Brothers and Sisters,
I can pretty well promise this is the last time you’ll be hearing me speak
from this pulpit. We will be moving out of the ward in a couple of weeks. This move has been in the works for a good year, but just haven’t mentioned much
about it because we didn’t want a long goodbye. It’s going to be hard to leave this ward. We thought we’d live in our Huntington Beach house forever. It’s an
easy walk to the post office and walking to the beach is doable if you have a chunk of time. Our home is single story, perfect for an aging couple. We just installed shower grab bars and air conditioning.
But, once we figured out we could move to a two-story A-frame that’s a little rickety and half the size our current house, but across the street from the beach on the central coast, there was no turning back….no stupor here. In fact, I have been feeling so excited and happy lately, that the other day, I had to stop myself from doing a ribbon dance with my receipt when I was coming out of the CVS.
It is definitely bittersweet as we say goodbye to this ward family. I recognize that with Covid and so many wonderful new people moving into our ward, many people may not know that much about us. We are the Jeffers. We moved into the ward in August of 1986, exactly 36 years ago. There are still a few people with a little more longevity than
us in this ward, but not many. We moved into this ward with two young kids and had two more after that. Our kids now dot the continent with one on the east coast, one on the west coast, one in the middle, and one in Canada. Our kids are really good people.
Mike is a now retired software engineer, and I am a now retired speech pathologist, but our family has always been the most important focus in our lives. We’ve been blessed to be able to serve in many capacities in this ward. Mike has seen more scouts through their advancements than probably any other scout leader in this ward.
Now, I have the two very best callings in the church. I get to be a Girl’s activity leader, and the Sacrament Meeting music leader. These activity-age girls are amazing, and developing into beautiful young women learning to lead in what lies ahead. I was a little cheated, because we had only met twice before Covid, and our activities were conducted remotely through messages and activities I’d send through the mail, drop off on the doorstep, and a couple of times on Zoom. Now that we’re in full swing again, I wish I had more time with these girls. They are choice daughters of God.
Of course, as you’ve probably noticed, I’m also the Sacrament meeting music leader. I’ve been the off-and-on Sacrament meeting music leader for as long as I can remember in this ward. The calling as music leader this time around is made even more special because I get to serve with Brother Crandall, whom all of us admire for his dedication to
his calling. His dedication is contagious to the congregation in the way I hear you sing. Even when our congregation is lean in numbers (i.e., during the opening hymn), this ward can sing out. I love being able to see the faces of all the people I’ve grown to love so much over the years .
Brother Porter asked me to talk about trusting in the Lord, with reference to our study of Job in Come Follow Me, and some other references. He asked me to speak to the questions:
“How has trusting in the Lord blessed me in my life?
And, what lessons have I learned throughout my life as I have
remained faithful to God even during challenging times?
What we learned and reviewed about Job this month, is that he had a pretty good life to begin with but had it all taken away from him through no fault of his own. Even through all his trials and while losing the support of his judgey friends, he continued to trust in the Lord. Another point raised in the book of Job is that there are people who do bad things, but still have many advantages in life. How is that fair? When you see situations like that, how can you go on being diligent and trusting in the Lord?
To answer the questions that were posed to me:
I have had a couple of experiences where I have learned to trust in the Lord. I’ve told these stories in part before, so I hope you’ve forgotten them, or at least won’t mind hearing them again.
About 12 years ago, our oldest child, David, an air force pilot, was experiencing some neck pain. He and his wife were expecting their first baby in a couple of months and were in the middle of moving from Texas to their new home in New Jersey. He figured that this pain, which was becoming more and more intense, was the result of pulling a
muscle when lifting something heavy during the move. When the pain became more severe, he went to the Air Force base medical clinic. There didn’t appear to be anything wrong with his neck or back, but since his head pain was also becoming significant, they referred him to a neurologist. It was a Friday, and he was told to go home and make an
appointment for the following Monday. When David called the neurologist’s office and described his symptoms, he was told “Oh no, you aren’t going to wait until Monday. Go to the ER immediately.”
