I am so excited that General Conference is here again! I always walk away from it feeling so refreshed and reminded of who I am and what I should be doing. How blessed we are to listen to a living prophet of God and his apostles and other leaders of the church.
Twice a year, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from all over the world gather in their homes, their church buildings, the Conference Center, etc to listen to the internet or radio or TV to hear our Heavenly Father's prophets and apostles give council and direction. Not only are members of the church invited... but the WHOLE world is invited to come and listen. I feel so blessed that we have the technology we do so that anyone can hear or watch LIVE.
Good news! He definitely hasn't stopped. We have a living prophet on the earth today who talks with our Heavenly Father and receives direction and council from Him and then the prophet in turn tells us what we should be doing. Our prophet's name is President Thomas S. Monson. That's why it's so important to listen to President Monson's words and his apostles so that we can stay on the "right path" ( or the happy path ) in this life. :) What a blessing!! After all, Heavenly Father loves us... he would never leave us alone left to figure things out on our own. No way, Jose.
General Conference Information:
Messages will be given by the First Presidency, members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and other General Authorities and general officers of the Church.
General sessions will be held on Saturday at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., followed by the priesthood session at 6:00 p.m. mountain daylight time. ( Check out BYU TV or your local listings to see what channel it will be on.) Two more general sessions will be held on Sunday at 9:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. mountain daylight time; the morning session includes the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s broadcast of Music and the Spoken Word.
This is a very happy story. This is also a sad story. But mostly, this is a story about miracles.
It all started late Saturday night when I went into labor. Just like that, after two weeks of non-eventful bed rest and only days before our scheduled delivery, I started contracting regularly every few minutes. I couldn't feel a thing, but my nurse saw the contractions on my monitor and came in to check on me. "Trust me, it won't be very long before you start to feel it, Sweetie," she said. "Time to call your husband!" By the time Micah arrived 20 minutes later, I was feeling every single one of those contractions, a minute and a half apart. I was moved to a labor and delivery room, and there I cried and breathed and squeezed the feeling out of Micah's hand until 1 a.m., when I was wheeled into an operating room down the hall and rolled onto a steel bed. The anesthesiologist gave me a spinal to numb me from the chest down, my arms were stretched out to either side of me, and a curtain went up. Micah came in, dressed in a white paper jumpsuit and blue cap, and he sat down by my head and held my hand and started making jokes because he knew I was scared to death.
Twenty minutes later, our baby boy was born (I will spare you all the gory details of what it feels like to be fully cognizant while you are cut into, muscles are torn apart, and organs are moved around...). Because I couldn't see anything past the big blue curtain at my chest, all I could do was listen. As soon as I heard my baby's lusty little cry, I immediately felt overwhelming relief-- at least I knew his lungs were strong. I caught a glimpse of him as he was carried to a table to be cleaned-- so tiny!-- and in a few minutes a nurse brought him over and held him close to me, all bundled up with bright pink skin and squinty little eyes. I was able to reach up and touch the back of his head for a few seconds before he was whisked away to the NICU for testing.
And then things got scary.
Dr. Jacobs leaned over the blue curtain and before she said a word I knew something was wrong. She said, "Kathryn, I need to talk to you about your surgery." She proceeded to tell us that during the course of the pregnancy, the placenta had become deeply embedded in my uterus (a condition called Placenta Accreta)-- so much so that to try to remove it would cause severe damage to the uterus and possibly other organs, and potentially cause life threatening hemorrhaging. The only option, for my safety-- and Dr. Jacobs made it clear that I didn't have a choice in the matter-- was to remove my uterus along with the placenta. It took a few seconds for the implications of this to sink in, and when it did, I started to cry. And then Micah started to cry, which made me cry harder because in the eleven years I've known him, I've only seen him cry once. Then they sent him out of the operating room. At that point I was given a sedative and quickly fell asleep, but Micah told me later that he had been taken back to my labor and delivery room and left alone for the remainder of the surgery. For the next 45 minutes, he told me, he was left to wonder how everything was going and even tried to prepare himself in case I didn't make it through the operation. Looking back on the whole experience, that's by far one of the hardest parts of it all-- knowing he had to go through that.
