It is all about the journey….

Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

What If?

As I spent time alone this morning, I found myself thinking about my amazing children. As a Mom I have the tendency to want their lives to be free of tribulations and hard times. As a Mom who is trying her best to look at life through the eyes of Heavenly Father, I see that their tribulations and hard times shape them.WhatIf?

My son has been working through some pretty tough things in his heart lately. He is a leader. He is different. He is strong. He has vision. All qualities that do not always lead him down the easiest of paths in Junior High. I know this time of his life is full of wanting to fit in, have friends, be noticed by the ‘cute’ girls in the hall. However, it is hard to be a sheep when you were born to be a warrior.

My husband and I have such a huge responsibility to our children. As parents, we have been blessed to see who these amazing spirits are meant to be, we know truly how strong and important they are. Unfortunately, someone else does too. I have felt the challenge in my heart to become the mother they need to battle this other influence and have spent many hours in prayer for the ability and strength to be the protector, teacher, example and safety they need.

A question came into my heart as a response to these prayers….What if?

What if all that I have passed through in my life was tailored not only for my growth, but theirs too? What if all of the times I have been pushed to the end of my faith and strength were meant to teach my heart what they need to know? What if every time I was driven to my knees because I didn’t have strength to stand under all of the pressures I felt were times that brought me closer to Heaven so that I could see His face and KNOW? What if all of those things that I sacrificed were gifts that they needed to stand strong? What if every tear that has fallen has been counted for moments when they truly need a shoulder, heart and an understanding ear? What if every moment of joy and laughter were times that they could see heaven too?

What if?

I would do it all again in an instant for them so that they would KNOW. I would do it so that they can have strength to be the warriors they truly are meant to be…not the sheep that follow the crowd.

They are my What if….

They are my Gift from Heaven….

They are my Why….

Different and Strong

Our little family had a unique opportunity last night….one that required us to step waaaay out of our comfort zones.

When we first moved into our current home, we met a sweet Chinese man. He is very endearing and has a wonderful disposition. He took an interest in the fact that we are all involved in martial arts. Each time he has been in our home, he has encouraged us and brought such a sweet spirit with him.

Different and StrongA couple of weeks ago he called asking if we would be willing to perform at a Chinese Autumn festival. Performing is not something we do a lot of, because it involves stepping out of our comfort zones. We love to train and get better on our home turf, however stepping outside of this requires a lot of courage, or a sweet and persistent friend. We, reluctantly said we would.

To be completely honest, we actually tried to get out of it. However, everything we brought up (wrong country…we study a Japanese style martial art, not enough time to prepare, etc) he shot down (all martial arts came from China so what does it matter? and you are black belts so you are prepared, etc). We were committed and that was it.

It took a long time to come up with the music. Less time to come up with the demo performance.

Motivation was lacking, especially in the kids…which was a reflection of our initial emotions.

A decision had to be made.

It came down to who we truly are and how we wanted to represent ourselves, family and our karate family. Deciding to train strong and perform strong made a huge difference in our hearts. Team Smullin was going to represent!

So the evening of the performance came….

We walked into the venue and saw that we were totally different from everyone else in the room. Not only were we the only martial arts performance lined up, we were the only Americans who would be stepping on stage.

As the crowd filled in, we felt how different we were…American, English speaking, tall, dressed in gi’s and carrying weapons.

The Chinese culture is so kind. They are truly incredible people.

As the program went forward, we realized that they are not the type to yell and get all hyped up. It was a totally different environment than what we have performed in the past. After each performance they would clap and that was it. Hmmmm….I really hoped it would go well for us.

There came a point that we simply had to not care about what was going to happen, we just needed to be us…Team Smullin…and do what we do best.

Martial arts has trained us to do many things with our minds and bodies. One of the best things I have learned is confidence in what I know and the amount of time I have spent training. Walking on to the stage, we all went to that place and let our bodies do what they have been trained to do.

Did we mess up? Yep. Did I smack the overhead screen with my sword? Yep. Did I almost fall off of the stage? Yep. Was our ending a little skewed? Yep.

Did we startle the crowd with our blood-curdling yells? Yep (It was pretty fun to see some of the looks on their faces). Did the boys amaze them with their chuck skills? Yep (they are pretty filthy chuckers). Did the girls impress with their swords? Yep. Did the crowd clap throughout the performance? Why yes they did. Honestly, if there was a best in show award…we would have taken it…;)

The entire event was a reflection on who we are and where we have found strength in our family and lives.

