What If?

As I spent time alone this morning, I found myself thinking about my amazing children. As a Mom I have the tendency to want their lives to be free of tribulations and hard times. As a Mom who is trying her best to look at life through the eyes of Heavenly Father, I see that their tribulations and hard times shape them.WhatIf?

My son has been working through some pretty tough things in his heart lately. He is a leader. He is different. He is strong. He has vision. All qualities that do not always lead him down the easiest of paths in Junior High. I know this time of his life is full of wanting to fit in, have friends, be noticed by the ‘cute’ girls in the hall. However, it is hard to be a sheep when you were born to be a warrior.

My husband and I have such a huge responsibility to our children. As parents, we have been blessed to see who these amazing spirits are meant to be, we know truly how strong and important they are. Unfortunately, someone else does too. I have felt the challenge in my heart to become the mother they need to battle this other influence and have spent many hours in prayer for the ability and strength to be the protector, teacher, example and safety they need.

A question came into my heart as a response to these prayers….What if?

What if all that I have passed through in my life was tailored not only for my growth, but theirs too? What if all of the times I have been pushed to the end of my faith and strength were meant to teach my heart what they need to know? What if every time I was driven to my knees because I didn’t have strength to stand under all of the pressures I felt were times that brought me closer to Heaven so that I could see His face and KNOW? What if all of those things that I sacrificed were gifts that they needed to stand strong? What if every tear that has fallen has been counted for moments when they truly need a shoulder, heart and an understanding ear? What if every moment of joy and laughter were times that they could see heaven too?

What if?

I would do it all again in an instant for them so that they would KNOW. I would do it so that they can have strength to be the warriors they truly are meant to be…not the sheep that follow the crowd.

They are my What if….

They are my Gift from Heaven….

They are my Why….

Strength

There is a verse of scripture in the Book of Mormon that has provided comfort and confusion to my heart and mind:

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them. ” ~Ether 12:27

StrengthI know there have been so many times that I have felt the pure weakness that comes from a mortal body doing its best to live a spiritual life. In these moments I have felt frustration, thinking that there has to be a way that I can feel stronger, more powerful.

But what if what I think should be stronger and more powerful is not what Jesus Christ knows to be strength and power?

This past month has been wrought with trials, both personal and family based. It is as though any weakness or wound I have ever struggled with was opened up and shown in vivid detail. If it was not one thing, it was another. Days became very long and some nights were endless. I have spent a lot of time in prayer seeking understanding.

As I thought about all of this in regards to the scripture from Ether, I found answers…

Sometimes strength is simply standing up when the world is pressing upon us. Sometimes strength is looking up to Heaven when our hearts and minds are so heavy. Sometimes strength is listening to the quiet whisperings of the Holy Ghost telling us that we are good enough. Sometimes strength is hearing with our heart and mind the compliments and support of those who are there to help. Sometimes strength is dropping to our knees seeking understanding when the path before us has turned dark. Sometimes strength is simply taking a deep breath and saying, “I’ve got this” then taking one more step. Sometimes strength is opening the scriptures when our mind is groping blindly in the world around us. And sometimes strength is sitting quietly when the storm is raging around us.

I always thought I would feel more powerful when the grace of Jesus Christ made up the difference in my lacking.

What I learned is….peace is the strength that comes from our Savior. Peace of knowing that He has not left us alone in any storm we are called upon to weather. I can be strong.

Different and Strong

Our little family had a unique opportunity last night….one that required us to step waaaay out of our comfort zones.

When we first moved into our current home, we met a sweet Chinese man. He is very endearing and has a wonderful disposition. He took an interest in the fact that we are all involved in martial arts. Each time he has been in our home, he has encouraged us and brought such a sweet spirit with him.

Different and StrongA couple of weeks ago he called asking if we would be willing to perform at a Chinese Autumn festival. Performing is not something we do a lot of, because it involves stepping out of our comfort zones. We love to train and get better on our home turf, however stepping outside of this requires a lot of courage, or a sweet and persistent friend. We, reluctantly said we would.

