Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Tree rings

There was a storm a little over a month ago that made a tree from the woods behind our house fall down.  We slept through it and didn't even realize the tree had fallen until we looked out the window the next morning and saw it had fallen on the fence and two other trees.  Mike finally borrowed a chain saw and we got the tree cut down.  We gave the wood to some families in our ward that use wood to heat their homes in the winter but before they got the wood I decided we would learn about trees.  We learned about how trees grow and about tree rings.  We talked about what the distance between the rings mean for the health of the tree as well and how you can identify trees by their bark.  Each of the kids brought their paper and pencils and they sat and sketched what they saw and then they drew their own tree ring art.  Each ring was a year of their life and it was interesting to see what things they included as a "healthy" year and "unhealthy" year.  Even Piper drew one.  It's cute to see her pretend to write.  

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Testimony

In 2010 my cousin took her life.  She had made choices earlier in her life that had led her away from God.  Years later she returned home and struggled to change her life.  She began to meet with her bishop but her guilt tormented her and on a dark, lonely night when her husband was out of town, Satan convinced her that there was no recovering from her past sins and she ended her life.  

On the morning I received the news, I stood shocked in my kitchen in the middle of making breakfast.  My three boys came in to see me and I had an overwhelming need to wrap them in my arms and tell them that I loved them.  I still remember that moment so vividly.  I do not often hear the Spirit speak so clearly as I did that morning but as I cried for my cousin and hugged my boys, the Spirit told me that above anything else I needed to teach my children that there was nothing they could do that would keep them from the love and reach of the Savior.  

Truman Madsen said, “I bear testimony that you cannot sink farther than the light and sweeping intelligence of Jesus Christ can reach.  I bear testimony that as long as there is one spark of the will to repent and to reach, he is there.  He did not just descend to your condition; he descended below it.”  

The kids and I studied Kintsuji last year during school.  Kintsuji is the art of repairing broken pottery with a gold resin.  The pottery is made into a new piece of art, thought of as more beautiful than the original.  Rather than trying to disguise the broken pieces, the piece is thought of as more beautiful because of having been broken. Like the Japanese artist, Christ takes our broken pieces and makes them whole.  He changes us into something more beautiful than the original.  

Not only does Christ’s Atonement cover the brokenness caused by sin, but all suffering.  

On July 24th, 2014 my family and I drove to Evergreen Cemetery.  The kids cheerfully hopped out of the car, each carrying their little gift they wanted to leave their sister.  Mike and I slowly followed behind.  We walked past little graves until we reached the center of the row where Laila is buried, where we placed a handful of new fake flowers in the vase and the kids poked their metal gifts into the dirt next to her headstone.  We didn’t always bring flowers but when we did, they were fresh flowers but this was the last visit we would make as a family for many years to come so the flowers we left were fake this time.  Their gifts placed, the boys ran off to search for sticks and groundhogs leaving Mike and me alone to our thoughts, each silently saying our goodbyes.  This spot was a sacred spot for us.  Just days after she died, we went to the cemetery to determine where she should be buried. After visiting the other baby area in the cemetery, we both knew that Laila would not be buried there and asked if there was any other spot available.  A new baby row had opened up just that morning and when we drove to the row we knew immediately that this is where her body would rest.  At the graveside ceremony Mike and I stayed behind while everyone else left to watch as her casket was lowered into the ground and dirt thrown on top.  A week later we visited her for the first time and I fought the real, physical urge to dig her out of the ground.  This was the place our family had gone for walks on crisp spring days after church and where we had a family picnic on her birthday.  We swatted gnats in the summer and brought a mini Christmas tree with homemade ornaments in the Winter.  This spot was the spot where our family could all be together in one place physically.  This spot held the body that Laila came to earth to receive.  So, that day, the last day before our family left Colorado to move to Knoxville, Tennessee, we visited as a family to say goodbye.  Big, heavy drops of rain began to fall, and with them came lightning and big claps of thunder.  As we ran to find shelter in the van and drove away, my tears began to flow.  My body shook with sobs.  Mike and the kids were quiet and all that could be heard were my anguished cries, the sheets of rain on the windshield, and the loud shaking of thunder.  In my heart I felt as though Heaven was crying with me.  In that moment, I felt like the heavens had opened and the heartache of my soul was being mimicked by the tears of heaven.   

