bed and pillow“Just go to bed earlier.”

It’s a suggestion I’ve heard many times over the years as people have found out about my chronic health and insomnia issues. My schedule is seriously whacked, and frankly, it’s embarrassing for me to talk about and live with. Especially because I know that it baffles people who haven’t dealt with a major sleep disorder. After all, they can just go to bed earlier, so why can’t I?

For years, I have wanted to change my sleep habits. I have felt like that was the “righteous” thing to do. After all, the concept of “early to bed, early to rise” is something we find even in our scriptures.

How can I easily explain that I have felt the Spirit telling me that it’s not time yet? It makes no sense to an outside observer, but I know God knows my heart and the ins and outs of my life, and I feel like He is working with me to help me know what I should spend my energy on right now. And fighting my sleep issues is not currently on that list. I think it may be sometime, perhaps sooner than later. But I cannot force the change. I’m waiting for God to help me, in His wisdom and His order. And I feel like He’s there to cover me if I make mistakes along the way as I try to sort through all that I’m dealing with.

My struggle has (I hope) given me more understanding for how complex and personal each of our journeys really are. It’s all too easy to beat each other over the head with the ideals we know and believe to be true. Or, perhaps, even to hound each other over things we have found work for us.

I believe this is one of the reasons for the painful mommy wars most moms have experienced. In truth, does the gospel tell us whether to breastfeed or bottle feed? To have home or hospital births? To choose special-order “natural” toys and clothes or choose the Wal-Mart approach? To homeschool or choose public school? The list goes on. And, of course, that list expands well outside of the realm of motherhood. We can too often conflate personal passions or interpretations for absolute truth, whether it be in the realm of politics or preparedness, eating habits or spending habits, Sabbath day activities or Sabbath day attire.

I’d been thinking a lot about this recently, but it was this heartbreaking post that made me want to write. It’s written by a mom who felt inspired to put her refluxy baby on her tummy. It was something that allowed her baby to finally get some sleep and find some comfort.

And then her infant died of SIDS.

We don’t want to believe that following the Spirit could mean really hard things can still happen, but they can. We don’t want to believe that others may get different answers than we will, but they might. We don’t want to believe that we can’t fix others’ lives for them, but we can’t.

Let me not be misunderstood. I’m not trying to justify sinful or wrong behavior. We do have standards and commandments that are made clear, especially by the temple recommend interview and through the inspired counsel of our leaders. But even within the realm of gospel teachings, there can be room for personal revelation and guidance. And there is an awful lot in life that isn’t absolute. And I am learning that part of why we are here is to learn to sort through all of those kinds of things – and to give others the space to do the same. The more I accept that, the more I appreciate what agency and the Atonement are all about.

“Some may be tempted to say, “Just tell us what to do, and we’ll do it.” While we commend a righteous desire to be obedient, there is more to the Church (and more to life) than simply checking items off an assigned to-do list. If we stop asking questions, stop thinking, stop pondering, we can thwart the revelations of the Spirit.”. – Dieter F. Uchtdorf

“We who are General Authorities and general officers are called to teach His general rules. You and we then lead specific lives and must seek the Lord’s guidance regarding specific circumstances. But there would be mass confusion and loss of gospel promises if no general ideal and no doctrinal standard were established and…repeated.”  —Jeffrey R. Holland

” If we teach by the Spirit and you listen by the Spirit, some one of us will touch on your circumstance, sending a personal prophetic epistle just to you.” –-Jeffrey R. Holland

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What experiences have you had in learning to follow the spirit? Please share your thoughts and comments below.

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Michelle is a wife and mom of three. In her pre-mom life, she was a business consultant. In her pre-illness life, she was an athlete and loved to run. Motherhood is her joy, but she also likes to keep her business self alive. For the past four years, Michelle has been managing editor of the More Good Foundation website, mormonwoman.org. This opportunity has brought together her passions for new media, networking, gospel study and sharing, and talking about the power of womanhood in God’s plan. Over the past several years, Michelle has also volunteered in capacities as a university advisory board member, student mentor, and conference planning committee member. Her focus in these capacities has been on women in business / women and education initiatives.

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