Wednesday, December 10, 2014

He is the Gift – Christmas Video – #ShareTheGift

May you have a Christ centered CHRISTmas!!

This image is sized perfectly for your Facebook Cover Photo.  #Sharethegift this Holiday season by making this your cover photo!

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Biggest Conspiracy Ever

There is a cultural conspiracy so elaborate, that just about every child in America will hear it.  Not only is it a flat out lie, but it is purposefully perpetuated by parents, grandparents, teachers, strangers, radio announcers, TV commercials, TV shows, movies, newscasters, even church congregations.  I'm willing to say it's probably the biggest conspiracy of all time, yet we continually shield our children from learning the truth as long as possible.  When they ask us questions about the nature of this Secret Conspiracy, we make up blatant lies in order to answer and keep them believing the lie.  And one lie leads to another, until this Secret Conspiracy is so elaborate, only magical phenomena can explain it and science and evidence is thrown out the window.

There are so many possible questions and infinite fake answers that parents give their children.  Most people think its fun and some even think its necessary to tell their children these lies.  Parents spend HUNDREDS of dollars of their own money perpetuating this lie every year.  Some people think it is magical and fun to let their children believe in this Secret Conspiracy.

Some observant children begin to wise up and piece together the facts that don't quite add up.  They will come to their parent or another adult they trust and straight out ask if the Secret Conspiracy is real.  Sometimes they will even gather evidence that suggests it is not real.  Some parents might fess up at this point, possibly crushing their child's trust and beliefs, or else confirming what their child may have already deduced.  But depending on the child's age, the parent or other trusted adult will make up even MORE lies, pointing out ways and spending even more money to convince their child it could not possibly be imaginary.  After all, how could so many people be in on it?

[Truman Show Flashback]
Cue Music.  Go Wide.  Cue Light Cam 8
Marlon: "And the last thing I'd ever do is lie to you.  Think about it Truman, if everybody's in on it, I'd have to be in on it too.  And I'm not in on it, because there is no it."

I've decided that I am done lying.  My almost 9-year old trusts me unflinchingly and I don't want to lie to her anymore.  I want her to trust me when she asks questions about pain and life and death and Christ and everything else.  So when it comes to the Secret Conspiracy, I am not going to make up any more stories.  I want her to trust me that genuine spiritual experiences are possible, so therefore I  can no longer try to convince her of untrue supernatural phenomenon in order to perpetuate the Secret Conspiracy.

She is so trusting, and has believed all my Secret Conspiracy lies thus far, that when I tried to carefully unfold the truth for her, she didn't get it.  I tried to explain that reindeer can't really fly, fat men can't really climb down chimneys or travel the entire globe in one night, elves don't exist and presents have to be paid for, and she just couldn't let go of MAGIC. So I had to spoil it all and tell her the truth: Santa Claus is pretend.  Magic isn't real.

Oh, the crushing disappointment.  If ever there is a moment of her childhood that will haunt her future psychotherapy sessions years from now, it will be this one.  Where in a matter of moments, so many shattering truths became known at once: her parents had lied to her for so long, magic doesn't exist, and she won't be getting a Razor Scooter or iPad for Christmas because her parents can't afford them and there are no elves to make it for her.

Don't hate on me for my decision to tell my daughter the truth. I did not ruin Christmas. Only now that she knows can I begin to rebuild her trust.

And I feel liberated that I no longer have to lie about SC or give him credit for the thoughtful Christmas gifts I paid for with my hard earned cash.  And now I can make Christmas about the other Him: the one Jesus Christ whom I do truly believe in and love with all my heart.

After a few minutes of stunned, panicked silence, her whole 8.96 years of life came crashing down around her.  So I video-taped it.   It's funny yet also tragic.  Hopefully she'll forgive me someday.  It's hard for her to loose the fantasy, but we'll still make Christmas magical through Christ, family togetherness, gift-giving, and being Santa for those who need it most.

Monday, August 11, 2014


A year ago in July and August, I had a very difficult summer.  I had extreme anxiety and jitters, countered with extreme exhaustion.