Not one thing about us fit…Americans at a Chinese festival, Japanese martial arts at a Chinese festival, English speakers at a Chinese festival, and rocking music at a Chinese festival. However, we fit, because we were there together. We fit, because we understand that being different is nothing to shy away from, it is something that gives us strength. We fit, because we know who we are and what we can do.

It is a powerful lesson we have learned over the past few years. I am grateful that we were able to step out of our comfort zones, into a beautiful culture, to see.

 

Our Path

11942303_10207229527072560_4173153203233697029_oTwo years ago our little family started a hike in a popular canyon close to our home. Unfortunately we started this hike at 1:00 p.m. on July 24th in 95 degree weather. Hiking in July was not a foreign action for us, so we didn’t think anything of it…and started up the mountain.

This hike begins with a quarter of a mile (at least) of steep switchbacks that are pure sand. This provides little or no grip for the foot and a lot of energy is expended simply taking the next step. The sand is also very light, so it reflects the heat of the sun right up to your sweat drenched, oxygen starved little body. It was a lot tougher than we thought…

We made it about a mile into the hike before we began to feel the side-effects from the heat of the day and pure exhaustion. Our son got to a point that he just couldn’t go up any more. Not wanting to put him in any danger, we abandoned the hike, promising ourselves we would get there another day…

The other day took over two years to come…I had put this particular hike on my summer bucket list (which really only had one item). So, last week my husband and I thought we would take a little jaunt up the mountain. We started early in the morning, the sun was barely peeking over the mountain and the morning air was nice and cool, making the switchbacks quite tolerable. I had been told by a few people that the hike was a little bit challenging, but nothing major. What I wasn’t told by people was that the trail is not obvious and you can end up hiking to the waterfall any way you can.

rocky pathWe took some wrong turns, scaled a couple of rock walls, did more than one double back and sat on a rock for 10 minutes to catch our breath. The mountain had our respect.

As we were hiking over some of the particularly rocky and steep areas, I watched my husband go first. I noticed his footsteps were heading in the same direction as mine, however we were not necessarily on the same path. He is very tall, so his steps were a lot farther apart than mine. He is very powerful, so he could climb over bigger rocks in one step. We were not on the same path, because we are such different people. It was the same when I led….his feet were going the same direction, however were not stepping in the same places.

There is something about the mountains that opens my heart and spirit to moments of teaching….

I learned that our paths are our own. My path to my Heavenly Father is mine and I will take the steps that fit me to reach Him. My husband and children are going the same direction as I am, however their steps will fit them.

This lesson opened up for me as I counseled my son this evening. He has been struggling with something for a very long time, and because he is struggling, he is seeking for answers. As we were chatting, the mountain came back to my mind and I realized what I needed to teach him. This is a time for him to take these struggles and questions to Heavenly Father and ask how he should move forward. As much as he wanted me to give him the answers (and I wanted to give him the answers I thought) I knew deep in my heart that these answers are for him to find. I counseled him to pray, ponder and watch, because his path is his.

God is GoodHow blessed I am to be led by Heavenly Father. I love how He quietly teaches us lessons that we can use instantly or over time to learn and bless the lives of others. I am thankful for mountains to climb, and that I get to do that every day with my family. God is good.

Arrival

ArrivalToday begins the end of an incredible journey.

Five years ago I stepped onto a karate map, changing the course of my life forever. It was then I joined my family in our journey to earn our black belts. I can remember the feelings of trepidation that coursed through my heart, yet my soul felt electrified.

As I have reflected upon the path we have walked down, I have found myself feeling overwhelmed by the fact that we have done what we set out to do….as a family.

Individually each one of us has become so much more, grown in ways that we could never describe and learned very deeply that we are strong. As a family we have become cemented in the team that we are. There is a lot of peace knowing that each one of us would take or give a hit to save each other.

There have been moments of victory, defeat, learning, excitement, and contemplations of quitting…all things that create a path of worth.

We have been blessed through this journey by a loving Heavenly Father. I cannot look back and not see His hand guiding, helping and encouraging us on our way. I see how things that are important to us are important to Him. I see how He has changed the world for us.

