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Tender Mercies (Part 4)

Photo by Chirag Nayak on Unsplash

When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,

My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply.

The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design

Thy dross to consume, thy dross to consume,

Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

(Hymn, “How Firm a Foundation”)

Hello again, friends! I hope you are having a happy sabbath day. I have some thoughts to share that I hope you will find meaningful. They sure have helped me.

First, though, I’d like to shout a “Hallelujah!” that tomorrow is surgery. We made it people. I’m grateful for the many prayers and thoughts that have been offered in behalf of us through this ordeal. We are so blessed to know so many good people and have felt so loved and taken care of. Thank you! I don’t actually feel much nervousness about surgery or the recovery- maybe that is just because of how clear it is that this will significantly positively influence my functionality and allow me to resume life the way I want to live it. I do really trust my doctor, and feel safe in his hands. That is a huge blessing.

One other side-note, in the middle of my crisis, my sister’s family has entered a crisis of their own. My brother-in-law is in a burn center in Iowa City and they are having tough days like THEY have never known. It’s easy to go the route of pity (our poor family!), or even frustration (what the heck?!) but though my heart aches for their family (and I don’t love our situation either!), I also can see what a blessing it has been to not suffer alone- for either of us. Three weeks ago if you had told me that me and my brother-in-law would both have some scary experiences with mental health, I’m not sure I would have believed you- how unlikely! And yet within a week of my scary episode, my brother-in-law has had some very frightening experiences mentally as well as terrible pain and trauma.

I don’t say this to minimize the pain of their experience, but in the vein of tender mercies, I (and they!) are seeing SO MANY tender mercies for EVERYONE involved in the ordeal. Don’t get me wrong- my heart absolutely aches for them too, as I see the suffering and struggling and tears. But I have to share a few of the blessings I’m seeing. One is that I have felt the power of our family relationships growing to a place I never could have anticipated a month ago. My relationship with my sisters will NEVER be the same after this. I also hope to NEVER experience what I had to go through again in my life, but somehow it has become something of a blessing in the sense that I can provide some support and comfort to Otto (that’s my brother-in-law and faster to type!) that I could not have done before my experience. Another really amazing thing to see is that Heavenly Father is teaching me things and helping me see His hand in my experience as I reach out and support Otto and family. It is with them in mind that I share an experience that is tender for me and brought me peace in the middle of my storm.

We arrived in bad shape at my parent’s house on a Thursday and that weekend was really hard. I was grateful that my husband came down and stayed (rescheduled two full work days so he could be with us until I was in a better place mentally and physically) for a long weekend but he had to go back and work on that next Tuesday. I don’t remember if it was Tuesday or Wednesday that a friend of my Mom’s mentioned that Hank Smith, a well known LDS youth speaker (very entertaining!) was going to do a devotional with the teenagers that are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in this area (via zoom). She told me what time it was and told me she was looking forward to it. I thought it was a fun idea, but didn’t expect to actually watch it because my mom was teaching piano lessons during that afternoon and it seemed like just one more thing that I wasn’t up to dealing with. Those days I felt so weak and fragile and wasn’t able to do much. But while my mom fixed dinner she turned it on and it was just going while I sat nearby on the couch. It didn’t take me long to get hooked- he was so fun to listen to.

As we started eating dinner, we kept listening and he started talking about a story that I am familiar with- and even familiar with the symbolism some members of our church have talked about in regards to it. But his approach touched me so deeply, so I thought I’d retell what I remember from his story so you can enjoy it as well.

There was a building in Provo, Utah called the Provo Tabernacle. It was a really historic church building, built before the turn of the century in the late 1800’s, an all brick building. Besides being the meeting place for numerous church meets on Sundays through many decades and including many generations, it also had been a place of other neat church meetings over the years where many prominent leaders of our church had spoken. It was a sacred, special building for many members of our church and a special, historic building in the community.

