Whenever I write directly to the readers of this blog (using the word "You"), I kind of feel like I'm writing The Neverending Story. Remember how Bastian was reading that magical book . . . and the author knew him . . . and needed him to save the land of Fantasia from the Nothing?
(I just ordered that movie from Netflix so I can show it to my kids this weekend. . . .)
Well, even though I don't know who, exactly, is reading this blog, and even though I'm not asking you to give a princess a new name, I appreciate you being here, and I'd like to tell you why.
It seems common in the world today for people to shoulder their struggles alone. Although we're more connected than ever, most of us don't know what's going on in each other's lives.
We can share the happy and funny moments (which are definitely important . . . and I love the overall positivity of my social network), but when the hard stuff comes along, it's becoming more and more normal to withdraw and sit quiet until things get better. (Am I right?)
I watched this amazing TED talk a few weeks ago. If you have a lot of stress in your life, you need this.
The part I liked most was about how our bodies produce the chemical oxytocin when we're stressed. Oxytocin is also known as the "cuddle hormone," and it encourages us to connect on a meaningful, personal level with other people.
So our biology is designed to bring us together when we're suffering.
It reminds me of Romans 12:15, which says, "Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep" and Mosiah 18:10, which says, "mourn with those that mourn . . . and comfort those that stand in need of comfort."
This idea helps me to understand why I feel this need to write and share my life.
But what I really want to share today are a few examples of how you are affecting me. Obviously, I can't list everyone here (though I wish I could), but please know I am grateful for every single one of you.
Example #1 is Corrie, from Retro Mummy.
I have such a supportive group of friends that I mainly connect with online. Corrie is an example of a friend who lives on the other side of the world. She and I met last year at a "Power of Mums" Australian Retreat, and in the midst of the two-day event, we only had the chance to speak one-on-one for 30 minutes or so. I didn't know then that Corrie had lost her mum, but now she strengthens me by telling me about her experience and encouraging me to cherish these moments I have left with mine. She totally understands what I'm going through, and when I'm struggling, Corrie is one of the friends I think about, and I remind myself, "She would tell me to keep going."
Example #2 are my dear friends from church and from our neighborhood.
They occasionally check my blog, and then when they see me on Sunday or at a mid-week activity or while I'm at the elementary school, they give me a hug and let me know they're thinking of me. I don't have to re-tell the same story over and over again because they already know what's happening. And even though I worry that I might come across as "needy" or "dependent," it feels so comforting to know that people care.
Example #3 is my friend Rachel.
We live in the same city, but we met last summer for the first time--randomly in Flagstaff Arizona, and our families have become close friends. Rachel is the mother to three children we all totally adore and is an unbelievably talented photographer. (See her blog here.)
A couple of months ago, when Rachel and I were on a double date with our husbands, she said, "April, I want to come with you to see your mom on one of your Thursdays, and I want to photograph the two of you together."
Just the thought brought tears to my eyes. I couldn't believe she'd want to do something like that for me. But as I thought about the logistics--driving an hour each way, trying to manage our collective seven children, plus the fact that she was seven months pregnant when she made the offer, I figured it was enough that she'd even expressed an interest in giving me such a gift.
But she didn't give up. She'd send me an occasional text asking when we could schedule our photo shoot, or she'd mention it while we were on the phone, or she'd bring it up with Alia, who is one of her most loyal followers on Instagram.
And finally, we made it happen.
This is a photo Alia took with her phone during part of the shoot:
And here are some of my favorite photos:
Rachel asked us questions throughout the whole shoot--so she could get natural, un-posed photos. At one point, she asked me to share how I feel about my mom. That's when she snapped this photo:
Honestly, I can't even look at that picture without getting choked up. It perfectly encompasses how I feel every time I go see my mom. She's happy and peaceful and sweet, and I am just aching inside because I'm saying goodbye to her . . . and she doesn't even know it.
But then I also have this picture, which I want to frame and keep forever and ever--because it reminds me how happy we are together.
Thank you, Rachel, for this beautiful, beautiful gift.
A favorite scripture of mine talks about the tender mercies of the Lord--and having all of you as my friends is a tender mercy.
You inspire me to care more about other people and to look outside myself--even when my life feels hard.
You strengthen me to keep writing and keep mothering deliberately.
You bring a beautiful joy in my life that reminds me every single day that we were never meant to go through this life alone.
Much love to all of you.