Miracles

Peter’s mother-in-law was sick before Jesus healed her. The disciples struggled to catch anything at all before their boat was filled with fish. The lepers were isolated from loved ones for years before their joyous reunions.

It’s not that our Father-in-Heaven wanted these people to be sick, or struggle, or feel alone. He doesn’t cause bad things to happen in our lives and then abandon us. He doesn’t want us to be miserable.

He does, however, want us to act in faith, regardless of circumstance. We aren’t intended to be spiritual babies for always, and so he wants us to grow. To grow, we have to learn more (by experience), practice new skills (and keep practicing when we don’t get it right), and simply do something – anything – that counts as an act of faith.

When you get cancer, there are a lot of ways to act in faith.

Not blaming God, for one thing.

Seeking to understand the challenges of mortality and natural consequences of living in a fallen world counts.

Asking to be taught by experience, to learn along the way, to have clear-seeing eyes and far-seeing visions is even more proactive.

Praying when it hurts to breathe, reading scriptures when you can’t stay awake, and being grateful for so many who serve and help do the things you cannot do for yourself anymore are ways to act in faith when it would be easier to give up, give in, or quit all together.

But quitting means forgetting.

And the whole point of everything is to wake up a little more, to recall a little more, to remember who we are.

The last two days have been hard ones. My pain medication is making me too sick and itchy to take anymore, so now I am back to only taking Tylenol. It means my fevers are back, and the pain is back, and that I can do less than when my pain was masked by medicine.

This, probably, is a good thing, as I am sure I was trying to do too much.

But there was something symbolic about finishing the kids’ rooms that felt very urgent to me. I needed their rooms to be finished. I needed them to know they live here. I needed them to be okay if I die.

Except today is not my day to die.

It is a day for hot tears, and weakness, and intense frustration at being able to do so little. It is a day for choosing wisely what gets the little energy I have, and a day for being careful about how I spend the little time I am awake.

I must choose nourishing things, and I must choose eternal things.

Time is an illusion, and far too short.

Illness or other crises only magnify our task at hand, which is to do as we are prompted, as soon as we are prompted. Crises remove (or become) the distractions, obstacles, or things standing between us and who we can become.

I had the best study this morning, because I did it when I was prompted, and did it first, rather than using my burst of energy on silly tasks around the house that really don’t matter. I had precious time with my children because I used that hour of alertness to do school with them and watch them play, rather than taking the easier route of watching a movie or playing games on my iPad.

Now, when my day has taken a downward turn, I have strength and memories to hold on to and remember and love because I didn’t waste my time while I still had it.

It’s a hard thing, because living consciously awake is the harder thing.

It is always easier to sleep walk through life, to remain in that premortal state, than to actively and consciously live and become by using mortal experiences as rocks in a wall that we are climbing.

Nathan says I have an iron will.

I think it means I am stubborn.

I know it means that I have many sick days ahead, so anytime there is opportunity to spend time with him or the children, even if it is a little uncomfortable, then that is the better choice.

Because it is practicing how to act, and that counts as an act of faith.

So when they say you have cancer, you say you want a priesthood blessing.

That’s acting in faith.

It doesn’t mean you get a free pass from surgery, or a free pass from pain, or a free pass from missing out on family time and friend time and work time.

It means you simply return to your Father-in-Heaven, and say that you have permission to approach because of the atonement of His Son, and that the Spirit can give you words to speak to each other. It means you report what they have said about cancer, and ask for the plan of what happens next and for help doing whatever is assigned you.

Then someone with permission to act for God and by His power, lays their hands in your head and pronounces a blessing straight from God Himself.

That’s when I was told the adversary was laying “seeds” to try and stop me.

I didn’t know, yet, then, that my cancer was formed into a rope of rocks.

The cancer was declared to be out of Order (of the priesthood), and I pictured it as cells copying bad information instead of accurate information.

The cancer was commanded to organize itself to be removed in surgery, and it was reminded it has no power against righteousness or the prayers of the righteous.

Later, when surgery happens, the mass has spread like a rope of rocks, like seeds leaving a trail of what it wanted to attack: my ovaries, and uterus, and these parts of me that promise eternal families. It chains it all against my pelvic bones, or the inside of my hips. These are the parts of me by which I move, and work, and choose to care for my family. It wraps it all around my spine, which holds my nerves that hold me together, keeps me strong, and holds me upright.