Our family was once broken but our understanding of Joy was broadened by our suffering and in my opinion, we are more beautiful than before.  

There are many details of the Atonement of Jesus Christ that we don’t know.  Tad R. Callister says that “Even the best of minds, the most fluent of speech cannot adequately describe the Savior’s ordeal.  It is beyond any experience known or conceived by man.  While there is much we don’t know, the experiences in the scriptures do record his responses.  One response I had not considered before  happened on the narrow roads of Jerusalem.  I imagine it this way:

Two soldiers carry a crossbar and roughly position it on Christ’s shoulders and push him forward.  Dehydrated and exhausted from a sleepless night and emotional and physical beating, he stumbles under the weight of the 100 lb crossbar.  The dense crowd parts as he struggles to carry his load through the narrow streets.  “Save yourself!” some taunt, while others, weep openly at the sight of his tortured body.  Physically unable to go any further, his steps falter and his body crumples under the heavy crossbar.  Annoyed, the soldier to his right, grabs the arm of an onlooker.  “Pick up the crossbar and carry it for him,” he commands.  The soldiers heave the crossbar off of Christ’s body, and thrust it onto Simon’s shoulders.  “Get up!” the soldier snarls and kicks Christ’s side.  He groans as he rises to his feet and slowly follows the man chosen to carry his burden.

Are we too proud to turn to the Lord?  Do we feel as though our burdens are ours to carry alone and we are too afraid to ask for help?  Do we allow the Lord to help us carry our burdens by accepting help from those he has placed in our path to support us?  

Elder Orson F. Whitney shared, “Our little finite afflictions are but as a drop in the ocean compared with the infinite and unspeakable agony borne by him for our sakes because we are not able to bear it for ourselves.”  

Are we willing to let the Savior help us bear our afflictions?

After Laila died I taped scriptures on my shower wall that I read every morning for the next three years.  One of the scriptures I chose was Doctrine and Covenants, 123:16-17

These verses come after the Lord gently gives Joseph some honest feedback.  Joseph cries out, “ O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?”  The response is kind and encouraging, “My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;  And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.”  and then he tells Joseph, “The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?”  Taped to my shower were the final pieces of advice Joseph was given, “You know, brethren, that a very large ship is benefited very much by a very small helm in the time of a storm, by being kept workways with the wind and the waves.  Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.

