Friday, September 12, 2008

Joy Amidst Sorrow

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"The challenges you face, the growth experiences you encounter, are intended to be temporary scenes played out on the stage of a life of continuing peace and happiness. Sadness, heartache, and disappointment are events in life. It is not intended that they be the substance of life. I do not minimize how hard some of these events can be. When the lesson you are to learn is very important, trials can extend over a long period of time, but they should not be allowed to become the confining focus of everything you do. Your life can and should be wondrously rewarding. It is your understanding and application of the laws of God that will give your life glorious purpose as you ascend and conquer the difficulties of life. That perspective keeps challenges confined to their proper place—stepping-stones to further growth and attainment."
-Richard G. Scott

I got this quote in an email this week from another widow. It hit me pretty hard because this has been on my mind for quite some time now. Not the quote, but the contents of the quote. I have been trying to put into words these feelings and then this quote came along and it described very beautifully how I feel.

These words apply to everyone no matter what challenges they are facing. This just happens to be the most challenging trial I hope to ever have to face. It is strange how because I am missing Aaron so much and it is still so painful, sometimes I feel like I need to outwardly show what I am feeling on the inside. The pain and heartache and loneliness are all things that are internal feelings, and because I am feeling those things, sometimes I desire to portray those feelings outwardly so that people know a little better what I am feeling inside. It is true what the quote says... 'these feelings shoudn't be the confining focus of everything I do'. How true is it that when we let our emotions control us, we truly are 'confined'. We are not free. We have to take control of these feelings and emotions to be free and to be able to overcome this aspect of the natural man.

I tell myself everyday that I can still be happy and have joy even though I am lonely, heartbroken and in pain. The reason I have to tell myself everyday is because I haven't perfected this advice to myself yet. When I read this quote, it hit me so hard because he put into words the perfect advice that I have needed to hear.

Yes, I am in pain. Yes, I am lonely. Yes, I am heartbroken. Yes, I miss Aaron with everything that I am. BUT, in the eternal scheme of things, THIS trial IS a 'temporary scene' being played out in my life. Just because I feel those things doesn't mean I need to let those feelings define who I am going to be for the rest of this life. Who knows how long I will feel those feelings so strongly... it could be a very long time, but this experience is an 'event in life' and shouldn't be the 'substance of my life'.

Whenever I experience difficult times in my life, a story that I heard a long time ago re-enters my mind. It goes like this:

Some time ago, a few ladies met ... to read the scriptures, and make them the subject of conversation. While reading the third chapter of Malachi they came upon a remarkable expression in the third verse. "And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver."
One lady ... proposed to visit a silversmith and report to them what he said on the subject. She went accordingly and without telling the object of her errand, begged to know the process of refining silver, which he fully described to her.
"But Sir," she said, "do you sit while the work of refining is going on?"
"Oh, yes madam," replied the silversmith; "I must sit with my eye steadily fixed on the furnace, for if the time necessary for refining be exceeded in the slightest degree, the silver will be injured."
The lady at once saw the beauty, and comfort too, of the expression, "He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver." God sees it needful to put His children into a furnace; His eye is steadily intent on the work of purifying, and His wisdom and love are both engaged in the best manner for them. Their trials do not come at random; "the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
As the lady was leaving the shop, the silversmith called her back, and said he had still further to mention, that he only knows when the process of purifying was complete, by seeing his own image reflected in the silver.

I have always loved this story. It really helps when I am in my darkest hours to know that God is aware of what we are going through. He is aware of how much we are able to endure. He is aware of what we need in order to be 'refined' into what He knows we can become... what we NEED to endure in order to become like Him... in order to see His image in our countenances.

We are being molded by our experiences. It is our choice whether or not we choose to be molded into something beautiful and pure, or into something that is bitter and ugly. This is decided based on our experiences and how we choose to react to them. I actually have thought many times that I don't WANT to be happy without Aaron here with me. It is like I am making a conscious choice to stay right here, not progressing, choosing to be unhappy just because life hasn't gone the way I think it should. But, sometimes it is as though I can feel Aaron pushing against my back and urging me to take a step forward and be okay finding the joy in life.

