Saturday, December 24, 2016

Back to Hope

Back to hope.  
I love this title, “Back to Hope.”  It’s the most beautiful Christmas message I could give.  Christ’s entire role was, and is, to give hope; hope to a world, to families and to individuals.  My journey to understanding the hope Christ offers has been intense the last few years.  “Back to Hope”, implies a loss of hope and that is regrettably something that I went through last year, and something I constantly work at keeping this year.  For this Christmas message of hope I need to lay some ground work.  I will do that on speed dial.

I never fully understood hope when it was taught in our Sunday School class when I was young.  I remember thinking, “I don’t get this, why do we even need to teach this.  We all have hope; it’s just a part of life.”  I didn’t understand than how vital hope is to a happy, satisfying life and that hope really can be lost.

About 2 years ago, when we still had about 6 months left on our mission, so many things in our family were going wrong.  We found out the reason Nathan was struggling so much was because of drugs.  Jordan was coming home from his mission because his back pain and anxiety had gotten to a debilitating level.  Meghan and Mitch were not happy living in our basement and wanted to move out, leaving us with no one to take care of our house or yard.  Ryan’s job couldn’t work with his class schedule during his last year of school so he had to quit his job when he was newly married and just had his first child.  And, our basement flooded!

It sounds weird to have all of those things happening at the same time and that’s exactly how we felt, “This is weird!”

Regrettably, I started telling myself a story.  I tried to get rid of it, but the little whisper kept coming into my mind over and over, “God won’t bless Us.”  It sounds like such a simple statement, no big deal.  But it lead to such a feeling of hopelessness.  I fought against the feelings constantly.  I was on my knees constantly.  But the story kept coming into my mind.

Some of the problems worked out.  Our basement was miraculously healed of mold and water damage.  (I wrote about that miracle and this time on the mission in an earlier post titled, God: “I’m here, hold on, you’re going to be ok.”).  We decided to rent the basement and with that money was able to hire Ryan to do yard work so we were able to give him a job.  The move for Mitch and Meghan turned out to be an amazing blessing for them.  But the struggles Na and Jo were having were just scratching the surface and the situation got brutal for us.

I know that, “man does not comprehend all that God comprehends”.  So, I put my trust in the Lord and kept working while we were serving.  I found a prayer that really helped and I prayed it literally 10 times a day, “Please help me see the blessings.”  Again, such a simple statement, but it really helped me so much.  In the mist of huge trials I had my eyes opened to the little blessings that were there.

Health to Jordan and Nathan wasn’t miraculously restored.  But, I literally saw miracles that helped us help them.  (I would like to write about those miracles someday, but not today. But I will mention one miracle we saw over and over): 

The Lord worked through us on our mission in a way we couldn’t deny. When you’re strong and things go well, it’s easy to think, it’s you.  But when you’re weak and things go well, you know, it’s all Him.  Our lives were falling down around us and yet, whenever the time came to speak, train or teach we would literally feel a calm come over us and words and thoughts come into our minds and a literal power come into our bodies and minds that left no doubt for us that we were just vessels for the Lord to do His work.  I would often get done with some talk or training and look to heaven and think, “Wow Lord, you did great, that was awesome!”  Then I would quietly whisper my thanks, because I absolutely knew it wasn’t me. 

The Lord took over and in a very real way made our mission His.  I couldn’t bear a strong enough testimony of the Lord’s power to help us do His work, or a strong enough testimony of his mercy and kindness to us when we aren’t quite up to the task at hand, even though we would like to be. 
 Even though the Lord got us through the mission, when we came home it all got worse.  (I’ll just keep it short and say that.)

I struggled with that little voice whispering, “God won’t bless US.”  I also struggled with thoughts of, “Why, Why, Why.”  Why was Nathan born gay?  What a hard thing to live with.  Why was he given that?  Why does Jordan have anxiety and depression that is rocking his whole world?  Why did Don develop health problems days after coming home?  Why couldn’t we find a project or a full time job?  Lots of little whys went along with those big whys.  (I have a very strong testimony that “why” questions take us away from God.  They are a barrier between us and Him.)  
I humbly admit I was in a bad way.  I prayed, I served at the MTC, we went to the temple, I read my scriptures, I focused on pulling our family back together, and I still felt such a feeling of loss and hopelessness.  I discovered how vital hope is in feeling happiness, motivation, and a sense of well-being.  Hope is everything!  It really drives us and you never know that more profoundly than when you don’t have it.

Even though my world was upside down and me with it, I didn’t lose my desire to pray.  I knew God was the answer.  I just had to figure out how to let him help me.

