Friday, December 29, 2017

Children of Divorce

Hayley came home the other day and was jealous because a friend of hers had gotten special attention from their teacher.

I'd like to say that 9 is the "age of jealousy" but Hayley has struggled with this her whole life.

Jealousy is such a hard feeling.

I remember being a kid and celebrating my older sister's birthday one year. She was unwrapping presents and opened something that I had been asking for.

So of course, I lost my ever-loving mind! Right there in the middle of her party. I made a huge scene and I'm pretty sure I spent the rest of the party in my room.

And two months later, when my birthday came around, I unwrapped the same gift and sheepishly thanked my parents.

Because what I hadn't known two months prior was that they had bought us both that present but planned to give it to us on our respective birthdays.

Quite honestly, I'm surprised they still chose to give it to me after that episode...

Anyway, as I was listening to Hayley complain and feel hurt that she hadn't gotten any special attention, she gave me the name of the other child and I immediately knew why this girl had gotten that special attention.

And then Hayley yelled, "And it was all because her parents are getting divorced! MY parents are divorced too!!!"

Sigh...

And so I sat down with my sweet and sour little girl and we had a conversation about how divorce affects children, especially in those painful beginning stages.

I explained that four years ago when her dad and I were getting divorced, she got to move her desk to be right next to her Kindergarten teacher. Also during this time, I took her on numerous extra special date nights. And my parents and siblings and friends poured extra time into my children's lives.
And although those things were the most important, my kids were also showered with extra gifts during this time to help them feel loved and remembered.

And then she turned the conversation more personal and asked me why we got divorced---a question I have answered for her many times but that does not make sense to her still.

I think that's why she keeps asking even though she gets some kind of answer every time. 
I have never shied away from this question but I also only answer what is appropriate for her age and understanding.

So we went over it again. How people have their agency and we cannot force them to stay. How sometimes people make decisions that hurt others even when they don't mean to. How these same people can be good, loving people.

I explained that hurt people hurt people. 

And her response to this was, "Well I never hurt anyone when you guys were getting divorced." 

Which wasn't true. 

Because sometimes when you are the safe person, you are the person who takes the brunt of a child's confusing anger and instability.

And I was that person for my kids. 

The instability that Hayley was feeling when she was 5 was very real and scary for her and she would often lose her temper and tell me she hated me and kick me and smack me. And usually, these tantrums would end with us both laying in her bed and me promising that I'd always be there for her.

Of course, as I told her this, she began apologizing for her 5-year-old behavior. And then she asked me why I didn't get angry and hurt her back.

And so I explained that when you love someone as much as I love her, often times you can see beneath their reactions. So when she would kick me, I knew she was reacting to her scared feelings. And I knew what she needed was a mom who would prove to her that I wasn't going anywhere, no matter how many times she screamed.

Sometimes I felt like Hayley was testing me during this time, like she was testing to see what the boundary was where my love for her stopped.

And I'd like to think that I proved myself throughout that first year. I hope I proved to her that nothing can change how much I love her.


This conversation ended like most of them do---I laid next to her in her bed and promised her that I would always be there for her.

But as I sat on her bed and watched her fall asleep, I kept replaying all of the ways that divorce has affected my children.

---Anxiety. The confusion of waking up one day and one parent just being gone. I can't even imagine being 5 and having this happen and trying to make sense of it. Because before August 24th, 2013, I don't believe my children had ever considered their parents NOT living in the same home.
This confusion created anger and sadness and instability. It created attachment anxiety and my kids needing constant affirmation that I wasn't going anywhere. Andersen started to have pretty bad anxiety during our divorce and reverted back to a lot of 'baby behaviors'. He still can be pretty clingy at times and we often lay his schedule out ahead of time so he knows where he is going and what he is doing.

---The negative impacts on extracurricular activities. Scheduling Hayley's dance stuff can be really stressful for me and in turn, she gets stressed out sometimes. There are times she accidentally leaves a dance outfit or dance shoes at her dad's house and we can't go get it before it is needed. Andersen also goes through this when his soccer games are every weekend and he switches houses every weekend so we have to make sure everything is ready to go days ahead of time so he is packed and won't be missing anything.

---Heartache when interacting with children of NON-divorced parents. Sometimes my kids come home from a friends house or from church and they seem to have this reoccurring realization that most families aren't like ours. Most families have a mom and a dad who live at home and go to church together with their children and attend activities together. And every once in a while, my kids will get sad about this realization and will experience a range of emotions that are hard to feel.

---The worry that they are going to lose more family members. This rides alongside the attachment anxiety. My kids used to ask me questions like, "Is grandma going to leave the family?" "Will my cousins always be my cousins?" "When you get remarried, do we still get to see our dad?", etc. because to them, these are valid concerns. If one person can just move out of the house they've always shared, what stops other people from leaving?

---Guilt. My kids have struggled with feeling guilty. This one especially affects Hayley. She is always concerned about her dad's and my feelings. She will retract a sentence if she thinks I'll interpret it as her loving her dad more than me or vice versa. We work on this a lot because I want her to know she can love us both and that saying something good about one of us does not negate her love for the other person.

For me, the hardest part of divorce has been not being able to take away the pain my kids feel. It is so hard to watch your children experience really difficult emotions and not be able to take that from them.

But the good news is that they can still live amazing lives. We can support them and listen to them and show up when they need us.

I don't quite understand what my children have gone through because I did not grow up in the same environment they are but I believe that if I continue to be there and love them and give them as much stability as I'm able to, they will be ok.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Me Too


You can tell her eyes are blue, even in a black and white picture.

But can you see her kindness? Her intelligence? Her compassion for others?

No. Because those are not things you can tell just by staring at her face. Those are things that come from within her soul.

She is my world and I plan on teaching her all of the beauty and heartache she may experience, being born a female in this world.

I worry about her because she will not grow up in the same world I did.

She will grow up in a world more perverted with sex and pornography being normalized.

And so I will start younger than my mother had to with me. I will make sure she knows that her worth is not based upon a number on a scale or a bra size or the shape of her face or the color of her eyes.

Because what I want more than anything is for her experiences to be different than mine, better than mine. I want her to have the self-esteem to say no and the knowledge to keep herself safe.

But it's sad that I even have to teach her these things. It's sad that we have to worry about safety and that we have to teach self-worth over and over again and hope it sticks.

***
Me too.
***

These are words you've most likely seen.

They've been on your Facebook news feed or you've seen them in articles recently.

After reading why my friends were posting this as their status, I knew I needed to join their voices.

I posted the status that I did for so many reasons. 

In high school, I had pretty low self-esteem. Attention from boys was my number one concern. And because of this, for the first three years of high school, I didn't say no when I felt uncomfortable. Luckily for me, the situations this placed me in were not as bad as they could've been but that doesn't mean they were non-existent.

And as a senior in high school, as my self-esteem started to rise a little, I said no for the first time that I can distinctly remember.  

I was sitting alone in a basement with a guy who I thought was my close friend. After a few minutes of talking, he leaned in and tried to kiss me but I pulled away and laughed a little. And then he tried it again {because that's apparently normal?!} and I verbally said, "No." but in a really kind voice. AND WHEN HE TRIED A THIRD TIME, I got pretty angry and fiery and I shoved him away and yelled, "No!" in his face, before running upstairs to be with the rest of our friends.