To be completely honest, we actually tried to get out of it. However, everything we brought up (wrong country…we study a Japanese style martial art, not enough time to prepare, etc) he shot down (all martial arts came from China so what does it matter? and you are black belts so you are prepared, etc). We were committed and that was it.

It took a long time to come up with the music. Less time to come up with the demo performance.

Motivation was lacking, especially in the kids…which was a reflection of our initial emotions.

A decision had to be made.

It came down to who we truly are and how we wanted to represent ourselves, family and our karate family. Deciding to train strong and perform strong made a huge difference in our hearts. Team Smullin was going to represent!

So the evening of the performance came….

We walked into the venue and saw that we were totally different from everyone else in the room. Not only were we the only martial arts performance lined up, we were the only Americans who would be stepping on stage.

As the crowd filled in, we felt how different we were…American, English speaking, tall, dressed in gi’s and carrying weapons.

The Chinese culture is so kind. They are truly incredible people.

As the program went forward, we realized that they are not the type to yell and get all hyped up. It was a totally different environment than what we have performed in the past. After each performance they would clap and that was it. Hmmmm….I really hoped it would go well for us.

There came a point that we simply had to not care about what was going to happen, we just needed to be us…Team Smullin…and do what we do best.

Martial arts has trained us to do many things with our minds and bodies. One of the best things I have learned is confidence in what I know and the amount of time I have spent training. Walking on to the stage, we all went to that place and let our bodies do what they have been trained to do.

Did we mess up? Yep. Did I smack the overhead screen with my sword? Yep. Did I almost fall off of the stage? Yep. Was our ending a little skewed? Yep.

Did we startle the crowd with our blood-curdling yells? Yep (It was pretty fun to see some of the looks on their faces). Did the boys amaze them with their chuck skills? Yep (they are pretty filthy chuckers). Did the girls impress with their swords? Yep. Did the crowd clap throughout the performance? Why yes they did. Honestly, if there was a best in show award…we would have taken it…;)

The entire event was a reflection on who we are and where we have found strength in our family and lives.

Not one thing about us fit…Americans at a Chinese festival, Japanese martial arts at a Chinese festival, English speakers at a Chinese festival, and rocking music at a Chinese festival. However, we fit, because we were there together. We fit, because we understand that being different is nothing to shy away from, it is something that gives us strength. We fit, because we know who we are and what we can do.

It is a powerful lesson we have learned over the past few years. I am grateful that we were able to step out of our comfort zones, into a beautiful culture, to see.

 

Peace Restored

There have been many times that we are promised that if we but call upon our Father in Heaven in prayer and turn the words of the prophets (ancient and modern), we will have peace in our lives, strength in our hearts and courage in our souls.Peace Restored

Today started off like a Monday does…waking up early with Dude to train for an hour, getting him ready, waking up Sis to get her ready, praying as a family, fixing lunches, fixing breakfasts, starting laundry, reclaiming the house from the activities of Sunday, starting my homework and so forth. In the mix of it all I did not take the time to sit and read my scriptures.

For the most part, everything ran smoothly and both children were able to make it to school with clothes on their backs, food in their tummies and lunch packed for later. I was able to get 2 of my 3 papers written. Cleaning started and, oh how I love the feeling of being productive.

Yet, in spite of it all the demons started to whisper their words of doubt and fear to my heart. As much as I worked to push them back, they insisted on joining my heart, bringing with them heaviness and hopelessness. I truly refused to let them win, however they were gaining ground. They are so quiet…to a point, then they yell and tug.

It got to a point that my heart was truly heavy from the fight….and then I remembered.

After all of the rain we have been blessed with here, it is a gorgeous day. The sun is shining, bringing it’s life-giving warmth. The mountains are showing the blazing colors of fall. The trees surrounding us are green. The birds and animals are busy. Truly beautiful.

It is in this setting that I took my Book of Mormon and words of Elder Holland to read. I prayed to have that promised peace return to my heart so that I could feel my faith in the fight. I prayed specifically for those things that I see we need at this time. I prayed for His love to manifest itself.

