The Crisis That Binds

“There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.”

-Henry A. Kissinger

How often can we relate to Mr. Kissinger? How many times do we get on our knees and ask God for the chance to have one good day, or a break from our struggles?

Maybe knowing what a real crisis is, and where they have the most power, would help us in our celestial soliciting?

By definition, stress (or stressors) are things that temporarily reform a structure. 

On the other hand, a crisis is something that permanently alters a structure 

The differences between them are really in two words: temporary and permanent.

How many times have you called your misread order at McDonald’s a crisis? How many times have you termed your bad hair day a crisis? The store doesn’t have the honey-ham you need for Thanksgiving- crisis. Your car keys are not in the place you left them- crisis. And I don’t even want to mention the crisis that is not being able to fit into your favorite pair of skinny jeans anymore.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are all guilty of weighting things too heavily. Hyperbole’s are everywhere. Now to be fair, while most of those situations don’t cause problems in the long run, we feel them strongly in the moment they occur. They are temporary in nature because we find our keys, our order gets fixed, and after a couple weeks of no soda or doughnuts, our skinnies fit again. If we’re being truly honest with ourselves, we could say that all of those trivial things are merely stressors. Temporary in nature and usually fixable over time.

However, there is one area that knowing the difference between stress and crisis is vital; in the home. 

Here’s why.

1. Knowing the difference means we know the “cure.” 

Imagine a family unit as a group of people standing in a circle, linked by hands. This circular structure can be likened to families in both stressful situations as well as crises.

When one member of that unit feels stressed, they begin to pull back, or away. Whatever direction life is taking them, the rest of the family feels that and will, inevitably, change their own course because of it.

Often our gut reaction is either to recede as well, to give them the space that their actions are calling out for, or to hold on tighter to compensate for their distance.

Why would we want to follow them into their storm? Or, for those who hold on tighter, it’s because we want to feel secure in our family circle. Since one link is becoming weaker, we have to be stronger. In the chaos we all start to pull against each other. Some family members group up, others fly solo. At the end, we have a group of people in direct opposition of one another.

How can we avoid this awful tug-of-war?

My firm answer is this: as much as is possible in your own family unit, do not pull back. Hold on to them tight, love them with your whole heart, and pray to know how to help them. Do no compensate for their distance, but rather, do all you can to make sure your part is covered. 

Remember that stress comes and goes. We will all have our moments. On those days where we must go to battle with the adversary, it is important to know we have troops behind us rallying for our cause.

When a more serious issue occurs, like a crisis, it’s crucial that we come to terms with something; after a crisis, your family will never be the same again. 

You cannot go back. Please, face this with as much prayer and trust in God as you can muster.

Take courage and know that so often, crises bring families together. Children who are acting out often do it to bring awareness to a fundamental issue (i.e. they’re worried about their parents’ marriage, they’re trying to bring attention to a personal problem they can’t put words to, or they’re feeling pressure from outside sources and taking it out on family).

When your circular unit runs into a crisis, remember what is said in D&C 122.

“5 If thou art called to pass through tribulation; if thou art in perils among false brethren; if thou art in perils among robbers; if thou art in perils by land or by sea;

6 If thou art accused with all manner of false accusations; if thine enemies fall upon thee; if they tear thee from the society of thy father and mother and brethren and sisters; and if with a drawn sword thine enemies tear thee from the bosom of thy wife, and of thine offspring, and thine elder son, although but six years of age, shall cling to thy garments, and shall say, My father, my father, why can’t you stay with us? O, my father, what are the men going to do with you? and if then he shall be thrust from thee by the sword, and thou be dragged to prison, and thine enemies prowl around thee like wolves for the blood of the lamb;

7 And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.

8 The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?”

(Emphasis added)

No man, woman, or child on this earth is greater than the Son of God, Jesus Christ. When your family unit runs into an obstacle, throw every ounce of faith at Him. Trust in Him, who has gone below all things, to lift you above all things. Hold onto each other. Don’t break your circle. Keep going.

