When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Brooke

Brooke and I met at an Early Returned Missionary Group Meeting. She is the leader of the group and we attend it monthly. (These meetings are held for Davis/Weber, Salt Lake, and Utah counties. If you want more info let me know.) I’ve heard bits and pieces of her story as we’ve shared things from our missions. She is amazing and I’m so grateful to be developing a friendship with her.
Brooke has been married to her high school sweetheart and missionary for two years. They have a black lab mix named Hurley. She studies Social Work at Weber State University. She works at UTBS as an ABA therapist. She loves working with kids. She served in the Maryland Baltimore Mission. She loves to paddle board, listen to music, do yoga, meditate, and hike. The Office is her all-time favorite TV show. She loves musicals. Phantom of the Opera is #1. Her absolute favorite thing to do is spend time with family and friends. Relationships are everything to her. She was diagnosed with depression and anxiety in July 2015 on her mission and has become a huge mental health advocate ever since. She hopes to become a therapist for children and families, maybe at LDS Family Services because social work has changed her life.

Photo by Photos by Kaylie

The Maryland Baltimore Mission was what I called home for 16 months. I was serving in Martinsburg, West Virginia at the time. The Richards have just gone home and here I was shotgunning for the third time with a very shy sister. I met President and Sister Christiansen that transfer who would be my new mission parents of the Maryland Baltimore Mission. Here I was as anxious as ever to explore another area to find, teach, and baptize. It all hit me that Martinsburg would be my last area. I wanted to serve with all my heart, might, mind, and strength just as in D & C 4.

One day, fear crept into my mind of coming home. I was afraid my past would catch up with me. I developed debilitating migraines that kept me in bed for the majority of two weeks. I would sleep in until studies. The only time we would leave the apartment was for our dinner appointment. Even after, I would feel as I did when I woke up. I felt like I had only slept for 5 minutes. Something as simple as smiling became to be an exhausting activity. Anxiety attacks became my daily ritual. I emailed my mom and asked if depression ran in our family. She said it did from both sides. My world fell apart within an hour on that Monday. I felt desperately hopeless. I called my mission president to see what I could do. He referred me to LDS Family Services and to speak with a therapist there.

My therapist asked me, “On a scale of 1-10, how bad is it to the point you need to be home?”

12 was my response.

I was hesitant about the idea of calling my mission president to even consider the option of going home. Going home was never an option in my book. Sister Donehue was going to serve a full-time mission no matter what! I prayed that I could stay. Whenever I did, I felt uneasy. One morning during studies, I knelt down in prayer with my elbows resting on my chair. I asked “Heavenly Father, should I go home?” If I had ever received a more clear answer from the spirit, it was as clear as a summer’s day. It hit me like someone poured a huge bucket of water over my head. It was the greatest comfort and serenity I had ever received during the past three weeks. It was the answer unwanted but it was the one I desperately needed. If I wanted to come home in one piece, this is how I would do it.



I called President to tell him the answer I received. I knew God was speaking to me through him. He told me the Lord was very pleased with me and my service. I would bless the lives of others.

I was the first missionary the Christiansen’s sent home. They were so kind and graceful. They held such a confidence in me stronger than I held for myself.

“You need to promise me two things. Stay faithful and stay in touch,” President told me.

My heart was racing faster than I was to see my family at the airport. I’ve waited for this moment close to a year and a half. Ultimate joy overwhelmed me. There they were: my mom, my three younger sisters holding flowers and balloons waiting for my arrival. My family was so happy to see me. Mom told me that she needed me home. My YSA bishop, who was like a father to me, welcomed me home in open arms along with many others in the ward! My family and friends loved me just the same, if not, more!

The journey returning home was not an easy one. It took me almost two years to find closure. I found closure when returning to my mission to visit old friends and remember the good I found. It was a surprisingly serene experience.


When going to church, I struggled with talking about the spirit and this concept of keeping the commandments. How could I feel the spirit when a mental illness such as depression was numbing my spirit? In my eyes, I was inadequate. Maybe even short from inadequate. I would never reach the kingdom of God with my imperfections.

When I came home, I felt like a huge failure. But coming home was NOT a mistake by any means. It was God’s will for me to get back on my feet and to face the hard reality of living with depression for the rest of my life. Every day I make mistakes. I am far from perfect. I’ve learned in this process that my Heavenly Father is a merciful and loving God. His love is completely unconditional. In the scriptures, we are taught “If you do this, then you receive blessings of so and so.” We call this the Premack principle at my job. Life happens. And sometimes I don’t do the “ifs”. And my Savior has given me so many “life happens” passes so I can continue to grow and receive blessings even when I don’t follow the if-then principle. Life will never turn out the way you want it to be. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have the capability to choose what makes you happy.
I think about the “what if’s” of staying on my mission. I came across a picture of the sisters I went out with who were at the DC temple ready to go home. I was not in it. But guess what? Their lives were not any better than mine just because they served a “full time” mission. I know some of these sisters battle depression and anxiety just as I do. Some married in the temple, just like me. Some go to school, just like me. I was not any less successful than these sisters. That is what I’ve come to realize is that if I continue to compare my life to “full time” returned missionaries, families that have a nice house, families that have children and seem to be happy, people who have met significant milestones before I did, I will continue to rob myself of happiness. For comparison is the thief of joy.


What helped me to overcome these struggles was keeping in touch with friends in the mission. Whether it be members and converts who lived in Maryland or missionaries who served with me. I received many priesthood blessings. I went to my bishop’s house every week to have dinner and spend time with his family. I went to LDS Family Services for over a year after my return. Therapy really helped me tame the demons I’ve had to overcome. I was able to be made whole again. Mission Fortify is the glue that kinda keeps me together. I still have depression and anxiety. I still think of my mission and “what could have been”. I still have days where I lay in bed for most of the day and have no energy to help anyone, even myself. I still have those dark thoughts that tell me “nobody needs me”, “I’m not worthy of God’s love”, or “I don’t deserve to be happy”. I still struggle to go to church sometimes because I think of the things people have told me. “If you pray harder, you’ll feel better.” Or “Are you reading your scriptures every day? You must not be doing it right.”. But I have to remember that God has a place for me here, even when I feel I don’t belong.

For my friends who have returned whether early or not, here are my words to you. Don’t lose hope. Find your trust circle of genuine people. Don’t take it personally when a priesthood leader, friend, or family member tells you something you didn’t find comforting. They have the best intentions at heart but most of the time don’t know how to help during times like these. I’ve had some of those experiences. Don’t sell yourself short. You are NOT a failure. You have an older brother who has felt every single ounce of anxiety, misery, and pain. The Savior suffered it all. I think we suffer so we can understand His sacrifice and how much He truly loves us. Our burdens are not ours to carry. Jesus Christ has paid the debt. He is the One who brings true peace.

A good friend of mine once told me that if we don’t experience suffering, we are helpless to others. You are here for a purpose. You wouldn’t be living and breathing right now if that were the case. If you don’t have the answer right now, keep going. Stay the course. You may not feel it, but a loving, merciful God has been and will ALWAYS be there for you to the everlasting eternities. Your Heavenly Father is mindful of you.