No sooner than I read the first 2 verses of scripture, the peace returned to my heart. It was calm, quiet and powerful. It came without answers to the questions I asked. It came without any pretense. It simply came and restored. There is no power on earth stronger than the peace that comes from the Spirit of God through words teaching about Jesus Christ.

Beautiful.

Just Because

Have you ever had a tender moment and as you wanted to share it the words were simply not as powerful as what you felt?

Just BecauseToday I experienced one of those moments…..but I will do my best to share.

As I listened to the Sacrament prayers today one line sank deep into my heart…

….that they may always have his Spirit to be with them…

Pondering this I thought about something else I had read earlier this week in the Book of Mormon….

And after they had slain the Messiah, who should come, and after he had been slain he should rise from the dead, and should make himself manifest, by the Holy Ghost, unto the Gentiles.

The part of that scripture that stood out to me was that it is through the power of the Holy Ghost that we will and do know our Savior. I honestly feel like the deeper knowledge we have of this power, the greater relationship we will have with the Savior.

I imagine in Heaven, before we came here, that we looked to Him for the leadership, love and strength we needed as we fought to keep the power to choose that Heavenly Father had given us, and that the enemy wanted to take. I am sure that war was one of words.

It seems to me that when the choices were made there was no gray line that separated us….it was a clear defining line between those who would keep their power to choose and those who surrendered it. Pressing forward to the Savior would mean that we would have to walk by them as they sneered, teased, yelled and did all they could to deter us. Tears would have been coursing down my cheeks, because these were my brothers and sisters….some I would have known at an intimate level.

Yet, press forward to Him I would…because the Holy Ghost would be there showing me the way, strengthening my resolve and comforting my broken, yet undeterred heart.

It is not unlike here, on earth….pressing forward to return to Him.

I have learned that there are times when I am taught a specific lesson, like this one to prepare me for a fight to come, a trial to pass through or counsel to give. Other times we are shown beautiful truths…just because.

Today it was just because….Just because I sought Him in my heart and wanted His spirit to always be with me.

Creeping In

Creeping InTonight I sit on our deck. The sky is clear and there is a beautiful, cool breeze gently blowing. I am in awe of the majesty of the sky above, the stars that give off enough light to show they are there. Collectively they paint a picture of the vastness above, yet their tiny lights show me that even I am known.

Life has felt a little heavy lately and I can’t put my finger on the reason why. I struggle at times during the day to find the strength to make it through all that is needed…and more. There are moments I feel so unqualified to be the mother that my amazing children need….to give them the strength and courage to rise above the world that surrounds them. There are moments I feel like I am not the wife I need to be to the incredibly smart, talented and strong man I am blessed to be married to. There are moments when I feel like I should be more….

I understand that there is one who would have me feel less than, because that is how he would have me feel. He would have me believe that I am not good enough to do all that is required of me. These lies are never told all at once, they are insidious…quiet…and creep in a little at a time.

My heart breaks when his lies are whispered in the ears of those I love. I feel powerless, because I know that they can be so easy to believe. I often look at them in disbelief, because I know if they saw what I see and work so hard to show them, they would never give a second thought to those thoughts of less than.

So with that thought, I am to look at myself the way that my Heavenly Father and Savior see me. It takes a lot of work…daily…hourly…minutely…yet it is the only way to push back against those lies. I have to remember that He has confidence in my strengths, abilities and heart. He has confidence in me that I will turn to Them when things feel like they are too much. He has confidence that I will stand up when I don’t have anything left.

Whatever He inspires, He opens the way to overcome, accomplish and achieve.

I have seen the moments of strength He has given me to be the wife and mother I need to be. Sometimes they are like the stars…a tiny bit of light that shows me I am known to Him.

What I Found

I think I have started and erased the beginning of this particular post at least 10 times. I know what I want to share, yet the task of introducing it seems pretty huge right now….maybe it means that there is someone who needs this, like I did when I found it.

What I FoundAs I have studied the Book of Mormon over the years, I have grown to love the section that is referred to as ‘the war chapters’. It is a time when the Nephites and Lamanites are engaged in a long, grueling war. I have grown to admire and love the righteous men who were chosen to lead the Nephite armies.

