Feed your FAITH and your fears will starve .

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Monday Always Follows Sunday

Last Sunday Brad, Megan, and myself all had to speak in Sacrament meeting.  We all knew about it for about three weeks beforehand.  I kept telling myself I was going to write my talk early and have lots of time to tweak it.  It was on my mind a little bit but it didn't get written until Saturday morning.  Because I was putting of writing my own talk, I was getting nervous about Megan having hers done too.  I kept asking if it was written and her reply was always, "Sure Mom, I have three scriptures.  I will be fine." What???!!!  I pressed her to write an actual talk but in the end she was right, and she did fabulous.  She stood up to the pulpit with nothing but her scriptures and taught us.  She spoke about when she was reading a scripture in 3 Nephi about Christ's visit to the Nephites after his resurrection.  She spoke about when Nephi saw Christ he knew who he was and knew him.  She stressed the importance of each of us having our own personal relationship with Christ so that we can know Him as well.

I have to admit, I was one proud mother at that point.  Megan is a great kid and I love her dearly. In that moment she impressed me so much.  She does not express a lot of emotion about Trent's passing and I don't always know what is in her head but I now know a little more about what is in her heart.

Brad spoke about Gratitude and all of the blessings his family received after Linda's passing.  He talked about the gratitude he felt for those people who cried with him over the death of his spouse and the fear that he had for Charlie's future.  He then talked about the miracles they had experienced in regards to Charlie's healing.  He expressed his gratitude for the growth that he had gone through as well.  He was quite emotional as were many in the congregation.

My topic was 'Thanks Be To God'.  Since mine is the only talk I have in digital form I will include it. 

In the Guide to the Scriptures under Thanks Be to God, it reads:
Gratitude for blessings received from God. Expressing gratitude is pleasing to God, and true worship includes thanking him. We should give thanks to the Lord for all things.
When we were asked to speak and given our topics the first thing that came to my mind was the story of the 10 Lepers which is found in Luke 17:12-19.
12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:
 13 And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.
 14 And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.
 15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God,
 16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.
 17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?
 18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.
 19 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.

When I read that passage the phrase that really stuck out to me was in verse 15. (read again) We should thank God with a loud voice.  This doesn’t mean that we are supposed to loudly proclaim our thanks, but we should let our actions speak loudly of what we believe and our gratitude to our Father in Heaven.  This is done through service and living the gospel every day.

When we first moved back to Brigham City after Trent was diagnosed, we decided to get a dog for the kids to distract them from their new reality.  Shortly after getting the dog, I lost him.  I don't know how, but he got out and ran away.  I packed up the kids in the bike trailer and went looking for him.  I recognized this as a teaching moment and pulled over to the side of the road and asked Mallory what she thought we should do. We decided to say a pray for help in finding Scout.  As soon as our prayer was finished we turned the corner and there in the middle of the road stood our dog.  I was so excited and told Mallory that our prayer had been answered!  We got Scout on a leash and started for home.  Mallory then reminded me that we should thank Heavenly Father for His help.  Here I was, being so proud of myself for teaching about prayer yet I was the one being taught about gratitude and thanking our Heavenly Father for all of our blessings, big and small.

Recently I have heard the question posed, “What if you woke up today with only what you thanked God for yesterday?”  I can assure you my list should be a lot longer than it is.  There are many things on that list; family, warm homes, health, talents, being able to provide for our families, a living prophet, the fullness of the gospel, temple ordinances.  The list could go on and on.  But the things that resonate most with me are the Atonement and the Plan of Salvation or the Plan of Happiness.

Neal A Maxwell spoke of the Plan of Happiness in an article in the Ensign in 1982.  He said, “Of course, this grand plan and design for our happiness is not something which exists merely to strike awe in us or to evoke gasps of gladness. It does not exist apart from us either, but completely involves us—painfully at times and happily at other times—but relentlessly always.

Our response to the realities of the plan should not be resignation or shoulder-shrugging fatalism—but reverential acceptance!"  Acceptance is a step in our growth that eventually will bring us to thankfulness.

