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Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Gospel of Jesus Christ: Strength in the Midst of Struggle

Fault can be found anywhere you look for it. Especially when humans are involved. Fault and error and shortcomings can often be found even within our own church. People not doing their callings. People sharing false doctrine. People not living the standards or being as welcoming or as patient or as service oriented or as forgiving...or as, or as, or as.  I think it is also human tendency for us to focus on what is going wrong instead of what is going right. In light of this tendency, I have felt impressed to share the many ways that the gospel of Jesus Christ has brought peace and light and joy to my life. It is easy to focus on what is going wrong, but without focusing on how much is going right I think we risk overlooking the hand of God in our lives. So share is exactly what I intend to do...

Some of you may know and some of you may not, but for the last 5 years I have fought with debilitating anxiety. In fact, most of you that know me at least know that. What many don't know is that I also have battled an elusive unknown muscular disorder that causes full body spasms any time my body relaxes, any time there are loud noises, any time there are soft touches, any time I am tired, any time I drink caffeine (which I don', and any time I lay down to go to sleep.

My head pulls hard to the right. My left knee pulls up and inwards, my whole abdomen curls into a semi crunch and all my muscles rapidly contract and release, close to 25-30 times in one minute. And the episode can last anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour. I often wake up 10-15 times a night (presumably due to this spasming). They are scary looking and in some ways look like a seizure, but EEG activity has proven normal (thanks to a week long stay in the EEG unit at the UOU for that information). The only name for this syndrome the doctors can give me is Myoclonus, with no medical explanation (so far) as to its origin. The worst part about this muscle disorder is that it has made it impossible to take the medicines that I had finally found that were helping with my anxiety. Not to mention due to medicines tried, procedures performed, and future procedures needed, it has made it impossible for us to even plan to expand our little family, which has been a deep bitter struggle and disappointment for me.

So what does this have to do with the gospel? Well... life has been pretty hard recently. There have been many times where I just don't understand why the answer to my prayers (medicines that finally worked for the severe anxiety) had to be dashed by the reality of this frustrating monster of a disease that is messing up my muscles, my sleep, and my ability to function normally. Now I have to battle both at the same time with almost no relief available through medicine (at least for the anxiety) and currently the only treatment option for this mystery disease may be some form of steroid which may make having more children unlikely as they are generally not safe for pregnancy.  So how do I deal with it?

Well...sometimes I don't. Sometimes I break down into a melty puddle inside my closet and just sob. But this is also usually where the gospel comes through for me, every. single. time. When I just can't handle it and I pour my heart out to God, he comes in with his enabling power and the next day, no matter how deep in despair I was the night before, it is like the burden is momentarily gone and I don't just survive, I thrive, for a little while. It is a boost of needed rest.

Sometimes it is in the Book of Mormon.

While reading I find gems of wisdom that speak peace directly to my heart and give me the courage to tackle the days ahead of me.  A couple of days ago when I felt like the anxiety was insurmountable and the thought of having to meet the demands of work the next day, on top of the demands of disease, family, house, and supporting my husband through his masters and new time consuming position at work, were too much to bear I read the following:

               "Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten that the Lord is able to do all things according to his will, for the children of men, if it so be that they exercise faith in him? Wherefore, let us be faithful to him."  1 Nephi 7:12

 The spirit instantly whispered to me "Megan, he can heal your broken mind and has the power to remove this unbearable anxiousness from you. Trust him. Ask in faith and He can lighten this burden for you."

A few days later I was wondering if my life would ever get back to that place of peace and calm that I so desperately long for. I wondered if I'd ever be able to be a stay at home mother again. I wondered if my health would ever be back in order. I wondered if my family would ever grow.  I read the following that night:

         "That after they should be destroyed, that great city of Jerusalem, and many be carried away captive into Babylon, according to the own due time of the Lord, they should return again, yea, even brought back out of captivity; and after they should be brought back out of captivity they should possess again the land of their inheritance." 1 Nephi 10:3

In my mind, I felt like my life was kind of like Jerusalem which had been destroyed and that I was currently experiencing a humbling and refining period of captivity. And I felt the hope of the last sentence that this captivity would end, eventually, and I could and would have the peace and joy I was looking for, someday.

Sometimes I find my peace and strength in the words of the Apostles.

When dealing with a particularly rough situation at work that left me feeling lost for words and just wishing I had more help and support available to me, I read:

             "Rather than dwelling on the immensity of our challenges, would it not be better to focus on the infinite greatness, goodness, and absolute power of our God, trusting Him... with a joyful heart...?" -President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

And the spirit whispered to me "Your God is great and powerful! You have the very best expert and support in the entire UNIVERSE on how to deal with this situation. He is right there in the arena with you waiting and willing to help you, all day long." and I truly felt at peace those next few days and the power of his help because I really believed with every fiber of my being he was there and he would not leave me helpless.

Sometimes it is in blessings from Priesthood Holders
Like my husband. I cannot count the amount of times I have had to ask my husband for a blessing in the middle of the night due to overwhelming anxiety or severe myoclonus that makes it impossible to sleep. Each and every time, within a few minutes of the blessing, I go from complete misery to a relaxed and peaceful sleep. You wouldn't think God would say yes to this plea as often as I ask for it, but he does. Thank goodness that the priesthood has been restored to the this earth today.

