Playing a little catch-up this weekend! The last month has been full of fun and lots of firsts for Riker and I. Our first Christmas together brought our first tree, decorating the house, opening presents together (since I may or may not have opened nearly all our wedding gifts without him. Like that one episode of Friends...) and figuring out our own Christmas traditions. Here are just a few pictures! Not a lot to say today but this is the first time I've had internet access on my own personal computer so I can add photos. :) I actually have a TON of stuff to do back home but instead I chose to spend time taking pictures with my amazing new camera from my parents! And then come into town so Riker and I could have a lunch date. I just love him.
Originally, I was going to ask you to forgive me for waxing philosophical but it's a Friday so I feel no need to apologize. Really, I suppose it wouldn't matter which day of the week it was, I still wouldn't apologize.
As I was driving into town today everything was covered in a thick curtain of fog. Fog, for me, brings lots of different thoughts. When I was younger, I didn't like it very much. Mostly because of the scary movies I had seen where the bad guy comes out of the fog and all that kind of thing. I was fairly convinced that bad guys are just a part of the fog and will jump out at any moment and grab you and drag you into the fog and you will never be seen again. I'm over that now. Mostly. However, now, fog represents so much more to me.
With my fibro, I get brain fog. I literally feel like I'm walking around in fog inside my head some days. I have to write everything down or else I don't remember. It's frustrating. But that isn't what I wanted to "wax philosophical" about today. Down the road there were thick patches of fog that required me to slow down, thin patches where I could go faster, and places merely 3 feet from the edge of the road that were completely obscured. And then it came to me--the analogy of life that fog represents. Oh boy. This could get out of hand, but I'll do my best. I hope you can follow my thought process....
Obviously, you are..you in this analogy. As we drive down the road of "life" [I can see you rolling your eyes! Stop it!] the fog makes it hard to see what is ahead. Perhaps it is because Riker and I are at this point in our lives that it struck a chord with me. We can't see what is ahead. The end of the road is obscured by that fog and there is no telling who is on the other side or where the next curve is or if someone misjudged where the edge of the snow covered road is and you have to swerve to miss their garbage can that they stuck practically in the middle of the road [speaking from experience].
I have come to truly appreciate fog over the years but today I realized why. No matter that it hides the road, it also helps you see things you normally might miss. I had to slow down quite a bit and as I did, I noticed beautiful views that I normally miss as I go screeching down the road so I'm not late to work. I have had deep frustration stem from not seeing what lies ahead. The fog in my life has been mostly a negative experience for me--but only because I painted it that way. Rather than welcoming the opportunity to slow down and notice what I usually miss, I tend to push myself into trying to go as fast as I can even with obscured vision. It's dangerous; whether or not I really am driving into work or we are thinking about life.
There are also times as you drive that suddenly the fog parts and you can see the sun slowly rising and the clear road ahead. Those, in the past, have been my favorite times. Finally, I can speed up and fly into work or at least fly until I hit another wall of fog. Today, I have challenged myself and I'm extending that challenge to you as well. Enjoy the fog. Enjoy the times you have to slow down, the times you don't know where you are or where you are going, take the time to notice what you usually deem unimportant, and enjoy the beauty of the fog--the way it lifts and changes, when it's there and when it's not.
My wonderful younger brother, Kyle, is currently serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Nicaragua. Every Monday we get to email him and this week was no different. I also spoke in church yesterday so I emailed him my talk. He requested that I share it on my blog as well. It is a personal expression of my love and understanding of the great sacrifice Jesus Christ made for us and how I am choosing to remember this Christmas season.
Me, Carson, Kyle. Candid photo, believe it or not!
Riker and I were approached several weeks ago and asked to
speak. We knew it was coming—we’d been warned when we first moved in. We
managed to lie low for almost 3 months. I have to say, though, that I was
realllly excited about speaking during December. It is my favorite time of the
year. In fact, Riker had to beg me to only listen to Christmas music when he wasn't around. I am indeed one of “those” people. I started listening as soon
as Halloween was over. When I was little, I can say that my excitement came
from the thought of Santa arriving, presents under the tree, the fireplace, hot
cocoa, and especially the songs. Clearly, I still love the songs and I love
Santa’s yearly appearance but as the years have continued on, my appreciation
now stems from the birth of our Savior.
