How the Atonement of Jesus Christ Helps Me In My Darkest Hours

Today’s scripture study took me to this scripture about Jesus Christ:

“And l, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people.” Mosiah 3:7

Which took me to this marvelous quote by Neal A. Maxwell:

“Imagine, Jehovah, the Creator of this and other worlds, ‘astonished’! Jesus knew cognitively what He must do, but not experientially. He had never personally known the exquisite and exacting process of an atonement before. Thus, when the agony came in its fulness, it was so much, much worse than even He with his unique intellect had ever imagined! No wonder an angel appeared to strengthen him! (SeeLuke 22:43.

“The cumulative weight of all mortal sins—past, present, and future—pressed upon that perfect, sinless, and sensitive Soul! All our infirmities and sicknesses were somehow, too, a part of the awful arithmetic of the Atonement. (See Alma 7:11–12;Isaiah 53:3–5; Matthew 8:17.) The anguished Jesus not only pled with the Father that the hour and cup might pass from Him, but with this relevant citation. ‘And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me’ (Mark 14:35–36).

“Had not Jesus, as Jehovah, said to Abraham, ‘Is any thing too hard for the Lord?’ (Genesis 18:14). Had not His angel told a perplexed Mary, ‘For with God nothing shall be impossible’? (Luke 1:37; see alsoMatthew 19:28; Mark 10:27; Luke 18:27).

“Jesus’ request was not theater!

“In this extremity, did He, perchance, hope for a rescuing ram in the thicket? I do not know. His suffering—as it were, enormity multiplied by infinity—evoked His later soul-cry on the cross, and it was a cry of forsakenness. (See Matthew 27:46.)

“Even so, Jesus maintained this sublime submissiveness, as He had in Gethsemane: ‘Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt’ (Matthew 26:39)” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1985, 92; orEnsign, May 1985, 72–73).

And that marvelous quote made me think back on those moments when I relied on the atonement to get me through my darkest hours.

Many ask HOW – 

HOW do we apply the atonement in times of great grief or pain?

For me, in those unbearable moments when one wonders if they can even breathe and the weight of grief on the heart threatens to tear you asunder, I pray. I pray and pray, pleading for help and some how, as though rays of sun forcing themselves through the thickest, darkest storm clouds, a calm and peace settles in my heart and mind, and I know God is with me, taking in his hands my burdens. And I turn myself over to him, accepting His will, no matter how agonizing it may be, because I trust Him. I believe Him. I believe His promises of eternal families, and that with Him all things are possible.

I remind myself each day that as I allow the spirit to comfort my heart and to feel the peace He is trying to pour into my soul, that I am strong enough, somehow, some way, to make it through the storm. And I look, I look for those bits of light and the more I look, the more I see, until hope shines upon my face with the full brightness of the sun, and in that moment, I know. I know the atonement is working in my heart and life.

And the amazing thing is, the more I open my heart, the more peace He pours in. The pain isn’t gone, it is still there, but the peace He gives, wraps it and buffers it until is is manageable. And hope – one of the greatest gifts of the atonement, because it pushes us to keep going, to keep trying, even when we fear all is lost or impossible.

So, back to HOW?

1-  I believe. I believe His words and promises are meant for ME!

2 – I pray – pleading and begging for relief.

3 – Just as the Savior did, I must accept God’s will – only then will the healing come.

4 – I strive to see the peace and open my heart to the Spirit. I allow myself to be comforted and filled with love and hope from the Savior. Sometimes this is so hard – it’s easy to miss – sometimes that peace might feel so fleating, or like a weak flickering candle in a vast darkness, but every time I grasp onto it, that peace grows as long as I am willing to let it into my heart.

It is a deeply personal and unique process and experience. It is most likely very different for others. But to me it is beautiful and each day, time, moment that I apply it in my life I feel my love and connection with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ increase. My faith increases and my soul is filled with an overwhelming hope that all will be fine in the end and that our family will be together for eternity. And, while the days feel long until I see my Lizy again, I know I will see her. And I know I have a loving Savior and Heavenly Father who will help me through the hard times until that day comes.

