Lessons from a Sonogram

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I used to think phrases like “stop growing” or “time needs to stand still” were those obligatory statements thrown around by parents of babies and toddlers. Now, as I catch glimpses of my baby, who honestly looks like a mini teenager, I find myself thinking those exact cliches.

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I don’t recommend scrolling through your camera roll if you’re feeling this way because as much as I am loving this toddler phase, I felt a little nostalgic as I revisited pictures of Milo as a newborn. It made me a little baby hungry, in fact.

Now I know there’s never a “good” time to get sick, but the thought of another hellacious pregnancy at this time in my life seems especially overwhelming.

With Milo, the morning sickness was cruel. I remember throwing up an average of fifteen times a day for several weeks. I couldn’t eat. I was dehydrated. I felt so weak that even holding a book in my hands made me shaky.

If you’re one of those people who “loves being pregnant” don’t tell me because I might punch you in the face. No, I’m kidding…but seriously, don’t tell me.

I recognize that I am so, so lucky to have gotten pregnant when so many, including some very close to me, struggle with infertility. But I’m not exaggerating when I say there were days I thought I might literally die.

On top of the morning sickness, I got a really bad infection early on in my pregnancy.

My doctor prescribed an antibiotic, but it seemed to do more harm than good. He concluded that I’d had an allergic reaction to it, and I went in for an emergency visit.

I wasn’t expecting to do an ultrasound that day, but my doctor figured What the heck?! I was there already and my first scheduled ultrasound was only a week away anyway.  Before the ultrasound, he looked at me and said, “You know, they’ve conducted studies about ultrasounds and morning sickness. Women who see their baby for the first time have reported a significant decrease in nausea in the days that follow.”

I was beyond excited to see my baby, but I felt cynical about that “fact.”

When I saw those wiggling limbs and that tiny profile shot on the monitor, I melted. Motherhood became real to me then. There really was something in there—someone—and that little person was mine.

I’ll never forget how I felt that day. That image of my baby literally showed me that there was a grand purpose to all of my suffering. The end result of a long 40 weeks would be human life!

I left that doctor’s appointment with a renewed sense of optimism. I immediately hung the sonogram on my fridge, and it served as a tangible reminder that all the puking and fatigue and discomfort would be worth it. It was like a blueprint of a future joy.  

And guess what? My doctor was right. I really did start to feel a little better after that first ultrasound.

Throughout my pregnancy, I’d often think about how nice it would be to have a “sonogram” so to speak for every trial we face—-some image or glimpse into the future that would shed light on our current suffering. I’d be a lot more patient and accepting of my hardships if I could just know the “why” behind the strife and how I would be blessed in the end.

But I guess that’s where faith comes in.

We’re taught that after much tribulation come the blessings. That is reassuring and hopeful.

I wonder, though, is it so outrageous to ask God for some spoilers? Am I lacking in faith if I plead for a figurative sonogram regarding my trials?

Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught, “To those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, it is clear that the Father and the Son are giving away the secrets of the universe!”

Sometimes I think we need to be content with answers like Just trust me or everything will work out in the end, but I also think there are times when it is appropriate to ask God for “eyes to see” what sacred blessings our current trials will yield.

I acted on this thought just a few months ago when I felt like misery was swallowing me up. I couldn’t understand how the trial I faced would ever work out for my good, and frankly, I thought it would destroy me.

I remember kneeling on the bathroom floor with swollen eyes, pleading for some understanding about my suffering. I boldly asked my Heavenly Father to just let me see why this trial was happening and where it would lead if I endured it well.

I felt so acutely aware that He loved me then and that a happy future was in store. That comfort eased my “spiritual nausea” the same way that my first ultrasound lessened my morning sickness.

The revelation didn’t stop there. The Spirit communicated some very clear answers after that night. God unrolled the blueprints “line upon line” until I refused to abandon my faith and trust in Him.

When we suffer so deeply and so intensely, it’s easy to feel like God has unrealistic expectations of us. But He doesn’t expect us to do it alone. Christ will take our hand and lead us from point A (the trial) to point Z (the blessing) with grace and compassion and empathy until that metaphorical sonogram becomes our reality.

