English Faculty Member
Kristen Glenn was born in Rexburg and raised in Ririe, Idaho. She served as a full-time missionary in the Marilia Brazil Mission. Kristen graduated from Idaho State University with a bachelor’s degree in English education and a master’s degree in reading literacy. Before coming to work at BYU-Idaho in 2009, she worked as a teacher in multiple public schools.
Kristen met her husband, Jeff, in a performance group in college. They have been married for 16 years and have one daughter. As a family, they like to try new foods and go on adventures together. Kristen also enjoys books, music, and water sports. Sister Glenn has served in many Church callings in Relief Society, Sunday School, Young Women’s, Primary, and music positions.
Please respond to the question below on the devotional discussion board:
In a talk given by then Elder Hinckley, “With a Grateful Heart,” he states, “Sincerely giving thanks not only helps us recognize our blessings, it also unlocks the doors of heaven and helps us feel God’s love."
What are you grateful for? How have you felt God’s love, especially during difficult times?
There is a short video clip on Facebook titled “2020: A lesson in expectations and reality.” At the start of the clip is a little boy with a spoon and a container of powdered Hershey’s chocolate. The boy lowers his spoon into the container, a grin on his face anticipating the deliciousness that will soon be his. He eagerly brings up a heaping spoonful of the chocolatey powder and shoves it into his mouth. Half a second later, the boy’s excited and happy grin turns into a look of concern, then disbelief. He turns the container around, checking to see if it really says chocolate. He sits back, coughs a little, and coughs again releasing a few flurries of chocolate powder. He reaches for the container, then squeezes his whole face shut as if to close out the bitterness that is probably coating his throat. The clip ends with the little boy looking somewhat dejected at the chocolatey powder that is now covering his arm.  Just like this little boy, we all have expectations that don’t always match with reality. Let me share a bit of this story: “2011: A lesson in expectations and reality.”
In late January of 2011, I went into an early labor. I was rushed to the Rexburg hospital where I was then life-flighted to the University of Utah. I was promptly put on several different medications to stop my labor. My son was 28 weeks old, but he had a hernia in his diaphragm. The doctors and nurses wanted him to have as much time as possible to grow inside of me, so he would have a better chance of survival when he was born. However, a few days later, my son decided to be born anyway. After only a few short hours, he passed away. We had a funeral for him on Friday, February 4.
Three weeks later, my husband, Jeff, and I received a call from my husband’s brother Greg. He said that we needed to get to the Twin Falls hospital right away. Jeff’s parents had been in a terrible accident that morning. They were on their way to a grandson’s wrestling tournament, hit a patch of black ice on the freeway, and rolled their truck six times. Greg did not know if they would survive and encouraged us to come quickly. They did end up surviving, but their recovery was slow, painful, and would take many months. My husband ended up dropping out of school and moving to Pocatello for a while to help take care of them during this difficult time.
The rest of 2011 continued on much in the same manner as it had begun. We didn’t know if I would still have a job since I was on a one-year appointment, and Jeff was not quite done with school yet nor on a fixed income. I had to have oral gum surgery, and we were robbed twice, which led to us move out of that particular neighborhood. Then, early one morning, my three-year-old daughter woke up and told her dad that her head hurt. My husband took her to the hospital where she was tested for meningitis. She gave us quite a scare for a few days, then recovered—thank goodness.
Finally, on Monday, December 5, we received another phone call asking us to come to Pocatello. Jeff’s brother and best friend, Greg, was in a coma and doctors were not seeing any brain activity. In a daze and with heavy hearts, we once again set off to a hospital. Greg died shortly thereafter of meningitis. He left a wife, three children under the age of four, and another one on the way.
At this point in the story, there really is no more order to the story. My expectations had met up with the realities of life, and it was ugly. For the last ten years, I have been trying to make sense of 2011 and several events that happened since that time. Some would call this non-matchup of expectation and reality a life crisis, a faith crisis, or cognitive dissonance. I call it an education for the soul. I have had to face my views of the world and decide what I really believe and who I want to become. It has been uncomfortable and extremely unpleasant in many ways, but worthwhile. I would like to share with you a few truths that I have learned.
Truth One: The enabling power of the Atonement is real. Jesus Christ is crucial in helping people grow, change, and become better versions of themselves.
In 2001, Elder David A. Bednar gave a talk where he discussed two things—the redeeming power of the Atonement and the enabling power of the Atonement. Here is what he said:
Most of us clearly understand that the Atonement is for sinners. I am not so sure, however, that we know and understand that the Atonement is also for saints—for good men and women who are obedient and worthy and conscientious and who are striving to become better and serve more faithfully. I frankly do not think many of us “get it” concerning this enabling and strengthening aspect of the Atonement, and I wonder if we mistakenly believe we must make the journey from good to better and become a saint all by ourselves through sheer grit, willpower, and discipline, and with our obviously limited capacities. 
