Thursday, August 22, 2013

Thankful on August 22, 2013

One night, in the fall of 2010, I laid awake in my bed absolutely paralyzed by sadness and loneliness. Iver's visa for his mission in Mexico City had finally gone through, he was there, and I was feeling his distance physically that night. I woke up in a panic, literally unable to breathe. I knew in my heart that he was struggling. With tears streaming down my face, I plead with God to comfort me, to comfort him. And then my sweet grandma was there. Lying next to me, wiping my tears, filling me with mother-love. She came in spirit, but I felt her there, I knew that she was. I heard her voice telling me that I wasn't alone, that she would hold me up, that she would push me on. I leaned heavily on her for the next little while, even speaking aloud to her. Since that night, I have not experienced her so close to me, but I have known she wasn't too far.

In one of the final weeks of Iver's mission, in March 2012, I received a rare handwritten letter from him. In it was this: "I have decided I would like to tell you about an experience. When I first got to Mexico I had a hard, hard time. I was sick from the food, I couldn't understand people and they couldn't understand me, and I was feeling very alone. In my first apartment, we had a little "backyard" where we put out our clothes to dry. Everyday I would go out to study and to pray, and as I prayed I shed many tears. I felt desperate and pitiful. One day as I prayed I choked out a plea to God to send me someone to help me, and comfort me. I stood up and dried off my tears and we left for the day. When we walked out the door, I felt a feeling of peace and of motherly love, like someone took me in their arms and whispered, "Don't worry, I've got you. You're not alone." The interesting thing is the voice I heard was the voice of Grandma Duncan. I have the sure belief that she was sent to help me and keep me company. I have not felt alone since that day and always feel that peace and motherly love as I walk and continue forward. I thank God for sending her as a special comfort and guide. I know that it is for her that I have stayed here and continued to serve the Lord."

Then, in late spring of this year, my little Shakira was in the Missionary Training Center, preparing to serve her mission in Japan, and experiencing far more hardship than anyone should at that place. She did not fit in, she was suffering from illness, she was not catching on quickly to Japanese, and she was grieving all alone over the loss of our two dear friends, Fred and Fisher. In an email came this: "On Thursday, I got really overwhelmed and had another breakdown, but Heavenly Father sent innumerable tender mercies, one of which was absolutely incredible. That night, I found an empty room at the end of the hall and was kneeling and talking to my Heavenly Parents when suddenly, I felt a warm hand on my shoulder. I looked up and there was Grandma Duncan smiling down at me. What an incredible, perfect blessing. I have angels surrounding me, one very special one in particular, who encourage me and buoy me up. It's amazing to know that the veil was so thin in that room that night."

For many years I have longed, yearned for more knowledge of, more connection with the feminine divine. It is my opinion that my sweet grandma was sent to comfort and rescue by our Mother in Heaven. I have absolutely no doubt that She is there. Things make no sense to me otherwise. I have felt Her presence sparingly, in times that one would expect...pregnancy, childbirth, nurturing my babies at my breast, suffering through endometriosis and the hysterectomy that followed...but oh how I wish to feel Her, to know Her every moment of everyday. Currently, my limited connection to Her is strongest in my yoga practice, when my mind, body, spirit and breath unite I feel Her. I feel Her as my body flows and moves and I am keenly aware of my curves and individuality. I was not created in the image of a man.

My longing and yearning is shared by my awesome husband, and together we have decided that surely "God" means She and He. My search for Her will continue, and so will my prayers to know more.

The ministerings of my grandma-angel give me glimpses...I am grateful for this. This summer has kicked my butt. Sweet Grandma, I could use a visit. Bring me some of our Momma's love. For that I would be crazy-thankful.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Thankful on May 24, 2013

Well, it has been awhile. I began my crazy-thankful blog in the year 2010 to help me cope with the sadness and loneliness that I felt when Iver left on his mission to Mexico City. I was told over and over again that I shouldn't be feeling those things, that it was a blessing to have a child serving God full time, that my life would be filled with joy and happiness as I made that sacrifice, that there surely was nowhere I would rather have him...well, duh. Of course those things are true. Except for the "shouldn't be feeling" part. That is just completely wrong. So I wrote. I wrote with a focus on the incredible blessings I feel in my life, and the gratitude that I have for them.

