Thursday, May 31, 2018

What Will Hold You?

Four times just today. Friends contacting me suffering, sick, struggling, in pain. Still working, still going, still taking care of others, worrying about how to fulfill commitments, expectations, appointments. Going, going, going, until. Until their bodies gave out, gave up, gave in.

"What do I do?" Each of them asked in one way or another, "How do I get through this?"


"But what about my dog, my son, my neighbor, my mother, my job?"


"But who will shop, clean, drive, fix, feed, launder?"

"Not you."

"But, but, but..."

Let me tell you something I have had to learn the hard way - from the school of hard knocks, literally. If you do not listen to your body when it starts to shut down, it will do its best to support you. Without heeding smaller signals of weariness, aches, and stress, your body will simply begin to divert resources from other systems to sustain your level of activity. Again, and again, and again it will pull strength from one area or another to support you. You may continue this way for days, weeks, months, and even years, but at some point your body will not hold you. It will not have any more reserves to draw from. So it will begin to shut down. Illness, extreme fatigue, chronic pain, stomach problems, insomnia... all can arise from this lack of listening.


"I can't take a spa day."

"Moms never get a day off."

"My house will be a wreck."

We live in a day and age where we see, literally, the best of one another. Every single day you can scroll and scroll and scroll and only see what people want you to see. What kind of pressure do we put on ourselves from that intake?  It's not real. It's not real life. We simply cannot do all that we see. Pinterest has pillaged reality. I'm writing this with laundry waiting to be changed, toilets that haven't been scrubbed in two weeks, a dining room table full of work documents to be filed and dinner barely thrown in a rice cooker for hungry teenagers and a tired husband who will walk in the door any minute starving.  Did I post any pictures of that on social media? Maybe I should - be the lady who shows the real life story of our unrealistic expectations today? Dirty laundry, cluttered garage, peeling deck. Glamourous. Not only are we supposed to live productive lives with world-changing social initiatives and successful careers, but we now have to document our successes with hashtags and carefully staged selfies. It's suffocating.

I used to be able to teach a yoga class, go home, make dinner and spend time with my family. No marketing strategies, no flyers, no tracking of likes or views or hits. But now? Now everything is fodder for commentary. Everything is a potential marketing strategy or business plan. Every action requires documentation, validation, expectation. It's exhausting.

So how do we keep up?

We don't. We can't.

Four head injuries, a broken wrist, a chronic health disorder, and a husband's massive injury, surgery and recovery have taught me that.

You must learn to slow down, to stop, or your body will reach the point where it will do it for you.

If you push and push, you will reach a point where your body will not hold you.

"How? Is it possible to really stop? Really rest?"


"How do I do it?" you ask.

It doesn't take any money. You don't need a spa day, a pedicure or a luxury vacation. It doesn't require a shopping spree or Instagram or even a cell phone.

You go outside. Alone. In the quiet. Stand in nature and listen. Listen to the sounds around you - wind, rain, birds. What do you hear? Close your eyes or just look at the earth. Breathe in. The trees are literally supporting you - reaching down into the quiet earth for nutrients to produce the oxygen you need every moment of every day. Breathe out - release the carbon dioxide you don't need and give it back to the trees. Feel the cycle of nature, this system of support with you, sustaining you.

You might feel waves begin to emerge, perhaps ripples or tides you have worked hard to suppress or maintain. The body may begin to tremble, to weep, to sigh, to slumber - all in an effort to find equilibrium once again.

Keep breathing. Feel your feet connected to the earth.  Wiggle your toes. Breathe again.

Place one hand over the center of your chest. See if you can feel the quiet rhythm of your beating heart. If you can't, don't worry, it's there, supporting you. Pumping in and out, in and out, beat after beat after beat. Giving new life and energy each day. What is it saying to you in this moment?

What is it calling for? More rest? Nourishment? Joy? Connection? Exploration? Simplicity? Adventure? What would help your heart be heard? Music? Journaling? Talking with a friend? Listening more? Staying here? Walking around? Moving? Water? Solace?

Maybe you don't know. Maybe the voice has been suppressed, redressed, rebuffed for so long that the sound of your heart feels silent. That's okay too. Keep listening. Stay connected. Stay here for a few more breaths.

If you've heard the quiet whispers of your heart song, begin singing along. If not, take a break. Set an intention to come back and try again another time.

This process of holding begins with you, taking time to listen, to nurture your own heart with quiet awareness.

Beginning again, and again, and again to listen, to learn, what will hold you?

Will it be you after all?

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Tommy's Testament

Tommy’s Testament
   With a wiggle of his ear
                        And a twinkle in his eye,
                        President Monson says good-bye.

                        With a lilt in his voice
                        And a captivating rhyme,
                        President Monson says good-bye.

                        With a joyful heart
                        And a ready smile,
                        President Monson bids good-bye.

                        With a lifetime of service
                        And a love divine,
                        President Monson says good-bye.
   Even if you’re the boy
                        Who sets the field on fire,
                        Meeting with the teacher
                        Needing help to inspire,

                        Be the kind of person
                        Quick to respond.
                        Be the hands and heart
                        And the voice of God.

