A New Pair of Glasses

New Eyes

Recently I saw a video clip of a man receiving a new pair of sunglasses. He was a 66-year-old body builder, the epitome of a real tough guy. The glasses were a birthday gift from his family. As he was opening the packaging I thought to myself, “What is so great about this guy getting a pair of sunglasses?” I was about to turn the video off, when his reaction took me by surprise. After putting the glasses on he became very emotional and began to cry. Then this big, burly man began to giggle, while shaking his clenched hands in child-like joy. He went back and forth between tears and laughter for several minutes. His wife said, “Now you can see with our eyes!” What I had not understood was these glasses were Enchroma glasses, designed for people who are colorblind. This man was seeing the world in complete and true color for the very first time. The video had captured this profound and personal moment; before I knew it . . . I was crying too. I found myself caught up in this man’s elation, as he experienced, what so many of us take for granted. And then it hit me. The Spirit whispered to my heart and confirmed that this moment was just a tiny glimpse of what it will be like for us, when the veil is lifted, and we are finally able to look through “eternal glasses” and see the vibrant, rich, radiant, perfect plan of our Heavenly Father. I’m grateful for this insight especially now, as we approach another anniversary of our son, Dallin’s passing. It seems each fall brings with it, a barrage of emotions, most of which are painful ones. Many of the parents we have met who, like us, have lost a child describe the world we now live in as bleak and colorless. The once bright and happy landscape of our lives has become dull and uninviting, overshadowed by an unexpected foreground of loss and grief. There are patches of color that pop up from time to time, warm happy memories of days gone by, brilliant bits of peace felt in a sunset, a sunrise, a song, a scent, hues of healing in everyday acts of service, bursts of joy felt in the laughter or embrace of a child and even subtle splashes of hope, as we try to adjust to “our new normal.” But eventually a grey wash always seems to overpower these fleeting bright spots. Sadly our life, with our finite perspective has been darkened by our unimaginable loss. In a very real sense we have become colorblind.

I am so grateful this is a temporary mortal condition. I am grateful a loving, merciful Heavenly Father allowed His perfect Son to go below all things and in ways I cannot comprehend, He suffered EVERY PAIN known to mankind, even the death of a child. He willingly did this so He could succor, lift and carry us through our trials. Though my vision is limited and my current world is often without color and though I cannot see or understand the reasons behind our loss with my earthly eyes . . . I know with all of my heart, someday I will. This faith, along with the love of my Savior, will sustain me until my Heavenly Father gives me the gift of eternal sight and lovingly says; “Now you can see with our eyes.” I look forward to that day when I will finally be able to see this new world, a bright, new, wonderful place, full of my loved ones, vivid forever-colors and redeeming truth. And like the 66-year-old body builder, I am sure I will cry joyful tears of gratitude.

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Songs of Deliverance

Merciful Lord

There is no such thing as a free pass or get-out-of-jail card after the death of a child or any loved one for that matter. As much as I want to believe that somehow I have “earned” a reprieve from life’s challenges because of Dallin’s death, it just isn’t so. Sometimes . . . LIFE IS HARD. Trials, challenges and heartaches surround us and often feel relentless. Sometimes our tribulations come by our own hand, as we lose sight of who we are and are drawn to the “carnal, sensual, devilish” things of this world “KNOWING evil from good, (yet still) subjecting ourselves to the devil.” – Mosiah 16:3. We also experience sorrow when we stubbornly and pridefully try to make it through this life, on our own, without God’s hand. Other times some of our greatest heartaches come from the hands of others when they exercise their agency and make choices that hurt, not only themselves but also those who love them. Sometimes our trials come to us unexpectedly, in personalized packages, by the hand of God, to strengthen, humble and refine us. ” I give unto men weakness (limitations) that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” – Ether 12:27. Regardless of where our troubles come from, they are *sigh* an essential part of our lives and more importantly part of Heavenly Father’s plan. A plan designed to help us become more like Him and someday return to live with Him and our loved ones. In the Lord’s time these adversities and afflictions “are but a small moment” and we are promised “if we endure them well, He will exalt us on high and we shall triumph over all our foes.” –D&C 121: 7-8. We are told to “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen (our) hearts.” – Psalms 27:14. He tenderly encourages us, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. – Isaiah 41:10.

BUT . . . sometimes in the middle of all these challenges, especially when they feel like they are piling up, it is easy to forget the Lord is with us. We feel alone, forgotten and full of uncertainty. This is how I was feeling the other night on my way home. After a long emotional day, the weight of worry, disappointment and sorrow shackled my heart, and the tears flowed freely. Being in the car alone I began, as I often do when driving by myself, to talk to the Lord. This time my talking soon turned into anguished sobs, as I pleaded with the Lord, to release me from the prison of despair I found myself in. I wanted and needed big answers to the huge problems that weighed heavy on my mind and heart but truthfully I was willing to settle for a tiny glimmer of reassurance. Sometimes we just need to know everything will work out ok.