Trust that God has always given families stumbling blocks. Yours is not getting picked on extra or laughed at more. Look at Nephi’s family, and Joseph Smith’s. Look at all the trials they endured. I honestly believe God gives units these tests so that we won’t take each other for granted. It is our job to do the hard work today so that tomorrow, we can enjoy the blessings of eternity with the ones we love.

Remember, He did not leave you comfortless. Your family is no exception to that rule.

2. We don’t always have to act negatively to crisis. 

Brothers and sisters, my grandma died two days ago (June 21st, 2015). She was 82-years-old and had the voice of an angel. She loved Chick-fil-A nuggets and had no greater joy in life than being with her family. She had been separated from her eternal companion for nearly 17 years and even though she loved us all, she missed him every day.

My family will not be the same until heaven. It is a true crisis because we cannot go back to the way we were before. We have to accept it and move on as best we can.

But that woman blessed and changed lives. People came to her bedside and hugged her goodbye, with tears in their eyes and prayers of gratitude in their hearts. It is not a crisis because we are mad or upset; it is simply a crisis because our circular unit has to learn how to live without her for now.

20150214_164141

(Feb 14th, 2015)

Your circular unit does not have to look at true struggles with fear. They can be a difficult, yet joyful time. And oh, how glorious are the memories that we get to keep.

3. But Emily, what if my family crises were brought on through internal issues? 

I know.

I understand.

And it’s okay.

It’s okay because even though abuse, abandonment, financial struggles, physical ailments, and infertility are real, so is the greater and opposite side. There must be opposition in all things, even your things.

Abuse is real. Whether it is physical, mental, sexual, or emotional, it is real.

It is also damaging to the spirit. And we all know that anything that drives the spirit from our lives is a bad thing.

What we also need to know is that forgiveness is real. It is for the person that hurt you when you were too little to understand, and for the person that is still hurting you today. It is for your short-comings and their transgressions. Christ was not selective about who He atoned for.

So when familial boundaries are broken, when lines are crossed and souls are bruised, it is crucial to remember how very real the atonement is. 

“There is a glorious miracle awaiting every soul who is prepared to change. Repentance and forgiveness make a brilliant day of the darkest night. When souls are reborn, when lives are changed—then comes the great miracle to beautify and warm and lift. When spiritual death has threatened and now instead there is resuscitation, when life pushes out death—when this happens it is the miracle of miracles. And such great miracles will never cease so long as there is one person who applies the redeeming power of the Savior and his own good works to bring about his rebirth” (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, Ch. 4: The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 34-35).

This glorious and everlasting truth covers everything from abuse and neglect to physical ailments and inability to bear children. You cannot put yourself in a special category when it comes to Christ. He is not waiting for you to fill out the correct paperwork or color in the right bubble-sheet answers. He is waiting for you to let Him in and wanting you to do the work required of us.

Whatever your familial barriers may be, let them strengthen you. Forgive those around you and forgive yourself. 

4. Be mindful. 

To be mindful is to pay attention to things as they are; in the moment, on purpose.

Be mindful that your spouse may deal with stress by “floating to shore,” while your child will deal with it by “climbing the stairs.”

No two people deal with anything the same, let alone difficult life situations.

Be mindful of how far you’ve come. You are a miracle. Don’t short yourself.

“Seeds of faith are always within us; sometimes it takes a crisis to nourish and encourage their growth.”

-Susan L. Taylor

So get to nourishing! And remember, you can do this. He did not send you here to fail.

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Please, Tell Your Laurels (Part One)

I have to start this out with one incredibly vital point.

I loved and adored every one of my Young Women’s leaders. This post is not an attack on their teachings or advice. I know they left parts of their hearts and souls on the table when they taught on Sunday. I am so thankful for their examples. 

This is for every Laurel-aged girl who needs to hear what I needed to hear, from someone who knew exactly what I was going through. 

I’m a 20-year-old Church Education System college student. When I was sixteen, I saw myself doing exactly what I’m doing now; college, dating, roommates, great job, my own car. It’s great! It really is.

But when I was sixteen and making my perfect life-plan, I didn’t plan for the speed-bumps that I’ve run into. Most of mine have come from dating silly boys, spending my time unwisely, and just not knowing. 

