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Friday, April 18, 2014

The Sealing Issue...why marrying a widow is a matter of faith for me.

Part 2 of Dating and Marrying a part one here.

Written By-Curtis Toone

*Disclaimer: as this particular blog post primarily deals with theological issues related to Christianity and more particularly to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, be advised that if you're not familiar with this religion, this may not make sense to you as you are not the intended audience. To learn more about our belief click here.

After my divorce I knew I wanted to get married again. I also knew that I wanted to marry someone who had been married before. I wanted someone who had the experience of being in a marriage with both the positives and challenges. When I began dating I did not distinguish between those that had been divorced and those who had been widowed. This was because I hadn't spent any time thinking through the issues and potential consequences of the different circumstances.

At that time I had a very intense job and I was working between 50 and 60 hours a week with frequent travel. When I wasn't working I was spending time with my kids. This made finding people to date difficult. Although I had a number of high-quality dates through introductions from friends and family, and the Singles Ward, I hadn't found anyone with whom I had good chemistry. I consider myself fairly progressive technology wise so I decided I would give online dating a try. I found that it was a fairly efficiently to see lots of people who were interested in dating. I also was only interested in dating someone up my faith.

So after dating for a while, I had met a number of good and wonderful ladies, but for one reason or another, things just didn't work out between us. So I went back to the dating websites to find other women to date. I remember looking at Julie's profile and saying to myself, she's really pretty and I bet I could be a really good dad to her boys. (One of her pictures was of her and her boys) I approached her online and after some effort, time and divine intervention she decided to go out with me. (The divine intervention is another story for another day.)

After going on a couple of dates with Julie I began to wrap my head around some of the complex issues for the very first time of dating a widow in the LDS church. I remember her describing the tragic situation she had to endure with the loss of her husband. I felt sad for her as she described what a great person Jake was, how abruptly he was taken from her, in the ensuing grief and mourning she felt for him over the last several years. It was clear that she loved Jake very intensely. I wondered if she felt if she was able to love someone else as intensely. In retrospect, perhaps I should not have asked her that question directly, but I am a very direct person. I think this just illustrates how I was beginning to think about some of the issues around dating someone who is a widow or widower.

When you date someone who is divorced, you generally find that they dislike the person they were previously married to. The opposite is true when you date a widow or widower, they almost always liked the person they were married to. On our second date, Julie made it very clear that she was sealed to Jake and intended to remain so. On one hand that made perfect sense. This was the very instance that the sealing power was intended to provide comfort and reassurance that Julie and Jake would be together again. On the other hand, where did this leave me? I was a single unsealed man. (As my ex-wife had canceled our sealing and was sealed to her current husband.)

She told me that she felt that she could love another husband  just as she has several children and loves each of them equally but in slightly different ways. This made sense to me, but we know there's a difference between parental love and romantic love between husband and wife. After reflecting on the conversation I decided to keep an open mind. This conversation obviously upset her and she left from the lunch date unhappy. I tried to ask the questions in the most sincere and kind way possible and there was no malice in my heart. I was just coming to grips with some of the issues for the first time.

I knew that I had upset her on the date. I tried to call her later that day and the next day. She didn't answer the phone so I tried to text and left her several voicemails. A day or two later I received an e-mail from her that I now call a "nasty gram". In the e-mail there was a lot of emotion and frustration about the issues I brought up and her overall situation. I think she was fairly determined to put me off. She questioned why would bring up those issues and be so direct when we had only been on a date or two. I think the quote she said is "I don’t even think I like you, and yet you want me to discuss spending eternity with you. I would just like to be able to go on a date without having to try and solve the mysteries of eternity". After reflecting on the e-mail she sent, I called her and left a voicemail saying that she was right and I’d make it up to her if she would go out with me again promising that we would go out just to have fun and keep things light. I hoped that she would go out with me again because I liked her personality and thought she was pretty.

Fortunately, she decided to go out with me again. In retrospect, I have to thank her father for talking her into it. We continue dating and we both enjoyed it. At the same time I was processing these issues in my head and trying to come to some resolution on them. A friend of mine had married a widow and in her circumstances she decided to ask for a Temple divorce from her first husband. Apparently he was an unsavory character. I don't pretend to think that I have enough information to judge whether this was the right decision in their case, but Julie made it very clear that Jake was a great guy, and she would remain sealed to him.

