Family, Monday's Posts

As Thy Days Demand, So Thy Succor Shall Be

Today I want to share this article written in BYU magazine, winter edition, entitled Thy Troubles to Bless {https://magazine.byu.edu/article/thy-troubles-to-bless/}. In it, Jeffrey S. McClellan wrote of the birth of his daughter, Caroline. She was born on April 15, 2003, so she is almost 16 years old.

*****

“I remember our cheerful nurse at the hospital that morning, chatting away as she hooked Christine up to monitors and quickly found a heartbeat. All was well.

With the monitor running, the nurse left the three of us—Christine, 1-year-old Lizzy, and me—talking pleasantly in the room.

Suddenly something changed. The reassuring, regular beep of the heart monitor stopped. We called for the cheerful nurse, who assured us that this happens—babies move or monitors slip. It would just take a second to find the heartbeat. I remember the nurse’s face as she searched for the heartbeat, her smile fading, her eyes becoming serious. Still searching. She called for another nurse to try. No, she couldn’t find it either. Oh, there it was. Wait—no, that was Christine’s heartbeat.

Lizzy and I retreated to the hallway, where, in a few minutes, a cart sped by with a too-white, too-still, too-quiet baby on it. Was that our baby? It wasn’t clear. In a room behind windows, doctors painstakingly inserted an IV through the tiny umbilical cord. Yes, I was told, that is your baby—not breathing, faint heartbeat, lost a lot of blood. Mother is fine.

The baby—Caroline, we would call her—was placed on a gurney and prepped for a helicopter ride to Primary Children’s Medical Center.

My father had arrived. We slipped our hands beneath the plastic shield that covered my little girl and placed them on her tiny head with its dark, wispy hair. In the name of Jesus Christ and by His priesthood, I blessed her to have a strong heart and lungs; I blessed her to have a full recovery.

Gratefully, Caroline lived. In some ways the blessing I pronounced that day was fulfilled directly. She has a healthy heart and strong lungs. She did not, however, fully recover as I had stated in the blessing. Her loss of blood—still unexplained—meant she had experienced a lack of oxygen to her brain, which suffered severe damage.

Fifteen years later, Caroline is stuck at about a 3-month-old developmental level. She cannot walk or crawl or roll over. She cannot talk. Her eyes and ears function, but it is unclear how much she can process of what she sees or hears. She has frequent seizure-like tremors, eats through a tube in her stomach, receives a special diet supplemented by a variety of medications, and sees an assortment of doctors. Sometimes—frequently—Caroline becomes sad. She will cry and cry, and neither we nor the doctors can determine what is wrong. We just have to wait it out—and pray.”

*****

Image result for photos of flowers
Just as each flower is slightly different, each of us must face different challenges

Both Caroline and her parent’s lives are full of challenges. Sometimes heartbreaking challenges as they try to comfort Caroline and sometimes she isn’t comforted. Jeffrey McClellan shared several things that have helped him through these hard times.

He asks this question:

“Whatever the trial may be, we all endure seasons of distress that test the limits of our faith—afflictions that may cause us to question whether what we believe can still be true in the face of such overwhelming obstacles to belief. We may feel downtrodden and defeated, confused and crumbling. We may feel that God is distant and that we are hanging by an ever-so-thin thread of faith over a gaping chasm of despair. These are “the deep waters” of our lives, when we feel “the rivers of sorrow” threatening to overflow upon us.

In periods of such extremity, how do we—how do you—sustain faith?

Image result for lds jesus christ
I love this picture from The Church of Jesus Christ Of Latter-day Saints Bible videos

Then he gives us such great advice:

  • In the Fourth verse of How Firm a Foundation, “The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose, I will not, I cannot, desert to his foes; That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,…I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!” This became one of his favorite songs. It helped his to see that we aren’t supposed to have faith in the miracles we are praying desperately for, but faith in HIM, Jesus Christ.
  • McClellan shared inspiration he received when Caroline had a stretch of waking up at 2am every night, Once you see Caroline—even at 2 a.m.—it’s hard to maintain your frustration. . . . She smiles big when you lift her out of the bean bag she sleeps in, looking around curiously with those big, innocent eyes. . . . As I was changing her diaper just now, I was absentmindedly singing one of the [Primary] songs that Lizzy has declared we shall now sing for bedtime every night. . . . “God gave us families to help us become what He wants us to be.” And I looked at Caroline and suddenly the words came to the forefront of my consciousness, an unexpected intersection between poetry and the reality of my life in that moment. God gave me a family—including this 2 a.m. waker—to help me become what He wants me to be. . . . “This is how He shares His love,” the chorus continues, “for the fam’ly is of God.””
  • Sometimes church is hard for the McClellan family because Caroline is loud, so they spend a lot of time in the foyer. And this touched me as I am now in the stage with my littlest one that I spend a lot of time in the foyer. McClellan said this, “In the foyer we are joined by various people coming late to the meeting, chasing small children in and out of the chapel, or just enjoying the softer seats. I have felt a sense of community in the foyer—a kinship with these others who, like us, find their situation not quite measuring up to the chapel ideal. I have also felt the Spirit in the foyer as I have walked figure eights with my daughter, and I have been impressed with this simple thought: the gospel is still true in the foyer. We all spend time in the foyer, figuratively speaking. We each face circumstances that make us feel on the margins of the congregation. And that is okay, because the gospel is still true in the foyer.” I love the author’s words. I really feel sad when I don’t get to hear all of church. I know some people may think that’s weird, but I receive a lot of strength for my week ahead by hearing the testimonies shared on the Sabbath. But sometimes, the five minutes we do actually hear is enough that week. Because life isn’t perfect. Our bodies aren’t perfect. Our children aren’t perfect.
  • McClellan also shared at the end of his article, ” I have sometimes thought that Jesus must have suffered for us in one great cosmic mass of suffering. But recently I have come to feel that He likely suffered for each of us in an individual, intimate way, one by one (see 3 Ne. 11:13–17; 3 Ne. 17:9, 21). He felt my specific sins and sorrows, He endured Caroline’s particular afflictions and anguish, and He experienced your individual infirmities and imperfections.⁸ And because He did, He knows how to help (see Alma 7:11–12), “in ev’ry condition.”⁹ In the words of the hymn, “As thy days may demand, so thy succor shall be.” We can muster the faith in Jesus Christ that we need, because of comforting words such as these. We will receive the comfort/succor we need…not necessarily the amount we want.
  • And McClellan ends with this thought from verse 3 of How Firm a Foundation, “Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed, For I am thy God and will still give thee aid. I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,…Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.”

I know that every day I am held up by the strength of Jesus Christ and my Heavenly Father. The older I get, the more I realize that the only way I can make it through my day, is to rely heavily on Them. To trust that strength, inspiration, and peace will come. And then just keep moving forward.

I love you all. I am deeply grateful for anyone reading my words. This blog is coming up on its one year mark. My life is forever changed by this labor of love. I think one of the greatest gifts to me has been the sure knowledge that life is full of GOOD. That I can be a part of that GOOD. And that it is important that we share the GOOD in our lives with others. We are meant to form friendships to strengthen one another. So THANK YOU for strengthening me.

Life is Good. Share the Good.

PS To read the full article click on the link in the first paragraph. You can also see a picture of the author’s family at the end of that article.

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