Life is one continuous trust fall.
Laughing or crying,
Eyes closed falling back,
Or leaping in faith
Into the Savior’s waiting arms.
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
If you have a pulse, it is highly likely that you have experienced challenges, loss, and even trauma at some point between the day you left the womb and now. If you haven’t there is a high likelihood that you are in a coma.
Howard W. Hunter, an international religious leader once explained, “There must be opposition in all things,” but why? Why, when most of us work diligently to do good things do we encounter barriers and how can they possibly be for our own good?
Many years ago I faced a challenge in a lifetime illness. At age 12, I was diagnosed with an inherited autoimmune disease, likely triggered by stress. The doctor explained that a simple daily medication would help me get through life. What he didn’t explain was the disease would cause weight gain, loss of energy, depression, hair loss, problems with my skin and nails. Those may not be big things to you, but to a young woman, they were massive. All I knew was that I struggled with symptoms no one else had. I didn’t understand why.
Later in life, the additional stress of being a survivor and a move back to my beloved coast triggered a downward spiral in my health. I began my wrestling match with a myriad of symptoms, which included gaining 40 pounds in a very few months while eating fewer and fewer calories and exercising more and more.
I began my wrestle. I had an invisible challenge like so many of us do. I recently became friends with a group of wonderful woman. We support each other’s effort to write and publish. As time passed we began to talk more honestly. Then one day, one of us confessed our lives weren’t perfect. We realized none of our lives were perfect, but they were also perfectly beautiful.
Guess what? No one has a perfect life. Some of us have serious struggles but spend our days caring for others, often with a smile on our face. If you think you are the only person who struggles with diet, addiction, or other invisible challenges you are not alone.
Sherry Dew, in her book, “Worth the Wrestle,” put it best when she said:
“Are you willing to engage in the wrestle? In an ongoing spiritual wrestle? If we want to grow spiritually, the Lord expects us to ask questions and seek answers.
We live in a sound-bite world where “tweets,” “likes,” “posts,” and “shares” have become the way we keep informed and share ideas. We are accustomed to expecting instant answers. But the most compelling questions in our lives rarely have quick, easy, Google answers. That is because receiving revelation and gaining knowledge, particularly divine knowledge, takes time.
It takes a wrestle.”
Nothing is ever a straight path. My life so far has been a series of hills with hidden valleys containing some pretty hefty challenges. The difference is, I know now, I am not alone. I am entitled to drop to my knees and get the answers I would never have come to on my own. And in my wrestle with survivorship, health, healing, family, love, finances, jobs, and the weeds in my garden I will be building muscle, spiritual and personal muscles.
I am not done wrestling and I don’t ever expect to be done. What I am done doing, is looking for an easy answer. I hope to continue to build my spiritual and physical muscles daily. The face you see in the video above is a full fifty or more pounds lighter, and healthier than before the struggle began. I wouldn’t trade the journey, the knowledge, my new friends, or my time on my knees for anything, even sugar and diet coke. I hope I can keep it up! But if I fail, I will wrestle some more.
Just remember, my answers will not be your answers. I am an author and feel compelled to write my feelings, what I learn, and ideas. The direction you choose and the mountains you climb are all yours. The good news is, you don’t have to go it alone.
So when all else fails, drop to your knees and wrestle.
Because change is so emotionally charged and can be so difficult, businesses everywhere practice something called change management. Simple but useful ways to roll out change which can work surprisingly well in the business of family and self-improvement.
Tips and tricks for managing change in your life (And the way I stumbled through mine!):
1. Clearly define your reasons for making a change. Make a list of why this change is important to you. A sense of urgency or importance can motivate us to follow through. For example, finding out you have high blood pressure or are close to a disease like diabetes can become your motivation for that diet you have always wanted to go on, but couldn’t quite walk past gelato.
In my life, I have had many motivators for change. Sometimes my motivations come from a sincere desire to improve myself and other times they come at me like a freight train and run me over, like finding out your husbands company is closing and you are going to have to change the way you pay your bills. Wherever the need comes from, what you chose to change and the direction you take is up to you.
2. Plan your strategy. Map out your change. You can either take it in big bites or little baby steps. Put in in writing and hang it somewhere you can revisit and rework it as you progress. If you are like me and use your phone or computer more than paper, make a note or calendar invites to remind you of the path you have chosen.
