Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Moved

One last notice!  My blog has now moved to http://littlewomenandamom.com.  If you have us in your blogroll or google reader, you'll have to update to feed to http://littlewomenandamom.com/feed.  Thanks for reading!  :)

Ann

Monday, October 18, 2010

Moving...

For those of you who read my blog, I wanted to update you. :)  I will be moving over to littlewomenandamom.com.  Blogger will redirect if you come to the page from there, but will not update posts any more.  So for those of you who use Google Reader, you'll probably have to update the RSS feed from the new site. 

See you over there! :)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Passages

My great-aunt passed away this morning.


She was such a part of my life, that she was like another grandma to me.

Though I am comforted by the knowledge that I will see her again, today I feel some of the sad ache of loneliness that comes with losing someone who is dear.

As I have held my littlest one today, I have thought a lot about my aunt.  This wee one carries her name.

After I heard the news of my aunt's passing, which I had been waiting for for several days, I instinctively went and picked up my little one and held her close.

For one moment, I felt the same feeling I had had as a child, wrapping my arms around my sweet, tall, gentle aunt.  I could feel the warmth of her stove and the breeze on my face as I would look through the window of her fascinating little bathroom.  :)  I could smell her dainty smell and hear her heart beat through her thin frame.  I could hear her soft little laugh, and for a moment, it was like she had come to say good-bye.

One life ends, and another is just beginning.  The day feels bittersweet. 


I think what I always loved most about my aunt is not that she and her sister always remembered my birthday.  It is that I noticed, even from a very young age, that life had not dealt her or her sister the easiest hand.  They were alone, but they had each other.  And they always smiled when I saw them.  Always. 

Kind of like my little one.  :)  I've never known a baby who smiled so much, regardless of ear infections and teething and a loud, busy home. 

So today, I am trying to remember those lessons as I say good-bye for a small time.  Smile, and rely on each other.  See the blessings in what you have. 

I'll miss you.  I can't wait to see you again.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Ripples

(My sisters, mom, a friend, and I at Yoga for Congo Women, Vernal, this morning.) 

I had the most beautiful morning today. It was damp, it was freezing.

It was wonderful.

A while ago, a few people did something and the ripples of their influence changed my life.

I, in turn, tried to do something, and I am seeing little, miraculous ripples going outward.

My sister then caught her own vision and did something of her own.  She organized a Yoga for Congo Women event in her hometown.  We had a wonderful little group of women show up. 

This morning, I am seeing the ripples of her influence going out.

Whatever you may believe in, whatever you may do, don't be afraid of results that are seemingly small.  Don't be afraid of tiny ripples.  Because those small, tiny ripples do go out, and who knows where their influence will end? 

I believe it's possible that they never will.

Start where you are, and do something.  That's the only way anything will ever change.

That's what these women are doing every day:

(photo by Lisa Shannon)

(photo by Lisa Shannon

(photo by Women for Women)

(photo by Women for Women)

Every day, by having the courage to hope for a new life, these women send forth their own ripples of hope and change in their villages.  And their ripples are possible because of the ripples of people like my sister, Christine.

Like each of us. 

Ready to make your own small ripple?  Consider doing Yoga for Congo Women online.  There's still time.  You will love it.  :)  Or, sign up for Team Hope....another amazing woman making some amazing ripples of change.  And your little ripple will make the ripples of other women possible.

And that's how the world changes.  :)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

She gets it from her mother.

Patience.

Or the lack thereof. :)


This little one cracks me up all of the time. Once she could scoot around, she decided she was done with that and that walking was surely next.

"Next," meaning "right now," naturally.

Don't be fooled by these pictures...this isn't a cute attempt at crawling.  She is studying, working, truly trying to stand up.  And all with a smile on her face, the little sweetie.


It seems I am constantly running from one learning experience to the next, never stopping.  I get so dissatisfied with myself and get so eager to move on.  Today, after a moment of frustration, I realized that the pauses may be just as important, too.

