7 Year Baptism Anniversary

7 Year Baptism Anniversary

March 7th 2010
“Today I am walking at my baptism. I got a blessing a month ago and three weeks ago I started walking agan and I know that I couldn’t have done it without God’s help. Heavenly Father has bles shised me so much with so much healing.  I feel so happy. I know for the first time in my life htat all this gospel is true. I know the Book of Mormon is true.  I know we have a living Prophet.  I know that Jesus and our Heavenly Father lives.

[My friend] Jacob just said, “Through small and simple things, greath things come to pass.” I know that this is also true.  Because today I am walking at my Bapitsm and that is a huge miracle in my life!

I know that Heavenly Father loves me and he has so blessed me.  Even the bad things have been blessings.  Being sick has […] brought me to this church.


I walked down into into the fonte with a little help from Melissa.  She had to leave the fonte for the actual baptism thogh. I sat sideways on a chair in the water and Elder George said the the prayer and then dunked me back. I FLOATED! Elder George had to push me down to get me all the way under. And then ath twas it. I came up Baptized! With the name of Christ taken upon me! I felt different than I thought I would. It wasn’t the same intensity as the blessing I got the first day. But I felt peaceful and so so happy! Everyone said I was just glowing afterwards. […] It was just the best day!”

It’s amazing to me that it’s been seven years to the day since I wrote that.  Seven years since I became baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It’s been the best the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.

The most amazing thing though isn’t that I got baptized seven years ago, though that was truly a miraculous day I never would have predicted growing up a Jewish girl in an all Jewish family. My baptism was the spark of faith that would grow, over the next seven years, into an unquenchable flame in spite of and even because of the most challenging of circumstances. Despite all the harrowing health and other challenges my faith has grown, even flourished.  That is the miracle of the gospel in my life.  That challenges and even the most crushing of life’s hardships haven’t blown out that flame; they’ve been the life-giving oxygen by which my faith and testimony have turned from a flickering candle to a glowing lantern.

Over the last seven years, I’ve received the Gift of the Holy Ghost, received my Patriarchal Blessing, served in many callings, received my Endowment in the Lord’s Holy Temple, became a Volunteer Temple Worker, and most recently I put on the physical name badge of the Lord as I was set apart as a Service Missionary as a Family Search Specialist. I am so blessed to have this opportunity to serve my Heavenly Father, my Savior Jesus Christ, and all my brothers and sisters. It is my hope and prayer that I will be able to serve well for at least the next 12 months from keys of my computer as I help build websites for the familysearch.org.

I am so grateful for my membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In a lot of ways, the past seven years have been the hardest of my life, but they’ve also been the most beautiful, fulfilling, and enriching years of my life. If these seven years have taught me anything it is this:

“And if thou shouldst be cast into the apit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the bdeep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to chedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of dhell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee eexperience, and shall be for thy good.”  Doctine & Covenents 122:7

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

With the elders before my baptism

With the elders before my baptism

6 Year Baptisversary

6 Year Baptisversary

Six years ago today I did the single best thing I’ll ever do for myself.  Going in I was really nervous, but at the same time very sure of what I needed to do and what Heavenly Father needed me to do.

My caregiver and I change into all white for my baptism.

My caregiver and I change into all white for my baptism.

Only six weeks prior I was bound to a wheelchair due to debilitating joint pain, but that day I walked on my own to feet toy all sogrens kydrome.   all white.  My friend was in white as well so she could help me downt he steps into deeper water only to wait shivering back at the waters edge while she watched and waited help me out again.

With a smile and a nod bewteen me and the young missionary performing the ordinance, I sat down in a chair.  With a tip of the chair I  was completely submerged backwards.  Under the water for that split second was so serene, and as I came up out of the water I felt a inner calm, and sweet delicate peace that would never leave me.

The day was March 7th 2010.  It was the day I was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  The following Sunday I was confirmed a member of the church and received the Gift of the Holy Ghost.

With the elders before my baptism

With the elders before my baptism

The decision to get baptized has infintely blesssed my life.  From the sweet calm in my soul that the Spirit brings to the love I feel for and from my Heavenly Father and my savior Jesus Christ to the life long friends I’ve made and to the knowledge have about Heavenly Father’s plan and purpsoe for me, I am so grateful to have these tender mercies in my life.  And to commemorate my baptism, I painted this page in my illustrated scripture study journal.

6 Year Baptiversary Painting

Alma 7:14-16

14 Now I say unto you that ye must repent, and be born again; for the Spirit saith if ye are not born again ye cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye may be washed from your sins, that ye may have faith on the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world, who is mighty to save and to cleanse from all unrighteousness.

15 Yea, I say unto you come and fear not, and lay aside every sin, which easily doth beset you, which doth bind you down to destruction, yea, come and go forth, and show unto your God that ye are willing to repent of your sins and enter into a covenant with him to keep his commandments, and witness it unto him this day by going into the waters of baptism.

16 And whosoever doeth this, and keepeth the commandments of God from thenceforth, the same will remember that I say unto him, yea, he will remember that I have said unto him, he shall have eternal life, according to the testimony of the Holy Spirit, which testifieth in me.

Read About My 4 Year Baptism Anniversary

Read About My 3 Year Baptism Anniversary

Read About My First Baptism Anniversary

From the Depths of Pain I Found the Greatest Peace

From the Depths of Pain I Found the Greatest Peace

SobbingSitting in my bed Sunday night, I could no longer hold back my sobs.  Tears flowed from my eyes, more like a raging river than a stream.  My whole body shook.  The emotional pain was a ocean so deep, I thought I might drown.

Sometimes it can seem easier to numb ourselves than allow ourselves to feel the depth of our own sorrows.  We live in a world that offers us an endless array of ways to detach from our own human experience much of which is negative.  Easy fixes.

For example, why would you ever want to feel the anguish of a bitter divorce when they can distract from those difficult emotions with the instant gratification of endless hours of Farmville instead.  Why feel lonely when you can zone out in front of the television all evening.  When you can mpathize with the sorrows of fictional characters instead of paying attention to your own.  What else do the advertisements for alcohol and other substances teach us than to forget our problems?  Hard day?  Forget it with a glass of wine, a cup of coffee, or a cigarette.  If we can’t feel happy all the time well then at least we can feel a little more numb, right?

NumbFor much of the last two years and in a way for most of my life, I’ve been operating under this assumption that emotional pain is to be avoided at all cost. For years I’ve been avoiding it subconsciously, not realizing what I was doing .  So I’d stay up half the night talking online to perfectly nice people from across the globe I barely knew rather than facing a dark bedroom where the pain of a traumatic event might slip in through the shadows.  Better to sit in the false light of energy saving bulbs than think about things that were just too painful to consider.  And yet at the same time I’ve been on a journey to find a better way.  Sunday night I found it.

As I completed a call with my best friend who has recently moved to Texas, I found myself getting more and more lonely and distraught. That normally would have cued me to immediately get on my computer to do something to distract me.  That night was different.  I decided to do an experiment.  I would let myself just feel what I was feeling and see what would happen.  Instead of shutting my emotions down or off, I welcomed those troubling feelings, letting them flow thorugh me on every level. I started to journal my emotions to help me both delve in and get it out of my head.  But even still I felt so alone in my suffereing, it was nearly unbearable.