How greatly we are blessed. How much I have learned and grown. How much I still have to learn and grow. I love this beautiful plan that Heavenly Father has created for us.

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In the eyes of a seven-year-old

Today we took the family up to Indianapolis to see the new temple (for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). Before a temple is dedicated there is an open house where the public is able to walk through the various rooms of the temple to see and enjoy the beauty and to learn more about them. We were all so excited to go and we had a wonderful experience. I think for me, the best part was after we came home. We wanted the children to write their experiences in their journals.

James and Jacob (7 and 10) asked for help (Robert I am just going to have him draw some pictures in the morning, etc) in getting their thoughts onto paper. I didn’t tell them what to say, just let them talk to me and I wrote their words for them.

Jacob’s was neat and mentioned things like “I felt loved when I went into the temple”, “the Celestial room was white and bright and the stained glass windows made little rainbows on the floor”, and “we walked down the hallway filled with pictures of Jesus’ life”.

James’ however, especially for his young age of 7, astounded me. With his permission, I share with you his words:

“Today I went to the Indianapolis Temple Open House. In the temple I saw the baptismal font and the celestial room. We saw an instruction room with beautiful paintings on the walls from floor to ceiling. We saw the other instruction room and it was bright. I saw the room that people get married in. I saw the mirrors and when you look in them they go forever and ever. I saw the women’s locker room and where the front doors and recommend desk are. I saw the chapel and beautiful chandeliers.

We didn’t speak in the celestial room. I felt warm. I felt the spirit. I touched the side of the temple. I liked all the beautiful paintings. Outside there was a beautiful fountain. We also saw the bride’s room.

I was so excited to go and I am so happy I did!

There were beautiful stained glass windows too. I really, really felt the spirit. I saw the lightning stick on top of Angel Moroni. I learned families can be together forever. Even when we die they go forever and ever like the mirrors.”

 

I don’t think I could share any more or any better – so simple so beautiful.  I love seeing things through the eyes of a child.

Below is a video of a virtual tour of the Indianapolis temple so you can see and enjoy the same beauty my boys and the rest of our family did.

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Sweet 16!

Sixteen years ago today I became a mom. I remember holding you, tiny Elizabeth Ane, and marvelling over how tiny and fresh from God you were. I was excited, scared, in awe, and hopeful of many joyous years. Something magic happens that very first time you hold your very first baby. It is my most cherished memory and it stays tucked safely in my heart.

It’s hard to believe that was sixteen years ago. I know I never expected parenting to be like this. I don’t know that I recall exactly what I expected. I knew it would be hard, but I had no idea of the intense joys and the gut wrenching sorrows that would come.

I hope I have learned a lot in the last 16 years. And I hope I have become a better mom, wife, daughter, sister, and person through it all.

I held you and marveled at the end, though tears streaked my face and letting you go was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.  I marveled at your goodness, your readiness, and in the fact that you were meeting your Heavenly Father. I marveled at all you must be doing, and the thought of it has made me happy and joyous, though I miss you each and every day.

I have learned that Heavenly Father does indeed give us much more than we can handle and much more than we can bear – ALONE – and I have learned that as we lean on him He will bear all things for us and help us with the impossible burdens as they come. I know He loves us and I am grateful he doesn’t keep us from facing the hard impossible times, because as much as I miss you and love you and want you with us RIGHT NOW, I have seen so much growth in myself, my family and many others.

I am often surprised that I have survived this, and it is only through my Savior, Jesus Christ, that I have.  Because of Him the grief has begun to mend and the pieces of our lives still cling together. Because of Him we will all be together again someday. I just need to keep fighting, keep plugging on.

Happy Sweet 16, Dearest Elizabeth.

Thank you for making me a mom for the first time.

Thank you for bringing me so many incredible years of joy!

I love you.

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Angelversary

Three years ago, with heavy hearts, we said our good-byes to our sweet Elizabeth Ane, had the machines turned off, and started on this new chapter of life. And while I have never known such depths of sorrow, I haven’t known such soaring joys, peace and comfort. In the past three years I have come to recognize more tender mercies and miracles from our loving Heavenly Father. Many of those tender mercies and miracles came to us through you – dear friends who have kept us continually in your prayers and followed promptings of service and love.