So here’s some advice from someone who truly has been there. Please, listen.

1. You are not already-chewed gum. 

If anyone ever says that to you, I want you to completely ignore it. The atonement of Jesus Christ is real and no matter what you have done, it is for you. The point of this life is to come closer to our Savior and Father. The only way to do that is to use the atonement. 

In no way, shape or form are you someone’s already-chewed anything. You are light and life and love. You are a glorious mixture of Heavenly Father, Heavenly Mother, your earthly father, and your earthly mother. All have given you important and sacred traits. Use them wisely. But never, under any circumstances, let anyone tell you that you are less. Because dear, you are worth more than you even know.

Let Christ in. Let His love fill you up and make you whole. Let Him help you. I promise if you do, the changes in your life will astound you.

2. Understand why God gave us the ability to procreate. 

Let’s talk about marital intimacy. Before you start squirming in your seats or sing “I Am a Child of God” to yourself, let me explain something.

In Genesis 4:1 it says “And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the Lord” (Emphasis added).

Girls, use those wonderful brains of yours and tell me, what is God trying to tell us with the word “know?” Marital intimacy has been alive and well since the literal beginning of man. God started us out on the right foot by giving us urges and desires to accompany our earthly life. Because of those mortal yearnings, we can make babies. Why then, is “sex” thought of the way it is?

Heavenly Father sure isn’t giving us that idea! He’s commanded us to cleave unto our spouses and no one else. We’ve been told to procreate. So where in the word is the stigma of sex coming from?

My dear friends, sexual intimacy, the binding power that belongs between a husband and wife, is “bad” because the adversary has made it so. It makes sense that Satan would attack the authentic, God-given gift we have to multiply and replenish the earth with because when we are using that power correctly, we are living the pattern of heaven.

Why do you think the power to continuously procreate is reserved for the highest degree of the highest kingdom of Glory? That power goes to the righteous of heart, who were good stewards of their time on earth.

Do you realize the magnitude of that, sisters? You have, right now in your body, the power of God. It is not dirty. It is not wrong. It is not to be taken lightly. It is sacred. 

Know this. The media has twisted our views and perceptions on intimacy. We see crass images and vulgar words that depict a casualness our spirits know to be false. God did not ever intend for His extraordinary daughters to view their power to create and bear children as anything but what it is; glorious. 

Use that power wisely. Take heed to prophet’s warnings and listen to God’s voice. I promise you, when you’re ready to take that step into marriage and begin your family, the power of this gift will be testified unto you.

3. Your worth does not depend on a mission, engagement, or a 4.0. 

You will graduate high school. You will (hopefully) go to some sort of college or higher-level education facility. Some of your friends will go on missions. Some will get married. Maybe you know a mission is right for you, or that the guy you’ve been dating would make a fantastic eternal companion. Or maybe you don’t. 

Please. Please. Please. Just like you are not to let anyone tell you you’re chewed gum, do not let anyone make you feel like your worth is dependent upon any worldly condition. 

Missions are GREAT. I LOVE MISSIONS.

Marriage is GREAT. I LOVE MARRIAGE.

Straight A’s are GREAT. I LOVE THEM.

But. I also love you. And because I love you, I need you to know that if any one of those things doesn’t happen for you, or if NONE of them happen for you, it is okay. You still matter. Just breathe. 

There is nothing in this whole world that is more important than your relationship with your Father in Heaven and His son, Jesus Christ. Nurture those relationships. Put yourself in situations where the spirit can accompany you, so that you can make wise choices that will draw you nearer to Them. Don’t let people around you tell you that if you do this, then you’ll be worth something.

You are already worth everything. If a mission is something that will draw you nearer to your Savior and your God, then do it. If marriage will, then do that. If working hard to get good grades does that, then please, go right ahead.

But if these things don’t happen for you when they are happening for your friends, remember that Jesus atoned for you, too. 

He didn’t compartmentalize anyone. Your married friends are not on the “To Be Save First,” list. Nether are those of them who have High Honors in school. Your salvation is dependent upon what you do with your time.

