Saturday, April 22, 2017

Trust in the Lord, and Lean Not...


Just after a second truly life-threatening, week-long hospital stay, I was struggling mightily. I had no energy, but felt I had to work to keep my job and because we can’t afford my not working. It was everything I could do the day after I was released, to even lift my arm to curl a lock of hair. I would go to work during those early recovery days and rest on the couch for an hour here and there. 

I struggled to do the things required of my high-pressure job with any kind of accuracy and enthusiasm. I felt like I didn’t know if I could continue to work. I felt like giving up. I felt terrified about the outcomes of tests requiring thyroid biopsy, and breast biopsy, and echocardiogram among others. I felt overwhelmed with the things that were being demanded of me and sheer terror at my ability to fix it, to do what was required, to even care or do anything but sleep. The future felt full of a kind of limbo nightmare, and I felt defeated, done, and oh so scared.

This went on for days…let’s see…I was in the hospital from Mar 22-27, and went back to work on the 28th. On April 6th (very symbolically, as I look back, which is how my loving Heavenly Father always teaches me) I was still in the depths of fear, fatigue, and despair. Normally, I am an optimist, a woman who chooses faith. In fact, my patriarchal blessing declares that I have “exceeding faith”. That day I had no idea if faith would ever return. And I was living in the toxic tar pit of some pretty scary “what if”s? What if I couldn’t work? What if I had cancer again? What if? …you can imagine how many of those a woman in my position could suffoicate in fear-wise. I felt the acid tar pulling me deeper and deeper into the dark, oxygen-deprived and bottomless hell I felt would overcome me at any time. At my worst moment, a dear friend came and spoke some hard medical truths, as she does sometimes…and thank Heaven for her honesty…especially when I don’t like what I hear, but the truth needs to be heard.   I sobbed, and bared my heavy heart, and she hugged and comforted me, listened and validate my feelings, but did not resolve them. I took them home, dragging them along behind my sorry self.

I went home, slept my usual 12 hours and rose for work wondering how many more days I could even make myself do this. As I sat at my desk in the first few minutes of that early morning, I remembered that a member of the bishopric had visited me the week before I was hospitalized. He’d asked me to speak in church about preparing ourselves to find the answers we seek as we watch conference. I wanted to give that talk with all my heart, but had plans with family that I had already canceled in January for the life-threatening hospitalization that preceded this one ( Ironically, I ended up unable to attend the family weekend festivities as I was in the hospital anyway.) Wouldn’t God have known that when he inspired this good brother to ask, that I’d be unable to speak? I felt the powerful Spirit of Inspiration when he asked me. I knew there was inspiration involved. Wouldn’t Heavenly Father know, and support, my efforts to connect with and strengthen family bonds?

And yet, an all-knowing Heavenly Father had still issued the call. We both wondered why, but still I had to decline. Family trumps talking in church for me. He said he understood and later in the week emailed about maybe the important thing was that at a time I was experiencing such a fiery trial, he had asked. He’d expressed faith in my faith, and my faith felt stronger. And I’d felt Heavenly Father’s love for, and confidence in me at that meeting.

I thought about that as I sat feeling nearly lifeless at my desk. I decided I would do “the next 10 minutes”. I wouldn’t try to do the whole day or week or future “whatever”, just the next 10 minutes. And after that 10 more.

Thinking of the conversation I shared earlier in this blog, I decided to prepare listen to conference with these large and heavy questions on my mind. And to have an open a heart as I could for the answers I sought. I hadn’t been able to watch them live the week prior due to illness, and felt it was a good place to start. As I prayerfully prepared, I felt my choice confirmed by the spirit.

I opened the first General Women’s Conference talk online, as it was first chronologically, and that was my plan as I prayed for direction moments prior. Not more than a few minutes into this talk, my fear profoundly, and suddenly shifted to faith. I felt peace. I felt calm. I felt an overwhelming Spirit of Heavenly Father’s love for me, and the firm knowledge that He had a plan for me, and that even if the answers I got, medically, were hard…well, hadn’t He helped me do A LOT of hard things already? I still felt weak, and physically unwell. But I was spiritually strong again, and I knew from past experience that is what would get me through.

This is what I read… (and by the way, THIS was the most important reason for Bro. Shipley’s invitation to me…so that I personally WOULD be prepared as I watched conference to receive the answers I sought!)

Trust in the Lord and Lean Not
Second Counselor in the Primary General Presidency
Play video

In Proverbs 3:5–6, we read this counsel: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.”
This scripture comes with two admonitions, a warning, and a glorious promise.
The two admonitions: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart” and “in all thy ways acknowledge him.”
The warning: “Lean not unto thine own understanding.”
And the glorious promise: “He shall direct thy paths.”
Let’s first discuss the warning. The visual image gives us much to ponder. The warning comes in the words “lean not”—“lean not unto thine own understanding.” In English the word lean has a connotation of physically listing or moving to one side. When we physically lean toward one side or another, we move off center, we are out of balance, and we tip. When we spiritually lean to our own understanding, we lean away from our Savior. If we lean, we are not centered; we are not balanced; we are not focused on Christ.
We must each ask: How do I keep centered and lean not unto my own understanding? How do I recognize and follow the Savior’s voice when the voices of the world are so compelling? How do I cultivate trust in the Savior?
(Read entire talk at www.lds.org)
Of course, this is just an excerpt, and the rest of the talk was just as inspired, but this early part? It was exactly what I needed. It was exactly what my Heavenly Father delighted to bless me with. And He prepared it for me to receive…by Sister Cordon’s prayerful preparation and inspiration in this talk, and by her having this calling and the opportunity to speak. He prepared this gift for me by having commanded such a thing as general conference, and calling inspired leaders. He gave me not one, but two life-threatening, faith-shaking, body-weakening, and oh so humbling experiences that would open my heart to hear what I needed to hear. He prepared me to be ready to receive answers by Bro. Shipley’s invitation, by my friend’s honest counsel. And by the whisperings of the Spirit that led me to this place at this moment.
I instantly shifted. Instantly. I became a woman of faith. I gave back to Heavenly Father that which I could not, and still cannot control. And now I have focused my efforts on strengthening my faith, and my relationship with my Savior. Everything else is part of a larger plan I am not yet privy to, but because I have been through many a refiner’s fire before, I know both the brutal reality, and the beautiful blessings of being called to see how well I will seek and obey my Savior.
Also…He helped me prepare my Relief Society lesson for this coming May which is on Testimony, by giving me new, and everlasting truths of which to testify. And hopefully, if I prepare as I intend, someone will be preparing to hear what I am inspired to say (including this experience) on that Sunday.
The gospel is true. God lives. He loves us, and gives us what we need. He is a God of miracles. He is our strength, our comfort. He is power, and He is peace. Every single thing He promises, He gives us. I have been promised the miracle of being restored to wholeness, of being healthy and being the matriarch of a large family who needs me that will live to bless them long into the future. I have been blessed, more than once, that angels on both sides of the veil are aiding in the fulfillment of those promises. I have felt them in the last 24 hours while I lay in the silence of biopsy rooms where I would, earlier, have felt full of fear. Instead, I have felt those room fill with angels: my “in charge” father, my loving grandma, many relatives, friends, and ancestors, and even posterity not yet mortal. I am loved. There is a plan for me. I know what the questions are. But I know the answers that are mine to seek, and those that are mine to give to God.
I bear testimony of these things in the name of my beloved Savior, friend and advocate, Jesus Christ!

Amen