When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Stephanie

Stephanie and I “met” through Instagram and have become friends through messaging each other back and forth. She is amazing and I respect her so much. I finally asked her if she would share her story (I don’t know why it took me so long), and I am so glad I did. It is a story that has gone on for her entire life and hasn’t ended yet.
Stephanie is a wife, mother of two boys, and 3 guardian angels. She is passionate about sharing her struggle with depression and anxiety in hopes of being a light in someone else’s life and to be a voice to end the mental health stigma. Cheerwine soda and peanut M&Ms are the way to her heart.

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I remember being 6-years-old standing at the top of our driveway, in the dark, yelling at my mom to not get in the car and leave. She had been drinking and ran out of beer and was going to get more. Huge tears fell down my face and I recall screaming at God, “This cannot be how my life is going to be forever!” My first encounter with the Holy Ghost happened (I had no idea what this was at the time), “You are going to change the course of your family forever!”

As years went on and my soul took the blame for my mom’s drinking, I began to have no love for myself. I felt that if I could only make my mom love me more then she would stop drinking and our life would be better. I didn’t understand then that she was just doing the best she could in her current situation and she ha no ill will towards me or my brother.

During this time of my life, my Nana was my saving grace and my best friend. She would often rescue us from the really bad days of mom’s drinking. She loved us, took us to church, and also spoiled us big time!

My parents divorced when I was 12-years-old, leaving a new kind of hurt – that of a broken home and uncertainty about life, love, and faith.

The April before I turned 16-years-old, my nana passed away. I was beyond mad at God! How could he take away the only person in my life that had loved me unconditionally, cared for me, and was the anchor to the rocky ship my life had been sailing on?! I hit rock bottom.

Once I turned 16, I dropped out of school, got a job, and started finding ways that I could numb out the sadness, confusion, and grief that I dealt with daily. I turned to what I knew, drinking and smoking. When that wasn’t enough, for a brief time (thankfully) I tried cocaine as well as throwing myself to any man that would show me the slightest attention.

This is when I had my second encounter with the Holy Ghost (once again not knowing that at the time), I literally saw two paths. The first was the path I was on and that if I continued on this path I would surely die at an early age, and the second path would still be difficult but I would be on course to change my family’s life forever.

So I decided to go with the second path. I got my GED, decided I wanted to be a dental assistant and started taking the classed needed to get my certificate. Things were going in the right direction. I met my first husband at this pivotal time in my life and I clung to him. He was older, had a good job, and was stable, something I hadn’t had consistently in my life.

We got married after dating for five years and two years later had my first son. Life was great! However, I didn’t understand that all the trauma that I had suppressed from my childhood would come up out of nowhere like a raging storm! I started having panic attacks (which took me several more years to realize), began to be very depressed and anxious. I decided I needed help and was then diagnosed with depression and anxiety. This was brutal to my marriage and being a new mom. I often wondered if this would ever end and several times prayed that God would just take me. The struggle of not knowing what kind of fight I was going to have to face in my own mind each day sucked the life out of me.

I began working out because the medication for me was worse than being depressed and anxious. The side effects were horrible and I didn’t feel like I was getting any better. A bi-product of working out and eating better was my self-confidence began to grow and I found myself not making good choices again, this time in the form of infidelity. After a year of this, my husband and I got divorced. I’m not sure how many “rock bottoms” one person can experience in a lifetime but this was another one for me.

So I moved in with my mom and stepdad. I’m 26-years-old, with a 2-year-old, and a huge amount of baggage following my every move. The fling that contributed to my divorce ended (imagine that) and I was single for the first time since I was 16-years-old.

Dating was no fun at all. I literally hated it, and came to the acceptance that it was just going to be me and my son for the rest of my life living at my parents and I was OK with that! I was still working out and dealing with my depression and anxiety as much as I could, mainly shoving it under the rug and putting on a good face that everything was OK.

I was in several direct sales businesses trying to make some extra money. The group I was with at this time often hung out at a hookah bar (flavored tobacco, google it). It was close to a college so there were lots of young people to talk to and become friends with who would want to make extra money and join my business. Well, one of those people was Kyle.

