Challenging Circumstances Are Part of Being Alive

The American Red Cross trains their volunteers to help people involved in trauma to focus on how they survived instead of going over and over the trauma that has occurred to them. That way they are teaching the victim to focus on their coping skills rather than reliving the horror of the experience.

Whether our own personal trauma is large or small, we too can also make a choice to focus on our courage and faith instead of constantly re-living or dwelling on the bad experiences that happen to all of us. 

Challenging circumstances are part of being alive. We don't have to feel picked on.  If we get our minds off our self and focus on others we will soon become aware that everyone faces problems. Focusing on others gives us the ability to think about and deal with our own difficulties in a more realistic and mature way. 

Part of being well adjusted is the ability to deal cheerfully with the inevitable disappointments of life.  Instead of focusing on what is going wrong in our life, we can choose to focus and what is going right. 

For example one day my son came home from school and told me that the other boys had called him "stupid boots". I told him I was sorry he had a bad day.  He replied, "I didn't have a bad day.  Just a bad two minutes.  The rest of the day was great."

No matter what happens to us, we can choose to face trouble with courage and dignity.  When we face the difficulties of life with optimism and hope we can more quickly let go of all the bad and get on with all the good.

No one is always well-adjusted. We all have our fragile days when we feel like we're going to fall apart.  On my hard days I like to wear a sweatshirt with a mallard duck print on the front. The duck’s head is on backward. Underneath the duck is this word, "mallard-justed."

Sometimes we feel like our heads are on backward or we’re being slowly pecked to death. That’s when we need to turn to God and renew our strength. We are all maladjusted to a certain degree and in a perpetual state of adjusting to life's challenges. Problems will keep happening as long as we are still alive. It helps to remember we win some and we lose some. There is no easy time of life, but we only get the day once and then it is gone.

We can choose more positive coping skills or adjustment patterns when we feel overwhelmed, anxious, stressed out or downhearted. We may choose to pray, go for a run, lie in a hammock, play a round of golf, sing in the shower or write a long narrative in our journal.  The only person who can really get us down is us.

There is a battle for our souls going on every single day.  That battle is largely played out in our minds. We have to face the enemy and kill those negative, wounded and fearful thoughts.  We can do it.  We can do hard things. The audacity to be cheerful and grateful even in the midst of great stress and trouble is the mark of a life well lived.


Developing Positive Patterns of Adjustment to Life's Problems

We don't choose our challenges but we do choose our response.

One of my friends told me she had battled depression her whole life. She’d tried counseling and medication but nothing seemed to help. Then she discovered when she played the piano her depression lifted.

She now chooses to spend a great deal of her time playing beautiful music at rest homes.

I had another friend who was constantly upset with her husband because he wouldn’t talk to her. She was certain that if her husband really loved her, he would have long, heartfelt conversations with her. Well, her husband was a quiet man. For thirty years she was frustrated. One evening it came to a breaking point. She told him she’d had enough. If he didn’t talk to her, she was going to leave him. What did her husband do? He promptly stood up and walked out of the room. Her threats got louder as she chased him to the front door. Finally in desperation she lunged forward and hit him on the back of the head. I learned about this experience when I saw her sitting in church with her hand in a cast.
“What happened?” I asked.
“Want the truth or what I’ve been telling everybody else?” she answered.
“The truth.”
“I hit my husband and broke two fingers.”
She was obviously embarrassed. She turned to me and tearfully said, “I’ve been trying to get him to talk to me for thirty years. I just couldn’t stand it any more. I couldn’t bear to watch him walk out on me one more time.”

Now, I am also married to a quiet man, so I said, “Want some ideas?” She sheepishly nodded. “The next time you feel you have to talk to your husband so desperately you’re going to burst, go for a walk instead,” I said. “Then talk to God. Ask God if He loves you. Be still and listen until you feel God’s love. No one else can give you that kind of unconditional love. The rest of us are just practicing.” She stared at me, puzzled. “Then after you feel divine love, ask God how to love your husband.”

I promised her she would be filled with positive impressions of her husband’s strengths instead of his weaknesses. I promised her that when she finished walking, she’d feel more love for herself and her husband. I didn’t see this woman for a few months. When I saw her, her cast was off and she was holding hands with her husband while she walked down the hall at church. She winked at me.

“Thank you!” she said enthusiastically. “And I’ve lost ten pounds!”