HopeThen, after 10 or so minutes, the most amazing thing happened: I started to feel better not worse, and I started to feel God’s love wrapping its arms around me.  I began to feel grateful for those painful feelings, because I finally started to see what was on the other side of experiencing them completely.  On the otherside was peace and relief, even hope.  In my journal I wrote:

Sometimes I guess I just need to let myself feel how deep my sadness goes. I wish I had someone to hold me right now. I’ve gone through so much. Over and over again. And the trauma doesn’t seem to go away. I change. My mood changes, but something in me stays with the trauma and mostly I deny myself the ability to feel what I’m gong through. But through it all there’s the sweetness of the Spirit of God. It it warm and comforting and I feel wrapped in it, it gives me permission it feel these things. To put my toe in the deep abyss of my heartache.

Healing HelpEven more than that, allowing myself to feel these heavy and very human emotions, gave me the chance to give it over and give if up to something larger than myself.  I wrote:

I know He [Christ] can heal me in ways I cannot heal myself. It takes time. It takes patience and faith and more faith. I sometimes don’t know the answer of who to be. But Christ has the answer, even if I’m not ready to receive it. […]  Life is so hard sometimes. Emotions are so overwhelming sometimes. I am reaching for the light that only Christ can offer. He, and only He, is the Prince of Peace, the one who can bring me calm waters to my soul. It amazes me how deep His love for me is. How He is willing to hold all my suffering even now and again and again. Even though he bore it all already. He is always there to bear by burdens.

At the end of the day, on some level it is still easier to just numb myself, but I’m learning how that isn’t the way to feel true relief.  There is so much better on the other side of our sorrows if we just let ourselves feel and endure them for a little while.  Sometimes you have to go through a dark and treacherous swamp to reach the castle, and sometimes you have to sob to feel peace.

Hope on the Horizon

Crafting My Testimony

Crafting My Testimony

 

Illustrated Scripture Journal - Moroni 10:2-5

Illustrating your scripture notes can help you gain deeper insight into even the most familiar scripture.

Sometimes despite all we do, it can feel like our testmonies are hanging on by a unraveling thread.  It’s so easy for us as mere mortals, to get sucked into the humdrum of life.  We feel out of control.  We percieve ourselves as victims of either circumstances outside our control or at the mercy of other peole’s harmful decisions.  How easly we forget or even give up our agency, our ability to act for ourselves, to make our own decisions, and to reep either the rewards or consequesces of our actions because we forget who we are.  We forget we are children of a dvine being.  We forget that Heavenly Father’s greatest power is also His greatest gift to us.  We forget that just like our Father in Heaven, we too are creators.

As creators we aren’t just bystanders in the game of life.  We are the players.  But when it feels like we are just watching everything happen around us, we do better to remember that we have the same creative spark in us as Heavenly Father does.  Whether it is exercising our ability to create human llife or singing a hymn, creativity brings us closer to the the unvierse’s preeminent creator, God.

As I said, sometimes my testimony feels like it is just hanging on.  I”ve come to realize that this is a result of me ceasing to be a creator in my own life.  I get caught up in fear and worry and anger, and forget to use creativity in all asepcts of my life.

I’ve decided to counteract this tendency by using creativity to enhance my testimony.

I hadn’t been able to go to the Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in a very long time due to one prologued hospitalization after another.  To bring my focus back to the Temple, a friend and I made custom Temple Recommend Holders  We used scrap paper and the We R Memory Keepesrs Photo Sleeve Fuse tool.  I added sequins and a mini key inside to shake areound.  I got to go to the Temple two weeks ago and it was fun to use my new holder.

Handmade Temple Reccomend Holder

Handmade Temple Reccomend Holder

I’ve had a hard time with Scripture Study lately.  With all the time in the hosptial, it’s hard to stay with a good habbit.  I decided I need to study and ponder the scriptures more than just read them to really have a desire to read every single day.

I decided to start an illustrated scripture journal.  I’ll make an entry for my favorite scriptures I encounter each day and week. Here’s what you need to know to make your own:

  1. Illustrating the Book of Mormon

    Affix the scripture onto the journal page

    Search The Scriptures

  2. Find a scripture you want to journal while doing your daily scripture study.  Look for somethign that jumps out to you and speaks to your heart.  Listen to the Holy Ghost. He will guide you to the right scripture.  I chose Moroni 10:2-5.

  3. Trim It
  4. Cut out the sripture you’d like to use  out of an inexpenive extra missionary copy of the Book of Mromon.  (Actually to do this properly you’ll need two Books of scripture – one for the front sides of the pages and one for the back side of the pages.)

  5. Affix Your Verses
  6. Glue the scripture to a page in an art journal.  I used a journal with watercolor paper so I could use water-colors and other mediums in it.

  7. Take Colorful Notes

    Take notes on the scripture in vivid colors of words and images.

    Mark It Up

  8. Mark the scriptures with the words and phrases you want to highlight or that are especially meaningful to you.  For this I use Staedtler Triplus Finelliner Pens because they have an exceptionally small felt tip point and don’t bleed easily.

  9. Illsutrate with Inspiration
  10. Using watercolor colored pencils, draw your thoughts on the scripture in words and images.  This really made me think about the deeper meanings contained within the versus I chose.

  11. Continue to Illustrate

    When using watercolor colored-pencils, started painting water over parts of the illustration.

    Make it Vivid

  12. If you are using water colored color-pencils, next go over all your drawings with a paintbursh and clear water.  This will make all the colors blend and appear more vivbrant.

  13. In The Details
  14. Finally, go back over the words and other key drawings with felt tip, metallic, and other kinds of pens.  Make sure you title the journal page with the scripture reference and date.  Add a page number in the lower left corner, so that Iyou can make a table of contents of all the scriptures in the front of the journal.

Not only am I pleased with what I created, but I learned a lot more from this intense and creative study session than I had during many attempts to sit down and read scriptures.

Illustrated Scripture Journal - Moroni 10:2-5

Add details with metallic or other pens.

Maintaining a testimony can be difficult when life doesn’t go the way we want, but I have a testimony that as we engage in our divine creative abilities we will realize our potential, purpose, and a relationship that’s closer to Heavenly Father and Christ than we ever realized.

5 Ways To Gain More Knowledge & Blessings From The Hardest Trials

5 Ways To Gain More Knowledge & Blessings From The Hardest Trials

TrialsThe ever present hiss of oxygen and the occasional beeping of a monitor are sometimes the only sound I hear for hours, as I lay alone in my hosptial room.  I stare at the white sterile walls that surround me.  The walls are totally blank with few unnoteworthy exceptions.  Sometimes I wish my life were as clean and as sterile as those walls, devoid of any adversitity.  It’s an easy thing to wish for when I’ve spend more than half of the last year in the hosptial.  If I could whitewash all the years spent facing the pain, lonliness, isolation, boredom, fear, anger,  grief, and saddness that comes with a chronic illness that requires very frequent and prolonged hosptializations, wouldn’t I want to?