In 2010, the building caught fire, and by the time the fire was put out, the damage was devastating. The entire building was charred and gutted by the fire. Interestingly there was only one picture that survived the fire- you can find out which one if you google it (another super cool detail from the story). Anyway, it was heart-wrenching for many to see this beautiful building burned to ashes. Not long after the fire, one of Hank Smith’s friends was asked by the leaders of our church if he could figure out a way to preserve the outer brick shell which was actually in decent shape, and lift the shell in order to create a stable foundation for rebuilding the structure. They preferred that to knocking the building down and starting over. The friend said it couldn’t be done- there simply wasn’t the technology in place in order to do something like that to an 1800’s brick shell. The leaders simply said, “We believe in you!” Amazingly (and you can google pictures of this too) they found a way to gradually raise the building shell up into the air, and later even higher in order to put in a basement. It was unbelievable what they were able to accomplish, and really the only explanation is that they had heavenly help.

The crews eventually poured a new foundation and it was announced in a General Conference that the old provo tabernacle would be transformed into a temple. Many members gasped. A temple? The most sacred of our buildings? We were in awe. Soon the frame was set back down and modified and eventually in the place of a scarred, burned, gutted building, there stood a magnificent temple. What an amazing transformation- really there aren’t words to describe the beauty that literally came from ashes.

At the end of this telling, Hank Smith showed two pictures on his screen side by side. I’ll see if I can find two to put up here after I finish writing this. One picture was of the charred remains of the Provo Tabernacle. The other was of the finished Provo City Center Temple. He asked us to pretend for a moment that we are that burned down building. What could our prayer sound like? What is the prayer of the burned down building? Here are some suggestions:

“How could you do this to me? I’ve tried to be good all these years. HOW could you DO THIS TO ME?! Why didn’t you stop the fire if you knew this was going to happen? Where WERE you? I feel so alone. So broken. I don’t even know if you’re really there anymore.” I could relate to this prayer so deeply and felt a sense of deep healing taking place as he then said, “Ok, now you are going to pretend for a moment that you are Heavenly Father. You can see both pictures- where the building is now, and what it is going to become. Tell the person next to you what He might say to the burned building.” Take a minute to think about what He might say.

My first thought was “Just wait” but I liked Hank Smith’s version so much better: “Hold on, you’re gonna love what comes next!” Isn’t that neat?!

And then what is the prayer of the finished temple? It’s “Thank you. Thank you.”

As I listened to all of this, my heart found great comfort. For one thing, I felt validated, realizing that it is ok to feel burned down and even wonder if we’ve been abandoned when we’re going through hard times. It doesn’t mean we should turn away from God, but it’s ok to ask those questions of “Where were you? Do you care?” Those questions help us find healing, help us reach for Him. He knows we’re hurting, and he doesn’t criticize us for that, nor does he expect us to go through it without struggling, crying, suffering…He knows exactly what we’re experiencing. But what I loved the most is that I could feel Heavenly Father and my Savior comforting MY heart as Hank said the words, “Hold on, you’re gonna love what comes next!” I felt that so deeply, and believed that was true, even though I sure couldn’t see what really that would look like. And I definitely was not in the place of saying “Thank you” for the challenges I had walked through…but even 2 weeks later, as I have felt empathy for Otto’s pain and my sister’s suffering in a different way than I would have, there is a part of me that is already starting to say “Thank you” (and thank you very much, I’d rather not do it ever again, too!). Isn’t that beautiful?

I shared with my sister today something that goes right along with that. This is something a friend told me about 2 weeks ago, before I arrived at my parent’s house. This is what I wrote to my sister:

“In the process of refining silver (I think it’s silver? Maybe she was referring to gold…either way…) there is an optimal amount of heat to put it through- too little doesn’t finish the purifying process, too much and the silver is ruined…Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ know exactly how much we need in order to become who we need to become and will ONLY allow the amount of suffering that is needed for growth- and not one second more…The atonement of Jesus Christ was accomplished the same way- not a little extra suffering for good measure or just in case- only the amount that was absolutely needed and not one more drop of blood.”

