I’m Speaking at NAMI!

NAMI Utah Logo-full color

Exciting news! I will be speaking at the NAMI conference in Salt Lake City on Friday, November 14th.

NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness. NAMI Utah’s mission is to ensure the dignity and improve the lives of those who live with mental illness and their families through support, education and advocacy.

This year’s conference will be held at the Sheraton Hotel and Convention Center (150 West 500 South, Salt Lake City, UT 84101). The Conference’s program is from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. If you would like to register or learn more, please click here.

Although I’d much rather be behind the scenes (or in the audience), I’m actually really excited about this. I’ve been working on my presentation for the past few months and I’m eager to learn from all of the other presenters.

I hope to see you there!

You Have A Superpower (No Joke!)

With all of the Marvel and DC movies coming out, it seems that the world is crying out for someone to save it—someone with a superpower.

That someone could be you. Would it surprise you to hear that you possess an actual, legitimate superpower? Well, you do. Each of us has the literal power to change someone’s life for the better.

Insignificant though it may seem, the ability to change someone’s life for the better is truly god-like—and I don’t use that term lightly.

When you think about it, what is more heroic—a display of strength and power or the ability to save a soul?

In my book, Your Life Isn’t For You, I share an experience I had while working at Anasazi, a wilderness therapy program for at-risk youth in Arizona.

Reinforced with the strength of trained medical and clinical staff, Anasazi offers a six-week course in nature: primitive skills, organic foods, hiking through canyons, and sleeping under the stars. The time spent in the wilderness allows the youth who take part an opportunity to detox from any drug abuse, and to simultaneously consider their “walking in the world.”

A few months into my job, I met a young participant, whom I’ll call Megan. Even though she was only sixteen years old, Megan looked like a fighter, someone who had gone through hell.

At first, working with Megan was very challenging. She had a prickly personality, and would often lash out with derogatory comments. Despite her anger, I resolved to look for the best in her. As I persisted in doing this, a most remarkable thing began to happen. The more I got to know Megan and learn about her life, the more I came to respect, admire, and love her. Her life at home and school was hellish, and I started to understand why she felt the need to put up so many defenses.

One day, I sat down with Megan to show her a list I had made. The list was a compilation of all the great things I had seen within her throughout that week—and it was no small list!

After I had finished reading it aloud, I looked up at Megan and noticed that tears were welling up in her eyes. I was shocked. I hadn’t expected that tough girl to react in such a way.

“Seth,” she whispered, “no one has ever told me anything like that before.”

A few weeks later, I met up with Megan as she was finishing the program. Despite the fact that her face was smeared with the dirt and grime of hiking through the wilderness, she shone as brightly as the sun. Her eyes, once heavy-lidded and filled with anger, now glowed with life and light.

You have a superpower!

You have a superpower!

In the years since, I have watched Megan go on to accomplish incredible things. She graduated from college, participated in humanitarian projects at home and abroad, and has started her own family. Wherever she goes, she exercises her own power to change lives for the better.

To this day, Megan still sends me emails, thanking me for what I had said to her all those years ago. All I did was help Megan see the greatness she already had within herself, but that one little thing changed her entire outlook on life.

You possess that same power to help others!

Using just your words, you can inspire someone to see the best in themselves. You may not be able to move objects with your mind, but you can reach out and help someone move forward. And although you might not be able to lift heavy weights or machinery, you can lift a heavy heart.

I challenge you to go out and change someone’s life for the better. Change many people’s lives! We can’t be everything to all people, but we can certainly help those around us move forward. Look for the best in people, and encourage them to see it for themselves. Reach out and lift those who are sinking in the depths of despair.

The world has enough fictional heroes. The world needs real heroes—real people with the power to lift the heavy-hearted.

The world needs heroes like you.

