Every year in primary we teach the children the importance of praying to our Heavenly Father. That he cares so much about us and wants to hear from us. He cares about what we care about. We teach them the order of prayer. How we greet our Heavenly Father and then go on to thank him for the many blessings that he has given us. As adults I think we sometimes get stuck saying the same things, which is OK if it is truly coming from our hearts instead of being spoken with little thought.
I shared a room with my youngest sister growing up. We are seven years apart in age. Because we shared a room I got to hear the prayers she gave with my mother kneeling by her side. She was quite creative and thoughtful when it came to thanking Heavenly Father. I don't remember all the cute things she said, but one that comes to mind was that she was thankful for Benjamin Franklin. Why? Because he came up with the bifocals which my mother needed to use to read. She was very specific when she gave thanks.
This past year I have had a hard time being grateful. When I first met with my therapist she had me write down three things that had happened that day that I was grateful for and then one negative thing. But that was not all. I needed to come up with a reason how that negative experience brought something into my life that I was grateful for. It wasn't always easy. Sometimes I would just write "I am alive." I kept writing in my thankful journal until a little after my JU experience and then I stopped. I'm not really sure why. My memory is seriously horrible.
But even now when I pray I struggle. Many times I say "I am trying my best to be grateful for this day." And that would be it. It is true that when we are amidst our struggles and trials it is hard to find the motivation to be grateful. I had plenty of things to be grateful for, but they seemed insignificant compared to my struggles. My struggle to find the desire to live. The desire to take one step at a time. The desire to see my therapist or psych nurse. Everything else felt inconsequential.
But one thing the high counselor pointed out is that by not thanking our Heavenly Father we miss out on blessings. And boy do we need some extra blessings when we are going through a difficult time. The Doctrine & Covenants touches upon this topic.
D&C 78: 17-19
17 "Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye are little children, and ye have not as yet understood how great blessings the Father hath in his own hands and prepared for you;"
18 "And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours."
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."
Wow! What a promise we have been given. Heavenly Father has so much he wants to bless us with. He gives us blessings just because He loves us so much, but if we receive our blessings and express gratitude for them then Heavenly Father blesses us even more! It sounds so easy, and it is a win-win situation, but many times we get caught up in the things of the world, or we become to busy, or we don't even take the time to truly see all the blessings we have been given. Or in my case I get caught up in asking for things like understanding, strength, and peace to just name a few.
These last couple of weeks my depression and anxiety have deepened for many reasons: diet, lack of sleep (needing to rest a lot), situations I have been dealing with, lack of energy, adjusting to a higher does of a med, and the lack of exercise (because I am so weak). I have asked myself many times why am I still fighting? Maybe to return to live with my Heavenly Father, but what if that isn't what I want? What do I truly have to live for? I let Satan in when I am weak. Everyone that I have asked these questions to give similar answers: for your family, for Tom, for all those that love you, the world would be a different place without you, Heavenly Father has plans for you, Just hold on a little longer, these experiences will make you stronger.
I had a close friend advise me to make a list of all the things that I am grateful for. It is a proven fact that gratitude can bring peace, happiness, and a longer life. But I haven't wanted to acknowledge all the blessings I have been given. Especially since I haven't gotten what I expected on my own time table. I often have to remind myself that God's timing is perfect and to be patient. But that can be so hard when the thought of going to bed depresses you because it means another day is coming. A day where I will struggle with the same emotions. A day where I will have the same questions. A day where I am too weak to do too much, and the things I do get done have to be broken up throughout the day. I have been stubborn. I have not wanted to write a list of things that I am thankful for. But being thankful is a commandment, and it will bring us more blessings. I feel that I can use all the blessings that Heavenly Father is willing to give me. And so here I go. I am going to count my many blessings. Well at least a few, and these are not premeditated.
