Sunday, March 19, 2017

Will You Be a Potato or an Egg?

Last Sunday I heard the most intriguing analogy on how we choose to handle our trials.  During the weekly television broadcast of Music and the Spoken Word, Lloyd Newel described a pot of boiling water, and how if you put an egg and a potato into a pot of boiling water one will become hard, and the other soft.  Interesting how the same boiling water has such an opposite effect on the egg and potato.

Life is often like a pot of boiling water-- hot, turbulent and painful.  Do the difficulties in our lives soften us, or do they harden us?

I knew two women, both of whom had gone through very difficult marriages.  The first woman had been softened by her trials.  She was compassionate towards others and their trials.  She understood pain.  She sponsored and helped women around her in similar situations to get through the road she had already trod and survived.  She chose to live a positive life.  Though her life was not easy, she looked for the good all around her.  She was happy and joyful despite hard circumstances.

The second woman unfortunately had slowly become more and more bitter over the years because of her difficult marriage.  She felt she was a victim.  She felt that life had not been fair to her.  She rarely smiled.  She was difficult to be around because of her negativity.  Even the good things in her life seemed negative to her.  She could not seem to see the good.

When we look for the good in our daily lives, that is what we will see.  When we look for the bad, that is what we will see.  Both are there.  You will see what you choose to see.  When I have chosen to look for the good through my trials, it has not changed my circumstances, but it definitely has changed how I felt and how I responded.

We all have trials.  We all have difficulties in our lives.  We all have those times when it feels like we are living in boiling water.  How wonderful it is that we have the great gift of being able to choose how to respond to our circumstances.  What will you choose?  Will you be a potato or an egg?

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Never Give Up

This is a story about a woman who never gave up.  Recently I got to know Kristen, a woman who was an alcoholic and drug addict for 45 years and lived to tell about it. She has been clean for 3 years now.  To meet anyone who has survived 45 years of such abuse is extremely rare, but someone who beat it after 45 years is nearly unheard of.  I wanted to know her story and what motivated her.  I wanted to know how she succeeded against staggering odds.

Kristen started smoking pot when she was 12 years old.  She became an alcoholic at a very young age and drank heavily for many years.  She then switched to drugs and was a drug addict for many years.  Then she switched to pain pills as her drug of choice and was addicted to that for many years.  She was in an out of rehab centers many times.  She was in and out of prison and/or jail many times.  She tried to kill her self many times.  Studies show that the life expectancy of a drug addict is 15-20 years after they start, or less.  There are no 90-year old drug addicts.  The fact that she is alive at all is amazing.  The fact that she has been clean and sober for 3 years is nothing short of miraculous.

Kristen was raised in a religious family with 3 brothers and 3 sisters.  She had a taste of a good life. Among other things in her upbringing, she was taught to believe in God.  She says now that she always knew there was a God, but she tried to hide from him most of her life.  In her addiction and misery over the years she would hit extreme lows.  She tried to drink herself to death.  When that didn't work she tried to overdose on pills.  When that didn't work she tried to slit her wrists.  She even bought a gun, loaded it and put it in her mouth, but she didn't have the guts to pull the trigger, thank goodness.  She believes now that she was crying out for help.  She really did not want to die, but she could not figure out how to live.

During her years of alcohol and drug use Kristen says she would have moments of clarity, times when she felt clear and close to God, but they didn't last.  Finally she knew that she was going crazy.  In one of those rare moments of clarity she says she knew there was something better, and that she couldn't go on living the way she was.  She knew she had to change or die.  She made a conscious choice to live, to change...after 45 years.  It took Kristen 2 years to actually get clean and sober after her decision, but she never gave up.  She fought.  When I asked her what kept her going, what kept her motivated and strong, she said having a mom that never gave up on her, and people who were there to support her got her through, as well as knowing that God was there, and that he never changes and wouldn't give up on her either.  She was lucky.  She always knew God was there and was aware of her.  Not everyone feels that.  She made a choice to turn to him, to let him in.

Kristen knows that she can never relax about being clean and sober.  Those cravings will always be there.  She will always fight to stay clean.  Her commitment to do so is inspiring.  When I asked her what keeps her strong, she told me 4 things:

1.  Prayer.
2.  The support of loved ones.
3.  Going to church and the temple regularly.
4.  Being honest with others.

Kristen fights harder to live than most of us.  She doesn't give up.  This perspective helps me to appreciate the life I have, to look at the good in my world, and to keep going even when it is hard.  May we be like Kristin in whatever challenges we face in life and NEVER GIVE UP.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Another Coin

Last week I wrote about 2 sides of a coin.  I shared 2 stories as examples.  This week I would like to share one more story.

This past month has been a hard month for me health-wise.  (Generally I am a very healthy person) At the very end of January I got a bad cold that hung on for 2 weeks with a residual cough that lasted until this last week.  Two and a half weeks ago I suddenly became ill with a high fever and severe headache that lasted 24 hours.  One and a half weeks ago I developed stomach problems that troubled me for a full week off and on.  It was during this time that I had my shift about 2 sides of a coin, the positive and negative.  This last Wednesday right around dinner time I began to get a stomach ache that quickly progressed in intensity until I had fluid coming out of both ends, sometimes at the same time.  I don't know for sure, but I suspect food poisoning.  This lasted for 2 1/2 hours.  During this time of excruciating pain and misery I was actually thinking about the 2 sides of my current coin.

On the one side, that kind of sickness is never welcome and always extremely miserable.  The timing is never good.  It left me weak all the next day.

On the other side, I was able to do all that I had planned that day before I got sick.  That morning I had gone to the Family History Center with my mother, something we both look forward to.  What if I had gotten sick while at the library at BYU?  That would have been AWFUL!  How would I have gotten across campus and home?  I don't even want to think about it.

I went to work and was able to contribute valuable service during my time there.  I did not miss any hours.  I stopped to see a friend and visit for a few minutes on the way home,which I really wanted to do.  I started feeling sick shortly after arriving home for the evening.  A dear friend of our had brought over dinner since we still have no kitchen, and so my family had food even though I could not eat it.  I had a very busy week, with obligations almost every night.  Wednesday night I happened to have no obligations..... AND it only lasted 2 1/2 hours, which, granted, at the time felt like eternity, but really it could have lasted much longer.  I am so thankful it didn't.  

While I was in my pain and suffering I was actually thinking about all of this and it made it more bearable.  The gratitude I felt at looking at all the positives actually made the trial less miserable.  It was an amazing contrast, especially since I had suffered all month with sickness and not been one bit grateful.  In fact, I had had somewhat of a "poor me" attitude.  Now, during the worst sickness of the whole month, I felt completely different.  My perspective shift actually eased my burden.  It did not ease my pain, but my ability to endure it was increased in a noticeable way.  Pretty amazing.