9 Ways to Fight Depression (and Win!)

As someone who regularly struggles with chronic depression, I’ve learned how very difficult it can be to move forward. Over the years, I’ve developed a number of ways that help me actively fight my depression. Listed below are nine of those techniques. If you are struggling with depression, I hope that these techniques can help you move forward in life.

#1 Believe You Can Fight Your Depression

Depression Suicide

Believe that there is hope.

In order to fight depression you must first believe that you can fight it. This step is so crucial that it’s literally half of the battle. You have to let go of the idea that it’s hopeless, stop thinking “I can’t do this,” or “I’m stuck.” You cannot fight anything if you’ve already accepted defeat.

In fact, I can’t even give you advice if you already believe nothing can help. It’s as author James A. Owen says: “If you really want to do something, no one can stop you – but if you really don’t want to do something, no one can help you.”

That being said, I will repeat the fact that I have chronic depression. It would be easy for me to say that I am a victim of my circumstances, but I refuse to do that. I did it for a few years, and those were the most miserable years of my life, precisely because I believed that everything was hopeless. I have since learned that, while I can’t always choose what happens to me, I can always choose how I react.

I choose to actively fight my depression.

Right now, I want you to decide to fight your depression. As soon as you decide that—and believe that you can do it—I promise that you will find the strength to do so.

#2 Speak With a Trusted Friend (or Two or Three)

When you have depression, your instinct usually is to hide your thoughts and feelings from everyone else. Depression thrives in darkness and isolation. The best way to see and to understand your depression is to shine the light on it, and communicate how you’re feeling. I know it seems absolutely terrifying to open up to someone about your depression– especially when it comes to sharing some of your dark and morbid thoughts—but it is vital to have a mental mirror. You need another person to know what’s going on inside of your head.

Find someone whom you trust, someone who is understanding, and share your thoughts and feelings with them. When you do so, you’ll be surprised to find out how many others have gone through similar struggles. I promise that, though depression thrives in secrecy, it shrinks with the force and strength of empathy.

#3 Seek Professional Help

If your depression is persistent and debilitating, I strongly encourage you to seek professional help. A lot of people are embarrassed to seek help for something that feels like an internal struggle. But if your depression is threatening your work and relationships, there is no shame in seeking help.

Think of your struggle like a broken bone. You wouldn’t hide your broken bone from those who could help, but would rush to a hospital to get the proper treatment. Psychologists and counselors are trained to handle all kinds of things. They have profound wisdom and experience working with mental health issues. You have nothing to be ashamed of but everything to gain in working with them.

You would do well to use every resource available to you, including those who have been trained to help

#4 Look for Humor

It’s no secret that depression kills joy. When you’re in the thick of depression, it seems almost impossible that life will ever be cheerful again. But there are ways to find joy in the journey—even when it’s dark.

When things get especially difficult for me, I do my best to seek out things that are humorous (reruns of funny sitcoms, hilarious YouTube videos, and ridiculous internet memes).

Despite what you might be tempted to think, there’s a lot of humor to be found in everyday life—even within depression. I think Allie Brosch of Hyperbole and a Half does a awesome job at illustrating the depth of depression, while also pointing out the humor. Check out Adventures in Depression, and Depression Part 2 (fair warning, she uses some colorful language).

Shortly after my suicide attempt, my brother Sean and I watched Better Off Dead, a quirky comedy about a guy who unsuccessfully tries to kill himself multiple times. Believe it or not, the movie actually helped me find the humor in my own situation.

Truly, laughter can be a real game-changer.

#5 Get Lots and Lots of Sunshine!

There’s a scene in Sword in the Stone where Merlin tells the witch, Mad Madam Mim, that in order to feel better she needs “lots and lots of sunshine!” Her response? “I hate horrible, wholesome sunshine!”

Depression Hates Sunshine!!

Mad Madam Mim is like depression; depression hates sunshine! Researchers have discovered that sunlight (which contains Vitamin D) boosts serotonin levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulates sleep, memory, and—here’s the kicker—mood! Healthy levels of serotonin mean a healthier, happier you!

