Inside a Goddess’s Toolbox

On Sunday I taught the lesson in Relief Society on President Eyring’s talk on “Adversity.”

And he says this: “With all the differences in our lives, we have at least one challenge in common. We all must deal with adversity.”

So I know you’re here with me on this.

My latest bout comes in the form of another miscarriage, which I seem to believe I’ve gotten over till suddenly a midnight fear finds me and convinces me I’ll never bear children again, or I see darling girls everywhere with round bellies cloaked by long, hippie dresses. And so I deal with my own moments of pointless jealousy and longing: longing for another dark-eyed babe, longing to feel that life inside of me, longing for the silly excuse to eat whatever I want, but mostly, longing for answers as to why.

“Why” is my own personal definition of limbo.

“Why” is the middle place for me in a trial: it’s the sticky part between occurrence and being done—or at least moving on. It’s the waiting and wondering that threatens to never go away. It is perhaps—dare I say it?— the actual adversity of the adversity.

One sister in class piped up that learning to endure IS the trial—that it prepares us for that final feat of endurance in old age: the waiting to die. And another sister added that while we wait, “We have everything we need here to fulfill our life mission.” And when that happens, President Eyring tells us: “[That] our spirits will be changed. We will become able to want what God wants, to think as He thinks, and thus be prepared for the trust of an endless posterity to teach and to lead through tests to be raised up to qualify to live forever in eternal life.”

As we walk and move everyday toward that goal, I like to envision myself that future goddess, finally worthy of all that “endless posterity” (hopefully including a few thousand in the form of cherubic baby) with a trove of knowledge that might include how and why I got there. Till then, I’m reminding myself of my goddess potential and the tools I have been given by my loving Heavenly Father—everything I need—to get me back home to Him.

For me:

It begins with prayer. This eventually leads to a diligent rereading of most beloved scriptures and Conference talks, time at the temple, and long conversations with my ever-indulgent spouse and parents.

But there’s more:

In my toolbox there is also my desire to know, to bear more children. There are priesthood blessings. There is the simple need to bake things. And the even simpler need for quiet walks alone. Friends and siblings make it better, as do strawberry milkshakes and long afternoon cuddles with my children as we pour over “I Spy” or “Can You See What I See,” or lately, The Little House series.

It’s truly a wonder, but mostly it’s a given that as women we have the power to heal and endure.  I think about President Ucthdorf’s talk that endows us with the spirit and desire of creation… would creating peace in our souls be any different? Still I find that my tools are not limited to my own sphere and that I know exactly what my children need during their own personal trials. A nightmare? One serene book read aloud and a long prayer with mommy. A blighted math test? A thorough review of flashcards while we mix up the brownie batter.

So. What else is there? What gets you through your own trials? Tell me. Is it your tenacity? Your optimism? A cherished hymn on repeat? A willingness to going outside of yourself in service? Exercise? Chocolate donuts? Cake? Bearing your testimony? Seeking friends out in long conversation? Journaling? Collecting quotes? A dedicated study of relatable “Book of Mormon” stories? A positive attitude? The smiles of your children? The dinners delivered?

My dear fellow future goddesses, let’s share. What is in your toolbox?

About Brooke

(Blog Team) is attempting inner om with this writing stuff. Proud to claim four loud children, a patient husband and a fat black cat as family, she feels blessed to be their mommy-- their giver of kisses and baker of cookies. She is ever seeking a good novel and wishing for the sand between her toes, palm trees, the ocean.

60 thoughts on “Inside a Goddess’s Toolbox

  1. What helps me is knowing God hasn’t abandoned me. That he didn’t necessarily give me this trial. I had a few chemical pregnancies and friends struggling with long term infertility. I don’t believe God gave them this trial to make them a better person… I believe we are mortal bodies and along with that comes sickness, disease, miscarriages, pain… I do believe we can become better people through our trials but I honestly don’t believe all trials are personally given to us by God. Our faith can grow stronger during trials especially if during them we turn to God and the scriptures and stay strong in our faith. Knowing Heavenly Father is there for me, loves me, and understands my pain is how I handle hard times.

  2. Another great topic. I agree with what – I think – Laura is saying. I think we struggle not because “there’s a reason for everything,” or because God wants us to experience a certain trial, but because getting sick, experiencing heartbreak and loss, etc. is all part of the mortal experience. I have had to look at my trials not as a personal slight by God, but as part and parcel of the gift of life on this earth. Changing my mindset from a belief that God controls or monitors every detail of my life to a broader trust in Him has helped me take more responsibility for my life and trials (granted, some things are simply not within our control) and has brought me some comfort. Exercise, chocolate, sleep, getting out of my routine/comfort zone/environment, and close relationships with those who love me helps too! And it’s cliche, but true: nothing takes your mind off your own troubles like serving others – especially those who are struggling more than you.

  3. A few years ago in the midst of a trial I realized what gets me through- faith in the form of anticipation. Four years ago this month I was 8 months pregnant with my fourth baby and we were six weeks into our first post-college job. The day we found out the baby had to be taken early my husband came home and told me he was being let go. Just like that. The company had begged him to come, then shut down his whole division. No severance, no insurance, no savings left. New town, new ward, new friends. We felt paralyzed by fear. Then, almost imperceptibly, a feeling began to grow which gave me hope. I later recognized it as excitement, but for what?

    I realized that over the course of my relatively young life I had known some weighty trials. The common thread throughout them all was the possibility of learning something amazing, of increasing faith, of feeling God’s love anew and more powerfully. I realized that amidst the howling winds of our current trial, I was almost giddy with anticipation for what we would learn, how we would be stronger, how we would be better for having weathered the storm.