I think we’d also do well to remember that the most magnificent blessings in life often come after a lot of grief and anger and frustration and waiting. They often come after much sorrow and self-pity, and tears—sometimes endless tears. But when they do come, they come gloriously.

No matter how Heavenly Father chooses to intervene or how vivid the revelation, we can embrace our Savior and know that that these words of the beloved President Monson ring true:

“The future is as bright as your faith.”

The Case of the Lost Wallet (Alternate Title: God Always Keeps His Promises)

 

I looked everywhere for it—under the couch cushions, in the refrigerator, the mailbox, the car, the hamper, the garbage cans—but my wallet was most certainly MIA.

And so too were my debit card, driver’s license, Temple recommend, and Chugz punch card.

I prayed mightily that I’d find my wallet because I dreaded waiting in line forever at the DMV for a new license, plus I was only one punch away from a free Chugz drink.

When I prayed about it, I had this overwhelming feeling that it would turn up, but after a few days of searching and backtracking with no success, I started to doubt.

At the time we lived near the county fair grounds and people usually parked on our street when parking at the grounds was full. I figured my wallet must have fallen out of my bag on my way in or out of the house, and that perhaps some fair-going passerby noticed it in the driveway.

So despite the feeling of hope I’d received when I prayed, I accepted that it was stolen and took necessary action to notify my bank and so on.

A few more days went by, and then weeks, until three weeks later I received a letter from the police department.

Great news:  Someone turned in my lost wallet!

I couldn’t believe it!

Waiting on this blessing that I originally felt God had promised me, and even giving up on it, taught me something grand about God and His goodness, and it is this:

God ALWAYS keeps His promises.

That’s hard to remember when you pray and plead for a certain blessing—a certain miracle—and heaven seems passive.

That’s hard to remember when your fragile emotions dim your eternal perspective.

That’s hard to remember when doubts cloud the answer you once received.

That’s hard to remember when God seems awfully generous toward everyone but you.

That’s hard to remember when you’re just so sick of waiting and waiting and waiting for a blessing you once felt God had promised you.

But this I have learned:

Delayed blessings are the best kind.

These are the kinds of blessings preceded by our personal growth, our refinement, the lessons we need in order to someday reach our potential. These are the kinds of blessings that will become the most cherished to us, the kind we will thank Father in Heaven for every day of our mortal lives and most definitely every day of our eternity.

If I had found my wallet right away, it wouldn’t have felt like such a miracle. I wouldn’t have appreciated the blessing nearly as much. The fact that I had to wait for it made it even more profound, and it made me vastly more grateful. I wouldn’t be here now writing about it and proclaiming that I KNOW God hears us and cares about our happiness even more than we do.

It would have merely been an experience appreciated in the moment but now long forgotten.

But because I did have to wait for it and because God did come through for me, I can declare yet again that God ALWAYS keeps His promises.

That knowledge encourages me to keep hoping and praying for the same miracle I’ve been praying for for years now. Trust me—it’s much more important to my life and my happiness than a missing wallet, and I’ve waited much longer than three weeks for it.

So to anyone out there waiting on a miracle, wait with faith.

If you’re single and you long to find your person, keep trying.

If you are heartbroken because of infertility, don’t lose hope.

If you’ve spent three decades praying for your spouse to come back to church, don’t stop.

If you’re pleading for your financial crisis to end, keep pleading.

If you’re wondering what you’re supposed to learn from your illness, keep trusting.

If you want to believe this Gospel is true, but the confirmation hasn’t come yet, keep embracing it with all your heart.

Remember what Elder Jeffrey R. Holland proclaimed, “Some blessings come soon, some come late, and some don’t come until heaven; but for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, they come.”

That blessing I’m currently praying for feels out of reach right now, but I don’t plan to stop asking. Just because it hasn’t happened yet does not mean heaven has not intervened. The Lord has provided many tender mercies, reminders, and little bonus blessings along the way. I’ve been blessed with hope, patience, a renewed sense of faith and perseverance, more trust in Him, more compassion for others, and I know that one day when the miracle for which I plead comes I will fall to my knees, overwhelmed with joy and gratitude. The waiting will be worth it.

