Posts in And I'm a Mormon
Beauty Instead of Ashes, Joy Instead of Tears

I haven't written for a few days, not because I don't have anything to say, but because how do you follow on something like Heidi Swapp's beautiful and exquisitely sad post about her sweet son Cory? What else could there ever be to say that measures to this? How will any of us be able to see through our tears in our sorrow for one amazing family and one very, very lonely young dude? 

I've cried a lot the past couple of weeks. I ugly-cried at church so hard the past 2 weeks I had to come home. For two weeks in a row. I blame all the Jesus and Eternal Hope songs - not in anger, but in gratitude for God's plan - that we are all born into families for a reason, and that those families still exist in eternity. Doesn't make it hurt any less when one of them leaves the circle for awhile, though. My whole soul hurts for my soul sister. She is, all I can say, immensely strong. She's baffled and heartbroken and struggling, and still staunch and faithful and hilarious and I will love and admire her grace for as long as I live

She's a woman of sincere humility and faith who desperately feels the Cory-shaped hole in her heart, but knows with that same unshakeable faith that he'll always be hers, that he's waiting for her, and that someday - maybe not for a long time - she'll get some understanding of his pain. Maybe of WHAT the level of hidden pain he was in, and WHY. Oh, the why - why does this have to be an earthly affliction at all? It's truly low and dirty play.

And yet again, I myself find it terrifyingly easy to imagine the WHAT, although nobody can ever know the pain in those secret silent places in a heart and mind. I've blogged about my own struggle with depression. And so my heart breaks twice, once for each of them.

Here's my hope, and, after talking with her, Heidi's hope too:

Let there not be stigma about depression. Let there not be blame, or shame, or that old tired yawn about how it's only in our heads, and the whole pick yourself up and walk-it-off nonsense that never got anybody anywhere and instead kills thousands of people a year. Depression is a monster that eats you heart and soul, bite by bite. Plays to your weaknesses and sadness and hopelessness until one day you start to believe the devil's lie: That they'd be better off without you. 

I'm now on both sides of that equation. I've thought it. And now I experience (in my small heartbroken way, only feeling for HER unimaginable pain) the nuclear-bomb devastation left in the wake of a suicide. And one thing I know for certain-sure: 


But here is the bitter and heartbreaking truth: sometimes therapy and meds and our best vigilance are not enough. Sometimes to our beautiful friend or son or family member, whose hope is in ashes and whose future seems too dark to imagine, there is only one option left. Please, let us not blame them. Let us also never blame or question the action of parents or children or siblings or or others that they leave behind. They certainly have enough self-doubt and private, questioning anguish to be getting on with. 

So we can mourn with those that mourn, and when our own questions begin to turn to 'how COULD he/she/they, WHY did or didn't he/she/they, we can shut up about it. Because we will never know and it isn't ours to know anyway. We grieve. We condole with them. We cry our ugly-cry for the earthly life that so often hurts like a motherbear and leaves us all reeling in pain. And we can kneel in the midst of that sorrow and thank God for the opportunity to come here anyway. That He's there with His hand in ours through it all - not to take it away, but to help us live through it and come out more faithful, better, stronger in the end. That's what Heidi, my sweet and grief-stricken and immensely faithful friend, is doing. Maybe tonight you can kneel a little longer in grief for her and her family, and for all the earthly pain everywhere. And then maybe kneel a little longer still in gratitude for the peace that only Heaven can bring as it lingers close.




Song to the Lord of the Vineyard

Song to the Lord of the Vineyard

for H.K.S.

I have carved thee upon my soul,

O Lord of this rustling place.

And here, upon this bowing limb, this breaking heart

I set the seal of Heaven,

and I am formed, and framed, and each leaf counted.


And throwing green hair back I exult

with eyelids orange in the sun, and I sing.

mossy with music and surging with sap, I sing,

cannot be kept from singing.

amazed, reply with arms-wide yes - 

to the heart of my own ringed, widening heart. 


In the rough of brown earth, where knowledge began,

where nurture began, I delve with spreading toe unseen,

slowly breaking clay and rock, slowly

reaching roots-wide yes. Slowly raising

this trunk of my trunk, bending but never bent.