My thoughts on the Sealing Issue after much thought, prayer, processing and reflection. (This is my understanding and how I should apply it in my life. I know this point of view will not apply nor be appropriate in every circumstance and situation. Each person must prayerfully consider their circumstances and ultimately look to God and the influence of the Holy Ghost to determine the right path for them.)

The gospel of Jesus Christ is a curious thing. It's not a Chinese menu where you can pick and choose which gospel principles you will believe and which ones you won't. You can't say I like Commandments one, five and six, but I don't like three, four and nine. If you're going to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ you must also accept it in its entirety. If you accept that through the Priesthood men and women may be able to be sealed together in God's holy temples, you must also accept that God is a just and loving Heavenly Father who is concerned about the happiness and well-being of his children.

We also know that it is "not good for man to be alone" (Genesis 2:18, Abraham 5:14, Moses 3:18). I also believe that it is not good for woman to be alone either. Our moral existence on this planet is intended for us to interact with one another. I also feel it's ideal for children to be raised in a home with two parents even if both of those parents are not the biological parents.

We also know that we don’t know the mysteries of God nor a perfect picture of the gospel at this time. In the ninth article of faith we learn "we believe all that God has revealed, all that he does now reveal, and we believe that he will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God." From this we know that we don't fully understand how things will be in the eternities. In first Corinthians chapter 13 the apostle Paul clearly illustrates that while we do not have a full understanding of things pertaining to the gospel, (we see through a glass darkly; for we know in part, and we prophesy in part), but what we have is an understanding of the fundamentals. If we master these gospel fundamentals everything that will be revealed to us in the eternities will make perfect sense. Paul exhorts us to develop the qualities of faith hope and charity. And we know the charity is a perfect love of Jesus Christ.

We also know that God's kingdom is not a kingdom of coercion, force or compulsion. We learn this in section 121 of the doctrine and covenants. This section teaches us how God's kingdom on earth is to function and how will be in the eternities. In the eternities we will choose to live in accordance with God's laws because that will be who we are, our very nature, because we have experienced the alternative and have chosen to overcome the natural man within us (Mosiah 3:19) and yield to the enticings of the Holy Ghost. To reside with God our Eternal Father in his Celestial glory we will need to have become like him in every way.

Versus 45 and 46 section 121 give us a glimpse into the eternities:

45 let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the Priesthood shall distill upon thy soul as the dues from heaven.

46 the Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter and unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory mean, it shall flow into thee forever and ever. (note: comma added for emphasis)

There are some really powerful messages in these two scriptures. First, if we really truly understand, accept and live the gospel of Jesus Christ our hearts and minds will be full of love for everyone. The Holy Ghost will be our constant companion, the additional doctrine of God's kingdom and Priesthood will be revealed to us little by little over time, and our very nature, our essence, our everything will change and become aligned and match the will and nature of God. Every feeling, thought, and action will be in harmony with the Priesthood and God's kingdom not out of choice, but rather because of who we are.

The phrase "without compulsory means" is very interesting. Alternative ways of saying this are: without compulsory methods, without compulsory practices, or without compulsory procedures. In the kingdom of God no one will be forced to do anything. We will be asked to do things and then return and report. I believe that we will choose to do those things asked of us because it is right. The other implication of this is that we will not be with anyone we don't want to be with. If we don't want to be with the person that we were sealed to on the earth no one is going to force us to be with them in the eternities.

We don't know how things are going to work out in the eternities. We don't know what adjustments are going to be made. We DO know that the atonement of Jesus Christ compensates for every sin, mistake, frailty, challenge, sorrow and problem if we enter by the gate, live the gospel and endure to the end in faith, repentance and hope. We do know that if we are righteous, true and faithful it will all work out and we will all be happy and received a fullness of joy in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom.   

It is true, that the church policy is that a woman can only be sealed to one man while she is living. I accept and support our church leaders in all that God has revealed to us at this time. Perhaps we get a glimpse into what God may reveal to us in the future by the fact that a woman can be sealed to multiple men after they are all deceased. Let me restate again that we do not know precisely how things will work in the eternities. We do not know what compensations and adjustments will be made. We DO know that if we become like God through the gospel of Jesus Christ, our essence and nature will change to become in harmony with him. He has promised that we will be happy and have joy in the eternities.