    Obviously the anticipation had to be grounded in an already present faith, a faith which was won through adversity itself. Sometimes trials prepare us simply to weather later trials a little more gracefully, to hit the ground running instead of stopping to wallow. Not always. I still do my fair share of wallowing. Sometimes I am blind and faithless. Ok, a lot. But when I am still and faithful, I feel excited for the time ahead in which I know I will feel wrapped in the Lord’s protective embrace as we endure the storm.

  4. What gets me through my trials? The temple and the peace that I can find only there. Close friends who will listen for hours on the phone. Baking enough to fill every surface of my kitchen is a favourite and very comforting therapy. Chocolate is a given, as is crying.

  5. Sunny, I loved your “faith in the form of anticipation” answer…I think that’s as close to my answer as I could articulate (and you did it so much better than I would have.)

    Oh, and also: reading back through my own mishmash of journals and writing and realizing–even if it’s just a whisper of a realization–that I’ve gotten through other things and I can do this, too.

    I think the answer is different for me if the adversity is a sudden huge event or the dull constant ache of adversity’s version of a low-grade fever. For one I gather my strength and push through; for the other I need more but ask less. I find the chronic, quiet kind more difficult.

  6. Brooke
    My Goddess Toolbox contains many “peaces”(these aren’t in any particular order):
    1. Temple Peace
    2. Scripture Peace
    3. Priesthood Blessing Peace
    4. Prayer Peace
    5. Angelic Friend Peace
    6. Journal Peace (I go back and read my past tender mercies and/or past priesthood blessing notes I’ve recorded)
    7. Absolute Faith Peace (which includes the faith that God has an individual plan for me and that everything will eventually be for my eternal benefit.
    8. Love of my Husband and Children Peace
    9. Keeping the Commandment Peace
    10. Personal Revelation Peace
    11. Positive Anticipation Peace – (like Sunny I’ve found there is power and peace in visualizing and praying for a bright future)

  7. I want to second (or third) what Laura said. I do not believe that God gives us trials because he wants us to grow. I believe that trials happen as a result of our imperfect biology, our fallen state, and our mortal existence. Yes, we learn and grow from them, and God helps us through. But he is NOT sitting at his computer waiting to hit the “smite” button. How we choose to handle the trials of our mortal existence is what strengthens or weakens our faith.

  8. Beautiful post Brooke. I love how beautifully Laura put it. I feel exactly the same way, the very nature of being human makes us susceptible to suffering of both body and mind. But I think it is that human condition that enables to become more Christ-like. Maybe it is only through the community of human suffering that we are truly able to develop characteristics like empathy, and succor those that need succoring, strengthening the feeble knees, and lifting up the arms that hang low.

  9. I loved what Laura said, also (and Andrea’s comment about the “smite” button made me smile). I also believe that our trials not only help us become more Christlike, but that they help us come to Christ, so that He can truly become our Savior.
    The things that help me cope with trials are the basics that everyone else has already listed: prayer, scripture study, temple attendance, service, etc. Like Laura, I’ve also found that trusting in God’s plan for me, trusting that He loves me and is aware of my struggles and will succor me, helps me cope as well. That and long, solitary walks on lovely, quiet mornings.

  10. Great post. As funny as it might sound, the thing that gets me through trials the most is reflecting back on past trials and seeing God’s hand in those trying times. It’s happened enough in my 27 years that even when I don’t know how on earth a situation will work out to be for my good as promised, I know unfailing that IT WILL. He can see so much more than I can, and He hasn’t failed me yet.

    More than anything, I find that I’ve also been dealt certain situations that then empower me to reach out and help friends at a later date. I can’t tell you how many friends have landed in my lap as their parents divorce – I’m so glad that I’ve been there, worked through it and can relate in a way that you just can’t understand unless you’ve been there yourself. I’m sure that you’ll be able to help others overcome that sense of loss and grief down the road, Brooke, and their burdens will be lighter to bear because they know you. That, in and of itself, is enough to propel me forward through whatever life throws my way.

  11. PS – Ditto what Laura said. I used to think that everything happened for a reason, but I don’t think that’s necessarily true. I think, however, that God gifts us with tender mercies when He knows a difficult time is on its way, preparing us for what’s ahead, or gives extra blessings after the storm. Either way, He loves us, and He’s more than happy to help us make lemonade out of those struggles that are simply a part of mortality.

  12. What helps me most is knowing that I signed up for all of this…the full life experience! I remind myself that life is a hard job, and that it’s supposed to be a hard job. It takes labor to get a baby born, and it will take labor to get me spiritually reborn. And that’s okay…because I like a steep learning curve, and my time here on earth is limited.

    Besides, the Lord’s plan for my life is bulletproof, where my plan is quite the opposite. I can trust in Him completely, because he knows what’s up. In other words, I’m a beginner at eternal perspective, but he is the Master…(meaning it’s probably not a bad idea to defer to His judgment).

    When I was younger, I always used to chafe at adversity, longing for the return to that most desirable of all states: “normal.” In my older age, I’ve come to realize that adversity IS normal, and my acceptance of it has become somewhat easier. That doesn’t mean I find it easy now, don’t get me wrong, but I do realize that my best course of action is to cultivate the apostle Paul’s attitude in Philippians, Chapter 4:

    11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be acontent.
    12 I know both how to be aabased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
    13 I can do all things through Christ which bstrengtheneth me.

    I remind myself that life isn’t for sissies, that I am not now nor have I ever been a sissy (or I wouldn’t have chosen to come here and get a body), and that I am never alone. Ever.

    And there’s where the prayer and scripture reading and priesthood blessings and uplifting music and meditation and comfort of good friends and family come in…

    =)

  13. i agree with laura to an extent, but sometimes i’m struck with how perfectly the trial & subsequent lesson learned fits that particular person’s scenario. and it seems to me a loving God that would know me so well as to give me a very specific challenge. still, i could be that every trial is applicable because we all have a lot to learn in every aspect of life.

    i think in the process of wondering why, we can glean all sorts of spiritual knowledge and growth– and that it’s up to us to make the best of it. for when i talk about “why?” i don’t necessarily mean it in a woe is me way, but in a why did i need this sort of way, when i start to seek the meaning of it in my life. lest my trials happen for naught.

