Friday, October 22, 2010

Thankful on October 22, 2010

Gratitude. It has been on my mind. As you know, if following my musings, I am pretty sick right now. Surviving, definitely, but sick. There is something I have learned through the years that lessens my darkness, that even paves the way back to health, and that is counting my blessings. Believe me, I have blessings.

I read a story this morning about a young woman from Sierra Leone that I cannot get out of my mind. Her name is Mariama, and she spent her entire childhood in this war-torn place. As a girl, she witnessed incredible, horrible violence including the brutal murders of her own parents and siblings. She spent her teenage years fleeing and hiding from the rebels who would destroy her. She recalls laying herself down to sleep at night, in unfamiliar places, thanking her God that she was still alive. She prayed that she would be alive in the morning. She didn't pray for food, because she knew she could somehow find food if she was alive.

During this time of homelessness, Mariama was given a humanitarian kit by missionaries of the church I belong to (yes, missionaries just like Iver). This kit was precious to her and represented the hope that she had to survive. She shared that hope with others who were in the same situation, and had an incredible comforting influence on many people. Several years later she was called to serve a mission herself in the United States, was able to leave her country behind, and start a bright, new life for herself. Mariama made sure to visit the place where that precious humanitarian kit was made, and wept in gratitude when she entered the doors.

Mariama now tours our country, telling her story, and encouraging others to engage in humanitarian causes, as a way of showing gratitude for an abundance of blessings.

I feel inspired by her story. And I always feel drawn to people around me who see the good in their lives. Who are truly grateful for all that they have been given, and use that gratitude to bless the lives of others. I really want to be one of those people. I do strive for it.

When I was a young mother, overwhelmed with responsibility for my crazy toddler-creatures, struggling with an illness that had not yet been diagnosed as bipolar disorder, stuck on the side of a mountain without transportation, I often wallowed in discouragement. I saw lots of clouds, but very little sunshine. A woman I looked up to and respected shared something simple with me, that made a remarkable difference in my life. Christel told me about her "count-your-blessings-walks." She would take a walk, and with every step would name a blessing in her life. When I heard this, I smiled, knowing in my mind that there was no way I had so many blessings. I continued to think that, as I walked down our long, dirt driveway each day to the mailbox. One day, sometime later, I decided to try it. With each step I named a blessing: Iver's adorable curls; Shakira's sweet, happy disposition; Corbin's tender kisses....I got to the mailbox having blessings backed up in my brain as fast as they could come!! I started to make this a habit, and noticed my outlook beginning to change.

Eighteen years later, I know I could walk to the ends of the earth and back, never naming a blessing twice. How extraordinary is that? Though things are a struggle for me right now, there are beams of sun through the clouds. For the abundance of blessings I have been given, I am crazy thankful.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Thankful on October 19, 2010

It's not easy to send a son on a mission. I could pen an entire book about the extreme emotions I have experienced within the past four and a half months. I actually might do that some day...A self-help guide (or at least an "I-know-exactly-what-you-are-going-through-you're-not-alone book), for very inadequately prepared missionary mommas.

Today I understand that the negative emotions make the positive ones positively extraordinary. So I have come to the conclusion that I am thankful for them all.

Iver's journey so far has not gone exactly according to plan. To know me is to know that I do not do well with spontaneity. I like a step-by-step agenda. No surprises. When a set plan is not in place, I panic, and not just a little bit.

In March, while still under my roof and nestled safely in my arms, Iver received his mission call. As he read the call out loud to all of the loved ones gathered to hear, he paused before he read the location, scanning ahead to know for himself before announcing it. I searched his face, in agonizing impatience, longing to be reading over his shoulder. As he saw the location a "huh, well that makes sense" look came upon his face and tears filled his eyes. Filled with emotion, he read aloud, "Elder Johnson, you are called to labor in the Mexico, Mexico City Mission." The first thought that came to me was, "DANGER! MEXICO!" and extreme fear for his life. But very quickly, while feeling the incredible spirit in the room, and seeing the gratitude and excitement that enveloped my son, that fear was soothed, and I felt peace.