This rocked me for a while because I didn't understand why my polite "no" had been ignored. I didn't understand why it took me yelling at him and physically moving him for him to stop trying.

He was my friend. And I had trusted him before that moment.

And he betrayed that trust.

As an adult, I am so proud of 18-year-old Suzanne for shoving him away. I hope he learned as much from that experience as I did.

Sadly, what I learned is that I'm not always heard. I learned that sometimes the giggly "no" registers to the other person as "Not unless you work a little harder for it".

I didn't want him to work harder. I wanted him to stop. And he misread that---except it shouldn't have been misread. 

Because I used the word NO.

This was not the first time and it wouldn't be the last. But it was the most significant one in my memory.

Aside from this experience, I can remember a time in my life when I used to walk the 2-3 miles it took to get to work because I wanted to save money and get some exercise for my upcoming wedding. I remember how often a car would drive by and men would whistle in my direction or try to talk to me and I would ignore them.

I stopped walking because of how uncomfortable it made me.

They were never men my age. Always, always older. And I hated it so much that older men would find that appropriate or funny.

Because it wasn't.

So the "me too" campaign is personal. And I think it's something the majority of us can relate to.

We all want to be seen for more than what is on the outside.

I guess my hope is that we change.
My hope is that we continue to take a stand and say, "That's not right!" when we are put in positions that are uncomfortable and inappropriate.

Because I want better for the world my children are growing up in.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Christmas After Divorce

Christmas has always been my very favorite holiday---second only to my own birthday and my children's birthdays.

I love giving gifts.
I love how the world just seems brighter in December.
I love how religion gets simpler and the majority of religions focus on the same thing---the birth of our Savior.

It's a beautiful time of year.

But then you throw divorce into the equation and some of the Christmastime beauty is tarnished.

It just is.

Because after divorce, you have to give up part of your holiday time with your own children.

And that is the worst feeling.

I used to have this irrational picture in my head of us still spending Christmases together to give ourselves and our kids a sense of normalcy. But that wasn't well received and then I felt crazy for even bringing it up.

And it doesn't matter how many Christmases pass---I don't think I'll ever get used to it.
Maybe it'll be easier if I ever remarry and am not completely alone.
Or maybe when my kids get older, it'll be easier.

But because I have two littles who still believe in Santa and the magic of Christmas, it's hard to give them up.


A few days ago, I found out I won't get to see my kids on Christmas. And I found out there was nothing I could do about that decision.

And I'm a little angry but mostly heartbroken because I didn't have time to prepare myself for that. Three weeks isn't long enough---I swear, it isn't---to let it sink in that I won't be with the babies on December 25th, 2017.

And really, that just comes as one last punch in the stomach for a year that I have found to be incredibly difficult.

I'm trying to let it go. 

I'm trying to remember that the 25th of December is just a day and that we can make any other day of the year as magical as that day.

I'm trying not to be bitter. About divorce. About the events of this year regarding divorce.

But that is proving to be extremely difficult. 


Divorce {with kids} is truly the worst. It bleeds into everything. It makes easy decisions harder. And it makes harder decisions nearly impossible.


But I've made it through four years of harder Christmases and I don't plan on giving up now.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Rise Above It

I realize I'm guilty of not rising above certain conflicts in my life.

When I think about that word that I picked for 2017, I imagine the definition to be something similar to "being the bigger person" or "letting go of pride" or "rising above fears".

And I have wholeheartedly tried to implement that word into my life this year. 

'Tried' being the keyword. 

Let's get real here---we can all be really stupid sometimes. Really. Stupid.
And it's HARD to "be the bigger person" when someone is acting like an idiot.

Every bone in my body consists of sarcasm sprinkled with a hint of impatience. iknowright?

And I've let my impatience get the best of me many times. I've taken my sarcasm way too far.
But the worst one---the one I'm trying so hard to fix---is letting my fears dictate whether I will rise above a situation.

This one seems to be the least controllable, although it is absolutely still possible to control.

Maybe it's my anxiety or maybe it's just my hyper-sensitivity to controlling my own path but when fear gets involved, I am not always the nicest person. On the inside, I start to panic and it portrays on the outside as impatience and intolerance.

I'm not proud of this.

But it still happens sometimes.

I've been feeling a lot of this lately while dealing with some stuff. You know, that annoying type of stuff that may cause someone to shut down their blog for five months out of fear. The type of stuff you're not ready to post about because you're still in the thick of it and you don't want to end up making the situation worse.

That kind of stuff. theworstkindofstuff 

FEAR is the absolute worst. And it can be debilitating at times.

I am SO MUCH  a planner. Our schedule is wild and crazy but it is organized. I thrive on our crazy, busy life.

So when I don't know what the future holds and I can't even see a glimpse, I start to let fear control the way that I react.

And ironically /exceptnotsoironically/ this does not help.

It just does not help!

Reacting in a negative way does not change the things happening. It just makes the build up feel worse, which in turn makes the actual reaction feel worse.

So letting fear win actually makes things worse.


Rise. Above.

I'm glad I chose the specific word RISE for 2017.

Because it turns out that RISE was the exact thing I needed to learn.

I've had moments this year where I thought I'd be better off abandoning the whole church thing all together because I was letting fear control me.

I've had moments where I almost didn't choose bravery---new job, divorce stuff, dating---because I was listening to my fears.

But for the most part this year, although it has not been easy, I have risen.

And I didn't abandon everything and run away like I've wanted to.

Five months ago, I faced one of the scariest days of this year and I so badly wanted to give up.

But I faced my fears head on and I'm trying to practice kindness instead of continuing to let those fears consume me.

Lately it seems to be working. A few times over the past five months, it did NOT work.


But I'll get up and keep trying.

Because that is the true definition of rising.


Rising does not mean being perfect and getting it right the first time. To me, it means getting up over and over again after failing and never giving up.

So that's the plan for the rest of the year and leading into 2018.
And I guess it should be the plan for the rest of my life. 

Rise. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

Suzanne's Church Talk

A few weeks ago, I spoke in church for the first time in TEN years. 

And it probably would've been even longer had I not mentioned this fact to my best friend whose husband is the Executive Secretary in our ward. 

Ha...ha...ha...insertthetweenphraseSMACKINGMYHEAD 

Since then, I have had a lot of people ask to read my talk. I sent it out in an email but have gotten asked a few more times. 

So since this is my online "journal", I thought I'd just post it here and call it a day. 

So here you go! 

"Good morning.
My name is Suzanne Maughan and I have been in this ward for almost 10 years. I moved here from a far, distant land called North Mesa.  Before that, I had lived in the same home in Gilbert my whole life. Needless to say, you can see how much I like change.

As a short timeline of my adult life, I was married at the extremely old age of 19 in the Mesa temple in 2007. My daughter, Mahayla, was born in 2008. My son, Andersen, was born in 2009. In 2011, I was diagnosed with infertility and was not able to have more children. In 2012, my husband left the church. In 2013, my husband moved out of our home. In 2014, I found myself divorced and the single mom of a 5 and 4-year-old. In the beginning of 2015, I left the church. And in the end of 2016, I received an answer to prayer that this is where I’m supposed to be and found myself back active in the church.

In other words, if you caught all of that timeline, 2010 was my favorite year because, as I mentioned, I don’t like change.

