Sunday, November 22, 2009

A clearing in the Refiner's Fire...

By Popular Demand... :)
Here is my talk from today's Sacrament Meeting...
Some of it you may recognize from previous blog postings
(why re-invent the wheel?)
I wanted to talk about blessings, gratitude and Thanksgiving...
or in other words, Adoption!


One of my favorite talks is by Quentin L. Cook and called "I hope you know, we had a hard time..." In this talk he tells us:
One of the essential doctrines illuminated by the Restoration is that there must be opposition in all things for righteousness to be brought to pass. This life is not always easy, nor was it meant to be; it is a time of testing and proving. As we read in Abraham, “And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.”

Sometimes the things that are best for us, the trials we experience are for our own good...but they make us feel frustrated and bitter. And sometimes the things which are just out of reach, that we cannot have...are the most desirable things.

Let me share a personal example:
James and I had been married a very short time when we discovered that we would be unable to have a baby without medical intervention. We were disappointed but, optimistic because, after all, medical technology can pretty much solve any problems, right? Well, wrong. After spending a lot of time and exhausting ourselves (and our resources) we realized that God had a different plan for our family.

We had talked about adoption before we married and we agreed from the beginning that it was a great idea. We figured we would have a blended family regardless, so when we decided to fill out our paperwork to begin the adoption process we were excited. We had heard that many people wait several years before being selected by a birthmother so we just prepared ourselves to wait...

After 18 long months of waiting we were thrilled when we were selected by a birthmother! She was expecting a little girl, due in February. We spent 6 months getting ready for our baby. On Valentines day of 2006 we got the call that our birthmother was in labor and we rushed to the hospital. I was actually in the room during her C-section and shortly after the baby had been weighed and measured, they swaddled her and handed her to me. I was able to walk her to the nursery and we spent the evening with the baby, whom we named "Evelyn." We took lots of pictures and called our families to share our news. We marveled at her perfect beauty.
Imagine our despair when, the next morning, our birthmother changed her mind, and we never saw Evelyn again. It is hard to explain what adoption loss feels like. I imagine it is not too much different than any other women who lose their baby soon after birth. We never understood why, or what happened, but we grieved the loss of our baby. We went home that night with empty arms and a lot of questions... but no answers.

Many of the trials and hardships we face in our lives have lasting consequences.
We know from our own experiences and the experiences of others that the trials we go through are for our good and for our own personal development. But sometimes that thought still leaves me cold. It is so hard to see the big picture when you are still drowning in the depths of despair. Would we ever be parents? Had God forgotten us? Did he not love us as much as he loved other families who were blessed with children?

Time does heal many wounds, and as I've grown through our trials, I've come to discover that Heavenly Father is indeed mindful of us. As we pass through the refiners fire we are blessed in ways that were hard to understand at the time.

President James E. Faust said, " Into every life there come the painful, despairing days of adversity and buffeting. There seems to be a full measure of anguish, sorrow, and often heartbreak for everyone, including those who earnestly seek to do right and be faithful." Of course, the desire to have children is God-given and a righteous desire.

President Faust continues, " In the pain, the agony, and the heroic endeavors of life, we pass through a refiner’s fire, and the insignificant and the unimportant in our lives can melt away like dross and make our faith bright, intact, and strong. In this way the divine image can be mirrored from the soul. It is part of the purging toll exacted of some to become acquainted with God."

This brings to mind the story told by President David O McKay and the late start of the Martin Handcart Company. Many of you may recall this story when the elderly gentleman stood up to bear his testimony of travelling with the company. He said, " ‘I have pulled my handcart when I was so weak and weary from illness and lack of food that I could hardly put one foot ahead of the other. I have looked ahead and seen a patch of sand or a hill slope and I have said, I can go only that far and there I must give up, for I cannot pull the load through it.’ ”

He continues: “ ‘I have gone on to that sand and when I reached it, the cart began pushing me. I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart, but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the angels of God were there.

“ ‘Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No. Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay, and I am thankful that I was privileged to come in the Martin Handcart Company.’ ”
-------------------------

Many of us, through our trials and afflictions, pay a heavy price in order to become, as this gentleman put it, 'acquainted with God.' And at the time we were probably miserable...but when looking back we can see the works of the Lord.

You know, I have a theory about that...ok not really a theory, more like just a rambling thought that came to me one night while drifting off to sleep. I like to think it was the still, small voice whispering comfort into my ear one night when I was feeling particularly mournful.

