My experience of tragedy, trials, and triumphs!
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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Resurrection

I was 26 when I became a widow.  I had 3 young sons and a baby on the way.  Jax was 6, Josh was 3 and Jordy was just 1 year old.  Our world was crushed in an instant and we were left holding the pieces trying to figure out how to put it all back together.  It’s been over 10 years and I find everyday that this is still a learning process for us.

As I ponder the life of Jesus Christ, his atonement, his death, and his resurrection I am truly inspired.  I have a testimony of my Savior and I love him completely.  I find great comfort and strength in his atoning sacrifice for my sins and my sorrows.  It is the only thing that could have saved me, and has gotten me through this trial of grief and loss.  Recently in a meeting at church the question was asked, “Why does having a testimony of the resurrection bring you feelings of hope and determination?”  The word determination was so interesting to think about.  A story from my past came flooding back into my mind.  The spirit was so overwhelming when I answered that question in my heart.  

It was a mild spring day in March of 2004.  It had only been a few weeks since we had buried the love of our lives.  I say lives because, my boys loved their Daddy completely.  The loss they felt was to their core.  They cried everyday for their Daddy to come back.  I decided to take my boys up to visit the cemetery where their Daddy had been buried.  The grass had recently been laid and anyone that saw it would know that someone recently lost their life and had been laid to rest there.  I parked the car and we all walked slowly over to the spot in the grass that was our Daddy’s.  I sat down while my kids looked around and played for a minute.  I wasn't prepared for what was coming next and I will never forget it.

Josh who was 3 years old came over to Jake’s grave.  He got down on his knees and began to talk to his Dad.  “Daddy please tell Jesus that he needs to come back down now so you can come back too.”  He looked at me with sadness in his eyes, but also a little hope. Tears rolled down his tiny cheeks.  He said it again but this time he put his hands down on the ground and put his face very close to the grass so his Daddy could hear him better.  “Please, daddy, Please." he pleaded.  "Tell Jesus it’s time to come back so you can be alive again.  I miss you and you need to come back now.”  I couldn't hide the tears in my eyes as I tried to explain to my 3 year old little boy that even though we wished Daddy could come back to life it wasn’t time yet.  He sobbed in my arms and asked me if we could just dig him up to make sure.

I wanted Jake to come back too.  My heart ached for him and I felt that I couldn’t live another day without him.  How could I explain to my three year old what I didn't understand either?  I shared every sob and irrational thought that my little children had.  We wanted him back, we needed him, we couldn't survive with out him.  It was time for Jesus to come back so we could be relieved of this awful pain and misery that was our existence now.

      We left the cemetery that day empty handed.  Even with the prayer's and plea's of a little boy that needed his Daddy.  Jake didn’t come back to life and come home with us like we so desperately wanted.  We have left the cemetery dozens of times since then, every time empty handed

I think about Mary going to mourn for Christ at his tomb and finding it empty and I can imagine how she felt.  I am sure at first the feelings were close to panic wondering where he was and who had taken him.  I am not sure, however that I can even comprehend her feelings when she heard the words, “He is not here, for he is Risen”.

So back to that question- "“Why does having a testimony of the resurrection bring you feelings of hope and determination?”  My testimony of the Resurrection gives me hope, because I know that one day we won’t leave the cemetery empty handed. The pleadings of a 3 year old little boy will finally be answered. The words, “He is not here, for he is risen” will apply to all of us, and there will be no more grief and mourning in our hearts.  It gives me determination to live my life following the teachings of Christ and enduring to the end so that I will be worthy to have the blessings of an eternal family when that day comes.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is true.  The Savior died for us and took upon himself the sins and sorrows of the world.  He was resurrected and I know that one day we will all be resurrected as well.  
       The amazing thing about God's plan for opposition in all things is that when you have been through excruciating pain and anguish you know that one day you will experience exceedingly great joy and happiness that is equal to the pain you felt.  This day for me will be the day that my family is reunited, all of us together again, forever.

My Name is Julie and I have a testimony of the Resurrection that gives me hope and determination!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

I built my Self-Worth upon the sand...

One of the first major lessons I learned after Jake died was a lesson in Self Worth.  

When I was a young girl and a teenager I had a terrible self-esteem.  I had a great family, great upbringing and very loving parents.  But, I still thought I was worthless and that no one liked me.  I judged every part of myself.  I hated my freckles and my skin.  My hair was "dishwater blonde"...why do people call it this or "dirty blonde"?!...those are not nice things to say to a young girl.  Especially when she has beautiful red headed sister's that got complimented everywhere we went. (No, I'm not jealous of their hair at all;)  I thought I was fat, and ugly, and the list went on and on.  I don't think I am alone in this issue.  I would dare say most young people struggle with their self image and self worth.  I know that not everyone does...because I have one son who was born with the best self esteem ever.  I take no credit for it as his Mother, he was born that way!  