  14. I really enjoyed reading the post and the comments. When I was caring for my dying mother, I was too tired to read my scriptures and found the hugs of friends and simple prayers comforted me. When my daughter was near death, my faith in Jesus Christ helped me endure. When I cared for my son who was chronically ill for many years, the comfort of the prayer and the Scriptures gave me peace that God knew, loved, and understood us. Last summer when I spent months in bed with complications from surgery, I discovered the power of meditation, which helped me endure the pain and immobility. I discovered that when we still our minds, we can experience peace amid suffering and sorrow.

  15. I firmly believe that we chose our trials before we came to this life. I picture us sitting down with a catalog of trials and a list of the personality traits we still needed to perfect. Some people already had nurturing down pat, but they needed a little more patience to round out their resume.

    When I go through my trials (or watch my schizophrenic husband go through his) I try to remember that I probably chose this. Then I move very quickly on to the “this, too, shall pass” adage. Things won’t always be like this, I won’t always feel this way. Eventually our bodies will be perfected and the chemical misfires in my husband’s brain will work correctly. That gets me through the hard times.

  16. I had a great realization a month or so ago that has helped me greatly through the midst of a very difficult challenge. All trials will end. They are temporary. Like labor, there is really a finite end to the pain and suffering. And I hope, like labor, there is something beautiful at the end worth holding. That’s what keeps me going.

  17. I guess I’m the odd one out, because what gives my trias meaning and helps me endure is my belief that God DID send me that exact trial because it is EXACTLY what I need to grow. I can’t handle the thought that all my years of infertility were just a biological fluke or that my body is some kind of mistake or accident but I can persevere in believing that God chose ME for this unique mission on earth. That He chose me for THIS trial. I don’t believe that just any trial would have been quite the same, I believe that He knows me and knew that this was the very one I needed.

  18. eljee: you’re not odd one out. i think that most of my trials are very specifically my trials– i guess that’s what i was trying to say before. i think that sometimes weird things happen to my body, like one miscarriage i had years ago that was a chemical pregnancy. but this last miscarriage felt very specific: why did i see a heartbeat before i lost the baby? why did my sister find out she was pregnant two days after i lost mine? why were we led to tell our children about the baby only to lose it later.

    these are the questions i seek to answer and the ones i know will make me and my family stronger. and the adversity doesn’t make me feel picked on– it makes me feel loved by a mindful heavenly father, who, just like you said, “knew this was [what]… i needed.”

  19. Couldn’t it go both ways? Could there be specific choices made and still have room for regular, random adversity? Because we all have our own agency, our lives act, interact, and react with others’ lives constantly. Sometimes I think things ‘just happen’, and other times I feel very specifically that this is my particular burden to bear.

    And my tools are likely no different from all the Sunday School answers applicable here. Prayer, in the constant form, has become my companion. Diligently serving in my calling helps me remember I’m not alone in my suffering. Well, and a good dose of denial and feigned ignorance helps me stay happy. I now it’s probably not healthy, or whatever, but I’d like to pretend as long as possible.

  20. Interesting to read everyone’s comments – particularly about how God fits into our trials. I have to believe that all things will work together for my good, and for me that translates to ‘all things happen for a reason.’ -It’s not that I see God as pushing a ‘smite’ button, but whether He causes it or allows it to happen me, it’s all the same for me, because He can and does remove some trials. The fact that He can and does sometimes and doesn’t in other times suggests that there is reason for that. I can’t believe in a randomness, because to me God is more than just a random Being. It’s impossible to wrap our mortal brains around it all, but that’s the way I feel the best. I can understand how sometimes how we say it and sort through it can help us all differently, though.

    What helps me is to try to see pain through an eternal lens, and to try to dig deeper to let faith guide my actions and reactions, rather than fear, panic, pain-avoidance, etc. It’s when I can move into a mode of acceptance of the pain that I start to really feel God’s hand and power and love. When I fight it or am angry about it, the journey is harder. That said, I am also learning that learning how to deal with pain is part of the refining process, so I’m trying to be patient with myself — as I am coming to believe God is patient with me. He knows life is hard. He cares about our pain, even when He knows we could handle it better. That’s part of the veil, imo. Piercing it little by little takes time and practice and faith and more time.

    So much easier said than done, though.

    My new mantra is ‘mortality is not for wimps.’

    The other tangible things that helps me most is talking about the truths that I am pondering and studying (which makes those two elements critical to me, too) — truths that I know but sometimes have to say out loud to feel. For that reason, I’m grateful for friends who will listen, for a Father who is always there, for ward friends who let me raise my hand and say something more than I probably should, and for some particular family members who are willing to sort through the stuff of life out loud with me on a regular basis.

    And you know, sometimes it realy is about hanging on. Believing that in “simply” (althought that isn’t always so simple) not giving up, I’m doing something really important…that in the process of keeping on keeping on, I’m showing myself and God that I really do want to endure to the end.

  21. What helps me is realizing life is so temporary here, so fleeting, and the years are literally flying by. So despite whatever I am going through at the time, I try my best to actually enjoy it, as odd as that may sound. My niece died last year of leukemia, leaving behind her husband and little girl. I learned much from her before she left. For 2 1/2 years she was surrounded by cancer patients. She developed a slogan which was, “This is a day and every day counts.” Just to be alive was a treasure to her. She went through 2 horrendous bone marrow transplants and all the horrific chemo that went with it, and she treasured each and every day she had with her family. She taught me to love each and every day also…despite the challenges.

  22. I have a question for people who see it as all part of God’s plan, or choosing our trials before we come to earth. In life, our trials are often caused by other people doing things on accident, or doing things on purpose to hurt us. Those, I think, are the biggest challenges we face as we learn to forgive and accept Jesus Christ.
    So how does that fit in with your view?

