A Second

I felt the urge to share this story a few months ago. It’s one we’ve kept really close — sharing with only a handful of people. I felt the urge to share, and then the world turned upside-down. But in the quiet moments every day., I still think about it. So, I’m here to finally share it.

We nervously sat in the all-to-familiar fertility clinic waiting room. I clenched my jaw and tightened my fists — holding all the tension bottled up within me. This trip to the clinic was different. For the first time — ever — we’d had some good news and some reasons for hope. 

A couple weeks earlier I had seen — for the first time ever — a positive pregnancy test of my own. A couple blood draws later confirmed the pregnancy. 

So there we sat awaiting our first ultrasound that would ideally look at an actual baby. Infertility is a teacher of a lot of things. Some good. Some bad. One thing it taught me was about hope. 

The bad: It taught me to be hesitant about hoping.

The good: It had me clinging desperately to hope every single day.

Life is wild, isn’t it? There is no end to paradox.

So there we sat. Waiting. There’s a lot of waiting — seemingly endless waiting — when you have infertility. As we sat, a couple emerged from the back to the front desk. They were holding a stack of papers with equally dazed and determined looks on their faces. They were asking all those familiar questions. Where and how do we schedule the HSG? What about the semen analysis? What are the next steps? Who do I call?

They were us years ago.

Suddenly it all came flooding back. All the appointments, the negative tests, the giving up, the trying again, the reworking of plans, the days, the weeks, the months, the cycles, the years, all seven of them. I felt my chest tighten. I felt myself hold my breath. I felt tears well up inside me.

Then my name was called.

Pulled back to this moment, I looked up. A friendly face in a lab coat held a clipboard and looked at me. Jeff and I stood up.

“Follow me,” she said.

We walked down the fluorescent corridor. “How are you both?” she asked. The tears started to spill over. 

“Really nervous,” I answered, following with a quick “I’m sorry.” I unsuccessfully tried to catch the lump in my throat.

Then we were in the room. Table. Gown. Stirrups. Transvaginal ultrasound wand. Screen.

“Let’s do this quickly so you don’t have to be nervous anymore.”

I had been in stirrups so many times and had so many ultrasounds. None like this, though. There was so much riding on this one. So much to lose. What if it’s ectopic? What if there’s no heartbeat? What if something is wrong?

I squeezed Jeff’s hand.

“Alright, there’s the heartbeat.”

Relief washed over me. I smiled and sobbed. I almost didn’t hear this next part.

“We’ll do a quick scan of the uterus. And there’s a second heartbeat.”

Jeff laughed. I cried. The doctor? Totally pleasant nonchalance. Oh, to be a doctor. 

“You’re crying because you’re happy now, right?” our doctor said with a smile.

“Yes, so happy!”

“How are you feeling about twins?”

“Great! Let’s do this!”

The doctor went on to explain that Baby A was measuring to size with a strong heartbeat. Baby B was measuring small but still had a strong heartbeat. She said that it’s possible that we will miscarry Baby B. I may have some symptoms of miscarriage, or I may not. She said she’s also seen babies survive measuring small like that. 

We were scheduled for a follow-up ultrasound.

For two weeks, I let myself get cautiously (read: infertility problems) excited. I thought about how huge I would be. How much it would cost. How we would fit two babies into our condo. But I always prefaced my excitement with the thought ‘if this baby survives...’

If you know me, you know what happened. 

At our next appointment, there was just one heartbeat.

“I’m sorry,” the doctor said.

“At least there were two,” I replied. “Is that weird to say?”

For the record, I wouldn’t recommend you say that to anyone who experiences this. But it’s genuinely what I thought at the time. At least we still had a chance of having a baby. At least there were two, so that there could now be one.

Vanishing twin syndrome. It’s weird. It’s technically miscarriage, but it doesn’t feel like one. The proof just disappears. It’s complicated. Should I feel sad? Relieved? Shouldn’t I just be grateful I’m pregnant at all? 

Jeff grieved right away. I wish I could have done that.

I thought about Baby B a lot during pregnancy. But this episode was just the beginning of a total roller coaster pregnancy. Baby A (now Theo) really preoccupied most of my body, mind and soul. I was so focused on getting him here safely, and overcoming all the hurdles we faced to do that.


A couple months postpartum, I was leaning over Theo as he was playing on the floor. He wiggled and smiled and looked up at me. And I cried. It was like I knew there was a part of the picture missing. After meeting Theo, I was finally able to mourn the loss of our other beautiful baby. Sometimes I think Theo was so small because he was leaving room for two. There’s this part missing that I feel compelled to share. To remember. To make it real. That heartbeat was there. I heard it. I saw it.

