Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Decisions, Disappointments, and Doors

The past two years of my life have brought many ups and downs. There have been huge trials and huge miracles. Some of them I've written about or hinted at on this blog, but most of them have been quiet, personal journeys. Only my Savior, my Heavenly Father, and I will ever know just how much I have been affected and changed by the experiences I've had. I'm grateful for the closeness with them that brings. I know that will always be a silver lining of life. Today I want to share a little bit about my journey lately.

I won’t go into the details of my decision, because there have been too many emotions and thoughts to even start (I tried), but I’ve decided to delay my mission indefinitely. Trust me when I say I’ve thought long and hard about this. It’s been one of my more difficult decisions because of all the different factors and considerations, and most challenging because of my deep desire for the experience of a full-time mission. I know everyone will have their opinion, but after much prayer, counsel, and pondering, I have decided that not going is what is best for me considering my health and other factors.

I do not think for one second that I have a hard life. I am so blessed and I am so grateful for what I have, where I am at, and the people in my life. But I would be lying if I don’t relate how disappointed I’ve felt over this decision. The past two years have been really difficult and I can’t count the times I have had to give up “Plan A” (& B, C, D) because of my health. Going on a mission was something I’ve dreamed of doing so obviously I was crushed and still feel sad about it sometimes. It hurts to have goals and hopes go unfulfilled. Everyone has felt that or will feel it at some point. I think we can acknowledge the pain of it more, because it can be really hard.

As disappointing as it was and often still is, I have felt great peace over my decision. For a long time I hated that I felt peace about it. Sometimes I wish I could just suck it up and will that to be enough, but for whatever reason, the Lord hasn’t seen fit to heal me yet. And ultimately, I’m okay with that. Because I believe that He could heal my headaches right now if that was in my best interest. I know He has a plan for me because He loves me. Right now, that plan does not include my headaches going away or me going on a mission.

The pain has been a reminder that God knows what He’s doing. That may seem backwards – I’ve called Him out a time or two on that assumption
  – but I feel quite sure that He lets me feel it because it draws me closer to Him. God doesn’t want us to suffer, but He allows it because it refines and defines us. This life is to help us become like Him and that requires a certain amount of disappointment, suffering, sorrow, and pain.  It’s a struggle and everyday I wish that the pain would go away, there’s no lying about that, but everyday it isn’t gone, I discover something else to be thankful for. I have learned more from this chronic pain than I have ever thought possible. I’m learning who I really am at my core, not just what I do. Those things have been, to a large extent, taken away. I can’t dance, run, learn, play, study, the way I used to. I sometimes mourn the old me, but mostly I’m so grateful for a better understanding of who I am, what’s truly important, and what God cares about. I believe that one day we will look back at all we’ve been through and be grateful for it all because we will know our Savior better. There is a greater purpose to this life than we can see!

So, while it's been hard and difficult to accept, I am grateful for the past month and the answers that have come. I look back at myself - banging on a door I wanted opened, wondering if there was anyone behind it. I know that there was, but He knows which doors to open and which ones to keep shut. I was starting to have faith in the door instead of the man behind it. I think at some point, I will look back and understand the whys and thank Him for not opening that door, at least not on my timetable. 

“Doors close regularly in our lives, and some of those closings cause genuine pain and heartache. But I do believe that where one such door closes, another door opens (and perhaps more than one), with hope and blessings in other areas of our lives that we might not have discovered otherwise.” – President Howard W. Hunter

God knows what He’s doing even when we have no clue what we are doing!

 And now for a little humor, because what is life without it??
Michael is to his sentence as I am to my life :)

What are my plans now?
I'm loving the little things lately - quality time with family, going to the temple, raking leaves with my dad, going to lunch with my grandpa, enjoying the fall weather (the little things are really the big things). I’m working and spending the holidays at home. Then I’m excited to go back to school in January and try to finish my last semester or two at BYU. But who knows where life will take me! 