At the very least, I can keep smiling, like she does, while desperately trying to move on to the next step, even when it's a long time in coming.  :)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Timshel

I love my loved ones.  :)

I opened my heart on here a day or two ago.  It felt that day like my heart was broken...so weighed down by past wrongs, by weakness, by fear of inadequacy.

I was actually hoping for no response.  I was feeling lousy and just needed to write it all down.

But what a response I got.  My husband listened with those sweet ears and held me with those big arms.  :)  My sister-in-law reminded me of an incredible talk we had both just heard, and reminded me not to look back, but to go forward.  Several very good friends commented and cheered me on so kindly.  Another friend surprised me with an incredible gift.  I emailed with an incredible woman today about the influence she has had on my life through her beautiful and generous heart and talents.  My mother listened and laughed with me today, as did my sister.  And another unfailing sister, one who has always been too forgiving of me, inspired me with love and music.

Thinking about her tonight, my mind is caught up in lyrics of a song or two.  "Timshel."  It means choice, something you may do.  There is always a choice.

So many people have chosen to be kind to me, in spite of my inadequacies and wrongs. 

And I could choose to loathe myself, or choose to strive to do better, because as I was reminded today, there is more to me than this.  Also, that I am not alone in this.

Tonight I find myself recommitted, and re-remembering who I really am.  (Why is that so hard to remember?  It must be that it is so important...the hardest things seem to be the most important.)



So awake, oh my soul.  Droop no more.  For "where you invest your love, you invest your life." (-M&S)

And my life is a gift.  Literally.  I don't want to waste it feeling this way. 

Thank you for helping me, for loving me.

Fear not

Fear.  It's my greatest foe.  My biggest hurdle.  It's all too easy for me to buckle under and let fear, doubt, or anxiety rule my mind.

Thank you for those of you who commented or otherwise responded to the post yesterday.  I was at a low point and needed your insights.  I love you, and I am so grateful to you.

We need each other.  :)

Today, I crept down to the kitchen before my kids woke me up.  The sun was just beginning to peek in on the day.  The first things that greeted my eyes were two gorgeous new soap molds, made for me by a friend.

A simple sight, and a peaceful one.  It reminded me again that I am not alone.  :) 

I hit a low point the past couple of days.  Thanks for being there for me, to help me back up.  I hope I can do the same for you if you ever need it.

There is hope in the sunlight this morning again, and I am reminded of Jeffery R. Holland's words:

"I acknowledge the reality of opposition and adversity, but I bear witness of the God of Glory, of the redeeming Son of God, of light and hope and a bright future. I promise you that God lives and loves you, each one of you, and that he has set bounds and limits to the opposing powers of darkness.   I testify thatJesus is the Christ, the victor over death and hell and the fallen one who schemes there. The gospel of Jesus Christ is true, and it has been restored, just as we have sung and testified this morning.
 'Fear ye not.' And when the second and the third and the fourth blows come, 'fear ye not...The Lord shall fight for you.' 'Cast not away therefore your confidence.'"

Monday, October 4, 2010

Things I don't like

It's an interesting time of life for me.


I don't know exactly how to describe it, but so many things are shifting and changing.  I find myself reevaluating my life, over and over.


There are so many things I wish I could change.  So many people I wish I could tell I was sorry.  So many good, kind people who have seen me at my worst.

I hate that.

I know I have hurt almost everyone I know.

Why have I ever had to be that way?

I am so sorry.


And then there are the other parts of myself that I can't stand.  The times that I feel so painfully inadequate.  The times that I find myself in near-panic because I feel that I'll just never measure up.

To so many things.

Or the times when I see what someone else does and I feel like I should just stop trying because that person is so amazing and so far ahead of me that I have no chance of catching up.

Only to find out that someone else thought that same thing about me.  Me, of all people!  Meanwhile, I'm so caught up in my flaws that I can't begin to imagine how anyone could ever feel that way about me, that I begin the cycle of self-loathing all the more.  