I do not see myself as a saint, but I do see myself as someone who really needs to be empowered and helped through my limited capacities. I am a human being sent to earth to experience life with all its harshness and realities, and I had been trying to tackle it by myself with my limited views. I had no idea how to deal with the loss of a child, being robbed, taking care of loved ones who are in so much physical pain they can barely breathe. I had no idea how crushing grief could be. I had no idea how to try and live life or build relationships when dealing with before-mentioned crushing grief. Who does? There are no worldly manuals that can cater specifically to someone’s personal tests and accompanying pain, but there is Jesus Christ who suffered and took upon Himself the infirmities of every single person. There was one individual who truly knew what to do with my situation and could reveal to me how to best handle it. With that realization came a tiny spark of hope. And with that spark of hope came a bit of relief. And with that tiny bit of relief, I realized that I needed to start on a new path that more fully included Jesus Christ. I could no longer hold so tightly to my previous 2011 self because it was impeding my growth. My limited views of the world were wreaking havoc on my happiness. If I wanted to find peace and meaning in life again, I had to allow Jesus into my mind and heart through sincere prayer, personal revelation, and faith. I had to trust Him to help me become a new creature.
Becoming a new creature is way easier said than done, though. I think a super impressive example of becoming a new creature is Alma Senior. According to what we know from the Book of Mormon, Alma, during his days with King Noah, lived wickedly. In his own words, he states, “I myself was caught in a snare, and did many things which were abominable in the sight of the Lord, which caused me sore repentance.”  But of course, as we know from the story, Alma believed Abinadi’s words and then fled from his past life.  It would have been easier to not speak up to the king and other priests. It would have been easier to continue letting the people support him. Alma could have stayed with his previous views on the world because that would have been more comfortable, but he didn’t. I think this would have taken a lot of courage and the enabling power of Christ to be able to leave his former views and life.
As for me, I am still in the process of becoming a new creature. It is a struggle. Sometimes, it is easier to be bitter and focus on what I have lost. It is difficult to not be angry about how I think things should have turned out. It is a lot simpler to blame others or God for what I want in my life that I don’t have; however, I am trying to be courageous, like Alma, and to put my trust in the Lord and His enabling power.
Truth Two: Grieving is part of the human experience that can serve as a catalyst for emotional and spiritual growth. In 2 Nephi, chapter 2, Lehi teaches his son Jacob “that there is an opposition in all things. If not so . . . righteousness could not be brought to pass . . . neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad.”  Grieving is a part of learning how to deal with emotional oppositions. It is a reaction to loss that can take you on the wildest emotional roller coaster you have ever experienced. However, as in all challenges, the Lord will not leave you alone, if you allow Him to help. Here are a few ways the Lord helped me work with the grief process:
- Grief does not just go away. I had to go through the grief again and again to better my emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical health. Trying to avoid grief or just push it down in the hopes of it going away does not make it go away. I asked the Lord to help me find resources to help me work through and understand what was happening to me. In Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord teaches Oliver Cowdery that “whatsoever you shall ask me to tell you by that means, that will I grant unto you, and you shall have knowledge concerning it.”  Through the goodness of God’s revelations, I was led to talks, scriptures, books, podcasts, conversations, and counselors who helped me learn how to be more mindful of my emotions and manage them.
- Know that service can be a balm for grief. Grief is a lonely place. As Sister Kalleen Lund taught us last week, “When we are lonely, it is easiest to sit back, feel the sadness, and hope your situation will change, and it rarely does. We need to take a more active role in our happiness.”  For me to take a more active role, I asked the Lord to help me find people to love and to be loved by. In Mosiah 18, verse 9, Alma teaches the people that taking on the name of Christ means you are “willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort.”  I found that there were members of my family, my ward family, and my work family that showed the love of Christ. I was blessed and helped in many ways by all those individuals during my time of need. I was also blessed to know ways to serve them in their time of need.
- Know that being sad is an important emotion, just like any other emotion. This quote about Jesus and the story of raising Lazarus from the dead emphasizes this point:
He cried. He knew Lazarus was dead before He got the news, but still, He cried. He knew death here is not forever. He knew eternity and the kingdom better than anyone else could. Yet He still wept because this world is full of pain and regret and loss and depression and devastation. He wept because knowing the end of the story doesn’t mean you can’t cry at the sad parts. 
