Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Not the Bread We Expected

From one of my favorite talks by S. Micheal Wilcox, "The Fourth Watch".

Have you ever looked back at a time in your life, when you thought Heavenly Father wasn't answering your prayers but then after some time had past, realized that he did?  Just maybe not the way you wanted him too?

I'm guilty of that.
In Luke 11:9-
"9 And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
10 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
11 If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?
12 Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?
13 If ye then, being evil , know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give athe Holy Spirit to them that ask him?"
Sometimes we pray for bread.  Heaveny Father gives us bread but it wasn't the KIND of bread we wanted and because we kept thinking about the kind of bread we wanted, in our minds, its tantamount to being given a stone.  Or we ask for fish but we are not given  the flavor of fish we wanted so we turn it into a serpent.  Or you ask for an egg but it's not cooked the way you wanted it cooked so in your mind it might as well be a scorpion.
CS Lewis said there are two kinds of good:   
The EXPECTED good and the GIVEN good. 
 All things given from God are GOOD. 
God does not give stones.  When you need bread a stone is useless.  Only bread is given.  It might not be the kind of bread we wanted.  God does not give serpents or scorpions, those are harmful.  He only gives bread and fish. 
Right now I am personally praying for several people that I love, friends that I care about that are going through HORRIBLE things.  A friend whose adult daughter isn't speaking to her because of a difference of opinion - she wonders when she will see her and her granddaughter again, a young middle school aged girl I know of that is being bullied at school and desperately needs a good friend, a young girl that I used to work with in our church's youth program many years ago who recently became separated from her husband, a wonderful woman who is going through a devastating diagnosis that will forever change her quality of life. 
I also am praying for a family in my church congregation that lost their twelve year old son last week to tragic circumstances.  I do not know them but I mourn with them as a mother.  I pray for them to feel arms around them and comfort from loved ones.
What does this have to do with bread?
  Because even though I don't think for a minute that Heavenly Father INFLICTS this kind of thing upon us, I think sometimes they are allowed.  I look back at some of the best people I know that have suffered through severe hardship and wonder if the hardship was the thing that made them awe-inspiring to me and everyone around them?
One of my favorite quotes (and I'm sorry if you have read this before on my blog, I posted it several years ago and I shared it in Institute a month or so ago) is from President Spencer W. Kimball.  He was no stranger to physical trials.  He said this:
“I’m grateful that my priesthood power is limited and used as the Lord sees fit to use it. I don’t want to heal all the sick—for sickness sometimes is a great blessing. People become angels through sickness. “Have you ever seen someone who has been helpless for so long that he has divested himself of every envy and jealousy and ugliness in his whole life, and who has perfected his life? I have. Have you seen mothers who have struggled with, perhaps, unfortunate children for years and years, and have become saints through it? … No pain suffered by man or woman upon the earth will be without its compensating effects if it be suffered in resignation and if it be met with patience” (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball [1982], 167–68).

This quote is true of anyone who suffers in this life.  Whether it is physical or emotional.  I don't know why the people I care about are going through what they are.  It is hard to see them suffer.  But I know that one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed is when people lean on the Lord and trust in the power of His love to get them through hard times.  It is truly Awe inspiring to watch the change take place.  Like President Kimball, I have witnessed people become angels and I think I am about to witness a few more. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Lessons from Job: His Grace is Sufficient

In my very last session with Brother Hinckley, he asked me:
"if you could sum up what you have learned from this whole experience in one phrase, what would it be?"
I thought for a minute. 
And then it came to me.
"HIS grace is sufficient". I said.
Brother Hinckley smiled.  "Oh, I love that!"  "But tell me what that means".
I went on. 
"It means it doesn't matter if it is a day that I don't think I will ever be able to get through by myself, 
a longing to be forgiven of something I have done wrong, 
a task or feat that is given to me that I feel overwhelmed by,
a change I want to make in my character,
or a feeling of impending doom.
If I put my trust in HiM, He has always seen me through.  His Grace is sufficient."
I continued:
When something not-so-great would happen to me I used to panic and say to myself, "oh GREAT! It's another red letter day for the ARGYLES, here we go again!".

"Now, I say, Well.... we've done all that we can do, it will be interesting to see how Heavenly Father helps us work through this." 
That is not to say that it is always easy.
Just last month, as we sent off a check for our FINAL medical bill to cover Brent's surgery and cash flow was a little tight because of that, I glanced through my budget for the remainder of the month, realizing that there wasn't alot of wiggle room for some unexpected expenses that were coming.  The old Shahna would have let that ruin her day and possibly would have gone into a full blown panic attack. 
The New Shahna said, "Well, we have paid our tithing and a generous fast offering and we have been careful to follow our budget, it will be interesting to see how Heavenly Father is going to help us work through this".  
I left it at that.
Two days later my mother called and told me that she had inherited more from my grandmother's estate than she had anticipated and she had decided to send some of the surplus to me and my brother and sister. 
Yep.  After we do all that we can and exercise FAITH, His grace is sufficient. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Lessons from Job: The old me is never coming back

