My experience of tragedy, trials, and triumphs!
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Monday, April 28, 2014

Willing to Submit to All Things the Lord Seeth Fit to Inflict Upon You...

Note:  Second marriages are never easy.  This post deals with some of the hard realities we've grown through in our eight years of marriage.  This is a message of hope, faith, repentance, growth and hard work. I'm so grateful for my marriage with Curtis and its all been worth it.

The pain and misery that I felt after Jake died was something that can only be understood fully by someone that has walked that same path.  But it was also very clear to anyone around me the toll it took on me.  My family had to watch me and try to help me as I tried to put my life back together again.  It was more than I could bear, and there were times that it was more than they could bear as well.  The weight of grief is so heavy.

When I met Curtis things were tough at first.  With in a few weeks though I had happiness again more than I had had in two and a half years.  I remember thinking that even if things didn't work between us that I would still be so grateful for the gift of being happy again.  Our courtship was short and it was very clear to us that Heavenly Father had prepared us for each other.  We knew without a doubt that we were supposed to be married.  The spirit was so strong, and we both received revelation that we were meant to be together.  We moved forward with our planning and it went as quickly as our courtship went.  My family was so grateful to see me happy again.  I was so in love and knew that Jake was happy that I had found love and happiness again.  My life was finally going to be easy and perfect again...right?!

It wasn't very long at all after we were married I realized Curtis wasn't perfect.  It was also very clear that he was going to be very hard to live with.  I had tried to be very upfront about my shortcomings.  He knew that I still battled depression that went along with losing Jake.  I really struggled to go grocery shopping and still struggle to this day (the more widows I meet the more I find I'm not alone in this strange aversion to grocery shopping).  Curtis however, didn't think to tell me how selfish he was with his time. I also didn't understand how much more learning and grieving I had left to do.

Curtis grew up in a difficult family situation.  He didn't have any good role models for marriage, or for being a good father.  His first marriage was always strained...and never good.  He was at the beginning of his career and it demanded most of his time.  Very little time was spent on his family.  My family was very close and had strong relationships.  I am very loving and I am rejuvenated by spending time with my family especially my spouse.  Some would say I am fairly high maintenance;) Curtis spent his life working hard and had an attitude that he was entitled to spend his time how he chooses.  If he chooses to spend his time with his family then that was fine, but he shouldn't be expected to spend anytime with us if he had something else to do.  It was very difficult for me to live with, and very hard for my family to see me struggling again.

The first year of our marriage, I wanted a divorce more often than I wanted to be married.  It was a very difficult year.  We got some counseling and learned some helpful ways to communicate, but it was still difficult.  I stayed married to him because of the experiences I had when we were dating.  I KNEW I was supposed to marry him, and I KNEW that Heavenly Father had a plan for us.  At first those feelings and experiences were what kept me in the marriage, but with time I really struggled with this as well.  Why would Heavenly Father want me to experience more pain?  Why would he tell me to marry someone that was so selfish with his time?  I became angry with Heavenly Father for telling me to marry Curtis.  I was mad, that he knew my happiness would only be a tease and I would find myself in just as much misery as I had been before.  I was left wishing for the life I had with Jake.

I know a lot of remarried widows and most of us share a common thread.  When you get remarried there is a strange adjustment period.  I think it fits for most people in a second marriage.  We create our first marriage with our spouses and in a widow's experience it isn't ended because the marriage ended by death.  Not all widow's have experienced good marriages, but many that I know did.  Marriages are as unique as every person that lives on this earth.  There are no two marriages that are the same.  So when some widows remarry we tend to think it will be the same as our first marriage.  It is NOT the same at all!

Once I was married to Curtis, I was struck with grief again, this time grieving the marriage I lost with Jake.  I spent a lot of time wishing and praying for Jake to come back and to have a good marriage again.  It wasn't a very fair comparison for me to be making.  Jake and I had 3 kids when he died...3 young easy boys.  We lived a simple life with very few complications.  Curtis and I had 8 boys under 8 when we were married.  All 8 boys had experienced some sort of devastating loss...death or divorce.  We were dealing with an ex-wife, memory of a dead husband, finding time for each other, adjusting to family life of 10, and blending 2 families together, along with many other issues.  Of course it is going to be harder than a first marriage!

