Thursday, March 21, 2019

Life-lines


I know it has been a while since I last composed a blog post. Life seems to be a blur these days as we journey from one adventure to another. And everywhere we look, people are being stretched in a myriad of ways. There are so many trials and heartaches. The world does indeed seem to be in commotion and our hearts are being filled with fear, as the scriptures have predicted.

Despite all of that, there can be peace. It is found in the small and simple things we have been repeatedly asked to do. These things are so simple, we sometimes turn our backs to them, thinking there is no way we can find solace in what many consider to be old-fashioned nonsense. Many cling to scientific discoveries or worldly views, thinking that is where truth will be found. And yet, their hearts are still filled with a gnawing emptiness as they continue to turn away from the only source of comfort.

In this world, we all have to find our own way to comforting peace. Sadly, we sometimes don’t search for that path until our lives lie in ruins. When we find ourselves broken, overwhelmed, and discouraged, that is often when we realize that an important aspect is missing.

One of my grandfathers owned a dairy. He milked cows most of his adult life. My mother often relates how wonderful it was to walk out to the milking parlor where her father was sitting on a stool, milking one of his cows. In her tiny hand was a tin cup. She would hopefully hold out that cup, knowing her father would fill it for her. In that way, she gained desired nourishment, comfort, and joy.

There are several analogies we can create from that small and simple thing. The first one that comes to mind is that for my grandfather to be able to fill his daughter’s empty cup, he had to be steadfast and solid himself. If he hadn’t been anchored on a strong foundation, the cup would remain empty, and the life-giving substance would go to waste.

So we begin with the foundation: in this case a sturdy, 3-legged stool. A 2-legged stool is too wobbly—all three legs are very much needed for solid balance. To my way of thinking we all are in need of a sturdy, 3-legged foundation. To survive in today’s crazy world we need prayer, testimony, and faith. Those are the 3 legs that will hold us up, despite heart-rending trials.

I look back over my life and I know that whenever I have faced hard things, prayer has been a crucial life-line. I have endured numerous health glitches, some so scary I wondered if I would survive. My heart has been repeatedly shattered by horrific loss, and yet comfort has been attained. I have agonized over choices made by loved ones—but peace descends when I need it most. All of that has come through sincere prayer. The answers don’t always surface at once, but every prayer is heard, and eventually answered by a loving Father in heaven.

There is an argument that if you can’t see something, it doesn’t exist. Fortunately, we were blessed with more than one sense. My mother is losing her eyesight. She depends on her ability to hear, touch, and smell to orient herself. For her, prayer is a needed lifeline. It has held her together through countless trials.

I feel the same way. Prayer has guided my course through life and provided peace when I’ve needed it most. When we humble ourselves enough to truly talk to our Father in heaven, amazing things take place. I have seen too many miracles to ever doubt that prayer is real. Prayer is one leg of our sure foundation.

Testimony is another crucial leg of our foundation. Without it, we pretty much are blown about by whatever wind comes into our lives. When we sincerely crave to know what is true and what this life is all about, then we seek a genuine knowledge. It comes in a myriad of ways: experience, education, and what our heart tells us is right. I found it through savoring the scriptures. It doesn’t come through skimming through them—but through diligent study . . . and prayer. One leg helps to hold up another. To achieve the desired balance, we must rely on each leg of our stool.

The final leg: faith. We have to believe in what we come to know is truth. We have to push our way through darkened paths to find light and joy. It’s not easy. I have found myself broken on life’s path, overwhelmed by inner pain. I have gazed at the sky and seen only clouds—it’s easy to forget that beyond them lie the stars.