Around this time of year, we hopefully tend to think about other people.
What kinds of gifts they would love, what they would use, what they need. We were
asked to speak about gifts—the gifts that we have received from our Savior
Naturally, things came popping into my mind. Resurrection,
two that Elder Christofferson spoke about last week in Saturday’s Stake
Conference meeting faith and repentance, his Crucifixion, and of course, the
As I debated which one to focus my main talk on, I shied
away from the Atonement. I felt as though that is a talk that is given every
other week; however, my mind continued to come back to it. I was reminded of my
own personal experiences of how I came to a testimony of the Atonement and felt
I should share one of them.
Just under two years ago, I had the special privilege of
attending a meeting with one of the General Authorities. It was at BYU and except for me and one or two
others, of the 25 people or so, we were the only members of the church. I was
called as a ward missionary and as several people living in our ward boundaries
were not members, my Bishop asked if I would like to attend. It would be a
question and answer forum. I was ecstatic. I was waiting on my mission call and
wanted to hear an apostle of the Lord personally teach a room full of
non-members. As we arrived, each of us were handed a piece of paper and we were
requested to write down a question we had that would be answered. I’m a little
ashamed that I can’t remember the name of the Brother with who we were meeting,
but I distinctly remember the feeling in that room as one by one he addressed
the questions of everyone. At first, I wasn't going to write a question down. I
felt as though this was the other’s opportunity. However, as I listened, a long
time question that I had always had, came to mind. I was hesitant to write it
down. And yet, I did anyway feeling a little embarrassed to have been raised in
the church and still asking this question. Our names weren't on the papers so I
figured I would be ok. When my question came, he studied it for a few moments
before reading it aloud and answering.
I had asked, in one form or another, “I understand that
Jesus is our Savior, He died and suffered for us, and we can repent and be
forgiven but how does the Atonement truly work? I don’t really get that.”
His answer, at first, disappointed me. He replied, “I can
see that whoever wrote this question has really pondered this for a while. I
don’t want to discourage you, but I don’t know. I don’t know exactly how it
works. That is something that each of us must figure out on our own. I only
know that it does work.”
Well, that was just great. Everyone else had had concrete
answers and I was told to “figure it out on my own”. A few short months later, I would. I had my
mission call and went through a personal roller coaster of whether or not I
would serve. My older brother, have had my differences with, called me after
I texted to tell him I decided I wasn't going to go. He drove a couple hours to
come see me for about 30 minutes and told me something I will never forget. It
helped the ball get rolling for me.
“Chelsea, Heavenly Father loves you and will be happy no
matter the decision you make. One thing I can tell you for sure is that you
will receive blessings no matter which path you go down. If you decide to stay
and then get married, you’ll be blessed. If you decide to serve, you will be
blessed. And the other thing I can tell you for sure is that the blessings will
not be the same. When you return, there always the possibility that you will
get married and receive those blessings. However, the chance to serve the Lord
and meet some amazing people, those blessings are now. The Lord will love you
no matter the decision, but make a decision.”
And I did. I decided to serve. Exactly one week before I was
to report to the MTC, I got a call from my doctor telling me that I did, in
fact, have mono. It had been active in my system for quite some time and they
hoped that only a 6 week delay would suffice.
The day was finally here and yet I felt like it was any
other day. I was certain that since it had been such a complicated road to get
there that yet again, something would stand in my way. The moment we pulled up
to the curb, I saw a friend from home standing there to greet me. I almost didn't say goodbye to my parents because I was so excited. I know that it
actually wasn't but I feel as though that is the day I started to understand
the Atonement. Even though I had been medically cleared, I was sick from the
day I entered to the day I left. It was a hard time; however, there were so
many wonderful people with me that I felt right at home. I was with my brothers
and sisters and I knew many of them from life outside the MTC. As the weeks
progressed, my Spanish didn't exactly progress, but my sickness did. I believe
I had a blessing at least once a week. I felt little comfort come from those
blessings because I felt so sick; especially as the weeks continued and I wasn't getting better as promised. My companion and I started missing classes
because I wasn't able to get out of bed. I went to the doctor for about the 3rd
or 4th time in a 2 week period and discussion started about sending
me home. They weren't sure what was wrong but I certainly couldn't maintain the
missionary schedule. It was far too rigorous. They tried several medicines and
when none worked, the final decision was made to send me home.
