That Time the Internet Taught Me a Lesson

Sometime earlier this morning…

I stare at my phone screen, inhaling my first morning dose of Facebook. As my thumb moves up the screen, a friend’s post (her name and picture properly grayed out here for privacy reasons…) comes into view:

internetlesson

I slightly turn my head to the side.

Hm…that graphic looks kind of familiar…

Hey, wait – it’s mine! I took the photo (in Joshua Tree National Park), selected the quote, played around with the text font and layout, uploaded the completed graphic to this website as well as to Pinterest…

Almost two years ago.

Lately, my activity here on Feast on the Word has been sporadic (to say the least). This is my first post since Christmas. The one right before I posted in August(!)

What can I say? Life happens. And my ten regular blog followers (and I’m probably rounding up here) didn’t complain about the lack of posts, so…no big deal.

And still, here my graphic shows up and from an unexpected angle punches me right in the face. First thing in the morning, too.

Granted, the words in my graphic were spoken by a prophet of God, not me. And it’s not like the graphic has gone viral like #thedress (which my eyes still tell me is white and gold, by the way).

But the Internet still taught me a lesson. And that lesson isn’t necessarily that Pinterest is a pretty powerful tool. Or even that what goes around comes around. The lesson, in a nutshell, is this:

You probably won’t know.

So far today, my fancy website statistics tell me I’ve had a whooping three visitors to my website today. Yes, three. And one of those three is yours truly. Yesterday, the statistics were a little better. Eleven visitors! The best in weeks, I’m sure.

So you probably won’t know.

You probably won’t know if the words of wisdom you offered to a friend years ago are inspiring a group of fifth graders in Cambodia today.

You probably won’t know if your kind compliment on a stranger’s laugh made her stop hating the sound of it.

You probably won’t know if a paragraph in your History 101 paper inspired your professor to finally get out of teaching and start her own cosmetics company (don’t worry, you got an A+ on that paper).

You probably won’t know.

I know. Not a particularly unique insight. Not even unique to me – I wrote a similar post here.

Still. Made me think a little about what messages I am sending out into the universe.

And wonder if the Internet wasn’t the only one trying to teach me a lesson.

A Glimpse of More

aglimpseofmore

 

Sunday church services.

Sometimes we are on time, or even early.

Most of the time, however, we are late.

I don’t know how it happens. Sure, our services start at nine in the morning, but as a general rule, our kids are early risers (too early, in my opinion…). Even with my husband away on morning church meetings, I should be able to get our two boys and myself there on time.

Maybe a black hole magically sucks away the minutes. Maybe the kids can sense we need to be somewhere at a certain time and therefore automatically go into slow motion mode. Maybe I don’t know what to wear (especially now while eight months pregnant).

This past Sunday, I thought for sure we’d make it on time. Almost, anyway. But then, as we were heading out the door, I realized we’d forgotten to pack toys for the kids.

Trust me, they need something to do.

Fun fact about me: when stress starts to bubble inside me for silly reasons – such as being late for church – my body and mind automatically stirs awake the temporarily slumbering stress I feel for less-silly reasons.

So that morning, my body wasn’t just reacting to the legos my (almost) four-year-old son were taking too long to pick up. It was experiencing the stress I feel over our living situation, my writing, my capabilities as a mother to what will soon be three boys, etc, etc, etc.

Plus: pregnancy hormones.

Okay, yes, maybe I am trying to justify what happened next, just a tiny bit.

And yes, I still feel bad about it.

Probably because I was stressing him out with my stress and hurry-words, my son abandoned his legos on the floor. We rushed into the car and zoomed out the driveway.

A few feet down the street, that same son tells me he hasn’t buckled his seatbelt yet.

While pulling over to the curb, I tell him to buckle himself in, sprinkling in some parental teachings about how he should always buckle his seatbelt as soon as he gets in the car.

Slight correction:

I don’t tell. I yell.

My stress levels may be spiking, but I’m not completely out of control. The yelling quickly stops and no abusive words are spoken.

But it’s enough. Enough to make my son erupt in tears, even if those tears only last for a few moments. He buckles his seatbelt, and we’re off again.

Stress – now compounded by fresh evidence of my failings as a mother – still makes my insides sizzle. I spend half of the drive deep breathing and mentally composing a text to my husband to come outside and pick up the kids. I have decided to skip church.

In the backseat, my youngest son is babbling/whining. The oldest…

He’s quiet. So quiet, it cuts me.

When I pull into the church parking lot, stress still simmers in my body and mind. My son still isn’t talking.