Sometimes it is in hymns during church:

When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply.
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, thy dross to consume,
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not thee o’erflow,
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee, and sanctify to thee,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

Sometimes it is in the visiting teachers, the bishop, next door neighbors, home teachers, or that friend from the ward that you don't deserve to show up on your door step because you've pushed her away and avoided her, but there she is anyways (with a cupcake ;P),  a type of emissary for Christ saying, "You're still worthy of love anyways, no matter how far gone you think you are."

Perhaps this post is a bit scatter brained. Perhaps it is a little incoherent. It is most definitely not eloquent. But I hope you get the spirit of what I mean to share. While there are things to be fixed and follies to be overcome by all of us, let's take the time to remember and notice how much goodness and greatness comes to our lives because of the gospel, the doctrine, and yes definitely the leaders and the people that are a part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  For me... I know that Jesus Christ and his gospel are what carry me through and give me the extra strength (that I do not have on my own) to face the struggles placed in front of me. And for that I am so eternally thankful for my Savior and for the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

School Again.

Starting school again... but this time: These fellah's are my top priority. I don't really care if I get A's or scholarships. I just want a happy home. Which means I will do my best in school with whatever time I have left over...after I have put my family first. Wish me luck!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Children's Books I Love...

For my Children's Lit class I was asked to publish reviews on 3 children's books that I would highly recommend to others. But, really, who could choose just three? So here are a few of my current favorites, in all their glory! My very favorite children's books:

What can I say about this book? It is a masterful blend of imagination, heartache, nostalgia, and hope for the future. The illustrations cast familiar yet somber scenes which only helps to give this story its depth and emotion. I am a huge sucker for good art and I consider the art in this book simply breathtaking. The muted colors and realistic portraitures make this story relatable, despite its fantastical elements. More breathtaking still, I might add, is the quiet story of overcoming loss and heartache. Following the story of two girls who recently lost their mother, this children's book shows how they celebrate their loved one's legacy as they use their memories of who she was and their dreams and imagination to solve a problem they face on a walk home from school. Layers of this story you can use to discuss with children include death, loss, survival, hope, honoring memories, weather, dreams/imagination, and dedication. I would highly recommend this book to be read to any child who may be struggling with a loss of a close loved one.

The Dark. Oh, Lemony Snicket already had my heart prior to this storybook!  But an illustrated children's book by Lemony Snicket? I thought for sure it was too good to be true. But this book proved every bit as clever, eery, and charming as A Series of Unfortunate Events. This book tells the story of a little boy named Lazlo and how he overcomes his fear of the dark. The words are simple and the illustrations equally so, but a lot of the book is what is felt while reading it, rather than what is said. As you read this book there is a quiet and heavy feeling, not in a sad way, but in an anticipatory way. I just love how "the dark" is explained and characterized. The nice thing about this book is despite its topic, it is not a scary book. It neither dumbs down the fearful "unknown" aspect of the dark, but it also refrains from embellishing that fear as well. The dark is simply present and is not menacing, even if it is creepy. I really don't know how else to describe it in any other way, but this makes the scary seem more friendly. I would highly recommend this book for children between ages of 5-7, as I feel they could handle this not quite euphemistic yet not quite frightening portrayal of a common fear.

Well, I definitely did not do these book reviews in order, because if I had to put any book "on top" of my list of favorites? It would most definitely be this one. Patricia Polacco is one of my very favorite illustrator/authors. This story is a sequel to Thank You, Mr Falker (an autobiographical picture book about her personal struggles in learning how to read.) I don't even know how to explain all that is in this book that gives it such depth, but it covers many many different themes that just speak to my heart. Some of these themes include going to a new school, making friends, learning disabilities, bullying, death, creativity, risk taking, and personal confidence. This story takes place in a special education classroom and features the inspiring story of a teacher who helped her students soar, mainly by showing her confidence and love for them. I think the most important theme which is covered in this book is the journey of learning how to believe in yourself, that you matter, that you can take risks, that you can do amazingly and seemingly impossible things, regardless of your circumstances. I plan on using this book in my future teaching career to help build a classroom community among my students.

Over 4 years ago I did a report on Helen Oxenbury for an "Art for Elementary Education"  class and she has been my very favorite illustrator, ever since. Her use of water color pencil and pen is just so simple and charming and I wish, with all my heart, that I someday will be able to draw just as beautiful of art as she does. This simple story, about a bear hunt, follows the classic action rhyme, "I'm going on a bear hunt, I'm going to catch a big one..." and takes the reader on a journey through rivers, plains, mud, and forests to get to the bear's cave. The text of this story is simple and predictive and repetitive in a way that allows the children to become engaged in the reading process by guessing what words come next. It is not so repetitive, however, that I have ever felt annoyed in reading it. It is one of my children's very very very favorite books.

The art alone, makes this one of my favorites, but the story is sweet and heartwarming as well. When Amos McGee gets sick he has to stay home, and his friends (who he never misses visiting at the zoo), decide to leave the Zoo and come visit and take care of him for a day. The layers in this book include service, friendship, thoughtfulness, catching colds, zoo animals, and animal characteristics. The simplicity of the illustrations and the words also helps teach the lesson that the most important things in life aren't really that complicated. This story shows that the simplest thing, such as spending time with another person, is usually what does the most good.

So there are a few of my favorites! If it wasn't finals week I could go on and on about more amazing children's books, but this will do for now!

What are your favorite children's books? Do you look more for the art, the story, or the lessons being taught? One book I didn't add above is "Enemy Pie," and it teaches the awesome lesson of how to get rid of your enemies (in a very sneaky sneaky way) making them your friends. What stories have you read that teach amazing lessons?

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