Posts tagged hospitalization
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.
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:
Search The Scriptures
- Trim It
- Affix Your Verses
Mark It Up
- Illsutrate with Inspiration
Make it Vivid
- In The Details
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I don’t want to sound mean. I just want to be honest. Is there something else bothering you?*
Last night I was faced with that loaded question. “Was something else bothering me?” Because, she explained, how upset I was didn’t add up. “Nothing happened,” she said.
At first the question didn’t even register through my sniffles and tears. Of course something had happened. Something terrible. Or why else would I be so upset? Right? I had been feeling left out of a conversation, and everything just seemed to sudden spiral out of control from there. Suddenly friends were angry with me and I was crying and… of course something had happened.
But because I know my friend doesn’t just say things like this casually, I dug a little deeper.
Was something else bothering me?
A list started to write itself in my head. A list that looked like it could be a mental health professional’s list of major life stresses. Okay. So I had a few things going on in my life right now what with the recent hospitalizations and rehabilitations, family stresses, missing friends, and so on. So I supposed that a few things were in fact bothering me.
I felt dumb.
Suddenly everything came into focus and my reaction seemed so out of proportion.
And that’s when it happened.
See for the last few weeks I’d been describing the stress I was under like a giant and delicate egg just under the surface of my emotional pain, waiting to crack open and drip it’s gooey and painful ooze everywhere.
It happened. Right then in that moment of perfect clarity, I could feel all the pain I’d been hiding from myself so completely and all at once.
I didn’t know I could cry that hard. That intensely. And that it could be that freeing.
I prayed that I would have the strength to get through it. To find meaning in my struggles and tears.
Then, just as suddenly as it came, it was over.
Feeling better, I’m so grateful to my friend for asking that loaded question. It must not have been easy to have to be honest with me when I was a basket case and try to figure out what was really going on.
Have you ever been really upset about something only to realize that it was something else entirely that was really bothering you? Here’s some suggestion you can try to help you figure out those upsets when they occur:
- Think about if your reaction is in proportion to the upsetting incident.
- Think about what other stresses you have in your life.
- Ask yourself it there is something else bothering you.
- Seek trusted friend/mentor or a professional counselor who can talk the problem out with you.
- Pray or meditate to get divine perspective on the situation.
Sometimes you have to crack the situation wide open to see what’s really inside, but I know that on the inside of that egg is greater serenity, happiness, and peace of mind.
And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!
And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!
When that scripture is usually quoted it’s typically in reference to helping bring others to Christ. But today, I thought of it in a different context. Because today was truly a joyous occasion for me. Today, Friday, March 7th, 2014, marks the 4 year anniversary of the day I entered the waters of baptism and joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. To this day I know with every fiber of my being that decision to get baptized was the best decision I’ve ever made for myself. That day, March 7th, 2010, I brought my own soul unto Christ, and I have never been more joyful!
It began with a quest like many good stories do. My quest was to find a close connection with Heavenly Father. My problem was I wasn’t really sure He existed. But I wanted to believe so badly. My quest, which originated in the Reform Jewish Synagogue of my youth, took me to lots of different places and to many congregations. Never feeling complete or satisfied. Always searching for something more. I was interested in college in how my Christian friend cultivated a close and personal relationship with Christ and would occasionally attend her college group prayer meetings at her church to see if I could glean how they went about it and apply it to my own quest. I told them straight up that Christ wasn’t for me. I remember that kind Youth Pastor prayed with me that I would find my own truth in my own time. Whatever it was. I appreciated that a lot.
Years later I was going to a Universalist Unitarian Church, but I still hadn’t found what I was seeking. At the same time, I needed to hire a caregiver. I had been in a wheelchair for over a year due to multiple autoimmune diseases causing extreme pain that made it impossible to walk. The new caregiver I hired was Mormon. We would talk about religion all the time. Sharing about our different background. Her being raised in the Church. Me being raised Jewish, Bat Mitzvah’d, Confirmed and having taught Temple Religious School, but still searching. I admired how close she was to God. How personal it was for her. How it was such a source of strength, peace and hope in times of stress and darkness. I wanted that for myself on some level but I didn’t believe. And I couldn’t just suddenly believe in something I didn’t believe in just because I wanted to.
However, she convinced me to start praying on a regular basis. I’d never said a personal prayer before. I didn’t even know how to go about it until she explained it to me. It felt super awkward at first but slowly more comfortable.
It wasn’t until I decided to try an experiment that things started to shift for me. I decided to try adding “In the name of Jesus Christ” to the end of all my prayers, just as an experiment to see if it felt any different. I was amazing to realize there was in fact a subtle but significant difference. It brought a sense of calm and peace, love and comfort into my heart.
I remember telling my caregiver, “I wonder what kind of miracle it would take to get me from not believing in Christ as the Redeemer of the World to accepting Him as the Savior of all Mankind. What would it take to change my whole belief system?”
So when my caregiver asked me yet again to attend Church with her and to get a blessing for healing I finally agreed.
I loved Church. I remember feeling such a sense of peace and warmth come over me the entire time. Then it was time for the blessing of healing. From the moment the two missionaries giving the blessing put their hands on head, I felt Heavenly Father’s love for me so intensely I thought I might pass out. The way I experienced His love for me was so all encompassing and so complete, it was just sooo awe inspiring to know that I am that loved and that known by God. And that He is real. And that He lives.
In that instant I knew that I wouldn’t have had this experience if I wee not the in the right place to have it. I knew it was a signal from God to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I started taking the missionary discussions and was baptized 6 weeks later. And I walked into the baptismal font (with the help of my caregiver) having started walking the same week of the blessing. My baptism was held during the 3rd hour of Church, so my whole Young Single Adult Ward attended it. My Dad and his girl friend were also able to attend. My baptism was so special. I’ll never forget those tender and elated feelings I had coming out of the waters of baptism, feeling more pure than I’d ever felt before. I will treasure those memories always.
The last four years, haven’t been the easiest, but they’ve been richer and more joyful with the gospel in my life. Through the hard times and all the hospitalizations especially, it’s given me so much strength to endure. In the happy times, it gives me so much more context in which to enjoy each moment. The gospel truly is the greatest gift in my life. I’ve learned so much, gained so much, my life has been so blessed in every way!
I’ve received my my Patriarchal Blessing, a piece a personal scripture and revelation that is individual to each person who receives it, given by men ordained of God to give such blessings. I’ve held multiple callings (or volunteer positions) in my Ward at Church. And I’ve gone to the Temple, the House of the Lord.
To celebrate, today I went to the Los Angeles Temple with a dear friend and spent some quality time there. There was no place I felt that would be more appropriate to send commemorating my baptism, than in the House of the Lord where I can reflect, seek peace, calm, protection, and revelation from on high.
I am so grateful for this gospel and this Church. I’m grateful for my baptism. I am so thankful for the chance we all have to repent of our sins, enter the waters of baptism, be cleansed, and start fresh. I am grateful for my Savior, Jesus Christ. And I’m grateful for my Heavenly Father and the chance I have to return to Him through this work.
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.
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:
by Lauren Soffer
How can I speak when
The pain leaves me breathless
Tear drops unspoken
Defined by wounds unforgotten
A prisoner of my own head
Where darkness ends
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.