When I moved into this ward, I was pregnant with my daughter and she is now 9 ½. To brag about her a little, Hayley is a compassionate and sensitive little girl. She is a hard worker but only when she wants to be. Since the age of 3, she has been dancing and now at the age of 9, she is a competitive dancer and spends between 12 and 14 hours at her studio each week.

My son, Andersen, was just baptized yesterday and I can hardly believe he is already 8 years old. He is a busy, hilarious little dude and is always keeping me on my toes. Andersen is my buddy and has been attached to me since he was born. He knows the best way to get out of bedtime is to stare at me with his big hazel eyes and say, “Mom, can we just snuggle a little before I go to bed?” because the answer is always yes.

Although I could spend hours telling you about how amazing my kids are, I guess I’ll move on and tell you a little about me and then maybe, eventually, I’ll get to my actual talk. I just graduated from ASU with a bachelor’s degree in Human and Family Development and plan to get a certificate in elementary education. I currently work for my dad, who is a pediatrician, as a biller and in the afternoons, I teach dance at the same studio my daughter attends. I am a licensed foster parent and we just fostered our first little girl, "Yaya", from May to August this year. Some of my favorite things to do, besides giving talks in church every ten years, are singing, writing, dancing, and being a mom above everything else.

In my talk today, I was asked to speak about the importance of prophets and apostles and choose some of their words to share with you.

To start, I think I’ll skip back to some of my timeline.

Back in 2015, I chose to stop attending church. Having grown up in the church, this was an extremely difficult decision for me and one that tormented me for a long time. But staying in the church was also tormenting me during this time. I had been single for almost two years but had been taking my children to church alone for three years. During this time, I believed that God would create a bubble around us so that no other bad thing could hurt us during a time where we were greatly hurting already.

But that isn’t what happened. And after some pretty traumatic events, I allowed my negative feelings regarding our “broken family” to stir up some questions that I could not make sense of.

When I left the church, what I found was opposite of what most people that I’ve talked to have found. I found myself still very much accepted and loved and supported by my LDS family and friends. Although some of them had a harder time adjusting, I believe my circumstances helped them to take a step back and allow me to walk the path that I needed to walk. I would frequently have religious discussions with my closest friends during this time and felt that I was learning so much.

I really had no intentions of coming back. I felt like I had simplified religion for myself, focusing on the basics of Christianity. The irony was that the more I learned of Christianity, the more I compared those basics to the things found in the gospel.

And in December of 2016, I was having a conversation with my Heavenly Father and pleading with Him to fix my aching heart and the feelings of loneliness that I was battling and He spoke to me. He answered my prayer just as if He had been kneeling right next to me. And because of the things He said, I knew I could not deny the Priesthood, like I had tried to do for over a year. And if I could not deny the Priesthood, then I could not deny the Book of Mormon. And if I could not deny the Book of Mormon, then I could not deny Joseph Smith being a prophet. And if I could not deny Joseph Smith being a prophet, then I could not deny that this church is true.

And when I came to that conclusion, an entirely new wave of fear pierced my heart because I was going to have to make a lot of changes. And I was going to have to admit that I was wrong. And I was going to have to step foot inside a church full of people that I had essentially said goodbye to a year and a half prior.

And ultimately, I ended up making that decision. And that decision brought about the baptism of my daughter in January and my son yesterday.

And with that decision, I flew to Utah in April and attended every single session of conference with my best friend who had been there through every step of this rollercoaster.

Conference was amazing. And I don’t even remember very many specific things that were said. But the tangible feeling of the Spirit in that room was something I wish I could’ve brought home with me. As each speaker would begin, I was on the edge of my seat, wanting to feel more of the peace and excitement I was experiencing.

Although this October conference was not as Spiritual, between teaching dance all day on Saturday and being around some pretty noisy children on Sunday, I have since taken the time to go back and listen to some of the talks that I had missed.

When I came across Elder Bednar’s talk from Sunday morning, I felt like he was speaking straight to me and quite honestly, to so many of us. He starts his talk off by saying “One of the greatest challenges each of us face every day is to not allow the concerns of this world to so dominate our time and energy that we neglect the eternal things that matter most. We can be too easily diverted from remembering and focusing upon essential spiritual priorities because of our many responsibilities and busy schedules. Sometimes we try to run so fast that we may forget where we are going and why we are running.”

Life can be tricky to navigate sometimes and it is so easy to get busy with our daily routines and leave out our Spiritual tasks because so many other things take precedence. When I first came back to church, I was taking time every day to read conference talks and scriptures and pray multiple times a day. I felt like I couldn’t get enough of diving back in and reading all of the things I had missed while I had been away. But after a while, the excitement wore off and I found myself in the same place I’d been in years prior.

And it didn’t happen in a day. It was a little here, a little there. Some days, I’d study the scriptures and make my Heavenly Father a priority and other days, I’d lay in bed at the end of the day, easily justifying why I wasn’t reading or praying. I’d tell myself how busy I am being a single mom, working two jobs and going to school. God would understand if I just went to bed, just this one time.

But as you can imagine, the longer we let those things go, the easier they are to justify. And then they are no longer a priority.

With this slippery slope, we can also take a look at our relationship with the Holy Ghost and why this relationship is so important. Elder Bednar reminds us that “God promises us, according to our faithfulness, the constant companionship of the third member of the Godhead, even the Holy Ghost.”. In 1st Nephi, chapter 4, verse 6, we are reminded of why the Holy Ghost can be such a vital relationship in our lives. It reads “And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do”.

That simple scripture reminds us why the Holy Ghost is important and why we should keep Him as a constant companion. The Holy Ghost guides us and helps us to make decisions that will keep us on the path to Eternal life.

And as simple as it sounds, maintaining a close relationship with the Spirit takes work on our part. It takes everything that Elder Bednar described regarding our spiritual priorities and why it is important to not get so busy that we are neglecting our testimonies.

In the April 2017 conference, President Monson spoke about the importance of reading the Book of Mormon. He says that “the importance of having a firm and sure testimony of the Book of Mormon cannot be overstated.” He reminds us that this world is full of sin and wickedness and discusses the importance of having a strong testimony.

And maybe 6 or 7 years ago, I would’ve nodded in agreement but not taken those words to heart. Because 6 or 7 years ago, I never imagined I would find myself in a place of such confusion and Spiritual turmoil. I knew scripture study and prayer and church attendance were important but I did not know how necessary they were in keeping a testimony. That sounds silly to me now because we are told over and over that it takes work to maintain a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ but it wasn’t until I lost it for a period of time that I began to realize how important studying the gospel is.

This world is surely full of wickedness and sin. I have seen for myself how choices have consequences that not only hurt the person making those choices but also causes pain to others. I did not expect to be a 30-year-old single mother, coming to church some weeks with my children and some weeks completely alone. I have learned to live with this fact but that does not mean it isn’t still a very real and painful part of my life, a part that sometimes hinders how I feel about attending church.

And as we are talking about the importance of our prophets and apostles, I wanted to touch on yet another significant General Conference talk, given in April of 2014 by President Uchtdorf entitled Grateful In Any Circumstances. This talk has been on my list of talks that I repeatedly read when I feel like I cannot wake up another day with a smile on my face.

As President Uchtdorf was giving this talk, I can remember exactly where I was sitting and exactly how I felt. I can remember tears streaming down my face and feeling like he completely understood the particular place I was in life at that time.