Do you realize what this means?! Every day, the sun is literally offering us free happiness! Wholesome sunshine, indeed!

#6 Boost Your Moods

Whenever I’m feeling low, I tend to gravitate toward things that will drag me down even lower—sad music, depressing television shows, or real-life drama. Since my suicide attempt, I’ve realized that I simply can’t afford to feed my sadness. Instead, I try to boost my mood and feed the positive side of my nature.

As much as possible, I try to listen to upbeat music, watch comedies, participate in constructive activities, and stay in the sunlight. While it doesn’t always work right away, actively feeding the kind of moods I want to have definitely decreases the chance of another relapse.

Put another way, I try to avoid stepping in manure by staying out of the cow pasture. :)

#7 Diet and Exercise

Yup. You heard me. This stuff works! And it makes sense, doesn’t it? Whether you believe in evolution (survival of the fittest) or Creationism (“by the sweat of your brow”), mankind was designed to labor and find fulfillment in work. We simply don’t use our bodies like the generations before us. Being sedentary is quite literally making us depressed.

To quote professor and psychologist, Matthew Whoolery:

“Did you know what the best antidepressant is—for real? Exercise. A study done at Duke University Medical School found that 30 minutes of brisk exercise, three days a week, was as effective as taking an antidepressant. And the relapse rate for the exercisers was just 7%, while the relapse rate for the drug-takers was over 30%.”

Trust me, I know that depression saps the energy out of you. But just try going for a thirty minute walk in the sunlight (and listen to some upbeat music while doing it). It certainly couldn’t hurt.

#8 Serve Others

Time and time again, I have learned that loving service is one of our greatest (yet most neglected) resources for healing. In my book, Your Life Isn’t For You, I wrote that “in lifting another person, we also lift ourselves.”

But I think Gordon B. Hinckley said it best when he said:

“The best antidote I know for worry is work. The best cure for weariness is the challenge of helping someone who is even more tired. One of the great ironies of life is this: He or she who serves almost always benefits more than he or she who is served.”

#9 Understand You Will Always Have to Pull Weeds

This idea is SO important! Please understand that life is about growth, not perfection. If perfection is your aim, you will always be depressed—because none of us is perfect. We all need to work constantly to improve our lives.

Our lives are like gardens, and we have to perpetually care for, cultivate, and weed them. There will never be a time when the weeding is forever done, just as there will never be a time when we are forever exempt from feelings of sadness, loneliness, or despair. These things will always try to resurface in our lives. The trick is to keep weeding. Don’t let those feelings overrun your life (or your garden). When you nurture and care for the fruits and flowers of your life, I promise that you will reap a more abundant life.

I hope these ideas have helped you find the strength and understanding to fight your depression. It doesn’t happen overnight, but you CAN do it.

Below is a great video on understanding depression. Keep moving forward!

My Wife Doesn’t Give Me The Love I Deserve!

My wife doesn’t give me the the love I deserve.

About a year and a half into our marriage, I was struggling with an intense feeling of bitterness. Marriage wasn’t what I had anticipated. It wasn’t anything like the pretty photographs and romantic movies I had seen—it was hard work.

Engagement PhotoI felt resentful, robbed of romance. This resentment fueled my depression, and in my bitterness I foolishly blamed Kim.

My wife doesn’t give me the love I deserve! I thought to myself.

Within a few short months, my bitterness had had grown to such an intensity, that it poisoned our relationship and threatened to destroy our marriage. Then, after the pressure had built up to where neither of us could stand it, emotions erupted. I was callous and resentful.

But instead of reciprocating my bitterness, Kim showed me an outpouring of love. Even though I had caused her tremendous pain, she laid her hands on my face and told me that she loved me.

I looked at Kim, unable to understand the love I was receiving. Tears were rolling down her cheeks. My heart melted, and I hung my head down low.

