~by Michelle

Years ago, my father gave me a priesthood blessing. A key message of the blessing was that I would come to know how close God is, and how involved He can be in my life if I will let Him be. I have been thinking lately about how that blessing has unfolded over the years. I know He is there, but that knowledge has not come without struggle. As my dad often says, “To struggle is the program!”   I have lived a life full of unexpected opportunities and challenges (as we all do, I suppose). I didn’t think I would serve as an LDS missionary, but I did. Estoy agradecida por las oportunidades que tenía como misionera. Aprendía mucho, y me fe crecía mucho.

I didn’t think I would get a graduate degree, but I did. I felt guided toward something in which I had *no* interest in as an undergraduate student. (Surprise!) Getting an MBA (a Master’s in Business Administration) ended up being a tremendous blessing. As God guided me in my education, I discovered talents and passions I didn’t know I had. My education has impacted me in every facet of my life — in my personal growth and development, in my roles as a wife and mother, in my responsibilities at church, and in service opportunities in my community.

Of course, my education also benefited me in my professional pursuits. I never expected having to support myself, but was able to with a career that I loved. As a business consultant, I had amazing opportunities to travel to many different places (Italy was my favorite). I worked with and met many wonderful people.

During that time of my life, I lived on my own, hundreds of miles away from my family. I was grateful for the immediate and wonderful ward family I had. It was not easy being single while living in a place where there weren’t many single Mormon Church members, but I was surrounded by loving, supportive, faithful people who didn’t single me out because I was not married; they embraced me as a whole person. Ah, how I miss those people!

Even with the dearth of Mormon singles, I met my husband during this time through a connection from my mission. (We laugh that we grew up close to each other, but met while living far from home.) He came into my life at a time when I thought I wasn’t ready to open my heart; I had just ended a two-year relationship. But it became clear through personal spiritual guidance that I had met the man I would marry.

We didn’t expect children to come as quickly as they did; our three children were born in the first four years of our marriage. In those years, my husband also changed jobs three times, and we lived in three different states. I suffered from some postpartum depression. My first baby was colicky, and the transition from full-time consultant to full-time mom (I quit my job after baby #1 was born) was not always easy. Right before finding out we were pregnant with baby #2, I received a calling to be the president over the Young Women organization in our new ward, among people I hardly knew. So many things happened all at once! It was an exciting but very stressful time. I sometimes felt so inadequate.

I have probably felt most inadequate through the years as a mother. Motherhood has not come naturally to me, but I have felt God’s hand in my life in helping me develop and grow in the eternally-important roles as wife, mother, nurturer, homemaker. These roles have provided me numerous opportunities for learning and growth, and as I have given my heart to my God in serving my family, I have come to cherish the roles all the more. I have been surprised to realize that as my children grow, they need me in more significant ways than ever…spiritually, emotionally, mentally. I reflect often on teachings of prophets about the important roles women play in God’s plan, and think about Mother Eve and her title as “the mother of all living.” These things influence not only the way I want to mother my own children, but also the way I interact with others’ children as well. in how I should serve and love those around me.

Through the course of my journey, even as a stay-at-home mom, I have felt God’s hand providing opportunities for me to keep my pre-motherhood self alive as well. People who know me know that I love talking about creative ways stay-at-home moms can continue to learn, grow, and keep skills and a good network active. It takes creativity and a willingness to be flexible, but I believe God cares about women as individuals, too. He can help us know how to prioritize our lives appropriately, how different times and seasons might play out in our lives, and how He would have us use our talents. Sometimes the answers are unexpected, but I am learning how God’s plans for me are so much better than my own in the end, and/or that He will refine and guide my plans if I will let Him.

He also has helped me and continues to help me through hard times. We have looked back with gratitude that our children came so quickly, because I have struggled with undiagnosed chronic illness for seven years. In our case, this illness has meant that we have not been able to have more children. This trial has tested my faith and endurance in many ways. I have learned that healing and other blessings don’t always come how or when I would like them to, but that the Lord is intimately aware of my struggles. He has given me guidance, help, strength, and blessings in unexpected ways as I have tried to hold onto faith through the hard times, to learn from my trials. I am learning not to resent difficult challenges, but to look more for His hand in my life, to trust God more in all the twists and turns that life has. In my struggles, I have found God.

I cannot adequately express what my faith means to me. My knowledge of the eternal purposes of life and of the Atonement of Jesus Christ has influenced every facet of my life, has led me through every decision, has sustained me through every trial, has enriched every relationship. I look back on that blessing my dad gave me so many years ago, and can testify that truly God is there, and that He cares about me and my fears, hopes, dreams, insecurities, pain, joy, passions, relationships — He cares about it all.

Knowing that He is by my side, I look forward to whatever the future may hold.