paddleball

Yesterday, during my personal scripture study, I came across a story that intrigued me. The wife of one of our former church leaders, Marion G. Romney, had suffered a serious stroke and sustained considerable brain damage. The doctors offered to keep her alive by artificial means but did not recommend it. Her life was literally in her husband’s hands. Pres. Romney was hesitant to pray for her recovery. The account I read stated, “Because of his earlier unsuccessful experience of praying that he and Ida might have children, he knew that he could never ask in prayer for something that was not in harmony with the will of the Lord.” Instead he prayed, fasted, and studied the scriptures fervently so that he might know the Lord’s will. Finally, months later, he felt that the Lord revealed His will to him and he could pray for his wife’s recovery. He concluded his prayer with the phrase, “They will be done.” The Lord then told him, “It is not contrary to my will that Ida be healed.” Pres. Romney left for the hospital immediately, and give his wife a priesthood blessing. His wife began to recover from that point on (http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=729).

I had never considered asking to know the Lord’s will before I prayed for blessings. I always prayed to know the Lord’s will when I was faced with an important decision, and I had frequently used the knowledge that sometimes the Lord’s will is sometimes different than ours to comfort myself after a prayer hadn’t been answered the way I wanted. The idea of learning the Lord’s will before asking for something had never really occurred to me. I wondered if doing things this way would save me a lot of disappointment.

Soon, I needed to pick my five year old up from school. Because my husband had the car that day, I walked, pushing my four month old in front of me in her stroller. At school, my five year old excitedly showed me a paddle ball that she had earned by good behavior. She continued to try to strike the ball with the paddle as we started to walk home. We hadn’t gone too far when she exclaimed, “My ball’s gone!” The string had broken, probably the last time she hit it with the paddle.

At the time we were standing on the sidewalk near a large grassy area. Snow covered the ground in some areas. I knew it would be difficult to find the ball, however I had experienced a number of miraculous recoveries in my life and so I had confidence that we could find the ball and told her so. We hadn’t looked very long, before she came to me and said, “Mom we need to say a prayer so Heavenly Father can help us find the ball.” Of course, I agreed. She knelt down in the snow, and I crouched beside her.

After we prayed, we started looking. As I looked, I continued to pray. I really wanted my daughter’s prayers to be answered so that she might have a faith-promoting experience. I had had many such events in my life, including one when I wasn’t much older than her. A beloved ring was found months later, outside in the mud. But I also remembered the few times that I had not been able to find important items in spite of many fervent prayers. I know all too well, that sometimes Heavenly Father tests our faith in ways that make it seem He isn’t listening.

Was this one of those times? I had a hard time believing that He would test the faith of a five year old. I thought about the story I had read earlier, so I began to pray to know the Lord’s will. I thought I felt that the Lord wanted her to find the ring, but I wasn’t sure. In the past I have sometimes mistaken my own desires for the promptings of the Holy Ghost. I really wanted her to find the ball, so I doubted my ability to hear the still small voice. Still, I continued to pray.

After about an hour, I told her to go sit by the stroller and watch her sister so I can look further into the grass. The ball could have gone pretty far if she had hit it hard and we had already looked everywhere close to the side walk and on the sidewalk itself. As I looked, I heard my daughter start to cry. As I continued to look, her tears turned to sobs. The sound broke my heart.

Eventually, even though I really wanted to find her ball for her, I knew we needed to go. I was very tired. My neck and back hurt from looking at the ground so much. The baby was hungry. I finally had to tell my daughter we had to go home.

As we walked home, she continued to cry. I tried to comfort her. I told her that even though the Lord always answers our prayers, sometimes He does it in a way that’s different from what we want. I told her that maybe He didn’t answer her prayer to find the ball because He wanted her to go to the store and buy a better one. This did not seem to please her as much as I thought it would so I told her that we could go back and look some more once the snow had melted.

When we got home, she continued to cry for a little while. Eventually she returned to her cheerful self. But I was still troubled. The image of her sobbing on the sidewalk kept returning to my thoughts. I continued to pray for to know the Lord’s will. I wanted an answer like President Romney received. I was willing to go back to that field with a grass rake and stay there all day if I had to, but I didn’t want to do this unless the Lord told me my efforts would be successful. If this was an experience to test our faith, I did not want to spend more looking for it. To continue to try would only upset my little girl even more. If God wasn’t going to help her find her ball, I wanted her to forget about the experience as soon as possible.

By the next morning, I still had not gotten the answer I was looking for. I decided to talk to my husband about it, mainly because I realized I was over reacting. Fully aware that my post-partum depression often distorted my thoughts, I knew I needed another opinion from someone who was “sane.” I told him the details, and had him read the story about President Romney. My husband is a good man, but there are times when I wished he took his religion more seriously.  Recently I had become very frustrated about this, most likely because I become very critical when I’m depressed. As I explained my distress to my husband, I couldn’t help adding somewhat sarcastically, “Here’s your chance to use your Priesthood as head of the household and receive revelation for the family.”

