Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Friday, February 26, 2010

Give Me a Break

by Kerry Blair

Today I am throwing myself a big ol’ pity party and you’re all invited.

The party commemorates the unfortunate reality that I am not where I want to be. While this is true spiritually, emotionally, professionally, and metaphorically, I’m talking about life on the physical plane—at least I am in this paragraph. Specifically, I want to be about a hundred miles south of here, in Mesa, soaking up sunshine, meeting with a good friend about his magnificent manuscript, and practically vibrating with excitement in anticipation of tomorrow’s ANWA Conference. (I plunked down $65 in a heartbeat just to hear Jeff Savage’s keynote address. Everything else is frosting.) I have been looking forward to this weekend for months. I’m packed. I’m psyched. I’m prepared. I spent days putting together an “Arizona Survival Kit” for Jeff—scorpion light and everything. (I have no idea how he's going to make it through the weekend without my help, but I fear for him.) I am not, however, on my way. I am at home. In bed. Sick.

I’m sick of a lot of things, now that I’ve brought it up. I am sick of being sick. I am sick of people lowering their voices as if at a wake when they ask me how I am. I am sick of not being able to drive. I am sick of stumbling over dust moozies and dropping things the first three times I try to pick them up. I am sick of looking like a troll doll on steroids. (The only things I hate worse than steroids are wheelchairs. And pain. And suffering. Those kinds of things.) I am sick of people saying I am such a “champ” when in fact your average, run-of-the-mill badger with ulcerative colitis and an abcessed fang is much more social—not to mention pleasant to be around—than I have been the last few months. I am sick of knowing that when all we can control is our attitude, the Lord expects us to do it. I am sick of pity parties. In short(er), I am sick of being broken and would like to be fixed. Now. Please.

I’ve said “please” in my prayers; I’ve even added cream and sugar and a little charity on top. But I am still broken. I am, in fact, beyond what a little Scotch tape—or even Super Glue—can manage. So, I’ve taken to obsessing over a talk Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave at our stake conference several years ago. It differs from the many-broken-things-can-be-mended talk he gave at General Conference in 2008 so, unless you know somebody else in the Prescott Stake who takes great notes, you’ll just have to accept my interpretation.

Elder Holland observed that most of us live in a time and place where worn, slow, out-dated and/or broken things are cast thoughtlessly aside. This is not true, he says, of God’s time and place. God, in fact, loves broken things and uses them to bring about His miraculous design. The dawn must break to bring a new day. Ground must be broken to plant a seed. Clouds break to release life-giving rain. A seed splits to grow and bring forth fruit. When grain is ripe, it must be broken to make bread. Bread is symbolically broken each week so that we may take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ.

It is clear to me from Elder Holland’s testimony that the way we see ourselves and the way God sees us may not be the same—or always very similar. As much as I hate to admit it, I know in my heart which of us has the better perspective. This is probably why pity parties are not an integral part of the Plan and why, now that I’ve served up enough whine and cheese to last us all through the Millennium, I will pick up the pieces, dust them off, and place them back upon the altar where they belong.

That, unfortunately, is all I can do with the broken pieces of me. (I’m on the activities committee because I’m so much better at pity parties than arts and crafts.) I want to believe that something beautiful can be made of the shards of what seemed like a perfectly good life. (Heck, forget beautiful! I’d be thrilled to remain unsightly-but-utilitarian.) But I also know that I can't do it myself. (I’ve messed around so long now with tape and glue that I’m a tangled, sticky, disheartened mess.) You’d think that letting go and "letting God" would be the easy thing to do, but it’s not. After all, what if it was His idea to break up all that beautiful china to build the Nauvoo temple? Ground-to-dust is a little too broken, if you ask me.

Nobody has asked me.

Please know that I am lecturing myself . (I'm the only one who needs it.) I find that I must constantly impress upon myself that even when we feel the most sorry for ourselves--especially when we feel the most sorry for ourselves--the truth remains that "broken" isn't "worthless." Broken is merely a new miracle in progress. We mustn't lose hope, or even confidence. While I know I won't make it to Mesa this weekend, I don't know what I might be able to do right here. That's the interesting part. Interesting I can handle.

