Wednesday, November 17, 2010

You Are Not Alone

This post is actually part of a letter I wrote to a friend who was struggling. It applies to everyone who is struggling with trials, heartache, pain, and even despair. If you are dealing with a trial or test right now, read this, because it applies to you. Know that you’re not alone in your suffering! Read it slowly and ponder as you go. I pray that these words might bring you some comfort and peace.

"There are tons of people around you... watching you. Counting on you to make the right choices. They are giving advice, pushing and pulling you in different directions; telling you what they think is best for you. Your parents, your leaders, your friends, even your family. It is difficult to find the light amongst this commotion. There comes a point when you have to just shut everything out for a while. Forget what people have been telling you... just let go. Find a quiet place where you won't be bothered - and ponder what has been happening in your life. Search within yourself for the answers... and pray. And if you don't feel like praying, pray until you do. Prayer is the key that opens the door to Heaven. But you have to turn that key.

When I think about what you've told me, I envision you in a crowd of people... this crowd of people care about you, they truly do. But you have a hand outstretched, grasping at anyone, searching... But these people can't see that your hand is outstretched... they don't understand what you need. They ignore your pleas, and they talk over you about petty things that have no meaning. They are oblivious to your hand. They are scared to take the time to truly sit and listen. But you are thirsting for someone to just listen. You are craving a compassionate ear, a friend, a person who will forget themselves and focus on you for just a moment. You are positive that it will help you... yet people don't understand what you need. So you sit down in the middle of this busy, familiar crowd with your arms around your knees and just cry. You don't understand the tears, but they come anyway. Why won't someone just listen for a minute? Does anyone truly care? Why can't someone take the time to notice? Isn't it plainly written on my face what I've been through? These are the thoughts that run through your mind as you sit on the ground, invisible to all those around you.

Believe me, I have been that invisible person in the middle of the crowd too many times. I have felt those feelings of heartache and despair. But I can tell you the ending of the story... and I can tell it to you with knowledge, not just belief. As you sit in the middle of the crowd, it begins to rain; the rain mingles with your tears. Sheer emotion makes your body shiver - fear, frustration, and even despair swirl around you. There is only darkness, and hope seems impossible. Then suddenly, at this moment, you see a man walking towards you. The rain stops. He is a familiar face, and though you are invisible to everyone else, his eyes look into your soul - you know he sees you. You look at him with surprise for a moment - he continues to walk toward you. He pauses right in front of you, and you notice his feet have scars. He gently, ever so gently, sits on the ground next to you and puts his arm around your shoulder. You turn to look into his eyes, and you see a tear fall down his cheek. That tear represents his love for you. Pure and sweet, his one tear for you heals all the pain, fear and worry. You talk to Him, and tell Him what you've gone through, and how you feel. You look into His eyes again, and know He understands. He has felt your pain with exactness. He stands up, and takes your hand, and lifts you to your feet. But He not only lifts you up physically, He lifts your soul to a place of understanding, joy, and love. He walks away amongst the crowd, and you stand there for a moment, pondering the reality of what just happened. You know His love. You have found your Friend, your Brother. You smile, and as you walk into the crowd, you can see a girl on the ground, her arms wrapped around her knees, her head bent with heartache. You gently, ever so gently walk to her, sit on the ground, and put your arm around her shoulder. You can see the invisible.

But I promise you... you are not invisible to those who love you. Most importantly, you are not invisible to your Savior. He knows what you have been through. He is ready, with His arms wide open. Not one person has ever had an experience exactly the same as yours. No one has. Aside from the Savior, only you have felt, seen, and heard what you have. And only you can fight this. No matter how much your parents, friends, and leaders want to fight this for you, they can't. Put on your armor... you alone are called to battle. I know you have the strength. I know you have the faith. I know you have Heavenly help, and angels on your side. Believe in yourself. You can do this. It is your challenge, your battle to win. You have been prepared your entire life for this moment... I know it is possible. It will take everything you have within you to fight.... even more than you have. But you can do this. Do what truth requires. And, know that there are thousands of us right next to you fighting our own battles for truth. We are all fighting in our own ways, through our own experiences. But we are all beside you... and when you need a helping hand, we will strengthen you - and lift you up when you falter. We will help you find courage again. Have faith. Remember courage. Fight for truth."

