Thursday, July 13, 2017

Life isn't easy

Faith is an interesting phenomenon isn't it?  Life is not easy. I appreciate the good days with all my heart. They provide hope and relief and joy. 
Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, we all have hard days. Sometimes these turn into hard weeks, months, and even years. Despair and anxiety threaten to consume us. These feelings are not easy ones to combat. If we are not careful, they can consume us and become the window through which we see the world and our lives. 
I recently posted on Facebook the exciting news of Jeff receiving a job. If any of you are like me, you may see that post and think something like "They are so lucky. Everything is going right in their lives. He is finishing school and getting a job. Their troubles are over." 
I only wish this were true. Yes we have been on the school journey and are nearing the end. But for us, nothing about the last 2 1/2 years has been easy. There have been days when one or both of us were ready to quit. Stress, fear, and anxiety were common feelings in our house. Our finish line has never been a guarantee like it might be for some. But, despite the many challenges we have faced, we have been the recipients of countless blessings and miracles. 
I want to share these experiences for those who have ever felt like they are in this situation. Almost hopeless. Very unsure. Scared. Overwhelmed.
There were times when Jeff didn't have enough faith in himself or his situation. Those were the times Heavenly Father blessed me with the comfort to know that things would work out. As long as we did our part and exercised even a little bit of faith, we were blessed with miracles that we couldn't have anticipated. 
When Jeff left town, and I felt completely overwhelmed with work and motherhood, family and ward members showed up to offer help and relief. Every step of the way, Heavenly Father has strengthened us and brought us so much further than we ever could have come on our own. He did not take our challenges away. We had to face them. But I can see with absolute clarity that He carried us through them. 
This summer has been no exception. Both Jeff and I have battled depression, anxiety, and fear as we near the end of this journey. This was new to me: having to be strong for Jeff when we both felt weak. 
While at my parents last month, things really escalated. I wasn't always sure how to even pray, because the feelings were so overwhelming and distracting from the spirit. Many times I asked forgiveness for my weakness and prayed that Heavenly Father would help me with my weak faith. I truly felt that when I needed faith the most, I had the hardest time finding it and believing it. So I prayed for help in weakness. Through a series of events that I believe were divinely orchestrated, my parents were very instrumental in delivering us from what felt like an impossible situation. Then, after getting a handle on that problem, I still felt fear and insecurity about our future. Because my mother acted on a prompting, she encouraged me to seek counsel in the temple. I can truly testify that I did indeed receive very personal instruction there. Then we got back home, and I knew Jeff still needed help. He was struggling emotionally more than I had ever seen , and he was a thousand miles away. So I fasted because I literally didn't know what else to do. The only person who could help us was the Lord. A few days later, he was able to come home early and have a job interview that led to a job he has really wanted. That was not a coincidence. Then he and I fasted together, desperately needing that divine help again, and we have seen fruits of that. My weak faith has grown ten times stronger through these past few weeks. It is an amazing feeling after feeling so lost. 
Our challenges are not over yet. I know once we get through these, more will come too. But I cannot doubt that Heavenly Father and our Savior are aware of us. They are supporting us. They are cheering for us. Many times, They are carrying us. When we have nothing left to give, and no where else to go, we have to look up. Only then will we find deliverance. We are not in this alone. Sometimes the angels supporting us are in heaven, and sometimes they are in the people around us.

Faith is interesting. We do not know how all of this will turn out, how it will end. But Heavenly Father does. That is what I have faith in. He has shown us countless times that very that He doesn't want us to fail, and I truly believe that if we turn to Him, turn to our Savior for help, we won't. When our burdens are too much to bear, our Savior will lighten them. He is our great mediator and the reason we have hope. I hate having to learn the hard way, but I am so grateful for the miracles we have witnessed and been blessed with. I know I wouldn't have appreciated them if not first having to suffer. We are not alone and never will be.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sometimes I Wonder Who You'd be Today

Tomorrow, July 27th, would have been my brother, Zach's, 17th birthday.  I have to confess that as time has moved forward, I have thought of him less frequently.  And I never allow myself to feel sad about him.  Most of the time, that is because I think about where he is now and what he is doing, I know he is happy.  I know he is doing important things, and I know he is where he needs to be.  We have been blessed by more than one account in the years since his passing of someone being touched in some way by Zach from the other side.  What a comfort that is.  Since tomorrow would have been a celebration of the years he had lived on earth, I thought I might allow myself just this once to reflect on what he might be like if he were here with us still.