The chaos and storms that have shaken me!

Sent me quivering to the roots.

My leaves shake and fall, my twigs break in the black sky

my delved foot slips as I cry -


But always, dear Master of furrow and plow,

I am reached, braced, borne up,


and by thee, and for thee,

I am slowly thus made

a sheltering home, carved forever

in Thy likeness.


I watched before time a red corner of this own garden

another tree, ringed and broken,

and set on a skull-hill.

And there Thou hung, my own vineyard's Lord,

broken, in blood, and body, and finished.

All our leaves and all our tears rained that day, gasping in sorrow

and breath-held hope.


But now - now in this same garden’s quiet

Sabbath corner,

with listening leaf and witnessing bough,

we of the Vineyard see a rolled stone,

and greet an empty grave. 


So Before his scarred feet I bow my creaking knees, 

my awed silence pruning words of grief

into resolve, 

that His giving, hanging, breaking, tending

will not go unattended.


And my tree-soul straightens, 

remembering sap-deep,

and with low, rustling anthem

that my work - leaf and branch - is now this: 

ever delving, ever reaching

to make of this my bark, my root my worshipping leaf,

An arrow to the to sky he returns to.

-Jessica Sprague

The Road to 2.0.
When you get to the end of all the light that you know and it’s time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things will happen: either you will be given something solid to stand on or you will be taught how to fly.
— Edward Teller

So. I started thinking about remaking my web site in oh, 2012. Maybe 2011. Right about the time things had really started going crazy with classes and traveling and trying to maintain some semblance of work/life balance, and the one thing that wasn't changing - that I realized I couldn't get to change was the backend structure to We'd built it on Joomla, which in itself isn't a bad content management system. The benefit is that it has lots of plugins and is very customizable. And our downfall was that it has lots of plugins and is very customizable - because those customizations locked us in to an old version of Joomla that couldn't grow or change as we needed it to. 

Between 2012 and the beginning of 2013, Jared and I decided that we were running out of options as far as how we upgrade all the interrelated pieces of (the forums, the gallery, the class content, the shop, the backend structure) without everything tumbling down like a house of cards. We hired two separate developers, who then disappeared on us. I felt trapped. And I must say that being trapped is a feeling that is extraordinarily unpleasant for me. Paralyzing. Visceral. 

The one thing I'd been trying to avoid was shutting the site down completely to remake it. What will happen if I do? I'll lose all this time and work and everyone will disappear. All the fear. All the uncertainty. Feeling trapped without any good options. 

In the spring of 2013, I started to get sick. Exhausted. Sad. In pain. Several months and doctors and tests later, and a diagnosis of lupus left me stunned and honestly without options for the site, because I had to focus on myself.

I do think, though, that this was a huge blessing in disguise. That trapped feeling? Well, I must say that it goes away when you're tossed off a cliff. Trapped no longer! And fear and uncertainty are still there, but mostly it's about: 

  • Where will I land?
  • What will I do now?
  • If I am not this, then what am I?
  • If I don't have this, what do I have at all?

Fast-forward through 2014. I know I did. Sold a cabin. Sold a house. Bought another house. Moved. And still those questions remained.

In some ways it was nice not HAVING to be teaching a class all the time. But I missed it - Missed it like a limb. Mostly I missed the sense of purpose, the feeling that I was helping improve lives. Missed geeking out every day. Missed connecting with women all over the world, and sharing lives and stories and joy and tears and life and all. After all, many of my best friends live thousands of miles away, and I've only met them a few times in real life. But I wanted to come back on terms I could really accept. Terms I could choose and control. No more self-sacrifice. 

In December (so about 6 months ago), by total chance, I found Fedora, the company I'm working with now, who hosts online schools. Hosts! Online schools! I had learned the price of owning my own server and being responsible for its care and upgrade and maintenance. Had I ever. (See above, chapters 2011 through 2013). So when I began to take a tour of Fedora, and saw all the things I'd gain, how easy it was to create courses, with no backend building or maintenance - that I could get back to doing what I love, I admit that I sat and cried. Now, that's no surprise, right? I cry kind of a lot. But I cried with a heart full of gratitude and hope, and in February began to plan 2.0.