But even though he isn’t talking, his soul – so beautiful, so vulnerable – seems to speak to me.

And in that moment, I realize his soul means more than my stress.

With hugs and kisses, I beg his forgiveness. And pure child that he is, he freely grants it.

Then, with small hands in mine, I go to church, praying God will forgive me just as freely.

A great writer would now interpret this experience, translating it into a brief statement of supreme wisdom.

Unfortunately, I am not a great writer. Not yet, anyway. I am just…me.

Except, because of this experience, I catch a glimpse of more. A glimpse of me as more. A glimpse of more than me. A glimpse of more than now.

Despite my failings – and because of God’s mercy – there is more.

Ps. Full disclosure: this isn’t (remotely) the first time I yelled at my kids, nor will it be the last. Nor, I dare say, is it the last time we will be late for church.

3 Easy Ways to Get Into the Spirit of Easter

Easter

Something happened when my husband and I moved from Sweden to the US.

We basically stopped celebrating Easter.

Maybe it was because we no longer got any days off school or work during Easter week. Maybe it was because we didn’t yet have any kids to help turn our attention to Easter bunnies and egg hunts. Maybe it was because we were too lazy and cheap to make a traditional Swedish Easter dinner, or invest in some Easter decorations.

Whatever the reason, Easter passed us by every year, barely noticed and largely uncelebrated.

And that’s a bit sad. Not because we missed out on eating, decorating, and candy overdosing, but because we lost an opportunity. An opportunity to more deeply consider Christ’s suffering on our behalf, as well as His glorious Resurrection.

We probably won’t invest in Easter decorations this year either. We’ll do a small egg hunt for the kids, though, and maybe even throw together an Easter dish or two.

But most importantly, my husband and I plan to spend some time reading and thinking about the events that changed our world and eternity, and teach our two little boys about the infinite love of their Elder Brother, Jesus Christ.

The following suggestions on how to enrich your Easter experience do take some time and mind-share. But they require very little skill, creativity, or money, so I’m classifying them as easy! Hope they’re useful to you during this very special time of year.

3 Easy Ways to Get Into the Spirit of Easter:

1. Read about the original Easter events. This handy day-by-day study schedule should keep us all busy this week! And if you have some extra time, maybe you’d be interested in reading the Easter talk I gave in church last year. 

2. Watch videos about those same events. I’ve recommended the church’s Bible Videos series before, and this is a great time to watch several of the films related to Easter. Make sure to at least watch these videos about Christ’s suffering in Gethsemane, His Crucifixion, and His Resurrection. While you’re at it, jump over here to watch another beautiful video.

3. Thank Jesus Christ for His sacrifice. I’m considering placing a picture of my Savior on my bedside table to remind me to thank Him and Heavenly Father in prayer for their love and sacrifices for…well, little ol’ imperfect me.

If that’s not something for me to celebrate this week, I don’t know what is.

Praying for Personal Rain

personal rainI live in California and as you may know, our golden state is experiencing a severe drought. We’re in desperate need of rain.

This weekend, I joined thousands of people in praying and fasting for rain to fall on our parched piece of the country. And today, I woke up to the sound of water pitter-pattering against my window and slurping down my waterspouts.

Beautiful.

Actually, not really. I mean, I know how much we need the rain, but I am not a big fan of rainfall in itself. Maybe I would feel better about it if I had some awesome rain gear, but seeing as we don’t get that much rain around here even when we’re not suffering a drought, that investment just isn’t at the top of my list. So, when push comes to shove…

I don’t particularly like rain.

I don’t like how dark it gets inside our house when it rains. I don’t like how limited our little family’s outdoor activities become. I don’t like how tired and dreary I feel. I don’t like how my car window fogs up and how my car skids over puddles. I don’t like how water sneaks into my sneakers and makes the hems of my pants wet. (hems which I then step on with my already-sopping socks)

No, there’s plenty about rain that I don’t like.

Then again, I do like to drink water. I do like to eat food that desperately depends on water to grow. I do like to take showers.

Also, about 60% of my body is water, and I’d like to keep it that way.

In other words: I need rain.

So I pray for rain, and try to endure it when it splatters down upon me in all its wet but life-giving glory.

And I also get to thinking…what if, like rain for California, there are other things that I don’t particularly want or like but should still be praying and fasting for? Personal rain, even? Experiences, people, or things that will save me from an oncoming internal drought, or even pull me out from a current one?