Susan his wife, and his commander were keeping us posted on what was happening the best they could. Things were moving faster than I could keep track. As it turned out, David had a brain aneurysm, and there was already a touch of blood in his spinal fluid, which was an indication the aneurysm, a bubble in an artery of his brain, had started
to leak into his brain. It all was terrifying. Even though David was a grown-up man flying great big airplanes, he would always be my child. I can’t describe the despair that I felt knowing there wasn’t a single thing I could do. I did know the situation was dire. It was happening too fast to fly to the hospital in Pennsylvania where he had been
I was thinking ahead to the various possibilities if things went terribly south and thinking that we would just make room for Susan and their new baby to live with us if David didn’t make it. At that moment, I couldn’t help in any way physically, but I could pray. I went to my bedside and dropped to my knees and pled with Heavenly Father
to save my son. As I prayed, a huge feeling of peace blanketed me. It was powerful and
almost indescribable. The Holy Ghost told me that everything was in the Lord’s hands, no matter what happened, and to trust in Him as this was part of His plan. This was a pivotal point in my faith and testimony.
Thankfully, the brain damage was minimal. The aneurysm was caught just in time and could be remedied with a procedure called a coiling. When David walked in on his own to the follow-up neuro-surgeon appointment a few days later, the doctor was amazed at how well he was walking and talking. Even though the Air Force had some silly rule about people with a history of brain aneurysms not being able to fly planes, David came
through remarkably, continued in the master’s program he was pursuing at the time and transitioned to become an aeronautical engineer. There were some long-term losses, but he and his little family were grateful for the positive parts. Things went well, and even if they hadn’t I had learned a lesson never to be forgotten, to trust in the Lord.
I never forgot that lesson or that feeling.
It’s a good thing, because in 2019, Mike was exhibiting some unusual symptoms, but nothing definite. At first, he thought he could sleep it off, but we decided it would be best to go to the ER, where the worst thing that could happen is that we would sit in the waiting room for a few hours and get sent home because nothing was wrong. As I drove Mike to the hospital, however, I began to see that Mike was beginning to exhibit a strong preference for the right side of his body. Even though it would have been easier for him to reach things with his left hand, he used his right. By the time we got to the valet at Hoag, Mike had lost all control and awareness of the left side of his body. I ran around to his car door to get him out, and he was a dead weight. A man who was waiting for his car to arrive, lifted and plopped Mike into a wheelchair. There was no waiting in the waiting room. Mike was experiencing a brain hemorrhage, and even worse he was on blood thinners because of blood clothing concerns that emerged with a spinal
surgery he had several months before. The particular blood thinner he was on didn’t have a readily available reversal agent. He was having a little fountain inside his head.
Through a series of tender mercies, we had the priesthood there to administer to Mike, just shortly after we arrived at the hospital. The neurosurgeon was wary and made no promises. Mike was fading in and out of consciousness, and we both knew this was bad.
But, as Mike was wheeled into surgery on a gurney, I was able to give him a kiss and tell him everything was going to be OK. Because I knew it would be. I clearly recalled the lesson I had learned and the feeling I had experienced almost 10 years before. I didn’t know if I was going to be planning for a funeral or ordering a motorized wheelchair, but I had that same sense of peace that I knew that I could trust in the Lord, and that no matter what happened, He knew us, He was watching over us. All things would work out for the best, no matter how they turned out.
The ER doctor walked me to the little hospital cafe and made sure I had some food in my stomach and told me to gather my family. When the neurosurgeon came out following the long surgery to update me, he almost had a little look of surprise and amazement on his face that Mike had come through thus far. He had removed an enormous blood clot, and probably a few brain cells with it. (That’s OK because if
you know Mike, he has more than his share to begin with.) The neurosurgeon showed me imaging with a huge black hole where Mike’s brain used to sit. The blood clot had pushed the right side of his brain over to the left side of his skull. Mike was hooked up to tubes and machines keeping him alive. Now it was time to wait and see if Mike could breathe on his own.