We cannot control the storm but we can control our response to the storm.  When talking about his experience with cancer, Elder Maxwell said, “I have learned that not shrinking is more important than surviving...As we confront our own … trials and tribulations, we too can plead with the Father, just as Jesus did, that we ‘might not … shrink’—meaning to retreat or to recoil (D&C 19:18). Not shrinking is much more important than surviving! Moreover, partaking of a bitter cup without becoming bitter is likewise part of the emulation of Jesus.  I admit, this is a struggle for me.  God obviously knew this about me when he advised me in my patriarchal blessing to ask myself, “What would Jesus do? And then act courageously on the answer.”  
When I broke my knee in 2012, I didn’t follow the Savior’s example.  Mike was gone for two months.  Piper was 6 months old.  She was sick for 6 of the 8 weeks Mike was gone--pink eye, ear aches, RSV.  I was running on four hours of sleep a night.  Just a few weeks into his trip, I broke my knee.  I was angry.  I knew God could have prevented the accident from happening.  I had received a blessing telling me that I would be healed and I was not.  So I was mad.  I was even more mad when I discovered that I would have to have microfracture surgery to heal the broken knee and that the surgery usually didn’t work, and that I would have to have a knee replacement in 5-15 years.  The recovery required that I was non-weight bearing for six weeks.  I couldn’t drive.  I couldn’t take a shower or go to the bathroom without help.  I couldn’t get Piper out of her crib.  I had to have my knee in retraction for 8 hours a day and go to physical therapy three times a week.  It was a horrible experience and I admit that I didn’t have a very cheerful attitude about it.  Eventually, I was able to recognize the Lord’s helping hand and have a better attitude but I often wonder how that summer would have been different had I chosen to turn to God and sincerely let him help me rather than being angry.  Before the surgery, Mike gave me a blessing telling me that the Lord knew I was mad at him.  He understood and he would wait for me.  When I was ready, he would be waiting.  Even though I had been angry and turning away from God, he still offered his love to me.  
Christ didn’t fight against the circumstances that he was placed in, but he intentionally chose his course of action within them.  He had the freedom to call down legions of angels.  He was taunted, “Save thyself.”  He had the power to do just that but instead he let himself be crucified.
So, returning to my patriarchal  blessing,    
What DID Jesus do?  
Rather than being angry (when his friends failed to watch with him), he was kind.
Rather than being fearful (when the angry mob came to get him), he was courageous.
Rather than being passionate (when he was accused unjustly), he was measured.
Rather than being bitter (when he was betrayed), he forgave.
Rather than turning inward (when he was beaten, tired, and suffering on the cross), he served.
Rather than fight God (when he hoped the cup could pass him), he aligned His Will with God’s will
Rather than carry his load alone (when it was his burden to carry), he humbly accepted help.
Rather than give up (when he is stripped of both temporal and Heavenly help), he conquered.  
Sometimes I grow tired of talking about Laila all the time.  I don’t want to be remembered as the woman who’s baby died.  However, it’s Easter, and I don’t know how to talk about Easter without talking about Laila so I wanted to share my a thought on Laila today.  At our Easter Dinner we place a picture of Laila on our table.  Every year I think about her and what she does on Easter.  In my mind, Easter is a day of glorious celebration for all those who have ever come to earth and died.  I think about how grateful the spirits must be to know that they will be reunited with their bodies again and that they will be perfected.  I’m not exactly sure what celebrations look like in heaven but I imagine it is a happy, sacred day and I wonder if they sing praises like in the song Called Forever
Now death where is your sting?
Our resurrected King
Has rendered you defeated
Forever He is glorified
Forever He is lifted high
Forever He is risen
He is alive, He is alive!
We sing hallelujah
He is alive, He is alive!
All the experiences I have shared with you have been somber. Easter is a bitter sweet holiday. I want to end with focus on the sweet. No event in human history compares with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As with bitter sweet the juxtaposition of the intense suffering from the loss of a loved one and the overwhelming joy at their return to life provide the full range of emotions necessary for a complete education here in mortality.
The loss of Laila, turned our world upside down. The loss brought a pain beyond anything we could have imagined, let alone what we had previously experienced. So many truths, previously accepted without serious thought, were brought into sharp relief. Does Laila live on? Is the spirit world near or far? Can families truly be together forever? Firmly grounding ourselves in our beliefs, and working through our pain brought new meaning to old stories. The celebration of the resurrection is an example.  
Consider Mary, a sincere disciple and follower of our Lord, Jesus Christ: present when He rose her brother from the dead; present as He hung upon the cross; witness to His power and to His humility. Here she is, returning to his tomb, a final act of devotion, to anoint his body. She questions the gardener, falls to her knees to beg, her grief too heavy to bear any longer, her pain spilling down her cheeks. He speaks, "Mary." Can it be? She looks up in disbelief, stretching forth her hand. It is. The darkness is swept away, and light fills her soul. He is Risen!

Tuesday, April 04, 2017


Has it really been a month since my last post?  We've had some exciting things happen this past month.  For starters, and not very exciting, I took Felicity in for her three month check up.  It had actually been a month and a half since her last visit and she had only gained .4 oz.  We talked about her reflux and decided that her medicine wasn't working so we switched things up.  That first week was a doozy.  I'm not sure if it was related to the medicine or not but she cried all week and slept hardly at all.  It was frustrating and tried my patience.  This week is going better so far, though, it's only Tuesday.  She is sleeping a little better this week and is much, much happier.  

