Saturday, November 10, 2018

I Will Prepare You: Thoughts At Year Six

Six years ago today, my life forever changed. This morning I was thinking back about that day and remembering how much we were prompted and guided to have discussions that later prepared me to move forward after the accident. Scott and I had talked about so many specific things. On walks at night we planned what I should do if something ever happened to him. Our topics were surprisingly thorough, ranging from the realestate agent I should use to list the house, to discussions about me remarrying, to wills and estate planning and what we wanted on our tombstones. At the time I had no idea how the Lord was preparing me and what a difference our listening and heading those promptings made. I’m grateful that I had a husband who was in tune to the spirit and followed up on those things he felt he should do.

I also see how both of us were inspired to make changes in our personal goals and our family focus that prepared us individually and as a family. I watched how Scott had an increased desire to serve others and his family. The month before the accident he spent dinner time teaching his boys everything he learned from his mission. I remember a few days before, how on a walk, he had broken down about Alex leaving on his mission in eight months. He commented how badly he wanted to go with him. In the last five out of six years, I have had sons on missions. Each boy has had profound experiences with their dad while serving those missions. I strongly believe that Scott was prepared for roles he would fufill after his death.

When I think about myself, I remember creating a new mission statement a month before the accident. I wanted to be a more charitable and empathetic towards others. I was reading everything I could find on the subject and I was praying that I could figure out how to be different. Little did I know, that an experience was coming that would forever change me. I needed to face my own personal suffering in order to be able to relate to others who were also suffering. Because of those promptings, I was in a good spiritual place when Scott died and that allowed me to have other experiences that prepared me.

The night of the accident I was walking with my kids on the Galloway trail. They had all wanted to be together that night. As the sun was going down and as I watched my kids skipping ahead of me arm in arm, I had an amazing feeling of love come over me. Very clearly in my mind came the words, “If something happens to Scott, this will be enough, you can still be happy. “ At the time I was so filled with love that I thought nothing of it. As I look back, I know the five of us were not the only ones on the trail that night. We had angels walking with us. I had arms around me preparing me for what I would discover the next morning.

Last week I drove back to Springfield to speak to our college age youth group about how I have seen the Lord’s hand in my life. I used the scripture below to talk about how The Lord prepares us with light before challenging journeys.

“24 For behold, ye shall be as a whale in the midst of the sea; for the mountain waves shall dash upon you. Nevertheless, I will bring you up again out of the depths of the sea; for the winds have gone forth out of my mouth, and also the rains and the floods have I sent forth.
25 And behold, I prepare you against these things; for ye cannot cross this great deep save I prepare you against the waves of the sea, and the winds which have gone forth, and the floods which shall come. Therefore what will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea?”

The morning after the accident, when my mother-in-law called to tell me that they have not landed, my mind immediately went back to the night before on the Galloway trail and I knew that I had been prepared. In that moment, time stood still and I watched myself sink to the floor and give up and despair. As my future continued to unfold I watched my children’s lives self-destruct. There was darkness everywhere...all I could think was, “There has to be a way out of this, There has to be a way out of this!” Then, out of the darkness there was light off to my side. In my mind I made the choice to turn towards it. When I made that choice, new words came into my head… “This was supposed to happen, we chose this, you have to be strong, this will heal many hearts, now go and figure out how you’re going to tell the kids.“ That day, and every day since, those words of light have carried me through the darkness. I know that day I had an angel husband standing beside me, whispering words of truth that would sustain me for the rest of my life.

The miracles that have unfolded in my life the last six years have been incredible to be a part of! God over and over again has pulled me out of the depths of the sea. He has continued to give me light and understanding, and He has allowed his angels to walk with me on this journey. He has given me a purpose. He has expanded my concept of family and given me more people to love and care for in my life.




Today I am grateful for that preparation. I’m grateful that we don’t have to walk this sometimes lonely and painful journey alone. I’m grateful that this experience of life it’s not the end, but a way for us to learn and grow and be better, and I am grateful for those waves that have propelled me on that journey.