My husband thought for a moment and said, “We need to see what she thinks the Lord wants her to do.” He called my daughter into our room, and asked her a few questions. He repeated what I had taught her about how God answers prayers, and then explained that she needed to find out what Heavenly Father wanted. He told her, “God wants you to be happy.” He told her like I had that we would go to the store and buy her a new one if that was what God wanted us to. As he talked to her, God touched my heart and I knew these were His words, not my husbands.

My husband helped my little girl pray, and then instructed her to sit quietly.  After a few moments, he asked, “What does God want you to do?”

She surprised me by saying, “Find the ball.” I thought for sure since she wasn’t upset anymore that she would accept a replacement without being troubled that her prayer wasn’t answered, especially since my husband had explained it so well.

We returned to the grassy field. Her older sister came with us. I was a little concerned to see that the snow had not melted completely. My husband and I began to walk through the grass. Only a few minutes had passed before my seven year old yelled, “I found it.” I looked to where she pointed—a spot on the sidewalk in plain sight.

I know I had looked there the day before. We had walked by that part of the side walk a number of times. If it had been there the day before, I truly don’t understand how I could not have seen it. And I also didn’t understand how the twenty or so kids who walked by there on their way home from school had not seen it and picked it up. This patch of sidewalk was almost right across the street from the school.

I’m still not exactly sure which lesson I was supposed to learn from this experience. But I know I will never forget the importance of learning the will of Our Father or the power of a child’s prayer.

“Addiction surrenders later freedom to choose. Through chemical means, one can literally become disconnected from his or her own will.”

Boyd K. Packer, Ensign, Nov. 1988, 7.

I admit I have often wondered why the Addiction Recovery Program I attend claims to be of worth to family and friends of those who suffer from addiction, not just the addicts themselves. So much of the material is directed toward those with addictions. Recently, I’ve realized that it is helpful to truly understand what is going on in the lives of our loved ones.

For example, this quote which is found in Step 1 of the manual, has brought be great comfort. Often times, I find myself thinking, “If this person really loved me or cared about me at all, he or she would stop the behaviors that causes me so much pain.” After re-reading this statement, I realized that it’s not about the strength of their love for me. The addicts I care about literally can’t control that aspect of their lives. In fact, depending on the strength of their addiction, some addicts can’t control any part of their lives. This quote has helped me not take their destructive behavior personally, and that has helped ease some of the pain.

two-thousand-stripling-warriors-39660-tablet

The story of the 2000 stripling warriors in the Book of Mormon has been my favorite since I read it as a teenager. The story is about a group of young men who chose to go to war to protect their families. Their fathers had made a covenant with God not to take up arms again after their conversion to Christianity. The young men went to war so that their fathers would not have to break their covenant.

I’ll admit I have often wondered why it was so important for these men to keep their promise. Surely, the Lord would have understood that circumstances had changed. In fact, in other places in the scriptures, God commands fathers to protect their wives and children.

Recently, one of our Twelve Apostles, Richard G. Scott, explained why it was so important for these men to not go to war. He said, “It is a fundamental truth that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ we can be cleansed. We can become virtuous and pure. However, sometimes our poor choices leave us with long-term consequences. One of the vital steps to complete repentance is to bear the short- and long-term consequences of our past sins. Their past choices had exposed these Ammonite fathers to a carnal appetite that could again become a point of vulnerability that Satan would attempt to exploit. . . [The Ammonite fathers] needed taller and wider fortifications between their faithful lives and the unrighteous behavior of their past.”

When I read his comments, I thought about some of the people I had met through the Addiction Recovery Program meetings I attended. I have seen a number of people relapse into their addictions because they refused to give up their associations with people who practiced their addiction. These people failed to build fortifications between their new lives and the behaviors of the past. They wanted to be strong enough not to drink or smoke even though they are around people who were drinking and smoking. They became discouraged when they failed to live up to their expectations, and eventually some of them gave up entirely.

I thought about how his advice related to my own addictions. In the past I had felt a little guilty about my tendency to end relationships if I started to recognize symptoms of codependency. Now, I see that I was building “wider fortifications.” I’m just not strong enough to be friends with someone who is also codependent without relapsing into unhealthy behavior. I have also felt bad about my inability to resist sugar when it is readily available in my house. I thought it was unfair to ask my family to do without because of my addiction. After reading Elder Scott’s talk, I am reconsidering the items I have in my home.

Baby The world teaches birth control. Tragically, many of our sisters subscribe to its . . . practices when they could easily provide earthly tabernacles for more of our Father’s children. We know that every spirit assigned to this earth will come, whether through us or someone else. There are couples in the Church who think they are getting along just fine with their limited families but who will someday suffer the pains of remorse when they meet the spirits that might have been part of their posterity. The first commandment given to man was to multiply and replenish the earth with children. That commandment has never been altered, modified, or cancelled. The Lord did not say to multiply and replenish the earth if it is convenient, or if you are wealthy, or after you have gotten your schooling, or when there is peace on earth, or until you have four children. The Bible says, ‘Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: … Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them. …’ (Ps. 127:3, 5.)