    I want to add, I do think sometimes things happen for a reason–that God guides our lives, but I’m not sure how much.

  23. I have usually found that when I’m in the middle of some really difficult trial that looking for the “why” in the moment is a sure way to make myself feel even worse. For me, the why is always understood only at the end, through hindsight and inspiration and at long last an answer to my prayers. It’s almost always an “OH!” moment, and usually only after my trial has ended.

    I’m going through a bit of “unexplained infertility” myself, and at first I was all about the “why.” “What is my Heavenly Father trying to teach me?” “If I can figure it out, THEN will I get pregnant?” And slowly as I’ve become used to the months on end, I’ve started to think that maybe there is something in the process, and that someday when this trial is over I’ll understand. For now I’m still drawing a blank, and it is still incredibly painful.

    My sharpest and best tool is counting my blessings. Having this specific trial (which I believe so strongly God picked for me, I KNOW He did) has thrown into such sharp relief all the ways in which I have blessed beyond measure, all these wonderful, tangible blessings that I see better now and pay so much more attention to, that I’m so much more thankful for than ever before. And I’ve learned to adjust and fine-tune parts of my testimony that have been dulled over time, and I’ve become a much better person. I haven’t hit on that “one thing” I need to learn, but I guess that’s because there’s not always just one “why.”

    I guess if we could know “why” up front then there’d be no point in experiencing it?

    Anyway, I loved this post, thank you so much for being so open, Brooke. I have always felt a wonderful spirit in what you write, and my prayers are with both of us and our respective future dark-eyed babies. They’re there, I just know it!

  24. oh mmiles, i can so appreciate what you’re saying. and it’s not that i necessarily have an answer, but i do believe that everyone has a choice in how to react to their trials. for example, i have a few siblings who refuse to speak to each other and this has created a very real trial for the rest of us– the heartache certainly, but even just the logistics of family get-togethers can be annoying. i have another brother who has gone through what, by our cultural accounts would be referred to as spiritual death, and this hurts the entire family… actually, i would say that most of my family might call this their largest trial.

    still, i feel like these are very specific trials for our family. we were very much, not snobbish, but we definitely didn’t branch out much and when the family fell apart? we really nurtured some loving friendships and looked into our souls to each find out own testimonies about various gospel things (that came into question… sorry this feels like i’m writing another post!)

    i don’t know. do i just pull these meanings out to make my trials seem meaningful?

    i feel very strongly that without my specific trials i wouldn’t be where i am right now… & i wouldn’t trade the girl on this side of the trials (no matter hard they were) for the girl i was before.

  25. Brooke, Then are you saying God caused your family to fall apart, to not talk to each other, so you would grow?

    Hopefully, no matter what our trials, we grow from them. Hopefully, no matter what our trials, God helps us make lemonade from lemons. He levels the playing field that way. Of course, hopefully, everyone sees how much they’ve grown and who they’ve become as a result of specific trials. I believe though, that God helps us learn from those trials what we need to learn. Perhaps if a different trial came, God would help us learn the same lesson?

    On a global scale, how would things like the Holocaust fit in? What a huge trial? What was really learned? and most certainly, God did not want that to happen.

  26. i’m reading through these comments so inspired– thanks for sharing your hearts.

    and natalie, thank you. and i’m sending prayers your way as well!

    i agree that the why can be a veeerrrry dark place. i guess for me i’m now looking for the why in the little things. or rather, i see reasons why in all the little things: more time with my kids, interesting and needed conversations with other people, time to serve and babysit for friends. really, little bitty things.

  27. As I read through all these great posts, I was wondering how I could contribute… everything is so well-covered. But then I remembered how I feel about who I was before my trials, and who I am now, and I thought… that’s what I’ll share. But then, Brooke, you said it. Through my trials, I discovered how strong I really am. Knowing what I am capable of helps me face down the next hardship. I am so much stronger that that young, naive girl before life smacked her in the face. And I am not bragging. My strength will be tested again and again, whether through my life’s “planned” course, or though the decisions of others. And after we survive, we look at others, and withhold judgement, because who knows what battle they are facing? I have faith, that looking back someday, this will all make sense to us… if we only endure it, and allow ourselves to be strengthened.

  28. mmiles, i love you for engaging me. really. and i truly hope you’re not taking offense in any way to what i’m writing.

    i’m not saying that god caused my family to fall apart. but i am saying that he gave us the differences that might lead us to this place– and had we chose to forgive and let go and forge ahead to understanding and love, then certainly we wouldn’t be here.

    still, i don’t think heavenly father views it as the end of the world! i think it might make him a little sad because it makes US sad, but He “gets it” in a way we don’t– he sees the beginning and the end, and moreover, he sent his son to atone for this & every other crappy little thing like it.

    i think if my family dealt with their issues, we would all be better people, refined, more spiritual, more worthy to be entrusted with “endless posterity” and whatever other blessings await us in the hereafter. but, i have to say that even if we don’t do that in this life, i think he’ll still mold us to be worthy of our blessings in the hereafter.

    and as for the holocaust. (ok. we’re not fighting right?) i think heavenly father let it happen. because i think he is all powerful and all-knowing, i have to concede that he allowed it to happen. i think it was wrong. i think He thinks it was wrong, but sometimes thing just happen. i hope that my tone isn’t misinterpreted here: but i think that sometimes we (and i mean WE) forget about the need for faith in a very imperfect world and during our [short, blip of time] oft difficult mortality. he didn’t send us here for perfection or for a dreamy time, he sent us to have experience. and that’s hard.

    and i think we did learn a lot from the holocaust. there are lessons still learned today, or else it seems we would have forgotten about it.

    i guess what i may not have made clear is that in prior miscarriages, it felt like science, like something didn’t go right; this time it felt very personal. i think there can be all reasons why things happen. and i guess when i talk about the why what i’m trying to say is that as potential goddesses, we can choose the whys. i think heavenly father trusts us more than we realize– i think we can have different opinions, i think we can take what we want to take from whatever happens. i think sometimes he leaves the answers up to us– and not because he leaves us– but because he knows we’re smart and that we’ll learn what we need to.