On June 9th we traveled to Provo, Utah to drop Iver off at the Mission Training Center. It was a strange, very tender day for our family. I almost cannot speak of it. Our curbside goodbye was probably the most difficult experience of my life. I can still feel his beautiful body embracing mine as it did twice in that few minutes. I had a very difficult time stepping back into the car after I watched Iver walk down the sidewalk and into the doors of the MTC, not looking back. He was ready to be there! But is a mother ever ready to see her precious child leave her side for two years? In the car, I instantly began to sob. I have never sobbed as I did that day. At one point, sweet Shakira reached her arms around me from the back seat and said, "Momma, you have to breathe." I cried all the way to Glenwood Springs. At that point, my sadness began to change...I began to feel trust, anticipation, submission. Oh, the sadness did not go away, and it remains to this day, but I was, and continue to be comforted.

As Iver's time in the MTC came to an end, his work visa had not arrived. He was discouraged and hurting, and this mother feels her childrens' pain tenfold. Iver was ready to serve! He was temporarily assigned to serve in the Washington, Spokane Mission which was helpful and relieving of his discouragement. Iver has served for nearly 10 weeks in Washington...with every letter he sounds stronger and stronger. He has developed a wonderful relationship with his Heavenly Father, has turned himself over completely, and is much stronger for the detour. My hurt and discouragement is turning to thankfulness, as I see this growth in my son. I now feel confident that this is part of God's plan for His precious servant, and I feel strengthened. I might be able to make it through this mission yet!

Today I learned that the visa has gone through, and Iver will be in Mexico City by the end of next week. As I reflect on the experiences I have mentioned and MANY more that I haven't, I feel WOW. Not sure how else to describe it. So today I am grateful for the uncertainness, the surprises, the panic, the fear, the sadness, the discouragement, the hurting. I am thankful for these emotions that have been so difficult because today I feel exquisite, hard-earned JOY. Crazy-thankful.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Thankful on October 5, 2010

Today my Corbin asked me if I had blogged recently. He didn't want to get behind in reading them. How lucky am I? I will tell you how lucky. But I should definitely say blessed.

My crazy-thankful blog was started a few weeks ago in a desperate effort to stay sane. You see, I am a manic-depressive. In other words, I suffer from bipolar disorder. There it is. The thing I never say. Out there. I don't say it because it is way, way, way taboo. It is. You really cannot understand how taboo unless you are intimately involved.

After years of ridiculous medicinal cocktails, years of therapy and hospitalization, years of misunderstanding and tears, years of wanting it all to end, years of prayer after prayer after prayer, I found a treatment. A treatment that worked for me. A treatment that my precious husband stands behind and helps me with. A treatment that has kept me pretty darn healthy, and so close to normal that most of the people in my life at this time don't even know I am sick.

As 2010 began, I braced myself, and Corbin braced himself. This is the year when everything I know as an as-close-to-healthy-as-possible-bipolar-person was to change.

In June, my wonderful, amazing son Iver left home to embark on a journey that he has prepared for every moment of his life. He was called to serve a two year mission in Mexico City, teaching the gospel that he loves, while loving and serving the people of Mexico. It has been a slight roller coaster for him, as he was supposed to leave the Mission Training Center for Mexico 8 weeks ago today. He is still waiting for his visa. In the meantime, he has been serving in the state of Washington, and at this point has been told that the time is getting closer for him to go to Mexico. Iver was well prepared for the challenges of a mission, but this was something he did not foresee. He is strong and valiant, and putting his best foot forward, trying to forget himself and serve the Lord. But I am his mother. I can feel the discouragement between the lines of his letters. And beyond writing loving, supporting words, there is nothing I can do. I am helpless. And the illness creeps into my unquiet mind.

In August, we took our incredibly beautiful Shakira to Fort Collins, to begin her education at Colorado State University. She is studying music education, following a very spiritual path and prompting that this is the direction she needs to take with her life. Her musical talent is blossoming, and she is finding much joy spending many hours with arms around her cello. I am so happy for her and the joy she feels. But there is no more of her music in my home. Shakira is my sunshine, and without her, things feel quite cold. And the bipolar rears it's ugly head.

I tried to prepare. I did. And when I think about it, there really isn't much more I could have done. I'm not sick enough to want my life to end. Or to head back to the nearest psychiatrist with his medicinal cocktail. But the dark is there. The aching. The tears. The panic. The racing thoughts of doom.

Do you know what else is there? My Corbin. My constant. This is not an easy life with me. But my Corbin remains. He holds me, he comforts me, he encourages me. He loves me. Truly, truly, truly loves me. And it is through this love that I will again conquer the beast of my ill mind. How blessed I am to have him. How crazy-thankful.