We met through a mutual friend at the hookah bar, and over time became super close. He was the one I would call after the horrible dates to confide in and ask for advice. He joined the business and we enjoyed each other’s friendship but that was as far as our relationship would go. He was 5 years younger than me and he had a girlfriend.

After a year of being friends and getting tired of our friends telling us we should date (after he and this girlfriend had broken up), he asked me out. During this time I learned that he was a less active member of The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints. I had no idea what that meant. He just kept telling me that I needed to meet with the missionaries if I wanted to learn more (whoever they were).

January 1, 2015, I met the missionaries on accident and they shared with me what they believed and asked if I would go to church that Sunday and I did. From the very first meeting, I knew what they were teaching me was true, I felt as if so many of my questions from my childhood were finally getting answered. I got baptized on February 14, 2014, and Kyle and I got married on July 4th. We had our youngest son in October of 2016 and things were going so so good. I had a totally new outlook on life.

February of 2018 I was able to become a stay at home mom, which had been a dream ever since my oldest son was born. And once again to my surprise my depression and anxiety reared their ugly heads! I once again got on medication and started reading books, listening to podcasts, and working out like crazy.

In October of 2018, while things were finally seeming to get back to normal, I got the strong prompting that we needed to add another member to the family. Against what I wanted I came off the medication and we started to try. It had taken 6 months to get pregnant with my other two so I figured we would have some time. God had different plans and 4 months later, on Valentine’s Day of 2019 I found out I was pregnant. I was so shocked that it happened so fast and I was very excited to be adding to our family. 3 days later I miscarried. I was beyond upset because I had truly felt like this was something we had been asked by God to do. I started questioning my faith and really wanted to go back to my old ways. I received a blessing and got clear answers that this was part of God’s plan, and yes even though it truly sucked, I would one day understand. So we went on with life (the best we could) and kept trying once I was cleared from the doctor. 4 months later (June 2019) I found out I was pregnant again, this time I was not excited at all. I was super anxious and feared the worst, which happened again 2 days later. This time I wasn’t mad at God, I was mad at myself. My body must be the issue. I hated my body and stopped working out. I started eating everything and anything chocolate. I couldn’t understand how this could happen again and I just knew it had to be something I was doing wrong. The doctors didn’t have any answers either and just told me to give it time and try again. So that’s exactly what we did and in September 2019 I was pregnant again!

I changed doctors and we found out one of my hormone levels was too low to keep a pregnancy so they supplemented me. I went in every 2-3 days and had my levels check to make sure the pregnancy was progressing and after 3 weeks everything was great, no concerns and they scheduled me for an ultrasound. This was a super stressful day and I was so worried about something going wrong. To my disbelief, I was able to see a strong heartbeat and everything looked great!!

They wanted to do a follow up ultrasound the following week to measure again and keep a close eye on me. My mom was able to go with me to this appointment and I was so excited for her to be able to see that this one was going to be ok. The tech kept asking me if I was sure that I was far along as I thought and some other questions that raised concern to me. Then what she said next, I can still hear today. She said, “I am so sorry but there isn’t a heartbeat.” My heart stopped and I screamed out loud to God, “How can you do this to me?! Why are you doing this?! No, this cannot be happening?!”

We were taken to another room to talk to my midwife and I called my husband to tell him and then immediately called a friend to have someone meet me when I got home to give me a blessing. I was given the option to just let my body do what it needed to naturally or schedule a procedure and they would remove the baby. I chose to have the procedure because this time I was 9 weeks along and they would be able to test and see what had caused the loss.

I was numb, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. I wanted to give up so much. I once again was praying every day that God would just take me away. I couldn’t handle the grief and all the emotions that I was dealing with. During this time, I showed up in my church calling, put on a happy face, and made it seem as though I was sailing along, doing just fine. On the inside, I was dying. I really wanted to leave The Church and go back to the things of my past to numb myself from all of this. We found out months later that the baby was a girl (we call her Faith) and that she had a rare chromosome disorder and that she would have either passed at some point further in the pregnancy or shortly after birth.

