Where does my start of faith begin? I don’t know if I could tell you the exact moment I realized I had faith, but I can tell you the exact moment of when I had to exercise my faith. It was October of 2008, my friend Sara and I were driving back home from a weekend of friends. It just started to snow along the highway. Sara was driving, when we suddenly started to fishtail. I remember feeling anxious as I looked over at her and her saying, “I’m going to slow down and do 35 (mph).” I thought to myself, I don’t care how fast we go, as long as we get home. Within seconds of this conversation, we t-boned a truck, the corner passenger side of our car hitting the passenger side of the truck. The driver of the truck had been speeding, and in the quickly worsening road conditions, hydroplaned, losing control of his truck. I don’t remember much of what happened in the following hours, which I’m grateful for, but I do remember the weeks of recovery.
I broke my nose in 4 places.
My right cheekbone was gone (the doctor said the bone was pretty much dust).
My eye socket was fractured.
I had no feeling in the right side of my face.
The doctors, at first, thought I was blinded in my right eye. More tests were done, and it was concluded there was only heavy bruising.
Due to the accident, I had four metal plates placed in my face. I hated myself for it. I couldn’t look in the mirror, I wouldn’t go outside unless I had to (i.e. doctor’s appointments), and I completely removed myself from any social event. You have to understand, I don’t look any different now as I did before my accident. My doctor was incredible. Looking at me, you wouldn’t know I have plates in my face. The feelings I was experiencing were completely inside my head and I couldn’t see beyond my fear to see and believe that I was okay – that I had survived and would heal.
I was soon diagnosed with PTSD, but in hindsight I can tell you with assurance that my real battle was with depression. It wasn’t until three years later, that I received this diagnosis.
In the meantime, my internal battle of self-hatred raged on. Every day I prayed to God for help. I prayed I would be able to get up and have the strength to get through the day. I prayed people wouldn’t point or stare at me (my face was pretty swollen for many weeks). I knew, and still know today, that Heavenly Father is the literal Father of our spirits. Because of this knowledge, I knew He would hear and answer my prayers. It’s sometimes difficult to pray because we don’t know when or how Heavenly Father will answer our prayers. It gives us an opportunity, however, to rely and show our faith in God. It was a long and difficult time for me. But it wouldn’t be the last time I would have to pray and ask for help in getting out of bed…every day I prayed to God for help. I prayed I would be able to get up and have the strength to get through the day. I prayed people wouldn’t point or stare at me (my face was pretty swollen for many weeks). It was a long and difficult time for me. But it wouldn’t be the last time I would have to pray and ask for help in getting out of bed…
In January of 2009, after much fasting and prayer (from myself as well as others-family members and friends), I was able to make the decision of going to college. It wasn’t easy at first. My face was still very much swollen. I’m a shy person, until I get to know someone, so I was afraid I was going to be judged by the way I looked. Not only was I afraid of what people would think of me, I was afraid to actually drive to school. My commute time was 40 minutes one way, five days a week. I was anxious I wouldn’t be able to focus on my school work because it was always a nightmare for me to drive. I was always a nervous wreck, especially during snowy commutes.
Even though I went to college during two different winters, I showed my faith in Heavenly Father. He once again answered my sincerest prayers. He blessed me with an incredible family, who supported me through college. I was also blessed with the dearest of friends. They got to know me for me and later on, when I was comfortable with the friendships, I was able to share with them my struggles. It was a blessing being able to talk to others, besides my family, and receive support. Heavenly Father knew I needed these friends in my life because many of them would influence and help me decide to service a mission.
After I graduated with my Interior Design degree, I had big decisions to make. Would I start working in the design field, would I get married, would I continue going to school, what would I do? After talking to my parents, talking to my friend Amy, and most importantly, talking to Heavenly Father, I decided I needed to serve an 18-month proselyting mission for my church. This wasn’t something I necessarily wanted to do. I didn’t want to leave my family for 18 months and go somewhere I wasn’t familiar with. I was extremely worried I wouldn’t be able to connect with people. I didn’t want to be judged for what I believed in, but Heavenly Father had blessed me. How could I not share with others everything I had been blessed with?