Despite disappointments, it's still a great life we live, huh?!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Focused Faith

So... faith. Is it easier said than done? For me - yeah, sometimes.

With my surgery, I kept telling myself to have faith and everything would work out. I had no trouble believing that God could heal me, but it has been a challenge to trust Him when I haven't been fully healed and have had to come up with plan B, then C, and so forth. I realized today how lame that is! Essentially that's me saying, "I choose to have faith that you can heal me, but when it doesn't happen the way I want and on my timetable, I start losing trust that you care what's going on." Like I said - LAME.

Today I was reading my journal from this year and found something I had forgotten a friend said to me. He said, 

"Trust that God knows what He's doing." 

I can hear you thinking DUH but I frequently need reminding of this. When I take the time to remember this principle, it becomes a "DUH! moment" because it really is obvious. I mean, God is God. Of course He knows exactly what He's doing even when we can't comprehend why or how or when or what He's doing.

Recovering from surgery hasn't been going as well or as fast as I'd hoped. As disappointing as that is, I do believe that God knows what He's doing. My inability to see His plan from start to finish is what makes it hard to accept any change in my plans. Hence a need for faith, right?!

Unfortunately, I tend to stunt my faith. For instance, I have to have the faith that Christ can heal my headaches, but I also have to have the faith to not be healed if that is His will instead. I need faith to go on a mission, but I also need the faith to not go on a mission if that is His will. So despite my circumstances, despite what I think is best, and despite what challenges I face, I need to focus my faith on my Savior - that He lives and loves me and has provided the way to salvation and joy in this life and the next. 

President Hinckley says it the best in one of my favorite quotes-

“We know not all that lies ahead of us. We live in a world of uncertainty.
For some, there will be great accomplishment.
For others, disappointment.
For some, much of rejoicing and gladness, good health, and gracious living.
For others, perhaps sickness and a measure of sorrow.
We do not know.
But one thing we do know.
Like the Polar Star in the heavens, regardless of what the future holds,
there stands the Redeemer of the world, the Son of God,
certain and sure as the anchor of our immortal lives.
He is the rock of our salvation, our strength, our comfort, the very focus of our faith.”

If that doesn't make your heart warm and happy, nothing else I say will! Happy Sunday, ya'll.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Always Better

As promised, I am blogging about the why, how, and when of my upcoming mission to Oklahoma City. The funny thing is that I don't really have great answers about any of those three things. So... enjoy!

Ever since I was a young girl, I've wanted to go on a mission. Both of my parents served missions and I think I wanted to be just like them. In high school, my friends and I discussed the possibility of serving and again, I felt that desire to go. Only then, a mission had become my own desire - I wanted to share the happiness and peace I felt from the knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Just two little sister missionaries :)
My senior year, I started attending a Mission Preparation class. My best friend, Courtney, and I would even put on our backpacks and ride our bikes to the church so we could feel more like missionaries.

After Austin's baptism - 3 happy happy people!
That same year, I watched my neighbor, Austin, learn about the gospel and get baptized. His testimony of the gospel was so strong and made me recognize how much it can bless other peoples' lives and completely transform them for the better. I love that kid! And I loved how happy the gospel made him. He used to shout out across the fence that separated our yards how many days left until he could get baptized. What a stud.

(He has a blog about his experiences in and out of the church that's powerful and honest. Here's a link if anyone wants to check it out - Prodigal Mormon)

Freshman year
After graduation, I headed to BYU and had a blast my freshman year! I met so many amazing people who taught me about the gospel and shared their testimony with me. Many of my friends left for missions after this year and I was always so jealous!

After Mihai's baptism
After my sophmore year in 2012, my life was changed when I went to Romania to volunteer in an orphanage. I learned about the importance of families and the strength and blessings that come from living the gospel. The members of The Church there are incredible! I met a young man, Mihai, during our time there who started learning about The Church. Mihai seemed to find so much happiness as he learned more about Jesus Christ and His plan for him. About a month before we left, Mihai decided to get baptized. I was lucky enough to sing at his baptism and it was so special. He was so happy after! My heart reminded me that day, again, of my desire to serve a mission.