The mat we stepped onto for the first time is not that mat we will arrive on, however we were given the basic love and knowledge of karate from those who trained with us on our first mat. We were shown the direction we needed to travel. A guide at the beginning of a journey is priceless. Thank you Leah for giving us a strong start.

As with any wonderful journey, ours took an unexpected, but marvelous turn. We left our beginnings and found ourselves welcomed into a karate family that means more to us than words can describe. Our Kona family is beautiful.

Along our path we found ourselves in one of the most difficult trials we had ever experienced. Karate became our safe-haven, our home, a refuge and somewhere we could express ourselves. As we would walk through the doors, the weights we were carrying were lifted and for a few moments we were free. Truly another gift from God. Karate has saved our lives on many levels.

As we enter the testing period tonight, I know that we have many around us who are pulling for us. I am humbled by their love and support for our little team. I cannot begin to express how this will lift us and give us strength beyond what we feel we have. I love that we can be that for our karate family too…it is all about lifting each other.

Thank you Te, Jade, Victor and Tyler for lifting us, inspiring us, believing in us and showing us the way.

We have arrived at the end of one journey….only to begin another.

 

The Storm

It is raining here tonight. It is the beautiful, cleansing, renewing rain…perfect for a heavy heart.

The StormI have been blessed with two beautiful children…they are the perfect mix of my husband and I. I am pretty sure they came that way so that we could understand them and they could teach us.

Right now I am learning from my sweet daughter. I see so much of me when I was her age, yet there is a wonderful amount of her too. She is strong willed, a bit sassy, full of imagination, and truly beautiful. She is always so willing to reach out and bless the life of someone in need. She has a gift to see things that are normally missed.

Yet….she is struggling within her heart.

I have found that there are times as a parent when I need to back down and let them learn and there are times when I need to say things that are honest and difficult. It is part of being a parent.

Over the past couple of days her struggle has created the necessity for both. Her struggle is fears that have engulfed her heart and created a belief that she can’t do certain things. As a result, she is stuck. On the outside looking in, I have thought how she just needs to ‘rip the bandaid’ and do what scares her. It would change her life for the good. It hurts to see her quit on herself because she is scared.

As we talked to her about this the tears rolled down her cheeks. She cowered because our words were truth and it struck her little heart. She wanted so badly to be anywhere but where she was, yet her spirit knew she needed to hear what was said. My husband shared with her 2 Timothy 1:7…

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

Teaching her that she has the divine within her, the power of our Heavenly Father, was a moment I will treasure. It reminded me of who I truly am. Watching her slowly embrace that truth was beautiful. I know it is something that we will continually need to teach her, because it is something that I continually need to understand.

Watching her make choices that teach her lessons is so difficult sometimes. I have questioned whether or not I have taught her what she needs to know. I wonder if I have not given her the tools she needs to make the decisions that will lead her away from the struggles she currently lives with. It is difficult, because I see a different, better way….yet, it is not my decision.

I love her with all I have. I would do anything for her and yet, I can’t.

So I kneel by her bed while she is sleeping and pray to be the mother she needs me to be. I pray to understand her as He does, so that I can help her or allow her to be.

I have so much to learn and there are days when that feels very heavy in my heart. Today is one of those days.

I am so thankful for a quiet moment, standing in the rain, speaking my heart to Him. I know my words were heard through the song of the rain. I know He saw me. I know He will guide me to help one of His choice daughters. I just need to listen.

My Path

provisionalTomorrow is the beginning of the end. It is the final sprint before the goal is reached.

For years we have worked, as a family, to reach a common goal. We have spent many hours on and off the mat learning, refining, doubting, overcoming, falling and rising.

And here we are….

For the next 4 weeks we will train with a greater intensity to earn that which has transformed us. It has been one incredible journey.

My heart is full of anticipation for this. As I look back at who we all have become, and the path that has brought us to where we are, I see that even though our finish line looks the same…our paths have been completely different.

That is the beauty of this journey….it is different for each one of us.

The path I have traveled has shown me strengths and weaknesses, both physically and spiritually. There have been moments that, through discouragement and failure, I have wanted to walk away. These are not moments I am proud of, yet they are moments that defined my heart. As the tears threatened to roll down my face many times, I was given a choice in my heart…walk away or get up.

I got up.

