Tag: trials

Blessings

Recently on pandora I came across my new favorite song.  Its written by a singer Laura Story who is a grammy nominated christian contemporary singer.   She describes writing the song:

“Blessings is just a bunch of songs about worshiping when life is hard”. Her husband Martin Elvington was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and she wondered “Why didn’t you just fix it, God? You’re all powerful and all loving… just fix it.” Later after mentioning her desire to return back to normal, her sister said “You know, I think the detour is actually the road.” She realized that “Spending time with [husband] Martin obviously makes me happy, but it makes me a better person. That’s the blessing of it”

Why didn’t you just fix it, God?  Why does it seem hard to get an answer when I’m trying?  Why is the answer no when I want it so bad?  Where are you?  All of those questions are felt by every believer from time to time.  I’ve even known people who let these questions take away the faith they do have.  Can’t they see that God does not weak Saints?  He wants us to be stronger than the greatest trials, even cancer in the case of Laura.

Here are the lyrics.  I love it so much:

We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
And all the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

‘Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love
As if every promise from Your word is not enough
And all the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we’d have faith to believe

‘Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not,
This is not our home
It’s not our home

‘Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near

What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise

I certainly haven’t experienced the trials of some but the one’s I’ve had were still hard for me.  I love the line ‘what if the greatest disappointments or the aching of this life is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy’.  I get choked up a little when I sing that line.  The aching of this life is to reveal a greater thirst for everlasting glory . How beautiful is that?

I also love “When friends betray us. When darkness seems to win. We know that pain reminds this heart. That this is not, This is not our home It’s not our home”   Who has not felt betrayed and darkness seeming to win?  The pain does remind us that this is not our home, that God wants us to come back to him.  He loves us more than we will ever know.  Enough to give us ‘a thousand sleepless nights’.   He doesn’t want us to believe only when it is convenient.  He wants us to believe when it is hard.  That’s why faith is so powerful.

I love CS Lewis’ take on this concept “God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn’t. In this trial He makes us occupy the dock, the witness box, and the bench all at once. He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize the fact was to knock it down.”

I just wish everyone could believe and get through the tough times.  It’s so worth it.

Anyway, I don’t wish to preach to you but I just love this song.  I made a weak attempt to sing it.  Here you go.

https://smilingldsgirl.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/2013-07-17-12_35_41.mp3

Here is the real deal.  Laura Story Blessings

Not Smiling All the Time

Sometimes I’ve wondered if I am doing myself a disservice by declaring myself as a ‘smiling lds girl’. Some who do not know me very well think I am perpetually cheerful but the truth is much more complicated.

The germ of the name started when I set up an email after my mission.  I was on such a high then that I really was smiling all the time.  I felt like nothing could be harder, nothing more intense than my mission, and I had done it, done it for God.  In many ways I felt invisible.

But such bubbles are made to be burst and they sure were.  It took just 2 years to get to one of the lowest times of my life.  I’ve talked about it many times but in 2007 I left a job that was like a black cloud in my life.  The details don’t really matter. All that matters is I was in a low spot and I had the courage to claw myself out of it.

With a renewed vision of my potential for happiness a smile was back on my face.  All of the sudden the moniker of ‘smiling lds girl’ seemed appropriate.  I also had a bit of time and decided to join the blogging world and gave it my email name smilingldsgirl.  My first entry was in May of 2008. The freedom of Joblessness.  Back then I said:

“my first foray into the world of blogging…It is hard to describe my last 6 months but let me just say that I am in the job hunt and I couldn’t be happier. I honestly think I will be a bit sad when I have to go back into the work force. There is something wonderful about living my life the way I want to without regards to supervisors, bosses or routines. I have always been a big one for planning but after a bit of a breakdown last year I needed a change more than anything.”

It was so strange because in the eyes of most people my situation might have appeared quite pitiable (no job, no man, overweight, etc) but I was happy as can be.  I knew that I had done what God wanted me to do.  In many ways it was the same feeling I felt after my mission.  I had survived and new adventures awaited me.

So I was smiling again.

I had a period of peace and then in 2010 the crazy health challenges started and really I spent a lot of the next 2 years surviving again.  I don’t mean to seem ungrateful because I have been incredibly blessed during this time but let’s just say it was harder to smile for a little while.   It was rough and I remember going to Hawaii and just thinking ‘ why can’t I be this happy all the time?’.  But I kept pressing forward and smiling in spite of it all.