Will turned 12 on the 14th.  It is so weird that I have a 12 year old.  He is a good, good kid.  We had Stake Conference and then General Conference so this Sunday will be the first Sunday that he passes the Sacrament.  He's excited and nervous.  He has gone to Young Men's twice.  The first week they played Dodge Ball and he loved it and the second week they had to do country swing dancing with the girls.  He wasn't quite so excited about that but he got to dance with a girl who is his friend so I think he survived.  Plus, he got ice cream after so I think that made up for it.  

We only do birthday parties about every four years so this year was his party year.  He wanted to have a Glow in the Dark Night Games party.  It was the easiest party ever to plan.  We just bought some glow in the dark stuff, pizza, chips, water, a cake, and reserved the club house.  Because we didn't really have to pay for anything we told him he could invite as many friends as he wanted.  He ended up inviting 26 friends.  Two of them were out of town, one was sick, and two forgot but with his siblings, he ended up having 22 people at his party.  It was loud and fun!  The sad part of the party was when his friend slammed into Mike during a game and ended up breaking his wrist.  It was very sad.  The rest of the party was good though.  The kids played until 10 PM and then parents came to get them.  

One thing I want to brag about Will though.  Will was a team captain.  I asked Will how he decided who would be on his team.  He said, "I just decided that I would pick anyone that I thought might not get picked or that would feel bad if they were picked last.  I picked to have fun, not win."  That perfectly describes my William.  He is always thinking of the feelings of others and has such a sweet heart.  

Last week Mike defended his dissertation.  He passed!  It really isn't a surprise to me, I knew he would pass but it's still a relief.  He promised a few more months of work to his committee but overall, he's finished.  He wrote almost 400 pages of research.  It's weird to have him done.  He loves school and I think he is a little sad to be done.  

We got our assignment this past month as well.  We are assigned to Patrick Air Force Base in Florida.  It's located on Satellite Beach but essentially it's Cocoa Beach.  I have mixed feelings.  I'm excited to experience something new.  Florida is so different than anything we've ever experienced.  

We are working hard to get the house ready to be put on the market.  It's been stressful, but I'm just trying to tell myself to do what I can and let the rest just be.  We've been painting and purging closets and decluttering.  We hope to have the house ready by the end of April.  Oh, and I sprained my ankle so I am trying to deal with that too!  It hasn't gotten better so I went to the doctor this week and she thinks it might be something more than a sprain so I'm going to see an orthopedic doctor soon.  

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Catch up

This Winter has been one filled with sickness.  We just keep getting sick.  It's been about two weeks since anyone has gotten sick now so I'm hoping with Spring coming that we are finally over all the sickness.  This past week I sprained my ankle.  We weren't sure if I had broken it or not.  I could walk on it but it was super painful and swollen and bruised.  I was holding the baby when I fell down the last few steps of the stairs.  I did some awesome ninja twist to make sure I didn't fall on the baby and she fell on my cushy belly.  I had an x-ray and we couldn't see any breaks so I guess I just sprained it pretty bad.  It still hurts and is slightly bruised but the swelling has gone down.  In an attempt to save me, Mike came running down the stairs and hurt his back.  We were quite a pair for a few days.  

Last week our furnace also broke.  We have warm air upstairs but downstairs the furnace broke and it was down right chilly.  I woke up to 63 degrees downstairs.  That week we had some chilly weather, one day the high was only 45 so we bundled up and Mike fixed our fireplace (which was also broken) and turned it on at 5 AM so that when I got up with baby we wouldn't freeze.  We still do not have a furnace even though it's been over a week since the repair man came.  He said it has to be replaced entirely.  It frustrates us quite a bit since the weather is now warming up and it's doubtful we will need the furnace anymore this year.  Sadly, the houses were built with package units so the A/C is tied to it and therefore, the A/C has to be replaced with it.  Since we are moving in a few months we won't even get to enjoy the new furnace.  Such a waste. 

We are supposed to find out where we are moving to any day now.  We have been waiting for months.  We were hoping we would know in January but figured it would be Feb.  Here we are in March though and still don't know.  We are pretty sure that it will be Florida or New Mexico.  We asked for Florida but I think we would be happy either place.  There are so many positives for either one.  Truthfully, I think Albuquerque is more our style and fits our family better but we really want to experience something different than we've ever done so Florida seemed like a better choice.  I have just been praying the the Lord will send us wherever our family will be the most happy.  