When I returned home, I wanted that happiness I felt in Romania, from watching Mihai and loving those precious children, everyday for the rest of my life. I started thinking about preparing for a mission and the next May when I could start my application.

President Monson announcing the new missionary age requirements

On October 6, 2012, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints announced an age change for missionary service. Girls could now leave at age 19. I was soo excited! I was one of those girls that started planning to leave ASAP.  

Unfortunately, two days previous to the announcement, I started getting a headache, one that would stay another 22 months (and counting). I didn't know then that I was suffering from chronic occipital neuralgia. Because of my headaches, I was never able to start my application. My life for the last two years has consisted of many many doctors, medications, tests, pain, disappointments, confusion, and sadness. Through it all, I have watched many of my friends and others leave on missions. I tried to be happy for them, and I truly was, but it was also hard to know that I would probably not be able to go. At some point, I buried my desire to serve a mission because it was just easier that way.


Fortunately, the past two years have also been full of miracles and tender mercies from the Lord. Throughout everything, my family has been an incredible source of strength and support to me. They have encouraged me and comforted me. They have kept me laughing and looking at the positive. I am eternally grateful I get to be with them forever. I couldn't be where I am without them. And when I started thinking about a mission again, they were right there cheering me on.

I wanted them to let me wear this shirt in the OR. It didn't fly.

Another blessing has been discovering the source of my headaches. I had my occipital nerve decompression surgery in February. I didn't have the easiest time recovering, but slowly, I started getting better. 

Roommates of Stratford 304
While I was trying to get back to life and feel better, these girls were so supportive and encouraging and loving. Because of all the time I had to just sit and recover, I spent a lot of time having deep spiritual and gospel discussions with them. Many times, they would tell me about their missions and how much they loved them and loved the people they taught and met. I was sad that I would never get to go. But I enjoyed their stories and their testimonies. They strengthened me so much.

A couple of months ago, I was praying to have the right desires and really trying to humble myself to know the Lord's will for me. It was during this time that the desire, one I thought had died, came back like a present dropped on my lap. It seemed to come out of nowhere, but the desire to serve a mission came as an answer to my prayers and brought me great peace. Then I started thinking "Wait, I can't go on a mission!" After a long internal debate, I decided all the reasons TO go were way better than all the reasons NOT TO go. So I went forward with faith and started my papers for a mission, wondering how it would work out and if I would even be allowed with all my previous health challenges.

Hunter, me,  and our favorite book (Th Book of Mormon, of course!)
Many times during the process, I freaked out and decided I wasn't going or worried about all the reasons I was going to fail. Or what I would leave behind. Even though there are many potential reasons not to go, I have felt a lot of peace about it. Something that really helped me solidify my decision was working as a counselor at Especially For Youth (EFY). Not only was it a blast to hang out with awesome teenagers and fellow counselors, I got to teach about the gospel like I would on a mission. Sharing things like why I know Joseph Smith was a prophet who restored Christ's church again on the earth and why I believe the Book of Mormon is true, made me so happy! The gospel is joy to me. It's why I am the way I am. Any happiness I have is because of the gospel of Jesus Christ and sharing that at EFY was a great experience.

My mission call finally came after about 4 weeks of waiting. I had been praying for somewhere in the US and hopefully English speaking, to eliminate stress that makes my headaches worse. So reading "Dear Sister Borup" and "Oklahoma Oklahoma City Mission" and "English language" was a huge, huge answer to prayers! The fact that I even had a call in my hands was a miracle!

