Friday, October 20, 2017

"I'm Ready for a Change"

A couple years ago I was invited to acompnay the sister missionaries as they went to teach a cute little family about the gospel of Jesus Christ. As I nervously accepted to tag along, I wondered what on earth I could possibly contribute to that particular lesson. I learned quickly that my "happen chance" invite was not for me to help the sister missionaries teach  Erin and Devin but for Erin and Devin to teach me. I was so lucky to join in on multiple lessons after the first and gained so much insight, felt rooms change through the presence of the spirit, and gained an incredible admiration for missionary work and the miracles that take place in the mission field. Erin and Devin were baptized and I was privileged to speak at their baptism trying so incredibly hard to control my emotions of admiration, love and excitement for this amazing family who was ready and willing.

A few months ago Erin gave a talk in sacrament meeting that moved and inspired everyone who heard... With her humble consent, I felt impressed to share her talk months ago and finally I am just now getting to it! I hope you enjoy her realness, honesty, and willingness to share... I just love her so much!!! Thank you Erin...


July 23rd 2017,

When Brother Plotkin called and asked me to share with everyone today, I had no idea how deeply this topic would resonate with me or how personal it would be. After lots of prayer, studying the scriptures, and reading past teachings I've come away with a deeper understanding of myself and of my relationship with Heavenly Father. 
I tend to have strong opinions, feel I'm always right, and can be quite stubborn. All things I'm sure my husband greatly appreciates. These are not always bad qualities though as it allows me to stand my ground, express myself, and fight for what I believe in.  They also come in handy when I'm barely awake and my children, who I'm positive have already passed the Law exam, are convinced that ice cream is an appropriate breakfast, when we all know ice cream is an after breakfast snack. At least for me. The downside is that it blocks my ability to have Faith in what Heavenly Father wants from me.  How can I build a testimony when I'm already full of ideas, often times wrong ideas? This is a difficult thing for me to admit out loud but I'm sure my husband is enjoying hearing it and will likely use it as fuel during our next debate. A term I use loosely as we are known to spend long and intense conversations arguing about the difference between a ditch and a hole or the proper way to make a reuben sandwich.
President Harold B. Lee said something that really stood out to me, it was "There will be some things that take patience and faith. You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church.  It may contradict your political views.  It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life.  But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord himself, with patience and faith, the promise is that "the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good and his names glory".  Reading that couldn't have come at a more important time in my life.  I had been struggling with wondering if I made a rash decision in being baptized.  There are so many wonderful things about the Church, but those tiny little nagging doubts that creep in when you don't keep up with your studies and prayers were starting to get to me.  And that talk, that passage, really made a difference on my outlook.  It's decades old, but is still relevant today.  It reminded me to put my faith back in Heavenly Father, what he wants is what matters.  Even if, at this time and moment it doesn't make sense, He truly knows best.  How could someone who was a Prophet over 40 years ago know my struggles now? It's because he spoke truth then and truth is constant. 

My Husband and I were baptized about 2 years ago.  I was raised in a really awesome religion, one that I hold very dear to my heart as it gave me such a strong basis of belief.  However, as I got older and had kids of my own I started to get dissatisfied and felt the urge to find something more.  I had a lot of LDS friends growing up and was curious about trying a church out.  I played around with the idea for a while and spent time praying for guidance and finally thought to mention it to Devin.  His response was "Erin, we aren't Mormon" in the same tone he uses when I ask if we can train pigs to be truffle hunters, or if I can learn how to be an Alaskan Bush Helicopter Pilot.  I let it drop, sort of, but remember I'm a bit stubborn and continued to pray for guidance.  I also looked into pilot school and places to buy pigs.  Luckily for Devin Heavenly Father was listening and shot down my more insane ideas. Pigs take too much work and get gigantic! Like huge.

President Gordon B. Hinkley said, "It is this element, weak and somewhat feeble at first, which moves every instigator in the direction of conversion. It pushes every convert toward security in the Faith." Heavenly Father told me that I wasn't meant to train pigs or learn to fly a helicopter, but what he did do was send Sister Kilgrow and Sister Malone to our door.  He answered my prayers and allowed us to learn in a setting that was comfortable for both of us. He was building the foundation of my testimony through Faith in Him.

