Monday, August 24, 2015

Family Miracles

Today in Primary, sharing time was about Doctrine and Covenants 63:9--"But behold, faith cometh not by signs, but signs follow those that believe." Sister Thompson talked and gave personal and scriptural examples of how having faith precedes miracles. She told the kids that in every family, there are miracles that come from faith and prayer, and encouraged everyone to go home and have a discussion about what miracles families have seen.

It got me thinking about the day Eli was born. I know I've talked about how miraculous it was before, but there's a part II to that miracle. Here is the original post about his birth. To sum up, I had a very healthy pregnancy until week 37, when I started having pain under my ribcage. Eventually it got to the point where I couldn't even stand. I stopped going to work and started going to the hospital every day, saying, "Something is wrong." They would run all kinds of tests and, every day for a week they sent me home saying, "You're fine. It's pregnancy. Nothing is wrong." Soon, they were sending me home after giving me Morphine shots/IV treatments because I was in SO. MUCH. PAIN.

You can imagine Spencer and I were praying every day that the pain would go away, or we'd be able to find a solution. Most of all we were praying for safety for the baby. FINALLY, we went to the hospital one morning at 2am because I literally thought I was dying. They decided to do an ultrasound this time and realized, "hey, she is actually dying!" I was in liver failure. They immediately got to work delivering Eli and treating my HELLP syndrome. Eventually I got better.

My doctor was shocked that I had HELLP because none of the symptoms I had were common to that diagnosis. That's why it took them so long to figure it out. It was a miracle that everything worked out the way it did.

But here is Part II of that miracle, that we learned from my doctor a few weeks after Eli was born. 

Two weeks after my HELLP scare, a woman in the last month of her pregnancy went to the hospital with pain under her ribcage saying, "Something is wrong." The staff ran all kinds of tests, and tried to send her home, saying, "You're fine. It's pregnancy. Nothing is wrong." But before she went home, they called her doctor. Who also happened to be my doctor. They told Dr. McCarter there was a woman there with a lot of pain under her ribcage and he said, "It's HELLP. Prep her for an emergency C-section right now." The nurses protested saying, "No really, it isn't HELLP. She doesn't have any of those symptoms."

But Dr. McCarter said, "No, you listen. It's HELLP. This exact same thing happened two weeks ago. Emergency C-section. Now." They delivered that woman's baby and everything worked out fine.

I love this experience because it really taught me something about how the Lord works. Every thing we experience in this life has a purpose. Our experiences may prepare us for things in our future, or they might happen to us so that we can help others.

Having HELLP was so hard and so scary. It was definitely a trial. But Spencer and I knew that through our faith and prayers, we were blessed with health and safety. It's also amazing to know that my doctor learned something through our experience that helped him bless the lives of another family. It's miraculous, really.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Come, be in my tribe.

I just read an inspiring post from Scary Mommy (read it, it's so good) with this same title and immediately thought of the women in my ward. It's been years since I've been in a "tribe" outside of my family. My social hesitation, anxiety, career, and little family have kept me from reaching outside of myself and comfort zone. For years I've been content to limit my interactions with others to fairly superficial relationships.

But the women in my ward have slowly been knocking down my walls. Through visiting teaching, conversations at church, watching over my child, and asking for help, they've taught me the importance of having a tribe. 

Over the past year I've had so many positive interactions with the women in my ward and their families. Then, a few months ago, it hit me. I've been denying myself (and now Eli) something that is so important to the soul: friends. I'm not going to do that to myself or my family any longer! It isn't always easy for me, but I'm trying so hard to reach out to others (and allow them to reach me in return)! So, thanks to all those who have reached out patiently to me :) I am trying to reflect your good examples. Come, be in my tribe. 

"What greater gift dost thou bestow, what greater goodness can we know, than Christlike friends, whose gentle ways, strengthen our faith, enrich our days."
Each Life That Touches Ours for Good #293

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Why I Prefer the Term "Mental Illness"

I know there are many people who don't like the term "mental illness" because of the negative stigma associated with it. I'm not writing this to try and convince people that using "mental illness" is the way to go, I'm just writing my thought on why I prefer that term over others.