But the operation was successful, and when I came to I was back in my room with Micah right by my bed. A nurse started to explain what had taken place and what was left of my anatomy and what to expect. Dr. Jacobs had been able to leave my ovaries intact, so I would still have hormone regulation and monthly ovulation. However, no more periods, and no need for birth control. She told me she could go get my uterus if I wanted to see it (Really?! Ew.). As she talked, though, all I could think was, I can't have any more kids. And then I would start to cry again.
Even with all the shock and hurting, when Micah was finally able to visit the NICU and bring back pictures of our perfect little boy-- healthy and whole despite being early and so small-- I honestly couldn't feel anything but overwhelming joy and gratitude. Because he is a little miracle, in every sense of the word. Thinking back on the entire pregnancy, and every event leading up to delivery, we realize now how everything happened for a specific reason. We can't help but see so many tender mercies of the Lord in the whole experience.
From the very beginning, I had an unexplainable feeling that I needed to opt for a repeat C-section, rather than attempt a VBAC delivery. I kept telling my doctor that I wasn't sure why, only that I wanted to deliver this baby in the safest way possible, even though the risks of problems with a VBAC are usually minuscule. So all along, I prepared myself for a C-section. And it's a darn good thing, because had we attempted a vaginal delivery with the placenta attached to the uterus, things could have been really nasty. The doctors also told us that had the pregnancy progressed any further, the placenta most likely would have grown into other organs besides the uterus, and even onto the baby, causing much much scarier problems. How lucky I was to have delivered as early as I did. Coincidence that my water broke eight weeks early? We're pretty sure it wasn't. Coincidence that I was able to be in the hospital for two weeks prior to delivery, where I could get the antibiotics and steroids our baby needed to finish developing early? Nope. Coincidence that we were able to have two beautiful children- a daughter and a son- before an emergency hysterectomy? Not a chance. Some of my friends and family members have asked if we feel upset or angry at the way things happened. Absolutely not. We feel blessed beyond words.
Any disappointment we've experienced is far, far outweighed by feelings of complete gratitude and indebtedness to the Lord. He has taken our little family in the palm of His hand and given us more than we can ever understand. He has blessed us with two beautiful little miracle babies, and protected my life as well (Madison's delivery was nearly as scary and complicated). Apparently my body just isn't cut out for any more pregnancies. We know that we want more kids, and we know the Lord will provide other ways for us to welcome more of His children into our family. We are very excited about the prospect of adoption, or foster care, etc. Who knows what He has in the works for us? We just know that we can trust Him completely. He's definitely proved that to us.
Meanwhile. I am home and healing, slowly but surely. Graysen is doing well in the NICU and making remarkable progress every day. He doesn't need any oxygen support, he's finally off antibiotics and IV fluids, and is no longer under phototherapy lights for jaundice. We're not sure when we'll be able to bring him home, but hope it will be sooner than later!
"Amid the horrors of a civil war, I found hope in a book and a plastic bag."
A note from The Gallery of Goodness:
My mom attended "Time Out for Women" a few years ago and had the opportunity to meet a unique woman named Mariama Kallon. My mom was in the crowd when Mariama shared her moving story with the audience. My mom was deeply touched by this woman's courage and hope after ALL she'd been through ( read more of her story below).
My mom is in the Stake Young Women's presidency back at home in Texas and she was able to get ahold of Mariama to fly down to Texas to attend youth conference to speak. My family was pleased to have Mariama stay with them in their home for a few days. My mom said they have become "sisters for life" and she will be forever touched by Mariama and her amazing testimony. They will be forever friends. This woman who faced death and watched her family's lives being taken right in front of her lives her life sharing her testimony of the Savior Jesus Christ with others and the HOPE others can have through HIM.
Read her story below:
Sierra Leone was a sad place during my teenage years, but it was my home. For much of my life, my small West African country was torn by a civil war. The war affected everything. My family and I were constantly on the run, trying to escape the rebel soldiers. It was terrifying every time the rebels came through a city. Someone would see their torches approaching in the night, warn the others, and we would all run for the bush, grabbing whatever we could along the way.
About seven years after the war began, the rebels came to our city. My whole family was running to escape, but my parents, who were just a few steps behind me, were shot and killed. I was so sad to lose them, but I had to keep moving.
My brother, sister, and I moved to a safer place, and for a short while we were all right, but the rebels eventually hit that town, too. This time we didn’t have time to run away. My brother was taken and later killed. My sister and I were lined up outside with all the other women. The rebel soldiers were chopping limbs off of all the women in the line. We were all so frightened. Everyone was crying and praying—even people who had never believed in God before. I was not a member of the Church at the time, but I believed in God and prayed that His will would be done and hoped that He would find a way to save me.