I have shared this experience before, but I feel impressed to share it again:

A few weeks ago, I had been feeling quite discouraged. I think we all experience times like that in our lives, times when we wonder why life has to be so challenging. I don't feel that way all of the time, but for some reason, at that particular instance, despair seemed to creep into my heart. One night when everyone else in my family had gone to bed, I wandered outside. Sometimes listening to the night sounds brings comfort and so I sat on the porch and listened for a bit. I remember silently praying, asking why I was feeling this way. The thought came to mind, "There is still beauty in the world." I agreed, but still wanted to know why things seemed so bleak. I had been having some challenging health problems and at that time, there were several trials taking place with some of my extended family members. As I wondered why everything had to be so hard, I stood and glanced up at the sky. It was one of those star-filled nights--the entire sky was lit up with stars. Again the thought came to mind, "There is still beauty in the world." As I gazed at the stars, I noticed that clouds were moving in. This is something that has probably occurred millions of times, but for once, I was watching as it happened. Within minutes, every star was covered. As I stared at the sky, I was so amazed by how quickly the clouds had moved in. Another thought came to mind, "Are the stars still there?" With that thought came the peace I had been seeking. Other thoughts came, "Is the Church still true? Does your Heavenly Father love you? Did your elder Brother lay His life down for you? Are all of these things true despite the discouragement, despite the challenges, the heartaches, the pains of life? Are the stars still there?"
The lesson I was taught that night has been such a comfort. Every time I start feeling a little down, it comes to mind: "Are the stars still there?"
To make a long story short, [I wrote] a song based on that theme . . . Here are the lyrics:

                                 Are The Stars Still There?
By: Cheri J. Crane

1st:
Dark were my thoughts--all around were storms of heartache and strife
All those tests that sometimes just go with life
Mountains that seemed too steep to climb.
I walked outside--to clear my head and ask my Father, "Why?"
My inner peace had dissolved for a time
Where was the faith that was mine?

Chorus:
Staring at the star-filled sky--my heart revealed its inner cry
"Father, if You're listening help me know the reason why."
A thousand tiny twinkling lights were covered, hidden from my sight
Grey clouds veiling light that once had shone so bright.
Darkness seemed to fill the night as every star was veiled from sight
Yet peace crept in my heart and comfort eased the black despair
As the question came, "My child, my child--Are the stars still there?"

2nd:
Now when dark thoughts come and some nights seem too long
I remember the words of this song
When everything seems to go wrong
The answer to my prayer--the night I struggled with despair
The night my Father heard my silent prayer
And reminded me the stars are always there.

Chorus:
Our Father's love is always there--through layers of grief and care
Hope is shining brightly through the clouds of dark despair
A thousand tiny twinkling lights--though covered, hidden from our sight
Grey clouds veiling light that once had shone so bright.
Though darkness seems to fill the night--And every star is veiled from sight
Peace and love seep through to ease the black despair--
Remember the question--"My child, are the stars still there?"

Faith, testimony, & prayer—these are the legs for our much-needed foundation. They are lifelines in today’s’ crazy world. For any who are struggling through life’s journey, these are the things that will help us survive. They will help us find a balance that is crucial. And once we establish our own balance, then we can help fill the cups that others hold out to us.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Piecing Life Together



Salu! Yes, I know, it has been a long time since I’ve attempted to compose a blog post. Life happened, and then happened some more. Part of the adventures were wonderful, like the birth of our youngest grandson 3 months ago. Some of the adventures were not so wonderful, and others tore at our hearts. In short—life picked up speed and dragged me along for the ride.

I did learn some things along the way: for example, it’s never good to tuck things away and tamp it all down inside. Yep, I’m one of those kind of people. Something happens, it rips my heart out, and I tend to tamp down the pain and move on. I’ve done this so often, you would think that I would realize that this is a really, really bad plan.

This tendency always ends in disaster. Instead of sorting through and dealing with a painful situation, I tuck things away until the dam finally bursts, and all of those emotions come pouring out despite a valiant effort to stifle the flood.  Good times.

Actually, it’s not . . . and it has taken me months to clean up the mess. Thankfully with our Father in heaven’s help, and the patient encouragement of a close friend, I was able to do just that. I will be eternally grateful for her willingness to wade in after me.

I tend to be quite independent. My parents told me that I came that way. I suspect that many of us are the same way. We do our best to tackle extremely difficult challenges on our own. It’s kind of a pride thing, which I understand isn’t a great attribute to have. Despite our stubbornness and determination to handle trials as best we can, the truth is, we were never meant to walk those difficult pathways alone. We have to learn that there are times when we need help—whether it’s as simple as praying for guidance, or accepting a hand that reaches down to pull us back onto the path.