The days leading up to that were among some of the most
spiritual and memorable moments in my life. You know you have truly hit rock
bottom when you are kneeling in a one person bathroom where if you stretch your
arms out you can touch both walls and you are sobbing and praying that Heavenly
Father help you in some way. It was in those MANY moments kneeling on a
bathroom floor that I truly learned what the Atonement was. Other experiences
in my life would try to steal the spotlight from these moments, but even with
how powerful the other experiences were, nothing could compare to the Spirit
that testified to me in an old bathroom at the MTC.
I knew I wasn't alone. Despite how small this bathroom was,
I know that my Savior was kneeling beside me whispering words of comfort. Some
experiences are too sacred to share, however I will tell you that I gave the
time I had for my mission everything that my body and soul possessed and Jesus
the Christ my Savior and Redeemer gave me all that He had. I returned home
after 9 weeks in the MTC. I have never cried so much as I did the nights
leading up to my leaving. I knew, before they told me the night before I was to
fly out, that I was going home. Not only was I going back, but I wouldn't be
returning. The doctors had told me 3 months and I’d be golden, however, my
moments alone told me my mission was at the close.
Through my darkest days of pain and exhaustion, I suddenly
knew that I was never alone. That Christ knew exactly what it was to go through
what I was experiencing. He held my hand. I feel as though this quote sums it
up, “Jesus would provide a way for us to be resurrected and, by His shouldering
our punishment and guilt, a way to be cleansed. However, those would not be the
end of His gifts. He also took upon Himself our infirmities and sorrows. He
provided a way for us to be consoled through every trial. He suffered alone so
that we would never have to do the same. Through His Atonement all of us can be
covered, helped, comforted, and ultimately embraced.” (pg 47, The Continuous Atonement)
I indeed was covered, helped, comforted, and ultimately
embraced. The love that abounds in my life is a direct result of coming to know
the Savior. I can’t claim that I know how it works, but like that apostle said,
I just know it does. I also know that each of us can and will figure it out.
In many ways, I can’t believe the Lord would bless me in the
ways he has. I have made more than my fair share of mistakes. I've said and
done things unbefitting of who I should be. And yet, the greatest gift that
Christ could give us is not just the statement to “come unto me”, but to “come
as you are”. The Atonement is not only for people who feel “worthy”. I might
venture to say that it is especially for those who don’t feel worthy. We have
been sent here to experience life; to experience the deepest pains imaginable.
This may be confusing; however, it isn't that we are sent here to experience
those pains alone. We are sent here to remember who we are and to learn how the
My mother gave me an amazing book entitled, “Believing
Christ” by Stephen E. Robinson that also sheds light onto the Atonement. The
final chapter of the book is entitled “Lord, How Is It Done?” It first speaks
of understanding the divinity of Christ. He was and is the Lord God Almighty.
This is a critical point in understanding the Atonement. Robinson says,
“Occasionally some critics have suggested that Christianity is just another
religion of human sacrifice. There might be something to the claim if Jesus Christ
were not God, if he were only another human being. After all, if the Atonement
is merely a case of God demanding the blood of a human victim in order to
reconciled to humanity and forgive us, how is this any different in principle
from grabbing some poor virgin and throwing her into a volcano to save a
village, or from burning children on an altar to Moloch to win his good
favor?...the Sacrificial Lamb of God who died on Calvary was God.”