In Alma Chapter 30 verse 41 He says "But, behold, I have all things as a testimony that these things are true; and ye also have all things as a testimony unto you that they are true; and will ye deny them?"  I have spent so much time in the last year denying my testimony, denying my truth because I lacked faith in Heavenly Father. He brought me here, he answered my prayers.  There couldn't have been a more obvious way for him to tell me that this Church was where he wanted me.  Faith builds your testimony.  Faith in what Heavenly Father wants and Faith in what he says. These are things to dwell on and to hold onto everyday.  Even when I'm doubting he still has ways to bring me back.
There came a point in the last 7 months where I was ready to walk away from everything. I was frustrated. I was negative. I was letting what I thought was injustice take me away from everything I had been building upon. I was losing Faith.
1 Corinthians 2:5 says "That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God." I was not obeying or listening to His power. I was allowing my mind to be clouded by my worldly views instead of holding onto the scriptures. I had received a testimony and I was ignoring it. All the things I loved and believed in seemed dark and dreary.  I questioned if I was doing right by my children. I questioned if I was doing right by my personal views. I still had a firm grasp of why I started down this path but I wasn't sure if it really mattered. Then something funny happened.  Heavenly Father sent Elder Hintz and Elder Coombs to our door. It was a wake up call really.  He sent the Sisters to bring me to him the first round and now he sent the Elders to round me back up again when I was starting to wander. Their messages were relevant to my issues and divinely inspired. I didn't share with them why I wasn't attending Church, but they somehow knew regardless.  It was a reminder that even when I didn't want to hear Heavenly Father, he was still there. Waiting for me. He brought me back to my original testimony and validated it. 

President Thomas S. Monson said "Unless the roots of your testimony are firmly planted. It will be difficult for you to withstand the ridicule of those who challenge your faith.  When firmly planted your testimony of the gospel, of the savior, and of our Heavenly Father will influence all that you do throughout your life".  Sometimes our greatest challenger is ourselves. Coaxing those roots and nourishing them helps to keep our own negative thoughts at bay.  If we fill our minds with scripture and teachings we don't have room to questions ourselves.  I forgot to study. I figured since I had such a big answer to prayer and such a strong testimony it would be easy to keep going in the right direction. I was wrong. I lost Faith and went backwards instead.
According to "True to the Faith: A gospel reference" A testimony is a spiritual witness given by the Holy Ghost. The foundation of a testimony is the knowledge that Heavenly Father lives and loves us; that Jesus Christ lives, that He is the Son of God, and that he carried out the infinite atonement; that Joseph Smith is the prophet of God who was called to restore the gospel; that we are led by a living prophet today; and that The Church of Latter-Day Saints is the Saviors true Church on the earth. With this foundation, a testimony grows to include all principles of the gospel".
I testify that these things are true. I have faith in Heavenly Father. I have Faith in his living Prophets, both today and yesterday.  Their teachings have relevance, even decades and lifetimes later. Jesus Christ came and died so that we could live and bear his witness. If we hold onto these truths and live our lives by these truths then our testimony will grow strong in Him. We will be the example our Heavenly Father wants us to be.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Ruth and Naomi



 What’s my name?... Like right now?? No one really knows… but most people go with any combination of Tiffany, Bleak, Johansen, and/or Cantrell... MOSTLY everyone… except one person in this entire world who, in her heart would call me Ruth.

 Growing up I had learned the basics about Ruth and Naomi. Like most of us, I felt like more of the focus had been on Ruth rather than Naomi.

 I also have always “believed” in my religion, but really, I lived a life where fun was first priority and religion came later. That was until I met a “BOY” (yes, of course) who changed my life, and helped me dig deeper into what I had been taught to believe all my life. This “boy” became my best friend. Call me egotistical, but FINALLY there was someone I had a hard time keeping up with, and someone that I didn’t scare away. I will never forget the time he told me that he wanted to marry me because I reminded him so much of his mom. Man, was that romantic!

 So, of course we got married. It was never easy until the last six months of our life together… Looking back, I can now view the seemingly constant down pour of trials in our marriage as a crash course of learning important lessons most don’t learn until they are 80.

 Things got better when we had our little girl…

 We named her Reese.

 Just 18 months later, we were shocked by another miracle baby.

 We named her Jaclyn.

 On November 30th 2011, just before we were about to hold baby Jac in our arms, I saw my best friend in the middle of the night only this time he wasn’t asking me if I was ok, I was asking him.

No response.

 Till this day, we still don’t know why.