Be sure to include rewards in your plan. For example, if you decide you want to go back to school, plan a reward of a movie out with friends after you complete your enrollment forms. Then plan a weekend away after you pass your first finals. When I returned to school, with 5 kids at home, my finals reward was a night at the laundry mat to get caught up and I loved it.
3. Start by changing your environment. If you have decided it is time to diet, start by cleaning the ice-cream out of the freezer. Toss any temptation with vigor and remove barriers to your success. If you have decided to stop a major habit like smoking, but find hanging out with your friends leads to smoking with them, consider adding friends to your circle who don’t smoke.
In a positive way add what you need to your environment. Shop for healthy foods and buy those cute workout outfits you have always wanted. Big changes may require big reminders all around you. Small changes can start with baby steps. If you have clothes in 15 sizes and have successfully completed a diet, gift your clothes to someone in need and spend time rewarding yourself with a clean closet where workout clothes are always ready to go.
4. Build consensus. Sometimes together is better. Explain to your family and friends why this change is so important to you. Let your close friends in on your sense of urgency and ask them for support. Tell them specific ways they can help. For example, instead of saying to your husband, “Don’t buy Ice-cream.” Tell him ways he can support you like, “Let’s find all the healthy restaurants in town,” and, “Let’s take a healthy cooking class together.” Try to get buy-in.
This is a great time to investigate groups, classes, education, or anything that will help keep you focused and give you support. When I decided to spend the first month of my life without refined sugar, I joined a cleanse group. Not only were they knowledgeable, but they were fun! Our leader gave us information while we laughed at our struggles and supported each other. We even used acupuncture in a group and it was a hit! I will miss the group when it is over.
Ask for help. For example, if you have decided you want to start working out by walking every morning, enlist friends. It is a lot easier and safer to walk in the early morning hours in a group than it is to walk alone. And, if you know your friend is waiting for you on the corner, you are more likely to walk even when the weather is bad.
5. Remember balance. If you are planning to take something away, be sure to replace it with something healthy. For example, if you decide to give up midnight snacking, create a midnight bath and book routine to take the place of your friend chocolate.
7. Sustain and evaluate your change. Give yourself permission to care for yourself. When you choose to grow and improve, your children and hopefully your extended family will grow and learn by watching and supporting you. Any positive change can be good for others and is not time wasted. Map out ways to integrate your new found strengths into your daily life for the long haul. If you have lost weight, plan ways to sustain your new healthy lifestyle. If you have given up a bad habit, plan good habits to take their place.
If you fail, no problem! Revisit the need and make a new game plan. Sometimes we make a change, and we decide to change back. I remember in my twenties thinking I wanted to be on my own, but when I brought my first tiny baby home, I wanted my mother (At least for a few days).
8. Accept defeat as a learning experience. You are always better for having tried. I promise you have learned something. We all fail. I have lost count of the number of times I have failed. We had a standing family joke when I was growing up, “We will start that diet…Monday!” Diets may be an easy lift for you and feel insurmountable to others.
I remember my abject terror when I first approached a college campus, and I remember feeling like a failure when I had to step out of classes to care for my family. Life is ups and downs, but hopefully, the rolling hills will gradually raise you to where you want to be. And if not, my guess is your view during the journey will be spectacular. I personally feel the place I stand right now is just a pause on the journey. My struggles and hard work, coupled with my higher power has brought me to this place, and the view is spectacular.
Change is a risk. I hope your risk has great returns.
And the journey continues…
Storms roll into the Pacific Northwest Coast and change the beach, the trees, our world in minutes. I don’t know about you, but I love to watch a good storm. The power of the wind and water change rolling dunes to flat sand or new cliffs. Trees are tested, dead branches are torn from trunks, deep roots hold while others give way.
Today I ran the beach after the storm. Everything was wiped clean. Logs had been washed into the dunes and it was a new and different kind of beautiful.
Storms of all shapes and sizes roll through our lives, test our roots and strengthen us as we wrestle with the wind. Storms can change us in minutes. I think they can leave us a new kind of beautiful, molded by experience.