I think it is imperative to realize that “The wind and waves still know His voice who ruled them while he dwelt below.” (This is a line from “Be Still My Soul.”). To me this means that our Savior and Heavenly Father obviously have the power to step in and stop fires, literal and figurative in our lives. Sometimes they protect us from the fire, and sometimes there are purposes for allowing the fire to happen. HOWEVER- they will not let it burn any longer than ABSOLUTELY necessary- any longer than will be for our good, our transformation, or exaltation. They will never let it get beyond the optimal heat. That is comforting to me when I see Otto suffering and wonder why and how long. I don’t know the answers to either of those, but I do know that Heavenly Father, hearing each prayer, is comforting us, weeping with us, and is also sending us the gentle, hopeful message, “Hold on, you’re gonna love what comes next.”

I don’t want to breach copyright, so I’ll let you look up pictures, but if you’d like to watch a quick 7-minute video that takes you through the story of the building burning down and the temple being built, hop on this website:

https://www.ldsliving.com/Interior-Photos-Provo-City-Center-Temple/s/80971

Love,

Laura

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Guest Post: Emily Shill

Hello again, friends! I want to share an uplifting talk given by my sister, Emily Shill, 2 weeks ago. It speaks to how important the role of women is in these tumultuous days. Although it specifically references our religious beliefs (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints), it is an empowering, widely applicable message that anyone can relate to. Thank you, Em, for allowing me to share!

I love being a woman in the church in the last days. Let me tell you why. Women and  men alike are bombarded with messages, often contentious and confusing about who  they are, and what they should want out of life. God has promised that for those who  are sincere in heart, He will teach us, guide us, and bless us with both knowledge and  power from heaven- knowledge to know who we are, what we are capable of, and  what he expects of us, and power to accomplish His work and purposes.  

In our Come Follow Me lesson this week, we studied a talk by Sister Julie B Beck,  former General Relief Society President, entitled, “Upon the handmaids in those days  will I pour out my Spirit.” We are His handmaids, we live in “those days” prophesied  anciently, and we know, from this scripture in the book of Joel that, as we qualify  ourselves, we have unlimited access to His spirit to guide and bless us.  

The term handmaid means servant, and you’ll remember, in the book of Luke, Mary, the  mother of Christ uses this term when she makes the declaration, “Behold, the  handmaid of the Lord.” Like Mary, we can face overwhelming tasks with the same  humility and determination to be His dedicated servants, trusting in His power to guide  us in our work.  

President Spencer W. Kimball has been quoted as saying,  

“Much of the major growth that is coming to the church in the last days will come  because many of the good women of the world (in whom there is often such an inner  sense of spirituality) will be drawn to the church in large numbers. This will happen to  the degree that the women of the church reflect righteousness and articulateness in  their lives and to the degree that the women of the church are seen as distinct and  different- in happy ways- from the women of the world….  

Thus it will be that female exemplars of the church will be a significant force in both the  numerical and spiritual growth of the church in the last days.” 

And Sister Eliza R Snow said the following: 

We know the Lord has laid high responsibility upon us, and there is not a wish or desire  that the Lord has implanted in our hearts in righteousness, but will be realized, and the  greatest good we can do to ourselves and each other is to refine and cultivate  ourselves in everything that is good and ennobling to qualify us for those  responsibilities. 

The following statement from Sister Beck outlines what a few of those responsibilities  are: 

“The Lord depends on His daughters to do their part to strengthen the homes of Zion,  and build His kingdom on earth.” Breaking it down even further, we are to build faith,  strengthen home and family, and provide RELIEF. I love that image, or the daughters of  God going about, providing relief to those in need. 

Qualifying for the Lord’s work, and becoming practiced and skilled at seeking and  receiving His guidance and power in our lives is a pre-requisite to doing His work. It  occurred to me while preparing this talk that if we are anxiously engaged in qualifying  ourselves for this great work, we don’t have a lot of time or energy left over to worry  much about how the world defines us or what the world expects of us.  

At baptism, we are given the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the promise that we can  “always have His spirit to be with us.” But receiving this gift is just the beginning of  understanding how to use it.  

As we studied D&C 8 this week, I was particularly struck by this scripture in vs 2-3:  

Behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost which shall  come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.  