 On December 2nd 2011, I was standing in the kitchen when the words of the woman I had mentioned before, named Ruth, came strongly into my mind at the most random time. “…Wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge, your people shall be my people, And your God, my God…”

 I walked slowly to the room where I had just spent an entire night on the floor weeping in disbelief, but there she was… my mother in-law, whom I now saw as my Naomi. I walked up to her and sat down next to her without knowing what to say. Somehow, I managed to open my mouth and say, “I will always be with you, and I will never leave your side.” She finally opened her eyes and looked right at me in disbelief. She hugged me and wept in my arms while muttering, “thank you thank you thank youuu…”

 Later, she mentioned she had felt strongly that she and I were like Ruth and Naomi. I knew it was true, but I didn’t know what exactly that would mean until later on.

 For the next 6 weeks, time stood still for Naomi and I, but was filled with an odd combination of unthinkable pain accompanied with unimaginable miracles and insight. Naomi and I were experiencing the unexplainable joy and relief as the Lord taught us continually, opened our eyes to see miracles, and gave us strength to testify for Him.

 January 12th 2012, Jac was born and there Naomi was, and there she stayed.

 Six weeks later, I was on my way to Oregon, and felt like I was betraying Naomi. But the Lord reassured me that it was right to leave. He also showed me that Naomi never left and that she was always going to be there.

 Someone new was placed right in front of me, and I, (Ruth), was afraid to tell Naomi, but I did anyway and Naomi trusted me and was happy for me. Again, there she was, always there, always in my heart.

 I married this “someone so new” and felt like I had betrayed her again. I will never forget that phone call and what Naomi had said to me, “I trust you Ruth. He is a good man.”

 Through the ups and the downs of being with someone new, Naomi never left me even though she was filled with pain and sorrow from losing her own son. She stayed right by me, pushing me, picking me up.

 I was starting to understand what our “Ruth and Naomi” story was going to look like and how it was going to work out without being able to be physically present with Naomi at all times. Back and forth Naomi flew and drove. Always there, and always by my side.

 Twins. Of course twins. While Naomi never left me and was always by my side, she had once seen my twins on the other side on a bitter-sweet day. Naomi loves those babies.

 As more and more trials came, more very painful growth occurred. Naomi selflessly drove and flew to help me fight each and every one of them for years- picking me up, pushing me, and never leaving my side.

 At the brink of my very own death, I knew Naomi would be there, I knew she understood, and I knew that she loved me and has always been my Naomi even years before we had this new perspective.

 My “Ruth and Naomi” story never focused on Ruth like it had in the past. I now know that on December 2nd 2011, when The words of Ruth entered my mind, they were never Ruth’s words, but that they had always been Naomi’s. “…Wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge, your people shall be my people, And your God, my God…”

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Fight for your life, and simplify (This might answer a lot of questions)


I have been receiving personal messages, text messages and Instagram messages from many of you who have been wondering about my absence in the last few weeks. And, while I don’t have the stamina, energy or ability to respond to every tender message of concern, I wanted to share and reach all of you through this post. Please know I love you and have appreciated every thought and every prayer.

These last few weeks I have been faced with a whole new challenge that continues to be a moment by moment mental, emotional, and  physical pain that has been so excruciating I would even compare it to the pain I felt after the loss of my brother Michael in 2009 and the loss of my first husband, Jared, in 2011. But, this time the pain is not from the death of someone else but from the death I feel within me, called Clinical Depression.

In the past, I have spoken about a more common general depression that many have heard of or even experienced yourselves. But, Clinical Depression coupled with anxiety, is a whole different animal.  This debilitating, disease has nearly taken life from me. Thankfully, earthly and heavenly angels have intervened and have been helping to facilitate a step-by-step plan to a very difficult recovery.

I am sure most of you are saying “What the heck?? I would have never guessed!” Well, for the past 2 1/2 years I have been battling with the more common kind of depression. The one where you learn how to wear the, “I’m ok,” mask and push through hard days, enjoying the good ones as they come. I had many days (even weeks at a time) where I could enjoy life where my heart and my mind would connect. Then, for seemingly no reason, the dreaded dark cloud, would come and suck joy, excitement, interests, passion, drive, and positivity right out of me, leaving just enough so I could still carry on and function.

