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The Refiner’s Fire

“If there were no night, we would not appreciate the day, nor could we see the stars and the vastness of the heavens. We must partake of the bitter with the sweet. There is a divine purpose in the adversities we encounter every day. They prepare, they purge, they purify, and thus they bless.” James E. Faust

How true this is! I have come to have a great testimony of how true it is that we need adversity and trials to help us grow, to strengthen us spiritually and to give us a greater capacity for love and joy. The road however is not easy.

Our Darkest Hour

Beckett had been admitted for the long haul. We wouldn’t be going home until he received a transplant. He was still doing ok but each day was difficult. We didn’t know what his labs would show and it felt like each time we attempted to fix one problem, a couple more complications would happen in the process. It was stressful. Trying to stay on top of the information we were given each day became a chore. Usually I can comprehend what is being said and process it. But this all became too much.

I remember each day being told that his kidneys were getting worse. Each day we heard he may need dialysis but we weren’t quite there yet and we would keep a close eye on them. His peeing slowed way down. He wouldn’t drink anything. He was fussy and sad and his belly was so big. My heart would ache watching him but I still felt like he would be ok, even though we knew he was so sick. He had been granted 50 exception points. The highest I had ever actually seen was 52. So we knew he was not doing well. And then to top it off, he had been granted status 1B meaning he was at the top of the list and needed a transplant very soon. I still felt he would be fine.

Our ward family decided that they would fast for Beckett on June 7th. I also heard of so many friends and family that also decided on their own to pray and fast for my son. We felt such strength and encouragement that day. I felt the prayers, physically felt them engulfing me in strength and power. That Sunday was one I will never forget. Monday morning I headed up to the hospital to take care of Becks for the next couple days. I thought Shawn would be at work by the time that I got there but I was surprised to see him in the room. I came in happy and said hi and that’s when I saw Shawn’s face and my heart dropped. He was crying. He said, “We have some hard choices to make.”

We sat down and started talking. He told me of the conversation that he had with our doctor. She told him that even being status 1B there were quite a few other children ahead of him. We were told that kids can wait 2-3 months at a Status 1B and Beckett did not have that time. He was worse than we thought. I was devastated. I knew the reality of him passing away was something we might experience but this was the first time where it actually felt real. We could lose him. The team wanted to cross list him for an incompatible blood type. It would be risky but it could bump him higher on the list and his chances of getting a transplant sooner were much better. We both felt like we needed to do it. Anything to save our baby.

I was shattered. I felt my faith shaken really for the first time since we started all of this. Only the day before communities of people had come together to pray and fast in our behalf. And now we get this news? I did not understand. I tried to rationalize what was happening. Tried to process. And I was angry. I had been strong. I had faith that things would work out. But that’s not real faith is it? No. Faith is aligning our will to the Father’s and accepting the outcome even if it isn’t what we wanted. I prayed harder the next couple days than I have in a long time. At first I was just saying the words. “I want my son to live BUT IF NOT I will be ok.” But a peace came to me. I came to truly mean what I was saying. I was given a blessing from our bishop that I will never forget. Faith was a big part of the blessing. I have the faith. Now I just needed to focus on the Savior and let him be my light, my guide.

The Miracle 

Throughout the next couple days, I truly came to know that I would be ok if things did not happen the way that my soul desired. It would be devastating and it was the last thing I wanted but I WOULD be ok. I would. And as the week went on I cried less and celebrated more. Friday was my day of complete peace and then Saturday our miracle came. It came in the 11th hour. We were brought to the lowest of lows before the relief came. Before the light shone through and the weight was lifted. I now understand what the scriptures and prophets mean by “after the trial of your faith”.

When we found out that the liver was perfect for him, perfect size and it was his blood type, I was stunned. How? This wasn’t supposed to happen. It was a miracle. A true blessing from a Father in Heaven who is aware of me and loves me. The morning after his transplant, all the doctors rounded to discuss Beckett and the plan for him. There were 32 people there- surgeons, transplant team, kidney doctors, liver doctors, pharmacists, nutritionists, PICU doctors, an ultrasound technician, our nurse and social worker. It was intense. The conversation lasted about 30 minutes as they went over everything about Beckett and consulted each other as to how they should proceed. Towards the end, someone asked us if we had any questions. I asked our surgeon, who was on the opposite side of the massive circle of people, about the size comparison between Becks old liver and the new one. He started to talk to us and as he did people broke off into small conversations of their own. Then the surgeon said, “I used to not believe this at all but after doing transplants for awhile now I truly believe it.” As he spoke all the conversations stopped and the room went silent. He continued, “I truly believe that organs find the recipients that they are MEANT to be with. There is no way that Beckett should have gotten this liver but it was meant for him. This liver is supposed to be his.” Shawn and I were in tears. To hear a surgeon speak so emphatically showed us yet again how much of a miracle we were witnessing.

