I have been feeling like I needed to write this for a while now. I have just been unsure how to collect all of my thoughts and organize them so I hope you will bear with me and I hope that this post will touch someone’s heart that needs it.
My daughter was born with a Congenital Heart Defect. She had her first open heart surgery at four days old and her second at 4 months of age. She then proceeded to have four heart caths where they did some ballooning and placed some stents. We are now staring down the barrel of her third open heart surgery. The ballooning and stenting is not working to keep the pressure down in her heart. We are being told that this open-heart surgery is our last option for her. We will have to travel to California for our daughter to receive the very best care. She is now almost three years old. No parent wants to hear this. Again, and again our faith is being tested and the trials continue to come our way.
This is my story. I know many of you have your own hardships that you are facing now. Each of us has our own trials that we were sent here to face and learn from. The trick is finding joy during these trials.
Elder Russell M. Nelson said in his talk about Joy and Spiritual Survival that “Men are, that they might have joy.” He goes on to say that “life is filled with detours and dead ends, trials and challenges of every kind. Each of us has likely had times when distress, anguish, and despair almost consumed us. Yet we are here to have joy? The answer is a resounding YES!”
How do you find this joy? How do we not focus on these hardships that seem to take over our every thought? How do I be a good mom when every time I look at my daughter I wonder how much longer I will have with her and I just want to hide away somewhere and cry?
The answer? “The joy that we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.”
Over this last year as we have been faced with financial problems, being told that we need to go out of state for heart surgery, watching our daughter’s condition worsen as we wait for her surgery date to come. We prayed and prayed for confirmation to know what to do for our daughter. After having a phone conference with the surgeon in California my husband and I both felt we needed to go to there for the surgery. I started to cry because I was not sure how we were going to make this work financially. Our insurance didn’t cover out of network doctors and hospitals, let alone the cost of hotels, food and my husband and I having to be gone from work for a month straight. This was such a big trial of our faith to move forward with this decision.
President Uchtdorf said in his talk Fourth Floor, Last Door that “the purpose of faith is not to change God’s will, but to empower us to act on God’s will. Faith is trust-trust that God sees what we cannot and that He knows what we do not. Sometimes, trusting our own vision and judgement is not enough.”
We have moved forward with our decision to go to California for our daughter’s surgery. We are currently one month out from surgery as I write this. We have witnessed miracle after miracle and numerous tender mercies in these past months. I was speaking with another medical mom about our situation and she told me “if Heavenly Father told you to go to California he will provide a way to make it happen!” And He absolutely has!!
Now getting back to finding joy in the journey. I have struggled with being happy and with the weight of everything that is happening has been put on my shoulders I have often though “why me?”
I do have a quote that I found when we were in the hospital for our daughter’s first open heart surgery. It has gotten me through all of my hard days. I hope that it can help to remind you that you are SO strong and that you can get through whatever trial you are facing right now.
I also started exercising. I have never been one to like running, but it has saved me this year. It helps to keep my stress under control and it has started to help me feel better about myself again. It is a wonderful opportunity for “me” time and to think and process things or to just put them out of my mind and just run.
The biggest thing that has helped me find joy was forgetting myself and going to work. It is so easy to sit around and feel sorry for yourself. “No one understands what I’m going through”, or “my trials are so much worse than everyone else’s”. I have tried harder in my calling at church, I have tried harder in my community to find service opportunities and I have also tried harder to serve members of my family. Going back to Elder Nelson’s talk “when the focus of our lives is on Jesus Christ and His gospel, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening-or not happening-in our lives.”
I have so many people tell me that I seem to have it all together and that I’m such a happy person despite everything that is happening with our daughter. I strongly feel that choosing to be happy is a big part of it! I don’t want to be sad all of the time. It will not change my situation. Don’t get me wrong, I do have days where I am sad or depressed and I think it is healthy to have those days, but I don’t let them linger for very long.
I have come to accept that our daughter will never be out of the woods, but a friend once told me that “sometimes the woods can be beautiful too!” Despite your situation, you can choose to be happy. Some days you’ll have to fake it ’til you make it, but we were meant to have joy! Try and focus of serving others and on our Savior.
Just because we are a “good” person or just because we are “religious” does not mean that the hardships of life will pass us by, it simply means that as we try to live a good life and lean on our Savior, we will be better prepared to weather the storm.
Try and consciously keep an eye out for all of the tender mercies you receive every day. A thankful heart is a happy heart. You will be so surprised at how blessed you are every single day!! Our Heavenly Father is so mindful of you and he wants you to be happy.