I don’t know what any of this means. I’m not really interested in anyone else’s interpretation, either. I don’t know if Baby B is gone from us forever. I don’t know if Baby B was ever really meant to be a part of our family. I don’t know if Baby B will come later. All I know is that there were two heartbeats. And then, two weeks later, there was one.

Somewhere deep inside me, I think Baby B is coming later. I recognize this feeling, though. It’s that feeling I know well after seven years of infertility. It’s good and bad.

It’s that awesome sting of hope.

On Finding Out

I’ve been feeling the urge to write about my pregnancy. All the while I was pregnant, I kept telling myself to write down what I was thinking, experiencing, feeling. But, as it happens, I could only bring myself to actually do it a handful of times. (Look at the previous handful of posts to see the number of times I was able to write anything down.) I think it’s hard to write about the thing while you are still experiencing it. Some people can do it. Sometimes I can do it. But this wasn’t one of those times. The feelings were complex and extreme. Gratitude, guilt, happiness, sorrow, anxiety, grace — all of it, all the time. Really, when it comes down to it, I think I was afraid to jinx it. Like, if I write it down, it somehow makes it more real. Which, in turn, makes it all the more painful if it doesn’t pan out. 

But, also, I think time can do a lot for a story. It can offer perspective, insight, history. So while the details might be lost, the meaning is illuminated.

(I wonder if I’ll ever feel the urge to write about this time after we are through this. I wonder what kind of perspective, insight, history will be unveiled after time does what it does to this story.)

Today, I want to write about the very first day I learned that Theo was a bigger possibility than he ever had been before.

I remember waking up early. It was still dark outside, and in late May that means early. I had been feeling cramps that weekend and had told myself I would wait a few more days to test. I had tested the Thursday prior (the day my reproductive endocrinologist told me to test), but the test was faulty — meaning the control line didn’t even show. I was so accustomed to negative tests that I was worried about wasting a test needlessly. I thought, if I wait a week, my period will show up and I won’t need to waste another test. There’s only two in a box after all. And we were expecting at least one more round of IUI.

But I didn’t wait a full week. For some reason, that early Memorial Day morning, I decided to go ahead and test. 

I stumbled into the bathroom. Prepared the test. Turned on the faucet for Frankie to have a drink of water. Noted what sounded like our neighbors doing something wink-wink-nod-nod in their tub upstairs.

After taking care of my business, I set the test on the counter to “cure.” I washed my hands. Usually I try to be sure I don’t look at the test until the requisite three minutes has passed. If a watched pot never boils, surely a watched pregnancy test never comes out positive, right? 

But for some reason, I glanced down at the test.

And there it was.

A second line.

I picked up the test.


I actually said it out loud.

I remember thinking how unceremonious the moment was. Frankie drinking water from the faucet, my neighbors having sex in their tub upstairs, me holding a stick I peed on.

(It turns out that there would be a lot about pregnancy that was unceremonious. But more on that some other time.)

I covered my mouth in shock. “What?!” I almost laughed it this time.

I hurried my way back to the bedroom. “Jeff, wake up. Jeff, my love.” Jeff startled awake. He looked at me the way you look at someone when you’re half concerned and half still dreaming. I turned on the lamp. “Look.”

I held up the test for him to see. I covered my mouth again as I looked at him. “Really?” He said. “Are you serious?”

As we stared at the test, with darkness still shrouding us, we assured each other that it was real. It was serious. 

But just to be absolutely certain, we decided we should go grab another test. Let’s splurge on a digital one. Haven’t done that in several years.

Off we drove to Walgreens. It was rainy. I remember having an umbrella. We bought a box of digital tests and came back home. I took the tests (you know, I peed on all the sticks), they were all positive.

This was the very first time we’d seen a positive pregnancy test in person. For seven years, they’d been such a disappointment. And there were several years I stopped taking the tests altogether. It just wasn’t worth it to waste the money and the hope.

The rest of the day we were in disbelief. Do we tell people? If we do, who do we tell? Everyone knew we were trying. They’d been praying and fasting for us. It’s difficult to keep a secret when you’re on the infertility treatment train. 

We had to wait to call the doctor, because, of course, it was a holiday.

So it was just our little secret that day. Before we even said the words out loud to our doctor. I remember we walked around Liberty Park. The world was so the same, but everything was different. 

Seven years of trying unsuccessfully. 

And then after all that darkness, a glimmer of hope. 

On a pee stick.