February 2015

...A lot of work...

June 2015

So, my friend. Why the backstory? First of all, I want to make sure I write it down so I don't forget what a complete and utter miracle it is that I find myself where I am right now. That I owe my Heavenly Father ten lifetimes of thanks for listening to my prayers and seeing my tears and loving me enough to let me fall completely apart. And then loving me enough to show me the way we could put me back together. It is by grace we are saved, after all we can do.

Secondly, I have a feeling that you might have faced some fear and uncertainty and thrown-off-of-cliff feelings at some point, and maybe something I have to say here might help. You are always you, regardless of what title or label you give. You are your thoughts and ideas and the goodness you put into the world. You are infinitely precious and valuable, and unique in all the universe. You were created with a purpose (whether you see it now or not), and your only job is to keep on. Your only job is to keep on. Tend your garden. Watch your flock. Stand your post. Keep the faith.

Thirdly, I want to - I guess - officially announce that I'm back. I feel SO GOOD right now. So much less pain. So much less sadness. So much hope. So how's that for an announcement? We're live! Come visit 2.0. I'll meet you there. 

All is well.

Thank you, so much for your amazing comments and emails and love. I have been moved to tears by your support, not only of me, but of the people in your life (maybe you?) in whom you might recognize some of what I said. I hope with all my heart that something might have resonated - that something might have provided help or hope or comfort.

As I've been re-reading, I realized that I needed a follow up to my last post. I need you to know about the success. And perhaps the darkness I explained and the urgency I expressed overshadowed what really matters:

It absolutely does get better. So much better.

It gets so much better that when you get back up to the ridge and the sunlight comes it is indescribable. The shock of the difference between the depths of the valley and the joyful journey with my little caravan on the ridge is so overwhelming that even I can't find the words to describe it, but just have to lift my face to Heaven and feel the bright sun and let the tears of gratitude fall. These are the reasons I'm on my knees at night, not in agony, but in gratitude to the God who gave me life, and challenges - and yep - even allows me to experience darkness. But also, because of it, the brightness of hope. 

It is no small miracle that I've arrived on earth when there are so many resources that make "normal life" (picture air quotes there, because come on, right?) possible. I knew I was going through the motions in my life when I began the search several years ago, for what it would take to truly feel better in a long-term way. If not to fix, then at least to patch the holes I felt. I was asked what percentage I thought I was "running" at - essentially how close to my real capacity for happiness | stability | potential | energy. Was it 60%? Let's start this med. 75%? What if we tweak this dosage? 80% now? And approaching that target has been my goal ever since. For me it's a more tangible way of identifying what I feel in relationship to my own potential.

I feel really good. Hopeful. And with that hope comes my desire to share the hope. 

The Book of Mormon prophet Nephi talks about the brightness of hope as he urges us to follow the path forged by Jesus the savior of the world: 

 Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life. 2 Nephi 31:20

Today, right now, and for weeks and months honestly, I'm on the ridge, learning how to stay here as often as I can, learning how to tell when my feet start to slip. I love my life and I count my blessings and snuggle my family and I'm grateful. So grateful for the absolute miracle it is that I've arrived on earth in a time where there is SO MUCH hope for feeling better.

Living a gorgeous and colorful life in spite of depression is possible. 90%, 100% is right there, possible. It's so much more than damage-control or one more night without the agony.

It's rising up to the ridge where you should be, and to greeting the sunlight.

So Grateful.

In the past month or so since I posted this post I have received an outpouring of love and support that I could not have imagined - little chance things coming in my way like pennies from heaven, or like rain in a desert. Thank you

Twice blessed is help unlooked for.
- Eomer, The Lord of the Rings

I have received cards in the mail, emails and texts and loving arms around me as I've struggled the past few months (and admittedly, still struggle). Each one is a thread of friendship and solidarity that I've so needed, but didn't think could - what - deserve?  

I asked for God's help, and He sent me you. Asked Him for help in the long road that seems this year to be so much darker than it has before, and I find hands extended and feet ready to walk the path with me. I can't ever be grateful enough for that. 

