What a Brain Tumor Has Taught Me About the Atonement

I sit in front of my computer today well stocked with Kleenex, puffy eyes and a little more wisdom than I woke up with. Strange how wisdom sometimes finds us – even when we don’t think we are looking for it.

About a year ago now my son-in-law Adam was diagnosed with a brain tumor; initially, I thought I understood what Adam was to learn from his brain tumor – things like learning how many people loved him and that we all have to take a turn from time to time letting others help us and learning that none of us can stand alone successfully.

Those many months ago now – when Adam’s diagnosis was made, he and my daughter Melissa were thick in the middle of building a new house and Melissa was expecting their fourth child.

As plans were made to get their new home completed before Adam’s surgery, people crawled out of the woodwork (sometimes literally) to help them get their home built before Adam had to travel to Portland for his surgery. Friends, neighbors, family and even strangers came to get the work done.

I remember thinking to myself how amazing it was to watch the whole process occur and I found it heartwarming to see so much care and concern.

Adam isn’t the kind to confide his deepest thoughts and feelings to his mother-in-law but Melissa often let me know about the deep spiritual lessons they both were learning through this sometimes overwhelming trial of theirs.

Their home was completed just before Adam’s surgery and their new daughter was born in January of this year and just a few weeks ago, they got news that Adam’s non-cancerous tumor had returned and was back to its original size.  Instead of another surgery, a form of radiation using a cyber knife would be used. We were not excited about the tumor’s return but we were excited when doctors said that quite often patients undergoing this type of treatment have few, if any, side effects.

Adam started his treatments Monday of this week. By Monday afternoon, he was experiencing a horrendous headache and nausea from the cyber knife treatments. By Tuesday afternoon, Melissa was desperately trying to find information on any and all remedies that might help Adam with the severe pain in his head and his even more severe nausea.

Tuesday night I often found myself fighting back tears at the thought of what Adam was going through. Several times I found myself praying and asking God to relieve his suffering. What surprised me most was how much I questioned the need for this trial continuing as it had. Even though, if anyone should understand the meaning and purpose of trials, it should be me. If you have read my book, A Glimpse of Heaven, you know what I witnessed in heaven and what an understanding I have been blessed with in regards to the purposes of the trials and tribulations we experience in life.

Zip forward to today (Wednesday) and Adam is in the hospital hooked up to an IV for his dehydration and to try to get something into his system to calm his violent nausea.  Once again, tears are streaming down my face as I think about what Melissa and Adam are going through. I think to myself how glad I am that Melissa is communicating by text message today because if she were to talk to me over the phone – she would hear my voice quiver and know how wimpy her mother is being about this trial that they have faced over the last few days.

So…in the middle of thinking about how wimpy I am, I find several thoughts jumping out of my tear soaked brain: “What is this supposed to teach me? What purpose is this trial supposed to serve? Please Father, I would be happy to take Adam’s pain if you would just let him not hurt. “And then the final thought: “What am I to learn from this?”

This wasn’t an adventure in deep meditation. It really was more of a blubbery feel sorry for my son-in-law and daughter session but a deeply profound answer came to me anyway. As I thought of Adam and Melissa’s situation, I had had several thoughts about the love that I had for them and how willing I was as their mother (mother-in-law) to take their pain and how much I wanted to relieve them of their suffering.

The moment I asked the question: “What am I to learn from this?” I knew Heavenly Father’s answer (for me). It was that I was to realize His sacrifice made during our Savior’s Atonement.

Though I cannot understand it fully, I have often contemplated the great sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for me and all mankind. Yet, in all those contemplations, I had not fully realized the sacrifice that His Father made in allowing him to make that sacrifice. I realized that I could easily volunteer myself to take the pain of a loved one – but I did not have the ability to volunteer my own child as a sacrifice.

I found myself profoundly moved by my Father in Heaven’s deep love for me and for all of His children.

I know that the plan of life mandated that a Savior take upon Himself the pains, sins and experiences of mankind. Now, after this morning, I understand better than I have ever understood before the incredible magnitude of the love that our Creator has for us – because only that kind of love would enable any loving parent to sacrifice their Beloved child on behalf of another.

Not only did my Savior, Jesus Christ, love me enough to sacrifice his life but my Father-in-heaven loved me enough to be willing to witness His own beloved Son make that sacrifice. That kind of love I cannot yet relate to but I am deeply humbled by it.

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The Presidential Election is About More Than Voting for a Pretty Face

It’s hard to avoid all of the political ads right now. I don’t mind political advertisements but I do mind the mindset that so many of them seem to stem from.

Like most advertisements – political advertisements are created based on their target audience or market. You may believe that everyone who is a registered voter is the target market. I don’t believe that’s true. I believe that those who create those commercials have a particular niche in mind.

