Lost and Found

Do you ever look back on your life and wish you could wipe someone or something out of it completely?

Sometimes I think I want to do that, but then I remember about polishing stones, and I realize that all things really do come together for our good.

In the last two years, I’ve dealt with more heartbreak than I can explain. Some of it was because of mistakes I made. Some of it  was due to mistakes other people had made.

It seems like my world came crashing down around the time that Jared came home from his mission. That was such a difficult time. It was the first time I realized how much our actions can make in impact in other peoples’ lives. There was so much pain and conflict that surrounded that whole ordeal, and when I read The Miracle of Forgiveness as a part of my repentance process, I finally understood how selfish sin is. Not only are we putting other things before God, but we are putting ourselves before God. I had never really looked at it that way before. I remember how much it seemed that everybody hated me. I know now that a lot of that was in my mind, but at the same time, there was a lot of judgement passed and relationships were broken. It may have been true, but it was done in a hurtful way that made it hard to see that there would ever be a time where I wouldn’t be seen as a terrible person.

But I have such a great understanding and appreciation for the Atonement of my Savior, and while I know there would have been better ways to have learned it, I am grateful that I learned it despite the trial and the heartache that I caused for myself, for Jared, and for the people close to us. The Atonement is a living, breathing thing, and it’s there for us to use. If you desire to feel a complete change in your heart, the Atonement is the only way to get there. Regardless of your religion or outlook, there is so much peace that can come from realizing what you’ve done wrong, asking for forgiveness, forgiving yourself, and choosing to do all that you can to fix what you’ve done, and then changing yourself completely so it can no longer have control over you. And it comes only with time, effort, humility, complete truthfulness, and above all, a willingness to change. What a blessing this change was for me in my life! I didn’t realize how badly I needed it, and now I realize how I couldn’t live without it.

The next year had its ups and downs. Jared couldn’t figure out what to do with his life, and for some reason, he came to me to try to find a path to follow. Prayerfully, and with careful consideration of what myself and his family members had told him, one day he just seemed to know what to do. He was getting ready to start school, and he surprised me (for the most part) with a proposal early on in the year. I won’t say we didn’t have any support, but I will say that the reactions we received were not exactly what we expected. It was tough to deal with so many people who felt like we wouldn’t make it, all while trying to figure out how we would make it. There were so many times I broke down  crying because it felt like all anyone did was tell us it couldn’t happen rather than offering help or advice.

Just when I was sure we weren’t going to be able to get married, we found an apartment in our price range at a good location. At this point, we decided we would make it no matter what anyone said…and it seemed that almost as soon as we made that choice, everyone else seemed to truly be happy for us. I think that it wasn’t the approval of people that was the problem, it was our lack of confidence in ourselves and the Lord. I believe that people were generally happy for us, but it wasn’t until we completely left it up to the Lord that everything seemed to make sense.

Jared was doing well in school (and continues to do well), I was making just enough money to see us through, and things were going great.

But then everything seemed to crash again. It seems like every time we find our answers, we get tested in some other way.

My sister, who had been battling her own problems both in life and in health for as long as I can remember, passed away very suddenly and without warning. All the time we had spent talking over decorating for my wedding and all the effort she put into helping me in my life was gone, and there was nothing I could do to get it back. I was faced with the reality of how quickly we can lose someone we love as I watched my estranged sister struggling with the death of LaDawn. She had nobody in our family to turn to because she had completely walled herself off to us. And to make matters worse, things at home began to fall apart, too.

Everywhere I stepped, something was breaking, and it felt like everyone just needed a huge time out. The fighting, the anger, the frustration, the hatred, it all came out in the most poisonous ways. This just happened to be the straw that broke the camel’s back in the shaky relationship between my parents. I don’t want to point fingers or blame, but I will say there was a lot of selfishness going on, and also a lot of misunderstanding and a lack of compassion.

So, I only had going to the Temple to look forward to, and I found this a daunting task. I could feel so many forces trying to stop me, and it became difficult to focus on anything. The easiest thing to do was sleep because I was safe there.

