Monday, March 19, 2018

When faith doesn't seem to work. . .

We are taught from primary that with faith, miracles can happen.

The scriptures are replete with stories of faith bringing about mighty miracles.  Enos was made whole from his faith, as was the woman with the issue of blood.

"True faith brings miracles, visions, dreams, healings, and all the gifts of God that He gives to His Saints" is the promise given to us.

I believe this.

During the routine physical I had in preparation for my mission, my doctor found a lump in my breast big enough to concern him. He asked me to come back the next day for further testing.

I was scared.

I talked to my parents about, and we decided to fast and pray. I knew that God has the power to heal me.

The next day I went in for the ultrasound. The technician looked quietly for quite some time before she called the doctor in. He looked at the monitor then did a physical check himself. To his amazement, the lump had disappeared. There was no explanation.

But I had one.


I served a successful mission, came home, married and started a family.

My second child, Paige, became very sick on her second birthday with the croup. Her body's response to the illness was terrible breakout of eczema. It covered her forehead, her arms, her feet, her back.

And it never left.

For the first year we had to wrap her hands at night so she wouldn't scratch herself raw when she slept. We tried changing her diet, using medications, feeding her only whole foods, allergy testing, oatmeal baths . . . everything we could think of. Nothing seemed to help.

One day when she was four she came into the house from playing in the backyard. The back of her shirt was covered in blood. I jumped to my feet and asked her what had happened. "My back was itchy, so I scratched on the tree."

I felt sick. And heartbroken.

Why would this sweet little child have to endure this discomfort and pain for so many years? I wanted her to be healed. I wanted her to have peace. And I wanted peace, too.

Then an idea came to me. I needed to exercise my faith!

I would fast and pray specifically that she would be healed. Why hadn't I thought of this before?!

I was excited that I'd found a way to help my daughter. I had complete faith that God had the power to heal her. He was just waiting for me to ask!

I hadn't felt that optimistic or elated in years.

I set a day to fast and spiritually prepared myself. I would pray fervently until and through that day of fasting, the have my husband give Paige the blessing where she would be healed.

The day came. My faith was strong. I felt the Spirit. I felt peace. I was excited for my daughter, that she would soon find relief.

My husband gave her a blessing that she would find relief and be strengthened, but no specific timeline was given. And that was okay, because I knew it would work. I didn't expect it to disappear during the blessing, but by the next morning, I knew she'd start to look better.

I knew it because it's what I'd prayed for with more energy and faith than I'd prayed for anything in a long while. I knew God could do it. And I knew He would.

But, He didn't.

The next morning she was still raw.

And the next.

And the next.

The next 600 days she woke up raw and itchy.

Somewhere in her sixth year it began to fade. Somewhat. But it never went away.

She is 20 years old now, and still has patches of eczema here and there.

My daughter wasn't healed. 

Or more bluntly stated: the Lord did not heal my daughter.

I was devastated back then. What about faith?! What about the promises? Why would He not heal her when He's healed so many others, including me?

I was heartbroken again. And confused. Did my faith not work? Was I not righteous enough? Did I not try hard enough? Did I not believe enough? Was I not strong enough for my daughter to be healed?

It was a difficult time for me. I found myself feeling not only confused and hurt, but embarrassed. I began to second guess my ability to unlock the power of faith, and wondered if it was wrong to have even tried. Hoping for miracles these days? Was that a silly thing to do? I began to feel like it was.

When my husband was a bishop a member of our ward fell very ill. His family asked him to come and give him a blessing. They knew he could be healed by the power of the Priesthood. But, after the blessing, my husband told me he knew healing wouldn't come. He passed away, much to the surprise and devastation of his family.

I knew a woman who was haunted by mental illness. She prayed in faith for relief, but it never came.

Why does it seem that sometimes our faith doesn't work?

Why are there times we pray and fast and seek Priesthood blessings in the hope and faith of a certain outcome, and the Lord simply chooses to stay His hand? What does it mean? Is our faith not strong enough? Are we not strong enough?

I echo the words of Elder Donald Hallstrom from the October 2017 session of General Conference: "My limited knowledge cannot explain why sometimes there is divine intervention and other times there is not."

I don't know why sometimes God heals and other times He doesn't.

But, when He chose to not heal Paige, I had a choice to make: I could stop believing in Him, or I could continue believing in Him.