If it wasn’t for the women in my life that wrapped their arms around me, loved me when I didn’t feel I deserved to be loved, brought me Cheerwine and peanut M&Ms, called, texted, brought me food even when I didn’t want to eat, and most importantly let me borrow their faith I don’t know where I would be today. I call them my sister tribe. One of them kept inviting me to bible study and I wouldn’t show up. But then the day before the procedure, against all that I wanted to do, I went. I sat there, didn’t say much and listened even though I didn’t want to be there at all. One thing I heard that struck me to my core was that the more we struggle and suffer, the more we are becoming like our brother Jesus Christ.

This was the answer I needed, this was what I needed to know. That through all my struggles and suffering my whole life, I would never suffer as Christ did. That doesn’t mean that I’m going through these things in vain. My whole purpose in life is to become more like Him and this is how I am able to do that.

When I feel myself slipping back, I go for a run or have an impromptu dance party. I let someone in my sister tribe or my family know how I am feeling and ask for help. And I trust that God has the big picture and that I am only seeing a snapshot.

I don’t share all these very personal things with you for sympathy, I wouldn’t change a single thing that has happened. My hope in sharing my story is that you will be able to reflect on your own life and see all the ways God and Jesus Christ have truly shown up in your life. Especially the times when you felt they were the furthest away. Look for Them in those moments, because I promise you, just like Christ showed up to Peter when he was fishing, He will always show up for you!

I see you. In so many ways I am you!

When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Cami

Cami found me on Instagram and sent me a message saying that she was also passionate about bringing struggles to light and that if I needed a story, she had one. It breaks my heart to learn about and see children who grow up without one or both of their parents. I’m so grateful Cami was willing to share about losing her Dad.
Cami Moss is a wife and a mom of 3 little kids. She grew up in Utah and went to BYU and the U of U and received her RN. She worked as a hospice nurse for a few years before becoming a mom and then quit that to become a full-time mom. Among many things, she enjoys calligraphy, Anne of Green Gables, podcasting, baking, and anything Italian (art, culture, food, – you name it). Getting to meet new people and have meaningful, deep conversations about life is what she’s about.

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I remember the day it happened all too well. It was Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1996 and me, my older brother, and younger sister were playing the game of “Life” in our living room when my mother’s best friend, Kathie, rushed through the door with a look of panic on her face. She asked where my mom was and we told her that we thought she was up in her room. Kathie ran up the stairs and us kids went back to playing our game. Only a few minutes later, we heard pounding coming from upstairs. At first, we ignored it, but then it kept happening so we thought we should go up and find out what was going on. As we walked into her room, we knew immediately there was something really wrong. Without even explaining the situation, I remember my mom falling to her knees and telling us we needed to join her in prayer. As she prayed, it became obvious what was happening…

If we pause the story and back up to 3:00 am that morning, my dad had woken up to get ready for a business trip and had woken up my mom. As they talked my mom told my dad that even though he had been on a ton of business trips and had traveled often, that for some reason she felt sick about him going on this one. She told him how much she didn’t like the small plane that he and his colleagues often flew in and really didn’t feel good about it. He tried to pacify her and in the end said to her “Carrie, if God wants me, He will take me.” And that was the end of the conversation. Around 7:00 am, my mom received a phone call from one of my dad’s co-workers saying that the plane had crashed and they didn’t know anything else.

