As you all know, the past few months have been less than easy for me. I often wake up with so much anxiety that all I can do is cry because that’s the only thing that seems to lessen the pain in order for me to get up and get going.
I know… totally not normal for me, and shouldn’t be normal for anyone, but it’s reality nonetheless.
I’ve been realizing more and more that this is a huge turning point in my life. I’m more humbled than I ever have been, more desperate for the Lord’s help, more honest and sincere in my prayers, more everything.
Truly… at this confusing and scary time in my life, I literally need Him every hour.
I’m at a point where I have no other option but to truly come to understand who I am in God’s eyes and what His potential is for me. For years we hear the words to a common hymn, “I am a Child of God,” but just like coming to understand the truthfulness of any part of the gospel, we each need to have an individual experience with knowing the truth of our divine nature. Sometimes that comes in a day, and sometimes over years of small experiences. I know that in the days ahead I’ll probably doubt it again, but today, I really felt it as I saw so many tangible miracles happen. And I wanted to share it.
This morning I woke up and checked my phone to find nothing. No texts, no notifications, nothing. Sure, that’s a normal thing for anyone else. And since I deleted most of my social apps, of course I won’t be hearing from anyone. And, who’s gonna text or call me while everyone’s sleeping?
But for me at this point of my life, it feels like my body is going through a literal withdrawal from being separated from everyone’s life. I’ve never felt this way before, and I know it’s not normal. But for right now after everything that’s happened, that’s exactly what it feels like every morning. The pain in my chest from the loneliness and fear was so overwhelming, and all I could do was hold my pillow tight, letting the tears come out as I tried to imagine someone holding me.
Finally, I had the courage to get out of bed and kneel down. In my prayer I said,
“Heavenly Father, I’m still hurting. And I don’t know how much longer I can do this. But I’m grateful that today’s the Sabbath day and I can remember that the Savior has felt this, too. Today, please help me to see Him manifest Himself to me somehow. Please help me to feel the angels roundabout me, and those on both sides of the veil with me. Today, please help me to feel the Spirit so that I can know this pain won’t last forever.”
I went to church with the friends I’m staying with. I’ve visited their ward so often that everyone knows me like I’m one of their children who visits when she’s home from college every once in a while.
So many people were happy to see me again, but I was so numb to all of it. I made it through the first hour without crying, but then a lady that I’ve spent some time with in the past saw me and grabbed me. She said, “Erin, how are things right now?” I couldn’t hold back the tears at that point and I said, “I’m a little lost right now to be honest.” She held me tighter and responded, “It won’t last much longer, sweetie. This is just a blip in the radar. You’ll find your way soon.”
I cried out enough in her arms to get me through Sunday School, and then I needed to step out for some fresh air. I finished up saying a quick prayer because of the pain that was creeping up again, and another woman in the ward who knew me saw me through the door window. She came out and said, “Talk to me.”
I told her how it felt like I had been cut down, like I was doing everything right and following everything I should have followed, and then it all got taken away, and I didn’t even have anyone to be mad at about it. She just let me cry and said, “Erin, I know that feeling very well. It’s one that will come again and again in your life, but it won’t last forever. This is just a blip in the radar. I don’t know your whole story, but I do know that you’ve done and overcome some really hard things, and I know you’ll do that again. You are one of the strongest people I’ve ever met, and I know that you can do this. “
I prayed to feel the angels round about me, and those two women were there, with just the right words I needed to hear.
I’m living in Utah now so it’s not totally common, but it is normal to occasionally run into one of the general leaders of the Church. And apparently, President Uchtdorf’s grandson is in the ward that uses the building after us, and just so happened to be visiting today. So after the third hour of church was done for us, he was coming through the hallway shaking all the children’s hands. He was literally the distance between me to my closet right now, but he was shaking so many hands. And by the time I would’ve gotten over there he was already heading down the hallway to his next class.
I wasn’t the least bit disappointed though, because the only thought in my mind was,
“That man has literally seen Jesus Christ face to face. And I’m standing in the same room as him. I am a member of Jesus Christ’s Church in the latter-days. I’m so lucky. My ancestors would kill to be here right now. But they all chose me to be here instead.”
I felt a small sense of what those early pioneers felt as they traveled so far just to catch a glimpse of the prophet, Joseph Smith. Just one glimpse of President Uchtdorf was enough to remind me of how blessed I am to have found the gospel in my life. Or rather, how blessed I am that it found me.
Suddenly I couldn’t hear anything around me. And as I watched President Uchtdorf walk down the hall with his wife, I pictured so many men and women around me, with smiles on their faces saying, “We did choose you, Erin. We needed you to have this because we knew you could do it.”
The veil was so thin today, and I knew they were aware of me. I literally felt that before I came to earth, my ancestors had chosen me to be the one to lead my posterity with the gospel in these latter-days. I could feel their gratitude for my courage and my faith. I could feel their love as they saw what their hardships and challenges had done for me.