We are almost done now with our required amount of days for homeschool (180).  We should have all our days in by mid-April.  Thankfully, we are just about finished with our Math and English curriculum so then we will just spend the rest of the time finishing up Science, History, and Writing.  The pregnancy and arrival of Felicity has made our year somewhat boring and chaotic but I am not sure that I expected a whole lot more from me this year.  I still think the kids have received a better education this year than they would have if they had gone to school even if we haven't done very many cool things this year.  One thing we still have coming up is a Science Fair.  Will has always wanted to participate in one and Mike agreed to help the kids each choose a project and then hold our own Science Fair.

This past few months we have also been participating in basketball.  All three boys played and they were each on separate teams so we spent two days a week at practice and then from 9:30 AM to 2 PM each Saturday at basketball games.  It was a lot but the kids had such a good season this year.  They all made huge improvements and each had incredible coaches.  They enjoyed it so much that they have asked to play soccer.  Even Piper wants to play this time so we are in for a few more busy months.  I am nervous about how our weeks are going to look like but I think it's good for them to be involved with other kids as well as stay active.  It should be fun!

Finally, Felicity is 3 months now!  She had her first immunizations last month and gets some more next week.  I am still convinced that she has a tongue tie but her doctor said she didn't.  Regardless, she is still not a great eater and I believe it is affecting my milk supply.  I am not sure how long I will produce milk and I'm considering supplementing.  Sometimes she will wake up at night with only a slightly wet diaper when I would think it should be nice and soggy.  I have to keep rags under me when she nurses because otherwise my entire side is soaked with milk from her not getting a good enough latch and drooling all down my side while she eats.  She spits up more than any of my babies as well.  She is still taking medicine for reflux and I think that helps her but she gets crazy hiccups all day.  She also has a slightly forked tongue.  The other issue with her eating is that it takes her almost a full hour to eat.  In some ways it's nice because I can use that as an excuse to just sit and relax but other times it just feels like forever!  It's especially hard when the other kids need my help and I'm stuck feeding the baby for that long or when I'm in the middle of preparing dinner but she needs to eat, bringing dinner prep to a halt.  I don't know, we'll figure it out.  

As far as her sleeping, it's getting much better.  She sleeps through the night most nights now, which is way sooner than her siblings.  Her naps still need a bit of work but I've seen progress.  Some days she will go to sleep easily and take a good nap followed by days of just being awake most of the day.  Other days I can get her to go to sleep somewhat easily but she won't stay asleep longer than 15-30  minutes.  I'm not really sure what the difference is but as long as we are making progress, I'm okay with that.  Most nights she cries herself to sleep but it doesn't seem to take her too long.  We usually have to do a 2 min check, 5 min check, and then a 10 min check and then she goes to sleep.  She doesn't always go to sleep so easily for her naps though.  Sometimes we have to do checks the entire hour and she doesn't ever actually go to sleep.  But again, she is doing way better than any of her siblings were at this point so I'm calling it a success.  

Life is full.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017


11 weeks.

11 weeks is the total time Laila lived on this earth.  11 weeks I nursed her, bathed her, held her.  Felicity is 11 weeks now.  It's been hard on me.  I have been having floods of memories.  These memories have created feelings of intense love as well as deep heartache.

