Friday, October 15, 2010

Counting It All Joy

Almost two years ago I found a lump in my throat. This lump has grown and diminished and grown again until I could hardly breathe. A tumor? Cancer? No. Though I’m beginning to see an amazing amount of similarities between cancer and being unemployed or under employed. While facing these challenges I’ve taken a new interest in stories of those who have beaten seemingly insurmountable odds. My favorite is that of the pioneers in the Willie and Martin Handcart companies who came to know God in their extremities. As the kaleidoscope of life shifts, so do our goals. Currently it has become my sincerest and most humble desire to make the most of my own current extreme circumstances to become acquainted with God better than I ever realized I needed to or even could and to discard, like the Pioneers did, everything I could that would keep me from that goal. For He has truly been merciful during these amazing and challenging years while we have fought to find joy in the journey.

Too Heavy to Carry

As our financial stresses have grown continually heavier over time, the lump in my throat became regular night time attacks of fear and panic even while my day times were relatively happy and peaceful. Darla Isackson said it well, “The fear always pops up uninvited and unexpected, and ferocious in its attack.” During these night time episodes, “fear and negativity [certainly had become] the path of least resistance.” Satan’s fiery darts of shame, guilt, and fear beat relentlessly upon my worn down soul. Night after night I have pleaded in prayer for comfort but I experienced very little change. Then I found Sister Isackson’s article, “Fear Is a Lie”, on the Meridian Magazine and the healing could finally began. Her thoughts inspired me: “Because I have a soul-deep desire to live in light and truth, the best motivation I’ve found to weed out fear is simply to see that fear thoughts are lies.” As the truth of her words settled in my heart, I at last found a short reprieve from the night time attacks. However, as Sister Isackson explained, “In order to take advantage of the best, we have to let go of the worst; we have to weed out Satan’s influence and Satan’s lies.” Letting go of the worst proved an overwhelming task as I faced an impressive supply of fears concerning a variety of issues far beyond merely our financial situation. Sis Isackson said, “I wrote down my thoughts and challenged them, asking the Lord to help me see the truth.” Oh how I longed for the truth to overcome my fears, but how could I possibly face them individually when together they had become such a MOUNTAIN???

Still, in my own humble way I clung to my goal, waiting for more light and courage to assist in my journey. As Mark Twain said, necessity really is the mother of taking chances and recent assurances from General Authorities that there was no need to fear gave me added determination. Like Maurine J Proctor proclaimed in her article “How Can God Say ‘Fear Not’?”, “I [could] understand the shakings of the Children of Israel, stuck between Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea, but I [didn’t] want to be them. I [really wanted] to take a journey like Moses, and leave my fears behind, littering the desert as too heavy to carry to the Promised Land.” Furthermore, the Savior’s own admonitions to the apostle Peter as he sank in the water (Matthew 14:30) and the disciples who feared perishing in the storm (Mark 4:39)—which had long puzzled me—gave me fuel for my deep pleadings, seeking for more light and understanding.

Sister Isackson’s words helped me rediscover the essential source of peace. “I am always in His hands, always spiritually safe, regardless of outward danger. That message increases in importance as calamity and evil increases in this world.” (emphasis added) I sensed a deep need to abandon all extraneous sources of peace and refocus my efforts to know God. I wanted my “confidence [to] wax strong in the presence of God” (D&C 121:45). In order to let go of my fears, however, I needed to understand God better.

He’s Not the Accuser

Sometimes I go several months without reading articles on The Meridian Magazine, but recently the Spirit has clearly directed me to important and timely Truths through His blessed Servants. Enter Maurine J Proctor’s article, “The Lord is Not the Accuser”.

“Some of us have a critic in our heads, an evaluator who whisks through our lives with white gloves, running a disapproving finger over the dust that seems to settle everywhere, taking notes of the ways we don’t quite measure up, and scolding us, invisibly, for our failings.” “If this critical voice is loud in good times, think how many decibels it raises when times are really tough—like the economic trials of the present.”

How could someone possibly know the incredible pain in my heart? How could they understand the lump in my throat that was never completely gone and which haunted my nights? Not just fear of external forces, but also that incredibly painful fear of not measuring up, of forever distancing myself from God, of failing to fulfill my Divine missions in life.

“Let us come to clarity. Let us be clear. The accusatory voice that you may hear inside you, which echoes and re-echoes down the stony corridors of your soul, is not God’s. He is plenteous in mercy, he is loving and gracious, slow to anger, long-suffering and full of goodness. He is the perfect parent.” Somehow as a passionate seeker of Truth, I had misfired and for many many years had became a prisoner of war to Justice. Sis Proctor finally helped release me from my unseen prison, and the gulf that separated me from His Love began to disappear. For “the word of God . . . is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil” (Helaman 3:29).

Shortly thereafter, during one of my night time attacks, with humility and new trust in that Perfect Parent, I pulled out my Palm Pilot and began listing my fears and also, occasionally, those things I was grateful that I did NOT fear. My list of fears went on and on, and I rejoiced in the peace I found by simply facing my fears head on. I realized, as I recorded in my journal, that “The power of fear lies in its ambush qualities.”

The resulting peace was overwhelming. Still the night time attacks did not end, though they thankfully ebbed and flowed in their intensity. With renewed gratitude I continued on, sensing the incredible healing of a lifetime of hurt feelings and flawed habits slowly but miraculously, consciously, & consistently dropping away as “the spirit of fear” was replaced by “power, and . . . love, and . . . a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7) Slowly releasing myself from my prison, I spent the next few weeks refilling my “bowels” with “charity towards all men, and to the household of faith”. (D & C 121:45) The result? Days such that I recorded in my journal: “Yesterday was a dream. I felt so much love and peace in my heart.” There was no room for anything else. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for God’s Mercy that changed the lump in my throat to a heart filled with love and light which flowed “without compulsory means” (D & C 121:46) to my family in ways I had LONG prayed and pleaded for.

Discovering Freedom

Newly released from my mental and emotional prison, I began pressing forward discovering where my new freedom would lead me. Along with that the ‘ebbs’ also continued through life’s challenges that returned the lump to my throat and severely restricted the love and light that flowed from me.

However with such beautiful memories fresh in my mind, I find each time the strength to humbly press forward staying in tune with God’s commandments even as I reach out and reclaim the Mercy God offers. I now reach heavenward with my heart knowing that even during trials, He will reach back with comfort, guidance, and peace. And the lumps become bridges to my Savior, drawing me closer and closer to Him. So while I still fervently pray for a new financial season for our family, more and more I can sincerely say with James,

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. (James 1:2-4)


Nanette said...

Beautifully Written!! I continue to be inspired by your willingness to press forward with Purpose and Intention!! God IS faithful, and delights when we choose to "Lean not on our own understanding, but in all our ways acknowledge Him, and He WILL direct our steps"!! I am confident that you are well on your way into a new season of prosperity and peace!! May we remember to always keep our eyes on the Savior, knowing that our Father will NEVER leave or forsake us!!

Ranee said...


Your strength, conviction and compassion inspire me! How gracefully you are dealing with life's circumstances. Your strength is amazing! I am honored to call you my friend! :0)

Martineau Family said... are amazing, and I am humbled by your example. I love you and your family, and feel blessed to know you.

Beckstrand7 said...

Wow, Verena, amazingly put. I know a little of what you are going through...counting our blessings is how we survive. (That and for me it includes not to judging my own husband through these tough times.) I see the hand of God in each/every day, and feel His hand bearing us up in amazing and beautiful ways. Thank you for sharing this. God bless you!