You mean EVERYTHING to Him.
Miracles happen every day.
A miracle is given by the hand of God.
And you are a miracle.

When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Markie

I have been following Markie’s Instagram account about her sweet little baby girl, who was born with CHD, for a few months and she was another brave and willing soul that wrote her story for me to share. I am so excited to follow their family on their new journey to adoption!
Markie Ostler is a stay-at-home mom from Lehi, Utah. She has a loving husband, a 2-year-old son, and a daughter in Heaven. She is a mourning mother who is determined to find a cure for Congenital Heart Defects, the same disease that took her 5-week old baby girl.


I remember telling my sister that I felt like “something bad” was going to happen to me or my family one day. We were driving back to her house from the Coca-Cola Factory in Atlanta, GA when I told her that I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

I remember telling her that maybe I was on “borrowed time” and that I could lose my husband or son in a terrible car accident, or something along those lines. I just remember feeling like my life was perfect and nobody has a “perfect life”. Sooner or later, something heartbreaking was going to happen.

A few months after we had this discussion, my husband and I got the news that baby #2 was on her way. I had always wanted a family of boys. Everyone who knew me knew that having a daughter scared me. What if she were just like me? I was too sassy and stubborn and I didn’t give my parents enough credit, as they tried to “wrangle me in” growing up.

After just 9 weeks of pregnancy, we were able to do a chromosome test that confirmed what I had already thought… we were having a baby girl.

I was at a shopping mall when my doctor called me to tell me the gender. I had already asked my husband if our doctor could tell me the gender over the phone and then I could relay the message to him. He worked crazy long hours during that time of year and he knew it would be cruel to make me wait for him to get off work to hear the news! I immediately called my husband and told him the gender. He was elated. While I was scared to have a girl, he always said he needed at least one “daddy’s girl”.

The first few months of this pregnancy was a blur. Baby girl was giving me a run for my money with all the morning (all day) sickness. Honestly, I barely functioned. Most days I laid by the toilet, while my son unloaded the bathroom drawers and cabinets for entertainment. I couldn’t cook, I couldn’t clean, I could barely sit out on my porch to get some fresh air. I swear, the only thing my son and I ate for that first trimester was goldfish crackers. One day I remember eating a jello fruit cup for breakfast and leaving the house to run an errand. Bad idea! To this day, I cannot even think about eating one of those again.

Baby girl didn’t just make me sick, she also gave us a few scares. I bled a lot the first few months of my pregnancy with her. Enough that I thought I had miscarried on 3 separate occasions. I remember those days vividly. I remember thinking “Maybe this is the terrible thing that I will go through”. To my surprise, baby girl was still swimming around in there, strong heartbeat and all. My doctor hugged me, and I cried after she found the heartbeat. Happy and relieved tears.

All of these scares, plus a CHD diagnosis at my 20-week anatomy scan, I was just thinking how this little spitfire was already keeping us on our toes! CHD stands for Congenital Heart Defects, which means that her heart was underdeveloped and she would need several surgeries after she was born to correct the issues. While she was healthy and strong in my belly, as soon as she was no longer attached to me, her heart would have to take over and do the work on its own. Without surgery, she would get really sick, really fast. I remember saying that she can just stay in my belly forever. I will keep her healthy, as long as she stays put!

Everly Jo Ostler was born November 6th, 2017, weighing a whopping 6 lbs 2 ounces. Her middle name was given to her from her dad’s middle name, “Andrew Joseph”.

For the first few days of her life, Everly’s heart overcompensated for its defects and she was able to be snuggled by many people who loved her. She received her first open heart surgery at 3 days old, and another at 9 days old. After 1 month of complications, even coding a few times, things were finally looking up for Everly and she was moved out of the ICU. I remember December 8th like it was yesterday. Andrew was rocking Everly in the rocking chair, Urban was playing with his toy cars on the ground, and I was decorating her hospital room with a Christmas tree and colorful lights. To this day it was the happiest day of my life. Us 4 together as a family. No nurses, no doctors, just us… I will always look at that day as a gift from God.

Everly passed away the next evening on December 9th, 2017. She was healthy, happy, and on the pathway to be home by Christmas… Everly’s heart stopped. There was nothing else they could do. It was her time to return home.

The doctors and nurses that were present when she passed, all had tears in their eyes, along with us. It may sound crazy and even a bit inappropriate, but I remember saying to the staff, “I think she was meant to go a few weeks back, but y’all are too good at your jobs and kept her around longer than God had originally planned..”

I heard a story through the grapevine that would change my perspective on life, for the rest of my life. It was about a woman who had suffered a miscarriage. Shortly after she lost her baby, she had a dream about the preexistence. In her dream, a young woman, whom she didn’t know on earth, but recognized in her dream as her best friend, ran up to her, hugged her, and said the following…

“Guess what!? Guess what!? Heavenly Father said that my choices have been so righteous here, that I don’t have to go to Earth to be tested!! He told me I would need a body and after I got one, I could immediately come back home. The best part is, I chose YOU to be the person to give me my body!”

They both rejoiced and embraced. They were so excited to share this bond with one another! In the preexistence, they were THRILLED for this to come to pass.

This story has helped me tremendously. It helped me realize that not only did I sign up for this unimaginable pain, but I wanted it and was honored to be chosen to go through it! I truly feel so blessed to do this for her. Everly chose ME to help her gain her body and I would go through this over and over again, infinity more times if she needed me to.

At Everly Jo’s funeral, our Bishop said that Everly felt so much love when she got here, that she wanted to fight for her life and stay with us as long as she could. We gave her a reason to want to be here, and she is now giving us a reason to make it back home to be with her.

I know that having Everly has made me ‘want to be’ a better person. I know that this is God’s plan. I know that I rejoiced in the pre-existence when I heard this plan. I know that Everly is perfect. I know that she doesn’t need to be on this Earth and go through the trials that we all face every single day. I know that she was with us for the exact amount of time that she was supposed to be with us. I know that she continues to be near me. I know that Urban has a close relationship with his sister. I know that he sees her when he talks and giggles toward a blank wall. I know that she is with our future children. I know she has told them how loved they are and will be when they join our family. I know that every day she isn’t in my arms, I will ache for her. I know that when it’s my time to go, her and I will have the most beautiful reunion. Same with her and her daddy.

Although my arms ache for you, I will take that pain if it means you don’t have any.


When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Anonymous 3

The writer of this post is an amazing friend whom I love and admire so much, and she wished to remain anonymous in sharing her struggle with infertility.

Photo by Moments by Ally Photography.

Everyone has a pregnancy story to share. Some struggle trying to get pregnant. Some struggle with a complicated pregnancy or even struggle holding on to a pregnancy. No pregnancy is easy. It is an incredible experience, but not an easy experience. Even those who have a perfect pregnancy on paper, sacrifice much to bring a child into the world. Here is a bit of my own story.

We were married in June 2014. We hadn’t planned on thinking about kids until after the first year or two of being married. Around September 2014, after being married for 3 months, my husband told me he had a strong impression that we should start trying to have a baby. WHAT?! That was not the plan and I always stick to the plan! I was stressed, and nervous. Neither of us felt ready, but after some prayer and pondering, I came to the same conclusion. It was time to start trying.