Growing From TrialsBut then I remember what I am here on earth to do.  I remember that my adversity and trials aren’t punishments; they’re gifts that allow me to improve myself, transform my weaknesses, and grow into the person I was always meant to become.  I remember that adveristy is a blessed opportunity – even an invitation – from my loving Father in Heaven, to become more like my Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.  I remember that if I were able to whitewash my life and forget all my trials, I’d also forget all the knowledge and blessings that come from them.

It’s been easy for me to get bogged down in the weight of a trial, and completely miss what I am learning and how I am growing from it. Perhaps if I were more methodical, more intetional about learning from adversity, I’d be able to develop more from it.  There are five things we all can do to gain more knowledge, growth, and blessings from the hardest things in life.

  1. Seek Guidance
  2. Ask Heavely Father QuestionsIt’s a lot easier to learn something when you figure out what you are learning.  Recieve guidance as to what’s there to learn from life’s hardest moments.  Sources of guidance can be close friends, family, religious leaders, professional counselors, scriptures and other books, and divine inspiration.  I personally realize the lesson in every trial most easily when I read my scriptures frequently and pray unceasingly to my Father in Heaven to reveal to me what He wants me to learn.  It reminds me that I am not in control, but that’s completely okay, because the one that is in control, my Heavenly Father, knows exactly what I need to learn, andhow I need to be blessed.

  3. Conduct Research
  4. It can be hard to know what you’re learning if you aren’t tracking your course throught the trial.  Record your journey in a journal. Look for patterns.  Ask yourself and Heavenly Father questions.  Pose hypothesis, and then experiment on the results.  I recently suggested this to a friend struggling with social situations and feelings of not being included.  Instead of thinking negatively about social situations, she tried thinking that people would perceive her in a positive way right before starting an converstation.  So far the results have been an off the charts improvement.

  5. Count Your Blessings
  6. When you remember to have an a attitude of graditude you get access to appreciating the good times and the bad.  Being grateful even for your trials opens up your ability to grow and change for the better and help you learn so much more from adversity.  When I take time to enummerate the ways being chronically ill has bettered my life, I am always astounded by all the good things that have come from it.

  7. Serve Others
  8. Getting out of your own head and focusing on helping others in need, gives you clarity and perspective that can shing light on what there is to learn from your trials.  When I take the time to be a good listener for a friend going through something really tough, the weight of my own trials diminishes.  As I lift their weight, Heavently Father lifts mine.

  9. Do It Together
  10. TogetherWhen you are in the depths of your trials, it’s easy to forget that you aren’t alone.  Whether it other people going through similar things or knowledge of the divine on your side, walking foward hand in hand allows you to both receive and share knowledge and blessings.  My default mentality is that I have to do everything hard alone (also that I’m alone in my trials).  The good news is neither are at all true. And not only do i not have to do everything alone, but it’s completely impossible to do so. In fact, this life was *designed* to teach me (and all of us) not to do it alone.  Instead I should rely on Christ, his teachings, and his disciples to get me through everything, from the smallest of small to the most miraculous triumphs that aren’t even imaginable to my feeble mortal minds. And we are the opposite of alone in our trials, we have a brother in Heaven that has a *perfect understanding* of what we are going through. I don’t even have a perfect understanding of what I’m going through, but through Christ I can start to come to an understanding.

In what ways do you gain knowledge and blessings from your trials? Please share in the comments!

Finding Wellness When You Can’t “Get Well Soon”

Finding Wellness When You Can’t “Get Well Soon”

A balloon slowly twirls in the corner of my room in the ICU.  “Get Well Soon!” it proclaims, in its bubbly font pastered on a backdrop of a smiling kite floating above smiling flowers.

Get Well Soon Balloon

I am grateful to have it cheering up the overwise sterile and dull place I’ve called my home-away-from-home five times in the last year alone.  I am grateful to my thoughtful friend who brought it when she visited several days ago.  But the truth is life doesn’t fit neatly into phrases we so often use to comfort our loved ones when a major life trial afflicts them.  For me, “Get Well Soon” is a lie.  I won’t be well soon.  Yes, I’ll recover from this hospitalization, but I live with several serious chronic illnesses that will most likely sent me back to the hospital again.  When “getting well soon” isn’t possible, the challenge is to find insight, peace, and even gratitude in my situation.

I firmly believe that we are faced with trials on this earth, so that we can learn lessons we couldn’t learn any other way.  Through my illness I’ve learned patience, compassion for other’s trials, and trust that my suffering is all for a purpose and even brings blessings.  Nothing would have taught me patience, for example, quite like waiting through seemingly endless and prolonged hospitalizations.  I couldn’t have learned to have as much compassion, had I not suffered myself and felt the pain and loneliess of chronic illness.

I have even found blessings in my trials with chronic illness.  As I was forced to adapt and find new interests, I discovered my passion for writing novels, my love of web and graphic design, and, most importantly, my faith in Christ when I was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  All these things came to be in my life directly as a result of my chronic illnesses.  They have blessed me in more ways than I can number, and especially blessed me with a sense of a life calling, purpose, and knowledge that I am not alone.  Realizing these blessings give me insight into the person my trials are helping me to become, a person I couldn’t have learned to be without these trials.

Knowing that trials have brought me great blessings fills my life with peace, purpose, and meaning.  And I am grateful for the role of trials in my life to make me a better person.  I am grateful for the ability to bless the lives of others that I learned from these trials.  I am grateful for my testimony of a loving Heavenly Father and Savior, Jesus Christ, that I’ve learned from experiences I’ve had being sick.

As I look to the bigger picture, I see the role these trials play in becoming the best person I ultimately can be.  I may not “Get Well Soon”, but as I look beneath the harsh surface of life with multiple serious chronic illnesses, I’ve come to recognize that, on many levels, things are already “well” with my life.  And as I strive to find insight, peace, and gratitude in the face of my trials, all will be well.

When Life Doesn’t Go Our Way: Relying on the Blessings of The Lord

When Life Doesn’t Go Our Way: Relying on the Blessings of The Lord

Christ Forgiving Woman in Red

Forgiven

What do we do when our understanding of our circumstances eludes us and puts our faith in peril?  How can we turn our doubt into a tool to grow closer to our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ?  I recently discovered that it is from our most vulnerable place of complete doubt and uncertainty, that upmost faith and surety is the Gospel is available.

I received a blessing for a medical procedure that promised that i would be blessed that it would all go without complication.  When that didn’t turn out to be the case, I couldn’t be help but question my own faith.  Maybe I just didn’t have enough faith to receive that blessing.  Not only was I suffering the physical effects of my unfortunate circumstances but I was filled with fear.  Doubts swirled through my head.  Maybe I couldn’t trust myself to have the faith required to receive the blessings I most desperately want and need.  Maybe I let my own fear get in the way.  Or maybe God didn’t want me to have that blessing for some reason.

The Great Physician

The Great Physician

I sought out comfort in prayer from my Heavenly Father asking why I had to be stuck in the hospital once again for a prolonged period when it was supposed to be a one day procedure.  Though I didn’t get my answer right away I was comforted through the power of the Holy Spirit telling me that The Lord works in His own time and for His own reasons.  There was a reason for even this even if it was not yet clear to me.