When Joseph Smith was in prison in Liberty, Missouri (certainly far less comfortable quarters than my sunny second-floor home office where I'm writing this), he wrote a call-and-answer style prayer which I find so moving. He begins by asking, "O God, where art thou, and where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?" 

And this in reply, from the mouth of God to his faithful prophet, and from there to me: 

My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.
Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands.
-Doctrine and Covenants 121:7-9

Last week we held our annual meet-up, lovingly dubbed "Spraguefest" in Atlanta. We've been meeting together every year since 2007 - sometimes only 15 people, sometimes 100. We've met in good times and bad, in Chicago and Utah and Las Vegas and Minnesota and Georgia. I have no doubt we'll keep meeting every year until forever, because it is good for our souls. I know it is good for mine.  

Last week these friends (some of whom have been to every Spraguefest since the beginning) hailed me again with warm hearts and friendly hands, and over the past month hands and hearts have been extended in ways I never looked for. 

Of course, I am still kind of a mess. The process is both physical and mental - and sometimes the pain no one can see is worse. Sometimes I begin to lose hope that I'll ever get "fighting fit" again. But even small victories are victories still, I need to remember that.

And I will admit to ugly-crying through this sermon from Jeffrey R. Holland, which was delivered during the LDS General Conference the first week in October, but which I didn't see until our hotel room in Atlanta (sorry, team!) If you have ever dealt with, or love someone with a mental or emotional illness - or an illness that has mental or emotional components, grab some tissues and watch this, ok? 

And here is a great quote from that same sermon:


There's a lot I still don't know about what's next (and I will admit to not being very comfortable with a ton of uncertainty. An outline! A sketch! A drawing on a napkin! Anything!). But even without a map - or perhaps more accurately because I am without a map, I am so much more grateful for your kindness and love. Thank you.


One for Sunday: The Hour I First Believed

I've been working on this little poster for a couple of days now, and I thought that today would be a good time to post it. :) This is one of my all-time favorite hymns, and these particular lines have special meaning.

I love the reminder that one of our most precious gifts is the Grace of Heaven. Even though various (Christian) faiths have differing definitions of what Grace really is and what exactly being saved means, I think this hymn resonates with all believers. It speaks the truth about the Atonement of Christ for our sins, that through the incomprehensible sacrifice He made, He extends his Grace to give each of us the chance to reach Heaven. This is the truth I remember every time I see or sing these words, from back in my own life in the hour I first believed, right down to this very hour, and it fills me with peace.

That hour, and this hour too. By Jessica Sprague.

That hour, and this hour too. By Jessica Sprague.

I hope this brightens your day! Please feel free to contact me if you would like the high-resolution file for printing in poster size.  

 I'm thinking about doing a series of lines from hymns in this same style. What do you think?





Happy Mother's Day!

Just a little quick image for today. Poppies are some of my favorite flower, and I love them for their ruby-red color today. :) Happy Mother's day to all the mamas. You will never know the the far-reaching extent that your influence for good is is in this world, however small your contribution may sometimes seem to be. Bless you forever, mama.

Above Rubies!

One for Sunday: Agency Edition

Jared and I have been teaching the 12 & 13 year old Sunday School class at church for the past several months - almost a year. It is so much fun to be a part of the lives of these kids, and to help them learn how to make good choices that will keep them safe and happy in their future. Today's lesson revolved around the idea of agency, or our freedom to choose what we'll do with our lives. 

After talking about why we have the freedom to choose, and what we're actually choosing, we are left then with actual choices. But often it can seem difficult to decide WHICH choice is right or wrong. I presented these two papers to the class by setting them side-by-side on the floor:

Identical Papers

Identical Papers

The most important part is that one of these papers is the truth, and one is a lie. On the fronts they look identical, which is the key thing. On the surface it's impossible to tell which choice is right and which is wrong.