And until then, Christ will empathize with me. He won’t downplay the longings of my heart simply because He knows that one day my righteous desires will come to pass. 

So don’t give up! If you’ll just give God a chance, He’ll fulfill your every righteous dream.

 

Count His Tender Mercies, Name them One by One

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I like conducting spiritual experiments. Maybe I’m a little weird?

Heavenly Father’s formula is simple:     Faith + Obedience = Promised Blessings.

And there you have it.

Hundreds of years ago the Lord said to the prophet Malachi,

“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” (Mal. 3:10.)

Translation: Pay your tithing faithfully and I will bless you more than you can even imagine!

Even though this scripture specifically addresses the law of tithing, it applies to just about every commandment. “Prove me now herewith,” says the Lord. He invites us to exercise a little faith in Him and His laws so that He can keep His word to pour out His blessings in return. Oh, what a visual!

Look outward and serve—and you’ll receive answers to your own prayers.

Make a generous fast offering once a month—and you’ll experience spiritual and temporal miracles.

Extend forgiveness to others—and the Lord will be ever merciful toward you.

Sacrifice your time to engage in temple and family history work—and you’ll be blessed with divine strength against the adversary.

Study the Book of Mormon—and you’ll make better decisions every day.

I recently reread some amazing counsel from the very tender-hearted President Eyring.

“(I) urge you to find ways to recognize and remember God’s kindness…You…will be blessed as you remember what the Lord has done.”

President Eyring shared how he began journaling instances of God’s intervening hand.
“I wrote down a few lines every day for years. I never missed a day no matter how tired I was or how early I would have to start the next day. Before I would write, I would ponder this question: “Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?” As I kept at it, something began to happen. As I would cast my mind over the day, I would see evidence of what God had done for one of us that I had not recognized in the busy moments of the day. As that happened, and it happened often, I realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show me what He had done.”

So, I determined to put this to the test myself. Every day for the past week, I noted the ways—both big and small—in which the Lord intervened in my life. In other words, I tried harder to notice what the Book of Mormon and Elder Bednar describe as “tender mercies.” Said he, “The Lord’s tender mercies are the very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving-kindnesses, consolation, support, and spiritual gifts which we receive from and because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Here are just a few examples from my week:

-I opened a medical bill to find the amount due was much less than I expected.

-While talking to my mom on the phone, she read me an excerpt from an article that perfectly addressed something I’d been praying about earlier that day.

-My husband’s lacrosse games got cancelled due to inclement weather, so he was able to stay home and help me take care of our sick baby. (Although my tender mercy was probably a dose of rotten luck for him.)

-I found an item that had gone missing for weeks while organizing my laundry room.

-I received a thoughtful text from a friend I hadn’t seen in a while on a day I felt a little down and lonely.

And the list goes on.

Looking back on the last week, the more I strived to gratefully remember what God had done, the more He seemed to give. President Eyring was right. I felt a bond with Heavenly Father, a closeness that had nothing to do with whether or not He answered my prayers in the way I hoped or wanted. Even if our circumstances are not ideal, Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ do not hesitate to show how mindful They are of us. I learned that They care not only about our spiritual well-being, but also about our temporal needs. I learned that the Godhead works in unity to create miracles in our lives.

Perhaps the greatest blessing that came to me was really knowing—really feeling—God’s unconditional love. I had undeniable evidence of that love. He blessed me with this heightened awareness of His goodness. Each day, despite the countless petitions sent heavenward, He thought of me. I was worth His time.

So even though I am horribly inconsistent with family history work and all too often I “skim” a few verses rather than study the Scriptures, I feel confident in recognizing the God’s-hand moments in my life. It’s easy to do and so deeply rewarding. My life has changed because of it. My love and gratitude for my Savior and Father have grown because of it. I am blessed—with an outpouring, so much that I don’t have room enough to receive—because of it.

I’d like to end with a few lines from the beloved hymn, “Count Your Many Blessings.” I think it applies here, except I’ve tweaked the lyrics just a bit:


“Count His tender mercies; name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”