We tried for about 4-5 months and nothing was happening. I had been having some pains in my stomach and I was throwing up at the same time every month. I was slightly concerned, so I decided it wouldn’t be a bad idea to meet with an OB/GYN just to talk through what was going on. I don’t think my doctor meant to be rude, but she looked at me and said, “Come back when you’re pregnant”. Okay. I ignored these odd symptoms. Talked them up to coincidence and went on my way.

We tried until it had been 11 months. I decided to go back to my doctor. It had been 11 months and nothing had changed. I was still throwing up every month—no way was this a coincidental flu or food poisoning every month. I had lost 15 lbs. I wasn’t pregnant. I knew they wouldn’t put me in the ‘infertility’ category until 12 months of trying, but I already knew something wasn’t right. Again, my doctor gave me the same response, “Come back when you’re pregnant”.

For the last couple months, I had been trying EVERYTHING. At this point I had been tracking my basal body temperature, I had been using ovulation tests, I was reading every blog on tricks to get pregnant. I was to the point of holding myself upside down in hopes of egg and sperm meeting through pure gravity. It was frustrating. We were doing everything right.

At this point, I needed someone that would listen to me. I found a new doctor at a different office, a fertility specialist.

My new doctor was very attentive. I did blood work and they started me on the fertility drug, Clomid. The blood work came back perfect and I tried that next month taking the Clomid… Nothing. So, the next month came. This time they did an ultrasound around the time of ovulation to see if the Clomid was working. I had 4-5 great eggs ready to be released. I was thrilled the Clomid was doing it’s job. I also started thinking about the possibility of multiples. I mean, how could you not? Motherhood seemed like it was within my grasp. My doctor even told me he’d give me $1000 if I didn’t get pregnant this month….

I didn’t get pregnant. (I’ve still yet to see a penny of that $1000, by the way).

So I tried a third month. And a fourth month. Nothing.

I knew my friends and family meant well. But any comment they made seemed to push me deeper into my dark pit. Friends would tell me they could relate because it took them 5 months or even 7 months. Or, they had a miscarriage. I want to be clear- no circumstance is easy. A miscarriage is a terribly hard thing to go through. But I had hit the point where I would have cried in joy over a miscarriage because that would have meant that it was possible for me to get pregnant.

At this point, I ached for a baby. I was past ready. The reality of time had set in. At the point I got pregnant, I would still wait 9 months before I could hold that baby in my arms. Every day that passed felt painfully long. My husband was incredibly patient with my emotions. I cried a lot. I was tired of trying. Tired of thinking about it. Tired of feeling like my body was failing to do what it was made to do. Not to mention, tired of throwing up and feeling like I had the endless flu.

Social media was my black hole. It was hard to watch friend after friend announce their future babies, new babies and hardest of all…accidental babies. I wanted something good. Why was I not being blessed for wanting something that the Lord also wanted for me? What was going wrong? I was in perfect health. We had no answers. The doctors were stumped.

The best advice I received was from a friend who had been struggling to get pregnant for 5 years. She told me the anger and frustration I felt was normal. But, the only way to move forward was to let it go. I repeated those words to myself constantly. Let it go. The pain didn’t leave, the hurt was still there. But we do have the ability to control our own emotion. And for the first time in months, I could feel joy for other growing families. It hurt, but I was feeling joy again. Let it go.

The next step was to repeat blood work for the third time. They found my prolactin levels came back high. The puzzle started coming together.

It turns out that I had a prolactinoma (a benign noncancerous tumor) on my pituitary gland that was producing too much prolactin and keeping me from becoming pregnant. It ended up being a simple solution. I started taking medication to shrink the tumor. The next month I didn’t throw up. The following month I was pregnant!

Not every story ends up like mine, I was very fortunate. I struggled with infertility for two years. Many struggle for 5+ years. Some never find a solution.

I had many tell me, “Oh, the Lord is teaching you patience”. I can honestly say that this trial did not teach me patience. I’m still working on patience. And, if any life experience teaches me patience, it will be motherhood. However, I did learn humility. I did learn empathy. I gained a little more gratitude. I gained a little more perspective.

I am forever grateful to my husband for being sensitive to the spirit. Had he not listened to those promptings, it would have been a much longer journey. As much as I like to create my own plan, I am constantly reminded in life that it is His plan. It will never be my plan. For that, I am truly grateful. The Lord’s plan is a plan of happiness.

And throughout life, sometimes we just have to let it go. Move on. Enjoy the plan you are given.

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.”

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.

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.

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.


When Your Loved One’s Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Susan

With Mother’s Day just having come and gone I asked my Mom if she’d be willing to share her side of me coming home early from my mission. I know children’s struggles can be just as hard for their parents as they are for them. No one wants to watch someone they love go through something difficult, life-changing, heartbreaking, etc. There can be just as many hardships for the parents who have an ERM as there are for the actual missionary.
Susan Harris is Ally’s mom… though she hasn’t gone by that title so much since Ally’s soccer days, haha! She’s a mom of three children who are very different from each other and keep her on her toes. Grandmother to two adorable girls and one more baby coming! That truly is a wonderful title and her favorite! She likes to read, sing, garden, play the piano (in her home), ride bikes and her new sport, pickleball. She was born on a cold, snowy day and she loves those kinds of days, and she’s far happier to be behind the scenes than ‘spotlighted’ like this. But the things one does for their children.


Ally had asked me a while ago if I would talk to another parent who had a child come home early from a mission, that maybe I could offer something. I believe I said I would but that didn’t ever happen, and I have wondered if there really is anything to offer from my experience. And then she asked me to contribute to her blog which I had been thinking about doing so even before that. So. I guess here goes.

I come from a family of all girls, and my dad had served in the Army so no mission for him and so I can’t honestly say when that became part of my plan, it was just always there for me. I very happily served in the Canada Calgary Mission (remember that love of cold?!) and it was a huge blessing for me to do so. And I admit, I started the ‘brainwashing’ of my daughters serving a mission from very young, because it was such an incredible experience for me. And to have Ally want to do this was wonderful, I was so excited for her to have that opportunity. She is fun, outgoing, has a strong testimony and belief of the gospel, finds it easy to talk to people so it would be a win-win. I wasn’t sure it was always going to happen, Ally is a social butterfly and has always had many friends and plenty of those being male.

But she made it, not without some rocky times in there, and thus received a call, we waited for 4 months and then did the drop off at the MTC. I know I have spent more time at the bank than I did that day dropping off my daughter for her new adventure. It was in November and so she spent all the holidays in the MTC and was there for 10 weeks. Finally, off she goes to Texas, meets her Mission President and his wife, and gets assigned to her trainer and area.