1. I am thankful for Tom. I don't know very many men who would be so patient and loving when their wives fight them, or tell them that maybe they don't want to be married to them or tell them that they hate them. Tom honestly has been one of my biggest blessings ever! He really only has a couple of regrets over the last year, and one of them is that he rolled his eyes. I don't remember the situation at all, but in my thankful journal for one of the days that is my one negative thing. I really can't complain about the rolling of eyes. :o)
2. I am thankful that my sister Brittany flew out to spend a week with me shortly after my stay in the JU. Brittany is the sister that is seven years younger. We are close. People ask me how we became so close, and I tell them it must be because we shared a room together for seven years. But honestly I don't think that is the reason. We don't have deep conversations, and we don't talk on the phone much, but we do hand-write letters. We have a connection that I can't explain. Brittany was my angel the last time I struggled with depression. She supports me without asking for anything in return. Many times you will find us in the same room doing our own thing. I know that she will love me no matter what. Now the fact that she flew out to see me is BIG to me. She spent most Summers at home and never really wanted to come down to Eugene. I always went up to see her. So the fact that she spent a week with me in my home means a lot to me.
3. I am thankful that my sister Christina let me borrow her bike for a year. It works much better than my old one. It is true that I haven't biked much at all lately, but I have put over 700 miles on it. It sits on my deck, and I see it everyday. It looks a little different now because of all the bike stuff I've added to it, but it is a reminder of how much I truly do love to bike and that one day I will be biking again. It really helped me to cope with the Summer months.
4. I am thankful that Heavenly Father has blessed us financially and I don't mean with money. This year has brought some big expenditures. Unplanned ones for sure. Tom and I have always tried to build our savings which sometimes is difficult because when we hit a certain amount we end up needing it to repair the car. But those stresses do not occur until we have the money for it. Our car broke down twice this year. Both times seemed to happen at the most inopportune times. The second time it broke down it really seemed that all odds were against us. Tom's mom was flying into Portland in just a couple of hours. But luckily for us the car broke down just as Tom reached the Battle Ground exit (he was heading to my parent's house where I had been staying). Luckily for us Tom had the cell phone (we only have one). Luckily for us my mom had left the day before for Arizona. That meant that we could borrow the car for a week. My dad would just have to drive his truck around (it is manual and my mom can only drive automatic). And the fact that our car went to car heaven when Tom's mom came out was the biggest blessing of all. Because she helped us look for a new car or think of ways we could maybe ship out one of theirs. Tom's stress levels were already high and I don't want to even begin to imagine what they would have been like if his mom wasn't here giving her support and love. And also that he was able to talk to his dad who gave his support and love. We did not have money for a car. Our savings was already beginning to disappear because of medical expenses. Tom's parents bought us the car (we are going to pay them back).
5. I am thankful for how my in-laws have lived their lives in such a way that they would have money to help us out. Of course we hated asking for it, but as Tom and I struggle to make every little cent count. Now that our savings are completely gone it brings peace to know that they are there to support us. And not only with money. Tom's mom visited us twice this year. Her second trip was an answer to my prayer. Tom was struggling with being able to focus on his research and the school was starting to push a little. Tom and my therapist thought I should live with my parents for a month. I did not like that idea at all. I hadn't packed for such a long stay and that would also mean that I wouldn't be able to see my therapist or psych nurse. I would have to take a big pause in my healing process. And believe me a month feels more like a year. My going back to Eugene wouldn't solve any of the issues Tom was facing. I prayed mightly that there would be a third option and Heavenly Father answered my prayers. My mother-in-law came to stay with us for three weeks! She sacrificed time spent with her husband, bird, family and her first grandson that she loves so much. She was easy going, didn't push me, was encouraging, happy, and content to do her own thing when I needed space. She drove me to all my appointments. She made dinner every night. Just having her physically there was a huge blessing to me.
Now I probably could go on and on, and when I find the energy I will try to think of more things and write them down in my journal. I think the reason I have been so stubborn is because I feel that finding the good during the hardest time of my life means that it really isn't that hard. But I need to change my perspective. Being thankful does not change our circumstances or make our trials disappear or become light as a feather. But being thankful does help us to remember how much Heavenly Father loves us and how He is there with guiding hands during the hard times. It may help us to change our attitude. It reminds us that there is good in this life on earth. It may be what helps us face a new day. It may bring us a little peace. A little respite from dealing with all the heavy things that mortality can bring us.
"When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
So amid the conflict, whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged; God is over all.
Count your many blessings; angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey's end."
-Johnson Oatman, Jr.