Thursday, December 16, 2010

Thankful on December 16, 2010

I have a mixed history with dogs. There have been a couple of precious, loved ones in my life, but far more mean and scary ones. I have incredible fear of canines. When I encounter one I don't know, my heart races, I break out in a sweat, and my eyes start to water. I have to fight the flight instinct.

It began when I was a small child...I had the most wonderful grandpa, who had the scariest dog!! Prince loved my grandpa and was wildly possessive. My grandpa always warned me to not reach out to Prince, or look him in the eye, so I was careful to keep my distance. I remember vividly an incident when my grandpa left the room, Prince inched toward me, and growled. That picture in my memory still makes me cringe! He had these terrifying freckles...that multiplied when he bared his teeth. My grandpa walked in to save me, just in the nick of time.

I remember another dog, a collie, who violently barked and attacked the fence each day as I walked to and from the bus stop. I was a teeny little five year old and I would carefully cross the street, so I could walk as far away as possible from that dog. I will never forget the absolute terror I felt one day, as I began to walk past that house and realized the gate was open. The dog started in on it's usual barking, then came through that gate and toward me across the street at lightning speed. I didn't even have time to run. It had that same nasty snarl as Prince, jumped up on me and knocked me down. A woman, the dog's owner, came rushing out with gigantic juice-can rollers in her hair and a cigarette hanging from her lips, and pulled the dog off of me. She picked me up, brushed me off, and with a snarl herself said, "Don't you dare tell your parents about this!" I ran off as fast as I could. Of course, my little kindergarten brain worked out a wonderful solution...I would use the NEXT stop, three blocks from my house, and I DEFINITELY would not tell my parents. It was less than a week, however, that I missed the bus. I was still so afraid of that dog and that horrible woman and didn't want to explain the truth to my parents, but they were able to get it out of me.

When Corbin and I were dating, we arrived at his parent's home late one night, after everyone had already gone to bed. Corbin had forgotten his key, so we went around to the back door to see if it was unlocked. Nope. Corbin told me to wait there, he would get the hidden key, open the front door, then let me in the back door. As soon as he left me, I saw a big black figure charging at me. I realized it was their family black lab, Coalie, just as she was jumping up onto my shoulders, growling and gnashing at my face. Corbin opened the door just as her teeth made contact with my cheek. Needless to say, I made Corbin take me home, and I stayed far, far away from that mean old dog for the rest of her life.

I had another dog incident that was so horrifying, I really do not speak of it. It involves a monster, truly, eating her own brand-new puppies, then trying to eat me. It happened when I was very sick and, at the suggestion of a church leader, trying to reach outside of myself to serve someone else. The incident set me far, far back in my healing and is an image that is cemented in my brain. I had nightmares for years.

So, you can only imagine my reaction five years ago when Corbin decided that he really wanted to get a dog. He knew all of these things about me and promised to be very selective. With that promise, and the excitement of our children, I mustered up courage and agreed. I was not part of the process. Corbin had a good friend from church, who was moving and needed to find a home for their dog. She was a great breed, a German Shorthair Pointer, three years old. The friend had rescued her from terrible circumstances at a puppy mill, and she had spent the past couple of years in their home with three little girls pulling on her ears. I did not go with my family to pick her up. But when they arrived home, something tugged a little at my heart. She was such a pretty dog, and a little bit shy because she didn't know us yet. Corbin let me choose a name for her...Stella. It seemed a perfect fit. For the next several months, Corbin kept her on a "short leash," she never left his side. He taught her, and loved her, and she quickly turned into a very well behaved little creature. All the while, my heart softened and I came to love her dearly.

Stella has these ears...oh, I love her ears! They are softer than velvet, and they move to express how she is feeling. When she REALLY wants something, she gives us her cute ears, which say, "Oh, please. Look how cute I am with my floppy ears. I know you can't say no to me! I'm too adorable! And I loooovvvveeee you!"

Stella has big, gorgeous brown eyes. When I'm sad, she puts her chin on my knee and looks at me with those precious eyes, "Stella loves you so much, please don't cry or Stella will cry!"

Stella loves EVERYONE. We often joke that if someone broke into our house, she would greet them at the front door, stubby little tail wagging the whole back half of her body and say, "Hi! I'm Stella and I love you! Let me show you where they keep the food. Will you share?!"

Stella thinks that she is a small dog, and loves to sit in my lap. She loves us all so much, and has brought so much joy into our lives. I look forward to getting home each day, opening the door, and being adored. It feels really good!