Ally had been sharing that she was having some health issues and not feeling great a few months in and I had been trying to encourage her to forget herself and just go to work, to make sure she got to exercise for she had always been very active and that is a tough transition, to eat good, and to stay hydrated in the heat. And may I just insert here that I’m not really a warm and fuzzy mom, more of a tough love gal. I can cry at the drop of a hat about my kids or the gospel, but I’m the one that says, ‘walk it off’, ‘you’ll be okay’ or one of my staples – “Be a duck”. I don’t know the day of the week or the date that I received that first phone call from the mission other then it was in June. Our caller ID was hooked through the television at that time, I was putting some IKEA furniture together later in the evening and so when I saw my daughter’s mission come up on the screen, I figured ‘this can’t be good.’ My husband was out of town, this and every time they called actually, so when the President asked to speak to him I responded with that information and waited to hear why he was calling. They wanted to put Ally on some meds, having diagnosed her with anxiety and depression. To say I was stunned would be an understatement. As he and his wife described the Sister Harris they were working with, I wasn’t sure what to say. It wasn’t “my” Ally, and as they asked if there was a history of this, was she prone to it and I’m telling them, no, my heart ached and my brain reeled.

Another insertion, I didn’t care where Ally served – I teased her all the time that she would go to Columbia, I wanted my children to have a chance to see humble circumstances and hopefully improve their gratitude. But my one and constant prayer had been that their mission presidents would be what they needed. That is a huge responsibility, and one of the longest lasting influences ever, you always hear RM’s talk about how they perceived their mission president(s).

As I’m listening to this good man and his wife tell me what’s been going on, and they are seeking information from me as well, it was hard for all of us. They don’t know what kind of person I am, how Ally was raised if she has been pampered and this was an excuse if the history was there and we hadn’t revealed it during the initial interview process… they just don’t know. And I don’t know what’s truly going on and how she is doing. I asked if I could talk to Ally, I wanted to hear from her what was happening but they said they didn’t think that would be a good thing at this time. I didn’t agree, but that is their call. Ally and I had tried to go back and forth in email, but it just didn’t really work well, there was lagging in the service, I was working, it was tough to get an actual picture. She was trying to stay positive, and trying to do what she could, but was certainly struggling.

I had no basis for this kind of thing and everything is so different when you’re a missionary. There are many rules and restrictions of what you use for medication, you’re not seeing a consistent doctor, nor in Ally’s case one familiar with a mission and what that life is like, and you don’t have time to ‘rest and heal’. I’m trying to reconcile what Ally is telling me is happening to her and how she’s physically feeling with the Ally that left home and it was difficult to do. In hindsight, we both recognize some things from her past that showed she had some anxiety, but it had never been debilitating… at least that I knew. That tough mom thing. Everything is so pronounced on a mission, and Sister missionaries often get a bad rap… some certainly is deserved, some is not, and I didn’t want Ally to be ‘one of those’. I start going to the temple weekly, I try and write inspirational letters, adding humor and fun with less detail about home for I don’t know what to do to help at this point. I envision the scenario in my mind of flying to Texas and ‘happen’ upon her and her comp so I can physically see her and have a heart to heart chat about what’s going on. They call again and the meds don’t seem to be working for her, they want to try something else but it takes close to 3 weeks before any influence could be felt. They are trying so hard and I’m so grateful, I know they love my daughter and really are trying to help her. And help her stay.

I finally got to talk to Ally, about mid-August. But she is crying so hard that the conversation is difficult to hear and understand and we make little progress. Her mission president’s wife is present and Ally doesn’t feel like she can really talk to me. She mentions coming home and I tell her that’s not really up to her, you don’t “self-release”. They have brought her close to the mission home so they can keep an eye on her, and she has glorious companions. I don’t know what to think, feel, write… is it better that she comes home, or will that be harder on her, what is the answer? I have withdrawn into myself, I don’t talk to many people about it, I’m not out and about, I don’t want people to ask me about Ally as I don’t know what to tell them. There have been prayers, fasts, pleadings… it doesn’t seem to help Ally, she is like the ‘walking dead’, her letters are hard to read and how many times can you come close to sobbing in the celestial room?!

It became apparent that the only way Ally would get better was for her to come home. That just seemed to come calmly and we’d deal with everything else. We had about 2 weeks notice she was coming mid-transfer. My fear still was that I didn’t want this coming home early to define her, and to this day we have that conversation. We had a family trip planned that we hadn’t told her about, but with her coming home small miracles happened so she could come with us. It was a tough trip as she wasn’t “Ally”, but it was a beginning. A great counselor, a helpful prescription, time, rest. It wasn’t easy on her, and it certainly wasn’t easy on me or our family. Still isn’t as we come to understand how it is for her. And as this happens, you learn of others that struggle with the same, and your amazement grows to have been witness to how they function and now knowing of the struggle they travel with.

I keep things more inside and not on the stage as I call it, but she is trying to help others by her experience and that is a blessing. But it’s not her defining moment. Nor is her diagnosis. And I still don’t understand how, why, when and she gets frustrated. But hopefully, we’re all learning some patience and empathy for the different roads we each take in this life’s journey. I try to help when she needs me, and I’m still not warm and fuzzy, but there is progress. I don’t think anyone’s life turns out as they planned. I’m more of a pragmatist, and I believe that is the purpose, to learn HOW we act when things don’t go as we planned – that’s the point, it’s not our plan that we should want. And that is what makes us reach up, to remember that there is ONE who came and experienced all, that He may know our struggles and be there for us. We may not always notice when He steps in – at least I don’t, you are just ready for the next step somehow. The Spirit is a gift, our Savior is a gift, and I know I’m so grateful for both on the journey!

When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Jenny

Jenny and I have been following each other on social media for a while and she asked me if she could share her story. I seriously love when people ask to share their story! My goal has been to create a place for people to speak up about their trials and hardships without feeling guilty, like they failed, or weak. I love Jenny’s story and her beautiful testimony.
Jenny Jamison lives in Utah County and couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. She loves music, the mountains, rainy days, autumn, cookie dough, and her dog Bridger. She is passionate about helping women understand their identity as daughters of God to help them avoid the pain found from searching for fulfillment, love, and acceptance from anything or anyone other than the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father. It’s her belief that women feel joy, are confident, and can change their own life and the world when they know their innate divine worth.

Photo by Hashtag Fly.

I remember distinctly thinking, “How am I still breathing?” I didn’t understand how you could hurt so much emotionally and mentally and still be alive. I had just discovered my husband struggled with an addiction.

I had been in a battle with anxiety and depression for as long as I could remember. I already felt less than from the sexual abuse that happened to me when I was a teenager. I had been harboring pain my entire life because I desperately longed for more of an emotional connection with my father (who also struggles with mental illness). Overwhelmingly, I didn’t feel lovable, wanted, or enough at all. I never had. I didn’t know how much more could I take. The pain seemed unbearable.

I felt completely shattered and broken. Irreparable. I got to a point where I could only see darkness and pain in my past. I felt like all of my own regrets from sin, the heartbreak that had entered my life from the decisions of others, and the consequences of living in a fallen world completely overshadowed any moments of light and joy in my life. I remember just hating all the things that made up my life and I didn’t want any of the regret, the devastation, the sorrow.