On Uncertainty

I wrote this when I was 26 weeks and 4 days pregnant with our Theo. He kept us on our toes the entire pregnancy — even though we did end up getting a great fetal echo result that next day. Some of this seems very appropriate to this moment. Some of it seems a little sad. Anyway, it finally felt right to share it. So here it is.

Let’s talk about uncertainty.

I’m feeling very uncertain these days. Nothing about pregnancy has been what I imagined it would be. I expected that if I ever miraculously got that positive pregnancy test, all my uncertainty about my future, my family, my faith would simply wash away.

That hasn’t been the case.

I keep waiting for the next hurdle to pass. Once I get to 12 weeks, then I can relax. Okay, maybe 14 weeks? 20 weeks, definitely. We’ll get the ultrasound and I’ll feel at ease. Can’t see everything on the 20 week scan? Maybe the 24 week re-do will give us peace of mind?

And on and on and on.

We have a fetal echo scheduled for next week, and I’m terrified I’ll learn this little baby boy is sick — possibly irreparably. All the uncertainty floods in. How will I be able to handle that? Will I be able to handle that? Will he live? Will he be able to learn and grow and feed himself and play t-ball? Will I live? Will my life go on? How could God do this to me? Haven’t I been through enough already?

Uncertainty is uncomfortable. That’s why my anxiety tries so hard to tell me it knows what the future will look like. My anxiety says, “Hey, we knew something hard was coming. It always is. And, hey, this is your life now. Might as well get used to it. Might as well grieve it. You should probably stop putting together the nursery. And you should probably stop putting together a baby registry. This isn’t going to happen for you. Not really. Not the way it happens for other people. It never does. Not for you.”

My anxiety is a kind of a jerk and is definitely a liar. I know this. I know it makes me think I’m preparing my body, mind and soul for devastating news. I know it thinks that this prior worry will leave me better off — that it’ll somehow protect me. But I also know that it’s not true. No amount of worrying about infertility before I was diagnosed made receiving the diagnosis any easier. Life doesn’t really work like that. You can’t pre-mourn a traumatic event to get it over with. You have to face everything head-on. One step at a time. And no amount of pre-angst, pre-worry, pre-anxiety, pre-grief will help you not feel the bad stuff when something actually happens.

And, guess what, the bad stuff might not even happen. It’s true. There is every reason to believe that baby’s heart is just fine. That his positioning just made it tough to see everything the doctors needed to see. That he’s just kind of being a trouble-maker for us. (I’ve secretly always wanted a little trouble-maker anyway. Precisely because it’s exactly what I am not.)

And so. Here we are. Living in the midst of uncertainty. But, really, aren’t we all? And maybe there is some comfort in that, at least. We all don’t know together. And maybe that’s why anxiety tries really hard to tell me that I shouldn’t reach out when I am feeling this way. That I shouldn’t share these thoughts with others. Anxiety thrives in the darkness of my own mind and is weakened by shining light on it — which is why I fight so hard to do the opposite of what my anxiety tells me to do. I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know I need my people there with me.

Life offers no guarantees. A perfect fetal echo that shows a perfectly operating heart isn’t even a guarantee. It’s just another brief sigh of relief. As the — undoubtedly high — yelling person walking on my street shouted last week: “All we’ve got is this day. You want tomorrow? Then you want today.”

While there is certainly an understandable anxiety in this moment, there is also an understandable joy. We can’t let one overpower the other all the time even though I’m unreasonably good at letting the anxiety overpower. But I’m working hard to fight it. There has to be a balance and a mix. Two seemingly conflicting emotions can and do exist in one heart. Some days are more anxious. Some days are more joyful. But, overall, there is balance. There is little in life we can actually control. All we’ve got is this day. This time. These feelings. These people. This joy. This grief. This balance. And it’s this stuff in this moment that prepares us for the next moment.

To mix metaphors even further: You can’t control the wave. All you can do it get really good at riding it and strong enough to get back on the surfboard when you get knocked down.

So, this last weekend, we installed a new light in the nursery and got new drapes. One moment. This moment. This baby boy.

Expecting the Good

I’m 23 weeks pregnant today.

I can feel our little baby kicking and twisting and turning. I legitimately never thought I would be able to experience this sensation. I had accepted that I would never feel a baby move inside me and maybe I’d never even be a parent at all. Life had thrown me a deep curve ball, and it took a lot of years to come to some sort of acceptance about that. I had to readjust everything. My expectations. My plans. My ideas. My thoughts. My home. My values. My work. My purpose. My meaning.