My first thoughts are about what kind of uncle he would be.  He loved spending time with Brook when she was younger.  I know he would love what a wild child Brielle is, and I can almost hear him laughing at her antics.  I wonder what he would think of Brook now, and if he would like to play with the girls when we come to visit.



Then I wonder what our relationship would be like.  Would I have learned to appreciate him more?  Would he make me laugh?  Would he call me just to talk?  Would he drive up to see me just because he wanted to spend time with me?  What would we have done together?  Would we have gone on double dates together?  Would he have confided in me his girl stories?  Would he have come to me or Jeff for advice?



What would Zach have looked like now?  Would he be tall and filled out?  What would his face look like?  Would the girls be chasing him?

What would Zach be doing at home?  Would he be excelling at drums?  Start his own garage band?  Do crazy things with his friends?  Would he like school or be frustrated with it?  Would he play pranks?  Would he tease my parents?



If I did allow myself to be sad, I might think more on everything I wish he could have been there for but hasn't.  I might think about all the things we have missed out on as far as earthly experiences, rites of passage, and growing from boy to man.  Would I feel more complete if he were still here, sharing these things with me?

Since it is his birthday, I want Zach to know that I do allow myself to think these things from time to time.  I also want him to know that I am happy for him now.  I am grateful to him for not forgetting me, and sending me sweet reminders that his spirit is still here.  I can recall one in the past year.  His presence is so beautiful and comforting to me.  I love that he still finds ways to communicate his love to me.  I am grateful that his life continues on the other side, and that his physical death was not the end of his existence.  I am grateful that that is true of all of us, and that one day, we will all be reunited with the ones we love because of the Gospel and temples.  I love you Zach.  Thank you for being my brother.



I hope you don't mind the song I am sharing today.  It is not at all spiritual, but it reminds me of Zach because I have had these thoughts.  Plus, let's be honest, if Zach were here, he would probably appreciate the rapping.  This one's for you bro!


Sunday, June 28, 2015

He Hears our Prayers and Knows our Hearts

My heart has been anxious to share my feelings and thoughts as I have studied the conference talks this past week.  I have certainly learned the value of having questions in mind when studying scriptures.  I feel like each day, a different question was answered.

From "Returning to the Faith," Sister Wixom shares insights from Mother Theresa's life: "Please pray specially for me that I may not spoil His work and that Our Lord may show Himself--for there is such terrible darkness within me, as if everything was dead...Ask the Lord to give me courage."  I was touched to learn that someone so selfless and in tune with spiritual things felt the way I have felt so many times over the years.  I definitely go through spurts where I feel more in-tuned with the spirit, and times where I truly feel like I am in darkness.  I appreciated the response her leader gave her: "God guides you, dear Mother, you are not so much in the dark as you think.  The path to be followed may not always be clear at once.  Pray for light; do not decide too quickly, listen to what others have to say, consider their reasons.  You will always find something to help you....Guided by faith, prayer, and by reason with a right intention, you have enough."  That light we need to pray for is the light of Christ.  His light is brighter and stronger than the darkness brought on by the adversary.  Listening to others is great counsel, as it is often through others that our prayers are answered.  Just yesterday, my own Mother shared some of her struggles to be more selfless and Christ-like, and what she has done to try to improve herself.  Although she had shared this with me before, I needed to hear it again.  Her greatest wisdom was: "Pray to love" when it seems your patience is running thin.  She shared several examples of how this has allowed her to see others through Christ's eyes and better understand them.

Elder Teixeira, in his talk "Seeking the Lord." counseled: "'[Seek] me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.'  Seeking the Lord and feeling His presence is a daily quest, a worthwhile effort."  This reminder was pertinent to me because I often take for granted the treasures of the Gospel and scriptures.  I take for granted that, at one time or another, my testimony has been strong and sure, so surely I will never struggle to maintain it.  Then, before I even realize it is happening, I find myself in that darkness.  I find myself lost and unsure.  But, what wise counsel: It is a daily quest.  We cannot stop striving to seek the Lord in our lives.  "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing."  How often I have forgotten this loving counsel.  I truly believe that our Savior wants us to lean on Him.  He wants us to remember what great sacrifices He made for us, so that we don't have to try to do things, especially hard things, on our own.

Finally, Bishop Causse, in "Is it Still Wonderful to You?" shares this thought: "To marvel at the wonders of the gospel is a sign of faith.  It is to recognize the hand of the Lord in our lives and in everything around us."  He then shared the Book of Mormon story of the people who witnessed the miraculous signs of Jesus's birth.  After years passed, they began to forget what they had witnessed and felt, and even began to disbelieve all that they had heard and seen.  Wise follow-up counsel from Marcel Prout says "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes."  That is why we must make a daily effort to study and review the scriptures.  We have the opportunity, every time we open those sacred works, to rediscover glorious, loving teachings; to experience the spirit testifying to us; and to receive counsel from teachings we have forgotten.

