Thursday, April 27, 2017

On Dark Days

3 Nephi 18:24
"Therefore, hold up your light that it may shine unto the world.
Behold I am the light which ye shall hold up"
"Expecto Patronum!"  Can you tell we are reading the Harry Potter series again right now?  I love this picture, because it illustrates how I feel on dark days.  Totally surrounded, but I am learning the pattern of dispelling darkness.  Just like Harry, I have had to practice this pattern in order to get more predictable results.
My alarm went off.  The moment I opened my eyes to shut it off, I could just feel it.  The "funk," the hazy darkness.  I have had enough years of experience to know that it was starting out as an "off" kind of day.  The night before I had one of those triggers that feels like I hit a land mine that set off 100 others.  Then, because I haven't had this bad of a trigger in a long time, I was triggered that I was triggered! I had prayed about it.  I and spoken with my husband.  I ended up calling one of my best friends too.  I thought I was good to go.  But as I woke up, I just knew there was somehow more.

That morning I was able to get out of bed with the alarm.  I knew what I needed to do.  Even if I didn't feel like I wanted to, I was going to do everything I could to seek for and invite light.  I prayed, I opened my scriptures.  I had enough of an awareness of myself to go through my whole self-care routine just as if it were any other day.  I did feel lighter.  But it didn't last.  I went through my entire day, just in that funk.  I was aware enough of myself to know I was off, but didn't have it in me to completely kick it and snap out of it either.  I have a really cool promise in my Patriarchal Blessing that even though I will go through difficulty, the next day will be better and brighter.  I went to bed expecting that.

But when the alarm went off the next morning and I opened my eyes, the darkness was still there and threatening.  This time I didn't get up with my alarm.  I didn't feel like I had it in my after my previous days' battle.  But I did get up.  And I did do everything I know I "should" even though it didn't feel like it would make any difference.  Same as the day before, it brought a small time of light, but then the haze was back.  Same as the day before, I went clear through my day still in a funk.

On the third or maybe even the fourth day of exactly the same thing: aware enough to know I was off, but for whatever reason, not feeling enough presence of mind or spiritual strength to kick Satan out of my mind, I woke up.  Still feeling it.  By this time my prayers were a bit more desperate.  Even though I had no idea how or how long, I had enough previous experience with God to know He would help me.  He would answer my prayers.  He would send me the help I needed.

On that last day, I was preparing to start the kids' school time when I heard a big "thunk."  Curious, I discovered my 9-year-old daughter bringing HUGE rocks into the house and dumping them on the floor in the family room. "Hey, Senn.  What are you doing?" I asked.

"Mom, these are jail balls," was her reply.

"Jail balls?"  I asked, completely stumped as to what ever she could mean.

"Here," she said, as she thrust a paper into my hands.  I read the front then turned it over and read the back.  At first I was just stunned.  Then I began to laugh...and laugh...and laugh...  I laughed so hard there were tears rolling down my chin.  I laughed so hard I couldn't sit down.  I laughed so hard the next day my abs still hurt.  And in that moment when I finally quit laughing and laughing.  It was very clear what had been happening to me.  So clear.  For whatever reason (that God understood), laughing like that was just what I needed to snap out of if.  He had answered my prayer in the most unusual, yet perfect way.


Just in case you can't read this: "You're Invited to 'Jail!' Be a crook for a night. Meet me in my..."


"room to night at 5:00 pm.  P.S. bring your hand cuffs.  Yours truly, Sennika"  Senn had thought up a crazy game I have no idea where or how to invite her brothers to be crooks.  The "jail balls" were suppose to be ball and chains.  She intended to tie yard to the rocks, then tie the other end to the boys' legs.  WHAT IN THE WORLD?! Although it seemed totally bizarre, that is probably what made it so funny to me.  I was completely caught off guard by her use of imagination.



On other dark days, I have had no desire to do things that bring light.  There is a little voice that whispers, "That isn't even going to help.  Why would taking the time to do that change anything?"  BUT when I fight that voice...when I do it any way, there have been times where I instantly feel better and I am instantly lead to what needs to happen or I need to do to feel better.

One day I had horrible questions swirling around in my head:

"Why are there so many good couples and families who would welcome more children, but they can't?"

"Why do you allow infertility, especially for good couples?"

"Why do you allow children to go to homes where they are abused, neglected, hurt, belittled... when there are families who would be there in an instant to take them? WHY?"