Heavenly Father speaks specifically to each of us in a language we can understand. Some hear a still small voice. For some, answers come through tangible feelings; to others a quiet understanding, still others experience dreams or visions. For me the Lord has often used music, both in uplifting lyrics and beautiful melodies to speak peace to my soul. As I continued driving I tried to listen to one of my favorite “go-to” instrumental CDs but it didn’t work; I was still inconsolable. I resigned myself to a long, hard drive home. Then I remembered a year ago my oldest son, knowing my love for music, gave me a thoughtful gift – a subscription to an app you can use to download music, create playlists and listen to personalized radio stations of your favorite artists and genres. I pulled the car over and opened the app, to the Hillary Weeks Radio Station, I had created a few of days earlier. Easing back onto the road, I waited for the music to start. The first song to surround me was “Greater Miracles” by Hillary Weeks. I wish I could describe in adequate words what happened next. It was as if this song, through the Holy Spirit, held within its lyrics, the very key to release my imprisoned heart. Its message wasn’t new. (See scripture references above.) I have known, many times over, that He can lift me up and make me whole, but this message was . . . So. Much. More. It’s one thing to read . . . His words and want to believe, with all your heart . . . His words, but it is quite another thing when you feel . . . His words, all the way down to your bones, all the way through your being. The message of this particular song, and more specifically, the fact it was the first song to come on, after I had been begging the Lord for direction and relief, bore a powerful and penetrating witness to me that He was listening! He heard my prayer and He was answering me, telling me, in a language I understood, to trust in Him, to put my faith in Him and . . . EVERYTHING will work out ok. Tears of sorrow were transformed into tears of joy. I felt so grateful! I was thinking about what a blessing it is to truly recognize and FEEL the Lord’s genuine concern for the details of my life and His healing love, when the second song began to play, “I Feel My Savior’s Love.” It was a soul-burning second witness! Mercifully . . . I had been delivered.

Psalms 32:7 “Thou are my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance.”

He Gave Sight Unto the Blind

jesus-heals-the-blind

Tonight I had the opportunity of bringing some food items to the local homeless shelter. It was a last minute thing prompted by my desire to follow one of today’s suggested daily acts of service, outlined on the #lighttheworld calendar. When I arrived at the shelter, in my toasty warm car, listening to my favorite radio station playing cheery holiday music, I was surprised to see how many people were huddled together outside, waiting to get inside for a warm meal. I found a parking spot and left my box of food in the car, until I knew where to take it. Having never been there before I spotted a man on a cell phone walking toward the front of the line. I followed him without looking at anyone in the line, mostly because I did not want anyone to think I was staring. The door was locked so the man on the cell phone, made his way to the back entrance. I silently followed with my head down. I heard muffled voices saying they wished the doors would open soon; they were hungry. I heard a child’s voice among them. I found myself wishing I had brought my box. I would have gladly given the whole box to that child. The man and I waited at the back entrance. When the door finally opened, a lady in a hair net and gloves asked if we were there to serve in the kitchen. The man answered yes; I told her I had some food to donate. She quickly directed the man to enter and asked me to please pull my car around and wait, until she had a chance to open the front doors and let the people in. I walked past the line of people again. Again I kept my gaze downward. Again I heard the voices of men, women and children. I drove around to the rear entrance, opened the trunk and organized the contents. The December night air cut through my coat and for the first time I realized how cold it was. I remembered the weather reports saying the temperatures were going to plunge well below freezing. I felt guilty for wanting to get back in my warm car to wait, while people were standing just a few feet away waiting . . . hungry, cold and homeless. I decided to wait outside my car. I was grateful for my knitted beanie and was putting on my gloves, when I noticed how many people in the line did not have beanies or gloves and for the first time I found myself staring. The gravity of the scene before me opened my eyes and pierced my heart. My thoughts raced . . . I’ve often wished my house were bigger to accommodate all of my “family” when we gather. These people, my brothers and sisters, didn’t have a house of any kind to gather in, let alone to protect them from the elements. On my way to the shelter I had grumbled about the heavy holiday traffic I had to navigate and was looking forward to some solitude. These souls had walked, who knows how far, to find temporary warmth, sustenance and a sense of belonging. I had been worrying about getting home in time for dinner and wondering if I would like what was being prepared. They were gratefully waiting in the bitter cold for, what was for some, their only meal of the day. I’ve been complaining all week about the poor timing of a cold I have been trying to get over. I heard several elderly people congested with deep, rattily coughs and wondered how they would ever survive the night. I have heard about the homeless population in our communities. As a family we have even prepared baggies of personal items, like soap, toothbrushes, shavers, band-aids, treats etc . . . and shared them with the homeless. I have driven by the hand-lettered pleas on street corners and sometimes even handed out a dollar or two. I thought I understood. I thought I was doing my part. I thought I was following the Savior, but tonight I realized there is so much more that needs to be done. I have been blind. Tonight . . . He gave sight unto the blind.