Those on both sides of the veil really were with me.
After an experience like that, I was doing plenty okay. Ha! But the day got even better.
For those of you who don’t know. In the LDS Church, we believe the same church that Jesus Christ organized during His time on earth has been brought back, or restored in our day. So, the way that Jesus organized His church (i.e. with prophets and apostles who taught the truth of God) is the way the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is organized today. (And, President Uchtdorf is one of them)
But I’m lucky again, because one of my mission presidents (Basically the dad who oversees all the missionaries when you go on a mission) happens to be the son of one of the other apostles in our day, Elder M. Russell Ballard.
I decided to visit him and his wife today because they finished their mission a few months ago. As I sat in the room with them, they reminded me of so many hard things I endured and experienced as a missionary.
They reminded me of the pain, and the absolute joy I felt as I visited and taught people about Jesus Christ for 18 months. And they reminded me that I’ve never been one to give up or back down. Whenever difficulty or disappointment came, I always got back up. How grateful I was for such a sweet reunion.
All of a sudden, they needed to start getting dinner ready and offered to have me help. I wasn’t expecting to stay because I knew they were having family come over, but Sister Ballard put her arm around me and said, “Have you eaten yet?” I responded with, “Oh, I don’t have to stay. Don’t worry.”
And she said, “I know you don’t have to, but would you like to?”
So there I was, setting the table for an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. A man who not only represents the Savior, but has literally seen Him face to face. I pictured Jesus Christ at the last supper with every plate and utensil I placed down. I was literally going to sit and eat with him, as if it were Peter, James, or John themselves.
IT WAS SO FREAKING COOL, GUYS! Okay, to be honest I’ve met Elder Ballard before. But it was only for a few minutes. Definitely not the same. AND, his wife Barbara was with him this time. Even cooler.
We went to the piano room to listen to his granddaughter play a few hymns, and as I tried to hold it together my mind just couldn’t help but think about how this day started; on my knees in tears, pleading for help just less than 24 hours before.
A flood of gratitude and humility filled my heart as I thought about how blessed I really am. Yes, seeing an apostle is an incredible experience, but at the end of the day they’re just normal people like us. And I was bound to meet him at some point since my mission president is his son and all.
The real miracle was that my prayers were heard and answered, in a VERY literal way.
The miracle was that I, of all the people in the history of my family, had been trusted to receive the gospel and continue it for generations to come. The miracle was that I knew that the Savior lived, and died, and lives again today so that He can rescue all of us if we choose to live the way the gospel teaches us to live.
The miracle was that GOD REALLY WAS LISTENING, HE REALLY DID KNOW ME, HE REALLY DID TRUST ME WITH SO MUCH BECAUSE HE LOVES ME.
If we take out everything that’s tangible in this life, what’s left?
If we are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it is our knowledge and testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
And that, my friends, is the only thing that really matters.
I know there will be hard days, and plenty of hard moments. But I have the gospel of Jesus Christ in my life. I have a knowledge of where I came from, who I truly am, and where I’m going after I die. I have a knowledge that if I live the way God wants me to live, I will always find purpose and joy in every experience.
I have the knowledge that God sent His Son to earth to experience all things, for everyone, so that we could have someone to turn to who know how to get through our own moments of sorrow and regret. Because He’s already felt it and overcome it! Jesus Christ is the proof that God does care, and is willing to help us when things don’t work out the way we want them or planned them to. He knows the answers, because He’s already done it!
I AM SO BEYOND BLESSED TO HAVE THIS GIFT IN MY LIFE.
Because of it, I know that I can handle anything life gives me. I may cry, I may hurt, I may have to feel some of what the Savior felt. But I will overcome it. I will be made stronger through it, because of Jesus Christ.
“And thus we see how merciful and just are all the dealings of the Lord, to the fulfilling of all his words unto the children of men; yea, we can behold that his words are verified, even at this time, which he spake unto Lehi, saying:
Blessed art thou and thy children; and they shall be blessed, inasmuch as they shall keep my commandments they shall prosper in the land…
And those who were faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord were delivered at all times.” – Alma 50: 19-20, 22
How sweet the joy this sentence gives, “I know that my Redeemer lives.”
When I said goodbye to my mission president and his wife, Sister Ballard said, “of all of our missionaries, you would be the one to be in the right place at the right time today, Erin.”
Yes, Sister Ballard. I am in the right place.
As we all prepare for a weekend full of inspired messages from other apostles and leaders of the Church, may we remember how truly blessed we are to have the knowledge that God has a plan for all of us to find peace through sorrow, joy through the knowledge of good and evil, and the right to choose to return to live with Him and our families forever someday.
We are so blessed. The miracles are happening, guys. Yes, trials and challenges are real and they are here and they will continue to come. But the Savior is with me!
He is visiting me in my afflictions.
He is proving that to me. And He will prove it to you.
All my love,