I’ve looked back over the past few months and it has been a journey of healing. I think Someone decided that I had tamped down the emotions from a particular trial for far too long, and it was time to lance the wound. That pain came pouring out like puzzle pieces. I examined each one and with a friend’s help, was able to piece that picture back together.

The upside is that I’m feeling peace (for the most part—this is latter-day mode, after all. There are still a plethora of adventures taking place everywhere . . . but I digress) and I’m no longer feeling numb. I’m sure it’s all part of the grieving process we go through when facing a traumatic challenge. And because we’re all different, we heal at different times and in different ways.

For me, I had reached a point where I needed to clean up my “inner house.” Sadly, it took a tragic loss to break through the brick wall I had carefully constructed around my heart. But it needed to happen, and now I feel an inner strength that wasn’t there before. The scripture: “ . . . because thou has seen thy weakness thou shalt be made strong . . .” (Ether 12:37) has taken on a whole new meaning for me. So has the following poem that I composed in 1992:

Pieces of Life

Carefully the pieces are sorted

Some have edges that are easy to fit

Others seem cut

h

  a         z a r

    p h a         d

l

  y

Making it difficult to discover their destination

And yet . . .

They are all a part of the final picture

There is a purpose for the design

Patiently you continue

Until it becomes obvious

Why the pieces

Were given their assigned shapes

The completed picture testifies of their importance

Their absence leaves a void unfilled

Their presence lends a sense of unity

Stepping back . . .

We realize we’re ready

For the next challenge—

May we remember the lessons of the one before.

Cheri J. Crane

So the good news is, I’m back. (I guess we consider that good news.) ;) I’ve learned a lot the past few months and while it was not my idea of a fun time, I do see the wisdom in taking time to sort through the pieces of our lives when our mortal journey hits the fan. Life is so crazy/busy these days that sometimes we don’t realize how important that process is, especially when we’re dealing with heart wounds.

One last thought: our Savior truly does understand the pain we endure in this life. He knows what is the best thing to help us heal if we will only swallow our pride, and turn to Him. This holiday season, we tend to reflect more upon His life and all that He willingly did for us. We give gifts to each other to emulate the gifts given to the Savior upon His birth. What a wonderful thing if we will strive to give a gift to the Savior during this Christmas season. Whatever we give is strictly up to us—whether it’s a pledge to do better—be kinder—more forgiving—etc. I don’t think it matters as long we do so with real intent and do our best to pay tribute to His life and His willingness to sacrifice all things on our behalf.












Monday, August 6, 2018

A Time of the Triple T's



I know . . . it has been a while since I’ve composed a blog post. I apologize. As with many of you, my life has been a blur for months. It seems to keep picking up speed, and I find myself hanging on for the ride. Sometimes by my fingertips, but I am hanging on.

I remember hearing a seminary or religion teacher in college (BYU-Idaho/Ricks) state that in the latter days, life will be so crazy we won’t have time to dwell on all of the negative things taking place all around us. In the words of my sons when they were quite young: “Are we there yet?”

I am trying to remember that despite all of the turmoil, tribulation, and trials (Yes, it is a time of the triple T’s) there are good things taking place, as well. I have tried to pause for a moment each day to appreciate the beauty that exists in our world. I love nature (as is evident from some of the pictures I share) and I know this world was created for us by a loving Father. I’m sure He hopes that during difficult times, we will take a moment to reflect on how much He loves us, and find peace in His creations.

Myself, I am drawn to water. I’m sure that is due in part to the fact that I grew up around bodies of water. For nearly 9 years we lived on a small acreage that was across the road from Snake River. There were times when I would sit on a large rock and watch as the water hurried on its way. I noticed even then that I experienced a sense of peace as I sat and reflected on what was taking place in my life at that time.

In Ashton, my beloved hometown—the place where I attended high school—made eternal friendships—and gained a testimony, I found another place of peace. It’s known to most people as Mesa Falls. It has changed through the years. A wooden walkway now keeps everyone safe. My mother would probably cringe to know that on difficult days during my teenhood, I would often sit on a rock next to where the water plunges down below and ponder life’s mysteries. It was one of my refuges from the storms of my life at that time. I would sometimes stick my hand in the water and feel the powerful current as it pushed forward, despite the obstacles in its path. It gave me hope.