Isn’t it interesting that the creator of this world didn’t create manicured lawns with perfect white picket fences? He created majestic mountains, raging oceans, cascading waterfalls, frozen tundras, and storms. His creation is a work in progress. Storms still change it daily.
How many times have I stood looking in a mirror for an imperfection, a new wrinkle, a misplaced curl, signs of my storms? How many hours have I wasted angry at the storm?
Today, I worked on embracing all my imperfections as visible signs of the storms in my life. I believe in goals and choosing the direction of my journey, but I also believe in having compassion for myself.
I may have been broken by storms, shaped into someone new, changed forever, but I like what I have become. I am a testimony of endurance. One more day, I choose to lean into the wind and journey on.
Thank you to everyone who nominated Safe House for a Whitney Award! Wondering what a Whitney Award is? Look HERE. And yes- it is for my book! I am so relieved you can’t see my dance of joy! What a gift it is to have you all in my life. I love every person I have met on this journey including Cedar Fort staff, the critics, the other authors, bookstore family, and bloggers.
Okay, there is another Safe House, which came out later by everyone’s favorite author, but she is nominated too! Wouldn’t it be fun to actually make it to the finals and sit together? I would lean over and say, “Hey, nice title,” real smooth and casual like I wasn’t jumping out of my skin to be at the Whitney Awards by Traci Abramson. Then I would say, “So, I hear we share a shelf at Deseret Book.” Do you think she would sign my copy of her book?
Well… a nomination is just the first step. It is such an honor to even be listed. To be in the same room as the people I read and respect would be like Christmas times ten!
This is the happiest photo I own. This is my face one second after finding Safe House in the Deseret Book Catalog. Trust me – you don’t want me to video my dance of joy!
P.S. Sunday is my birthday. This was the best gift! But if you feel like it, visit my Operation Underground Railroad donation site and donate. A small portion of the proceeds from Safe House will go to O.U.R.
This 2018 I thought I might actually make a video for you WITH my makeup on and NOT after running 3 miles! Still breathless!
I love visiting at book signings. I can promise you if you struggled with anything in 2017 you weren’t alone. I heard a few statistics this year. Don’t ask me to tell you where….but I heard half of all adults under 35 live with their parents, like my kids. I know 1 in 3 women and 1 in 7 men experience domestic abuse. I also know the statistic that says 1 in 3 women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime is only for those who report. I hear from more who never, ever told a soul.
But there is still reason to be happy in 2018. We have so much to be grateful for! This video includes my recipe for joy.
Hope. Don’t give up hope. You may feel alone or overwhelmed. You may or may not believe in a higher power or that God has a plan for you. If you’re not sure, just take a good look at me. I live in the middle of nowhere on the edge of the continent in an old money pit and you and I are chatting. I believe there is a God and a plan for you and me. Every day I look for something to be grateful for. I will often share my gratitude list online. In the process of hunting for reasons to be grateful, I have become keenly aware of the miracles that surround me.
Last year, I decided in December to find a way to volunteer and give to Operation Underground Railroad. At the same time, my sister became critically ill. I drove from Oregon to Utah to spend as much time as I could with her during her last moments. While there, someone from Operation Underground Railroad actually reached out to me and I was able to donate a book to a Utah event. We got to talking, and it turned out we had a friend from my small Seaside town in common. It becomes a small world when you start to recognize Heaven’s pattern.
Healing. After years of research, the C.D.C. announced at a national sexual assault conference and training I attended that we have “neuroplasticity” and the ability to heal. The best way to heal is to choose a list of healthy self-soothing activities and turn to them when we have anxiety, are overwhelmed by memories, or need comfort following a traumatic event. Anything that makes you feel better and is good for you works to rewire your brain to turn to healthy soothing methods in times of stress instead of addiction. For example, I take a short run regularly and write to soothe myself, find time to think and make sense of my world. For me, it’s run or turn to chocolate and peanut butter.
Helping. Reaching out and helping someone who may be struggling with something you understand or have experienced is a great way to heal if you are able to keep healthy boundaries. When you are ready, seek ways to volunteer, donate or just be kind to others in need. A pot of soup may be nothing to you and everything to someone else.