I didn't know why He didn't heal Paige, but I did know Him. I knew that He could if He felt it was the best thing for her not just then, but in the eternal scheme of things.

I knew that He loved Paige and He loved me.

I knew that He saw my hope and faith and efforts and pleading and would bless me how He saw fit.


And I chose to continue to have faith in Him, even if my faith didn't produce the results I wanted.

Because that's not what faith is.


That was an eye-opener to me.

In a 2013 CES devotional, Elder David A. Bednar shared a story of a young couple that came to him for a blessing of healing. In talking to them, he felt the impression to ask a question he'd never asked before: "Do you have the faith not to be healed?"

Elder Bednar went on to say, "We recognized a principle that applies to every devoted disciple: strong faith in the Savior is submissively accepting of His will and timing in our lives—even if the outcome is not what we hoped for or wanted. Certainly, John and Heather (the couple he talked to) would desire, yearn, and plead for healing with all of their might, mind, and strength. But more importantly, they would be “willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon [them], even as a child doth submit to his father” (Mosiah 3:19). Indeed, they would be willing to “offer [their] whole souls as an offering unto him” (Omni 1:26) and humbly pray, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42)."

Did I have the faith for Paige not to be healed?

Yes. It turns out I did. Not by chance, but by choice. 

Since then (and even before then) there have been many MANY times I asked for something good in complete faith and I didn't get it.

  1. I prayed about marrying Ricardo. And he dumped me.
  2. I prayed for a strong singing voice. It never came.
  3. I prayed to go on a mission. I got sick and was sent home ten months later.
  4. I prayed to go back out on my mission, but was suddenly extended an honorable medical release.
  5. I prayed for a large family. I had a medically-necessary hysterectomy after two children.
  6. I prayed about living in Washington and then was told (by Him) to move to California.
  7. I loved California and prayed about staying and was told (again by Him) to move back to Washington.
  8. I prayed to find a way to publish my words, then after one book I was told my ideas were gimmicky and that door was closed.
  9. I prayed to speak at TOFW, then was rejected.
  10. I prayed I could be a stay-at-home writer and mom, then was told (by Him) to go back to work.

And that's just ten off the top of my head. None of the things I prayed for IN FAITH happened.

But, then, looking back, I can see His wisdom. And I'm so grateful.

  1. Because Ricardo dumped me, I served a mission and later married the love of my life, Jerey, whom I've been happily married to for 23 years.
  2. Because my singing voice wasn't as strong as my ambition, I avoided choosing a life of singing in bars and pursuing the life on stage, which wouldn't have been good for me. Lol (But it sure was a dream of mine. I think God sometimes withholds things to save us from ourselves.)
  3. I remembered later the blessing I received when I first got home where the Lord told me I had done all He wanted me to do in that short time. (I think sometimes we think our experience isn't valid or "right" because it isn't typical. I learned here that it was exactly what God needed it to be.)
  4. If I had been allowed to go back and finished the other ten months, I would not have moved to Utah and met my husband.
  5. If I hadn't of had a hysterectomy, I wouldn't have considered fostering or adopting, and I wouldn't have had Grace come to our family through adoption 9 years after the operation.
  6. Because we moved to California, Jerey took a job that started him on the career path that's allowed him to take care of the family to this very day. Also, we added a lovely foster daughter to our family, whom we never would have met if we hadn't have moved there.
  7. If we hadn't have moved back to Washington, we would never have had the chance to bring our sweet Grace into our family (we adopted her through the system here.)
  8. The words were tough, but the were, in part true. And I have learned to be a better writer and speaker because of them and other magnificent doors have opened up for me that I'd never have thought possible.
  9. Ummm. Still trying to figure this one out. Lol!! But, I'm sure He has a plan:)
  10. I love being at home, but recently He has called me to work out of the home for a season. I have already seen small ways He's worked through me, and as I use much of my time now focused on other people, I am discovering a sense of joy and fulfillment I hadn't before.

So, you see, the times when my faith seemed to not work wasn't that at all.  My faith in God allowed Him to work in my life, just not in the ways I'd expected. With every rejection I gained an opportunity or a lesson.  With every change I gained growth or a surprise benefit.

The family that I love has come to me through unexpected (and sometimes seemingly unwanted) answers to faith-filled prayers.

But, what about Paige not being healed? What is the blessing there? What good came from it?