An illness is a period of sickness affecting the body and mind. If I have a mental illness, that means it can get better! Maybe I won't be cured, but I can improve.

An illness is something you have, not something you are. Calling my anxiety an illness helps me to know that I am NOT defined by my anxiety. It is not part of my personality. It is an illness I have. My experiences help shape my personality and define me, but the mental illness itself has no bearing on my spirit and the person I am trying to become.

An illness is something that goes away when you are resurrected. I don't think that I will suffer from severe anxiety or depression after I am resurrected. Maybe my spirit will still have anxious tendencies, I don't know how that works. But I do know that after resurrection, I won't need to take medicine to function day to day.

An illness is socially acceptable. Sure, when people are sick we want to stay away from them, but it's not like we think in our head, "Wow, Natalie has the flu?? She must have some serious problems. She must not be a very good person."So if anxiety is a mental illness, no one should think less of us.

Finally, when I am having a panic attack, or feeling particularly anxious one day/week/month, I don't feel right. I don't feel normal or good. I feel sick. Just in the way someone with a physical illness feels sick and knows they aren't functioning normally, I feel sick and know that I am not functioning normally.

If I start thinking of anxiety as anything other than a mental illness, I forget that it doesn't define me. I start thinking that it's part of who I am, it's something to be ashamed of.

So yeah, I know that all seems backwards. But calling anxiety a mental illness helps me know that I can still be okay.

Friday, October 24, 2014

On Being Brave

Although my general anxiety has been getting better, I still have pretty intense social anxiety. There are 3 situations where I feel comfortable: school, with our families, and any situation where Spencer is standing beside me initiating conversation. Pretty sad.

During the past week, part of my social anxiety wall has disappeared. I've actually initiated some conversations with people in our ward, without Spencer standing beside me! I even started these conversations without writing a script in my head first. This is so out of the ordinary for me. Definitely not normal (for me)!

Yesterday after I had a conversation with our upstairs neighbor, Spencer said, "Wow, you're getting brave!" and I was soooo proud of myself. I felt brave! I felt normal for once in my life. I felt capable of actually talking to people!

And then I started thinking, how sad. How sad that I'm over-the-moon-proud of myself for having a 10 second conversation. I'm obviously not normal if I am celebrating something like this. Something people do every day without a second thought!

And then I got the heck off that mind train!!

I started a new mind train.

How GREAT! How awesome that I am overcoming my fears! How incredible that I am actually forming relationships with people around me! I'm obviously changing and defeating my inner demons! I am getting brave. And I'm proud of it!

So to whoever is reading this, be brave for you. It doesn't matter what you think "normal" looks like. What matters is that you're happy for your own accomplishments, no matter how small they may seem!

We had another roller blade adventure down the Provo River Trail. Don't let Eli's face fool you...he loved it. 

Monday, October 13, 2014


Today I met with Matthew K Money for the first time since he removed the bandage after my thyroid surgery 18 months ago. I didn't expect to feel so emotional about seeing him again. Like I mentioned in my last post, I was SO excited to tell him how far I've come since he helped me. Telling him all the ways he helped our little family made me so grateful for him. I got in the car after my appointment and just cried and cried I was so happy.

I was pretty sure I had all the symptoms of thyroid problems, but my blood work looked fine so most doctors thought I was fine. Dr. Money was the first one who really listened to me and believed there was a problem.

When I went in for surgery, I was having a major panic attack. I convinced myself I didn't need surgery. I told the nurses who were prepping me for surgery that I NEEDED to talk to Dr. Money before I would let them do anything to get me ready. Even though he was still at the office, Dr. Money came to the hospital early to talk to me. He definitely didn't coddle me, but he told me what I needed to hear :)

Post-surgery, my anxiety and depression is 100x better. It's obviously not gone, but I can function now :) Which wasn't possible for the months leading up to surgery.