Why? WHY do we do that??

I don't know.  It's so self-brutalizing.

But if I were to let those fears and those feelings of pain and guilt stop me from trying to grow, to go on, who would I be?  Who would any of us be? 

I have found a lot of sorrow in my past wrongs.  I have found even more sorrow in comparing myself to others.

I don't think it's right.  Not when I've tried to change and to do my best to be better.

I know I haven't always been my best.  In fact, I've been my best so infrequently it breaks my heart.

But I have to keep trying.  Otherwise my life means so much less than it could.

Tonight, we drove out as a family to just enjoy the peace of nature for a little while.  It was wonderful.  And in between telling children not to fall into the cold lake and calling them back when they ran too far, I found myself caught up in between two kinds of thoughts: pain for the mistakes and inadequacy of what I have been, and promise of the possibility of what I could be. 






And as I get ready to teach my children for a new year, the same words keep ringing over and over in my mind:

"Praise each child individually
for what that child is,
and help him or her escape
our culture’s obsession
with comparing,
competing,
and never feeling
we are
'enough.'"

- Jeffery R. Holland

That's my whole philosophy on teaching my children!  Why have I not learned yet to accept it for myself? 

So tonight, two new goals:

1)  Forgive what I once was, and be different and better. 
2)  Quit COMPARING.  It is destructive.  I know who I am.  I know it.  I am a daughter of God, an imperfect, yet divine woman.  Our culture is obsessed with comparing and tearing down.  I have to stop.


So please forgive me if I have ever hurt you?  I'm not who I used to be.  If you're here reading, somehow you've been forgiving of me and allowed me to grow.  Thank you for that kindness.  I will try to have the same love for others and for myself.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Peace to my soul

I believe in sacred places.  Places so holy that I truly want to remove my shoes. 


I believe in a God of love and miracles, of light, guidance, and revelation. 

I believe that if we try, He won't let us fail.  I believe He understands us and loves us. 

I believe He is actively working in each of our lives.

I know it.


I know that not everyone who reads my blog shares my exact beliefs, and that's fine.  We all have our own beliefs.  Thanks for loving me and reading anyway.  :)

I have struggled to find clarity these past few weeks.  So much has been changing, so much has been happening.  So much has been on my mind.

What I had planned as a quiet couple of weeks has become a couple of weeks of a very busy, anxious mind. 

Yesterday, I spoke with a good friend who reminded me of the things that ground me.  She reminded me of what is truly important...so much of what I already know, but had gotten muddled on.

I needed peace.  I needed to re-center.  My girls needed it, too. 

We drove to my most cherished place. 


The peace.  I can't describe it.


Our Temples are often misunderstood and the media often presents odd, skewed viewpoints.  I think that anything that isn't common is easy to misunderstand.  I can see it seeming odd to those who are not of our faith.  (Just please know that I am a fully intelligent, un-brainwashed woman, and the things presented on the media are nearly always wholly untrue.  Sad.  But is that really a surprise?)  

But oh, how I love it there.

Can I tell you why?  Why I find peace and sanctuary there, why I want my children to love it?

Why they already do, without me having to coax them?


For one, I believe they are a perfect example of God's love for His children.  A sacred, peaceful place where we can go to learn, to grow, to understand in His way. 

I can't imagine living without that guidance.  I would feel lost.

And I don't believe we were sent here to be lost.


The Temple holds promises of the future...glorious promises of who we can be and what we can become.


But most glorious of all?

The promise that my family can be together forever.


I find such peace in knowing that my family will be together forever...beyond this life, into eternity. 

I can't imagine how I would feel holding these sweet girls if I didn't know that.  Life is so, so short. 

I don't believe we would be sent here and that we would feel so much love, only to have it end at death. 


I love remembering what is truly important.  I love seeking guidance and peace.  I love that if we truly seek, we will find.  What love!  

