Sunday, June 15, 2014

Dear Daddy

Dear Daddy,

Happy 55th Birthday! AND Happy Father's Day! You get a twofer this year! 

Thank you.

Thank you for working so hard and living without so that I could grow up with mom always home.

Thank you for deciding to have a fourth child. I know that three was a handful and it took a lot of convincing to keep going. I'm glad you did!

Thank you for giving me your height, dark skin, and blonde hair.

Thank you for affectionately naming me David "Toad".

Thank you for calling me "Doi" and coining the term "The Doi language".

Thank you for allowing me to come home from Church every Sunday when I was young and sit on your belly in my white Sunday shirt and underwear munching on graham crackers while you laid on the couch.

Thank you for taking me on errands with you every Saturday growing up, making rounds at The Home Depot, lunch at Mickey D's, and pretending not to know that we would end up at Toys R Us at the end of each trip to purchase me a new Power Ranger Megazord much to Mom's protest.

Thank you for taking the time to read to me every night until I started grasping the concept of reading myself.

Thank you for laying in my bed with me and fighting off the monsters while I fell asleep.

Thank you for teaching me from a very young age to work hard. For teaching me that no one owes me anything.

Thank you for teaching me how to be organized.

Thank you for teaching me to give everything you have, even if what you have isn't a lot.

Thank you for teaching me how to use the riding lawn mower at ten years old despite your better judgement.

Thank you for suffering through Scouting with me. I know you understand my deep loathing for camping and the confusion that comes with people who actually want to spend a night sleeping on the ground.

Thank you for taking me to every Harry Potter book midnight premiere even though a lot of times you had work early the next morning. 

Thank you for bribing me with $300 dollars to play football in 8th grade and then not being too disappointed in me once I quit after one practice.

Thank you for always providing me with a vehicle to get around in. 

Thank you for supporting me in my musical endeavors despite that not being an area of interest for you personally.

Thank you for helping support me on my mission morally and financially.

Thank you for helping support me in college. For all the money spent on housing, flights, gas, and food.

Thank you for using your time and money to attend my college graduation.

Thank you for letting me bum off you after college while I get the next step of my life together.

Thank you for your sense of humor and laughing at my inappropriate jokes.

Thank you for caring enough to annoy and poke fun even though I whine just as much now as I did when I was five years old.

Thank you for putting up with me screeching "DAAAAAAADDDDDD" in the most annoying way possible.

Thank you for making sure your children have everything and more. 

Thank you for accepting me for who I am and not trying to change that.

Thank you for withholding judgement and showing love when I make mistakes-no matter how large they are sometimes. 

Above all, thank you for being my Dad.

I love you Daddy.

David "Toad"

Friday, June 13, 2014

He Is Aware

On June 5, 2002, fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Smart, the daughter of a close-knit Mormon family, was taken from her home in the middle of the night by religious fanatic, Brian David Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee. She was kept chained, dressed in disguise, repeatedly raped, and told she and her family would be killed if she tried to escape. After her rescue on March 12, 2003, she rejoined her family and worked to pick up the pieces of her life.

In her recently published memoir, MY STORY, Smart explains how her faith helped her stay sane in the midst of a nightmare and how she found the strength to confront her captors at their trial and see that justice was served.

She shares one such experience of faith in the chapter titled Cold Water.

"I'm not sure how long it was into my captivity. More than a couple weeks, but not quite a month, I guess. We had gone a long time without going down to the stream to get any water. Maybe Mitchell was just lazy, but I didn't think that was the reason. I think something may have spooked him, causing him to be afraid to go down to the spring. Maybe he was worried that someone had become suspicious of him on one of his trips into the city. He might have seen someone down in the canyon. I don't know what it was, all I knew was that I was thirsty.

"Down in the valley, the search efforts were still under way. Though weeks had now passed, my parents were working hard to keep the story of my kidnapping in the press. They knew it was vital to make sure that people were still aware, to keep the search efforts going and my picture in the news. From what Mitchell had told me, my posters were still up everywhere. The first time Mitchell had seen these posters, it had made him very proud, but I don't think he expected the search efforts to keep going for so long. And though he tried to hide it, I could see that he was worried.