Here in Bear Lake, there are several places where I can go fill my spiritual bucket when it is beyond empty. I think we all need places of refuge in our lives, especially when life hits the fan, so to speak. The mountains, the forest, & obviously: the lake, have all provided peace when I’ve needed it the most.

Also, I always feel peace inside the temple. It doesn’t matter which temple—we do have a selection these days. Inside that sacred sanctuary I can push the world aside with all of its worries and cares, and take time to ponder what really matters.

My home is also a sanctuary of sorts. I love it when I can find a moment or two to quietly reflect on the challenges currently taking place. I think private meditation is crucial these days. I keep a favorite triple combination close at hand for those occasions. The scriptures have always provided comfort during difficult times, as well as personal prayer. These items are lifelines on this journey in mortal mode.

I will also be eternally grateful for dear friends who kindly help me sort through the puzzles life throws our way on occasion. We were never meant to wander through this life alone. For someone like me who tends to live by the two-year-old adage: “Do it myself!” it is a humbling experience to realize that is not always the best thing.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is during these turbulent latter days, it is so important to take the time to fill our spiritual buckets. Life happens, and to borrow a quote I recently shared during a talk I had to give in church not long ago:
“The arrival of a typhoon is no time to dust off the gift of the Holy Ghost and figure out how to use it . . . We need the Holy Spirit as our guide in calm waters so His voice will be unmistakable to us in the fiercest storm.” (“Take the Holy Spirit as Your Guide,” by Elder Larry Y. Wilson, May 2018 Ensign—pg.76)

Fierce storms come. I’ve lived through several in my life—and this current year is no exception. When our hearts are shredded, it is a difficult thing to find peace—to find the courage to keep putting one foot in front of the other as we make our way forward, past obstacles that often tear our hearts out. How grateful I am for the guidance that comes in many forms, and often from those around us who are walking a similar path.

The key is to never give up. Even on days when all seems lost. On those days especially, we need to hold on with everything we can as typhoon strength winds come into our lives. Eventually, those storms will pass and it is possible to pick up the pieces of our lives and continue on. It takes time, patience, and faith, but it can be done. And again, bless those who take the time to help when they see we are struggling. They are often the answer to our prayers, and instruments in the Lord’s hands when we need it most. And how wonderful it is, when we can return the favor.


Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Trying to Stay in the Boat



Greetings. Yes, I know, it has been a while. The past couple of months have been a blur. Among other things, I have done my best to adapt to being a seminary substitute teacher. I’m enjoying this opportunity to link with the valiant youth of our area, but was unprepared for the exhaustion that seems to go along with this type of teaching. I am also now serving in the Primary realm, a place that has changed greatly since my last experience in this territory. It has been 20+ years—time spent in YW, R.S., Sunday School, etc. so a bit of adjusting is taking place as I grapple with a new calling. There is nowhere I would rather be right now, but it is a learning process. One of these days I will get the hang of sharing time, etc.

A couple of recent losses have tugged at my heartstrings, and caused me to ponder items I thought I had safely tucked away. At one point, the proverbial dam burst and that always takes a while to rebuild. How grateful I am for those who helped me find the strength to do so.

We’ve also had some fun family moments that cheer the heart and renew important bonds. 

In short, life has happened. It’s happening to everyone. As I look around, I see that most are in the same boat—just paddling along, facing varied rapids and obstacles before calm water again appears. 

Years ago, a fun pastime was to float a nearby river. We would eagerly bring inner tubes, canoes, and in our case, a bright orange plastic boat that bobbed about on the flowing water. We usually wore life jackets as a safety precaution, and loved the excitement of this activity. We would start at one end of the river, and arrive at the other end in time for a hot dog fest. It was something we looked forward to each summer during my teenage years.