My sister, Lisa, did a post on her blog this week about 'Carpe Diem: seize the day, pluck the day when it is ripe'. (well worth the read if you have time). Her post inspired me along with this quote I got in the email. There is so much we are here to learn about. It would be a shame to let experiences slip by without taking all the knowledge and seeking all the joy that we can out of them or 'plucking the day when it is ripe'.

It is MY choice to be happy. It is MY choice to seek out the JOY in life and accept that there IS indeed good along with the bad. There IS joy right along with the sorrow... and it IS okay to acknowledge those joys even in tumultuous times. It is MY choice to be grateful that Aaron is and always will be a part of me. That is joyous.

I think the reason it has been difficult for me to show that I do have joy in my life is because I don't want to portray to people that I am 'over this'. I don't want to give people the impression that I am okay now and that I am all better. But, this quote reminded me that no matter how difficult and painful the trial, we are expected to not only endure it, but to endure it well.

I choose to have joy amidst the sorrow.

I found a slice of joy this evening when I was going through an old cell phone and reading text messages from Aaron. There was one dated 09/20/07, just two months before he passed away. It reads:
'I know you do not hear it enough. I love you'

This brought joy to my heart and I felt gratitude to my Father in Heaven for this tender mercy. Tonight was a very difficult night and I needed to 'hear' something like that.

Please never take for granted the opportunities you have to tell your spouse that you love them. After they are gone, you will regret EVERY missed opportunity to say it out loud. Showing them that you love them is great, but they need to hear it. You will regret it if you don't, but you will not regret it if you do.

I love you, Menino. Oh, how I miss you...

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Mindy said...

Leslie, this is so beautiful! I can't even tell you how it touched me today. I love you for sharing the precious thoughts and insights that you are receiving, and letting us all grow from them, too. Thank you!

Tawnie said...

This was beautiful Leslie. Starting at Karey's, I started to see the change in you. On our drive home, you seemed so mature and your sorrow made sense. You have gone through a lot this year even just trying to figure out how to feel your sorrow. I think you've figured it out. Your countenance has changed. You are beautiful. Was it the haircut? :) I love you Leslie. You are a JOY to be around.

Seesalou said...

wow, les. i don't think these thoughts could have been expressed more beautifully. thank you for all you just said. for 9 1/2 months i have prayed 'perspective' for you. and it seems to be rushing in lately. i'm so grateful for that. i love you.

Lorianne said...

Sweet Leslie,
This post touched me today and brought tears to my eyes. You are right, we are in the fire, but the Lord will protect us from damage like the story said, He will help us grow and be refined. Thank you for your words, I see His hand in your life all the time. Love you so much!!!

Joann said...

Oh, those sweet and tender mercies! Love it!

Clippy Mat said...

Leslie: You are a wise soul. Your lessons learned are teaching others how to live. :-)

Tabitha said...

That is such a lovely post Leslie ~ your words always inspire me and bring me to tears at the same time ~ you are truly an inspiration.
love and hugs XXXX

Karey said...

Thanks for the beautiful post. My heart is touched by the words in your quotes and story and your own personal struggle. I think my favorite part is that the refiner sits with the silver making sure it has just the right amount of refining and doesn't become injured. What comfort that is to know that he won't allow something be be more than we can endure. I love you. I love the perspective you've been gaining and the insights you've been sharing. It's like you're stepping out of the darkness of your trial and into the light. I'm so proud of you.

Anonymous said...

Love and hugs to you always, Leslie.



amanda said...

I wanted to talk to you today after church but you snuck out. I just want you to know that I think of you so much and hope as I read your blog and keep in touch that someday soon I will be reading the emotions of true happiness. You deserve to be happy in this life as well as the next.
Always in my prayers,

The Heiners said...

I don't have much to say, but again, I had to let you know how much you inspire me to do better in my life. Not being much of a scriptorian, I hadn't ever heard the Malachi story. It is an impressive one and your outlook on it makes it even more beautiful. Thank you for being you!

The Heiners said...

Happy to see that I'm not the only one reading blogs at 1:30am. Ü

Kristi said...

this was my favorite post of yours ever. I loved it. I am so impressed that you are able to see this trial is such a positive light when of course you are feeling such sorrow inside.
This was inspiring and great.

dani said...

peace and more peace to you, leslie...