On the one hand, I would be unable to hold still, with impulsive bursts of energy in which I would start painting a room or start driving cross-country at 10:30 at night.  On the other hand, I would completely crash in total exhaustion.   All my senses were on hyper-alert making me so anxious and paranoid that sometimes I was afraid to drive on the freeway at all.  Getting out of bed, going to work every day, attempting any activity that required any sort of exertion was totally daunting.  Being on constant high-alert, no matter how much sleep I got I could not manage to recharge my batteries.  

That summer we saw fireworks, I ran a 5K on the spur of the moment, we went on a 1600 mile road trip, I took the kids camping, I painted the basement, we entertained company, and more.  But all I remember was constantly having to muster energy hour by hour, and really just wanting to sleep all the time. We'd make plans for the evening, and I'd have to take a nap before I felt like I could go. It was kind of like the exhaustion I felt when I was newly pregnant, and I wasn't pregnant.  Combine that with the depression I was already experiencing--with a financially difficult year, moving, and two job changes--I felt like a total mess.

It wasn't until my sister and I compared notes on a new medication we had both tried that I connected the dots.  She had had similar side effects to my mania/exhaustion, and it was like a light-bulb turning on. In June I had started taking Abilify.  Abilify is a medication that is supposed to augment the effect of anti-depressant medications.  Instead, it had the effect on me of amplifying my anxiety and depression, and making me even less energized than my already low-energy self. The same thing had happened to my sister.

Flash-forward to this summer.  I also painted a room, saw fireworks, went hiking, went camping, spent time at the pool, and entertained company.  Yeah, I'm tired, but I feel much different. Looking at the stark contrast from last summer to this has been surprising. I've been able to enjoy family activities and work on projects without completely depleting myself.  I may not be the most energetic person to begin with, and I have had depression for a long time, but I feel more like myself now than I did a year ago.

I just keep looking back at last summer as lost time.  Everything that has happened this year seems to be defined by how it is different, and better, from last year.  My Abilify trial (and failure) has created a reference point for me.

Since then, I have found a good balance of medications that allows me to be functional, happy, and hopeful, and I feel a little bit like me!

Friday, August 01, 2014


Fun day at the zoo with Sorenson cousins. The kids were more interested in climbing on animal statues than look at actual live animals. Figures. Highlights included the bats, elephants, and giraffes. The kids always love going on the train and carousel.  They got to touch a turtle!

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Spartan Warriors

Last Saturday was the much anticipated Spartan race!

Chris has been training for several months, including trail running, running with weights, running soaking wet, climbing, throwing, pull-ups, push-ups, burpees and more. The biggest challenge would be to do them all in the space of a few hours on a hilly, 12 mile course!   In all, Spartan is a test of endurance and strength.

Last year Chris did the Spartan for the first time with less preparation and a shoulder injury.  His goal this year was to be much faster and more physically fit. All his preparation definitely paid off and he completed the race an hour faster than last year's time, even with 90 penalty burpees!  (30 penalty burpees are required for each failed obstacle).  Obstacles included balancing posts, 6, 7, and 8 foot walls,  2 rope climbs, one of which was in the mud, tire flip, atlas ball carry, rolling down a mud hill underneath barbed wire and more. Obstacles he missed were the traverse wall, spear toss, and he fell off the monkey net.  It certainly helped that it was 80 degrees and not 100 like last time.

Chris had quite a cheerleading section!  Fellow fitness buffs Grandpa Joe and Grandma Debbie joined us from Florida. They accompanied Chris to the starting line early in the morning and followed him throughout the race, cheering him on and taking pictures and video. Our friend Ben also came to take pictures and lend support.

Lola and Great Lola also joined us from Washington to cheer him on.  Add Jenny and the kids and that's quite a crowd! 

Not only did Chris race, but Leah and Samuel were also able to participate in a Spartan kids race!  Their course was 1/2 a mile and included mud trenches, climbing walls, tire flipping, and a rope web. They loved it!  Their dad makes it a priority to "train" with them, so they are experienced in running, climbing, and parkour.  They especially loved jumping in the mud!