Thursday, May 10, 2018

New Beginnings and Happy Endings



I had a fairytale start to my life. I had a husband who adored me, 4 bright, beautiful children, and then without a moments notice everything came crashing down and life as I knew it fell apart. I wondered if I would ever feel happiness again in this life. What good was a fairytale beginning without a happy ending? In my darkest moments I felt abandoned, hopeless and lost.

Despite the darkness, I made a choice... 
         the choice to choose God and faith everyday. 

I trusted that my story wasn’t over. I trusted that understanding would come as I continued to exercise faith, and that understanding did come in quiet, simple assurances from the spirit. I learned to trust that peaceful voice in my head and to use my life and experiences to promote good.

Day by day I was taught...

And gradually I began to realize that the purpose of life perhaps isn’t to have everything work out all of the time. Maybe in reality my view of perfection would be a prison that wouldn’t allow growth or change. Without tasting the bitter, how could I every know to prize the sweet?

Perhaps instead, life is about learning how to feel joy even in difficult circumstances. 

It is about learning how to focus outward, how to give love unconditionally, so there is a greater place for us to receive it back. It’s about doing harder things than you thought possible and feeling God’s power and strength aiding you through the hard times. It’s about freeing ourselves from worldly pursuits and focusing on people and our relationships with them.

Now, 5 1/2 years after my world fell apart I find the pieces miraculously coming together in a more beautiful design than I could have ever expected. God is good. Divine Design exists in our life. He eventually compensates us for every loss. He can fill our empty holes with more love if we turn our focus and life to Him and doing His will.

Initially I felt loss from all the life changes that occurred along with my husband’s death, but as compensation for that loss, I gained empathy and the ability to relate to and help others who were struggling in similar circumstance. I also gained opportunities to serve that I would not have had in my former life.

As a result, now my life is fuller because of the purpose it has gained.

I felt loss of family when my husband died. Then that loss was compounded as I sent my sons one by one on missions, but as I continued to exercise faith, our family numbers began to increase. Shortly after each son's return, we welcomed into our family new daughter-in-laws and now an upcoming grandson. As I look to the future I see more family and more love on the way.



I recently met an amazing man through circumstances that I can only describe as divine design. God works in mysterious and miraculous ways to bring good things into our lives. Major mountains have been moved and losses have been compensated. We are engaged to be married in late May and with him I gain 4 more children to love. I feel my heart is overflowing with gratitude to the Lord for granting my deepest and very personal desires, for giving me the gift of more family and with it more opportunities to give and receive love.


To any and all who feel they are stuck in the darkness, I encourage you to choose to reach for the light everyday. Hold onto your faith and cling to hope. Trust God and what He is doing with your life. Don’t fear change and loss because they may be the vehicles for you to receive greater joy. God loves us and He seeks in His time table to grant our heartfelt righteous desires. As we wait on Him we begin to understand His ways and a greater measure of strength and faith flows into our lives. He is always there; there is always hope, and happy endings come.








Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The One Thing I Need Right Now...


With Christmas done I’ve been thinking about the new year and all of the changes that we are going to be making. I'm putting my house on the market at the end of January, selling most of the things I own, and moving out to a small condo by my kids in Utah.  I won't have seminary or yard work to keep me busy, and I will be leaving friends, extended family and everything I've known and am comfortable with. I don't know where all of this will lead, but it's something I have felt for a while now that God wants me to do.  For me it's a huge step in the dark, or rather a leap off the cliff into the abyss.

If I allow myself, fear can start to creep in and make me worry about how everything is going to work out. This morning I turned to the words of a man I greatly admire, Gordon B Hinckley. He reminded me about the power of faith. Faith in Jesus Christ and in His power to deliver us always dispels fear, and it gives us actual power to move forward and make things happen. When we know we are doing is what God wants us to do, then we can confidently expend our effort, knowing that He will have our back.

A few days ago, I was putting together scrapbook pages as a Christmas present for my kids. On one of the pages, I pasted a picture of my 8 year-old son, Cooper, lifting a heavy barbell. The photograph captured perfectly Cooper’s singleminded effort and determination.  I know all the power to lift that bar didn’t come just from Cooper’s will. I remembered watching Scott help them learn how to lift.  He placed his hands on the bar as well.  He made them struggle through each repetition, but at key moments he provided the additional strength that the boys had not yet acquired so that they could successfully complete their task.

