When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Kennedy

My sister-in-law sent me Kennedy’s story. I got in touch with her and she was willing to let me share. She was in a tragic car accident and then came home from her mission after a few weeks. I am so amazed by her bravery and strength. I know she will bless lives because she went through these experiences. The following is from a blog post she wrote.
Photo by Ashleigh Brown Photography

Beautiful Heartbreaks 

August 10, 2017

John 16:33 “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

How amazing is that to think about? That it doesn’t matter what things are thrown in our way or what hardships we’re asked face, because of our Savior, Jesus Christ. That His atoning sacrifice really does overcome all things and because of that, we have nothing to fear. This scripture has been extremely close to my heart the past few months as I’ve experienced a few things that have tried and tested me. Life is hard and unfair and can beat you down, but as funny as it sounds, when these times come around, I feel like we not only feel the lowest lows, but we also have the ability to feel of the highest highs.

Back at the beginning of February on a super rainy night, three friends and I were leaving to go from our university to Vegas for a weekend trip. I decided to drive because none of my friends had access to a car. Before we even made it out of town, we were driving down a narrow, unlit street and we ended up getting into an auto-pedestrian accident. This old man, wearing a dark raincoat with the hood up, arms full of groceries was crossing the street without a crosswalk just as we happened to be driving on it. I remember so vividly the impact and seeing the body of the man I had just hit roll into the street, not even sure at the moment what had just happened. I remember pulling my glass filled the car to the side of the road and running out in the pouring rain to kneel by the man’s side screaming at him the words “please wake up” and “please be ok” over and over again. It was one of those things that you only expect to see in movies- to say the least, we were all scared and in a lot of shock.

During this time, we had many cars and people stop to make sure we were ok, including two people I like to now consider my earthly angels. While we were sitting in my car, soaked from the rain and waiting to get my information back from a policeman, a sweet lady walked over to us to make sure we were alright, and even though we assured her we were fine, a few minutes later she came back to our car and told us she wasn’t going to leave us and welcomed us into her and her husband’s truck. Them taking us in that night was such a tender mercy and we were all convinced that Heavenly Father had placed them in our path that night on purpose. It wasn’t until a few weeks later when the lady, who we now all consider a close friend, explained her experience that night. The words she used are waayyy better than I could ever try come up with, so I want to share what she said:

“We were headed down Center Street to go to dinner at Café Sabor. But then I told Jason to turn on the first east to go to Le Nonne, which normally I would never say because we weren’t dressed up and didn’t have reservations. When we got there it looked super busy so we just kept on driving along the first east and that’s how we happened upon the accident. We both felt strongly that we should stop even though it appeared that several others had stopped. After getting out and helping and seeing things were under control, I got back in the truck. That’s when I had the spirit tell me, ‘Don’t leave those girls!’ That’s when I came to your car and asked you to come to the truck with me.”

She continued explaining to us that she knows that they were led to us that night, and I have no doubt that she is right. Right after the accident had happened, my friends and I said a prayer asking not only for the man to be fine, but also to have comfort in the situation and I believe this couple was an answer to our prayer. I know without a doubt that Heavenly Father was looking over us that night and was fully aware of everything going on.

Later that night back at our apartment after receiving priesthood blessings, the detective showed up and let us know that even though there was nothing we could have done to prevent the accident because of the circumstances, that the man I hit had passed away in the ambulance on his way to the hospital. Of course, I felt shaken up and extremely heartbroken, but weirdly enough for the situation, I also felt calm and at peace. Once again, I felt that Heavenly Father was aware of me and was surrounding me with people to bear me up.

I remember the next day sitting alone in my room and I just started crying. I wasn’t crying because I was angry about what happened, or sad, or frustrated, but I was crying because I felt so overwhelmed with love.  At that moment sitting in my room, I literally felt the arms of my Savior wrapped around me. I felt like so many worldly things were being thrown at me, yet I couldn’t feel any of them.  It was when I felt lost in the world, that I was able to find myself in Christ. I’ve come to realize the importance and power of having a foundation of faith in the Savior. He was my continuous rock and anchor- because of my faith in Him, I couldn’t sink. Sometimes it’s hard for us to find the beauty in heartbreak when we’re experiencing hard things. We feel like everything’s going wrong and that we’re so alone. Sometimes we feel helplessness because we’re so caught up in everything happening that we aren’t able to see the Lord’s hand in the process. In my situation, it took me hitting a low and allow myself to see Him, and when I did, He was everywhere. I don’t even think I could ever count all of the tender mercies I recognized and received because of my faith in Him. The next few weeks I honestly did better than I ever imagined I could. I moved on with school, work, etc. and I was able to find happiness, but I know that none of that was because of me. Obviously, it was still hard, but Christ was without a doubt lifting me up. Without Him, I wouldn’t have had the strength to endure. Through this experience, the Atonement of Christ became so real to me. He was mending my broken heart and carrying me when I couldn’t walk.