"Why is adoption so expensive?  Why is there so much red-tap?  Why can't good families just be able to let children directly into their homes?"

"And while we are at it, why has adding to our family been so hard for me?  You know being a mom is what I have wanted more than anything else."

"I know that because of Jesus Christ and my faith in Him, any miracle is possible.  Have I not had enough faith?  Have I not been worthy enough?"

I can't find the journal entry, otherwise I would write the other questions.  You get the idea.  It was dark and painful.

It took me a while to catch this subconscious dialogue playing in the back of my mind.  I am a writer.  When I have things swirling in my mind like that, I have learned one of the best things for me, is to name it.  Then I can tame it.  If I can get it out of my head, then I can examine it more closely.  I furiously scribbled all of these questions down. I took one last glance at the page, then shut my eyes as I began to pray.  I told God that it hurt.  It hurt deeply.  I told Him I didn't understand and right in this moment, these things that are so dark and ugly seem real.  

As I opened my eyes in the moments of peace afterwards, the thought came, "Katy, do you remember the Ensign article you read a few months ago.  Go look at it again."

I pulled it up on my iPad.  As I read these words, it was as if God was speaking directly to me: 

"Righteousness and faith certainly are instrumental in moving mountains—if moving mountains accomplishes God’s purposes and is in accordance with His will. Righteousness and faith certainly are instrumental in healing the sick, deaf, and lame—if such healing accomplishes God’s purposes and is in accordance with His will. Thus, even if we have strong faith, many mountains will not be moved. And not all of the sick and infirm will be healed. If all opposition were curtailed, if all maladies were removed, then the primary purposes of the Father’s plan would be frustrated.

Many of the lessons we are to learn in mortality can be received only through the things we experience and sometimes suffer. And God expects and trusts us to face temporary mortal adversity with His help so we can learn what we need to learn and ultimately become what we are to become in eternity."

In such a gentle and loving way, I was reminded that it was okay...that there wasn't a mistake...that I didn't cause these difficulties.  In that moment of love, I felt peace and reassurance.  That dark day was instantly dispelled.

The point I am trying to make is this: when we have dark days, what can we do?  I know everyone is different and as I have illustrated in these two personal experiences, we can have very personal experiences that are not a one-size-fits-all answers.  Some days it has just been going to sleep and I wake up feeling reset.  BUT what is the pattern?  I am learning that when I have dark days, they are faith days.  They are opportunities for me to DO what I KNOW, even (or especially) when I don't feel like I want to or that it will help.  Sometimes the day feels so dark that it requires everything that is in me to cry out to God and that is all I feel like I can do.  It would be interested to have my husband write from one who has been through depression.  I can't speak from those depths and in no way do I want to pretend to.  But I can speak from those moments of my own darkest abyss.  And since today is a light day, I can easily testify that there is hope even when we can't see it.  I must use my power to choose to choose light.  

Consider on this pattern of doing all we can to reach for light in times of darkness in the words of Joseph Smith. 

Joseph Smith history verse 15 &16 (emphasis added):
"...I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.  But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me."

And what about this example?

"Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief."

I don't know how.  I don't know when.  But I know God will answer your prayers, especially on dark days.  Just like the man in Mark, we can cry out.  Because of Jesus Christ, God will answer and reach us, no matter how feeble our reaching is.  Sometimes these dark days will be instantly dispelled by our efforts to reach towards the light, sometimes we may be in a funk for days, weeks, months, or even years.  We must fight.  We must reach. And in His way and timing, we will find light again.

THEREFORE WHAT?

Elder Holland gave a few talks to consider studying. 1. "Songs Sun and Unsung"  2. "Like a Broken Vessel" or just go read anything Elder Holland has written or spoken.  Haha...truly I think he has a good understanding of dark days.


Your challenge is two-fold.  First, take a few minutes to generate (write it down or it doesn't count :)) a list of things that bring light for you.  I know what that is for me, but that doesn't help you.  Figure out what YOU need.  Maybe even consider putting it in order of most potent.  For example, although for me looking up positive quote can be nice or helpful at certain times, when I am experiencing darkness, it doesn't hold a candle to what pulling out my scriptures can do for me.  Take the time to make a "game plan."  

Second, put this pattern to the test next time you are having a dark day.  Seek for light, even if you don't feel like you want to or it will actually help.  If you did the first challenge before and wrote it down, turning to your list now may be helpful to take quick action.  You can just start pulling out all the stops and doing things that bring light. Consider taking time to record what happened. How did God answer your prayer?






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