I thought, “Maybe if I pray hard enough, I’ll wake up decades in the past, and I’ll redo life; I’ll avoid all pain and make no mistakes!” I even thought that maybe I would just forget all the pain over the years, and that forgetting was the only way to find peace and joy in life. In my darkest times, I remember wishing with all my heart that I could literally gather up all my broken pieces from my life and somehow throw them away forever and get rid of them for good. I wanted a miracle that could somehow change my past so that it never existed.

Over time, I started to realize that all of these wishes and hopes were the Adversary’s attempt to get me to avoid true healing found in the Atonement of Jesus Christ… but I didn’t want to turn to Him or to God; I didn’t want to accept that my past was what it was.

I already had been having a hard time turning to God for years because I didn’t trust Him. I was convinced for a long time that He was only there to correct me harshly, punish me, control me, and show me how much He was in charge of my life — that it didn’t matter what I wanted or what I felt, and that He would make all decisions. I remember avoiding the temple, prayer, scriptures, church — anything that would give me time to be still and quiet. I avoided it all in varying degrees for years because I didn’t want to give Him the chance to talk to me. I was certain all He had to say to me would cause me pain and even more sorrow — and I couldn’t take anymore.

Eventually, I separated from my husband right before the holidays. It was excruciating, but I knew it was the right thing for me to do. Being alone is something I have felt my entire life and it has always been difficult for me… but now living alone after being married seemed more than I could handle. I felt more alone than I ever had. I cried continually and uncontrollably every day for weeks. I didn’t sleep well. I didn’t do anything most days. Leaving the house felt impossible. I felt less important and more forgotten than I ever had. I knew that I was at my rock bottom. I had no one there 24/7 to help me, listen to me, and comfort me whenever I needed them — no one, except my Savior.

In all honesty, I think the major turning point was when I finally talked with complete honesty and vulnerability to God for the first time in years. And I was upset! I yelled and screamed so much I could hardly breathe. I told Him all of my pain and told Him how much I hurt and why. I asked, “When will this end?! Haven’t I had enough?! Why am I constantly left alone and hurting? How much can one person take? When will I finally have someone notice and care for me?” I sobbed and sobbed. And then, things started to change.

My understanding of having a broken heart and contrite spirit expanded. I used to think it was just a nice way to say “be humble”, but now I was beginning to understand on a deeper level because I definitely had a broken heart. Very slowly, timidly, and apprehensively, I started to give some of my broken pieces to the Savior. I needed to know He was safe. I needed to know He could be trusted. I felt so hurt by so many people in my life, and even by myself, that it was difficult to trust anyone. So I went at my pace.

I started to feel small amounts of joy. I started to feel the Spirit more and more. I started praying more often and sometimes would share personal things — going beyond the safe limits of just praying over my food and for safety. I started looking outside myself and serving others in small ways. I was testing the waters, and they were proving to be calm and still and safe. Eventually, I started going to the temple again. I was so afraid of going there — the one place on earth that is the epitome of peace. What would the Lord tell me there? How would I feel? I went in with total faith… and came out with complete relief, peace, and gratitude. And I kept going. And I haven’t stopped! I feel complete safety there. I know Heavenly Father is safe. I know He loves me. Each time I go to the temple, I feel extremely proud of myself and completely aware of the miracle that it is that I am even there by choice. After all I had been through I never thought I could find peace and joy there ever again.

For years I felt certain that Heavenly Father and the Savior had abandoned me. In some very dark times, I would yell and shout at Them about how I felt. I blamed Them. I didn’t want Them. But now I can see that They never left me — that was how much They loved me. I hadn’t turned to Them for years and I had even blamed Them… but They never left my side. They waited. Lovingly. And when I finally pleaded for help, They immediately came and showed me love and joy.

While I still am a work in progress and struggle with many things, I have learned a few things through all of this. I know that your brokenness can be made beautiful through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. He truly can take our broken heart, if we offer it to Him, and make us strong in our weak places. He can enter us in our brokenness and show us what true love is. He can help us see ourselves as He does, and we can feel greater self-compassion. He can take away the sting of the past.

There are so many things that can leave us feeling broken in this life — even beyond repair. We will all experience sorrow and regret and heartbreak in this life. But God has more in store for us than that — He created us to feel joy! No matter what you have been through, or are going through now, know that it is not yours forever. Know that whatever has happened to you, is not who you are. You are more than the pain that comes to you in this life. You are a literal child of a living God. He is there for you — always. And He will wait for you and be ready to help you heal when you are ready, at whatever pace you can handle.

I am learning more and more that the Atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ is real and all-encompassing. It is the only way to healing, and it is the only way to peace. We don’t have to forget our pains, or try to avoid them our entire lives, to find peace — there is a better way, and it is found through the Prince of Peace. Turn to Him. I know that as you do, you will find peace and you will find healing. He is safe. He is loving. And He is there for you. Always.

When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Chase

I met Chase at the SL ERM (early returned missionary) group. It was his turn to share his story (each month members of the group take turns sharing their story of coming home early) and I was so touched by it, I shed a few tears as Chase shared his experience. Part of that was because this really hit home for me, and part of it was because of Redd. I hope we can all be a Redd to someone who needs us to be.
Chase is from Midvale, Utah. He is 21 years old. He served an LDS mission in the Washington Yakima Mission. He is going to be attending either BYU or BYU-I. He will be aiming to achieve a Master’s degree in Psychology with a hopeful focus being on helping young adults dealing with mental disabilities and diseases. He is single (so if you have any friends who are single let him know haha). He enjoys virtually all forms of sports recreationally. He loves the outdoors and doing anything involved in nature. His real passion lies in people and culture. What drives him the most is the decisions every unique person makes and what drove them to make that decision. He is fascinated by the sheer variety we have on the earth from all the unique factors we all are exposed to. He currently works full-time as a Quality Assurance Specialist as well as an Ordinance Worker in the Draper Utah Temple!


When I was younger, I think I was around 8 years old, to be honest, I don’t remember much about it as I blocked a lot of it out, but long story made short my “picture perfect family” came crashing down when my dad was sent to prison as a sex offender and pedophile. We had a nice house with really good parents and then everything changed very quickly in my life. I remember feeling worthless and alone because I couldn’t understand how my dad could do those things and come home to his family every single night. We had to have been on his mind and he just didn’t care about us. It was really rough then…

Fast forward to me turning 18 and I had been active in the church for about 1-2 years at this point and I was hard set AGAINST serving a mission, it was definitely not for me. There was no way I was going. It was not the path I was supposed to take. I was not going to serve. My mindset stayed like this until I was 19, two years ago, when my grandfather passed away, because of what my dad had done my grandfather was the “father figure” I had in my life and let’s just say I didn’t take it very well. But while at his funeral it was at that moment where I had an incredible spiritual experience that completely shifted my mindset of going on a mission. And I knew at that point I needed to do whatever it takes to go out. So I spent the next year and a half studying, saving money, working hard, and trying to get myself to a place where I could actually serve and I did!

