I love when kids ask real questions for real life. When they are searching. And when they are vulnerable and lay their feelings out on the line. I love when they are really seeking to understand. Even if that understanding is going to drag them through some tough, dark spots. Because I don’t want them to just plug along with life just because we tell them to. Questions are such a beautiful part of learning and growing. Not only for the kids, but for the parents too!

Lucy’s real question after church

After church on Sunday, (two churches actually, Grace and Claire got home the night before …so happy!…and we went to one of Claire’s friends mission farewell), Lucy asked why we teach at church that we’ll get blessings when we pay tithing. Because according to her, that’s just not true.

I could tell that this question was somehow wrapped up into what happened the night before:

A “lock-in” sleep over at the Foundation for Blind Children.

She did NOT want to go, and I could go on and on about our emotional discussions leading up to that thing, but I’ll just say after many discussions and heartache, Lucy decided she would bravely do this thing. She is dying for some social activity, and we want her to get to know some of the kids in the blind community because we think this could be such an important step for her. She doesn’t want to fit into the blind community, yet she needs them. And I think they could use a little bit of Lucy too (I’m a little biased but I think she is pretty outstanding).

She does want to do the “Teen to Work” program this summer (HUGE step that she’s open to that now), which is a four-week stay at local college campus, and a “Lock-In” is mandatory before that, so she resigned herself to this step.

She was carrying around a lot of emotion about this leading up to the big day.

I was too. Trying to be a durable object.

We said two really heartfelt prayers together in the car en route to the FBC (Foundation for Blind Children), once before we left, and once in the parking lot when we got there. In each prayer as I prayed, pouring out pleas that she would be peaceful about this and learn and grow, she whispered “and have fun,” for me to include. So I did.

Dropping Lucy off at FBC

Lucy trying to find the courage to go into the Foundation for Blind Children "lock-in"

I walked her in and she went from just saying “bye” to begging for me to take her home, until we met a boy about her age who happened to have BBS as well (little miracle), and they asked them to help set up tables and I snuck out, off into the dark night to go home alone, praying that this would be ok. Trying to hold my mother’s heart together.

She texted a few times asking me to come get her, but mostly she bravely did this thing that was so hard for her. When I picked her up early the next morning so we could get to church, she was good, that big thing under her belt. And oh, was I ever proud of her!

Back to Lucy’s question for real life…

So back to her question after church, because I think a piece of that question was wrapped up a little our prayers that she would “have fun” at the lock-in.

Because that didn’t happen, despite our most fervent and heart-felt pleas.

And her continual prayers to find friends with the same interests, and they don’t show up.
And prayers that maybe BBS will be taken away, which will never happen.
I know in her heart she was wondering: what is the use of prayers and being good if there is no reward?
Where are her answers?
Why is God leaving her comfortless? She pays her tithing, she takes notes in church, she keeps trying to turn to Him. But most of the time she feels like He’s not there. She is alone.

I love that she asked this question among the other real questions for real life that she has.
I love that it turned into a family discussion at Family Home Evening that afternoon.
I love that Claire and Grace were there to offer their own hearts on the altar.
I love that we can talk about the real instead of just the generalized “follow the prophet and it will all work out.”

Because sometimes it doesn’t “all work out” the way we want it to. This is real life we’re talking about after all.

And real life happens to the best people. We get confused because our versions of life working out are often not the same as God’s.

Faith is not transactional

Often we hear these stories of transactional dealings with God: someone made a good decision and life fell into place. Someone paid their tithing and temporal needs showed up on the doorstep. Someone who was wearing their garments was protected in a car accident. These are general ideas of some stories I’ve heard (have you heard them?). I’m sure these things have happened before. But I think they are passed around because people want to hold on to the hope.

The problem is that the majority of time life doesn’t work out like that.

Sometimes we forget that the blessing of “being good” is that you can learn to trust God. Your heart can be changed. Humility becomes a bigger part of you. This helps your foundation to become enlarged. And if you look at that from a bird’s-eye view, isn’t that so much more important? I’d love to hear other thoughts about this…I think it’s such a big question so many people grapple with!

So on that Sunday afternoon we talked through how the “blessings” we talk about getting when we’re “good” are most of the time so different from what we envision and hope they’ll be. They are not transactional. The blessings come in that changed heart when I picked Lucy up from FBC. They come in the courage she gained. The knowledge that she could do that. And that “one impossible thing will help her when the next impossible thing comes her way” (thank you Grandma Jacobson).

sometimes the gift is in the struggle

Oh, she won’t be able to take all this into her heart right now. But it was a good reminder for us all that the “gifts” from being good are that you turn your heart to God, who is all good.

You can give your heart to Him, take and seal it, and trust. Even in the hard times.

And believe that He is still there, even for those times when you can’t feel Him.