Here I am again. I said goodbye to my beautiful Shakira one month ago today, and sent her off to serve God as a full-time missionary in Sendai, Japan. And here I am again, trying to cope with the sadness and loneliness I feel. So I will write.

Many years ago, when my life was a blur of blond, curly toddlers, Iver and Shak were busily jumping on and off of the futon (remember our itty-bitty house, our main living quarters were also our bedroom). They were breathless, joyous, and Iver exclaimed, "Look, momma! I'm a star, and sissy's a lightbulb!" I have thought of that moment, that exclamation, often as life has unfolded. Wise three year old Iver was divinely inspired, as that statement is very true and accurate.

If you know Shakira, you know that she glows. In fact, the picture I included in this post is the picture I encouraged her to use when she submitted her mission application, because it captures that light in a very beautiful way. If you know Shakira, you also know that the light is truly the Light of Christ. Shakira KNOWS her Savior, Jesus Christ. KNOWS HIM. She loves Him. She worships Him. She reverences Him. She understands, intimately, His atonement. She testifies of Him. She LIVES HIM. She lives her life to do His will.

Shakira is intricately weaved into our family story. Once upon a time, before those toddlers grew, Corbin and I had to make a decision. We never fit. Neither one of us, throughout our whole lives, had never fit into the culture of mormonism. We didn't look the part, at that point we certainly didn't act the part, we didn't want to be the part. But we knew and loved Jesus Christ. And we knew and loved the gospel of His peace. We wanted to devote our lives and our family to Him. We decided, prayerfully, that we would do that. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was where we found our truth. We would do what we needed to do to live the gospel and serve the Lord. We also decided prayerfully that we would be ourselves while we did it. That we were just fine being the people that our Heavenly Parents had created. And so we started on that journey...a painful one, a joyful one. We still don't fit. Everyday we are told our hair is too long, we shouldn't have tattoos, I shouldn't be working (that answer to our prayers couldn't possibly be the will of God because it isn't the "ideal"...this one will go on forever), we should support the Boy Scouts, we shouldn't have the political views that we feel more closely align with living in harmony with Christ...and on...and on...And you know what? It's really, really hard.

The apples didn't fall too far from the tree. Our beautiful, strong children, with their absolute love and devotion to Jesus Christ and their willingness to lay down their lives to serve Him, they don't fit either. So here's something for you...How interesting is it that you can still look at them and literally see the light of Christ?!

We knew that the Missionary Training Center would be a very challenging time and place for Shakira, just as it was for Iver. A place where the gospel can be learned and taught in it's purity, but also a place where tradition and culture are misunderstood as gospel. Interestingly enough, she will emerge from it even stronger in her resolve. Here is an excerpt from a precious letter: "My first few days in the MTC were really rough, not going to lie. I felt like I was suffocating and that I could not be myself AT ALL! It got to the point where on Sunday night, I lost it. I cried for hours and hours until I was all dried out. The stress was so much that it even made me physically sick! Sunday night was hard, and I spent about an hour on my knees begging Heavenly Father to give me some comfort and some confirmation that I was doing the right thing and that it's okay to be who I am. I went to bed, and even though I was really sick the next day, I decided that I'm going to laugh and have humor and have fun in my life, and that has made ALL the difference! I have had a smile on my face all week and I can see the influence that sunshine has on those around me. What a great thing to know that Heavenly Father loves me for me!"

And my Heavenly Parents love me for me, and Corbin for Corbin, and Iver for Iver. Shakira is right. And Shakira will continue to be a lightbulb because her focus is not on fitting in, it's on Jesus Christ.

Two weeks from now will mark the end of a very difficult era for me in the church. My heart and my spirit have been thrashed and broken. Will things change for the better? I am not entirely sure. But this beautiful, bright little light of mine, my precious Shakira, reminds me to have faith and hope. I will. I am crazy-thankful.