Back to my anger with God for "telling" me to marry a man jealous of his time...  I prayed a lot about what I was going through.  I begged Heavenly Father to make Curtis a better husband and dad.  I cried to him and begged him to release me from the pain and anguish I was in.  I also asked constantly WHY? he would want me to be with Curtis.  In church one Sunday, on a day I was really upset with God, I was asked to read a scripture in Sunday school class.

Mosiah 3:19 For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a childsubmissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.

Tears filled my eyes as I read the scripture to myself...repeating many times the words, willing to submit to ALL things which the Lord seeth fit to INFLICT upon him.  I felt inflicted upon.  It may seem strange but to me, it felt like Heavenly Father was accepting responsibility for what I was enduring.  He admitted that he was inflicting it upon me, and I needed to be willing to submit to His will.  It was all I needed to help heal my heart.  I was able to let go of my anger toward God for all I was experiencing.  This scripture taught me what I needed to do, and also reminds me of the gifts that God has given me to help me get through all I was dealing with.  He gives us the Holy Spirit, and the atonement of Christ to help us become all that He sees in us.  I didn't understand at the time why Curtis and I were struggling in our marriage, but it reaffirmed to me that we were growing in our marriage.  We were supposed to be married, and I could only hope that meant there was a greater plan, and that eventually we would find happiness in our marriage.

This scripture has stayed with me through each new trial that comes my way.  I had this experience before the kids were diagnosed with their issues, before Curtis lost his job, and before the trials I am dealing with right now.  I constantly remind myself that to become the person my Heavenly Father sees in me I need to be willing to submit to all the things he sees fit to inflict upon me.

As for my marriage with Curtis... We had another very rough year after that.  We decided to read the Book of Mormon together and it saved our marriage. (To learn more about this book click here.) I knew that the adversary would work hard to prevent us from reading together so we had to make a commitment to each other to do it. We made a promise that we would read every night...even if we were in a fight, and even if Curtis was out of town.  There would be no excuse good enough for us not to read. We kept our promise and finished the Book of Mormon over several months.  The spirit of the Book of Mormon significantly influenced our lives in ways I can't fully explain. It made Curtis more understanding and less selfish.  Instead of me looking for the negative I was looking for the positive things in our marriage and the good things that Curtis brought to our marriage.  When we started reading we were close to divorce, and when we finished we had never been happier.  We still managed a lot, and our stress levels are always high.  Reading the Book of Mormon together took us from a place where the adversary was the center of our marriage, trying to tear us apart.  We now had the Savior and His words in the center of our marriage pulling us together. We work hard...really hard on our relationship.  It is our highest priority.  We both came into the marriage with unrealistic expectations.  When we allowed the Lord into our marriage, and made Him the center we were able to let go of those expectations.   Instead of looking for all the things that we didn't do for each other, we started appreciating everything we did do for each other.  (There will be more posts of things we have done to strengthen our marriage in the future.)

I have watched Curtis over the last several years become a different person.  He is a better man than he ever thought possible.  He isn't selfish with his time anymore (most of the time:), and has learned to enjoy and cherish the time we have together as a family.  I remember very clearly a day a few years ago when he said to me, "I didn't know that happiness like this existed.  I never knew what it meant to truly love someone, and how it felt to have them truly love you back."  He thanks me often for staying with him and helping him become the man that our Heavenly Father wants him to be.  I in return thank him for working so hard to be better everyday.  I contributed to many of our marital struggles in the beginning as well.  I have had to work hard to change my weakness' to become a better person and more loving wife.  I thank Curtis for accepting me with all my faults, and helping me to become the woman that Heavenly Father wants me to be.  Marriages are hard work for a lot of different reasons.  You have to be willing to change and also forgive yourself and your spouse.  As we have come together, we have definitely found happiness in our marriage!

We are happier than I ever thought possible now, even with all our trials and problems.  I see why Heavenly Father needed us to go through those difficult years.  There must be opposition in all things so we know the good from the bad.  We definitely know the good years from the bad;)

I love Curtis so much and I am thankful he has been so supportive of my new found hobby of blogging and sharing our life (not to mention the skeletons in our closets;) in hopes to help others on their own path.  If you find yourself in a marriage that is struggling please, don't give up hope.  Find help in therapy, reading the Book of Mormon together, or any other way you can.  We are living proof that with hard work, humility, and love a struggling marriage can become a very happy, strong marriage!