Now behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses,  brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground.”  

Do we realize the magnitude of that statement? In the last days, His spirit will be  poured out upon his servants and handmaids. That means, we have unlimited access  to that same spirit that Moses used to create miracles for the children of Israel. The  same spirit that parted waters, changed hearts, saved lives. Miracles will be done  according the Lord’s will and His timing, but we can be the conduit for those miracles,  just as Moses was in ancient times.  

The Lord reinforces this in vs 8: Therefore, doubt not, for it is the gift of God; and you  shall hold it in your hands, and do marvelous works; and no power shall be able to take  it away out of your hands, for it is the work of God.  

Now let’s go back again to our baptismal covenants and look carefully at the wording.  What does it mean that we can “always have His spirit to be with us?” We know we are  imperfect. We know we are easily distracted, and make a lot of mistakes that can drive  the spirit away. Yet, President Eyring, in a talk given to the young adults reminded them  that in the Book of Mormon, we learn about Lehi and Nephi- sons of the prophet  Helaman, who qualified through their righteousness to “receive many revelations daily.”  President Eyring points out that this story teaches us that, “yes, it is possible to have  the companionship of the Holy Ghost sufficiently to have many revelations daily. It will  not be easy, he says, but it is possible.”  

I learned a powerful lesson recently on how to make that more possible in my life.  

It was in a rare quiet moment taking the sacrament in my home just a few months ago,  when it dawned on me with such obviousness I was almost embarrassed I hadn’t  noticed it before. The promise that I can always have His spirit to be with me is directly  linked to my part of the covenant. Each time I keep His commandments with a little  more exactness, each time I stand as His witness, I invite His spirit in greater  measures. And the call to “always remember Him” in particular stood out to me- 

Always remembering Him is no small order, but the greater my commitment to  remember, the greater the frequency and intensity of my access to His spirit. Always  having His spirit to be with me is a reality to the extent at which I am willing and able to  always remember Him. For me, my ability to always remember him depends on  committing to purposeful morning and evening prayers. It means carving out quiet time  for scripture study and quiet reflection and recording my impressions. It means  repenting often. Sometimes, as silly as it may seem, I’ve set a timer throughout my day  to make me stop in the middle of the chaos and reflect, repent, and reset. It’s in the  times I’ve been consistent at those things that I feel His presence and His power the  most.  

Always having His spirit to be with me is essential if I am to do His work. I have found  that I get this right about 2% of the time. But when I do get it right, I catch glimpses of  heaven, and what I am capable of with heaven’s help. Sister Beck says, “When women  nurture as Christ Nurtured, a power and peace can descend to guide when help is  needed. It requires a conscious effort to diminish distractions, but having the spirit of  revelation makes it possible to prevail over opposition and persist in faith through  difficult days and routine tasks.  

SO…..Having access to His spirit is what allows me to build faith, strengthen my home  and family, and provide relief. Sister Beck promises, “We can feel certain that the Lord  is pleased when we feel the spirit working through us.” Here are just of few of the ways  I believe that can happen: 

I can provide relief to those around me when I have the spirit to help me: – be His eyes and ears- following small impressions to see those who need to be seen  and hear those who need to be heard.  

– Help me be his hands- following small impressions to know who needs small acts of  service, or remind me of important or difficult days in the lives of others that need  acknowledgement or extra support. 

– Help me to be His voice- knowing when to speak out for truth, and having the words  to do so with love and without contention. Knowing when, how, and with whom to  share the gospel. The spirit can also give me the courage and the words, and the  availability and the willingness to use my voice when He asks me to.  – Help me to lift burdens, mourn with those that mourn, and share love with those that  feel alone.  

– And finally, the spirit can and MUST help me to feel peace that my part is enough,  and give me the wisdom to prioritize. Sister Beck said, “A good woman knows that she  does not have enough time, energy, or opportunity to take care of all of the people or  do all of the worthy things her heart years to do. With Personal revelation, she can  prioritize correctly and navigate this life confidently.”  