Monday, November 15, 2010

Stake Conference Talk

This is a talk I gave in stake conference 3 weeks ago.

Lisa's Talk – Stake Conference – October 31st, 2010

Not many people have life-changing experiences before they turn eighteen. Not many people get the chance to share their experience in stake conference when they're eighteen. I've been blessed enough to have both of these rare opportunities. About two months ago, I remember saying a prayer and asking that I could receive more opportunities to share my experience: it was that same month that President Poston asked me to speak today, in stake conference. Even though I was extremely nervous, I realized that this was an answer to my prayer – and Heavenly Father had more in mind for me than I ever imagined. I hope that I might be able to speak with the Spirit, and convey the feelings of my heart to you today.

My life has been filled with such happiness! It is not happiness that the world can bring, though – it is the true happiness that can only come through this gospel and living righteously. Even though I have found such wonderful happiness, it has not been an easy journey for me. My road has been filled with boulders, pitfalls, and mountains to climb. It is the road less traveled. But the work, struggle, and storms along the road have proven to be necessary refinement and growth.

In April of 2008, I went on a trip to Disneyland. It was fun – it was where I rode my first roller coaster. We spent the day riding rides, having fun, and enjoying our time as friends. By the end of the night, though, I knew something was terribly wrong. I had severe pain in my head, stemming from my neck. It was unlike anything I had ever felt before. The pain almost had me in tears. I had no idea that it would be the beginning of a headache I would suffer with every day for the rest of my years in high school. I was optimistic and hopeful the first few weeks. Numerous doctors called for tests and procedures. Every test came back normal, which was a huge relief for me, because nothing was seriously wrong. I had injections, IV infusions, physical therapy, and other treatments – but nothing helped the pain long term. I missed a lot of school during these two years of searching. I did the best I could with homebound studies, and I was able to keep my grades up. Eventually, my parents and I were led to the Mayo Clinic hospital in Minnesota, where we stayed for seven weeks, trying to find a diagnosis and treatment plan. I was diagnosed with Chronic Daily Headache. The doctor said that I had gotten whiplash on the roller coaster, and the initial injury healed, but for some reason, the nerves in my head were still firing pain signals. He said it would be a long term condition, but there were things I could do to calm the pain and live a functional life. He told us about a Pain Rehabilitation Center, or PRC for short. It was a three week long program, and it was an all encompassing approach to Pain Management for teens. I got into the program, and it was a grueling process that took work on my part. I was taught how to manage my pain without medication. I learned relaxation techniques to try to calm down the pain. Exercise was an important part of my success in the program. At the beginning of the three week program, I was struggling to make it through the day. At the end of the three weeks, I was doing well at managing my pain. Though it was a long process, I finished the program, and felt better than I had in two years. We came home from Minnesota in April of this year – it has been six months. I still wake up every day with a painful headache. I still struggle every day with doing basic tasks, like lifting a laundry basket. I am not healed completely. But I have learned so much – I would not change anything.