So, fast forward to the beginning of this June when I entered the MTC to serve in the Ecuador Guayaquil West mission. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever looked forward to anything more in my life. I had the strongest desire to serve and I was sooo pumped to finally get out and become a missionary. The first few days were amazing and my optimism and excitement were at a high. It wasn’t until about 4 days in when I started getting strong promptings that I wasn’t supposed to be there. But, for those of you that know me, I’m a pretty stubborn girl, and I was dead set on serving a mission. Because of this, I kept putting off the promptings and every day it got worse and worse, eventually leading me to have extreme anxiety to the point where I couldn’t sit still or focus at all. I was so frustrated. I knew that I was doing one of the best things I could be doing. I knew that Heavenly Father had told me I needed to serve a mission. I knew that I wanted to serve a mission more than anything. But, regardless of all that, everything kept showing me I needed to go home.

Eventually, I started feeling worse and worse and then the anxiety I had from the crash started to kick back in. After talking to my Branch President, we decided I needed to visit the counselor. Each visit the counselor offered me the option of calling home to talk to my family and each time I declined it. Any time he brought up the idea of me maybe returning home with an honorary medical release to get help with my anxiety, I’d quickly shut it down. I didn’t want to give in and I kept fighting the urges to return home.

I had shared all of this with my companion (who by the way is the most amazing person EVER) and one day we were planning a lesson for our investigator and she pulled out a Mormon Message for us to share called “The Will of God”. If you haven’t seen it, I’d definitely recommend it, it’s SO GOOD. Anyway, after watching that video I knew that I needed to do what Heavenly Father wanted me to do. So, finally, I knelt down to pray and I told him that I was willing to accept whatever he had planned for me. I told him that it didn’t matter to me what other people would think about me if I returned home, but it did matter to me that He wouldn’t be disappointed in me for not serving a full mission or that He didn’t feel like I was giving up on him. During a visit to the temple on the next P-day, my prayer was answered and I knew Heavenly Father needed me to be elsewhere. Everything happened so fast and by the next afternoon, I was on my way back to Kaysville with my family.

Coming home was extremely hard, so much harder than I ever imagined. I know. Weird. You’d think that since I was only gone for a few weeks that it wouldn’t be THAT hard, but it was. I didn’t want to see anyone or do anything and even though I knew I made the right decision, I still felt guilty for being home.  My mission was all I could think about and I had reoccurring dreams every night about it for the first few weeks, each time waking up feeling so depressed. One morning I was on a walk with my mom and I told her about how I was feeling and she just started crying out of nowhere and said, “I wasn’t going to tell you this but now I feel like I should”. I guess to understand this part of the story I need to explain that sometimes before big things in life happen, my mom has premonitions of them, such as before my grandpa passed away or before she was diagnosed with cancer. Anyway, she continued to tell me that the week before I left she kept having thoughts and visions of her and my dad reading the letters that they wrote to me and stuck in my suitcase before I left for the MTC at my funeral. They were letters that contained their testimonies and encouragements of how we can do hard things and that Christ is always with us and will help us when we are struggling. She told me that for the entire week leading up to me leaving, she cried and cried, but she didn’t want to tell me, because she knew how excited I was to go and felt that if I wasn’t supposed to go, I would be feeling something too; and she didn’t want to tell my dad, because he’s a dad and was already freaking out about his only girl leaving. So, she kept the feelings to herself and it wasn’t until 3 days before I was supposed to report that I got changed from the Colombia MTC to the Provo MTC and the bad feelings she was having suddenly went away. Things were great until I got into the MTC and started to have those same sick feelings of being there that my mom was having the week before. About two weeks in, I got called to the travel office and they gave me flight plans to switch back to the Colombia MTC the next week and at that moment those feelings I was having doubled and I knew I wasn’t supposed to go.

