The column is the second half of one I began last month on enduring seemingly endless trials and comes from the 37 years of my life I have spent as a mother of Dawn, my daughter who is handicapped with cerebral palsy and mental retardation.
Pray and then pray some more
I don’t know how people live without prayer. Even when no voice from heaven gives immediate answers or directions and blessings requested are not bestowed, there is strength in bowing down before Heavenly Father and telling Him of your struggle and pleading for His help.
Many more days than not as I contemplate the challenges before me and wonder where the strength will come from to meet them, I am reminded of a quote by President Abraham Lincoln: “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom, and that of all about me, seemed insufficient for the day.”
Prayer is the only way I am able to cope with the challenges of loving and caring for a handicapped child. My first prayer in the morning is that the Lord will give His angels charge over her during the day and my last prayer at night is that He will watch over her during the night.
Prayer brings about miracles, and when it doesn’t bring a miracle, it brings the strength of endurance.
During her teenage years especially Dawn had several grueling surgeries at Duke Medical Center, just down the road from us. One was especially traumatic for me as I contemplated it. She had been overtaken by scoliosis, curvature of the spine, rather rapidly. In a matter of a few weeks, she had gone from being able to sit up in a wheelchair to having to be tied into it, her back curved into an s-shape. Her surgeon said if we did not immediately put rods along her back in a spinal fusion, from the bottom of her neck to her tailbone, she would die.
But the thought of what the surgery involved horrified me. I spent the days until the surgery unable to sleep, mostly crying, and praying a lot that somehow this would be OK.
I cried the whole night at the hospital before the surgery in a little room at the end of the hospital hallway, the next morning as they came to get her for surgery, and throughout the surgery. The surgeon, in fact, as he came in to check in halfway through the surgery, took one look at me, and asked Dawn’s father, “What is wrong with her?”
But in what has been one of the strongest testimonies of prayer in my life to me, Dawn did beautifully. She never once has complained about any pain or discomfort in her back from the long rods. In fact, her recovery was so fast she was able to leave the hospital three days earlier than the doctors had projected. It wasn’t the last of the surgeries and didn’t take away her hip problems, but the back surgery that drove me to hours of prayer was just fine.
So pray to find the strength to endure seemingly endless trials. Beg for blessings, plead for strength, complain to the Lord instead of others, ask for what you think you need, speak what is on your heart, express gratitude for the blessings for what you have, cry if you must, but always, always pray.
Faith is more about acceptance and trust than the effort
This lesson took me years to learn. I thought if I just worked hard enough, did enough therapy with Dawn, wearied heaven with my prayers, convinced the Lord I had faith, held enough church callings, etc., etc., I would have the faith to move the mountain I needed for her to be healed.
Eventually, however, I had to face the possibility that perhaps she would not be healed, perhaps she would never walk or talk clearly in this life, perhaps she would never be any better than she was at exactly that moment. And that had to be all right too. Then I began to understand faith.
When she was about six, we put her on a 12-hour-a-day therapy program at home, bringing in volunteers from church and the community to help. We flashed 10,000 cards to teach her to read and 10,000 pictures to increase her intelligence. Our life was played out every day on the floor of our family room.
I thought I had the magic equation. If I spent every waking hour I had trying to help Dawn, the miracle of healing would happen. After all, in the scriptures didn’t Christ usually require the people requesting the healing to do something, however small, before He healed them? And our family was doing a huge thing. The only way I could possibly do more was to work 24 hours a day, and I knew the Lord didn’t require that of me.
I literally did everything I could. I even had a baby during this time—if that wouldn’t cinch the miracle, what would?! But Dawn wasn’t healed, and finally the day came when the Spirit witnessed that we needed to move on.
What was next? I found a therapist five hours away, and my mother and I put kids in the car and traveled there every other week, staying in a hotel, so Dawn could have therapy three days in a row. Then my grandmother got sick, and then what was next? Could we go to a therapist thousands of miles away, work 25 hours a day, deplete what little savings we had to somehow prove to the Lord I was worthy of the miracle of healing for my daughter?
I don’t know when it happened, but at some point I just gave up trying to stack up Brownie points. My focus became less on finding the way to get Dawn healed and more on finding a way to cope with what it
And you know what? That was probably 25 years ago, and I still look for that way every day of my life. But along the way I have learned that sometimes faith is more about acceptance and trust than convincing the Lord He needs to do what I want. I need to want what He will do.
Find scriptures to strengthen you
I have several scriptures that I know are in the scriptures just for me, and I find strength in times of fear and anxiety in repeating them. I love Proverbs 3:5-6, which my sister cross-stitched for me so I can pass it several times a day: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not to thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
I like to repeat it, emphasizing different words. Sometimes I concentrate on “trust,” sometimes on “all,” and sometimes on “shall.”
I also love little hidden scriptures—those pearls you stumble across and they become precious to you.
All of D&C 122 is comforting and strengthening, but I love the four little words that are easily overlooked in verse 9: “Hold on thy way.”
Sometimes that is all we can do, especially when we are in the thick of trials that show no signs of ending.