I still panic around dogs. But Stella has helped me to be able to take a deep breath and try to love them all. For that I am so thankful. But for the love she gives me and chunk of my heart that she occupies, I am crazy-thankful!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thankful on December 2, 2010

A word of warning before you begin reading today. This post contains my testimony of the Savior Jesus Christ. It also contains a personal, wonderful story about how I came to obtain that testimony. If you do not wish to continue reading, that is understandable...I will write about something lighter next week!

It is all contained in this letter I sent to Iver today.

My Precious Iver:

I am quite dismayed right now, knowing that you did not receive the package we sent with your sweaters, and knowing that there is a very real probability that you won't receive your Christmas package in time for Christmas. I have shed many tears over this, and pray that somehow these things will find their way to you. In the meantime, I know that you are receiving the pouch mail, so I wanted to send this to you, my testimony of the Savior, which I pray will be a gift in itself.

I love our Savior. I feel His love and influence in my life everyday. I know that He lives and that He is aware of me. I have had a lot of sin in my life. I have called on the Savior and His atonement to lift me and save me from those sins and He has. I have seen that same atonement and love from the Savior in your behalf, as well as in dad's and Shakira's. I am eternally grateful for Jesus Christ.

The experience I want to share with you is the most precious gift of all for me. It's a story I know you have heard, but I will share it again, because of my love and appreciation for Christ.

When you were quite young, early grade school age, I was very, very sick with my bipolar disorder. I spent time locked up in a hospital. I was medicated to the point where I existed in a fog. Those medications caused extreme side effects that caused me to be very physically ill as well. I could not go into public at all, because of extreme anxiety and fear. Most days I could not even get out of bed, or if I did, I quickly got back in. I could not function. And each day I would weep. Weep because I wasn't able to take care of my beautiful children and husband. Weep because I wasn't able to even participate in being part of our family. I would weep for you, and Shakira, and dad because I imagined how hard life was for you living with me. I would desperately pray to Heavenly Father while I wept, to understand what I needed to learn so I could move on. I would pray for Him to take the illness away. And some days, everything was so dark and black, that I would pray that Heavenly Father would spare you and Shakira and dad by just taking me home to Him. I hated myself for putting you all through such agony and pain.

One day, when my illness was at it's height, my mom went to the temple, specifically searching for the Lord's help in helping me. She purposely arrived early, so she could sit reverently in the chapel before her session began and pray for me. As she prayed, she cried. I am her baby, after all, and she felt so helpless. She prayed to know what to do, prayed for healing for me, and prayed for peace for her mourning soul. She paused and looked up to the front of the chapel. At the front of our temple's chapel is a large painting of Jesus, setting apart and blessing His twelve diciples. He is standing in the center of the painting, with eleven of the diciples surrounding Him, and one of them kneeling in front of Him. Christ's hands are on the head of the one kneeling. As my mom looked at the painting, the kneeling diciple faded away, and she saw ME in his place, being personally blessed by the Savior. Amazing peace came to her as the spirit whispered to her that I would be okay, that I wasn't done on this earth, that the Savior needed me and would bless me.

As soon as her temple session ended, she drove up the mountain, and sat down on the edge of my futon. She pulled the covers from my head and, with tears streaming down her face, told me what had happened in the temple that day. I, too was filled with peace. And I was filled with LIGHT that I hadn't felt in a very long time. I sat up and my mother held me in her arms and we cried. When she left, I was able to get out of bed. I felt hope. I couldn't explain it at all, and still can't. But I knew the Savior loved me and had suffered this for me. He knew. He knew.

Within the week, Julie Bellum called dad to tell him about an acquaintance of hers, who was part of a Johns Hopkins study of a controversial new treatment for bipolar disorder, and having incredible success. We went to her home and visited with her. Dad and I prayed together and decided that, although my doctor counseled against it, Empower and Truehope was the direction we should go. As you know, it wasn't an easy transition, but within three months, I was off of the terrible anti-psychotic drugs and doing very, very well on my supplement. And I haven't looked back. Sure, I struggle from time to time. I always will. But I am WELL.

Jesus Christ is my Savior, Iver. He truly SAVED me. He knows me. He wants me. He loves me. He needed me to be your mom, your dad's wife. He needed me to serve the youth of His church. He needed me to teach Olive and Jade and Vivian the gospel. He still needs me.

I cannot deny His love and His power. I cannot deny that He lives and loves us.

I know this. KNOW it.

Precious son of mine, how blessed I am to be alive and part of your life. How blessed I am to witness your complete love and devotion to the Lord. I love you more than I could ever possibly say.


For a beautiful December, to devote my thoughts to Jesus Christ, I am crazy-thankful.