Along those same lines, Jesus was genuinely human. He experienced the same tug of
temptation we do; he just instantly rejected them. He never succumbed to
entertaining thoughts of sin nor participating in it. D&C 20:22 says, “He
suffered temptations but gave no heed unto them.” We know that he must have
been tempted, not only through scriptures, but through the mere fact that he
had to have for the atonement to work. Once again, taking from Robinson, he
says, “It doesn't matter how patiently a bird might show me how to fly, or a
fish might show me how to breathe underwater. I don’t have wings, and I don’t
have gills. These cannot teach me by example because we are not the same kind
The most important piece of understanding, that strikes a
chord in my heart, is that while Christ did not in fact ever succumb to the
enticings of the evil spirit, he did in fact experience every pain, sorrow,
guilt, and sin. He didn't experience his own, but he knew in order to succor us
as the scriptures say, he had to know what it felt like. He gave us the
greatest gift that any being could ever give. He is the ONLY person that knows
what it feels like to be us and on top of that, he is the only person to know
what it is like to be completely and utterly alone. Because of the great sins
and misdeeds of this infinite atonement, just as we are not able to have the
Spirit when we are not worthy, so did the Spirit withdraw from Jesus.
I take great comfort in knowing this. That may sound strange
and I feel great sorrow that He had to suffer alone, but I feel at peace
knowing that He did that for me. He chose to walk that dreary and lonely path
by himself so that you and I wouldn't have to do the same. The Christmas season
is a wonderful time to celebrate the birth of our Redeemer. It is also a chance
for us to truly put the focus on the wonderful gifts and blessings we have been
given here in the mortal realm. As we remember His birth, I pray that we each
may remember the gifts that have come as a result of that Holy Night.
In the name of my Savior, Redeemer, and Eternal Friend Jesus
Merry Christmas everyone. I hope we each remember the beautiful even we are celebrating.
You know those songs you listen to after something significant in your life happens and it suddenly becomes "YOUR SONG!" and you have to turn it up and jam out and dance at the stoplight even if everyone is staring? I have a lot of those. Most of them don't make sense to anyone else. I am married to the most amazing man alive, I have lovely wonderful family and friends, and I love everything about my life. Why then, one might ask, do you have to belt out "A Little Bit Stronger" by Sara Evans or "Part Of Me" by Katy Perry? Those are total heart break songs! Yes, they are. No, they don't take me back to thoughts of past boyfriends. Like I said, I love where I am. Instead, they remind me of someone else--the old me. Say Wha? Let me clarify here! This is not a poor pitiful me post, simply a look back over the past year. The person I was, to who I am now. Just trust me and read on! I will connect everything. I promise. I hope. A year ago today, I was crashing in my aunt and uncle's basement, all belongings were packed in my car from my long drive from Oregon, and I was desperately trying to find somewhere to work in Utah. I had just had an exploratory surgery done and thought that we had solved all my health problems! Hooray! A few months previous, I was a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I loved every moment of it. Normally, a young woman's mission in the Church will last a total of 18 months. Mine only lasted 2. They were an absolutely amazing 2 months, however, my mind/heart and my body wanted different things. I couldn't keep up with the rigorous schedule and was sent home with the hopeful thought that in 3 months I would return to finish. Obviously, that didn't happen. I'll keep it mostly short and summarize that they hadn't figured out what was wrong. I found a job, met my now husband, and visited doctors repeatedly. Every time I heard the same thing, "You are the picture of health! Congrats!" Only I didn't feel that way. Some mornings I couldn't move out of bed because the pain I would feel would literally take my breath away. I went from a year before building barb wire fences and being extremely active to not being able to carry a tray of food to a table at work. I lost a bunch of weight and still no answers. I continually heard, to my dismay, "Wow, you look amazing Chelsea!" Um, thanks, I feel like a bag of poo. After we got officially engaged, I moved back to Oregon. I decided I needed to see my family doctor. He knew my health history considering he'd been my doctor since I was 9! Throughout all the previous encounters with doctors, I had been researching. WebMD was like my best friend! I was always reading about obscure diseases and was convinced I had all of them. The ones that scared me the most where the ones that no one understands. They have no medication or set diet or exercise to make you better. You can't