The first part of President Uchtdorf’s talk states: 
"Over the years, I have had the sacred opportunity to meet with many people whose sorrows seem to reach the very depths of their soul. In these moments, I have listened to my beloved brothers and sisters and grieved with them over their burdens. I have pondered what to say to them, and I have struggled to know how to comfort and support them in their trials.

Often their grief is caused by what seems to them as an ending. Some are facing the end of a cherished relationship, such as the death of a loved one or estrangement from a family member. Others feel they are facing the end of hope—the hope of being married or bearing children or overcoming an illness. Others may be facing the end of their faith, as confusing and conflicting voices in the world tempt them to question, even abandon, what they once knew to be true. 
Sooner or later, I believe that all of us experience times when the very fabric of our world tears at the seams, leaving us feeling alone, frustrated, and adrift. It can happen to anyone. No one is immune."

He goes on to talk about how our situations can be so different but that we all have one thing in common and that is the choice in how we handle the hard things in our lives. We can choose to become bitter or we can find things in our lives to be grateful for.

In August of 2013, I was driving to my parents’ house on a normal Friday afternoon to attend my sister’s baby gender reveal party. As I was turning onto my parents’ street, a voice stopped me in my tracks and stated, “Just remember that you have a good life.” I found this to be an incredibly odd thing and thought maybe I had made it up in my head. Because sure, I could remember the good things in my life. I was married and was a stay-at-home mother. I had just started attending college a week prior and was already loving my classes. I had great friends and a very close-knit family. My life was really good. And so I shrugged it off and went about the rest of my day.

The next day, as I was spending time with my kids, another clear prompting came to me that had to do with my marriage. I, again, found this to be a little odd but follow through with the prompting and a short while later, I learned from my husband that our marriage would be ending. This came as a huge shock to me and was not something I had prepared for, not that anyone really prepares for their marriage to end. But as I sat in my car that afternoon, that voice came back to me, as distinctly as it had the day prior. “Just remember that you have a good life.” 
And I started to think about how amazing my kids are and how my family and friends would surely pull me through all of this. I realized that there were still so many things to be grateful for because out of the many things I had listed the day before, only one thing had changed. Everything else from that list still existed.

In one of my darkest times of need, my Heavenly Father had reminded me of an important lesson. Gratitude in any circumstances.

As Elder Uchtdorf reminds us, “We can choose to be like Job, who seemed to have everything but then lost it all. Yet Job responded by saying, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return…the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job lost everything and in his darkest times, he kept his sight on God’s plan for all of us. He had a grateful disposition because he recognized that Heavenly Father had given him life and had promised him much more than anything we can obtain in our earthly life.

My hope is that we can all learn from Job’s example. That we can all take the time each day to plant our testimonies deep into the ground and watch them bloom and that we never forget to water them.


I know this church is true. I know our Heavenly Father loves each and every one of us individually. I believe in the power of the Priesthood. I know that Heavenly Father gave us prophets and apostles to help guide us through the ups and downs in our lives."

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Wildfire

Lost.
Wounded.
Still breathing.

Surrounded by a dark forest of trees that all look exactly the same.
Rain drenches her hair and she can no longer decipher between the raindrops and the tears on her cheeks.

To her right, she sees flames.
To her left, she sees a tornado.

Which path does she choose?
Because right now, both look scary and painful and possibly deathly.

She screams toward the Heavens and asks God why He has left her to forge her own path.

She doesn't want to do it. 

She doesn't want to be bruised and scarred. She wants to stay whole.

But God tells her she will learn more about herself this way, that she will grow to understand the world more in depth and be filled with an empathy for others that she could've never known any other way.

He promises her He won't leave. 

But she isn't sure she can trust anyone, even the God who created her and knows her entire path.

Because if God was just, would He really tell her to choose between a tornado and a wildfire? Wouldn't He find another way to open her eyes to empathy and understanding? Wouldn't He shield her from pain?

It is at this moment when she remembers God was not responsible for placing her between a wildfire and a tornado. He did not bring her here. 

She is here through the choices of herself and others in her life.

Opposition in all things.

She is here because God gave His children the ability to make choices, right or wrong. Because He knew that forcing His children to follow a specific path would not teach them that they are capable of making those choices on their own.

And then she understands why He has promised her a deeper understanding in the midst of her pain.
Because her pain will teach her. She will learn how to love deeper.

Without knowing pain, she won't truly know the deepest joy.

But although she understands, she is so very scared.

She is afraid of what will happen in the midst of a fire. She is afraid she may not make it out alive.
And she is afraid that if she does make it out alive, no one will want to be around her because she will be broken.

Broken.

Do people ever fully come back from being broken? 

She steps toward the wildfire, knowing she is about to be burned but seeing no other options.

Her eyes dart left and right, looking for the best path, and they lock on a person caught in the worst part of the fire.

Does she save them and hurt herself more? Or does she take the path less painful?

She knows the answer. God has taught her the answer. 

And so she runs straight into the middle of the wildfire and begins to pull the other woman to safety on the other side.

The fire sears her skin and she screams out in pain. It is in the middle of this fire that she feels her deepest pains immensely.

She feels all of the pain from divorce and custody battles and believing she will never be loved by a man again. She remembers the friends who betrayed her and the ones who just silently left unexpectedly. She feels all of the times she has felt fat and ugly and stupid and annoying.

And she considers giving up. 

But she keeps going because she believes there is still life on the other side. 

When they finally make it to the other side, she looks to the woman and realizes this woman is now holding her.

And she realizes that although God did not stop the pain, He placed them there together to ease the burden of going through this alone.

Their pain was different but it didn't matter. 

Whether for today or for the rest of their lives, they belonged to each other. 

Because although hurt people have the potential to hurt other people, they also have the potential to help other people. 

And in the midst of this excruciating pain, they had chosen to help each other.

It isn't over.
It may never be fully over.

But as the days pass, her wounds begin to heal. 

And although she looks over the horizon and sees many mountains ahead, she knows she can move them. She knows that God will not leave her in the middle of a storm, even when she tries to convince herself that He does.

She knows she can keep going. And that along the way, she will find others to help. And in return, she will find them carrying her when she needs to be carried.

Because she understands that everyone has pain. 

Everyone needs someone. 

And we belong to each other. 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Hello.

I went private for five months. 
Someday I might tell you why. 
But today is not that day. 

I miss it here.

I miss the familiarity of writing my thoughts here. 

And today I decided that I am not going to let my fears dictate what I want to do.

And so I will write. 

My anxiety has been rocky the past 4-5 months but I am starting to feel like myself again.
In the midst of my anxiety issues, I did something amazingly brave and applied for a second job so now I'm teaching dance again. I had taken a year off purposefully and when that year mark hit, I saw an opening and prayed about it.
Oh. My. Gosh. I prayed about it. 
Because I didn't want to put more stress on our family. 
But it worked out beautifully and I started teaching two weeks before Yaya left our home.

My anxiety tells me that I'll eventually do something to screw this up. It always tells me that. But I'm learning to ignore those thoughts because a past bad experience does not dictate a future experience.

And sometimes future experiences end up being really beautiful so it would be a shame to cower down just because of the past. {lifelessonnumberthreethousandandtwentytwo} 

I also turned the big 3-0. And the next day, I gave a talk in church for the first time in ten years. As intimidating as that was, it ended up being a really great experience. (refer to the above life lesson)


Hayley is still dancing and is growing up before my eyes. She moved up to company in June and now dances/competes a lot more. I keep expecting her to get tired of dancing because she still seems so young but day in and day out, she tells me she is never quitting dance. Her transition to the new school was actually very smooth and she has made a few new friends and is loving 4th grade.