Do I know how things will work out between Julie, Jake and I in the eternities? No. But I put my trust in the hands of my loving father in heaven. I trust in him to make it all work out so that everyone will be happy and satisfied. No one, if we live worthy, will miss out on any blessing as the infinite and eternal atonement of Jesus Christ compensates for all shortcomings. No one will feel cheated or shortchanged.

If you accept the Priesthood can seal two people together for time and all eternity, then you must also accept that God is a loving and merciful God, we do not know how precisely things will work out in the eternities, what adjustments and compensations will be made through the atonement, and trust that God will want to bless you with every blessing you prove worthy of.

Caution! My opinion follows:

I think the point of view of shunning a widow because she is sealed to someone else is the exact opposite of everything the gospel teaches. This daughter of God has already shown that she is a good person of faith, accepts the gospel and was worthy to be sealed in the Temple. She may now find herself single through no fault of her own through the death of a spouse. This is not a reason to cast her aside or discard her for your own insecurities. If anything, the gospel teaches us to be full of charity toward the widow and the fatherless (James 1:27), to lift the hands that hang down and strengthen the feeble knees (Hebrews 12:12). If you are going to believe in the Priesthood sealing power, you must also accept the rest of the gospel in its entirety which would lead you past your own insecurities in the sealing issue, if you can put your trust in God and exercise faith. There are many reasons to not marry someone, but to discard a faithful woman solely because she is a widow is wrong.

Aside: I have considered deleting this paragraph because I don’t want to come across as harsh or judgmental. But I believe it to be the truth based on my understanding.

As I sat and reflected on my understanding of this issue, it was one thing to feel prompted spiritually that I should marry Julie, a widow. It was another thing entirely to act upon it. This was not an easy thing to do. I had many times of doubt, insecurity and uncertainty. The adversary worked hard to strengthen my insecurities and amplify my doubts. Ultimately I had to take that leap of faith and decide whether I would let my fears and insecurities be stronger than my faith in my loving heavenly father. I chose then and I still choose today to trust my father in heaven and the promptings I felt.

For each of us, if we don't have enough faith to trust with the Holy Ghost when it prompts us to move in a direction then how can you ever expect to have enough faith to receive all the promises given to you in the Temple? Simply being sealed in the Temple does not ensure that you're going to be sealed for time and all eternity. There are lots of blessings that we are given to us that are dependent on further actions, how we live our life, and ultimately who we become.

Let me be also clear that I didn't get married to Julie just for spiritual reasons. No one should marry a widow solely because she is a widow and you are single. I married Julie because I love the person she is and the person she is becoming.  Having passed through the tragedies, trials and grief in her life she has become a caring and compassionate woman. I want to be married to a caring and compassionate woman. Through dating we determined that we were a great fit for each other and had great chemistry in our relationship. My decision to ask Julie to marry me was both self-interested and spiritual in motivation.

For each of you that are single I offer some great advice I was given. "For whatever trial in your life, pray to the Lord and ask his help as if it all depended upon the Lord and then work like it all depends upon you."  In Proverbs 3:5 it says "trust in the Lord with all thy heart and lean not unto thine own understanding; in all ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths." For any person male or female struggling with any of these issues my advice is to humbly inquire of the Lord what his will is in your life. When the answers come through the Holy Ghost, choose to follow them. Acknowledge that the answers come in God's time and not ours. Each of us have a unique path in mission in this life.

To the widows out there I offer you my condolences. I'm sorry for your circumstances having a spouse taken from you prematurely. I know this feels extremely unfair. I'm sure the heartbreak, loneliness and grief are overwhelming at times. If you have started dating I'm sure sealing issue is on one hand, a strength and comfort in knowing your connection to your spouse, and on the other hand a challenge and a source of frustration as you contemplate a second marriage. I hope that you can find someone to marry that is of great faith and has fully embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ in its entirety.  I am not saying that my point of view on the sealing issue is right for everyone. I only say that it was right for me.

Just because I felt it was right to marry Julie doesn't mean that second marriages are easy. Both divorced and widowed people come into a second marriage with baggage. My life is infinitely more complex than I thought it would be. We manage relationships with a dead husband and his family, an ex-wife, stepchildren, special needs kids, and challenges of all kinds. We have our moments of peace and happiness in your times of trial and rough patches.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is not a competition. There is not one winner and one loser. Julie's husband Jake was a really good guy. A faithful member of the church, returned missionary, and serving as Young Men's president when he was killed. The fact that Jake was a really good person has no impact on what type of person I can become. The person the Jake was in no way diminishes me as a husband and father. Comparisons have no benefit to either Jake or me. While some comparisons are inevitable Julie and I try to avoid making them as they only sow the seeds of insecurities, criticism and discontent.