As a survivor, I never want anyone to feel as confused, lost, or absolutely overwhelmed as I did. I will always seek to make other survivors experiences better. The sooner someone is helped following trauma, homelessness, job loss, or other life crisis the sooner they will return to as normal a life as possible.
Giving to others can keep you really busy! Serving others reminds me daily how blessed I really am. You may be the one who needs to be served like I once was. Even in the worst times, there are ways to give back.
Over the years my little family of 8, now 8 plus spouses and 9 grandkids have lived in a little town called Seaside about a block from the Pacific Ocean. When the sun shines, family visits us, coming in and out like the tide. Then in winter snowy mountain passes keep visitors away.
I want to share some of our Seaside Christmas traditions with you. As a young mother, I wanted my kids to have great Christmas memories and so I chose a few traditions we have maintained over the years. These silly traditions are now part of the glue that brings us back together each year.
Christmas pajamas from the elves is a tradition I borrowed from my belove Aunt Joann Sappenfield. On Christmas Eve the elves “magically” deliver new pajamas to the kids. They put them in their stockings. This is a brilliant tradition for two important reasons.
Early in the morning on Christmas Eve I sneak downstairs and set up 4 or 5 little tables around the house. I decorate them all with bright Christmas colors. I make a batch of cinnamon rolls and keep them on the kitchen table.
The gift to my kids is a whole day and a half without me telling them what to eat or when to eat. The gift to me is letting go. Paper everything and no dishes. The house is ready for friends to stop by and the kids all get their favorites.
Simmer for 20 min – place in crock pot on warm with floating orange slices
On Christmas Eve we open the packages from Grandma Bev and Granpa Jeff, but not before we are grateful. Annually, we dress up in sheets, towels, and wings to act out the Nativity. I wish I could say I sewed amazing costumes, or that we sang in harmony, but this is a Seaside Christmas and we spend our money on wetsuits and kayaks – not costumes.
As the years passed, everyone settled into their roles. Now new generations join in and we have to get creative. A few years ago I heard one of the kids tell the missionaries who were celebrating with us, the only role left was a donkey. And so she rode him around with her doll as Baby Jesus.
The Symonds are a silly bunch, who laugh a lot when they are together. However, year after year, even the toughest of the Symonds can’t help but feel the spirit when we read the Nativity. Even if we wear old sheets and towels. It truly is the greatest story ever told and our testimony brings the brightest spirit to our paupers play.
After our first meager and difficult Christmas, when all the toys were brought by someone else, I realized what a great blessing it was to have Christmas at all. We began my favorite tradition. The toys and packages left on Christmas all say, “From Blessings.” Even though we let the kids believe in Santa, we could never take credit for a single gift under the tree or give the credit to Santa. We recognize where our blessings come from and in our house, Santa does too.
Before we open a single gift Christmas morning we have a prayer of gratitude.
I don’t want you to think we are perfect. We are most definitely not. Over the years some of our little family has had their own struggles. Some go to church and a few choose not to. But they have all told me they recognize their blessings. I am grateful we have kept this tradition. It may not seem like much, but it is my favorite. It is a sweet moment in the midst of holiday chaos.
When we were a new family, we weren’t able to buy many gifts. This tradition began as a way to make the moment seem a little sweeter. One person wears the elf hat and passes out the packages one at a time in order of age, youngest to oldest. The bonus to this tradition is I can actually see what all 6 kids and their kids think of their gift and take a few pictures!
We don’t have a lot, and yet every year we manage to find a small way to serve. This year we are focused on the light the world campaign. I have shared a few giving traditions. But the best gifts, are given in secret. #lighttheworld
When the Heart Calls (A great sappy show!)
I am donating to Operation Underground Railroad because I heard Tim Ballard, the CEO speak and I knew he was a good man doing great things for children. And let’s face it, I believe i have proven I am a, “kid horder.” Six kids was not enough!
This Christmas give gifts with a deeper meaning. When you purchase from the O.U.R. catalog funds go to end sex trafficking and save children. Learn more HERE.
What is your favorite way to serve at Christmas? How many secret Santa/Angel missions have you pulled off? This year our church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, invites you to do MORE! Learn more about the “Light Up The World Campaign” Here.
We had the gift of being near enough to Leavenworth Washington to finally stop and see the Christmas lights in the beautiful Bavarian town. I wondered why so many of us love the lights at Christmas. And then I remembered, Heavenly Father used light, a single star to announce the birth of his precious son.
