About a dozen years ago, my best friend went through a difficult time. It was actually more than just difficult; as the miscarriages added up, they seemed to obscure everything else and take over her life. We had lived together for several years in college, but we had graduated, gotten married, started our families, and now lived more than a thousand miles apart. We’d talk on the phone a couple of times a month, but I never knew what to say. I called because I loved her and I knew I needed to, but it always took a certain amount of pysching myself up to pick up the phone. She felt powerless. I felt helpless. I didn’t know whether to listen or to offer advice, and I was always sure I was going to stick my foot in my mouth. And then there was the fact that while we both had toddler sons, I had gone on to have a daughter as well. I think it was hard for both of us not to retreat from the friendship. When I got pregnant with my third child, telling her was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
In the years since that time, I’ve talked with friends about their unhappy marriages, and given (probably bad) advice from the point of view of my own solid union. I’ve chatted online with a friend whose son was dying while my own houseful of sons created chaos at my feet. I’ve tried to listen sympathetically to unmarried friends, while staring at the diamond on my own ring finger. In each case, there was absolutely nothing I could do to fix the situation, and listening didn’t feel like enough.
Right now, someone I’m close to is going through a hard time financially. My own family enjoys enough affluence to be comfortable, but not enough to make their problems go away. And even the daily, easy interactions we used to have (“What did you do this weekend?”) feel charged (“Dinner and the Ira Glass concert, how about you?”). I think we’ve both retreated from our relationship, and I know that it’s hard for me because I just feel so darn guilty. In Mosiah 4 we learn that we’re supposed to impart our substance with those that need it, without judgment, and that makes me worry that we’re prioritizing piano lessons and date nights above the more serious needs of our friends.
How have you helped friends through difficult situations, especially when your own life seems relatively easy by comparison? How do you resist the urge to retreat and manage not to stick your foot in your mouth? How do you know how much to help? How do you know when you’re “mourning with those that mourn” and not just making things harder for them?
Natasha is a Kiwi, born of English parents, married to a South African, living in Australia, and reckons that her take on life is probably about as screwed up as her accent. She considers cake and chocolate to be two essential parts of a well balanced life, and is often called a cow by her best friend in between mouthfuls and much laughter.
Am I a cow?
It’s a fair question if you’re me.
I’ve never been the type of friend who tells you your dress is gorgeous when it’s obviously highlighting every bit of flab on your body.
I’ll never tell you the man you’re dating is wonderful if you’ve clearly lowered your standards to date him solely because you’re lonely.
And I’ll never just sit back and watch you make decisions in your life that will take you on a path away from Heavenly Father without telling you in no uncertain terms that you are being an idiot.
So does that me a cow? Before you decide, hear me out. Continue reading
Disclaimer: Admittedly, I am on a soapbox today. I find myself completely unapologetic about that.
I’m not in the habit of rewriting scripture, but there is a particular verse in James to which I would like to take my red pen:
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (James 1:27)
I still remember the time a divorcée who had just moved into my ward called my house and asked for my husband. I don’t remember what exactly she needed, except that she needed a priesthood bearer, she had already met my husband, he gave her our number, and she thought to call him. I didn’t give it a second thought until later, after I met her myself, when she explained to me that some people do give it a second thought and aren’t entirely comfortable associating (or particularly allowing their husbands to associate) with divorcées.
I had no idea. Continue reading
Over the last year, our ward leadership has made several calls for increased reverence. I admit that I am a repeat offender. I am not one to stay in a row where planted. I do understand the value of quiet devotion. One of my favorite psalms admonishes me to “Be still and know that I am God.” When I actually unplug from the world around me and train my attention towards that which transcends my household chores, I do feel an otherworldly peace.
Sometimes this happens by design during the passing of the sacrament or during a talk from the pulpit. But I also believe that small, unscripted moments at church have power to transform lives. While at the church building, I delight in observing my brothers and sisters connect meaningfully with each other in the halls and stalls.
“Remember who you are.”
My siblings and I did not leave the house for a date or social activity without hearing those words from my father. I believe it was a tradition handed down from his parents and was just as much a reminder to honor the family name as to be mindful of the name we take upon ourselves every Sunday. Being teenagers, we were likely oblivious to the full significance of both meanings. But there was still a power in those words and in the love we felt behind them.
Now, some thirty years later, I often find myself surrounded by even louder voices trying to make me forget who I am. Continue reading