This past week has been super crazy. We had the dinner for Halea's Sterling Scholar award. That was fun. It was good food, and a few of her friends were there so that was fun. As we were sitting there, a lady that I haven't seen forever came over and said hello. She is running the banquet hall that we were at. Small world. Then I looked up and one of Hayden's friends that we have known since birth was one of the servers. How have those boys grown up so fast!? Here is Halea with two of her friends at the Sterling Scholar dinner.
"The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark."(Michelangelo)
I am sure there is probably a great quote about surrounding yourself with those that help you to aim higher. What great examples.
On Saturday night we were able to go to a stake dinner for the Stake Presidency and the stake clerks. Lance and I were invited because he is now serving as a Stake Membership clerk. Elder Snow was there with his wife. I adore our entire stake presidency and so it was really fun. The counselor who called me to speak approached me at the dinner and asked if I was ready for today and I smiled and said "Is that tomorrow?" He chuckled nervously, and then I laughed and told him that I was just kidding. I am sure they don't know exactly what to think of me. I was talking to our Stake President later that evening and he told me to just be myself. I am not sure he knows me very well. I can be a little irreverent. Then we had the adult session of our stake conference, that was great.
I was up late putting the polishing touches on my talk. I really didn't want it to be a talk about my life, but it unfortunately turned out to be that way. I just kept feeling like that was what the people needed to hear from me. My personal experiences with faith. It was way too long when I was going over it last night, so I kept having to whittle things down, reword things. I had been working on it for two weeks, but I just have a hard time finishing a talk until the last minute. I have some disease that doesn't allow me to finish a talk until I am under pressure. Luckily I have felt very calm about it all. I was a little nervous this morning, but for the most part, I felt really OK.
I was wondering where I might be speaking on the program. lance told me that they usually go in order of, and he paused for a minute. He was trying to think of a way to say importance in a nice way. So they have the "regular" people speak, then according to calling in the church. I was one of the "regulars" so I figured that I would be in the first part of the meeting. Then they had to release one of the members of our stake presidency. Several extra people were asked to bare their testimonies and so I wasn't until about 40 minutes into the meeting. Which was fine, but a few of my friends that were coming I told them that I would be in the beginning of the meeting. Whoops. Now they had to sit through an entire extra hour of church. Sorry. The meeting went well. All of the messages were great. Our new counselor in our stake presidency used to be our high councilman and he and his family are incredible.
Tonight when Holden was getting ready to go to bed, he came up to me and said "you did a good talk today". He is a man of few words. It was so sweet for him to say.
Our niece and her husband came to the meeting to hear me speak and so they came over for dinner afterward. It was so nice of them to come. While they were here my niece was flipping through these pictures of these glitter houses that you can make for decorations for Christmas. She was showing them to us to see if we wanted to make some. As she was flipping by one of the houses Hilary said, "that is where Tatum and Trevin could live". She is a crack up.
I am so grateful for all of the neat experiences that we have had as a family this week. I am also grateful to have a little bit of a breather for a minute. I have been noticing a lot of things around our house that need some serious help. Closets and drawers need to be cleaned and de junked. Things need to be dusted. tonight I noticed cob webs hanging down from the light hanging in our entry way. It is amazing the neglect that comes to your home when you have two babies, serve as the Young Women president for over two years, and have a terminally ill daughter. The house was apparently the bottom of the chain of worries. I feel OK about it, but it is probably time to tidy things up around here. Let the projects begin!
When I posted that Hayden had gone for a job interview last week I forgot to write about his actual interview. We were asking about it and what questions the manager asked him. Hayden said that they asked him about his family and he told the man about Tatum! I couldn't believe it. It seemed like they had a good conversation about it. What a brave young man. What cold hearted snake wouldn't hire him now, right? We are still waiting to hear. It just made my heart sing, and sink to thing that he told this perfect stranger about his sweet sister.
I am going to put my talk on now, for anyone who wants to read it. Don't feel obligated, it is long.