Despite my self-pep-talk, I'll so miss seeing so many of you at the conference tomorrow! (Say hello to my son for me, will you?) Jeff, you can still have that survival kit, plus my uneaten lunch, if you'll send me your notes. And have fun! Those ANWAites and their associates are the nicest people you're ever going to meet.


At 2/26/2010 12:52 PM, Blogger Rachel Andersen said...

Oh Kerry,
I am crying. I wanted to see you so bad. I wish I could wave a magic wand and make it all better. But then that would take away God's miracle working plan I guess.
You are amazing - to be able to still write such an uplifting thought and share it with us. You are in my prayers.

At 2/26/2010 12:59 PM, Blogger Jennie said...

Aww Kerry, even broken you're a better deal than most of us. And I'm not sure I buy into your pity party; I'm busy enough with my own. I'm the one I feel sorry for when you're down. If you're not around to kick me into gear, who is going to do it? Who else is going to make me laugh when I feel like craying? Who else can make me appreciate some of those classics I despised in high school? And you're right about those ANWA people; they know how to throw a first class conference--but I suspect it won't be quite as good this year without you.

At 2/26/2010 2:01 PM, Blogger L.T. Elliot said...

There are other things I'd normally say but all I can think about is how timely this post is for me. I haven't gone through what you have but my mother has M.S. and is struggling terribly. Your words are exactly the thing I want her to hear. I hope you don't mind if I pass it along. Thank you. It's not enough--but thank you.

At 2/26/2010 2:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are interesting connections to be found in the most unlikely places. Ulcerative Colitis is a nasty disease.

Unfortunately, I know how you feel.

I am, however, on the opposite end of the trial... gutless(literally, thank you surgery) but seeing the downward slope once more.

As the well worn groove in my old couch will tell you, which I lovingly formed over the course of that year, there is always another year to be had, another conference, another opportunity to stretch and grow waiting just beyond our current griefs. There is always time to pick up our dreams, dust them off, and place them gently in the light once more.

And like you mentioned so aptly, there is beauty to be found in the shards of broken lives and even dreams. The Lord is picking up our scattered pieces every day, placing each one delicately into a brilliant stained glass version of ourselves, perfectly suited to the warm touch of a smiling sun.

Stained glass is stunning, even though the glass itself may never come to that realization. But those of us looking on thank you for the beauty we see through you.

We are all windows, transmitting ever more brightly the passing light. And as our broken pieces are lifted up into a better frame, the glass becomes a more beautiful mirror of our perfect selves, waiting for us just on the horizon.

So broken is a miracle in progress. Thank you for your post. I appreciated hearing of your experience.


At 2/26/2010 4:17 PM, Blogger Jon Spell said...

I went to a friend's funeral a few years back. She'd had some severe emotional problems for a while and ended up taking her own life. During the funeral, the main speaker told the story of the cracked pot. I can't remember the whole story, but it was about someone using this broken jar to carry water along a road that would spill out more than it ended up with. In the end, though, it turns out the water spilled along the way caused these flowers to bloom along the road and provide pleasure for everyone who took the path. So, even though the vessel appeared to be flawed, it could still bring unexpected joy to others.

Unfortunately, the phrase "cracked pot" got used a lot in this story, and I couldn't shake the feeling that the speaker was calling my friend a crackpot. =)

Anyway, you'd probably take more inspiration from the actual story, rather than my humorous (irreverent) take on it, so if you want, you can read it here:

And, uh, just for the record, I think you bear your cross more regally and gracefully than many. Certainly more than I would. *hugs*

At 2/26/2010 6:22 PM, Blogger J Scott Savage said...


You totally rock and I am so sad that you can't be here. Can I still tell my Kerry Blair stories? I will definitely send you my notes and be thinking about you. And if you are broke, woman I want to be broke just like you.

At 2/26/2010 9:01 PM, Blogger Annette Lyon said...