My faith has increased, and I have come to understand the atonement of Jesus Christ in a way I have never comprehended before. Often I am in absolute awe that I have survived this. I hope I have become a better person, more compassionate, more loving, and more like my Savior. I have come to know that in days of deepest sorrow it is still possible to find and know joy. I have also come to know that our Savior and Heavenly Father will truly pick up and carry our burdens when they are far too hard for us to bear.

It has been a long and arduous journey and while the burdens are lighter today than they were three years ago at this time, they are still there and I continue to turn to Christ for help in bearing them.  I know He lives and because He suffered and died for us and was resurrected, we too will live again. I know that through him we can attain peace and joy in this life and in the one to come. I know families are eternal, and while I yearn for that far off day when we are together again, I do my best to enjoy each moment here in mortality. I know that Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father love us and will never leave us alone. They are there, if we but turn to them in our hour of need, to comfort and guide us through. Their love is unconditional and ever bright.

I miss her- every day, but I know she is with us still. We carry her always in our hearts and memories, and I know she continues to watch over her family. We love you, dear Lizy.

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Learning to Listen

It was a busy day. I had multiple errands to run, mainly birthday shopping for the almost 10-year-old, and sick kids at home. I had been running around most of the morning and I was anxious to be done. I had two more errands to run, one of which took me to Hobby Lobby to get a model rocket.

I pulled into the parking lot and sighed as I saw the banner announcing the store had moved. Luckily it hadn’t moved far away, but it was more hassle. I drove around to the shopping center exit and waited a few cars back for the light to change.

This shopping center frequently has people standing in the median as you come and go asking for monetary assistance. Today it was an older woman. It wasn’t terribly cold, but the wind had a sharp nip to it. She hunched a bit over her sign as she walked in just her sweatshirt and worn jeans, with thin gloves on her hands. I usually don’t carry cash, and I’m reluctant to give money anyway, but I am always more than happy to give food.  I didn’t really need the quick glance around the car to tell me I had nothing to offer.

“You need to go to Walmart after Hobby Lobby anyway, you could always come back to the one in this shopping center and get some things for her,” my inner voice considered.

I watched the man in the truck at the front of the line give her money. The joy and gratitude on her face made me smile. I caught a glimpse of the man’s grin in his side mirror. I quietly offered a prayer of thanks that someone was able to help her and considered my job done.  The light turned green and I pulled away.

In the short drive to Hobby Lobby I had quite the argument with myself.

“You should definitely go to that Walmart to get your stuff. I’m sure she could use it. You love to serve. Why are you being a pill about this? It’s not that far out of the way, half a mile maybe, she probably won’t even be there when I get back (this has happened before), but she might,” the list ran on and on. I found my model rocket and headed back up the road to the same shopping center I had just left.

I shook my head as I pulled into the parking lot and the woman was nowhere to be seen. “I’m off the hook,” I thought as I parked.

It took me longer than I thought it would to decide on which matchbox cars to get the birthday boy. Lunchtime was way past. All I wanted to do was go home and check on the kids. Even though Paul was working from home and could field emergencies, he couldn’t just chill and commiserate with how icky they felt.

Again I felt the prompting to buy some food. I frowned. “She’s not even outside,” I argued. Again the urge to purchase some food came. I sighed.  I was in the store anyway, it wouldn’t take that much longer and if she wasn’t there it wasn’t like the kids wouldn’t eat it. I headed to the grocery section and picked up a few things that were healthy and would last without being refrigerated.

As I carried my bags out to the van I had a silent conversation with Heavenly Father. “Here’s the deal,” I told Him, “If I see her I’ll stop and give the stuff to her, but if I don’t see her before I leave the parking lot then it’s just not meant to be.”

Feeling like we had come to an agreement, I hopped in the van and pulled around to the exit. She wasn’t there. Of course, I had to wait at the red light for a while. As I sat there I looked around and my eyes drifted to the Burger King on the side of the road. There, sitting in the warmth of the restaurant by the big glass window was the woman.

