Adversity and the Adversary

Note:  This post is referenced in this previous post where I said I would share the story about finding my Doctor.

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It has been almost two years to the day that I lay on my living room sofa in a complete pile of tears.  I had all but given up on finding the right medication and a good Dr. to take me on my journey to wellness.  I had been put on waiting list after waiting list to get in to see a psychiatrist.  I had a scheduled appointment, and the day before I was to see the Doctor I ended up back in the hospital following another manic episode.  The Dr. I was supposed to have seen said that since I was unable to make that appointment,  that I would be scheduled for another 6 weeks out.  I felt so beaten down and forgotten.  Why was God not helping me in this? Where was He when I needed Him the most?  And why am I so broken?  These were the questions that I asked myself over and over again.

My husband Joe, had come home to check on me during his lunch break.  He gave me the news that he was finally able to land me an appointment with a strongly referred psychiatrist…. for 6 weeks from that day!  I was torn, I knew this was a good thing but I was completely devastated that I had to wait so long.  I am not going to make it another 6 weeks I cried, I’ll end up in the hospital again, I just knew it.  Joe could see that I was near my breaking point.  We were both at a loss of what to do.  The adversary was working so hard on us, trying to break us down.  I think he knew that we were nearing the fork in the road where we would be required to make the choice of whether to try and do this all on our own or put our trust in the Savior  and let him carry us.

The Savior said: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30)

I know I’ve used that scripture previously but it describes so perfectly what I was experiencing, and what I needed to know.  And although at the time I was probably further from God than I had ever been, I also knew that he would hear my cries.  I think the important point to remember is that we all have our loads to bear.  Each one of us goes through hard things, each of us experience opposition and trials that can lead us away from God.  Or they can build and strengthen us if we will trust in His plan for us.

Elder David A. Bednar of the quorum of the twelve Apostles once stated, “Sometimes we mistakenly may believe that happiness is the absence of a load. But bearing a load is a necessary and essential part of the plan of happiness.”  Adversity, then, is essential to our success!

Joe calmly took my hand, and said I think we need to ask God for some help on this.  Can we pray? (This is my non-religious husband whom I had never seen pray before).  Of course, I said a resounding “yes, please pray for us!”  He then poured out his heart right there in front of our sofa.  I don’t really remember the exact words he used but I know that he truly pleaded with a true and honest heart that God would exercise his hand in our situation and somehow bring us peace and comfort and help us get through this hard trial that we were experiencing.  He closed the prayer and I felt a peaceful calm settle over me.  Joe went back to work and I fell into a deep sleep, which was unusual during that time because of my condition.  I awoke to my phone ringing about an hour or so later.  The woman on the line explained who she was, the receptionist of the highly referred Doctor that Joe had spoken with earlier, she explained that they had had a cancelation and knew that I was in desperate need to get in to see him.  “Could you be here at 8:30am tomorrow morning?”  “YES!”  I exclaimed, “I’ll be there.”  I hung up the phone and dropped to my knees,  I knew this was truly God’s hand working a miracle in our lives!

That phone call changed everything for me and for us.  We were now at least “on the journey” towards me becoming healthy again.  The Doctor turned out to be exactly who I needed and has helped me throughout the past couple of years to get and stay well.  However it has been, and continues to be, fraught with many obstacles along the way.  Once we chose to lean on God and get on the right path in that fork in the road the adversary started throwing fiery darts, it seemed, at every turn.  We are told in the Book of Mormon that there is opposition in all things  “It must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, … righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad” (2 Nephi 2:11; see also verse 15).

Although trials come, we must remember that opposition permits us to grow, it strengthens us it helps us to learn to trust God even more and to …lean not unto our own understanding Proverbs 3:5.  And let Him direct our path!  Because even though we may think we have a great plan.  He sees more and His plan is better for us!

President Henry B. Eyring stated in the October 2017 General Conference address “… as much as we have already built faith and courage in our hearts, the Lord expects more from us—and from the generations after us. They will need to be stronger and braver because they will do even greater and harder things than we have done. And they will face increasing opposition from the enemy of our souls.”

So we see that the obstacles that the adversary throws at us our necessary so far as we are leaning toward and trusting in the Lord to guide us through these obstacles.  Life is not easy, it was not meant to be easy.  As Elder Bednar stated. “Happiness is not the absence of a load…”.  It’s what and how we deal with that load that really matters.

Joe and I were recently commenting about the length of this trial and how we just didn’t think it would take “so long” haha.  But I can honestly say that without experiencing the ups and downs of these past few years, we would not have grown so close to our Savior.  We would not know God the way we do now.  We would be floundering wondering which way to turn and how to move forward.  But through the strength of our Savior and  Redeemer we have learned that we CAN have happiness even amongst the loads!