We had barely been able to see that Mike was able to breathe independently without a machine, when he had a second crisis. The ICU nurses had a regular schedule of checking his ability to wake and respond. On one of these checks, however, his brain had swelled inside his skull to the point that the structures in his brain were being
compressed and he couldn’t be awakened. The same neurosurgeon performed another surgery, again with very guarded expectations. He removed part of Mike’s skull to make room for the swollen brain. There were more tense moments as we waited again to see if Mike could live without mechanical assistance. There were several more long days in the hospital. Then came months in a nursing home for intensive therapy. He had to learn to scan to find things on his left, because he had lost his left field of vision. Every step he took and every time he lifted his left hand, we equated to the same amount of effort it took for him to climb Mount Whitney which he had done a few times
We were truly blessed. Priesthood blessings, your prayers and true miracles played a large part in Mike’s recovery. His recovery has been amazing. Some days are a roller coaster ride, but even three years after the brain hemorrhage, Mike continues to progress. It is evident that the Lord wasn’t ready for Mike to leave this earthly existence and had other plans for him. We don’t know what those plans are, and perhaps we never will know in this life, but we trust in the Lord and move forward trying our best to keep the commandments and serve
From Mosiah 24:14 we learn, "And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your
shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage (and even the best nursing home can feel a lot like bondage); and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that he may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions."
We all have various struggles, whether it be the death of loved ones, mental illnesses, visible and invisible disabilities, long-term and terminal illness, word of wisdom struggles. There are also emotional challenges. Many are challenged in one way or another by LGBT issues. With them come many, many questions regarding eternal truths and how this will impact families during this life and in the eternities. In our family, it was the T. It was the hardest thing we had ever faced in our family. What can tear at your heart more than watching your children go through pain? There were many tears shed, and feelings of grief and loss. This came out of the blue for us. This isn’t just a thing that happens with weirdos in West Hollywood (Mike wanted me to say that).
Don’t think this can’t ever happen in your family, because that’s what we thought. Conversations should be held early on to let children know that no matter what, they will be loved and cherished forever by their earthly and heavenly parents.
Around the same time, one of my college roommates faced a similar challenge in her family. Now, she has distanced herself from the church. But I know she watches general conference, because every general conference her Facebook posts address anything said during conference that could convey negativity toward the community. She loves her children and wants the very best for her children and feels this is an effective way to make changes. I don’t agree with her methods, but I love her and know she has the best intent.
For me, once I could come up for air, I remembered that this is once again time to trust in the Lord and feel the peace afforded us by the Holy Ghost. We don’t have all the answers for now. We do know important principles and doctrines and how these fit into the eternities. For now, I am willing to trust in the Lord and His plan. I believe there
will surely be more answers and mercies in the eternities. Even though we don’t have a full understanding of all these challenges. Elder Jeffery R Holland offers a strong recommendation to “stick around for the feast, even though you’re not sure about the broccoli.” And Nephi 9:6 tells us, "But the Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, He prepareth a way to accomplish all His works among the children of men; for behold, He hath all power unto the fulfilling of all His words. And thus it is. Amen."
In the 2019 October Conference, Elder L. Todd Budge relayed an experience his son had when he was on his mission in Africa and encountered some health problems. I like the words his son used when he described how he felt as he lay in the emergency room. He said he "had never been so consistently and resiliently happy in his life.” Very often, we can feel that resiliency by trusting in the Lord. That is the resiliency and happiness we can feel by trusting in the Lord. By putting our trust in the Lord, we can feel His peace.
I am not looking for any repeats of any of these experiences or anything like them for me or for any of you, but I share these valuable experiences and the lessons I have learned which help me feel peace and understanding when confronted with challenges and the unexpected. I continue to trust in the Lord, and seek to continue to be resiliently and consistently happy and plan to stick around for the feast.
I am thankful for the many dear friends and those who have supported us in our callings in this ward, the many fun times we have enjoyed in this ward, for our inspired ward leadership over the years, and for our good Bishop Hadley who has immense compassion and love for each one of us.
I leave you with my testimony of this restored gospel, and of our Savior Jesus Christ. I have a testimony that we are guided with modern day prophecy and revelation meant for our times. I am thankful for our Prophet Russell M. Nelson who reminds us, that as it is stated in D&C 121:7 our “afflictions shall be but a small moment” and be consecrated
to our gain. I know our Savior and our Heavenly Father know and love each one of us, and we can find peace and assurance through our trust in them.