Search Diligently In The Light of Christ

So we read this, from the Book of Mormon, Moroni 7: 15-19:

15 For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.
 16 For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.
 17 But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.
 18 And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged.
 19 Wherefore, I beseech of you, brethren, that ye should search diligently in the light of Christ that ye may know good from evil; and if ye will lay hold upon every good thing, and condemn it not, ye certainly will be a child of Christ.

We talked about what it means to search "in the light of Christ" - and I likened this to using a candle to be able to see in the darkness.

I turned out the light in the classroom and pulled out my flashlight. I picked up each of the papers (which I had taped a printed page on the back of), and held the flashlight through the back of it, like so:

Shining a flashlight from behind the paper illuminates the words.

Shining a flashlight from behind the paper illuminates the words.

At that point it was really easy to read the messages and decide which was the truth and which was a lie.

The message here is that when we use Jesus as our example, or our "light" - when we ask whether something invites us to do good, or love God, then just like shining that flashlight through the paper, we can easily distinguish between right and wrong.

I gave the kids a printed version of each page to take home and tape to the back of two identical papers and to teach it to their families.

If you'd like to use this as an object lesson, here is a PDF of the two sheets I created to tape to the back of the patterned papers (which, as you can see above, have stripes on the reverse side! Cute!)

Click below to download the PDF.

Click below to download the PDF.

NOTE: Of course if you are not LDS (Mormon, Latter-day Saint), this lesson works equally well with verses from the New Testament - like when Satan is tempting Jesus after His 40 days of fasting (Matthew 4) for the "Lie" side, versus pretty much any of Jesus' teachings for the "Truth" side.

On Waiting.

Does it feel like there have been long gaps between posts around here? It feels like that to me. Feels a bit like every time I get some momentum going, someone gets injured or sick or hospitalized. That’s Rowen (who fell while balancing on our sawhorses and spent 12 hours in the ER), me (you already know about that), and Elliott (who had an asthma attack and spent the night at the Children’s hospital in Raleigh last week). All within the month of February.

But it’s March now. Yay March! I have so much optimism for 2013, and despite some evidence (see above) to the contrary, I refuse to believe that this year will be anything but GREAT. So I’m back.

Over the past 6 weeks or so, I’ve gotten really good at waiting. Well, not REALLY good, but better. Waiting to feel better. Waiting in waiting rooms. Waiting for meds to kick in, and for tests to be done. Waiting for my child to feel better. Waiting to hear good news. Always waiting to start the next chapter of wellness and productivity and getting back to ‘normal’.

I am probably the world’s most impatient person. Really. I think it’s partly the ADD, and partly just a personality thing - when I’ve made up my mind to do something, I have to start RIGHT NOW. Oh the whims of the whimsical! I love learning and experimenting and trying new things, and above all, I love starting. Hope is in the starting! The momentum, the newness, the excitement, the wind in your hair for a journey unknown but most assuredly awesome. This is going to be AWESOME!

But after the beginning comes the middle. There comes a point in every journey - class, workout, road trip, project, hike, blog post… when the excitement has worn off, and the momentum is gone, and you can’t see the beginning behind you (thereby to give up and go back), and you can’t see the end ahead, and this little creeping of despair settles in. I can’t do this. I won’t make it. I’m sick, and sore, and tired, and bored, and hopeless, and I just can’t go on.

This is the waiting. The slog. And sometimes just waiting - for the light to break, the dawn to appear, the glimmer of hope on the horizon - just waiting for the something that will bring your courage back and show you that it’s worth going on - this is the toughest part of the entire thing.

I have the last verse of Longfellow’s beautiful Psalm of Life as the lock screen on my iPad. You’ve probably seen it before. I see it multiple times a day, and it is always a reminder.

    Let us, then, be up and doing,
        With a heart for any fate ;
    Still achieving, still pursuing,
        Learn to labor and to wait.

This verse - ah! I have heard it in my mind so many times, especially the past 6 weeks or so. Let us then, be up and doing! So inspired, and inspiring. But the very last line is a lesson so subtle it’s easy to miss unless you’re in the circumstance. Learn to labor, and to wait.

Here’s the text of the full poem - filled with lessons and inspiration for “the slog”:


                    SAID TO THE PSALMIST

    TELL me not, in mournful numbers,
        Life is but an empty dream ! —
    For the soul is dead that slumbers,
        And things are not what they seem.