My wife doesn’t give me the love I deserve, I thought to myself.

It was the same phrase I had thought to myself before, but this time it meant something completely different.

Here I was, blaming my wife for my pain, anguish, and depression, and yet she refused to echo that resentment. Instead, she opened her heart and hands and offered me love and forgiveness that I frankly didn’t deserve.

While I fully believe that each of us is a person of divine, inestimable worth—worthy of love—I don’t believe we ever “deserve” someone else’s love. In fact, the feeling of entitlement—the belief that we deserve something from someone else—often works as a detonator to the bomb that destroys our relationships.

The spirit of entitlement smothers love, but the spirit of gratitude lets love soar. It’s the difference between taking and receiving.

Deserving LoveWhen Kim and I were married, our minister advised us to receive each other in marriage—not to take each other in marriage. In taking, you assume that something belongs to you—that you have a right to demand it. In contrast, with receiving, you recognize that the thing belongs to someone else, but is being given to you out of the goodness of that person’s heart. In the case of marriage, you recognize that your spouse is a person with a life as real as yours, and that being with them—and receiving love from them—is a gift they choose to give.

How many relationships would be improved if we received our companion in a spirit gratitude? How many abusive relationships would be healed if the abuser realized that his/her spouse is a person of inestimable worth, that love and affection is a precious gift that person chooses to give?

I am certainly not perfect at being grateful in marriage—far from it. Yet I have learned that gratitude is the great multiplier in life. The more we express gratitude for things in life, the more life we receive.

Rid yourselves of the need to ‘deserve’ love. Instead, focus on giving it. Because the more we express sincere gratitude and love for our spouse (the more we truly receive them) the more they blossom, grow, and reciprocate that love.

And as you practice more gratitude in life, you will get so much more love than you ever imagined that you ‘deserved.’

Powerful LDS Resources for Depression

As a Mormon who struggles with chronic depression, I’ve spent a lot of time searching for LDS resources on depression and suicide prevention. Listed below are some of the most helpful talks and articles that I have found.

Before you read/listen to them, I want you to know that I have used these resources in conjunction with proper medical and professional help. Please understand that there is absolutely no shame in seeking outside help.

Does My Depression Mean That God Hates Me?

Depression Suicide

I recently got an email from a subscriber that tugged on my heartstrings. It read, in part:

“What can I do about being depressed? I feel like I have fallen away from God and His grace and I don’t know my way back.”

To this person, I want you to know that I know that feeling.

A few years ago, when I was going through one of my darkest struggles with depression, I remember spending about two hours furiously scribbling over and over and over again, the phrase, “God Hates Me” in a notebook.

My experiences with depression made me feel as though all of my hopes and dreams had turned to ashes. The heavens seemed silent. And every night when I prayed it seemed like the floor would open up underneath me, and drop me even deeper into the pit of depression.

I was exhausted and felt defeated. I felt broken—that I was figuratively washing my hands over and over, but still couldn’t rid myself of the dirt that came from inside.

This is when I started to believe God hated me, that He was refusing to fix me because He didn’t love me. I believed that God was perfect except for one mistake—me.

I was ashamed to be alive.

Jesus Christ holding a child. Painting by Walter Rane.

Jesus Christ holding a child. Painting by Walter Rane.

But then I had a number of deeply personal experiences that changed my whole perception of God. I realized that many of the things I believed about myself and God, while I was depressed, were lies I told myself to make sense of my painful feelings. What I came to understand through my experiences, was that God loves us with an infinite, eternal love that is difficult for the finite, mortal mind to comprehend. The fact that God’s love is unconditional automatically makes it nearly impossible to understand. How could someone love us unconditionally? What about all of our mistakes? What if we’re broken beyond repair?

During my recovery, I remember being impressed with this spiritual impression: “Seth, do you really think that you could do anything—or that anything could be done to you—that is beyond my ability to repair? Do you really think that you could somehow exempt yourself from my all-encompassing love?”

