Thursday, August 9, 2018

Faith in God's Plan For Me


               These people are so important to me and I am so grateful for them. It is a miracle they are in my life. I know it was part of God's plan for me to only be able to have these two beautiful girls for now, but it wasn't always an easy journey. I recently wrote an essay for my English class describing some of those infertility years. They were so hard, but I have faith now that God's plan is the best plan for me and you. Here is the essay: 

I had to be vulnerable, again. I had to talk to a complete stranger about my life’s greatest disappointment.  It was one of the scariest moments of my life. A moment where I had to trust in the Lord, and the answer I received with no facts to back it up. I sat in the sterile doctor’s office trying to explain the last seven years of struggle through halting sentences with my body and voice shaking from nervous energy. I left the office with no surgery date scheduled crying hideously. Even though I tried, it was impossible to keep the sobs of pain in. The chubby blonde behind the checkout desk offered tissues, and quickly checked me out. I wanted out of there-- away from the frustration and disappointment.
The events leading up to this point were full of ups and downs as far as fertility goes. In the beginning I didn’t understand why I struggled with fertility. My mother had seven children, both of my grandparents had seven children, and my husband came from seven as well. When we got married, I figured that seven was the lucky number. I thought I would have no problem getting pregnant.
Before getting married John and I prayed about birth control and received the answer that it was our choice. We wanted to get to know each other better and have some time alone before adding kids, so I took birth control. After a year of marriage, it no longer felt right to take birth control. We needed to turn control over to the Lord. If I had known what the next few years would hold, this would not have been a difficult decision. But I didn’t know, and it was difficult to give up the dreams of finishing school and having solid finances before trying to have children.  After six months the Lord being in charge, I waivered again. Only this time I wanted to be pregnant. Why wasn’t I pregnant? Wasn’t that why God told me to get off birth control? So I began taking my basal temperature and charting when I ovulated with monk like devotion. Every morning I would wake up, take my temperature, chart it, and then get out of bed. Still nothing happened.
After a year of trying, we went to the doctor. I was still young enough at that point that they looked at me with annoyance for even trying to become pregnant. They set up a round of tests for me and my husband. When the results came back ”Picture Perfect,” the doctor gave us the option of using fertility medicine to speed up the process. As I looked around the room filled with pictures of babies, my response came easily. Once again, I pushed my will and tried to take control of my life. “Yes, please.”
Two months later I lay in the hospital ER in extreme agony wondering what had gone wrong; kidney stone. I spent that Fourth of July in a drug induced stupor. Through the tests for the stone we discovered that I had cysts on my ovaries, a side effect from the fertility medicine. I turned my fertility completely over to the Lord once more and threw the medicine away.
Nine months later I had my first ever positive pregnancy test and was afraid to hope. I spent the entire first trimester of that pregnancy afraid to tell anyone that I was pregnant. Afraid that at any minute I would have a miscarriage and my hopes would once again be dashed. Even though we both struggled during delivery, I ended up with a perfect Gerber baby girl named Celia.
It took a year to recover mentally and physically from the ordeal and handle a colicky baby. Still, I wanted seven kids to keep the tradition going. Surely it wouldn’t be that hard to get pregnant this time. As six months turned into a year and a year turned into a two, I began to worry again. This time I tried to wait for the Lord’s timing. I asked for a blessing during a particularly low point. The Lord gave some beautiful counsel that sustained me for a time. He said, “Your baby is not ready yet. Be patient.”  How can my baby not be ready yet, I wondered? Shortly after that I came across Doctrine and Covenants 138:56 “Even before they were born, they, with many others, received their first lessons in the world of the spirits and were prepared to come forth in the due time of the Lord to labor in his vineyard for the salvation of the souls of men.” After being prepared, my child(ren) would come in the Lord’s time.
I tried to be patient and wait, but it was difficult. With every passing year, I knew my dreams of having a big family were disappearing.  At the peak of my fertility journey, I came across an endometriosis pamphlet and said to my mother, “Aren’t these symptoms things that every woman deals with?”  “Uh, No, Jenny. They are not” was her definite response. A week later, as I was in the car driving, a calm peace came over me and a clear thought entered my head. “You have endometriosis and you need surgery.”
That is what led me to be vulnerable, not for the first time but for the third time. It was different going to the doctor this time because I knew what was wrong and merely had to convince them to treat something they had not diagnosed. I left the office a mess, but an hour later I received an apologetic phone call. Surgery was performed a few months later and finally some answers were received. That clear impression was an answer to my prayers.
I would love to say that after surgery everything was smooth sailing and that I am currently pregnant with my fifth child, but that is not true. I did get pregnant and had my second miracle daughter, Reese. That is all the children I have currently been blessed with. Instead of children, God has placed people in my path that I have been able to help and comfort because I continue to struggle with fertility. He put it in my heart to become a foster to adopt parent and someday we will bless more children. His plan is always the right plan, not easier, but definitely the one we need. I have learned so much and I know I needed these experiences to grow.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Greatness

