Sandwiched between their
“once upon a time“
“happily ever after,”
they all had to
experience great adversity.
-Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Chad and I met “once upon a time” in a Spanish class at our high school. He was a junior, I was a sophomore. We sat by each other and, to be honest, he would copy off of me. Ha ha! But it’s true! (Side note: he later served a church mission in Mexico for 2 years so he now speaks fluent Spanish-go figure!) He had fractured his arm playing soccer and I thought this boy with his arm in a sling was just so cute. He thought I was pretty cute too and we definitely flirted a lot. Summer came and he claims he thought about calling me, but he never did. With the next school year he was now a senior and I was a junior. We would only see each other passing in the halls, but he finally got up the nerve to ask me to go to the Homecoming Dance with him. Of course I was giggly and giddy and said yes. He also asked me to go out to lunch with him the next day and the rest, as they say, is history.
We quickly became inseparable. Chad is my Prince Charming. He swept me off of my feet. He made me feel like the most special girl in the world. As cheesy as this all may sound, it’s completely true. He was always a perfect gentleman and always treated me with respect. He would open the car door for me every single time we went out. And he would always hold my hand while we were out, which I loved. We could talk for hours about anything and everything. He became my best friend. Our girls love to tell how he is “my one true love.” I still get butterflies when I’m around him today.
Skip ahead to 2003 and we were married. It was the best day. Ever. The beginning of our “happily ever after.” There are many stories in between our high school dating and our wedding day, but I’ll save those for another time (wink, wink). As we started our newlywed life together we came to realize that trials come. Sometimes it really stinks to be a grown up and have such big responsibilities! But trials are an inevitable part of life. Our Heavenly Father has told us that no one is immune from them. In those early years we had trouble finding time to spend together as Chad started his career as a police officer working a graveyard shift on the weekends and I finished up my teaching credential and then began working during the week. We also dealt with financial struggles, housing dilemmas and trying to blend the traditions of our two families together into our new life as husband and wife. Then we started having babies and as much of a joy and a blessing as that is, it brings about a new set of trials as well.
As our marriage matured, as we matured, we began to put more faith in the Lord. We made our faith more of a priority in our life. Our testimonies strengthened. We realized that everything happens for a reason. Everything-the good and the bad. And everything happens on the Lord’s timeline, not always on our own. As we opened ourselves up to this knowledge we could more clearly see the blessings in our life, even through our trials. Every time we would feel distraught, not knowing what to do, after much prayer and sometimes after much waiting, things would always seem to work out. As we would look back at the way things transpired we would realize that there were many blessings in disguise.
I am so thankful that we had developed a firm foundation in the Gospel in our life. Because no matter how prepared you think you are for trials, there are some that come that are so big and so scary that they will shake you to your core. And they will come out of nowhere, without any warning. For us this trial was me being diagnosed with cancer in April 2016. All of a sudden we were thrown into a whirlwind of tests, doctors & a world of unknowns. All of a sudden we weren’t sure what our “happily ever after” would be. Or if we would even have one. I feared that our plan of living a long, full life together, growing old together, spoiling our grandkids and then dying while lying next to each other just minutes apart wouldn’t happen now (Have you seen the movie The Notebook? Love it!). We didn’t know what else to do so we turned to prayer. You can never go wrong with prayer. We prayed for strength, for guidance, for good doctors, for good medical care, for hope, for comfort, for our daughters. We asked the Lord, if it is His will, that I would be healed. We asked the Lord to give me the health and strength I needed to endure the treatments to kill this terrible disease. I prayed for the mental and emotional strength I would need to endure this as well. And I prayed for help in staying close to the Gospel. Because I knew that dark days were coming and I knew that it would be hard to stay by the light.
We soon learned that my prognosis was very good, but that the treatments would be awful. The doctors told us that the treatment for rectal cancer is some of the most painful out there. And the journey would be long. As we settled into this new life that revolved around doctor’s appointments, scans, radiation, chemo and all that treatment encompasses, we tried to keep life as normal as possible for our girls. Most importantly, we kept our focus on the Gospel. We prayed together, we prayed individually, we read our Scriptures, we kept going to church, we let others help us. This last thing was so hard. We don’t ask for help and we didn’t ask for it as this trial loomed over us. But our family and the good people from our ward (our church’s congregation) didn’t even give us a chance to refuse their help. They brought us meals, took me to treatment, took care of our girls, brought us treats and special notes of encouragement, sent kind texts or emails, listened to me vent. It is through them that we felt the pure love of the Savior, through the love that they showed to our family. And we knew that we were not alone.
As this journey continued I began to realize that we would still have our “happily ever after” even if our life now looked different and our future together on this Earth was unsure (Which, isn’t it always anyway?). I realized that we would always have our eternal “happily ever after.” Because God has a bigger plan for us all. And because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ we have been promised eternal life as long as we hold true to our faith and keep our covenants. We can all have a “happily ever after!” What an amazing blessing this is! And I am not going to let this trial, or any trial that comes along, threaten to take away my “happily ever after” and my chance for eternal happiness. Now I am not perfect and our life is hardly a fairytale, but I am going to try to be my best. That’s all I can do. And I know that as long as I am trying, I will be blessed. That has already been proven to me through this experience.
I know there are so many people going through difficult trials of their own. And sometimes it seems that the trials will never end. If you are people of faith then I say hold onto that faith more now than ever before. And if you are not a believer, then find something positive in your life to focus on. No matter what, just keep going. Keep trying. Keep living. Focus on the light instead of the darkness. Be brave, you are stronger than you know. I wish I could take the trials away, I really do. But that just isn’t the way life works. As awful as trials can be, however, they help us to more fully appreciate the good things in our life. There is always, always, something to be grateful for. The choice is yours in deciding what attitude in life you will have, choose to be happy! Embrace your new “happily ever after.”
*Regarding the quote above, to read the talk by Dieter F. Uchtdorf titled Your Happily Ever After click here. It is so great!