Here is another thing I've learned in the last year:
It came to me like a lightbulb moment when I was in Brother Hinckley's office one day.  I told him that I just wanted the "old Shahna" to come back.  The girl that was perky and happy all the time -not this one that was somewhat cynical and jaded.
He smiled.
He grabbed my hand from across his desk,
held it in his hand like a loving Father, 
looked me in the eye and said,
"listen to what I am going to tell you: 
"the OLD SHAHNA is NEVER coming back." 
I reacted with tears.
"We don't want her to come back either."  he said. 
I was confused.
"The new Shahna has learned some things through her last six years that the old Shahna never knew.  We dont want to go back to that.  We want to explore some of the things that you have learned that have made you better and celebrate those things." 
I thought about that for a long hard while after I left his office.  In fact,  and he gave me a homework assignment to ponder upon that and study the story of the Fall in Genesis, paying particular attention to what Eve was like before and after the Fall.
Later that week I had lunch with a dear friend.  I was a little disheartened because I had grown really fond of Teri and had the chance to work closely with her in the Stake Primary for the previous year.  She had just been released to be called to be her ward's Relief Society President.  For those of you who are not memebers of my church, this is  a HUGE responsibility.  Teri would now be responsible for all of the women ages 18 and up in her church congregation.  She works closely with two other women in her ward that have responsibility for the sunday instruction as well as seeing after the temporal welfare of several hundred women.  If there is a woman that has surgery or lost a job or is suffering through a chronic illness,  or whatever the situation might be; the Relief Society goes in, assesses needs of the individual, and then calls on other women in the congregation to help her.  Sometimes it might require you to be privy to things in families' lives that they might not want to be public knowledge and you have to keep matters confidential.  Being a Relief Society President is a huge honor but it is not something any of us aspire to.  It is a big job, a large time commitment and requires a great deal of compassion.
Teri and I were at lunch, talking about her new responsibilities when I started to say something that I have said a thousand times before.  I laughed when Teri said that I would probably be next to be called to serve in this particular area and started to say "I feel sorry for any group of women I am called to be a Relief Society President for because I don't have any compassion...." 
That is what I started to say.
But then the Holy Ghost came over me. 
It stopped me in my tracks.
Before I could finish the sentence I heard a reminder in my mind that I was different now.  After caring for Brent for so long, I now had compassion for others who struggled physically.  After working through medical bills, and living on a shoe string budget, and working hard to save money and get out of debt, I had gained EMPATHY (not just sympathy) for those who might be struggling with the same thing.
Brother Hinckley knew what he was talking about afterall.
Over the last few months, I have become aware of other ways that my trials have changed me for the better.  That being said, I have realized that I need to also be aware of the ways it has possibly changed me for the worse and try to prayerfully ask for Heavenly Father's help and my Savior's grace to overcome those weak areas. 
I believe the Lord when he says,
"And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness.  I give unto men (and women) weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is suffucient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then I will make weak things become strong unto them."  (Ether 12:7)
I feel like that has happened to me.  I have become aware of my weaknesses. I have humbled myself, exercised faith in him (and replaced all of the fear I was feeling), and now I bear testimony that through His grace and power, I am stronger. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Lessons from Job: Faith and fear can't dwell together

One of the first things I figured out, while talking to Brother Hinckley - my therapist, was that I was so afraid of what was coming next, I was living in a constant state of FEAR.  As I thought about that, I realized that although I could feel the influence of the Holy Ghost in my life, I could not remember the last time I had felt COMFORTED by him.  I could pinpoint specific times over the last few months when I had felt help in making decisions with respect to my kids, my responsibilities at church, when others had shared spiritual experiences.  I knew the Holy Ghost had been influential in that.  I knew I wasn't doing anything sinful that would prohibit the Holy Ghost from being a companion to me. 
I realized that in order for me to feel comforted by the Spirit, I had to dispel the FEAR and make room for FAITH.
How to do that?
Well, one of the things that helped alot was surrounding myself with FAITH FILLED things.  Music has always been a huge mood lifter for me.  I immediately made a playlist on my ipad of music that was inspirational and had a positive message.  63 songs to be exact.  For several days, while the kids were at school, I would play that playlist throughout the house while I was home and in the car when I was running errands.  Some of the songs were from my favorite church artists but others were secular that had a good message. 
I read talks about faith and strength and hope.  Here are a couple favorites.
Before I knew it, I wasn't having anxiety attacks anymore.  Before this "experiment", I was having three or four a week.  Once I surrounded myself with these words and messages of encouragement, I immediately felt stronger and more hopeful. 
I also love this video clip on youtube:
I especially love the last part where Elder Holland says,
 "Trust God and believe in good things to come".
Whether you are a member of my faith or not, I think there are principles in these talks and this video that are universally helpful and meant for us all.  God loves all of His children and wants to help and ease our burdens.
In summary, lesson number one was that FEAR and FAITH can't dwell in the same place.  We have to constantly be working to create a place in ourselves for the Holy Ghost to help us and comfort us.  The way to do that is to fill our lives, surroundings, and days with FAITH FILLING things. 
Lesson #2 tomorrow...