*Curtis:  I understand that some may interpret this post as reflecting harshly upon me.  I've closely read the post and completely support Julie in sharing this experience.  One of the great things about Julie's writing its that it is both very honest and real and still uplifting and inspiring.  The truth is that I am far from perfect. I was selfish with my time and can still be so occasionally.  I'm working on this and the trajectory is good.  You don't need to defend me or apologize for me.  I'm emotionally strong enough and pragmatic enough for this story to be posted.  We all have faults and have things we can improve upon.  The point of this particular post is that second marriages are hard, people all have things to improve upon, and humility and the influence of God can help us improve difficult situations.  Thank you for reading.

*Click here to read my original viral blog post.
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Friday, April 18, 2014

The Sealing Issue...why marrying a widow is a matter of faith for me.

Part 2 of Dating and Marrying a part one here.

Written By-Curtis Toone

*Disclaimer: as this particular blog post primarily deals with theological issues related to Christianity and more particularly to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, be advised that if you're not familiar with this religion, this may not make sense to you as you are not the intended audience. To learn more about our belief click here.

After my divorce I knew I wanted to get married again. I also knew that I wanted to marry someone who had been married before. I wanted someone who had the experience of being in a marriage with both the positives and challenges. When I began dating I did not distinguish between those that had been divorced and those who had been widowed. This was because I hadn't spent any time thinking through the issues and potential consequences of the different circumstances.

At that time I had a very intense job and I was working between 50 and 60 hours a week with frequent travel. When I wasn't working I was spending time with my kids. This made finding people to date difficult. Although I had a number of high-quality dates through introductions from friends and family, and the Singles Ward, I hadn't found anyone with whom I had good chemistry. I consider myself fairly progressive technology wise so I decided I would give online dating a try. I found that it was a fairly efficiently to see lots of people who were interested in dating. I also was only interested in dating someone of my faith.

So after dating for a while, I had met a number of good and wonderful ladies, but for one reason or another, things just didn't work out between us. So I went back to the dating websites to find other women to date. I remember looking at Julie's profile and saying to myself, she's really pretty and I bet I could be a really good dad to her boys. (One of her pictures was of her and her boys) I approached her online and after some effort, time and divine intervention she decided to go out with me. (The divine intervention is another story for another day.)

After going on a couple of dates with Julie I began to wrap my head around some of the complex issues for the very first time of dating a widow in the LDS church. I remember her describing the tragic situation she had to endure with the loss of her husband. I felt sad for her as she described what a great person Jake was, how abruptly he was taken from her, in the ensuing grief and mourning she felt for him over the last several years. It was clear that she loved Jake very intensely. I wondered if she felt if she was able to love someone else as intensely. In retrospect, perhaps I should not have asked her that question directly, but I am a very direct person. I think this just illustrates how I was beginning to think about some of the issues around dating someone who is a widow or widower.

When you date someone who is divorced, you generally find that they dislike the person they were previously married to. The opposite is true when you date a widow or widower, they almost always liked the person they were married to. On our second date, Julie made it very clear that she was sealed to Jake and intended to remain so. On one hand that made perfect sense. This was the very instance that the sealing power was intended to provide comfort and reassurance that Julie and Jake would be together again. On the other hand, where did this leave me? I was a single unsealed man. (As my ex-wife had canceled our sealing and was sealed to her current husband.)

She told me that she felt that she could love another husband  just as she has several children and loves each of them equally but in slightly different ways. This made sense to me, but we know there's a difference between parental love and romantic love between husband and wife. After reflecting on the conversation I decided to keep an open mind. This conversation obviously upset her and she left from the lunch date unhappy. I tried to ask the questions in the most sincere and kind way possible and there was no malice in my heart. I was just coming to grips with some of the issues for the first time.

