Photography by Courtney Corriell. All rights reserved.
A few years ago, my grandpa passed away. He was a kind and loving man who helped my grandma all their marriage with cooking and cleaning. I only remember my grandpa as being pleasant and wonderful to be around. He was so accepting and I never heard him talk bad about anyone or really complain at all. When he died, my grandma said, “What more could I have asked of him? He was a perfect husband to me.”
I am so fortunate because my husband is that kind of man to me. He is selfless and patient. It is the greatest privilege of my life to share it with him. We love our children. Brandon and I were married in the Bountiful Utah Temple. We were married in a sealing room, where we knelt together joining hands across an altar, surrounded by our closest family and friends. There we promised to treat one another the way that Heavenly Father would want us to treat each other throughout our marriage.
Life with four young children is wonderful and fun and full of adventure. It isn’t always easy, and during those times when bitterness, arguments and frustration come, I am grateful that I made those promises in the temple because I remember that forgiveness, patience and love can overcome much of life’s challenges. I’m also glad that I made those promises while kneeling. I think it is so easy to forget that as sons and daughters of God, we have direct access to divine help if we remember to kneel and supplicate to our Father in Heaven.
In my life, I have felt like giving up and settling for less than my potential too many times to count. I have learned that what I perceive is my potential may only be a small part of what God thinks is my potential – or what I think of my life may not even be on course with what God thinks of my life. Truly, I have felt great bursts of joy in my heart when I realize that everything I have been working for and praying for and then some came about because I exercised faith in God and in myself and went for it!
I love this experience shared by my sister Christine. She said that as a young mom, she often felt sleep deprived. She had an intense schedule of watching a handicapped brother as well as young children and her husband was gone most of the time as he was in the middle of medical residency. She said she prayed every day she would be able to get more sleep. But eventually, she realized that was not going to happen. She changed her prayer and rather than praying to get enough sleep, she prayed that she would be able to function and enjoy her life on the sleep she was given. She said that it worked and she got through those challenging years.
In John 16:33, Jesus says, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Sometimes it looks as though Jesus has not overcome the world. We see recent natural disasters, political strife, poverty and hunger and think, “where is Jesus now?” In reality, there has always been great calamity and arguing as long as there have been human beings.
I remember being a first year teacher having just obtained a degree in literature and so excited to start my own Dead Poets Society. But no sooner did I enter my first classroom full of students did I realize that my idea of our content was not going to fly with this group. I was teaching students faced with poverty, neglect, gangs, and drug use. There were security cameras at the entrances of the school and in some hallways. I had to deal with constant heckling from my students. I felt bullied and unappreciated.
Part of getting my license required that I eat lunch with my colleagues; the idea was team building. But my colleagues did not have a favorable view of Mormons and even though they knew I was one, they would make disparaging remarks of people of my faith in front of me. One day, the language was so bad, I stood up and left. I could hear some of my elder colleagues poke fun at me as I walked out.
I wanted to quit every day. My older sister reminded me that I was a daughter of God and that I had direct access to his divine power and help in my life. Being reminded of this helped me to refocus. Instead of crying to my sister about how difficult my job was, I started to pour my soul out to my Heavenly Father in prayer. I asked him to help me see my students the way he saw them. It gave me compassion on them and what they were dealing with.
We organized a student talent show and let the students share what they had to offer. This gave me an opportunity to praise them and build them up, which was different from their usual time spent feeling in trouble or sent to detention. Both I and my students finished up the school year stronger individuals and better learners than when we started.
“This is the spirit that shall fill your soul with joy [in good times or in difficult times].” – Barbara Thompson, from “Cleave unto the Coveants,” Oct. 2011.
I pray to have the Holy Spirit with me every day. Not only is the Holy Spirit a purveyor of joy, he is a great teacher. He tells me in my thoughts how to work through my challenges and frustrations. When I pray, I am better able to put my life into focus and reshape my thinking for the better. It doesn’t take my problems away, but it strengthens me so I am better able to bear them.
Some of the things I try very hard to remember is how Jesus forgives me, so I need to be quick to forgive others. When I feel stressed, angry or impatient, I try to remember to say a silent prayer that despite how I feel, I will be able to respond outwardly with kindness and patience. This is so challenging, especially when I feel overwhelmed with taking care of my children and housework but it is so worth it because then I don’t have to deal with feelings of regret over having a bad temper toward those I love most.
One of the easiest ways to change the course of the day is to think of others. I know that when I reach out and ask a neighbor, “can I help you with anything?” just the thought and sometimes the smallest acts of service like watching a few extra kids or sending over a meal can make me feel like I contributed something great to someone else’s day. Then I feel better asking for and receiving help whether in prayer or from others.
One of my favorite scriptures from the bible is in Isaiah 49:15-16 which reads, “Can a woman forget her sucking child, yea, [she] may forget, yet I will not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.” This scripture gives me so much peace and comfort. Jesus is aware of my experiences and trails and he does not forget – even if there are endless people who are dealing with bigger challenges than my own.
For certain, I can pray even if I feel there are others who need God’s hand in their lives more. This is possible because God’s love is infinite and can reach everyone who asks.
Since my first year teaching, there have been more trying times in my life where the stakes were much higher for me personally but I reflect on that first year teaching because it was the first time in my adult life were I felt really pushed to my limit. I am so grateful for that experience because it has become a model for me to try to remember when I am struggling or going through a period of personal growth that I have access to divine help if I will get on my knees and ask.
I have really grown to love and appreciate this wonderful poem by American poet, Robert Frost:
God made a beauteous garden
With lovely flowers strown,
But one straight, narrow pathway
That was not overgrown.
And to this beauteous garden
He brought mankind to live,
And said: “To you, my children,
These lovely flowers I give.
Prune ye my vines and fig trees,
With care my flowerets tend,
But keep the pathway open,
Your home is at the end.”
Then came another master,
Who did not love mankind?
And planted on the pathway
Gold flowers for them to find.
And mankind saw the bright flowers,
That, glittering in the sun,
Quite hid the thorns of avarice
That poison blood and bone;
And far off many wandered,
And when life’s night came on,
They still were seeking gold flowers,
Lost, helpless, and alone.
O, cease to heed the glamour
That blinds your foolish eyes,
Look upward to the glitter
Of stars in God’s clear skies.
Their ways are pure and harmless
And will not lead astray,
But aid your erring footsteps
To keep the narrow way.
And when the sun shines brightly
Tend flowers that God has given
And keep the pathway open
That leads you on to heaven.
I know life isn’t easy. It’s so hard! Sometimes it seems like life is Scrooge from The Christmas Carol and telling you that “everything is dead set against you!” There are professional and personal setbacks. There are things you cannot control and there are unsolvable problems that you are tasked with. Heavenly Father knows about what you face. He loves you and he wants to help you. I have experienced that feeling of being lost, helpless and alone that Frost alludes to and I have known the deep, piercing awe when God has answered my prayers and come to my rescue – not absolving me of my trials but strengthening my spirit to handle them. “For with God, nothing shall be impossible.”