In fear of sounding preachy, I have been debating with myself on whether or not I wanted to post this. After hearing about some difficult things some of my friends are going through, however, I have decided to go ahead and take the risk. It is my hope that someone reading this will be able to find comfort and purpose in their trials.
I wrote this after being asked to speak in church a couple weeks ago.
I wrote this after being asked to speak in church a couple weeks ago.
- Our Greatest Blessings -
Before I start my talk, I want to introduce myself, my husband and our family. My name is Heather Porter, my husband is Brad. Today is our anniversary and we are celebrating 7 years of marriage. We have four kids. Our family just moved here about 2 months ago from Mesa, Arizona. Brad and I have had the kids for a little over a year and a half now and about 3 months ago we legally adopted them. After their adoption, we had the amazing opportunity of taking them to the Mesa, Arizona temple to be sealed. That experience was both incredibly emotional for me and amazingly spiritual. I don't know if I've ever seen anything more beautiful in my life than seeing all six of us dressed in white, surrounding the alter, hand in hand, looking into each others eyes as we became sealed together as a family for time and all eternity. The veil was thin and we were reassured by the spirit that what we were doing was right for our family. Also, we are expecting, and very excited about it! In about 7 or 8 weeks we get to welcome another little girl into our family.
Today I'll be talking about trials and the part they play in our lives. Growing up there was a quote that hung in our home that said, “I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it.” As I've gone through the ups and downs of life, I've been reminded of that quote often. The trying times of life definitely are not easy but during the up times of our lives we can see that it IS worth it.
I've heard people talk about 'overcoming' trials. During the more difficult times of my life, I'd have to agree with that idea. I would like to hurry them up, to pass through them quickly, and in a sense 'overcome' them. However, I don't know if our goal should be to overcome them, trying to make them go away or wishing them away. I think instead that perhaps we should embrace our trials; trying to find the purposes they are supposed to serve in our lives.
The Savior said, “...I give unto men weakness that they may be humble... for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” Ether 12:27
When we are tested and called to experience difficult times, we are being given the opportunity for growth. If we view the trial as a gift or an opportunity to become greater our blessings will be great. There are examples of this all around us.
The other morning I was laying in bed looking out my bedroom window at the pine trees swaying in the wind. Some of them were moving several feet back and forth as the wind blew them. I wondered what kind of stress that that kind of intense wind was putting on the trees. Then, I remembered reading about trees that are raised in the protected environment of a greenhouse. They are sheltered from the storms and protected from the harm that the fierce elements can cause. A greenhouse, it would seem, is the ideal place to grow a tree. However, if you take down the protective walls of the greenhouse, allowing the beautiful trees inside to be exposed to those elements, they quickly snap under the pressure. Branches will be ripped off from the slightest breeze and surly such sheltered trees could never endure a difficult storm.
As trees out in nature are exposed to wind, rain, snow, and hail they are put under stress. In response to that stress, they grow more dense making the tree stronger and stronger after each successive storm. The result is a magnificent tree that is able to stand strong amidst the turmoil. Wishing the wind away would only weaken the tree, but by facing the wind the tree becomes greater, stronger.
I'm going to talk about a few of the trials I've been called to face. In talking about them, I don't mean to try to compare myself with someone else and their trials. I just want to express the blessings that have come into my life as a direct result of the trials I've been given.
After about a year of marriage, Brad and I became anxious to bring children into our family. Initially, we had a difficult time conceiving and sought out medical help. It worked! One month later, we found out we were expecting. We were so excited. Sadly though, the pregnancy didn't last and we lost the baby. I was devastated and blamed myself. I kept praying for a miracle, I hoped and wished it wasn't true. But it was. After that, we never had a problem conceiving. About a year later we found out we were expecting again. But a while later, once again our excitement and hopes of expanding our family were beginning to unravel. As I laid in bed in an effort to hold onto the baby, I poured my heart out to the Lord. In response to my cries, He comforted me in a way I've never felt before. The peace I felt was nearly tangible and I knew that He stood by my bedside sharing my pain. It was hard for me to accept having lost another baby but I was anxious to try again. Several months later, I again became pregnant. This time, for some reason, felt different to me. I felt as if I had a relationship with the spirit that I carried. I knew it was a boy and I felt his presence with me often. I was sure he would come into our family and was so excited for his arrival. Perhaps this is why I was so confused when he too didn't survive. I was heartbroken. I didn't know what to think of the whole situation. After a D and C, what I had felt and already knew was confirmed, that I was indeed carrying a boy. I especially felt a deep sense of loss after losing him.
Shortly after this loss, I remember going to a family gathering and feeling hurt hearing my sister who was pregnant with her third complain about how terrible it was to be pregnant. To me it seemed she was going on and on about the ails she was experiencing. I was consumed with my sorrow and would have gladly taken her place in a heartbeat. I asked Brad if we could leave early and sobbed the whole way home and long into the night. I wondered why I was being put through this. I wanted children so badly. My heart was aching with intense pain.
As I turned to the Savior for comfort and peace, I was able to come to terms once again with our loss and was given a wonderful gift. I learned to rely on my Lord for solace. I lost 5 more babies after losing that little boy, but with each successive heartache I was granted an even greater relationship with my Savior. He stood by me the whole time. I learned to turn to him for comfort. I learned that He is always there for me with open arms waiting for me to run to Him. I learned that trials are not a curse but a blessing. An opportunity for growth. I learned that I am much stronger than I ever thought I was. I learned that I am never alone. I learned that no matter what comes my way, no matter how hard it may seem, He will share my burden with me. I learned that He will show me what I need to do and learn to be bigger and stronger than the trial I face.
If I could go back in time and take away all of those trials and heartaches, I would not do it. I am who I am today because of them. I view them as sacred gifts given to me from a very loving Heavenly Father. I feel privileged and honored that He not only thought I was capable of experiencing them but that He thought enough of me to teach me the beautiful truths I was taught as I lived through them.
Now, as I face the incredible challenge of raising and nurturing 4 battered children, I am even more grateful for the trials of my past, how they have shaped me and for what I have learned. It doesn't mean this new road I'm on has been easy. I have had the wonderful privilege and tremendous challenge of taking in and nurturing 4 beautiful children. Children who have been through more trauma, neglect, abuse and heartache already in their short lives than I have ever experienced or probably ever will. I've cried myself to sleep more nights than I can count wondering how I can possible help them through their deep and intense pain. I've become frustrated with some of their behaviors that to my-inexperienced-unlearned-self seem, at time, barbaric and out-of-control. I have felt my stomach turn with anger as I realize that there is no way a 4-year-old would know how to do what I just saw... unless. I've cried with them, our arms wrapped around each other wishing I could take away the pain they feel. I've wondered how someone as simple as I am could possibly be wise enough to help them through all of their heartache.
It is during these difficult times that I am reminded of the wonderful lessons I've learned from before. I know where to turn for help, I know that the road is hard, and I am probably not strong enough to walk it alone. But I know that I am not called to walk it alone. I know that help is only a prayer away. I know that even if I don't have all the answers I can still feel the peace my Savior freely gives. Best of all, I know that when there are pieces of my broken heart as well as pieces of their broken hearts that seem impossible for me to fix, He can.
I know that Heavenly Father tests those He loves, because it is in that testing that we are made stronger, greater, better people. He can and will turn our weaknesses into strengths if we just turn to Him. He is waiting with open arms ready to show His unconditional love for each of us. He can be the healer of our wounded souls. All we have to do is choose to turn to Him. His arms are open, waiting for us to come.