4. Understand what a healthy relationship looks like. 

So remember that one Nicholas Sparks movie where the guy and girl like, fall in love at first sight? And remember the part where they unhealthily prioritized their time and skipped over vital red flags that were screaming “THIS IS NOT A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP. STOP. GO BACK NOW!” Or, the time where they went way too far physically and confused the natural and very real chemicals that come with sexual intercourse with “true love?”

Yeah. So do I.

Dear, that is not real. 

It’s like the difference between vinyl and digital music (by the way, if you don’t know what vinyl is, don’t tell me because I will cry sad tears for your soul).

When Compact Disc’s (CD’s) started getting really popular, the authentic and “old time-y” vinyl sound went away. People became obsessed with this new, synthesized, almost-too-perfect-and-way-too-unattainable-sound. (Thanks T-Pain. Your auto-tune killed the moment.)

We can relate unhealthy relationships to CD’s; pretty and shiny to look at, but almost uncomfortably fake, and recognizably impossible to copy. An unhealthy relationship is one where one or more of the participants feel the need to put on a show for others. Anything in a relationship that is not genuine is not good. You should be able to show your true colors to someone without fear of it being too much, or not enough. Unrealistic, or “plastic” expectations will leave you wanting every time.

Don’t fret either, because there are such things as “vinyl relationships,” or healthy ones. The greatest thing about vinyl is that it really makes you part of the moment. You can hear the bass player plug in his amp, or the guy in the back shuffling through his pockets for his pick. You hear the breaths and sneezes, coughs and laughs. Those real, genuine, healthy relationships, where you are both aware of one another’s flaws but are working together to be whole, those are the relationships that will last. 

Be aware that both girls and boys your age are still developing. Like, legitimately, your brain isn’t done growing. You literally do not have a whole brain. So maybe it would be wise to not make hasty decisions when you’re not at full-power? There’s a reason adults are able to think things through differently than young-adults; they have a whole brain to do it with!

Remember that you are so loved and so important. God is only as far away as you make Him, and the atonement is real. Let the Spirit prompt you and trust that God has your best interests at heart, because He really does.

Also, keep your eyes peeled for Part Two. Because it’s coming.

Five Things “Hanging Out” is Doing to Dating

I’m upset.

It’s not related to the buzz of “Call Me Caitlyn” or the Duggar’s secrets (I do have strong opinions about both, but those are for another time).

My anger is directed towards something much sneakier, something that no one is talking about.

Don’t mind if I do.

It’s a phrase that we hear and say often. “Hanging out” or “hang out” is literally crippling our ability to date and court. We use it so lightly and say it so frequently that it’s become a household term.

In so many ways, times and places, hanging out is fine. It’s not even restricted to the same gender! You can absolutely hang out with boys and girls in a group.

But what really pops my corn is this:

Your friends: “Hey! How was your date?” 

You: “It was fine. We just hung out.” 

Actually, if you were on a date, you were not hanging out. If you were hanging out, then you were not on a date. 

This fence-sitting has got to stop. We’ve got to take true courting seriously again, and I will tell you why.

1. When you “hang out,” there usually isn’t a plan. 

I cannot tell you how many times a group of my friends, guys and girls, have made plans to “hang out” and we actually do nothing once we’re together. Which is great! That’s fun. It’s fine to do and some of the best memories are made when you sit around and giggle. However, by intermingling hanging and dating, we legitimately confuse ourselves. Ladies, how many times have you come home from what should have been a date and said “Well… I think it was a date?”

And why did you have a hard time differentiating whether or not it was a date? BECAUSE THERE WAS NO PLAN TO IT. 

Dates (should) have a plan, dates (should) have a purpose, and dates (even double dates- should) be paired off. The very nature of “hanging out” is counter to the nature of dating and courtship. Stop mixing the two. You’ll save yourself a lot of confusion.

2. Young men are forgetting how to preside. 

This one truly is related to dating. Now, a little disclaimer here; I firmly believe that young women can, and should, take some dates into their own hands. Not only are we capable of doing so, but it also relieves pressure from young men. If they are constantly planning dates, they’re going to get burned out! Plus, sometimes I legitimately have a desire to plan, preside, and pay for things. It’s okay dad, girls can do that every once in a while. 