It didn’t start to become clear until about a week later.  Still in the hospital another complication caused me an incident of severe and dangerous bleeding, that landed me back in the ICU.  It was then that I realized that if I had been stuck in the hospital in the first place then, I wouldn’t have been in the safety of the hospital when I had started bleeding profusely and the outcome might have been much worse.

Sitting in the Love of The Lord

Sitting in the Love of The Lord

It is much the same spiritually.  When we are in the safety of the Gospel in the loving arms of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, we can bleed out all the doubt and woes of our life until we are weak and can barely stand.  Then Christ will be right there to support us.  He has already bled the same blood and so much more for us.  He has felt all the pain.  He is the Great Physician who will cure us and make us whole and complete again, so that we may return again.  Once we’ve hemorrhaged out all our doubts, we are ready to be so much more like Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ.  Even blessings that seem to fall short in our lives are opportunities to grow in the Gospel is we but turn to Christ, take His hand, and open our hearts, continually seeking the Father, repenting of all our doubts and sins, and seeking the divine healing of The Lord!

Sand Through My Fingers

Sand Through My Fingers

"And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours.  And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more." D&C 78:18-19

Riches of Eternity
created by Lauren Soffer

Life is hardly ever what we expect it to be.  The harder we try to plan out our lives, the more God shows us that He has bigger things in store for us.  Like when you try to hold sand in the palm of your hand.  Relax your grip completely on your life and the pieces of your life all fall through the cracks.  Plan your life too tightly and it all starts to slip through your fingers despite your best efforts.  But God’s hands are infinite.  He can hold all the sand of our lives and more.  He won’t let any sand slip away if we allow Him to help us hold it.  We simply have to turn to Him and ask for His help, love and guidance in ALL things.

Sand in it’s size is much like the minutia of our lives.  Tiny in the grand scheme of things.  When struggling to hang on to the little granules, we often forget to pull back and see the larger picture.  We are worried about loosing a few grains of sand when we are standing on the beaches of infinite blessings if we would only look around and realize it.  Not that each grain isn’t important, but we shouldn’t let it distract us from remembering who we are and where we are going as divine children of Heavenly Father on our journey back to Him.

But in the topsy turviness of life, all this is all to easy to forget.  And suddenly you aren’t just loosing sand, you’re up to you’re being consumed, even suffocated by it.

A few months and a lifetime ago… or back in November, I celebrated my 30th Birthday with a Mocktail Soiree.  I was surrounded by numerous friends and family and had a wonderful time.  I was in good health, and I was able to walk around the party.  That night was a high point for me, and I had no idea I was headed for a very low point just a week or so later.  I had plans for how I would spend the next several months.  Plans I intended to keep.

Lauren's 30th Birthday Mocktail Soiree

Lauren’s 30th Birthday Mocktail Soiree

Then a series of events led to a serious health decline that landed me in the hospital with my life at stake.  A series of serious infections caused the autoimmune disease I have, Myasthenia Gravis, to flare making me unable to breathe on my own so that I required a ventilator just a week after my party.

Life is strange.  Unpredictable and sometimes difficult to comprehend.

As I fought for my life in the hospital, some might wonder if I was left asking why God would allow me to withstand this hardship.  Why would God allow me to suffer so much?  And if that’s the case, what does it say about God?

In the World, Not of the World by Greg Olsen

In the World, Not of the World by Greg Olsen

To which I would answer, I asked nothing of the sort.  Though it might be tempting to blame God when things go “wrong” in our lives, that is an entirely counterproductive approach.  Heavenly Father provides us trials in our lives as a backdrop against which to bloom and grow.  Without it we would never progress and become more like our divine parents.  My health trials have given me a chance to learn things about myself that I may not have otherwise (or may have taken much longer to learn otherwise).  I have become more sensitive to the needs of others and to my own needs.  I have become more introspective and intuitive.  I have gained faith and perspective that even the seemingly worst things come with spiritual gifts.

He also gives us trials as a chance to practice choosing and agency – or being utilizers of His gift of freewill.  When we exercise our divine right of freewill and choose good, we can grow closer to Heaven Father.

It is hard to see this larger picture when in the moment.  Just like it is hard to see the beach for what it is when grappling with the granules of sand.  But when we put the sand of our lives in God’s capable and infinitely wise hands the landscapes of eternity will become more apparent to us.  And for that we will be blessed even more than we can fathom now.

“And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours.

 

And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more.”

 

D&C 78:18-19

Sandy Hands

Sand slips through fingers.

Feel The Love:  Helping a Loved One Through a Difficult or Life Threatening Hospital Stay

Feel The Love: Helping a Loved One Through a Difficult or Life Threatening Hospital Stay

It’s been a long nine weeks.  Another nine long weeks I’ve spent in the hosptial with whole month spent in the ICU.  I’m supposed to go home in the morning finally.  I’m hesitantly relieved.  I don’t want to be disappointed.

Being in the hosptial for any period of time is really hard.  Probably one of the hardest if not the hardest thing I’ll ever have to do.  Espeically when the stay is super long and the reason is life threatening involving ICUs, ventillators, comas, and the like, it’s especially important to feel the love of those around me, to know that I am not alone in this.

And my friend and family have really risen to the occasion over the last 9 weeks.  I couldn’t be more grateful for everything they’ve done for me.  They have been my emotional and spirital life support while on physical life support most of the time in the hosptial.  I can’t thank them enough.

When your friend or family memeber is extremely ill in the hosptial and ICU it’s hard to know what to do or say.  Here’s some of what I appreciated the most to serve as an idea guide to helping support someone through a rough hosptial stay:

  1. Call or text ahead.
    Let the person or the family memeber staying with them that you are coming so they can be prepared or let you know if its not a good time.  For example, the person might be in a proceedure or be sleeping when you plan on coming.
  2. Ask what you can bring. Often times ICUs have restrictions on live flowers and other things that can be brought in.  Very sick patients often have dietary restrictions, allergies, or simply aren’t eating at all.  Don’t be afriad to come right out and ask what the situation is before you bring something.  Your thoughtfulness will be appreciated.
  3. Bring reminders of life outside the hosptial. The most amazing awesome thing my friends did for me was decorate every inch of my room with photos and artwork and Christmas decorations for the holiday.  My friend Katy took photos off my own facebook accooutn and got them printed out and posted them in a giant collage covering an entire wall under the window to remind me of all my friends and happier times.  I have photos of my dog, myself as a kid doing fun things, my family, and other fun stuff.  She also took a calendar with photos of Christ which is extremely important to me as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and got them laminated then hung them all over another wall.  That allowed me to feel the Spirit of God in my hosptial room and be constantly reminded of my Savior’s and God’s love for me.  Other friends decorated for Christmas since I spenddt the holidays in the hosptial as well.  They put up gingerbread men, wreaths, garlands and more.  My mmom got me a tiny Christmas tree and a star.  My room had to have been the most amazingly festive of the whole hosptial because everytime anyone came in to give to a treatment or do a proceedure the ooo’d and ahh’d over my decor!  It brought joy to everyone who entered my room, and especially me!  I am so grateful to everyone who took the time to do it
  4. Promote Health If you think that you are sick, don’t come and visit!  A person in the hosptial has a weakened immune system and can get much worse from a simple cold.
  5. Remember Their Other Family and Pets If you can offer to help out with their other family members who may also need things during this time as well as their pets who don’t stop needing walks, love and attention while your friend is in the hosptial for prolongued periods.
  6. Listen and Love The most important thing you can do is just listen, love and otherwise be a emotional and spiritual support while your loved one goes through this hard experience.  They need your listening ear to vent sometimes, to cry sometimes, to worry, and be angry sometimes.  They need your kind words to comfort always, to remind them you love them always, to be in their corner always, to boost them up when they are down, and to always be their friend and support and cheerleader.  Remind them how much they are loved and missed by everyone else.
  7. Visit!!! Phone calls and texts are great, but nothing beats an in person visit when you are lonely and scared in the hosptial for long periods of time.  And the longer the hosptial stay goes on the worse it feels, but the less people tend to remember to come because the novelty of it starts to wear off.  Don’t forget your friend is still going though it in the hospital just because it’s been going on for 2 months!
  8. Don’t Unload Don’t tell the person in the hosptial how hard it is for you to see them in the hosptial.  It only makes the patient feel like a burden.  Of course you are worried and stressed yourself but make sure you talk about it with someone who isn’t as close to the person as you are and definitely not the patient themselves.
  9. Be Yourself If all else fails just be yourself.  The person that the patient missed from when they were well and wants to see is YOU!  Don’t overly worry about what to say and how to act.  They just miss you and want to be with their friend or family member.  They want your company and comfort that only you know how to give because you are the only person who is you.  The worse thing you can do isn’t to say or do the wrong thing but to do nothing and make the patient feel completely forgotten about and abandoned by you.
  10. Bring Them Home! When your loved one in the hospital makes it home, don’t forget about them then either!  They often will be stuck at home for some time and need just as much love and attention brought to them there as they did in the hosptial.  So bring them home!

I am so grateful for my friends and family who did everything I just described above and so much more!  They made it possible for me to emotionally and spiritually survive this hosptial stay.  It really wouldn’t have been barable without all of you so thank you soooo much!!!  I am especially grateful to God and Christ.  They are always there for me and I know that this too shall pass and even this difficult trial I have endured will be for my benefit.  I know it is slowly and rather painfully shaping me into who I am to be someday.  But the pain was made less by some photobombs and a lot of love from friends and family.

Thank you!  Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!!!!!!

Reopening My Box of Hope

Reopening My Box of Hope

Wouldn’t it be amazing if, during our darkest hour, we could reach under our bed and open up a box of hope?  A “box of hope” could be a figurative thing that we reach inside ourselves or out to God to find.  But sometimes you need something more. Sometimes you need a literal box of hope.  And that is just what I created for myself during my darkest hour.

When I was 16 years old, during my senior year of high school, I was immersed in a deep and serious clinic depression.  My Obsessive Compulsive Disorder had just been diagnosed but was not yet under control.  I had constant intrusive thoughts of hurting myself – of ending my life.

Looking back I really had amazing self control on the whole.  But I could only handle so much.  The second time I caved in to the constant bombardment of intrusive images of self-harm, and I ended up cutting myself using razor blades my parents had forgotten to hide out in the garage.

Afterward I was on the phone with my therapist at the time.  She was telling me I was at a crossroads… that if I chose to continue down this path of cutting I would probably end up in a hospital.  I wasn’t really listening to what she was saying.  Instead, I was transfixed by what was sitting on the desk in front of me – the candle-lighting piece my mom had made for my younger sister’s Bat Mitzvah.  She had glued this tiny shells all over the outside of it go with my sister’s tropical theme.  And it struck me then with incredible intensity how very beautiful those tiny shells were – how simply amazing it was that something SO tiny could be SO beautiful.  And if something that tiny in life could be that beautiful… well all of life was beautiful and precious as well.

I rushed to get off the phone with my therapist.  I knew that I had to find a way to hang onto this feeling.  I had stumbled upon my internal box of hope!  But I knew that it wouldn’t be easy to tap into again.  I had to find a way to make it physical while it was fresh in my mind.  I had to find a way to remind myself of this epiphany every day because I knew there would be many dark days ahead where I would desperately need to draw on my box of hope.

So I had my mom (who is good at crafty things) help me cover an old shoe box with some bright pretty wrapping paper.  I wanted my box of hope to be private and inconspicuous on the outside.  I didn’t tell her what it was for, but perhaps sensing my urgency she kindly helped me anyway.  Then I took the box upstairs to my room and set to work.


IMG_1262Going through pictures and old magazines I decorated the inside of the box with things I wanted to do with my life, places I wanted to travel, people who cared about me, things that filled me with hope.  I hadn’t yet found out if I had gotten into USC Film School (a few months later I did), so I put a picture of a director’s chair with “USC Alumni” written on it.  I glued in some of the very shells that had led me to make the box to remind me of how beautiful life could be.

 

IMG_1263

I put a picture of myself as a child to remind myself of happy memories of my childhood innocence.  I was obsessed with The X-Files and desperately wanted to know how it would all end, so I put a picture of that as well.

Most importantly I wrote in large purple letters:

I CHOOSE TO CONTINUE LIVING

I WILL GET THROUGH THIS


IMG_1278Then it was time to fill the box.  Inside I placed a smiling drama mask to remind me of my love of theater and the creative arts since creativity had always sustained me during dark times and given me something to look forward to.


IMG_1265I placed my childhood comfort animals – my blanky, kitty, and lamby – inside.  Though nubby and threadbare from a lifetime of being loved the went into the box to remind me to always feel safe.


Next went the rug I wove myself while learning about Native Americans in elementary school.  I had always hated looking at it when I was younger because I hadn’t done it perfectly like my best friend Jennifer.  But over time I came to love it for it’s imperfections.  In the box, it reminded me that imperfection could be beautiful too!

IMG_1266


IMG_1277I put in a bracelet I made when I was 11.  All the beads were pretty by themselves but together well… it reminds me that you can have too much of a good thing.  But also to have fun and to have a sense of humor in all things.


IMG_1275Second to last I put in a rope I tediously made myself during Outdoor Education in 5th grade.  I spent over an hour with my hands going numb in an icy cold river laboriously pounding all the moisture out of a reed before braiding it into a rope.  It reminds me of the power of hard work.  And the rope itself, which could hold my whole body weight, reminds me to always be strong.


Finally I included a letter that saved my life one day.  I was home alone after school and feeling very suicidal.  I was searching for a knife to cut myself with.  Suddenly, I had a prompting to go check the mail before I got any further.  I almost never received any mail, but on that very day the following letter was there for me.

Letter

I cried when I read the letter.  It quite possibly saved my life that day.  I stopped looking for a knife and starting trying to figure out who could have sent it.  I didn’t think about hurting myself at all for the rest of that day.  The letter reminds me that I am loved even when I don’t realize it or it doesn’t feel that way, and that God is there working miracles in my life.