I can strengthen my home and family if I have the spirit to help me:  Maintain perspective and gratitude for my blessings when I feel impatient or tired.  – I need it to detect and avoid dangerous situations that could put my family at risk  physically, (that’s funny at our house) emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. 

– I need it to be able to take quick and clear action in the face of danger, and I definitely  need it to help calm my fears and anxieties about my children’s safety. I have had real  and clear experiences in my life where I have been able to clearly see the Lord’s hand  and feel Him close to me, helping me in my work of protection even in the frightening  moments. The spirit gives me strength to strengthen my home.  

– I need it to detect the clever deception and decoys of the adversary, and have the  words and means to teach my children to do the same.  

– I need it to discern the varying, changing, and different needs of each of my five  children. What does each of them need from me each day? Which one needs extra  love, extra forgiveness, or extra attention? Which one needs to feel more seen and  heard? When do I do a better job of teaching, and when do I stop lecturing and do a  better job of listening?  

– And the most difficult for me, and perhaps the most essential: I need the spirit to  know how and when to slow down enough to create a space for opportunities where  moments, conversations, questions, and quality time happen. Those moments that I  never would otherwise know I had missed.  

Receiving revelation takes work, effort, and practice. We will hear the Lord’s voice and  see His hand guiding us more clearly with every effort we make. Sister Beck promises  that personal revelation will come to us when we 1. Ask for it, 2. Prepare for it, 3. Go  forward in faith, 4. TRUSTING that (notice the same words that Joel uses here) it will be  POURED out upon us. 

Sisters our call to serve is great, and our mission essential. The words of one of our  hymns makes the bold statement, “The errand of angels is given to women, and this is  a GIFT that as SISTERS we claim. We can, and must rise to our errand- to build faith,  strengthen home and family, and provide relief to a troubled world. I know that  engaging in His work is the means by which we qualify for His power, access His  peace, and experience true joy. 

Have a wonderful week, my friends!

Love,

Laura

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Tender Mercies (Part 3)

Hello friends! This has been a really wild 2 weeks. Because I hate not being in the loop, I thought I’d quickly share where we’ve been and where we are so that you know. I’ve previously shared that I have surgery scheduled for February 22nd to get my uterus out. I’ve been having problems for some time that have recently been accelerating. Last week the pain and nausea got bad enough that I was having a hard time eating and drinking and at some point I slipped into a type of psychotic episode where I was not fully in touch with reality for a time. It was short-lived and everyone is safe, but it was terrifying. Fortunately, Jon and my parents and guardian angels helped me get to a safe place (my parent’s house) where I could rest and regroup. As my mental fog lifted, I could feel how much pain I was in and my uterus ended up deciding to go into labor (!!!) so I ended up going to the ER this past Monday. I was hoping for an emergency hysterectomy (get this thing out!) but instead they said that everything except my uterus and pain levels looked healthy and they sent me home with more medicine to wait it out until surgery. The surgery date cannot be changed (you can bet I was pretty persuasive!) so we are holding tight until the 22nd. I’m staying with my parents until surgery and my husband will be bopping back and forth between home and my parent’s house. The kids are with me.

I find it interesting that I already had set up this series of documenting “Tender Mercies” happening along this very difficult path before everything hit the fan a week ago. I don’t think that’s by chance, and I have felt drawn to continuing this series of posts with the purpose of choosing to see the good, to see God, in the details of the experience I have walked through. I’m not gonna say it was all pretty and peaceful- cause it WASN’T. There was a point at which I wanted to yell, “How GENTLE God’s commands? Gentle? This has been anything but gentle- I feel traumatized. Where was He when I needed Him most?” My heart was raw and in the middle of it, I felt a sense of betrayal or abandonment.

