Emmett is helping grandpa push the stroller through the zoo..... Family, what could be more important than that? It's a gift from God for those born into loving families, but sometimes we are born into confusion and chaos. And, in spite of what we may think, sometimes that is a gift as well.
Today was Fast and Testimony Sunday. For those not familiar with the LDS church, once a month we fast for 2 meals. The money we would normally spend on food we give to the church to help buy food and other things for those in need. I listened to two young women talk about how grateful they are for their family. My stepdaughter talked about her first year at college and how scary it was to watch us drive off and leave her at the dorm. It was a choice she made though, to go off to school and she knew that we would be there for her if needed. One of her friends is going to Japan for the summer and she echoed the idea that she knew that even though she would be in a strange land with a family she didn't know, she knew that the Lord would be there watching over her, and that she could be in touch with her family, who love her very much.
I reflected on their talks, and how different my life was at their age. Choices were made for me that had an impact on my life and still does, even now. I was living with my stepfather and stepmother, not knowing at the time that he was not my real father. When we moved off post after "dad" retired, they didn't let me move into the trailor with them. They were planning on building a home and the trailor was temporary. They turned the tool shed into my room, sort of. It was a plywood and 2 x 4's shed with no insulation. The mower and other tools were still in there. Yes, there was a bed put out there, but there was little light, and when the temps dropped down in the 30's at night I had to bundle up under 3 double folded blankets, and wear several layers of warm clothes to bed. I had a small heater that barely kept the cold at bay, and was miserable. I did get to use the bathroom and eat at the house sometimes, but I could feel a difference in the way I was being treated and was so hurt by the whole situation. I would go to my only class in the morning, walk the two miles to the main gate of the military post I worked at, catch the bus, and then after work had to look forward to walking the 3 miles home. It was downhill most of the way so that wasn't too bad, but the last mile there were no streetlights and it was dark out on the desert. I was told that they didn't want me waking the family when I came home late at night, but it was my stepfather that encouraged us to go out and stay out until whenever. They wouldn't even come to the main gate to pick me up, I had to catch a ride, no matter the weather, or walk. I wouldn't have minded the walking so much, but for a teenage girl in a military town, at night, walking home alone, it wasn't safe. I had one person offer me a ride and then took me out into the desert and threatened to kill me if I didn't do as he asked. I never told anyone because I didn't think anyone would care. It was my second rape, and I was told I asked for it the first time so why would anyone believe me this time. It was a very confusing time for me, and I made a lot of choices I would never have made had I lived with a family that treated me like one of their own. Mom was already gone by that time and that added to the whole mess. Later they found several black widows nests in the shed after I moved out, and laughed about it. Bob eventually took me out to find a place of my own, so I was paying for my own place, food and other expenses even before I got out of high school. It wasn't my choice, but one made for me. Sometimes when I think about that time, which really isn't unless someone says something to trigger that memory, I want to call my stepmom and ask why? Why did they continually reject me? I know the answer though, and it had little to do with me, and more to do with my stepfather's alcohol abuse, and the misery everyone suffered living with my stepdad.
So what does this have to do God knowing our hearts? Well I survived all that and much more before my life settled down. I know that Heavenly Father watches over me continually. I'm alive to see my grandchildren, and I have a loving husband, and a strength that a lot of folks will never have. I can use my experience to help others, and it's what He wants me to do. I've lived a hell on earth and made it through, and can offer an empathy to those going through similar experiences. I learned one very important principle and that is, that even though we are weak, the desires of our hearts can be achieved, if we have righteous desires. We will be tested to see if we are willing to stand as a witness of God at all times, and in all places and things. He will give us the strength to overcome if we look to Him for it. Heavenly Father knew that I didn't want to be weak, and He blessed me even when I wasn't trying very hard. I still falter at times, and yet I'm still blessed with what I truly need. My desire has always been to be a good person, but sometimes I didn't feel worthy of love and felt hopeless. I know now that I was wrong, and that He truly does know me, better than I know myself. I hope my experiences temper my attitude towards others, and that I try to be more understanding and as patient and loving as He has been toward me. And for those who may mistake what I share here, I truly don't think I'm perfect, so I hope I don't portray that. I still make mistakes, and do regret if I've hurt anyone, or offended them in any way. May the Lord bless us all with the strength and protection we need......