I knew that I had upset her on the date. I tried to call her later that day and the next day. She didn't answer the phone so I tried to text and left her several voicemails. A day or two later I received an e-mail from her that I now call a "nasty gram". In the e-mail there was a lot of emotion and frustration about the issues I brought up and her overall situation. I think she was fairly determined to put me off. She questioned why would bring up those issues and be so direct when we had only been on a date or two. I think the quote she said is "I don’t even think I like you, and yet you want me to discuss spending eternity with you. I would just like to be able to go on a date without having to try and solve the mysteries of eternity". After reflecting on the e-mail she sent, I called her and left a voicemail saying that she was right and I’d make it up to her if she would go out with me again promising that we would go out just to have fun and keep things light. I hoped that she would go out with me again because I liked her personality and thought she was pretty.

Fortunately, she decided to go out with me again. In retrospect, I have to thank her father for talking her into it. We continue dating and we both enjoyed it. At the same time I was processing these issues in my head and trying to come to some resolution on them. A friend of mine had married a widow and in her circumstances she decided to ask for a sealing cancellation from her first husband. Apparently he was an unsavory character. I don't pretend to think that I have enough information to judge whether this was the right decision in their case, but Julie made it very clear that Jake was a great guy, and she would remain sealed to him.

My thoughts on the Sealing Issue after much thought, prayer, processing and reflection. (This is my understanding and how I should apply it in my life. I know this point of view will not apply nor be appropriate in every circumstance and situation. Each person must prayerfully consider their circumstances and ultimately look to God and the influence of the Holy Ghost to determine the right path for them.)

The gospel of Jesus Christ is a curious thing. It's not a Chinese menu where you can pick and choose which gospel principles you will believe and which ones you won't. You can't say I like Commandments one, five and six, but I don't like three, four and nine. If you're going to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ you must also accept it in its entirety. If you accept that through the Priesthood men and women may be able to be sealed together in God's holy temples, you must also accept that God is a just and loving Heavenly Father who is concerned about the happiness and well-being of his children.

We also know that it is "not good for man to be alone" (Genesis 2:18, Abraham 5:14, Moses 3:18). I also believe that it is not good for woman to be alone either. Our moral existence on this planet is intended for us to interact with one another. I also feel it's ideal for children to be raised in a home with two parents even if both of those parents are not the biological parents.

We also know that we don’t know the mysteries of God nor a perfect picture of the gospel at this time. In the ninth article of faith we learn "we believe all that God has revealed, all that he does now reveal, and we believe that he will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God." From this we know that we don't fully understand how things will be in the eternities. In first Corinthians chapter 13 the apostle Paul clearly illustrates that while we do not have a full understanding of things pertaining to the gospel, (we see through a glass darkly; for we know in part, and we prophesy in part), but what we have is an understanding of the fundamentals. If we master these gospel fundamentals everything that will be revealed to us in the eternities will make perfect sense. Paul exhorts us to develop the qualities of faith hope and charity. And we know the charity is a perfect love of Jesus Christ.

We also know that God's kingdom is not a kingdom of coercion, force or compulsion. We learn this in section 121 of the doctrine and covenants. This section teaches us how God's kingdom on earth is to function and how will be in the eternities. In the eternities we will choose to live in accordance with God's laws because that will be who we are, our very nature, because we have experienced the alternative and have chosen to overcome the natural man within us (Mosiah 3:19) and yield to the enticings of the Holy Ghost. To reside with God our Eternal Father in his Celestial glory we will need to have become like him in every way.

Versus 45 and 46 section 121 give us a glimpse into the eternities:

45 let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the Priesthood shall distill upon thy soul as the dues from heaven.

46 the Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter and unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory mean, it shall flow into thee forever and ever. (note: comma added for emphasis)

There are some really powerful messages in these two scriptures. First, if we really truly understand, accept and live the gospel of Jesus Christ our hearts and minds will be full of love for everyone. The Holy Ghost will be our constant companion, the additional doctrine of God's kingdom and Priesthood will be revealed to us little by little over time, and our very nature, our essence, our everything will change and become aligned and match the will and nature of God. Every feeling, thought, and action will be in harmony with the Priesthood and God's kingdom not out of choice, but rather because of who we are.