Choices and Change

Our lives are full of change.  It’s the one variable that we can always depend on no matter what.  From the minute we are born, our lives are in a constant state of change and it’s part of God’s plan for us.  But in that Change, there are a lot of choices to be made by  each of us.  We are met with choices every single minute of every single day!  So how do we know how to make the right choices for us to bring forth the change that is intended by God for us in our journey?  

Our lives are full of change.  It’s the one variable that we can always depend on no matter what.  From the minute we are born, our lives are in a constant state of change and it’s part of God’s plan for us.  But in that Change, there are a lot of choices to be made by  each of us.  We are met with choices every single minute of every single day!  So how do we know how to make the right choices for us to bring forth the change that is intended by God for us in our journey?  For me it really comes down to two categories; One, what are we willing to sacrifice for our salvation, what changes are we willing to make?  And two, what choices will we be willing to make in order to get where God wants us to be?

Over the past several years my husband and I have been in a constant state of change and upheaval in our lives.  We have had to make many choices along this journey that we never thought we would be confronted with.  Sacrifices that have been required in order to move closer to where we need to be.  We have felt like we are on a raging sea at times, where you can’t see the bow of the boat for the waves that are coming over the top.  But then at other times, the waters seem calm and serene pushing us along steadily in the direction we are meant to go.  It is a trip not met without some sea sickness, lol, and a lot of opposition which makes change and choices for that matter, even harder.  But through it all, I have found that one of the most important ways that we can learn to calm the waves and make those tough decisions is to rely even more heavily upon our savior.  In the Book of Mormon (another testament of Jesus Christ) we read:

Alma 38:9

And now, my son, I have told you this that ye may learn wisdom, that ye may learn of me that there is no other way or means whereby man can be saved, only in and through Christ. Behold, he is the life and the light of the world. Behold, he is the word of truth and righteousness.

Our Savior will never, ever lead us astray.  If we pray to him with our full hearts, with real intent, He will show us the direction that we need to go.  And even though, through those choices comes much change we are able to withstand those changes because he will make are burdens become light and our weaknesses become strong.

Ether 12: 27

27 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… (also found in the Book of Mormon)

Did you catch that first sentence?  And if men come unto me…  We are the ones that need to do the walking here.   It is us that walk away from Christ and it us that walk toward Christ.  We are the ones that make that critical choice!  That is so important to understand.  So many times we can be caught saying why me, why this, why now?  And to be clear, I’m not saying that there aren’t many things that reach beyond our control.  Most certainly there are many!  But how we choose to face those changes along this journey that we call life, is so important when realizing the sacrifices that we have been required to make.  There is always a purpose in God’s plan for us.

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The one thing that is so great about choices is that if chosen carefully and with our salvation in mind.  We can literally feel our lives being molded by our maker and that’s not always a comfortable place to be.  Change never is.  In fact being uncomfortable is part of his plan for us.  It’s the only way that we truly grow and become stronger more capable individuals.  So I challenge you to get uncomfortable today!  Make that your choice, “I will do something today that will bring me closer to where God wants me to be”.  And then prepare yourself for the molding and the change that will take place.  And remember, God doesn’t make mistakes!  Move forward with faith!

What being “away” from the church taught me.

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I never considered myself in-active or “less active”, because to me, that meant that you had left the church.  That meant that you had denounced your faith in some way, which I never felt like I did.  However, I did step “away” from the church for a few years.  I had just gotten divorced and I’ll admit that I was really struggling with a lot of what it meant to be a member of the LDS church.  How could this happen to me?  I was married in the temple.  Things seemed to be going so well.  Was it a lack of faith?  Was it a lack of desire?  Was it complacency? Was it loneliness?  What was it exactly, that made me want to distance myself from all that I had known?  I was born and raised in the church.  I did what all my friends did, and most members that I knew.   Grew up, married a returned missionary, got married in the temple, had a family, and then lived happily ever after, right?!  So what had happened to my happily ever after?