Some people who have heard our story have said "oh you're just a saint." Let me assure you that I am far from a saint. I have many shortcomings, frailties and imperfections. If you doubt that just asked Julie and I'm sure she would be glad to illuminate several to you. Throughout my life I've just tried to be in the right places and do the right things for the right reasons.  In this attempt, I’ve been richly blessed.

 To read our original story click here.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Good News for Cam!

All kids should go to the doctor for a "well-child" visit once a year.  When you have medical concerns or health problems there are a lot more Doctors to see than just your once a year well-child visit.  Cam's syndrome 22q11.2 deletion and PVNH causes global health and developmental problems because of the fact that he is literaly missing part of his genetic code.  I would like to say, that even though we go to more Doctor appt.s than the typical kids do...we have it pretty good in the 22q/PVNH world and I am grateful for that.  My heart goes out to all my online support group friends that have it much worse than we do most days.  All the kids are different...but they share one common thread.  They all have to endure way more than most!

Our annual "well-child visits" include: Neurology, Nephrology, Kidney Ultrasound, Cardiologist, Echo, Endocronologist, several blood work draws,  immunology (every 3 years), not to mention his ongoing Speech Therapy that remains weekly/biweekly appointments, and his actual "well-child" from his pediatrician.  We are at the beginning of all our yearly appt.s but got some slightly good news today from the Nephrologist (kidney specialist) that I didn't want to wait to share!

Drum Roll please....Cam's kidney grew a little bit!  It still isn't near the size they want it to be, and still shows no signs of Hypertrophy (compensating growth) for only being born with one kidney.  It is good news because last year he was worried that it was done growing.  We can hope and pray for continued growth.  His kidney function score didn't get any lower also!  It scores 85-90 which is just below the low normal standards (normal being 120).  It's not great...but it didn't get any worse, so we are thrilled!

What really kills me with this little trooper is his awesome attitude.  When the nurse asked him to pee in a cup today, he giggled and said, "sure" in an adorable little 5 yr old voice not pronouncing the "r".  He lays perfectly still as they are doing the Ultra Sound on his tummy and back until they have all the images they want.  He had to have his blood drawn twice in the last month and he didn't cry either time.  I don't know if it's worse than when I used to have to hold him down while he cried as they drew his blood.  I am glad that he has developed a tolerance and it doesn't upset him anymore.  But, it stings a little that he has had to endure it so often that it doesn't even phase him anymore.  No five year old should be ok with needles entering the veins! (Again, it really could be so much worse for him!)  We will enjoy this time when it's just follow up appt.s to make sure everything is ok, and continue to pray the appt.s always remain that way!

Hugs and kisses from this kid...truly fill my soul!  I love him to pieces and I'm so grateful to have him as mine.  I'm one of the lucky ones:)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Dating and Marrying a Widow...

The thought of having to be in the dating world again after your spouse dies is terrifying.  There are a lot of reasons for this, these were some of mine...

-We still feel married first of all, so we battle the feeling that we may be doing something wrong and are betraying our spouse.  (I still wore my wedding ring for several dates)

-Sometimes we are still processing our grief and will end up talking about our late spouse the entire date...or at least more than we should.  We may or may not discuss in great detail how they died as well.

-We can be a ticking time bomb in a way and may have something happen to trigger our grief and emotion.  I remember a date to a movie with a guy.  At the beginning of the movie they showed  a preview for a movie about a coal mine. (Jake died in a coal mine)  Then to make it worse we saw Just Like Heaven and it was about a girl trapped in a coma but her spirit was trapped in her apartment...bottom line...she was basically dead, and then comes back to life for her happily ever after.  What most widows dream will happen to their spouse.  Anyway, that date was a trigger for me, and needless to say it was my last date with him.  *When you find a guy that doesn't run if you have a trigger on a date you may have a keeper;)

-Dating and being a single parent is difficult!!!  You don't have to worry about your parents staying up for's worse, you have kids waiting up for you.  I also had an infant so the thought of breastfeeding and dating was a fun joke! (read more about that here) I had a stake president tell me I should start going to the singles ward so I could meet someone.  My response,  "They have primary in singles wards?".