Maybe my spiritual, mental, emotional, and even physical health is in desperate need of a hearty personal rainfall that I don’t want or like. For someone like me, who’d rather pray and fast for a seventy-degree blue-sky day with a smattering of wispy clouds to filter the sharpness of the sun, this thought is sobering. Especially because it makes me realize that spiritually speaking, a (to me) perfect day may not be what I need right now. (but, oh, how I want it!!)

I am still thinking about what personal rainfall to pray for (and if I dare pray for it). Maybe I will come to discover I’m already standing smack-dab in the middle of a downpour. Some days, it definitely feels like it.

But while I figure things out, I am determined to make the most of this California rain. By staying out of its way.

As it turns out, I do like to burrow into a warm blanket.

He Knows How You Feel

He Knows How You Feel

Through His glorious Atonement, Jesus Christ suffered for all of humankind’s sins and sorrows. He descended below us all so He could lift us up. (see e.g. Alma 7:12, D&C 88:6)

And for this half-man, half-god to truly become one with us, as the process of the Atonement required, He had to do the unthinkable:

He had to not only step into our proverbial shoes, but into our very skins.

He had to. How could He help lift our burdens if He didn’t understand us through and through? If He didn’t understand every facet of this thing we call human experience? The millions of thoughts and emotions, hormones and adrenaline that ebb and flow within us, that mix into an amalgam of something we can’t truly understand ourselves.

And the implications are mind-blowing:

He knows how you feel.

He knows how you feel when you’re the last person picked for a sports team. Again.

He knows what it’s like to find spinach in your teeth after an important presentation.

He knows how it feels to try so hard to be funny and outgoing at a gathering you’d rather skip for a quiet night at home, and later find out someone took one of your jokes as an insult.

He knows how you feel when you drop off your shy kid for his first day of school.

He knows how it feels to not know what else to do for your depressed spouse.

He knows the feeling of stepping into a room, sensing the people within have been talking about you. Negatively.

He knows how what it’s like to go to your billionth baby shower, knowing your body’s decided one will never be thrown for you.

He knows how you feel when you stare at your bank statement, wondering if you’ll ever be able to retire, or even stretch to the next paycheck.

He knows how you wish you could just take back that one night of I-just-don’t-care-anymore where you ruined everything.

Whatever you feel, Jesus Christ knows exactly what you feel because He felt it. And He hasn’t forgotten: you are graven into the palms of His hands. (Isaiah 49:16)

Not only does He know how you feel. He can help.

Turn to Him.

My First Guest Post!

Hagman_RainingKitchenfeast

Today, I am doing my first guest post ever over at Segullah! I’m really excited. And after seeing the pictures and title above, I’m sure you can’t stop yourself from skipping over there right away. =) Just click here. As always, thanks for reading!

How My Jealousy Taught Me a Lesson

jealousyWhen I learned the Deseret News picked up my friend Erica’s recent blog post, I was thrilled for her. I’m one of her biggest fans. I know how hard she works, and how important her words are.

I wish this story ended here. Instead, I have to (yet again) showcase my own stupidity to highlight God’s genius.

Speaking of God, it’s possible He was sending me a friendly reminder when I received an email notice about another blog’s most recent post. The topic: professional jealousy.

If I’d read that blog post right away, this story might have ended here.

But I didn’t.

Fine, I’ll just come out and say it:

I was jealous of my dear friend and fellow writer’s success.

Ugly thoughts slithered around in my mind and heart:

Why isn’t a major newspaper contacting me to publish one of my blog posts? People aren’t even liking or sharing mine on social media. And nobody comments on my posts, either. Everybody obviously hates what I have to say. And me!

And of course, the ugliness happily multiplied in my brain, like mold on old bread.

Why don’t I have any novels published yet? I don’t even have a literary agent! I’ve been writing for over FIVE YEARS, and what success do I have to show for it? Why am I getting up at 5 a.m. most days to write – averaging five or six hours of sleep when I need eight – all for NOTHING!?

At that moment, it didn’t matter much that I’ve had three short stories and a New Era article published. Nor that even though they all still need some revision, I’ve actually written five novels from beginning to end.

When you’re jealous of other people’s successes, it’s so easy to forget your own.

The story could have ended here, with me munching on all that moldy envy and self-pity. But luckily, I made a decision. A decision to crowd out my feelings of jealousy by instead pumping up the pride I felt over my friend’s success.

So this morning, I reposted her article on facebook again. It was the third time I’d done so, but this time I gushed more about her than I’d done the two other times. I wanted her to feel my support, support I felt whole-heartedly even if it was slightly green with jealousy.