If we can just remember that our Father In Heaven also desires to help us lift heavy burdens in our life, we will have the power to expend our energy with full confidence that the bar will rise.

Paul wrote to Timothy: “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord” (2 Tim. 1:7–8).

When all is said and done Faith is our “only genuine and lasting hope"... and that great "moving power can change our lives.” - G B Hinckley

In our moments of struggling, that concept can be difficult to remember.  I think it is human nature to want to know the end from the beginning, but God's ways are not our ways. Like a headlamp in a dark cave, God’s pattern is to give us just enough information to light the path a few steps in front of us. Even though we cannot see very far ahead, He expects us to take steps forward, trusting that the light will move with us and continue to illuminate our path.

Complaining and wishing to know more will not change God’s pattern. 

  • The Red Sea did not part until the children of Israel had their feet in its waters and pharaoh’s army in hot pursuit at their backs.
  • The 5000 were not fed until all of the food that could be found was given to the Lord.
  • The woman with the issue of blood was not healed until she reached in faith for the Savior's hem
Over and over again in the scriptures, God expects us to act in faith before the miracle occurs. 

Why is this His pattern?

Making us expend our effort first grows our faith.

So when my faith muscle begins to tremble and feels like it's going to give out, I try to remember the promise of this same wise man who practiced using his faith for 97 years.

“It all works out. Don’t worry. I say that to myself every morning. It will all work out. If you do your best, it will all work out. Put your trust in God, and move forward with faith and confidence in the future. The Lord will not forsake us. He will not forsake us.” -Gordon B Hinkley

I know in my life, God has never forsaken me.  Help has always come when it was desperately needed, and it will come again.  All I have to do, is take my first step in the dark. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

5 Years... Has It Been That Long?



(If my experiences have in any way brought healing to you, please take the time to read this post and to give me a ❤️. Thank you for being amazing friends on this journey!)

Yesterday, I told a new friend my story for the very first time. I was reminded all over again of words of direction that came to me as I discovered my husband’s plane had not landed the previous night as planned.

I was standing in front of my bedroom mirror, with the phone in my hand. Time stood still and it was as if my entire future was opened before me. I watched myself sink to the floor and give up. I followed the lives of my children down a very dark path. As I traveled deeper and deeper, I kept repeating in my mind... “there must be a way out... there has to be a way to fix this...” But the more I traveled the more their lives unraveled. Then like a beacon in the night there was light off to my right. In the very moment I turned to the light, I found myself back in front of the mirror with these poignant words forever engraved in my memory...

This was supposed to happen
We choose this
You have to be strong
THIS WILL HEAL MANY HEARTS

I didn’t fully understand those words at that moment, but with them came a power to move forward.

I have found my experience to be very unique. I don’t know why those words were given to me that day, except that I know now they were spoken by my husband to put me on a very specific path. A path that would not only lead to my healing, but to healing the hearts of others.

10 months after my husband’s death I started a blog entitled “Not for Naught: a young Widows journey.” not4naught.blogspot.com I wanted my experiences to count for something. I felt that I had power to testify in a unique way because of the things I had experienced. I felt I had a responsibility to come to the aid of others who were suffering and to help mentor them along a path that God was showing me. Throughout this journey I have tried to be genuine and authentic in both my struggles and my triumphs.

This life is not always easy and it is often filled with sorrow, but I know there is always hope. That hope comes because of Jesus Christ. I have truly come to know Him in my intense moments of suffering as He carries, enables and strengthens me to do more than I could ever do alone.

If in some way, you have felt that power through me, then I want you to know, it’s Him, not me that is the source of light. In a wonderful, miraculous way, He allows me to be present in the process and to feel the byproduct of that light. To each and every person who has felt strengthen by me, I want to thank you in turn for strengthening me and for letting me be part of your story and for becoming part of mine.

I hope to see evidence of the healing these past 5 years have produced, but to truly see it, I would need to add the hearts that each of you have healed because you have reached out, and then the hearts those people have helped to heal. The healing just continues to multiply. I can’t imagine what another 5 years will bring!

Anyone who knew Scott or Patrick would agree that they were beacons of Light to those around them. Their deaths have not extinguished that light, if anything it has multiplied it again and again, allowing them to make more of a difference than perhaps that would have if they have lived.