The first experience I had that strengthened my testimony was in 8th grade.  I was sitting on my waterbed crying.  I was saying a prayer about how no one like me and I was being pretty harsh on myself.  I felt so alone and very sad.  I decided to try something I learned in Young Women's.  "If you ever need answers from your Heavenly Father, hold your scriptures and let them open on their own and then read the first scripture your eyes look at."  I wasn't sure it would work, but I tried it.  I said a quick prayer that I would find something in the scriptures that would help me feel better.  I held them on my lap and let them fall open.  I read the first scripture that I saw.

D&C 18:10   Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;

My eyes filled with tears and I started to cry.  I never expected to have such an amazing instant answer to prayer.  I was filled with a sense of love and peace, knowing that my Heavenly Father loved me.  He loved me enough to answer my prayer and also enough to tell me personally that in His sight my soul was great.  I thanked my Heavenly Father for hearing and answering my prayers.  I will never forget that experience, it was the first major testimony builder in my life.  

Even with that sweet message and reminder I struggled with self worth through High School.  I would have to often remind myself of that experience and go back and read that scripture.  When I met and married Jake my self worth seemed to get stronger.  I loved being a wife, and I thought that I was pretty good at it.  Jake was a very easy person to be married too and this made me think I was a pretty good wife.  He was a very good husband.  I was told daily how beautiful, smart, kind, loving, and amazing I was.  Jake filled me up.  He made me who I was.  I was a good person because of Jake.  His love made me better everyday.  I loved being a Mom and he made me feel like I was the best Mom a little boy could have.  He complimented me always and Never and I mean Never criticized  me.  I know that seems like a lie, but it's not.  In fact, about a month before Jake died I asked him why he never got mad at me or found fault with me.  His response, "If I have a problem with something you are doing, it's not your problem, it's mine.  I just deal with it and move on."  (This statement is profound in many ways and maybe points to why he was done proving himself on this earth.  Can you imagine if more people in the world thought this way!)  But I challenged him on this telling him that "if he holds it all in, he will one day just explode!".  He simply responded with, "No I won't, because it's never stays an issue.".  That gives you an idea of why he gave me a good self esteem.  When I was down on myself he would spend hours telling me how amazing I was and everything he loved about me.  Jake gave me my self worth.  Everything that was good about me was because of him!  This was great...while it lasted.

When Jake died, so did I.  All that was good and kind about me, all of my faith was drained out of me.  I was filled up with pain, sorrow and grief.  It was all consuming.  I had felt pretty because of Jake, I was faithful because of Jake, I was kind because of Jake, I was a good mom because of Jake, and I had worth because I was Jake's wife.  My self worth had been defined by my relationship with Jake, and now he was dead.  

A couple months after Jake died I was asked to speak in Stake Conference on "Overcoming Trials".  I was not overcoming any trial at this time.  I was being swallowed whole by this trial.  I was in a fog of grief that left me hopeless in a downward spiral of misery. This opportunity to speak sent me to my knees in prayer and I was quite honest with Heavenly Father.  I prayed, "if you want me to talk about overcoming trials, you better start helping me to overcome this misery!"  This was a blessing in disguise that I will always be thankful for.  The speaking assignment truly opened me up for the inspiration and revelation that I needed to start my road to healing and see a pathway through the fog.   It also gave me the inspiration and awareness that I needed to rebuild my self worth.

As women and girls we often define our value in our relationships.  If we have a good relationship with our children we must be good moms...and if we have a strained relationship, we must not be good moms.  If our marriage is strong we must be good wives, but if it's struggling (even if it's an issue our husband is struggling with) then we must not be good enough.  It was something we did to cause his issues.  We build up ourselves through the relationship with others when they are good, and we tear ourselves down when they need work. I don't think very many men understand this reality.  If our marriages are struggling, we are almost always struggling with our own self worth because of that.  Men tend to define their value in their careers, their success' or failures, their hobbies and interests, and I dare say even the way their favorite sports team is playing;) (meant for my husband to read, haha)  This is a generalization and doesn't apply to everyone, but I think a lot of people do this.

In my church we have a program for our youth.  The Young Women's and Young Men's programs.  The Young Women recite their theme each week at the beginning of our meeting.  The first line states:

We are daughter's of our Heavenly Father who loves us, and we love Him. 