This was not an attack on my body. This was an attack on my agency, my choosing motherhood, my choosing wifedom. This was an attack on eternal families, and my eternal family will not be stopped.

The blessing went on to describe my learning more about the atonement, and experiencing it as a physical gift and not just a spiritual gift. I learn this as I have a surgery that cannot be avoided, and is required if there is any chance at life. I learn this when the pain is so intense hot tears fall down fevered cheeks. I learn this when others dress me after a shower, tuck my feet under blankets, and pick hair off my clothes and blankets. I learn this when I am told someone will be sure to bring me sacrament, because it is something I cannot do for myself but desperately need.

I learn this when we get the call of a miracle, when the doctor reads us the pathology report.

The atonement is complete, I think.

It is whole, and entire, and even for me.

It has brought me miracles of healing, in changing my life, in uniting my family, and in sealing me to Nathan.

Physically, the atonement has healed me, a great deal already. My heart has been softened, that I might receive. My ears have been opened, that I might obey. And now my womb has been cleansed, that I might be sealed for time and all eternity to these precious souls I love – and the ones who will come after them.

“We got it all,” the doctor says.

We breathe again, for the first time in a week.

But that’s not the miracle. That piece I already knew, from the pain of surgery and the pain in my hips and tailbone where I was chiseled on, like a master carver creating a masterpiece, and oh, please, I beg, carve away anything in me that is not of God.

Here’s the miracle that he tells us: the three baseball size tumors were benign, but the larger mass with its rope of rocks was obviously malignant…. except it was already dead.

That’s what he tells us.

He tells us the cancer was already dead before they got to it.

The prayers of people, the blessing says, and the prayers of discourses of angels, it says, will be far mightier than the cancer.

The prayers of your children, it says, is part of why they came to you now.

Hot tears came that day, during the blessing, and hot tears came when the doctor told us this miracle of news.

But also, the blessing gave instructions for how to act in faith next: learn to rely on others more, don’t rush back to work too soon, further procedures will be required, a complete recovery depends on your rest and the interventions (fasting, prayer, and service) of others.

“Chemo,” the doctors say, is still necessary because they want to be sure it isn’t anywhere else, and that none of the scar tissue from surgery will have any cancer in it. If no other cancer is found, I will not have to do radiation. PET scans can show this, they say, by how the radioactive medicine (mixed with sugar, so it can be absorbed by the body), gets absorbed by cells or not – if it doesn’t “light up”, then there is no cancer, or like me before surgery, it is already dead. Now that they know why the results were coming out mixed, we have no concerns about needing an MRI, and a PET scan will be sufficient.

Sufficient for my needs.

“The cancer was dead,” he said again, “before we ever got to it. It is rare, and we cannot really explain it to you. You are church people; think what you will.”

“We may also rest assured that that God who has delivered us so frequently in the past will still continue to deliver us… He will throw around us His arm of power, and when the worst comes to the worst He will interpose in our behalf in a miraculous manner to free us and place us upon a sure foundation. In fact, it is all miraculous. The existence of this people is a miracle. The growth of this people is a miracle. The attitude of this people is a miracle…

“We have every reason to rejoice so long as we are doing right. It is this that we have to console us…The warfare will go on as it has done in the past, only with this difference: that in our age and to us God has made promises, that this kingdom, that is, the Holy Priesthood that He has restored to the earth and the authority that He once had among men; the promise is to us that it shall not be taken from the earth again; but that this kingdom shall roll forth, continue to grow and increase, until it will encircle within its pale all the virtuous and honest of the nations of the earth. This is the destiny of this work; not to exclude anyone, but to include everyone; and as it gains strength, influence and power, it will continue to aggregate to itself all that is good in mankind.

“I am happy in this reflection: that notwithstanding the threatening aspect of affairs… there is a spirit of peace, calmness and serenity, prevailing throughout our settlements and throughout our families, so far as I have been able to discern, that has shown we are undisturbed, that we are conscious of the fact that God is with us. Continue to cherish this spirit, let it rest upon you, impart it to your children, extend it as far as you can; and may the blessing of our Father and God rest down abundantly upon you and upon all the honest everywhere throughout the wide earth, is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.”