-Every time you go on a bad date it sends you back into your "this new life sucks, and I want my real life back" depression.

The list of reasons could go on and on...Please feel free to leave reasons you find the thought of dating as a widow terrifying, (or exciting) either way...this will be fun to see:)

The main topic I want to discuss is only an issue for people in my faith.  We are married and sealed for time and all eternity in our temples.  We believe families are forever and this is the power that makes it possible.  To learn more about my beliefs, Click Here.

-The biggest issue that comes up with dating in the LDS faith is the fact that women while alive can only be sealed to 1 man.  So if we are sealed to our first husband's and we don't cancel that sealing we cannot be sealed to our second husband.  Most widows/widowers don't have any intention to cancel their sealings.  This is a very personal decision and I am not passing judgement on any one for their personal choices.  This issue is hard for the widow and also hard for EVERY person she/he dates that belongs to our faith.  So 9 times out of 10 this topic will come up on the FIRST date!  In my experience it only came up on the second date once.  Every other time it was the first date.

Curtis and I had an amazing first date, and it was complete DIVINE intervention that I even said yes;)  But it didn't allow for a lot of talking.  So he waited for the 2nd date to drop the question...

"How can it be possible for you to love someone else the same amount as you love your eternal companion?"

This was a slight variation to the standard question that most men asked, which was, "Why would I date you if I can't be sealed to you?".

I had been dating for about a year, so I had my answers ready.  It didn't make it any easier though, each time I had to endure this conversation.  I responded by telling him that I have 4 kids and I have different relationships with all of them.  I love them all for different reasons and all the relationships have strengths and weaknesses.  But, I don't love any one of them more than the others.  They are all different relationships, but not less.  Our hearts are capable of giving as much love as we are willing to allow.   I am a very loving and loyal person and I knew I was capable of loving someone else as much as I loved Jake.  I was very clear however, that I would never stop loving Jake.  I wasn't looking for a replacement for him.  I was a package deal... me, my four kids, and my dead husband.

Curtis was really sweet how he handled the uncomfortable conversation.  It was by far the best "your sealed to your dead spouse" conversation I had dealt with.  That didn't make it any easier though.  Every time I went through the issues with people it was excruciating.  I felt like I was being punished for having a dead husband.  It wasn't enough that I had to endure the greatest pain I could ever imagine and have my life destroyed in an instant?  But now I was somehow doomed to living my life alone for the next 60 years.  It felt like my options were staying single and lonely.  Or finding someone that wasn't a member of my church and wouldn't have issue with our beliefs, but also wouldn't share my values and the way I wanted to raise my children.  The idea of a man with my same belief having enough faith to marry a widow and trust in God seemed impossible.  But wait...isn't that one of the core beliefs in this gospel?  We must live by faith...hmm

I left the date with Curtis completely defeated!  I cried for a few hours after and had vowed to go back to the sad widow that would never find happiness.  My Dad took me aside and told me that it wasn't fair to give up on Curtis so easily.  He encouraged me to give him another chance, and reminded me that even though I had been processing it for 2+ years it was new for him.  He needed a chance to wrap his head around it too.  Curtis knew that I was upset after the date so he had tried to call a few times.  I never answered the phone.  My idea of giving him a second chance was to send him...what he calls a "nasty gram".  I wrote him a short email about my feelings including the phrase, "I don't think I even like you and yet you want me to discuss spending eternity with you.  I would just like to be able to go on a date with out having to try and solve the mysteries of the eternities!"  I figured that Curtis would go running after that, but I could tell my dad that I had given him a second chance;).  Well, Curtis surprised me by calling and leaving a very sweet message about the fact that I was right and he apologized for upsetting me.  He asked if he could make it up to me and take me out again.  Our third date was much better...but he had planned it with a friend of his that had married a widow...we have never gone out with them since...coincidence I'm sure;)

To be continued with a blog post from Curtis in the next few days!!!

Read Part 2 from Curtis here.

*I would love to hear your funny experiences, or the way people bring up the sealing issue in the comments section! Sometimes it helps to have a good laugh at all our problems to lighten the load just a little:)

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Finding Peace in Finding God's Will...

Ten years ago I had a prayer that I offered very often. "Please bless Jake to be safe at work."  Usually, after that part of my prayer the words would come, "Please help me to accept Thy will in my life."  This prayer was offered several times a day.  I had a special blessing given to me in my youth, counseling me to 'learn to accept God's will in my life'.  I took that counsel very seriously then and still do to this day.  I continue to pray for it daily.  

