Saturday, March 28, 2015

Wise Words of a Seminary Teacher

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times...

High school. That's a whole new world in it of itself. A new bizarre world where everything that you do or don't do may be a pivotal choice in your life. Boys like girls, girls like boys. Dating becomes a new adventure. Friends can make or break you. If you're like me, you were also exposed to many things that may have traumatized your young teenage mind.

I was a sophomore in high school when I had my first "official" boyfriend.  I was head over heels "in like" with him, and I felt that he felt the same way.  We couldn't actually go on dates, but we saw each other in school everyday. He held my hand. He kissed me in the parking lot. (It was awful, by the way.)

We started "dating" on November 7, 2007. It was great, I thought. Then, he sent me a text message on December 5, 2007 to tell me he didn't want to date me anymore. (I sure did know how to pick them.) We didn't even last a month.

He played his cards well, I'll give him that. He didn't start dating my best friend until at least 3 weeks later. He made sure that there was at least a little bit of time for the blow to settle before asking her to be his new girlfriend as he sat next to me at the movie theatre. There was a group of us there. I thought it was just going to be us girls. I guess he couldn't wait any longer. I was 3 weeks from becoming 16.

The following week or 2 were what I deemed to be the hardest 2 weeks of my life. Not only did my best friend start dating my ex, but she also became better best friend with another friend of mine. Soon, they didn't want me around. My ex didn't like me because they didn't like me. They left me out of the loop. I felt that sides were being created. I did have one friend, thank goodness, but she was involved with clubs during lunch some days, and so I would be alone in the hallway.

For me, being alone was the worst thing in the world. I was less outgoing then, and so I sat by myself. I hated going to school for those 2 weeks.

On a day that was particularly hard, when I was by myself, I went across the street to the seminary building. I walked into the classroom that I was attending and I saw my seminary teacher. He was a good friend of my dad, and I had known him for a while. Maybe it was the look on my face, or maybe it was my countenance, but he could tell that something was up.

We started talking. I vented, telling the whole story about the boy, the breakup, the betrayal, and now the loneliness that I felt. I talked about how I was just trying to do what was right. I complained about the hardships of high school, and how I couldn't wait to get out and be done and move and yada... the list went on.

This wise seminary teacher took a little while to let it all sink in. He didn't say much at first; nothing more than the "huh... mmm-mmm... okay..." I sat there, waiting. Waiting for him to tell me what to do, waiting for him to tell me that because I've been through these "hard times", I would be blessed. You know, something that would validate my concerns.

Instead, he looked me right in the eyes and said, "Do you know what you're real problem is?"

I was shocked. I had a problem? Are you serious? I was being what I felt was persecuted and betrayed by other people, and I was the one with the problem?? But I could see he was being totally serious. So, I responded, "No. What is my problem?"

His answer changed my life. "The problem here is, you're not trusting the Lord." 

I don't remember much about the rest of the conversation. I know that we talked about ways to trust the Lord and to have faith. But that one statement changed the way that I viewed my trials.

And now, 7 years later, when things can be what I deem in my young adult life the hardest thing that I've ever done, when there are days that I feel alone, days where I just want to talk to my dad face to face, days where I wish that Mom was here to help me plan a wedding, days where I miss Keegan's happy-go-lucky personality, and days where I miss seeing Liam playing with his friends... sometimes it's hard to trust. Sometimes, it's really hard to believe that there is a purpose with their passing. Or, maybe not that it's hard to believe in A PURPOSE. Rather, it's hard to understand what THAT PURPOSE is.

I think that's what it really comes down to. I don't think that we as people don't believe in a purpose. We just want to know THE purpose.

And yet, sometimes that's the point. We just continue to move, to plan, to live. Because of the Atonement of Christ, we are able to do that.

Just think. Whatever trial you are going through RIGHT NOW, whatever feelings of inadequacies you are feeling RIGHT NOW, whatever feelings of anger, depression, confusion, heartache... it has already been felt FOR YOU.

Take a moment. Think about the hardest thing you've ever experienced. To know that the Savior went through that exact feeling (which, if you really think about it, is amazing. Because since no two people are exactly alike, we all feel and experience differently.) creates a remarkable connection between you and the most powerful being who ever walked upon the earth. A connection that can literally give you an ability to move not only forward, but also upward in your life, no matter how far along the path you may seem, no matter how unpopular you may be, no matter how ugly you feel.

Perhaps one of THE PURPOSE is to be able to create that relationship with our Savior.

So... what happened after that dramatic 2 week fight? 

Things did get better. Things did calm down. We became friends again, but it was never quite the same. We all got involved in different things because of that. Soon, I made more friends. Those friends are still some of my closest friends 7 years later. (One of those friends is now my fiance!) Because of the influence of my friends, I decided to go on a mission. I served for a year. I'm still alive today because of it.