My journey back to hope was foundational and built in layers. It did not happen all at once.  I had to learn, get rid of hardness and be patient.   As I prayed I could hear the spirit of God whisper, “Hold on, I’ll get you there”, when I would ask the “why” questions.  When I would feel the struggle of serving at the MTC it was, “I know what you need, more than you know what you need.”  With the questions about Nathan and Jordan I heard, “Respect each person’s journey. This is not about you.  Trust me.”  When I felt, “This plan stinks!  I can’t wait until this pain and suffering is over. Why did I ever agree to this?!”  I felt God say to me, “This pain and suffering will help you understand a little of your Savior’s pain and suffering and others pain also.”  When I would go to that dark place of, “how is this ever going to be ok.  How am I ever going to feel happiness, peace or joy again?”  The spirit would whisper, “It will be ok.  You’ll be ok.  Everything will be ok in the end.”  Man, I would reject that one fast.  I couldn’t hold on to that.  How could anything ever be ok again?  My heart was so heavy, I couldn’t really hold on to any of these spiritual messages for very long.  I couldn’t keep them in my heart.  But I kept hearing them and I kept praying and I kept holding on and trying to stay with him.  I prayed, I read, I served, I repented, and gradually I started to work; work on moving forward and not just staying afloat.

My journey to hope and faith and strength and motivation and energy and power in God’s strength and healing is so multi-faceted:

It was discovering gratitude for what’s been given.

It was purging and repenting of any kind of negativity towards myself, others and God.  The refiner’s fire is such a painful experience but so amazing too.  When you are in survival mode you can’t hide things you didn’t even know you were hiding.  Every negative, dark thing inside of you has to come up and out.  Then the Savior can take it away and you’re left with a better version of self. 

It was becoming humble enough to see things in a more eternal perspective: God really will wipe every tear, make all things fair in the end, and turn all things too good for those who love him. 

It was letting the “whys” rest. 

It was coming to a place of recognition of untrue stories I was telling myself that kept me from coming to God and truly turning to Him. 

It was choosing to stay with Him; to keep listening to Him, holding on to his promises and whisperings the best I could.

And, it was working, accomplishing and creating energy every day by focusing on the little successes.

I still don’t know the answers, but I know God knows.  I trust my Heavenly Father, my Savior Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.  They know and so I don’t need too.  That is true trust.  I feel like I am on a tight rope, balancing, moving forward slowly, totally focused on God who stands straight ahead of me, across the space.  I can feel that if I look to the side or down I lose my way instantly.  If I think of why this was given to us, I fall.  Or, if I think of how will this ever work out or be fair, I fall.  If I think of the “what ifs”, I fall.  By, fall, I mean I feel discouraged, depressed, anxious, worried, doubtful, etc.  I fall to the thoughts born of the adversary, the world and my own natural man. 

But I know and have felt over and over that when I focus on God and trust in his perfect knowledge and plan I move forward with happiness and peace.  When I am able to focus on God and His messages of hope, I live.  I have energy.

Christ makes it possible to not just survive, but thrive.   I know this is true.  I feel whole.  I feel confident and not worried.  That’s amazing.  It’s like a miracle……

I am so full of hope now.  I can’t tell you what a miracle that is. Nothing has changed.  Not one thing is different.  But God has done a work in my life to change me.  I know we can all feel strong, confident, hope and peace because of Christ.  He is hope.  His message is hope.  I trust that because of Him we will receive mercy in this life and in the next.  Things really will be ok.

Our journeys are individual.  They can be amazingly hard and painful.  But the Lord will bring us to love, faith and knowledge of Him if we let Him. I know He truly is the way.  I encourage staying with God.  Try gratitude, humility, listening, repenting, and trusting.  Lay to rest the whys, what ifs and how’s.  

Elder Uchtdorf said in October Conference, “We will not only be satisfied with the judgment of God; we will also be astonished and overwhelmed by His infinite grace, mercy, generosity, and love for us, His children.”

The most beautiful Christmas message I could give is that He lives.  If we will pay attention to what is keeping us from God, and get rid of that, He will do a work in our lives that is a miracle.  He can change our heart, He can strengthen us, and He can give us peace.  Our beautiful Savior, saves. 


  1. I love your blog. Thank you so much for posting. I've frequently read the scriptures, which I love, but have sometimes found myself wishing there were more stories and lessons from the female perspective. Reading stuff like this fills that hole for me. I love learning from you and your experiences. These thoughts on hope were perfect for me to read before Christmas.

  2. I cannot say enough how I appreciate your insights. Your words speak to me; they resonate with me - I so relate to your thoughts and feelings. Your vulnerability encourages me to know that I am not alone in my journey. You don't know me well - but I sure do love you. Thank you.

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  4. Thank you, Melonie, for sharing your experiences and insights. I can relate to much of what you wrote, especially the "whys." The tightrope analogy is a good one. You and Don are missed here in Spokane Valley!!
    Diane Kipp

  5. I find myself coming back to your blog every few weeks and both learning and re-learning from the experiences you share. Thank you for being so transparent and sharing your faith and life experiences!

  6. What a great message! I stumbled upon this blog while searching for a mission president. I actually have some questions about your time as mission president / wife, if you don't mind. Reply to this comment and I'll get in touch with you.

    1. Hi Shano, I am sorry to take so long in replying to your message. I'm guilty of not getting on here to often. I hope to be better at writing eventually. You can message me anytime on FB if that's better. I am always open to questions.