Archives for category: Tender Mercies

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.

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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.

RebekahH

Over the last couple of days I’ve gotten a lot of questions about how I am doing since the passing of my best friend, Rebekah. I really am doing okay. Let me explain why.

Rebekah and I met over a year ago when she and her family attended services at my church, a Loveland congregation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We spoke briefly in the hall way, mostly about the challenges of raising strong-willed children. I saw her a couple of months later on Labor day. I was holding the door of our church building open for my family when she approached. She asked if I remembered her, which of course I did. I am sure there are very few people in this world who are capable of forgetting Rebekah. I invited her to sit with our family which she did. I did not see her again until after she had been diagnosed with Stage IV cancer in early October.

Six weeks earlier, Nicole, a friend of mine from high school, had discovered that her breast cancer, thought to be in remission, had progressed to Stage IV. I don’t know a lot about cancer and the different stages, but I knew enough that I did not expect either Rebekah or Nicole to recover. I think this expectation would bother anyone, but it meant something a little different to me.

Both Rebekah and Nicole had young children. I knew what it was like to be a single parent. I knew what it was like to lose the father of my children. I knew that the future their families were facing would be extremely difficult. I was determined to help, and hoped that by the time they passed away their families would continue to allow me to be a part of their lives.

My efforts help Nicole’s family were not as successful as I would have liked. Because Nicole lived I was not able to visit her as frequently as I would have liked to. I had a strong desire to share my religious beliefs with Nicole. She had expressed concerns online about what would happen to a person when they died. However, for some reason, I was too afraid to talk to her about my faith.

When I learned of Rebekah’s diagnoses, I decided that I would not make the same mistakes. I visited her frequently, and when I did, we talked almost entirely about religious subject. I set up a “Meal Train” for Rebekah and her family just like Nicole’s friends had done for her. When Nicole passed away the day before Thanksgiving, my efforts to serve Rebekah increased.

Unlike Nicole, Rebekah knew exactly who God was and I was amazed at her faith. She did not blame God for her illness, and continually expressed hope that God would miraculously heal her. I believe in miracles and had seen a number of them in my life and so this point, I supported Rebekah’s hope with all my heart.

I had recently read a book that talked about the miraculous healing of Lance Armstrong, the cyclist. He was given only three months to live. If I remember correctly, the cancer had spread throughout his body just like Rebekah’s had, and yet he is now cancer free. That man had gone on to make some pretty bad choices. If God could heal a man like that, He could heal Rebekah. I wasn’t 100% certain of my new outlook, because I know from personal experience that God does not always answer our prayers in the way we want Him too. But I was no longer 100% certain that she was going to die, either.

Four weeks ago, I celebrated my 40th birthday by throwing myself the biggest party I could. Even though Rebekah’s health had taken a turn for the worst, she attended and thoroughly enjoyed herself. This was the first time my family had met my new friend Rebekah. I was not prepared for their reaction.

Both my father and my sweet mother-in-law asked me about Rebekah in hushed tones. Their words supported my optimism, but I could read the concern on their faces. Their looks said, “We know your friend is dying and we are worried about you.” At first, I was angry at their lack of faith. And then I became upset. What if they were right? I really had to do some soul searching that weekend.

At the time, I had been focusing my scripture study time trying to find more information about how the Atonement (what Christ did for us) and the Gospel of Jesus Christ could help us overcome the effects of a dysfunctional childhood. I felt that I had been healed but I knew so many other people who had not reached that point yet and I wanted to help them. I had discovered a list of talks (articles) the one of our Church leaders had created for people in that situation and I was gradually reading the talks on that list. However, after my birthday party, it seems everything I read talked about how Christ could help us overcome trials, including the death of a love one. I decided that God was trying to tell me something. I knew then that Rebekah would not be with us much longer.

Because of the things I had just read and my previous experiences, this knowledge did not bother me as much as it had just a few days before. Because of the death of my first husband, I had spent a lot of time researching that topic. I knew exactly where Rebekah would be going, and what she would be doing when she got there. I knew that she would still be interacting with those of us she left behind (See Eternal Perspective post). I knew she would be happy and peaceful there.

I know I’ve mentioned this teaching before, but I’m going to quote it again because it is important:

“Jesus Christ, is our Savior and Redeemer, whose Atonement not only provides for salvation and exaltation but also will compensate for all the unfairness of life.”
Elder Quentin L. Cook, https://www.lds.org/liahona/2011/11/the-songs-they-could-not-sing?lang=eng

http://www.dictionary.com states to compensate means to provide or be an equivalent; make up; make amends. The Savior cannot return Rebekah to us, but He can make up her loss to us. He can make us whole again. As I’ve mentioned before, I know this is true because I’ve seen this in my life and the lives of my children after the death of their father. I have also witnessed miraculous healing power of the Atonement, as I was finally able to let go of the negative feelings I had for my mother just weeks before she passed away. Once again, I was healed and made whole.

I also know this is statement is true because God has written in on my heart through the power of His Spirit. I know this is true just like I know that the sun will rise tomorrow. Christ can heal any hurt. It just so happens that this time He chose to heal me before I lost my friend, not after.

Trust me. When I say I’m doing well, I mean it. Rebekah’s in a better place. Her family is going to be okay. I’ll miss her, but I’ve gained valuable experience and new friends and family members to love through knowing Rebekah. I’ve already been compensated for my loss.

WebMiriam

Earlier this summer while at our local Recreation center, I noticed a woman who looked very familiar to me. However, I couldn’t remember where I knew her from until a couple days later. I realized that she was Katherine Audi. She had been my daughter’s Resource Teacher and Case Worker (Special Education) many years ago.

When my daughter was her student, I was really naïve about how Special Education worked. I learned the hard way when my daughter reached middle school. While compiling my daughter’s records, I noticed that this resource teacher had done an amazing job. Now that I knew what a resource teacher was supposed to do, I could tell from all the paperwork she had given me that she had not only met the requirements, but had exceeded them. At the time, I regretted that I had no way to express my appreciation to her because I had no idea how to contact her. I felt this regret again years later when I finally placed a name to the familiar face I had seen at the gym.

On Labor Day, I took my kids swimming for the last time this summer. Our pass to the recreation center would expire the next day and most likely we would not return until the following summer. Before we left, my younger girls wanted to finish the snacks they had packed. We sat on a bench outside the front door while they ate. The Rec center would close in half an hour.

Not long after we sat down, Mrs. Audi approached. I was able to get her attention. Finally, after all these years, I was able to compliment her on the thorough job she had done. I was also able to tell her about my daughter’s remarkable progress (much to my daughter’s embarrassment. She was sitting with us). When my daughter was in Mrs. Audi’s class, her reading level was two years below grade level. Now, her reading level is a year ahead. I was able to tell Mrs. Audi that her efforts contributed to my daughter’s success.

I’m grateful for this tender mercy, for the opportunity to compliment this woman for her diligence. I had not even prayed for this opportunity. It was just a desire I had in my heart. The Lord granted me this desire even though I had not even asked for it. And, I was able to brighten someone’s day.