"Therefore, our faith in and thanksgiving for Heavenly Father, so far as this mortal experience is concerned, consists—not simply of a faith and gladness that he exists—but also includes faith and thanksgiving for his tutoring of us to aid our acquisition of needed attributes and experiences while we are in mortality. We trust not only the Designer but also his design of life itself—including our portion thereof!” (Neal A Maxwell)

Our family is one that knows well what a gift the Plan of Happiness is.  As Elder Maxwell said, it is not always the ‘happiness’ part that we experience, in fact we are meant to experience some pain, but eventually, eternally, we will enjoy the fullness of the Plan of Happiness.

Russell M Nelson said, “God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, but we are not. Each day, ours is the challenge to access the power of the Atonement so that we can truly change, become more Christlike, and qualify for the gift of exaltation and live eternally with God, Jesus Christ, and our families.33 For these powers, privileges, and gospel gifts, thanks be to God!”

The following is a favorite story of mine that teaches about the Atonement:
In that place between wakefulness and dreams, I found myself in a room. There were no distinguishing features in this room save the one wall covered with small index card files. They were like the ones in libraries that list titles by author or subject in alphabetical order. But these files, which stretched from floor to ceiling and seemingly endlessly in either direction, had very different headings. As I drew near the wall of files, the first to catch my attention was one that read "Girls I Have Liked". I opened it and began flipping through the cards. I quickly shut it, shocked to realize that I recognized the names written on each one.

And then without being told, I knew exactly where I was. This lifeless room with its small files was a crude catalog system for my life. Here were written the actions of my every moment, big and small, in a detail my memory couldn't match.

A sense of wonder and curiosity, coupled with horror, stirred within me as I began randomly opening files and exploring their content. Some brought joy and sweet memories; others a sense of shame and regret so intense that I would look over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching.

A file named "Friends" was next to one marked "Friends I Have Betrayed".

The titles ranged from the mundane to the outright weird. "Books I Have Read", "Lies I Have Told", "Comfort I Have Given", "Jokes I Have Laughed At". Some were almost hilarious in their exactness: "Things I've Yelled at My Brothers." Others I couldn't laugh at: "Things I Have Done in My Anger", "Things I Have Muttered Under My Breath at My Parents". I never ceased to be surprised by the contents. Often there were many more cards than I expected. Sometimes fewer than I hoped.

I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the life I had lived. Could it be possible that I had the time in my 20 years to write each of these thousands or even millions of cards? But each card confirmed this truth. Each was written in my own handwriting. Each signed with my signature.

When I pulled out the file marked "Songs I Have Listened To", I realized the files grew to contain their contents. The cards were packed tightly, and yet after two or three yards, I hadn't found the end of the file. I shut it, shamed, not so much by the quality of music, but more by the vast amount of time I knew that file represented.

When I came to a file marked "Lustful Thoughts", I felt a chill run through my body. I pulled the file out only an inch, not willing to test its size, and drew out a card. I shuddered at its detailed content. I felt sick to think that such a moment had been recorded.

An almost animal rage broke on me. One thought dominated my mind: "No one must ever see these cards! No one must ever see this room! I have to destroy them!" In an insane frenzy I yanked the file out. Its size didn't matter now. I had to empty it and burn the cards. But as I took it at one end and began pounding it on the floor, I could not dislodge a single card. I became desperate and pulled out a card, only to find it as strong as steel when I tried to tear it.

Defeated and utterly helpless, I returned the file to its slot. Leaning my forehead against the wall, I let out a long, self-pitying sigh. And then I saw it. The title --- "People I Have Shared the Gospel With". The handle was brighter than those around it, newer, almost unused. I pulled on its handle and a small box not more than three inches long fell into my hands. I could count the cards it contained on one hand.

And then the tears came. I began to weep. Sobs so deep that the hurt started in my stomach and shook through me. I fell on my knees and cried. I cried out of shame, from the overwhelming shame of it all. The rows of file shelves swirled in my tear-filled eyes. No one must ever, ever know of this room. I must lock it up and hide the key.

