understands the struggle of having an infant in a sacrament meeting/Sunday school lesson/Relief Society. Everyone understands that at such a young age they’re not going to sit perfectly quiet and attentive. So while at the start I spent a lot of my sacrament meetings out in the hall listening through the speaker while Wyatt crawled/ran around to his heart’s content, I’ve spent more than my fair share of sacraments sitting in the chapel with everyone else despite Wyatt quite frequently shouting random words at the top of his lungs or having mini meltdowns at random points because he just can’t have something that he thinks is paramount to have at that moment.

For the Sunday School lesson/Relief Society it’s actually a lot easier. It’s a smaller set of people and it’s in a room that Wyatt (and now Kenzie) could just crawl/walk around/explore while the lesson was going on. One of the amazing things about a church that is so family oriented? No one minded him (and now her) coming up to them to take a look at their books/phone/tablet. There were even quite a few members who were always willing to help entertain him as well and every single one of them made me feel at home instead of like a distraction or burden.

Of course then at eighteen months the most miraculous thing happens: they get to go to nursery! They get to spend the latter two hours of church playing with toys, eating a snack (with a short lesson while they eat) and then more toys! I got to go to classes and he got to spend time playing with the other kids; though let’s face it my kid mostly plays next to other kids not with them.

 

Alright something not related to the amount of time we spend at church on a Sunday: visiting teaching/home teaching. What the heck is this? You mean people want to come over to my house? First and foremost: this is amazing! I love my visiting teachers and home teacher. Okay so what are they. Visiting teachers are sisters who come over once a month to share a message and visit and to see if you need help with anything (I almost never do, but hey one day I might!). More often than not they offer to babysit for me and my husband once a month or so because they know that we don’t have any family in town and so we almost never go anywhere without our kids (this is quite exhausting as most parents know and can undoubtably sympathize). That’s it! Amazing right? They’re just two sisters who come over to help keep you connected to the church, to help you with things you might need that could have nothing at all to do with faith or the church. The love and friendship I feel from these visits truly lifts my spirits every single month.

Alright home teachers. Well they’re pretty much visiting teachers but they’re brothers from the church. They too come over once a month to check in, visit and share a message. They too offer to help with anything that we might need help with. The one thing that they can do that the visiting teachers can’t is give blessings. This is so huge for me. Knowing that if my kids (or even me) are sick or injured I have someone I can reach out to to receive a blessing. 

Both give me a sense of community, of belonging and a connection.

 

Now I could go on for quite some time about things that jumped out at me when I first joined the church, but I think it’s getting to that point where this post is getting kind of lengthy. So I’ll leave you with a few of my thoughts without going into detail on them (and maybe – hopefully – I’ll have separate posts that go into greater detail on them):

Wait you mean there’s another book I need to read in addition to the Bible? (as if I wasn’t far enough behind in all of this reading and knowing things). Granted I still haven’t read either the Bible or the Book of Mormon all the way through and in all honesty I’ve read a great deal more of the Book of Mormon than I have of the actual Bible. Not sure what that says about me, but there it is.

So you’re telling me that missionaries go on missions for two years? You’re also telling me that most of them are younger than me? And they’re going to teach me things? Missionaries are awesome and amazing. The three I learned from (who shall remain nameless in this post) were the absolute best (and maybe a little crazy at times, but that was half the fun). They made learning about the gospel a blast. They made it easy to ask them questions, to talk to them about my doubts and the things I didn’t understand. And while missionaries might not have all the answers to all your questions (while they are amazing, they’re not all knowing, but no one is) they are almost always happy to help read through scriptures and talk through them to better understand them. I think one of the best parts of having missionaries is that they are so full of faith, they have such strong testimonies of the gospel that it is always exciting to learn from them, to get to know them and then inevitably it is sad when they have to move on or go home.

 

Alright I’ll stop here! I’m sure there were plenty of other things that stood out to me, but I think I’ll fit those things into other posts where I can spend more time talking about those topics. I hope you enjoyed reading through some of my thoughts!

And so it begins

Alright,

This is my first post, so we’ll see how this goes.

First off let me start with a bit of background on myself. While the chances are that most of you who are reading this know me, at least enough to have gotten ahold of this link you might not know much more than the basics. My name is Kayla LeAnn Barnett (formally Schultz), I’ll be twenty-seven in exactly one month, I’ve been married to my husband (Brandon) for three years now and we have two amazing kids: Wyatt who will be four on Sept 25 and Kenzie (McKenzie) who just turned one Feb 23. I’ve lived in Missouri for the past five years now and before that I lived the whole of my life in Illinois. I went to college at Illinois State University where I got a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. I currently work at Cerner (Healthcare IT company) as a Software Engineer. So basically I write computer code and the company I work for makes software for the Healthcare industry. I am an avid reader of mostly science fiction and fantasy and because I couldn’t embrace enough of the stereotypical nerd/geek I also play video games (xBox and PC).

Still wondering about the “mormon” in the title of this blog? I’m getting to it. Just keep with me a little longer.

Back in 2012 I flew out to Arizona (because hey I had just graduated college, what else did I really have to do with my now very abundant time?) to visit a close friend who lives pretty much out in the middle of nowhere there. I stayed for about a week and while I was there we attended her church. She was (and is) a member of the LDS church; see mormon. Now I didn’t think much about the sacrament meeting at the time and if I’m being honest I can’t even really remember much about it: except that we sat towards the back and it felt like dozens of people came by to say hi and to see how my friend and her family were doing.