"Which meant that we weren't getting any water until he was certain it was safe to head down to the spring.

"Mitchell started to ration what little water we had left, but eventually we reached the point where we only had a few cups remaining in the bottom of one of the plastic containers. Mitchell drank, then poured a cup for Barzee, then poured the last few drops for me. Though it didn't even fill my cup, I drank it eagerly. The water was warm, having been sitting in the sun, and it tasted like melted plastic. I drank it in one gulp, then put the cup down.

"And that was it. The water was gone.

"I stared at the other water containers, but I knew they were empty. We had checked them several times already, taking off the lids and pouring out the last few drops. Still, Mitchell went over to shake them just to make sure that they were empty. He could do that all he wanted. There was no water in the camp.

"It was the end of June deep into the boiling days of summer. Utah is a desert, and it had not rained since the first week that I was captured. Temperatures hovered in the nineties, sometimes reaching above a hundred. A hot wind blew every afternoon, drying us like leather. My skin was dry, my throat, my eyes. I was so dirty and so thirsty that I thought I would die.

"After the sun had gone down we sat around for a while to savor the cooler temperatures, but eventually we went to bed. I was always the first to crawl into the tent. Mitchell came in beside me, then Barzee beside him. Before we went to sleep, he always checked my cable to make sure it was secure.

"Surely he'll go down to get water in the morning, I thought as we settled down in bed. It was the only thing that I could think of as I drifted off to sleep.

"The night was long and restless. Morning came. Mitchell didn't say anything about going down to the spring. I asked him, but he refused to talk to me about it.

"All day we sat and cooked in the summer heat. Mitchell checked the water containers once again, but all of them were dry. I had thought that being hungry was difficult, but it was nothing compared to this. Nothing compared to the burning in my throat. Nothing compared to the drive to find something to drink. And I wasn't alone. Barzee and Mitchell felt it too. I could see it in their eyes. I could hear it in the dryness of their voices. Whatever had driven Mitchell to stay away from the bottom of the canyon must have been very powerful indeed.

"The day dragged on. Hot. Miserable. Dry desert heat. I was beginning to lose my energy. None of us wanted to eat. I begged Mitchell again to go down and get some water. I begged him to let me off the cable. I offered to carry the containers if he was too tired to carry them himself. I tried to understand why he wouldn't go, but none of it made sense.

"Evening came. We went to bed. I fell into a restless sleep.

I was awakened in the middle of the night. Sitting up, I looked around. The moonlight filtered through the nylon fabric, casting the inside of the tent in a pale, yellow light. Mitchell was asleep beside me. Barzee was lying next to him. Both of them were breathing deeply, Mitchell's throat rattling with every breath. I looked around in the moonlight. Something had wakened me. Turning, I looked toward the front of the tent.

"There was a yellow cup sitting beside my pillow. I leaned toward it, checking it in the moonlight. It was filled to the very brim with water. I stared at it a moment, not believing it was real. I reach out to touch it. The cup was cold. I pulled my hand back and looked around. Was I dreaming? Was I crazy? I quickly turned to Mitchell and Barzee. Neither of them had moved. I listened. A gentle breeze blew through the tops of the trees, swaying in the night. I turned back to the water. Slowly, I reached out to touch it once again. It was cold as ice and filled to the top.

"I picked it up and drank it. The water cooled my throat and filled my stomach. It was cold and clear and wonderful, the best-tasting water that I had ever had.

"After drinking, I stared at the empty cup for a long time before laying my head back to the ground.

"Where did the water come from? I had no explanation other than the water came from God. I know we didn't have a drop of water in the camp. I know that neither Mitchell nor Barzee would have wakened to give me any water, even if they had any left to give. And this water was fresh and cold, like it had just come from the spring.

"I never told them about the water. I never talked about it at all. But over the next few days, I thought a lot about what had happened. Why did God do it? How did it happen? What was God trying to say?

"Would I have died without the water? Certainly not. As thirsty as I felt, and as terrible as it was, I was not teetering on the eye of a life-or-death situation. And I was not alone. Mitchell and Barzee needed water too. Mitchell wasn't going to stay up the mountain and let us all die of thirst. Eventually he would have had to go down to the stream.

"So why did God send me the water?