But then as I pushed away the tears, I saw Him. No, please not Him. Not here. Oh, anyone but Jesus. I watched helplessly as He began to open the files and read the cards. I couldn't bear to watch His response. And in the moments I could bring myself to look at His face, I saw a sorrow deeper than my own. He seemed to intuitively go to the worst boxes. Why did He have to read every one?

Finally He turned and looked at me from across the room. He looked at me with pity in His eyes. But this was a pity that didn't anger me. I dropped my head, covered my face with my hands and began to cry again. He walked over and put His arm around me. He could have said so many things. But He didn't say a word. He just cried with me.

Then He got up and walked back to the wall of files. Starting at one end of the room, He took out a file and, one by one, began to sign His name over mine on each card.

"No!" I shouted rushing to Him. All I could find to say was "No, no," as I pulled the card from Him. His name shouldn't be on these cards. But there it was, written in red so rich, so dark, so alive. The name of Jesus covered mine.

It was written with His blood.

He gently took the card back. He smiled a sad smile and began to sign the cards. I don't think I'll ever understand how He did it so quickly, but the next instant it seemed I heard Him close the last file and walk back to my side. He placed His hand on my shoulder and said, "It is finished."

I stood up, and He led me out of the room. There was no lock on its door. There were still cards to be written.
In the past few years I have learned a great deal about the Atonement and all that it encompasses.  How grateful I am for a Savior who has descended below it all to experience all that we might experience to be able to succor us in our times of need.  My testimony has grown exponentially of a loving Father who knows us each individually and loves us infinitely.
While we were fighting for Trent’s life our needs were overwhelming as were our blessings.  We saw miracle after miracle and received many answers to prayers.  Although we did not receive the miracle of healing that we so desired, we were blessed with the miracle of faith.  Even until Trent’s very last breath, we all believed that he could be healed if it was the will of the Lord.  One of the hardest and most calming things I have ever done was to offer our last family prayer to our Heavenly Father and express to Him our complete and total submission to His will.  When the end came my very first thought was that of gratitude that Trent was no longer in pain.  And so for that, thanks be to God for the blessing of death, to release us from our pains.
Recently at a fireside I spoke with Chris Williams, who was the speaker, about our similar trials.  During our conversation he said, “I look at it as an opportunity for a blessing I didn't want.”  That was a little bit difficult for me to swallow but I am working on it. 
·         Receive this blessing from the hand of the Lord, with a thankful heart:D&C 62:7;  That is a constant pursuit for me. I think that being grateful requires us to always look for the good in every situation and trust that God has a perfect plan for each of us. 

I am grateful for so many blessings in my life.  I have been lucky enough to have the gospel as a central part of my entire life.  I have always lived in a home with worthy priesthood holders.  I am sealed to a wonderful man who is waiting for me to join him.  I am also married to an amazing man who has blessed my life in countless ways.  Brad saved me and showed me there is till happiness for me when I thought I could never be fully happy again.  We have nine awesome kids who challenge us and heal us every day.  I have a strong testimony of the Plan of Happiness and the infinite blessing of the Atonement.  Thanks be to God for sending His Son to redeem us.  I am blessed beyond what I deserve.  I know that Heavenly Father is involved in the details in my life and He is deserving of my thanks in all things.

So, let us be filled with an attitude of thanksgiving in our journey homeward, and thanks be to God in all things.

Of course I bawled while giving the talk but it felt like cleansing tears.  The rest of the day I felt this energy that I couldn't quite explain.  My spiritual high was short lived however.  As you know, Monday always follows Sunday. *sigh*

Monday I took Megan and Zach for a routine eye exam.  I took them back to the eye doctor they had seen when we lived in Providence before.  I was surprised to learn that Megan's eyes were almost perfect!  She has been wearing glasses since she was 2 1/2 and has been through patching, bifocals, and vision therapy. One of our goals through her treatment was to get her left eye strong enough so that if anything ever happened to her right eye, she would be okay.  Well today was that day.  During the exam the doctor became concerned by what he saw and asked his assistant to get a picture of Megan's eye.  It would show the same thing he sees when he dilates her eyes but then we could all see what he sees.  He then compared that picture to some he had taken seven and eight years prior.  The new photo revealed a mass right around her optic nerve.  He said it was not particularly dangerous looking but was concerned that it was something new and had not shown up in previous pictures.  Well, I have been in this situation many times before and I began asking all the question I knew to ask.  Unfortunately he was not giving any straight answers, partially I think, because he did not have any.  I also think he was trying not to scare me because he knew Trent and knows our history.  He immediately began flipping through his medical journals but did not come up with anything.  He texted the pictures to a Neuro Opthamalogist in Ogden and asked for his opinion.  This doctor was not able to give any solid answers either but offered to see Megan and do more extensive testing.  Ugh.