There have been so many moments that I truly surprised myself by what I could do. When I would finally let go, trust myself and allow the knowledge that I had worked so hard to obtain come out…I would do things that were beyond me. The victories may have seemed small to anyone else, yet in my heart they were incredible.

Knowing that I can do things that were at first beyond my abilities has given me a greater appreciation for who I truly am. Understanding that there is more strength and knowledge within me than I realize has brought a new peace and power in my heart. I have seen it change my world.

My path has not been one of solitude, yet the lessons I have learned are my own. I am forever grateful for those who have taught me, seen within me greater things than what I could see, and pushed me to become more. They have changed me through their ability to guide, encourage and not give up. Black-belt

The beauty of this path is that it doesn’t end when I reach my goal, it continues as long as I will keep my feet on it.

 

Uncharted Waters

In the Book of Mormon there is a story that involves a nation relocating to a promised land. These people were spared the cursing that came to those who built the tower of Babel. Through the faith of their prophet and his brother, they were blessed to keep their language and families intact.

Uncharted WatersAs the Jaredites wandered, gathered and learned in a wilderness, they were prepared to build a new nation. Their leaders were given the instructions they needed to move forward a little bit at a time. Eventually they reached a beautiful beach that symbolized rest and abundance for them. After a time, they were commanded to move on. It was required of them to construct boats that would carry them across waters that had never been charted.

Following the directions given them from  on high, they build these boats that were air-tight, water-tight and very light. They must have been quite curious as to why and what purpose this type of construction would serve them, inspite of this they did all that they were commanded to do.

As the boats were completed, they prepared themselves, their animals and food for a journey that they had no idea how long would last or how comfortable would be. In faith, they moved forward. The verses in Ether chapter 6 say it beautifully:

And it came to pass that when they had prepared all manner of food, that thereby they might subsist upon the water, and also food for their flocks and herds, and whatsoever beast or animal or fowl that they should carry with them—and it came to pass that when they had done all these things they got aboard of their vessels or barges, and set forth into the sea, commending themselves unto the Lord their God.

And it came to pass that the Lord God caused that there should be a furious wind blow upon the face of the waters,towards the promised land; and thus they were tossed upon the waves of the sea before the wind.

And it came to pass that they were many times buried in the depths of the sea, because of the mountain waves which broke upon them, and also the great and terrible tempests which were caused by the fierceness of the wind.

And it came to pass that when they were buried in the deep there was no water that could hurt them, their vessels being tight like unto a dish, and also they were tight like unto the ark of Noah; therefore when they were encompassed about by many waters they did cry unto the Lord, and he did bring them forth again upon the top of the waters.

WavesAnd it came to pass that the wind did never cease to blow towards the promised land while they were upon the waters; and thus they were driven forth before the wind.

And they did sing praises unto the Lord; yea, the brother of Jared did sing praises unto the Lord, and he did thank and praise the Lord all the day long; and when the night came, they did not cease to praise the Lord.

10 And thus they were driven forth; and no monster of the sea could break them, neither whale that could mar them; and they did have light continually, whether it was above the water or under the water.

This story has taken on a new meaning in my life. We spent two amazing years in an area that was like this beach to me. We were surrounded by beauty, love. learning and hope. Yet, somehow we knew it was not the end of our journey. We were asked to build ‘boats’ that we didn’t understand, gather strength for a journey we didn’t know how long or where it would take us and learn how to stand strong against storms that swirled around us.

As we cast our boats into the seas, we did as this Jaredite nation did…we commended ourselves unto the Lord our God. There is more comfort that words can express in knowing we have done everything He has asked us to do, even when we didn’t understand why and it didn’t make sense to our mortal minds. We have found that there is greater strength and guidance in the enabling power of the Atonement. This act by our Savior has kept our boat above water and safe from the monsters that would destroy us.

We know as we are tossed on the waves of these waters, we will always rise. We know that as we are buffeted by the storms that come, we will always stand strong. We know that there are no depths that can swallow us, because we have the power of Him to bring us up. We know that no matter what, our family is in this boat together and here we will stay.

I am grateful for uncharted waters. I am grateful that He trusts us enough to teach us how to build our boats. I am grateful to know deep in my heart that everything we do to obey and become who He needs us to be pushes us closer to that promised land. I am grateful for a Savior who has reached down so many times and lifted me through His grace.

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