Adversity and Unifying the Family

Back when all my kids still lived at home:

Journal Entry 2008:

Tonight was our weekly family night, an evening set aside to spend time with the kids and improve our family relationships through activities and instruction. However, more often than we’d like, it’s actually the only family argument to open and close with prayer (as songwriter Michael Mclean once lamented). Nevertheless, we persist. We trust that the habit alone serves as an adhesive to help our kids feel like they belong to something important as they grow and prepare to face the world on their own.

Tonight was contentious, probably because of me. Honestly, I didn’t feel like “playing.” I was in an emotional slump and my head ached (a Law of Rhythm thing methinks). But because it has long been established as a weekly tradition, my kids began asking me what we were going to be doing that evening. Trying to brush the topic aside until I could rest my headache away, my answer was simply, “I just don’t know yet.”

My 12 year-old Nathan begged me to take them to the park for dodge ball, a family favorite. My 15 year-old Jacob had too much homework so we compromised and played some in the back yard with him first. Then he was back to the books and the rest of us headed off to the park for some more serious battles.

I loosened up, forgot my headache. Eventually I got off the swing set with the baby and began playing dodge ball, too. Holding the baby helped; the family was gentle when tossing it in my direction, and I won at least one of the rounds. There was still the usual sibling-to-sibling bickering, but I believe everyone had plenty of fun.

Finally it was time to go home. We gathered to the van and Trevan (my husband) realized that the keys had been locked inside. Nathan suggested we call Jacob to drive them over. But our other set of keys had already disappeared months ago, and since we never needed the second set, we had never bothered with finding or replacing it.

Besides, Jacob isn’t old enough to drive.

Trevan suggested we say a prayer. We huddled together and he asked God to allow the door to somehow be unlocked so that we wouldn’t have to walk the mile home. Then he said,

“But if not, help us to enjoy the walk.”

The front passenger window was cracked about 2 1/2 inches. First we tried to see if any of the kids’ arms were skinny enough and long enough to reach the door lock.

No good.

Through the front window we could see, resting in front of a couple books on the dash, a mechanic’s wire claw (about two feet long, used for grabbing little things that get dropped inside an engine). I asked Trevan where the keys were and he said they were in the passenger cup holder in the center console. I asked if he thought that the wire grabber would be long enough to reach them, but it looked pretty short compared to the distance between the cracked window and the center console.

It was the only possible option at that point, so even though it was a long-shot remedy, we got to work trying to obtain that claw.

None of us could reach it through the narrow window crack. Kayli suggested we use one of the badminton rackets that we had brought with us. We first tried to use the racket to pull the lock up (to no avail – wrong angle). Then we tried to use it to bring the claw closer, but there was a thick “Jane Eyre” book on the dash blocking it.

The window opening was about 2.5 inches wide along the top, but only about 1.5 inches wide at the lower front gap (the part closest to the dash where the claw rested). Trevan force-pulled the window down to give me an additional 1/2 inch or so, and although I couldn’t reach the claw, I realized I could reach the fuzzy dash cover upon which the books and the claw sat. So I grabbed the cover and pulled it toward me until the claw was within reach.

Next we had to use the claw to reach the keys. But no matter who tried, the closest we could get to the cup holder with that claw was at best 4 inches. We were SO CLOSE! How can we have so much success getting this far only to have our efforts fail now?

There had to be a way.

Trevan discovered that if a person could be lifted higher than the van, their arm could get into the window opening a little better and reach a little farther. But there wasn’t anything to stand on except the wheel, two feet in front of where we needed to be.

After Trevan tried and then Nathan, I took a turn standing on the wheel, leaning 45 degrees onto Trevan and squeezing my arm into the narrow gap. Nathan supported me from behind so I wouldn’t fall backwards off of Trevan’s shoulder. Simultaneously, Trevan force-pulled the window down just enough for me to get my forearm in. Then, miraculously my elbow passed through. I managed to hook the keyring with the claw and began to pull them out. At one scary moment it felt like my arm might break before I had the chance to completely extract the claw and keys. Carefully maneuvering my arm and shoulder while leaning at that unnatural angle, I managed to pull them out.

After a round of “high-fives” we paused to give thanks, and then took a moment to help the kids see an important lesson in the experience:

Everything we needed was already there. We simply had to ask for help, and then get to work putting it all together in the right order.

The same is true in life. You already have all you need – the resources, the people, the brains – you just need to begin utilizing them in the right combination and in the right order. It can be hard, I know! It’s easy to feel blind to the solution. The good news is that as you make an attempt, every failure will lead you to think of the next idea, one after the other until you find the solution.

Just remember that it never helps to fret and fuss, moan and complain. Solutions are best (and sometimes ONLY) discovered by the person who is at peace, expectant, hopeful, and tenacious.

