“He will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.” – Alma 7:11

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I’m trying to look at the Atonement from a different perspective. As a teenager when I heard the word atonement I automatically thought of repentance, and for years I was drilled on rules and commandments. I wanted to make it to the temple as a worthy daughter of God, so when I studied anything about the atonement, I only associated it with repentance. Now that I am in a different stage in my life I have learned that the atonement is so much more.


“And he shall go forth, suffering pains, and afflictions and temptations of every kind….he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people” Alma 7:11

Why would someone want to do that? Justin and I have been through a lot in the past couple of years. I have dealt with severe anxiety and worry. I have spent countless days with heartache and tears. Justin has dealt with so much physical pain; three surgeries, months of chemo, nausea, short of breath, no appetite, etc. He has also had to deal with the intense mental struggle, and the depression and anxiety that come with chemo.

Again I ask the question- why would someone want to go through this? Why would someone want to feel every tear, every surgery, every round of chemo?
The only word that answers that question is LOVE. Not only did he go through all of that for Justin and I, but everyone on earth. Our Savior loved us so much he was willing to go through all of this so that we can return to our Heavenly Father some day.

“The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to is proper frame…” Alma 11:43

I yearn for the day that Justin won’t have to feel this pain anymore. The day his body will no longer be broken, but whole. I try to imagine that day when we are reunited with the Lord again. This trial has made me stronger and has brought me closer to the Lord, because he has felt ever tear, and every heartache, and he knows me. I know that when the day comes and I get to see him, I will be overcome with emotion and gratitude. Our foundation of love will already be there because I know how hard this trial has been and that he was there with me and Justin every step of the way. He did all of that because he Loves us, and this is what the Atonement is to me now.

“You’ve GOT what it TAKES, but it will TAKE everything you’ve GOT!”

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He puts on a good face, but I know deep down he isn’t telling me everything. How much pain is he really in? This time around, chemo has been a lot harder than the first. Maybe it is because we forgot how awful it was, but I can tell Justin is different this time. When Justin did chemo two years ago he would bounce back from his rounds pretty quickly. His appetite would come back, he was more energetic, and more alive. This time he hasn’t bounced back. It’s a lot harder for him to do the simplest things. The way the tumor is compressing his lung, it makes it really hard for him to breath. Just walking up the stairs can be a huge task. I think the fact that he has no appetite adds to his depression and tiredness. Everything adds up. He doesn’t eat so he is weak, he can’t breath so it’s hard for him to move around. These are two bad combinations and I slowly see that outgoing happy Justin slip away from me. He has every right to be depressed, but I don’t know what to do to make him happy. No matter what I do, he is always reminded by his physical pain that he has cancer. He tries to spend time with me or our friends, but every time he coughs or has a hint of nausea he is reminded of his situation. He has no escape. This chemo is mentally and physically breaking him down. It scares me, I don’t know how much strength he has left to fight this fight. How much more will his body have to endure?

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To get a better understanding of what he is experiencing, here are some of the things he has to go through on a daily basis:

Justin: I can’t use the hospital hand soap, the smell might make me throw up.

Justin: I can’t eat any solid foods during chemo. I don’t want to mess my digestion system up even more, and throwing up food is never fun – I’ll just stick to liquids for now.

Jenn:  Make sure to put peppermint under your nose before and after you go to the bathroom.

Justin: The smell of my own urine is making me want to throw up. Hurry and put the peppermint under my nose I’m feeling nauseas – ok point the fan at my face. “Oh no!” hurry grab the bucket.

Jenn: I’m so sorry do you want water or do you want to brush your teeth?

Justin:  No I think it will make me throw up if I do that.

Jenn:  Ok I will get the mints. Can you try some mints to get the taste out of your mouth?

Justin: Yeah I can try them, but just one small one.

Jenn:  Don’t look at the nurse putting the chemo in your body. Just focus on me, what do you want to talk about? Should we watch a funny youtube video?

Justin: Did we use lavender at the hospital? I can’t smell lavender at home anymore, it almost made me throw up.

Jenn: I’ll take the lavender out and we can put another scent in the bathroom. Let’s make sure to use a different scent at the hospital next time.

Justin: It’s hard to sleep on my right side because I can feel the tumor press on my lung it makes it harder for me to breath.

Jenn: Have you had anything to eat today? You need to eat something or you energy will just get worse.

Justin: Nothing sounds good to me. I just feel like anything I eat will make me sick.

He puts on a good face, but do we really know what Justin is going through? How much pain he is really in?

“No one fights alone!”

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When we got home from Justin’s first round of chemo a couple weeks ago I could see the life slowly enter his body again. He was actually sitting up and talking. Its amazing to see the night and day difference of hospital Justin verse home Justin. He doesn’t feel as sick when he is home and we start to feel like normal people again. It had been a hard weekend with him having to stay an extra day and experience chemo again. Some of Justins friends wanted to stop by and said they had a surprise for him. My sister and I had to go to the store to get him some things. When we came back and I opened the door I saw three bald heads sitting on the couch.  His friends had completely shaved their heads to support Justin. I was overcome with emotion and if there weren’t a lot of people in the room I probably would have started to cry. I just don’t think they realized that such a simple task could mean so much. I had just had the worst weekend and was so exhausted, but seeing them with their bald heads helped lift my spirits up again. It was so comforting to know that we have so much support through all of this. I was reminded of the quote “No one fights alone” We are not alone through this journey. I am so thankful for the people in our lives who help us get through each day.

