Thursday, May 19, 2016
First off, great news! Tony finished his last treatments of chemotherapy and radiation yesterday! The staff at Huntsman will be missing him and will have a little less excitement in their work place now ;)
On June 9th Tony will have a brain scan and we will meet with his neuro-oncologist to discuss the results and see if there will be further treatments, etc. I'll be sure to post updates that evening.
Awhile back, Tony and I were driving in the car having one of our deep discussions, We do all our best talking when we are driving somewhere, especially back and forth from Salt Lake to home. Our discussion led us to bouncing ideas off each other about how to build self-esteem and how we can help foster divine worth in our children. During this conversation I made a simple remark that "Comparison is the thief of joy." As I said this, Tony looked at me with astonishment and surprise. He admitted that he was really impressed that I came up with this phrase and told me he was going to use it when teaching his students. He was seriously smitten with me, his jaw dropped and everything. I felt pretty cool for about 10 seconds, and then my face turned red and I laughed so hard I had tears streaming down my cheeks.
It is not my quote!
See, there was a pretty awesome leader named Teddy Roosevelt. It's his. Not mine. I'm flattered that Tony thinks I'm witty enough to come up with some great slogan but there's a fat chance that will happen seeing that I only get in one good joke each month.
President Roosevelt was a wise man. Comparison is the thief of joy. We talked about how so many low self-esteem problems rise from too much comparison in our society. Who can be the smartest? Who can make the most money? Who is the most athletic? Who is the fairest of them all?! Now, I think a little healthy competition is beneficial to us all at some points as it can be a motivating factor in bettering ourselves. But comparison is definitely toxic when the end result is only self pity, envy ore resentment.
I catch myself tormenting myself with the comparison game sometimes. Today I turn the ripe ol' age of 29. I've always felt that once I turned 30 (and wow, that is pretty soon!) that I needed to "officially" be an adult. You know, the adults who have half a years' worth of living expenses in their savings account, the ones who own their home, the ones who immerse themselves in PTA and coaching their kids' teams, the ones who have a 20 year plan and look like they are sticking to it.
Well, I am definitely no where near "adulting" in this sense. That nasty comparison game creeps up on me here and there throughout each year when I am reminded that many around me have these things and I don't yet. And it's something I've been playing a long time. I hate this game and I'm trying to burn it. Really.
What are the ways we can bury this comparison game forever? Tony and I discuss this often and we are beginning to find ways to play less often. He is really good at refusing to play. How does he do it?
1. Discovering the divine nature of our spirits. Simply put, we are God's children and that is enough. This alone, when truly taken to heart, can fill our souls with worth so we know and understand how unique and special and deeply loved we are individually to our Heavenly Father. That's pretty incredible. We don't have to "beat" anyone out to be loved perfectly by Him. We already are.
2. Studying and understanding the Atonement. You knew this one was coming ;) The Atonement of Jesus Christ was performed individually for you and me, one by one, with no rush or distractions. The Savior really does know our deepest joys and sorrows, and when we come to actually FEEL this, we know we are never alone when we feel battered down about ourselves or our lives. Turning to Christ allows us to know we are better than our circumstances and more than our flaws. He focuses on our strengths and never ever compares us to others.
3. Learning true beauty. Someone once told me that it was unhealthy to tell your children that they are beautiful and instead, to only focus on their character strengths. While compliments to one's character uplifts and helps others, helping someone discover their true beauty encompasses all these things. Instead of saying to your child (or to yourself in this case) "You are so smart" (which can feel fleeting as situations in life change) try telling someone they are beautiful. Tony tells me all the time how beautiful I am, and nine times out of ten it is when I'm getting ready for bed and I'm in sweats and have no make-up on. I am definitely not in my "A" game in my pjs. Although I am physically pretty in his eyes, he really is complimenting me on the beauty of my soul, of my attitude, of my motherly traits, of my ____, etc. Try telling yourself you are beautiful today! And start believing it!
4. Complimenting others. When we can start seeing the good in others and actually telling them what we enjoy about them, feelings of competition fade. We begin to love them personally and realize that anything good about others is not a threat to our own being. Celebrate when good things happen to other people, and feel concern and sorrow when disappointments happen in their lives. Any of Tony's students reading this will definitely attest that Brother Means is a great complimenter and it does wonders for his happiness.
5. Counting your many blessings. Really do name them one by one. It's hard to get started when you are down but if you think about the greatest blessing you have and realize what a difference your life would be without them, your whole being will swell with gratitude and humility. It's never helpful to count your blessings by saying "Well, I might not have this, but I have this" or, "At least I'm not dealing with this." Just name what you DO have and soon we can come to realize that we really are given so much.
I bring this up because lately it can be hard for me not to start comparing my present life to what I thought my life would be at 29 years old. I never imagined when we married almost nine years ago that we would be facing the reality of our mortality at such young ages. I never imagined that we would have to have some serious discussions about an alternative future to my fairy tale desires. I thought that if we worked hard and tried to constantly improve ourselves that we would be living in a cute white house with a wrap-around porch on a small farm, watching thunderstorms while holding hands with Tony on our porch swing as our cute kids jumped in rain puddles, with me in a beautiful dress and dutch braids in my long hair. I'd have the patience of Job and a smile on my face- always. And if I could, I'd always be cuddling with a baby on my lap :) My little dream may not seem like much but it's what I've wanted for a long time, and what Tony and I are working towards. It may not happen. Or if we are blessed with a miracle, our little dream could come true.