So now, here I am. It’s crazy because I knew that I was supposed to serve a mission and after only a couple of weeks, I knew Heavenly Father was telling me I needed to be home. There are so many things I don’t know about- I don’t know why my mom had those premonitions and I don’t know why I felt so strongly that I needed to be home. Maybe He told me that I needed to serve a mission just so He knew that I’d be willing to, or maybe I learned everything that He wanted me to learn in that short time I was gone. Maybe something is going to happen at home that I needed to be here for, or maybe something was going to happen on my mission that I needed to be protected from. I honestly have no idea. BUT, what I do know is that Heavenly Father has a plan for us all and I trust him. I do know that He was telling me I need to be home, and for whatever reason that is, I’m willing to follow and act on it. Of course, I’d love to go back out on my mission and I will if I receive an answer that that’s what He wants me to do, but for the time being, I know I’m supposed to be here. Being a missionary was the most amazing experience and I’m forever grateful for everything that I was able to be a part of. Being home is SO hard, especially with having my mind so set on serving my mission. But, through it all and accepting God’s will, I have grown immensely and have come to know my Savior and the power of His atonement in ways I wouldn’t have been able to without experiencing this.

Even with that knowledge and a strong testimony of Him, things can still be hard though, and I think that’s something that people don’t always understand. Our pains and sorrows aren’t just going to be taken away from us, rather, we’re going to be strengthened to bare them. I’m not going to lie, for the first little bit I was at home, I struggled pretty bad. I was discouraged and doubtful of the things I could accomplish. I felt that I was a failure and I constantly had the thought running through my mind that “if other people could do this, why couldn’t I?” Me getting to the point where I’m at now, where I’m happy and working towards my future, wasn’t something that happened overnight. It was a slow and gradual process and it’s even still happening right now. But the point is, is that once I got to where I decided to actively exercise my faith and accept the will of the Lord, that’s when he bore me up and I was able to see his miracles continually in every aspect of my life.  Something that has really stood out to me since I’ve returned is the knowledge that Heavenly Father is so mindful of each of us and our situations and he wants more than anything to be able to help us. Through certain experiences I’ve had in the past little bit of being home, I know that Heavenly Father is telling me that He knows. He knows and is aware of my heartache. He knows my disappointment, He knows my intentions to serve, He knows the feelings I’ve been having, and most importantly He knows that His plan for me is far greater than the plan I saw for myself.

Both with the car crash and returning home from my mission early, I can testify that we are never alone. Christ suffered not only for our sins but for our pains and sorrows too, and because he knows how we feel, he knows how to succor us and lift us up. I love the quote by Harold B Lee:

“Don’t be afraid of the testing and trials of life. Sometimes when you are going through the most severe tests, you will be nearer to God than you have any idea”.

I know this is true. God gives us trials and hardships to grow, and when we endure them well and remain faithful to Him and his plan, we also grow closer to him. We experience the refiner’s fire for the sole purpose of coming to know the refiner, and I can testify that this WILL happen if we have faith in Him and what he’s capable of. Sometimes things don’t go the way we want or plan, but those are usually the times when he’s molding us into what he sees our potential to be.

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of. Throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace” -C.S. Lewis

I wouldn’t change these two experiences I’ve had for the world. I don’t know why I was asked to go through these trials, but I know that everything happens for a reason and I’m extremely optimistic to eventually find out why. They’ve taught me more than I could have ever hoped and I’ve come to know my Savior in a way that I never even imagined possible. I know that Christ is constantly by our side and that because of His Atonement we can be made whole in anything we’re asked to experience in life. Climbing mountains can be hard and painful, but the view from the top is worth it all. The beauty that we see from there is something we never would be able to recognize and piece together from the bottom. I know that there is not one person that can’t make it to the top with the help of Christ. Turn to him, lean on him, walk with him.  “If the foundation of faith is not in our hearts, our power to endure will crumble”. Faith in our Savior, Jesus Christ is SO important and enables us to endure and push forward with hope and optimism.  He has helped me find joy in my journey, and I know He can do the same for anyone else. Even in the darkest times, his light shines so brightly that we can find true happiness. Christ truly does overcome the world.

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