We would never deny our own children love and guidance.  How grateful I am for a Father who would never deny it to me or you, either. 

(I digress...these next pictures crack me up.  It's pretty darn hard to get 5 kiddos to all smile and look at once!)  :)


Meanwhile...


I am almost overwhelmed by all of the "meanwhile" that there is to share!  So much has been going on, in and amongst all of the glorious Yoga for Congo Women things. 


One of the most exciting is that this wee, chubby angel has now turned six months old.

Sigh.

She is such a light in my life.  I literally, truly, thank God for her, every moment she is with me.


Yes, I put my baby in a light tent.  I'm a mother in love.  I can't help it. :)



The eyes.  So soul-reaching.


Another exciting happening in our lives is the launch of our new business!  See us at our site or at etsy.  This is huge and important to me, and I'll tell you much more about it soon. :)


In and amongst other things, this wee one took her first bites.  Shame on her sweet little head for growing so darn fast. 


So much has happened, so much is on my mind. I will sort it all out soon. Meanwhile, I've relearned again today the huge importance of love and loved ones in our lives.

More soon. :)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Faith, Miracles, Yoga, and Success

(Prologue:  A lot of times, people apologize for the length of a post.  I am not going to apologize for this one.  I hope you'll read it, every word, and come on the journey with me.  This was a sacred experience in my life.  I would love it if you'd share it.)  


As Yoga for Congo Women approached, I almost dreaded talking to people.  Inevitably, the question would come up: "So, how many people have you got signed up?"

I hated to answer.  I hated having to make excuses or find reasons why more people hadn't signed up yet.

Each night I would sleep less.  I don't think anyone can comprehend the pain and stress of pouring your entire soul into something and having very few people care, unless they have done it themselves.

I am a fervent believer in Divine guidance and help.  I truly, deeply believe in miracles.  I believe with all my soul that faith can literally move mountains.  This experience was one of the most faith-developing experiences of my life.  I went from pain and doubt to absolute, concrete certainty that if it was His will that droves of people turn out, it would, indeed, happen.

I sent out, gave out, and posted hundreds of fliers.  I sent releases to every news station.  Twice.  I posted on every events page, forum, social network, and blog.  But as the event drew nearer, and I put so much effort, money, and time into trying to spread the word and publicize it and persuade (then beg) people to come, I would go to bed full of faith that it could still be successful, but sad.  Sad that perhaps it wasn't His will that this event be a huge success.  Sad because I was feeling that so few people cared. 

I believe in a God of miracles.  But I also believe in a Father Who is so very loving, that He would never force His children to do anything, even if other children were hurting.

I felt I was failing.  I was failing the women in the DRC who I loved and ached for.  I was failing my sponsors who had supported me in good faith.  I was failing myself.  Most terribly, I was failing my family, who had sacrificed so much and for so long.

I cried at night and told Matt my fear, my terrible fear of failure.  My fear that I would arrive on the day of the event with only three supporters.  After a year of preparation, the thought made my heart almost literally break.

Matt, ever so kindly, told me that perhaps I needed a different definition of success.

In my heart of hearts, I knew he was right, but come on!  How could success possibly mean that I didn't raise enough money to sponsor even one woman?  Success meant numbers, right?  If I was going to make my family go through so much, I felt that HUGE results were the only thing that could possibly make it worth it.

And so I worked even harder, till I was literally exhausted in every way.  I knew that I had done everything I possibly could.  I had enough faith to know that, however it worked out, it would be alright.  That was all I could hold on to.  (That, and Matt.) :)




At last, it was the night before the event.  It was a strangely happy and peaceful night, filled with the quiet bustle of preparation.  Loved ones were here, and that love bolstered me up.  My sweet baby took her first bites that night, and that sweet triumph and joy calmed what nerves there were left that night.  My heart was oddly calm, and by bedtime, we were ready.