I looked at my box of hope every day for about a year. It got me through a lot of very dark hours and days and months. Then there came a time when I could carry my box of hope around with me in my heart, and I didn’t need to look at it so often.

Now it mostly sits in my closet, but I always know it is there if I need it.  But today I was talking with a friend who is going through a very dark time in her life, and I told her about it.  I offered to send her photos of it, but, I thought, why not go a step farther and share it here?  Perhaps there is someone else who needed a little box of hope today.

I first published this post on my Box of Hope in 2010 on my now mostly retired blog, NovelPatient which chronicled my life with multiple chronic illnesses.  At the time, I was surprised by how positively the post was received.  I have since realized that everyone needs a box of hope to draw on in times of trouble.  For most people that box is figurative.  But for me… my hope is now something I can pull out of the closest whenever I need it.  I can wrap myself in my blanky and see, feel, smell and touch the contents of box, encircled in eternal hope.

Has anyone else made a box of hope or something similar?  Please share and post about it in the comments!

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Home, Safe & Sound

Home, Safe & Sound

Leaving the Hospital

My friend/caregiver and I get ready to leave the hospital.

Today I made it home from the hospital.  I was there three weeks with one week in the ICU.  It’s amazing what a chain reaction an allergic reaction to latex can set off.  Due to a series of mixups it took an extra 5 and a half hours to get out of the hospital today.  Hurry up and wait was the name of the game.

It’s so so good to be home!

It’s amazing the things you don’t appreciate enough when you are always around to have them.

Greeting my doggy at the door he freaked out and cried at seeing me.  Ran in circles.  Happy as can be.  I didn’t even want to climb into my bed until I hit the shower.  So I took a nice long one for the first time in three weeks.  It felt amazing to get clean.  Then bed.  There’s nothing like being in my own bed.  It even smells right.  Finally, food.  Eating some of my mom’s dinner was a perfect way to celebrate coming home.

All these things are small, but they are the things that make my home…. my home.

Home is a sacred space.  Just like a church or temple, the home is holy.  I’m so grateful to my Heavenly Father for getting me home safe and sound.

And it’s good to be home.

Home Sweet Home

Sitting in my own bed at home!

Choices & Divine Healing in the ICU

Choices & Divine Healing in the ICU

BreathingIf I’ve learned anything the last 10 or so years of my life if the last decade or so, it’s to enjoy sweet moments for they are often fast and fleeting.  I am learning to let go of the painful moments rather than choosing to experience their pain again and again each time the though surfaces  Most importantly I discovered how to cheerish the eternal moments and divine nature of this life. It is everythihg. All that I have,  With it, I never need to shrink from what lies ahead.

They say that I’f you don’t your health, then you don’t have anything. By this standard must be very poor indeed at writing from a hospital bed in the ICU.  Laying here for the last five days in pain and  unable to move my limbs let alone breathe without the assistance of machines, I’ve had all my blood removed, cleaned and returned to my body without any plasma five times.  i’ve realized there’s a lot of ways I could be consuming my time.  Or worse:  letting my time consume me.

balloonallergyI could bask in the fleeting joy of being a a birthday party which triggered this frightening experience. Or I could be berating myself for rationalizing staying at the part once I saw that there were latex balloons everywhere since I already knew that I can react just by breathing the air around them.  But I seemed find throughout the party until I got home and went to bed.

I woke up at 5am having trouble breathing.  Neck and face swollen.  Wheezing.  It was too severe to go to my normal hospital where all my doctors are which is about an hour away from me.  But I figured, it’s just an allergy?  IT’s not like I’ll be admitted.  Riiiiiight.

So I raced to the nearest hospital and was taking right back and given large doees of IV steroids, benadryl and epinephrine   As soon as the epi entered my bloodstream i could breathe again.  But my releef was fleeting.

After about 30 minutes my legs starteed to grow heavy.  Then my arms.  Then my voice got weak. It could only mean one thing.  Myasthenic Crisis.  But I refused to let terror set in.  Not then.

As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ ofLatter Day Saints, I am so grateful to have priesthood holders who can perform blessings for comfort and healing for me whenever I need to.  Their Priesthood comes directly from Jesus Christ himself.  So I called my Home Teacher to give me a blessing.  He and another member of my church came and blessed me with all the things I needed to hear to get through the last several days and be comforted.  It was very emotional and I’m eternally grateful for the peace I received in a time of so much fear.

Chirst's Healing Words

Chirst’s Healing Words

Since my last 3 month stay in the hospital last summer in which I was intubated for over a month in the ICU from Myasthenia as well, I’d be dreading this would happen again.  I’ve been dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from it.  But in one simple moment, all my fear melted away into love for my Heavenly Father and the plan he has for me.  In the arms of his love I was swallowed up in divine trust.

That moment has since past and I still need to keep calling it back up for myself.  Reminding myself that I have a Heavenly Father who knows me and everything I need.  I will be taken care of if I just remain ever faithful and endure to the end.

So though it may seem strange to have such a spiritally connected moment in the noisy Emergency Room.  To me it makes perfect sense.  It’s how I’ve learned to cherish divine nature (in others, in God, Christ, and especially in myself)  Surrounded by the divine nature of all the wonders of life Heavenly Father and my savoir  Jesus Christ has provided to me, I have no cause to shirnk.  In fact,  I must not shrink.  As I stand strong, my testimony will grow as I feast on the gospel at all times and cleave closer to my Savior’s atoning and enabling sacrifice during there types of trials.

I dont’ know when this particular trial will end, but I know that with faith I will endure all things.

Noise

Noise

Life is a noisy place.  It often feels imposible to escape the noise of life. The traffic, the talking, the hum of electronic devices, cell phone rings, music blaring,  Aside from the noise pollution, there’s even light pollution   So many places there is so much ambient light that I can’t see the stars that surround me.  Of course there’s ways to get away from all those types of noise in my life, but there’s a type of noise that’s much harder to get away from.  The noise in my head.  How do I escape the constant noise contained within my brain?  Intrusions of thoughts and words and sounds and images that keep my mind so busy, that I it’s difficult to focus on what’s right in front of me.  Distraction.  Seemingly harmless most of the time, but in reality, potentially deviously dangerous. It’s scary to think what might be hiding amongst all the noise that’s right there, but, like the stars, just out of sight.

Girl With Stars

Sometimes I wonder if I keep all the noise there intentionally to prevent myself from discovering something about myself.  But this isn’t something I’ve done on purpose.  This is a coping mechanism.  NoiseKeep my mind busy at all times and I won’t have to think about things that are painful.  I won’t have to deal with the fact of having a chronic illness.  I won’t have to recall vivid memories of time spend in the hospital that resulted in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  I won’t have to address ways I often feel inadequate or unworthy of being liked or loved by others.  I won’t have to be confronted by instances from my childhood.  Instead I can focus on the noise.   And in a way it works like a charm.  It works so well I can go for months or even years sometimes without addressing something that’s deeply troubling me directly.  But it comes out in other ways.  All sideways like.  But the noise is just a distraction.  And all distractions eventually come to an end.