My dear sister, who was several places ahead of me in line, had both of her legs cut off. But as the rebels reached the woman in front of me, our army came rushing in and the rebels ran away. I know that I was not better than the people who were in front of me or behind me, but I thanked God that I had been spared and prayed that I might understand His plan for me.
I moved to another village to live with a friend. As I was telling my story to my friend and some of her neighbors, one neighbor said, “Mariama, we don’t have anything to offer you except an invitation to church tomorrow. That’s where we find safety. That’s where we find hope.” I loved God already and needed comfort in my life, so I decided to go.
My first Sunday in that LDS branch is a day I will never forget. I learned of hope. You could just see that there was hope in those people, and I was drawn to them. I was given the Book of Mormon and started reading right away. I remember hearing in church about how families could be together again after death and then reading in Alma 11 where Alma teaches about how our bodies will be made perfect again in theResurrection. I felt the Spirit so strong as I thought of my family. I knew that the Church was true and that we could be together forever—each of us well and whole.
There were no missionaries in Sierra Leone at that time, so I took the lessons from my branch president and was baptized soon after. We were blessed in our town, because the Church sent food and humanitarian kits for the members of the Church and others. The food kept us all alive. Everyone was so grateful even to receive a small bag of rice or beans. I received a blanket and a hygiene kit that included a toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, soap, a comb, and a washcloth.
Not long after, the rebels hit again. They burned down the house I was living in, and as I was running to escape the flames, I took time to save only two things—my scriptures and my hygiene kit. We had to live on the run for a while after that, and I used my hygiene kit to help those around me. I would squeeze out one pinch of toothpaste for each person, or we would go to the river and carefully pass my bar of soap from person to person. The kit was so precious to us. The blanket, too, was invaluable. It sheltered us for many days until I used it to wrap an old woman who had died and had nothing to be buried in.
Eventually, I went back to my town and my branch. It was then that I decided I wanted to serve a mission. This was a difficult decision for me, because I had nothing and would be leaving behind people I loved. As I was trying to decide, I read D&C 84:81 and 88, which say, “Therefore, take ye no thought for the morrow, for what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, or wherewithal ye shall be clothed … for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.” I knew the Lord would care for me, so I turned in my mission papers and was called to the Utah Salt Lake City Temple Square Mission.
I arrived in Utah with practically nothing, but I insisted on bringing my hygiene kit, because it meant so much to me. One day, my companion and I were taking a tour of the Humanitarian Center in Salt Lake, and I recognized a blanket that had the Relief Society logo embroidered on it, just like the one I’d had in Sierra Leone. I looked around and saw hygiene kits like mine and familiar bags of beans and rice, and I began cry.
“This is where they came from!” I thought to myself. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I remembered what these things sitting in stacks in the Humanitarian Center in Salt Lake meant to my friends and to me in Sierra Leone. I was so grateful to the Lord for preserving me, for bringing the gospel into my life, and for allowing me to serve a mission. I knew that His angels truly had been round about me, to bear me up." (www.lds.org)
Click HERE to find out more about the Humanitarian Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.
A friend of mine sent me the blog of a little 5 year old named Jaylie. I read a lot of the entries and it moved me to tears right away. Continue reading and you'll see why:
"Our beautiful little girl Jaylie (5years old) was having some vision problems and what we thought would be a quick trip to the opthamologist and possibly getting glasses, turned into a visit at the ER learning she had a brain tumor. Jaylie had brain surgery to remove the large tumor on April 28th 2011. She was diagnosed on May 3rd with Supratentorial Premitive Neuroectodermal Tumor or sPNET. It is a rare and aggressive form of cancer. We thank you for all your prayers, support, and love in this challenging time of our lives.