The phrase "without compulsory means" is very interesting. Alternative ways of saying this are: without compulsory methods, without compulsory practices, or without compulsory procedures. In the kingdom of God no one will be forced to do anything. We will be asked to do things and then return and report. I believe that we will choose to do those things asked of us because it is right. The other implication of this is that we will not be with anyone we don't want to be with. If we don't want to be with the person that we were sealed to on the earth no one is going to force us to be with them in the eternities.

We don't know how things are going to work out in the eternities. We don't know what adjustments are going to be made. We DO know that the atonement of Jesus Christ compensates for every sin, mistake, frailty, challenge, sorrow and problem if we enter by the gate, live the gospel and endure to the end in faith, repentance and hope. We do know that if we are righteous, true and faithful it will all work out and we will all be happy and received a fullness of joy in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom.   

It is true, that the church policy is that a woman can only be sealed to one man while she is living. I accept and support our church leaders in all that God has revealed to us at this time. Perhaps we get a glimpse into what God may reveal to us in the future by the fact that a woman can be sealed to multiple men after they are all deceased. Let me restate again that we do not know precisely how things will work in the eternities. We do not know what compensations and adjustments will be made. We DO know that if we become like God through the gospel of Jesus Christ, our essence and nature will change to become in harmony with him. He has promised that we will be happy and have joy in the eternities.

Do I know how things will work out between Julie, Jake and I in the eternities? No. But I put my trust in the hands of my loving father in heaven. I trust in him to make it all work out so that everyone will be happy and satisfied. No one, if we live worthy, will miss out on any blessing as the infinite and eternal atonement of Jesus Christ compensates for all shortcomings. No one will feel cheated or shortchanged.

If you accept the Priesthood can seal two people together for time and all eternity, then you must also accept that God is a loving and merciful God, we do not know how precisely things will work out in the eternities, what adjustments and compensations will be made through the atonement, and trust that God will want to bless you with every blessing you prove worthy of.

Caution! My opinion follows:

I think the point of view of shunning a widow because she is sealed to someone else is the exact opposite of everything the gospel teaches. This daughter of God has already shown that she is a good person of faith, accepts the gospel and was worthy to be sealed in the Temple. She may now find herself single through no fault of her own through the death of a spouse. This is not a reason to cast her aside or discard her for your own insecurities. If anything, the gospel teaches us to be full of charity toward the widow and the fatherless (James 1:27), to lift the hands that hang down and strengthen the feeble knees (Hebrews 12:12). If you are going to believe in the Priesthood sealing power, you must also accept the rest of the gospel in its entirety which would lead you past your own insecurities in the sealing issue, if you can put your trust in God and exercise faith. There are many reasons to not marry someone, but to discard a faithful woman solely because she is a widow is wrong.

Aside: I have considered deleting this paragraph because I don’t want to come across as harsh or judgmental. But I believe it to be the truth based on my understanding.

As I sat and reflected on my understanding of this issue, it was one thing to feel prompted spiritually that I should marry Julie, a widow. It was another thing entirely to act upon it. This was not an easy thing to do. I had many times of doubt, insecurity and uncertainty. The adversary worked hard to strengthen my insecurities and amplify my doubts. Ultimately I had to take that leap of faith and decide whether I would let my fears and insecurities be stronger than my faith in my loving heavenly father. I chose then and I still choose today to trust my father in heaven and the promptings I felt.

For each of us, if we don't have enough faith to trust with the Holy Ghost when it prompts us to move in a direction then how can you ever expect to have enough faith to receive all the promises given to you in the Temple? Simply being sealed in the Temple does not ensure that you're going to be sealed for time and all eternity. There are lots of blessings that we are given to us that are dependent on further actions, how we live our life, and ultimately who we become.

Let me be also clear that I didn't get married to Julie just for spiritual reasons. No one should marry a widow solely because she is a widow and you are single. I married Julie because I love the person she is and the person she is becoming.  Having passed through the tragedies, trials and grief in her life she has become a caring and compassionate woman. I want to be married to a caring and compassionate woman. Through dating we determined that we were a great fit for each other and had great chemistry in our relationship. My decision to ask Julie to marry me was both self-interested and spiritual in motivation.

