I learned something good this week that I wanted to share. My learning usually comes in layers and I think the Lord has been trying to teach me and comfort me for some time now and I just get little things that help me here and there, but this week I changed.
I’ve talked a little about our family in a past post and referred to it some but I’m just going to review a bit.
In the summer I felt our family came face to face with some pretty difficult things to bear. I think everyone of us suffered, and still suffer in some dramatic ways. I, especially, felt so much pain.
I remember when we were called as mission presidents that I thought this calling would be so wonderful for our family. We seemed so strong and spiritually blessed. I thought it was perfect timing for us to go on a mission. Our oldest children were returning from missions, our youngest would be getting ready to go and we would be serving while they served. How perfect!
We had learned so much from raising our children, who had some serious struggles while growing up. Early on in our mission we felt deeply consecrated, that Lord had, “raised us up”, to serve him in this calling because we were using so many of the things we had learned from raising children who had ADD, Social Skills problems, Mood Issues, Depression and OCD. We were so familiar with these issues that missionary’s problems just seemed normal to us. We felt we finally had some answers as to why we had to learn about these things while raising our young children. How perfect!
We had tons of energy, deep testimonies and a strong desire to serve. How perfect!
Our children who would be getting married could live in our basement and take care of our yard while we were gone. How perfect!
Our parents were still in good health. How perfect!
I can remember those thoughts 2 ½ years ago so clearly. And I think it really was falling into place for about the first 2 years. It seemed like all trials we faced early on seemed easily dealt with and my spiritual “bubble” was so intact.
The mission is still great and the missionaries are fantastic. We see so much wonderful, good service being done for the Lord. But our personal struggles have been amazingly hard for 6 months now. I started questioning the Lord about, “Why Us”, “How could this happen”, and, “Where are the blessings we’ve been promised?”
I could feel a little corner of my heart forming a hard spot. I could feel I wasn’t quite as trusting, happy or at peace. I still loved the Lord. I still wanted to serve Him and I really relied on Him to get me through the demanding days. And He did! I saw His hand in dramatic ways to help us, help the missionaries. But at night the weight would settle and my pain would set in. I learned to repent of hardness, worry, doubt and fear a lot and try to be soft so the Lord could have a place in my heart to give comfort and answers. I learned to see blessings and His hand in my family’s lives. And I learned that the best place to be when your heart is breaking is on a mission. All of this learning came as my prayers were answered in layers as I could get past the pain and open up my heart. But the trial still exists so my pain has lingered on.
Like I said I learn in layers and I felt a bit more learning happen for me this week. I’d been feeling really sorry for myself for a few days. Usually I can focus on others, call on the atonement to help me and push threw my pain and feel pretty successful as a missionary. But I have to admit I kind of got to a wallowing state earlier in the week. I recognized that I was focusing on myself and my pain, which was why I was in this awful state. But I was so far gone in worry, concern and hurt that I couldn’t even ask for the atonement to get me through the things I needed to do like I usually do.
But a few nights ago I just happened to be on the computer trying to catch up because I haven’t looked at my emails for weeks. L I saw a link to a Mormon Message and watched it. (Click here to watch it.) http://www.mormonchannel.org/video/mormon-messages?v=3897359657001
It really touched me. Not like, “wow someone has it worse off than me”, or, “if they can do it so can I”, but just more like, “everyone has struggles, heartache and pain, I can be grateful for my things, and not be a victim to them.”
I got on my knees to pray. My habit is to feel sad for my struggling sons, (Nathan in particular), and pain at what they are going through. Instead, with this Mormon Message in my mind I thought to express gratitude for my sons. I thought of their cute personalities, the amazing blessing they have been their entire lives to us, the respect I should feel at their own personal journey in life, the health they do have, what they have given and done. I have focused for so long on what I wanted for them, and what I thought their lives should be. I felt my heart change drastically as I was infused with gratitude for who they are and acceptance for what the Lord has given them.
I was absolutely amazed at how fast I changed. I could see differently when I didn’t see them or their situation through the world’s eyes, but I could see them through the Lords eyes. I felt acceptance for God’s plan for them. I felt the cloud lift, I felt strong enough to continue and I felt at peace. A peace I hadn’t felt in a long time.
Some of the things I thought would be so perfect have really not turned out to be so perfect. My parents health is failing, our basement as an apartment for the kids didn’t turn out so good, and our children have all struggled in various degrees. Isn’t life just like that! It can be so hard to give up what we thought would be so perfect, for reality, and feel good about it.
I’ve learned this week that gratitude is repentance. The natural man doesn’t see with gratitude. The natural man looks at things selfishly, negatively, critical, prideful and discontented. Gratitude is rejection of the world, and puts the natural man on the path to God. I think gratitude is a direct conduit to our Heavenly Father, creating a place in our hearts to feel understanding, love, and acceptance of His will. These beautiful gifts of the spirit are evidence of a grateful heart that can feel and accept God’s love even when His will is so different from our own.