And now, I find myself doing the same. Readjusting. Questioning my expectations. Moving around my plans. Changing my ideas. Reviewing my thoughts. Remaking my home. Shifting my values. Moving my work. Choosing my purpose. Claiming my meaning.

Like the little baby inside me, I’m doing a lot of kicking and twisting and turning.

I think we’re never just settled, right? Maybe we’re not meant to be. I wrote an essay once about how infertility taught me to let go. And it has. Letting go makes room for so much more. But it’s not a singular process. It’s the journey of a lifetime. So I continue to let go. And I try to remain open. Open to the possibilities. And, especially right now, I’m trying to remain open to the GOOD possibilities. Because, unfortunately, infertility also taught me to expect that bad stuff will happen to me. It’s true sometimes. But it isn’t true at all times. With the bad also comes so much good. Probably even more good than bad.

And really, every time I feel a little nudge from baby, I’m reminded about the good that awaits. And I’m open to what that good will actually look like. Because nothing is ever really what you think it will be.

So maybe with that letting go, there’s also a little bit of hanging on — to hope, to life, to self, to others. Just as you can’t have bad without good, you also can’t have letting go without hanging on.

I love you so much little one. I can’t wait (well — actually — I can) to see what more you teach and reteach me.

It’s not what it seems.

This photo is a reminder to me that there is always WAY more going on in a person’s story than what we see from the outside.

From the outside, we look like two blissful expecting parents. What can’t be seen is the seven years of infertility. The fertility treatments. The start and stop. The attempts to adopt. The acceptance that maybe we will never be parents. And the returning to hope again and again.

When looking at us, you might not consider that the moment we finally saw a pink line was at once shocking, exciting and terrifying. You can’t see that I’ve felt more anxiety in the past few months than I’ve ever felt before. Day and night I worry about losing this little one. From the outside, you can’t see how much work I’m doing daily to manage that anxiety.

This photo certainly doesn’t portray how much guilt I’ve felt that after seven years of wanting (and knowing so many who want what I have now) I can’t just be the blissful expecting parent I look like here. I want that more than anything. But, hey, real life is real life.

All of this to say that everyone has a complicated story. And almost nothing is as it seems. Especially on social media. So, let’s be gentle and give each other — and ourselves — endless amounts of grace. We are fully complex humans — not 2D squares.

Also, buying this maternity dress was an exercise in hope and belief. I’m trying hard to not let anxiety drive my life. So, here’s to trying (again and again) to embrace the present.

Seven Years

Seven years.

They say that over seven years, every cell in your body becomes new. Essentially, every seven years, you are a new person.

For seven years we have hoped, prayed, cried, wished, planned, worked, lost, given up, revised, fought and hoped again and again. It’s been hard. Really hard. And beautiful at times. Really beautiful.

I’m not sure I understand why it’s taken seven years — or even that I’m looking to understand — but I do know the last seven years made us into entirely new people.

Little one, after a long and transformative seven years, we can’t wait to finally meet you in five short and shape-shifting months.

We are genuinely filled with both gratitude and shock as we get to announce that our Baby Attermann is — at last — due January 2020.


I gave an update about our adoption journey on another post. In summary, we are in a phase where we are trying to figure out our next steps. And we are open to our options.

I’ve posted about our journey to grow our family off and on for a handful of years now. I go through phases of isolation and phases of reaching out. And, most recently, I chose to share our story with some very specific people. I firmly believe that you do not need to post on social media to be brave, vulnerable and authentic.


I think, in the past, I’ve used social media as a crutch — an excuse for not reaching out in person. I’d tell myself that I posted something really vulnerable and I’d done my job to connect. But, after posting, I’d find myself feeling lonely and a little empty — even though there was an inevitable outpouring of support from my amazing network of people. I am always grateful and touched that so many people care about me, but I couldn’t shake that lonely feeling. So, this time, I wanted to hold my story close and do some intentional in-person connection before heading online.

I’ve done that. And now I’m at a point where I want to share our story more broadly. Partly because writing for others is how I make sense of the world and my place in it.

And so I did. First, about our adoption update. And, second, well, that comes next.


We were asked why we decided not to take Clomid. After all the intrusive infertility tests and the damning diagnosis, Clomid is often the first course of action. We were prescribed the medication a few years ago and never took it. I honestly can’t explain why. It just didn’t feel like the next step for us. A few months later, we had started our adoption paperwork. Adoption is a really difficult and complex process and journey for absolutely everyone involved. At the beginning, it felt so productive — like we were *finally* experiencing some wins! But then time does its thing. You know that thing, right? Where time wears you down and shows you all the gray in what you thought was black and white?