For each of you that are single I offer some great advice I was given. "For whatever trial in your life, pray to the Lord and ask his help as if it all depended upon the Lord and then work like it all depends upon you."  In Proverbs 3:5 it says "trust in the Lord with all thy heart and lean not unto thine own understanding; in all ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths." For any person male or female struggling with any of these issues my advice is to humbly inquire of the Lord what his will is in your life. When the answers come through the Holy Ghost, choose to follow them. Acknowledge that the answers come in God's time and not ours. Each of us have a unique path in mission in this life.

To the widows out there I offer you my condolences. I'm sorry for your circumstances having a spouse taken from you prematurely. I know this feels extremely unfair. I'm sure the heartbreak, loneliness and grief are overwhelming at times. If you have started dating I'm sure sealing issue is on one hand, a strength and comfort in knowing your connection to your spouse, and on the other hand a challenge and a source of frustration as you contemplate a second marriage. I hope that you can find someone to marry that is of great faith and has fully embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ in its entirety.  I am not saying that my point of view on the sealing issue is right for everyone. I only say that it was right for me.

Just because I felt it was right to marry Julie doesn't mean that second marriages are easy. Both divorced and widowed people come into a second marriage with baggage. My life is infinitely more complex than I thought it would be. We manage relationships with a dead husband and his family, an ex-wife, stepchildren, special needs kids, and challenges of all kinds. We have our moments of peace and happiness in your times of trial and rough patches.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is not a competition. There is not one winner and one loser. Julie's husband Jake was a really good guy. A faithful member of the church, returned missionary, and serving as Young Men's president when he was killed. The fact that Jake was a really good person has no impact on what type of person I can become. The person the Jake was in no way diminishes me as a husband and father. Comparisons have no benefit to either Jake or me. While some comparisons are inevitable Julie and I try to avoid making them as they only sow the seeds of insecurities, criticism and discontent.

Some people who have heard our story have said "oh you're just a saint." Let me assure you that I am far from a saint. I have many shortcomings, frailties and imperfections. If you doubt that just asked Julie and I'm sure she would be glad to illuminate several to you. Throughout my life I've just tried to be in the right places and do the right things for the right reasons.  In this attempt, I’ve been richly blessed.

 To read our original story click here.
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Friday, April 11, 2014

Don't Miss Out on the Beauty of Your Life...

I love flowers, especially spring bulbs.  I find great joy in seeing the tiny green leaves pushing up through the ground.  It signals to me that I made it through the winter and spring will be here soon.  Jake died in January and for the last 10 years I have suffered with seasonal depression.  I love warm sunny weather!  I have found a lot of different things that have helped me learn to cope with the seasonal depression so it has gotten easier each year.  The sign of the spring tulips and daffodils in my front yard always bring a sigh of relief that it's over, and I will soon be outside again!

A few years ago I planted literally hundreds of bulbs in my front yard.  Several shades of pink tulips intertwined with yellow and white daffodils.  They were my favorite thing about my flowerbeds.  Well, about 18 months ago in the fall I started noticing dirt mounds in my flower bed.  I didn't know what they were coming from.  After a few weeks though I realized it must be some sort of animal doing it...and not my 3 year old.  The mounds started following the path of my bulbs.  Within days there were mounds of dirt lining the entire length of my flower bed right where all my bulbs were planted.

The next spring I waited anxiously to see if any of my precious bulbs started to break the ground.  I was thrilled to see the green starting to come through in early March.  I was however sad to find a month later that it was only the daffodils that survived the thief in my flowerbed.  An entire row of hundreds of bulbs mixed and the rodent had eaten every one of my tulips but not one of the daffodils.

I had put so much work into those flowers.  I spent hours on my knees planting them and placing them perfectly so that they would have the perfect mix of color.  I was happy to have the daffodils, but also defeated at the thought of trying to plant more tulips to replace the last ones...especially if the underground thief came back!

This year when my daffodils were in full bloom I had a life lesson to learn.  We were pulling up to the house and my son said to me, "Look Mom, all your flowers have bloomed, they look so pretty."  I am ashamed to admit to my response, "I can't even appreciate them; all I see is the absence of the beautiful pink tulips that should be in full bloom too."  It wasn't a day later, or even an hour later that I learned this life was literally the moment those words left my mouth.