Written Monday May 2, 2011:
Jaylie did well last night and slept well except having to go to the bathroom a couple times. She can't move very well so we have to help her out of bed and stuff. She has eaten pretty well today but we have to encourage her and she doesn't eat near what she used to, but shell get there. Her sodium levels are still being kept up by iv and they started having her take sodium tablets. She can't swallow pills yet so we have to crush them up and mix them with orange juice. I put a couple sugar packets in it because it is horrible and the salted thing you've ever tasted. She has to do 3 tablets 4 times a day, so it's a struggle getting hr to do it. Plus she's on a bunch of other meds but she has been a trooper taking them. We will stay in ICU until her sodium gets regulated on it's own. Her surgeon dr. Lee came and talked with us today and said within the next 24 hours it should be doing it on it's own. He said we still don't have the pathology reports back yet, maybe tomorrow. The oncologist is probably going to talk with us today and meet us. Therapists have been coming to work with her, physical and occupational. She pretty much hates them mainly I think because she is frustrated with herself because she can't do everything on her own. It’s going to be hard and sad for us but she will get there. Her left side isn't working quite as well as her right but were working on it. I started balling during therapy today because she was freaking out and not wanting to do it and just wasn't being herself and was being to the therapists. It was so hard to see her like that and sad that she even Has to go through this. I usually am pretty strong especially around her. Its just so hard.
She is only on Tylenol for the pain so that's awesome. They draw her blood every 4 hours and she hates that. She has an iv in each arm. Poor girl though, she's had a bunch of iv's and they work for a while but then give out so they have to do it in another place. It's so hard seeing your kid go through this.
Jaylie has laughed some today and has said some cute stuff. She is acting more like herself everyday. I'm so proud of her. We have a ways to go but I know she will get there.
I'm laying by her in her bed right now and she's playing games on Dads phone with her left hand which is great because she doesn't use that one as well as her right. She has been giving us the cutest little kisses the last couple days and it makes Kip and I so happy. This is the hardest thing I've ever gone through but I know I am being helped by my Heavenly Father and I am so thankful for all your prayers for us and Jaylie.
Written Wednesday May 4th 2011: We found out yesterday late afternoon that Jaylie has an aggressive form of cancer called PNET, or supratentorial primitive neuroectodermal tumor. It was a very hard day to say the least. She will undergo radiation along with chemotherapy for 6 weeks and then just chemo for around 6-9 months. We are thankful for the prayers and all the cards, gifts, and food on our behalf and Jaylie's. She is recovering pretty well now, still waiting on her sodium levels but they get better everyday. We ate hoping to be home by Saturday or Sunday but are not sure yet. This is going to be a long road and a scary one for her and us. We are trying our best to stay strong and be happy for Jaylie's sake. She is a strong, determined, stubborn, competitive girl and all these qualities will help her through this. I know Heavenly Father sent her to earth with her personality for this reason. And I know that there is purpose in everything and that we are being strengthened and comforted. And I know my Savior knows my pain. This just sucks- bad.
To read updates about Jaylie follow her blog here:
"Everyone wants to help but a lot of times people don't know what to do! This is why we have created Jaylie's online community with Lotsahelpinghands.org. Here you can find out exactly what the Nielson Family's needs are.
If you would like to be a part of Jaylie's online community please send me an email email@example.com.
If you are not near by or have been inspired by Jaylie's story don't forget that you can still help! You can donate to Jaylie's Cancer Recovery Fund or participate in our fundraiser’s. Your proceeds will go towards Jaylie's medical bills."
Click here to DONATE or to leave little Jaylie a message.
Remember my friend Michelle and thetragic loss of her baby boy James when he was only 2 years old? Well, she recently blogged about James.... I read it and it moved me to tears. I got her permission to copy/paste her post to share with all of you. Here it is:
I've always been a cup-half-full kind of gal. . .
That was until James died. . .
and then. . .
I became something I didn't ever think. . .
A cup-half-empty kind of gal. . .
I viewed the world in two very extreme pairs of glasses. . .
I've lived on both sides of the fence.
I prefer the cup-half-full kind of life.
I could be a victim. . .
I could be a survivor. . .
I could be an optimist
I could be a pessimist. . .
I could be happy
I could be miserable. . .
I could live
I could just merely exist. . .
5 years later. . .
I choose to be an optimistic happy living survivor.
One who sees that cup half full again.
Seven years ago today, right at this moment, I held in my arms, my 7 hour old,
***Sweet Baby James***
for the first time.
He was perfect-from head to toe.
His spirit was bigger than his body;
You could tell it straight away.
His eyes were permanently propped open.
No sleepy stage for this little guy;
he had too much to see in too little of time.
He held his head up in the hospital
and was pushing himself up with his arms when he was just days old.
He was happiest when he was standing straight up at the ripe old age of 3 weeks.