Growing up we played a lot of war games in our backyard and the fields beyond. The outcome of who won was always determined by who had the best leaders on their team. These were the ones who could quickly figure out what tactics were the best, communicate and were willing to ‘go to battle’ with the team.

One particular day not too long ago I picked up my Book of Mormon to study for the day and noticed I had arrived at a war chapter (Alma 2). On the surface I couldn’t imagine what it would teach me that day, yet I asked in my heart…What will I find in this chapter?

In this chapter a wicked man wanted to overthrow the inspired government and become king. He had convinced others that they needed to support him and by so doing they would become rulers as well. When the voice of the people voted against his plan, he took his followers, joined with the enemies and engaged the free people in a war. What could I possibly learn from this to help me in my daily life?

I learned about confronting an enemy.  The Nephites did not want their freedoms taken from them. They understood that if they allowed this man and his desires to take control, they would lose all that they cherished. I realized that the enemies we confront do not carry physical weapons, they carry the weapons of doubt, fear, pride and lies. Their weapons are insidious and they are wielded with amazing skill.

As they stepped onto the battlefield, the Nephites looked to their leader, one who was inspired and with them. Faced with an enemy that outnumbered them, I am sure their hearts could have melted in fear. Yet, instead of surrendering, they prayed. I love the how they were blessed:

Nevertheless, the Nephites being strengthened by the hand of the Lord, having prayed mightily to him that he would deliver them out of the hands of their enemies, therefore the Lord did hear their cries, and did strengthen them, and the Lamanites and Amlicites did fall before them.

I pray that I live so that I can call upon God at any time in my life, whether I am fighting the enemy or I just simply need Him…knowing I have paid the price to have Him there. I watch my son pay this price daily as he spends time in his scriptures and on his knees in prayer….he is a mighty warrior in my eyes. I have seen how he has been strengthened time and time again by the Lord in situations that have come up at school.

I found in this chapter of scripture that I need to be ready to confront the enemy that would destroy me and my family. I found that there is One who will be there to fight the battle with me when I call upon Him. I found that I will have the strength and knowledge given me to wield the weapons of faith.

I found that no matter where I am in life, I am not alone.

Arrival

ArrivalToday begins the end of an incredible journey.

Five years ago I stepped onto a karate map, changing the course of my life forever. It was then I joined my family in our journey to earn our black belts. I can remember the feelings of trepidation that coursed through my heart, yet my soul felt electrified.

As I have reflected upon the path we have walked down, I have found myself feeling overwhelmed by the fact that we have done what we set out to do….as a family.

Individually each one of us has become so much more, grown in ways that we could never describe and learned very deeply that we are strong. As a family we have become cemented in the team that we are. There is a lot of peace knowing that each one of us would take or give a hit to save each other.

There have been moments of victory, defeat, learning, excitement, and contemplations of quitting…all things that create a path of worth.

We have been blessed through this journey by a loving Heavenly Father. I cannot look back and not see His hand guiding, helping and encouraging us on our way. I see how things that are important to us are important to Him. I see how He has changed the world for us.

The mat we stepped onto for the first time is not that mat we will arrive on, however we were given the basic love and knowledge of karate from those who trained with us on our first mat. We were shown the direction we needed to travel. A guide at the beginning of a journey is priceless. Thank you Leah for giving us a strong start.

As with any wonderful journey, ours took an unexpected, but marvelous turn. We left our beginnings and found ourselves welcomed into a karate family that means more to us than words can describe. Our Kona family is beautiful.

Along our path we found ourselves in one of the most difficult trials we had ever experienced. Karate became our safe-haven, our home, a refuge and somewhere we could express ourselves. As we would walk through the doors, the weights we were carrying were lifted and for a few moments we were free. Truly another gift from God. Karate has saved our lives on many levels.

As we enter the testing period tonight, I know that we have many around us who are pulling for us. I am humbled by their love and support for our little team. I cannot begin to express how this will lift us and give us strength beyond what we feel we have. I love that we can be that for our karate family too…it is all about lifting each other.

Thank you Te, Jade, Victor and Tyler for lifting us, inspiring us, believing in us and showing us the way.