#lighttheworld

https://www.lds.org/media-library/video/light-the-world-25-days-of-service?lang=eng

Carry My Heart Back To Him

dallins-heart

November 21, 2016

On the nightstand next to my bed, is a wooden carving Dallin made for me before he left on his LDS mission to Pennsylvania. I cherished it then, not only, because he made it with his hands, but because it symbolized the love he had for me. Today I cherish it because I imagine him carrying my heart with him, on his new heavenly mission. I can hardly believe it has been two years since his passing. In many ways it feels like yesterday, the pain still raw, throbbing and unrelenting, and yet it also feels like it was forever ago in a different universe . . . hazy, surreal, numb. I see evidences of my son all around me and like long-parched earth, I soak in every precious drop of his life. I am profoundly grateful for each and every memory and realize just how blessed I am for the life he lived. They are beautiful, happy, good memories because he was a beautiful, happy, good person. These memories sustain me especially on this day, a day full of countless clashing emotions. Thoughts from completely opposite ends of the spectrum both haunt and comfort me. Excruciating endings and boundless beginnings. Two years have come and gone and I still vividly remember his ragged and irregular breathing contrasted by the steady hum and beeps of monitors. I see the dimly lit and confining hospital room, as it became the gateway to his limitless, bright new existence. I hear our muffled sobs as we recognized and accepted the Lord’s will even when it meant letting go of everything we held tightly to and desperately wanted. His last breath . . . the last beat of his heart . . . a door quietly closing and a new door opening to eternal promise, a place where pain and suffering are swallowed up in the welcoming arms of the Savior. I knew his body was broken but his spirit was being set free and soaring! The next few weeks were both gratefully busy and a blur. Then like most experiences where hope and heartache collide, the reality of our new world came crashing down and the what-if questions, doubts and fears came pouring in. In all honesty my faith had been challenged in a way I never thought possible. Could this have been prevented? Could we have done more? Did we give up too soon? These most painful and disturbing doubts were usually followed by the even more unsettling fears of wondering if God was really there and “IF” He was, how could He have let this happen? How could someone as good and as loved as Dallin be called home so soon? His whole life was ahead of him. He was married to the girl of his dreams; he had a little baby boy on the way! Why now, why like this?! How could we go on? How could we go back to a life without him in it? Each day brought a new battle between fear and faith. I tried to keep positive while searching for the answers I desperately sought, but all too often, loss overshadowed light and my faith wavered. Even after receiving comfort, peace and insights and publicly sharing them with my family and friends, I would soon find myself doubting again. Making matters worse were the self-depreciating thoughts of shame and hypocrisy. How could I profess all of these uplifting beliefs one day and question everything the next? Where was the strong and faithful woman everyone thought I was? Where was the woman who sincerely and anxiously wanted to be there for her husband, children, grandchildren, siblings, nieces, nephews and friends? How could I give the ones who meant the most to me, the answers to the questions I, myself, was struggling with? I became discouraged and depressed with my lot in life. I found myself thinking, “if I could just go back and change that day” but then I realized the tempest wasn’t the event or my current circumstances; it was the storm ranging within. My doubts were winning the battle. Unfortunately the very places where I could find answers and peace, I avoided. I convinced myself that sincere heartfelt prayer, regular temple attendance and personal scripture study were simply too painful; my emotions were just too close to the surface; I was tired of crying in public and private. While there was some truth to my excuses, the sobering reality was I avoided these places, because I felt afraid to trust my Father in Heaven. I felt somehow betrayed. I did not want to give my will over to His and feel that degree of hurt ever again. So I put on a happy smile, told everyone I was fine, tried to hide my heart from God and was miserable! Thankfully Heavenly Father knows exactly where you are, even when you think you’ve found the perfect hiding spot. He stands there, patiently waiting for you to stop running away; He is ready, arms wide open, to immediately embrace you in His healing love, the moment you turn around and reach for Him. I’m not sure when or where that moment was for me. I think it was an accumulation of tender mercies, gently nudging me back to the truths I had pushed away. Remarkably the Lord in the most compassionate and caring way answered all of my questions with one single question. “Have you forgotten?” Gradually, like gentle rain, my mind was filled with moment after moment when my prayers had been answered. From seemingly insignificant matters to monumental life changing petitions. Then it was as if the heavens opened and sent a cloudburst of memories, each one an answered prayer, a testament of my Father in Heaven’s awareness and love for me . . . even . . . in . . . the . . . midst . . . of . . . losing . . . Dallin. The Lord had never betrayed me; He had never abandoned me. He had been there the entire time. He is still there. I may not have a perfect knowledge of things but I do have faith, “ . . . faith in things which are hoped for and not seen; therefore I will dispute not, because I see not, for I will receive no witness until after the trial of my faith.” –Ether 12:6 (personalized) This is my trial but I am not alone. I have a devoted husband, who loves the Lord. He carries me when I cannot take another step. He helps me see eternity when I am blinded by mortality. I am surrounded by beautiful children and grandchildren who fill my life with joy, happiness and purpose. I draw strength from the most amazing and supportive extended family and friends who continually bind my wounds and love me unconditionally. And of course I have my personal angel on the other side . . . Dallin.

