Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Graven upon His hands

"The Invitation" by Jenedy Paige

Something struck me this morning as I read again one of my favorite verses:

"Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands."*

As part of the Savior's Atonement, He was nailed to a cross and crucified. They drove large nails into the tender palms of His hands, as well as His wrists and feet. The reality of that very real, excruciating, and terrible experience is too unbearable to let my thoughts linger there for very long.

I find hope in His resurrection. His pain is over. The Atonement is complete. This means my pain can be lessened and I can be saved. My heart and thoughts visit this often.

The resurrected Savior had a perfect, glorified body. But, He chose to keep the scars on His hands. Why: So people would have a tangible way of believing who He really was. **

But, as I read the above verse I am moved to a deeper personal meaning behind the immortal scars.

To me, they signify my connection with Him.

We often focus on how the Savior is a part of us, but, with these scars, we are, literally, a part of Him.

He carries us with Him every moment of every day.

These scars represent His love for me and my love for Him.

They represent a connection that He won't break. (We can choose to, but His commitment to us is solid and eternal.)

We are tethered to Him forever, through sacrifice on His part, obedience on our part and love shared between us.

The first part of the Atonement took place in the Garden of Gethsemane where He took upon Himself our pain and sorrow. Here is where, I believe, our union with Him began, where we became a literal part of Him. He felt all of our grief and pain and anguish for us.

Then He hung and gave up His life to pay the price for our sins. And when He rose again, He kept the scars.
He kept His scars so we don't have to keep ours.

He kept His scars so we don't have to doubt.

He kept His scars so we know we are remembered.

He kept His scars so we can see our place in His life.

We are connected to Him in a tender and eternal way-- us on His hands and Him in our hearts.

This makes Him feel all the more real to me. It awakens my sense of obligation in my part of the Atonement. He performed it, but I am the one now must use it. He cannot be a Savior without someone to save, so I willingly let Him save me.

We are a part of Him.

YOU are a part of Him.

He isn't just a part of your life, but you are a part of His, then and right now.

So what can we do?

He performed the Atonement and made us a part of Him. We can choose to let the Atonement perform in us and make Him a part of us. We can put our hand in His. We can let Him love us. We can let Him heal us. We can choose to let go of our pride and anger and let Him change us.

We are a part of Him, this is certain.

Now, we can choose to let Him be a part of us.

* (1 Nephi 21:16, Nephi quoting Isaiah quoting the Lord).

**Jesus allowing others to touch His resurrected, scarred hands: John 20:20; John 20:27; Luke 24:39; Matthew 28:9; 3 Nephi 11:14-15)

Monday, October 7, 2019

Meet 1989 Michelle. 

This is my senior portrait. Back in the 80's, this is what we did. No leaning on brick walls or posing in the middle of a field. We went to a studio with a pull-down background and hot lights where we were posed by strangers while our mothers coached from behind.

Do you see the pain in her eyes?

It's not because she was holding the rental cap at a strange height ("That's too high," one argued. "That's too low," said another. It finally landed in a position that made it look like she should be serving that someone tea on it.) And it's not because of the orange-toned makeup job that made her look like a chipper Oompa Loompa, either. It definitely wasn't because of her hair.She'd had short hair the first three years of high school, so her chin-length mane of hair was my glory. 

The pain in this senior portrait came from somewhere else.

In fact, this isn't even her, or my, senior portrait. This is my the "proof" from which I would have chosen to order my official senior portraits from . . . if I would have graduated.

But I didn't graduate. And there is the source of her pain.

Actually, not graduating is a painful regret, but the pain started long before then.

I had a good life and was raised in a typical, loving home. My pain came from within. I believed lies the adversary told me, my peers told me, Hollywood told me, and I added to them my own.

I held onto these barbed lies firmly during my teenage years.

I was stupid.

I was ugly.

I was annoying.

I wasn't likable.

I wasn't lovable.

I wasn't important.

I was invisible.

I didn't matter.

These lies acted as rudders that steered my steps, the very steps that led me away from people and opportunities that could have blessed me, to a sad place inside myself.

No, it was not total misery. People I ask now tell me I was vivacious and outgoing, cute and funny, and well-liked. But the lenses through which I viewed myself and my life then, and perhaps the way I look back on it now, are tinted very darkly. Yes, I had joy and friends and fun. The pain wasn't apparent  or constant, but it was real and deep. 

I am sad for 1989 Michelle. I can see how she got in her own way. I can see how her fear of believing she could be something special only to be proven wrong kept hope at bay.

I wish I could go back and hug 1989 Michelle, and tell her she's okay. No, not just okay. That she is awesome. I wish I could tell her to not care what others think. I wish I could tell her to claim the power she had to decide her value, rather than giving it to other broken people who were just trying to figure themselves out. I wish I could tell her she was smart and college would be a wonderful and reachable goal. I wish I could tell her to trust God more, and to trust in herself more. I wish I could tell her to open her eyes and see the love that's around her.

1991 Michelle began to figure it out as she prepared for her mission.

1999 Michelle, married with two small kids, was strong on the path towards healing.

2009 Michelle, about to welcome a third child by adoption and just discovering a love of writing, was ever further along that path.

And now, 2019 Michelle has got a good grasp on things. I, now 48-years old, feel settled and happy in who I am. I am smart and kind and loving. I am confident and assured. I find joy in serving and don't seek approval for being. I like how I look and how I act. I love me, and because of that, I can love others more freely.