James was colicky
that was hard. . . really really hard.
It forced us to walk around with him every night from 6:00-10:00 pm
and it had to be outside.
At the time I thought it was so frustrating.
I see it as the tender mercy that it was-
extra time spent holding my baby
that I would only have for 21 months and 24 days.
I'm always amazed how much I could love him so much in such a short amount of time.
He was curious and active.
He walked at 9 months. . .
climbed at 11 month. . .
ran at 12 months. .
He ran-and ran-and ran-
and then ran some more.
He kept me on my toes.
He was and still is the love and joy of my life.
I competed in my first triathlon yesterday in memory of my sweet baby James.
It was Sprint distance-
(800 meter swim, 12 mile bike, 3 mile run)
but it was the most challenging race I've competed in.
I trained a lot
-or so I thought-
I was pretty diligent in making it to the gym 4-6 times a week.
I ran, cycled or swam everyday.
But the majority of my training was done inside and on flat surfaces.
It was a whole different story on the course-because the course was not flat.
On race day-
the water was 55 degrees.
Nerves were getting the best of me and fear set in.
It was new; it was unfamiliar territory.
It was a path I had never trod. And I was doing it alone.
So familiar to my grief-unfamiliar and scary, with only myself and God to get through it.
The fast swimmers took off.
I was in the back of the pack with the novice swimmers.
I swam and swam and couldn't get to the buoy.
It seemed to be getting further away.
Once I got to the first buoy
the coast guard announced over the megaphone,
"Use US as the buoy. The buoy has been dislodged and has drifted."
the coast guard boat was about 150-200 meters closer than the buoy-where I was at.
So I swam to the second bouy. . .
and yet again. . .
it happened. . .
once I was to the second buoy the coast guard boat announced,
"We ARE your buoy. The buoy has drifted."
(They were about 200 meters closer to shore).
We will just say I was in the water for a VERY Long time.
I have never been so frightened in my life to be honest
I made it back to shore and ran barefoot up the 300 foot dirt road to my bike.
The first 7 miles were uphill. Literally.
There was a beautiful 50 yard, 45 degree hill about 2 miles into the ride.
I hadn't trained for hills...Remember?
I took a deep breath at the bottom of that hill and
'put my shoulder to the wheel'
The last 5 miles on the bike there was a mean crosswind.
I could do this.
I've done harder.
I've lost a son.
Certainly, I can do this.
Because I'm a survivor.
I'm a fighter.
As I rode on the bike, I sang to my baby happy birthday.
and then I sang my song for him...
"You are my sunshine, my sweetest sunshine. You make me happy when skies are grey. You'll never know James how much I love you, please don't take my sunshine away."
Tears filled my eyes as I momentarily wallowed in self-pity that my sunshine had been taken away.
And then I realized, as I felt the warmth of the sun beat down upon me that he wasn't taken away,
he just shines from a different sphere.
He's not physically present, but he is spiritually present.
He is there for me-pushing me, encouraging me, loving me,
*I just can't see him*
But I certainly could feel him.
I started running the last leg of the race and my calves were like lead.
The run was almost all trail. Something I hadn't done at all in training.
Also all hills.
The course was beautiful.
BUT it was hard.
I rounded the corner and saw my kids and my parents and sister with her children.
They yelled out for me
I smiled as I passed
And I was so grateful for family support.
*It meant the world to me to have them there. That's what family is for.*
and I sprinted into the finish line.
You know me and how I parallel everything to my grief....
Before James died, I thought I was 'spiritually trained'.
But I didn't realize I had only done flat course 'spiritual training' (the easy stuff).
and how much more challenging the actual 'course' (grief, death, trials,adversity) would be.
We are not often not as prepared as we ought to be (and think we are) to face the long swims that leave us vulnerable to either sink or swim, the challenges, hurdles, cross winds and hills
we face in life that are unanticipated.
We sometimes slack in our 'spiritual' training like scripture study and family home evening and prayer. Often we slack on a grander scale in our 'hill spiritual training' the training that is harder, that stretches our limits and capacities, that we have to put forth real effort to accomplish. Things like service, unconditional love, making God and Christ our best friend through remembrance, surrendering the weaknesses that only God and ourselves know we have, forgiveness, and striving to be more Christlike everyday.
Trials can seem scary if we haven't laid the ground work and foundation and endurance
real, solid, spiritual training.
But if you have put in the time training-