Through this experience,  I felt extreme gratitude and love for my Heavenly Father.  He knew I would need this counsel at this time in my life, and he filled my vessel daily.  What a blessing to have these conference talks available to us from our modern-day prophets, apostles, and church leaders.  I am truly grateful to Heavenly Father for being aware of my struggle, and for knowing how to reach out to me so that I would not feel so lost and alone.  We are blessed to have this knowledge.  I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Christ is involved in the details of our lives

I wanted to share my experience of Bailee coming to our family 5 weeks early.  Even though it was not at all what we had planned, the experience enabled me to feel the love of my Heavenly Father and the support of my Savior during a difficult time.  This experience would have been much harder had I not felt that love and support during this time.  As I have reflected on how everything worked out, I have no doubt that Heavenly Father played His hand in this.

Bailee was born on Monday, November 10th--5 weeks before her actual due date.  That Monday started out as a normal day.  I was just getting ready to leave work to pick up Brielle when I started experiencing a strong pain throughout my entire middle--front to back.  Initially, I thought maybe it was gallbladder pain, as I have had that quite frequently the past few weeks.  However, no matter how I tried to reposition myself, the pain got stronger, lasting for nearly an hour.  I had poor Brook in the car with me, and I was trying not to show how much pain I was really in.  Finally, I decided to go to the hospital.  Of course, when I got there, the pain stopped, but I decided to get checked out anyway.  At first, it looked like I wasn't in labor and we would be going home in a couple of hours.  However, when they checked me again almost 2 hours later, I had dilated almost to a 4 and was completely effaced.  At that point, they scheduled the c-section.  I honestly don't think I would have known for sure I was in labor for another couple of hours because I barely even felt the contractions, even though they were showing up on the monitor.  I had the thought that maybe I had experienced that pain initially so that I would get to the hospital in time.

When Bailee was born, her lungs were under developed.  Before being transported to the UVRMC NICU, Jeff had the opportunity to give her a blessing of healing, with the help of the respiratory therapist who was there with Bailee.  He blessed her that she would respond to the treatments given to her.  Thankfully, we saw the fruits of that rather quickly, as she only had to be on the ventilator for 12 hours.

Over the next few days as I was forced to wait patiently in the hospital to be released, I constantly felt the companionship of my Savior.  I felt so much love from the many prayers that were offered on our behalf.  I had forgotten what a strengthening influence that can be, and I truly believe in the power of prayer.  I have had so many fears and worries about Bailee, about my girls, and about my body healing.  At every turn, Heavenly Father has been alleviating those burdens through people who have dropped everything to help us, and through helping Bailee to gain strength everyday and quickly learning what she needed to do to be able to eat successfully.

I have felt so grateful as something has happened everyday that has reminded me that my Heavenly Father is aware of us and of our needs at this time.  Even something as simple as allowing me the opportunity to read a conference talk that spoke to my heart and reminded me of things I had forgotten.  Satan has also tried to discourage us during this time, but in the talk I read today, I was reminded to humble myself and to rely on and acknowledge the hand of my Savior in my life.  Because I have been so busy over the past several months, I have forgotten to take time to ponder on the life and love of our Savior, and I have felt an emptiness where I have neglected that.  It has been so incredible to be reminded of just how amazing it feels to be filled with the love and support of our Savior when I feel so limited in what I am capable of doing.  Heavenly Father is in the details of our lives.  He wants us to be successful.  He wants us to turn to Him.  Our Savior is ready and waiting to help us whenever we need, if we but humbly ask.  I am truly grateful for that reminder.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Finding Faith: A Daily Exercise

I know my blog posts are becoming fewer and farther between.  Part of that is because I have been so busy.  Part of it is because I always have to work up the courage to share my thoughts and feelings so openly.  Even though it is not as scary as sharing verbally, it still scares me!

Jeff made a comment to me today that really struck me.  Someone had mentioned how Heavenly Father will never give us more than we can handle.  However, how many of us have at times felt extremely overwhelmed by what we have been asked to handle?  Jeff’s thought was that maybe Heavenly Father will never give us more than we can endure without the help of the Savior.  I reflected on the truth in that.  How many times, when perhaps we have reached those breaking points, have we suddenly found added strength and comfort because the Savior came to our rescue?  Suddenly these unbearable burdens became bearable.  I am reminded of a scripture from Philippians: I can endure all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me. (I know it goes something like that).  Maybe sometimes we are asked to endure certain challenges so we can learn to understand the Savior and what He suffered for us, as well as what He can do for us in times of need.  I feel very strongly that there is nothing like the peace and comfort, and strength that come from the Savior.  It is that feeling that nothing is impossible.  It is the feeling that I can hope for a better tomorrow.  It is the complete absence of fear.  It is true happiness and peace that nothing else can bring.  There is nothing else like that feeling.


