Life is hard. And messy. And exhausting.
I know in my head that we are here on earth to learn things we couldn’t learn any other way.
And, I am in my heart truly grateful for any opportunity to actually make progress of any kind.
I even understand philosophically how we are often injured or violated by others because every person on the planet is loved by God and has that same opportunity to make progress, and that not everyone uses it well or remembers why they are here.
Ultimately, that’s really sad, that there are people who hurt others so carelessly simply because they don’t remember how much they are loved.
But when you are the one getting hurt, it’s just awful. And gross. And so disruptive.
Worse, there are times it is me doing the harming. Sometimes I am not eternally patient with my children. I never spend enough time with my in-laws, who are consistently both kind toward and tolerant of me. Once, after working almost 36 hours straight, I stumbled into our messy bedroom and told Nathan he was living like a hobo.
That’s the meanest thing I ever said to him.
It’s funny now, one of his favorite stories to tattle on me, but really it is horrifying.
It is horrifying that the world can be such a scary place, horrifying that we can fail so miserably (and publicly) sometimes, and horrifying that our circumstances seem impossible at best most days.
But we are not alone.
And there are miracles in the dark.
Sometimes the miracle is finding a safe place. Sometimes the miracle is finding a safe friend. Sometimes the miracle is finding the exact right companion after thirty-five years of trying, or gathering your children from all over the countryside like wildflowers in a summer basket.
Some of them have thorns, you know.
And pollen. So much pollen.
But it feels nice, to go on a long walk in the fresh air.
Especially when the air is crisp, like this morning after the cold and rain, when the miracle is a weekend just warm enough that it was safe for us to travel north long enough for a temple trip on my only night off.
Nathan got to go inside for his time last night, while I stayed with the children at the hotel and unpacked and took them to the waterpark they have for free.
Kyrie did not get to swim last night, and she was pretty frustrated by all that. But we’ve gotten her halfway through the winter without a hospitalization, for the first time ever. In fact, it’s the longest she’s ever been since being hospitalized. It’s more of a miracle, stemming from these long months on isolation precautions to keep her healthy as we can for as long as we can in effort to prevent new crises while she gets as strong as possible before the next surgeries. We go back to Cincinnati Children’s the first week of April, and she needs to be ready and as healthy as possible. That means no swimming for now, despite her special aspiration swim lessons, so that her lungs are clear when we get there. For now, this girl is stuck with me, playing pretend lifeguard while the other children swim.
We are also praying, specifically, for her little chin to grow on its own – and quickly – before we get back to Cincinnati. It’s not growing as it should, in part because some of it is artificial, but that’s affecting airway and they are wanting to do another jaw distraction. We understand she will need it again, but it is awful and we really want to avoid it for as long as possible so that she doesn’t have to have as many in her lifetime.
Know who else is fighting for his life?
This boy, who isn’t yet too old for penguin pajamas.
We know he has autism, and we know he had some major skull reconstruction work when he was a toddler. But he’s having strange regressions and challenging behaviors more than just accounted for by those issues. We are checking on his little brain, literally, to be sure his skull pressure is okay and to rule out anything else neurological going on. But he’s in a better place this week, and trying so hard, and he still has the best smile anywhere – melts me every time, the little punk. That’s the only reason either of us have survived his childhood thus far.
The kids went down for the night easily after so much excitement in one day, and Nathan was able to enjoy his time at the temple. I got up this morning while the children were still sleeping, and went while the woke and had breakfast and went back to the water park. It’s a really simple water park, but perfect for the ages of our children right now. By the time they have outgrown it we will be back to our temple in Oklahoma City (which is currently being renovated and won’t re-open until next year) instead of having to drive all the way to Kansas City.
It is a lovely temple, though much bigger than our small one was in Oklahoma City. Our chapels, where we attend Sunday services for Sacrament (communion) and Sunday School, are very simple. We even share our building with three or four other “wards” (geographical area for our congregations). But our temples, where we go monthly for worship and also for special ordinances like marriages and adoptions, those are patterned after the temples in the Old Testament. They are beautiful and special – not to be wasteful, but to inspire reverence and to teach through symbols. Everyone wears white inside, and only whispers. It’s beautiful and still and quiet and maybe the most peaceful place I know.
That’s another miracle: the time and space to meet God, which is exactly what a temple is. Nothing else can strengthen me so much, or center me so well, or bless me as much as what I receive from being here and participating in priesthood ordinances.
That’s why we bring the children, so they can see and feel those things, and experience the kind of love and peace that comes from such a safe place.
It’s tradition, of course, to play “the temple song” as we drive toward the temple grounds. It helps prepare little spirits to understand special things, and reminds us all what a special place it is. The words say:
1. I love to see the temple.
I’m going there someday
To feel the Holy Spirit,
To listen and to pray.
For the temple is a house of God,
A place of love and beauty.
I’ll prepare myself while I am young;
This is my sacred duty.
2. I love to see the temple.
I’ll go inside someday.
I’ll cov’nant with my Father;
I’ll promise to obey.
For the temple is a holy place
Where we are sealed together.
As a child of God, I’ve learned this truth: families are forever.
We are a mess, and we are exhausted, but we are here, and mostly happy about it.