Wednesday, September 16, 2015

strength from the lord

Those of you who know me know that I made the decision to undergo Gastric Bypass Surgery, and had the surgery on January 5th, 2015. To give you an idea of exactly what that entails, here's a graphic:

Basically, what they did was create a small pouch - a new stomach, if you will - and reroute part of my intestine to it. There is a whole part of the digestive process that is being bypassed, and I can eat MUCH less than I could before. In the beginning, it shocked me how quickly food would fill me up.

But though I've shared some of my results (80 pounds gone!) on Facebook and with friends, I've never actually shared the story of my experiences leading up to and immediately after my surgery. It's a story that needs to be told, and it's a story of faith.


Getting all my materials together for the surgery proved to be a bit of a challenge. Though I made all the necessary appointments and got it all together as quickly as I could, once I submitted it to the insurance expert associated with the surgeon who was performing my surgery, I was on pins and needles waiting for any word, waiting for the insurance company to approve the procedure.

Just before New Years, we received a call from the insurance. They told me that our family plan didn't cover this procedure. Now, I'd done the proper research - I'd called before and looked into it at least three times, and I'd read through the policy. But they were adamant that there must have been a mistake.

Needless to say, I was devastated. There were a lot of phone calls between us, the insurance, and the surgeon's office, going back and forth, trying to resolve the issue. There was also a lot of time spent on my knees. I couldn't understand why this was happening, since I'd already prayed about the decision to have the surgery and received the answer that I should go through with it.

At first, I was even a little angry. And very frustrated. It didn't help that this was all happening around the holidays, because many of the people we needed to talk to weren't working. My surgery was in four days, and we didn't even know if it was going to happen.

But I had to let go of that anxiety and frustration that I felt, because as I mentioned in yesterday's post, I was scheduled for my endowment at the Manhattan temple on January 2nd. After calming myself down, and spending much more time on my knees, I left it in the Lord's hand. I turned my will over to Him - and accepted that I might not be able to have the surgery after all, but that in the end it would be what the Lord knew was best for me.

Going through the temple was such a special experience, and because I'd let go of that frustration, I was able to focus on the spirit of that holy place. I felt the peace that comes with feeling the spirit of the Lord, and felt that confirmation that, yes, things would work out the way they were supposed to.

That afternoon, I received a phone call from the insurance. There had apparently been a miscommunication, and the procedure was included in our family plan after all. They gave me the green light to go ahead and have the surgery.

It doesn't seem at all coincidental to be that things weren't resolved until after I turned the matter over to the Lord and put my trust in Him. But the story doesn't stop there.

I was - understandably - nervous the morning of my surgery. My heart was pounding with that combination of apprehension and excitement. As I was being wheeled into the operation room, I knew this was it. They put the mask on my face and told me to start counting back from ten, and my last conscious thought was that there was no turning back.

When I woke up, I was in the worst pain I've ever experienced in my life. Everything was confusing, and I just wanted the pain to stop. I kept trying to turn over onto my stomach, and the nurses were reminding me that I couldn't, that I'd just had major surgery. I found out later that the majority of the pain wasn't from the incisions themselves, but from the gas that was filling my stomach as a result of the procedure.

Not. Fun.

Quickly, they were able to start pumping pain killers into me through my IV, and I started to relax. I wasn't comfortable by any means, but the pain became much more bearable, and the panic I was feeling started to ebb away.

Soon, my parents were able to come in and join me. And not long after that, I was being prompted to get up out of the bed and start walking around the halls. I'd been told even before the procedure that the sooner I started walking afterwards, the faster I would recover. I took this advice seriously, and at least once an hour I got up and walked around.

As the day wore on, I thought to myself, "I can do this. This isn't so bad. It's not as bad as I was expecting." And it was true ... until the next day.

The next day, early in the morning, the nurses came in and stopped the fluids and pain killers I'd been getting through my IV. I hadn't realized just how much of a difference it was making until I didn't have it anymore. They tried giving me pills to take, but the pills made me nauseous, and I decided I'd rather be in pain than throwing up all the time. I kept thinking, "Why did I do this to myself?"

I was miserable.

That night, it was impossible to sleep. My dad came to check up on me, and I asked him for a blessing, which he gave. I then asked him to read the scriptures to me, and as he did, I was finally able to fall asleep, even if it was only for a little while.

The next day, though I was still in a lot of pain and discomfort that seemed never-ending, I was thankful that I would be able to go home. There was so much comfort in not being in a hospital room anymore, in being able to sleep in my own bed (even if it was difficult to get in and out of it).

But the first thing I did when I got home was go downstairs (albeit very carefully and slowly) to my room in the basement so I could change my clothes. When I'd left the morning of my surgery, I'd naturally been unable to wear my garments - they were cutting open my stomach, after all. So the very first thing I did when I got home was put them back on.

Almost instantaneously, I felt a huge amount of relief from the pain. It caused me to pause and let out a sob. I remembered being taught and reading that the garment was a source of both spiritual and physical protection and strength, but in that moment, I experienced the physical end of it first-hand. Though there was still pain and discomfort, it was significantly lessened, and my ability to bear it became much stronger.

It was my own little miracle.


There is no doubt in my mind that, through this whole process, I have received strength from the Lord. He has had compassion on me and helped me in this trial, and turned it into an immense blessing. I'll probably discuss some of the ways He's blessed me in another post.

I know that the power we can gain from the Lord isn't just metaphorical. It's tangible. It's real. And it is a demonstration of His love for us.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

i'm going there someday

Anyone who went to primary in the church knows the song "I Love to See the Temple." As a child, it was one of my favorites. We lived in Utah at the time, and every time we saw a temple while we were out driving (which was a lot, because ... well, it's Utah) I would start singing the song.

"I love to see the temple
I'm going there someday
To feel the Holy Spirit
To listen and to pray
For the temple is a holy place
A place of love and beauty
I'll prepare myself while I am young
This is my sacred duty."

And I did prepare myself. Throughout the years, no matter what trials came my way, I always had this goal ahead of me: to get to the temple. And on January 2nd, 2015, I was endowed in the Manhattan temple.

Goal achieved, right? Well, if there's one thing I've learned in the past nine months, it's that it's not about getting to the temple - it's about going to the temple. Regularly. Renewing and reminding yourself of those covenants. And constantly living your life worthy of that little card in your wallet.

We need to constantly be preparing ourselves. It's not enough to just prepare once. Having the proper spirit with us when we enter the Lord's house is paramount, and it may mean that we need to rethink certain habits we've fallen into. What could keep the spirit from being with me? What could distract me from the purpose of temple work? What, if anything, do I need to change?

I've found myself re-evaluating myself and my choices over the past couple of months, and recommitting myself to temple work and service. It is such a blessing to be so close to a temple and be able to go as often as I wish, especially since I commute into the city for school. This semester, I've made a goal for myself to attend the temple weekly, and to always have it on my mind.

I want to keep with me the spirit of that song, the spirit I felt when I was little. The wonder and love of that place. It is just as wondrous now as it was when I was little, and I know that though I've been there, I still have so much to learn. I want to pursue that knowledge relentlessly and with determination, so that I can return to the presence of my Heavenly Father.