So ask God for what you need, and be willing to accept “no” for an answer (“but if not, help us to enjoy the walk.”) Then get to work finding the way to make your goal a reality. You might not yet have the keys you need to go where you want to go, but you do already have everything you need to begin the process of obtaining them.

And sometimes the solution only becomes apparent after a series of frustrating attempts. So keep trying!

If we had truly exhausted all possibilities without success, we would we have eventually tightened our shoelaces and started home on foot. I’m just glad we didn’t have to. In any case, I believe our family night was a success because we were unified for a common purpose (if only for 20-30 minutes), and it only happened because we first had adversity. (Law of Polarity)

And you know what? Solving the problem as a family turned out to be ten times more gratifying than the best game of dodgeball could ever be. Originally published April 8, 2008

For more about the laws of success, click here to read Hidden Treasures (free!)

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Surviving a Faith Crisis

I had my own faith crisis a few years ago.

When I found myself with more questions than I had answers, I felt like the earth had fallen out from beneath my feet for a time. But then ultimately I decided to focus and reflect back on some of the answers I had already received in my life, and by doing so, I began to more easily recognize the source of my confusion.

I got through my crisis by looking back and reflecting on the times when the Lord’s guidance was clear and the answers were sure. To be honest, they were few. I was reminded of how quiet, but piercing, unmistakable and true His answers were – something that cannot be duplicated by anything else – and the memory of it was enough to get me through another day.

It was different than a feeling of “wow,” “amazing,” or “empowerment,” “love,” and “light”. Those feel good and expand my soul, and I’d prefer to only feel those things.

But this was deeper than that. It was more like a sobering Alma 36 moment – like the jolt you feel when you suddenly realize you nearly fell asleep at the wheel with your family in the car.

God doesn’t ONLY deliver love and light. Sometimes out of love he also delivers uncomfortable wake-up calls. The God I follow does both, and so I have to be willing to receive both.

Did you know there are other ‘gods’ that would have our devotion? I’m not talking about ‘materialism’ or other worldly distractions, I’m talking about literal spirit beings who love to build their following of worshippers, but who did not CREATE us.

At one time I felt a sharp reprimand – the words delivered to a crowd, but striking me with particular force, “Return to the God of Israel.” It was an odd thought, but it certainly got my attention – I didn’t know I had left. I never intended to, and I didn’t think I had, but it definitely got me thinking and discerning more carefully. Before that, it never dawned on me that there were other so-called ‘gods’ competing for my attention, but there are. Not all promptings that make you feel good and light are from the one true God. Other ‘gods’ promise to lead you to a life of love and freedom, but only One will deliver on his eternal promises, and His is a straight and narrow path.

I had to make a choice and finally declared, “I could be wrong here, but here it is. I CHOOSE to believe.”

Regardless of what we know or don’t know, we have a CHOICE. And I chose to believe.

Afterward I felt a renewed and unexpected confirmation of peace. Unmistakable. Love, light, assurance, all of it. Even “wow”, “amazing”, and “empowerment”. The best feeling, though, was the PEACE – a peace that no other feeling can touch. It’s not grand. It’s not earth shattering. It’s too quiet, too deep, too solid, too sacred. It’s anchoring. But it only came AFTER I made my conscious choice, not before. That’s agency.

That’s the test: we have to study things out in our own mind, come to a conclusion, and then ask God (not Google, not Facebook) if we are right. There are wonderful answers online, but the only kinds of answers that endure faith crises are the ones that come directly from God. (James 1:5)

I don’t need people at church to be a certain way. I don’t even need the sermons at church to say a certain thing, because I can always learn and study true doctrine on my own. People are imperfect and get it wrong all the time. But they get it right a lot of the time, too. They’re trying, and there’s grace. We’re all just doing the best we can.

My relationship with God is personal. I feel that He still wants me there. I go to worship, serve, learn, teach, and most importantly, renew my covenants. Covenants with God are as old as the earth. I wouldn’t dare presume that we’ve evolved so much as a people that they don’t still matter in 2017. There is at least one very real and jealous influence that would love to make us believe otherwise, but the potential consequences of letting go (to me) just aren’t worth the risk.

I trust the Lord’s pace for my understanding.

I choose to stay, and I am at Peace.

“When problems arise and questions come, do not start your quest for faith by saying how much you don’t have… I’m not asking you to pretend to faith you do not have. I am asking you to be true to the faith you do have. Sometimes we act as if an honest declaration of doubt is a higher manifestation of moral courage than is an honest declaration of faith. It is not!”

“Honestly acknowledge your questions and concerns, but first and forever fan the flame of your faith, because all things are possible to them that believe. Be candid about your questions; life is full of them. But please don’t hyperventilate if issues arise that need to be examined. What we know will always trump what we don’t know. So don’t let questions stand in the way of faith working its miracle.”

~ Jeffrey R. Holland (emphasis added)

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