There were many days where my kids felt like burdens rather than gifts, and then there were days where I just couldn’t get enough of them. Sounds pretty common to you moms out there, RIGHT?  But for me, even during the days where I enjoyed them, I still didn’t feel like myself and I knew I was struggling when I would actually find it painful to smile as they shared with me something silly that happened. I felt like a horrible mother even though I knew this wasn’t the real me. I could never get away from the guilt even though my kids were happy and thriving.

For those 2 plus years I had been on an antidepressant prescribed by my general practitioner, and like I said, I could at least enjoy the so-called good days and just grit through the really rough ones.

In January of this year there was a period of 2 months when the general practitioner added another medication, which was a stimulant, and I actually started to feel the best I had felt since I had the twins. It was a magical 2 months. Every single day I thanked Heavenly Father because I was consistently feeling my heart and mind connecting. I was now supermom. I could do anything, handle all the fighting 4 little girls bring to the table, cook dinner, do laundry, put it away, and actually not hate it. I took showers more frequently, looked forward to planning activities with the kids… I mean MAGICAL SUPER AWESOME MOM. Multiple times a day I would beg that these wonderful days would continue.
But, for some reason those carefree days started to disappear and man was I scrambling to get them back. Both medications were increased; I got blessings and spent a great deal of time on my knees pleading with the heavens.

I soon had more bad days than good, but I didn’t want to give up, so I kept working with my general practitioner, and tried everything. Finally he took me off both medications and put me on another one in hopes it would help. Four weeks later, now into August, I crashed and entered into the deepest depths of a new kind of depression, Clinical Depression, which I now have labeled, Hell. I turned into a completely different person and literally broke. My body broke, my mind broke, my heart felt like it was breaking over and over again, and all I could do was scream in agony day after day and night after night, “Help me God. Help me…with small breaks of what felt like this shocking feeling between breakdowns.

My family came to the rescue. One set of grandparents took our older two girls, while another set of grandparents took the younger two.  Friends rescued our dog, Jake and my parents became my 24/7 caretakers while my sweet husband had to work. All I could do was try to remember to keep breathing.

Miracles became apparent as an opportunity opened up to be seen by an incredible psychiatrist at OHSU who does DNA testing to determine which medications are suited for each individual.  At first we were told he did not have an opening till the end of August.  That seemed like an eternity since each day was complete torture.  I know Heavenly Father intervened, because the doctor’s receptionist called back and said he had found a way to fit me in, in only 5 days.  Those were the longest days of my life but there was light at the end of the dark tunnel.  My dad said it perfectly when he said, “Wow I sure do love miracles!”

I won’t go into much more detail but now fast-forwarding to today, I am still working with this psychiatrist who through genetic testing, was able to determine that my body does NOT respond to SSRIs, which my general practitioner had switched me to prior to my massive plummet.  He also was able to determine the medications my body WAS in need of.

Although we have a lot more information now, and a plan to get me better and back to those magical days I once had, the battle still continues. It is rigorous and beyond challenging, but I am hopeful that it will all be ok in due time. Actually just yesterday I laughed really hard for the first time in weeks. For those of you who know me…. That’s a looooonnngggg time.

One night at the onset of one of my scariest painful depressive episodes my mom gave me some medication that the psychiatrist prescribed to help get through those very difficult times. And gosh, believe me when I say that you are just begging and pleading with your life for the meds to start working because every second is an all-encompassing pain. After the longest hour of agony, the medication finally kicked in and my mom and I could finally lie still in my bed and hold each other and cry tears of relief. I of course thanked her for not leaving my side. I expressed how sorry I was for the pain I knew she was feeling. She said she would never leave me over and over again and stayed right there by me. I told her I had to start trying to recognize the good that was coming from this type of suffering. She kind of laughed through her tears and said she didn’t think we’d see that for years, but I told her I really meant it.

After Jared died, I was in dire need to be aware of ANY GOOD that was coming from something so tragic, something that caused so many people so much pain. For me, being aware of something positive through the pain makes it worth it. When there appears to be no good while I am going through a trial (for me) that means I’m not looking hard enough because there is ALWAYS something good to be found.

The Lord performs all types of miracles amidst tragedy. The Lord brings new and life-changing perspective to individuals in the middle of strong storms. The Lord creates growth and strength from broken lives and broken hearts. The Lord causes the heavens to open and allows help from both sides of the veil. The Lord is how we survive and thrive during times where it seems impossible to live. I know that to be true. I have testified to that a million times and I will never stop. I could never deny it.