So as we sat there praying, my mom begged for my dad’s safety as well as the safety of the other men on board the plane. Shortly after, everything started becoming blurry and surreal as I went to my room to pack my bag to go to the grandparents’ house and my mom got ready to make the trip up to Malad, Idaho where the plane had crashed. I remember being at my grandparents’ house, watching TV and having several of my mom’s siblings in the room. Honestly, in my 9-year-old mind, I honestly felt like my dad was going to walk away with maybe a broken leg or some crazy story that he could tell for years to come. I think my mind went there because even though I knew that trials were a part of life, I thought we had taken our turn as a family. At that point, my older brother had had a very rare form of leukemia twice and in my mind, I thought we couldn’t have any more trials – we had taken our turn. After watching TV for a short time, my grandma came in, and turned off the TV and told us that the plane had crashed and no one survived… all 8 men on the plane, including our dad, were dead. It felt like the whole world was spinning and time just stopped. I remember going into the bathroom, just staring at myself in the mirror, just crying. After a while I remember coming out and eating lunch and then going to play with my cousin who lived across the street. It felt so surreal that I thought if I just ignored it, it would somehow go away.

Later that day, I remember my mom coming to my grandparents’ house and sitting us down to talk to us kids about the funeral. I remember her asking us what we thought and what things we should have included and I felt like a pressure cooker. I had so much emotion bottled up inside of me and as we sat there starting to plan the funeral, I was so angry. I was angry because I felt like we had taken our turn and why couldn’t someone else have a turn? I remember standing up and yelling at her, “What do you want me to do? I don’t know how to plan a funeral. I’m 9 years old”.

The day of the funeral came and we went to the church and of course, everyone stood for us as we came in and I just remember hating my life. It seemed so unfair to me that not only did we have big trials happen to us, but that they were so public.

When the whirlwind of the funeral came and went, it seemed so surreal – until 6:00 pm every night when he didn’t walk through the door. The days, weeks, and months after that, especially the first year, seemed like an eternity.

I remember our first Christmas after my dad died. My mom tried so hard to make it special, but she cried all day long. Every holiday was some version of that because everything that used to be so perfect was now so painful. But, there were some amazing things that happened that year and the subsequent years that followed. My mom’s best friend, Kathie, became a literal angel in our lives. So and her family took us into their home for weekends, nights, holidays, and vacations. They literally became our second family and because of them, we were able to be distracted from the sharpness of our pain, laugh, and be in a place that didn’t constantly remind us that we were missing someone. I owe so much to her and her family.

On a personal level, I had no idea how to cope with the grief and so I turned to the only thing that I knew and that was my faith. I had faith in God and I prayed to Him often, telling Him how hard it was and that I knew that He had the power to turn back time and change what had happened. And even though that clearly didn’t happen, through those prayers I felt so much peace. I felt assurance that God was taking care of my dad and that God would also take care of me.

I remember also feeling so much comfort in songs – particularly songs that talked about angels and loved ones that had passed on. I felt like those songs gave me the words that I couldn’t speak, but felt so deeply in my heart.

Now, my healing includes doing things that keep him alive in my heart and mind. A few years ago, I tracked down everyone I could who had written meaningful sympathy cards at the time of my dad’s death and interviewed them, as well as my old neighbors about what my dad was like and any memories they had of him. That process was so healing for me.

I make sure I talk about him often to my husband and children so they can know what I love and think about my dad. I take my kids and go to his grave often and have picnics and bring him homemade flower arrangements, wreaths, notes, and pictures.

Surprisingly, talking and being able to relate to others is also something I have found to be so healing. It gives meaning to the pain that I wished would go away so badly. I’ve gotten to the point now that even if I could go back and change what happened, I wouldn’t because so much of the good, sensitive, and empathetic parts of me came as a result of my dad’s death.

When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Jodi

Jodi is one of my friend’s in-laws and I really love the things that she shares and posts on Facebook so I asked her if she’d write something for me. I love her perspective on life and that she has chosen happiness, despite the hardships she’s gone through.
“Hi, I’m Jodi! To be honest, I’m just winging this. I am no writing expert. My expertise is in parenting blunders and how to make the perfect s’more. I’m an advocate for getting out of one’s comfort zone and doing hard things, because I know that our failures can pave the way to our success. I love my family and Savior Jesus Christ with my whole heart and am extremely grateful them. I’m a firm believer that life doesn’t happen to us, it happens for us and for our benefit. I’m a strong and equal “red/yellow” personality (if you know the Color Code, then you know what I’m talking about), so I refer to myself as “sunshine mixed with a little hurricane.” I love to work hard and stay busy, but mostly love finding joy/fun in my life journey. Life was meant to be lived, difficult at times, loved, enjoyed, and mixed with lots of vacations and dance parties! This is me, my story — raw and real.”