As we left he office my stomach was in knots.  I didn't say much to Megan because I didn't want her to be concerned but I think she can read me like a book.    I have to admit, my mind went immediately to cancer. How could I tell her she had cancer? What if she had to do chemo? How sick would she be? What about her gorgeous hair? What if she died? If it isn't cancer, what if she lost her eyesight?  I called Brad and tried to keep it together while I told him about the visit.  I failed.  The tears came and panic set in but just for a little bit.  My stoic face came back and I determined that I could do this too.  It felt so much like the person I had to be for the three years of Trent's treatment.  Always the strong one, putting on the brave face so that everyone else would be okay.  

After that first day I didn't express any anxieties of mine to Brad.  His way of supporting me was to not bring it up at all...talk about the elephant in the room!  It kind of made me feel as though it was 'out of sight, out of mind' for him but I know that wasn't the case.  Friday finally came and Megan and I drove to Ogden for the appointment.  I was not particularly nervous and I don't think Megan was either.  The appointment went well but we still have no definite answers.  This doctor thinks it may be Myelinated NFL but it is not common for it to show up at this age.  He is going to do some more research but he said "it looks very benign."  Great. I will take benign.  So now we wait for more answers with a little less weight on our shoulders.

Megan and I went out to lunch and did some Christmas shopping after that.  We chose a restaurant that Trent loved, Goodwood.  We talked a lot about Trent and the things we miss and remember.  We had a great time.  She is really a fun person and we laughed a lot.  I have missed that Megan.  Lately she has struggled a bit with our new reality but she puts on a brave face most of the time.  It was so nice to see the real Megan come out and let loose just a little. We were able to talk very openly about a lot of things and it was a very bonding time, for me at least.  I hope she feels the same way.  

Thursday, November 14, 2013

In My Dreams

The last little while I have been plagued with bad dreams.  I usually wake up sobbing and it can be very hard to get those dreams out of my head.  A few days ago I dreamed that Trent was trying to divorce me. He was sitting at a table signing tons of papers and pushing them towards me to sign.  Of course I was having nothing of it.  I woke up bawling and Brad was there to hold me and help me calm down.  The following night I dreamt that Trent was still alive and we were headed to Boston for treatment. ( We did that in November and December of 2011.)  As we were boarding the plane "they" ( I don't know who "they" were), would not let me go with Trent.  I was forced to let Trent go alone.  I was frantic, knowing that no one else could take care of him like I could and he was soooo sick.  I spent the rest of my dream trying to get to Boston to be with Trent.  When I woke up bawling this time, Brad asked me to explain the dream to him.  While I was telling him I said, "Trent got to go and I had to stay."  As I said those words they kind of slapped me in the face.

The night after that I dreamed that Brad and I were grocery shopping.  We were talking and laughing and having fun together.  Then suddenly Trent was there wanting to shop with me.  I began shopping with him and looked up to see Jonathan at about 8 years old ready to shop with Trent too.  I woke up again, not crying, but just confused, trying to figure out what it all means, if anything.

The other night I was talking to Zach and I told him about my dream about Trent wanting to divorce me.  He immediately took on the adult role.  He told me I should put that right out of my mind because we all know that Trent would never want to divorce me and that is the furthest thing from his mind.  He then instructed me to stop thinking about those dreams because they are coming from the adversary who is trying to distract me from doing good. All the time I spent thinking about those dreams could  have been spent serving someone else.  Whoa.  I sat there with my mouth hanging open soaking in all that he was saying.  I knew that Trent was putting those words in his mouth.  It was very humbling.