  29. Brooke,
    I’m not offended at all (and likewise hope I was not offensive) I’m just trying to understand the other view that is so very different from my own. Thanks.

    I agree about the Holocaust, I was simply trying to understand how it would fit into your viewpoint.

    It still doesn’t make sense to me because my own very personal experiences have led me to very different conclusions. But that’s okay with me.

    Thanks for a lovely post and discussion.

  30. When I was younger I thought God caused things to happen. Then I decided things just happened. Now I fall somewhere in the middle, but lean more toward mortality just happening (Especially, as mmiles pointed out, so many trials stem from others’ choices, which God is not controlling). The thing I’ve realized it that, for me, it doesn’t matter. I mean, whether or not God chose or caused my trial, isn’t what is required of me the same? Either way, am I not in need of falling at His feet and pleading for strength or asking what I might learn that would make me a better servant? What difference does knowing God gave me the trial make? Is he going to help me more or less based on whether this particular trial was a special order? No, his offering of peace is the same, my need to turn to him is the same. So, for me, I just don’t feel the need to know anymore. This has helped alleviate the “Why?”, and change it into “What?”- as in what must be done to come through the trial better than when I started.

  31. I was just going to say I believe most of my trials have been “picked for me”. I know God to be intensely personal. I knwo God becasue I find him constantly in the details of my life. That is how I knwo he loves me and knows me. For me finding growth amid trial is critical. Using that sort of halt in life to focus my sort of difficult cathartic energy into some generative. For me I have used those experiences to help other peopl int he same place later on. When I was going through years of pregnancy losses- I led pregnancy loss support groups, I painted, I wrote, I learned to make really good bread. I rely on friends, the joy of others, on the promises of words, and the faith as I constantly find God in the details.

    Excellent post Brooke. As a child life specialist I am cheering too- one of the huge keys to coping is identifying strategies…

  32. My personal feeling has always been that, for the most part, God just lets things play out as they will down here…then acts to turn them to our good. That doesn’t mean I think that He doesn’t orchestrate anything at all, because I know He sometimes does orchestrate events or situations. But much of the time, I believe He just allows us be here on earth…interacting with our various personalities and weaknesses (to say nothing of natural laws)…and then sort of lets ‘er rip! In other words, He doesn’t always make everything happen. Sometimes, He just allows things to happen, when He thinks they will be for our benefit.

    Either way, He turns things to our good, so I guess it’s a moot point and not one I’ve ever been particularly concerned about. Some trials are tailored by God for us. Other times, I think he tailors us to the trials. And we emerge better for either one.

    JMHO, of course.

  33. “I was just going to say I believe most of my trials have been “picked for me”. I know God to be intensely personal. I knwo God becasue I find him constantly in the details of my life. That is how I knwo he loves me and knows me. For me finding growth amid trial is critical.”

    I have a small confession – I’ve never felt that God was all that involved in the details of my life. I pray, attend the temple, read scriptres, all taht stuff. I think there’s value in it. But I have never felt peace as far as any of tmy adversity goes. Don’t get me wrong – I do believe he is aware of everything and in that sense that our trials were assigned or “picked” to us. But I don’t don’t think my trials are that specific to me or that I go through them because I need to learn something from that specific trial. It’s part of being human. I lost my father at a very young age. I don’t think that is unique to me or that I needed to learn something specific from that. of course learning from our experiences is important but I don’t feel like that was something I personally needed to go through. Not trying to take away from those who have felt his hand in their lives, that has just not been my experience. Even though of course he is all knowing and we are strengthened through our faith and we learn from each trial.

  34. I don’t think my children were randomly sent to me and sometimes they are my biggest trials, but those trials have also been my greatest source of spiritual progression.

    There isn’t an either/or to the question about where trials come from. Sometimes we create our own trials. When I prayed about a marriage decision I was given a very clear answer, “You can marry him…but you’ll be choosing the harder road.” I married him and it was a hard, but sanctifying journey… Some of us choose to take the harder roads in life by choosing anger and bitterness over love and forgiveness. Some of choose a harder road by igonoring the admonitions of prophets. In October of 1999 the prophet gave some specific directions regarding our economic choices. Some followed the prophet and others chose to follow their own road. The Lord can help us with our trials, but He also allows us to experience the consequences of our choices.

  35. Brooke, I feel like so many of my trials are of my own making, born of my own weakness, and sometimes this makes it hard for me to ask God for help with them. I feel like I should buck up and handle it on my own.

    Scriptures get me through that, both by giving me the strength to do better and by teaching me to understand the Atonement better.

    Beautiful post.

  36. So how does that fit in with your view?

    I will say first off that I think language gets in the way of discussing this issue, so with that said…

    In my view, we as mortals are pretty linear. We think cause and effect. And so I think it’s easy to impose that kind of linearity on God when things happen (or don’t).

    But I believe God to be so multi-dimensional (that even sounds limiting, but I hope that can capture what I mean — think infinite dimensions) that while He does (and must, imo) let the mortal experience unfold as it does, I believe He is also deeply and intimately aware of and involved in the details of our lives — whatever that means. And He does it all with the infinitely perfect balance of everything good and pure: love, wisdom, knowledge, justice, mercy, understanding, compassion, patience, wisdom, empathy….

    A lot of what I believe about all of this can tie back a lot to what I have read from prophets and scripture, but Elder Maxwell has touched my heart a lot in this way…at least in how I read what he has taught. He talked often of God’s awareness of both the personal and the global (and beyond), and how our trials can be tailored tutoring for us.