Kerry, I love how honest and real you are--and I hate how much you're suffering. So many of us are thinking and praying for you--and wishing that there could be a scotch tape remedy. I, for one, love you.

At 2/26/2010 9:02 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Kerry, I love you. Can't think of anything more profound to say than that.

Jon, I've heard the cracked pot story in Sacrament Meeting, and though it has a great moral, its lasting effect on me is that I go around saying periodically, "We are all cracked pots" and far from meaning it in an inspirational way, I mean it like it sounds.

At 2/26/2010 9:35 PM, Blogger Marta O. Smith said...


My cousin's daughter died a few months ago in her mid 20s. She had cystic fibrosis. Her uncle spoke at her funeral, detailing all the pain and suffering and surgeries and treatments this young woman had gone through. Most of us there were astonished. We knew she was sick, but not THAT sick. She always minimized her own pain and served others.

Then her uncle related it to Olympic divers. They are not judged solely on how pretty their dives are. They are judged on the degree of difficulty. Some people go through life with a greater degree of difficulty than most. And they get higher scores in the things that matter.

I think if you can't go to the conference, they should bring the conference to you.

At 2/27/2010 9:01 AM, Blogger Anne Bradshaw said...

Ah, Kerry, I'm so sorry. But also thankful you shared the beautiful crack imagery. I'm filing it all for whenever new cracks appear in my life--as they always will. I'm one of your fans who watches on the sideline and silently learns much.

At 2/27/2010 10:51 PM, Blogger Sandra said...

Ditto to everything everyone else has said, Kerry.

And thank you.

I have been having a rough time lately and have begun a bang up pity party here. This is exactly what I needed to hear today. Thank you so much.

At 2/28/2010 1:54 AM, Blogger Tristi said...


I love you. I love you broken, I love you whole, I love you regardless. You came into my life exactly when I needed you, and you shone and gleamed and glistened just because you were you. Thank you for the gift that you are.

At 2/28/2010 8:55 AM, Blogger Melanie Goldmund said...

Oh, Kerry, I wish I could say something profound, or make it all better, or something! But what's the only thing that occurs to me? "Have a break ... have a KitKat." Not, I'm sure, what you wanted to hear. But please know you're in my thoughts and prayers.

At 3/01/2010 11:30 AM, Blogger Heather B. Moore said...

Kerri, this was a beautiful post and it breaks my heart all at the same time. You are always in my prayers. xoxo

At 3/01/2010 8:01 PM, Blogger Karlene said...

Thank you so much for the honest sharing. I really needed to hear it today. Even though you posted it a few days ago, I just read it now--right after a total meltdown on my part.

I especially liked "-the truth remains that "broken" isn't "worthless." Broken is merely a new miracle in progress. "

Thank you again for the beautiful sharing.

At 3/01/2010 9:03 PM, Blogger Sheila said...

Oh, Kerry, how amazing that we were posting on the same day and time. I posted on the LDS Women's Book Review Blog,


how much you have helped and inspired me in my trials. I have been reading your book, Counting Blessings and it has been a true blessing in my life.

((HUGS)) and prayers heading your way.~~Sheila

At 3/02/2010 6:01 PM, Blogger UTMomof4 said...

I am so sorry you missed your weekend. I hope you don't have to suffer so much, that you get better soon. Thank-you for sharing those inspiring words from Elder Holland.

At 3/02/2010 6:16 PM, Blogger UTMomof4 said...

I also don't think I've told you before how much I LOVE your books about Nightshade. They are so funny, and the mysteries in them are fabulous! I don't think I've read Ghost of a Chance yet, I'll have to get to it! Samantha Nightshade is great, I love that she is not the typical skinny, beautiful blonde heroine. She makes me feel better about my crumb donette addiction!

At 3/03/2010 3:20 PM, Blogger Alison Palmer said...

You've been in my thoughts and prayers a lot lately. How do you always manage to inspire me, even in your darkest hours?

If it would help, I'll round up a whole new batch of elephant jokes for you. . .


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