Friday, May 1, 2015

Faith is like a little seed

I have been thinking a lot about faith lately, specifically about faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ. There are so many scriptural accounts of people who exercised incredible faith, faith that led to miraculous events. I see around me every day acts of faith that are just as incredible, though to the world the results might seem less remarkable than those scriptural event.

The other night, through tears, Michael asked his father for a Priesthood blessing. It was 3 AM and his ear was aching so badly he couldn't sleep. Brian gave a sweet blessing to his son, a blessing that came from our Father above, and within moments Michael was peacefully sleeping, and rested well for the rest of the night. That was a miracle! That miracle came because a boy exercised faith. 

I have watched someone go through a trial. This physical trial was accompanied by much worry because of the unknown that lay ahead. This trial came to her not long after her husband faced a physical trial of his own. This sweet woman said, "I feel like I am not handling this well." It reminded me of using this very phrase when talking to mom one time shortly before Brian had his eye surgeries (November 2013). "I am not handling this well." Today that phrase to me means, "If I had enough faith this wouldn't feel so hard."

And it occurs to me now, that this is the point. Our faith isn't meant to just be strong, it is meant to be getting stronger every day, every hour, every minute. It is OK for things to feel hard. That is when we stretch, strengthen and grow.

I remember when Brian was first diagnosed with glaucoma (August 2012). The first day was awful. I cried a lot. The unknown loomed before me and I didn't know what was in store. I was fearful, I was worried, I was anxious. When it came to my vision challenge (me being unable to drive, me needing to find rides, me needing to depend on Brian, me needing to rely on the Lord) I felt like my faith in the Lord was strong. He eased my burden, so much that most of the time it didn't feel like a burden. But when faced with the "what ifs" of Brian's diagnosis my faith was put to the test. I remember saying to my mom, "I have faith that in the end everything will work out, but what about between here and there? What will we have to go through?" Tonight I connected this thought to an Old Testament story, an Old Testament story that we used in family night the very day that Brian was diagnosed with glaucoma. 

The children of Israel were wandering in the wilderness and needed food. The Lord provided for his children by sending manna. The children of Israel were instructed to collect enough manna for one day, except for the day before the Sabbath. However, some collected more manna than was needed for one day, and when they woke up the next day the manna had worms. We asked the kids why they thought this was and they said, "Maybe they didn't want to have to work the next day." I remember getting choked up as I talked with the kids about the children of Israel, and how I felt that they lacked faith. They didn't know for sure that manna would come the next day so they wanted to store some up just in case. That night I remember thinking, "Jen, the Lord has taken care of you before, and he will again."

So many things happened to help me feel peace and comfort about the situation with Brian's eyes. Priesthood blessings were given, prayers were said and I felt calm. We even were able to joke about silly things like advertisements geared toward an older generation, and incredibly long and thick eyelashes. My faith had been strengthened. Then hiccups came. There were allergies to the eye drops (August 2013), worries that insurance wouldn't cover the necessary preservative-free ones (fall 2013), and then the need for surgery because, though the drops lowered his pressures, the pressure was still in a range of concern (November-December 2013). With each of these bumps in the road I had more days of worry and fear. But each time I was reminded of the promised blessings. I was able to turn back to the Lord and the fear went away.

I have been wondering if my faith is growing at all. And last night I wrote this ending for this post.

And so tonight I write in hopes that I can strengthen my faith. I want my faith to be strong so that not only will I know that all will be right in the end, but that also things will be alright along the way. There may be setbacks (allergies to drops, drops aren't sufficient, surgeries help, vision decreases), but the Lord knows all, and will strengthen us in the midst of our challenges.

And on days when we feel our faith is not strong enough, all we need do is turn to Him and ask. The challenge will probably not be taken away, but peace and comfort will always be available.

