That was really painful for both of us. Jeff took the news especially hard. He fell into depression. For months, he was angry, lost, ashamed, disappointed. He really had no desire to get back up and try again. I did my best to try to talk to him, lift him up, encourage him. I was not perfect at it because I couldn't understand exactly what he was going through. I felt for a long time that I had lost my husband as I knew him. He was too ashamed of himself to turn to me or listen to me for a while. I knew that this happened to us for a reason, but he didn't. I didn't understand it yet myself, but I knew that if Heavenly Father had wanted Jeff to pass, He would have made it possible.
The amazing thing about this time of our lives was that, despite these disappointments and strong uncertainties about the future, we really did not suffer much beyond that. The Lord knew what our needs were. Jeff was able to find work doing tile, and the opportunities seemed to come out of nowhere, as we didn't publicize what had happened. As far as others knew, he was working as a PA. Because Jeff wasn't working full time, he was able to be home more. This was an incredible blessing after 7 years of school and never seeing him. There were many other things that happened during this time that allowed us to know that the Lord was with us through it all.
After nearly 3 months of this emotional roller coaster, we were asked to give talks in Sacrament meeting. The topic, thoughtfully chosen by our bishop, was "Gratitude in Adversity." I agreed for us, and Jeff went along with it, but expressed his strong desire not to do it. This ended up being our greatest blessing. Jeff opened up in a way he never had, to the entire ward. He shared feelings and thoughts I had no idea were even in his heart. This experience was what ultimately opened the door for him to start healing and trying again. There was such an outpouring of love, understanding, and gratitude for what he was willing to share. It was the first time he felt loved and appreciated at church. He made many new friends after this day who were a huge support to him in the following months. It truly was a miracle.
Our journey continued. Jeff studied many hours in the coming weeks and took his test again in February. Despite many prayers and fasts, we both had strong feelings that he didn't pass. And he didn't. It was painful, of course. But I was amazed at how quickly Jeff bounced back. He got back up within a day and got back to work. Our wonderful friends did so many kind things to support us and strengthen us. We felt blessed, even though we were so disappointed. Jeff and I both thought about and discussed what we could do if he didn't pass the third time. After 2 negative outcomes, and 2 lost jobs, it was hard to believe it would ever be different.
Jeff didn't give up. The 3rd time around, he studied differently and more diligently. We both made sacrifices as we felt prompted to do, to show the Lord what we were willing to do to make this happen. One day, I suddenly realized just how much Jeff had changed. For the first time I ever recall in our 12 years of marriage, he was praying daily, on his knees, on his own. He was studying scriptures and conference talks daily. Along with this, he was happy. He was at peace. He trusted the Lord. He believed what he lived. I remarked several times that there was a light around him that hadn't been there before. We actually started having discussions about spiritual matters, something we hadn't done since we were engaged. He was so involved in family activities and helped me so much around the house. He was constantly looking for ways not only to serve us but to serve his siblings and parents. We both clearly saw that this trial not only changed him for the better, but it saved him. We both learned things we never would have learned had this "PASS" just been handed to us without the struggle. We knew this is what the Lord wanted for us, as hard as it was to accept.
As attempt number 3 neared, neither one of us knew what to expect, but we felt strongly that this time would be "different." We both decided that this would be "it," no matter the outcome. We didn't know what else Jeff could do at this point to prepare himself. Then a sign came! An old coworker, a PA, called him randomly for a tile job. While working this job, the friend encouraged him to apply to work on his floor. It was the same floor Jeff had worked as a CNA. It was the same job he had applied for months ago and never heard back on. His friend kept pushing him to apply, so Jeff finally emailed the woman in charge and told her up front that he had not yet passed his test but would appreciate the opportunity to interview. She agreed to meet with him. During the interview, she told him a story about how the guy they originally hired had left abruptly. Jeff kept coming to her mind, but she couldn't remember his name or find contact information. The day she was looking for it, Jeff's PA friend stopped by her office with the intent of bringing Jeff to her attention, and she was so grateful because she hadn't known how to contact him. She then told him that the interview was a formality, that they wanted him on their team, and he "better pass his test." Wow! This gave us hope!
Before each test session this time, Jeff's good friend gave him a priesthood blessing. In each blessing, different pieces of the Lord's will was revealed to him. He was even told that the Holy Ghost would make answers known to him. He remembers one question in particular. He read it and had no idea what the disease was. He closed his eyes for a moment and remembered that phrase from his blessing. He opened his eyes again, and one answer seemed "bigger" to him, so he chose it. When he looked it up later, he found that it was right.
The following Thursday, our oldest daughter walked into the room and said "Mom I had a dream that dad got a letter that said he passed his test." I thought, 'how nice.' No one has ever had a dream like that about his test. A few minutes later, Brook returned with Jeff's phone in hand, saying he had an email about his test. We opened it with shaky hands, and to our JOY, he had passed!!!
My purpose in sharing this story is really about 2 things: Gratitude for the Lord and His love for us, for His hand in our lives; and how grateful I am to Jeff for not giving up and for embracing the Lord and the gospel in his heart and life.
I know we all have faced and will continue to face heartache and disappointment. Unfortunately, it is part of life. We will all have times when we want to quit, when we don't see why this is happening and how we can keep going. But I know that the Lord needed both of us to learn how much we rely on and need Him in our lives. He wanted us to learn and be able to appreciate that without the Lord, we have nothing. He wanted us to draw closer to Him with our hearts and recognize His presence, power, and love. We owe everything to Him. It will NOT always be easy to trust in the Lord, especially when His plans do not match our plans. But I do know that when He gives us trials, He doesn't just throw us in and abandon us. He stays with us the entire way. He carries us and leads us through. Even when it is so hard, it hurts to pray and you don't know how, pray anyway. That's where I had to start. Step by step, day by day, He will lead us along, and His plan for us will be revealed. I know this won't be our last trial in this life. But I do know that the lessons we learned form this trial will be an anchor to which we will refer when we again feel lost and scared. I am grateful to the Lord for teaching us through this experience. But I am also so grateful that He saw fit to bless us with success in the end. For allowing us to feel the joy that comes at the end of a long, difficult journey. I have no doubt that we would not have had this outcome without the Lord supporting us every single day and inspiring our small decisions every single day. He truly does know what we need better than we do. He wants us to grow and be better, and find ways to be more like his Son, so we can return worthily to live with Them again.
I am including a song that brought me much comfort over this past year. Hillary Scott "Still"