So, as I said, we have been taking a moment to step back and look at all our options. One of those options is fertility treatments. I’ve been taking Clomid since the beginning of the year. And, before you start wondering, this is not a pregnancy announcement. We have since moved to the next stop on the fertility treatment train: IUI (Intrauterine Insemination). Our first IUI was last month. It was not successful. The next step after a few rounds of IUI would be IVF. We aren’t sure how long we’ll ride this train. But, for now, we’re on it.


I truly don’t need to get pregnant. I have moved through that grief and have accepted that it’s likely I’ll never experience pregnancy. But, after all the culture and upbringing and expectations and socialization is stripped away, I still really WANT to be a mom. And, at the risk of sounding like Veruca Salt, I want it now. I’m done waiting. I’ve realized that some things don’t just happen. There are some things you have to fight for.

So, we’re hoping we get pregnant. And we’re also hoping we can adopt. One or the other or both. The story lacks clarity, and its certainly not linear. That really bugged me at first. But, hey, if I’m really honest, the most interesting stories are always a little messy.

Photos by Malae Talley Photography

Adoption Update

A lot of people have asked me for an update on how the adoption is going. I feel bad, because I really haven’t done a good job of keeping everyone informed like I really need to. Thank you for being interested. Thank you for asking!

I suppose the reason why we’ve been a little quiet on the adoption front is because we don’t really have much to update you on. So, I thought I’d take a little moment to explain what that means. I realize that not a lot of people know what the process to adopt is. So, I wanna take you through where we have been and where we are hopefully headed. An adoption journey timeline, if you will.


First, we had to decide we were going to pursue adoption. This was a LONG process. We always knew we were interested in adopting someday. We both have family members who have adopted, so it’s actually something we talked about before we were married. But, it was still a LONG process to figure out the timing. After dealing with the ups and downs of infertility for nearly six years, we decided to pursue adoption.

The next step was applying to adopt. I called Millcreek Counseling & Adoption Services and we filled out an application. After submitting the application, they set up an interview with a social worker. She came to our home to interview us and talk about the reasons we wanted to adopt.


The next step was the home study. Home studies are the legal document that certifies you to adopt. We are pursuing a domestic private adoption. This means we can adopt in the USA, and we are not adopting via foster care. International and foster care adoptions have a completely different process. A home study had a few parts: a long 11-page questionnaire about us, our home, our finances, our work history, our health, our past mental and physical health. Any traumas in our past and how they were dealt with, our family dynamics growing up, our relationship dynamics, how we plan to parent and why. It goes on and on. Our social worker probably knows more about us than our closest friends. We also had to get health exams, letters of support, background checks.

Once we turned in all our paperwork, our social worker read it and returned to our home for interviews and a home inspection. She made sure our home was safe and an acceptable environment to raise a child. She also spent a good couple hours interviewing us about our responses to our questions. When all of that was done, we waited for our home study document.


We received our home study approval — meaning we can legally adopt — in January of last year while we were at a 10-hour adoption training. Training hours are not required in all states, but it was recommended to us because it makes you more prepared and makes it easier to adopt from another state. We would have done it anyway, because there is so much to learn! It’s really important to hear the perspectives of birth parents and adoptees from these trainings.

The first few steps are really exciting, because it feels like everything moves quickly, and you’re reaching all these milestones! Now we are in the Waiting-to-be-Matched phase. I think there’s a lot of confusion about what this phase means. And it looks different for everyone. We are trying to adopt without an agency. Agencies are extremely expensive. The difference between going through an agency and doing it privately can be a $30,000 to $35,000 difference. Going through a lawyer can be much less expensive.


What this means is that we have to find the match ourselves through our network of people. We have to “market” ourselves and get our names out there for expectant parents to see. We are doing this through our website, Facebook, word of mouth and Instagram. We had a profile up on adoption.com but ended up removing it. This was a huge leap of faith for us, because adoption.com is a heavily visited website. We had ethical problems with them and didn’t feel right giving several hundred dollars to them every month.

I think a lot of people think about agency adoption when they hear about matches — that there is somebody working to match you to an expectant parent. That’s not the case with us and is actually not often the case in agencies either. Expectant parents get to choose who to place their baby with — as it should be. So when we say we are waiting to be matched, we mean that we are waiting for somebody to choose us. This is a very sensitive time. There are a lot of things that are kept private out of respect for those expectant parents making decisions for their baby. This step of the process has been slow. And sometimes kind of disheartening. Many people stay in this step of the process for years.