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Photo by Wolf Photography.

Oh To Be Happy And Loved

Please note: I use the word “happiness” throughout this article. To me, it’s an all-encompassing word with how I want to feel. Some might refer to this as joy, peaceful, lively, etc. f the word “happiness” doesn’t work for you, choose a word that does.

One thing I’ve learned the hard way is that when things go wrong, don’t go with them. These past few years have been a roller coaster ride. A lot of happiness and growth mixed with devastation and complete loneliness, and then feeling the power of love and how it can transform and heal anything, even during the darkest and hardest of times.

For those that follow me on Instagram (@treatinyourmacros) you know I try and promote health and happiness. I’m not afraid to be vulnerable. For some reason, when Allyson asked me to write this article, I was stumped. One of my life goals is to be a motivational speaker — inspire women, help them learn that they are not alone, that God is fully aware of them and that they are loved unconditionally. If this is what I have been working towards, and someone was offering me the chance to share my words, thoughts, and feelings, why couldn’t I think of anything to say? Instead of trying to come up with “words of wisdom,” I went back to the drawing board, prayed, and concluded that the following is what I am going to share with you: My story. You may be able to relate, you may not, but this is what I feel needs to be written. This is me, imperfect Jodi, searching for answers, truth, love, acceptance, guidance, and purpose, and this is how I found it.

It started about three and a half years ago. Well, if I’m being honest, it actually started about 8 years ago, the day that I was married. I was on cloud nine. I found the perfect man to share the rest of my life with. We were going to school, working several jobs, and despite how busy we were, life seemed to be perfect. Our first year of marriage was complete bliss. I remember thinking, “People think this is hard?” I wasn’t sure how anyone could feel that way…. Then our second year hit, and it was a lot rockier. Looking back, there wasn’t anything life changing (that I can remember) that made it hard, it was just hard! I wasn’t my usual happy self. I remember thinking, “I have to be happy.” It’s part of the “checklist”, ya know, that imaginary checklist people seem to create in order to be happy. “Get married in the temple, CHECK! Go to school and get an education, CHECK. Have kids, CHECK!” (Well, we were expecting our first at the time.) Maybe I am the only one that has created this happiness checklist, but I doubt it. After reviewing that “checklist” I knew I was suppose to be happy, but in truth… I just wasn’t. I would see these people that appeared truly happy, and I wanted that happy feeling. I wanted fun, adventure, and true happiness. However, I felt like I was just going through the everyday motions, living, but not really living.

Life seemed to get better and things started to turn around. We had our first baby, Leo, and life seemed to be wonderful. I had this beautiful baby boy who I couldn’t love more. Our marriage was much better, but I still continued to feel like I was just going through the motions. I worked hard and tried to stay busy. I even started my own photography business — but I’m not sure how to explain it, I just felt “meh.” Content (I guess), but not TRULY happy. If I haven’t lost you yet in this confusing story, hold on for a little longer, it gets better. Promise.

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Photo by Wolf Photography.

Fast forward a couple years to when something happened that completely rocked my family’s world. My oldest sister Stephanie, my example, best friend, therapist, supporter, and everything a big sister is, unexpectedly passed away while giving birth to her fifth child. Even though it’s been three and a half years, I remember everything about that night, every detail.

Of course I had felt sadness before, depression even (post-partum depression is a real thing), but nothing had dropped me this low before. It was a scary low. I remember crying out so loud because the pain cut so deep that I didn’t think I could make it through. Deep down in my heart I knew our Heavenly Father didn’t make mistakes, but it was really hard to wrap my head around this. “How could she be needed more in Heaven than with her five children and husband?” It just didn’t make sense. I tried to not be angry. I will say, I thought I did a pretty good job about not blaming God, but on the flip side, I now realize I did start to doubt Him. The hurt, frustration, and confusion were all too real.