Well, that is one of the things I still just don't know. I think I--and she--learned a lot from it. But, perhaps I am still too close to it to see the full purpose of it in hindsight.

Perhaps the purpose, for me, is that the understanding that sometimes it is simply our lot in life to have afflictions, and the lesson isn't in having the faith to get rid of them, but having the faith to endure them without bitterness or anger. Even in the face of not understanding why.

Because we understand WHO.

I am grateful my faith hasn't worked in the past in the ways I wanted it to. My life would look VERY different now. And I really love my life.

I wonder, if I received everything I prayed for in faith, if I would begin to feel that it was MY faith, not His will, that made things happen.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons we don't get everything we ask for, even in faith. Because it's not our power that makes anything happen. We have no power. We simply turn over our hearts and will to Him so He can release His power in our life. And because it's HIS power, He uses it how He sees best.

Everything we are given (and often not given) is from Him. Even the unhealing of my daughter.

But, what I did gain from that experience was a more solid testimony of God. It gave me the opportunity to choose to trust Him and continue to believe in Him. I grew stronger and happier.

And Paige made it through. She's tough--like, uber tough. She's spiritual. And she's amazing.

You know, back then I fasted and prayed that she'd be free from the eczema. But, it never occurred to me that it was because of the eczema she'd prayed harder to God for help, or that I kept praying harder to Him as well. We both grew closer to Him and to each other because she wasn't healed physically. We felt Him in our lives, and we felt peace.

So, in the end, I guess He did bless her and me with what I asked for: peace.

Perhaps, then, my faith worked after all.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A masterpiece and a work in progress . . . this is us.

Storyteller and activist Sophia Bush tweeted a simple phrase a few years ago:

"You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress, simultaneously."

This hit me with such power. I realized when I read it that I often see myself in black and white terms. I am either going good or doing poorly.

But this allows us to believe that we can still be magnificent while we are imperfect. 


I love that I can struggle and still be stupendous, that I can make mistakes and still be magnificent.

I love the visual that we are masterpieces AND works in progress.

This is my new mantra. I will memorize it. I will cross-stitch it on a pillow. 

I will believe it.


Monday, March 12, 2018

Women are that they might tolerate?


I've been thinking a lot lately about life and peace and joy . . . and tolerance.

Not tolerance in the meaning of putting up with other people's views/habits/difference.  I'm not referring to tolerating (accepting or condoning) sin or evil, either.

Tolerance as in personal tolerance--what can we tolerate. And why is that important?

But first I want to back up and talk about joy.

It's been taught, and I've said it before, that "men are that they might have joy." I believe that. I believe joy comes from knowing who you are and why you're here. Joy can be found in family, faith, fun, growth, and more. Yes, God wants us to have joy.

But-- contrary to what some may think (Hold onto your faith-loving hats for this), joy and happiness isn't the only goal of this life. It is a by-product of other things. 

Why is this an important principle to understand? Because when we go through life feeling that joy is the goal, then anything we feel that might be otherwise is considered opposite of the goal, or bad.

When sorrow comes, we pray it will be taken from us. When grief and anger, fear and frustration weigh us down, we pray that we can find relief. We want to get out of these awful situations and get back to the way life should be--filled with joy.  And we often equate joy with the absence of heartache, discomfort, sadness, or pain.

I want to add joy's best friend, peace, to the mix. We like to feel peace. We associate it with ease and comfort.

When we look at securing peace and joy as the goals of life, rather than a byproduct of the goals of life, we can put ourselves in a harmful frame of mind and spirit. 

When we are suffering we can sometimes feel angry at God. Why is He letting me experience this? Doesn't He want me to be happy? Doesn't He care? Why doesn't He simply let me have peace and joy? Why does He allow me to suffer so?

When we feel that peace and joy are the main goals in this life, the seeming absence of peace and joy--or ease and comfort--can create a multitude of problems:
  • spiritual entitlement (Why am I suffering? I keep the commandments.)
  • resentment towards God (Why aren't You giving me peace and comfort?)
  • guilt (What am I doing to disqualify myself from the blessing of peace and joy?)
  • doubt (Since God isn't taking this pain away, I wonder if He loves me.)
  • shame (I don't deserve to feel peace and joy.)