    As prophets talk about how God manages (limited word that doesn’t capture it, I’m sure — too easily equated to controlling in a bad way, imo)even empty space in the universe for His purposes, I have to believe that somehow, all the dimensions and connections and pain and trials (incidentally, it’s all those things that the Savior has experienced personally Himself somehow) have their place. I believe there is a Big plan and also a personal plan. I think just as we are each ‘given’ certain gifts, we each have certain opportunities to growth tailored for how we need to grow to become like Him.

    I know others feel differently, but I tend to believe that we will be utterly astonished by how involved He has been in our lives — even as He has allowed all the wonders (and troubles) that come with agency to play out in all their complexity.

    It hurts my brain to think about, but I can’t believe it to be any other way. I have just seen and felt too much interconnectedness, too many tender mercies, too much spread out over decades of time and all coming around, seen too many people’s lives intertwined across time and across the world, too much that ties together and builds on itself, to not believe along these lines.

    I think the 116 pages is a good illustration. God knew those pages would be lost, and even as it was a grave mistake that resulted from bad choices, He made provision for those choices centuries before they were. I don’t believe prophets are the only ones that God knows these kinds of things about. I believe He’s that aware for all of us, somehow.

  37. mmiles, usu. it doesn’t make sense to me either. (my own head i mean.) :)

    and m&m, i’m with you– language just gets in the way of discussing what i know in my heart. i loved your comment.

    xo to all of you! thank you!!

  38. My toolbox seems to be more duct tape, mess and knotted string than a sturdy box to hold everything… But it’s working for me.

    In my toolbox:
    I know that I am loved by my Father in heaven, and He knows what’s going on, even if – PARTICULARLY if – I don’t.
    I sing really loudly to songs that help me. I’m singing one over and over and over and over and over at the moment and it helps so that cd’s not going ANYWHERE.
    I kiss my boys when they are asleep. It makes everything easier and worthwhile to see them like that at the end of another day survived.
    I LOVE the really snarky verses in the scriptures that relate to how I’m feeling. Proof positive that my life being cranky doesn’t mean I’m doing it wrong.
    Laughter. Belly deep, sky high laughter. Vital.
    Temple visit, even if it is once a year. Just the memory of it is a well used tool.
    Having special friends that I can be perfectly, terribly honest with about what I’m feeling/thinking.
    Prayer takes away the weight of what I’m carrying.
    My as yet unused tool – on ‘post-life-layby’ – is the intention/dream I have of crawling up onto Heavenly Father’s lap, have Him hold me in His arms, and explain it all to me. The why’s, the how’s, the tangled messes all worked out.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  39. M&M
    Beautiful comment. I’m sure he is deeply aware of me too. I still don’t think everything is a contrived plan. But I’m sure I’ll be astonished.

  40. Selwyn —
    I drew upon that last tool the other night — see below. It is powerful, and available now!

    A Tale of Three Headaches

    This past weekend, I had three headaches.

    The first I was blessed to know was the kind I have regularly. I knew I just needed to endure it for a day or so. Sure enough, the next morning it was gone.

    That evening, though, I ended up with a different headache that was so bad that I finally had to excuse myself from our visiting friends and go to bed.

    As I lay there with this excruciating headache, I began to pray for relief. Instead of tensing up worrying about how much it hurt, and how long it would endure (what I usually do!), I prayed for faith, and began to remember the times that the Lord heard and answered my prayers in the past. (I curled up in His arms.)

    Thinking through those times, I actually fell asleep — a good, healing sleep, and when I awoke just an hour or two later the headache was gone.

    Even though the third headache was painful, I was grateful it was not that awful headache again! I knew that even if Heavenly Father didn’t take this one away, that He could help me survive it. And I did!

    Adversity seems to be the same — endured, removed, or helped through, it is all made possible through our Heavenly Father’s love! How grateful I am for that!

    Next time I’d like to be reminded of His help & intervention in a less painful way, though! :-)

  41. There have been some wonderful comments here. I would like to add something different I didn’t see mentioned (though I just skimmed, so forgive me if I am repeating).

    Over the past several months I have been pondering over the link between my physical and spiritual body. I think many of us have been prone to focus on spiritual things to the neglect of the physical. Our doctrines teach that we are here to gain a body and be tested. The gift of a body was denied Satan and his followers. These and other doctrines send a clear message to me that the body is vitally important.

    So how does this relate? In the past, though I practiced the Sunday school answers (which are great answers) to cope with adversity, the physical tools I used were eating too much chocolate, or too much food in general, staying up too late to get “me” time, skimping on my appearance because I was stressed and didn’t feel like it, etc.

    Since February, I have focused on treating my body more like a temple. I cut back on sweets and changed my diet to include healthy foods in proper portions, with occasional treats. I exercise religiously (mostly running). I am trying to get more sleep. As a result, I have lost 42 pounds, gotten in great shape, and my spirit has a much better home. I dress a little better. I blowdry my hair and do a little makeup almost everyday. This doesn’t take long, as I can shower, dress, and do hair and makeup in 20 minutes, but it makes a world of difference.

    I have experienced pre-partum depression with each of my pregnancies, but after the fifth (born just over a year ago), it didn’t just magically disappear after delivery like it had in the past. Though I had never been a runner before, I feel grateful for the prompting to purchase a treadmill just before my daughter’s birth. Running has not only helped my physical health, but it has been the key to my mental health as well.

    When both my body and spirit have been properly nourished, I find myself much better able to cope with adversity.

  42. Ugh, BROOKE! No wonder you’ve been quiet.

    I haven’t yet fully cultivated exactly how I feel about trials and adversity. I know they suck big time and that’s pretty much as insightful as I get about it in the moment. I know, real mature, huh?

    I can’t say whether my trials are ones given to me or chosen by my Heavenly Father or whether they happened by circumstance and chance. In truth, adversity probably occurs as an equal result of both. I know that the refiner’s fire is a very real concept, at least to me personally, and one that I’ve become very familiar with over the last several months in particular.