As I listened to the sleeping house that night, lying in Matt's arms, my mind again began to race.  What if no one came?  What if my sponsors hated me?  What if I really stink at teaching yoga and just didn't know it?  What if the sky fell in?  What IF?

I closed my eyes and prayed for help to have faith.  A previous post from a month ago came to my mind.  I remembered that sweet day.  It was a day when I finally felt and knew for sure who I was really meant to be.  I had been in a room full of women who were hurting.  I had something to offer, and I gave it lovingly, freely, compassionately.  That's who I was.  I knew it.  So it didn't matter if no one cared or came.  I could not fail, because I had given all of my heart to healing, and so had my family.

But what would success look like?  Would it look like I had hoped?

Finally, the dawn broke and it was time.

Finally.


I got ready quietly.  My husband, mom, and I drove in the rain.  It was peaceful.  Yes, I was nervous.  But it was finally time.

From the moment we arrived, it just clicked.  I felt like angels were there.




Angels often appear as people, you know.  My mom so quietly and efficiently ran the check-in table, lifted my worries, and listened.  My husband was cheerful and oh, so loving as he quickly rearranged the room to perfection.  My friend was there to lift our hearts with his cheerful manner and his terrific sound system.


As I set up pictures of women that I loved, my heart settled in.  I was at peace.  It was for them.  It was worth it.


It was perfect.


People started to come in, and I finally met women I have loved and admired for a long time.  Having them there meant the world to me.  They'll never know the peace they brought.

It was amazing.  Each person that trickled in, each new face showed it: they felt it, they got it, they were showing up for these women.


There was not one person there, not one, who wasn't there to do some good, whether for me or for the Congo.  You could just feel it.  Not one person came with a selfish heart.  That was amazing. 


Finally, it was time, and I couldn't contain my emotions.  It had just been such a long process.  So much hope, anguish and heart-felt emotions.  It all started to come out.  But no one seemed annoyed.


As the yoga began, it was amazing.  For one minute, I was nervous again, nervous of what people would think, nervous at having less people than I had originally hoped.  But then the light streamed in from overhead, and as it hit me, it melted away.  It didn't matter any more.

The feeling in that room was incredible.  I've never felt anything quite like it.  I've known the healing power of yoga for a long time.  I've known the healing power of love for even longer.  Combining the two on behalf of others was...indescribable.  Perfect beauty.

Every time I looked out at those who came, my eyes filled with tears for the love in the room.  It was miraculous.  Several had come many, many miles.  Oh, how I love them.  :)

Finally, at one point in the presentation, as we were resting with eye pillows over our eyes, it all came to me.

Finally.

I realized with perfect peace in that moment that it was perfect.  Right there, just like it was.  No, there weren't a hundred people there.  But it finally wasn't the quantity that mattered any more.  It was the quality.  The people who were there were capable of so much love.  So much goodness.  So much selflessness.  To have people there who loved less would have lessened the feeling.  It wouldn't have been the same. 

It was a miracle.  It was one of the greatest miracles of my life. 

It wasn't the miracle I had expected or hoped for.

It was better.

I don't think I will ever forget the feeling in that room, for as long as I live.


I think that many, many people who were there had a very sacred, personal experience.  Quite a few have shared those individual experiences with me.  Each have been different, and each have been very special.  I have felt honored to know your thoughts during that time.

 

After listening to many of the participants who were there, I finally felt success.  Because the miracle was this: after this event, I think almost everyone who was there believed that hope and healing was possible, not only for the Congo, but for themselves, as well

Lives were changed.  Not only Congolese lives.  Our lives.

My life.


I'll never be the same.  And I'm so very glad.

(PS - THANK you to each and every one of you who loved me, listened to me, and helped me.  Those who donated and showed up...no words.  Thank you.  And by the way, we did have a great turnout.) :)

(PPS - There are a few AMAZING pictures in this post...they were taken by this gal...WOW.  She's incredible.)