~ George Q. Cannon, 1884 (JoD, 25:238)

One Week Since Surgery

It has been a whole week since surgery, now, and I can’t believe it.

I slept all night! I woke twice, but both times I was able to go back to sleep. When I woke at 5am, Nathan helped me get out of bed and reposition myself, and I went back to sleep in the bed again instead of having to sit in the reading chair. This is like a miracle to me!

It also meant I woke for the day at normal hours, which meant I had a small window of energy while my kids were still home! I cried for being so happy to spend time with them! Five and I did school, and he finished his last PreK workbook and is officially in kindergarten books!

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The toddler and I did some coloring, some sorting, some tracing, talked about the letter F and the number 5, and did some cutting and pasting. She is doing so great that SoonerStart is going to discharge her from services! Her attachment is good, her trauma therapy is good, her behavior is so much better, and her speech is catching up so quickly. I am so proud of her!

I really love them so much! We had so much fun spending time together, really, for the first time in a week. They were as excited and happy as I was!

Many thanks to Nathan, who was patient trying to deal with us all. He worked really hard to give us an illusion of normal, and I think it did us all some good.

I needed a good long nap after that, of course, but was able to wake in time to eat with Nathan, and sat at the table for the first time since surgery! Not only that, but I could get back up again! It wasn’t easy, but I am so glad to be functioning a little bit more every day.

I had no fevers today!

I was supposed to walk today, but it was too hot outside, so I did this instead:

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It’s a giant world map in the kids’ hallway! I left the decal pages on the bed in our bedroom, and walked back and forth to stick them up in the hallway. That’s how I got my walk in today! I also did some planets on the other wall, and included Pluto, so don’t be a hater:

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That, of course, also wore me out. I am to the point of being able to be awake for about two hours at a time if I am resting, or about an hour if I am up and trying to be active. That’s so great!

My incision is healing nicely, and still have no problems with that. My follow up for that is next Friday, I think, so we will see what the doctor says. My pathology reports and lab work should be back tomorrow, so I think that is part of why I tried to be busy today while awake. I am anxious but not afraid, and just want to know, and have had so much waiting lately.

I also held down all my food today, even having a pretend real meal with Nathan of a tiny few bites of roast, a few carrots, and a few bites of potato. It was so good to have normal food, almost as a relief as that fish and broccoli I had some of yesterday. My body is waking up and remembering what it is supposed to be doing.

Even as a I type now, I had to stop and blow hair off my iPad. There is hair everywhere! I will be needing to get my head shaved soon to make things easier, but it’s not quite time yet. I still have a lot, and we are adjusting the kids to everything as best we can. The doctor told me I can’t do it until after Monday anyway, I think.

Tomorrow is Nathan’s birthday. Last year I got him foster kids for his birthday. Not really, of course. His gift was private lessons at the glass blowing school in Tulsa, but our first foster child came on his birthday, poor guy. I feel like this year I got him cancer for his birthday, and am not really well enough to be able to do much for him. He is a good sport.

But, since today I can finally at least stand up and move around a little, even if I can’t do anything else, then that’s what I did for him. I waited until he was gone to get the kids, and after I had another nap, and then I put this up in our room above his nightstand:

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James Barrie has always been Nathan’s favorite playwright, and a related play was one of Nathan’s first plays that was ever produced. So it is special to him, and obviously our love has definitely been an adventure. I think he will like it.

Except now that is all I have in me, after such a marvelous day, and so I think I will go to bed and sleep until next week sometime!

Toddler’s Room Finished

Many thanks for all the help, and for all the butterflies!

My apologies for some of the strangely cropped photos, as I had to be sure all of her pictures were cut out and not showing. I am so excited to surprise her later this weekend!

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Our Story, Updated #tbt #love #marriage #dating

The Beginning:

In January 2011, I accidentally got a second job working at LDS Family Services a few hours a week.  I really wasn’t trying, and it really was an accident, but that’s another story.  The point is that’s where I met Nathan’s cousin, Dan.  He kept me on my toes throughout a very hard year, with my mom having surgery on her spine and my father dying of cancer, and caring for my four year old niece that was staying at my house.   This hardest-year-of-my-life also brought the gift of time with my family, which was as healing as it was challenging.  I finally came to truly understand that nothing, nothing, nothing is more important than my family, and really began to appreciate them in new ways and realize how very much I love them.