We've had a baby! I honestly don't think I would have been able to get pregnant with all my thyroid problems.

I am so grateful for modern medicine! I know that Heavenly Father led Spencer and I to Dr. Money.


Sunday, October 12, 2014


This is another post about anxiety. I've been wanting to write this post all week, but I've also been scared to write it. It scares me to open up about these things because I'm a grown woman. I have a job and other responsibilities. People depend on me for things! I don't want people to read this and think that my anxieties make me less capable of fulfilling all that I am asked to do.

I finally decided to write this post because I'm trying so hard to erase the stigma that anxiety and depression is something to be ashamed about. When I keep quiet, I'm telling myself I should be ashamed. I'm not keeping quiet any more!! I am still capable of fulfilling my responsibilities. I am still a wonderful person!!

There are two previous blog posts I need to reference: my thoughts on my favorite Book of Mormon story, the Jaredites traveling to the promised land, and my thoughts on overcoming anxiety and depression the first time. 

On Monday night, I started feeling like I was having a heart attack. My heart was pounding and I couldn't breathe. I knew it wasn't a heart attack, so I went to bed. When I woke up Tuesday morning, I felt like I was being crushed by anxiety. It felt like I was having a panic attack. All I wanted to do was stay home and cuddle my baby, so I got a sub so I could stay at home. The feeling didn't go away. I was hopeful that it was just something about that day. Tuesdays are my hardest day at school, so I thought maybe for some reason I had a lot of anxiety that particular Tuesday. I thought for sure I would wake up Wednesday and the feeling would be gone. I have come SO far in terms of anxiety, I thought there was NO WAY I was slipping down that slope again.

Wednesday I woke up to the same feelings of a panic attack. It made me so sad. I spent the whole morning crying, regaining my composure, and crying again. I was so sad that it seemed as though I was sliding back into anxiety. That was the hardest time of my life! I did NOT want to go through that again. Not with a sweet baby who relies on me! Not with a husband who has already nursed me through a dark time! Not with a wonderful job that I love! Not with sweet girls who I love to play with every morning! I spent the morning praying to the Lord to steer me away from this trial again.

While Eli took his morning nap, I decided to read the scriptures. After I read a chapter, I felt prompted to read the parts of the October Ensign I hadn't read yet. I flipped through until I found an article I had missed the first time.

Oh. My. Goodness. This particular moment was an incredible, direct answer to my pleadings to the Lord. The article is called Upon the Top of the Waters. It is written by a man who had a season of life where he struggled with anxiety. THAT'S ME! This brother even quoted Ether 6 and made the same connections I have made to the Jaredites! ME AGAIN! Then, at the very end of the article, he says this:

"For now, a few years after this experience, my winds of anxiety are no longer gusting and my waves of depression have ceased to bury me. But if and when the tempest returns, I will call upon the Lord and be thankful, knowing that calm seas don’t carry barges to the promised land—stormy seas do."

That hit me so hard. I have talked and talked about what a wonderful blessing my struggle with anxiety has been. It's blessed my relationship with the Lord, my relationship with my husband, strengthened my testimony, helped me relate to others, etc. But when the winds returned, I forgot about my blessings and focused instead on how hard the trial was. Isn't it funny how that happens?

I am so grateful that the Lord is mindful of me and directed me to something that helped me regain perspective. I don't know what is going to happen with my anxiety. I am going to do what I can to stay grounded, but I now remember that the Lord is blessing me with trials that will only lead me toward the Promised Land.

I go to see Matthew K Money tomorrow. I'm excited to see him and tell him all the things I've accomplished since he took out half of my thyroid. But I'm scared he'll tell me that I need surgery to put tubes in my ears (seriously, at 25, who needs tubes??). I'm even more scared that the reappearance of my anxiety means I'll need the other half of my thyroid removed. But I have an increased resolve to remember the Lord is in charge, He is mindful, and the winds and waves of life will bring us closer to Him if we let them.