    I think what gets me through the most is the knowledge that whatever I’m going through personally, whatever my family is going through, will end. It can’t last forever, and the knowledge that things are never as bad as I tend to think they are in the moment makes me feel a lot better too. My dad said something to me a few months ago along the lines of “if everyone threw their problems into a pile on the table, you’d take your own back before switching with someone else”. And that is the truth right there my friend.

    Things could always be worse, but you know, they can always get better too. I’m voting more for the latter in the future.

  43. M&M,

    I liked the reference to Elder Maxwell’s idea of trials being tailored to tutor us. I thought about it for a little while and the way that makes sense to me is like this:

    If I go to tailor to have a pair of pants suited to my body, does that mean the tailor gave me the pants? Most likely not. Those pants were just on a rack, not even mine until they became mine and not tailored to me until I took them to the tailor to be fitted to my particular needs.

    In life I may pick up trials of my own choosing, be given trials by the choices of others, or simply be handed trials by mortality itself. In any of these instances I am welcome to take those trials to the Master tailor and ask that they be fitted to best suit me. I can choose to be tutored, or I can choose to slop around in trials that end up doing nothing for me. Like ill-fitting pants, they tend to magnify the less-than appealing parts of me.

    As for the 116 pages, just because God is omniscient doesn’t mean He is directing that which He knows. We should remember none of us lives in a vacuum. When a tragedy befalls a person and we rush to comfort ourselves by claiming God’s will, we must remember the countless other lives said tragedy is affecting. Was that trial pre-tailored to fit all of their respective needs? Impossible. We are all so different, there is no “one-trial-fits-all” straight off the rack. Meaning, if a mother is stricken with terminal cancer, are we to believe that she, her spouse, her children, extended family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, nurses, doctors, etc., and anyone else whom her suffering might affect all needed that trial? God hand-picked that trial for all of those people, including the children? Or might we say that when such a trial befalls, a merciful God knows how to tailor that experience to the benefit of each of those individuals. It then becomes a “tailored tutoring”, not a one-size-fits-all school uniform thrust upon us by a school master who has a lesson to teach us.

    Now, being omniscient, I believe God can prompt us to prepare for our trials. I believe, as do you, that He moves in our lives and invites us to the best possibilities for our happiness. I just don’t believe He literally moves our lives. Somewhere in there agency gets lost and the whole thing gets sticky.

    That’s what I got. What do you think?

  44. Parenting is supposed to teach us (in microcosm) to think and feel a little more like God, right? Well…

    Sometimes I deliberatly give my children hard chores to do. Other times I watch them make their own painful messes, and then help clean up the situation. Sometimes I separate them from one another so they can work on certain things alone. Sometimes I put them in deliberate pairs or groups for learning purposes on certain jobs. Sometimes they naturally interact with one another within the household. I don’t cause everything, but I am extremely aware of the nuances of what’s going on between each personality.

    So often, I intervene to prevent them from hurting each other, especially when the potential injury is serious.

    But other times I can predict with perfect accuracy that one sibling is about to get hit or kicked by another [think: preschool sharing issues], and yet I don’t intervene. Why? Mainly for two reasons:

    1. Experience teaches some things better than my words. The agressor needs the chance to act, before he can be punished. And he needs to experience the natural result: alienating the sibling. And the victim learns too to give a wide berth to the other on certain toys/issues for a while. Sometimes both are at fault, and both learn from the situation.

    2. When one child is an innocent victim, I know the child well enough to know how to make it up to him/her. For instance a 2-year-old might genuinely feel like the world’s coming to an end because the 4-year-old kicked her. And her grief is real and intense. But I know full well that if I pull out her Dora doll and offer ice cream, she can be fully and immediatly “healed” of the injustice. And her body really is capable of healing from minor bumps, bruises and even bites. She will be truly, totally okay by the end of the hour. She may not believe it, but she will. And when the agressor sees her thus rewarded, he will again be taught by experience about appropriate behavior.

    In these circumstances, more good is served by watching and waiting than by swooping in to intervene ahead of time. And sometimes, I have the joy of seeing an agressor sibling rise to the best within and autonomously offer sweet apology hugs, etc., that build relationships.

    God, the perfect parent, obviously weighs these kinds of things perfectly. Please understand, I’m not trying to make light of anyone’s horrendous experiences with sexual abuse, or the like. But I do take comfort in the idea that God knows perfectly when a trial will kill us spiritually (and thus intervenes) and when other principles at play might justify not intervening, for the long term good of us and others.

  45. love the link, f.n.f!

    i dredges up so many emotions about 9-11 for me, and is so inspiring and love filled.

    again, it’s like mmiles’s holocaust question. i don’t think heavenly father made 9-11 happen. but i do think he knew it was going to happen and he let it happen. to me that still means he’s in charge of everything. (is that what we’re getting at? or am i losing sight of the question??? it’s late…)

    anyway, sunny, i don’t feel like challenges are one size fits all– even if it’s the same challenge like you said, cancer, and how it affects an entire family of people. i think it’s because we get to choose what we want to learn from it and we get to “tailor” it to our needs and wants. i completely agree with what you’re saying about the free agency part getting sticky– but somehow in my mind, it makes complete sense that our free agency is acquired and exercised at many different points during/after/before the trial.

  46. and kristin, i love what you said. & you go girl! 42 pounds! good job! exercise has always been an outlet for me too and though i do love a good binge, you’re so right when you say that you just FEEL better when you eat right.

    even more, i’m finding that something even simpler this time around is helping loads: basic house work. like mopping the floor and sweeping. wiping down counters. or doing all the laundry. just moving my body (instead of sitting on my bum– which is what i would be prone to do) and being productive has been so therapeutic.