I hope some day she will look back and recognize the bread crumbs left to help her find her way. The miracles where she was carried. The silver linings even when the “blessings” look vastly different from what she hopes they will be.

And I hope she will always remember to keep asking those real questions for real life.

Because that is what will make her grow the most.

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  1. So happy that Lucy is opening up to the Blind center activities. Have you looked at her own high school within the special needs sept for some friendships. I have a daughter with very mild disabilities but she is definitely less mature than your average teen and may have a lot more in common with Lucy. Lots of these kids love games and arts and crafts and are not into dating yet. Just a suggestion that there could be some possible friendships for her very close by…..

    1. We have looked but I love this reminder to look again. In a school of nearly 4,000 kids there have got to be some who would love to do the same things Lucy does!

  2. People who ask tough questions like these ^ are so important to the world. The answers are not easy, and the exercise to find them falls on all of us and helps further everyone’s understanding. Just like your family discussion. Keep asking and looking for answers, Lucy!

  3. Sweet Lucy, I can only imagine his scary and so brave you are. You are such an inspiration to us all. I really loved your thoughts. Last year my husband was laid off it my was extremely unexpected and I’ll be honest it was a trial of my faith. You hear so many stories or being blessed when you pay your tithing and that didn’t seem to happen in the way I hoped. No cash dropped off, no help, no windfalls and month after month we saw our savings drained. It was so hard, and honestly I felt like we had been abandoned. However, looking back no the “ stories of miracles” may not have shown up line I thought but we kept our home, we fed our kids, and I’m so grateful because on paper those numbers didn’t add up!!
    I can’t say I’m glad it happened or understood why but I learned so much!!
    Lucy , you are amazing!

    1. Thank you for sharing this, Heidi. We have so much to learn as we look for the little things that carry us through the depths of the tough times. XOXO

  4. Great post!
    Two things are on my mind re: this…the advice I rec’d years ago from my spiritual director. It’s advice I have seen written and stated many times of the years in various ways but it is full of wisdom and I now understand but wouldn’t have when I was in my teens. “We don’t pray to change situations, we pray to change ourselves”. This is just golden to me! Good wisdom there.
    And this also reminds me of Rilke’s wonderful one liner- “Live the questions so one day you will live/find the answers”.
    Merry Christmas!

  5. Sweet Lucy, I know this situation is heartbreaking for you (and for your Mom)… but I absolutely applaud you for expressing your doubts about the whole “blessings for tithing and service” thing. It is simply not true.

    You cannot earn blessings by your deeds, and certainly not by paying money – and I am so impressed that you are so mature and intelligent not to buy into that. I know your family believes this, and they are trying to convince you that it is true, not to lose faith, etc. But you are not losing faith by questioning beliefs, even ones taught to you from infanthood, that make no sense.

    Kudos to you! Your God would NOT purposely choose you for this terrible disease and it is NOT some kind of divine test. It is hard enough for you to deal with all this without thinking it was put on you specifically by a “loving” God.

    1. Tara, very well said. I’d only add to you list of what God is NOT a list of what God is:

      God is the divine spark within Lucy that keeps her determined to grow and learn and question

      God is in the unconditional love Lucy gives and receives.

      God is in the inspiration for people to create and work for organizations like this center for blind children.

      Of course, none of these attributes are connected in any way to money paid to a church, what kind in underwear is worn, or if one follows rules about sex and sexuality.

    2. Thank you, friends, for these thoughts. I agree with you, Tara, I think we find faith by questioning it, and I am so grateful Lucy (and all my kids for that matter), are willing to ask the questions and dig deeper as they strive to connect with God. And I love your thoughts about God, Jenny Also. God is interwoven into it all.

  6. I just found out last week that I have an autoimmune disease that affects my eyes and airways. I have struggled for 16 years and am already blind in one eye so this diagnosis comes as a relief especially bc it is treatable. Although I cannot regain the sight that I’ve lost I have hope in the future. The disease is rare and usually only affects much older people (I’m 36) so it was not caught earlier. As I’ve thought about all that has occurred over the last 16 years I can see so much the hand of God and how He has helped and guided me along my journey. I’ve learned so much and have been humbled many times. But mostly it has drawn my wandering heart to Him and that’s something to be especially grateful for. My heart goes out to Lucy! I can’t imagine how difficult this must be and I’m praying for peace for her and answers to her heartfelt questions.

