11 years ago this week I was in a hospital bed, very near death.
After some years of infertility we were finally pregnant. At 33 weeks along, what started as supposed indigestion ended up being a ruptured appendix that almost took my life. The infection overtook the baby and at 5lb 4oz the sweet little boy we had prayed for so long was delivered stillborn.
While grateful for my life, my husband and I went home with empty hands and a long recovery, both physically and emotionally.
Today I opened the beautiful box my talented brother made for me after our loss and I was overwhelmed with a wave of emotions as I looked at the items carefully stored inside. There are the hundreds of sweet, loving, sometimes really funny notes from the kids at the school I taught music. (I learned then that 3rd grade boys love to draw battle scenes.)
There is the teddy bear my in-laws bought me while I was in the hospital, before we knew what we were facing. They later bought a duplicate bear to be buried with Ross. There's the mitt and ball Matt bought to place on the baby's gravestone on his first birthday. The emotions and heartbreak came back as I remembered that dark place.
We all have trials and heartbreak in our lives, some of it public like this experience but much of it private, with no one knowing to bring us a dinner or able to help share our load.
My hubby and I have had plenty of other trials that have rocked us. Life is no cake walk for anyone.
I've been recently listening on repeat to a brilliant talk by Dieter Uchtdorf, an LDS leader who has experienced some major difficulty in his life, including being a refuge twice.
In his talk he compares our lives to a Pointillist painting. He says as we are living our day to day lives we can't see how the dots go together, how they make any sense.
But our small and simple daily choices make up those dots. Our willingness to trust God and do what he's asked us to, like finding ways to serve those around us, praying, reading scriptures, and doing what we know is right in all the little choices every day, that's what gives order to our lives.
As I am surviving day to day, wondering what in the heck I'm doing, I am trying my best. I am constantly failing and falling short but I keep on trying; I keep getting up the next morning and do it all over again.
Eleven years ago, I just kept doing the best I could. Sometimes that meant that I accomplished absolutely nothing, but I survived another day and that was progress. Slowly, slowly joy crept back into my life. I kept moving and even though I didn't think I was going anywhere, a decade later I have a better perspective on the distance I've covered.
Pres. Uchtdorf says that it's as we look back at our lives that all those little dots start to come together into meaning, much like taking a step back on a Pointillist piece of art.
You can see that those greenish dots over there are actually a beautiful tree, much like you can see that all those weeks of drilling flashcards to your kid helped them to master his multiplication facts or that endless night training helped your 3 year old finally go to bed without coming back out 15 times or realizing, after regular meals together, that you had a dinner together where everyone conversed politely and actually stayed in their chairs. Or, after daily prayers and scripture study, that you faced uncertainty and fear, and while you still REALLY didn't want to deal, you moved forward in faith and trusted in God's plan.
All of this is so comforting to me. Sometimes I get hyper-focused on where I fall short as a person and a mom and what we're lacking as a family, the here and now. But I'm accomplishing good! And as I keep trying, I'm progressing.
Yes, I have lots to learn and things to change but that doesn't mean that my efforts now are insignificant.
We need to cut ourselves some slack and celebrate our small efforts, because day after day after month after year after decade, those small efforts are creating something beautiful.