By January 2012, this family-love-fest had prepared me to want to start my own family, and I finally began dating again for the first time since getting baptized.  That’s when I wrote The Art of Dating. Again.

However, these dates were disasters.  Serious disasters.  That’s when I wrote Dating: Skunks, Snakes, and Weasels Need Not Apply.

But I didn’t give up.  I decided needed to just do a better job of choosing dates.  I finally came to understand that I could use my own agency to create my own fairytale.  That’s when I wrote Finding Princes, Making Fairytales.

The Introduction:

One day at work, Dan told me about something funny his cousin (living in NYC) said on Facebook.  He had told me about his cousin before, and this cousin really did make me laugh, and so I looked at several other posts that delighted me.  I saw that he was posting via Twitter, which somehow had the illusion of being more public and less creepy than Facebook, so I replied to his post on Twitter.

Meanwhile, Nathan’s mother told him about me (via Dan).  Nathan knew there was no way to start a relationship from so far away, and so didn’t take her seriously.  Except that’s when I popped up on Twitter, the very next day.

We were shy, with simple messages back and forth before finally beginning to send actual emails.

This was our epistolary introduction, which was tender and sweet as soon as it finally began.

That’s when I wrote Message in a Bottle, maybe one of my most favorite blogs ever.  It might just be one of my favorites because by then I think I already knew that I loved him.

Also, we were very witty and clever, naturally.

By May, I knew I had caught something.  Or it had caught me.  I wasn’t sure what.  But it was real enough and serious enough that I had to revisit the Skeleton Woman story from Clarissa.

Our first real live phone date was on May 6th.  I was too scared to mess it up, so I didn’t tell anyone except my heart-sisters and my “fathers”, to whom I tell most everything even if just to hold myself accountable.  I was too embarrassed of my sappy self to write about it, and so only blogged these pictures.  We talked on the phone for three hours that day, three hours of awesome.

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But by May 16th, we had been giggly-googley enough that our friends were starting to figure out that we were drowning in sap and choking on cuteness.  So Nathan made us public to the masses on Facebook, warning me only seconds in advance before the onslaught began.  I returned the favor by writing a poem about a headless chicken named Mike (true story!), always the sure way to a guy’s heart.

The Engagement:

By June, our families and close friends knew things were getting serious.  But when the rumor mill started buzzing with everyone else, that’s when we knew it was time to really start sharing with those who were wanting so badly to celebrate with us.  That’s when I wrote A Thing Created is Loved Before It Exists.  We began to plan our dating spree of a visit to meet each other’s families.

On June 21st, we met at a park in Bartlesville, running toward each other in delight after being separated so long from so far away.  It was a moment that explained all the longing of mortality, and a moment sweeter than relief and comfort and joy combined.  It was a moment of deep peace, of knowing, of remembering.  We held hands, and we were happy.

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We spent the week together, a week I will never forget.  That’s when I wrote Remember, Remember, the story of our week together meeting our families and getting engaged, writing our story so that I always would remember, so that I would never forget, so that our story of our very own week would be written down, documented, passed down, shared with those who wanted to remember what it was like to fall in love and enjoy every minute of it.

We did meet and spend time with our families:

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(EDIT: That was one of the only pictures, besides our wedding pictures and one at Christmas, of all five of us before my mother was killed three months later.)

And after a week of long walks, family talks, ballroom dancing, tire changing, priesthood counsel, and many other adventures, he did propose and I did say yes!  He asked me in sign language, because he knows me and he loves me!

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We had our engagement photos taken in a local old bookstore:

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After much discussion with our schedules, our bosses, our priesthood leaders, and each other, we settled on four options for wedding dates.  We called the temple to check the days that were available, and checked with the Owasso building for reception availability. Then we took those options to our sign language interpreters to check their availability.  When it was all said and done, the best date for us happened to be October 13th.