So naturally, just like with all the suffering (big and small) my family has endured, I wanted to start looking for the good because if we are going to walk through hell, there better be lots of reasons for it, opportunities to change and opportunities for growth.

I am sure as the years go by many good things will become apparent from this current trial but one good thing I have noticed so far is not actually something you would EVER think would come from a trial like this.

One night lying in bed, recovering from another painful episode, I started to randomly think of how nice and relieving it has been to withdraw from social media since I had been so sick. I had been so paralyzed and consumed by this Clinical Depression beast, the last thing I had energy for was social media, and I realized how good that felt!

I first reminisced about Facebook, recognizing what a blessing it had been to me over the years. I had been able to receive so much help and love from so many people through many trying times. I also thought about how I had used social media to share some of the personal things I had learned about life. These experiences had been wonderfully therapeutic and helpful.  SOOOOO, why on earth would I be feeling such relief from my recent inactivity?

I then began identifying specific negative influences that ever so subtly started coming into my life through social media that were not always there. These negative facets slooooowly crept in and have unfortunately worn on me. I won’t list all the things that started to influence me but will just share a few.

I first started to notice that instead of loving myself and feeling confident as a mother, I was starting to compare myself to the Facebook facade of seemingly perfect mothers with perfect lives and actually started wondering if I could ever measure up. I also noticed that I was spending more time caring while casually researching things that had to do with vanity. I knew that people were using all sorts of filters to enhance their skin, eyes, hair, teeth, and weight, but I still got caught up in comparisons.  Worldly things started becoming more and more important and I hated that! Such meaningless and unnecessary stress! I also spent too much time reading about things that didn’t coincide with what I would teach my kids as I got caught up in casually, “scrolling through my feed.” Thoughts like, “Oh gosh their life is so much better than mine,” or “I should be doing this or that,” or even worse, feeling like a hypocrite when someone would tell me my life seemed so perfect! Last but not least, all this preoccupation with social media was taking some of my attention from my children.  I wanted to enjoy my family more and live in the moment and enjoy each moment.

I seriously had some hesitation sharing this with all of you, because I know some of you are not affected by all of these things. But, I decided to share anyway because maybe, JUST MAYBE this might help someone else who is similarly struggling (and might not have even know it).

Bear with me a bit longer while I bring in one more piece to this very LONG post—
Recently, I have used Instagram to build my “Full On Macros” business. For those who do not know, this is an opportunity for online coaching toward a healthy balanced lifestyle using the method of flexible dieting and exercise.

My intention for using Instagram to build my business is to share my vision for “Full On Macros.” I want to focus on what exercise and healthy eating can do for you. I want to motivate and inspire. I want to help you believe in yourselves and to not give up. I want to help encourage you to not be so hard on yourselves. I want to provide healthy and balanced food ideas, etc.

What I want to avoid like the plague is: Contributing to any comparison issues that became discouraging to me on social media. Please know that my desires for my posts are solely for your motivation and growth as you work at becoming healthier and reaching your goals.  Your journey is personal.  My goal is to support you, not add to your stress.

Now let me bring all this together.  Thanks for hanging in there. Yikes..

SO for now, I am going to run with the relief I felt that night in my bed, and I am taking a break from Facebook and simplifying things in my life as much as I can! But, of course, I will be taking with me all the love, support, insight, and kindnesses so many of you have shown me through the years.

I will keep my Business (www.fullonmacros.com) account open on Instagram (tiffsfullonmacros) but will be changing a few things there as well, focusing more on sharing the successes of my ever so freaking amazing clients.

I know some of you have been able to reach me through Facebook when recent widows need support.  I am still very happy to provide that support, so please don’t ever stop reaching out to me. Email me at tiffanybleak@gmail.com

I also will be sharing experiences, and continue writing through my blog (which I have neglected a lot… oops)

I’ll be honest… even the very thought of trying to explain my moment to moment battle with Clinical Depression to an audience who may not understand, has been incredibly scary. Also, admitting to what I have noticed creeping into my life from social media is not very comfortable either, but I have found the harder it is to share something publically, the happier I am once I have done it, because something good ALWAYS comes from doing hard things. My heart also goes out to EVERY SINGLE PERSON who has ever walked or is currently walking through what I now call--Hell. There are new things that can be done to help you, like new studies that have saved my life. I pray for you and please know that, “I get it.” Please feel free to reach out to me for support. I know how alone you can feel.

