Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Bitter Cup Prayers



God helped me to connect this one just a few weeks ago.  Then a few days afterward, a friend posted about it and I was able to connect it in one more way.  I love when that happens---when we are able to look in the past and make sense of things now that we have more experience and understanding!

A few weeks ago I was reading The New Testament where Christ was praying in The Garden of Gethsemane.  Matt 26: 39, 42, & 44:
"And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt...He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done...And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words."

My mind turned to a difficult night almost 4 years ago.  I was 13 weeks pregnant with Shipton.  We had felt so good about this pregnancy.  Before we conceived, we felt reassured that this pregnancy would be okay.  One night I felt a gush.  As I went to check things out in the bathroom, I realized it was blood.  Bright red blood.  During pregnancy, bleeding is not normal.  Although it is estimated at an average of 1 in 5 women have unexplained bleeding during pregnancy, bleeding is not normal.  With what we had already been through, it was not good news.  I immediately began to pray and plead.  I begged God and I sobbed.  My husband, Mark, heard and came to see what was happening.  In an instant he understood.

"What do you need, Katy?" Mark asked.

Between sobs my response was, "We should feel the tub.  At 13 weeks this is probably another miscarriage."

As we tried to get situated, I continued to try to pray if that is fair to all it that.  It was such an emotional moment for me filled with panic, fear, and pain.  Mark turned calmly to me and offered me a blessing.  I still remember one thing he said.  It was along these lines, "Cast your mind on other times like this in your life."  At the moment he said those words, my mind turned to two other moments of desperation and intensity, that ironically, had happened in that very bathroom.

First was the previous pregnancy.  I had filled the tub and snuck away to sort things out and pray.  I had just arrived home from the doctor's office.  There on the ultrasound screen were two perfectly formed babies with no heartbeats.  "Are you sure you aren't off on your dates?" I remembered the doctor asking me.

"No. I am sure. I should be 10 weeks," I had said after taking a moment to mull it over in my mind first.

"Well, these babies are exactly what we would expect to see at 6 weeks.  There isn't always a heartbeat detectable this early.  I will tell you what we will do.  Since they are perfect, I don't want to disturb anything.  Let's wait one week.  When you come back, if you are off on your date, then the babies will have grown and will have heartbeats.  If they don't...then we will...go from there," he had said.  I knew what the "go from there" meant.  We were no stranger to miscarriage.

So there I sat, now back at home.  I prayed and I pleaded.  "Father: if I am off on my dates, after all the miracles you have made in my life, I wouldn't doubt it.  I know that however you choose to make that happen, you can.  If I am wrong, it means I will carry, birth, and mother twins!  You will need to help me!!!  But...if I am right...if these babies are gone...I need you.  I cannot go through another loss.  That night I miscarried those babies in the most horrific miscarriage I had ever had.  And even though it was difficult to pass through, I was okay.  I had what I needed.  Truly my loss and sorrow were swallowed up in His joy.  He carried me through it and gave me the strength I can't muster myself.

The second experience came on another dark night.  My marriage was hanging by a thread.  My life was in shambles.  I had lost just about everything except my faith---and even that was in tatters.  I retreated to the place where mothers of young children go to find solace :) and knelt at the toilet and sobbed.  I pleaded.  I prayed.  I wailed.  "God: I cannot go another step.  I cannot be stretched any further.  I just. can't. do. it."

Although He didn't directly answer my prayer that night, He did answer my prayer.  I woke up the next morning, and the next, and for almost 6 years since that prayer.  Also, a short time afterward, I found a talk that spoke to me.  In in President Eyring speaks of times when we feel abandoned by God.  We wonder why He has created a pavilion to block us from feeling His loves, receiving answers, or guidance.  We feel our pleadings falling on deaf ears.

As I read the talk, I was able to realize that for months, God had placed a bitter cup to my lips.  He needed me to drink it.  I had been fighting him, digging my heels into the ground, kicking and screaming.  He could not take this bitter cup away.  In hindsight I understand.  He knew there was no other way for me to become the woman He needed me to become: to give me experience to understand deeply about the atonement, to develop a sure trust in God, to begin to acquire compassion, to completely change the way I approached people in general.

As I had that bitter cup pressed to my lips, as best as I can explain it, I began to truly drink it that night I had uttered my wailing prayer.  Although I didn't do it "perfectly right" or as gracefully as I have learned to do now, God understood my heart.  God hadn't hidden himself from me.  My pride and unwillingness to pass through what He saw fit to inflict upon me was blocking His love, guidance, and blessings from being able to penetrate my heart.

Although things certainly got worse before they got better, God carried me through this dark, dark time.  I had what I needed to pass through these experiences.

After I remembered these tender, cherished moments, I was back in my present.  We waited for the baby to pass, but the contractions never came.  Eventually we tossed a few things into a bag just in case we needed to head to the hospital and went to bed.  When I opened my eyes next, it was morning.  Just like in the other times, it was still a long road, but OH I cannot express the joy and relief to see our Shipton on that ultrasound screen the next morning---heart beating strongly and moving around happily.  It meant months of bed rest again.  (Yuck).  What we pieced together later is that night was the loss of Shipton's twin. BUT we did get our Shipton in the end, who today is a happy, funny, and affectionate 3-year-old.

Mom and Shipton

I have learned that we can follow our Savior's example as we face difficulty.  We can ask (like He did THREE times) to have the bitter cup pass.  I discovered there were times I was chugging that bitter cup, when it was serving me to have an excuse or to stay stuck.  It's okay to ask for it to pass from us.  It has been my experience that as we seek to align our will with His in these instances, sometimes that is all He was waiting for.  He is able to blast through, make changes, the impossible becoming possible. Truly He can make ANYTHING happen through His miracles.

Sometimes, however, even when we have righteous desires, God simply cannot allow that cup to pass from us. We must drink it. Sometimes the miracle He wants to give us is a different kind.  It's the kind where our sorrow, hurt, loss, pain is swallowed up in the joy of His Son, Jesus Christ.  It's the kind of miracle where our burden can be light...where we have the strength, clarity, or whatever else we need to pass through difficulty.

Truly He is a God of miracles!  Yet, He waits for us to use our power to choose.  He waits on our willingness and our seeking Him.  I am grateful for Jesus Christ, His example, and that I am learning to use the pattern of "bitter cup prayers" to be a better daughter of God and trust Him when I don't understand.

THEREFORE WHAT?

Check out this Ensign article by Elder Bednar "Accepting the Lord's Will and Timing." Do you have any "bitter cup prayers" you could benefit from offering right now?  Do you need to go back and work through times that maybe you could have?  Consider journaling about amazing times like I shared in your life where He carried you as the bitter cup was passed from you or where it could not be passed from you and what happened through the experiences and how you can see His hand in it.

This was also a great short clip of Micheal McClean at time out for women.

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