Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas Spirit = The Spirit of Christ

This past week has been an emotional roller coaster for me. If I'm being honest, though, sometimes it seems like every week is an emotional one for me πŸ˜…

Yesterday was especially difficult. I woke up to some unpleasant (and actually very mean and hurtful) messages on social media that were directed at me. I almost started crying, but surprisingly, I held it together and just told this person, "Merry Christmas! πŸ’—" There were so many things I could have said, words backed with lots of anger and hurt...but I didn't. Maybe it's because it was Christmas Eve Eve, or maybe it's because I actually made a point to read/listen to a General Conference talk yesterday morning. Whatever the cause, I did my best to "turn the other cheek."  I'm still in shock that that happened to me, but Josh made me promise not to talk about it anymore because it makes us both upset, so I'm letting it go.

So all of that happened in the morning, and Josh was working (on a Saturday) so I was already pretty bummed. I called him and told him about it on my way to a birthday party for a friend's baby boy, and Mikala had a pretty grumpy morning filled with lots of tears and loud crying, which made me even more upset. I got to the party in a foul mood, but decided to just brave being in a social atmosphere by myself. 

I didn't really know too many other people there, so I sat alone (with Mikala).  I have to admit, in moments like that, I'm so grateful that I have my little buddy to take everywhere with me. Sometimes it feels inconvenient to tend to his needs 24/7, but the truth is, I absolutely love his company. I love his sweet, happy spirit. I love his cuddles. I love his innocent laughter. I love HIM.

Anyway, I fed him while I waited for the food line at the party to go down. After he ate enough to be happy, I left our things on our table and carried him to go stand in line for food. I was planning to carry him in one arm and hold my plate in the other arm. I've done that before. As I was about to get my plate, I saw a woman whom I have known since I was born (she's about my mom's age) from church walking towards me with a smile on her face. I smiled back, thinking that that was just her way of saying, "Hi!" from far away.

She walked straight toward me and then offered to carry Mikala so I could get a plate of food. I tried to give him to her, but he's been so clingy lately and wouldn't let go of me. So instead, she offered to hold my plate for me and serve me food. I'm always ashamed of accepting help from people, probably because of the prideful side of me, worrying that people will think I'm helpless or incapable of doing 12 things at once😁 (really, who's going to be analyzing my multitasking skills??). However, this time, I was so touched by her act of service that I didn't have enough time to think about how to politely refuse help, and she grabbed my plate and started serving me food. 

When we got to the end of the line, she set my plate down in front of my chair and I thanked her. When I sat down, I had to try really hard to fight back tears. After the kind of morning I had had, being attacked on social media, dealing with a sick grumpy baby, and having a husband away working his 6th day that week...being a recipient of such a selfless act completely overwhelmed me and humbled me. (I would find out later that day, as I related this story to Josh, he had actually prayed for angels to minister to me after we had gotten off the phone before the party..she was definitely an angel.)

That was not the end of the service I received yesterday. 

As soon as I sat down to start eating, the daughter-in-law of the woman who had helped me, sat down in front of me. We've never really talked much at all before, but here she was sitting in front of me. I knew who she was because our families knew each other, but I've never taken the time to have a conversation with her. She said, "So I know this is totally random, but..." She then proceeded to tell me the whole story about how she and her husband had struggled for 11 months to conceive their daughter. She felt so alone in her struggle (because infertility tends to be a private struggle) and was told to read my blog about how Josh and I were able to conceive Mikala. She then decided to try out acupuncture and was able to get pregnant the following month. Something she told me was, "I just wanted to share that with you because you probably didn't think you were helping somebody else when you wrote about your trials, but you helped me." Again, I had to try so hard to fight back tears. Not only did her mother-in-law feel the prompting from the Spirit to administer service to me, but this girl also felt prompted to share something that would cheer me up. 

Even now as I'm writing all of this down, I'm overcome with emotion and gratitude for the love that my Heavenly Father has for me. I'm so imperfect. I can be so selfish at times. I can be so prideful. I can be so, so ungrateful when I complain a lot. And yet, He loves me enough to still comfort me through two sweet spirits.

