Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I Will Stand Still For You

Like most teenage girls who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I attended a yearly girl's camp each summer. I grew up in northern Utah which meant that our big yearly hike was truly big. My favorite peak to hike was Ben Lomand peak near Ogden, UT. I love mountains and this mountain is no exception. As I remember the several times I hiked Ben Lomand, I feel as if she wrapped me in her arms each summer and taught me some very profound life lessons.

 There she is way off there in the distance with some snow on the peak. Yup, I've stood on the top of that mountain and a million posts could come from my experiences along those dusty trails. This one is for those of you dealing with infertility. Yes, Ben Lomand has some lessons on that as well. I'm just going to continue what I wrote in my last post "How I Survived The Waiting Years" by starting off with this experience...

It was my last year at girl's camp. We were on the long descent down from the peak. The mountain is so steep in some parts and so dense in foliage that those who forged the trail many, many years ago, created switch backs to make it more hiker friendly. So, instead of going straight up the mountain, you kind of zig zag your way up, or down as I was doing at the moment of the memory.

Sometimes switch backs can be very tedious and the temptation to just forge your own trail straight up the mountain between the switchbacks is very strong. On this particular day, a group of our girls wanted to get down the mountain faster than normal, so they just started going straight down. You know where this is going...they got lost and almost fell off an unseen cliff.

But I didn't know any of that when I saw them. I was just walking along the trail talking to some other hikers when I heard a bunch of girls yelling my name. I looked down and saw this group of girls. They were frantically waving their arms. It was difficult to figure out what they were yelling because they were so far away but I finally deciphered that they couldn't find the trail and they needed help.

I was confused because what they couldn't see was that the trail was maybe 20 footsteps away. I could see it clearly. But they had been lost and disoriented and had no idea where they were. I did my best to point out that if they just kept walking up the mountain from where they stood, they would find the trail within seconds. I started to walk on to get closer to them but they yelled "Stop!" Somehow I got the message that they wanted me to just stand still and not move until they made it to where I was. Little did they know they would find a trail long before they made it up to where I was. But I did as they asked. I stood still, until they found the trail where they sat down and cried - tears of exhaustion and gratitude.

They had been so lost and so afraid that they couldn't see things clearly.

Can you see the gazillion lessons to be learned from this experience? I could start off several different topics with this story. But I'm choosing to use this story to introduce a post about infertility. Are you confused? Keep reading...

I believe we climb many mountains in our lives and I believe that we are not the first ones to climb each mountain. There are many who have gone before us who have successfully, and not so successfully, put one foot in front of the other as they forged a trail up to each mountain peak.

Suffering through infertility can feel like climbing a mountain, a big mountain. Sometimes the mountain is so steep and the foliage so dense that you find yourself needing to hike some switchbacks. The temptation to cut through the foliage and just go straight up is strong. That is okay sometimes, but sometimes you can end up like my friends - lost, afraid and almost seriously injured. (spiritual and emotional injuries are sometimes the most painful)

I've hiked that mountain before. I made it to one peak. I didn't know there would be more peaks to climb in this struggle, but I'm at a point where I can actually look back on the trail to that first peak and wonder how I made it up that crazy mountain. I think I've rested at the top of this particular mountain long enough. My muscles have regained their strength. I am no longer out of breath. I think I could actually head back down the trail a bit to help others who are struggling up that arduous trail.
As I look back on that trail I can see what helped me and maybe, just maybe, if I stand still, someone who has lost the trail can see where I'm standing and find the trail again. I'm willing to do that - even if it is just for one person. Truly I am.

When I was lost in between those switchbacks there were those who stood still for me. They didn't know they were helping me specifically, they were just doing what I'm trying to do now, shining their faith and courage and trust in the Lord on the path they had just climbed, so that I could find my way.

Ardeth G. Kapp was the General Young Women's President during most of my teenage years. She was amazing to me. When she spoke, I could feel her words fill my heart with light. Her words made me want to be the best I could be. I had no idea at the time that she struggled with infertility and that for reasons that are her own private reasons, she has never given birth to a child or adopted.  After I was married, I came across a talk she gave once entitled "Just the Two of Us - for Now" Wow did that talk lift my spirits!! The courage it must have taken her to give that talk amazes me.

Some of you might remember her, she wrote a book entitled "I Walk By Faith" Do you remember that era in the Young Women's program? She seems even more inspiring now doesn't she. She knew of what she preached! She walked that trail! The woman who helped me through some very difficult experiences as a teenage girl, helped me again and continues to help me. I can see her standing still on that trail above me, helping me find my way. Thank you Sister Kapp! I will give you a hug someday. :)

I've already written about my love for the women of the bible - Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Hannah, Elisabeth. How I love these women. Did I get to sit at their feet in the life before this one and receive valuable training on how to endure this trial with courage and faith? My spirit seems to remember that I did and my connection to them feels that close. I can also see each of them standing on that trail above me, helping me find my way. In fact, I named my daughter after one of these women - her name means "Oath of God" or in other words, "God keeps His promises" (go research that!) Wow they are amazing women!! Read their stories in the bible. Read them over and over and remember they were real women with real feelings and real faith. Thank you dear sisters! I will give each of you a hug someday. :)
(Orson Scott Card's "Sarah" is historical fiction, but wonderful - I cried almost the whole way through it.)