When Felicity was 8 weeks we went on a trip to Kentucky for my brother's wedding.  Laila was about 8 weeks when we went on a trip from Colorado Springs to Elk Ridge, UT.  Laila cried for 8 of the 10 hour trip home.  I couldn't figure out how to make her happy.  At one point she projectile vomited all over herself and her car seat.  About half way through the drive home I pleaded, "Can we please just stop driving?  Can we stop at a hotel for the evening and let her out of the car seat?  I can't stand listening to her cry."  Mike wanted to push on and argued that sleeping in a hotel with four kids and a dog would be more painful than just driving the rest of the way home.  A few hours from home we stopped so I could nurse Laila again.  We pulled off at a rest stop in the mountains.  There was a trail off to the side that Mike took Diamond and the boys on while I sat in the car and nursed her.  She was so unhappy and was refusing to nurse.  She would suck for a few minutes and then pull away and cry and cry.  I felt awful knowing she was so unhappy and that I had to put her right back in her seat and couldn't cuddle her and make her happy.  We drove that same trip a few times after she passed away and every time I remembered that sad, sad drive.  Every trip home to Utah I felt guilty.  Every time we drove by the rest stop I'd mention to Mike how much I wish we had stopped for the night.  The stop where she projectile vomited happened in a parking lot across from a huge cliff wall.  I remember the sun seemed to be blocked by that wall.   When I first saw that gigantic wall, I remember feeling awe.  It seemed amazing and beautiful.  Every time we passed it after her death that wall and it's awesomeness felt oppressive and dark, the massive cliff blocking the light and casting darkness on the world.  I hate that memory.


I opened up the chest in Felicity's room that contains Laila's things.  I thought maybe I'd let Felicity wear some of Laila's clothes.  I wasn't able to do that with Piper.  I had to keep things very separate with her.  I opened the chest and saw the clothes, wrapped in a plastic covering to protect them, and I couldn't even take the plastic off.  The tears started coming and I immediately closed the chest.  A few weeks later I opened it again.  This time I unwrapped the plastic and looked at the clothes.  I saw some clothes that I specifically identify with Laila.  There were others that she wore, but not often.  One of those was a dark blue dress.  I put the dress on Felicity for church and smelled cedar all day long.  The cedar smell kept turning my mind to the chest.  Inside, along with the clothes, are dried flowers from when an anonymous friend had a rose delivered every month on the 24th.  There is a photo album with pictures of her my mom took, the most beautiful quilts that were lovingly made for her by friends, the dress she wore when she died that the paramedics cut off her body, the autopsy report, her death certificate, a swimming suit she wore one day to the pool, the dress she was blessed in, and a few other treasured items.


Felicity looks so much like Laila.  It often feels very strange to me to nurse her.  I feel like I'm peering down at Laila and I have waves of immense sadness come over me.  The other day I held Felicity cheek to cheek and I had a flash of memory so strong it made me sick to my stomach.  I could almost feel the cold of Laila's cheek as I held her while being questioned by the detective.  I held her in that small room, her cheek pressed to mine, while her body got cold.  When I walked in the room I noticed she had a poopy diaper.  The nurse uncomfortably told me not to worry, that it was common, after someone dies.  It was hard for her to get the words out.  I remembered how the pigs on the farm used to excrete fluid from their bodies after they died.  I just never expected to witness that same thing with my daughter and I was caught off guard.  I had changed so many diapers in the last three months, it was just natural for me to notice and want to change it.  The detective's eyes showed pain for me.  She broke a few rules by letting me hold Laila during the questioning and letting me cut some of Laila's hair.  It seems ludicrous that it wasn't even supposed to be allowed--someone had to break the rules to let me hold my own daughter.


Laila loved her baths.  She was not free with her smiles or giggles.  Bath time was always so much fun though because we were sure to get a smile from her.  Her hair was so long that it would flow in the water and the boys used to think it was hilarious.  She would turn her face to me and her eyes had a brightness and excitement in them while she kicked and kicked her legs.  Felicity does the same thing.  Every time I bathe her, I live that memory again.  Felicity's red hair waves back and forth in the water, her happy eyes look up at me and she kicks and kicks her little legs.  I bathed Laila the day she passed away.  It was strange to me that she fussed during her entire bath.  It has always made me sad that her bath didn't bring her joy that day.


There are frequent moments when I am holding Felicity and this intense amount of love rushes through me only to be followed immediately by a deep wretchedness.  Where someone else might think, "I can't imagine losing you, " my thoughts are memories.  I actually can imagine.  I imagine it all over again.  It hurts so deeply.  It's still shocking to me.  I ask myself, "How could this have happened?  How can this be my story?"

