Soon after I wrote the song, “At the Heart of It,” I played it to a room of people I hardly knew, and when I finished the song, this young lady said, “Someone get that girl a puppy.”
I was a little embarrassed by her comment because this song for me was totally heartfelt and came after one of the darkest periods of my life. I didn’t mean for it to be depressing or to elicit pity from the listener, but it was a song that I felt I had to write and share, even if it exposed some of the shadows behind the recent loss I had experienced.
Up to this point in my life, I had dealt with some disappointments and difficulties that were relatively typical. I experienced betrayal and heartache in some relationships, and then loss and disappointment when my parents got a divorce when I was in college. These experiences were refining, and despite the difficulties that came along with them, they were soul stretching and helped me to develop a relationship with God that felt personal and real to me.
However, I didn’t realize that somewhere along the way, I started to see God somewhat like the way a child sees Santa Claus. (ie. If I do all the right things, then I’ll be on the “nice” list, and I’ll get all the things I want!) I had grown up reading the Bible and the Book of Mormon and there seemed, even in scripture, to be promises given of prosperity to those who kept the commandments. So this solidified my belief in this concept even more.
Then, I started to notice that despite my attempt at having faith, and living an obedient life, I wasn’t getting all the things I wanted. My husband and I were wanting to have children, and it wasn’t happening. This was such a good thing that we were asking for and desiring. I couldn’t understand why this would be withheld from us, and unlike the other trials I had experienced in my life, this particular challenge felt even more personal between me and God. I discovered that even the best doctors, yoga classes, organic foods, acupuncture and taking a relaxing vacation were not going to guarantee that we would be able to have a baby. It seemed so out of our hands, and truly only in God’s.
After a few years of trying to get pregnant, and having some false starts, we discovered that I have several things working against me for getting and staying pregnant (PCOS with a chromosomal balanced translocation). As a result, my husband and I decided to go ahead and do IVF with PGD (genetic testing), so that our chances and odds for actually having a baby would increase significantly. I was so hopeful. All the stars seemed to be aligning from health insurance coverage, to an amazing doctor, and I felt certain that this was going to be it!
When I got the call that we were pregnant, I sobbed on my bed with tears of joy and immediately got on my knees to offer a prayer of gratitude. Joseph was so excited that we were pregnant, that he managed to tell our entire church congregation the Sunday after we found out (bless his heart). The stakes were high. Family, friends, and even people I hardly knew were pulling for us; and on top of that, we had been yearning for this for years and had invested so much time and financial means in order to get to this point.
A few weeks later, I woke up in the middle of the night (on the morning of Mother’s Day ironically) with cramping and hemorrhaging and I knew something was seriously wrong. I didn’t want to wake Joseph up because I knew that there was nothing that he could really do about it, so I just decided to lay in bed. The moon was bright, and I stared out my window praying to God for comfort and peace, which I did feel wash over me that night, and I was finally able to fall back asleep.
The next day was the worst Mother’s Day that I can remember. We went in to the doctor’s office once the clinic was open and sadly our doctor wasn’t able to find a heartbeat. The doctor said that we could come again in a few days to see if anything had changed because perhaps it was just too early to detect a heartbeat. So we went back a few more times with complete hope for a miracle heartbeat, but each time we were disappointed to find there wasn’t one.
I was devastated. The loss was almost more than I could bare. It’s hard to believe looking back now, but I felt so broken physically, emotionally as well as spiritually that thoughts of my own death were near. It wasn’t just the loss of a baby, but the roller coaster of emotions that came with having hopes crushed, and the loss of time and money spent in doing these fertility treatments, as well as the loss of my trust in and understanding of God. The picture that I had had in my mind of Him no longer matched the picture that I was seeing of Him now.
For some time, I was angry and hurt. I closed my heart to God in defense, and shut down as I tried to sort through the mess. We were living in New York at the time, and I remember that it rained for days. The sun didn’t come out for an entire week, which was great because it seemed to match my mood perfectly. At a certain point, I remember deciding that I was finally ready to pray again. I got on my knees in my living room when no one was home and I sobbed as I prayed aloud. I don’t remember what I said, to be completely honest, but I remember that after that prayer, I stood up and went into our kitchen and this beautiful and bright ray of sunshine came right through our kitchen window and the whole room lit up as if it were on fire. I stood by the window, and closed my eyes and felt warmth that was both physical and spiritual, and that was just the beginning of a renewed understanding of God’s love for me.
I knew and believed in a God who loved me, and because I was struggling during that time to feel of His love for me in ways that I could understand, I decided to take the advice of Henry B. Eyring and write a response to this question in a daily journal: “How have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch me or my family today?” President Eyring then said this about his experience with doing this:
“As I kept at it, something began to happen. As I would cast my mind over the day, I would see evidence of what God had done for one of us that I had not recognized in the busy moments of the day. As that happened, and it happened often, I realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show me what He had done.”
Miraculously, my experience of doing this daily practice of acknowledging God’s hand helped me to see light in every day despite the darkness that I thought would consume me. Looking back, I can see even more clearly now that I was truly being carried during that time of my life. Every day, I saw and felt tender mercies that I knew couldn’t have been orchestrated by anyone else besides a God that knew me and loved me perfectly.
Often, I find that God’s miracles and love have been made known to me in ways that I hadn’t previously expected. Through loss and disappointments, I have seen God’s love in ways that have surpassed circumstances. It hasn’t been an exact equation such as A+B=C, and His love hasn’t been like that of Santa Claus, either. I think I developed a more adult like relationship with the Lord when I learned that, YES, we do prosper when we keep the commandments! However, I think the Lord has taught me that often my definition of prosperity is not the same as His. Larry Barkdull mentioned this in his article entitled “Miracles Reveal the Character of God,” when he said,
“Our definition of deliverance is seldom God’s definition. We can dictate neither timelines nor terms. Nevertheless, we can be absolutely confident that our every prayer is heard and counts, and that somewhere in the process of working through, a divine encounter will happen.”
There was also a blog post called “The One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying,” that came out in the Huffington Post a few years ago that has solidified some of these concepts for me as well. Whether it be called prosperity, deliverance, or blessings…these words might have a different meaning to the Lord than they do to us. In that Huffington Post article, the writer declares:
“Nowhere in scripture are we promised worldly ease in return for our pledge of faith. In fact, the most devout saints from the Bible usually died penniless, receiving a one-way ticket to prison or death by torture…If we’re looking for the definition of blessing, Jesus spells it out clearly (Matthew 5: 1-12).”
In those verses, we read “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven”…blessed are those who mourn, are meek, who hunger and are pure. Christ doesn’t say, “Blessed are those who have a big house, or who have a well paying job, or who live comfortably and have all the things they want…” and for me, that has been such a great reminder.
Looking back now, I feel so much gratitude for the experiences that have allowed me to learn and stretch beyond what I thought was even possible. I really feel like the price payed to come to know God a little better was absolutely worth it. After all, “it takes a little rain for flowers to grow,” and for that I will be forever grateful.
Here is a clip of me singing and talking a little about the inspiration behind my song, “At the Heart of It,” on the Mormon Channel Studio. Nicole Sheahan also sang an original song (which is beautiful) and then we sang an LDS primary song called, “My Heavenly Father Loves Me,” together at the end. If you have a listen, I hope you enjoy!