Everyone goes through trials and I have had my own share. To name a few, my dad developed a tumor on the left side of his brain and had it removed when I was 16. That was scary enough, especially since my mom had always stayed home with us kids and hadn't been in the work force for about 30 years or so, and the work force had changed drastically in that amount of time. She didn't feel like she had the skills necessary to get a job that would pay well enough to take care of me and herself should my dad not survive the surgery. When he did survive the surgery, it was a really tough year of him not going to work. He had worked for his company for many many years and he still received payment while he was recovering, but we relied mostly on food storage that year to make sure we had enough money to afford other things if needed. My first child was suspected to have autism at 3 1/2 years old and would have been diagnosed if it hadn't been for his age. No doctor was willing to diagnose him until he turned 5 and until then he was categorized as developmentally delayed in order to receive treatment. I have a nephew who has Cystic Fibrosis. I have another nephew who was born in perfect health, but when he developed RSV early in his life the doctors ignored it. He had a massive seizure when he was 6 weeks old, which killed over 50% of his brain cells, leaving him blind, and with multiple other severe disabilities. He finally passed away at 19 months old. I had to live with my in-laws for a year after living on my own, in my own home with my own rules and ways of doing things for six years. I have fought post partum depression twice, and the second time almost killed me. I watched my mother fight uterine cancer. These are only some of what I have had to endure, but the point is, I have had trials that I have had to face.
Yet, not even in my darkest hour, when I was suffering from depression, have I ever felt truly alone. In many ways I think that is what has always gotten me through the tough times. Because as long as I am careful to keep my Savior close in my life, I can always feel His love surrounding me in my time of need.
Two and a half years ago, when we first moved to Washington Terrace, I was right in the midst of post-partum depression. Johnathan had been going to an alternative kindergarten at West Haven Elementary, and they were conducting an experimental classroom that year that he was a part of, that was designed specifically for children on the autism spectrum, since they often have very different needs than other children with special needs. Because of this, I felt very strongly that he needed to stay at WHE for the remainder of the school year, even though it was only November. It was the only class like it in the district, but moving to Washington Terrace placed us outside the special needs boundaries for this school, and this meant that if we chose to keep him there, we would have to transport him ourselves, as no bus would be available. He had never taken the bus before anyway, so we had already been transporting him ourselves, but it meant that I was driving for two hours, every day for five days a week just to take him to and from school. I also had a 3 year old and a baby who had to come with us. These daily trips didn't leave a whole lot of time for other things like spending time with my kids, or getting housework done, let alone having any time to spend with adults. Johnathan was acting out as a result of the move and the change in his environment. There were meltdowns almost daily. Corey was going to school and working full time, and I was left alone with the kids a lot. I felt very lonely.
We hadn't been living here very long when I was given my first calling -- Relief Society pianist. Sounds easy enough if you know that I play, but I'm not the type of pianist that can look at a piece and just sit down and play it without a previous thought. I need to have some time to practice if I don't want to have to assault anyone's ears. With the daily two hour trips and just trying to get the very basic chores done so we had clean laundry and dishes and a decent meal on the table at night, plus trying to give my kids any attention, while I felt like I was drowning, I really didn't have a lot of time to practice. And it showed. I sounded bad and I knew it. I had many times when I wondered why the Lord had given me such a calling when He knew how much of my time was already being taken as it was. But this is also when I learned that the Lord really does know what He's doing, and has a plan in mind for me, and for everyone.
One night, Corey was at classes, and I had just gotten dinner cleaned up and the younger kids in bed and was sitting on my couch, watching tv and missing my husband, feeling lonely and just really wanting to crawl in a hole and hide for a while, when the Relief Society chorister called. I'd met her a few times and she called to review the next month's music schedule, when we got talking. I learned that she was the head speech therapist at Washington Terrace Elementary, and that her own son, now grown, was autistic. Somewhere in our conversation she figured out that I was having a very tough time, was in the midst of depression, and was being left alone a lot. She understood so much of what I was going through, both with Johnathan, and with the PPD. She began doing little things to help me. Once in a while, on one of Corey's class nights, she would show up at my door to announce that she was here to get the kids through dinner and put them to bed and I was to go to the library to read, go get my hair done, go see a girly movie, or whatever I wanted. Sometimes I opted to stay at home because it was so good just to have someone to talk to. She would call me in the middle of the day from work to see how I was doing. She would bring us dinner once in a while so I could take the night off of cooking. She would come over just to visit, look around for a moment and then grab the mop, or would start going to town on the walls or any number of the other things that were being brushed aside because at that moment of my life they just weren't on my list of priorities. My priorities were just getting through the day. She would come on her lunch hour to announce that we were going for a walk to make sure that I got out into the fresh air. She was the first reason why I was called into the pianist position. She is now Johnathan's speech therapist at Washington Terrace Elementary. She has been an angel in disguise for our family, and especially to me.
One afternoon, months into my calling, I found myself with a few moments that I could actually practice. I decided to seize the opportunity. I was deep in the very darkest part of my depression at this point, and on the list of music for that week was the hymn "Did You Think to Pray". Music has been a very spiritual thing for me, akin to prayer, only I seem to feel it more. I would even go so far as to say that music speaks to me much more clearly than most scripture I've ever read. Also, for whatever reason, perhaps because I'm a singer more than I am a pianist, if a piece of music has words, even if they are not being sung, I always hear them in my head while I'm playing, and many times even mouth the words. Maybe this helps to drive home the point when I need it driven. I want to share the words to the third verse and chorus, which are the words that really struck me that day:
When sore trials came upon you,
Did you think to pray?
When your soul was full of sorrow,
Balm of Gilead did you borrow
At the gates of day?
Oh, how praying rests the weary!
Prayer will change the night to day
So, when life gets dark and dreary,
Don't forget to pray.
This was the second reason I had been given this calling. So that I could hear the sweet words of this hymn and be reminded that in my moments of sorrow, I need not carry the burden alone. I have a Savior who already knows my pain. At that moment, I couldn't remember the last time I had knelt in prayer. I was still going to church, obviously, and had just kind of been going through the motions, but nothing more for quite a while. This was the moment when that changed, and I don't think there were many moments after that that I wasn't praying -- praying for comfort, for strength, for knowledge, for energy, for whatever it was that I needed. And it was so good to know that even though I still had a lot of pain, that I didn't have to go through it alone. And that made the burden lighter. It was in that moment that I finally began to heal.
As difficult as every trial I have had has been, each one has shaped the person I am now. They have made me stronger, more selfless, more willing to serve, more patient, more kind, more willing to find the light within the darkness. I hope that I can continue to endure any trial given to me, knowing that I have my Savior there, and that I will always remember that He has already suffered for me. He knows my heart.
And should I ever find myself wanting to complain of my trials again, I hope that I will remember D&C section 122 verses 8 and 9:
The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art though greater than he?
Therfore, hold on thy way, and the priesthood shall remain with thee; for their bounds are set, they cannot pass. Thy days are known, and they years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever.
This was such a touching lesson, and I thought it was so fitting for Easter morning. I love the week of Easter and how my thoughts turn to the Savior in such a way that reminds me of what He has done for me, and what is promised to me because of what He has done for me. But only if I endure the trial of my life on earth well.