If you are suffering with depression, please know that you are not broken. You’re an eternal being, taking part in a mortal experience. Yes, you might stumble, make mistakes, and feel inadequate—that’s okay. Because deep down, you are a person of inestimable worth and value. Your value is both divine and static; it does not change as a result of your actions or circumstances. Yes, you can feel guilt for mistakes you’ve made, and you should do your best to correct those mistakes. But God’s love is always there for us—even if we may not feel it.

I’ve come to think of my life as comparable to a garden. There may be times when all is sunny and happy, and other times when it’s rainy and depressing. But even when it’s cold and gloomy, the sun (God) is just behind the clouds, giving us just enough light and hope to keep moving forward—into the promise of more light and warmth.

Please understand that God is a perfect being with an infinite love for each of us. He asks us to keep moving forward because He loves us and believes in us. And if God, an infinite being, loves us and believes in us, shouldn’t we love and believe in ourselves?

So what can we do about being depressed and disconnected from God? First off, you must believe that you are a person of worth, that God loves you no matter what and that you always have a purpose on this earth—a reason for living.

I once believed the lie that God hated me, and it nearly destroyed me. Since learning the truth, my life has been more joyous and fulfilling. I know that God loves you, and that you always have a reason for living and moving forward.

If you would like some more practical steps to overcome depression, please read 5 Ways to Fight Depression and/or watch the video below.

Beauty for Ashes

Angela Johnson's sculpture of the woman with an issue of blood.

Angela Johnson’s sculpture of the woman with an issue of blood.

At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus read from the scriptures, saying: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted…to set at liberty them that are bruised.” (Luke 4:22)

In the book of Isaiah, a similar scripture finishes with: “…to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness.” (Isaiah 61:3)

I believe in these scriptures with all of my heart.

In 2006, my chronic depression, which I had struggled with for years, had finally broken me. I had tried everything to fix my problems, but whatever I touched seemed to wither and rot. Darkness overwhelmed me like a tidal wave, destroying all of my hopes and dreams, and seemingly suffocating me in the process. Unable to see my way forward, I decided to end my life.

Miraculously, however, my family rescued me from my suicide attempt. But I still wasn’t grateful to be alive. Instead, I looked over my life and saw only the devastation caused by my depression. It seemed that all of my hopes for life had turned to cold, colorless ash.

In the hospital, I had a hard time seeing how things could get better—how I could be whole again. Not only was I still struggling with what felt like impenetrable depression, but I had also attempted to take my life. My whole neighborhood had seen the ambulance, my family had to pay for an expensive visit to the ER, and everyone I knew would look at me differently.

What I saw in myself was a broken mess; a life of complete failure.

But the love of my family was stronger than I could’ve imagined; it was like a light in my darkness, which pointed me toward a greater light—God.

A painting of the woman with an issue of blood by Howard Lyon.

The woman with an issue of blood by Howard Lyon.

In absolute humility, I took the broken pieces of my life to Him, and asked for His help. In many ways, I felt akin to the woman with “an issue of blood” mentioned in the New Testament. She had visited countless doctors and spent “all her living,” but just couldn’t be healed (Luke 8:43). In faith and desperation, she followed the Savior through a crowd, “touched the border of his garment,” and was made whole through her faith. (Luke 8:48)

I want to pause here and say something about faith. Faith asks us to do everything we can do, and then ask God to do what we cannot. Before the Savior raised Lazarus from the dead, He waited for everyone to do what they could do. Martha came to Jesus and told Him that Lazarus had died (John 11:21), He had the family lead Him to the grave (John 11:34), He asked the family to remove the stone which covered the grave (John 11:29), and then He raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:43). Even after the miracle, Jesus asked those around help Lazarus by removing his bandages (John 11:44).