Then one day, that fun activity took a twist. Although the river we floated was fairly calm, there were a few rapids along the way that added to the thrill. Those rapids always managed to fling a bit of water inside our boat. Most times we would paddle over to the shore and drain out the water before continuing along our way. On the day in question, two of my younger siblings were planning on participating in an annual floating activity with our ward. As luck would have it, I had to work that day at a local drive-in, so I wasn’t there for this adventure.

My brother, and one of his friends, as well as one of our sisters loaded up inside the hard-to-miss bright orange boat and headed off down the river. All went well until they reached the rapids. Seeking more excitement, my brother’s friend steered the boat into a large rock, thinking it would add to the fun if they bounced off that solid form. I was later told that though this experience seemed to take place in slow motion, it occurred in a matter of seconds. My brother and sister, knowing the danger, tried to discourage this young man from paddling into that rock, but he was a bit stubborn and though my brother tried to steer away from what he knew to be disaster, his friend still managed to maneuver the boat into the rock. 

Disaster did indeed take place. The boat hit harder than my brother’s friend intended. It smashed into that rock, and the boat capsized. I’m not sure any of them were wearing life jackets. My brother said later that when the boat tipped over and they all plunged into the icy river, it was all he could do to reach the surface of the river. Then he had a choice to make: save the paddle, or go after our sister. Luckily, he made the right decision, and saved our sister. He dove in and helped her reach the surface. The three of them then hung onto the boat as it bounced wildly along the rapids, unable to do much about their predicament until they reached calmer water.

Thankfully, the only loss that day involved the two paddles. That experience opened everyone’s eyes to how quickly a disaster could take place, and the wisdom of steering clear of obstacles that could sink the boat.

There are obviously a ton of analogies that could be drawn from that experience. I will only make a couple. We are all floating along the river of life. We do our best to remain inside our boats, knowing these are safe places. However, there are times when maybe even despite our best efforts, we capsize, and then must make decisions regarding survival, and what to save, and what to let go.

I’ve let some things go the past couple of months, as I’ve done my best to keep my nose above water. And now that I’m reaching calmer water, I’m flipping the boat over, emptying the water, and attempting to climb aboard for the continued journey. 

We’ve been cautioned by our leaders in recent times to stay inside the boat. That is indeed sound advice, and something I will strive to do in the days ahead. But it is reassuring to know that if the worst happens and the boat capsizes, there is always hope. How grateful I am for the loving support of our Savior who offers safety, peace, and healing, enough to help us survive the turbulent waters of this mortal existence.


Thursday, March 29, 2018

Words Matter (And Feathers Are Messy)


There are many critics in today’s world. Some even hold the esteemed position of being a professional reviewer. These people let us know what is or isn’t acceptable, delicious, or appealing, whether it’s art, movies, books, food, etc. 

And in this day and age of social media, most of us at one time or another have posted a viewpoint concerning something we feel strongly about. I do this quite often in the form of a blog post. I begin pondering something that is bothering me, or items on the other end of the scale that I consider important or worth touting, and before long, I’m typing away, expressing my opinion.

Bottom line, that’s all any critic is doing: expressing their opinion. I may or may not agree with what is being raked over the coals, that is my choice. Their opinions are based on their experience or lack thereof, and so are mine. 

Here’s what I don’t like: the tendency to believe whatever is shared, whether it’s a critique of a fancy restaurant, a movie or book review, or local gossip. What if the restaurant in question is having a bad day when the critic arrives to sample? What if normally, that restaurant serves amazing food, but the critic arrives the one time the soup is scorched, or a waitress trips after working a double-shift and happens to spill everything on a tray that is in reality, much too heavy for one person to carry. The headlines the next day read: “Terrible food and service. Avoid this eatery!” And the damage is done. Because of what one person has said, others believe the review, and suddenly, a really good restaurant is going out of business because of an opinion.

We’ve all heard the analogy of the blind men who are all trying to describe an elephant. Every person comes up with a different description, based on the limited experience they have had with the subject matter. To my way of thinking, this applies to life in general. We all bring differing opinions and experiences to the table, and then insist that everyone else needs to believe what we have to say about things. Perhaps instead, we need to refrain from judging, and look for the good in each situation.