Then I found open water swimming and boxing and started smiling again.  Now I can hardly envision my life without it.  What did I do with all my time before?  It takes up so much of my time and yet I do most everything (with the exception of grad school) I did before. I wish that everyone could feel the way I feel when I’m in the water.  It is joy.  It is smiling.

Honestly it makes me a little nervous because I feel like I’m smiling again.  What does God have in store for me? I am certainly going to enjoy every season of joy I get and try to store it up for the testing that will inevitably come my way.

I suppose I had my mind on this because I am thinking of buying/building a house.  It is overwhelming and I can’t help but feel it will make my life more complicated.  It’s just one of those seminal moments of life so it seems appropriate to feel a bit introspective.  I never thought I would buy a house by myself. It makes me excited and nervous for the future.  Can I do it?  Will I keep smiling?

The answer is yes, but it will be interrupted by periods of tears; and, I believe that is how God wants it.  If we think about Jesus and His life He was not always smiling.  He wept with his followers.  He mourned with those that mourned and comforted those that stood in need of comfort.  He even got angry on occasion when it was appropriate.

We are told to have a broken heart and contrite spirit.  I’ve had broken hearts in my life and each time I have come out of it smiling because I learned in those crucible experiences that God loved me.  That is why you need a broken heart and a contrite spirit because you simply need Him more in those moments than ever before.

So in the end, I am smiling deep down inside even in the tender moments because I know God is turning me into what He knows I can be.

Thank you to everyone who has loved me in the low times. Kept me smiling. 🙂

Heaven Is Here by Stephanie Nielsen

Today I was feeling a bit burned out from a few tough months (2012 has proven to be a toughee).  Sometimes I just feel exhausted from life, emotionally, physically drained.  Preparing for my race is awesome but also pretty tiring.  I know it will all be worth it when I cross that finish line but right now it feels like I’m never going to be ready.  Anyway, there has been a mix of things that have just left me tuckered out! (On the plus side my pain has reduced and my thyroid meds have definitely been helping, so that’s great. I have many blessings, too many to name but I still feel wrung out and tired. Do you understand?)

Anyway, I decided to post this review for this book that has inspired me.  On the plane I had a woman who refused to sit next to me because of my weight.  I couldn’t believe that someone wouldn’t want to sit next to me when I don’t even need an extender.  Combined with everything else I was dealing with it really made me feel down.

I was so glad I brought this book and I devoured it in 2 days.  As small as my challenges are I feel like if Stephanie can conquer hers with such an awesome attitude than I can figure out my little one’s.  She is my new hero. 🙂

And hurray they had a new baby!  Miracles happen.  http://nieniedialogues.com/

Heaven Is Here: An incredible story of hope, triumph, and everyday joy by Stephanie Nielson

My rHeaven Is Here: An incredible story of hope, triumph, and everyday joyating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m not even kidding may be my favorite book I’ve ever read. It was so moving. Stephanie and Christian are so amazing. Their love is inspiring. Stephanie’s story is amazing. To think of not wanting to look in a mirror for months and to have a child not recognize you as their mother. Ah, it was heart breaking but Stephanie’s faith is so profound. It is real and she has conflict and confusion.
I can’t imagine anyone, even an atheist not be inspired by the love of family and the courage of a human being with insane odds.
I think of my little wounds (and recently I have felt wounded) and it seems so small but knowing Stephanie could find strength to overcome such big things makes me feel like I can overcome the little wounds I have.
Also, never have I been more proud to be a Utahn, a Mormon and never has hiking the Y been more thrilling!
Read this book!

View all my reviews

Her story is just so amazing.  I’m blown away by her courage and beauty.

Looking Back

So life has been a bit challenging for me lately.  Healthwise, painwise and otherwise.  I just spent most of my day today getting blood drawn and xrays done to try and determine why I am still having so much pain in my ribcage area.  Plus, there is the issue of my looming surgery on my eye and everything else.

I have decided all of the stresses in my life are out of my control.  The only thing I can control is my response.  Working on that.

I started to think about my life and particularly my teen years.  I’ve mentioned those times many times on this blog.  They were time I relate too because in like your 30s, your teens don’t have a specific job to do but get older.  Both times have brought significant health and family challenges and been introspective.