Let me back up. When it rains; it pours. I have had several friends announce pregnancies. All in the span of a couple months. It is the season of life I suppose and I promise you, I am truly happy for my friends. I really am. Especially for those friends who have struggled with infertility like I have. But, like any infertile woman, it still leaves me feeling a little left out. It seems that every time I prayed for a child, another woman was blessed. Was there an error? Where my prayers getting crossed? I wondered when it would be my turn... I mean, Hello! What about me?

Eventually I realized that I was stressing myself out about whether or not I would ever actually 'find' all the children that were meant to be ours. Sometimes it left me wondering if I was less of a woman or less loved by the Lord for not being able to participate in these normal experiences that define righteous womanhood. Why did I do this to myself?

I beliece it is because we hear in church lessons, and conference talks, and listen to well meaning testimonies from our friends about how women are in partnership with God when, through the miracle of pregnancy and childbirth, they bring new spirits into the world. In fact, we are counseled that it is our responsibility to welcome children into our home. But, when pregnancy is elusive, we wonder if we are less of a woman, or less blessed, because we are unable to fulfill that commandment to multiply and replenish. I know for me, I wondered why others were blessed with this "miracle" when I wasn't.

But, I think I have some of it figured out. I have witnessed an even bigger, more incredible miracle. I have seen a clearing in the refiners fire so to speak.
And I want to tell you about it because it changed the way I viewed my entire life.

I'll explain.

I think that the children that were meant to be ours - will be ours.

I know, crazy thought isn't it?

Especially coming from one who is unable to have children.

But I think that Krista Oaks has it right when, in her book "Fertile in our Faith" she discusses how, life on Earth is a big 'family reunion' of sorts. Everybody comes to the reunion...some come by bus, some drive themselves, some might walk while some take a taxi. Some might fly in for a short visit, others pack suitcases and take the train for an extended stay. It doesn't matter HOW they get to the big family reunion...the point is - They will Come. And that is, in itself, a true miracle.

Some come by birth. Others come by adoption. Some may come another way... How doesn't really matter.

Yes - It IS truly a miracle how babies come into the world. But, to me, it is an even bigger miracle that a woman can go through pregnancy and childbirth...and then place her baby in the arms of an aching couple.

When I say I have witnessed a bigger miracle...
I mean that I have SEEN the pure, unselfish love of Christ.
I have SEEN the works of God.
I have SEEN something most sacred.

All because of a brave birthmother.

We were so blessed when we placed with our daughter Kayley 6 months after we lost baby Evelyn.
Like a beautiful flower...rising up through the ashes of our despair she was a tiny spirit, fresh from Heavenly Fathers presence come to heal our wounded hearts and help us learn that children are born of our hearts and not necessarily of our flesh.

But it took time to lose the bitterness and despair. While we waited it was not easy to come to recognize our blessing. Sometimes is seems that the refining process often is cruel and hard. But, it is in this way that we become like clay in the hands of the Master. Allowing Him to mold us into something of beauty, strength, faith and usefulness.

All too often, in the midst of anguish we rush to judge God or rule that he is just not there. I know that I have been guilty of this. Some people will say, "How could God let this happen to me?"

Yet, in my experience, time is the missing piece to an accurate understanding of nature and purposes. All too often when we are staggering from the "blow" of a sorrow filled experience, our vision is blurred. Like whacking at a pinata, blindfolded, whirling about...desperately trying to hit something...For some, the refiner’s fire causes a loss of belief and faith in God, but those with eternal perspective understand that such refining is part of the perfection process.

It is a hard hump to get over, but it can be done... It needs to be done if we are going to be truly happy.
When gratitude fills our hearts, there is no room for unhappiness. Happiness, I have learned, does not depend on obtaining all the desires of our hearts. In large measure, happiness depends on our ability to feel gratitude for the things we already have.

That leaves us with the question: How can we get and maintain a sense of gratitude and thankfulness while we are blinded by our trials?

Sometimes, we are so heavily burdened-so unhappy-so filled with anguish that we just don't feel grateful. We just don't have it in us! !!
It is hard to express and emotion to our Heavenly Father that we just don't feel.
But we need to...and we can. There are ways to cultivate gratitude. The idea that emotions occur spontaneously, unaffected by any action on our part, is completely false. Through study and prayer and practical experience, we can take actions that change the way we feel.