Dallin I am so honored to be your mother. I love you with all that I am. Please know I will not give up, I will fight like a dragon. I will humble myself and place my trust in the Lord. I will allow my will to be swallowed up in His. Please do your mama a favor . . .  carry my heart back to Him.

Message On The Wind

monarch

No matter how prepared you think you are, no matter how busy you keep yourself, no matter how fiercely you guard your heart, no matter how many “good days” you’ve had, there will always be those days when sadness finds you and sometimes . . . that is okay. Sometimes it is okay to embrace grief and cry until you cannot shed another tear. Losing a child gives you that right. As the 2nd anniversary of Dallin’s passing looms on the horizon, I try to lose myself (and my sorrow) in the service of others. It helps. But at this time of year I also allow myself to wander back through the years and remember, really remember, my beautiful, blond-haired, blue-eyed boy so full of life and promise. I cherish countless warm and wonderful moments, memories of his childhood, his adolescence, his mission, his marriage and yes, his last 14 days on this earth. These memories are sacred to me; they also unlock the floodgates of feelings I have learned to temper with faith. I hold tightly to my faith; I believe with all of my heart, it will continue to wrap its comforting arms around me, as it leads me to a glorious reunion. But even with faith as my companion there are times when the reality and magnitude of Dallin’s absence in this life, brings me to my knees and reopens the deepest of wounds. Today was one of those days. It started with it being the Sabbath. For me Sundays always evoke tender feelings, a desire to feel God’s love, a yearning to find direction and eternal perspective and thoughts of each of my children. After attending our church services, Brad and I took a drive to the cemetery where we visited Dallin’s grave. It is a beautiful place nestled between the red rocks of Gunlock and the little town church. The autumn leaves softly crunched under our feet as we slowly made our way to Dallin’s spot, passing his pioneer ancestors along the way. It’s somehow comforting to know their earthly bodies are here together in this sacred ground. A sense of connection, family and eternity always settles in my soul when I visit. As we stood in front of his headstone, like each time before, seeing Dallin’s full name, along with his birth and death dates etched in stone, was like suddenly waking from a nightmare, only to realize it is not a dream. After our anguished tears gave way to reflective silence, we held onto each other soaking in the stillness of the moment. My eyes were closed. I felt the warmth of the sun on my cheek and the gentle breeze in my hair as it drifted through the remaining leaves on the surrounding trees. I heard the sound of birds singing in the distance. The smell of fall was in the air. I envisioned Dallin there with his arms around us, as we held each other close, with one of his hands resting on my right shoulder. (I don’t know why but whenever I think of Dallin being close by, this is where I imagine his hand.) The moment was full of peaceful longing. I took a deep breath and slowly opened my eyes. The very first thing I saw was a large monarch butterfly fluttering on the wind to my right. It was close enough to touch. It seemed to dance on the breeze as it made its way through the headstones. Suddenly my mind went back to a year ago and the priceless gift of love given to me by my little sister and my niece. A song of hope entitled, “A Little While” . . . for Dallin. The song was written and sung by my sister. My niece illustrated and created the graphics for the video. In each scene of the video, there is a monarch butterfly symbolizing Dallin’s spirit being ever present in my life until we are reunited. I know some may say my experience in the cemetery was a coincidence. Some may even say I am foolish to believe it was “a sign.” Call it what you will but I know deep down in my mother’s heart, it was a message on the wind, a message of eternal hope, comfort and love. ❤

 

Here is a link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7BnkkjY6rHY&feature=youtu.be