The goodness I have felt from this family continued today. We decided to attend my parents' ward instead of ours for church today. It's Christmas Eve and I figured it would be nice to spend more time with my family and to see their Christmas musical program they put together. After church, I found out that the daughter of the woman who first helped me was finally pregnant after maybe 4 years of struggling with infertility. We are about the same age and grew up together, so we know each other very well. This time, I did tear up. I felt so much joy for her, as I know how painful it has been for her (as it was for me) to overcome this trial. Although she did not directly administer service to me in a traditional sense, just knowing what a strong, and faithful woman she is -- one who patiently endured a trial given to her -- I felt joy in my heart knowing that she finally obtained the blessing she so deserves and has been praying for.

In a matter of 2 days, 3 individuals from 1 family have blessed my life and shared the Spirit of Christ(mas) with me, even though I am so undeserving. I know that is not a coincidence at all. It was as if Heavenly Father was enveloping me in His loving embrace with a quiet, tender reminder that I am loved. Despite my struggles, pains, imperfections, short-comings, and sins...He loves me.

This is the true Spirit of Christmas: service and making others feel loved.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

On Selfishness

It's amazing how drastically your life can change over time --  it could be a few years, a couple of months, or even a split second.  You're just plugging along, sometimes just trying to survive the day to day grind, then suddenly you stop and look back at a specified amount of time and you go, "Holy crap! A lot has changed!" It could be within yourself or just events in your life. Here are some examples of moments like that from my life:

-The year I graduated high school (2008), I had suffered heartbreak twice before meeting Josh and building my relationship with him. So basically, I had 3 boyfriends in one year 😳😲. That's a little embarrassing to admit...as it shows my immaturity..

-I wrote Josh letters for 2 years while he served his mission in Tampa, Florida, feeling like I had an imaginary boyfriend with him being gone for so long, and then suddenly we were married for eternity 7 months after he returned home. 😍

-I had a really painful falling out with close friends in Utah while trying to endure the cold winters alone at BYU-Provo and then 2 years later I was a newlywed attending BYU-Hawaii surfing all the time and making new friends.

-Josh and I struggled with the pain of infertility for 4 years, and then in a matter of 3 months since starting acupuncture and chinese herb treatments, we were pregnant. πŸ˜‡

-I was pregnant for 41 weeks then in a split second, the moment Mikala was born, I became a mother. <3

-I worked as an elementary school teacher for 3 years, then at the end of the 2015-2016 school year, I was a stay at home wife/mommy with no lesson plans, data analysis, or grading to do.

I could go on and on, but you get the point. Life is always, always changing. It was part of Heavenly Father's plan for us to help us grow and progress! One of those changes listed above that I had been struggling with was becoming a mother. Yes, I know, I KNOW. I wanted this!!! For soooo long I dreamed of just quitting my job and enjoying life loving on my precious baby, becoming a beautiful family! Don't get me wrong, I am eternally grateful for my son for making me a mother and completing our family.  However, I did not expect some challenges to come up as a result of getting what I wanted so desperately. The biggest challenge for me after becoming a mom, was my marriage. I guess I should add one more life change to that list:

-For 5 years Josh and I built and enjoyed a beautiful marriage and family, which was inclusive of just the 2 of us.  On 9/14/16, we became a family of 3.

I thought the equation for our relationships would be as simple as 2 + 1 = 3. But now I am realizing that relationships are NEVER simple, hahaha.  Because relationships consist of humans, imperfect humans, with their own preferences, skills, talents, passions, mistakes, etc. So really the equation looked maybe more like this: 1 (Josh, husband, father, Elders Quorum president, intern, full-time graduate student, newly hired full-time state worker, hard-worker) + 1 (Ari, wife, stay-at-home mother, HORMONAL, round the clock milk bag for baby, did I mention hormonal???) + 1 (Mikala, innocent baby who was a bit colicky when first born, but healthy and happy) = my family. That probably didn't make sense to anyone else but me...anyways...

Simply put. I. became. selfish. Who am I kidding, I was probably already selfish in our marriage before Mikala was born. I can't blame everything on the little guy! But my attitude became worse after he was born. "I've done this all day, I don't get any breaks, I don't get to surf, I am so tired, I, I, I, I,...." What about Josh? Well, he just took on all of his new responsibilities like a CHAMP. And you know what, he was always constantly trying to find ways to serve me and to make me happy, despite my crappy attitude.