When I looked at hundreds of white and yellow daffodils (one of my very favorite flowers) I didn't see the beauty in them.  They were perfect and beautiful just the way they were.  All I saw was what was lacking.  I had a "plan" for my flowerbed.  I planted them, took care of them, and then watched helplessly as something stole them from me.  I wanted them back.  When I looked at my flowers I wanted to see what I had envisioned, what I had worked for, and what I had planted.  I was focusing on what I thought I should have instead of seeing what I did have.  The flowers in my front yard looked fantastic.  When I removed the thought of what should be there and stood back to look at what was there, it was perfectly beautiful.

How often in life do we overlook the beauty of what we have been given, because we are only focusing on the beauty that was taken from us?

When life throws us a curve ball, (death, divorce, loss of a child, trials, tragedy, or even everyday changes that we didn't plan on) it can change the way our life looks.  It can change the people in our life, change our family, change our hearts, and change our plans.  We can find ourselves with a completely different life path.  I've said before, one of my favorite quotes is- "We can't choose our trials in life but we can choose how we deal with them, we can become better or bitter."  We have a choice on how it changes us.  If we allow ourselves to change with it, we can be humbled by it, become better because of it, and grow in faith through it then we will find ourselves in a beautiful life.  It may not be the life plan you had thought about, taken care of, or planted.  But that doesn't take away from the beauty of it.  If we allow ourselves to only look at what we should have had, what was taken from us, and become bitter because of it, we could miss out on the beauty that is right in front of us.  

I had planned for a perfect little life, raising my family with Jake on a cattle ranch in a small town.  For over seven blissful years I enjoyed that life.  The last 10 years has been full of ups and downs, devastating realities and awe inspiring miracles.  My life is far more beautiful than I had ever planned or hoped for, even with the knowledge of what was taken from me.  The lessons I've learned and that my children have learned are priceless.  We are becoming the people we need to be.  We have more love and compassion for people.  My relationship with my Savior and Heavenly Father is far stronger because of the need to rely on them for survival.  My happiness now far exceeds anything that I could comprehend when my life was devastated and changed forever 10 years ago.  I am so thankful for all I have and the pure beauty I see in my life.

This week try looking for the beauty in your life.  Appreciate what you have been given instead of focusing on what was taken from you, or the things you want that have not yet come.  Allow yourself to find happiness during times of trial by seeing the beautiful life you have been given.

*A note to those grieving.  I am in no way saying that things are easy.  I believe that grief is real, hard, heavy, and excruciating.  It is something that comes in waves, you will be doing great and then it will come out of nowhere and knock you down again.  Allowing me to work through my grief, riding the good waves and enduring the times it crashed down upon me is how I have found peace and happiness.  I get better and stronger with each wave that comes.  I will grieve for Jake my entire life, but I will also have happiness, love and hope throughout my life.  Seeing the beauty in your life now doesn't diminish the beauty of your life before the loss.  I would never say I have "moved on" from my loss...I say that I am moving through my loss.

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Friday, April 4, 2014

Dating and Marrying a Widow...

The thought of having to be in the dating world again after your spouse dies is terrifying.  There are a lot of reasons for this, these were some of mine...

-We still feel married first of all, so we battle the feeling that we may be doing something wrong and are betraying our spouse.  (I still wore my wedding ring for several dates)

-Sometimes we are still processing our grief and will end up talking about our late spouse the entire date...or at least more than we should.  We may or may not discuss in great detail how they died as well.

-We can be a ticking time bomb in a way and may have something happen to trigger our grief and emotion.  I remember a date to a movie with a guy.  At the beginning of the movie they showed  a preview for a movie about a coal mine. (Jake died in a coal mine)  Then to make it worse we saw Just Like Heaven and it was about a girl trapped in a coma but her spirit was trapped in her apartment...bottom line...she was basically dead, and then comes back to life for her happily ever after.  What most widows dream will happen to their spouse.  Anyway, that date was a trigger for me, and needless to say it was my last date with him.  *When you find a guy that doesn't run if you have a trigger on a date you may have a keeper;)

-Dating and being a single parent is difficult!!!  You don't have to worry about your parents staying up for's worse, you have kids waiting up for you.  I also had an infant so the thought of breastfeeding and dating was a fun joke! (read more about that here) I had a stake president tell me I should start going to the singles ward so I could meet someone.  My response,  "They have primary in singles wards?".