This teaches a very valuable lesson.  We are all daughters and sons of a Heavenly Father that loves us.  We are all important to Him personally.  I repeated this statement every week for years, but I didn't learn the importance of it until Jake died.

My self worth should never have been placed upon any person that lives on this earth.  There is nothing and no one that can be constant and never leave us.  The only person that we can build our self worth upon that will never leave us alone or let us down is our Heavenly Father.  Even people we love and that seem to love us completely can betray us, let us down, lie to us, or by no fault of their own just die.  The only sure thing in this life is the love and support of Heavenly Father, and Jesus Christ.  We have to build our self worth on them.  "The foolish man built his house upon the sand, and the wise man built his house upon a rock." I didn't see building my self worth on Jake as foolish, in fact, I don't think I was even aware that I was doing that.  But when the rains came pouring down, my self worth was washed away and I was forced to figure out how to rebuild.  I learned to build my self worth upon a rock.  The worth of souls is great in the sight of God.  I am a good person because I am a Daughter of God.  If I build my self worth on His love for me and all the potential He sees in me, I can begin to trust that and believe in myself. I have to remind myself of this lesson often.  The voices in my head or of those around me in the world can try and "rain" down on my self worth to weaken it.  If I stay true to who I am and can keep my foundation built upon my Heavenly Father my self worth can never be drained out of me again.

My name is Julie and I am a Daughter of God who loves me, and I love Him.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Our Pilot EARNED his Wings!

In October our family had a trip planned for a family member's wedding.  We would be flying from Utah to Florida and staying for six days.  We had planned for it to be Curtis, six of our ten kids and myself.  Curtis' new company ended up being ready to do it's first launch while we would be gone so he made the decision to stay behind.  I would be traveling with six kids alone, two kids having special needs, a two year old, and three good helpers.  I am used to traveling alone with the kids so I knew we would have some challenges, but with a lot of planning, organizing, and patience we would have a great time.  

The kids did great.  The first of the trip went better than expected.  By the middle of the trip the kids were having typical issues but still overall they were doing really well.  We had Cam wearing his sensory headphones so that he could enjoy the theme parks without all the extra noise.  I have learned little tricks that help Jordy as well to make it through a day without having a meltdown or major behavior issues.  I was very grateful that we had saved our "Autism is my Superpower" and "I am 22q" shirts for the boys to wear on the last 2 days.  Both Cam and Jordy look like "typical" kids, so if I know we may have problems I will have them wear those shirts.  They both love their shirts and are always excited when I let them wear them.  They help bring awareness to Autism and 22q, and they help people be a little more patient with us.

On our flight home we had a layover.  The first flight was long, and we were all tired and a little stressed.  I was ready to be home.  

Jordy has been obsessed with airplanes since he was very little. We talk often about what job he could have when he is older at the airport. When we were boarding our last flight of the trip I was trying to collapse the strollers and organize the little kids and car seats. Jordy walked ahead of the rest of us and boarded the plane (wearing his Autism is my superpower shirt). As I shuffled the other kids behind him onto the plane he was talking to the pilot. He is a question master and asks everyone he comes in contact a million questions...he had done it to all the flight crews. Well, this crew was different than the other crews. The pilot asked me what row we were sitting in and then asked me if he could keep Jordy while everyone boarded the plane. He told me he would make sure he got Jordy back to me before we took off.  I agreed...I admit I was a little confused and then amazed when the pilot took Jordy into the cockpit. We were among the first to board the plane so it took quite sometime for everyone to board. During the boarding process we heard a voice come over the intercom, "Hello everyone, we would like to welcome you on the plane today."   It was Jordy

Just before we were about to take off Jordy was returned to our seats with the biggest smile he has ever had! "They showed me how to work the controllers and fly the plane and where the seat belt on and off switch was and where they land and where they talk to all the people and I didn't think I would want to be a flyer of the planes, but now I know that I want to be a flyer because now I know how." Jordy said proudly.  He said it was probably better than Disney World. It was the best flight of Jordy's life!

After the flight I asked the pilot if I could get his picture with Jordy and he said, "If we are going to do a picture, then let's do it right!" He took us into the cockpit again and gave Jordy his hat, sat him in the pilot's seat and he sat and talked with us for another 5 mins.  He told Jordy that he could do anything he wanted to do in life. I was overcome by this simple kind act and had to try and hold back my emotions.

A lot of the time people have a hard time being around Autistic kids. Sometimes they are very helpful and try to accommodate however they can. And then, there are the very few who get it...and just by being kind, and going a little out of their way, they make a little boys dream come true.  Our Frontier Airlines pilot, earned his wings that day.  It was the best finish to a vacation we have ever had, and the best flight I have ever had with my kids!

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