The Refiner’s Fire

Malachi 3:3 And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.

“Out of the refiner’s fire can come a glorious deliverance. It can be a noble and lasting rebirth.” James E. Faust

We have been in the refiner’s fire. I guess you could say we are still in that fire. Each day is a new chance to decide how we will act, what path we will choose. Will we learn from what we are going through? Will we let it purify us and turn us into something greater than we were before? Or will we let it consume and destroy us?

I remember watching a video after Beckett was first diagnosed. I sobbed through the whole thing. In the video the woman said several things that have stuck with me to this day and I hope to carry them with me forever. She talked about Newton’s law. For every action there is an opposite and equal reaction. So the greater our sorrow, the greater our capacity for joy. I believe this. As odd as it sounds, our lives are so much brighter and happier now. Even before our miracle, I still had felt more joy than ever before in my life. It’s also given me a much greater understanding and empathy for others. We are not the first to go through a really hard trial. And we will not be the last. I want this refiner’s fire to help me be able to help others. To reach into the depths of despair and grab someone and say, “I have you. I know what you are feeling and I am here to help.”

We have been through the night. I have a greater understanding of the universe, of God’s greatness, of my Savior’s atonement. And now we see the dawn of a new day and it is beautiful. It’s more beautiful than ever before because we endured the pitch black of night. Our faith has been tried, our courage tested, our souls put through the fire. And we are emerging changed forever. Changed for the better.

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Understanding the Universe

“In a very short period of time, our understanding of the universe changed forever… The immensity of the universe didn’t suddenly change, but our ability to see and understand this truth changed dramatically. And with that greater light, mankind was introduced to glorious vistas we had never before imagined.” – Dieter F. Uchtdorf

I have thought often the past few weeks on these words. I can relate to them. They tell my story. I see the value and meaning of life differently than I had ever seen or pictured it before. The veil over my face has been lifted to see a greater universe than I knew previously. I strangely feel the dark and sunny places of other individuals emotions and can relate to them. As much as my own experiences will allow me to of course.

Before Beckett’s diagnosis of Biliary Atresia, we had what I considered a great life. Kim and I found the chaotic rhythm for our family of 3 beautiful well mannered kids. Our marriage was thriving as we established weekly dates and activities together. I was starting to find the groove of my career after being promoted to a new position of visibility. Talk of insurance and financial planning was for “other” people. Adalyn and Raemee, our two oldest girls, have never had ear infections. No medical threats would ever happen to us. Life was as close to perfect as it could get.

IMG_3184The text message I received from Kim on that sunny Tuesday was the start of my eye opening experience that is now the life I live. Since that Tuesday, 35 days have past. In those thirty-five days, 17 of them to this day have been spent in the hospital. Puddles of tears have been shed, hard conversations have taken place, and ultimately God has provided me with a humbling blow to my core that has made me grow up in areas I have never wanted to. Nor did I know existed within me or my capacity. I think we have all experienced this to different degrees.

In the end I am grateful for the deeper capacity of gratitude, empathy, perspective, and emotion that I feel for others. It has enabled me to love. To see the universe for what it’s supposed to be. I have a changed soul and I can’t describe it. You can’t put words next to something like what I feel inside now that is so powerful. I can say that it runs deep, it’s consuming, and it requires me to take action.

I’m not grateful for what is happening to Beckett. I would never wish this on my son. Though he be a warrior, it’s not a fight I want him in so that I can learn a soul transforming lesson. However, I am grateful for the level of communication it has provided me. As I looked into Beckett’s eyes last night, I saw him. I saw the fear that exists inside him. That same fear I see on the faces of parents of sick kids in the hospital. The same look I see when I look in the mirror. I felt how tired he was from a week of being poked (5 different IVs and multiple blood draws), sedated (twice), and drained (the excessive fluid from his abdomen). I understood for a brief moment the exhaustion of being administered 6 different medications one after the other, or the toll that deep vomiting multiple times a day can take on a 3 month old body. When he wrapped his little fingers around my thumb, he was asking me to not leave him alone and I heard through his expression him say “I am trying dad!” For a second, time stopped and I was learning from my man cub. He has a mission to complete. A battle to fight. My son has a purpose and he knows it. We all do. Just like I love my son, our Father in Heaven loves us all. I understand now why “in the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land” (Matthew 27:45) and in the ninth hour “the earth did quake, and the rocks rent.” (Matthew 27:51) It wasn’t easy for the Son, and clearly it wasn’t easy for the Father, but they saw and were aware of the glorious vistas of the universe.

Beckett is a warrior. Even though he has already been through so much, his battlefield is going to get harder, scarier, and so much worse. In all of this there is a lot that will be asked of him. He will pay a steep price to gain the life he has waiting for him post liver transplant. I am so proud of him and through him I am finally seeing and understanding what life is really about. #loveyaBeckett

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