I had seen her. Before I left the parking lot. And of course, I was in the farthest left turn only lane (because it was closest to the median where I had seen her standing), with no way to switch lanes. I’d have to make the left turn drive down over the freeway – basically back to Hobby Lobby to turn around.

The light turned green and the silent conversation started.

“I have sick kids. I’ve been gone a long time. I only sort of saw her, she wasn’t where I could hand her the groceries.”

“But you saw her, you promised, turn around and go back.”

“I’m tired, I want to relax a moment before the school kids get home.” I think my list of pitiful excuses went on for a while.

“Dude,” my inner voice commanded, “why are you being so stubborn? Usually you have no problem with these moments.”

I shrugged to myself. “Just tired I guess. I seriously just want to put my feet up a moment.”

And then that sweet gentle chastising that can only come from a loving Heavenly Father. “So, you are anxious to go home to your family and relax? What of this woman who has no home and no place to just go and relax. How do you expect to feed my sheep if you aren’t willing to serve as the moments arrive.”

I turned into the Hobby Lobby and spun that van around like my tires were on fire. “Why did it take me so long to get my act together?” I questioned.

A sudden a thought popped into my head. “Put a pass-along card in the bag.” I almost laughed out loud. Of course! I slipped a card with a picture of Jesus Christ into the bag. “Maybe I just needed time to get around to getting that little card in the bag. If I had done it fast without the arguing, I probably would have forgotten, and maybe she needed to know that she was being watched over and loved by Christ and God.

“I get it now,” I whispered as I drove to the shopping center for the third time. I bit my lip when at first I didn’t see her outside or inside. But then I saw her admiring a couple’s adorable baby. I parked the car, grabbed the groceries and hurried inside.

I think I learned more and received more that day than the two bags of groceries I gave the woman. I learned even more the importance of listening and following the promptings and thoughts of kindness we have. I also was reminded that the adversary is unceasing in his efforts to get us to do what is opposite to God’s will and that we need to rise above these negative and selfish thoughts. I felt so much joy on the drive home and gratitude to God for giving me this opportunity to serve one of His children.

So, moral of the story?

Don’t argue when prompted to do a good deed.

And

No matter how great you think or feel your needs might be, there is  often someone whose needs are greater than your own.

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Holy Flying Chicken Chili, Batman!!!

James bounded in the door after his first day of school (he’s hit the big time – he’s in first grade!). Words bubbled out of his mouth faster than Niagra Falls over his amazing day. I grinned from ear to ear listening to him as he unpacked his backpack.

He got to his lunch and shot me a glance – the kind that hoped I would be mad – and said, “I didn’t eat all of my chicken chili.” He pulled out the blue-lidded silver thermos from his lunch bag. “I thought-” he paused to twist the lid and grunted, “I’d try to finish it now.”

“It probably isn’t any good now,” I said.

He shrugged and continued to grunt and twist at the lid. “I’ll at least open it to see.” After a few more moments of wrenching at the lid, he passed the container to me. “Can you do it?”

“Sure.” I nonchalantly gave the lid a twist, figuring anything a six-year-old had a hard time unscrewing would be a cinch for me. I twisted harder. I grabbed a towel and wrenched the lid again, hoping the towel would give me more traction. No matter what I tried the lid refused to budge. “Who screw this thing on, superman?” I asked.

James giggled. “No. I did.” He bulged his little six-year-old muscles. “I’m strong!”

“Yes, indeed you are.” I gave the lid a final attempt before staring at it in contempt. “Nothing doing, it’s not coming off today. Perhaps Dad can get it when he gets home tomorrow night.” I set it on the counter. “It probably wouldn’t have been any good to eat anyway, I’ll give you an apple.”

And with that the container was forgotten. It never occurred to me what might happen if I let white chicken chili (with BEANS) sit in an airtight container and ferment over night….