Since then I have been nervous to go to sleep because my dreams can be so upsetting.  But I am working on a new perspective.  I have begun praying for protection at night and to be blessed with comforting dreams.  I am hoping that the next time I dream of Trent it will bring me peace instead of turmoil.  I guess this is just another side effect of losing someone you love.  *Sigh*

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

I Am Worth Refining

Life just does not seem to slow down, or even give me a chance to breathe sometimes.  October has been such a whirlwind! A few weeks ago Jonny came to me and told me his tooth hurt.  I looked at his face and it was completely misshapen and swollen on one side.  I immediately called my brother, Josh, to see how serious an abscess is and if he needed immediate attention.  I called the on-call pediatric dentist who told me that he would be willing to meet me at the ER to see if Jonny needed IV medication or if he could wait until morning.  I was scared!  I kept him close to me all night and he saw the dentist first thing the next morning. He was put on antibiotics and scheduled for an extraction.  Ugh.

We tried the laughing gas but of course that did not work well at all.  He ended up having to come back the next day for sedation.  This makes twice that I have had to do this without Trent!  It always makes me nervous but I know he is in good hands...Trent's and the dentist's.  
 Jonny was pretty loopy after the sedation and kept asking me why they made him sit in the dizzy room.  It was kind of funny but he was certain he could walk and he was a little hard to restrain.  He kept doing this funny little laugh and telling me he loved me.

The next week I was out to lunch with Jonny and out of the blue he said, "What did Jesus do after he went to Gethsemane? Break bread?"  Um, wow.  I explained to him that Jesus paid the price for all of our sins so that we could repent and live with him again.  He said, "Yep, that's how I am going to live with Daddy again, huh!"  He then proceeded to tell me that we were all going to live with Daddy soon.  How I love to hear that!
Then we had to conquer another first, Jarom's pinewood derby.  This was the first car Jarom got to build because last year we were in Disneyland when his troop held their derby.  He was a little bummed about having me help him because I am not nearly as cool or skilled as Trent was at doing things like this.  I called on some help from Trevor, Trent's brother, and he helped Jarom build a pretty cool car.  It is hard to go through these things that are supposed to be a father/son activity.  It makes my heart hurt for him.  At the derby it was me and all the the other dads putting in the graphite and making sure the weights were just right. Kinda weird.  Oh well.
Then last Monday as we were all getting ready for school I got a text from Zach from downstairs.  He had had a dream about Trent and was really upset.  I went to him and he was a mess.  He asked if he could go to Trent's grave.  Of course I said yes.  I kept him home from school and we went to Brigham to clean the headstone.  I knew when I chose the black granite that it would be a little more upkeep but I didn't care.  I wanted it to stand out from the others.  I didn't count on it being so hard, emotionally, to clean it.  I bawled the whole time while Zach just watched.

Afterwards I let Zach have a few moments alone while I wandered around and cried at all of my friends' headstones that happen to be nearby.  Ugh.  Zach is really being hit hard lately and it kills me to watch him.  
Lately my emotions have been all over the map.  Some days I am fine, other days I can't stop the tears.  I have many moments where I am caught off guard and can't believe this is my life.  I still get angry sometimes too.  When I am in the midst of dealing with all that life throws at me I get angry that Trent left me here to deal with it all.  I finally decided I can't be mad about my plan not working out because it was never my plan that we were working on, I just didn't know it.  If Trent had his way, our lives would be very different.  So I guess I can't be mad at him either.

Besides helping all the kids in their grief, I have all the added stresses of blending a family. That is hard! There are so many things that I did not fully anticipate that drive me to my knees.  It tears at my heart to see all the kids struggle to find their place and try to deal with their new realities. Not one of them chose this nor are they completely comfortable with it yet.  That will take years, even decades I am sure.  I am ready for life to let me rest for a while and be just a little easier.  I am learning that is pretty unrealistic. I read a quote the other day that I have not been able to get out of my mind.  It said, "You are being refined because you are worth refining."  I have to believe that.  I AM worth refining.  And so is every single person who faces trials, big or small.  We are all in the process of refinement.  That is life.  And life is hard.  There is no getting around that.