    Life is real !   Life is earnest!
        And the grave is not its goal ;
    Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
        Was not spoken of the soul.

    Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
        Is our destined end or way ;
    But to act, that each to-morrow
        Find us farther than to-day.

    Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
        And our hearts, though stout and brave,
    Still, like muffled drums, are beating
        Funeral marches to the grave.

    In the world’s broad field of battle,
        In the bivouac of Life,
    Be not like dumb, driven cattle !
        Be a hero in the strife !

    Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant !
        Let the dead Past bury its dead !
    Act,— act in the living Present !
        Heart within, and God o’erhead !

    Lives of great men all remind us
        We can make our lives sublime,
    And, departing, leave behind us
        Footprints on the sands of time ;

    Footprints, that perhaps another,
        Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
    A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
        Seeing, shall take heart again.

    Let us, then, be up and doing,
        With a heart for any fate ;
    Still achieving, still pursuing,
        Learn to labor and to wait.


Here’s another one from John Milton, called On His Blindness

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg’d with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts: who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.”

Milton certainly knew what waiting was about. By the time he wrote this poem, and his great epic poem Paradise Lost he was completely blind, and dictated the verses to his secretaries. But this faithfulness, that although without sight (“how my light is spent”), he would serve best by simply staying faithful (“bear God’s mild yoke”). And then that last line, that gorgeous last line:

They also serve who only stand and wait.

I think the fact that there isn’t more description to this waiting makes this line so relevant down through the long years (~400) since it was written. Serving isn’t always labor. Greatness isn’t always done on the run. Faithfulness isn’t always shown in flight.

And one last one from the 40th chapter of the Book of Isaiah, with a promise from God himself:

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary, and they shall walk, and not faint.

What better promise to someone waiting can there be than this?

If you’re waiting (like I have been) for the light to break, the sun to rise, the end to appear, there are promises given and there is hope to be had. The darkness doesn’t last forever - it can’t.

There is labor (to “post o’er land and ocean without rest”), and then there must be the hopeful waiting for the God-given energy and courage and ability to begin again.

Three for Sunday

Happy Mother’s Day, mamas! I hope yours was as relaxing as mine was! I got on a subway-art kick this evening and cranked out not one, but THREE based on church songs. I framed the “Dare to Do Right” poster, and it needs a companion. I hope you like these as well:

And this one:

And lastly:

If you click on the images, you’ll launch a larger version, which is about an 8x10 in print quality. I’ll be doing the originals as 16x20s for my entryway, and little postcard size for my office. :) If you use these, I’d love to see!

 If you are interested in learning how to make these in Photoshop, I have a mini-class dedicated to Subway Art that includes the awesome scuffy brushes and a complete step-by-step video walkthrough. Beginners welcome!

One for Sunday

I had a long talk with Rowen tonight, snuggling in my bed. She has been feeling sad and is very moody lately, which as me worried since whole bucketfuls of crazy kind of run in my family. (I say that with all the love). But she’s 8. Too young to see major depression yet, right? But she says she’s sad or mad with no reason, and is so frustrated. It breaks my heart to see the small clenched fists, the tense body, and recognize myself in her.

So I wrapped my arms around her last night, and I told her a big secret (one that I learned along the way, wished I had known earlier): boys can go off to their room most of the time, be left alone, and figure things out. They need to either blow off steam or just let the pressure dissipate. At least the man-types can. But girls, we need ways of figuring things out - getting all that stuff sorted in our heads means it needs to come out and go somewhere so it can be looked at, held, examined, labeled, and stored again. I told her about some of my strategies, like

  • writing things down
  • prayer - the pouring-out-your-soul kind
  • talking with other girls

And told her that this last one is SO important. She will have friends her whole life to rely and depend on. Aunts and grandmas and me. The Women. The Network. I said, Rowen, I will be your girl. You can always tell me anything. Even if it makes no sense or feels unimportant. I will listen.

Reader: When did you learn about the importance of the women and the network in your life?

And then I told her about another one that has brought me so much peace over the years.