When my mother was a young teen, she was asked to prepare a talk for church based on the negative effects of gossip. She was quite close to her father, and one day while they were outside doing chores (she grew up on a Wyoming ranch) she spoke with him about this talk she had to give in church that Sunday. He gave her an idea to use as an object lesson, and she eagerly agreed.

The day for the talk finally arrived. Clutching a paper bag, my mother stood at the pulpit and declared how harmful gossip could be. She then opened the paper bag, and shook it out into the chapel. It was full of the feathers she had gathered that week, and they went everywhere throughout the large room. She then made a profound analogy, declaring that sharing gossip was like emptying a bag of feathers into a room—there was no way you could possibly gather up what had been scattered in all directions. 

It was a very effective object lesson, but my grandmother was appalled. And my mother spent the rest of the day cleaning up the feather mess, aided by her father.

I’ve reflected on that story quite often. It usually makes me smile—my grandfather possessed a great sense of humor, and I’ll bet he absolutely loved it when my mother released the contents of her paper bag. Even though it proved to be a messy adventure, an important point was made: when we share a juicy tidbit that we’ve learned, overheard, misinterpreted, etc. with someone else, we have no control over how far or wide that tidbit will travel. And details are usually added along the way that make it even more interesting. It’s called human nature.

How wonderful it would be if we refrained from sharing negative items. There is an argument that criticism makes us strive for perfection. To my way of thinking, most of the time, criticism actually has the opposite effect. How many times have we been personally deflated by a negative opinion? 

Years ago, I was asked to perform on a talent show that featured teens from the area. The problem was, it was to take place the same night as a high school girls’ basketball game. Since I was a member of said team, my attendance was mandatory at that event. I figured I could still make it on time to perform at the talent show, and I agreed to try. 

It ended up being a very intense game and I played during a goodly portion of it. I quickly showered, changed, and my parents drove me across town for the talent show. I arrived minutes before I was supposed to perform. I had been asked to do a song that I had written, and I accompanied myself on the guitar. The problem was, I was exhausted, out of breath, and hadn’t had a chance to warm up my vocal chords. I may have also been a little hoarse from cheering for our team here and there. Just sayin’. Anyway, when it was time for my number, I walked out onto the stage and did the best that I could under the circumstances. I knew it wasn’t my finest performance, but I really tried. 

When the show was over and I picked up my guitar case to leave, someone I considered to be a good friend marched up to me and said: “I don’t know why you think you can sing! That was awful!” Then she whirled around and left. I was crushed. In that moment, I silently vowed that I would never sing again.

Fortunately, one of my YW leaders had also been the crowd that night. She had overheard the snide remark that had been made, and she led me to a private corner of the room where we had a little chat. Her soothing words more than made up for the caustic criticism that had been cast my way. She made me promise that I would not turn my back on a talent she encouraged me to pursue, and she pointed out that my so-called friend, was being critical because of jealousy. This girl also did a bit of singing, and she had not been asked to perform on that particular show. 

I’ve pondered that experience quite often. The criticism, which may or may not have been deserved, was so devastating—it nearly discouraged me from ever trying something like that again. It was only because of the positive comments from my YW leader that I pushed past that very bad night. And a couple of years later, I was asked to write and perform a song the night of our high school graduation. During my college years, I was asked to write and perform songs for various occasions, including the theme song for a formal dance, a song for the opening assembly that welcomed incoming freshmen, etc. In short, positive feedback encouraged me to continue forward, developing a talent that was almost stifled. 

Moral of the story: words matter. Use them carefully. I truly think it’s the bridge builders who make the most difference in a world that is focused on tearing things down.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Building Blocks



It has been my observation that things of worth begin with a solid foundation. The great structures of the world demonstrate the importance of this truth. If the foundation is rock solid, then no matter what storm may erupt to batter and pummel, this structure remains standing, firm, solid, undefeated. 

As a child, I quickly caught on while playing with blocks, plastic bricks, etc. that the foundation was the most important part of whatever it was I was trying to construct. And sometimes, when what I was building didn’t turn out as planned, it was sometimes necessary to tear things back down to that foundation and start again.

You can probably guess where this particular blog post is going. Constructing a solid foundation is crucial in this life. It is necessary to have a strong sense of who we are, why we’re here, and where we’re going to survive when the storms of life come crashing down upon us. 