  47. Brooke,

    One of us must be misunderstanding the other, because it sounds like you are saying what I said, but saying you disagree in part.

    Just to clarify: We both believe the trials aren’t necessarily pre-tailored, but our learning is tailored. Yes? No?

    We do exercise agency in all stages, which is the point of what I was saying. Yes? No?

  48. yes, i completely agree! i guess i just feel like heavenly father is really involved in all of my trials and that they are tailor made/picked/handed to me. specifically. and that didn’t seem the tone at the beginning of these comments. so long ago. yesterday morning… lol.

    (i need to go to bed…)

  49. I think we diverge at the hand-picked. I see most things being part of our choices, others choices, or simply mortality. I see the tender mercy of the Lord being that no matter the source of the trial, the offering of peace is the same. That is where the tailoring comes in. I’m not 100% against the idea that God sends trials at times, but I also don’t see where it matters. His presence isn’t lessened by a lack of divine trial-giving. Again, the source isn’t what matters, is it? The answer remains the same: To turn in faith to Him who can teach us to bear all things.

    Good night.

  50. still don’t think everything is a contrived plan.

    I don’t think I do, either. :) This is an example of where I think language could get in the way. If we could really communicate and speak in a purer way, what would a “plan” look like? What would it mean that God is “involved” in the “details” if our lives? Would that be the same as what we think of as ‘contrived’ or somehow limiting agency? I just have to believe it’s so much more layered and complex than we can capture, or communicate here.

    Again, in the end, all I can really lean on is what I have felt. The wonder of how tender mercies works just leaves me in awe of how He can respect agency and yet seem to sometimes move the world just to let me know He is there, to bring the right person in my world at the right time, to get me to the right place (or, maybe better said, at least “a” right place ), to guide my decisions so that things happen to help me in specific ways….

    I realize that this can be taken to an extreme, where I might think He cares about which can of beans I use for dinner, and so I realize there is some balance here.

    I also realize that this could be taken to mean that He somehow scripts everything to such a degree that agency is lost, but of course that can’t be true. Again, I think this interplay of involvement and agency is beyond our capacity to really grasp.

    And I know for some people, thinking that God is involved, or interposes things, makes pain harder to take. For me, it makes it easier, because I know He’s not just somehow him-hawing while ‘randomness’ takes over in my life. I have to believe that if He counts hairs on our head, knows and numbers the days of our lifetimes, knows of every sparrow’s fall…that He’s involved in my life, too. Whatever that means.

    One last thought — somewhere in the scriptures, we are told that God speaks to us in our own language. I think this is not just in the country-of-origin languages we speak, but also in whatever language reaches us where we are in our lives. So, maybe in a sense we are each experiences Who God Is in our own language (including the language of experience) and part of why we sometimes can’t communicate it well or fully agree on how to say it all is because we each speak a little different language.

    ?? Maybe???

  51. Again, the source isn’t what matters, is it? The answer remains the same: To turn in faith to Him who can teach us to bear all things.

    Interesting. To me, the source can matter. I can’t bear the thought of it all just being random, the playing out of mortality. In my language, that feels more like mortality somehow trumps God. The unfairness of life is too hard to bear for me w/o some sense of some eternal purpose that goes beyond mortal measures of good/bad, hard/easy, painful/joyful. In my language, there is more peace in knowing that it isn’t just God sitting back and letting things happen, but that His *deliberate choices* to intervene or not, the choosing between when it’s time to simply strengthen my shoulders vs. remove me from bondage, as it were, that are part of helps me turn to Him. The end result is the same (to learn to turn to Him to help me bear all things) but for me there is more to it all than just bearing it. I have to be able to process why it is that some are healed and some aren’t, and I have to believe there is a bigger purpose that takes our needs for growth, etc. into consideration — even if some of that is only understood later, post-veil.

    To bring some personalness to it, in my language, as someone with chronic illness that I know *could* be healed, and having seen and heard of miraculous and more instant healings, I have to believe that it’s not all random that I am still struggling. I don’t believe God relishes in my suffering, so I have to believe that He would remove it if it were in my (and who knows who else’s) best interest.

    I think of the Savior who said, “If it be possible, let this cup pass.” Sometimes our cups are lifted, sometimes we have to drink. To me, that simply can’t be random, willy-nilly, ‘well that is just mortality’ kind of stuff. I have to believe there is more to the different ways our trials pan out, why some miracles come as we desire and others don’t, than just ‘mortality.’

    But again, that’s where I am. I think we each have to find what feels right as we try to figure out who God is and how He works. None of us can authoritatively state what that is, so all we have to work with is what we feel and have experienced.

    Now I’m getting repetitive. Writing about it helps me sort through it, so thanks.

  52. It is a lot to think about. I’ll mull it over in my dreams tonight. I’m afraid I’m too sleepy to conjure sense out of the oatmeal that is my brain right now. A good night’s sleep and hopefully I will be more articulate and able to better understand your views as well.

    Night.

  53. One year ago my 2 and a half year old daughter, Sarah, was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Sarah passed away in December, just a few weeks shy of her third birthday. These past several months have been intense with grief, as I have tried to move forward without my precious daughter. Amid the sorrow and pain, my heart has been filled with peace and comfort. I have found happiness and hope as I nourish my soul in four ways: spiritually, physically, mentally and socially. I am grateful the Lord has provided many ways which, if followed, will lift our spirits and send us on our way rejoicing. The Atonement, scriptures, prayer, visting teaching, temple attendance, creativity, beautiful hymns, service, the list goes on and on…

  54. oh, cgiles, much love to you and your family. thank you for sharing your story. beautiful. and we are so blessed with all the, as you put it, “many ways which, if followed, will life out spirits and send us on our way rejoicing.” you should have written the post!

    and i guess that’s where i disagree with sunny and agree completely with m&m: the source matters completely to me and it comforts me to no end that heavenly father sent the trial to me and not that it’s a random occurrence.

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