control anything. You just hope that throughout the years you find what works for you. And wouldn't you know, that was what we determined I had. I had read the word "fibromyalgia" in lots of forums that talked about "mystery illnesses" and quite frankly it was scary. I had the mindset that as soon as I had a diagnosis, no matter what it was, that I would get back to normal life. I don't even remember what normal life was. Fibromyalgia. My inner demon. I had the diagnosis, and nothing changed but everything had. I couldn't decide if having a mystery was better than having the name because it seemed the name meant NOTHING. A few days after my official "diagnosis" I had to take a trip to the ER. Already in tears and pain, I felt as though I was nothing to the lady who treated me. She accused me of simply coming in for pain killers as though I was just a drug addict looking for a fix. On top of all the pain I was feeling, being upset at myself for upsetting my mom because there was nothing she could do, I felt anger boiling in my blood. A feeling I had never had and unfortunately wouldn't be the last with other doctors or even people I just knew and ran into who heard what was wrong. Suddenly I went from being a smart, capable, successful person to a crazy, talks-to-herself drug addict who was lazy. This is where those songs come in. I know they are talking about relationships. Rather than seeing them as a relationship with someone else, I think of them as my relationship with my fibro. Everyday I have to take a moment to lie in bed and decide what kind of day it will be according to my pain level. Will I be able to do the laundry? Go to work? Shower? Some days are a lot worse, some are better. Today is a good day. Yesterday wasn't. And everyday I have to remind myself that I am getting a little bit stronger. There are constantly things around me reminding me of all that I used to be able to do that I can only imagine doing now. A constant reminder that I am not, nor will I ever be, the same person I was. But when I hear those songs, they give me hope. I have fibromyalgia but that doesn't mean I am fibromyalgia. The part of me it will never be able to take is my will to live a happy life. Despite that ever present reminder that I'm not the same, I know that I still can have an attitude of love and gratitude. I am grateful for my invisible illness. I want to give a voice to my invisible illness and to all those who also are suffering from one. Your life has changed forever. People won't understand. "Until you get it, you won't get it." However, that is no reason to feel self-doubt and self-loathing. Every experience that you have right now gives you an opportunity to become stronger and overcome. Fibromyalgia may feel as though it has taken over all of you but it can't break your soul. I am rising to the challenge but asking for help and mostly understanding. I'm inviting each of you into a private part of my life in hopes that you might take this opportunity to learn and to show love. To everyone. Always.
"Being married to you is always such an adventure."
That's what my cowboy told me this weekend. We were on our way to Provo to spend an AMAZING weekend with his aunt and uncle and cousins! As we started out on our 2 and a half hour drive I had a cup. A BIIIIIGGGG cup of water. Less than 40 minutes into our trip I was making that annoying slurping sound that the stupid kid at the movies always makes when his soda is all but gone and he's still trying to suck every last little bit of that sugary goodness up that straw so that when he comes down from his sugar high he is going to crash hard. About 42 minutes into the ride I had to pee. And not like an, " Hmm, I can hold this" but rather an "OH MY GOSH I feel like I'm trying to stop a fire hose from spraying water with just the clenching power of my thighs to keep it from gushing out." [a bit extreme? Not if you had experienced it] All the while, Riker is talking. And talking. And I love him but if you were to ask me exactly what he had said I would have to reply with something along the lines of, "What? Someone else was in the car with me? No way. All I could here was my bladder screaming at me how much it hates me." I love my husband, I truly do. I am the most blessed woman to ever walk the face of the earth. He is kind and humble and handsome and so incredibly sweet but I was rather preoccupied. And then, it happened. [No, sorry I didn't pee my pants] It started POURING rain. And then I heard laughing from somewhere far off. And I thought, "And the clouds opened up and God said, 'I hate you Alfalfa." I'm sure you are wondering, especially if you know me, why I just didn't ask my husband to pull over so I could pee on the side of the road. All the cars driving by wouldn't be the first to see my naked bum squatted on the side of the road. They would join the hundreds of firefighters, the Japanese tourist family, and numerous other vehicles that drove by while I relieved my aching bladder on the side of the road. However, it just so happened