The next step is being matched. Once we have a match, we will begin to work with a lawyer who will help with paperwork. Being matched means the expectant mama has chosen you and spoken with you and you’ve both agreed that she will place her baby with you. This can happen at any stage of the pregnancy or even after the baby is born. Many people are matched one day and bring home a baby a few days later. Others have many months of getting to know the expectant mom before the baby is born. It’s important to note that being matched is not a legal agreement. Mothers can choose to parent their child — as it should be. Utah has a two day waiting period before a mom can sign her papers relinquishing her rights. That’s also as it should be.

That’s the next step. Mamas (and in some states, as it should be, fathers) relinquish their rights and become birth mamas/papas. She places the baby with you.

6 month’s later, the adoption is finalized with a judge and you become legal parents.

I think the process is a lot like air travel. There is a lot of hurry up and wait. A lot of rushing and a lot of sitting around.


There are things we need to be doing more of right now — like posting and sharing. We also need to find another, more ethical, site to post our profile. We are also considering going with an agency, because we are completely bad at marketing ourselves and talking about ourselves. But the cost is significant and prohibitive. There are a lot of unknowns.

Home studies last for one year. Ours needs to be renewed. Plus, we’ve since bought a home and will need a new home visit. We have taken the year so far to step back and explore all our options. We are still in this phase. That’s one of the worst things about this growing our family stuff — the time. Everything takes so much time. Every month that slips by feels like an eternity and that we are running out of time.


I’m so grateful that people are interested in our journey and for the love and support we’ve gotten from our network. We have good people in our lives. Please keep asking about us — even though we probably won’t have updates. It helps us feel like we are still here, living this life alongside you.

Photo Description: Jeff and I have a goal to bake at least 52 times this year. We’re learning a new skill!

A Thrill of Hope

Earlier this month, I heard a report on NPR titled, Another Mass Shooting? ‘Compassion Fatigue’ Is A Natural Reaction. It begins:

“Roger Chui first learned about the mass shooting that killed 12 people in a packed bar Wednesday night in Thousand Oaks, Calif., when he woke up the morning after and turned on his phone. “And I was like ‘Oh, that seems really soon after Pittsburgh and Louisville,’ “says the software developer … “I thought we’d get more of a break.” Chui feels like these kinds of shootings happen in the U.S. so often now that when he hears about them all he can think about is, “Oh well, it happened again I guess.” He’s not alone. … but science suggests that these feelings are quite normal. It’s a natural response called compassion fatigue… Thinking too much about traumatic events, whether it’s a refugee crisis on the other side of the world or a school shooting in our own country, can make people too anxious or depressed to function in their daily lives.”

I don’t know about you, but I know I have felt some level of compassion fatigue looking back at the events of the year. It seems it’s getting easier and easier to slip into despair. As my awareness of the suffering, injustice and oppression around me increases, my ability to feel hope is increasingly threatened. Add to this the daily challenges we each face individually, we can almost effortlessly, slip into moments of complete hopelessness.

In the October General Conference, in a talk titled Try, Try, Try, President Henry B. Eyring, spoke to encourage us through the troubles we face. And today, mostly as a practice in encouragement for myself, I want to do the same. President Eyring said:

“All of us live in a world where Satan’s war against truth and against our personal happiness is becoming more intense. The world and your life can seem to you to be in increasing commotion.”

He continues:

“My testimony is that the Savior is putting His name in your hearts. For many of you, your faith in Him is increasing. You are feeling more hope and optimism. And you are feeling the pure love of Christ for others and for yourself…”

I know each of us here, like me, knows what that feels like –when you are filled with hope and optimism, when you are able to feel and give love freely. Those are times of joy, gratitude and hope. But if you, like me, don’t feel that way all the time — even if you don’t feel that way right now — I want you to know that’s okay, too. That’s part of life. In 2 Nephi 2:11, we read:

“For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so… righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad.”

In this scripture, Lehi is speaking to his son, Jacob. Jacob was born in the wilderness. In fact, the chapter begins with Lehi describing how well acquainted Jacob is with affliction, sorrow, even rudeness, but Lehi also says that Jacob “knows the greatness of God.”

There is clearly opposition in all things. So, without despair, we would not know hope. For those times of darkness, the wildernesses of our lives, President Eyring acknowledges:

“I realize that some of you listening today may feel your faith and hope are being overcome by your troubles. And you may yearn to feel love.”

Scripture is replete with examples of good people living in this darkness, feeling sadness, feeling despair, feeling hopeless and overcome by their troubles. An obvious example is Job. We often applaud Job for his faithful approach to his significant trials. That’s absolutely deserved. His faithfulness in the face of losing everything is astounding. But in Job 19, Job is describing all the truly terrible things that have happened to him. In verse 10, he says:

“He hath destroyed me on every side, and I am gone: and mine hope hath he removed like a tree.”

