To say we’ve had a rough start to 2015 is a bit of an understatement.
The new year rang in blaringly loud with what seemed like a fun trip up to Midway, Wasatch County, to spend the day with family friends on their ranch. We went on sleigh rides, ate cowboy chili and drank hot cocoa, went sledding and even ice-skated.
Then the next day slowly dawned, and my husband mentioned his back feeling a little sore from all the activity the day before. He’s had a bad back for years, so feeling stiff, sore and achy is nothing new. It’s just been a constant part of his life.
But this time was different. After a few more days, the pain in his back turned excruciating. He couldn’t walk. Then he couldn’t sit. Then he couldn’t roll over. It was when he couldn’t even lift up his arms to get a drink while lying down that I said I’d had it: “We’re going to the ER,” I said.
Of course, he refused, saying it was nothing he hadn’t dealt with before, even though it was 10 times worse. But after another night of agony spent downstairs on the floor, he agreed.
Because he couldn’t walk, sit, stand or roll over, the paramedics came and lifted him via tarp onto a stretcher. We told them it wasn’t an emergency, that we only needed a transport vehicle. So naturally, about 10 paramedics, two patrol cars and a fire truck showed up on our tiny street.
As I watched them drive away with my husband, I felt the tiny fractures that I had been trying to repair over the past few months — fractures caused by other trials and challenges — slowly cracking apart again. I canceled a fireside I was supposed to speak at that night, something I’ve never done. I felt like my life just took a giant step into the unknown, and I didn’t know if my lamp had enough oil to keep the way lighted.
A day later, my husband was released. He was still very weak and practically immobile, but my mother and I were able to get him upstairs and into bed. Two days later, we received news from a neurologist that he would need surgery.
Two weeks prior, I went in for my 20-week ultrasound. I was given the news that my sweet baby boy may be at risk for Down syndrome. I spent the entire holiday weekend wondering what this would mean for our family life; how it would bless and challenge us; what I could do to prepare. A week later, we received a call saying whatever they saw at the ultrasound was not of concern.
This week, I woke up extra early with our youngest, who decided that 5:30 a.m. was a great time to start the day. I groggily made my way downstairs only to notice it was rather chilly in our house, even for a frosty winter morning. Sure enough, our heater quit working during the night.
When I recently took my boys for a quick trip to the grocery store, I noticed my second son looked a little peaked.
Thank heavens we were in the parking lot, and after asking if anyone was watching (he gets very embarrassed and is an extremely private little guy), he threw up what seemed like everything he’d had over the past week.
I got home, put the groceries away, wiped off our spattered shoes, made “dinner” (cereal and a pancake mix), bathed the boys in two different baths and then fell into bed.
In moments like this, I let myself have a small breakdown. Then I pick up my scriptures and begin to add more oil to my lamp, one verse, one talk, one quote, one prayer at a time.
Those tiny drops of oil have made all the difference. Those drops have provided me with enough sustenance to keep moving. I have noticed a huge difference between the days I prepare myself spiritually and the days I don’t.
Friends, family and neighbors have gone way above and beyond to help over the past month. Support has poured in, both in earthly and heavenly forms, but it still has been hard.
My sister told me about a quote that made me look at these small trials so differently.
“Just when all seems to be going right, challenges often come in multiple doses applied simultaneously. When those trials are not consequences of your disobedience, they are evidence that the Lord feels you are prepared to grow more (see Proverbs 3:11-12). He therefore gives you experiences that stimulate growth, understanding and compassion which polish you for your everlasting benefit” (Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Trust in the Lord,” October 1995 general conference).
“So that means the Lord thinks you are ready to grow more,” my sister said encouragingly.
The thought almost made me cry. Is my Heavenly Father actually giving me these trials because he knows I am capable of becoming more? When I plead to him for help, is he not only listening but also, perhaps, working out all these things to “give (me) experience, (so they) shall be for (my) good” (Doctrine and Covenants 122:7)?
That is incredibly powerful. That gives renewed strength to endure. I am “not yet as Job” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:10).
This year may be off to a difficult start, but when I see the possibilities of what blessings may come after “much tribulation” (Doctrine and Covenants 58:4), I am filled with joy and optimism.
“Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you” (Doctrine and Covenants 68:6).
I cannot think of anyone standing next to me in my trials who would be greater than the Lord.
Carmen Rasmusen Herbert is a former "American Idol" contestant who writes about entertainment and family for the Deseret News.