Stake conference talk:
I love Stake Conference. Oddly enough in my patriarchal blessing it says that I am to attend all conferences of the church and it states each of them. Heavenly Father must have known who He was dealing with. He knew that I was a little squirly and needed direct instructions. We have always attended faithfully and I love it because usually Lance or I or both of us have some sort of Sunday duties, so it is a little bit like a vacation day where we just sit, wrestle the kids for two hours but we in return we are spiritually fed. Well this has not felt like much like a vacation this time! I guess at least I got out of wrestling the kids.
All kidding aside, I truly am honored and privileged to stand before you this morning. I know that I am supposed to testify of the things that our family has learned this past year, and for the opportunity to do that I am grateful. My wish this morning is that all of us will listen with our spiritual ears. I hope that I can be the conduit for the spirit to whisper to each of you the things that you personally need to hear. I hope that something that I share today will touch you and help us all to elevate how we are living the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have prayed fervently to be guided and directed on what to say and share this morning. Most of this is very personal, for that I apologize, but it is what I know and why I feel I have been asked to speak today.
When President West called me with my topic of faith I immediately started pondering what faith meant to me. I have always looked upon faith as a gift. I have not been blessed with any obvious or outward gifts or talents. I don’t play an instrument, I am not crafty, I can’t sing, I like to, but the choir director probably wishes I wouldn’t, I can’t dance, I have no rhythm at all, I am not super athletic, I am not a good decorator nor do I have a great fashion sense. I am not a great scriptorian; I am not a great story teller. I have however always felt like I was gifted two spiritual gifts, faith and the ability to forgive. I have a terrible memory which explains the scriptorian thing, but turns out a terrible memory helps you to be a great forgiver. I count that truly as a gift. I think that to some extent we are all given faith as a spiritual gift. I think it is innately in us. We all have been given the power to believe. Some of us have been given an extra dose, and I believe I am one of those. Like other gifts that we are blessed with, faith must be practiced and exercised or else it fades and we lose the ability to utilize it in our daily lives.
There were several times throughout my life that I have had to exercise faith. When I was 7 my older sister died and I remember praying and knowing that someone was listening. I had not grown up with any sort of religion and so that was truly the faith of a little child, being comforted by a loving Heavenly Father. Just before I turned 17 I took the missionary lessons and was baptized. Just before I turned 21 Lance and I were married in the Los Angeles Temple. All of these events confirmed and strengthened my faith and testimony, preparing a foundation for the rest of my life.
In Alma 37:35-37 it reads:
O, remember my son, and learn wisdom in thy youth; yea, learn in thy youth to keep the commandments of God. Yea, and cry unto god for all thy support; yea, let all thy doings be unto the Lord, and whitersoever thou goest let it be in the Lord; yea, let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord; yea, let the affections of thy heart be placed upon the Lord forever. Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day.
By exercising the little bit of faith that I had up to this point in my life, my understanding of the gospel began to grow. I knew that by trying my best to keep the commandments and make the decisions that my Father in Heaven wanted me to, and being where I was supposed to be I would be guided by Him throughout my life.
Our oldest son Trevin was born a few years after we were married in 1993. We did not know that the next test of our faith had arrived. Trevin was our perfect healthy sweet, wished for baby boy. When he was 10 months old, everything changed in a blink of an eye. On Easer Sunday at 3:00 in the morning he woke up in a grand maul seizure. All of our lives were instantly changed. Trevin lost all muscle tone and he could no longer eat on his own and so he had a feeding tube off and on for the last eight months of his life. Every test was run to try and diagnose what had happened to our healthy baby. To no avail, there would be no answers. That December after an eight month struggle, at the age of 18 months Trevin peacefully died in our arms. It was the hardest day of our lives. I was devastated. When he died I questioned the Lords timing. I was so sure that I was supposed to take care of him for longer. I am so grateful for a strong and faithful husband and good friends whom I leaned on during the following months as I tried to find my purpose again. I know that Trevin came partly with a purpose to change my heart and to knit it towards the Temple and the covenants that Lance and I had made there. With work and prayer our family bond and our faith in the Savior and our Heavenly Father grew stronger and deeper.