And now that the magic of the distraction has been lifted, I don’t have to just stand here breathless with the rug pulled out from under me.  Starry Heart TreeThere are things I’m learning to do to help me dissipate the noise and deal with the underlying cause of that made me want to distract myself in the first place. With the help of a therapist I’ve been learning to process the emotions that led to the noise in the first place.  I’ve been learning to differentiate that I’m not the same entity as the noise.  Who I am is a divine child of Heavenly Father.  I am so much bigger than these disempowering distractions that got made up to keep me from dealing with my real emotions.  I’ve also been working on being present and getting in touch with how I am feeling in the moment.  It’s important to notice everything around me until my thoughts quiet down.  The thing that helps me the most is to turn in prayer to my Heavenly Father and ask for His help in dealing with everything I’m going through.  Once I’ve done that I can finally start to take action and make changes.

It’s a slow process for me, but it’s well worth it.  I’m tired of being distracted from what’s right in front of me and all around me.  I want to see my life for what it is.  All it’s blessings.  Especially the stars.

Starry Night

Breathless

Breathless

Sometimes, despite my best intentions, strongest convictions, all my strength and will, all my hope and faith, commitment and passion… sometimes despite everything I am, was, and will ever be… sometimes things fall apart.

Sometimes it seems like there’s no putting things back together again.

The past few weeks I’ve had my fill of Humpty Dumpty moments.  My emotions splatted out on the ground for the whole world to see.  At first it was for seemingly no reason.  Then, little by little the source of my tears began to bubble to the surface.  Flashes of suppressed memories of my last three month hospitalization haunt me.  I was in the ICU almost a month and I remember everything.

Yesterday was odd sort of relief  at receiving a diagnosis.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

When I got home from my doctor’s office, I decided it’s time to stop suppressing the pain.  Putting a name to it is a good first step, but it was really time to let a little of it out.  So I wrote this poem about the experience:

Breathless

by Lauren Soffer

How can I speak when
The pain leaves me breathless
Tear drops unspoken
Burdens unshed

Urgent
Failure
Crisis
Life unsupported

Defined by wounds unforgotten
Terrorized
Paralyzed
A prisoner of my own head

Inhaling insurmountable
Hemorrhaging sorrow
Lost
I surrender

Where darkness ends
Myself begins
My Savior carries me
Breathing each breath

As I relinquish my anguish
For His infinite love
Safe in His Eternal arms
I am found

Through writing the poem, in a tiny way I began the process of transformation.  Turning something ugly into something beautiful.  Turning my pain into strength.  And with that I found a iota of peace in that moment.  I am struck by the following scripture:

And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. (D&C 122:7)

I’m grateful to have the faith that hard things in life will all be for my growth and benefit.  Maybe things fall apart because life is like a jigsaw puzzle: there’s no point if it comes already put together.

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Tears of Today

Tears of Today

Crying GirlDriving home from the neurologist’s this afternoon, I was overwhelmed by how much I’ve endured this past year and how much I’ve overcome.  No words that I could speak nor tears that I could shed could express the depth of my sorrow at that moment or the breadth of my gratitude for the life that I have.

It’s been a rough week.  A lot of painful memories from my time in the ICU are coming up for me.  Dreams that are actually remembered moments of frightened emotions are surfacing.  It’s time to face them, as painful as that may be.

I’m reminded of one of my favorite poems I’ve ever written.  I wrote it over 5 years ago, but it is just as relavant to how I am feeling to me right now as it was the moment I wrote it.

 

Crying Colors

Tear

Today

by Lauren Soffer

 

Today was a really good day

So why are are my eyes burning

With tears that could never be enough

If I could only cry them

 

Is it the difference between where I am

And where I could be – should be

Not lying here drowning in the dividing ocean

If I could remember to swim now

 

How did my life get so crowded

With people who look right through me

Hiding the few who wave right at me

If I could only see them

 

Maybe I forgot how to see myself

Treading water so long

That the current took me

But couldn’t – don’t want to go back

 

Because today was a really good day

And my eyes bear witness

Like the growing pain that knocks you down

Will I ever stand up?

Change of Heart

Change of Heart

http://www.flickr.com/photos/haphotography/3330164970/

I’ve been told on several occasions lately that I’m glowing.  I was in the LDS Temple when I heard it first.  One of the more locally important leaders came up to me to tell me that his counselor told him that I was glowing and that he agrees with him.  I promptly turned a bright shade of red which I’m sure covered up any glow as I thanked him.  But when I got home, I looked in the mirror and to my surprise, sure enough, I was glowing.  Nothing green or yellow or radioactive, but my eyes and skin were lit up and shining.    Glowing is a term usually reserved for describing women who are in love or pregnant.  As I fall in neither category, it’s led me to wonder at the source of my illuminating shine.

Today I realized what that source was.  I was at church this morning when that same counselor came up to me directly to tell me how much he thought I was glowing for himself.  He also mentioned that could see a change in me.  That’s what gave me the clue.  I believe he was referring to a “change of heart” or a “mighty change” of heart of the variety written about beginning in The Book of Mormon, Alma, Chapter 5, Verse 12-14 & 26 :

12 And according to his faith there was a mighty change wrought in his heart. Behold I say unto you that this is all true.

13 And behold, he preached the word unto your fathers, and a mighty change was also wrought in their hearts, and they humbled themselves and put their trust in the true and living God. And behold, they were faithful until the end; therefore they were saved.

14 And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?

[…]

26 And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?

While I was in the hospital for three months over this past summer, I really believe it wrought a mighty change in my heart.  I learned to trust God like I never trusted before.  Being on a ventilator, unable to breath on my own, while still being completely conscious, for such a long period during that time, was a humbling experience.  It taught me to just keep giving me burdens over to my Savior.  It also taught me how our short lives are such a gift to treasure every moment of.

Writerfly glows with the Light of Christ after a mighty change of heart.

When I got home, I began to recover in leaps and bounds, faster than I had ever recovered and from a way more intense hospitalization than ever before.  I didn’t think much of it at first, but now I attribute it to the might change of heart I’m experienced.  The peace, faith and connectedness I feel are all products of that change of heart that I experienced inside me.  I felt the song of redeeming love so strongly then.  Can I feel so now?  I must answer a resounding, “yes!”

Which bring me back to the glow.  I realize now that I’m not really glowing.  Or rather when you look at me and see a glow, it’s not me that you are seeing.  You are seeing the Light of Christ working through me.  I have embraced Christ’s love and his love shines through me.  His love makes me glow.  So in a sense I am pregnant.  I carry faith inside me and feed it and nurture it and grow it into its full divine potential.  And I might not be romantically in love, but I strive to carry charity or “the pure love of Christ” with me everywhere I go.  That is the glow you see.  That is the light in my eyes.  As it is written in The New Testament, Matthew, Chapter 5, Verse 16:

 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Planning For Happiness

Planning For Happiness

Lauren's First Birthday

Lauren’s First Birthday

This year my greatest birthday wish came months before my birthday.  It was to be out of the hospital to celebrate my special day.  This week, on Tuesday, is my birthday.  I will be turning 29 and entering the last year of my twenties.  After 11 long, hard, and often frightening weeks in the hospital, I am very relieved and grateful to say that I am home from the hospital to celebrate.