The thing is, leaving the church, or stepping “away” from the church, your faith, your testimony, all that you have ever known to be true, doesn’t happen overnight!  It is a slow process that happens seemingly, without you even noticing until one day you’ve done it.  You are “away” from the church.  You don’t attend, or study or maybe even pray anymore (although I think prayer tends to be something you continue even when you are away.  Or at least you try).  You don’t practice your religion anymore.  And members of the church who know you and hear about it, think “it’s really sad”.   You are essentially known as a “less active” or an  inactive member.  I remember referring to myself as, ” no longer practicing”.  But really what you’re saying is a veiled way to say “I no longer have a testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel, therefore I have stepped “away” for a while to figure things out.” I had somehow lost my way… “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matt. 7:13–14)

The ironic part is that at first it feels very freeing!  I remember saying on many occasions, “I’m happier than I’ve ever been, and I just can’t reconcile that it coincides with my being away from the church”.  Honestly, I never thought it would happen to me.  I did everything I was supposed to do, everything that I had been taught all those years growing up.  Sure I made my share of mistakes, as does everyone.  But I had tried to be diligent in all that I had learned through the years after my temple marriage.  Holding many different callings, while raising my little family in the gospel, going to the temple, studying my scriptures and going to church.  I was keeping my covenants, and praying.  I was doing everything, wasn’t I?  Or was I?

Truthfully, I have to admit that my temple attendance wasn’t where it should have been.  I wasn’t really reading my scriptures as much as I should have.  And I probably had become redundant in my prayers…. And I am sure there were many other “little” things.  I don’t really know exactly how it happened because it all happened SO slowly.  And the scary part is, that it can happen to ANYONE! I’m hoping that by sharing my experience it can be a voice of warning.

In Matthew we read: Enter ye in at the strait gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction and many there be which go in thereat. (Matt. 7:12) It seemed so much easier to be on the path that I was now on.

But then, that is how the opposition works right? One little flaxen cord at a time.  Like a big giant fluffy, feather, gently coaxing you.  “You don’t need to read your scriptures tonight, you’ve worked so hard all day and you’re tired.  You can get to it tomorrow.”

Go ahead buy that dress that isn’t really long enough for your temple garment… it’s so cute and you’ve worked so hard to look good.”  One more little feather.

It’s ok to miss church today.  Since you got divorced, no one really cares anyway.”  One more little feather gently waving and caressing you away.  It feels so good to be free, you say!  But little do you know how hard Satan is working on you!  All of those “little tiny feathers” are turning into a very tightly woven cord, and you are being led along without even realizing it.

Joseph B. Wirthlin of the quorum of the twelve apostles stated, “We get sidetracked by submitting to temptations that divert us past the bounds of safety. Satan knows our weaknesses. He puts attractive snares on our paths at just those moments when we are most vulnerable. His intent is to lead us from the way that returns us to our Heavenly Father.”

After a while I was so comfortable with the way that I was living my life that I began to think I no longer needed religion in my life.  I no longer needed the church or a testimony or to be “bound” down by callings and church attendance. I had entered in at the wide gate and it felt good to be just like everyone else!

And then something began to happen…. I NEEDED God.  I NEEDED the church.  I NEEDED the priesthood.  I NEEDED my testimony! I NEEDED all of it! And how had that happened? Yep, you guessed it, SO SLOWLY!  Little seeds were being planted along the way until all of sudden it was unmistakeable!  You can see my post “living with bi-polar” for some of the story but I will definitely write more about all of the little experiences that happened in between in upcoming posts.  But lucky for us, one thing that God never does, is give up on his children!  No not one.

“How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?

“And if it so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.” (Matt. 18:12–13.)

Luckily, God’s angels both here and on the other side are working just as hard if not harder to get you back!  And now that I am back, I am so thankful for that.  I know that there were many prayers and fasts that went out in my behalf.  Many times my name was probably written in the roles of the temple.  Many tears that were cried for my salvation, and many angels that were working from the other side to influence me.

So why am I writing about this?  It’s not exactly an easy subject to approach.  People leave the church for all different reasons.  There is nothing special or singular about my situation or why I left.  At least that is what I thought.  But the truth is, I believe it IS similar for most people, in that it happens SO slowly.  One small act at a time.  One small thought at a time.  One small step at a time.  And before you know it, you hear yourself saying…”I’m not sure I’ve ever had a testimony”,  “I’m really not sure if the church IS true after all”.  and “I’m happier than I’ve ever been without it!”

I think what I am trying to say and what I have been prompted to write is that you have to keep The whole Armor of God on! See Ephesians 6:10-18  Not just sometimes…. ALL THE TIME.  ALL DAY, EVERY DAY!  You must to do all the little things EVERY DAY!  Sometimes more than just once a day.  You MUST keep yourself unspotted from the world.  You must live IN the world but not be OF the world.  If you are like me you’ve heard that statement a million times growing up in the church! But it has never been more true or more important than it is today.  In The Book Of Mormon (another testament of Jesus Christ) Mormon Chapter 8  gives us insight into today’s world, Moroni says he has seen our day, and it includes wars and rumors of wars, great pollutions, murders, robbing, and people who tell us that there is no right or wrong in God’s eyes. He describes people who are filled with pride, caught up in the wearing of expensive clothing, and who make fun of religion. He is shown people who are so obsessed with worldly things that they allow “the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to pass by”3 without being noticed.  