In December of 2003 I began to have the feeling that something bad was going to happen to us.  Jake and I had many trials in our 7 years of marriage.  Looking back, they weren't too terrible of trials, but at the time they were hard for us to endure, and seemed to come frequently.  In December we had enjoyed 18 months of pure bliss; free from these trials.  We were in our dream house, had 3 perfect little boys and were truly very happy.  I developed a nagging feeling that something was bound to happen because things had been perfect a little too long.  I talked with Jake about my worried feelings.  He told me to stop looking for trials, and to enjoy that Heavenly Father was blessing us.  He pointed out that he was the Young Men's President and I was the Primary President and we were being blessed for living right and for our service.  I could see his point, but my bad feeling didn't go away.  I started praying about it regularly, asking Heavenly Father to bless us that nothing bad would happen.  Then one night my prayer was different.  As I thought about the impending trial, I heard myself say, "I can do this, I can get through this, with Thy help."  I was surprised by my words and immediately followed it up with, "Except Jake!  You can't take Jake from me please!"  Jake died 3 weeks later.  (Part of me still looks forward to saying to Jake, "I told you so!")

The words from that prayer stay with me today.  I knew...I believe that my spirit knew what was about to happen.  The words 'I can get through this with Thy help' remind me that I somehow knew Jake was going to die, and I knew I would need to rely on the Savior's atonement and my Heavenly Father to be able to get through it!  

So as I prayed for Jake's safety, I also prayed to accept God's will in my life.  I didn't realize how big of a trial was coming and why it was important for me to accept God's will in life.  When Jake died I understood why I was given that counsel and why it would be something that I should start praying for at a very young age.  I had 10+ years of prayers to back my plea..."Help me to accept Thy will in my life".  It is a prayer I will continue to have for the rest of my life. As the years have continued on, my desire to accept God's will has been increased.  I have realized that there is a purpose to what has happened to my children and myself.  There are lessons we need to learn and there is a plan for each one of us that required us to go through this devastating tragedy.  We are all different people than we would have been.  As my understanding of this has increased in the last 10 years, I have added to that prayer by asking, "Help me FIND Thy will in my life."

I have had a strong feeling that I should share my story and experiences in my life with people.  I have had many Priesthood Blessings given to me and they always say the same thing.  "It is important that you share your story, testimony and experiences with many people."  I have tried to be open about my experiences and I offer my testimony as often as I can.  About two years ago in 2012 just after Cam was diagnosed with 22q and all his other health issues I started having a quiet but intensely compelling feeling. "I felt like I should be doing something that I wasn't yet doing."  I needed to share my story.  I thought, pondered and prayed hard to figure out what it was that Heavenly Father wanted me to do.  I didn't know how to share my story more than I already was.  The timing wasn't right for me to really start doing more.  Cam had several tests and puzzles that would need to be put together in the next several months.  My baby girl was just 6 months old when the feelings started and she needed me home with her when I wasn't putting Cam's puzzle together.  But, the feeling persisted.  

I told a few people in our Stake that I would be willing to talk about my life experiences to a youth group or the Relief Society.  Shortly after I mentioned it the Presidencies were changed and nothing ever came of it.  I decided to just do what I could and continue to pray to be able to figure out what God's will in my life was.  Several months later my sister asked me to write my story for a girl's blog that she followed called My Name is Jacy.  She has a "My Name is"...series where she spotlights women who have had struggles in their lives, but have managed to be resilient and still be happy.  The blog series can by found at I was excited and nervous about writing my story.  I knew it was the next step I had been searching for.  The story was done in a 2 part series and was shared with over 6,000 viewers.  I was amazed at the response and how many people read it.  It was awesome.  I still had the feelings that there was more to what I should be doing, but it was nice to feel like I had found at least one way to share my story.  I put the story on my personal blog for Cam, for the purpose of being able to print it when I had Cam's blog made into a book.  There it sat dormant for the next 14 months.   