In Carolyn Wrights talk, "A Thankful Heart" she shares how we can increase our ability to feel gratitude, particularly when we are feeling unhappy and just plain ungrateful.

First, Count your blessings. Awareness is the first step in developing gratitude. Many of our greatest blessings have been part of our lives for so long that we may have forgotten they are gifts.

Second, Recognize trials as blessings. It may seem odd to think of illness, social upheavals, natural disasters, and personal tragedies as blessings. But how often have we heard people bear testimony of the growth they experienced through enduring periods of challenge and trial?

Some have supposed that trials are reserved only for the disobedient. But the scriptures make it clear that even the humble and obedient will face tribulation. Experience is a great teacher, and sometimes our hardest experiences can be our greatest teachers.

This may be why we are commanded to give thanks for all things (see Eph. 5:20). Some blessings come to us painfully. But in D&C 78:19 the Lord promises that “he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious”.

Next, Carefully nurture every feeling of gratitude, no matter how small. Cultivating an attitude of gratitude is much like caring for the seed of faith. If we nourish the first tiny sprout, in time it will grow into a beautiful and fruitful tre. I find that when I first become aware of a blessing, I can strengthen my feeling of gratitude if I immediately express my thanks.

Also, Study your patriarchal blessing. Too often, we fail to recognize those gifts that have been given to us specifically. Our patriarchal blessings can help us recognize and appreciate these personal gifts. Reading our blessings can also help us avoid the human tendency to despise our own gifts and covet those given to others.

Next Write down your blessings. Recording our blessings in a journal helps focus our minds on them and enables us to recall them later when we may have forgotten. Others, too, might benefit. President Spencer W. Kimball said, “Journals are a way of counting our blessings and of leaving an inventory of these blessings for our posterity” (Ensign, May 1978, page 77).

We should also Express gratitude to Heavenly Father. When we pray, the Holy Ghost often reminds us of blessings we have overlooked.

Lastly, Express your gratitude to others. It has been said that when Heavenly Father wishes to bless us, he often sends that blessing through the service of another—a friend, a parent, a Church leader, a teacher.

As Spencer W. Kimball told us: God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person where he meets our needs.

I love that quote. It is definitely one of my favorites. Our Heavenly Father is constantly working through us to help others. All this He does so that we can become closer to him. So that we can learn humility. So we can increase our capacity to love. So we can learn that through God, all things are possible and all obstacles can be overcome. Even the ones that seem in surmountable.

I wanted to close by sharing another of my favorite stories:
(Many of you may have heard this one)

It is about Malachi 3:3 reads "He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver..."
There was a group of women in a Bible study on the book of Malachi and this verse puzzled them and they wondered what this statement meant about the character and nature of God.

One of the women offered to find out about the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible study. That week this woman called up a silver smith and made an appointment to watch him at work. She didn't mention anything about the reason for her interest in silver beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver. As she watched the silver smith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities. The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot--then she thought again about the verse, that he sits as a refiner and purifier of silver.

She asked the silver smith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left even a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed. The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silver smith, "How do you know when the silver is fully refined?"

He smiled at her and answered, "When I can see my image in it."

President Faust insisted that "Out of the refiners fire can come a glorious deliverance. The price to become acquainted with God will have been paid."

Until that day we must keep a spiritual perspective, we must walk by faith and watch the works of God unfold before us.

4 comments:

consolidatingcricket said...

"I think that the children that were meant to be ours - will be ours."

I understand that you believe me to be a troll, but in this circumstance, I'm really eager to hear your thoughts.

If the above quote is truly what you believe (and that's fine if that's what you do believe), then was I meant to be placed with abusive adoptive parents?

You can delete this, and I'm sure you will, but again, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

My email: happydayzee@aol.com

Thanks,
Cricket

Becky said...

This is awesome!
We too suffered adoption loss, twice. Once before our first adoption and once before the second. It's very difficult and very real!

The Wendler Family said...

What a great talk! What a blessing to all of those who got to hear you give it.
The Lord is SO mindful of our trials. I love that story of refining the silver. During our own refining, the Lord is watching and holding us the whole time. I believe that to be true.

Gwen Mangelson said...

I loved your talk in Sacrament meeting- you are a very good speaker and I am blessed to have you as a friend.