My physical journey during the past two and a half years has been difficult. My spiritual journey has also been difficult but so rewarding. I have passed through the refiner’s fire. There were many long nights when I cried myself to sleep because of the pain. Then there were other nights when I couldn’t cry anymore because the tears wouldn’t come. My body was exhausted and in pain, but I was always fighting. And even when I didn’t have any fight left in me, I had family and friends who fought for me. I remember one night, we were driving home from Idaho Falls. It was pitch black, and raining. I was in so much pain physically, and I had nothing left emotionally and spiritually. I remember sitting in the back of the suburban and crying silently. I was watching the rain stream down the window, and it made me cry even harder. I was done – it was the one time in my life where I came close to giving up. I remember just closing my eyes and whispering, “Please, Heavenly Father, I hurt so much.” I heard a quiet clear voice saying, “Lisa, ask for a blessing. Don’t be afraid.” I instantly felt peace and warmth. I knew that I would be ok. It was midnight when we got home. I fell on the couch, and curled up in a ball. I was in so much pain. The tears would not stop coming. I remember my Dad calling my bishop to ask if he would come help him give me a blessing. He came right over. To get a phone call at midnight to give a sick girl a blessing when you have work the next day – now that is Christlike. My dad and bishop gave me a blessing, and the pain was lessened. I was able to calm down enough to sleep. I know there is greatness in priesthood power.

I never questioned Heavenly Father’s plan for me. I never asked why. I just had faith that I would be ok. I knew that Heavenly Father was taking care of me. I focused on getting through each day. I couldn’t think about the next day or week, because I would get discouraged. I took it one day at a time, praying the whole time. I was constantly pondering and talking with Heavenly Father, saying things like, “Thank you for my family; they really take care of me. Thank you for helping me fall asleep last night, I really needed it. And please help me get through the next hour. Please help me be able to sit through sacrament meeting.” I felt so close to my Father in Heaven and my Savior.

I was given a greater understanding of the Atonement. It is not just for sins, although that is important. It is also for every pain, affliction, sorrow, and struggle we have. I came to see Christ as my Brother, my best friend. I felt His loving presence in my life. I can imagine His hands, reaching out for me, embracing me. I feel safe within His arms.

Within our trials, we must all find courage and faith to keep fighting. I wrote this in my journal last year, “Sometimes I catch myself in a rut... stuck with the wheels spinning but going nowhere. I catch myself slipping up, thinking important the things of no true importance. Thinking my pain is a petition to make everyone stop and take care of me. Thinking trivial gossip has truth. Thinking it's ok to skip scriptures for just one night. But when I get in these ruts, I remember this: I'm only packing my suitcase for my journey after this life, and what I have in it determines my happiness. If I have packed unhappiness, lies, guilt, discouragement, and fear; then sad will be the judgment day, and regret will be my only remembrance of a life crumbling to dust. Those things don't last! But if I have packed faith, courage, strength, prayer, and service, then I will stand with no regret; prepared for the next step in my journey. And that sings sweet music to my ears. My heart is brim with joy at the thought of packing true tools that will help me in this life and whatever eternity holds. I can do this. With the Lord by my side, anything is possible. Words can't describe what I feel. I will keep on going, I will not falter. I have eternity in my sights, and I'm not letting go. Faith, strength, courage, virtue. That is my motto.”
I know that if you have faith, the Lord will lead you where you are meant to be. I am proof of this. If I would not have had my challenges at this time, I know I would not have such a strong belief in this gospel. I know I can do anything! I have courage and confidence now that was never there before.

I know Heavenly Father places people in our lives at the right time and places, just when we need them most. My mom and dad have always let the Spirit guide them to where they needed to be. I am grateful they let that Spirit influence them in their decisions, because it blessed my life. When we moved to Idaho, they were blessed with assurance from the Holy Ghost that this was where we needed to be – right here in Rigby. If we would not have moved here, I would not have been able to be blessed with such a wonderful ward and stake – where people truly care. When I was too sick to really make my own decisions, my parents followed the Spirit through prayer, and we were led to the right doctors. I am grateful for all the countless phone calls we got, with people letting me know that they put my name in the temple, week after week. I am grateful for my close friends who never gave up on me during my difficult times. I am grateful for the young women and young men in my ward that held a special fast for me. I know there is power in fasting. It brings people closer together in unity, and bonds them in love.

I can stand and say with confidence that I know trials are for our good, if we have patience and bear them well. We must lean on our Father in Heaven to guide us in our lives. He will keep surprising us by showing us that He wants to make us more than we ever dreamt we could be.