Sometimes it is hard to overcome our fears and worries long enough to recognize what the Savior can do for us.  We may forget He is there and think we have to do it all on our own.  Even the daily grind can become overwhelming as we try to be “Wonder Woman” or “Superman.”  There comes a time when we must recognize and admit our own limitations and acknowledge the need for Divine help.  At the moment, this is I what I am struggling with.  I have let anxiety and fear cloud my faith.  I am constantly looking for ways to solve all of our problems on our own, forgetting that Heavenly Father can do so much more if I am willing to put my faith and trust in Him.  I have to pray daily for the strength and faith to overcome my anxiety so that I can see His hand in all things.  Maybe I am looking for the wrong answer to my problems as well.  I think it has to be a certain thing we need to get us through.  But maybe Heavenly Father has a different plan that will give us just what we need to get through, and I need to trust in that.  It is hard when we are standing at the starting line, facing a mountain, and we cannot see how we can possibly climb it and get to the finish line on the other side.  But we have to have faith and start climbing, relying on the strength of the Lord to carry us through.  He will not let us fail.  We might stumble and fall a few times, but He will pick us up and carry us through the hardest parts.  He will get us to the finish line if we have the faith to rely on Him.  I also think it is important to remember that Heavenly Father cares about everything that is a concern to us.  We may not think a problem is important enough to trouble Him with.  But who better to turn to?  When we really don’t know what to do, there is always Someone that does.  Of this we need to remind ourselves everyday!  Every decision we turn to our Father in Heaven for, will only serve to increase our faith.


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Lemons

I am one of those people who always carries a little bit of fear in the back of my mind, worrying about what trials we might be asked to endure.  When I hear about some of the other things friends of mine are going through, or people I know, my heart breaks a little.  Part of me also wonders if I would be able to handle it.  Jeff and I have been faced with a challenge the past couple of months that has kind of awakened us to the fact that sometimes we will have to endure challenges that we cannot control.  We will have to find a way to get through it somehow.

I entitled this post 'Lemons' because we recently found out that our car we bought a year ago is in fact a lemon.  We were so excited about it because it is bigger, and it looks nice for being 10 years old.  Unfortunately, it came with some major problems.  As we came to realize just how steep the repairs were going to be, and there was nothing we could do but move forward, we prayed endlessly for help.  The answers to our prayers came in very unexpected ways.  The first answer that I got was comfort.  I felt sure that no matter the outcome, we would be able to handle it.  I felt that somehow things would work out.  This is what I tried to hold onto as the bad news piled up.  It was actually quite difficult to hold onto my faith in that answer, as we seemed to have every door shut in our face.  We kept praying for some kind of help with our situation.  I finally came to the conclusion that maybe Heavenly Father wasn't going to necessarily take this trial away from us.  He must have wanted us to have this experience for some reason, and He must have wanted us to work it out on our own.  Along with that, He did promise that we would be able to get through it.  This was just a big bump in the road.  Finally, after weeks of struggling with this, we were blessed with a miracle that seemed to come out of nowhere.

Heavenly Father did send us the help we so desperately needed in a very unexpected way, giving us more help than we could have anticipated.  More than I felt worthy of receiving, to be honest.  It came through some special angels here on earth, that we are so blessed to have in our lives.  We are so grateful to them for being willing to heed a prompting and provide us with answers to our prayers.  To us, it was a miracle.  We are grateful to our Heavenly Father for being mindful of us.  Even though we have had to deal with something hard, He has not abandoned us.

I also know that this is not the most difficult thing we could have faced.  I am grateful it has been something we are able to endure, and that it has been more of a challenge than a heartache, as trials so often can be.  I also learned through this experience, the importance of coming to the Lord with all of your concerns, and then returning thanks for listening and providing the answers that we need when we cannot find them on our own.  As I have pondered on this experience, I have also thought about how grateful I am that, from the beginning, Heavenly Father knew we would be able to get through this, and He blessed me with feeling that comfort, as well as having the strength to face the challenge.  It has given me the opportunity to feel of the power of the Atonement, because I know the strength was not my own.  It came from above.