Love you all so very much,

Tiffany Bleak Johansen Cantrell

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

"Love Is Everywhere"


I woke up Easter morning feeling excited but my stress mounted as I thought about all the things we had to do, and places we had to be.  I was also bummed that our church started so late, causing my whole family to rearrange their schedules in order to accommodate us.

Luckily the thrill of four little girls running around the house hunting for and finding little goodies made me smile.  This enjoyment helped me break free, for a moment, from my racing mind and anxiousness concerning the day’s demands.

As usual, 1:45 pm came around quicker than I could say, “It’s time for baths.”  Bryan and I scrambled, tripped over toys, and yelled the check off list to each other as we put each child in the car, wrestling with puffy dresses to find the bloody car seat buckles (ya know what I mean??).  This time, we thankfully didn’t have to turn around halfway through the neighborhood and grab JUST ONE MORE THING.  It was only early afternoon, and we both felt like we had run a freaking marathon! 

After ten minutes of refereeing in the car, we arrived at the church building.  It was then time for unbuckling and unloading the hyper hypos; carrying the massive overstocked diaper bag (50 pounds); things for lessons (20 pounds); putting shoes back on which had been removed during the drive; and carrying 1,000 pounds of homo-sapiens into the chapel!  All right you get it.  I was stressed!  My attitude was in the dumps!

We found a seat on a cushy bench, and when I had a chance to look up, I saw my friend Heidi Bruno sitting in the danger zone (where speakers sit).  My first reaction was, “Come on!”  “Give the girl a break!” For those of you who don’t know, Heidi has an 8 year old daughter Holly who has been battling a brain tumor for the last 10 months. Their lives are forever changed from the most grueling treatment regimen little Holly has had to endure.

Knowing what Heidi has gone through recently, and anxiously anticipating her message, softened my heart.  I was quickly reminded of what really matters, and I felt my earlier stress melt away.  My spirit was renewed, and my focus became centered on my blessings, the Savior and why we celebrate Easter.

Heidi delivered one of the most incredible, real and heartfelt talks I have ever heard!  I felt impressed to ask her for a copy of her talk so her message could be shared.  She agreed to give me a copy but expressed hesitancy.  She said her strength is not hers but is found in the Savior, and she wanted that fact to be included in the message I shared.

I could relate to this because I too am hesitant and nervous when others want to  share my story or writings.  I know that anything I have been able to do, or think, or say is because of HIM.  The scripture in Alma 26:12 speaks to my heart.  It reads, “ Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things . . . “

HE is the reason we can continue on, and make a tragedy not just a tragedy but also a time to grow, learn, gain knowledge, and feel the Savior’s arms wrapped around us. This kind of peace is available to all who ask for it, and have any amount of faith they can muster. Heidi and I have asked and begged, and have gone through a roller coaster of emotions.  We have gone from anger to peace BECAUSE OF HIM.

I hope you can find peace and solace in this incredibly inspired message.



"I think it is very fitting that Easter comes at a time when the earth is experiencing rebirth and regrowth. After what has been a very long, dark, rainy winter it has been a joy to see bulbs sprouting, buds blossoming and bushes bursting with color.  From the small, bright colorful crocuses to the huge trees heavy with their large flowering blossoms I have been hopeful that this is a sign that the long winter is coming to an end and warmer, sunnier days are in our near future.  From the grey of winter has emerged the splendid colors of spring.  I am grateful for the life lessons God gives us through His creations.  There is a lesson in this transition from winter to spring about change, hope, beauty and new life. 

I see this same lesson in the change that has come to the Provo Tabernacle.  Growing up in Utah I attended many events in this historic building and was saddened to hear about the fire that destroyed so much of it.  Yet from the ashes they have created something truly remarkable, a beautiful temple that will serve so many on this earth and even more who have already moved to the other side of the veil.  We can learn so much from this transformation that applies to our own lives. 

There are so many things that happen to us in life that often leave us feeling as if our life is nothing but a pile of ashes and that any kind of rebirth or new growth is impossible.  After the tabernacle fire only the walls were left standing, leaving the insides hollow and empty.  Things can happen to us in our lives that leave us feeling hollow and empty. I have certainly felt this in my own life, sometimes more than at other times. 