We had been told by most of the doctors that worked with Trevin that his condition was probably genetic. After much prayer and discussion we felt that we could not base our family on a “probably”. With another huge leap of faith, we started our family again. There was worry with every baby, but we somehow found the peace that we needed to carry on, and we really felt guided in our decisions.
In Proverbs 3:5-6 we are told to, “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.”
And so we did put our trust in the Lord. We went on to have six more children. Our last little girl was born in May of 2012. Our sweet little Tatum. The mascot of our ward’s Young Women. Our much loved and awaited companion to our little Hilary who was two at the time.
From the time that Tatum was born there was something special about her. I know every parent says that, but she really was. We had a running joke that she had “the Force”. She attended various activities and went numerous places, that I shall not name, that she probably shouldn’t have, but I just couldn’t leave her. She was my side kick. When Tatum was about 5 months old, I started noticing that she was starting to delay in her development. In December I brought her to our pediatrician to discuss with him some of my concerns and promptings. When my pediatrician was examining her he asked me if I thought there were similarities between her and Trevin. I answered yes and he nodded his head in agreement. My heart sank. He immediately got us an appointment with a neurologist.
During this time I was obviously desperately praying, as any parent would. I did not want this to be true. I did not want our sweet baby to be sick. How could we watch another one of our children suffer and eventually die? Surely that was not what we were going to be asked to do.
Our relief society had started a 5 or 6 month class on the Atonement that January right when all of this was happening. I know that class was done at that time, for me. I needed the knowledge that I gained from that class, right then. While walking home from class in January I was alone, walking home in the dark and I was praying to my Heavenly Father. That night I knew that Tatum had what Trevin had. A peace came over me and an impression to change my prayers came. I had never had such a certain personal revelation. For the next several weeks I changed my prayers to asking for things that I felt I needed to prepare me for this trial rather than for Tatum to be well. I prayed that I needed to know when Tatum’s big event was coming, I needed it to happen in the day time while the kids were at school and I was awake, I needed my pediatrician and other medical people that she needed to be there, I wanted her to not have to be intubated, I needed the nurses to be able to get IV access. I prayed more specifically than I had ever prayed before. In mid-January we went to the neurologist and we sent off genetic testing for the disease that they thought Trevin possibly had. The testing would turn out to be futile because a week before it came back Tatum had her big seizure event on February 12th of this year. She was 8 and a half months old. It was a Tuesday morning and the seizure began very subtly. I tried to tell myself it wasn’t the seizure, but I almost immediately knew that it was. I put her and Hilary into the car and headed to my pediatricians office. By the time I got there, what had begun as a rhythmic tick looked much more serious. By the time I got her to their office we knew she was beginning to seize. We walked over to the hospital and began our horrible nightmare. But we began it with our pediatrician and all of the medical professionals that we needed there. There were two nurses working on her that had also been Trevin’s nurses. The nurses were able to get IV access immediately. They had to give her a ton of medication, but they did not have to intubate her. As I was watching this all unfold, it was surreal because it was as if every prayer I had sent was being answered right before me. Lance arrived at the hospital a short time after we did. It was devastating to him. He was so sure and so hopeful all this time that Tatum was not sick, and so he was shaken. I tell you this very sacred part of our story to demonstrate the pure love and understanding that our Father in Heaven has for each of us. When I talked to Lance a little later I told him that I felt bad that he was caught off guard and that he wasn’t prepared for this crushing day. He was quick to reply that he would have gone crazy if we had received the test results confirming that Tatum had the same mitochondrial disease that Trevin did. He would have had a hard time just waiting, like watching a ticking time bomb. He needed to not know this big seizure was coming. I on the other hand was desperate to know and be prepared. This was so confirming to my testimony and my faith that our Father in Heaven knows us, individually and He hears each of our prayers. I knew that day that Heavenly Father had listened and had done everything in His power to show me how much he loved me and was aware of me.