Did you catch that? Job felt hopeless. Even still, after acknowledging this moment of despair, he ends the chapter testifying of His Redeemer Jesus Christ.

Then there is Jesus himself, who has been described as the Master of Hope, is it possible that he ever felt overcome by troubles? The answer, I think, is yes. The famous scripture in John 11:35 is “Jesus wept.” I recently re-read this full chapter. The scripture, of course, refers to Jesus’ reaction to the death of his friend Lazarus. What I found interesting is that Jesus already knew Lazarus was dead. And he already knew he was going to bring him back to life. Clear back in verse 11, he said:

“Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.” Isn’t that fascinating? Skipping down to verse 33:

“When Jesus therefore saw her (Mary) weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, 34 And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. 35 Jesus wept.

Less than 10 verses later, Christ has risen Lazarus from the dead. I believe this is not only a remarkable display of compassion but also simply the hallmark of living a human life. Even in times when we have the knowledge of eternal life, we can feel troubled. And we can feel deep sadness. That doesn’t make you wrong. It makes you human. But in those dark days, it is also possible to hope.

I am a person who lives with depression and anxiety. As a person who experiences mental illness, I know that in some of those dark times, you may need medical intervention to help you feel hope again. And I also know that there is hope and beauty and light waiting for you on the other side of those trials. It has helped me to learn that hope is not so much a feeling as it is a cognitive behavior. Social science researcher, Dr. Brené Brown’s work theorizes, “Hope is not how we feel; it’s how we think.” And, she graciously adds, “it can be learned.”

So how do we cultivate hope?

President Eyring’s solution is simple but not particularly easy. “Try, try, try.” Practice living like Jesus. Try taking His name upon you every day. President Eyring says,

“Brothers and sisters, the Lord has opportunities near you to feel and to share His love. You can pray with confidence for the Lord to lead you to love someone for Him. He answers the prayers of meek volunteers like you. You will feel the love of God for you and for the person you serve for Him. As you help children of God in their troubles, your own troubles will seem lighter. Your faith and your hope will be strengthened.”

Hope is so intricately tied to faith and charity, that I am not going to try very hard to distinguish between the three. Elder Dieter Uchtdorf said, “Faith, hope, and charity complement each other,and as one increases, the others grow as well. Hope comes of faith, for without faith, there is no hope. In like manner faith comes of hope, for faith is “the substance of things hoped for.”

While despair might call you to disconnect from the world and from others, it might say, just don’t read the news, just think of yourself. I don’t think this is a sustainable answer. Rather, hope asks us to engage. Adam S. Miller, in his book Letters to a Young Mormon, writes:

“Faith is a willingness to care for what’s right in front of you. Faith doesn’t wish these difficult things away. It invites them in, breaks bread with them, and washes their feet. … God constantly gives himself to us in the inconvenient, in the hungry, the outcast, the prisoner, the sinner. He gives himself in what we would like to ignore. “For I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing. I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” … “just as you did it to one of the least of these… you did it to me”. Faith has to do with the least of these. It takes us down and into the unwieldy world, not up and away from it.”

Faith, hope and charity — and, I would argue, especially hope — cause us to engage more fully in the world. Neil A Maxwell said:

“Significantly, those who look forward to a next and better world are usually “anxiously engaged” in improving this one, for they “always abound in good works.” … Hope is realistic anticipation taking the form of determination — a determination not merely to survive but to “endure… well” to the end.

In other words, we hope for a better world because we are working to make the world better. In 1 Corinthians 9:10, Paul puts it this way: “He that ploweth should plow in hope; and he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.”

You’ve probably felt this happen in real time. For me, I saw this at work while in graduate school. I spent two years learning about systemic injustices and oppression, the root causes of some of the world’s most pressing problems. It was difficult to feel hope. That is, it was difficult until I started my field research. In the field, I worked with a group of elementary-aged students. And that’s when I found hope. I saw hope in their resilience, in their interactions, in their capacity to love and laugh. Hope is learned in the doing, in the work, on the ground, connected to those around us.

We can also learn to cultivate hope by looking for examples. Or, as Elder Maxwell put it, in “illuminated individuals.”

I saw a shining example of hope fairly recently when I watched Be One – A Celebration of the Revelation on the Priesthood. People of color in our church certainly know suffering, injustice and oppression. To witness this beautiful celebration of their stories, music, poetry, art and voices gave me hope for the future of our church. Their examples of hoping and working for a better world and a better church were inspiring. And the example of endurance through troubling times had me in tears. “There’s a place for us” –all of us, in this gospel, in this world, and in the eternities.