But here’s where it gets tricky. When we started “hanging out,” we stopped planning (like I mentioned above) and we stopped presiding. Men have an obligation (as seen in The Family: A Proclamation to the World https://www.lds.org/topics/family-proclamation) to protect, provide, and preside over their families.

Why do you think dating is set up the way it is, folks? Young men need practice presiding before marriage.

 Presiding is pretty instinctual for men, that’s a big reason why we have different strengths as men and women. By not allowing young men and women to properly date, we’re taking away a crucial area for men to practice presiding. Plus, a two-hour evening with a cute girl, that’s paid for and paired off, is really not that bad. Are we honestly having to twist your arm here, guys?

3. We all know what the purpose of dating is. 

Okay. I’m just going to say the thing that no one wants to say for fear of sounding desperate. You guys, no one progressively spends their evening with someone else “just because.” We are all shopping for a spouse. Now, know that I’m not trying to peg every single date on marriage, because I’m not. There truly are such things as casual, one-time dates. But they’re still dates. Dates that are warm-ups for the real important dating that you will do someday; the dating that will lead you to your husband/wife.

The honest, real, super-awkward-to-admit-but-you-still-know-it truth, is that we are dating to find a mate. No one “hangs out” to find their spouse. You do that when you’re bored on a Saturday night and want pizza. 

So get out there and date. But don’t worry about eating pizza on your date; that’s totally fine, and even encouraged!

4. There are critical steps in dating that don’t exist in “hanging out.” 

When you take a girl out on your first date together, that is exactly what it is; a first date. If you like each other and good signals are being sent from both parties, then a second date happens. A third follows, then a fourth, fifth, and so on. During that period of dates, milestones are hit. Somewhere along the way you become a couple. You meet the parents. You start telling each other deeper things, more than face-level, my-favorite-color-is-red-and-I-love-Mexican-food stuff. Each of these events are critical to your advancing relationship because they help you to grow together.

In no way, shape or form does simply “hanging out” help you to grow together. If all we’re calling things is hang out’s, then how will we ever advance to the oh-so-important stage of dating?

Intentionally dating is the first step towards marriage. First comes dating and courtship, then comes engagement, then comes marriage. Those are the steps. See anything about hanging out? Neither did I.

5. The awkward stage isn’t overcome through “hanging out.” 

How are we, who start out as weird teenagers with sweaty palms, supposed to learn the etiquette of dating if all we ever do is “hang out?”

All I’m saying is we are not the same people we were in high school. If you’re practicing your dating skills in fun, solid situations, you are going to make improvements. You won’t stay that awkward teenager forever. But the only way to make sure of that is to practice.

(https://www.lds.org/new-era/2013/07/what-can-we-do-if-we-like-each-other)

There are times and places where being awkward is inevitable. Dating doesn’t have to be one of them.

Something to remember…

We have forgotten our worth.

I know that there are girls reading things thinking, “Emily, I want to go on dates. I wish a boy would ask me out!”

There are also boys thinking, “But Em, I am terrified to ask. What if she says no? How will I recover?”

To the sad girl who doesn’t get asked on dates, I’m telling you right now, I know how you feel. It’s so hard to watch your friends go on dates, hear your parents tell you to go on dates, see people on TV going on dates, and still not go on dates. It’s so, so hard. Hang in there, sweet heart. Wait. Be patient. Cultivate good habits, talents, and be kind. Boys will come along soon and ask you, really. When they do come along, don’t you dare think for one second that you are worth anything less than a planned, paid for, and paired off date. Let him preside over it and know in your heart that you are worth every moment and every penny. 

To the nervous boy out there who’s scared of being rejected, please know that your sincerity and desire do not go unnoticed. You might get rejected a few times along the way and I am so sorry. But know that there are so many kind girls out there that will say yes to you. Do not give up. She is worth your asking, and you are worth her answer.

So date. And hang out! Just don’t confuse or mix-up the two, because they are very, very different.