I continued to pray to be able to find God's will in my life.  I started to feel frustrated with the situation.  I felt that I had done all I could do to figure it out, but nothing was happening.  The feeling was overwhelming and at times it felt like a burden.  As I neared the 10th anniversary of Jake's death in January 2014, I asked Heavenly Father to allow the feeling to go away.  I expressed to Him that I felt I had done all I could do.  If there was nothing more for me to do then I needed Him to bless me with peace to know that I had accomplished what He needed me to do and I could move on.  Just three days after I offered that prayer there was a struggling widow on a closed Facebook LDS widow/widower's group.  I shared my blog post with her in the hopes it could help her find her path to happiness.  The next day we started receiving out of state text messages from friends and family asking us if we were aware that my blog was all over the internet.  We were not aware of it at all.  I couldn't even remember how to sign into my blog at first.  I hadn't updated it in over a year.  When I finally remember the password that Saturday night my post had over 45,000 views and was gaining 200-300 more views every 5 seconds.  The next day it reached 250,000 views and continued to climb.  I had hundreds of messages coming in from all over the world.  Amazing messages about love, acceptance, grief, inspiration, and testimonies.  The feeling was overwhelming, exciting, and very humbling.  My prayer was answered loud and clear...I am not done sharing my story and I haven't finished what Heavenly Father wants me to do.

In just 2 months the blog has reached all over the world and is over 600,000 views.  In February our local newspaper, Deseret News featured my story on the front page of The Mormon Times section.  I am starting to see the next steps I should take.  

I continue to pray that I will find God's will in my life and find people to help me accomplish this mission.  I was asked to speak for a widow's conference a couple of weeks ago.  I have thought about speaking for years but have had only a few opportunities to.  I decided that it would need to be a positive in my life if I was going to do it.  We still have a lot of stress and problems in our lives and I didn't want to willingly add stress.  I decided I would pray about it, but not really prepare for it.  I wasn't going to get all worked up and nervous and allow it to consume me.  I didn't want it taking time or energy from my kids or family.  I figured, I know my testimony and I know my story so I will literally go and teach by the spirit.  It will either be great, or terrible and from this experiment, I will know if speaking is something I want to do more of.  Luckily we had some step family drama come up the week of the conference.  I say 'luckily' because it took all my nerves and negative feelings and I truly didn't have the time to stress over speaking.  I think Heavenly Father knows me well, and knew that even if I tried to stick with my no-stress plan I wouldn't be able to.  So he added a nice distraction for me that would use up that energy. 

As I sat in the meeting just before it was my turn to speak I felt... relaxed.  I wasn't getting that nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach like I normally do just before bearing my testimony or giving a lesson.  I just felt calm.  When it came time for me to speak I said a little prayer that I would have the spirit guide my words.  I stood up and spoke for nearly an hour.  I wasn't nervous or scared.  The words flowed from me freely and I felt a feeling of peace and calm.  It was a sacred experience.  Curtis was amazing and came to support me.  He added a fun element of being able to come up and talk with me about our courtship and God's hand in our lives.  It was the first time in the last 10 years that I KNEW I was doing exactly what Heavenly Father wanted me to do.  I LOVED speaking!  By sharing my story, I was giving hope and sharing how Heavenly Father has helped me through these trials.  I was sharing a testimony of the atonement and it's healing power.  I was sharing the lessons God has taught me so that He could teach them as well

I have been asked to speak for the Stake Relief Society Women's Conference in Lacey, Washington in May.  I am so excited to go and meet the sister's in Washington and feel of their spirits.  I look forward to having more opportunities to speak and share Heavenly Father's message of his love to us during times of trial.  This isn't a path or plan that I would have guessed that I would be on.  As I find myself here though, I feel a tremendous amount of love for my Heavenly Father and Savior Jesus Christ.  I am in awe of the miracles and blessings I have received during my trials of faith.  I am thankful for all the things I have been taught in these last several years.  I am still trying to search and find God's will in my life.  With each new step I take I am finding great peace and comfort knowing that I am on the right path.  I am excited to see where these steps will take me, and I am so thankful to be even a small part of spreading Christ's love and light on this earth.  

My name is Julie and I have found peace accepting God's Will in my life.

*I know that God has a plan for each one of us.  I encourage you to search for His Will in your life and be willing to submit yourself to His Will.  Submitting to His Will is not a passive thing as we are moral agents to act, and not to be acted upon. Have a true desire to accept what it is He is asking of you.  God has provided us a way through the atonement of Jesus Christ to be able to endure all of our trials.  I have a strong testimony and know that to be true.  With the hard things in our life many miraculous things come as well.  Look for your miracles and find joy and peace in YOUR unique path.  God loves you and believes in you.

Wednesday, March 5, 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!

Tuesday, February 25, 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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