                        Go and help a neighbor.
                        Run and serve a friend.
                        Listen to the spirit
                        ‘Til your journey’s end.

                        Wipe a tear, share a smile,
                        Go the extra mile,

                        Share your coat, leave your shoes,
                        Share some happy news.

                        There are people who need serving
                        And the work goes on,
                        Bidding President Monson a fond good-bye.

                        Anna M. Molgard

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Share The Light

             I sat at a local grocery store deli.  My heart was heavy, thinking about the attacks, and my teacher who was in a hospital half way around the world in a coma.  I thought of the words I had shared that morning about kindness, and my thoughts returned to the kindness of my teacher.  My mind flooded with all of the expressions of and reflections of his kindness that I had read since that sudden morning.  I bowed my head to offer a simple prayer over my meal, and to pray, once again, for Richard.
            Almost instantly I heard a voice say, “You are fifteen dollars short.” My head snapped up and something propelled me out of my seat and over to the register.
            “Can I pay the difference?” I heard myself say.
            As the bag boy was beginning to remove two large packages of chicken thighs from the grocery bags, I looked at the customer in line.  There stood a tall, very dark, kind looking man.  He spoke to me in a thick accent.
            “What you mean?”
            “Can I pay for the rest of the groceries?”
            I looked at the cashier. 
            “You can pay for them if you want to,” she said.
            “My teacher is in the hospital,” I began to stammer, my voice thick with emotion. “He was injured in the attacks yesterday.  He is in a coma.           
“He was hurt?  I so sorry,” the customer with the kind eyes replied.
“I invited my friends to share kindness today on his behalf.  Will you please let me do this, for him?”
“Yes, thank you. “
            As the young boy returned the chicken, the cashier instructed the man to swipe his card, and then allowed me to swipe mine for the remainder.
            The amount was $14.43.
            “Please pray for Richard,” I implored.
            “We will,” said the customer, the cashier, and the bagger. “We will pray for him.”
            It took all of three minutes.  Three minutes to share the light.  Three minutes to join together in common humanity, kindness, and faith. 
            It cost all of $14.43 to create a shift in the darkness, to invite strangers into the light of hope, to share the light.
            The customer needed kindness.  Richard would have offered that kindness.  He wasn’t there, but I was.
            We all have three minutes.  We all have some resource.  We all have kindness within us.
            Choose to share the light.  Choose to chase away the darkness. Choose to act.  Small things, multiplied, can change the world.  Go and do something today.

Share the light with others by tagging your stories #sharethelight, and post to our Facebook group Share the Light.  Join the movement.  Make a difference.  Shine on.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Light that Shines in Brussels

            I’ve been thinking today about light.  It seems the brighter the light, the greater the effort of darkness to overcome it.
            I had a teacher once who embodied light.  He welcomed every student into his classroom with a smile.  He called us by name, he laughed, he taught us about light.  We could sense that what he was teaching us was true, because the teachings were a part of him.  The light radiated from him. 
            He left his home and family to share that light.  He spent two years in the dangerous Ivory Coast of Africa.  We all prayed for his safety there.  We worried and wondered and hoped he would return without incident.  He did.
            He left again, to France.  He had served there as a young man sharing the light of his faith many years before.  He was thrilled to return and continue his service.  We did not worry about danger there.
            Until this morning, when in a simple effort to travel to an airport with some younger missionaries, darkness invaded.  Exploded.  Shattered into his light. 
            I have prayed for him all day, for his family, his injuries, that his light would not be diminished in this way.
            I have prayed with friends, other students, family members, people who do not know him, joining with me to invoke light. 
            And that is how the darkness will fail.  Darkness cannot withstand the presence of light.  It must flee.  As our light combines in intensity, refusing to give in to darkness, it must leave. 
            My teacher sparked a light within me that has grown into a fervent flame.  He has taught so many others who were changed by that light.  His light grows in us.  And as we unite in that light, to shine to the world, the darkness will leave.  Hope will prevail. 

Be well, Richard Norby, we are shining for you.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

He Is The Gift

It is 12:03 - technically Christmas morning.  All the gifts are wrapped, stockings are filled, everyone else is asleep and the house is still and quiet.  I have been reflecting all day on the gifts of Christmas.

At the beginning of the month, my church posted a video about Christmas  It was a tender reminder of how easy it is to get lost in the commercialism that pervades this time of year.  I had a quiet prompting to write something each day about gifts - simple ways to share the true gifts of Christmas that had nothing to do with money.

My experiment started slowly by taking quick, random snapshots of things that caught my eye and my heart.  Most days it would only take a minute or two to post a thought, and let it simmer on Facebook.  But soon I started to see the beauty resonate in these small, simple sharings.  People from broad walks of my life started coming together to comment, like or share these posts.  I was amazed at the universal resonance these simple gifts had with many different people.  Some days friends told me that was just what they needed to hear that day.  Other times friends shared thoughts or experiences with me that touched my heart deeply and were exactly what I needed to hear.