Andersen just turned 8 and is currently in the middle of his soccer season. He says he is going to join hip hop in January because, in his words, "I'm just so good at it and I think the studio needs me". He was baptized last weekend and in true Andersen fashion, stood up on the pew and started doing the chicken dance for the entire congregation.


If it hasn't ever been clear before, I truly love my kids. Being a mom is the best thing I've ever done. And although I sometimes feel as though I'm failing my children, lately I've been feeling like I'm killin' it at this mom gig.

I've been feeling more like my old self. Pre-2013 Suzanne. Pre-divorce Suzanne. Pre-anxiety disorder Suzanne.
I haven't decorated for holidays in a few years {except for Christmas} until this year. I haven't home-made Halloween costumes in a few years until this year. I have had zero desire to cook meals for our family until this year.

I am not whole but I am definitely getting there. 

So welcome back inside a glimpse of my world, friends.
I missed it here. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

September

I feel lost inside a forest, thick with trees. I can't see which direction I should be going but all around me, I heard taunting and laughing.

You can't do this. 
You will never make it. 
You are a horrible person for trying. 
And you will not win this battle. 
You cannot control this outcome. 

And in a way, those voices are right.

I cannot control this outcome. 

I don't get to make decisions based on what is best for my family. I have to fight for those decisions. I have to be brave and get out of bed on the days where my anxiety feels as though it is strangling me.

And maybe I look like a horrible person for trying to fight for my family.

Divorce has a way of doing that. 

It takes something done out of love and twists it into an ugly battle of "who will win" and not "what is best for the children".

I hate that about divorce. I hate that the easy decisions are made into difficult decisions.

Because...pride. 

And because when we haven't truly forgiven our ex-spouse and/or moved on and healed, trying to hurt them seems like second nature.

Divorce hasn't cleared away all of the beauty but it certainly has blackened a lot of things that used to be full of color.

Things as simple as birthday parties, work events, dance rehearsals, soccer games, vacations, school breaks, etc. are no longer easy. Because depending on the weekend they fall, the children might miss out on certain events. And even if they don't miss out, it takes extra scheduling and compromising to try and get everything to work out.

I was told this past weekend that my children are doing "family costumes" for Halloween this year---except that I am not a part of it.
They are participating in something labeled "family" that I am not also participating in.

I cried myself to sleep when they told me this. 
Because it is hard. So, so hard. 

Because when they go to their dad's house, they look like a more complete family.

And it just feels like a punch in my stomach. 

I've worked so hard to move on from my divorce. I thought it would all be uphill from here. (ha!) 

But then I felt like a bomb was dropped on me when my ex-husband told me he was remarrying. And maybe their marriage wouldn't be so hard for me if it hadn't come with such a huge onset of changes---filing for a new custody arrangement to include his new wife, my kids getting used to living with another adult, becoming extremely protective of her disciplining them, the Halloween costumes, requesting to change how we do holidays, etc.

It. Is. Too. Much. 

And I wish that my feelings and my children's feelings were factored into all of this but they aren't.

I feel like I'm trying to grasp this possible new reality and I don't know how to handle it. I don't know how to NOT lose my mind. I don't know how to let go a little bit and let someone new be a parent to my children.

I envisioned this all much differently than it has happened. I planned on having a good relationship with my children's step-mom. It looked so different in my mind.

It looked a lot easier in my mind. 

But the past four months have been anything BUT easy.
I spend a lot of nights crying. I have closed myself off. When I try and calendar our kids' schedules and the immediate response is, "Let me check with Jess and see if that works for us", my heart stings with an ache that is so hard to explain.

Us.

That used to have a different meaning.

I used to be included in 'us'. 

And now I feel like they are building a family without me. I feel left out and hurt. I feel like my feelings aren't taken into consideration.

If only I could cry out and say, "I am not trying to be a crazy ex-wife! I just want what is best for our kids. If you could just take a second and look at it from my point of view. I carried these children and birthed them and got up in the middle of the night with them. I took them to their first activities and play dates. I stayed home with them for years. I was there to explain divorce to them. I let them scream at me when they didn't understand it all. And over the past four years, I have been the constant in their lives. I have never missed a dance recital, school activity, or parent-teacher conference. When they get sick, I take off work. When they need someone to talk to, I drop everything. I have poured my heart and soul into these children."

Because if they could try and understand it from my point of view, maybe they wouldn't be trying to change custody. Maybe they would realize how much damage was done four years ago and how hard I've worked to pick up those pieces and create a stable life for our children.

And maybe someday, they will. Maybe someday, I will look back at how hard this was and be grateful that it got easier and that the relationships got better.

But for now, I only have two goals: Be the best mom I can be for our children and keep my head above water.

Monday, June 26, 2017

I Graduated

I graduated from ASU. 

I now have a bachelors degree in Human and Family Development.

And although my job status has not changed nor will it changed for another few years, the fact that I have that bachelors degree and that a huge piece of my career goals are finished is such a big deal!

College has not been an easy task for me. 

I originally signed up for classes in 2006 after graduating high school. I took one semester of classes at the community college and then I got engaged and dropped out in the middle of my second semester so that I could work full time while my fiance/husband went to school full time.

Then in 2013, after months of marriage counseling with my then-husband, I decided I wanted to go back to school and become a marriage therapist. I signed up for night classes so my husband could be home with the kids during my schooling.

It was going to be perfect. 

And then after ONE week of college classes, my husband and I separated. So instead of night classes being perfect, they ended up being horrible because my kindergartner had to stay up until 10pm on school nights at her dad's house before I could go pick her up and get her to sleep for the night.

So in January of 2014, I signed up for classes during the day and my mom watched Andersen and my best friend kept Hayley after half-day kindergarten.

In August of 2014, Andersen started preschool and I decided to take 2 classes at the college and 2 classes online so that I wouldn't have to use as many babysitters. But then I decided to go back to work so I ended up relying on babysitters three days a week for my little man anyway.

In August of 2015, I started full time at Arizona State University in an online program.

And for the past two years, that is what I've been doing. 

Online school was extremely difficult for me. My ADHD made it really difficult to study on my own and get my work done on time.

I graduated with my bachelors degree with an embarrassingly low GPA. Lower than I've ever had before.

But I persevered through years of hard times---times where I truly wanted to give up and just quit school because it was taking time away from my children and my sleep schedule and my sanity.

And it was absolutely worth it!


A million times THANK YOU to everyone who picked up where I lacked these past four years. To the babysitters, moral supporters, people who participated in my projects, etc. I truly could not have succeeded without all of the support we received and continue to receive. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

My Purpose

Purpose:
noun
1. the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc.
2. an intended or desired result; end; aim; goal.
3. determination; resoluteness.
4. the subject in hand; the point at issue.
5. practical result, effect, or advantage: to act to good purpose.

I've been asking myself a lot of questions about purpose lately. 

What is my purpose? Is it healthy for my purpose to be 99% focused on raising my children? Does God care how I interpret my specific purpose?

Is there a reason that I, Suzanne, was created specifically at this time, with this family, in this body, in this geographical area?