This weekend we kind of hit rock bottom. I was sick so I had stayed home all weekend with baby. I didn't even go to church because I felt so sick. Josh selflessly took the baby with him to church so I could sleep, uninterrupted (and it was GLORIOUS). You would think I would be a cheerful, grateful person after that, right? Well, I'm sad to say I wasn't...in fact I spent the day angry about certain things that were out of my control. I was totally unpleasant to be around, so Josh took the baby to my family's house for dinner without me (because I was having a pity party with myself). While he was gone my head started to clear and I started to see how awful I had been all day. Once I realized that, the first thought I had was: How can I serve Josh and make him happy? So I decided to tackle the huge mountain of laundry that had 2 loads worth of washed but unfolded clothes.  When he came home, I said, "This is my way of saying sorry," and he said, "I know."

Last night we had the talk that kind of turned my attitude around and gave me a big fat slice of humble pie.  I HAVE BEEN IN THE WRONG. So I asked if we could talk, and Josh asked, about what? And I said, don't you feel like we're kind of in a slump right now?? And he said...we've been in it for A WHILE NOW. I cried as Josh finally felt comfortable opening up to me about he has been feeling this way, basically how our marriage felt kind of dead as we just "did our thing" everyday. I took care of baby. He worked. He's been trying to serve me to make me happy, but I still acted selfish and ungrateful and unhappy... I have been letting my stress about Mikala affect the way I treat him. The biggest factor was that I completely stopped saying personal prayers. I didn't care about feeding my spirit anymore. I felt like, just because I wasn't doing anything BAD, that I was doing okay. I read something the other day that put things into the perspective I needed:

"Language matters. Instead of saying, 'I don't have time for that,' try saying, 'That's not a priority right now.' Watch how it changes your motivation to do certain things."

So I kept saying, I don't have time to go to the temple...I don't have time to read my scriptures...I don't have time to say my prayers... EXCUSES! Really, I was telling myself that temple is not a priority for me, scripture reading is not a priority, and praying isn't important to me right now. How horrible does that sound when you put it that way? And yet, that's exactly the situation. So what was taking up all my time, what WAS my priority? Ummm social media. Texting friends complaining about stuff. Watching Netflix... 😬

I always felt like the only way my marriage could ever fail is if one of us were ever unfaithful. Yep, that's how naive I have been. But after the talk Josh and I had last night, after making promises to him to be better and to treat him better, to MAKE HIM A PRIORITY, I had the impression from the Holy Ghost: Selfishness can destroy a marriage. This might seem really obvious to you, but it hit me so hard. I have been so selfish! For years! And yet my wonderful husband has chosen to stay with me, to love me through my selfishness.

This morning I read Mosiah 19 about a man named Gideon.  He sought to slay King Noah for all the evil things he had done, then King Noah asked Gideon to spare him, because he said he was worried about his people dying from the army that had been attacking them. In the scriptures, it said, "And now the king was not so much concerned about his people as he was about his own life; nevertheless, Gideon did spare his life." King Noah was being selfish.  In the end, most of his people were spared and taken captive, but Gideon ended up slaying him anyways later on.  It's ironic because the idea behind selfishness is that you are only looking out for yourself, to be happy and protected.  But just as King Noah died anyway, if I continue to be selfish in my marriage I could destroy it, as well as destroy myself, in a sense, because my marriage is one of the greatest sources of happiness in my life. It may sound dramatic and exaggerated, but I'm afraid that if I don't think in extreme terms then I might not be motivated to change myself.

I found my journal from my sophomore year of college at BYU-Provo. I was enrolled in a Doctrine & Covenants class in which the professor required us to write in our journal daily in tandem with reading scriptures daily. I was at a spiritual high in my life and it naturally made me more loving towards others and want to serve them. That's how I need to treat my husband. I need to get back to that. I need to learn to be more selfless. It goes against who I've been for a long time, but I know with practice, the Lord will help us to strengthen our marriage so that we may attain true joy, which will in turn bring joy to our son, whom we love so much.