“My God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

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Nothing is worse than having expectations and then having them not met. Especially when you’re a planner and expect things to go the way you plan. This was certainly the case on Saturday, September 26th. That was the day that Justin was scheduled to be released from the hospital after his first session with chemo. But, when he woke up they noticed that his oxygen saturation was only at 85 percent and they got worried.   Their fear was that he might have Pneumonia or a blood clot.

They took him down for an x-ray and then a CT scan to check it out. I’m sure the nurse wanted to punch me because I was asking her every five minutes if they got the results back. I wanted to get Justin home and out of that miserable place. Unfortunately, when they got the scans back they realized it was neither, but that maybe this jelly stuff that was being produced by his tumor had spread since his surgery. Whatever it was, it was clear that it was making it hard for him to breathe. They told me they wanted to keep him over night and talk with the surgeons.

When the nurse told me he would have to stay another night I couldn’t help but cry. Knowing this stuff has already grown in just a couple weeks from his surgery, knowing how sick he was and how much he hated being in the hospital…just everything helped to put me in a horrible emotional state. That dark cloud that seems to be ever present surrounded me and I slowly started to enter that world of darkness.

Again I found myself conflicted with that back and forth feeling of faith and fear. I was doing so well, but within seconds my faith was stripped from me and I found myself filled with fear. The questions all started to force themselves into my mind. What if this chemo doesn’t work? What will we do then?

I went to my sister’s house to shower and regroup before coming back to the hospital. I could barley say hi to my niece and nephews without crying. I was at that breaking point and didn’t know how to get out. I went to my room and just sat there….I couldn’t get myself to do anything. At that point after holding so much in, I just started to sob. I was stuck in fear and I felt so alone. I felt so much pain in my heart, I just wanted it to go away. Usually Justin helps me get back to faith, but he was so passed out he didn’t really know what was going on around him. He could barely stay awake long enough to have a conversation.

Where was God? I wanted him to be here and hold me. I wanted him to tell me that everything was going to be ok. I know that He is with me, but I was having a hard time imagining it. Why would this be happening to us? I’m just not sure how much longer I can feel this pain and worry so deeply. This trial is to hard for us…and seems to be getting harder!   How could God think I could handle this? I just wanted it to go away. Please take this from me!

I thought I was a lone, but I was wrong. Within the next 12 hours God reminded me that he loves me and is there for me. We may have to go through hard times, but I learned for certain that he will step in and help us when we need it.

Later that night, out of the blue, I got a text from my cousin asking if Justin was ok and if he needed a blessing. She had no clue what had happened that day, but she was listening to the spirit. Her husband and my uncle were able to give Justin a blessing the next morning. My little sister didn’t hesitate to get on a plane and be with me at the hospital. Justin’s aunt decided to just come that morning and spend time with me while we waited for Justin to get released. Right there…in the middle of my despair, I feel like God reached out and touched me…just as I had been asking.

Then, late on Sunday morning while we were waiting for the doctors to stop by to say that Justin could go, we got a visit from Elder Dale G. Renlund of the First Quorum of the Seventy. He was one of my Dad’s priesthood leaders and in his own desperation, my Dad called him to see if he would be willing to stop by and talk to Justin and I. Elder Renlund didn’t hesitate.

I have to admit that on September 27, 2015 I didn’t know who he was. But, I can tell you how thankful we were that he came. He brought such a spirit of peace and love with him when he came. We could tell instantly that he was a servant of the Lord. He took a great deal of his time and shared some personal experiences of some trials he had gone through in his life. He shared some scriptures that had once helped him. One scripture was in Isaiah 49 when Zion said “The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me.” Then he read the next scripture that said, “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.”

When he shared this scripture I had thought of the previous night when I had asked the same question. God, why have you forsaken me? It was a gentle reminder that God is there for me. In the moment I was really honest with Elder Renlund. In fact, I worried that I may have been too honest. I asked him “If the Lord knows how everything is going to turn out, then why should I pray for a miracle for which God already knows the outcome?” As I remember his response, he said “We need to completely ask for the desires of our heart and for miracles, but also be willing to submit to His will. He does know the end from the beginning, but He also allows us our agency and our desire to access the atonement in our lives.”

I also explained to him my struggle with faith and fear. He called it the “Yo Yo” affect. As I remembered, Elder Renlund said we will always be going up and down from faith and fear, but as long as we have a base line of the eternal plan we will find assurance. No matter how much our feelings go between faith and fear, if we remember that through the Plan we are sealed for time and eternity then faith will, in the end, always win out. The important part is to always remember the Plan of Salvation and the long-term miracle that we have in and through that Plan and the Savior’s ultimate sacrifice.

Before he left he said a prayer with us and the Spirit was so strong. There was no fear left in my mind and I had once again returned to faith. The feeling was so comforting. The night before I had asked God “why have you forsaken me?” But, through this experience I know now that he will never forsake me. I know God wouldn’t necessarily come to earth to physically be there with me. But, when I cried out to him and asked him where he was, he sent people into my life to do it for him. I know that this time is hard. Harder for Justin than for me. But, I will never doubt that God is aware of me. I was reminded of the Love he really does have for me.

Saturday when I heard Elder Renlund’s name over the pulpit announcing him as a new Apostle of the Lord I was overcome with the Spirit. In my grief and despair, the Lord had smiled on me and sent me angels, including one of his Apostles. He had taken time to sit down with Justin and I, he shared his testimony as a Special Witness of Jesus Christ and helped us get through another day of this trial. I feel very blessed to have had this experience. I know this was one way of God reminding me that he is aware of me and this trial I am going through. With his help I know I will be able to make it through.