Sheri Dew and Mary Ellen Edmunds are two of my favorite people. Neither of them have married or had children in this life.
Read anything you can get your hands on from Mary Ellen Edmunds - better yet, LISTEN to her talks on CD or go hear her in person- she will teach you how to find sunshine in the midst of a hurricane. She will teach you how to reach out in your sorrow and help those along the way. She will teach you that love is a verb and that our Father knows exactly what He is doing and that He is incredibly loving and has a great sense of humor. That's important and very helpful along any trail we find ourselves climbing.! 

Sheri Dew's views on Motherhood changed my life! Her talk "Are We Not All Mothers?" had a deeply profound impact on my perspective. She taught me, so many years ago, that even if I never give birth to or raise a child in this life, I am still a mother for the simple fact that I am a daughter of God and that is what God's daughters do - we mother people. Even my 6-year-old daughter is a "Mother". She has a tremendous capacity to nurture and care for those around her and she is a powerful girl who will someday be a powerful woman. I could put quote after quote in this post from Sheri Dew about the doctrine of motherhood but then this post would be super duper long instead of just super long. :) READ HER TALKS!!! 

 I can see both of them standing there on the trail helping me find my way. Thanks you two! I will give each of you a hug someday! (Mary Ellen Edmunds was one of my MTC instructors - I have been able to have a few squeezes from her already)

In my mind's eye I can see these eight righteous, faithful women standing still on the trail ahead of me. Can you see them too? They had faith in God, but they didn't get exactly what they desired in this life. They have what was desired for them by our all knowing Father, and now look at what amazingly powerful examples they are to so many of our Father's children! They mothered me. Isn't it ironic? These women who either have not raised a child in this life - or just raised one or two -these women MOTHERED me.  Their mothering will go on into the eternities. Maybe in their mortal lives they did not fit the definition of a "mother" but I've learned that our mortal definition of "mother" is not the eternal definition. Worlds without number will be their eternal mothering destiny.

Oh, I could go on and on about other women who have stood and guided me along the path. But I need to mention the most important person who helped me the most along that trail. You know who I'm going to say, because He is the One helping you too. He is the one who knows how lost and forgotten you can feel. He is the One who lets you get mad at Him sometimes because you feel like the solution to your problem is completely in His hands! Why does He let this happen? Right? Even the strongest of us feel that way sometimes. It's okay. He can take it and He does because He loves you.

What I have learned is this, in the Garden of Gethsemane, He hiked your mountains before you ever did. That's what happened in that Garden. He knows that trail. He knows where you could trip and fall. He knows where the gravel is loose and dangerous. He knows that sometimes you can't see the peak at all and so you wonder what you are even trying for. He knows! He knows!......He knows. He knows that every month you are reminded that you are not pregnant. He knows how difficult it can be to answer everyone's questions. He knows that you have spent a small fortune on pregnancy tests and have actually banned them from your house by now. He knows how hard it is to go to baby showers and He is proud of you when you go and you are sincerely happy for your friend. He is also okay when you just can't make it to the shower because it has been a bad week and you are not feeling strong enough. He knows.

He knows how hard it can be to sit in church or listen to talks and lessons about motherhood and parenting and eternal families. He knows you understand the Plan and that you have faith in Him and He also knows that it stings a bit and sometimes you have to fight back the tears so that no one will know how you hurt. He knows. He knows you have a small collection of adorable baby clothes that you keep hidden away, but you know right where they are. He knows.

There is so much He knows, I can't convey it all here. But you understand. He doesn't just stand still on that trail waiting for you to make it to Him. He will go to where you are, if you'll let Him. He'll take your hand and lead you back to the trail and then He'll walk with you - the whole way!! Somewhere along the path you will remember that He walked His own path once - alone. Then you'll know why He is walking next to you - He completely understands "alone". 

 While you are walking with Him, up that mountain, you will come to know the greatest man who has ever lived on this earth and you will actually get to a point where you look back at your experience and feel intense gratitude for having been given the opportunity to hike that mountain with Him by your side.

 You will come to know that our Father really did know what He was doing when He set you on that path!

 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord." Isaiah 55:8

The Savior knows how spectacular the view is once you finally reach the peak. He knows what it will feel like to look and see what you have done.

I promise, you will reach that peak and you will be amazed!!

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