Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Obituary

There was another obituary of a young person in the newspaper today. Often I see those sad columns and suspect that suicide was the cause. This one actually stated that “in the end he gave up and took his own life.” The tears started to well up in my eyes just as they do every time my teenage daughter comes home and says that someone at school attempted or succeeded at suicide. It hits too close to home.
One night, when my husband was out of town, I had the sudden, urgent thought that I should check on my son, then 16. His door was locked and he didn’t answer—not a good sign. I hurriedly found a long nail and tripped the lock to find him with a noose around his neck dangling from the top post of his bunk bed. As I think of it now, I have no idea how I got him down as he is much taller and heavier than I. Blessedly,  I found him before it was too late.

As so many young people do, he was struggling with self-doubt, with sin, with depression, and with guilt. He had overheard a conversation earlier in the evening between his dad and me on the phone. He thought my tears of frustration during the call were due to his behavior, although they actually had little to do with him. He didn’t want to hurt people any more. He had lost hope.

As I cradled this son in my arms and told him how much I loved him, he just kept saying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”
Since then, his dad and I, his siblings, wonderful priesthood leaders, and inspired adult friends have encouraged him along the rocky path of repentance. My husband and I offered a safe environment, constant encouragement and unconditional love. I saw a new side of my husband as he cemented a bond with our son. We helped him up each time he fell and took special care not to judge. His older siblings included him in their family activities and became involved in some of the details of his life. We confidentially informed carefully selected mentors of the things that had been happening. They offered invaluable help during pivotal times and encouraged specific activities that promoted self-discipline and released pent-up energy. Priesthood leaders inspired confidence and hope through their compassion and encouragement. We all prayed and fasted and worshiped in the temple. There were many setbacks, but we all learned that forgiveness is not a one-time occurrence.

As he applied the atonement he learned to know his Savior, and our amazing son emerged from the angry, lost young man that had lived in our home. It was a difficult path for all of us as he struggled, and there were many setbacks, but we knew that in the end it would be worth it.

Now, because he has battled Satan and worked hard to overcome, he bears strong witness of Jesus Christ. He has grown to be grateful for his difficult path. He knows that it has made him strong and facilitated his precious relationship with his Savior.

I treasure all of my children, but I always remember how close I came to losing this son, who makes me laugh and sees inside my heart.

I will always cry as I hear of children who leave this world too soon at their own hand. It is such a waste. As I have an inkling of how their parents’ hearts are broken, I always offer a prayer for their comfort and for their child’s ultimate rescue, and I thank my Father for allowing me to help in the rescue of my precious son.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Lord’s Timing

My husband found himself working for a very unethical company.  He tried to go through the right channels to help change things.  That wasn’t working.  His anxiety was rising to an unhealthy level so he began looking for another job.  Months went by and he was told by the Spirit to leave this job.  We, of course, assumed another job would be forthcoming quickly.  He gave his two weeks notice.  We felt at peace.

After the two weeks, still no other job, no unemployment and no insurance. He went through the Church Employment process.  We got his resume looking great.  With a degree and 30 years of experience, we knew it wouldn’t be long.  We had savings and food storage with toilet paper, shampoo and cleaning products down in the basement.

We canceled the newspaper.  We cancelled the secondary water.  We stopped eating out.  We walked everywhere we possibly could.  We put a few items up for sale.  We put in a wonderful garden.  We were grateful to have followed our bishop’s counsel the year before and plant fruit trees. 

Six months have gone by. We are still without a job.  My husband is 58 years old.  He has worked temp jobs, substitute teaching, swing shift factory jobs and just about anything he can find.  But nothing permanent. 

Our medications are a struggle.  The generics are great. But we have four meds that are over $100 a month each.  Our savings is almost gone.  But our health has been good.  Our year’s supply is pretty meager after six months.

We went to see the bishop.  He was kind, thoughtful and concerned.  This was not easy for us to do-- six years ago my husband was a bishop and he was on the other end of that desk.   We feel like we are doing all we can.  We live the Gospel, we are hard-working people.  We followed the promptings to leave that job.  So why hasn’t another come?  We don’t know.

We have, however, learned great lessons.  What a blessing the Bishop’s Storehouse is.   I had been there before, but only to collect orders for members of our ward who could not get there themselves.  This was the first time my name was on the order and I had a problem with pride!  Everyone is kind and helpful.  The process is easy and so much like a small little grocery store that I leave there with dignity and gratitude. 

It has made us think of others around us who cannot find work.  Did we misjudge them before?  I hope not.  We appreciate the things we do have--a home and family around us and every day new options to explore.  We have a wonderful marriage.  We have the Gospel. 

I used to have a note on my refrigerator of things we wanted to do.  On the top of the list was finishing up the basement, taking a cruise, travels to where my husband served his mission, serving a mission together and at the bottom of the list, for my husband—motorcycle! 

I took that list down.  I put up “JOB with benefits”.  Then I tacked back on “serving a mission together” and for his sake, “motorcycle”—it’s good to have a dream.

We have learned to cope.  Visiting the temple gives us great peace and calm and becomes our soft place to fall sometimes.  We are trying to understand the Lord’s timing.