Whether we go for a walk or play beautiful music at rest homes, positive patterns of adjustment to life's difficulties can and will give us more joy in our mortal journey. Carefully chosen personal coping techniques give us tools to live with power, dignity and energy.

We’re all going to meet with frustrations and pain. The important thing is what we do when faced with problems like financial failure, scandal, divorce, abuse, death, way-ward children, chronic ill-health issues, old age and any other of a million problems or challenges. Everyone does something. Some people turn into hermits. Others turn to drugs, sickness or chronic victim-hood.

We can choose to turn to God, learn about the nature of true love, hope and patience and press forward with gratitude. The scriptures refer to this as enduring to the end – to which I add, enduring well to the end.


Responding To Problems In Life

We all face a multitude of challenges.  Some of our problems are self inflicted and some come to us by the choices of others.  Though we can't always control what happens to us we can always choose our response.

For example, once there was a man who was in love with his fiancé and was about to get married when she suddenly dumped him and married his best friend. He was devastated. He grew more and more depressed, gradually retreated into seclusion and eventually killed himself. This is unhealthy adjustment. There was another man in the same situation who was also deeply in love with his fiancé and about to get married when she dumped him and married his best friend. He was also devastated. He felt depressed, but decided he’d feel better if he focused on someone else. He volunteered at the local hospital where he met a wonderful, caring woman. A year later, they got married. This is healthy adjustment.

Suicide is an extreme example of an unhealthy adjustment pattern, but it serves to illustrate this fact - bad things happen to all of us. We don’t always get to choose what happens to us, but we always get to choose how we respond. We can focus on ourselves and what we’ve lost or we can focus on others and what remains. Maybe we haven’t considered taking our own life but do we habitually take offense, get angry, seek revenge, become bitter or judgmental, or allow our fears to control us? All these responses to problems are a pattern of adjustment we formed years ago. Now is the time to recognize our unhealthy patterns and change them.

When we are living through a major period of stress it helps to pay attention to how we treat ourselves. Practicing self-nurturance when facing a difficult time in our life is a healthy adjustment pattern. We are more likely to respond positively to challenges if we are taking good care of ourselves . . . eating a healtlhy diet, getting proper rest and maintaining an exercise program helps us face the inevitable stresses of life.  In addition, each of us needs a private way to unwind, such as spending time in nature, praying, listening to music or reading good books. Even Christ needed solitude when facing difficult times.

God will give us the ability to adjust positively to any situation - if we ask for help. God can give us courage when we are most afraid.  God can help us find forgiveness when we want revenge.  God can help us find patience when are at the end of our rope.

We simply can’t control the events or peopleonly in our lives.  We can only control ourselves. At times of unwanted change, betrayal, false accusations, loss or even death, we don’t have to rely on our own strength. “He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.” (Isaiah 40:29)


Developing Healthy Adjustment Patterns

Most of us developed adjustment patterns in childhood. Some of these coping skills are healthy and some are unhealthy. For example, perhaps you woke up one morning and suddenly remembered you had in test in school that day and you hadn’t studied. Your stomach turned over and you felt a lot of anxiety as you contemplated the outcome of your procrastination. So you told your mother you didn’t feel well and didn’t want to go to school that day. Your mother looked at you and believed you. Your problem was solved. You learned you could get out of difficult situations by being sick. So the next time something stressful comes along, you get sick. This pattern continues into adulthood, and before long you’re not even aware you’re doing it.

There is hope. Unhealthy patterns of adjustment can be acknowledged and changed into healthy coping skills. For example, one woman told me she used to make her husband listen to long lists of his character flaws. Her husband responded by defending himself. She had learned to deal with troubling emotions and relationship issues when she was a child by watching her parents berate each other. She knew no other way. Now as an adult, she felt chronically frustrated with her husband because he never listened attentively or attempted any significant change.

One day just after she finished another verbal beating, her husband responded by saying, “Honey, did it occur to you that I could come up with a list of your faults, too?”

This woman told me she was dumbfounded because she had never considered her husband’s point of view. The next time she felt like reading her husband a long list of his faults, she tried seeing matters from his perspective. She consciously took a good look at herself and what she was doing that contributed to the friction in their relationship. When she did this, her mind was filled with positive actions she could take to improve their relationship. This woman has successfully changed a negative pattern of adjustment into a positive coping skill that continues to serve her well.