This Christmas be the light. Light up the world the way the Savior did, with personal service to others. How will you light up the world? Please comment with ideas. I need them!
I will be donating a few of my signed personal copies of Safe House to Operation Underground Railroad for a Holiday Catalog giveaway. I am already donating a small portion of the proceeds from every single copy of Safe House sold to O.U.R. to end sex trafficking. Shop the Catalog and donate HERE.
Please! Send me ideas. Let’s light up this world!
Do you watch endless Hallmark Christmas movies and feel more people of Walmart? I do. Do you feel like everyone is in love but you? Do you wonder how everyone else does it as you sweep up more dog hair than the dog is wearing, and the cat knocks the tree over for the third time? Does your gingerbread house look like a gingerbread ghetto? Does everyone have their lights up before you? If so, you and I should be best friends!
Christmas, Bountiful Utah, the year is %$ AD or (Not telling because it will date me) After Divorce. My ex-husband had just bought all five children very loud musical instruments, toys that required batteries and assembly with no less than 1 million moving parts. My mother was taking video #nofilter and no way to disguise my sleepless life. I was dating someone new, but neither of us had a Christmas budget. All the packages were coming from my sweet mom and dad.
Imagine my kids’ joy when they opened their new coats, hats, gloves, and boots. Wrong! And we caught all the complaining on film. Even though it was one of the worst winters on record and snow was as high as my mother’s eaves, they were not thrilled. My 3 and 5-year-old sons had grown so much they couldn’t zip their leather bomber jackets, but still cried when I said it was time to give their old coats up.
We decided to put the new coats on, load the kids in our VW Van and go to see the lights on Temple Square in Salt Lake City. The kids were crying and I was the Queen of this particular pity party! I had been feeling sorry for myself all day.
As we drove to Temple square the radio reported that local homeless shelters were overflowing due to the extremely cold weather. There was a shortage of blankets and coats. Anyone having coats or blankets to donate should go to the shelter and drop them off as soon as possible. It was a crisis.
We just happened to be an exit away from one of the shelters. We pulled off the freeway through mountains of snow and chugged into an icy parking lot. The shelter looked like a refurbished grocery store with automatic sliding doors. People were in line behind the glass doors.
We parked and the kids began piling out of the van, while I gathered their old coats. My kids were crying and complaining. The boys were refusing to let go of their old jackets when the glass doors slid open and a man pushing a shopping cart came out.
The man’s clothes looked paper thin for the freezing winter weather. We all froze. Startled at the gaunt figure. The cart was full of layers of newspaper and I wondered if he was going to use them to pad his clothing.
“They’re full!” he called to us as he came closer. “But don’t worry, there is a Christmas dinner being served at the freeway underpass and I will find you a place to keep warm.” I was shocked. There he was with nothing in the world but a shopping cart full of paper and he was taking care of us!
“It’s ok.” I stammered. “We are just bringing coats to donate.”
He smiled and said, “Kids! Look! Coats!” The papers fell away and two small children in torn, dirty t-shirts emerged. My heart broke and all I could do was hold out the coat in my hand. Meanwhile, silently, my kids began throwing in the leather bomber jacket, all the other coats, their new gloves, and their new hats.
The kids in the cart will forever be burned into my memory and heart. Joyfully they celebrated as they put on the coats and hats. “Merry Christmas!” Their father called as he wheeled them over the icy ground towards the freeway. And suddenly I knew. I knew no matter how bad my life was, there was always something I could do for someone else.
There will always be someone in more need than me and some way for me to forget myself and see angels among us like this sweet man. This man, who had nothing, and yet was ready to take care of all of us.
I did stink! I had been indulging in self-pity when all around me were opportunities to love others. The Savior was born on Christmas day to a circumstance as humble as this man and yet we celebrate that birth and look to that small baby in a manger to save all of mankind.
Christmas. The first Christmas was never about getting. It was always about giving. The message that changed the world and caused the angels in Heaven to sing was one of love and hope for all mankind, even you and me. Even when we stink just a little.
Here is a Thanksgiving message from Elliott. He grew up to smile and can’t wait for Christmas Day.