I think of the pioneers, leaving their homes, in faith, moving west.  When hardship and cold and pain and death came their way, how did they cope?  They cried, they tried to gather up their faith and they kept going. And so must we.

Sometimes we are very good at being strong—we know we will be okay, but other times it’s hard.  When we become discouraged we ask for a ray of hope to get us through till we can be stronger.  The Lord usually instructs us to find someone else to serve.

We had new neighbors move in who were members but not active.  It was pretty evident when we came home from Church on Sunday and they were mowing their yard. We asked them over for dinner. We didn’t mention anything about the Church.  It turns out that the father was in management at one of the company’s my husband had applied to.  He was willing to hand carry a resume into work for us!  We had tried to befriend a neighbor and we were rewarded with a business contact.  Unfortunately that position was filled from within. But we were encouraged nonetheless.  Two weeks later, guess who shows up at Church!  Yes, our new neighbors. 

We know that through this process we are more dependent on our Heavenly Father.  We thought we were before.  Songs have more meaning.  We truly do “Need Thee Every Hour”.    I found the story of Hagar, Gen 21:15-19.  It gave me strength to keep moving forward.  I read my patriarchal blessing and learned more about myself and the blessings we have been promised.  The gas in our cars has lasted much longer than it used to.  We have not needed clothing.  It even seems our hair grows more slowly allowing more time between haircuts! 

I don’t know how much longer this process will take.  I never thought it would be this long and we daily pray for strength to go forward, for the right job and for patience in waiting.  But we also pray for all those who struggle as we do, even those we don’t know.  We pray for those who are losing hope, that they will have something to hang on to, to keep them going forward.  We know we will be okay.  We wish we could know how and when.  But this is the Lord’s timing and He is in charge.  We know that He will “heal those who trust Him”. 


Friday, September 24, 2010

My White Temple Bag

It was a cold, crisp winter morning when I received the impression to go to the temple. This had happened occasionally to me before, but surprised me on this morning because I had been to the temple so recently. I finished up my housework, bathed and changed into my Sunday clothes.

Having no other immediate commitments, but still confused, I drove to the temple grounds. Much to my surprise, the parking lot was completely empty and I knew that the temple was probably closed. I had shown up once before on such a morning in another state in an earlier, more innocent season of my life, and had later learned that most temples have semi-annual two-week periods when deep cleaning and minor remodeling is done.

So why had I received the impression to go? I sat and wondered in the comfort of my truck. Then, as the sun began to warm my skin, I noticed a path of debris scattered across the temple grounds. A nearby building project had been adding insulation to the walls and the previous evening’s heavy wind had scattered bits of insulation and the packaging across one area of the temple lawn and gardens. It looked so unkempt and thus very different from the temple grounds I was accustomed to.

I felt a deep desire to clean up this debris in honor of the temple’s sacred nature, but had no container in which to confine such stray pieces of insulation and plastic packaging. Then I thought to look behind the seat of our truck to see if perchance there was anything I could use.

To my surprise, there was an oversized, heavy-duty, white plastic bag neatly placed behind the seat. I had never purchased such a bag. In fact, I had never seen such a commercially produced bag, but it was lying there, nevertheless. Suddenly and quite clearly, I knew my purpose in coming to the temple. I was there to clean up the grounds and the Lord had provided the way past my own capacity to do so by putting a different kind of white temple bag in the truck.

I was concerned that the temple gates would be locked, what with the temple being closed, but not surprisingly found the nearest entrance open and welcoming. It was a pleasant task, this cleaning for the Lord. I remember that the sky was an acute azure, typical of my area’s brilliant mornings the day after a snowfall. I walked around leaning down to pick up insulation here and there on the frozen ground and reaching between bushes to retrieve the pieces that had been caught during last night’s windy fury.

It didn’t take me long to bring this area of the temple grounds back to its previous, stately beauty. I knotted and then dumped the white bag in the dumpster on the adjacent construction site and returned home.

I have thought of this experience again and again. Why had I been chosen? How had I known just what to do when the need presented itself? What could I learn from finding the white plastic bag in my truck? I did not understand the experience in its fullness. It had just happened.

Then, just recently, when I was walking alone through some different temple gardens during early morning hours on another crisp day, I thought of that morning when I discovered I had a second white temple bag, this one for cleaning the Lord’s Garden. As I walked and thought, the impression came that I had been asked to help because the Lord knew I would. The words came to my heart, “We asked you, because we knew you would go.”

And so as my life’s path wanders here and there, I have recommitted myself to live more purely, to be closer to the Lord, and to always readily respond to the tiniest of the Spirit’s impressions. Even a janitor, especially the janitor that does the Lord’s work at His bidding, finds the deepest, sweetest and most clear joy in his or her soul. Such was my experience when cleaning the grounds of that temple. Such is the feeling with the return of this memory over and over again to my mind.

May all of us live such that we can be ready to serve when the impression comes! Then we will hear in our hearts, “Ask her, she will go.” “Ask him, he will go.” “Ask them, they will go.” And so, in our own special, small, and often anonymous ways, we will serve Him whom we love.

Photos by and Used with permission of iamim and novepages.