As I have been healing this week, I have been blessed to begin to see the evidence that I was never really alone- even in the darkest, scariest moments. Heavenly Father simply does not ask us to do it alone. I’m grateful for a Savior who understands exactly what I’ve been experiencing, and for angels seen and unseen that have been able to do for me what I couldn’t do for myself. As I continue to move forward, I need the excuse to dwell on the good I can see, and share the things I’m learning from walking through some really challenging experiences. So you can plan on several posts over the next little while that add to my “tender mercies” series. For now, I want to share two links- you know that music is my thing 🙂 so of course it’s music that first helped me feel hope. I hope you enjoy these two pieces that lifted my spirits, and maybe save them for a rainy day when life feels extra hard and it’s tough to remember YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFIFH42ITpg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azfG6WCJzrY&feature=youtu.be

Love,

Laura

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Tender Mercies (Part 2)

Yesterday, my mom commented (through text), “Wow. You are on a journey…” That’s about the best way I can sum up my experiences lately. Are you ready for the next installment? This is part two of this multi-month adventure, so if you missed part one, check the previous blog post and it’ll catch you up to speed.

Surgery is scheduled- February 22nd. Less than a month away. As a quick review- I’m getting this uterus OUT. It’s getting evicted. I’m so done with it. Hallelujah! Until then….lots of slowing down and yet…its only kind of slowing down…I’ll fill you in, but first, I have to follow up my last post by telling you about my Savior being near.

Picture yourself flailing around in an ocean somewhere far from shore (though the shore is visible- it’s just quite a ways away). You’re getting a little worried you might drown because the water is choppy, deep, and cold, and your muscles will only hold out so long. Can you see it?

Ok so then here is the question. If the Savior is there in this mental picture, where is He? This is not “where do you want him to be,” but how close is He to you? Right now? (Hold that thought till I come back to it!)

I began studying about the Savior in earnest this past fall after two priesthood blessings that directed me to do so. I was instructed that I need to learn about how much He loves me and learn how to draw on His power, daily. I was surprised by this instruction. I thought I had been learning about him and was trying to implement the things I was learning about drawing on His power. But apparently there was a lot more that I needed to learn, and for whatever reason, I was now in a position to learn it. Perhaps it had something to do with the whole “slowing down” I was doing physically- that I had much more time and space to ponder than before. (As it turned out, YES, it did have a lot to do with slowing down!)

One day my husband Jon and I began to talk about how capable we are. Doesn’t that sound conceited! In this context, it wasn’t really a positive thing. We were talking about how much we can handle, and how we’ve been blessed with some really good genetics- bright, active minds and healthy (for the most part!) bodies. We have a lot to give and we know it. That is a good thing- unless we try to do this life thing all ourselves and forget to turn to the Savior. We were talking about how if we’re feeling like we’re drowning (with whatever responsibilities are on our plate right at the moment), both of us tend to just start swimming as hard and fast as we can, figuring that we’d better lose no time trying to get to shore. We can probably make it before we pass out or drown…

We were laughing about that, but it also raised a question: in this analogy, where do we picture the Savior? How far away is He? For some reason, I pictured Him on this far distant shore calling out “It’s gonna be ok! I got you!” as I splutter “Great, thanks for the support, but I’ve gotta start swimming with everything I’ve got in me or I’m gonna drown!” Now an important aside is that I fully believe that if I indeed was fully drowning, He’d be there in a second somehow; I don’t know how, I just know He’ll save me. He’s the Savior- that’s what He does. He has that kind of power. I’ve always believed that. But if I have one ounce of energy left, He’s on the shore still. Way off in the distance. The thought made me squirm. And I wondered, why do I picture him that far away?

Jon’s next question caught me off-guard: “What if Jesus Christ is right there in a lifeboat at our side? What if the whole time He’s inviting us into the boat and instead we’re swimming like a crazy person toward “Him” at the distant shoreline- figuring that’s our only option?” We laughed as we thought how ridiculous we’d look swimming like crazy with Him reaching out His arm right at our side. “Come,” He invites. “Come all ye that are heavy-laden and I will give you rest.” The truth of that rang in my ears and as I went about my day. I couldn’t get it off my mind. Is it really that simple? How does that change things if he’s really right there? Is he really that close? Why have I been picturing Him so far away? I don’t expect Him to give me a free-ride through life- surely that’s not the purpose…I assume there will still be miles to swim and obstacles to deal with, but how does that change things if He’s really right there?