    1. I love that you are looking for the hand of God. I love that you are continuing to turn to God even through the tough things and I LOVE what you said about how your journey has “drawn your wandering heart to Him.” What a beautiful way to describe that. Thank you so much for sharing. XOXO

  7. I think it’s vitally important that we recognize and celebrate our own strength and abilities. We do have a loving God and Heavenly Mother, but they don’t give us things based on our obedience and adherence to rules. I can firmly attest to that. Lucy earned that gained confidence and opened mind through her own bravery and conviction. Those things were not given to her as a blessing because she did something hard, she earned them through herself! When we take ownership of our own power, we are able to build ourselves up and continue to build the foundation we need to make it through life. Our Heavenly Parents are always there, but just like you teach your kids self reliance, our Heavenly Parents are doing the same for us. And by celebrating our own strength and abilities that WE have EARNED, we are honoring Them and Their unconditional love for us. It is vital that we allow ourselves to take responsibility for our own growth and strength. God is there, but we are are the ones doing the work and we get to take credit for that. In no way is saying that we don’t need Them or we are better than Them. To own your power and give yourself credit for progress is honoring Them and the intrinsic traits They gave us before we were even here. Becoming the best us is not a perfect path built on a rewards system of blessings for adherence to rules, it’s developing self worth, a commitment to consistent growth and betterment, and helping others (and more things)… all using the gifts given to us by our Heavenly Parents.

    1. Love these thoughts as well! You’re right, Lucy gained that confidence because she was willing to take those steps. That is a blessing she has given herself. I always tell my kids that faith and developing a relationship with God isn’t just standing on an escalator. We have to grow the “spiritual muscles” to find our own way and to connect with God. And to grow and take those spiritual steps that can help us as we continue to turn to God. That is the blessing, which I think you’re saying as well. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Tammy! XOXO

  8. I so admire Lucy’s earnestness and courage. I am not very religious at all but I guess we all struggle with this on some level. Motherhood can be so painful-for me there is nothing harder than seeing your child in pain. But, it sounds like you were able to be there with her and had such a beautiful discussion.No offense to your religion because I think the idea is woven into them all-but, this idea that I prayed and something good happened is so detrimental. There is not always a lesson in every hardship. . I do not have the “gift” of faith but I think what God or faith can provide is solace and comfort -which is a lot but, stories like he put this person in my life or he cured me etc… end up causing more harm than good.
    I am sure you have looked into everything but, is there anything like an online book club (or in person) for high schoolers? From your posts, it seems like she loves books and audible is such a great option- I mostly listen these days.

    1. Thank you for sharing these thoughts. I agree that this thought is woven into many religions and I think culturally it’s something we want to believe and interpret to make us feel better. Maybe that’s just human nature. Love the idea of a book club, Lucy adores listening to books and has been part of a neighborhood book club for years but maybe if she starts her own she could have more control over the books that are chosen, etc. I’ll have to talk to her about it. XOXO

  9. After some of my own experiences “doing everything right” and feeling like God was far away, I came across some studies and podcasts about divine silence. I felt so understood. I feel like lamentations chapter 3 tells my story and where I’ve landed.
    Also had an experience reading in Isaiah 43:2 “ When thou passest through the ​​​waters​, I ​will be​ with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee:”
    When I first read this I wondered how if He was with me I could not see or feel Him in my deepest waters. I had the immediate thought that He was under the water, making sure my head stayed above. Just because we can’t see Him doesn’t mean He isn’t ever with us. It took me a long time of misunderstanding a lot of things about God to get to where I am now. Much of it I learned during that time of extended silence and since, as a result of my changed perspective, understanding, and heart. It sounds like sweet Lucy has a head start. She will have her own experiences that will bring her understanding!
    Love to both of you during the wrestle. Keep asking those hard questions, Lucy! 💛

    1. What a beautiful way to think about this…He is under the water making sure our heads stay above. “Just because we can’t see Him doesn’t mean He isn’t ever with us.” Thank you so much for sharing.

  10. Thanks for sharing this! My ten year old was diagnosed with type one diabetes last year, and we’ve had a lot of similar conversations, because life has changed SO dramatically for him with this new disease. No cure and no end to being insulin dependent. I agree with all of this and the comments as well. We do good things because we want to be good and it feels good to do what we think is right. Our Heavenly Parents love us through all the things that come in a fallen world. They don’t punish or reward us for things, and yes, we need to learn to turn to Them when needed.

  11. Lucy, please take comfort in the fact that lots of kids don’t find “their people” in high school. Some do, like your sisters, but many don’t. My son sure didn’t. He had some fun, for sure, but never found a gang to hang around with. And then he went to college and found ALL his people. So, you never know. It might be that the best people for you are just around the corner. All you have to do is keep walking around every corner (like that sleepover) until you wind up in a big pack of happiness. It’s hard but worth it. Hang in there, Lucy. And have a very merry Christmas!

    1. Such a hopeful thought, I was talking to Lucy about this the other day. I LOVE what you said about “all you have to do is keep walking around every corner.” Even if that’s hard to do. So proud of her for being willing to take these steps.

  12. I don’t look at religion as a transactional experience. I don’t “pay” my tithe, I get to tithe. Because of God’s grace alone, I’ll be forgiven of my sins and enter heaven. Grace isn’t earned, it’s a gift that’s given to us.