I know who created me---I guess I'm just still trying to figure out why

Is there a reason that is specific to me? Or maybe to those around me?


I think about my sweet Yaya. Why was she born into a life so different than mine? And why was I born into a life so different than so many others?

Is there a reason? Or are we just kind of scattered around and expected to learn from whatever circumstances are thrown our way?

I often wonder if I'm the exception to the rule. When they say it will work out in the end, will it really? Or is that just something people say because they don't know what the hell to say to someone who is struggling?

Or when people say that God works it all out in the afterlife, how can they know that? Maybe He doesn't. Maybe He doesn't need to.

If we say that God owes us nothing because He gave us everything, why do we feel the need to wait for Him to make up for the things we feel we have lost in our Earthly lives?

So. Many. Questions. 

I think I am learning through all of my answer-seeking that it's ok for our beliefs to be different.

You might think that everything happens for a reason and I believe that everything absolutely does not happen for a reason.

You might believe that karma is real but I can tell you that as a divorce single mom who has tried to do "all of the right things" only to watch as her ex-husband remarries and starts a whole new life with someone else that karma does not, in fact, exist in my world. In fact, most of the time, the opposite of karma seems to exist.

You might trust that things are going to get better down the road and I might be weary of that same damn road.

I'm struggling with the picture perfect answers I hear in all of the churches I've attended that promise me this or that if I live my life with the purpose God intended.

Because sometimes, I'm confused as to what that purpose even is.

I know, I know---motherhood. It's the best.

That sounds sarcastic and maybe it is a little but motherhood really is a defining role in my life and brings me a deep sense of purpose. But does it end there?

Am I really just supposed to argue with tiny humans all day and try to teach them kindness and taxi them from one place to another?


Is there more?

There has to be more.

Today I feel a little lost. Tomorrow I might not. And someday, I hope these feelings don't come around as often as they do.

But for today, I'll take my questions and consider them as deeply as I can.

And then I think I'll take a nap.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Foster Care: Take One

If you've been reading my blogs for a long time, you know that I hate change.
I'm all about my daily routine. 
---OCD and what not---
In fact, as much as I love going on vacations, there is always a part of me that struggles not being in my own home, doing my regular routine.

But seven months ago, I made a decision that would impact us and bring about a lot of change. A lot. I called a foster agency and started my licensing process. Orientation, picking an agency, 30 hours of PS-MAPP classes, hours of interviews, two home studies, and one final interview in Phoenix.

And then ten days ago, our lives forever changed. 

I got a call at work about a little girl, older than the age I had requested to start with, that needed our home.
The situation was a little different and the caseworker said I could have a few hours to make a decision (usually you say yes or no as soon as they call). 

And so I said a prayer. 

Could I do this? Could I take on a toddler that walks and talks and could possibly have conflict with my children?

Yes. I absolutely could. 

With the peace that answer brought, I called the caseworker back only a few minutes later and asked her when she needed to drop her off.

And four hours later, we met our sweet Yaya.


That night, Andersen got the first smile in the baby aisle at Target but it didn't last long.
Since then, the smiles and the giggles have gotten bigger and better and more consistent.

The thing is, I'm not just here to talk about how strong and amazing Yaya is, although she is definitely those things.

I realized when I started my foster care classes that there were raised eyebrows and confusion.
And when Yaya was placed in our home, the raised eyebrows came back.

And I immediately felt this need to explain my decision but fought it because quite honestly, I don't owe anyone an explanation for my life choices.


But I've come to the conclusion that I want to explain anyway---maybe not for you but for me. Because someday when I look back on these posts, I wanted to remember all of this.


A few years ago, I was visiting teaching with a friend and we were talking about foster care and how many children were in need of homes. I listened intently as she told me some of her experiences working for DCS. And as she finished, I said something like, "Gosh, I wish I could help but I'm divorced and I don't think they'd let me foster as a single parent." 
It was during this conversation that I found out you can, in fact, be a single foster parent.

Go figure. 

I thought about it more and more before some personal things in my life took precedence.

So foster care went on the back burner. 

And that was the best thing for our family at that time.
But this past year, I felt prompted to look into foster care again.

Why? 

Because I am not---let me repeat that---NOT putting my goals on hold because I'm single.

I know it seems weird because being a single mom is not an easy thing. In fact, this is one of the hardest things I've ever done. But that doesn't mean I don't love my life.

I do. 

And it doesn't mean I am going to sit around and not continue living the life I want to live.


When we met Yaya, my "why" for foster care was cemented further.

I used to tell myself I could never be a foster parent. It seemed too hard.
The unexpected schedules, feeling like you have to be the perfect parent so you don't get in trouble, saying goodbye after falling in love with another child---nope. I couldn't do it.

But when I began this journey, I started to consider how I would've felt not having a safe home growing up. I started to wonder what my life had been like if I would've been in foster care. I thought about my own kids and how blessed they are to have two loving parents in their lives.

And I realized that even though this would be hard for me, it is even harder for foster children. Even though I may not want to say goodbye, they didn't want to say goodbye.

They didn't ask for this. 

And when I considered all of those factors, I knew this was something I wanted to do.

Sure, our schedule is out of whack right now. Sure, I sleep a little less and change messy diapers now. Sure, my house is messier than usual.

But I know I am exactly where I am supposed to be, doing the exact things I am supposed to be doing.

Single mom, taking college classes online, and fostering another child---Bring. It. On.

I know how strong I am and what I am capable of. I know I was put on this Earth to be a mother and also to be a teacher and example. I know I was given this life because I could not only handle it but thrive in it.

God has my back and He has Yaya's back. He is on our side and I absolutely believe that the four of us will be so blessed for the time we get to spend being a family together.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Not Graduated...


Tonight I submitted my last assignment of the semester.

It was always calculated out that I would graduate in May of 2017. Always. My mind has always been set on this time frame because it was the fourth year of schooling and even though the school counselor told me most people do their bachelors in five years now, I knew that wouldn't be me.

I was going to do it.

And, you guys, I almost did it.

Almost.

I worked so hard for so many years. I stayed up late and wrote papers, denied my kids time with their mom while I took online tests and replied to discussion boards.

I read numerous textbooks, all of which were extremely difficult for a person with ADHD.
My brain has had to work extra hard to concentrate on my classes and actually retain the information I was learning about.

And in the end, I fell short by one class.

One stupid class.

And this last semester, I tried to take 5 classes instead of 4 so that I wouldn't ruin my chances at a May 2017 graduation but that was too much for me and I failed 1 of the 5 classes.

It was a hard pill to swallow.

But the truth is that June 26th is not that far past May. It won't make a difference as to whether I'm able to start my teaching program on time.

All it changes is whether I get to participate in a graduation ceremony.

Sure, I guess I could wait to participate in the December graduation but by then, I'll be a semester into my teaching program and I think the hype will have worn off by then.

So I won't get to walk with the other students graduating. That doesn't make this any less of an accomplishment.

I might be a little frustrated with myself.
If I would've just spent a few extra hours studying...
If I would've just been more organized...
If I would've concentrated more on the material...

But the truth is that I can't go back to the beginning of the semester and change any of it.

All I can do is move forward with the realization that I am going to be DONE at ASU in only two months! Two months from now, I will have finished that last class and will be able to call myself a Sun Devil graduate like my father and so many others on his side of the family.

Two more months.

I can wait two more months.