When we search for and work towards a state of only peace and joy--as interpreted as ease and comfort--we create in our minds the idea that suffering is bad. We tell ourselves that if we are experiencing the opposite of comfort and ease, we are not feeling peace and joy.

But not all suffering is bad. Especially suffering with perspective and purpose.

What if we tweaked our mentality a bit?  What if we were to want joy and peace, of course, but we extend our sights to another goal?

What if our goal was to learn to tolerate discomfort and pain?

I know. It sounds horrible.

In part, because we associate the word tolerate with meanings like "put up with" or "accept because we have to". In addition, most things we "tolerate" are bad. We tolerate going to the dentist, getting shots, having Thanksgiving dinner with certain family members. We "tolerate" things we don't like and wouldn't choose.

These fall under the first, and most commonly associated, the definition of tolerate: to accept or endure something unpleasant or disliked with forbearance. In this light, tolerance is a noble way of handling an unwanted, or even wrong, situation.

But, I want to focus on the other definition of tolerate: to be capable of continued subjection without adverse reaction.

It's not merely about mindset or surviving, but about our capacity to adapt and thrive in challenging conditions.

The reason a cactus can survive in extreme conditions is because they have adapted themselves and can thrive in heat and drout that would wither most other plants. Through adaptation and change, it's found a way to thrive in severe conditions. And, I think it's fair to say, that the cactus has some measure of joy in its existence as well.

Life is hard. And learning to tolerate difficulty is key. Enduring to the end means we train ourselves to tolerate being uncomfortable. (Remember, it doesn't mean we "put up with it.")

It means we strengthen ourselves so we can handle pain and discomfort, and even find purpose and understanding in it, therefore experiencing joy. How can we do this? 

  • choose to believe that pain does not always equal bad
  • choose to believe that pain does not mean God doesn't love us
  • understand that pain and discomfort can be consecrate for our good, if we allow it
  • seek God's guidance and perspective during hard times
  • rely on the grace and mercy of the Atonement to alleviate unnecessary pain (more on that below)
  • Nurture gratitude in difficult times
  • accept the fact that sometimes life is simply hard, and 
  • learn to love the "nevertheless"

What do I mean by the last one?  

A look at the first verse of the Book of Mormon gives some insight.

1 Nephi 1:1  "I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father; and having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God, therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days."

Nephi penned (or etched) his history later in life. So, he had the knowledge of hindsight when he recorded this verse. He understood that hard times doesn't mean we are unloved or unblessed.

He adapted in strength and spirit to his conditions, until he could not only survive, but thrive in them. He could tolerate much and celebrate much.

I watched a great Ted talk by Harvard psychologist, Susan Davis. She talks about the danger of pushing aside negative emotions as bad and replacing them with false positivity. We might lose our ability to deal with the world as it is, not as we wish it would be.

"Tough emotions are part of the contract of life," she says. "You don't get to have a meaningful career or raise a family or leave the world a better place without stress or discomfort."

Then she ends with a powerful statement:

"Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life."

Women are that we might have joy. And having joy--real joy--means learning to tolerate being uncomfortable and even hurting.

Our main goal isn't to have joy. We are that we might and can have joy, but joy comes when we become more like God, through conversion and the gaining of knowledge and choosing right over wrong and His will over ours. It comes through feeling all the emotions and still seeing and trusting God. It comes when we learn to adapt and thrive in this harsh mortal world.

Our level of joy can rise with our level of tolerance. As we practice our faith in God and use our agency to repent and make good choices, we can gain strength and understanding.

This means, we can have joy in any circumstance in our lives, even the most difficult ones.

How tolerant are you?

Can you thrive when life gets hard? If you were told that your life were to be like Jacob and his family, could you have joy? 

Of his life, Jacob said, "The time passed away with us, and also our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream, we being a lonesome and a solemn people, wanderers, cast out from Jerusalem, born in tribulation, in a wilderness, and hated of our brethren, which caused wars and contentions; wherefore we did mourn out our days." (Jacob 7:26)

That sounds like it sucked. 

And yet, Jacob testified of God's mercy unto them, and he marveled and gloried in the Lord's plan of happiness. 

He could tolerate a lot, and because of that, he could see, feel, hear, and know God even more. And feel joy.

I had the strangest thing happen to me this weekend. Compared to the trials Jacob went through, and that some of you are going through, it may seem small. But to me, it was big.