So when I say “When things go wrong, don’t go with them,” that is exactly what I mean. Life is all about choices. Everyone has hard things, some things being harder than others. I will definitely take my hardships over those that that I’ve witnessed others experience. The trials I have had to deal with, including personal health problems, loss of a loved one, and others, have turned into million-dollar experiences. I wouldn’t pay even one dollar to experience them again, but I wouldn’t trade them either. ANWAY… Sorry, we are getting off track… Life is about choices, right? I allowed myself to go down the wrong path. I started doubting my faith, saying I still believed in Christ but wasn’t so sure about the whole church thing anymore. I was at my unhappiest of times, pretending to be happy and have it all figured out, justifying my thoughts and actions.

Finally, the unhappiness got to me. I knew that I couldn’t live like that anymore. There was a legitimate dark cloud around me, feeding me negative energy. I knew that I wasn’t me, and I was desperate to find me again. I wanted true happiness. The first thing I committed to doing in my quest for true happiness was praying again. They were simple prayers at first. I prayed for clarity and help to tear down the walls I had put around my heart so that I could start feeling the spirit and love again. For any of you that have felt that same way, it wasn’t a one-and-done type of deal. I did this for a while. Then finally one day, while my family and I were sitting in church during Sacrament meeting on a Fast Sunday, I just kept praying in my heart for me to be happy, to feel love, and to have peace. The congregation started singing “I Know That My Redeemer Lives” (which happens to be my favorite hymn) and my whole being seemed to fill with love, unconditional and pure love. I have never felt anything so strong, and I cannot deny that my Heavenly Father was wrapping His arms around me at that moment. The tears came quickly, uncontrollably. It was the first time I had felt peace, love, content, forgiveness, and what I was searching for: happiness. Those feelings lasted through the whole hymn. I determined right there and then that I was going to change. I needed to stop playing a victim (yes, I see now that I was playing the victim). My mentality was, “Poor me, I’m so confused, I don’t know what to do, I tried that and it didn’t work,” and a lot of other nonsense and multiple excuses. The problem that we have with having a victim mentality is that we forget to see the blessings of the day. When we have this mindset, our spirits are poisoned instead of nourished. We need to stop looking at the negative things and focus on the positive. There may not be anything that you can do to change those things anyway, so why use your energy to focus on what you can’t change? Find the positive. Happiness is a choice, and to feel loved is a choice

So now that we have all that out of the way, how did I overcome all of this? If you were to ask me now, “Are you TRULY happy? Do you feel love?” The answer is 100% YES! I feel more grateful for my Savior than I ever have. I feel so grateful for life that there are days where I feel I cannot contain it. Here’s my secret (that isn’t really a secret)…. Learn to love yourself. Learn to be happy with yourself. Learn to congratulate yourself on your successes, and don’t be afraid to fail.

Another sister of mine (and my dearest friend) pointed out to me one of the Lord’s commandments: Love thy neighbor as thyself. She asked me, “Do you love yourself?” At the time I didn’t feel that I could answer, because the answer was no. I was too embarrassed admit it. Let me ask, how can we fully give ourselves to God’s work and learn to love others unconditionally as we have been commanded, if we do not love ourselves?

We can learn to love ourselves, accept ourselves, improve ourselves, taking small and large steps to make these things happen, and true happiness will come. True love will come too, and you will start seeing more good than bad, even through the most difficult of times.

Everyone is different on how they may go about this. I am going to share what worked for me and what made the biggest difference. I had tried to work from the inside-out to heal myself. After a while I started to see that that wasn’t working. I stopped doing what wasn’t working and found a new path. I hired a personal trainer and started working on myself, giving myself “Me time”. It soon became clear that I had to work from the outside-in. Many women I know (I’ll throw myself in here as well) including mothers, sisters, friends, and grandmothers, give of ourselves all the time, but do we take time to build ourselves up? That to me is the most important because you cannot fully help someone else when you yourself aren’t in a good state. You have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror. How you appear to others can be important, but how you appear to YOU is also of great importance.