In our Atonement class we had talked about a scripture in Alma that Elder Snow referred to last night in our adult session.
I love the part that talks about how the Savior had taken upon him our infirmities so that he could know how to succor us, his people. I know this is true. He could not take away that awful day with Tatum, or the months to follow, but he truly answered the prayer that I sent up, witnessing to me His love and compassion for us. I knew that the Savior had felt my fear and my heart break by the way that He answered my prayers.
The next three and a half months with Tatum were the sweetest and the hardest. We knew that our time with her would be short. We did everything in our power to keep her comfortable and to try and keep her healthy so we could have more time with her. I loved taking care of her, and would have done it for the rest of my life. I am so grateful for the time that we were all able to spend with her. I prayed that Tatum would make it to her first birthday so that we could have that memory with her. Another prayer that was so graciously answered. A short 8 days after her first birthday Tatum died. She was surrounded by those who loved her here and I know that she was welcomed home by a loving brother and many other ancestors who have crossed the veil before her. She has changed my life forever. She has made me want to be a better person. She has helped make us a better family. In her short life, she touched many. I am forever grateful to be her mom and I will miss her every day for the rest of my life.
I want you to know that I am just a regular person like all of you. I am far from perfect. I lose my temper, I grumble at other drivers, I make mistakes every day, I am not perfect in my prayers or in my scripture study. I haven’t seen angels or witnessed great grandiose miracles. But I know that I have been given these experiences in my life, especially this past year of my life, to testify of the truths that I know.
I have always tried to recognize the hand of God in my life. I know that acknowledging Heavenly Father’s hand in my life has been vital to increasing my faith and testimony in the gospel of Jesus Christ. It would have been easy for our family to have felt abandoned by Heavenly Father this past year. From the outside looking in it would seem that our outcome was the worst case scenario and that none of our prayers for Tatum were heard. Yet this is so far from the truth. Our family has felt so blessed and cared for this past year. We have seen so many miracles and prayers answered that it has left the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ undeniable. That is a gift that we will have forever for our family and I will testify of the things that we have learned to my last breath hear on earth.
As I have said before, I know that prayers are heard. I know that prayer brings us closer to our Heavenly father and our Savior and that helps us to more readily recognize them in our lives.
I know that the scriptures hold the answers that we need in these perilous times that we live in
I know that the Atonement is real. I know that it is not only to cleanse us from our sins, but it is to help us in our daily lives as we access the amazing grace given freely by our Savior. I know that it was an extra bonus given to us by our Savior that he took upon him our infirmities that he might know how to succor us in our greatest times of need.
I know that we have to place ourselves where we can feel the spirit. I know that if we are not seeking to feel the spirit every day that we will not be able to withstand the pressures of this world. I have seen good people slip away from the church, by simply not seeking to feel the spirit. If the spirit cannot bare witness to you, the adversary will quickly move in and take its place. We have to protect and fortify ourselves at all times.
As we were listening to the adult session last night, there was a lot of talk about the hastening of the work. It reminded me of the infamous two Brother Butlers youth fireside that we had several weeks ago. If you don’t know why it is infamous, ask your youth it will make for some funny Sunday conversation. Brother Butler from the High School seminary reminded us all that we are all on missions. It started in the preexistence where we fought alongside each other for one another in the Great War in Heaven. That mission, that fight for one another, continues here. We are supposed to be rescuing one another, helping each other return to our Father in Heaven. President West referred to this last night. There are people in our midst that need us. How can we save those around us if our own faith and testimony are fragile? We can’t. We have to prepare now, there is no more time to waste. We have to do better so that when the day comes, and it will, when we are called home that we are prepared and that we have done all that we could.