-Every time you go on a bad date it sends you back into your "this new life sucks, and I want my real life back" depression.

The list of reasons could go on and on...Please feel free to leave reasons you find the thought of dating as a widow terrifying, (or exciting) either way...this will be fun to see:)

The main topic I want to discuss is only an issue for people in my faith.  We are married and sealed for time and all eternity in our temples.  We believe families are forever and this is the power that makes it possible.  To learn more about my beliefs, Click Here.

-The biggest issue that comes up with dating in the LDS faith is the fact that women while alive can only be sealed to 1 man.  So if we are sealed to our first husband and we don't cancel that sealing we cannot be sealed to our second husband.  Most widows/widowers don't have any intention to cancel their sealings.  This is a very personal decision and I am not passing judgement on any one for their personal choices.  This issue is hard for the widow and also hard for EVERY person she/he dates that belongs to our faith.  So 9 times out of 10 this topic will come up on the FIRST date!  In my experience it only came up on the second date once.  Every other time it was the first date.

Curtis and I had an amazing first date, and it was complete DIVINE intervention that I even said yes;)  But it didn't allow for a lot of talking.  So he waited for the 2nd date to drop the question...

"How can it be possible for you to love someone else the same amount as you love your eternal companion?"

This was a slight variation to the standard question that most men asked, which was, "Why would I date you if I can't be sealed to you?".

I had been dating for about a year, so I had my answers ready.  It didn't make it any easier though, each time I had to endure this conversation.  I responded by telling him that I have 4 kids and I have different relationships with all of them.  I love them all for different reasons and all the relationships have strengths and weaknesses.  But, I don't love any one of them more than the others.  They are all different relationships, but not less.  Our hearts are capable of giving as much love as we are willing to allow.   I am a very loving and loyal person and I knew I was capable of loving someone else as much as I loved Jake.  I was very clear however, that I would never stop loving Jake.  I wasn't looking for a replacement for him.  I was a package deal... me, my four kids, and my dead husband.

Curtis was really sweet how he handled the uncomfortable conversation.  It was by far the best "your sealed to your dead spouse" conversation I had dealt with.  That didn't make it any easier though.  Every time I went through the issues with people it was excruciating.  I felt like I was being punished for having a dead husband.  It wasn't enough that I had to endure the greatest pain I could ever imagine and have my life destroyed in an instant?  But now I was somehow doomed to living my life alone for the next 60 years.  It felt like my options were staying single and lonely.  Or finding someone that wasn't a member of my church and wouldn't have issue with our beliefs, but also wouldn't share my values and the way I wanted to raise my children.  The idea of a man with my same belief having enough faith to marry a widow and trust in God seemed impossible.  But wait...isn't that one of the core beliefs in this gospel?  We must live by faith...hmm

I left the date with Curtis completely defeated!  I cried for a few hours after and had vowed to go back to the sad widow that would never find happiness.  My Dad took me aside and told me that it wasn't fair to give up on Curtis so easily.  He encouraged me to give him another chance, and reminded me that even though I had been processing it for 2+ years it was new for him.  He needed a chance to wrap his head around it too.  Curtis knew that I was upset after the date so he had tried to call a few times.  I never answered the phone.  My idea of giving him a second chance was to send him...what he calls a "nasty gram".  I wrote him a short email about my feelings including the phrase, "I don't think I even like you and yet you want me to discuss spending eternity with you.  I would just like to be able to go on a date with out having to try and solve the mysteries of the eternities!"  I figured that Curtis would go running after that, but I could tell my dad that I had given him a second chance;).  Well, Curtis surprised me by calling and leaving a very sweet message about the fact that I was right and he apologized for upsetting me.  He asked if he could make it up to me and take me out again.  Our third date was much better...but he had planned it with a friend of his that had married a widow...we have never gone out with them since...coincidence I'm sure;)

To be continued with a blog post from Curtis in the next few days!!!

Read Part 2 from Curtis here.

*I would love to hear your funny experiences, or the way people bring up the sealing issue in the comments section! Sometimes it helps to have a good laugh at all our problems to lighten the load just a little:)

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