I started with my trainer, knowing that I was in for a long, difficult journey. I made a promise to myself however, to finish what I had started and to give it 100%. (Remember, WE CAN DO HARD THINGS!) While words have power, our actions are what will truly change and shape our lives. I committed to change, and I followed through, even when it was painful.

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Photo by Simply Shelby Photography.

I started what I thought was a fitness journey (it turned into my spiritual journey) back in 2017. My life will never be the same. As I pushed myself physically, I got stronger mentally. While getting stronger mentally, I started tearing down emotional walls that I had put up. There were several times where I cried while running on the treadmill and let the emotions flow. Talk about embarrassing… Sometimes I knew why I was emotional, but the majority of the time I had no idea, the tears just came. As those walls started coming down, I felt more connected to the Savior. It was through this experience that I created a love for myself. I created happiness. I realize now looking back on the harder times in my marriage, my personal health struggles, my sister’s passing, and life struggles in general, that it was ME. I wasn’t progressing in life, and when one isn’t progressing, they are regressing. Regression gives feelings of regret, unhappiness, discontent, and leads us to just go through the motions without satisfaction.

No one is responsible for your happiness except for you. Throw that imaginary checklist away and start doing the difficult things that allow changes needed in your life, especially those things that allow Christ to be a part of it. When He is the focus, life is better. Know that when you feel that He has left you, we are actually the ones that have strayed from Him. Make the commitment to get back on track. We all stray to a degree now and then, either physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. It’s OK. Just choose to not continue to do so. Choose to learn from your trials.

With that being said, while I miss my sister dearly and would love to see and talk to her, I have learned so many things that I never would have if her passing never happened. Life is working for you, not against you. Your choices do affect your happiness. Don’t allow anyone to feed your energy if they aren’t serving you in a positive way. Choose to maximize the potential Heavenly Father gave you; create an extraordinary life filled with happiness, love, and purpose. Then pass it on.

XOXO,
Jodi

When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Shaleese

Shaleese and I were in the Athletic Training program together at Weber State University. She is smart, driven, funny, beautiful, and has a good head on her shoulders. She was nice to help me when I needed it and a good friend to talk to. I admire her so much. When you’re around her you can just sense this strength she has, it’s hard to explain but it’s tangible, and I think it must be from going through this experience.
Shaleese Marie White is 24 years old (25 next month). She is a certified/licensed athletic trainer. She currently works for Real Salt Lake and she is finishing her master’s degree in health science with an emphasis in athletic training and a minor in sports psychology. She enjoys playing soccer, playing the violin, listening to all types of music, running, anything else outdoors and spending time with the cutest 3-year-old you’ll ever meet! She’s super outgoing and loves to meet new people. In her free time you will find her… well actually she never has free time so who knows.

Spending Thursday nights studying is never fun, especially as a 15-year-old. It was about 10:00 PM when my dad came in my room as I was banging my head against my biology book. Beginning to laugh, he made me a deal in hopes to motivate me. He told me If I studied for ten more minutes, he would take me to lunch after my test tomorrow. Who doesn’t love leaving school early and getting free food with your best friend?! I went to bed that night anxiously awaiting the exam in which I thought would be the most significant test of my life. Little did I know the Lord had a different test in mind.

Friday morning approached and after I submitted my test I rushed to my seat to text my dad that I was finished. Seconds later a voice echoed over the intercom and said, “Can we have Shaleese White down to the office to check out.” I eagerly gathered my things and rushed down the stairs. I was halfway down the last set of stairs and surprisingly saw my aunt standing in the hall instead. I had a strange, comforting feeling, almost peaceful and at the same time, I instantly knew something was wrong. Her first sentence to me was, “Shaleese we need to go to the hospital, it’s your dad, we need to hurry.” I began frantically asking questions and she wouldn’t answer. All she would say is, “we just need to get to the hospital.”  It was as if everything turned into slow motion. The car ride, any words said to me, my thoughts, flashbacks of last night, walking into the hospital, seeing my mom sobbing, everything was slow motion. My mom walked over to me and the words “he’s gone” raced through my head. I felt numb. I kept repeating over and over “it’s not true, it’s a bad dream.” I went home that day with every emotion, however, anger was the leading one. How could God do this to me, to my family? How could God take my best friend? I do everything I am supposed to. I read, pray, pay tithing, do service, etc. Why am I being punished? This anger developed into hatred. I wanted nothing to do with the church I had just joined almost 5 years prior. Being a convert I thought I had developed a strong testimony, I thought I had faith to overcome mountains. At this moment I felt the Lord turned on me and I felt helpless and even worse, furious.

