I woke up this morning, and decided waking up was a personal miracle from the Lord. I breathed in, slowly allowing the breeze from the window to fill up my lungs. My eyes looked over the bedroom — another miracle. I could see the dim outline of the bed, the closet, the desk. Another breath brought me sitting slowly up. Another miracle.

In a small hand-held mirror, I looked at my face. Wrinkles have started their slow, still subtle appearance, but they make me smile. I’ve lived long enough to watch my face change…how cool. I felt my head — my smooth, bald head — and marveled at what it held inside. My hands ran to the back of my head, the staples and rough scars still intact. The Lord’s tender mercies overwhelmed me.

Back in the hospital, lying in bed last Sunday morning, I was surprised by three unknown visitors. “We were informed that you are LDS,” one woman said softly, “May we bring you the sacrament?”

My face went flush. The Lord knew. He knew I needed those strangers. As one gentleman knelt to bless a single piece of bread for me, to offer the sacramental prayer entirely on my behalf, I knew just how blessed I was. The covenants I was renewing, the blessings promised that day, were more for me than they ever had been on any Sunday previous. The Lord’s promises are sure. I was once again reminded that I knew. Another miracle.

Sentimentality took hold, and I wept my way through the next day. My children were nothing but darling. Toast and jam was elixir from Heaven. Crying babies were to cherish. They let me leave the hospital; what an amazing smell the outdoors held. The sun! The sweet nurse intern! My beautiful driveway! Everything made me teary with joy.

Over the next several days, my blessings magnified themselves. Or did I perhaps just take more care to notice the Lord in my life? Home seemed more precious. I could almost walk. I could almost read. I could laugh. I could hug.

Reality tried really hard to shake me away, crying turned into a screaming baby. A screaming baby turned into a chorus of crying and whining children. Messes abounded, spills, accidents and mishaps appeared. Someone developed croup. Someone stuck an entire book through the shredder. Healing was slow. Pain still lingered.

Something settled over me at the moment of critical mass, though. Just as I lay there, unable to move or attend to any of the problems, feeling my most vulnerable and weak, medicated and unable, something calm and reassuring came, something not sentimental or unsustainable, but something that came and unpacked itself, moving into my insides to take up residence.

Count your blessings.

And they’re all blessings.

The crying, the messes, the sickness, the stress, the surgery, the laughing, the good food, the jokes, the chores, the arguments, the cold cereal mornings, the private moments of testimony. They’re all blessings. Take it all and learn something. Whatever it is I’ve got to figure out, take it all in and learn from it. “…That they may always have His Spirit to be with them.”

So I think I will.

What are you determined to learn today?


  1. Azúcar

    June 28, 2008

    It’s a lovely mess.

  2. Cindy

    June 28, 2008

    This is a topic I’ve thought about a lot. Two scriptures I like to remind myself of when things get messy:

    1 Thessalonians 5:18 – “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of Christ Jesus concerning you” (KJV, emphasis added).

    D&C 78:19 – “And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more.”

    The messes I am trying to love today: stubborn nurses who won’t waive hospital protocol to let me get some sleep!

  3. mauri

    June 28, 2008

    amazing perspective…
    and cindy’s scriptures add so much

  4. Wendy

    June 28, 2008

    Beautiful, Justine. Really. And timely. I am determined to learn to focus more on the positive than the negative. There will always be some of both. In some situations, and too often, I let the negative loom over me, blocking my view of the positive. I appreciate the gratitude scriptures for their added perspective.

  5. jendoop

    June 28, 2008

    Thank you, that is beautiful. My life has recently adjusted to health issues also, I’m amazed at the calmness I’ve found. Used to run around crazy, doing too much for those that weren’t most important. I’m now happy to be home doing what little I can for those that are my whole world.
    Side effect of this is I count the blessing of chocolate as one of the good things I shouldn’t deprive myself of! If I died tomorrow I’d be sad I didn’t eat more chocolate and cheesecake. If I die in 20 years I’ll be sad I ate so much chocolate and cheesecake!

  6. Dalene

    June 28, 2008

    Justine–I love your perspective. It’s so beautifully expressed. The comments have been spot on as well. Thanks!

  7. m&m

    June 28, 2008

    What am I missing??? Is this recent? As lovely as this post was (I will have to ponder it for a while) I am freaking out wondering what is going on with Justine!

  8. Eirol

    June 28, 2008

    I understand you have some essays from Jennie Westenhaver. Where may I find those, please? I’m a total newcomer to Seagullah

  9. Justine

    June 28, 2008

    M&M, I’m sorry, I had some lovely brain surgery three weeks ago. A bit unexpected, but I’ll be fine… in six months…

  10. m&m

    June 29, 2008

    Justine, I was so worried I called you today! If I can do anything, let me know!

  11. Justine

    June 29, 2008

    Cindy, thank you for those scriptures. They are perfect.

  12. Maralise

    June 29, 2008

    Eirol–If you click on contributors on the right hand column of the blog, scroll down to Jennie, there will be a list of her posts. Welcome!

  13. Cindy

    June 29, 2008

    No problem, Justine. I love them. I constantly refer back to them. I’ve been in the hospital a few times this year (your essay had pretty ironic timing, since I am in this week) and I usually write one or the other of them on my whiteboard.

    And by the way: I’m pretty sure that there is lots of chocolate and cheesecake in heaven!

  14. Jane

    June 29, 2008

    Isn’t it amazing that those on the outside can feel comfort by the one needing comfort? Your writing made me feel peace and I was comforted by you!

  15. Zina

    June 30, 2008

    “I’m pretty sure that there is lots of chocolate and cheesecake in heaven.” How weird am I that out of this lovely post and all the lovely comments, THAT is the one that brought tears to my eyes? 🙂 It’s a great sentiment, though — and a great reminder that in addition to finding joy in this life, we have incomprehensible joy to look forward to after this life.

  16. Heather O.

    June 30, 2008

    Wow. Justine, you rock.

  17. Justine

    June 30, 2008

    Don’t worry Heather, it won’t last. I’ll need another traumatic experience by next summer to remind me of all this stuff again…

  18. kristen

    July 2, 2008

    THanks for your thoughts, Justine. I truly agree. If we could thank God for our daily “messes” I think we would weep with joy a lot more often.

    Hope you are doing okay.

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