As I have watched political campaigns over the course of my life – it seems to me that most campaigns gear their efforts towards that group of voters who is more concerned with the celebrity appeal of the candidate than with the intelligence, morality, ethics, business sense and/or the core beliefs and goals underlying an individual’s candidacy.
In today’s world, I’m not sure that George Washington or Abraham Lincoln would have had a chance.

However, in my heart of hearts, I believe in the basic goodness of mankind and therefore I believe that while the vocal minority often is given the lion’s share of press coverage – the silent majority have an equal opportunity to make their voices heard.
I believe that the United States of America has a Constitution that was inspired and I believe that this nation was guided to creation by God’s hand. As such, I believe that this nation is meant to embody the eternal principles that embody God’s works: truth, honesty, integrity, religious freedom, morality, benevolence, humility, virtue and service just to name a few.

When I look into the craggy faces of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln and I see character born of choices based on those same eternal principles that I believe inspired the formation this nation.   Choices made not because they were popular or easy but choices made because they were the right thing to do.

I am not in favor of electing a president because he is a smooth talker, photogenic and he is willing to bend his views and policies to obtain votes. I am in favor of electing a president who not only espouses a belief in God but who utilizes a deep reliance on God to guide his choices and actions and whose life emulates those very values and principles that are taught in the scriptures.

Leading our country successfully – regardless of the problems it currently faces will depend on moral fortitude, adherence to timeless truths and understanding that even the most intelligent man or woman’s knowledge pales in comparison to that of their Creator. Hence, we need a president who is willing to utilize his own intelligence, the intelligence of the best moral minds in the country and who, once armed with the best information available, will turn to the Lord for direction, guidance, and inspiration in making his decisions.

Leading this nation should be about service – not about power.  Leading this nation should be about integrity not situational ethics. Leading this nation should be about electing a man who trusts in God, who has proven that he can be trusted, and who isn’t afraid to stand tall when those of lesser character harass or ridicule. This nation was founded upon “In God We Trust” and the freedoms we enjoy and the prosperity this country needs will depend on a leader who does just that.

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Your Endless Hours are Making a Difference!

Now that I can no longer claim to be a young mother (let’s just say that my daughters are young mothers) I like to think that I have gained some amazingly wonderful insights into the whole business of birth and motherhood!

If you have read my book, A Glimpse of Heaven, you know that I have four children that have given birth to and 2 children that my husband and I adopted from Russia.

I was determined as a young mother to stay home with my children. I was a pretty typical run-of-the-mill LDS mother who exercised lots of creativity in figuring out how I could maximize time with my children, maximize our income, minimize our expenditures, and minimize my time away from the home!

I believed President Benson’s admonition to stay at home with my children rather than pursue a career. And….there was that something inside my heart that couldn’t bear the thought missing out on all of my children’s ‘firsts” in exchange for a career. However, I can’t honestly say that I understood…really understood what my sacrifices for my children were about or what they were accomplishing.

Fast forward to our adoption…then fast forward 5 years after our adoption was finalized and VOILA….I understood. I understood in ways that I could have never understood before.

It was about five years after we adopted our children from Russia that I learned about an emotional condition called Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). I had personally been dealing with two cases of RAD for 5 years but I had not understood what it was that I was dealing with or its causes.

You see…my two Russian children were removed from their birth parents for neglect and abandonment. As a result of not receiving the care, nurturing, and love they needed as infants and young children their emotional well being was greatly impaired.

What I learned is that when a child does not receive the care, nurturing and love that they need – the appropriate development does not occur. Reasoning ability is delayed or not developed, the conscience is impaired, desire to engage in loving relationships is dismally weak and desire to engage in strange, controlling behaviors is frustratingly strong. For example, my son once deliberately failed an honors class not because he wasn’t capable but because he wanted to show the teacher who was really in control.

In the normal development of a child, the first five years is very important but the time between the ages of 6 months to 18 months is especially critical. It is during those months that a child learns to trust. That’s why we often see babies become so attached to their mother’s during that time of their life.

As a child learns to move and become more independent, they need to learn that we are there for them. They have a dirty diaper and they fight us when we want to change them yet our changing their diaper communicates our love for them and that we are going to take care of them. They try to climb something dangerous and we don’t let them and they learn that we are going to keep them safe. They try to hit us and we teach them hitting is wrong and they may cry unhappy tears but they know that we are providing boundaries that they know will help them be secure.

During those formative months and years that we carry our children within, give birth to them, and then raise them are soooo precious. It is through our presence and our care (physical, emotional and spiritual) that we are able to teach them that they are loved, that there is a safe place for them in this world, and enable them to develop in the very ways that Heavenly Father designed for them to develop. So the next time your baby cries as you leave for date night or your energetic children are exhausting you – smile! Something wonderful is happening! Know that your endless hours and daily care are making a magnificent difference!

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