Spencer is so good to me. He helps me remember that I need to stay active, get out of  the house and DO things, even when I'm feeling down. ESPECIALLY when I'm feeling down. We went rollerblading yesterday :)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Today's Tender Mercies

In his talk titled “The Tender Mercies of the Lord,” Elder Bednar says: “the Lord’s tender mercies are the very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving-kindnesses, consolation, support, and spiritual gifts which we receive from and because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ.”

1 Nephi 1:20 "...I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance."

Spencer and I had an incredible day today! After church, we came home and ate dinner together (just the two of us, because both our families are out of town). After dinner, we left to visit my favorite Bishop, whom I haven't seen in two years!

As we were about to turn onto State Street, we noticed there were a bunch of lights flashing on our dashboard. I had the great idea to turn the car off, then back on to see if the lights went away (hey, it's worked before!!). Of course, the car wouldn't turn back on. Spencer got out of the car to tell the people behind us to drive around because our car was dead. The car behind us just happened to be filled with men, so they hopped out and helped Spence push the car to the side of the road!

Before we even had a chance to get out of the car, we noticed someone pulling up behind us. It was a couple from our ward! They saw we were having car trouble and stopped to help. We asked them to take us to Grandma and Grandpa Elison's since it was close, and we'd figure something out from there. 

When we got to G&Gs, the house was empty and we tried to decide what to do. We didn't want to go buy and install a new battery on Sunday, and we obviously didn't want to leave the car on the side of state street. After talking to my dad, we decided to have a tow truck come and take the car to our friends at Midas. 

Meanwhile, I texted Bishop Jensen to tell him we wouldn't be able to make it to visit tonight. He was asking what we were going to do about the car, and when I said we would get it towed he said, "I'll come tow it!" I didn't know it was that easy to tow a car, but I know he has a giant truck so he convinced me. 

While we waited for Bishop Jensen, it started pouring rain and the power went out. Of course!

Bishop and Sister Jensen came to G&Gs to pick us up. Of course Bishop got out of the car with a big neck brace on! I was thinking, no way am I going to let you tow the car in that state. Luckily, we didn't have to tow the car! It miraculously started and made it to Midas. After we dropped it off, Bishop and Sister Jensen took us home so we could pick up the car we were borrowing from my parents. It was great that we had another car to use! 

Even though we didn't get a traditional visit with the Jensens, it was so fun to talk with them while we were driving around. We have been blessed by their service, not only tonight but through the years. 

To end the night, we drove back to my grandparents house. They were home and we were able to have a good visit. 

It felt like such a crazy night! It was full of tender mercies and we are so grateful for everyone who was placed in our path to help us out. What a night!

Eli got to hang out with his namesakes! 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

My Problem with Pinterest

I don't want this to be long, but I think it will be. I don't  know the best way to write down my thoughts, which will probably result in verbosity. 

Before anyone starts thinking I'm about to get hypocritical, let's put everything out in the open: I use Pinterest. However, I do not like Pinterest. I used to loooove it (look at all these ideas to make my classroom/teaching/cooking/wifeing/homemaking/relationshipping/mothering THE BEST IN THE WORLD!). 

Pinterest is ruining us. I don't think I'm exaggerating. 

I read an article on KSL a few months ago about food. You know how people take "food selfies?" It was talking about that--how we are exposed to good looking food every where we turn: we see amazing looking dishes on Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, you name it. Our friends' food always looks SO good. Then, when we go to make the dish we've just seen, or when we attempt to eat our own meal, our satisfaction with what we're eating is decreased. We have such high expectations based on everything we see, that our own food just can't live up to our expectations. It was a really interesting article, I wish I could find a link. I totally believe that. How many times have you or I been disappointed in a recipe because it didn't turn out they way we thought it should? 