Sometimes I bet you wonder- was the teen Rachel really the girl she describes- itching to be independent and free, insecure and confident at the same time?  I was just reading over my high school journal and if anything I’ve toned it down a notch.  I was a great person!  I really believed in things and I wanted so much out of myself.  I still do. Here are some highlights:

“I wish I was more forthright.  Oh well! That’s something I can work on”  October 19,1998.  (I think I’ve worked that one out- what do you think? 🙂 )

“I love late night chats with Mom and Meg.  We talked about high school and the kids we knew with problems and why we were different.”  October 22, 1998.  (Good parenting in my book!)

“I have been accepted.  I am so excited! I started to scream and weep when I read the exciting first words ‘we are delighted to inform you…’  I have never been so thrilled, relieved and satisfied, at the same time.  For once in my life all my hard work has paid off.  I was always somehow disappointed but this time I was not to be thwarted!” Feb 16, 1999

“Maybe my brother and sister are right.  Maybe different is better.  It certainly is far less stressful…” March 1, 1999

“I’m just ready to go.  I’m sick of waiting around.  I’m ready to be on my own away from my family.  I love my family but I just want to be able to control my own life and do what I want to do when I want to do it.  I’m sick of always being tied down by little kids…” March 8, 1999

“I feel worn out and yet there is still so much to be done that I do not feel justified in my fatigue…” March 20, 1999

“I was once asked in class if I could meet anyone who would it be? My answer was decidedly sure. I’d meet Jesus.  There is no one who has done more for me and for all mankind and I am so thankful” April 2, 1999

“Today marks under one month until I go away to school.  I am so excited.  Finally my dream is coming true. Finally I have achieved something in my life that I really wanted. I never thought I would be able to go to BYU.  I always thought I was too stupid for that.  But surprise, I’m not.” May 21, 1999 (You know Sue on the Middle?  That was totally me.  I never made anything I tried out for until BYU).

“I am grateful for My Savior and the sacrifice He made for me.  I am thankful that he was born on Christmas morning with the sole purpose to save my soul.  Christ is the light and moral compass of my life and I love Him with all my heart.  I pray that I will always look to Him for everything.” December 25, 1999

“I hope when I’m reading this 30 years from now I will be able to say ‘Rachel goes into any situation undaunted and unafraid of the unpaved way that lies before her”  (Still got like 16 years to work on that)

More quotes to come but got to work tonight!

Does the Journey Seem Long?

Today I must admit I had a meltdown at the gym.  I was exercising on 4 hours of sleep and for some reason the weight of 2 years of efforts felt heavy on my shoulders. All of the trials of the last year hit me and I started to cry.  We were actually just talking about a Christmas party tonight and trying to figure out food strategy when it all hit me- all the difficulties, all the pain, all the moments of denial. If I’m honest with myself I am not physically where I thought I’d be at the end of 2 years of training.  My body takes it’s sweet-sweet time changing; however, I have done all I can do.

As I was tearing up a question came into my mind- Does the Journey Seem Long?  Yes, it does!  It’s a great journey but sometimes it does seem long.  Driving home I realized this question is the beginning to a hymn I love.  I started to sing it and felt immediate comfort.  I think it was one of those tender mercies from the Lord.  The fact that I would think of that song at that moment is one more example that Jesus Christ loves me intimately and He wants to help me with my journey.  I’m so grateful for that.  It’s beyond words.

Thank you also to my trainer  Michele who has been there to strengthen me physically, spiritually and emotionally.  She knows when to get a box of tissues and when to give a hug.  I’m so blessed by the tender mercies of the Lord.

1. Does the journey seem long,
The path rugged and steep?
Are there briars and thorns on the way?
Do sharp stones cut your feet
As you struggle to rise
To the heights thru the heat of the day?

2. Is your heart faint and sad,
Your soul weary within,
As you toil ’neath your burden of care?
Does the load heavy seem
You are forced now to lift?
Is there no one your burden to share?

3. Let your heart be not faint
Now the journey’s begun;
There is One who still beckons to you.
So look upward in joy
And take hold of his hand;
He will lead you to heights that are new–

4. A land holy and pure,
Where all trouble doth end,
And your life shall be free from all sin,
Where no tears shall be shed,
For no sorrows remain.
Take his hand and with him enter in.

Back to Being Hard-Core

In a few minutes I will be heading to the gym to meet with my trainer.  Monday I did my first full, intense work out since my accident. I was nervous that it would be too difficult for me or that I would push myself too hard; however, to my great relief I did pretty well.  I got 25 minutes of exercise on the elliptical and did a full weight routine twice!