Fast forward two years to 2014 and I’ve now had my son and I’m pretty happy with my life. Who wouldn’t be? I had a boyfriend, a beautiful and amazing son and a job that supported the three of us that for the most part I enjoyed doing every day. Yet I felt like something was missing. I felt like there had to be more. I felt like there needed to be more for him, my son. As most people do when they feel like they’re lacking something essential in their life I turned to religion (as an alternative to drugs, alcohol and other dangerous and bad habits that people, hoping (like most I assume) that religion could give me the peace I was searching for, could provide me with that sense of fullness. This of course brought on the all important question of: which religion? This was then closely followed by: which church? I mean these are questions that define people, they’re big and they’re personal and they’re important.

When you grow up without religion – with just this vague Christian background where you know terms like ‘Jesus’ and ‘God’ and ‘Christ’ and ‘The Cross’ but have no real context for which to actually understand their value, their worth, their true meaning – you’re not going to have a great sense of what to answer for these questions. It can be pretty daunting, pretty overwhelming. People have gone to war over religion, over their beliefs and the non-belief of others so clearly it is a big deal and choosing wrong is a very legitimate fear; at least it was for me.

Growing up we didn’t pray at the dinner table. We didn’t read from the bible. We didn’t even go to church (I think I had been to two or three church services as a kid). We didn’t really talk about faith or God or any of the rest of it. There was this vague concept in my head that God existed and he had made everything and he had the power to do miraculous things. Knowing what I did of God as a kid I was actually quite angry at him for a really long time because of the lot in life that I had been given. I was angry that my parents had gotten divorced. I was angry that my father let me to be with his new family. I was angry about a lot of things that weren’t my fault and I couldn’t be angry at my father because he wasn’t there to be angry with and I couldn’t be angry with my mother because she had gotten the crappy end of the deal just like me. So that left me with this God that I had in my head. I could be angry at him because he was everywhere and if he was so all powerful then he could’ve prevented these things from happening to me, he could’ve saved me this pain and anger and hardship that I had gone through. It took me a long time to realize that this just isn’t how God or religion even work, but in the head of a teenager it seemed perfectly logical.

Now when you take all of this into account you might be wondering: how the heck did she even end up going to church and how did she make the choice of LDS? A couple of things led to the decision I made to attend to church Easter Sunday 2014. The main thing being that I had my son. My perfect, beautiful and absolutely amazing son. I had been given this tiny human in my life and I was expected to raise this tiny human, to take care of him, to bring him up right so that he didn’t turn out to be a complete and total jerk in a world that quite frankly is filled with jerks. How was I going to do that though? How was I going to raise him right? How was I going to teach him and give him all the things that he would need in his life? I had no idea (most days I still have no idea, but that I feel is part of being a mom – at least I hope other moms feel just as lost as me some of the time). I had this notion in my head that if I could find faith, if I could find religion and give that to my son then he might have something I never did: he might be able to have this thing that was bigger than him, this thing that was bigger than me and bigger than all of us to believe in and that it could then see him through on his darkest days and he would be stronger and better for it.

So my son was my motivation to go to church, but how did I finally settle on LDS? Remember that friend I mentioned several paragraphs ago? The one in the middle of nowhere Arizona? Remember how she was a mormon? Remember how she took me to church with her family? Well that’s what ultimately led to my choice in churches. I remembered how all of those people had stopped to ask them how they were, I remembered that kindness, that sense of community, that sense of family and I thought: that’s what I want. I wanted a place where I wasn’t just going to be told that I’ve sinned (let’s face it we all sin and I have done a large amount of it in my past, I didn’t need a church to tell me that) and that I needed someway to repent for those sins. I wanted more: I wanted to belong, I wanted to connect, I wanted to not feel so alone in this journey to find faith.

Now let me tell you about that first day (and then I promise I’ll hit publish and you’ll very soon be at the end of this post that is now much longer than I actually thought it would be). That first day I showed up – I was twenty-three at the time and my son was about seven or eight months old – and it was just me and my son. I knew absolutely no one and I had no clue what exactly to expect. I walked in a few minutes before service was due to start (because back then I could actually make it somewhere on time instead of being late for most everything as I am these days) and it was pretty full. I wasn’t sure if I should find somewhere to sit by myself or if I should sit near other people. Almost as soon as I walked into the chapel though one of the members approached me. She wanted to know if I was new or if I was visiting. When I told her I was new she offered for me to sit with her. She didn’t even have to think about it. From that first day I didn’t even have to worry about sticking out, about not fitting in, about not belonging because from that first day someone was right there reaching out and helping me.

And the rest as they say is history. I was introduced to the Elder missionaries and I started the journey to becoming a member of the church. The intent of this blog is for me to write about things that I’ve learned along the way. Things that I believe in, things that matter to me. I’m not sure yet if I’ll be doing weekly or monthly posts or simply posting when I have something to talk about, we’ll just have to see how it goes.

As promised: this is the end of this post, if you made it all the way through thank you! I hope you liked what you read and will read more when I post more!