I've already waited and worked for four years.

Two months will fly by.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

She Swears


Swear words. 

You either love them or you hate them, amiright

In high school, I used swear words in every day conversation. They felt so powerful---probably for reasons relating to my last post on being stubborn and wanting to go against the grain.

But then I got married...in the LDS temple...to a guy who had just come home from a 2 year LDS mission...and I quickly had babies...and somewhere along the way, my mouth cleaned up considerably.

When my kids were really little, I found myself reprimanding them for words like 'butt' or 'stupid'---maybe because it just seemed like the right mom-thing to do.

But I didn't really care---I just thought I should care. Because that's what the good moms do, right?

And then, you guys, I got divorced. 

*huge gasp*

You didn't see that one coming, did you? 

Technically, neither did I...Ha...ha...ha......................................ha. 

So my husband moved out. Just, like, left one day. Goodbye. See ya.
Yeah. That happened for real. 
It wasn't a dream. It wasn't something I made up. It just happened on a seemingly normal day.

And right then and there, my whole world changed---not only because of the obvious reasons but because I realized just how quickly you can go from trusting someone to losing a huge portion of the life you thought you'd always have.

I realized nothing is predictable. You cannot rely on others. 
You just cannot. 

You might think you can. They might promise they'll always be there. But then one day, you'll make a mistake or they'll blame you for things out of your control and they'll leave.

They always have the option to leave. 

{I know---super negative tonight...}

But it's the damn truth! You cannot force people to stay. 

Like last year, during a time when I was working a job that I loved and all of a sudden, my boss started to dislike me. And I had not done anything to warrant that. Like at all. But I ended up quitting and walking away because you just don't know when people will turn on you and you've got to learn to fight for YOU and not stay in an unhealthy relationship of any kind. (Life lessons I've learned along the way...)

Even in an unhealthy relationship because you love your job.
Nope.
Nothing is worth that kind of anxiety.

So back to the point---wait, is there a point? 

Oh yeah, I got divorced. People that promised to always be there deserted me. Blah blah blah.

So somewhere in the middle of all this, I was in a therapy session (because therapy is the best invention in the history of ever---and so are anxiety meds, yo) and I kept saying things like, "I'm just so effing angry" and "All of the effing things in my life that are stressing me out" and "Divorce is so effing hard" and my therapist said,

"Suzanne, do you ever actually say the F word?" 

And Mormon little me was like, "Umm, no, because that is the worst word in the whole world and I would never let that gaping black hole of death come out of my mouth. Ever."

And she said, "Maybe you should try it." 

And, you guys, if you're paying someone to give you advice, you should probably take their advice, right?

So if my mom reads this and is gasping that the black hole of death came out of my mouth, my therapist told me to do it...

Needless to say, I went home that night and I wrote a letter to my ex-husband. A three-page letter of mostly F bombs and other profanities. And then I ripped it out of my journal, crumpled it into a ball, took it out onto the back porch, and set it on fire until only a few tiny ashes were left.

And I realized that the ugliest of words was being used to describe the ugliest of things in my life perfectly.

That ugly four-letter word was the most appropriate word in describing how I felt about divorce, losing friendships, being cyber-bullied, and dealing with so many other really difficult things.

Maybe swear words are just words. Maybe the power of them is something I've made up in my head.

But they help. They describe the feelings I often have a difficult time describing.

Sometimes Most of the time, they make me laugh.
Sometimes they make me cry.

But I'm pretty sure swear words were put on this Earth just for me. 

That's a rational thought, right? 

I no longer feel bad for swearing. 
In fact, I'm pretty sure if I didn't swear, I'd be darn near perfection so swearing keeps me humble and puts a healthy dose of sin on my record.
Because that's how that works, right? 

So when things get hard and I get angry at the world, instead of lashing out at others, I'll just keep writing down my swear words and burning them up. And saying them out loud. And writing them down without burning them up. And texting them to my friends. And yelling them in my car.

Because I can, damnit. 

And swearing is my therapy. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

I'm Ignoring You

I imagine I was stubborn, even as a baby. I think I've just always been that way. 

In fact, for most of my life, my opinions often take their own course instead of following a particular crowd.

Like how I registered as a Republican when I turned 18 but I'm not really, truly a Republican or a Democrat. 

A lot of my stubbornness has been good---making it so I don't often quit the things I'm passionate about---but being stubborn has also held me back at times.

Being stubborn caused me not to be the best wife I was capable of being. There were times I would stand my ground and yell until I was blue in the face that I was right(!) but there were also times where being stubborn caused me to fight harder to save my marriage. {Although we've witnessed how well that worked out. Just kidding...kind of.} 

Being stubborn causes me to not always be the best mom I know I can be. There have been times where I am absolutely out of line when reprimanding my kids but being stubborn has also caused me to fight as hard as I can to give my kids a beautiful life.

It's a quality I love and a quality I hate. 


Being stubborn brought a tattoo and a lot of extra piercings, some of them as a direct result of knowing I was being told NOT to get them.

And being stubborn made it so that no one could convince me NOT to leave the LDS church in 2015.

No one. 

And really, that's going to be my main topic today because it's been on my mind a lot and that's kind of how this whole blog thing works.

When I left the LDS church and started attending a Christian church, everyone had opinions.
They always do. 
So depending on who I was talking to, I was either making the greatest or the worst decision of my life.

I distinctly remember feeling like my head was spinning because I hated how contrasting everyone's opinions were.
And I distinctly remember when the thought came into my mind, "Suzanne, you're stubborn! Stop listening to everyone else and start listening to yourself!" 

And so that is what I promised myself I would do. 

I spent a lot of the past 2 years ignoring people---all of the people.
In fact, you were probably ignored by me somewhere in there. 
I think the hashtag #sorrynotsorry would be appropriate right here. 

That being said, I'm kind of still ignoring you. All of you.
Because that promise to myself is still true today.

I made a decision to go back to the LDS church on my own. It wasn't because of something someone said to me. It wasn't because I like Mormon people more than I like Christian people. It wasn't because I was running away from something bad or running back to something familiar.

I came back because I had a conversation with God. It's pretty simple. 

And since coming back, the same things have been happening that were happening a year ago. Some of you are telling me I'm making the best decision of my life while others have reached out because they are worried about my salvation.

And just as true as it was a year ago, I find myself hearing what you're saying and thinking, "Wow. It's incredible how many people love and care about my family!"

But simply put, I'm still going to ignore what you're saying. 

Because I know---undoubtedly I know---that I am in the best place at the best time for my family.

I left the LDS church because I felt God closer somewhere else. And now, I can sit here today and tell you that since returning to the LDS church, I feel God closer to me now more than I have in the past 29 years of my life.

I appreciate your concerns and your praise---you know, depending on which side you're on.
I love knowing how loved we are by you. 

But this decision has not ruined my salvation.
This decision is what is saving me. 

On the days where I feel bombarded by people telling me I'm headed down Satan's path, I get a little discouraged and just wish we could all build each other up instead of pointing fingers and telling each other what we are doing wrong.

But then I try and remind myself that each of you are following a path you wholeheartedly believe in. You have faith in your God and in your church beliefs. And you are all trying to help.

But I guess I just want you to know that you don't have to tell me that I'm right or that I'm wrong.

Because I know I'm doing the right thing. And my right thing doesn't have to match your right thing.