The problem goes so much deeper than food. We are starting to feel dissatisfied with our whole LIVES. Do you think I'm wrong? 

As I mentioned, I used to love looking at Pinterest. There were so many great ideas to make every area of my life just a little bit better. A little prettier, a little more organized, a little tastier, a little skinnier. I don't think trying to improve ourselves/our lives is a problem. But it's spiraling out of control. What I see on Pinterest is how to make every aspect of my life perfect. 

Consider the titles of pins I've seen recently. 
"The best toys for your 3 month old to encourage proper development!"
"How to get rid of all stomach flab!" (Pinned by a young teen. Broke my heart.)
"Perfect summer decoration" (I have to change my pillows, blankets, etc based on season??)
"How to have flawless skin"
The list could go on and on. Let me make it clear: there are great things on Pinterest. Pictures of the Savior, scripture study aids, quotes from conference, great, healthy recipes, etc. I love seeing those things. And there's nothing wrong with the other pins. Beautifying our lives is a good thing. But I think we are walking an incredibly fine, gray line (as Spencer would say). 

We're constantly fed images of perfection, and think we need to be that way. It's impossible, not to mention unnecessary. Your house doesn't need to be perfectly coordinating and organized. Your body doesn't need to fit into the ideals of society. Your baby doesn't need designer clothes/toys; he needs love. Same for your marriage--while you need to date, you don't need fancy dates and gifts. 

I wish people were more realistic about life. About the only time you see "real" pictures on social media, it's because you're looking at a before/after. 

"Look at how my home/classroom/food/style/body used to look! How embarrassing!"

While we should work on bettering our lives, we should do it to glorify our Lord and make ourselves better, not so that everything seems perfect.  

 1 Chronicles 16:29 Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.

I want to take care of my body because the Lord gave it to me. I want to be the best in my marriage because we have been sealed, and that's an important covenant. I want my house to be clean and tidy so we can always have the spirit in our home. I will never forget something Baylor said to me. He was picking up his room and said, "I want to keep my room clean because I know the spirit likes to be in clean places." That is good parenting right there! I hope this upcoming generation can focus on the real reasons for doing things, instead of thinking, "I want this because it's what I see online." 

Again, I don't think there is anything wrong with having a perfect looking house/body/classroom, etc. But I do think there's too much emphasis on being perfect. We need to make sure the more important aspects of our life aren't slipping away. 

I just worry that satisfaction is becoming impossible to achieve. The more we see, the more we want, the less grateful we are for what we do have. The more we see, the more time we spend trying to replicate what we see, the less time we have for the important things. 

The reason I'm writing this post is because I have completely, 100%  fallen into the Pinterest trap lately. I just had a baby and we just moved, so naturally everything that is talking about post-partum bodies, raising a child, and decorating your house is interesting to me. I have been stuck in a rut of trying to perfect everything in my life, even though it's not necessary and I've never felt this way before. I never thought I cared about having a Pinterest looking home. But suddenly I do care, and I think it's because I'm spending more time looking at that stuff. 

We know that what you see and hear becomes part of you. The facade of social media is no exception. 

Spencer and I have talked a lot about the trap of social media lately. He's helping me stay grounded. I will never forget what he said to me at the beginning of our marriage. I was browsing the Hair and Beauty section on Pinterest one morning in bed. Spencer woke up, looked over, and said, "You know I don't expect you to do any of that, right? I love you the way you are." 

I don't know what to do about my Pinterest account. I do feel hypocritical. I just keep thinking about all the recipes I love that I don't want to lose by deleting my account!

To end this verbose post, I'll end with some real pictures from my life. I'm not trying to say my house is gross, or dirty, or clean, or cute, or anything. I just want to say, "This is my life. This is reality. I'm done trying to mirror what I see online!" 

Our dressers don't match. But they do what we need them to!

Towels ready for the laundry...

Curtains waiting to be hung. And I'll admit I'm obsessed with our "Take time to make a moment" and picture of the temple.