Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Funny how ten seconds can change your life. One minute you're cruising through your regular routine; then, you blink, and suddenly you realize that you just caused a three car pile-up at rush hour.

I can't believe it even happened. It was so sudden! And yet, in slow motion at the same time.

I had taken John some dinner around 5 pm (he planned to stay late at BYU to work on his dissertation). We met at the usual spot. He hopped in, I handed him food, we proceeded towards the temple where we often talk while he eats. Preston beamed and giggled from his car seat when he saw his dad (his favorite person in the world!). Heading north on 9th East, I turned to ask John if we were still going out for Valentine's the next evening. That was it. A very short, innocent question. As I turned to face front again, I saw, too late, that although the light was green, the car in front of me had suddenly stopped. Apparently they had stopped to accommodate the car in front of them, who had stopped for a pedestrian.

As if under water, my huge E350 (15 passenger) van slowly slammed into a helpless, tin foil Subaru. The smaller car gingerly smashed accordian-style; the back window exploding at the end for dramatic affect. Pebbles of shattered glass flew. Preston wailed. John's food was everywhere. It seemed fake, like we were watching a movie. Was everyone alright? Yes, we were all belted and it wasn't high speed. But of course, in that ten seconds, I caused thousands of dollars of damage. Not a happy thought.

I hopped out, checked on the other parties, the police came, we did the paperwork. I've never caused an accident before, so I was somewhat unfamiliar, but luckily for us, the passenger in the smashed Subaru had a lawyer father who specializes in car accidents. Great :). So she walked us through it.

We've spent years building up a good driving history and we had great rates! But, now, because of my brief lack of attention, our premium will raise and our precious record is sullied. I don't know how long it will take, but I'm sure it will be years before we earn back our "good driving" status and privileges.

I was infinitely grateful that no one was really hurt. Still, I couldn't help feeling remorse for all the damage I had caused. It was so unintentional and so split-second. But that is no excuse. The truth is, if my eyes had been on the road, it probably would have been avoided.

All this caused me to think. It is so easy for us to get distracted! Even when on the "right path," when cruising at a good pace, when all the lights are "green." Yet, anytime we let our eyes wander from the path, we are at risk. We may cause unintentional damage to ourselves, our loved ones, or perfect strangers.

I made a new resolve to "keep my eyes on the road" of life. That doesn't mean we can't have fun! It just means, we keep our desires and attention inside the lines the Lord has mapped out.

Learning to avoid distraction is a vital part of life. I believe that when Satan fails to tempt us in other more obvious ways, he resorts to distraction. Filling our life with lots of good stuff, while we forget or neglect the essential. This adds up to us becoming weaker spiritually and possibly physically. Therefore, when those temptations come around again, we are less able to withstand. Our reaction time is shortened because we are not paying full attention. We slam unavoidably into messes that require untold amounts of time to repair. Sometimes, it may be a total loss if there is no insurance and no strength left to "fix" the problem. This is truly a tragedy.

Elder Richard G. Scott shares the following:

"Are there so many fascinating, exciting things to do or so many challenges pressing down upon you that it is hard to keep focused on that which is essential? When things of the world crowd in, all too often the wrong things take highest priority. Then it is easy to forget the fundamental purpose of life. Satan has a powerful tool to use against good people. It is distraction. He would have good people fill life with “good things” so there is no room for the essential ones. Have you unconsciously been caught in that trap?

“Men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, … for [the devil] seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself” (2 Ne. 2:27).

Some places are sacred and holy where it seems easier to discern the direction of the Holy Spirit. The temple is such a place. Find a retreat of peace and quiet where periodically you can ponder and let the Lord establish the direction of your life. Each of us needs to periodically check our bearings and confirm that we are on course. Sometime soon you may benefit from taking this personal inventory:

What are my highest priorities to be accomplished while on earth?

How do I use my discretionary time? Is some of it consistently applied to my highest priorities?

Is there anything I know I should not be doing? If so, I will repent and stop it now.

In a quiet moment write down your responses. Analyze them. Make any necessary adjustments.

Put first things first. Do the best you can while on earth to have an ideal family. To help you do that, ponder and apply the principles in the proclamation on the family. I testify that the Lord lives. He loves you. As you live worthily and honestly seek His help, He will guide and strengthen you to know His will and to be able to do it." (First Things First, 2001)

I am grateful that I had this experience, as unsettling as it was. I realize that I am in need of a tune-up. Time to refocus, time to discern that which is truly essential in my life and make sure that those things are prioritized every day. I don't want to become distracted by seemingly small things which, in the end, wind up taking me totally off the path I envision for myself and my family. Not to mention that next time I take my eyes off the road, I might not be so lucky.