Monday morning finally arrived, and I went back to school. I wanted to get away from the sadness that lingered my home. I had seminary second period. I went but left halfway through. I slowly stopped going to church, youth activities, seminary, reading scriptures, and anything related to the gospel. Everyone justified my actions at first. “She just lost her dad, it’s understandable” or “give her a break she is tired of people asking how she is” and my personal favorite “she’s going through a phase, she’ll grow out of it.”  I stopped caring about everything. I went from being a 4.0 student to barely passing. This digression went on through my junior year. I started hanging out with different friends who chose to drink, party, and not care about consequences. I stopped caring about life and my future. I used my seminary period to get a Jamba Juice or lunch, church on Sunday became a 3-hour nap time, attending school was merely a social thing, and I was not on track to graduate, I just didn’t care anymore. I was infested with anger.

Almost the end of my junior year I had a friend bribe me to go to seminary. She said if I went with her she would buy me an aloha pineapple Jamba Juice… my biggest weakness. After 30 minutes of trying to convince me, I caved. That day changed my life.  The lesson was on trials and enduring to the end. Majority of the class was spent reading 2 Nephi 31, but the two verses that hit me like a spiritual train was 2 Nephi 31: 19-20.

“(19) And now beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this straight and narrow path, I  would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ, with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save. (20) Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfast in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold thus saith the Father: ye shall have eternal life.”

This started the uphill battle to turning my life back around. I cried the entire day after that. I prayed for the first time in almost 2 years that day. I reflected on that dreadful day when I lost my best friend. I always angrily questioned where the Lord was during the worst day of my life. How could He just sit and watch my world fall apart? After reflecting I realized that He was there the whole time. I thought about how I came down the stairs and saw my aunt, the strange, comforting feeling I instantly felt. The Lord was trying to help me through it before I even knew what was to come. He never left my side. He patiently waited as I spent two years being unhappy, angry, and blaming Him for all the things that went wrong that day and the next two years. I am by no means perfect now. I still make mistakes, I fall asleep reading scriptures, I miss church sometimes, and I forget to pray and many other errors. That is the most significant thing of this gospel, is knowing no matter where you are in life the Lord loves you and will forgive you. He does not put us through trials to merely watch us struggle, or hope we figure it out on our own. We have trials regardless of what we believe in, however, what we believe in can make the trials bearable and conquerable.

Losing a loved one is never easy, no one is ever fully prepared, and no one deserves it. Death is something we will have to deal with in one way or another, but it is a helpless life event. So, when it happens, be mad, be angry, be sad, cry, scream, ask questions, yell, BUT remember to grasp the Lord with everything you have. I know that the Lord loves us and I know this gospel is true. I know that I can return to him and be with my family forever someday. I know that I can do all things through Christ.

Here I am almost nine years later (next week), and I can say it doesn’t get easier, you simply get stronger. I still miss my dad, I still cry sometimes, I still wonder what it would be like if he was still here. However, I don’t have anger towards God anymore, I don’t block out the loving arms of a savior who lives me. I am about to graduate with my master’s degree, working for Real Salt Lake as a certified/ licensed athletic trainer, teaching sunbeams, 24 and still falling asleep at night reading scriptures and being so grateful for what I’ve experienced and the helping hand I had through it all. Life will hand you situations where you want to throw in the towel and give up; you might even do just that. It’s never too late to turn around. The Lord’s hand is always extended, and in reach, you just have to look up and grab it.