The more I learn about my body, the more I realize how stubborn it is.  I took 2 weeks off with my injury (and I was still dieting during this time) and I gained 5 lbs!  Now I know that if I am not hard-core I will stop losing and start gaining.  It’s just the way my body is! I honestly envy those that can tacitly exercise, here and there, a little each week, and stay in shape.  I just can’t do it and expect to not gain.

I’m so grateful I have an awesome trainer who pushes me and helps me to know how far to take things with this injury.  I have complete confidence and respect for her and I feel like she is a blessing from God in my life. I could not do this on my own- I wouldn’t know how to do this on my own.

It makes me wonder- why does this have to be so difficult?  What is it about this particular trial that Heavenly Father wants me to experience? What am I supposed to learn?  I honestly don’t know all the answers to these questions, but I’ve picked  up a few moments of inspiration along the way- I think life is best lived hard-core.  What I mean is that a lazy life is not good for much. Human nature is weak (particularly my human nature) and sometimes life has to be difficult or we won’t learn anything. How easy is it to forget prayer, forget scripture study, forget God?  It is the struggles that make us turn to Him and become fiercely devoted to Him.

It’s like Elder Holland says “salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy. We are The Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, and He is our Great Eternal Head. How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him?” (Missionary Work and the Atonement Ensign, Mar 2001)

I can’t say it any better than that.  How can I expect it to not be hard-core when it was definitely infinitely more hard-core for Christ?  For whatever reason this is the trial that will help me to be ‘perfected in Christ’ (Colossians 1:28).  I know I can do it! I know my Lord is cheering me on and has a purpose for every ache and pain.  As the scripture says “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible” (Mathew 19:26)

Now I’m off to exercise!  Wish me luck and thank you for the encouragement and prayers.  I have felt their power permeate my life, helping me heal quickly. God bless you all!

 

A little joke to lighten the mood 🙂

 

 

The Pioneering Spirit

Today I was looking through my stationery collection (yes I have a stationery collection that craves a pen pal) when I saw my Minerva Teichert note cards I bought several years ago at the BYU Museum of Art.  Minerva was an artist that reached her prime in the 1930s in Utah.  She is primarily known within the Mormon community but she deserves a wider audience.  Her palate is unique and relaxing- using mostly pastel colors.   Some of my favorite of her paintings are:

Don’t you think these paintings are beautiful? I actually have the Martha and Mary one (the middle one) framed in my dining room.  Seeing that painting reminds me to take a second and “choose the better part.”

Anyway, today I was looking through my note cards and one of Teicherts painting called Zion Ho! stood out to me.  It is a painting of a pioneer woman raising her hands to the heavens as she pushes her hand cart through a mountain valley.  I can only imagine that she is saying “Yes! I did it! Another mountain done!”

I’ve always looked at the pioneers and thought “I could never do that.”  I am so not a hiker/camper.  My survival skills are next to nothing and I know I would be a complainer.  (I’d drive everyone crazy.)  That said- when I looked at this painting I felt a moment of connection with the woman.  Right now I am fighting the battle of my life.  I don’t know why I’ve been given this trial or why it has to be so hard but I suppose valiant saints of any era have not known the answers to those questions.  As I looked at her I felt a comfort almost speaking from her saying “you can do it! It is hard and scary!  Keep going! We set the path for you now run on it!”

The pioneer women didn’t know why they were persecuted, kicked out of their country, forced to travel thousands of miles across a snowy wilderness, to find a home in a salt-lake’d desert surrounded by ominous mountains.  They must have had moments of discouragement and frustration.  I wish I could have heard those conversations. Can you imagine how the women must have comforted each other?  I actually can because I think of the comfort and support given to me with my trial.

I know my trials are light in comparison to the deep suffering of the Pioneers  but their legacy of thriving through trials makes me want to push harder until I conquer.  It’s almost like a  “fellowship of sufferings” (Philipians  3:10).  The strength of the pioneer women strengthen me, and I in-turn strengthen others.  Our various trials may be different but the experience of suffering is the same.

Looking at the painting I felt the sufferings of the woman but also the exclamation of victory.  I wanted to go up and hug her but sadly it is a painting!  Still, the moment of connection reminded me that many have faced difficult trials that never seemed to end, yet they persevered with faith. I know if they could do it then, I can do it now. Zion Ho!