First we grabbed Jared’s iPad, and looked up Galatians 5:22:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

I said, “What is the fruit of the strawberry plant?” And she said, “Strawberries.” And so I said, “What is the fruit of the pea plant?” and she said, “peas don’t make fruit!” So I told her that FRUIT in this case is what something makes or produces. So if the pea plant makes peas, what does the Spirit make?


I said that when we feel the Spirit of God we feel all of these things, and our goal is to feel the Spirit as often as we can, because that makes us happy. I asked her if she felt any love, joy or peace right then, and she said, “Not really”. I said, do you know what the word is when you focus only on yourself and your own troubles and problems? She said, “Selfish”. (So glad she didn’t think I was accusing her - I wasn’t)

And I said the opposite of the word selfish is when we make our “self” a little “less” and make other people a little more - it is “selfless”. When we make our self a little less and focus on someone else, we can forget about our trouble and it starts to go away. She said, “Jesus was selfless, wasn’t he?” (My mama heart did a little double-backflip here). “Yes. He was. He loved us so much that He died for us.”

And then we looked up John 3:16 - a verse she will read and hear hundreds or thousands of times in her life, but this was the first time, the momentous first time:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

And I told her that I believe that if she had been the only person that Jesus needed to come to earth for, he would have come anyway. He would have died anyway, just for her. Just for each of us.

I asked her to replace her name with “the world” and read it again. Then I asked her if she felt any love, joy, or peace, and she said, “I feel peaceful.”

After that she climbed into her bed and fell peacefully to sleep.

I don’t feel like I have all the answers, certainly. This time - oh this time I was there and God was there and together we taught this beautiful bright girl a little something that is very special, and has been very special to me in my life.

I don’t have all the answers, but I have developed some coping strategies that are hopefully a little healthier than eating myself into oblivion or sobbing my face off until I finally fall asleep  (not that I have not done these things), and if there is anything I can do that will ease the pain that is sure to come in my girl’s life (oh that I could protect her from it), I will.

Turning Eleven.

Eleven years ago today, on a spectacular summer Friday morning, I knelt across from my sweetheart and became his companion for time and eternity. My grandfather married us. After the small ceremony, our photographer (the now-famous Jon Canlas) got some really great shots despite it being the windiest day I can remember, like this one:


After our morning ceremony at the Mount Timpanogos LDS Temple, we all drove to Provo for our wedding luncheon at Tucano’s.

The next day was our reception in my grandparents’ backyard in Sugar City, ID. Picture barefoot bridesmaids in flowy blue dresses and flower crowns. Paper ornaments hanging from the trees. My friends Sally and Willie performing on guitar and bongo drums. And that was just the beginning of this great adventure, which has taken us from Utah and Idaho to Minnesota and North Carolina, through success and sorrow, frustration and tears, and so much more joy than I ever thought possible.

So much of the best stuff that has ever happened to me, has happened as a direct result of choosing to marry this cute boy, whom I had first seen nearly 5 years before as he walked out of his dorm room at Ricks College with another friend of mine to go get pizza at Craigos.

Over the years I have found myself thanking my 24-year-old self SO MUCH for that decision - and thanking God for the incredible blessing that brought him to me. He is an amazing stabilizing influence on me, a person who fully and deeply relishes the joys of the now. He’s brilliant, peaceable, loyal, generous, full of love. In a world where vows of honor and fidelity are built on shifting sand, his love for his family, his God, his country are built on bedrock sure and steady. It is a beautiful thing to support and to be supported. To trust and to be trusted in equal measures.

He has endured my ups and downs, postpartum depression, sobbing on the floor in my underwear in stress and despair, and - this is my greatest blessing: has unfailingly supported me in all my efforts to find and live my own true and authentic life. Because of him I have found my own creative wings, and have the courage to spread them and fly.

Babe, eleven years ago on that summer day I promised to stand by your side forever, through everything, no matter what. In eleven years as I have begun to discover the depths of that promise, it has only strengthened, and the sweetness of being with you has only deepened until I have no words to measure it. So all I can say is that I am so proud to be your wife. Happy eleven, my sweetheart.