“God expects you to have enough faith and determination and enough trust in Him to keep moving, keep living, keep rejoicing. In fact, He expects you not simply to face the future (that sounds pretty grim and stoic); He expects you to embrace and shape the future--to love it and rejoice in it and delight in your opportunities. God is anxiously waiting for the chance to answer your prayers and fulfill your dreams, just as He always has. But He can't if you don't pray, and He can't if you don't dream. In short, He can't if you don't believe.”
- Jeffrey R. Holland
While in the midst of our journey here on earth we, at one point or another, may find ourselves in what feel to be "broken places" in our lives. Many struggle with illness, death of a loved one, the loss of a job, financial setbacks, marital problems, divorce, abuse, never having the opportunity to marry, denied freedoms of religion, and so forth. It is in these harder moments where we are often faced with a choice-- to either embrace our circumstances and live each day with greater optimism --or-- allow our trying circumstances to defeat our spirits and deplete all hope for our future.
As I have faced my own difficult trials in this life--I have come to more fully understand this gospel principle---the test we face in these "broken places" comes down to one thing... how we react to them. And it's simply a matter of choice. Having lived on this earth for 42 years now….and having experienced an assortment of challenges and setbacks personally along the way--I have come to see and understand that a loving Heavenly Father allows us to be broken so we can be challenged spiritually and converted to become something better.
Let me share a personal experience that schooled me in this very important gospel principle….
Soon after my husband and I were married we began trying to start our family. After a year of not being able to get pregnant, I started to panic and fear the worst. We met with my OBGyn to discuss what might be preventing us from conceiving. He did a battery of tests on both myself and Jody and then prescribed medication. I remember him telling us we shouldn't worry--that this "magical drug" should do the trick. He assured us we should get pregnant in no time.
Well...six months later-- I was back sitting in his office---discouraged, frustrated and still not pregnant. We discussed more advanced fertility options and he referred us to a specialist. After working with three different fertility specialists and thousands of dollars spent along the way.... the diagnosis was always the same after a failed fertility treatment...unexplained infertility. In addition to the stress of trying to grow our family during this season of our life, I was in a graduate program and working full-time and my husband was knee-deep starting a new legal practice. We were SUPER stressed on all fronts. It was without question a challenging season in our marriage.
After several failed rounds of IUI treatments and an IVF treatment which landed me in the hospital for 5 days with pretty serious complications...we came to the realization (and humble acceptance) that adoption was the path Heavenly Father wanted us on. And after much thought and prayer-- we changed our focus and began our journey to adopt.
While in the midst of traveling down this uncertain road—I had to face the harsh reality that I might never be a mother…. and this was not easy accept. It was devastating and heartbreaking. I had to work especially hard on developing greater faith and a humble heart to accept God's will.
I can tell you during these years-- I spent countless hours on my knees in prayer---pleading with Heavenly Father for a miracle—to allow me to be able to conceive a child. I read and re-read my patriarchal blessing so many times searching for answers and guidance. I fasted and attended the temple with a sincere prayer in my heart to be blessed with children. I faithfully sought out and received several priesthood blessings from my dear husband and father during this difficult time of my life. And when it began to become more and more apparent that we would not be able to bear children---I had to pray even harder for the patience and faith I knew I would need to accept the Lord’s will for me as a wife and (hopeful) mother.
I battled deep feelings of inadequacy—the adversary tried to convince me on many occasions that it was my fault and that I somehow was being punished. I questioned at times why my prayers weren’t being answered in the way I thought they should and in the timing that I wanted them to despite my best efforts to be a follower of Christ.
And I realized that I had a choice to make... instead of allowing myself to become bitter --I made a conscious choice daily to not dwell on my infertility, but instead, look for all the many amazing people, experiences and things in my life I had to be grateful for.
I essentially had to choose to grow strong in this broken place in my heart. I had to lean on the simple truths I had always known and been taught from a young age about the purpose of this mortal life. And in the process, surprisingly---a beautiful thing began to happen---I slowly but surely began to gain a deeper and more meaningful understanding of the true significance of having a testimony of Christ and His love for me.
I am happy to share with you today that my husband and I have been blessed with three amazing and beautiful children through the blessing of adoption…our son, Noah (7) and daughter, Taylor (20-months)--both were adopted at birth and we have been sealed in the temple as a forever family. Additionally, we are in the final phase of finalizing the adoption of our foster son )who we have loved and cared for now for almost 2 years). It was a very long journey to get here…to have our three beautiful children. In addition to our infertility struggles, we also suffered three (3) failed adoptions over a 5-year period all of which took a great toll on us emotionally and financially. But without question, as we look back now---both my husband and I can see clearly how the Lord's hand was in our lives and he lovingly pieced our little family together in a miraculous way.
"He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."
Choosing to be grateful in the broken places--huh---now that sounds strange, doesn't it? Why in the world should we be grateful and give thanks to the Lord during the difficult times? For many of us—when facing adversity--one of the greatest challenges is choosing to be grateful. Without question, it takes greater faith and a humble heart to do this—but I have learned firsthand when we muster the courage to do so...when we strive daily to draw closer to the Lord and live his teachings….we ultimately discover we are stronger than we ever gave ourselves credit for and we can feel the love of the Lord. By being more grateful in our trials---we seem to develop a deeper sense of gratitude for the simple blessings in our lives. When we choose a higher path and are willing to accept the Lord's will—our divine purpose and mission become more visible to our mortal eyes. We can also see more fully how the Lord’s hand is in our lives--- even in what we might consider the darkest moments… He is always there to safely guide and love us through the harder times.
...Everyone’s situation is different, and the details of each life are unique. Nevertheless, I have learned that there is something that would take away the bitterness that may come into our lives. There is one thing we can do to make life sweeter, more joyful, even glorious. We can be grateful! It might sound contrary to the wisdom of the world to suggest that one who is burdened with sorrow should give thanks to God. But those who set aside the bottle of bitterness and lift instead the goblet of gratitude can find a purifying drink of healing, peace, and understanding. As disciples of Christ, we are commanded to “thank the Lord [our] God in all things,” to “sing unto the Lord with thanksgiving,” and to “let [our] heart be full of thanks unto God.…We can choose to be grateful, no matter what.”
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf
I have a firm testimony that life doesn't just happen by chance. I believe with all my heart that everything happens for a reason and that there is a master plan for each of us. A plan that was created uniquely for each of us and is divinely intertwined with our ability to exercise our free agency while here in mortality.
When we are thrown curve balls in life --our faith feels as if it is being purged, stretched to its limit and tested like never before. Often times, we may find ourselves being thrown into the refiner's fire completely against our will. But I have learned through experience that it is in these times that we must have greater courage in ourselves and exercise a deeper faith in the Master Gardener of our life, our Savior Jesus Christ. And when we do so—we will gain a greater depth and knowledge of our Heavenly Father’s plan for us along with a deeper appreciation for the life we have been given.
*** My husband and I were asked to speak at church today to a Latter-Day Saint congregation of college-aged, single adults. I felt prompted to speak on the topic of adversity. Above is the message that I wrote and shared with the congregation. I wanted to record my talk here on my blog since this is our family's journal.