In a bizarre way, I almost appreciate that Laila and Felicity look so similar.  I feel almost like I need to go through this part of grieving.  I was not ready to go through this with Piper.  Somehow the Lord allowed me not to suffer like this when Piper was a baby.  Perhaps now I'm further in my journey and therefore, more prepared to relive some of this again.  There is love and pain and reaching.  My soul is reaching for her.  It is something I long to feel and hate to feel.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Mike responds to somebody who is asking for help with their testimony

I’ve been a member my whole life, served a mission, been a counselor to four different bishops (currently serving as the first counselor in our ward), and I don’t know the church is true—specifically, there are very few (if any) doctrines of the church that I could comfortably say, “I know is true.” I’ve thought a lot about this. I’m 36 years old and have been honestly reflecting on this for many years. Throughout my life I have looked forward to the “thing” that would confirm my testimony. The earliest I remember in detail was believing that once I finally finished the Book of Mormon, I’d be able to pray about it and then I’d know. I finished at 13, prayed about it, but received no answer. I wondered if it was because I was unworthy. I diligently sought to repent of my sins. I attended seminary, studied the scriptures, and prayed regularly. (I wasn’t always terribly concerned with my lack of a testimony, but I had long periods of time where it was a subject of intense concern). I don’t specifically recall this detail, but I probably expected to have a confirming witness when I worthily received the Melchizedek priesthood as well as when I went through the temple for the first time. I left on my mission still without a certain knowledge, but with faith that I would get the testimony I was searching for while there (after all, many of the men I looked up to told stories about how they had their testimonies confirmed for the first time while serving). I diligently followed Elder Packer’s counsel to bare testimony even though I didn’t have one, hoping that “[My] testimony [was] to be found in the bearing of it!” (“The Candle of the Lord). I wrote in my journal things like, “Today I truly know the church is true” hoping that writing it for my posterity would make it happen. I had incredible experiences on my mission (casting out devils, cursing someone in the name of the Lord, revelation, physical sensation of burning in my chest, etc) after each of which I was sure my testimony would be certain. However, after the euphoria from each experience left, I was left, still uncomfortable saying I know. I completed my mission faithfully, but never found that certainty.

I was married and continued to hope for confirmation I sought. A few years into our marriage, Adrianne was having a very hard time with life. We had 2 children under 2, I was working full-time, in the bishopric and taking graduate classes. I hadn’t yet learned how to balance my responsibilities, and so I was out with the missionaries almost every night of the week. She needed my help, but I didn’t understand how difficult things were for her. This may not be exactly how things took place, but something like this occurred. One evening she was expressing how she was struggling and how she couldn’t understand why the Lord would allow her to go through all of this when we were trying to serve so faithfully. I was frustrated because I couldn’t honestly say I believed the Lord would help us at all—I didn’t even know if he was ever there! I broke down and confessed to her that I didn’t have a testimony at all. I think this really shocked her. Specifically, she was worried that I was telling her I was going to leave the church, and I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to do. I don’t remember the resolution to that episode, except that I kept hoping for some certainty, and she joined me in praying that I would get it.

Over the next few years, I continued to strive for a testimony. I was diligent in daily scripture study and prayer. Our family had daily family scripture study and prayer. Adrianne and I prayed together each night before we’d go to sleep.

A few years later, a coworker of mine made it his goal to destroy my faith. He threw every anti-mormon argument he could find at me. This forced me to learn and deal with a lot of aspects of church history and scripture that I had never encountered before. Because of my own uncertainty, I even approached the Lord and asked if this other guys beliefs were true, just let me know that so I could do what was right. Adrianne, as she had previously, and would do again, said that she loved me. She knew that I was diligent in trying to learn the truth, and that if I felt that I needed to leave the church, she would be heartbroken, but she would stay with me and continue to love me. I appreciated her support. I eventually shared my feelings with my father and my brother. I was surprised to discover that they were in much the same boat, but it didn’t seem to bother them as much. Humorously, my father said that his father knew it was true (was a mission president and temple president, personally secretary to a president of the church, etc.), and he always trusted his father. My brother said our dad knew it was true, so he trusted him! My father gave me a blessing and told me that I would come to know for certain. I continued.