that it hit me whilst we were driving down a winding pass through the mountains, it was pouring rain, and there was no where even remotely safe to pull over. Instead, I put on my big girl panties [I was wishing it was a diaper] and clenched my lower body to stop from embarrassing myself in front of the man I love. As the road grew Longer and LONGER, Riker noticed my discomfort and asked me so sweetly if I was feeling ok. It only took him and hour and a half to notice and at this point it had been so long since I had spoken I wasn't sure if I knew any other words except "toilet" and "now". Despite his "concern" he laughed at me when I said I had to pee. "Didn't you go before we left?" Yes, I had in fact. However, that extremely large cup I mentioned was now sitting in my bladder pushing against miniature flood gates wanting to burst. Throughout all of this, among my thoughts of golden toilets and toilet paper so soft you would want it for a pillow, I couldn't help but continually think, "Chelsea, as long as you don't pee your pants, your husband will still love you. Probably." And then my fears were confirmed when I said those words out loud and Riker replied with, "Yeah, that's true. Don't pee your pants. Being married to you is such an adventure." This was the longest trip of my life. Suddenly I realized I could feel the threat even worse. What was happening?! I was still clenching my thighs, right? Yes, right, only the left one was numb and the right one had a cramp right in the groin. And still, the need to pee was all I could feel. Coupled with that cramp though, I thought for sure that a loveless life was ahead of me. "How much longer? Like ten minutes right? No, I don't want your opinion, just agree with me!" For the next half hour I continued to say this. Riker seemed oblivious to my discomfort which I thought was obvious by my white knuckles clenching the door handle ready to jump out, the fact that I had my legs in the most awkward looking pretzel imaginable and my face a bright purple from thinking that if I hold my breath, I won't have to pee as bad. All he could think about was food. He was just hungry and wanted to know where I wanted to eat. Did I really look like it mattered? With the look I shot him from my bulging eyes, he decided this was a decision to make on his own. And he did. And he made the wrong one. He chose a fast food place which I could live with. In fact, I love that particular place. However, his deadly mistake is saying that he would rather eat there than at the other fast food place that we both love that is 5 minutes closer than driving across town to the other. I nearly started crying when we passed the first restaurant. Within the five minutes between food destinations, it hit me. How was I supposed to walk? One leg was numb, one had a major cramp, and I was realizing my feet were dead asleep. Images of face planting in the parking lot were floating through my head. "At least if I fall in a puddle I can say that that is why my pants are wet." Finally through our dirty windshield that had turned a 30 minute short drive into a nearly hour drive, I saw that heavenly glow of that fast food restaurant sign. The car had barely pulled in the spot before I was barreling out. I held as tightly to that door as I could waddling like a penguin. [my black pants and grey sweater did nothing to dispel that thought] Twenty yards. That was all I had to do. If I could open the door. WHY OH WHY do "Push" and "Pull" start with the same letter. Don't you know that when you have liquid on your brain you can't think very well!? The women at the counter, 3 or 4, all were staring. I'm sure I was quite a sight. Wet from the rain, legs clenced so tightly my knees were touching and every footfall was that of a giants because until I heard my foot hit the ground I had no way of actually telling if I was touching anything other than burning hot nails shooting through my foot. Finally, I could see the glorious picture of that stick figure woman wearing a very unflattering dress. But wait, what is that I see? Please, no. An orange cone. I didn't have time to find out what it was for I just burst into that bathroom and headed straight for a stall. I didn't even have time to register the fact that I had just waddled past a woman with one hand down her shirt and one brushing her hair. I let out an audible sigh and just wanted to cry. The relief was nothing I could have ever imagined. Then I heard another woman waddle in. She had had to pee just as badly as I had. Suddenly I was feeling not so bad about myself. That is until she walked out and I saw that she is very much pregnant. At least she had an excuse. Or at least a better excuse than "I drank so much water that my bladder decided to go on strike and try to kill me". And then the thought hit me, "I better memorize every gas station on the map before we go on trips. Especially for when I am pregnant or else that Japanese family is going to get an even bigger eyeful than before." At least my husband still loves me. Probably.