“What storms?” some of you may ask. Trust me, they come. They sometimes come in the form of physical health problems. At times they surface with the loss of a loved one. Other sources: financial difficulties, emotional and mental challenges, and in many instances, they appear at the hands of someone else.

Regardless of how they arrive in our lives, at one time or another, we will all face trials of some nature. As I’ve mentioned before in other blog posts, that is part of why we’re here. Tribulations often reveal what we’re made of. However, it can be a difficult thing to remember that we each possess a spark of divinity when our hearts are shattered and all seems lost. 

For the record, we are indeed the spirit sons and daughters of a loving Heavenly Father who wants us to succeed in this mortal life. He wants us to learn and grow and to appreciate the importance of faith, hope, and charity. Both He and our Elder Brother, Jesus Christ, understand how difficult life can be. Both are there for us if we will only trust in Them and ask Them for help.

I began that arduous journey at the age of 15. At that time in my life I was questioning everything. Life wasn’t great at home, compliments of my dad’s deteriorating physical and mental health. It was often a great challenge for me to attend church meetings because of this. My biggest arguments with my father were over whether or not I was going to attend church on Sunday, or mutual on Tuesday nights. Though it wasn’t always easy for me to be there, I knew I was learning important doctrine that would affect me the rest of my life. I didn’t realize it at the time, but these teachings became crucial building blocks for the testimony I would strive to gain later that same year.

Maybe because I had to fight so hard to secure the testimony that I desired, I have always treasured it. It came during a time when everything around me seemed to crumble in a painful fashion. 

One example: for the first time ever, my father gathered my siblings and I together for a unique family prayer. My maternal grandmother was fighting for her life in a far away hospital and things weren’t looking good. So we knelt together in prayer and my father begged for her life to be spared. When it wasn’t, he told me that prayers weren’t answered. It was a painful, confusing time. 

Shortly after this event, I began my spiritual quest in earnest. I needed to know for myself what was true, and what was not. I remember attending a testimony meeting one night (back then, Sacrament meeting was held on Sunday night) and feeling like my heart was on fire when a girl in our ward who was a few years older than me, bravely shared her testimony. Her words ignited a burning desire within me to know for myself the truth of what she had shared. 

It would take months for me to gain this knowledge. And it required a tremendous effort on my part. When I asked a close friend how to begin this process, she assured that I would receive the answers I was seeking if I would sincerely read and study the Book of Mormon, and then pray about it. I remember thinking, “Could it be that simple?” It wasn’t.

As I have shared before, that year became a year of challenges. Trials rose before me that threatened my tender heart and physical well-being. I will just state for the record that the adversary will not stand idly by when good things are about to take place. He hits below the belt whenever possible to discourage us and to fill us with doubt and despair.

What I learned through that painful process was that if we will persevere, and rise above whatever obstacles may come our way, we can secure the knowledge that we desire.

I will never forget the strong witness that burned inside my heart the night my testimony finally surfaced. It took place at a testimony meeting held at a special youth conference in West Yellowstone. The youth of three stakes had been gathered together for this event. And after my year of trials that had nearly torn me apart, it provided the healing balm I desperately needed. A calming peace filled me as I stood and for the first time in my life, shared what was in my heart. I felt the truthfulness of every word as I stated that I knew I was a daughter of God, that the gospel of Jesus Christ was true, that the LDS Church was true, and the Book of Mormon was true. These items burned within, and later that same night, I was filled with a sense of supreme joy that I had never experienced before. 

Those were my building blocks. I used them to construct a sense of who I was, why I was here, and where I was going. They have influenced my life repeatedly and given me hope when all seemed lost.

The trials in my life didn’t stop after I gained that all-important testimony. They have continued in a myriad of different ways. I call them character-building moments. When they arrive, I still sometimes throw myself, but when the dust settles, I reflect upon what I know to be true, and strive to conduct myself accordingly. It isn’t always easy—again, things of worth never are. But I can testify that it is possible to find peace, hope, and joy when we push past the pain and allow ourselves to feel what is true.