It feels strange to know that my twenties are winding down, and I will soon be in my thirties.  Thirties sounds rather grown-up, and, in a lot of ways, I hardly feel like a grown up yet.  More than that I’ve spent a large part of my twenties feeling like I was failing to live up to my own expectations of myself.  I wrote about this last year in my post Living Up to Teenage Expectations (Ten Years Later).

What I began to see last summer when I wrote that post and that I now see so clearly is that I was so busy feeling like a failure for all the ways I didn’t measure up to where I thought I’d be or should be by now, that I couldn’t see how successful my life really is.  And more importantly I was robbing myself of the satisfaction and happiness that could come with that success.

Lauren's First Birthday Cake

Lauren’s First Birthday Cake

Life often doesn’t turn out how we plan as young adults.  As we grow older, we find out what God has planned for us.  And the wonderful thing is, though we cannot see it now, that plan is grander than anything we could have imagined for ourselves as teenagers and will ultimately lead us to happiness.  So my new plan is to abandon my own old expectations and put my trust in my Heavenly Father.  Trust that he knows what is best for me.  Trust that he can see the whole picture.  Trust that by following his plan I will be lead back to Him.  And trust that in doing so there will be more blessings along the way than I could have possibly imagined.

What a blessing it is that God is no respecter of persons.  While I, for the last decade, was so worried that I wasn’t in the right career, living in the right place, having the right romance, and achieving the right things, God and my Savior Jesus Christ were loving me for exactly who I was.  And they love me now for exactly who I am.  This frees me to give up all those old expectations and just move boldly forward with the knowledge that if I put my trust in the Lord, I will find eternal happiness.

Lauren's Fourth Birthday

Lauren’s Fourth Birthday

But what does this look like on a practical, day-to-day level?  The first thing that come to mind is I must make every effort to live my life according to His example.  The basics of prayer, church attendance, scripture study, and service are His standards to live by.  Beyond that I can create my life within the context of what’s happening now rather than what I thought I wanted or should be doing at this point.  So instead of trying to force the old dream of a career in film that just doesn’t fit anymore, I can relish in my new found love for novel writing and work towards getting published with passion and gusto.

Finally it’s absolutely critical to live in a space of constant gratitude.  I am so so so blessed to be alive after the last hospitalization I just had, how can I waste time worrying what a teenage version of myself would have thought of me?  Life is too lovely, too perfect, and too short for anything less.  This year on my birthday I will remember that.

Silent Gratitude

Silent Gratitude


Gratitude. As strange as it might seem, that is the one prevailing emotion of the past six weeks.

Why gratitude?  I’ve been in the hospital.  I’ve been sick.  Really sick. Several weeks on life support when I was too weak to breathe on my own.  So though there’s been moments of fear, of anger, of bitterness, of longing, of frustration, when I think about what has really filled my heart throughout this ordeal it is gratitude.  This experience has left me so so so grateful for my life!

My family has been amazing.  They’ve been here nearly every single day to make sure things went right and to be my support and my company.  To hold my hand and to just let me know they love me.

My friends… I can’t even think about how hugely the’ve been here for me without getting teary eyed.  They’ve sent cards and gifts. And most importantly they’ve showed up and entertained during these long dark weeks.  My friends make me feel so loved.  I don’t know how I’m so deserving, but I try to be better everyday to deserve how well my friends treat me.

My Heavenly Father and Savior Jesus Christ.  Without them I would be so lost.  They give me the strength to endure these tough times.  And I am grateful for these hard times as the polish me into the person my Father in Heaven would have me be.

My self expression. I’ve spent most of the past six weeks a complete mute.  Communicating by writing notes either on paper or one my laptop since it’s rather hard to talk with a breathing tube down your throat.  But last night I got a special valve to put on my tracheotomy that allows me to start to speak again.

Arms of His Love

Arms of His Love

Sometimes it’s hard to remember how loved each of us are by our Father in Heaven.  But we are each loved so profoundly that it is truly impossible for us to comprehend.  The more we open our hearts to feeling this love, the closer to Him we become.

This morning I woke up with a nasty eye and very contagious eye infection.  I opted to stay home from church rather than risk infecting everyone in my Ward.

So I spent the day reading through scripture while listening to awesome and free Especially For Youth music downloaded from lds.org.  While reading through the Book of Mormon this afternoon, I came across this scripture:

But behold, the Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell; I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love.

2 Nephi 1:15

We are each literally “encircled about eternally in the arms of His love.”  I felt the Spirit of Christ burning inside me when I read this scripture.  I knew how loved I am.  I wanted to create some art with those words, so I created the following image in Illustrator to remind me of how I felt when I read it.  Enjoy!

Encircled About Eternally in the Arms of His Love

But behold, the Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell; I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love.
2 Nephi 1:15

(Feel free to use the image as long as you attribute it to me with a link back to this post. Thanks!)

Fading Scars

Fading Scars

Scared Heart

Conventional wisdom tells us that scars fade over time.  But they don’t always fade on their own.  Whether physical or emotional, diminishing scars is a process that takes work.

A few months ago I had surgery to have a two benign Lipoma tumors removed from my left arm.  In the weeks and months since the surgery, the pain subsided but the scars did not.  The scars grew hard, red, and puffy.  Ugly reminders of the surgery.  Every time I’d look at them, I was right back in the memory of all the pain and anxiety I’d experienced.  Embarrassed at my skin’s imperfection, I wanted to hide them.  To cover them up.  But I realized that wouldn’t make them go away.  Fading them would take time and effort.  I started rubbing scar-reducing cream into them several times a day.  The nerves under the scars are very sensitive, so rubbing them can be rather painful.  But the combination of the massage and cream has started to soften and lighten the scars.  To my surprise they are fading.

ScarsIn thinking about my scars, it occurs to me that emotional scars are much the same way.  When we face a trauma in my life, I am often left with emotional scars.  If left to their own devices they can get irritated and raw.  They can make me feel imperfect and embarrassed.  I might try to cover them up and hide them only to find that they are just as present as ever.  It’s only when I start to massage my emotional scars that they start to go away.

It’s painful to address my emotional scars in the moment.  Touching that nerve sends reverberating pain up and down my psyche making me wince and want to withdraw.  But I have to retrain my nerves.  Exposure lessens the pain.  Lightens the scars.

My Nightmares Collage

My Nightmares Collage

A raw wound in my life I’m realizing is the post traumatic stress I’ve been dealing with from spending time in the Intensive Care Unit twice in the last couple years.  I’ve wanted to hide it.  To put on a brave face and pretend that the scars from that memory didn’t exist.  But that has only given the resulting nightmares more power.  I’ve noticed that as I’ve started to talk about my experiences it’s gotten better.  Though at first it was a raw nerve to talk about the memory of being unable to breathe on my own, massaging that wound has stimulated healing.  I even recently collaged the nightmares that have haunted me from my time in the ICU.

My scars will always be there.  Both emotional and physical.  But overtime and with the proper care, they will fade.  Until then, they are my battle scars.  Not reminders of weakness but evidence of my strength.  Of how much I’ve endured.  Of being a survivor.  And that will never fade.

4 Steps to Help Heal a Broken Heart