On the last day of school in May 1985, our children arrived home to an empty house. When I say “empty,” I mean that literally—no furniture, no clothes, no toys, no food, nothin’. That’s because everything we owned had been given away, thrown away, or packed away into the U-Haul moving van parked in front of our house. After eight years of living apart from family, we were going home to Utah. We loaded the kids into the car, a 1977 two-door tan Chevette, made a stop for one last meal at our favorite McDonald’s, then hit I-70 heading west from Jeffersonville, Indiana, leaving behind a multitude of friends who had been our surrogate family for six of the eight years we lived outside of Utah.
I don’t remember praying about whether or not moving was the Lord’s will, I just knew the time was right. And, although I didn’t think about it at the time, the move was a total act of faith; not only were we leaving our friends, we were leaving Craig’s job as well, with nothing lined up for when we arrived in Utah. My poor husband. I don’t know that we ever really discussed the situation; I just pretty much plowed through and heaven help anyone who got in my way. As I recall how I handled things, I wonder who in the world that woman was. Today I would never think of making that kind of a decision almost unilaterally. Somehow, however, I knew that it was the right thing to do and that everything would work out. And it did. Craig had a job within six weeks of our arrival in Utah and, having been guided by the hand of the Lord, we moved into our house in September.
I’ve always believed the move was prompted by the Spirit, but until I began writing this post I didn’t know why. For the past 30 years I thought the reason we were supposed to move was that our children needed to be closer to their grandparents and cousins. As I’ve been writing this post, however, I’ve come to understand that the real reason we needed to be home was for me. God knew the increasing struggles with depression I would be facing, and he knew I would need to be close to my family to help me endure the turmoil and trial ahead. Not only did he know I would need support from my family, he also knew I would need the strength I could get only through frequent temple worship, something that wouldn’t have been possible in Indiana as the closest temple was Washington D.C., a 13-hour drive each way.
When I look back, I am amazed at my faith. There was no question in my mind and heart that everything would be just fine. Though simple and humble, it was, however, untried. That trial was yet to come. My untested faith had not yet battled despair and hopelessness at the battlefield of hell’s doorstep. It had not confronted the great trial of my dad’s brain injury and subsequent dementia, and was untouched by my husband’s brush with cancer. And it was unscathed by the anxiety which remains an unwelcome guest in my psyche. It was a faith that had not yet experienced the stretching of one’s soul that occurs when God’s answer isn’t the one you want.
My faith today is one that is informed and intentional. It hasn’t been an easy process; in fact, it’s been pretty messy. The greatest trial of my faith, without question, has been my descent into the darkness of depression. (See “The Hole in My Soul”.) That “black dog,” as Winston Churchill called it, ravaged my trust in God’s dealings with me, the aftermath of which, quite frankly, still lingers.
Nonetheless, when I step back and look at the facts, I cannot deny that the Lord has been with me and aware of my needs in all things. Although he didn’t take the trial of depression from me, he made it endurable by bringing me home. He made it possible for me to spend many hours in the temple seeking for solace. Although most of the time I came home from the temple without feeling the comfort I hungered for, hindsight reveals that the time spent therein imparted a strength that quite literally saved my soul. Additionally, he blessed me with a husband who never gave up on me, who never stopped doing everything he could possibly think of to meet my needs, even when I responded only with anger and negativity. Likewise, God blessed me with parents who dropped whatever they were doing to come when I called. He blessed me with incredible neighbors and friends who helped raise my children when I was incapable of doing so myself. He blessed me with amazing children who have blessed my life by choosing to live righteously.
While I was oblivious to the tender mercies all around me during those dark days of despair, emerging from that ordeal with my faith still intact, though marred and wounded, has enabled me to maintain a more eternal perspective when challenged by the trials that have followed. The difficulty of seeing my dad go in an instant from brilliant creativity to not knowing who I was was counterbalanced by a familial circling of the wagons to support each other during the months following his traumatic brain injury. Even when he stopped making progress and drifted into the long night of dementia, there was the sweetness of serving him with no expectation of reciprocation. During my husband’s experience with cancer, I experienced that “peace that passeth understanding,” knowing that whatever happened, good or bad, everything would be all right. The profound power of prayers being offered in our behalf was palpable. The early days of my battle through anxiety were accompanied by a keen awareness of being guided step-by-step along the way as the right people came into my life at the precise moment they and their expertise were needed.
That once simple faith has grown into one that is, in a sense, evidence-based. Oh, it’s not the kind of evidence that would be accepted in a scientific arena, but it is sure just the same. It is the evidence of tender mercies that inform my faith today, a faith that is intentional and deliberate. I believe because I choose to do so. My challenge now is to reclaim that simplicity I once had and add it to the informed faith of today. The journey is by no means easy, but is unquestionably worth whatever price must be paid.
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