I made it to my mission, and I was so happy to go. I was an incredibly good missionary, I don’t know necessarily why or what it was but I seriously just flourished with success. I served in two areas on my mission and both were considered “low baptism areas,” one averaged maybe one per year and the other was previously closed down due to no baptisms and they wanted me and my companion to open it back up. After leaving both areas I had gotten 3 baptisms, or 3 really strong on dates. I actually wasn’t there long enough to see the baptisms themselves but they had all gone through the interview already and had it scheduled. I had almost no issues adjusting to missionary life and worked hard and got stuff done. I had so many incredible experiences while I was out there and I was so happy to be experiencing them as I had worked so hard to get there, then after only being out in the field a few months, I started to have some really bad problems with my brain. These problems, in turn, caused my physical health to plummet, but to explain the issue first, the doctors and therapists in the field diagnosed me with a form of PTSD. Similar to how a soldier in battle comes home and sees a firecracker and their brain makes them think they are back in that traumatic moment, mine was doing that with the events that happened with my family when I was younger.

They said the likely cause was probably a combination of not having any of my usual stress outlets combined with the fact that I was now talking about eternal families literally all day every day and that was triggering it. We tried to work on a few techniques and tools I could use to try and control the trigger while I was there but it started to affect my physical health far too quickly. The culmination of this was in my heart. You know how when you are in a tense moment in sports or in danger and you have that adrenaline flowing and your heart is pounding? My heart was basically in that mode 24/7 and was over-working itself to death. It got to the point where I honestly did not have the strength to get out of bed on one of the days because my body couldn’t physically do it (it should be noted that I passed the physical before my mission with flying colors). Needless to say, the result was that my mission president, the therapists, my stake president, etc, all advised me to “return home, but that it was my choice to do so.”

This pissed me off so much, for a variety of reasons, for one I was literally dying and they are like “you can choose to stay and die if you want” and it just made me feel even worse knowing that I needed to come home because it was “my choice” to do so.

It took me so long to feel ready for my mission, I didn’t want to go unless I knew I was ready, and I finally got to that point only to be ripped apart and sent home after only serving a few months. My mission completely shattered me in just about every aspect of my life. I didn’t know who I was, what value I had, where I wanted to go with my life, what testimony I had, I knew nothing about me.

I came home Saturday night (the 23 of December) but it was like between 9 and 10 o’ clock at night when I landed and so it was basically Christmas Eve when I came home. I honestly just wanted to cry. I wanted to hurt. I wanted to feel something, anything that night because I was just numb. Everything was numb. I got released and told to take off my badge and it honestly felt like the last shred of light inside of me just got ripped off of my chest. My bishop also called me that night and told me he wanted me in church the next day (Christmas Eve).

I was absolutely mortified, especially because of how powerful a farewell talk I gave. I had a member of the 70 at my farewell talk come and tell me that he hadn’t ever heard such a powerful farewell anywhere else and now I had to do the walk of shame back into my ward after just a few months… However, I swallowed my fear and promised my bishop I would be there. And so I was.

I walked into the chapel just barely before the Sacrament was about to start and I kid you not, the moment I walked in, the prelude music stopped and every head in the chapel turned towards me. (I was in the Elders Quorum Presidency for a year before I left as well so I knew everyone in the ward very well.) So they all turn towards me and there is just this moment of silence for about 15 or 20 seconds. After a moment a guy in my ward named Redd stood up and started to walk over to me, all eyes still fixed on me. He walked up to me and just said, “Welcome home Elder Whitehead, we love you.” And hugged me. I just started crying.

There are many amazing things and people that have helped me to recover and come back into the world since I have been home and, honestly, I feel so blessed because of everything that has happened, especially because of how truly incredible I feel right now about all of it. But that was the first moment where I experienced Christ’s love in a completely pure form.

All in all, since then I have had a ton of downs and quite a few ups, the downs were mostly in January and February, and the ups have mostly been in March and April, which is good. I don’t know if I really feel like my mission was a waste, I mean feelings of failure definitely come and go along with self-doubt, but I have admitted and will continue to admit for quite some time that my mission was the best single decision I have made in my life up to this point, and I stand by that. The things I have learned, experienced, and seen because of my mission, both in serving where I did and in coming home early, are all a part of me.

I really feel like now, right now, I am at a pretty good place in my life and a large part of that is due to all of you. So thank you for all of the love, all of the support, all of the emotions you all so willingly shared because all of that has helped me in so many ways, and that is my story.

When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Kay

Kay sent me a message via the contact form on my website and told me she’d be willing to share her story. And it’s National Infertility Awareness Week, so this was perfect timing.
Kay West is a wife and mother of two adopted children. Her family is Canadian, and her life is the story of city girl meets love of her life, country boy. They marry, and together they set off on an adventure of infertility, adoption, and moving to a strange new land. Kay is a speaker, writer, a great listener, and a supporter of all women navigating their way through this crazy thing called life. You will often find her with a book in hand, chocolate ice cream in a bowl, and a cute pair of shoes on her feet. Kay blogs over at Three Toques and a Tiara where on Monday she shares a little of their life story challenges and happiness, Wednesday a little spiritual uplift for midweek, and Friday she shares 5 simple things that made her week. Come join the fun over there at threetoquesandatiara.com or on Instagram @threetoquesandatiara.
IMG_0006 The thing about hardships is that they ebb and flow with the tides of our lives. For me, our infertility trial seemed to ebb forever, then it flowed, and we found balance again. Then we began the adoption part of our journey, and it ebbed and flowed more frequently, but they were less dramatic, the waves not as threatening.

No one told me there was a chance I wouldn’t be able to have biological children. After a couple of years of “trying”, my husband and I went to the doctor, who sent us to a specialist. After more tests then I can remember, and more time I felt was wasted, the specialist concluded we had “unexplained infertility”. He even went so far as to ask us, “Huh, why aren’t you getting pregnant?”

Those were the days when people assumed to know us and our situation. They assumed we were selfish and didn’t want kids. Perhaps we cared more about money than we did about having a family. Maybe we had decided to finish school first, or, heaven forbid, we just weren’t interested in having and raising a family. When people make assumptions or think they know what is going on, that is when the questions start to come.

Some tried to be polite, “When are you having children?”

Some more forthcoming, “You’ve been married an awfully long time. Any children coming soon?”

Some downright went for it, “Still no children?”

I learned to put on a brave front, but every time a family member or friend announced their family was expanding by one, or sometimes two, my heart would break just a little. No one told me that once the specialist determined what was “wrong” with me, I would undergo multiple procedures, put on several drugs, and basically put through hell for the next couple of years.

Never mind the financial expense, the emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual taxes were great. Emotionally it drains you, every month wondering if this was the month it would happen, only to feel the let down when it didn’t. Physically the monthly blood work, which led to bruising, the poking and prodding of my body, the general discomfort, and even pain after a hysterosalpingogram or an IUI. The different drugs they put you on that make you angry, or sad, and throw your hormones off balance for years to come, not to mention your weight as well. Mentally preparing yourself for another disappointment, or pain that was now coming from the bruised arms. Mentally trying not to feel like a failure, a broken person, someone who wasn’t whole. Spiritually wondering why Heavenly Father didn’t want me to become a mother. Why wasn’t I worthy of that blessing?