As a 17 year old girl I watched as my mom took her last breath and felt consumed with an emptiness I feared would never go away.  When Holly was diagnosed with cancer my world was completely shattered and filled with despair, emptiness and fear.  In those desperate moments I felt a renewal of the joy, peace and happiness I had felt before these changes would be so hard to find again.  But just as winter changes to spring, and as the provo tabernacle was changed from ashes to a beautiful temple, I have witnessed as my own moments of despair and grief have turned into things more beautiful than I could have imagined.  Holly has been a great example to me of finding the beauty and joy in the ashes.  I have shared this story so many times but I feel it is a message that can’t be shared enough.  During Holly’s first hospital stay, when she was in so much pain and was enduring so many surgeries and procedures she recognized all the love that was being shown to her and wrote the words Love is Everywhere on her whiteboard in her hospital room.  She helped me see that from the ashes, we could still find a renewal of our hope and peace.  Just as the tabernacle was transformed into something different, new and beautiful I have seen the same thing happen with Holly’s life.  Her life is so different than it was 9 mos ago but it is still beautiful and wonderful.  And because of her belief in love and joy she is blessing hundreds of people with her example.  This shy, quiet girl, who often went unnoticed as the middle child of 5 kids is now able to take her new life and inspire and strengthen others.  Of course I wish none of this had to happen.  There are so many things in our lives that we wish so badly never happened, that somehow we could turn back the clock and find a different path instead.  But that is not how life is.  We cannot hide from sorrow and grief.  What we can do is search for the beauty around us, even amidst the pain.  We can find those new blossoms, the flowers that are budding, the brilliant colors that stand out against the dark, grey sky.  My heart hurts on a regular basis because of everything that Holly has to go through.  But in the same moment it soars with joy, peace, happiness and hope as I witness the goodness of literally hundreds of people who have reached out to us in love.

I am so grateful for Jesus Christ.  I am grateful for the lessons He taught us while he lived on this earth and for the miracles He performed that continue to teach and inspire us.  Two in particular have given me strength many times over the past year. One was the miracle of the stilling of the storm.  The book, Jesus the Christ, explains this miracle beautifully. 

The instruction to launch forth and cross to the opposite side of the lake was given by Jesus, who probably desired a respite after the arduous labors of the day. Jesus found a resting place near the stern of the ship and soon fell asleep. A great storm arose; and still He slept. Meanwhile the storm increased in fury; the wind rendered the boat unmanageable; waves beat over the side; so much water was shipped that the vessel seemed about to founder. The disciples were terror-stricken; yet through it all Jesus rested peacefully. In their extremity of fear, the disciples awakened Him, crying out, according to the several independent accounts, “Master, Master, we perish”; “Lord, save us: we perish”; and, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” They were abjectly frightened, and at least partly forgetful that there was with them One whose voice even death had to obey. Their terrified appeal was not wholly devoid of hope nor barren of faith: “Lord, save us” they cried. Calmly He replied to their piteous call, “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?” Then He arose; and out through the darkness of that fearsome night, into the roaring wind, over the storm lashed sea, went the voice of the Lord as He “rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

I have thought of this miracle many times as I have felt the storm in my life as we have dealt with Holly’s treatments and Rick’s job insecurity, on top of the daily things we all have to deal with.  There have been many times when I too have turned to the Lord in panic, wondering if He cared that I feared I couldn’t make it one more day.  And in these moments, I too have felt the calming influence of having faith in my Savior and trust that the storm would never be greater than what I could manage.  So often I have been calmed by the acts of service many of you have performed for my family.  I know that it is through others that Christ shows His love.  That our hands become His hands.  Thank you for the miracles you have performed for us in His behalf.

Another valuable lesson was learned by Christ’s disciples as they once again found themselves in troubled waters.  This time Christ was not with them on the boat but they quickly recognized Him as He walked on the water towards their boat.  When Peter realized it was Christ He said,   Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.

29 And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.

This is an example of each of us, when we choose to have faith and follow Christ, even when there are so many unknowns, so many things that might be hard to explain or understand.  Again from Matthew 14 we read:

30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. 

Once again I think we all find ourselves in Peter’s situation, more often than we care to admit.  When life gets difficult, when the storm is too great, we lose focus on our Savior and we start to sink.  I am grateful for Peter’s example of turning back to the Lord and crying out for help.  We need to remember in our times of need to immediately turn to Christ before we lose our way completely.  Jesus’ reaction to Peter’s cry for help is beautiful.   
 31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him.