Sister Cheiko Okazaki put it this way:

“Hope persists, even when experience, reason, and knowledge all say there is no reason to hope. Hope does not calculate odds… It is a double-sided virtue. It is prepared for either sunny or stormy weather. To choose hope is to choose life. To choose hope is to choose love.”

Over the past few months, I’ve been thinking about a single metaphor quite a bit. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about surfing. Now, I’ve never been surfing, but I’ve seen enough movies to make the metaphor useful to me. I think, for me, I have often looked at the waves of life as something to avoid. I will spend a lot of time thinking about how I can stop the waves, or trials and challenges, that might come my way. As someone who lives with anxiety, I can tell you I have spent WAY too much time thinking about all the different ways some wave might come and be terrible. Of course, this is futile. Just as we could never stop the waves in the ocean, we can not prevent trials and challenges from occurring in our lives. The goal of this life is to have experiences,or to get out on those waves. I see hope as a thought process that moves us out into the ocean and up onto that surfboard. Hope says, there’s beauty in riding that wave. Faith, hope and charity then work with us to keep us balanced on the board. And when the wave inevitably throws us off, hope gets us back up on that board for the thrill of riding out that wave. Challenges are not always enjoyable, but riding out the wave is where joy is inevitable found. Remember? There must be opposition in all things.

Jesus Christ says, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” The goal is not to feel nothing. It’s to live and feel abundantly. Elder Maxwell puts it this way: “Those with true hope often see their personal circumstances shaken, like Kaleidoscopes, again and again. Yet with the “eye of faith,” they still see divine pattern and purpose.”

And that pattern and purpose leads us to see that God is actually in the winds and the waves and the hope and the despair.

Because our Heavenly Parents are with us always. And hope in Christ, of course, leads us there.

I’m glad it’s Christmas time. I’ve been covertly listening to Christmas music for a couple weeks now. One of my favorite songs is O Holy Night. Because this topic has been on my mind, some lyrics have hit me as especially poignant. It goes,

“O holy night the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new glorious morn”

I love that description. A thrill of hope. I testify that Jesus Christ offers our weary world a thrill of hope. Because He was born. Because he chose to atone for us. And because he overcame death. That is our ultimate hope. And that He did all this because He loves us.

As Paul puts it, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Speak Up! (second draft)*

They told me to speak up when I spoke to them.
They said, “We can’t hear you from waaaaay back here.”
Your voice is too mousy, too quiet, too soft.
They told me to speak up.
“OK,” I said. And I cleared my throat. And I used my “theatre voice.”
— It’s not my voice, but I’ll wear it for awhile. —
Why won’t they move in closer to hear?

They told me to speak up in class.
When I sat next to that guy
— you know the one —
who wouldn’t stop talking, monopolizing, arguing
Even though he didn’t know. He didn’t read. His words meant nothing.
Not a thing.
Why didn’t you leave space for my thoughts?

They told me to speak up at my meetings.
The ones where half the people sitting around the table are somewhere else
And the other half are repeating each others words in different words.
And the boss is sitting back in that chair (the one with armrests),
But they’re actually at another meeting on their cell phone.
And I wondered, ironically,
Why didn’t you hear what I said?

They told me to speak up.
And for a long time I believed them.
They said I was wrong, quiet, shy, unsure.
They told me to speak up.

But one day, I realized
My voice is my voice
And telling me to speak up
Is no better than telling me
You’re not really listening.
Not to me, at least.
And must I remind you that listening isn’t always done
In a classroom, in a meeting, crowded between four walls?
And am I the only one that realizes
Hearing me doesn’t require I have a voice at all?

They told me to speak up.

But they didn’t know I was listening
And that ears to hear were stronger
Than tongues to speak.
My ears were my power
And listening — my odyssey.

My ears blessed me with stories.
Beyond my own. Beyond my tongue.

My ears granted me journeys.
Beyond my own. Beyond my toes.

My ears gave me thoughts
Beyond my own. Beyond my mind.

And (mostly) my ears taught me your heart
So when I spoke — quietly, sure —
I had been shaped (and re-shaped)
by you
and yours
and theirs, too.

They told me to speak up.
But speaking up didn’t connect me to you.
Because that power belongs to ears.

So, now,
when they tell me to speak up.

I say, (or maybe think)
Listen up.

-Megan Attermann

The first draft was scribbled in a notebook in the middle of the night. The third draft isn’t here yet.