We honor them by sharing and multiplying the light they gave us. In our struggles and trials we have the greatest opportunity to share that light. People watch what we do when life gets hard. Each of us can use our struggles as an instrument of healing in the lives of others.

Please ❤️ this post if you have felt this in your life and in memory of Scott and his father Patrick, please share it with others today.




Monday, September 18, 2017

Reflections



I haven't written in a long time. Truthfully, I thought I had said everything there was to say, but today as I was reflecting on some recent experiences I had some thoughts that I felt compelled to share.

This week my new daughter-in-law's oldest brother passed away, and a good widow friend of mine reached her one year mark. Needless to say, this week I've had a lot of conversations about death, trials, and God's plan. You would think that all this talking would suck me back into grief. I'll admit there have been moments where I have felt a few pangs, but for the most part what I have felt is extreme gratitude for the things that I have suffered the last five years and how those things have prepared me to be able to help other people who are hurting. There is always a light that fills me and a peace that over powers me when I reach out that makes any residual pain worth it.

After those conversations, I found myself wondering…

What if...

I had died instead of Scott?


What if…


The accident had never happened?

Who then would have helped all of these people?

Now I'm not so enamored with myself to think that God wouldn't have put someone else in their path to help, but it does cause me to reflect. Because each of us is unique, the relationships that we have with other people put us in unique and very individual positions to help. The more I look, the more I see how God is not only in the details of my life, but also in the details of those around me. He has woven an intricate story causing us to intersect and overlap in ways that aid and potential accelerate all of our growth. As I look at the people I have been able to impact, I think back to others who experienced hard things before me and were placed in my path. I have to admit that I would not be where I am without them. I begin to see what an important link we each are in the lives of those that touch ours. That thought encourages me to be a little stronger and brighter, to be a little more courageous. It helps me see purpose in suffering and redemption from tragedy.

So wherever you are in your life experiences, don't become so bogged down in your own suffering to not see the potential you have to touch others because of what you have suffered.

Use it for good.


Don't let your suffering go to waste.


Make it not4naught.


Sunday, September 11, 2016

Stumbling Blocks or Stepping Stones?



I know of several people who are experiencing severe trials in their lives right now. Their circumstances have made me reflect on the things our family has faced. I have been reminded of the pain, the struggles, the questions... the really hopeless times. Then I have thought of all of the experiences that have come because of those hard things. I've looked at how my faith and trust in God has grown these past 4 years. I've noticed how fear controls a much smaller portion of my life and how my desire to control my circumstances and other people has diminished. I can see that I am better at feeling peace, better at loving others, better at dealing with my trials.

One truth I have learned is that Severe Trials have the propensity to propel you forward.
The stones in our path can be stumbling blocks or stepping stones. How we choose to view them and use them makes all of the difference.
I'm grateful for the truth I know that has allowed me to eventually see those stones as positive ways to move forward. As I approach year four on this journey, my goal is to not get tripped up by the stones in the path, but to use them to propel me forward. My goal is to feel more joy in life and to allow Christ to resorb some of the sorrow.

This summer I had all of my kids home for the first time in three years. All of the loss and waiting has taught me that I have much to be grateful for. As I have focused on the good in my life, I have found the power to get over those stones is much greater. Lately, I have noticed that they seem smaller. I have wondered if my eyes are playing tricks on me. Perhaps with all of the climbing, my legs have finally gotten stronger. Either way, I've also noticed that the weight in my pack doesn't seem as heavy when I let go of the negative thoughts that pull me down and focus on the lighter thoughts of gratitude.
Trials can strengthen you and gratitude can lift you. What we do with the things we are given makes all of the difference.
I hope today that my thoughts give you something to reflect on.
  • How can you look at the stones in your life differently? 
  • What role can gratitude play in helping you overcome those hurdles before you?

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Long, Lonely Road


As I have fought and struggled with feelings of loneliness, I have questioned, "What is the purpose of the pain and suffering that so many of us feel from lost or non-existanting relationships?" I have wondered, "Am I having this experience because I need to learn to like being alone?

