Monday, November 16, 2015

Some Say That Heaven is Far Away

Well, hello there, friends and family,

About 10 days ago, I was with a specialist deciding what day we'd have our next appointment for more testing and in the exact moment my mom went to check her phone calendar, a message from my sister showed up inviting us to join them in Disneyland. My mom asked the doctor if I would be able to attend and the doctor said, "You've suffered enough, sweetie. Go enjoy Disney and get your mind off of all this and then we'll see you on the 19th." 

So I did something crazy. I went to Disneyland. And it was probably the best thing I could have ever done. Sure, I probably pushed myself way more than I should have and I probably should have been in bed sleeping instead of closing out the night on Haunted Mansion but in regards to my ├ínimo and emotional health, nothing could have helped me more. 

Coming home has been a huge culture shock, way more than when I arrived in Bolivia and the fact that I spend most of my time at home, doing nothing and feeling useless, hasn't been so easy either. So I finally got out of the house and let the Happiest Place on Earth work its magic on me. It gave me hope and strength and mostly helped me feel a little more normal. In a time when everything is so unsure, it was nice to go to a place that feels so familiar and homey. 

This week, I'll be having my (hopefully) final procedure to figure out what the heck is going on with this body of mine. Not super excited about it but I am super excited for answers and information so I can decide what to do next. All that's been confirmed is that there's definitely evidence of an autoimmune disease, but we can't tell which one until after my procedure this Thursday. So I guess Disneyland was my way of escaping reality and pretending that this week's results won't completely alter my life forever and ever. 

I'm doing well overall. Feeling about 90% healthy but 100% anxious. I can't express enough gratitude to my incredible family who is being so patient and loving with me. They've done so much for me and continue to help me daily as I adjust to life back home and the English language and the fact that everyone is married/pregnant. 

But through it all, I find strength in the same simple things that gave me strength every day in Bolivia. The restored gospel of Jesus Christ is on the earth today. God hears and answers prayers. Jesus Christ lived on this earth, suffered and died for our sins and weaknesses, and was resurrected to save each one of us. We are able to receive exaltation if we follow His example and come unto Him. I know these things are true because the Spirit has taught and testified to me and I know these things of myself. I know that He has a perfect plan for us and He loves us more than we can imagine. Pray to Him, learn of Him, do something more to be like Him. I know that He is the source of true and lasting joy. 

With much love,
Jen Gauger 

P.S. Here's a photo update for y'all. :)

 Thanks, Dad, for letting me go on exchanges with your companion. :)
 The only thing cooler than a fanny pack is a fanny pack from Tarija.
 Barium Smoothies. Not as delicious as you think.
 Changed out the title "Hermana" for "Auntie" and it's the only thing keeping me sane.
 Shout out to my dad for buying overpriced strawberries to satisfy the cravings of someone who hasn't eaten them in far too long.
When in America, do as the Americans.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Who, Who Can Understand? He, Only One.

Hey there friends,

I've gotten accustomed to this whole writing thing and I promised 18 months of adventures so if we're all up for it, I'd like to keep posting here and continue using this as an outlet for my thoughts and experiences. This week has been an interesting one, but it's caused me to think and pray a lot.

A favorite scripture of mine is found in Mosiah 3:19, where it talks about becoming a saint through the atonement of Christ and refers to becoming like a child; "submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father." I've been ponderizing that scripture for a lot longer than the word "ponderize" has been around and it's been written on my heart time and time again.

I always think about the example of young children as I strive to understand this passage and the sort of child-like humility and submissiveness that our Father desires so that we can become like Him.

For example, I think of a young mom starting the day off with a long to-do list and a prayer in her heart that she will be able to accomplish her list and have the aid of her young child to get it all done without too many meltdowns. I imagine the child's meekness as she gets ready while Mom explains the plan for the day.  I think about how the child submissively allows her car seat to be fastened because she knows her mom loves her and wants her to be safe. I think of how a loving mom has prepared snacks and toys to help her child when the idea of patience runs thin. I think about the two walking through the mall with the mom's head spinning with all the things to do and errands to run while the young child secretly wishes that her own agenda will be filled and she'll be headed home with a new toy or special treat for being good. And then I imagine the moment in the late afternoon when the tiredness hits and suddenly the child cares a lot more about what she wants than what Mom had planned. She whines. She cries. She wants to go home. I imagine that a loving mom, who sees and understands way more than her suffering child, picks her up and carries her when it gets tough and gets her safely home.

Is the journey of life much different? Does our Father not have a perfect agenda or plan for our life on earth? Should we not hop in the good ship zion and allow our loving Father to fulfill His plan? Should we not buckle our seatbelts by keeping the commandments which He has given out of love? Does He not offer spiritual snacks and nourishment when patience runs thin? Do we sometimes go through the motions hoping we will get a special treat out of it? Do we not have moments in this journey of life when we get tired, whine, cry, and want to go home? Is our Father in Heaven any less willing to lift us up and carry us in those moments of difficulty?

I testify that He loves us even more than we can imagine. I know He's willing to pick us up and I know it because He's done it for me. He's done it for me every day this week. He's heard my whining and complaining and He's picked me up and carried me. He's answered my prayers. He knows that it's tough to stay patient and positive when I'm tired and the days are long. He's been with me when the nights were long and I felt overcome by sorrow. He has a perfect plan and He has things He needs me to do today. All I want is to grab His hand and let Him run His errands with me and through me and lose my own agenda and trust that He knows what we need to get done on this trip of life and He's got a perfect plan. He has given me help through so many great friends and has allowed my family members to act as literal angels for me in a time when I felt so overwhelmed.

The best lesson I learned this week is that my destination hasn't changed but my journey, very obviously, has taken a different course. I'm currently feeling too healthy to stay inside and do nothing but I recognize that I'm also too sick to be out in Bolivia wasting the Lord's precious time. After a number of doctor's appointments, I feel even further away from the answers I was hoping to get in regards to my health and the future ahead of me. Every moment that I've thought to myself, "I should be in Bolivia right now, what am I doing here?" has been remedied by the Spirit's whisper of a scripture in Doctrine and Covenants which reads

"Cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things. Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?"

I know that He guided this transfer just as much as He guided the past year of my mission and the past 20 years of my life on earth. I don't know what the next transfer holds, but I know that the Lord needs Jen Gauger here at this time. Thank you for your prayers, love, and support. I have been overwhelmed with love and hugs and I am grateful for every single one of you who have been there on this journey with me. I know I'm not the only one suffering and I invite each of you to allow your Father or even your loving brother and savior, Jesus Christ to carry you when things get tough. I know they love you and want what's best for you.

Con mucho amor,
Jen Gauger