The classes went by unusually fast and I found myself sitting in front of a congregation, alone, and starting to feel nervous. My mind was completely pre-occupied on my talk when the conducting bishopric member began the meeting. He was announcing the chorister when we all realized she was still sitting in the audience.
A mess of confusion later he was saying my name and I was confused as the pianist (I happened to be sitting behind the piano) was smiling at me encouragingly. It’s a good thing I’m so short and the piano’s so tall, because if anyone could have seen me, they would have known when the confusion finally cleared. I felt the blood drain out of my face, but I stood with a smile not knowing what else to do.
Two hymns later I can say that I have respect for all choristers, but especially the ones that lead with gusto. It was all I could do not to fall over. Pro stage fright status. Finally it was my turn to talk and I stood at the pulpit a frazzled bundle of messy nerves. To be honest, I didn’t really write my talk. My subject was something that couldn’t really be written. I had a structured outline, but I was relying on the spirit of god to help me along the way.
I started out with my freshmen year of college. I talked about how I had the typical freshmen mentality. I cared about boys, boys, boys, sort of my grades and kind of my family. In my mind, my family would always be there so what was there to worry about? I progressed through the year of finding out my mom had been diagnosed with late Stage 3 colon cancer in Spring semester, falling away from the church in a moment of pride, frustration, and a hardened heart. Coming back home for the summer, repenting, turning back to god and finishing the summer much easier than it began. I can testify that I have never done anything as hard as those few months when I was alone, with-out the gospel, with-out hope and with-out my God.
I went back to school in the Fall braced for what I knew would be a challenging but rewarding semester. My faith was renewed, my testimony was strong, and I was prepared. Fall semester flew by, I did well in my classes and returned home for a much needed Christmas break.
I kind of have a love hate relationship with the month of January, mostly hate acutally. The first two times my mom was diagnosed were both in January. No further explanation needed. Once again it was Spring semester and we were doing chemo, this time for cancer in the liver and lymph nodes. Total bummer status.
I clung to my faith, my ward, and my God. I was alone, at school, and I couldn’t come home very often. In fact, when I was leaving to go back to school from Christmas break I was quite the mess. I cried at my parent’s house, I cried the first 40 minutes into my 2 hour drive (not the best idea when you’re thinking about driving safety). I was wondering what was going to happen to my mom, scared out of my mind, and wondering what she would do with-out me. How was she goingto make it? Why was I making her endure this alone? Why was I making my parents endure this alone? I remember having the thought, “Go to school, that is what you need to do. She is not alone, God is with her. He will take care of her.” Followed by a warm peaceful feeling. I cried even harder (definitely not a good idea when driving) but continued on my way strengthened, enlightened, and comforted by God.
We’re now undergoing our third battle with cancer, and it definitely hasn’t been easy. I can testify however that looking back, this is a lot easier than it was before. I used to think that it was getting easier because we’re getting used to it. That is so not the case. I know it’s getting easier because we are learning to cling to God individually and as a family. We are learning to have faith in Him and his miracles even when 99.9% of the people think the situation is hopeless.
I could never ever in my life deny that God lives. He lives, he loves us, he knows us, and he is here to help us. It is my belief that when we left our Father in heaven to come to Earth and carry out his plan that he made us a few promises. Of those promises, I believe he promised a great life. He never promised a life with-out trials, but he promised us a great life indeed.
I can’t even begin to describe the amount of ‘miracles’ we have witnessed first hand in people dropping by, delivering flowers, driving to chemotherapy appointments, delivering dinner, giving us money, giving us hugs. There truly are angels on the earth today, and they are sent here from God to help us.
I love the gospel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I know it to be the one true church on this earth. I sustain my prophet and leaders. I know God lives and his son Jesus Christ lives. I can’t deny these things, there’s just no way. I would be denying 20 years of experiences, and a lifetime to come. I am forever grateful to my God for his tender mercies.
Dieter F. Uchtdorf said in his general conference talk Grateful in any Circumstances, “this type of gratitude transcends whatever is happening around us. It surpasses disappointment, discouragement, and despair. It blooms just as beautifully in the icy landscape of winter as it does in the pleasant warmth of summer.”
“Being grateful in times of distress does not mean that we are pleased with our circumstances. It does mean that through the eyes of faith we look beyond our present-day challenges.”
I’m not happy my mom has cancer, no one is happy about cancer. I am however grateful for the tender mercies I receive daily from God. I’m grateful for the faith-growing experience. I realize that God has an eye that sees the infinite plan of things, and I strive to remember the bigger picture daily.
I encourage you to start thinking with more gratitude. Sometimes I’m so on the self-pity train that I literally have to make lists of what I’m grateful for. It’s a method that works for me and might work for you.
God is so great, he really is. I hope you can all see his hand in your life.