I have concluded that loneliness is not completely bad.  It can give us opportunities for personal growth and to reach out and serve others in ways that I don't think we do when we are busy with lots of personal relationships.  Loneliness can push us out of our comfort zone and can help us to look beyond ourselves with new found empathy.

But ultimately, what if the purpose of loneliness is to teach us something completely else?

What if loneliness is to teach us NOT to prefer to be alone?  What if loneliness is to teach us to finally be able to set aside personal differences and intolerances so that we can be in better relationships in the future?

The more I think about it, the more I believe that being alone is very contrary to our nature. Babies naturally opposed it.  They want to be swaddled, snuggled and embraced.  In fact babies who are void of loving contact can even cease to thrive and die.  We need our connection with others.  We crave it and desire to be deeply understood.  Yet this life experience is fraught with periods of loneliness .

Despite this deep internal desire, often it is the very things within our character that push us away from others. As we grow, our image of self emerges, and we struggle to find a balance between our desires and the desires of others.  Through experience we find that we cannot find happiness by fulling our own personal desires alone.  As much as we desire independence, the truth is, if we want to have loving relationships that fulfill our needs, we need to learn to be interdependent.

That means making personal sacrifices for the good of others that we care about.

As we struggle and feel loneliness, those feelings can increase our desire to not only have companionship again, but to be better companions ourselves.   Our losses can compel us to make changes that allow our cherished relationships to become even stronger.  Many have heard the phrase, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder." Suffering, if honed for that purpose, can help our hearts expand in their capacity to feel and express love.  In turn we become more patient, forgiving and long-suffering toward others.

Loneliness can not only improve our ability to have better relationship with people, but it can help us desire to be closer to God.  When we separate ourselves from Him through disobedience and selfishness, tI believe the loss we feel is loneliness for His presence in our lives.  That loneliness also can compel us to change, to repent and be more obedient.

Ultimately I believe our souls are lonely for God and our relationship with Him.  Like prodigal sons we all eventually come to ourselves and miss home.  We miss and long to be back with Him and that is the incentive we need to reclaim that relationship.

As it is Easter Sunday tomorrow, I have been thinking of the loneliness that Christ felt in his last days.  In His most difficult hour, one by one all of his support system left Him.  Falling on his face in prayer, he was "sorrowful unto death," and surprised by the intensity of feelings enhanced by the withdrawal of his friends and then finally His Father. Crying with feelings of loneliness and pain, He asked, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Never before had Christ felt the absence of His Father's presence. Having been perfectly obedient, He had always enjoyed that comfort. Yet to be able to succor us, He had to experience what we feel when we personally disconnect ourselves from God.

Despite the pain Christ persevered.  He held on and overcame.  His faith propelled Him through this intense experience, and in so doing He gained the power to be able to help each of us through our own struggles with loneliness, personal sin, and tragedy.   His example gives me courage and it gives me strength to try to do the same. With His help I know that is possible.

Even when we feel alone, we can remember that Christ promised to not leave us alone.  Although the Father withdrew His presence from His Son for a moment, I do not believe He was very far away.  He did it just for long enough that Christ could push through the finish line and grab the prize. Exerting all of the faith within Him, in final triumph He proclaimed, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit." (Luke 23:46)

We must do likewise in out moments of struggle.  We must push forward in faith and put ourselves in the hands of God.  In so doing we will find our own prize of expanded hearts.

"One of the great consolation of the Easter season is that because Jesus walked such a long, lonely path utterly alone, we do not have to do so.  His solitary journey brought great company for our little version of that path- the merciful care of our Father in Heaven, the unfailing companionship of this Beloved son, the consulate gift of the Holy Ghost, angels in heaven, family members on both sides of the veil, prophets, and apostles, teachers, leaders, friends. All of these and more have been given as companions for our mortal journey because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and His gospel.  Trumpeted from the summit of Calvary is the trust that we will never be left alone nor unaided, even if sometimes we may feel that we are.  Truly the Redeemer of us all said:"I will not leave you comfortless: [My Father and] I will come to you [and abide with you]." (John 14:18,23) - Jeffery R Holland
I will choose to let my loneliness school my desires.  I will choose to let it draw me closer to Him.  What will you let life's difficult experiences do for you?