    I’m not trying to sway your beliefs but maybe learning about the perspective Lutherans take towards grace would be helpful to switch things from what Lucy isn’t receiving to what she already has. Lutherans believe a person is saved by grace alone, a message that comes to us by Scripture alone, and no earning of salvation is asked because it’s received by faith alone.

    I have a daughter with a rare autoimmune disease. She was diagnosed her junior year of college when she was 19. Her disease can cause her to go into crisis and if not recognized quickly enough, die of a simple cold or infection. She, like Lucy, has great faith and a stubborn streak. I believe her faith let her forge forward and appear to be a “normal” young adult. She’s constantly being held back due to physical limitations but her maturity and faith let her find the positive in most situations. I’m so thankful for her focus as it changed my perspective. I recognize that Lucy can’t fake the appearance of “normal” which must be so difficult. I pray that God comforts Lucy and provides the relationships she needs for a happy, meaningful high school experience and future life.

    I apologize if my comments are proselytizing. My intent is to give a different perspective, not change your beliefs.

  13. Kara – I agree with most of what you say, except for the fact that salvation is based on faith alone. The Bible says that faith without works is dead. So there has to be some good deeds involved there somewhere right? Not just believing and having faith but showing it by our way of life and doing good to our fellow man…

    Also, I never understood tithing. You “get to tithe”, but wouldn’t it mean more if you just chose to do it, not told you had to by your church…. what would happen if you stopped tithing and said, no I’m going to give to the Food Bank instead of the church…. ? Just curious.

    1. Hi Lola,

      Great points! “Getting” to tithe implies choice for me but I can see why you think it doesn’t. My church has no idea if I tithe or not as they don’t know my family income or the income of any other church member. I do not give my full tithing to the church and choose other organizations and individuals to support. That seems to be the norm in my area of the Midwest.

      As far as my next comments, please know I am the furthest thing from a Biblical scholar! The Bible does talk about works, especially in James 2. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God – not the result of works, so that no one may boast.” Led by Martin Luther in the 1500s, Protestants broke away from the Catholic Church. Two of the biggest factors were the salvation and the sale of indulgences. I find the corruption of the Catholic Church (in the Middle Ages) and the sale of indulgences to be incredibly interesting. I’m not here to change anyone’s beliefs but if you’re interested, search the “Protestant Reformation,” “Martin Luther 95 Theses,” or Martin Luther A Treatise on Good Works” to learn more. Studying religious history gives one a fascinating view into the past.

  14. Thank you for this. I’ve found that our church seems to rely on transactional blessings a lot. Both from a “I prayed and kept my covenants and my prayer was answered” as well as “she didn’t keep her covenants and that’s why she got cancer and died.” I appreciate your sharing this as a reminder that it doesn’t work that way (and thank goodness for that). I wish my ward had more folks like you sharing stuff like this!

    Sending lots of prayers to you and Lucy as you continue to navigate life’s surprises.

    1. I just think it has become part of what we say from stories and some experiences that start to become larger than they really are. I do believe these things can happen. There can be great “blessings” that come in conjunction with choices we make, but the biggest blessings in my opinion come because we are humbling ourselves to let God in and I think THAT is what we need to focus on. Maybe you can start that seed in your ward!

  15. So many beautiful things to mull over here.
    What a brave and courageous step Lucy took!

    Her questions will help her… keep asking and seeking!

    Her concerns reminded me of The Chosen episodes that were recently in theaters. I can’t remember if you guys are Chosen fans, but I have found it so much easier to see the Savior and find His love after watching it! To apply it to my own life.
    The third season, episode two – at the end when the Savior is talking to James about his disability is what came to my mind. Too often we expect healing, a miracle, or that grand blessing for “being a good girl or boy”…. Often that’s just not what He needs for us in that moment. Not that he loves us less, just has another plan.

    Keep it up Lucy! you’ve got this!

    1. We watched this on Sunday and oh it was so good! Claire, Lu and I were all teary. I had a few people including you recommend it and Lucy and I had a very sweet conversation about it last night. Thank you so much! xoxo

      1. Oh I’m tearing up just thinking about it again. It’s so easy to be frustrated with the “why nots”… myself included. It doesn’t make it all better, but it does ease the weight of holding them. ❤️

  16. This quote from Mother Teresa really helped me make peace with some of the same questions Lucy has been asking. Sweet girl, I’m praying for her!

    “I used to pray that God would feed the hungry, or do this or that, but now I pray that he will guide me to do whatever I’m supposed to do, what I can do. I used to pray for answers, but now I’m praying for strength. I used to believe that prayer changes things, but now I know that prayer changes us and we change things.”

    1. I love that quote so very much. Thank you for sharing, I want to print it up and put it up in my house!

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