Between my calling as stake Relief Society president and my speaking as an author, I do a lot of teaching in front of a lot of people. My process is always the same: I prayerful prepare until my nervousness turns to excitement. When I become excited to share my message, I know I've figured out what God wants me to say. Then, right before, I invariably feel His approval through the Spirit, and as I speak, I am given further inspiration to make adjustments and additions. I never walk away being proud of myself as a speaker. But I always come away feelings that I've done a good job in His eyes.

Until Saturday.

A few weeks ago I was asked to speak in our adult session of stake conference. I started prayerfully studying and pondering the subject immediately, but found no inspiration. I struggled to think of a clear direction and I couldn't remember the things I'd just read.

Because there was to be a change on our stake presidency, we had two general authorities come to visit. If that didn't make me nervous enough, my (then) stake president asked me not to use notes. I don't write my talks about, but I do like to have some bullets points to keep me on track.

But not this time. Ten minutes, no notes, on caring for the poor and needy.

So, I prayed and read and made outlines to memorize and nothing came. The day of the conference session came and I drove to the church with tears in my eyes because God had yet to bless me with inspiration. Any inspiration. Not even a warm fuzzy.

Feelings of inadequacy began to take over. Fear, frustration, doubt all grew louder. I was an hour away, half hour away, ten minutes away, then it was my turn, and I still had no idea what I was going to say.

I thought it was a lack of faith, do I decided to stand and open my mouth, fully believing He would put words into it like He has before.

But He didn't.

I stood there, facing 700 people and my mind was blank. A quick mental scramble produces some key points, but I stumbled over words and fumbled over thoughts. I stopped in the middle and prayed for some guidance, some feeling, some sign of His presence or approval. 


I was rattled.

What was supposed to be a 10-minute inspirational talk about caring for the poor and the needy turned out to be a 7.5 minute mess.

I sat down and wanted to cry. But, as I was the first speaker, and sitting shoulder to shoulder with a GA, I felt it best to put on my brave face and save the crying for the ride home.

And yes, I did cry.

Feelings and questions came. Why did God abandon me? What is He trying to tell me? Had I failed? Should I not have opened my mouth? And, honestly, what on earth had I even said?

Questions fed doubts, as they often do, and soon I had convinced myself that this uncomfortable and even painful experience meant one thing: something was wrong. Either I'd failed him, or I was too proud, or He doesn't want me to speak anymore.

None of the things I'd figured out were good. But, it was an uncomfortable situation and those are, you know, bad.

I had the thought to blog tonight when I looked into my drafts and saw the beginnings of this one. I had started it a month ago and set it aside to finish later.

I'll admit, I chuckled when I realized God used my own words to answer some of my own questions. Tricky one, He is.

I realized tonight that I went through something really uncomfortable. I felt abandoned by God. Even if it was just for a talk, the feeling was real. And awful.

But, what can I tolerate? Can I still endure, thrive even, in situations like this?

Can I choose happiness and hope and trust when the evidence points to other things?

Can I choose to believe that there is a really good reason for this experience? And the reason may simply have been for me to experience it and gain knowledge and wisdom from it.

Can my testimony grow and can I change for the better even in the moments I don't feel Him near.

The answer is yes, I can.

I can tolerate this. And I can tolerate a whole lot more.

Because I know that this life is a test--our proving grounds for eternity. And if I fold or buckle every time it gets rough, I will weak and blaming others for my pain. I will be angry and perhaps even inconsolable. I would drive to the store at 11pm to buy a new purse then go home and eat ice cream out of the carton for like 30 minutes then Instagram it. (Oh wait, I did do those things.)  I would be a sad case in the end indeed.

And it's not just the talk. Like you, I have a glaring list of hard things in my life right now. I've got super proof in my arsenal that life stinks sometimes and pain is bad. But, But I want a meaningful life. And I refuse to give more power to harsh conditions that they already take. 

When I was eight years old Spencer W. Kimball said, "There are great challenges ahead of us, giant opportunities to be met. I welcome that exciting prospect and feel to say to the Lord, humbly, "Give me this mountain", give me these challenges."

I echo his words now.

Though I still feel wounded a bit, I am ready to meet the challenges of life.

I am ready to pay the admission for a meaningful life.

Give me this mountain.

Give me these challenges.

I can tolerate them.

I can thrive.

And I can have joy.

And so can you.

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