No one tells you that if your husband isn’t a saint, an absolute rock, you might not make it through together. The toll it takes on husbands is just as great, because husbands love their precious wives, they want to be their heroes, and this will be a problem they just can’t solve. All they can do is hold your hand through it. Thank goodness I am married to a saint. My rock.

After those two years, my husband and I decided together to put an end to the infertility treatments and continued on with life. My spirit continued it’s yearning to become a mother. I can see so clearly how we were guided by the Divine to adopt our two children.

When you go through trials it is easy to think that Heavenly Father isn’t there for you. My husband reminded me that the relationship we build with our Heavenly Father is only strengthened through trials as we turn to Him and trust Him. So when I wanted to turn from Him, instead I turned to Him and prayed with all my heart. For months, that prayer never once left my heart.

While visiting teaching all of a sudden, this kind sister I had visited for months told me about her family member who was in the process of adopting. After that, two other people I had spoken with on a fairly regular basis talked to me about people they knew who had or were going through adoption. I never initiated these conversations, the Spirit did, and I knew it in my heart that Heavenly Father had answered my prayers.

My husband agreed and we began the adoption process through LDS Family Services. Almost exactly 9 months later, we held our son in our arms, 24 hours old. A year later our daughter joined our family, 36 hours old.

Sometimes in life, the waves are threatening. Just as the Savior invited Peter to walk with Him on the water the waves came and Peter began to doubt, “And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matthew 14:28-31)

When the waves in our lives begin to threaten, we need to turn to Him, to trust Him. This valuable lesson I learned helped us through many more trials that would follow because our little ship did not sail smoothly. The adoption process brought its own stress and difficulty. It was followed by a miscarriage and a D&C. Then we lost another child we were trying to adopt after having her for the first year of her life. Our daughter is special needs due to some choices made by her birth mother during her pregnancy, which followed to severe bullying in middle school, and now on another adventure of homeschooling her.

Through all of this, I learned that no matter what, the Savior is there to take us by the hand and guide us across the water no matter how threatening our waves. I never would have been as strong today without our first big trial. My relationship with my husband would not be what it is today without all our trials. Through it all, together, my husband and I have leaned on one another and on our Savior to guide our ship safely through.
Today our story is that our life still comes with times that are hard, but a little less so. Times where the Lord’s Hand is more evident and the struggle is not so unbearable. Times where we can feel and see the hardship as the blessings they are intended to be. Maybe even times when our boat doesn’t need a sail at all because the currents will carry us peacefully along.

Today we are able to look back and completely see the Lord’s Hand in our lives. He guided us every step of the way. He led us before, during, and after those trials, and continues to lead us still.

If your own boat is empty, and the waves are threatening you in any way, the one thing you can keep it filled with is faith, and hope, because the waves will soon become still, and your way back will become more clear, and the understanding that you are never, ever alone will become more abundant as you make your way back to the shore. Whatever your hardship is, whatever your challenge, there is always Someone guiding your boat safely back to shore. Whether your tide is ebbing or flowing, your ship will eventually make it back safe and sound, and may just be filled with more blessings than you ever thought your little boat could hold.

Ours was.

When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Anonymous 2

Another anonymous post about addiction.
This writer is a twenty-something mom of 2. She loves being outside, going on adventures, cooking, and trying new things. She is all about being real. She works hard to be real and authentic, and she hopes, that by her doing so it will help others see that they can be too. Her story is not anywhere close to what she imagined it would be. She hopes that, someday, she can put her face on it, but for now, she has chosen to remain anonymous for the sake of her family. There are a lot of misconceptions about her family’s struggles. The only way that she can change that is by shedding light on it. So here she is shedding just a bit of light.
I am the wife of a recovering pornography addict. I hid, alone, carrying this pain in my heart for 3 years. Before we were married my husband and I had talked about pornography. He told me that it was a past issue and it was why he left on his mission later than most. He also told me that he had taken care of it. I believed him.I told him that as long as he was honest with me I was willing to work on anything with him. Throughout our first 3 years of marriage, I would occasionally find something he missed when trying to cover his tracks or he would even mention a random slip up. We would talk about it briefly and then move on. I thought I was being kind and supportive by withholding the pain I felt from him. I knew he hated this part of himself and I didn’t want to hurt him more than he already was. We thought we could handle these relapses on our own. It started happening more frequently and we ended up meeting with our Bishop in October of 2016. There we learned about the church’s addiction recovery program and a new, to our area, family support group. We both decided to attend our respective groups.

Part of my husband’s recovery work was to make a full inventory of all experiences with lust, pornography, and any sexual acting out. He shared this inventory with me, leaving out the explicit details, per my request. This revealed that he had been lying the whole time. Things were worse than he had led on and everything that I had previously known about was either lies, distortions, or half-truths. This day was one of the worst days of my life. His poor choices and deceit blew up our marriage’s foundation and left a gigantic pit. I curled up on the ground and cried for a week. It was unbearably painful to think that my temple marriage was fraudulent, my covenants were obsolete, that my 1st daughters baby blessing was invalid and any other blessings my husband had given were void. He had never been in recovery like he claimed. Our whole relationship had been poisoned with lust, objectification, deceit, and shame. After that, I became consumed by my own shame. “How could I not see this? How could I be so foolish?” I’m not enough for my husband, I became increasingly self-conscious about my post-baby body, I had past experience with an eating disorder and this triggered those feelings and urges again. It was shame city and nothing good comes out of shame. (Shame… I could go on and on about shame/shame culture… Real life-changing truths there… Brene Brown is an expert on shame. Look her up!)

The aftermath of this event left me with something called Betrayal Trauma. (Finally having a name for what I was experiencing was SO validating!) It mirrors many symptoms of PTSD. I experienced triggers regularly. I.E. Walking through the mall, my husband’s new female coworkers, when he is running late without communicating, when we are separated for a trip, the beach, watching TV, something he says, or even just sitting on the couch. In the beginning, I was triggered multiple times a day; each time sending me right back to that soul-crushing day he finally disclosed everything. I quickly found myself in a crazy panic. I wanted to track everything, go through every history log, get rid of every piece of technology we owned, and somehow lock him away from the world. This would remove all access to pornography and our problems would be solved. Then I would snap out of it and feel crazy for feeling crazy. It’s not rational but it is normal to experience those feelings of betrayal trauma. (This is all about to controlling things so you can feel safe again.)

I had tried for years to figure out how I could fix my relationship with my husband. I believed that it was my fault that we had issues; he let me feel that way, and would sometimes shift the blame to me just to protect his addiction. The truth is I couldn’t fix it, I didn’t know the real problem then. Pornography changes the way that you connect with other people. My husband didn’t have the ability to connect with me in the way that is needed for a healthy marriage. He needed to rewire his brain to see souls with bodies instead of just seeing bodies. Repairing our relationship requires both of us to first heal ourselves and then work together to fill in the pit. So the last year and a half has been spent focusing on myself. I am also a mom so that added to the challenge but putting my own healing at the top of my priority list was the best thing I could have done for my family and myself. It also meant letting go of my husband’s recovery. I know what he is like, and how he treats me, when he is in real recovery and when he is not. That is the only thing I (should) pay attention to recovery wise. I cannot tell him how to recover or control if he even chooses recovery. I can only choose what I do. So I choose me, I choose to find peace and healing regardless of what my hubby chooses. Because I am enough, I am worth it, and it is what Heavenly Father wants for me.