We have arrived at the end of one journey….only to begin another.

 

Stronger Not Easier

For the past month our family has been doing our final training to earn our black belts. It has been challenging both physically and mentally. I would not have expected anything less or different, because to earn a black belt one must be able to rise above these types of challenges.Stronger Not Easier

The beauty of martial arts is the individual nature of the journey. My test will not be like anyone else’s, because I have my strengths and weaknesses. Recently I have seen each of them as if through a microscope.

It does not take a microscope to see that push-ups and pull-ups are two things that challenge me. As they are both required for our test, I have needed to place extra emphasis on my ability to do them.

I have been looking forward to the time when they would get easier. I have envisioned myself pounding out my reps with ease and actually loving it.

No matter how many times I have done them, daily, I have not found that blessed place of ease.

As I sat outside this morning thinking about all of this, I was given some realizations. There is a lot of clarity that comes when I have a quiet moment, outside, in the sun, listening to the beautiful song of nature.

These tasks are never going to become ‘easy’ for me, however as I have worked at them, I have become stronger. As I thought about this, my heart filled with gratitude for this principle in my life. For if these things became easy for me, I would not work so hard to develop the strength I need to perform them.

This is something I have been thinking about for a long time. We have been on a personal journey that has been one of the most difficult things I have ever done. There have been times when each day was a struggle to get through with enough faith to wake up the next morning. The daily fight has been grueling at times.

Yet, I would not trade it for anything.

We have become stronger. We have overcome. We have seen what we can do. We have seen prayers answered. We have seen the hand of God touch our lives daily. We have felt the power of our Savior pick us up. We have been given a gift of clarity.

Before all of this, our journey and the black belt experience, I feared things that made me stretch, grow and hurt. I would, at times, pray that life would get easier or that the challenges would be taken.

Now I see that this is all necessary for me to become stronger.

 

The Storm

It is raining here tonight. It is the beautiful, cleansing, renewing rain…perfect for a heavy heart.

The StormI have been blessed with two beautiful children…they are the perfect mix of my husband and I. I am pretty sure they came that way so that we could understand them and they could teach us.

Right now I am learning from my sweet daughter. I see so much of me when I was her age, yet there is a wonderful amount of her too. She is strong willed, a bit sassy, full of imagination, and truly beautiful. She is always so willing to reach out and bless the life of someone in need. She has a gift to see things that are normally missed.

Yet….she is struggling within her heart.

I have found that there are times as a parent when I need to back down and let them learn and there are times when I need to say things that are honest and difficult. It is part of being a parent.

Over the past couple of days her struggle has created the necessity for both. Her struggle is fears that have engulfed her heart and created a belief that she can’t do certain things. As a result, she is stuck. On the outside looking in, I have thought how she just needs to ‘rip the bandaid’ and do what scares her. It would change her life for the good. It hurts to see her quit on herself because she is scared.

As we talked to her about this the tears rolled down her cheeks. She cowered because our words were truth and it struck her little heart. She wanted so badly to be anywhere but where she was, yet her spirit knew she needed to hear what was said. My husband shared with her 2 Timothy 1:7…

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

Teaching her that she has the divine within her, the power of our Heavenly Father, was a moment I will treasure. It reminded me of who I truly am. Watching her slowly embrace that truth was beautiful. I know it is something that we will continually need to teach her, because it is something that I continually need to understand.

Watching her make choices that teach her lessons is so difficult sometimes. I have questioned whether or not I have taught her what she needs to know. I wonder if I have not given her the tools she needs to make the decisions that will lead her away from the struggles she currently lives with. It is difficult, because I see a different, better way….yet, it is not my decision.

I love her with all I have. I would do anything for her and yet, I can’t.

So I kneel by her bed while she is sleeping and pray to be the mother she needs me to be. I pray to understand her as He does, so that I can help her or allow her to be.

I have so much to learn and there are days when that feels very heavy in my heart. Today is one of those days.

I am so thankful for a quiet moment, standing in the rain, speaking my heart to Him. I know my words were heard through the song of the rain. I know He saw me. I know He will guide me to help one of His choice daughters. I just need to listen.