We founds some friends at the race!
It was quite a day, and we celebrated his successful completion with lunch at Tucanos and afternoon naps.
Big grins in the mud.
Climb, Leah, Climb!
Run, Leah, Run!


Monday, June 16, 2014

Bridal Veil Falls adventure

Friday we planned a family hike and picnic at Bridal Veil falls. I thought there was an actual hiking trail but there isn't. You can, however, boulder across the rocks directly up the falls!  I've always seen people climbing up and assumed they were crazy. Then I realized it looked like fun!

So Samuel and Leah and I decided to do it!  It was so much fun and very exhilarating. I haven't done anything that spontaneous and potentially dangerous in a loooong time.  And the kids were terrific companions!  They were excited to get a little wet and dirty (ok, a lot dirty) and they really enjoyed the challenge of climbing. They were fearless!  Samuel was quite the trailblazer and had a constant grin on his face the whole time.

We went up to the first major waterfall where others were actually playing in the cold water in their swimming suits and bare feet (ouch!).  It's was refreshing to stand in the spray after the exertion of climbing in the sun.  The kids were giddy. They were simply amazed at the view and to see how high we had climbed. It seemed a lot steeper looking down than it had going up.

There was a little anxiety on the way down, but everyone managed to keep their balance and their wits. No injuries!  Chris was patient with us as he stayed at the bottom with Audrey while the rest of us went up. Audrey enjoyed getting wet and muddy at the bottom in her skivvies!  

I got some pretty great pictures of our adventure. (This experience compares in daring-ness, filth, and exhilaration to when I went spelunking by myself at Eagle Cave in 10th grade-well not quite as filthy as that).  I need to go on more adventures like this!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Missing Earring, Answered Prayer

Two prayers answered with one earring.

Since before Christmas, I have been looking for the missing half to my favorite set of earrings. Raking the rug under the bed, peering under dressers and behind cabinets with a flash light, (even sifting through the contents of the vacuum bag--so gross). A week ago I offered a timid, half-hearted plea to the Lord to help me with this tiny thing. I know it's just an earring, but its obviously important to me so I thought that since I have faith in prayer, maybe the Lord could help me find it.

And today a coin slid off my dresser and landed in an open drawer, which inspired a stroke of genious to empty all of the drawers and find my earring hidden among Chris's socks! It was such a Happy Moment! 

And That was the answer to the full-hearted, pleading, helpless prayer I gave just last night in a place of utter despair and hopelessness, when I pleaded with the Lord to let me have just one glimmer of Joy on Wednesday.

My Joy didn't come until 10pm, and when it came, it was in the form of another answered, albeit forgotten, prayer.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Its not business, its personal

I used to think about my depression this way:

"I'm depressed and miserable. I'm barely functioning. I feel sorry for myself and I want everyone else to feel sorry for me too. I want everyone (in my family, friends and church community) to notice how low I am and to see that I'm drowning.  No one else has ever been this low.  I'm the only one going through this so it's a big deal and there's no way I can do this without someone rescuing me. Everyone should know that I need help without me saying so, and I want those people to swoop in and take care of me. Take over my responsibilities.  They should take care of me and coddle me because I am too debilitated by this depression to do it by myself and I'm definitely too proud to ask for help."  

Or something like that.

I've had this mentality for at least 12 years.

I've always placed great importance on my relationships with people around me. Will they notice when I'm struggling and help me without me having to ask?  Will they notice when I'm happy?  Will they confide in me and trust me?  Do they want me around?  And I often come away feeling just as disconnected and unsure of myself as I was before.  There was (usually) never an amazing connection and no one seemed to want to know the deep desires of my heart. No one was going to tear down the walls that guard my most vulnerable thoughts.

I'm working on a new mentality. A few unrelated events and conversations all happened at about the same time, and it gave me an epiphany and a new way to think. Here goes.

The first instance was when we ran into a family that we know at a restaurant.  We hadn't seen them in about six months, which was when we attended the funeral of their four year old daughter who had just succumbed to cancer. 