My right thing is only mine. 

So thank you for loving me. Thank you for caring about what happens to myself and my family. Thank you for sharing your faith in God with me.

But I'll take it from here. 
I've got this. :) 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

I Hear You, I See You, I Love You

It's no secret that I've been struggling lately. 
I've never been able to keep secrets very well anyway. 

I've had a week to think about what I want to say in this post and how I want it to be portrayed---a week where every night, I cry myself to sleep and tears stream down my face at work and the anxiety is a knot in my throat. 

I haven't been eating well. I feel nauseous a lot of the time and can't get through full meals. And when I don't feel nauseous, I eat all of the things at once. 

Why?
Because life is hard. 
Because life doesn't always turn out how we plan it in our head. 
Because life seems so unfair sometimes. 

Last week, I was given the news that I'd have to write a letter to the First Presidency of our church, telling my point of view of my marriage, divorce, and life since then. 
THIS is a semi-outdated-but-best-I-could-do-for-tonight explanation of why I was asked to write my letter. 

Yeah.

It's been a long time since I've had a panic attack so great I thought I might not be able to physically take another breath. 

The heartache I've been dealing with since that day has surprised me. I don't know what I was expecting but I surely did not expect to feel this way. 

But instead of just focusing on my pain, I wanted to turn this story in a different direction. 

You see, for weeks I've been asking for understanding and faith and peace. And...nothing. 
And then on Sunday, I got this news and was like, "You've got to be kidding me, God! I've been praying and trying so hard to trust you and without a significant answer to my prayers, I get this phone call?! You knew this was about to happen so why didn't You send me comfort yesterday so I would've been better equipped to deal with this?" 

And...God did not answer. 
So all night on Sunday, I was a crying, shaking mess. 

I asked my dad for a Priesthood blessing and went home to get rest before work the next day. 

And when I woke up, it started. 


It started with a text early Monday morning from my foster care intake coordinator. "Your license was approved!" 
An early Monday morning reminder that God is aware of me. I have been working for six months to do everything required to get my foster care license. It has not always been easy. I have been frustrated at times. I have done hours of interviews and classes, organized and baby-proofed my home, etc. in anticipation for this and after a hard night, God knew I needed to hear that in that exact moment. 

Suzanne, I hear you. I see you. And I love you. 

On Tuesday, I decided to tour daycare centers because I had the afternoon free and knew I'd need to get things in order. I was worried I wouldn't find a center that would be DCS approved and have an opening. 
I got to the first center for a tour and within ten minutes, found out it met all of my requirements and had openings right away. I immediately felt peace. 

I hear you. I see you. And I love you. 

Wednesday, I decided to spend my evening at the Gilbert temple. I spent 3.5 hours crying and praying and reading scriptures and as I asked God to help me through this and bring me clarity, He did. 
He reminded me that He knows the plans of my life and can see the bigger picture. He reminded me that I need to have faith in Him and trust that He will carry me through my heartache. 

I hear you. I see you. And I love you. 

On Thursday, my mother came over after work. She brought me a home cooked meal and helped clean my house for two hours. We spent that time talking and/or blasting music while we worked to get my house in order before the kids came home from their dad's house. 

I hear you. I see you. And I love you. 

Friday, I had to drive to Tucson to pick up my daughter because she had dance pictures that evening. Although I've taken that drive many times in the past 5-6 years, I was not looking forward to doing it alone and also spending my one day off in the car. 
Out of the blue, a close friend of mine found out I would be taking that drive and offered to ride with me so I wouldn't be alone. 
She turned what could've been a hard afternoon into a really fun memory. 

I hear you. I see you. And I love you. 

Saturday came and I had experienced a week of miracles. I tried so hard to recognize the many beautiful events from the week to counteract how my heart was feeling but there was still so much weighing on my chest and I prayed for guidance to get through another day. 

Hayley had been begging to go out to breakfast so I took her to IHOP. 

And an hour later, I posted this on Facebook: 

"My precious girl and I went to breakfast this morning and after sitting down, a lady was seated at the table right next to us. She was by herself and kept looking over and smiling at us. 

When our food came, I began to cut up Hayley's pancakes when the lady leaned over and said to her, "You must have the best mom in the whole world. Never forget how amazing she is." She then told me she had a daughter who is now 49 and lives all the way in Baltimore.

She told us her name is Mary and we gave her our names. Throughout the meal, we would have little conversations but mostly, she seemed to just be observing my relationship with my daughter and smiling at us.

When we went up front to pay for our food, Mary had already left but waiting for us was the news that she had paid for our food and left us a sweet note on the receipt.

"Thank you for sharing your mother day and daughter day with me. Mary."

As I sat in that restaurant and began to cry, it hit me so hard how much God is aware of us.
Mary doesn't know I'm a single mother of two. She doesn't know how difficult this week has been for me. She doesn't know my anxieties and insecurities and how much I pray to not feel so lonely. But God knows. And today, Mary listened to that prompting and was able to be our angel, to remind us how loved we are.

So thank you, Mary. You have made such a difference in my life with your kindness." 

Saturday was my long-awaited turning point. It was the day I could no longer excuse the hand of God in every measure of my life throughout the week. It was the day I came home and just wept that He had shown me grace in such a significant way. 

Although I've asked him to take away my heartache and He hasn't, God has shown me that His love is neverending and that I just need to keep my focus on Him and not on the millions of outside worries I have. 

This week has been incredible in so many ways. 

In fact, it's kind of an odd feeling because I feel like I'm still fighting to remember God and not go to a very dark place while at the same time, I feel like I've recognized God more than ever before in my life. 

The miracles I've witnessed have not completely dissipated the anxiety or the heartache or even the anger I've been struggling with. But they have made it so I don't stay down for as long as I normally would. 

I feel like I'm screaming like a five year old, "IT'S NOT FAIR!!!" And then I hear my dad's voice saying, "Well, life isn't fair, Suzanne." 
(Solid parenting advice---I use those same words on my kids almost daily)

I've been trying to catch myself as I start to fall into that pit of "It's not fair" or "I'm doing the job of two and am all alone at the end of the day" or "I didn't do anything to deserve this and now I'm the one suffering" and bring myself out because what I've found is that at the bottom of that pit is nothing but misery. 

And when I'm able to pull myself out of that pit, I find a much brighter world filled with thoughts like "I have almost put myself through school as a single mother" or "My children are doing such amazing things in their lives" or "I am HAPPY and ACTIVE at church these days" or "I have so many people in my life who love me" or "I get to be with my kids so much of the time right now" or a million other positive thoughts about how my life is so blessed and I am so loved and God is so good. 

My days are so up and down right now but I am trying. 

I am fighting and learning and trying so hard to be the best possible me when I walk out the door each day. 

And I think that's what matters most, especially right now. I think it's ok to not be overly peppy or serving others or smiling like I might do on a more normal basis. 

I'm doing the best I can right now. 

God knows it and I know it. 

And for me, in this moment, that is the biggest miracle of all. 


PS: If you're wondering about my encounter with our angel, Mary, our story has been shared  over 1000 times and has been liked over 23 thousand times on the Love What Matters Facebook page and has now been written in 6-7 articles that I've found when I google myself. It certainly has been a whirlwind of a week and I feel very blessed to witness all of these miracles firsthand. 
Here are a few of the articles:

Refinery 29

Babble

Huffington Post UK