Did all of that happen because of one fight? Probably not all of it, but it definitely influenced me in many ways. I look back now, and I realize... "Wow. I'm so glad that happened. Because who knows where I would be now."

Alma 36:3
... Thou are in thy youth, and therefore, I beseech of thee that thou wilt hear my words and learn of me; for I do know that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions... 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A note for you, My Reader

A year ago today, this blog was created.

I am sure that many of you are aware of how it came to be. I felt inspired to do it after my Mom, Dad, and two youngest brothers, Keegan and Liam, passed away, due to carbon monoxide poisoning that filled our house, because of a faulty water heater.

I had thought that it might be something good for me. Maybe it would help me with my grief. It would be therapeutic for me. An escape from the world that I felt swarmed by. This would be the pathway to a world where I could go into the innermost parts of my mind and heart, and really discern what I believe to be true. It would help me to discern what I was really feeling.

But I never dreamed that this blog would receive the attention and the reaction that it did.
I didn't think that you, my reader, would read it and learn from it. I didn't think that because of you, my reader, I would continue to write for as long as I did. I've never been a Blogger. I didn't know how it worked. But because of you, I felt the desire to keep going.

And so, this blog post is for you.

This is a personal thank you from me to you.

Some of you, I know well. Some of you are family. Some of you are friends. Some of you were first hand witnesses of my hard days, and my good days. Some of you were there for me when I needed to cry. Some of you were there when I needed to vent, or scream, or throw martini glasses and old cheap porcelain plates. Some of you were there to give me a physical hug. Some of you took me in as your own.

And I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Some of you don't know me, and I don't know you. Some of you may be from far away places that is nowhere near this little town called Pocatello, Idaho. Some of you maybe heard about me on the news, or saw me in the LDS Living Magazine. Some of you, because of the goodness of your hearts, wanted to help out in some way, extend a hand for me to hold onto. They came in forms of cards, emails, Facebook messages, gifts even. They came in the forms of prayers and fasting.

And I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I do not know how else to say exactly how I feel. This year has been... well, A New Normal. Things nowadays are becoming... comfortable, to an extent. Things are as they are, and they can't go back to the way it was.

I'm starting to accept that.
I guess you could say, I'm entering into the acceptance phase of grief.
But, let's be real, I don't think grief really goes away. It gets easier, and I find new ways to cope with it, and new strategies.
I thought that once I hit a year, I would be 100% better. I would be healed, and move on. Such is not the case, not when you love someone (let alone four people) that much, with your whole heart.

And that's ok. It's ok to not be completely better right now.

I may know you, and I may not know you. But I feel like we all have something in common.

We are human, and we go through hard things.
And maybe my trials are not deemed to be as "hard" as your trials, and maybe your trials are not deemed as "hard" as mine. Nevertheless, we go through hard things. Who defines hard, anyways? Pain is pain, and hard is hard.

We are children of a Father in Heaven. I really truly believe that. And I truly believe that these things that happen are for our good. If there's anything that I learned for myself this year, is that hard things will happen. And we decide if it's going to strengthen us, or weaken us.
Which, of course, is so much easier said than done. Believe me, I GET THAT.
But, it's true.

To you, my reader, I want to thank you for enduring. Thank you for not giving up, even when your life is down, and hard, and you lose someone you love. Thank you for still going on when you just want to crumble. Thank you for holding on to the hope that life will get better.

You strengthen me.

I've been asked the questions a few times in the past:

"Will you continue to blog, even when it's up to the year?"

I've thought about it a lot. And I decided, yes, maybe I will. Maybe when I feel that there is something that needs to be shared. And hopefully, someone out there, will need it.

I am grateful for this opportunity to share with you my testimony of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and his Atonement. That's another thing that I've learned. It's the MOST IMPORTANT THING. If it wasn't for that, none of this would matter.
I invite all to come unto him. I would invite everyone who is seeking something in your life, go to him. I promise, he is there.

My reader, thank you for giving me something to strive for. You have helped me through so much.

Life is always becoming A New Normal. Because, we are always changing. It's constantly new.
Isn't that just so cool?

Monday, March 2, 2015

If I were to go back...

If I could go back in time, and see myself in different phases of my life, would I? And if I did, which parts of my life would I visit?
Would I change anything? 
Would I say anything?

If I could go back and tell Younger Me anything, what would it be? 
I been thinking about that a lot the last couple of days.