But the day came. And some of the people I love the most were there for me that day. There was only a week left until the wedding day, and I felt that I had finally found some solid ground to stand on. I am so grateful for the Temple, and so grateful for the hard work that Jared and I both did to make sure that we got there. It wasn’t easy, and everywhere it seemed that there was so much against us, but we made it. And we’re still making it.

I don’t write this down so much to complain. I don’t write it down because I regret any of it. I write it down because I can see within the words of the story, intertwined between lines of hurt and frustration, a story of hope and growth. I can look back at the woman I was, see myself now, and evaluate how much has happened and how it has changed me and how it continues to change me. I’d like to think that my priorities are much better now, but only time will tell.

I can only hope that somewhere, sometime, someone will read this, and they will understand that there is always hope. We find hope in unexpected places, and sometimes, it’s buried under whatever ails us: whether that is addiction, pain, frustration, sorrow or any other array of emotions or behaviors that cause us to get off track in our lives, if we but trust in the Lord, and lean not unto our own understanding, He will illuminate the path.  We will find a light and a safety if we just look and put aside ourselves and our assumptions about how things are supposed to be, and just fall into the arms of Christ, take a leap of faith, and aspire higher.

Come, ye disconsolate, where’er ye languish,
Come to the mercy seat, fervently kneel.
Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish;
Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.

Joy of the desolate, light of the straying,
Hope of the penitent, fadeless and pure!
Here speaks the Comforter, tenderly saying,
“Earth has no sorrow that Heaven cannot cure.”

Here see the Bread of Life, see waters flowing
Forth from the throne of God, pure from above.
Come to the feast of love; come, ever knowing
Earth has no sorrow but heaven can remove.

Thomas Moore

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Polishing

Wow, can life be hectic. Medical problems, car problems, family problems, I hate school and I couldn’t graduate fast enough problems…

And there never seems to be a minute where I can just take a breather. But, there is good in this.I’ve had an interesting journey this summer.

I’ve learned what it’s like to drive in the heat with no air conditioning in my car. I’ve learned to be grateful I have a car.

I’ve learned what it’s like to realize that I have nothing in common with any of my friends from high school anymore. I’ve learned to reflect on memories, take a moment to smile, and then be willing to set them aside to start my own life.

I’ve learned what it’s like to be pretty sure I was pregnant/dying/going to be diagnosed with some strange disease. I’ve learned what it’s like to find out that all of those tests were negative (bittersweet on some accounts).

I’ve learned what it’s like to see a marriage deteriorate over nothing. I’ve learned that my marriage can be strengthened over nothing.

I’ve learned that this life is full of tough times and disappointments. I’ve learned how important it is to realize how many tender mercies are all around us.

I’ve learned what it’s like to be taken out of Primary. I’ve learned to enjoy time while I’m having it so that when it’s time to do something different for a while or maybe forever that I can feel accomplished and ready to move forward.

I think that there are so many things happening in my life right now because I’m getting ready to make the biggest change ever. Within the next few years, I’ll be done with school, and Jared and I will be starting a family together. It’s weird to think that in not too long, we could have a whole new place to live, new job(s), new bills, maybe a dog, hopefully a baby…and wasn’t it just five seconds ago that I was seriously worried about getting asked to Prom as if it would ruin my life if I didn’t? Life moves so quickly these days, and nothing is ever easy. However, I’m finding that with each new experience, I learn and grow.

We have two choices in this life. We are going to have experiences no matter what we do, and those experiences are going to shape us regardless of what we want. The choice is to let those experiences make us better or make us worse. Two people could go through the same exact problems, and depending on how they decide to be shaped, they could come out as the most pessimistic and the most optimistic person. Every day, we make the decision to let people, places, and things change us for the better or for the worst.

So, how will you let what happens today shape you?

I am like a huge, rough stone rolling down from a high mountain; and the only polishing I get is when some corner gets rubbed off by coming in contact with something else, striking with accelerated force against religious bigotry, priest-craft, lawyer-craft, doctor-craft, lying editors, suborned judges and jurors, and the authority of perjured executives, backed by mobs, blasphemers, licentious and corrupt men and women—all hell knocking off a corner here and a corner there. Thus I will become a smooth and polished shaft in the quiver of the Almighty.

Joseph Smith