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The Wedding:

Because we belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we were married in the temple in a private ceremony earlier in the day. Our closest temple is in Oklahoma City, so that is why we went that far just to be married. We think it is worth it, and it was very special to us!  However, our public reception in the evening was in Owasso, at a public chapel everyone was welcome to attend.

Because we are writers, and because symbolism is very important to me spiritually and intellectually and part of my background professionally, everything in our reception has a sacred meaning behind it. Some of those things we have chosen to share below (see the sections for “The Decorations”, “The Invitations”, “The Rings”, and “The Dress”).

If you are really interested and like nerdy stuff, skim through and enjoy!

If not, scroll down to check out the pictures.

More of the story below the wedding details, so keep scrolling.

THE TEMPLE

Why the temple? In the Family Proclamation, it states:

The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.

LDS beliefs include the idea that since we are eternal beings not limited to this mortal life only, we can be married for “time and all eternity” instead of just only for this life on earth like in a civil marriage. But for something to be established in heaven as well as on earth, it must be “sealed” by one with the power and authority to do so (see Matthew 16:19).

The sealing ceremony in the temple is a simple and solemn ceremony where Nathan and I will kneel at the altar and make covenants with God.

Here is a picture of a sealing room from the Kansas City temple, where my whole family got to tour before it opened (the picture is taken from the church news site that has more pictures if you want to see):

Nathan and I have had to work hard to prepare and qualify to be married in the temple because the temple is a sacred place, just as described and demonstrated in the Old Testament. Also, eternity is a big deal!

Some of the things we have had to do to prepare and qualify to be married in the temple include (see this article for more details):

  • actively developing our faith and belief in God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, and doing our work to develop and improve those relationships;
  • understanding and applying the atonement the Savior, which is to know that we often fail at being who we were created to be and are weak in trying to become more than our past mistakes – but that the Savior bridges that gap for us, has paid the price for us, and has suffered for the consequences of our sins, and by Him we find both mercy and forgiveness. But it is also knowing that He also suffered and paid the price of the sin of others, and for the injustices against us, and so we are to forgive others just as we have been forgiven, and to love them with the same kind of grace we have been loved;
  • understanding and sharing our knowledge that the full Gospel plan has been restored with its authority and ordinances just like in the Old Testament and New Testament;
  • sustain (support, pray for, and help) the leaders of our church and understand that God uses prophets today just as He always has;
  • dressing modestly and remaining chaste until we are married (complete fidelity after marriage);
  • learning to love our families;
  • participating in groups and organizations that teach positive principles of God;
  • attending church and keeping the covenants we have made;
  • learning to be honest;
  • paying a full tithe;
  • not using any alcohol, coffee, tea, or tobacco;
  • wearing our temple garments;
  • asking church leaders for help with any serious sins and doing the work to overcome them; and
  • finding ourselves to be worthy and prepared to enter the temple – this is a big deal – we sign our own “temple recommend”, which is like a permission slip to enter the temple. It does not mean that we think we are perfect or are even “good” yet, but that we are learning the plan of Heavenly Father and feel His grace and love for us; and are empowered and enabled by the atonement of the Savior; and are corrected, guided, and instructed by the Holy Spirit.

Some people see these things as “legalistic” or rules that are too strict, but we know they are good and healthy boundaries that the Lord has set for us. Choosing to live within these boundaries teaches us how to make good choices, and our lives are better because of those good choices. It really does bring us happiness, and give us strength and guidance when the challenges of real life come our way. It gathers us as a family, and makes miracles happen!

And this is a miracle for us, that we have found each other and will be sealed together for time and all eternity!

And that is worth celebrating!

THE RECEPTION

Our first reception was a brunch in New York City.  It was an adventure in which a wizard and his dragon unexpectedly showed up to bless us!  While not very LDS-like, it made perfect sense in New York!

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Our local reception was in Owasso the evening after we were married in the morning, and we planned a very special celebration.  Because Nathan was in New York and I was here, and so much of our relationship has unfolded through our “epistolary introduction” (the first time he said that is when I knew I loved him!), our family and friends missed out on the dating experiences we normally would have shared. So we have written a little play that will share our story in a special way. Then some youth performed “I Love to See the Temple” in sign language, followed by an exchange of rings and our official presentation as a couple led by my “father” Donn Mason.

