What do Blessings Look Like?

Before you read any further this week, take a moment to watch this video. The song has been around for a year or two (at least), but I fell in love with it the first time I heard it. If you haven’t been reading this blog much, you probably don’t know that I need a lot of “paradigm shifting” in my life. I am, after twenty-five years as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, finally getting my head on straight about some things. The biggest lesson has been learning to blessings when they don’t look like I thought they would:

I find it so easy to look around at others and see what I DON’T have! I find it incredibly easy to fault God for not giving me the things that I think I need. I can easily look around me and decide that God doesn’t love me as much as everyone else.

I am so grateful to finally be at a place where I can see how beautiful and precious my life is. I am surrounded by beauty and the beauty of amazing people. I’m embarrassed to have to admit that I have missed just how wonderful my son, fiance, colleagues, church family, the children I teach, and countless others are — all because I was looking for blessings my way.

Things I Count As Blessings (Now)

  1. Being born into a “poor” farming family. I was blessed from birth to be where I could “live” outdoors. I learned from firsthand experience that those who don’t work don’t eat. I learned to create my own entertainment (playing spoons is still one of my fondest memories, even if we only did it once in a great while).
  2. Being raised by parents who value church and God. I suspect that there are members of my family who remain uncomfortable with my decision to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I was taught that it was “evil.” It’s not perfect — it’s run by normal, imperfect humans — but I know by the power of the Holy Spirit that it is the church authorized by the Savior on this earth, and He leads it through a prophet. I would have never been interested or listened to the message if I hadn’t been raised to believe in the reality of God. Church and religion sure seemed like a burden when I was a teenager, but it’s the best place I could have been.
  3. Being “unpopular.” Yes, I’ve reached a point in my life where I wear “nerd” as a badge of honor, even though I’ve convinced the kids I teach that I’m something pretty close to a rock star! I have so much empathy for those who feel left out, because I’ve been there, too. I may still struggle with reaching out to make friends, but the insight I’ve gained from watching from the sidelines has been invaluable in my life.
  4. Getting divorced. No, it’s not about how awful I think my ex is! To be honest, I pray for him everyday. We ended up at odds, and that may never change, but he is responsible for some of the greatest blessings in my life. Three of those blessings are my children. I have also been blessed to have so much opposition in my life. I’ve had to sit and think and rethink who I am and why I do what I do. I’ve had to learn to think through propaganda and recognize the times when I am right even when someone else is trying to convince me I’m wrong, at fault, or to blame. I’ve had to learn to keep standing back up and dusting myself off. I’ve had to learn when it’s time to just let the past rest in the past and move on. I’ve learned that I’m stronger than I could have ever imagined. I learned very few things happen in life that truly qualify as a crisis. These have been valuable lessons in my life.
  5. Spending so much time in court. I think my ex-husband and I end up back before the judge about once every two or three years, and we’re not far from the 15-year mark of having separated! These have been expensive lessons, but I’ve learned that there is little to fear unless I have something to hide. I’ve learned that looking for a sense of vindication at the expense of someone else is pointless. I’ve learned that even good laws have limits, and that sometimes there is no protection from someone who refuses to be decent.
  6. Becoming the breadwinner. I wasn’t prepared to be the breadwinner when I left my ex-husband — I come from a long tradition of women being in the home to raise the children. In a perfect world, it’s where I would have been and where my heart has always been. I mourned when I realized that I would have to leave my small children in daycare and go to work. I was blessed to be able to get special provision to teach and then had to go back to school. Working, earning a master’s degree, paying off college debt while trying to keep a roof over the heads of my children — I made it through by the grace of God. But it is here that I really started to learn about the tender mercies of the Lord. I can look back now and see how our needs were always met, bills were always paid, and everything always ended up working out. This became the bedrock for the faith I have today.
  7. Having to wait 7 years (or more) to get married again. As hard as it is for me to fathom, I may actually be marrying my best friend this summer. He’s a truly wonderful man, and I love him more than I have loved anyone not blood related to me! He an I both come from shaky relationship backgrounds, and both of us brought a LOT of baggage to the table. Giving us seven years to get to know each other, to grow, to work out the quirks, and to mature has been one of the biggest blessings I can think of. What we have today is so much better than anything I would have ever dreamed I could have with a man when my marriage crumbled. He has been a major help with my home and gardening ambitions, and he is the one I know I can lean on when I’m emotionally and mentally worn. I am so grateful that we weren’t allowed to settle for anything less!
  8. Having misunderstandings with friends. If you haven’t figured it out, I have a strong personality. I’ve had to — it’s what kept me going when the going seemed like it was going to do me in! On the other hand, it has given me the opportunity to create my share of drama in the social world. I am so grateful for those times, not because of the hurt it caused, but because each event caused me to stop and take a hard look at myself. I am a better person because I have friends who are good enough to pull me up short.

Of course, these are some of the blessings in my life that didn’t look like blessings at the time. This blog isn’t big enough to list all of the blessings that actually look like blessings!

Closing Thoughts

I am learning that truly seeing blessings is actually about understanding the tender mercies of the Lord. I’m so humbled and grateful that He loves me enough to do more than just give me what I want. He loves me enough to say “no” when necessary, and then He gives me what I need.

Extra Reading

Blessings, performed by Laura Story (lyrics)

Elder Bednar: God’s Tender Mercies

Elder Eyring: O Remember, Remember