Life is difficult in other ways. I'm not perfect at all. But I have the ability now to recognize when I get in my own way and have the strength (thanks to God) to step aside.

I can't go back and take 1989 Michelle's pain away, but I can make sure I don't hold onto it. 

For her, I'll take all the good she didn't see in herself and see it in me and others now. 

For her, I'll find another girl, teen, or woman that can't seem to get out of her own way, and gently take her by the hand and help her step aside.

For her, I can love me now and her then.

For her, I can dismiss regret and thank her for being brave in the darkness.

For her, I can be happy.

Friday, February 1, 2019


Way-too-long-vulnerable post warning ahead:

I have a new term: messpiration. 

I discovered it this weekend when I thought I broke. 

As many of you know, one of the things I do is write and speak on inspirational topics for women. I am all about perspective and choice laughter and the power of will and resilience and God. 

This can be a tricky thing, for teaching about inspiration and empowerment means I know a lot about it. And in my mind, I equate knowledge with performance. If I know these things, then I shouldn’t struggle with them. 

But I do. 

Not all the time. But I sometimes I do. 

Sometimes I wonder if I am enough. I wonder if I’ve failed my kids. I wonder what people think of me. I hurt and doubt and am afraid.

Then I beret myself because I feel like I should know better, and this means I should do better. I should think and feel better. 

I do. But sometimes I don’t. 

So then I feel like a fraud. How can I advocate and inspire when I feel like this way? How can I have anything to offer when I have moments of struggle myself? Why can’t I keep it all together all the time?

I was talking to a friend the other day and I said, “You know, after all this time studying and writing and speaking, I’ve realized something. I’m a mess.”

I love a perfect God and His perfect plan and principles. But, man do I trip all over them. I love hope but sometimes I lose it. I hate fear but sometimes I cling to it. I trust Him but sometimes I get frustrated and impatient. I understand I have control over my reactions, but sometimes I want to ram my car into the guy in front of me who cut me off (just a tap, really.) Damn slips from my lips too often and I love sleeping in and eating ice cream for breakfast. I think waaaay to much and over analyze everything-except the dumb things I do and say without thinking at all. I’m complicated and messy. 

Circumstances were a bit challenging and I dipped pretty low this past weekend. The weight of fear and pain pushed my thoughts down. I began to doubt my contribution to my family, my church, my writing and speaking. How can I help anyone when I feel so broken? (I have soooo many thoughts on “broken”, but that’s for another long-winded post.)

I was bemoaning my state of messiness to my daughter who, after listening to me whine and cry said, “So, you’re human then?”

I suppose I am. Very much so. 

You won’t find anything close to perfection here. I’m no example.

But, I believe in God and what He can do for and with me. I get excited when I think about progression and problem-solving and who we really are and second and third and thousandths chances. I love that the Savior gets me and has the power to ease my pain and strengthen me if I let Him. I love laughter and cookie dough and organizing. I love to make people happy. And I love real. 

So often we see people trying to inspire us with perfect appearances and programs (for a small price). They post their best as proof their answers will solve all your problems too. 

But here’s what I’ve discovered. We are all a mess. Even them. And anyone who tells you differently is trying to sell you something. Sometimes literally. 

We buy into the idea that happiness and joy are the “right” places and if we feel anything other than complete faith and serenity somehow it’s wrong and we are deficient. Pain and struggle have turned into sources of shame. We see them as weaknesses, proof we can’t cut it. Proof we aren’t enough. 

Look, life sometimes is really hard. It’s messy. And we struggle. This is part of our experience. We don’t wallow in it, glorify it, or use it for attention. But we shouldn’t be ashamed of it either. Pain is pain. It’s not our enemy or our friend. What we do with it is.

I’m almost always happy, but when I’m not, I’m really not. 

In my lowest moment this weekend after I had cried on the shoulder of my 21-year-old daughter, I looked at her and said, “I want you to remember this moment- the moment your mom broke.” 

She nodded. 

Then I said, “And I want you to remember what I’m going to do next.”

She nodded. 

“I’m going I let you help me today. I’m going to wipe my tears. I’m going to seek God’s help because there is some pain that only He can lessen and some strength only He can give. And I’m going to chose to be okay.” Then I smiled and got up. 

Even though I’m a mess, I’m going to continue to teach and write inspirational stuff because I believe in Who I’m teaching and writing about. I’m not an inspirational person. I’m messpirational. And I like it. And I love Him. 

So, why share all this? And why post this pic of me that’s not smiling and joyous? Why not keep such personal matters to myself?

Because I hurt still. It’s getting better- but there’s still a struggle to be had. And maybe you’re hurt or are struggling too. And because I hope we can still believe that we all have something to give even when we feel like we are small and broken. 

I don’t think we need to be happy and perfect all the time to contribute or inspire. I just think we just need to be real about it all. Life is hard and wonderful and painful and lovely and scary and fantastic. 

We don’t need to bask in the low times, allowing our struggle to define our capacity or value. Acknowledge it. Accept it. And move on with it. Wipe our tears. Let others help. And choose to keep going. 

I choose to believe we all have something to offer, in happiness and pain, in joy and sorrow. 

I believe we are all messpirational.

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