The celebration had already begun with the wedding showers! There were four showers: one in Bartlesville hosted by Nathan’s mother to introduce me to their friends and family; one hosted by TSHA (the local United Way non-profit agency serving the Deaf community of Oklahoma) for my friends; one in Broken Arrow hosted by Brookhollow and Cedar Ridge for church friends; and one in my ward in Owasso.

THE INVITATIONS

Our invitations were mailed, inviting friends to join us for our “story”:

In fact, it begins the story that will continue at the reception!

We even have an “about the authors” page, in case you only know me or only know him:

THE DECORATIONS

Since Nathan and I are both writers, our reception theme is “words”. We are using purple and silver, but words are the theme and main focus. Our decorations are simple and handmade, creating the most exciting DIY summer we have ever experienced! Instead of trying to turn the church gym into a foo-foo castle, we are letting the walls be the covers of the book and you simply enter our story. I don’t want to give away all the details, but the highlight has been all the help we have received making paper flowers (thank you!):

The purple in our wedding represents royalty, all of us being children of God, all of us striving to become holy – even if “holy” today is “better than yesterday”. God loves us so much, and does want us to feel loved, to experience peace, and to discover happiness.

The silver represents our unity, not only with each other as a couple, but all of us, as one people, no matter our diversity, backgrounds, or experiences. We are all equal, all of us being children of the same God. We are each unique, but all of us created “in His image”, which is to say after the pattern of our Heavenly Parents just like we look and act so much like our own parents. We are all different, but each of us has traits and characteristics that are given to us by God, holy like God, and with potential we cannot yet comprehend.

The flowers made from journaling paper represent our own work we must each do individually to maintain our relationship with God first and foremost, through prayer and scripture study and blessings and pondering and reflection and temple worship. There are some flowers that have a simple alphabet pattern, symbolic of the basics of communication and interaction upon which our relationship was built and which we must do the work to maintain. There are other flowers made out of postcard pattern and handwriting patterns that symbolize our relationship that has unfolded through words, which we both love, by letters we have exchanged from far away. There are some flowers with music in them. These are a shout-out to Nathan’s efforts at writing musicals, and enjoyment we share of music in general.

The small flowers and table toppers were made from the pages of two books:

The Red Tent, an historical novel written about one of the daughters of Abraham and her experiences growing up amongst her brothers (who became the twelve tribes). It is a marvelous recounting of ancient women, their understanding of God, Mother Earth, each other, their husbands, and their children. It is about the hard work of daily life, the experiences that give meaning to life (love, childbirth, marriage, death) and how it is the meaning that gives us the courage and strength to grieve, to face the hard things, to conquer challenges, and sometimes just keep our head above water.

Women Who Run With the Wolves, also seen in our wedding invitation bookmarks, is written by a Jungian psychoanalyst (the kind of therapy I studied). Jungian psychology is all about narrative, meaning the stories we tell as individuals and cultures, and how everything around us is both “temporal and spiritual” (see D&C 29:31). Each piece in the story, every room, every object, every person, every character, everything represents a piece of ourselves and has something to teach us literally and something to teach us spiritually. The literal symbol is only there to help us recognize (remember) the spiritual lesson (and do something about it). In this particular book, the author tells fairytales from all over the world, one for each chapter, and then explains its meaning. While I am not so lost in one particular branch of psychology to agree with everything (of that type of psychology or this author), the temporal/spiritual principle is a true one and part of what prepared me – “a line upon line” for me long before baptism – to choose redemption, gain scriptural understanding, and appreciate temple worship.

The punched out hearts are all from pages of my favorite childhood classics, read repeatedly for the first twenty years of my life and still repeated from time to time. Understanding this makes Emily World make a lot more sense. We cut these shapes out of Anne of Green Gables, The Secret Garden, Alice in Wonderland, and Little Women. I wanted to use poetry, especially Emily Dickinson, but the phrasing was so short that it didn’t make for very pretty flowers (ironically enough). My friends would not let me use any Plato or Aristotle, which I wanted, because they found it boring (despite my pleas that it was historic, ancient, and foundational), nor would they let me use any Bronte or Austin due them being the “trash novels” of their time despite classic status today. We had some pretty fun discussions deciding which texts to use, as well as the gut-wrenching drama of actually tearing out pages from books. They were carefully chosen, and in honor of how these words helped us to “become”. However, the sacred-est of texts, such as the Scriptures, the Discourses, the Wolves book, Little Prince, and others will be displayed rather than cut into flowers. We had to draw the line somewhere!