In the spirit of friendship and to gauge whether it was okay to talk about their loss, I simply asked how their family was doing.  To my surprise Brian began energetically and unreservedly telling me about how hard its been and how much they miss their daughter. He cried as he talked about what it would be like to have the holidays without her. He seemed at peace with her death and remarked on the irony of one life ending and another beginning, referring to his wife's surprise pregnancy.  He shared his firm belief that their family is eternal and they would see their daughter again. Now we were both crying. I apologized for bringing up such a sensitive topic, but what Brian said next was eye opening to me. 

He said that sometimes people ask him how he's doing but they don't really want to know. They just expect a one word answer and then they move on. But when people ask Brian that, he tells them. He tells them if it was a good day or if it was a bad day and that they missed their daughter a lot and cried a lot. And the other person turns out to be genuinely interested.  Brian would have told them this painful and deeply personal thing, and then they would turn around and tell him some deeply personal thing that they're going through. Brian was surprised to find out that other people wanted to open up about their loss and heartache too.  Now he and this person-who he only knew superficially until just then-they've just had an amazing conversation talking about the really hard  things they're both going though.  They've just connected on an emotional and personal level and cried together. Everyone has hard stuff that they're going through and even though his is different from theirs, they now have in common that they can talk to each other about it and feel sorrow together.

You have to be personal with someone  in order to connect with them. And you have to connect with that person in order for your relationship to be meaningful and satisfying.
I definitely want meaningful and satisfying relationships.

The next epiphany came from my two year old daughter. Since a quick visit from my sister's family a few months ago, my daughter always asks about her  little cousin, "Where's Caroline?"  In the car, at the store, at bedtime, "Where's Caroline?"  I would look at the clock and try to imagine what they would be doing in Illinois when its 7:30. "She's probably getting ready for bed" I'd say.
And then one morning at breakfast Audrey prayed that we could play at Leslie's house today.
Well it hit me: these are opportunities to connect with people too. I can call my sister and tell her that Audrey thinks about her sweet little cousin every day!  I can call my friend and tell her that Audrey wants to play with Leslie and we should get together soon. That paves the way for more personal communication.

The third thing is that my parents are leaving the country this week for a two year church service mission in Nicaragua.  Two years.  Aside from my husband, my mom is the top number that I call on my phone. On my way to work, at the store, for cooking tips, for sewing tips, for parenting tips, to vent about husbands, to cry about potty training, and again to celebrate potty training success, you name it. I pretty much call my mom about everything. And now she will be away for two whole years and I will only get to talk to her once a week for maybe a few minutes at a time.
I thought about writing in a journal every time I wish I could call mom. I considered that I could send her emails whenever a thought came up I wanted to discuss with her(several per day),  but then I realized that with her being away and less reachable, this is a good opportunity for me to reach out to the people around me for help and friendship and connection. My sister, Leslie's mom, Brian's family, my best friend who lives too far away, people in my circle who have heartache they want to share with other people and together lighten the burden a little.

So my new way of thinking goes something like this:

I am not unique in my depression. I am not the only one going through something that seems impossible to overcome.  And no one is going to take care of me simply because I feel sorry for myself. There is no shame in asking for help. Asking for help will give someone the chance to serve me.  No one can read my mind and know I need help unless I tell them.  Everyone around me has a story, and we all want to share them and mourn together, comfort together, cry together. Because when we can truly connect to each other by sharing our heartaches, then we will find our relationships are more meaningful and satisfying and we will put down our walls and forget about feeling vulnerable and instead we will genuinely laugh together and cry together and love together and celebrate joy.
Mosiah 18:8-10 summarizes my thoughts, and adds that as we serve and comfort and mourn with one another, we are witnessing of Christ, serving the Lord, and will have his Spirit poured out upon us.

It says:   [...] And now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort [...] Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being [...] a witness before [the Lord], that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?

So in the process of forgetting about myself and reaching out to others in friendship and compassion, I hope to put my depression in the past.  A fortunate side effect will hopefully be a closer relationship with the Savior and a better connection to the Spirit, which some would suggest might have been the problem and solution from the beginning.