“If you have not chosen the kingdom of God first, it will in the end make no difference what you have chosen instead.”

Bruce R. McKonkie

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Something Else


Have you ever backed yourself into a corner? Literally? One of my hobbies is to frequently rearrange the furniture in our home. I am constantly seeking the very best set up to ensure efficiency, beauty, and balance. Of course, such perfection always alludes me, so mostly I am left with something that is “OK” at best. Thus, whenever opportunity allows, I quickly move this piece or that piece, “just to see” how it will look or function in another, BETTER, location. (I have 12 of those little “moving men” things to assist me when no husband or teenagers are around and I'm pretty good and heaving dressers up and down the stairs, even when pregnant).

As you might imagine, this is very annoying to my family. But, as my optimistic husband says, life with me is never “boring.” (That's code for “you're nuts!) Well, the other day, I was innocently sliding a small sideboard (more of a dresser really) from its normal location in the front foyer, into a small alcove in the office where I was sure it would look nicer and provide some needed storage. Much to my dismay, the piece barely fit into the alcove, and in fact, quite pinned me into the corner as I tried to maneuver it. The space was small and unforgiving. For the first time in over sixteen years of furniture moving, I was absolutely backed into a corner. I considered calling for help, but Spencer is only two and Preston (ten months) was napping. There I sat, stewing, trying to figure out just how I got into that mess, and just how, without damaging walls or furniture, I was going to get out again. Anyone who knows me can guess that the metaphors started flying through my head. Why can't I leave well enough alone? Who really cares if there is perfect flow around here?

All this caused me to reflect upon Spencer"s recent favorite phrase. As two year olds are wont to do, Spencer has begun exerting his own will when it comes to choices. No longer is he content to silently accept whatever I offer him. But instead of wailing for what he does want , ala “I want a cookie! I want that truck! I want his shirt! I want to sit in that seat!” his typical response is one that I have never heard before, but one that haunts me. Whenever he is offered anything, he stares at me and says, “I want something else.” Hmm, then the games begin. I start picking up objects, “Do you want this bread?” “No, I want something else,” “Do you want this apple,” “No, I want something else.” Sometimes, he seems to have a vague idea of what he sort of wants and therefore, if you are not getting close with the “guessing” he escalates each request until he is screaming or bursts into tears because, clearly, you are not “getting it.” Other times he seems not to know what he wants at all, and continues to stare blankly while you parade past him all possible choices, only for him to royally dismiss them all.

Well, as I sat there, trapped by my own habitual discontent, I pondered. How very much like Spencer I am and how very annoying that must be to our loving and wise Heavenly Father. He offers us so much. He gives us so many opportunities for a beautiful life, but perhaps, in our ignorance, indecision or “spoiledness” we, like a two year old, want “something else.” Nothing is ever quite good enough for us. We are never quite satisfied, never content to “bloom where we're planted,” or to “make lemonade” out of lemons. As the parent of such an one, I realized how exhausting this must be to our Father in Heaven and how much more He would like to give and share with us, if we could only sit still and be content with what we've already received.

I determined that I was going to stop moving the furniture around so often. I decided that I was going to stop wishing that I were naturally thinner, etc., etc. I decided to go play with the Spencer. Maybe then he'll actually want ME to be his mommy and stop wishing for “something else.” (P.S. Once I made this determination, I magically slipped right out from behind the dresser. Perhaps Heavenly Father just wanted me “cornered” long enough to teach me a lesson!)

“For godliness with contentment is great gain.”

(1 Timothy 6:8)

Monday, February 1, 2010

My Best Shot

Last week, my ninth and youngest child received his "eighteen-months-old" round of immunization shots. That used to be a really big day for each of my children because it meant NO MORE SHOTS until they turned 5 and entered school (yipee!). This time, however, I actually forgot about it. So much so, that I didn't even make the appointment. I remembered 2 months late, so he was actually 20 months old.

This absent-mindedness took me by surprise. For a minute, I felt like a really bad mommy. What if he had contracted a fatal childhood disease during those two months? It would have been all my fault. I shuttered. It was only later that day that I realized on a deeper level what this experience actually signified for me.

While there in the doctor's office, waiting for the nurse to enter with her fateful needle, my mind raced back in time to my eldest son's immunizations. The first time there at the clinic in Berkeley, I was so terrified, I couldn't speak. I was immobile. Fear clutched my heart. My heart raced, my hands were clammy. I wondered if I were really doing the right thing. I knew he'd never understand the sudden, unprovoked pain. I knew he'd see my face in that painful moment. I knew he'd blame me and I couldn't explain how it was all done in love for his sake. I wanted to scoop my son out of the clutches of nurse Dakia (she had super long fingernails that curved around themselves, I'm not sure how she even wielded that needle, but she was very good at it), and run from the building screaming, "Mommy will save you!"