The alarm jerked me awake at 5:00 this morning and I prodded Dot into wakefulness. Running a little late (her alarm is set for 4:40), she managed to get everything done and my crazy morning began. I ran Dot to seminary, came home and made sure Em was awake. While she got ready for school, I made lunches. Then at 6:30, a little before Em was about ready to go out to catch the bus, I roused the boys and got them loaded into the van. Once Em was on her way, we sped over to the church to fetch Dot and then took her to highschool, returning home with just over an hour to get the boys ready to catch their bus.

We were half way through breakfast, when I ran upstairs for something. I heard a really loud pop and bang, and yelled something about not knocking the chairs over, while I searched my desk for the needed paper. Jacob appeared at my door gasping for breath after charging up the stairs.

“You know the white chicken chili James didn’t eat? It EXPLODED!!” He threw his hands in the air looking both delighted and panicked at the same time. “The lid made a hole in the ceiling – and it smells really bad.” This last statement came out nasally as he pinched his nose.

Feeling a bit wary (of the mess I’d have to clean up), slightly amused, and extremely curious I followed him down the stairs and into the kitchen to survey the damage.

“Holy Flying Chicken Chili, Batman!!” I exclaimed, my jaw dropping.

The smell of fermented beans and sour milk clung to the air. Bits and pieces of chili littered the counter and floor – sometimes nothing more than the bean skin was seen laying forlornly by itself, with the escaped bean smashed a short distance away. The lid had landed, broken, close to the dining room entrance. I gazed up at the ceiling.  A large clump of chili clung to the ceiling, dripping in great oozing drops, with a neat rectangular gash in it’s center from where the side of the lid had slammed into the ceiling. Had it been outside, it probably would have cleared the atmosphere. Clumps and gobs of chilie even slid morosely down the front of the fridge on the opposite side of the kitchen.

“Wow, impressive,” I managed to say before the chuckles began to hit. The boys staring at me in awed wonder – the little ones seemed rather terrified that something else might explode soon. I continued to laugh while I instructed them to fetch some supplies to start the clean up with.

I have a feeling I’ll be finding (and hopefully not smelling) bits and pieces of white chicken chili in random places for a long time to come, lol.

So, lesson of the day… if you have a thermos with chili in it that you can’t get the lid off – stow it in the fridge until the muscle arrives – unless, of course, you want the cool scientific experience. In that case, I’d stick it outside to avoid the mess (of course, with my luck it would indeed clear the atmosphere only to come back as a meteor and wipe out my house – I know, it’s impossible – but imagination is key here).

Water rockets have got nothing on me guys….  😀

DSC_1072DSC_1073 

(Just don’t let me near a pressure cooker…. If I can’t handle a thermos, I shudder to thing what I would do with one of those! lol)

* two updates since writing this post: 1 – when I walked back downstairs to get back to cleaning, I remembered my first thought on observing the mess the first time (after the holy flying chicken chile, Batman) – Dang! I missed it! (as in witnessing the actual event. 2- I was washing the dishes and couldn’t figure out what happened to the rest of the lid – I had only found the cap – the part that stick out and into the thermos to help create the seal was missing entirely. I finally found it… under the dining room table! lol!

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Here Comes the Sun

Well, the April 2014 Ensign is officially up on the lds.org website & that means you can read my story/article here:

Latter-day Saint Voices

It’s the last story in the section.

It’s interesting this was chosen to be published in April of all times (the editors had no idea of the significance of April, since I didn’t mention in the story or my letter any details of her death)  – a little hug from Heaven to help ease the ache that now accompanies this time of year.

In the past couple years I have noticed far more pink sunrises and sunsets than I ever have before. The whole family keeps an eye out for the beautiful pink crossing the sky like a whispered “I love you” from Lizy and Heavenly Father.

And the miracles. So many have filled our lives – filling our hearts with continued love, peace, and hope. Many of those miracles come from you – though you don’t know it – our dear friends & family who have showered us with prayer and love. It might not feel like a miracle to you as you kneel and remember us in our prayers, but believe me, the comfort and peace it brings into our lives is indeed miraculous. Thank you for loving and remembering us & our lizy. You have helped the sun rise on our sorrows time and time again.

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