If I could go back, maybe I'd go to newborn baby me. I'd want to see myself, connected to tubes and machines. I'd want to see my lifeless body. I want to really know what it was like. 
I would want to approach 25 year old Dad, as he is worried, crying, praying and begging Heavenly Father to allow me to live. I'd want to say, "Daddy, it's me. I'm 23 now, and I'm alive. You taught me well. You taught me how a man should be. You taught me to be strong. Don't worry, Daddy. I'm gonna be ok."
I would approach 23 year old Mom, exhausted in the hospital bed, uncertain and afraid and traumatized of what had just happened. I'd want to say, "Mom, it's me. I'm going to live. You are strong. So very strong. You've set an example of how I should be as a mother and a wife. And so much more than that, you taught me how to be a friend, and a confidant. You taught me the importance of having a Christ-centered home. You have done so well. Don't be scared, Mom. It's all going to be ok." 


If I could go back and see the Younger Me, I think I would go back to elementary days. I would see the happy go lucky me, and I would say, "Jensen, make sure you stay that way. The world need more happy people." 
I would want to tell her, "Don't be insecure about your hearing impairment, no matter what. You don't know this now, but someday, you are going to serve a mission. You are going to learn Sign Language! And it's going to be hard, but you will be able to do it. When you get the prompting to go, don't fight it. Go! There will be people there that will change your life, and things you will learn and teach that you will have to hold on to when times become super tough. But you're going to be able to do it." 


If I could go back, I'd go to middle school me. I'd say, "Stop WORRYING about how you look! I can assure you, nobody really cares, and no one is really eyeing you. Instead, focus on who you are! This is critical. You NEED to know who you are, and more importantly, WHOSE you are. Yes, this is an awkward point in your life, but I promise, braces and glasses aren't going to last forever. Just be happy with who you are. Don't fall into the trap of negativity and depression. It's not worth it. And it will affect you for a long time after. So please, just don't do it."


If I could go back and visit the Younger Me, I would probably go to 15-16 year old me. I'd approach myself as I'm sitting alone in the hallway, and I'd say, "Jensen, GOOD RIDDANCE! Seriously, friends like that aren't friends at all. What you did was right, and don't think otherwise! Next year, you are going to gain so many new friends, and these friends will remain your friends long after high school. You're 23 now, and you're still friends with most all of these new people you are going to meet. These friends are going to get you through so much, through the hardest trial of your life, and you need friends like that; friends that helps you to remember the positive. Ya, this sucks right now. It does. 2 more weeks, and things will start looking up again. You just need to keep going."

If I could go back, I'd also visit 17-18 year old me. I might say, "Focus on school. You're so close to being done with high school and then you NEVER have to go back! Don't waste your breath on the uncertainty of what's going to happen. I promise, things work out for you. It's not easy, but it works out. That's how life is, really." 

Maybe I'd go back to my college years in Rexburg, Idaho, at BYU-Idaho. I'd watch how I was. I'd see the friends I've gained. I'd smile, because slightly Younger Me doesn't realize yet that these friends are still her best friends 2-3 years later.

I would definitely go back to my mission. I'd want to watch the transformation. I'd see stressed out me in the MTC, in a silent room, with hands waving at me. When Younger Me starts to cry on the third day, I'd say to her, "Don't you dare quit! Don't you dare go back! Don't you dare go back to what you used to be. Your mission will literally save you! You need to be here! One day, you will get this language. I promise! It's not going to happen overnight, but it is going to happen!"
When I would come upon the days when Younger Me feels alone and small, I'd say, "Don't underestimate your work. You have to drink up everything that you learn here, because in just a few short months, you are going to need this. You will hold to it, cling to it. People here love you, and they will miss you when you are gone."

On February 23, 2014, I would sit by Younger Me, and I would let her cry. On that night, I don't think that I would say anything.
On February 26, 27, and 28, I would be standing by her and her brother. I would watch her when she cries as they close her family's caskets. I think I would be waiting for her for when she runs out of the room. I'd make sure to be close for the viewing and the funeral.

And then, on March 1, I would come to her and say, "Jensen. This is going to be the hardest year you have ever experienced, even more so than your mission was. Because, this is part of your mission. But, look at yourself. Look at me. Next year, you will be engaged to that boy you love so much all those years, and you will be doing things that you never thought you would be able to do. You'll be a speaker, a teacher, a friend, a confidant. You will do things because when things are hard, it's better to just DO. Don't give up. Don't do nothing. Be something. Be someone."

If I could go back...
But would I?
Maybe not.

Things are looking up. They really are. Things get better.

When I look back on all of those experiences, I see the Lord's hand from the get go. He was always there. He never left. He never would. He never will.

Life is unfigureoutable.

We lose some. We win many. If we allow it, that is. We are taken care of. We are carried. We are caressed.
We are never alone.

Has he not taken care of me up until now? Would he not continue to do so?