Everything happened in slow motion. I tried to look away and still brace him. I tried to prepare him for the inevitable, but I knew I could not. He had no idea what it would feel like until it happened, and then, he would never understand why it had happened. It broke my naive mommy heart.

When the deed was done, I was crying along with my son. I held him, we rocked and shook with tears, together. It seemed as if he cried for days afterwords. Anytime I looked at him, he seemed to communicate, "Traitor! Why???" (I was perhaps reading into this a little, since he was only two months old). I could not find peace.

After that, I made my husband take him to the clinic. I just didn't have the fortitude to watch my precious, blameless son be pricked and poked unwittingly. I cried at home just thinking about it. I felt so close to my Heavenly Father as I pondered His feelings for His Only Begotten Son, the spotless Lamb who was bruised, broken, torn for us.

My irrationality continued. Take choking for example. As a new mother, I freaked out whenever I perceived that the baby was choking. I would panic, kinda scream for John, then I'd overreact and grab the baby and start whacking him for dear life. Finally I'd throw the poor thing over my knees and do "baby heimlich" as I had been instructed in CPR certification class.

As time has gone on, however, I have learned many things (parenthood is a great classroom!).
For one thing, I have learned that most of the time, babies are not actually choking. If I give them 30 seconds, they can usually swallow or spit out the questionable food/item. It works itself out. Sometimes, mild effort on my part is needed, but I can do this quite calmly now. In fact, when children yell that there has been an emergency somewhere in my house, I usually ask, "Is there blood?" instead of moving obstacles with herculean strength and hurtling tall buildings to get there. Believe it or not, this attitude shift is progress for me.

I see that I have now gained perspective. I have learned that children need to be left alone sometimes to work out their own problems. They become stronger and wiser as they do. And I am less crazy (but only slightly).

Also I have learned that pain is sometimes necessary for growth. Sometimes even undeserved pain is necessary.

Recently I tuned into an NPR piece speaking of faith and science. The guests were two self-proclaimed atheists. They were married to each other, each were also scientists. They were highly intelligent, kindly people. When asked why they were atheists, the woman said something that I don't think I'll ever be able to forget. She said that when she was seventeen, her mother died of cancer. She decided then that there must not be a God. She decided that no loving parent type being could ever do that to their child. She reasoned, quite naturally, that no Father would take a sweet mother away from her three young children. This experience was too painful. Because of something so painful, something so beyond her understanding or control had happened in her life, her faith in God died too.

In that moment, I didn't hear an intelligent, reasonable scientist. I heard a scared, scarred little girl. I wanted to scoop her up and say "I'll heal you!" I wanted to share with her the amazing plan of salvation. I wanted to explain and testify of the all powerful Atonement. I wanted to hold her and let her cry on my shoulder. I wanted to tell her that God is real, that he is really her Father and that He knows and loves her. I wanted to tell her that her mother's suffering and death were of great meaning. I wanted to tell her that as her Father, God was always watching out for her and was sending her experiences and opportunities for great joy, peace and happiness if she would just trust Him and learn to ride the tidal wives that sometimes come into our lives. I then understood why I had forgotten to make the appointment. It was because, over these last eighteen years, I have learned this lesson. Shots have become not such a big deal to me anymore, because I understand why they are necessary and I understand that, like mortality, the pain is only temporary. Children emerge from the doctor's office a little stronger and a little more prepared (immune) against future attempts by the destroying angel. Instead of dreading that appointment, I hadn't even thought of it.
I further realized that day how much influence we have on our young children. They look to us to know how to respond to the world around them. Perhaps my other children have reacted so badly to shots, because I reacted so badly!! Now that I am so changed, my 20 month old hardly even flinched! I still had to hold him down and look reassuringly into his confused eyes. But this time, I smiled a real smile. He cried, but I hopped him up to standing, gave him a hug and kiss, told him it was over and it was all good! He looked at me, cocked his head, as if he really believed me! That was it. No more crying, nothing. We smiled together. I have never left the doctor's office without the shot-ee screaming. Not until that day last week. Wow. We've all changed a lot.

Now I realize, when the Lord sends trials my way, He is really saying, "I love you!" "I'm doing this for your growth and strength, for your good, even if you don't understand now." I trust Him, Who is mighty to save. Now, instead of fighting and flinching, I try more often to see it from my Father's perspective. I hope that when this life is over, I can honestly say, "I gave it my best shot!"

My son, apeace be unto thy soul; thine badversity and thine afflictions shall be but a csmall moment;
And then, if thou aendure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy bfoes.