Once I had my call, it felt like everything started falling apart. I had heard that was common, but I wasn't truly prepared for it. I opened my call on a Monday and that Friday I was on the phone with my doctors in Houston discussing the possibility of a second surgery. My October 1st report date started slipping through my fingers faster than I could hold on to it. I started second guessing my decision to serve a mission at all. All the old fears and worries were coming back, a lot of them actually coming true. I didn't notice it at the time, but it was a classic pattern discussed by Elder Holland. In fact, I used this quote weekly with my EFY groups to describe how good things are often bookended with fear and challenges.
"With any major decision there are cautions and considerations to make, but once there has been illumination, beware the temptation to retreat from a good thing. If it was right when you prayed about it and trusted it and lived for it, it is right now. Don’t give up when the pressure mounts. Certainly don’t give in to that being who is bent on the destruction of your happiness. Face your doubts. Master your fears. “Cast not away therefore your confidence.” Stay the course and see the beauty of life unfold for you."

I knew that going on a mission was a good decision and the right one for me. My fears had just clouded that truth for a time. I'm grateful for good friends and family, for prayer, and for scriptures to turn to when I felt so confused and frustrated about the whole thing. Because, truly, this past month has felt like a whole year. I found out on my birthday that I would indeed need another surgery. Life certainly is good at making the journey interesting, eh?!

Honestly, I don't know what I'm doing. I don't know if I'll eventually get on a mission (although that's still the plan) or if I'll have to come home early, or if I'll ever get my headaches fixed or if this upcoming surgery will help. Or if there's a completely different route for me. I straight up just do not know. But I have faith in someone who does. My Heavenly Father knows exactly what's best for me and I have to trust that if I do or don't get better when I do, that it is what's best for me. Going in for surgery tomorrow brings a lot of emotions. Today my doctor told me I may feel better in a couple days/weeks, or it might take a lot longer. Initially that scared and frustrated me. I don't want to wait. I want to go on a mission in October like planned. I was tempted to ask, "Why does this always have to be so hard? Why can't things just work out like I plan them?"

Temples reassure me that God loves us and has a plan for us

But if there's one thing that I've (supposedly) learned from my life thus far, it's that God's plan is always better. It's not always easier - in fact, that's rarely the case - but it is always better. And that is something I can have faith in.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Surgery and So Many Blessings

There is so much good in life. I have been extremely blessed to be the recipient of so much of that goodness. It would be quite easy to focus on the negatives and the disappointments and pain in the last 18 months of my life, but I am very sure there has been more good than bad, more blessings than hardships.

I want to start changing the way that I blog, and while that means that I will actually do it sometimes, it more importantly means that I want it to be more positive in nature. I’ve had fun writing about stories that 99% of the time involve making fun of myself, but it’s time for me to blog about more than just those socially awkward moments (though there are plenty to tell). This post will be the first of many more to come that will reveal a more complete and whole version of myself. There’s so much that I haven’t written about that I would really enjoy sharing. Of course there will still be the funny stories, but there’s so many other things I want to include on this blog! Here goes!

In a way, this transition is reflective in my own life. This used to be an outlet for my awkwardness and, more honestly, shame over certain social situations and personality characteristics. I don’t know what’s changed, but I feel more comfortable in my own skin now. Maybe I needed this chronic illness, that has taken so many things that I thought essential to who I am, to figure out what’s truly important and why I am worthy of love and belonging.

Today (ok I'm an hour late, but on the 4th) marks the 18 month anniversary for the beginning of my headaches and 2 months post-op!

Here's the surgery story/update:

*Disclaimer: If you get grossed out by blood, don't scroll down for the surgery pictures.

My dad and I arrived in Houston and I went to various appointments the day before the surgery. I remember them repeating a lot of what had been said when I went in December, and to be honest, I didn’t absorb much because I was pretty nervous and my head was pounding. But those appointments reminded me that the surgery required a lot of recovery and care. The night before I felt a lot of peace about the whole thing as I prayed. I felt SO many prayers from friends and family. I have never felt the power of having so many people pray for me. I never understood when people said they could “feel” the prayers of others on their behalf, but now I get it. I felt so supported and loved and I knew that even if things didn’t go well, I had an amazing support system and people who would help me through it.