I'm terrible at comparing myself to my ideal self, seeing how I have many flaws and "should" have those flaws fixed. Every few weeks, I feel myself slipping into a destructive state wishing that the plans we had for our family didn't have to be on hold right now. No one knows what their future holds. No one really can be an "adult" and stick to a 20 year plan with no wrenches thrown in the works. "Adulting" comes when we can accept and embrace the plan that our Heavenly Father has mapped out for us, and I'm trying hard to do this each day.
Counting my blessings, I am deeply moved and humbled when I see what the Lord has given my family. We may have some difficult problems in our life right now but it is all trumped by the beautiful tokens of blessings we enjoy. And as I try to live the five steps above, my worth increases and I can more fully see myself and my family in God's eyes. In the eyes of our sweet Emma (who drew the picture above), our little family of eight is just perfect and happy as we are right here and now. We don't need a cute white house on a little farm with thunderstorms. Right now I have what is in our daughter's drawing and that is a dream come true. Cancer will never destroy our eternal family, it will only draw our family closer together and to God if we allow ourselves to stop our comparisons. I'm starting to experience the joy that comes in the absence of comparisons. I wouldn't change how God has blessed me!
Thursday, May 5, 2016
Again, I want to thank everyone for the continued love and support we are receiving from so many of you. I hope to one day to be able to express our gratitude perfectly and to have opportunities to serve and uplift your lives as you have ours.
We have been so blessed by all who have visited us. Despite Tony's fatigue, he expressed to me tonight his sincere gratitude to our friends and family who come by for brief visits. Each visitor brings a special spirit into our home and adds courage and love into our lives. It must be a relief for Tony as well, as he must be so sick of talking with me all the time ;)
Tonight I want to write about a particular experience we had a week ago. Tony and I were able to have a friend visit as we were putting the kids to bed. When he arrived, we updated him on Tony's current health situation, he then asked Tony how long it had been since he had a priesthood blessing. (For those of you who are unfamiliar with priesthood blessings, you can visit here to learn more!) I quickly replied that Tony last had a blessing a few days prior to his most recent surgery in March. It was then that our dear friend placed his hands upon Tony's bare head and began to teach us many things. Much of what he said we hold very sacred and dear but there is one thing I want to share.
In life, we all experience sorrows and sicknesses. It is inevitable and inescapable because we live in a fallen world with bodies subject to an imperfect world. For seven years, I have wrestled with trying to figure out why Tony has a brain tumor. We know that the cause of Tony's tumor is because of his genetic makeup but could there have been something we could have done to prevent this? Was this tumor a result of natural causes in a fallen world? Or was this disease God-given? Did Heavenly Father GIVE this trial to us? Or did He ALLOW it to happen? Or is it some random occurrence that He doesn't want to interfere with?
Over the years, I have began to find comfort as I slowly added answers to my questions but things were still unclear. I'm grateful that I have been able to rely on Tony's faith and my faith in knowing that whatever the answers to these questions were, God has a plan for us either way.
But it was last week that those answers became more clear in a very direct way. As our friend was directed through the Holy Ghost in pronouncing a blessing upon Tony, his words struck comfort and understanding into my heart immediately. If Tony's brain tumor was God-given, or in other words, if our loving Heavenly Father ordained Tony to have this sickness, then it is purposeful and instrumental, even necessary, in bringing eternal salvation to Tony. And if Tony's tumor is only as a result of our weak bodies in this weakened world, then Tony will be healed.
It really is that simple.
Either Tony will be healed because it is not God's will to take him yet, or Heavenly Father needs Tony (and I do say, myself included) to undergo this trial in order for us to gain eternal life with Him and our families.
If Tony's body succumbs to his cancer, it is God's plan and His plan does not stop there. He will continue to teach and guide and support our family in His wisdom and in His timing. If this is to be, I will testify of Heavenly Father's perfect wisdom and love for us, for He knows us intimately and more personally than we even know ourselves. Who am I to choose the best path for our family when I know there is my loving Heavenly Father gently leading me by the hand to guide me to eternal life with Him? I will boldly testify of His love and wisdom with all my being for all my days.
If Tony is healed, I will leap with joy! I will shout to the world and proclaim that our God is a God of miracles! I will tell every person I meet of the wonderful goodness of our God, and that if we exercise true faith, miracles can happen! I will sing songs in praise to His name and will boldly testify to all of Heavenly Father's plan for every human soul who has ever lived.
I know this is true. God has a plan for each of us, and nothing, not even a terminal brain tumor, can get in the way of His plan for us. Heavenly Father's will WILL be done. My tender prayer to Him is that I can strengthen my faith in order to not only accept His plan for my family, but to also be truly grateful for the plan He created for me.
With that being said, I want to express my hope and desire for the future if the Lord sees fit to grant it unto me. I want to see Tony teaching seminary again because he is so passionate about our Savior and finds so much fulfillment and happiness being with others and sharing his testimony with them. I want to see Tony dribble a basketball again, and to teach our children to ride a bike. I want to see him sing Rascal Flatts at the top of his lungs in springtime as we drive through the cool mountains. I want to see him tickle our kids' legs and softly hum as he comforts them to sleep at night. I want him to wrap both his arms around me tightly and kiss my forehead. I want to see wrinkles form around his eyes and around his smile, and to see his hair turn gray. I want him to cradle our grandchildren in his arms, and to tell our children how proud he is of them, and how much he loves them all.
I want so much. Here are the desires of my heart if He sees it best to give them. But above all, I want to follow our Savior and trust in our God because I know true joy is found therein. He truly loves us and only His plan for our lives and in turning to our Savior can bring us full joy!