Lessons from “It’s a Wonderful Life”

Raise your hand if you love Frank Capra’s movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” It’s always been a favorite of mine, but last night it spoke to my soul. It depicts the story of George Bailey, who has big dreams and plans. He wants to be important, and to do something amazing with his life, and his dreams are full of adventure, and promise. But every time he gets close to his dream of adventure, he battles the conflict of doing what is needed vs. doing what he wants to do. As the years go by of him putting others first and pushing his dreams aside, he begins to feel like he has no value.

I am a stay-at-home mom. It’s what I’ve always dreamed of doing, but I often find myself struggling with feeling like what I’m doing is really of value. When people ask me, “What do you do all day,” they expect one simple summed-up answer, and when I was pursuing my business more, it felt thrilling to say, “I refinish furniture, and decorate for people.” But now that my husband’s life requires more of a support role from me, I’ve had to take a big step back from my business, and my goals. I have aspirations to go back to college, to compete in a triathlon, to work in a boutique, to write a book, to start a non-profit, and to make a serious income from my art. And it’s easy for me to look at my life and say, if it weren’t for the other 6 people I’m supporting, I’d be pursuing my dreams right now. And just like George, I often find myself with a sense of discouragement that I haven’t done anything big or important.

When George Bailey confronts his biggest challenge, he becomes so discouraged he feels like it would’ve been better if he hadn’t been born at all. And it’s only after he receives the gift of being able to see what the world would be like without him, that he realizes the good he’s actually done for his community and his loved ones. And even more importantly, he realizes how wonderful his life truly is.

This message gave me so much encouragement last night. Being a mom means putting one’s own dreams aside to support others. It’s messy, monotonous, and often feels inconsequential, undervalued by society, and unimportant. But for the people we support, the value is unmeasurable. And while I can’t pinpoint one big thing I’m doing, my life is full of a thousand inconsequential minute tasks that together, make one big, important, wonderful life.

The Strength

It was this month, 15 years ago that I suffered my first miscarriage. We had spent thousands of dollars and endured 5 grueling years of infertility and having that miscarriage almost broke me.

At the time, I couldn’t foresee how that miscarriage would inspire doctors. Nor could I know that God had 5 little miracles waiting for me…

I was broken with fear and loss.

When my husband gave me this little family of ducks, I struggled to feel like we’d ever get our own little duckling. I couldn’t understand his faith because I felt so lost.

I overheard someone in church talk about how attending the temple every week strengthened them. That sparked something in me. I yearned for strength, and decided to try attending the temple consistently like that.

The only time I could make it fit into my schedule, was 5:30 am on Saturday mornings. Since my husband valued his sleep far too much to go with me, I went alone, just for myself.. and after 2 weeks, I began noticing a change. A quiet peace and hope began growing in my heart.

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints the temple is a sacred place where we go to make and renew covenants. Even just walking around the grounds can bring a calm peaceful feeling.

One morning, on the 6th week, I left the temple and saw the most incredible sunrise. An overwhelming feeling of love, peace and power filled my soul and I felt like I could handle anything life threw at me.

On the 10th week we learned we were pregnant again. That baby miraculously survived and became the first of 5 more.

There is no way I could’ve survived the heartbreak of infertility without the faith, joy and I beauty I found in the temple! If you’re in the Dallas area and want to come with me, I’m going to start going consistently again!

Escape Room Birthday Party

We love escape rooms! The little puzzles and code boxes are so satisfying to decipher, it was only natural that our little girl would ask for an escape room for her birthday party! As it turned out, putting together the clues was just as enjoyable as figuring it out myself!

As guests arrived they came into the kitchen and started a craft. But about 5 minutes in, one of my kids came in and declared that someone had taken all the presents and left a note!

The clues in the note led them upstairs to the game room where there was a lock on one of the doors, and a balloon.

Popping the balloon revealed a key and a note that read, “Harry Potter loved to read…”

This led them to the bookshelf where there was a hidden key inside of a decrepit duplicate copy of Harry Potter. (While several party guests expressed shock over the damage to Harry Potter, I promise, the book was already on its last legs!)