Certainly, Jesus had the power to do all of those things himself. He knew that Lazarus was dead, He knew where to go, He could’ve easily removed the gravestone, and He could’ve removed the bandages Himself as well—but He asked others to do what they could, and then He did what they could not.

In a similar way, we are asked to exercise our own faith by doing things that are within our power. For example, if we are suffering, we must seek help from friends and family, visit doctors or counselors, and prayerfully utilize all of our available options. As we do these things in faith, we are asking God to perform a miracle.

I have seen, through experiences too numerous and too sacred to share, God take the ashes of my life and miraculously turn them into something beautiful. I have marveled at His power to touch something broken, and not only make it whole, but better than it ever was before.

In a way that is almost unbelievable to me, I have seen God take my experiences with depression and turn them into something beautiful.

Truth be told, I never intended my blog to become what it is today. It started out as a way for me to learn about blogging and promote the videos I had been making. I’ve always wanted to write fiction, not personal stories from my own life. But on a few occasions, I’ve felt a strong “spiritual nudge” to write or talk about my experiences with depression and suicide. Introverted as I am, I’m always very hesitant to share my thoughts and feelings on such a sensitive subject—so whenever I do so, it is because I’m following those spiritual nudges.

A few months ago, my brother Sean and I were interviewed for a video on suicide prevention. I don’t like being in front of the camera unless it’s something fun or funny—and talking about depression and suicide are neither of those things, so this was a very hard thing for me to agree to.

"Lost and Found" by Greg Olsen

“Lost and Found” by Greg Olsen

The video shares the story of my suicide attempt, and tells how my brother’s love and support helped bring me back. The response to this video has been remarkable and overwhelming. Both my Facebook fanpage and my personal page have been filled with positive, uplifting comments and heartfelt messages. I have received text messages and phone calls from people telling me that the video is helping them (or someone they know) feel hopeful about the future.

I honestly can’t take credit for that video. I shared my story, yes. But the story is really about how my brother rescued me from the darkness of depression and helped me to move forward. And when I say ‘brother,’ I don’t just mean my brother Sean.

This video is a testament to me of how our elder brother, the Savior, can turn the ashes of our lives into something truly beautiful.

I hope that it helps you move forward with faith in your own life.

I offer my heartfelt gratitude to Quinn Orr for inviting me to take part in this video, and for working so hard to provide resources to those who are still struggling. I also want to thank Al Fox Carraway for her friendship during the whole process. My self doubt might’ve gotten the better of me had it not been for her encouragement.

And, as always, I’m profoundly grateful for the love and support of my wife, whose friendship lights the way through my ongoing battles with depression.

Depression—A Battle Too Big to Fight Alone

A few months ago, my brother and I were asked to take part in a Mormon Message about suicide prevention. I hope that it is helpful to you. If someone you know is struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, please continue to place your arm of love around them. Believe me, a seemingly small and simple act of love can change someone’s entire life.

From the video description: There is no easy solution for helping someone who has thoughts about ending their life. But there are some things we can do to reach out to them.

The most common sources of pain for someone having suicidal thoughts are feeling disconnected from other people, feeling like they’re a burden to others or that people would be better off without them. Coupled with the hopeless thoughts that things aren’t going to change, suicidal thoughts become risky.

For some, like Seth Adam Smith, the right words spoken by another can change a life. Seth’s depression caused him to attempt suicide. He was miraculously saved, and when he awoke, his older brother’s words changed everything. “You know, Seth,” his older brother said, “I almost lost my little brother. … I don’t think I’m going to go anywhere for a while.”

While it may seem too simple, sometimes words of comfort, support, and love can be life-changing for someone who doesn’t feel needed.

Sometimes those suffering with depression and suicidal thoughts don’t even need words. They just need someone to sit with them. They need someone to be there for them. They need to feel loved and valued.

Elder M. Russell Ballard counsels us not to judge, but to reach out. “It doesn’t mean you’re going to be able to heal people, … but we can have an impact in guiding people to some of the resources out there.” He reminds us that we can be one of those resources. “There is nothing more powerful than the arm of love that can be put around those who are struggling.”