But as I have continued to think about faith I realize that my faith has indeed grown. A couple of weeks ago we got some news from Brian's eye doctor that wasn't great. The pressures are still down, but some scans appear to show some damage to the eye and there was a slight change in his corrected visual acuity. The difference between 20/40/ and 20/20 may not seem great, but there can be concern because once vision is lost due to glaucoma, it can't be corrected. Of course, corrected vision can vary based on the day, and different, newer machines were used for the scans this time (so it really is hard to compare them with the last scans), but the news wasn't great. But I haven't worried in the same way that I did in the past. I thought a lot about Brian throughout the day, but my thoughts did not dwell on "what is going to happen?" or "what will we do?". Rather, I asked myself, "What can I do to strengthen and support Brian?" It wasn't until I started writing this post that it occurred to me that my reaction to this hiccup was much more faith-filled than my reactions to other bumps.

What a joy to realize that my faith has grown! I have a long way to go, I know, but it has been such a tender mercy to realize that I am in fact going in the right direction.

As I have typed this post I have thought of two separate experiences, unrelated to Brian's eyes, but certainly related to faith.

The first occurred early in February. On the first of February I was released from my calling in Young Women. The change was kind of sudden, and though I started to make the mental shift to my new calling in activity days, I was still feeling sad/disappointed that I would not be attending girls' camp this summer. I LOVE GIRLS' CAMP! I have learned so much as I have attended the last three years. To be honest, my feelings of disappointment made it hard for me to feel excited for the wonderful leaders who would e attending with our young woman.I felt envious, and I didn't want to feel that way. I knelt down one night, that week after my release. I told Heavenly Father how much I love camp and that my desire was to be there. Then I basically said, "I know that if You need me at camp you can provide the way for me to be there." I left it at that. And within a day I was not feel that aching desire to go to camp. I was able to feel excitement for those attending, and was able to see the positive side in me being home that week. I felt so free!

The second experience had its roots in January. With the start of the year we started making plans for the summer. We had lots on our schedule; girls' camp, scout camp, youth conference, Timberline for Nathan, an 11-year old campout for Mike and Priesthood encampment for Nathan. And our desire was to plan a trip to Maine at a time that we could get the entire Call family together. We knew the dates of many of the listed activities right away, as January passed the other dates seemed to get settled. However, scout camp for Nathan was never quite finalized. They had a week set aside but they were planing to attend an organized camp and reservations had not been made. I worried and worried that they would have to change the dates and that things would overlap the time we were hoping to spend in Maine. Then family started getting their tickets, and we had to decide to move forward with those plans despite scout stuff not being final. We decided to move forward with the plans for Maine and tickets were purchased, but I had this nagging worry that Nathan would miss out on his opportunity for scout camp. I think it was sometime in March when I decided that I couldn't worry about it anymore, but though I tried, I wasn't very successful at putting it aside and just letting things happen. So once again, I turned to prayer. I told Heavenly Father how much I wanted things to work out for Nathan to attend camp with his troop. I told him my hopes that all would work out for our summer plans and I said something like, 'If it is what you want, please make things fall into place for Nathan."And like that, my fears were calmed, my worries dissipated. And it wasn't until late April that reservations were officially made. (I learned too, that originally when they went to make the reservations, nothing was available for their planned week. But later a leader checked back and spots had opened up. I am grateful for the Lord's hand in making this happen.)

These two experiences help me realize how wonderful it can be to truly put things in the Lord's hands. He is in control anyway, but there is something very freeing about acknowledging to Him that we understand it is His plan and that we will accept whatever comes. I am grateful for these two experiences because though neither one was about incredibly difficult or worrisome circumstances, I realized that they were important to Heavenly Father because they were important to me (and I am important to Him). I find it interesting that the examples differ in one key way. In the first experience, my desires actually changed to align with the Lord's will. It is not what I initially wanted, but I came to know what was right and best. In the second example, my desires were in line with the Lord's will, and I know that because of how He made things work out.

These two experiences have strengthened my faith.

I remember, early on in the challenge of Brian's glaucoma, I wondered, "of any health challenges that we could face, why Brian's eyes? Why Brian's eyes when they are so important to our home and family?" It took about a year, but I was able to learn the answer. The Lord didn't just want a trial that would strengthen our faith. He wanted a trial that would strengthen our faith THE MOST. If we turn everything over to Him, and rely on Him and seek His will, then our faith will grow and someday be perfected.

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