Truth Three: Gratitude makes the discomforts of life more bearable. Write down what you are grateful for and read those things often. In a talk given by then Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, “With a Grateful Heart,” he states, “Sincerely giving thanks not only helps us recognize our blessings, it also unlocks the doors of heaven and helps us feel God’s love.”  In the discussion board, I asked you to list what you are grateful for, and how you have felt God’s love, especially during difficult times. If anyone has not yet had the chance, please take the time to read peoples’ insights on the discussion board. They are all good. Here are a few things I am grateful for:
Music. From the time I was very small, I was interested in songs and rhythms. Music has constantly been a good friend that brings pleasure and comfort to me. Books. My love for books is about as strong as my love for music. When I was young, my grandmother would read me poetry and stories. She would do all the voices for every character. She always had a stack of books in random places in her house—everything from stock exchange material to a poem about Hootie the Owl outwitting the fox. I now have stacks of books ranging in a wide variety of topics and genres. I am grateful for words that speak to me from a variety of times, places, and people. Relationships. My husband makes me laugh like no other person can and makes me think about things I would have never come up with on my own; my daughter keeps me on my toes with her clever questions, amazing art, and unique life perspective; my extended family astounds me with their consistent willingness to serve and love. I am grateful for these people who are a part of my life and journey here on earth. I am grateful for nature, a good joke, true friends, and people who know how to make homemade lemon meringue pie. I am grateful for the Lord’s hand in my life. He has blessed me and taught me in ways that are very personal and real.
Truth Four: Trust in the Lord.
For a while, life’s circumstances seemed overwhelming. However, living with these feelings led me to question how I was perceiving my reality, which led me to question my beliefs on that reality and how to better handle my limitations. Trusting in the Lord brings hope while I work through life’s challenges. In Doctrine and Covenants, section 68, verse 6, the Lord says, “Be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you.”  I do know that the Lord will be with me through the struggles, the successes, and the failures.
Truth Five: Life’s circumstances cannot always be explained by our limited views. In Corinthians, chapter 13, verse 12, the Apostle Paul teaches us, “For now we see through a glass, darkly.”  We cannot always see everything in the world exactly as it is for each individual’s views do not contain the entirety of human knowledge, nor of God’s wisdom and understanding. It would be wise to not jump to absolute conclusions about life’s circumstances and the meaning of it. There is a parable as retold by British writer Alan Watts that helps to explain this concept:
Once upon a time there was a Chinese farmer whose horse ran away. That evening, all of his neighbors came around to commiserate. They said, “We are so sorry to hear your horse has run away. This is most unfortunate.” The farmer said, “Maybe.” The next day the horse came back bringing seven wild horses with it, and in the evening everybody came back and said, “Oh, isn’t that lucky. What a great turn of events. You now have eight horses!” The farmer again said, “Maybe.”
The following day his son tried to break one of the horses, and while riding it, he was thrown and broke his leg. The neighbors then said, “Oh dear, that’s too bad,” and the farmer responded, “Maybe.” The next day the conscription officers came around to conscript people into the army, and they rejected his son because he had a broken leg. Again all the neighbors came around and said, “Isn’t that great!” Again, he said, “Maybe.” 
Just as the main character in this story, I do not pretend to know why some things happen in life, nor can I really categorize them. Instead, I have discovered that there are very few stark white and black answers, and a whole lot of maybes. I make a conscious effort to trust the Lord through the maybes and be grateful for the chance to seek revelation. I would like to challenge all of you to look for ways you can more fully trust the Lord through your maybes.
In closing, I want to go back to the little boy at the beginning of this talk. If you remember, he was expecting to have a mouthful of sweet—instead, he got a mouthful of bitter. It is easy to assume the lesson is in how important the sweet things are in life. But perhaps, the deeper lesson is how adding bitter things—trials, adversities, grief, sorrow—to any life is an equally important ingredient because without the bitter powder, we can never know the taste of chocolate.
I do know that God the Father lives. I do know that God’s Son, Jesus Christ, is real; His Atonement is real. I also know that the true measure of a person is not in the conflict, but in how a person deals with that conflict. I thank God that my life is not a sitcom wrapped up in 25 minutes or a tragedy that can be watched in two hours—because I need the years to help me deal with the conflict over and over until I can become the true measure of the person that I want to be. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.
 Jonathan Chapman, “2020: A lesson in expectations and reality,” Facebook, Aug. 14, 2020; facebook.com/jillybeansway/posts/10220701644148688.
 David A. Bednar, “In the Strength of the Lord,” BYU devotional, October 23, 2001; speeches.byu.edu/talks/david-a-bednar/strength-lord.
 Mosiah 23:9.
 The Book of Mormon, translated by Joseph Smith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1830.
 2 Nephi 2:11.
 Doctrine and Covenants 8:9.
 Kalleen Lund, “Come Unto Zion,” BYUI devotional, Nov. 10, 2020.
 Mosiah 18:9.
 Stout Debbie, Pinterest, pinterest.com/pin/431923420517525050.
 Gordon B. Hinckley, “With a Grateful Heart,” Ensign, Aug. 1999.
 Doctrine and Covenants 68:6.
 1 Corinthians 13:12.
 Wells Baum, “The Story of the Chinese Farmer,” Wellsbaum.blog, Jan. 27, 2018; wellsbaum.blog/alan-watts-story-of-the-chinese-farmer.