Next, they needed to break the code to the bike chain that was around the door. (If I were to do it again, I’d use a different chain, because this didn’t securely hold the doors, and I had to remind the guests to open the lock, rather than rip it off.) The code was written on a party banner hanging on the wall.

Opening these doors revealed the kidnapped sister in handcuffs with a make-believe “explosive device” around her neck.

These two devices and several others that I hid around the room, came from The Ultimate Operation Escape Room Game that was a gift from my sister. It’s great for younger kids, but the older party guests just broke into most of the devices, rather than trying to figure out how to open them.

Once the victim was free, the kids began searching the room for clues.

They found a hidden key that opened a violin case revealing another set of keys.

Those keys unlocked the cooler, which revealed another game device.

They found a box inside of a backpack that was shut with zip ties. Another option would be to just secure the backpack with zip ties, but putting zip ties around the box gave another element to figure out.

They also found some scissors inside a drawer that had a combo lock around them.

The combination code was the playing cards taped to the desk. (For older kids, I would put the cards in another spot in the room, but it took the younger kids a long time to figure this one out.)

Cutting the zip ties opened the box and revealed components that went to another part of the operation game. And inside of that device was a black light.

I had several codes hidden around the room written in black light.

We already owned this safe, and they had to search the room for the clues to open it.

Inside was another game device that revealed a hidden black light message.

The kids had to use this decoder ring to decipher the clue.

The decoder ring gave them the word “Read” which opened this master lock.

The birdcage revealed another device from the Escape Room game that they had to figure out how to open.

That device opened to reveal another black light message that they needed the decoder ring to crack.

The decoder message led them to the guest bedroom where they found all of the confiscated Birthday presents.

We had 19 kids, ages 6-11 trying to do the room, which was probably too many, because I noticed some kids just sitting around while others figured out clues. But for the most part, I think everyone had fun!

Seasons of Life

This stone is in my Grandmother’s beautiful garden.

While on our vacation, we stopped by to visit Grandma for the first time since my Grandpa passed.

Being in their beautiful yard and not getting to hug him too, brought feelings of loss and sadness. I know I’ll see him again, I just miss him.

I was also reminded of the legacy of incredible people I come from. People who grow things, fix things and create things out of nothing.

Working on projects, building things and fixing old things connects me to those people who paved the path. I left her home inspired to do more!

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Now that Grandma’s ‘Season of life’ means living without Grandpa, I’m amazed at how she’s doing the things she loves. She’s never been bored, and always has some kind of project. And I love the beauty she’s created around her.

Our lives have many seasons, and my grandmother is proof that we can choose to enjoy each one.

I hope you find time today to enjoy whatever season of life you may be in!

Love One Another

I keep this little sign in my bathroom because it reminds me that love is a choice.

So often I feel like love is something that I fall into, or that it’s something that I’ll feel, after I feel love from others first.

But I’ve been wrong.

John 13:34 says, “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another as I have loved you; that ye also love one another.”

I like to think that the Savior gave this to us as a commandment to remind us that because of the gift of agency, we can choose to love others even when they may get on our nerves at times.

Elder Dale G. Renlund said, “In order for us to more effectively serve others we must begin to see people through a parent’s eyes. Through Heavenly Father’s eyes. Only then can we more fully comprehend the true value of the soul. Only then can we begin to understand the love our Heavenly Father has for his children.”

One thing I know is true is that Heavenly Father loves you and me more than we know! I testify of the healing power of the atonement because I’ve felt it working in my life. I’m grateful for the gift of agency so I can choose to show love one to another.

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Benchmark Reality

When I first got this bench, I had dreams about how amazing it would look refinished!

Before:

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After:

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Now that it’s painted, I love it more than ever, but keeping the paint clean and nice has been a challenge. I think I need one more coat of poly to feel comfortable, but until that happens, I cringe every time someone goes near it!

In way, I think that relates to motherhood… you can get it right one second, but the next minute someone comes along with sticky fingers and messes it up again!

When my oldest was 5, my youngest (a set of twins) were born, making me the mom of 5 kids in 5 years. Those first 5 years as a mom were physically exhausting!