Forget About Feelings, Real Love Is A Deliberate Choice

Love Is A Choice

Love is a choice.

My wife and I have known each other since high school, but didn’t date until much later. We had only dated a couple of weeks before we realized that we were madly in love and wanted to get married.

I was all for it! I even suggested a spontaneous, immediate wedding in Vegas. (Seriously.) Kim, however, was a bit more practical about the whole thing. She wanted to take time to plan it all out.

I felt deflated. “We’re so different,” I said. “You like to plan, while I like to be spontaneous.”

Kim’s eyes widened. “I can be spontaneous!” she said, hurriedly. “I can totally be spontaneous. You just have to tell me in advance when you want to be spontaneous, and I will write it down in my planner…”

I gave her a strange look. She was totally serious! Clearly, Kim did not understand the meaning of spontaneity.

Funny as it may seem, the more I think about this conversation the more I’ve come to realize that planning to love someone—or choosing to love someone—is actually one of the most beautiful things about love.

I’ve heard it said that real love is an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person.

It’s true.

When all the butterflies have fluttered away and your wedding day becomes a distant memory, you will discover that you’ve married someone who is just as imperfect as you. And they, in turn, will come to learn that you have problems, insecurities, struggles, quirks—and body odor—just as real as theirs!

Then you will realize that real love isn’t just a euphoric, spontaneous feeling—it’s a deliberate choice—a plan to love each other for better and worse, for richer and poorer, in sickness and in health. Of course, you don’t choose who you’re attracted to, but you definitely choose who you fall in love with and (more importantly) who you stay in love with.

Our society places a lot of emphasis on feelings. We are taught that we should always follow our feelings and do whatever makes us happy. But feelings are very fickle and fleeting. Real love, on the other hand, is like the north star in the storms of life; it is constant, sure, and true. Whenever we’re lost and confused we can find strength in the love that we have chosen.

Besides, life already offers us plenty of spontaneity: rejection, job loss, heartache, disappointment, despair, illness, and a host of other problems. We simply can’t abandon ship every time we encounter a storm in our marriage. Real love is about weathering the storms of life together.

Grandma and Grandpa Adams.

Grandma and Grandpa Adams.

When my grandma was in her fifties, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a degenerative disease that disrupts the body’s ability to communicate with its nervous system. Within a few short years, Grandma had lost the ability to walk and was confined to a wheelchair. Grandpa, who was then the chief of police, retired two years earlier than planned in order to take care of Grandma. He helped her do everything—from getting around the house and visiting the doctor, to helping her take her medicine and bathe.

In speaking about my grandma, Grandpa once told my mom, “It hurts me to see her like this. You know, when I got married I thought that everything would be smooth sailing. I never imagined that I would have to help her change her catheter every day. But I do it and I don’t mind it—because I love her.”

Love is so much more than some random, euphoric feeling. And real love isn’t always fluffy, cute, and cuddly. More often than not, real love has its sleeves rolled up, dirt and grime smeared on its arms, and sweat dripping down its forehead. Real love asks us to do hard things—to forgive one another, to support each other’s dreams, to comfort in times of grief, or to care for family. Real love isn’t easy—and it’s nothing like the wedding day—but it’s far more meaningful and wonderful.

I recently came across this wonderful quote: “No one falls in love by choice, it is by chance. No one stays in love by chance, it is by work. And no one falls out of love by chance, it is by choice.”

Whenever my wife and I run into a problem in our marriage we do our best to choose love. While we’re certainly not perfect, the love we share today is more real and more wonderful than anything we had ever anticipated.

So, whatever spontaneous storm may come our way I plan on loving my wife.

If you truly love someone (and they truly love you), commit to that love and plan on it being hard work.

But also plan on it being the most rewarding work of your life.

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