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Lessons from Job: Part One

Shortly after Brent had his life changing surgery and had his health fully restored, I started having anxiety attacks.  Regular, frequent anxiety attacks.  I felt like I was having a heart attack and didn't know how to make it stop.  It was usually triggered by something benign, something that normally would not even phase me.  One day it started because one of my children had lost her jacket at school.  I know, weird.

I couldn't figure out what was going on.  For SIX YEARS, while Brent was sick, I was a rock.  I was the one that constantly held our family together and was incessantly chasing the dark cloud out of the room during that entire time he was ill.  I was the one that kept things going.  Why, NOW, was I falling apart?

After much prodding from a loving aunt, a concerned husband, and a thoughtful mother, I scheduled a session with my Institute teacher who is a licensed family therapist. 

At the first session, he asked what brought me there (to his office).  I explained, "basically, I'm married to Job".. and then I brought him up to date on the last six years.  Brent (ahem JOB) had suffered through being chronically ill, unemployment, under employment, financial reversal, lawsuits, being deceived by employers, being buried in medical bills.  You name it.  He pretty much had had it inflicted upon him and consequently, I was affected to.  I went on to explain that Brent reacted to all this tribulation and trial like Job did too.  He faced everything with so much faith and hope.  He never wavered.  He was long suffering and patient and obedient the whole time. 

But me?  I felt like I had come out of the whole thing somewhat jaded and fearful about what was coming next.  What horrible thing was lurking around the corner next for us?  I told him I felt like I was living my life hopelessly.  I had never stopped reading my scriptures or going to the temple or attending my meetings.  I explained that I was trying to constantly find others who were in a crummier situation than me to serve in an effort to not be self-absorbed.
BUT, I didn't feel like my happy perky self anymore.  I felt cynical and fearful.

I asked him if he could "fix" me.  With a smile he said, "yes".   I think I can help you but I am not going to try to "fix" you.  He went on, "This is going to be FUN". 

"Fun?", I said.

"Yes, fun".  "You are going to learn alot about yourself and what you gained from living with Job."

I asked the therapist, "Do you think I am depressed?". 

"No", he said.  "I think you are depleted".  "You have been giving and giving and giving for so long that you have nothing left in your reserve.  Now that the trial is for all practical purposes over, you CAN fall apart, so you ARE.  For the first time in a long time you have the option of falling apart when things go wrong so you do.  Even things that normally would not bother you are having that affect on you because you have held that natural response in for so long. "

I got goose bumps.

That made so much sense to me!  Of course! 

"The next thing we need to do is help you figure out what FILLS you back up, so that you won't feel depleted anymore".

And thus my journey began...


Monday, October 1, 2012

It's usually through another that He meets our needs

President Spencer W. Kimball explained:
“God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs”
 (“Small Acts of Service,” Ensign, Dec. 1974, p. 5).

My sweet friend, Cheri, just shared an experience that she had last week that I think reflects this oft quoted thought above from President Spencer W. Kimball.  I love to document these things so that I can go back and see the hand of God in the lives of His children.
Cheri teaches institute to the young single adults in my stake.  She loves the calling and the young single adults love her.  Cheri also has a hubby that has to be out of town sometimes.  Last week she was feeling torn between her calling and being the extraordinary mom she is and always wants to be.
As she was preparing her lesson and getting ready to go to teach her class, she found herself in humble prayer to Heavenly Father.  She had one daughter, Caty (age 11) that had not been feeling well earlier that day and another, Kelsea (age 13) that was cheering at one of her last home games.  Her husband, Eric was out of town.  She wanted to go support Kelsea and she felt really bad about leaving Caty while she was ill.  She poored her heart out to Heavenly Father, expressing her concerns to Him and noone else.
After praying, she felt assured that if she would go and do what he needed her to do (teach her lesson), he would take care of the rest.  She wasn't sure what that meant but she was obedient and did just that.  She finished preparing her lesson and got dressed for institute.
Then she got a suprise text from a friend telling her that she was at the game with all of her family, watching Kelsea.  Also, they had picked Caty up from a rehearsal at the school.  Caty was feeling better, and could Caty stay with their family and watch the game and they would get her home?
A few minutes later she heard that another friend had gone later in the evening to watch Kelsea cheer. too. 
Kelsea's YW president showed up with her husband and two children. 
Kelsea BY FAR felt the most love that night of all the girls on the cheer squad.
And Heavenly Father answered a mother's prayer.
Cheri shared this sweet experience with me with tears in her eyes and expressed how grateful she was that her friends acted on a prompting to support Kelsea and take care of Caty and for a loving Heavenly Father who heard and answered her prayers. 

I know that Heavenly Father answers our prayers but it is usually through others that he meets their needs.  :O)