And I found myself focusing on the true gifts of Christmas.  I did very little shopping, spent minimal time in stores and instead found myself looking at life to teach me the lessons I needed each day this month.  Seeking to find gifts of the heart and share them.  My heart softened, my mind cleared and peace began to pervade my heart.

And tonight I am drawn once again to the true gift of Christmas - the birth and life of our Savior Jesus Christ.  Many of my friends have wide and varying beliefs which I respect and honor deeply.  But on this day of gift giving, I hope to honor my Lord by sharing the gift of my humble witness.  I know that He lives.  Although I was born and raised in my faith as a Christian, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I have gained my own witness for myself.  I have studied scripture, prayed and sought guidance, and lived the principles of this gospel for almost forty years.  My faith has carried me through the valley of the shadow of death and to the heights of my greatest joy.  All that I am and all that I have to give is because of Him.  He is not only the gift, He is my gift.

His life that began so humbly has reached out to touch all of mankind through His infinite atonement and sacrifice.  No matter where your life has taken you, you are not beyond His reach.  No matter what sorrow burdens you, you are not beyond His touch.  No matter what you hope to become, He can help you if you invite Him into your life.

Millions before me have testified and many will follow with deeper eloquence, but I add my small voice to the chorus of angels who cried, "Glory to God in the Highest, peace on earth and goodwill to men." One small voice can reach one heart at a time, and this month His voice has reached mine.

Merry Christmas.  Thank you for sharing the gift with me.

#ShareThe Gift

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Vote for Freedom

                                     I voted this morning.  In Ohio. 

            A friend of mine from another state commented to me recently that my vote ‘really counted’ because of where I lived.  Believe me, we have been surrounded by political rhetoric here unlike anywhere else I have ever lived.  From multiple daily phone calls to mailings, countless yard signs and near weekly rallies with presidential candidates in attendance, there is an energy and intensity here about this election that is palpable.  We feel the pressure.

            But while the electoral count hinges greatly on swing states such as Ohio, I disagree with my friend that her vote somehow doesn’t count as much as mine.

            I am not vocally political, but I am deeply patriotic.   There are no candidate signs in my yard, but I proudly fly my flag.  My ancestors have rarely run for civic office, but I have a deep family history of military service, to include my own husband.  I love this country.  I voted today to combine my voice with those of millions to choose my leader.  But I will not post who I voted for online.  I will not share my political opinions widely, nor loudly.  Not because I do not care about who is elected, but because I care more about preserving the freedom to choose.

            I vividly remember my first experience with communist government.  I was traveling with a musical performing group as a young college student.  We arrived at the airport in northern Vietnam to armed guards, opening and searching our luggage.  Books and personal items were confiscated – deemed inappropriate to even bring into the country.  We were instructed about what we were and were not allowed to talk about with citizens, audience members and students with whom we would associate.  The feeling in that setting was instantly suffocating to me.   My time there was full of fear and trepidation.  I worried constantly about what I was saying and whom I was speaking with.  While I dutifully respected the wishes of the country, I began to understand the value of the freedoms I had enjoyed every day of my American life. 

            I recently read Barbara Demick’s “Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea”.  (Spiegel & Grau, 2010)  It is a stunning account of six North Korean citizens over fifteen years, documenting systematic governmental control, neglect and ultimately starvation of their people.  Cut off from what we would consider the very basics of modern civilization, to include electricity and access to food, people grew disillusioned with their tyrannical rule and risked life and family to escape their country.  Consistently told their sacrifice was for the greater good of the country, many simply wasted away under terrifying sovereign authority. 

            In the historically based account of 1980s India, author Shilpi Somaya Gowda recounts rampant infanticide, culturally forced abortions, and abandonment of countless girls.  Her novel “Secret Daughter” brings to light the accepted cultural notion that male heirs are superior offspring due to ancient dowry practices.  (William Morrow Paperbacks, 2011) In poverty stricken areas, girls and women are now being sold or kidnapped into brothels for prostitution, pornography and sex trafficking.  According to New York Times reporter Nicholas Kristof, of the more than 10 million children prostituted around the world – more are in India than in any other country.  (“The 21st Century Slave Trade”, New York Times, April 22, 2007.)

            So as I stood peacefully in line this morning with my neighbors, awaiting the opportunity to cast my vote, my thoughts traveled around the globe.  I thought of the book I read before going to bed last night, being able to select my choice from a countless number of varying voices in my library.  I thought of the breakfast I had eaten before driving to my polling station – how I had been able to simply go to the grocery store and choose amongst thousands of options of nutritious foods.  I thought of my beautiful daughter, who I dropped off at a public high school minutes before voting, knowing she would be safe and given equal opportunity to learn there. 

            No matter who wins today, every vote is important.  Every simple ‘X’ marked in a polling station in every state in this country is significant.  It is a tangible, visible reminder of freedom - freedom in action, freedom to choose.  We choose a leader who will be free of tyranny.  We choose a leader who will allow us to continue to decide what we read and what we will say.  We choose a leader who will ensure public access to basic necessities of life.  We choose a leader who values women and recognizes our worth and contributions to society.  We cannot make a wrong choice in this regard.

We have the freedom to choose and with each and every vote today, we choose freedom.