Each Day Is A Gift

My husband and I attended a graveside service for a tiny baby born to our friends. I remember standing silently at the freshly dug grave with other family members and friends when the limousine drove up. When the funeral-home operator opened the long car door, we saw our friends inside. The new father was gently cradling the tiny coffin on his lap. The new mother, only a few days from a hard delivery and birth, sat motionless - her face white and still, her eyes red and tired. This was their first child, a son. Our friends were two gentle, quiet, sensitive people we’d known in high school. They’d waited a long time for this baby. It was a simple graveside service. The wind was icy cold as our friends slipped their arms around each other so tightly their knuckles went white. Together, they quietly and graciously acknowledged each condolence, reserving their grief for solitude. I left that service with an urgency to thank God for the gift of my children.

Funerals and cemeteries remind us that life is fragile; each day is a gift. The older I get and the more funerals I attend, the more I realize how few people really care when someone dies. Without a close family and friends, one passing life doesn’t seem to create that much interest.

I am slowly learning what it means to live and love so that those around me will become heart of my heart and soul of my soul. What I desire most in this life is that those around me know I love them.

Life has taught me that love only fails me when I don’t give it. Sharing my love - whether or not it is returned - always fills me with peace and joy.

All real joy is in the moment. All true peace is in us. When we choose to love we experience a piece of heaven right here on earth.


One of the great blessings of having children for as long as you can is that you never run out of babies and children to love.  My husband and I hoped it would not be long between when our last child was born and when our first grandchild was born.  Our wish was granted. We only had to wait a few hours. My last child and my first grandchild were born only hours about.  My daughter and I were in the hospital together and we went home on the same day.

So my youngest children have the blessing of growing up surrounded by nieces and nephews their same age that they love and adore and those nieces and nephews love and adore them right back. 

Me, I feel like I have a foot in two generations.  I'm a grandmother to many and yet I'm still raising my own children.  I love the perspective it gives me.  I can't get too overly sentimental or judgemental because I'm still in the trenches but I also have the advantage of real life school.  I know from personal experience how quickly childhood passes. 

My youngest children John and Alisa are not growing up lonely even though their older brothers and sisters are much older than they.  They are surrounded with love. 

I thank God every day for the gift of children in my life.


Honoring the life of Benjamin Orton

My grandson Caleb's good friend died recently. Benjamin Orton and Caleb Moody share their love, their similar experience of living life without a functioning brain and families who have immensely treasured having these two celestial boys in their home.

My daughter April and her friend Emily (who also has a son with special needs) went to New Hampshire to attend the funeral and support Ben's mother and their dear friend Becky.

I feel so honored to know you Ben.  Thank you for being Caleb's friend.  We will miss you and the light you brought into our lives.  You life was short but rich.  Thank you for sharing your love with us.


Memorial Day Cemetery Visits

One of the tradtions we have in our family is to visit the Pioneer Cemetery in Spanish Fork on Memorial Day.  Then we take turns telling a story about one of our Pioneer ancestors. 
Another tradition we have is that we visit the graves of our parents/grandparents on Memorial Day.  Then we each take turns telling each other one happy or positive memory we have about our parents or grandparents.

More Funeral Wisdom

The only people who are truly happy are those who have learned to live for others. When we truly love others, we are perceptive about their relationship to their own lives and not overly concerned about their relationship to our lives. We love them because they exist, not because they earn it. Only God offers us unconditional love – the rest of us are just practicing. When we are filled with God’s love, we always have enough to share. What will really matter when we die – the kind of house we lived in, car we drove or how much money we had in the bank? No. Our lives will have meaning only if we’ve taken the time to truly love someone.

My husband and I like to go for walks around the cemetery. Looking at the markers is always good for personal perspective adjustments. I often stop and read the headstones. The limited space on the grave marker demands the surviving loved ones limit their descriptions of the departed to a few words like “loving mother” - “gentle husband” – “precious child.” What few words do we want to describe us? When I read the simple phases chiseled in the granite, I always leave with a clearer focus about what matters most. Our ability to love those closest to us will determine the quality of our life.

Who will hold us in their arms when we die? Who will care that we lived at all? Who will miss our presence? Why do we so often spend time on things that matter least instead of people who matter most? When we focus our time, energy and affection on people, we have the same priorities as our Creator.


Emily's Baptism Day and Andrew's Blessing Day

We had such a wonderful day in Roosevelt today.  It's not very often when you are able to see your granddaughter baptized and your grandson blessed on the same day!


More Baadsgaard Family Reunion 2010 Photos