Ezra Taft Benson, Relief Society Magazine, December 1952, p. 793

I offer this quote as an explanation for a number of things. First, this quote is indirectly to blame for the fact that I have not updated my blog for a couple of months. After much prayer and consideration, my husband and I decided that our family was not complete. Thankfully, the Lord agreed and we will welcome our fifth child into the world at the end of the summer. I have not been able to think of anything important to say for a while since I have had a very hard time focusing on anything lately thanks to hormones, fatigue, and lack of sleep.

Second, President Benson eloquently answers the question, “Why would a 40 year old woman who already had her hands full with four wonderful children want to have another one, especially when for most of her life she thought four children was the perfect family size?” Quite simply, it just didn’t feel right. For a while I suspected that my reluctance to admit I was done was the fact that I enjoy caring for small children—Not a good reason to have another child. Babies grow up to be teenagers.

When I came across this quote a couple years ago, it touched me to the point that tears ran down my face. The thought of meeting children in the next life who could have been a part of my family but weren’t, really bothered me. What if one such spirit was placed in a family who did not want them or could not love them the way that I could have? I gave the matter a lot of thought and came to the conclusion: We were missing someone.

I’m not saying everyone needs to have a large family. I like that President Benson says: “easily provide.” A family size that is “easy” for one mother may be a nightmare for another. We need to be careful not to judge one another. The decision to have or not to have a child is between the husband, wife, and the Lord.

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Wives, be faithful to your husbands. I know you have to put up with many unpleasant things, and your husbands have to put up with some things as well. Doubtless you are sometimes tried by your husbands, on account perhaps of the ignorance of your husbands, or perchance at times because of your own ignorance. … I do not say but that your husbands are bad—just as bad as you are, and probably some of them are worse; but, never mind: try to endure the unpleasantnesses which arise at times, and when you meet each other in the next life you will feel glad that you put up with those things.
Lorenzo Snow

I love this quote. I think it is one of the most realistic, down to earth pieces of advice about marriage that I have ever heard. I know I’m not always capable of responding in a Christ-like manner, but I think I can handle putting up with “unpleasantnesses.” I like that a prophet of God admits that marriage isn’t always easy because of our human imperfections. I think he was wise to point out that, in healthy marriages, both the husband and the wife need to take an equal share of blame.

The last line makes me smile. Thinking about meeting up with my husband in the next life helps me put this life’s inconveniences into perspective, and I look forward to a time when things like dirty socks on the bedroom floor won’t be an issue.

http://www.lds.org/manual/teachings-of-presidents-of-the-church-lorenzo-snow/chapter-9-sacred-family-relationships?lang=eng

Couple Working in Homeless Shelter

I teach one Sunday a month in what we call Relief Society, our women’s organization. This month, I was asked to teach about service. Again. I gave a lesson on service last year. The Bishop, our ecclesiastical leader, just talked about service a couple weeks ago. I feel like my church is always talking about service. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. I just wasn’t very excited to prepare another lesson on the topic.

But then, as I was thinking things through, I remembered an experience that I had earlier this fall. After watching my Autistic daughter run in her first cross country meet, I allowed my younger girls to play in a canvas pavilion while we waited for the meet to end. I intentionally left my oldest to be with her teammates. What fifteen-year-old wants to hang out with her mom?

After a while a group of girls, including my daughter, walked by the pavilion. I watched them as the lined up along the rope that marked the course. I don’t think they knew I was watching them. After cheering on other teammates, the other girls turned and walked toward the finish line. My daughter didn’t seem to notice they had left and remained where she was.

I wasn’t angry that the girls had left her behind. I understand that my daughter’s disability makes it hard for her to fit in. Sometimes, she can be downright rude. But I felt very sad as I watch her stand there alone. For a moment or two, I debated whether to go over to be with her.

But then I heard someone call her name. I looked to see the other girls, standing about a hundred yards away. When they had noticed that my daughter wasn’t with them, they stopped and called for her. They waited for her as she ran to join them. I was so grateful for their kindness.

I realized that God feels like I did that day. He loves us each individually, and with His infinite power He watches each one of us just like I watched my daughter that day. And when we are left alone, or anything else negative happens to us, He is saddened just like I was. But unlike me, He can’t come rescue us. He has the ability, but He chooses not to because His appearance would affect our agency.

So He has to send someone else.

Box

I recently introduced a friend to my Addiction Recovery Program meeting, a twelve step program that is offered through my church. After attending a meeting and looking through the manual, she gave me some wonderful feedback that I would like to share:

Thank you so much for the idea and the motivation and support to start addiction recovery program. There are very powerful messages. It also gives me an idea of where to start to get into my mind and soul and start cleaning things out. Have you ever had to clean out a garage and just didn’t know where to start? It seems so over whelming, so you close the garage door and lock it up and find an excuse to do it later. Then you finally get the courage to do it and you open up the first box and find things you forgot about. Some good. Some bad. Some indifferent. Some things so specific you pull it out and hold it and go back to that exact memory.

I like how she compared the program to cleaning because that’s really what the program can do. Help you clean out whatever you don’t want in your life any more, including painful memories. The Program doesn’t cause you to forget these painful memories, but it heals you for the memories no longer hurt.