But we should not despair,  it is the Lord’s way that will lead us to life eternal!

The prophet David O. Mckay taught: Christ is the light to humanity. In that light man sees his way clearly; when it is rejected, the soul of man stumbles in darkness. No person, no group, no nation can achieve true success without following him who said:

“I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” (John 8:12.)

Has my life gotten easier since I came back to the church?  In some ways yes, and in some ways no.  In reality it has actually been a really hard road.  Quite like a roller coaster, lol.  My family and I have had to go through a lot of things physically, spiritually and mentally that I never thought we would have to go through. But that is how we grow, that is how we become stronger and better people.  We don’t grow by being in a comfortable spot where there is nothing changing, no growth. However, through it all I have no doubt that my Savior is with me, that he is my advocate to the Father! I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.  Philippians 4:13 

I am also comforted to know that I need not fear for He is with me, I know where and how to to find the peace that only He can give.

Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Doctrine and Covenants 88:63

I am confident that as I purposefully follow the commandments that I will not be led astray again.  Elder David A. Bednar of the quorum of the twelve Apostles has been known to say, “If you read the Book of Mormon every day, you will never fall away”.  If you’ve gotten this far I commend you and if you have learned anything I hope you will realize that my story can happen to anyone!  That you can NEVER take your membership in this gospel for granted!  It truly is a gift!  A gift that is meant to be shared with others!

 

 

It Takes Courage to have Balance

I have been thinking a lot about balance lately.  Being diagnosed with Bi-Polar almost 2 years ago now, has definitely been a learning and growing process.  I used to just try to be Super Woman all the time.  I would throw more and more things on my plate and if someone asked me to do something else, I couldn’t say no (can you say mania? haha).  If my plate was loaded and I had no extra seconds in the day then I wouldn’t have to deal with the down side of my life.  I would try to stay so busy that I didn’t have time to think about it…

balance

I have been thinking a lot about balance lately.  Being diagnosed with Bi-Polar almost 2 years ago now, has definitely been a learning and growing process.  I used to just try to be Super Woman all the time.  I would throw more and more things on my plate and if someone asked me to do something else, I couldn’t say no (can you say mania? haha).  If my plate was loaded and I had no extra seconds in the day then I wouldn’t have to deal with the down side of my life.  I would try to stay so busy that I didn’t have time to think about it.

I was always running way faster than I had the strength to do.  I was afraid, yes afraid, of what might happen if I let my guard down for half a second.  Where would I be?  How would things work out?  If I didn’t do it, who would etc., etc….. And then I crashed…. and it wasn’t pretty or fun for me or my family or anyone else.  It was scary and foreign and something that unfortunately, would happen again.  Luckily, not too often, but I have had to go through that process several times.  And it has definitely been a learning and growing process.  Finally being diagnosed (and accepting that diagnosis), was a major step forward for me.  And I giant leap towards achieving balance in my life.

One of the things that I have realized about Bi-Polar and, it makes sense really, is that you have to maintain a pretty steady balance.  You don’t want too get to far to the high, energetic, motivational, hyper, side.  And yet you want to stay away from the low, depressed, bored, emotional side.  And apparently, from my experience it takes a lot of courage to do that.  Especially in today’s world of social media mania!  It’s crazy how we are programmed to think, through social media, that we have to do all, be all, make all, spend all, and not drive ourselves crazy while doing it.  Because…. everybody is doing  it right?  So why shouldn’t we?

I have to think about this from a Bi-Polar stand point.  But as I examined it more closely, I realized that it is not just a Bi-Polar problem.  Yes, it is a bit harder for me to find my balance and stay there, and medication is required.  However, you can be completely normal (not mentally ill, lol) to suffer from this “condition” of having to overload your plate and not have any down time.  But down time is good! It is really, really good! Haha, who knew?  I was so busy trying to stay busy that I didn’t even know how to do down time!

That’s where the courage comes in! That may sound trite, but it’s true.  If you are so busy all the time and you never make time for down time.  Or you feel like you have to be a certain way to be “enough”.  Then being thrown into a whole new way of life that just doesn’t feel “right”, that takes a lot of courage.  So then, to not be thrown in to it, and to stop looking around at others and what they are doing, to try and gauge what your life should look like, well that takes courage too.  To let the calm be ok.  To be able to “be still” and be ok with that.  That takes courage!  And what we find therein is the “balance”.  We have to have down time to match the busy.  We have to have calm to recognize the crazy and that’s hard sometimes.  But so necessary to maintaining or finding a balance in our lives.