I wanted to wear my #usofkate shirt, but they made me wear a gown.
The day of the surgery I woke up feeling good and anxious to get started. Luckily, I had to be there early so I didn’t have to wait long. The closer we got to the surgery center, the more anxious I got. Any nerves I had were about how I would feel after I woke up. Having prayed about the whole procedure for so long, I felt confident in Dr. Perry and his team and their ability to perform the surgery well. But boy was I nervous when the nurse came in to put my IV in! So nervous, that I had a hard time distracting myself, and the next thing I knew, I was lying back in the chair with a couple nurses and my dad looking down on me. Passing out from needles isn’t anything new, I guess. Still embarrassing though. A few jokes later (from every person in the surgery center, mind you), and I was on the gurney with a couple surgical assistants/nurses distracting me with funny stories while another nurse stuck me with an IV. I was relieved it only took two tries! The last thing I remember is the surgical assistant asking me lots of questions that I knew the answers to but couldn’t quite reply as my body started to react to the anesthesia. 

Here’s what they did while I was out:

It's tricky to explain, but these are essentially before and after photos of the incisions they made. They decompressed the nerves and removed the scar tissue. So gross, I know.

Waking up went less smoothly. All I remember is a big blue bucket… a couple blue buckets, actually. I should’ve named them. Unfortunately, I was too busy throwing up what little I had in my stomach to worry about that. They kept thinking I was done so they’d throw away the bucket and then I’d need one again several minutes later. Normal post-surgery time in the recovery room is about 30-60 minutes. I’m pretty sure I both set a new record and managed to ruin multiple nurses’ dinner plans by sticking around for 210 minutes – that’s 3.5 hours, people. Surgery prep started at 9am and I did not leave the surgery center until 6:30pm. It was a really long day to say the least. I have never felt so miserable in my life. But getting back to the hotel was really great because I could finally lay down and hold my souvenir blue bucket in front of my face in peace, with no one telling me to do this or that. Dad was awesome and made sure that I got something to eat and that I was taking all my meds at the right time. He helped me get propped up at the 45 degree angle I slept in for the two weeks after surgery, get ice on my neck, and drain my brain juice from my pain pump. What a gem!

Imagine my surprise to discover that they had shaved half my head! So trendy...
The days following the surgery in Houston were both worse and better than I expected. For some reason I had it in my mind that recovering from head surgery wouldn’t be all that bad and I would just wake up without a headache. I don’t know where that came from, but it has really messed with my ability to mentally handle the challenge of recovery. The pain after surgery was compounded with the pre-surgery headache and to say that I was hurting is an understatement. Luckily, I have amazing friends and family and doctors to help me out and keep my spirits up! I am so incredibly grateful to everyone who prayed for me, called me, texted me, stopped by to see me, sent packages, etc! WOW am I blessed! Realizing and feeling so much love from those I love has been one of my greatest blessings and treasures through this whole journey. It’s amazing.

I’m glad to say that after two months post-surgery, I am feeling better. I still haven’t had any headache-free moments, but the surgery pain has mostly gone away and I can function for the most part on my own. The doctors are hopeful that I will start to feel better soon. I pray that I do. In the mean time, I’ve been resting, relaxing, and occasionally getting out and doing fun things again!
Thank you again to everyone who continually keeps me in their thoughts and prayers and keeps me thinking positively!

One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned is that when I put God first, nothing else matters. When I don’t, I’m not as happy, no matter what my life circumstance is. During this chronic pain, I’ve felt closer to Heavenly Father than any other time in my life. I love relying on Him and trusting in His grace and timing. I know that as long as I am obedient to the covenants I’ve made to love Him and love His children, I will be okay in the long run. This life is such a gift and the hard experiences are just opportunities to increase love and grow. With faith in Christ, life is good.