While trials ands challenges cause us to have stress and worry, and many other emotions, He will never leave us alone in our troubles.  He will carry us through them.

So I picked this video because I feel like none of us are "Invisible" to Heavenly Father, and someday all of these challenges will become "Invisible."


Sunday, December 15, 2013

What Zach Has Taught Me

I have been meaning to write this post for a while in remembrance of Zach's passing two years ago.  I just wanted it to be perfect, so I have been waiting for the right moment.  I hope and pray I can share the message I have been constructing in my mind for this past week.  I wanted Zach to know what he has taught me since he has passed.  I suppose that is what makes it easier for me to go on.  Knowing that his spirit lives on and continues to help myself and others brings me the greatest comfort.  Here is what I have learned from him in the last two years.  (I apologize that some of this I have already shared.  Hope you don't mind the redundancy.)

1. Always say 'I love you.'  You know how you sometimes get those subtle promptings?  A passing thought that could easily be dismissed?  The last time I saw Zach will be forever ingrained in my memory.  I was getting ready to drive back up North after visiting for Thanksgiving, and Zach didn't come to say good-bye.  This kind of hurt my feelings, and my prideful side wanted to just walk away.  However, I had this distinct thought come to my mind: "He needs to know that you love him."  So I went back and gave him a hug, and I told him that I loved him.  That was the last time I even spoke to him.
Every time I get upset with Jeff and feel like storming off, I remember that day.  I may need some time to cool down, but I make sure to tell him that I love him.  I also never leave the house anymore without kissing my family twice, just in case.  I never want them to doubt that I love them.

2. One day, tomorrow will not come.  I know this is kind of a depressing thought, but this became a reality to me when Zach died.  You think you will always have 'tomorrow' to make things better, to right your wrong, or to say 'I love you.'  Someday, that will not be true, so take advantage of having today.  Make sure that when the end of the day comes, you do not go to sleep with any regrets.  I have so many things I wanted to do or say with Zach, and I can only hope that he knows what is in my heart, because those opportunities are lost to me in this life now.

3. Everything I have ever been taught about Heaven is true and real.  My dad has had some incredible dreams and experiences with Zach.  I will not share any of the details, but they have taught me  that our spirits live on beyond the veil.  They have taught me that the spirits of those who have passed on are engaged in an incredible work.  Zach may have not been able to serve a mission here on earth, but he is serving an eternal mission now.  I also learned that he is happy to be where he is at and doing what he is doing.  This thought brings me peace.

4.  We are all entitled to personal revelation.  When Zach died, my dad gave me a blessing that I would receive the answers I was seeking in a way that I needed.  I did not realize how quickly those answers would come.  I had a dream that same night about Zach.  I was in my parents' basement, and Zach suddenly appeared in front of me as an 8 year old.  He told me in this dream that he was happy, and I told him that I loved him.  One thing I distinctly remember is holding onto his hands for dear life.  I would not let him go until I knew that he was happy, and he knew that I loved him.  Once this was accomplished, he left.

5. I know what the power of the Atonement feels like and what it can do for us.  During this time, I felt the power of the Atonement, as well as the power of the prayers being offered in our behalf.  I knew that I should be falling apart, because that is what I always thought would happen should I find myself in this situation.  However, it didn't happen.  I felt peace and reassurance.  I felt hope.  I felt strength I didn't know I had.  I asked myself how this was possible, and the answer came that my Savior was holding me up, helping me to do something I never thought I could do.  I wish it did not take something this tragic for me to feel of this magical, incredible gift, but I am grateful I know firsthand what the Atonement can do for us.  I am also grateful that because of what Jesus suffered for us, this life is not the end.  We have much to look forward to in the next life.

6. Zach loves me.  Zach has miraculously found ways to let me know that he loves me, and the he is still around.  There have been the tender visits from him.  I have never seen him, but I have definitely felt him: A warmth and love that could only be him.  Then there was the time that I opened an old journal one day, and found a note from Zach that simply said "I love you. ZP."  My mom also found an old email, that I still have, where he told me he had fun visiting me, and that I was 'the best sister.'  Last Christmas, we found an old book of Zach's.  A diary, I believe.  He wrote about me several times, and how he missed me (I was at college), and how excited he was for me to visit.  It reminded me of the special relationship we shared growing up, which was something I needed to remember.

So, even though I do not get to see him, he has taught me more about Heaven, miracles, and the importance of family than I think I could have learned on my own.  I will always be grateful to him for leaving this legacy and gift behind.  He is my angel.  The song I chose today reflects my feelings about where Zach is, and my gratitude to my Savior for making it all possible.