A couple of years later, the worst experience of my life took place—our 3 month old daughter died from SIDS. I put her down for a nap and when I went to get her, she was gone. Four faithful latter-day saints were in our home that afternoon. Adrianne had two of us go check on her on different occasions during her brief nap. None of us felt inspired to run upstairs and save her. Finding her was devastating. In all of this, I believe a tender mercy was that I never really questioned why the Lord would let this happen to us. I did expect, however, that in this most awful of situations, I could rightfully lay claim on God’s promises that he would be there for me. I sought him earnestly—even at a minimum to give me certainty that he existed. My wife and I met with the both the bishop and the stake president and discussed my situation. Neither gave any counsel that resolved things for me, though I believe discussing with them aided me in better understanding where I was.
Before we moved into our current home, I emailed the bishop here and introduced our family. I explicitly said, we are faithful and will serve in any calling, but I cannot say I know the church is true. He was very kind in his reply. Eventually he called me to serve as his counselor.

Today I have no problem telling people that I hope the church is true. I have chosen to believe it’s true, and I live my life as if it is. I hope one day to have a sure testimony, but I’m honestly not sure what would convince me—short of God changing my heart (which is what I pray for). For many people, the experiences I have had may have been enough to convince them, but for some reason it has not for me.

“To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world. To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.” So often I’ve heard that this second spiritual gift is only temporary, until those people also know for themselves. This may be the case, but I wonder if that “temporary” period may encompass an entire lifetime.

For me, I have had many experience which I choose to interpret as being spiritual manifestations. They do not convince me that the church is true, but they provide a foundation upon which I can choose to believe. Similarly, there are things that make it difficult for me to believe. I have chosen to believe. For me, nothing has convinced me the church is true. However, nothing has convinced me that the church isn’t true. Until one of those two changes, I’m going to continue as a faithful, believing, but not knowing, member of the church.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Discovering Reality

Perception is a pretty interesting thing.

I got a smart phone less than a year ago.  I honestly am still learning how to use it.  I don't own a fancy phone--it was one of the cheapest phones they offered.  I use it for a few basic things and I don't have a bunch of cool apps.

I started an instagram account and I regularly post photos.  Sometimes I post a photo with me in it but rarely.  On those rare occasions, I've had people comment on my skin.

"Your skin looks really good."

Each time I go back and look at the picture and think, "Yeah, it does look good.  Awesome."

Recently, I took a picture with my sister and she said, "Girl, what filter are you using on your phone?  I've never looked so good."

I proudly told her I wasn't using a filter.  We just looked that good!

A couple of days later my husband was giggling in the other room and came to show me this funny filter you could use to make your face skinnier and your eyes larger.  Creepily large.

He grabbed my phone to show me the built in filter on my phone and we discovered that my sister was right!  My phone was set to make your skin look better.  It was only turned up half way but it wasn't accurately showing how my skin really looked.

I was bummed.  Seriously bummed.

I mean, here I was thinking I had awesome skin and everyone else was thinking the same thing.  We turned the filter off and suddenly I didn't look quite so good.  How disappointing.

But here's the thing:  My skin doesn't actually look that bad (only sometimes). I see myself in the mirror every morning and I know what my skin looks like.  Sometimes I can look at myself and have a healthy view of what I look like and sometimes I don't say the kindest things to myself in my head.  But it's funny how other people can comment on my skin  and I think, "Yeah, they are right.  I look good" but then when I discover that they are all looking at my skin through a fake lens I suddenly don't feel so good about myself.  It's a shame that I can let myself be affected by any comments, good or bad.

This is a problem I've had for a long time.  I actually CARE what people think of my skin or my body or my clothes or hair or whatever else they can see on the outside.

That's just stupid.  I'm trying not to care.

Probably I care because people come up stupid filters that make us look like we don't actually look.  They make us believe that we should have those creepy huge eyes or skinny faces and blemish free skin.  The reality is, I have lots of wrinkles.  Because I'm old.  And I live a life.  And I smile and worry.  It's a shame that society today makes us believe that we shouldn't be that way and it's even more a shame that I fall for that lie.

Creepy eyes, skinny face, perfect skin

what my phone is set to make me look like

What I really look like