It has been a year since that pit of despair ripped open and while we have a lot of work left to do, I can see a purpose in my pain now. In fact, I have reached a place where I can be grateful, not for the trial itself, but for the lessons I have learned through this trial. I am more empathic than before. I have a clearer view of the plan of salvation. I have more compassion for others and myself. I expect and demand the respect that Heavenly Father wants me to have. My priorities are more in order. I can extend charity to my husband in a more Christ-like and genuine way. I understand now that Christ-like doesn’t mean “without conflict.” I know there is a difference between forgiveness and trust. I am able to put my self out there and be seen for who I really am. The things I have learned have touched every aspect of my life. The whole horrible truth had to come out so that I could really heal and so that our relationship can, someday, be repaired. My triggers days are farther apart now. When I am triggered I know what to do and I can stop them before the urge to control everything takes over. Don’t get me wrong, it is still very much a rollercoaster of emotions the pain is still there but it eases with time and recovery work. The trust will take years to rebuild the sadness of that can be overwhelming but now I know where to go with those feelings, I have a support system, I communicate with them and my husband. Instead of vigilantly patrolling my husband, I vigilantly work on my own healing and helping others heal. The darkest days I thought would consume me have passed. I can see the beautiful light starting to shine through, and I know with time, commitment, and most of all the atonement, the light can fully illuminate the darkness.

To those who are hiding or living this struggle: There is hope. You are not alone. The pain and fear you feel are real and valid. It is NEVER your fault. Please know that this is not just the addict’s story, but also your own. You have the right to share your story and to change it’s ending. I encourage you to reach up and reach out. Up to God, and out to your bishop, a local/online support group, or a trusted friend. Know that not everyone knows how to respond to these situations. My prayers are with you. You deserve help. You deserve healing.

To everyone else: Don’t judge and think before you offer advice. Spouses and addicts are still children of God and are worthy of love. My husband a good person with very, very, poor coping mechanisms, as it is with many other addicts. That can be changed. Let them change.

These are some resources that continue to significantly help my husband and me on our recovery:





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When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Destiny

I officially met Destiny at an Early Returned Missionary Conference that she told me about via Instagram. I am so grateful she told me about it because so many blessings have already unfolded from meeting her and going to that conference. I am so glad I got to meet her. She is radiant and doing so much to bless others’ lives!

Destiny grew up in a speck of a town called Paulden, Arizona. She had the privilege to graduate from Academia Juárez in the Mormon Colonies. Her time in Mexico sparked her travel addiction over the last ten years, attending branch meetings on nearly every continent. She had the sweet blessing to serve two missions, one in Budapest, Hungary, and the other as an online Indexing Support Missionary. She had the miraculous opportunity to write “Home Early…Now What?” to help other early returned missionaries. She keeps busy as a social entrepreneur and is currently writing her third book. Her Instagram is @ldsnomad.

I remember coming home early from my mission and struggling when members would say, “the Lord protects His missionaries.”

I couldn’t help but wonder why, in my perspective, I hadn’t been protected. Why did some missionaries have miraculous healings in the field, but I had to come home despite all my prayers, priesthood blessings, and righteous desires?

These questions pulled at my heartstrings for a long time after my return.

It was back in 2009 that I was called to the Hungary Budapest Mission. I was absolutely ecstatic! My parents had both served missions and I had grown up listening to their stories of preaching the gospel, walking until their feet ached, teaching families prepared to receive, and even my mom’s story of when a little boy peed on my mom’s head from a second story of a home. I just could not wait to have my own stories like theirs!

As I neared the end of my time in the MTC, my health acted up for the first time in my life. I was sent home to see if we could find some answers. When the results came back clean, all symptoms had disappeared, and I had proven myself in physical therapy. I was re-assigned to the Hungary mission again. I was told I would fly back to the MTC the next day. I had never really unpacked, so packing was a cinch!

When I arrived in Budapest, I was assigned to the most incredible trainer and we were sent to the city of Pest. The first weeks were absolutely incredible. We got rained on, my feet had blisters, we rarely taught past the first lesson, and we prayed for the Hungarian’s hearts to be open to the gospel. It was hard, but I was in heaven! It was the mission I always wanted and I was extra grateful after my short stint at home.

At some point, though, I started having significant health problems again. I had no idea what was going on, but I knew that if a miracle didn’t happen soon, I’d have to go home. My trainer was wonderful – she saw my heart’s desire to continue working even when I wasn’t feeling well when it definitely would have been safer if I just stayed at our apartment.

Eventually, my health became so serious that I went to live in the mission home for a week. When even complete rest did not help, my mission president said I would go home in the next day or so. My incredible trainer called as many members as she could and asked them to visit the mission home the night before I left so I could say goodbye. I cannot think of a kinder gift she could offer.

I do not remember much about the flight home and next to nothing about the 12-hour drive home with my parents. The next few months were a blur of doctor visits and unanswered questions. My emotions were “off” most of the time because it hurt too badly to think about the mission. I felt like my relationship with my Heavenly Father no longer existed and I struggled to find any kind of peace.

Where was the protection He promised? I often thought that I had let my Heavenly Father down; that there were Hungarians who wouldn’t hear the gospel because “I couldn’t cut it.”

And to add insult to injury, I found that not only would I struggle with physical problems during this time, but also with mental and spiritual problems. I am so grateful for those family members and friends who supported me and provided me with the spiritual opportunities to keep me moving forward.

The experience of coming home early is different for every person. For me, it took a long time before I was able to talk (or even think) about the mission. Vital steps in my healing (even though they were sometimes painful) were:

1. Doing indexing online for Hungarian names

2. Volunteering at the MTC with future Hungarian missionaries

3. Rooming with one of the return sister missionaries from the mission

4. Hanging out with Hungarian mission RMs at BYU

5. Serving as an online Young Church-Service Missionary for 9 months

6. Working for the Church in the Priesthood Department and having many opportunities to share my experience with coming home early

Each little step in my healing has been a direct result of my Heavenly Father’s constant love and my Savior’s Atonement.

I have been able to speak with 100s and read the stories of 1000s of early RMs. My book was a wonderful culmination of 9 years of miracles (both large and small).

My desire has been to try and do what the Lord told Paul to do, “when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:31-33). I have the opportunity nearly every week to talk with and support other missionaries who came home earlier than they expected.

Never in 9 years would I have thought I could reach the point in my healing that I could use my experience for good. That is Jesus’ Atonement. That is Heavenly Father’s love.

I still have days when I wish I had a “normal” mission simply because it would have been an easier road in some ways – but now I am able to better judge my mission on the content and my desire, rather than the length of my service. And I would not change what I have learned about the Atonement, about grace, and about why this life is as hard as it is.

I know He is aware of my heart’s desires. And I now know that the Lord did protect me as a missionary, just in different ways than I expected. He protected my fragile testimony through this growing experience. He protected my heart through the terribly low points. I know the Lord truly does “protect His missionaries.”