Since God had answered my prayers and directed me towards a mission, I knew I would have to put my faith into this decision. I would have to give everything to Heavenly Father knowing He knew what was best for me. I was asked to go to Omaha, Nebraska and serve for 18 months. Once I got to Omaha, I didn’t want to be there anymore. I remember sitting on the steps of the city park feeling inadequate, lonely, and questioning if this is really what I should be doing. I thought myself, what am I doing? Why am I here? I don’t want to be doing this.
Once again, with nowhere else to turn and no one to understand my internal battles, I found myself on my knees in prayer. I sought the guidance of my Heavenly Father. He saved me from my broken state in that hospital bed, gave my support during my college years, and I knew if anyone could help me find the courage to live 1000 miles away from home, living a life completely devoted to faith and sharing that faith (that’s not exactly something the world applauds after all), my Heavenly Father could. My prayers led me to seek the guidance of my mission leader who helped me decide to see a counselor. After many therapy sessions, I was diagnosed with depression.
Having a name for my pain wasn’t exactly comforting. I knew that I was struggling – otherwise I would have never agreed to see the counselor, but to be labeled was a terrible feeling. Suddenly my pain didn’t feel hidden anymore and I felt vulnerable. I went back to those feelings of hating myself, of not being able to look in the mirror, of not wanting to go outside. I was embarrassed by the official diagnosis. I didn’t want to be labeled. I felt like I had the word “depression” stamped on my forehead.
There were many mornings that followed where I found myself once again lying in my bed, praying to God for strength to get up. Often that strength came and I moved through my days doing my best to hide my label.
There were also days that I could not get out of bed.
Something beautiful happened in that terribly trying time. My prayers were absolutely my strength to go on. There came a point where those prayers of desperation became a beautiful realization. I found myself saying, I can’t do this, but that’s okay. God doesn’t expect me to be perfect. He expects me to do my best and give what I can.
I learned in a powerful way that I’m not perfect. But my Father in Heaven is. I knew I was weak, but I found His strength could carry me. And that I could go on. Not on my own, but with His perfect love and encouragement telling me I am not “depression.” I am His daughter and strong and beautiful.
Through all those days on my mission it was my faith in Heavenly Father – knowing He would help me through anything – that kept me going. He truly does love us and knows exactly what we are going through. He is willing to help us if we allow Him to and exercise our faith in Him.
Towards the end of my mission, I found myself, once again, praying for direction. I didn’t know what He wanted me to do once I got home. I know exactly what I wanted to do – move to San Diego and become a big time designer – but was that God’s plan for me? I remember kneeling next to my bed one night asking Heavenly Father what it was he wanted me to do. I didn’t have this great voice come to me and tell me exactly what I should do. Instead it was a peaceful feeling. There were a few states that came to mind – Colorado, Washington, California (that was probably me thinking, wishing, hoping I could go there), and Arizona – that I wanted to research and see what opportunities I could have if I was to move. I also had a feeling, very strong feeling, that I would get married rather quickly once I got home. I set this thought aside because I didn’t want to get married right away. Heavenly Father knows what we need and what’s best for us…
I found the strength through prayer and faith to serve my full 18-month mission, and a few weeks after returning home, I met my husband. We were married six months later. About two months into my marriage, I was reminded of the answers I received when asking God for direction about what I should do after my mission. It’s funny how everything works out. I was married right away – which I wasn’t really planning on doing; and even though I don’t live in Colorado, Washington, California, or Arizona, my husband and I drive an hour and a half to go to Church in Colorado, where we are able to be Primary teachers to the four years in our congregation. We don’t live a “normal” life obviously – having to drive an hour and a half to any sort of town. We live on a ranch in the Book Cliffs of Utah. I still struggle with my depression, but on a different level now. My husband and I are two of 12 people that live on this ranch. We are literally in the middle of nowhere.
Let’s be real, adjusting to this sort of life of seclusion could be a little depressing by worldly standards. But, I’ve been blessed with situations that have prepared me to battle the threatening emotions that sometimes come when it’s hard to have faith. Like I have always done, I pray to God and ask Him for strength. He is always able to give me strength because of my faith in Him. I love my Heavenly Father. I love His Son. They have given me everything I need in this life and so much more. Without Them I don’t know where I would be. I wouldn’t have found the strength I needed to face myself after that terrible accident. I wouldn’t have served a mission. I wouldn’t be living on a ranch. I wouldn’t be married to my incredible husband. But, I’ve been able to get through the trials of this life because of my faith in Heavenly Father. God truly knows best and I’m so grateful for His love and strength.