That evening I had my first opportunity to put this analogy to the test. I was feeling highly anxious about some of my symptoms and felt myself wanting to go into “high intensity swim” mode. You know the feeling- that I should research all over the internet what my symptoms mean and try to solve the physical problem so I can feel peace. Before going there though, the Holy Ghost whispered, “What if He’s really right there?” I found myself stopped in my tracks. I looked up at a picture of Jesus Christ that hangs on our wall and I just pondered for a few moments. I pictured myself reaching out my hand and taking His. And the truth of His closeness rushed over me again. “What if He’s really right there?” I thought. How does that change things? As I continued to ponder that week, I decided it makes ALL the difference. It means I can learn and try and swim WITHOUT THE DANGER OF DROWNING. I cannot drown with Him right there. It’s the way to find peace in the MIDDLE of whatever I’m experiencing.

A line from one of my favorite hymns was running through my mind often (the hymn is “How Gentle God’s Commands”): “I’ll drop my burdens at His feet and bear a song away.” Bear a song away. I WANT that buoyancy in the middle of the struggle. Drop my burdens- suddenly it felt so much more available with Him right close to me instead of at the distant shore (picture trying to throw a heavy suitcase to shore- ha!). I began to realize in a new way that dropping my burdens at his feet is the ONLY way to really find peace and buoyancy in my life.

Another line became important too (from Be Still My Soul): “Be Still.” Once again I found meaning in the analogy: I can only really find stillness if I know I’m not going to drown- not with Him right here. I can trust Him. I am safe with Him. I can be still. The moments of stillness and peace were feeling more frequent but people, I’m human. And the symptoms suck. And I am highly anxious a lot. So don’t go thinking I know how to do this perfectly, cause I don’t. But I could see clearly where I was headed, and it felt SO. GOOD.

That moment that I was highly anxious was the first of a strand of moments. It wasn’t all at once, but little by little I found I was changing. My faith in Jesus Christ was growing- faith that He was there for ME. I kept asking the question, “What is He right here for?” It almost felt startling at first, as if I was discovering that someone had been sitting right next to me and I hadn’t realized it.

With this new thought process I found myself feeling Jesus Christ’s love for me more than I had before. I have always known my Heavenly Father loves me- and I have felt that love and closeness often. One way I strengthen that relationship is by speaking with Him in prayer every night. Being a very verbal person, I find that closeness somewhat easy to experience. And I have had many experiences feeling communication through the scriptures- just what I need to know to get through a tough time, or direction, or truth.

Since I don’t specifically talk to my Savior in prayer, yet he’s there (as we close in the name of Jesus Christ), I guess I always figured that the closeness to Heavenly Father was kind of the same for my Savior. They work together, are one in purpose…etc…even though they are two distinct beings. But I guess I never thought much about how much my Savior loved me personally, and differently from my Heavenly Father- though it makes sense since a relationship with different people is always different! I have always known that Jesus Christ volunteered to be my Savior because he loves me. He suffered for my sins and imperfections and He died for me. But something was different these days- I was feeling His love and compassion in a way that I knew was only possible because He was nearer than I ever realized (it wasn’t Him that changed, it was me!).

As I began feeling Jesus Christ’s love more often, I kept revisiting the idea that there is power available to us through the atonement of Jesus Christ- but how do we access that power? Because of feeling him closer, and feeling His love, would I be able to draw on His power in a new way than I had learned to before?

The next question I began mulling over often was “What is His power for?” I knew that it wasn’t likely that He would use his power to just solve all my physical symptoms…though I was sure he COULD if He chose to. It just kind of felt like my path to experience. But if it’s not for that, then what is it for? Peace? Joy? Strength to endure? Yes, all of those and more…but for some reason a part of the answer kept feeling out of my reach. Somehow, perhaps through the words of the blessing, I knew that I would discover some important things as I continued to ask, seek, and knock. Little did I know that a lot of that learning would come in the form of music.

(To be continued…)