Before:

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Now my kid’s ages range from 13-8, and while I’m not changing diapers, or chasing after them in grocery stores, I’m even more exhausted!

Now:

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The challenges are less about helping them survive, and more about helping them mentally navigate this crazy world! And I feel like I know what I’m doing less now, than I ever did! Just when I feel a success, something difficult happens and we’re back to stress and tears again.

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The one thing that seems to help, is strengthening my relationship with God. He’s like that extra coat of poly to protect my paint-chipped heart.

I pray that He will take my weak efforts and magnify them into something good!

I pray that He will support me.

I pray for strength to guide my children through this crazy world.

And I know he will.

Even if I fail… He will be there to refinish and refine each benchmark of motherhood again.

Balance

Balancing family, sick kids, funeral services, race training, church service, hubby’s schedule and kid’s activities leaves very little time for my projects these days!

But that’s just my season of life right now!

And while there are times that I’m tempted to doubt my choice to be a stay at home mom, hate the situation we’re in and give in to fear and sadness; I’m learning that balance is all about choice.

Choosing to let go of the selfish things I want as well as letting go of the emotions and feelings that don’t bring joy, and instead, choosing to focus more on my family and spirituality is what seems to bring the most balance to my life.

What brings balance to you?

A Tiny Flower

This hearty little flower inspired me today. It’s tiny, and easy to miss among the other plants and leaves, all vying for precious soil. It’s also extraordinary that something so small and delicate could survive last night’s freeze! And I’m inspired at how it’s not the biggest or the best, but it shares it’s tiny burst of lavender among all of the competition, clutter and chaos around it.

Sometimes I feel like this flower. There’s so many influences that the world throws at me… from the pressure of being the biggest and best, to the shame of feeling like I’m not doing enough… It’s easy to feel like the world is overtaking my tiny plot of earth, but this flower reminds me to keep trying and that it is possible to endure.

“No matter how serious the trial, how deep the distress, how great the affliction, God will never desert us. He never has, and He never will. He cannot do it. It is not His character to do so … He will always stand by us. We may pass through the fiery furnace; we may pass through deep waters; but we shall not be consumed nor overwhelmed. We shall emerge from all these trials and difficulties the better and purer for them.” -George Q. Cannon

Happy New Year

What a year 2018 has been! Between my husband’s busy work and church schedule, my kid’s endless activities and my health, I’ve never felt more of an emotional strain. Supporting the lives of the 6 other people around me leaves little time for my business, my projects or doing what I want to do. And that realization was a difficult pill to swallow this year.

But that being said, I’ve also never felt more personal growth.

I’m a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and in October, our prophet challenged us to read the Book of Mormon by the end of the year. Completing that challenge brought me so much strength and personal inspiration. At times when my children’s problems were more than I could handle, I felt peace with scripture stories about Helaman’s Stripling Warriors. When I was lonely from my husband’s travel and church schedule, I felt comforted and lifted up when read about the Jesus Christ coming to America. And when my heart ached from feelings of failure and betrayal, I found strength when I turned to the Lord.

It worries me sometimes that I have no idea what tomorrow will bring, but it’s ok, because I know that as I stay close to the Lord and continue to read the scriptures, I’ll be able to handle whatever may come.

May 2019 bring you peace as well!

If you’re interested in how the Book of Mormon can change your life check out https://www.mormon.org/free-book-of-mormon

Or check out http://www.lds.org for more info!

Reality Check Wednesday

Tell me that mine aren’t the only kids who don’t clean their rooms.

Tell me that the hours I spend nagging them will pay off someday.

Tell me that I’m not a total failure since I clearly have not taught them how to clean better.

Then tell me not to throw away everything in here… because there’s a crazy vein telling me that if they didn’t have this stuff, then I wouldn’t have to clean it!

I typically make my kids clean their rooms, but they do a terrible job! (Dirty underwear does NOT belong in the toy box, people!) Once a month I go in and get everything back to ground zero. I shudder to think what it would look like if I didn’t!

How do you get kids to keep things clean?