Pay attention now, because this is where God’s genius enters.

Several hours later, one of my other friends reposted the article. She also quoted one of Erica’s lines, saying it was an answer to her prayers and something she needed to hear today.

Erica’s words had touched her.

And I had put those words on her newsfeed.

God doesn’t just warn us about jealousy because it reeks of ingratitude and robs us of happiness.

When we’re jealous of other people’s successes, we miss opportunities. Opportunities to be instruments in God’s hands. In my case, a small and stupid instrument, but still an instrument.

And how awesome is it to help bring to pass God’s successes?

PS: I’m so glad Erica was a part of this lesson, because she’s very supportive of my blog and novel writing. Thanks for your friendship, dear friend! I hope you visit Erica’s blog, Let Why Lead, and read more of her wonderful posts.

Talk to me: How do you combat thoughts and feelings of jealousy? Have you had an experience similar to mine?

5 Advantages to not Knowing the End from the Beginning

beginningendI’m not a big fan of uncertainty. In many instances, I would prefer to not only see the light at the end of the tunnel, but also the brand of the lamp, the wattage of the bulb, and the color of the wiring.

I recently finished the first draft of my latest novel. It’s the fifth novel I’ve gotten this far (I’ve started many others), but it might as well be the first. It’s still gut-wrenchingly hard work.

For me, writing a novel is a scary thing mostly because I don’t know if it’s all going to come together in the end. Or rather, I doubt my ability to create a worthy end product from my initial scraps of ideas. Even when I work from an outline, anything can happen on the road from the first to the last word. Which sounds kind of exciting now that I write it out, but for me “anything” often means plot holes, dead ends, and road signs with inscriptions like “you call this writing??

But as I finished that first draft, I realized something: uncertainly isn’t all bad. Here are a few reasons to, if not embrace uncertainty, then at least tolerate it.

5 Advantages to not Knowing the End from the Beginning

1. You may find pleasant surprises along the way. I usually start a novel with a rough outline of where it’s headed, but I’m always surprised on the road to “the end.” For the book I just wrote, I got goosebumps several times as my mind and spirit made connections I probably couldn’t have made before I put pen to paper. (or in my case, fingers on keyboard)

2. You won’t know about the unpleasant surprises waiting along the way. If you did, you might give up before you even get going, not believing you have the strength to overcome those obstacles that pop up even on the smoothest of roads. For example, I know how hard writing is, but don’t remember exactly how hard until I actually write. And it’s a good thing – otherwise I would probably scrap the project before starting it.

3. You can focus on the now instead of a distant point in the future. Learning to enjoy the present instead of always gazing to the future is surprisingly hard! I actually have trouble with this even when I accomplish an end goal. As soon as I finished my first draft, for example, I immediately started thinking of changes I needed to make, things I needed to add…I have yet to actually celebrate my accomplishment!

4. You may never get to the end. I hinted at this already, but it’s not only a daunting road that keeps us from doing what we need to do. If we knew everything was going to work out just fine in the end, we may not bother putting in much work.

5. You have a perfect opportunity to develop trust in God. If you are on His errand, He will help you accomplish what you need to accomplish. I am still learning to trust in Him, but without His help, I would have quit writing before I even started.

I probably still prefer to know all about the light at the end of the tunnels I pass through. But I take comfort in the knowledge that God has given me tunnels for a reason, and that he is the light at the end of all of them.

My name is Jehovah, and I know the end from the beginning;
therefore my hand shall be over thee. (Abraham 2:8)

5 Things I’m Grateful for Today

grateful

Research shows that counting your blessings can actually help you feel better. I am certain this is one reason God has commanded us over and over again to be grateful. As it says in Alma 34:38, we should “live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which [God] doth bestow upon [us].”

In an effort to live in thanksgiving daily, I thought I’d share some things I am thankful for today. Some of my points are more profound than others, but sometimes small things really do make a big difference!

5 Things I’m Grateful for Today:

  1. New windshield wipers that actually do their job well.
  2. People who think about a child’s love for airplanes when they clean out their sons’ old things. (Thank you – he loves his new toy!)
  3. That my 3yo sometimes actually says please and thank you without being reminded or told to. (it’s slowly sinking in!)
  4. Feeling safe in my own home. A staggering number of people who suffer from domestic abuse and civil unrest don’t have that luxury.
  5. People who are generous with their talents, time, and experience.

Huh. I think it’s working because I feel better already! =)

Tell us: What are some things you are grateful for today?