The pattern and paper flowers with letters in the middle represent family and friends, our loved ones that have poured their hearts and souls into raising us and caring for us well. It takes a village to raise an Emily, and a city to raise a Nathan, and an act of God to bring us together. We are grateful. Thank you.

IN MEMORY

My dad passed away a year ago, and we will have his picture with a “candle” to honor him specially.

The garter I will wear was made by Nathan’s aunt (Dan McClellan’s mom), who passed away two years ago. That’s really special. She sounds amazing, and I can’t wait to meet her (again) someday.

I will also be wearing a charm bracelet of my mother’s, which she wore during the time she met my dad. There are charms he gave her and other memories from their time of dating and getting married. Also super-uber-special.

THE RINGS

The ring story has been an adventure in itself.

Nathan proposed to me, without a ring, while we were filthy from changing a flat tire.

He then bought me a little tiny somersaulting monkey, though, out of the nearest quarter machine.

But there was no ring.

Later that night, we returned to the park where we had our first date, and he gave me a necklace with a small ring on it. This was symbolic, he said, because he knew I would be mad if he spent money (which was true). I loved it, and was perfectly content. I didn’t take it off until it wore out several months later. Sadness, but a lovely memory that kept me close to him during our weeks apart.

Then we walked around the lake to a bench on the far side where we first held hands and talked so long on our first date. Butterflies and dragonflies danced around us, the sun was setting, and it was very sweet and romantic. Then fireworks went off, and he pulled out another ring out of his pocket. This ring was an heirloom ring (white gold art deco) passed down from his family. It fit perfectly, and I loved it so much!

Nathan picked his ring to show symbols of us being tied together, which is actually a very native and Hispanic tradition where the wedding couple has a rope placed around them during the ceremony to “seal” their “ties”. There are many layers of meaning to this, and it was special that he found a ring to show just that:

For the wedding, my engagement ring sits inside a wedding band. This created a flower that matches my tiara (with the Star of David turned into flowers (“Ephraim blossoms as a rose”), picture below). It makes seven diamonds, which is symbolic of Creation with a capital C, as in the eternal plan that is accomplished even as it is in process (present progressive!). It also gives me the circle/square combination, a temple symbol that I love (the four corners of the earth meeting the celestial sphere). There are other layers, too, but they are personal and sacred for me. So yes! I love my ring!

THE DRESS

My veil is a long Jewish veil with lavender trim to match the birthstones (amethyst) in my tiara, all of it made by friends and given to me as a wedding gift.

Designed by Palestinian friends (converts to LDS), the dress is a Muslim style but embroidered and beaded with temple symbols of Garden of Eden vines and flowers. The flowers are made of a Star of David design turned into flowers (like in the tiara) with structured beading to symbolize celestial-ness. The dress is draped around the front to symbolize the apron and also the pioneers, representing our journey to the promised land. The beading also includes butterflies and dragonflies, a sweet touch commemorating the night Nathan proposed to me by the lake with the fireworks. All of it is very subtle and woven into the vines, classic of poetry written in Farsi or Hebrew. The dress is so amazing!

 

THE HONEYMOON

Because I was able to take a trip to New York for a reception there before the wedding, including getting to stay with Nathan’s bishop’s family (and so confirming he really was a legit decent guy!) and meet his amazing friends, we decided to stay within our careful budget and travel close to home.  I inherited a cabin on the lake between Springfield and Branson, and that seemed the perfect place for our writer’s retreat of a honeymoon.  Because we were already grownups with two households to merge, our gift registry was a creative online fundraiser that allowed people to sponsor different activities or meals for our getaway.  It was fall in the mountains on the lake, and so beautiful, and it was so perfect for us.

20121016-171037Little did we know that just a few months later, we would be sent to Israel, and get a second honeymoon quite unexpectedly!  What an experience that was!

Our courtship and marriage were absolute bliss, beyond fairytale perfect.  It really was.