Immediately.  I love that word.  He will always stretch forth His hand and catch each of us as we turn to Him.  We continue to read:
 32 And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.
Once again the calming of the sea, the calming of our lives. 

 33 Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.

I add my testimony to the disciples of old that Christ has stretched forth His hand and calmed my life.

I am eternally grateful for the sacrifices and sorrow He endured for us. He was not a stranger to suffering.  The scene in the Garden of Gethsamane gives us a glimpse into His suffering. From Jesus is the Christ we read that Jesus was Accompanied by Peter, James and John, He went and was soon enveloped by deep sorrow, which appears to have been, in a measure, surprising to Himself, for we read that He “began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy.” He was impelled to deny Himself the companionship of even the chosen three; and, “Saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little farther, 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.”  Even Christ wanted the pain He felt to be taken away. 

Three times He went to His lonely vigil and individual struggle, and was heard to implore the Father with the same words of yearning entreaty. Luke tells us that “there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him”; but not even the presence of this super-earthly visitant could dispel the awful anguish of His soul. “And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”

His suffering continued on the cross where we once again read about Christ feeling alone and abandoned.  Elder Christopherson relates what happened next: 

A crushing sense of defeat and despair enveloped His disciples as Jesus suffered and died on the cross and His body was placed lifeless in the tomb. Despite what the Savior had repeatedly said of His death and subsequent rising again, they had not understood. The dark afternoon of His Crucifixion, however, was soon followed by the joyous morning of His Resurrection. Mary Magdalene and a few other faithful women came early to the Savior’s tomb that Sunday morning, bringing spices and ointments to complete the anointing begun when the Lord’s body was hastily laid in the sepulcher before the approaching Sabbath. On this morning of mornings, they were greeted by an open sepulcher, the covering stone having been rolled away, and two angels who declared: “Why seek ye the living among the dead? “He is not here, but is risen:  As bidden by the angels, Mary Magdalene looked into the tomb, but it seems that all that registered in her mind was that the body of the Lord was gone. She hurried to report to the Apostles and, finding Peter and John, said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulcher, and we know not where they have laid him.”3 Peter and John ran to the place and verified that indeed the tomb was empty, seeing “the linen clothes lying … and the napkin, that was about his head, … wrapped together in a place by itself.” Peter and John left, but Mary remained behind, still in mourning. In the meantime the angels had returned and tenderly asked her, “Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.”6 At that moment the resurrected Savior, now standing behind her, spoke, “Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.”7
Elder James E. Talmage wrote: “It was Jesus to whom she spake, her beloved Lord, though she knew it not. One word from His living lips changed her agonized grief into ecstatic joy. ‘Jesus saith unto her, Mary.’ The voice, the tone, the tender accent she had heard and loved in the earlier days lifted her from the despairing depths into which she had sunk. She turned, and saw the Lord. In a transport of joy she reached out her arms to embrace Him, uttering only the endearing and worshipful word, ‘Rabboni,’ meaning My beloved Master.”8

The word resurrection means to cause something that had ended to exist again.  I find so much hope and joy in the resurrection of Christ.  His life, which had so tragically ended, was renewed again.  And with that renewal came renewal of every kind in our own lives.  Renewal of hope when our dreams are shattered, renewal of peace when we find forgiveness for wrongs we have done, renewal of joy when sadness seems it will consume us, and renewal of life after this death.  Because of this knowledge, the emptiness and loss I felt when my mom died was replaced with the joy and hope I find in the resurrection and the knowledge that life continues after death. 

I want to end today with the lyrics from the Hymn Where Can I Turn for 

Peace:
1. Where can I turn for peace?
Where is my solace
When other sources cease to make me whole?
When with a wounded heart, anger, or malice,
I draw myself apart,
Searching my soul?
2. Where, when my aching grows,
Where, when I languish,
Where, in my need to know, where can I run?
Where is the quiet hand to calm my anguish?
Who, who can understand?
He, only One.
3. He answers privately,
Reaches my reaching
In my Gethsemane, Savior and Friend.
Gentle the peace he finds for my beseeching.
Constant he is and kind,
Love without end.

I bear testimony on this Easter Sunday of the peace and love our Savior, Jesus Christ, can bring into our lives as we in faith reach out to Him."

Below is the link to the video I was fortunate to put together for our conference a couple months ago...

"Choose to have faith."