"Because He loved me. And He wanted me to know.

"He wanted me to know that He was still near. He wanted me to know that He controlled the Earth and all the heavens, that all things were in His hands. And if He could move mountains, then He could do this thing for me. To Him it was a small thing-a terribly easy thing to do-but for me it was powerful as if He had parted the sea.

"This experience reminded me once again that God had not deserted me, that He was aware of my suffering and loneliness. And that assurance gave me hope. It helped me to keep my faith and gave me the strength that I needed to go on.

"It also gave me something else to think about.

"At the time, I had pretty much conceded that Mitchell might kill me. And if he didn't kill me, then I was condemned to a life of suffering and captivity. But the appearance of the water seemed to indicate that God had another plan. It told me that the fight for freedom wasn't over. God knew the end from the beginning and there was still hope for me.

"In my life, I have come to believe there are lots of examples where God provides us little miracles to give us hope. Most for these experiences are not as obvious as waking up and finding a cup of water. Some of them are much more subtle. We may even have to look for His miracles along the way. But they are there. And they're important when we are struggling with the challenging battles of this life."

(Smart, Elizabeth. (2013). My Story. New York, New York. St. Martin's Press)

President Thomas S. Monson said:

“Wherever we are in life, there are times when all of us have challenges and struggles. Although they are different for each, they are common to all.

“Many of the challenges we face exist because we live in this mortal world, populated by all manner of individuals. At times we ask in desperation, ‘How can I keep my sights firmly fixed on the celestial as I navigate through this telestial world?’

“There will be times when you will walk a path strewn with thorns and marked by struggle. There may be times when you feel detached—even isolated—from the Giver of every good gift. You worry that you walk alone. Fear replaces faith.”

Casey and I were having a conversation over the phone a couple days ago about life and the trials that each person is given. We both felt that it was a common thing for people, especially in LDS culture, to say that everyone has trials, they're just different. 

We both felt that though that may be true, it seems to us that not everyone was given the same level of challenging battles in this life. Casey expressed that it seemed like there were many that just seemed to have it all while others were struggling to get through each day.

The hard fact of the matter is that life is NOT fair. Even within my close circle of family and friends, there are many trials given that I feel are much more than one person should have to suffer.

It can be so frustrating and honestly easy to find anger with God when we become so impatient hearing others tell us to "just hang in there" or "endure to the end."

I know I'm not the only one who often seeks for instant gratification because I'm sick of waiting and sick of being told that "in the eternities it will be made right."

Casey best summarized it as your entire body being on fire. Having someone notice and tell you that if you can just hang in there, a year from now the fire will be extinguished when all you want and all you need is a bucket of water then and there to relieve your pain and suffering.

Ether 12:27 tells us "And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them."

I want you to imagine what it would be like if you had no weakness. If you were completely perfect in every aspect of your life. If you were perfect physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, academically. Would you have a reason to fall on your knees? Would you have a reason for the grace of God to play a role in your life? It has always been necessary for man to fall so that we could experience joy and eternal happiness.

The prophet Lehi explained:

“And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen [been cut off from the presence of God], but he would have remained in the Garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created. …

“And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.

“But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.

“Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:22–25).

Had Adam and Eve not partaken of the fruit, man would have never fallen. We would have never been given mortal bodies and the opportunity to progress eternally and become like our Heavenly Father. We would be spiritually damned, unable to move forward. 

Had mankind not become mortal, we would not know heartache and pain, but we would also not know happiness and love. This has been the plan all along.

President Monson has told us that "We were not placed on this earth to walk alone. What an amazing source of power, of strength, and of comfort is available to each of us. He who knows us better than we know ourselves, He who sees the larger picture and who knows the end from the beginning, has assured us that He will be there for us to provide help if we but ask. We have the promise: 'Pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good.'”

God knows the end from the beginning. He has a greater plan for all of us, greater than we know. He walks with us every single step of the way, carrying us a large majority of the time when we are too weak to continue on by our own two feet. 

Like Elizabeth, let us look for the cup of cold water in our lives. When life seems bleak, when it seems like happiness is no longer possible, let us look for the little miracles that remind us that God is there. That he is aware of us. That he loves us. That he wants us to keep fighting.