But we both understood that it was being given to us as a gift, as a respite, as a time of gathering strength, as a bit of a celestial experience before getting to work.  We both sensed that hard times were to come, though we did not know specifics.  It all unfolded quickly, though.

We applied to be foster parents while still on our honeymoon, after feeling that prompting from the Lord.

Nathan had to go back to New York two weeks after we were married, and didn’t actually move to Oklahoma until Thankgiving, when we had our first miscarriage.

He had to fly back to New York again for work, and got caught in Hurricane Sandy.

He came home for Christmas, for good, and we had an amazing two weeks together culminating in doing my father’s temple work the first weekend of January.

My mother was killed the following week.

We had another miscarriage after that, and a third on Mother’s Day weekend.

Our first foster child arrived on his birthday in July, and we have had 26 kids come and go since then, in only a year’s time.

This year I got cancer for his birthday, and we are down to only two foster kids that are now becoming adoptive placements.

Our marriage has been just as fairytale as our courtship, though not as easy, as it has included all the heartbreak and grief and challenges required of a good adventure narrative.

We do not complain because we know that’s what makes our love real.

We are not sappy-happy because we are newlyweds or because life has been so good and amazing.

We are happy because we choose to care and serve each other before ourselves, because we know our love is worth doing the hard work to protect and nurture it, and because we know our love is eternal.

And it’s the eternal piece that promises a happy ending.

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Drive the Shadows Away

Today was the day the shower drain was filled with my hair by the time my shower was finished.

Like, a lot of hair.

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I cried.

Rachel was there to help me, and she went to get Nathan.

He came running, saw the shower, and just held me until I was done crying, and then kissed me and told me I am still as beautiful as always.

And then I cried some more.

And then I declared today to be a time out from cancer.

So Rachel and I played in the toddler’s room, me sitting in a chair trying to get down toast while Rachel climbed all over my childhood furniture, and this is what we made so far:

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It was amazing! It was so much fun! It was so normal, and made me so happy!

We didn’t finish today, but we got a good start!

And it was easy and good and happy.

I loved it so much.

And then I slept three hours, because it really wore me out, which is hilarious because all I did was sit in a chair while she worked really hard.

But when I woke up, the parents had the kids and Nathan had our supper, and we had a date night!

How sweet is that?!

In my pajamas and hair falling out and everything!

He even used the gift card from the care package to go get a pie, and made a whole sweet date night for us!

Here we are doing a cheers with some ginger ale!

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I guess you can’t see, but my hair is thinning quickly, but lots still there. It was good to have quiet time together, truly.

And I made it the whole day without any fevers!

The parents brought the kids home, and we played with them a little before bed. It breaks my heart when the toddler reaches for me saying “Up! Up!” and I cannot pick her up. Five is confused why I am still sick if sometimes I can stand up now or sit in a different chair rather than only being in bed. We are all learning together, and trying our best, and happy for a better day with less pain and more normal.

We are trying to make bedtime extra special on the nights I am well enough to help, with extra cuddles and songs and tickles and prayers and stories and tucking in.

The toddler loved it, and I am glad she is comforted. I am relieved she wants to be comforted. We have come so far, and she really is attaching so well. It’s amazing to see her grow so quickly as now she can sing all the words with us while we tuck her in. Her smile filled my heart, and then I melted as we left and heard a little, “I love you, Mama!”

Five relished the extra attention, especially as we told his “gotcha” story since his “gotcha day” is coming up (the anniversary of him coming to our house). Then, after prayers and before we could tuck him in, he asked me for a slow dance.

So I pulled myself up as carefully and strong as I could, and did a small foxtrot with my son who needed to know I will be okay. Nathan sung our music, and five was so sweet and gentle with me. I gave one final twirl and we tucked him in, all smiles.

I really love these kids.

Nathan and I kissed Five good night, and then we very slowly and very carefully slow-danced our way out of his room as we sang:

Sing your way home,
at the close of the day.
Sing your way home;
drive the shadows away.
Smile ev’ry mile,
for wherever you roam
It will brighten your road,
it will lighten your load
If you sing your way home.

And just like that, with kids loved on and happy and asleep, we were back to date night.

I love my family.