I guess you could say that I have grown to love this new me.  It’s a lot different from the old one.  And sometimes I feel a little uncomfortable in my own skin.  But I’m definitely liking the feeling of being “enough”.  Crazy that it took a mental illness to make me feel complete.  The Lord works in mysterious ways.  And sometimes we just need to trust that he knows what he’s doing and “be still”.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. 

For as the Heavens are higher than the Earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts, than your thoughts.  Isaiah 55:8-9 

courage

Feed my Sheep

Feed My Sheep

Over and over again this thought has come to my mind in the last month.  I will pray and ask God, “Is there anything you would have me do or know?”  And inevitably the answer comes “Feed My Sheep”.  So of course it has been at the forefront of my mind, wondering exactly how he wants me to “Feed his Sheep”.   And then I walked into church on Sunday and wouldn’t you know it,  there were little sheep everywhere, lol.  Not real sheep of course, but the decorations that we had for our special Mother’s Day lesson was entitled, you guessed it, “Feed my Sheep”.    Super cute too!  You know how those mormon women like to decorate for everything, haha!

Anyway, that made me think that I am certainly not the only one that is feeling that prodding and poking to share the word of God with others.  I suppose that is what all of this means.  That He wants us to share his word with all that we come into contact with.   So how do we do that?

Certainly much of what we do is by example.  Matthew 8:14-16 reads:

14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.

15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

If we are to look at our children or children that we come into contact with through various means, how do they learn?  How do they grow?  It is by watching those who have gone before them.  Learning their way from those who have already learned.   That is why we grow up in a family unit, go to school, or to church, or are drawn to others.  It is because of that urgency to learn more, to grow, to experience life. We can not learn all things all at once.  we teach the way our Father taught us, it is ... line upon line, precept upon precept.  Here a little and there a little.  Isaiah 28: 10 . 

And again we read in 2 Nephi 28:30 For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little;  

This is how God wants us to teach and this is how God wants us to learn.

Another way that we “Feed his Sheep”  is through love.  President Thomas S. Monson taught “As we arise each morning, let us determine to respond with love and kindness to whatever might come our way.”  

When a lawyer asked Jesus which of the commandments was the greatest, He could have chosen any of the many commandments from the Old Testament, from the law of Moses, or from the Ten Commandments. Instead, He summarized all of the commandments in these two:

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  “This is the first and great commandment.  “And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” Matthew 22:37–39).

I remember a time when I had a newborn son in the NICU.  It was grueling days at the hospital, hoping to see signs of improvement.  I had 3 other children that had to be cared for at home.  But all I wanted to do was be with my newborn son and comfort and love on him.  I wanted him to come home with me.  Every day I would plead with the Lord to make my son whole so that I could bring him home.  He only spent 12 days there, but that gave me a whole new appreciation for those that spend weeks and months there.  It is not an easy feat by any means.  However, I was shown so much love through that experience.

I will never forget those who took my children so I could be at the hospital, or the many meals that were brought in so I didn’t have to worry about dinner.  Or the church members that came to the rescue and gave priesthood blessings when it didn’t look like he was going to make it.  But one of the acts of kindness and love, I remember the most was probably one of the smallest, but it meant so much to me.

One of my neighbors brought an Easter Lily and left it on my porch.  It was not in bloom yet… maybe just one or two were blooming.  But she had left the kindest note and mentioned that maybe each day when I got home another bloom would be out, reminding me that it is the small steps that my son was making each day that would get him home.  She said, “by the time these Easter Lilies are in full bloom, maybe he will get to come home.”  It meant so much to me that she put some thought into something so small, but that would come to mean so much to me over the years.  He did come home (he’s 22 now!) and the Easter Lilies were in full bloom and it was glorious.  The smell of them always reminds me of that time in my life when I thought my world was spinning out of control.  But it was one of his faithful servants just … responding with love and kindness to whatever came her way.   To this day, I still LOVE Easter Lilies!

 These are not the only ways, for there are many, many ways that we can love, serve, and teach others.  But know that the smallest act of love are a symbol of the love that we have for God.  John 21:15-17 

15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.

16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

Remember that most of the ways that we “Feed his Sheep” are by the small and seemingly insignificant acts, like the Easter Lily, that help someone feel loved, cared for and appreciated.  I hope that today you will find a way to… respond with love and kindness to whatever comes your way.