I believe that within every person is the potential for greatness. Greatness is the ability to make lasting improvements in another person’s life. It happens when you leave someone forever changed because of your influence and ability to see them with an eternal perspective.
 There is one experience that helped me to see the greatness in both my older sister, Rachel, and her friend, Jill. It was during my sixth grade year at a very small rural elementary school that was Pre-Kindergarten through Eighth Grade. Each grade level had one class, one teacher, and less than thirty kids.  Most of the kids had been there since Pre-Kindergarten.
Rachel had been bullied, picked on, and named the “weird kid” in her class. Recess was spent reading comics and trying to escape the taunts and teases of her classmates. She struggled with her self-esteem, and eventually was so depressed that she couldn’t think of a single good thing about herself.
During those years, Rachel would pray every day for a friend. When Jill arrived at school Rachel knew she was the answer to her prayer. Jill was warned about this weird girl, Rachel, and told to stay away. Lucky for us, we lived next door to a cute boy. Jill began coming over to visit. Jill was amazing, sweet and extremely interested in learning more about our church. Her father had passed away a few years earlier and she wanted to know what happens after we die. The three of us had long discussions about our Heavenly Father and His eternal plan for all of us.
Talking with Jill about how much God loves all of us was an important life changing experience. As we spoke there was a feeling that I can only describe as spiritual fire. It sunk deeply into my heart that we are all children of our Heavenly Father and He wants us to return to him someday. Seeing life with an eternal perspective and knowing that Jill would someday be reunited with her father gave me so much peace and joy.
It was an experience that changed all of our lives. Jill became interested in the church and was baptized. She continued to be Rachel’s friend, even though she could have been a part of the popular crowd. Rachel knew that she was important enough to Heavenly Father to receive an answer to her prayer.  She got the friend she deserved all her life and was able to see her own value through Jill’s love and friendship. Their “best friends” necklace is still one of Rachel’s prized possessions.
When we improve someone’s life and help them see that they are a child of God we achieve greatness. God does not want us to fail in life. We are meant to grow and improve. Sometimes that improvement and growth happens after the struggles of life drag us down until we are on bended knee pleading with God. Rachel’s struggles led to a change in my life and Jill’s. Jill’s struggles led her to change my life and Rachel’s. There is so much more than this moment or experience, there is eternity.  We were blessed after the struggle.

I am forever changed because I was able to witness Rachel and Jill’s greatness. I know that I cannot achieve greatness as a singer, musician, actress, YouTube star, or scientist and that is ok. I don’t want to be any of those things. That is not what excites me and fills my heart, body, and soul with passion. I want to achieve greatness by helping people know their eternal potential and filling them with the desire to strive for it. I want to be able to lift people out of their depression and see the value of their life just like Jill did for Rachel.
(This was an assignment in my English class for my LDS Pathways courses. There is a book and a website that has a bunch of "This I believe" essays that are fascinating. If you were given the assignment to write about something you believe, what would you write about?)  https://thisibelieve.org/

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

A Love Letter To Exercise

 Dear Exercise,
Thank you for saving my sanity. When my daughters were younger and I watched other young kids in my home I struggled to stay sane. My days were endlessly filled with the same tasks over and over again. The repeat of diapers, crying kids, and constant battles of what to stay away from never ended. It was all bearable when my feet started to pound the pavement, though. Even as I urged the stroller forward with the wind attempting to stop my progress, you motivated me to continue on. You gave me some happy endorphins. I wanted to run away, but instead running half marathons gave me a goal that kept me home and happy.
 Now that my daughters are older and the house is way too quiet during the day, you still save me. When I go to the gym and strap my shoes into the spin bike pedals and feel the energy of those around me I am home again. Once again I know you are going to challenge me and that you will give me those happy endorphins. The loneliness and doubts of my worth that creep into my mind during those quiet moments melt away as the sweat pours down my face. You remind me that I can do hard things.
Exercise, you have come in many forms over the years. Each one has blessed me during different times in different ways. As a youth, you helped me connect to my family and friends while I swam, rode bikes, and ran with my siblings and our dogs. I still smile at the thought of splashing through puddles on my bike or our basset hounds little legs struggling to keep up while I ran. As a young wife, you helped me to lose weight and feel better about myself. You were there for me after I struggled to deal with my daughter’s birth, with the continued fertility problems, and with a husband joining the military.
You helped me connect with so many ladies at Fort Knox and provided me with friends that will last a lifetime. Their efforts to push their bodies to the limit as our children played on the playground around us inspired me. In Pennsylvania you gave me Tera; our runs together struggling to conquer the hills are treasured memories. In Georgia, LaFae and I ran through the trees around the lake sharing a common goal. The goal of completing a marathon got us both through the difficulties of that year, and helped us grow closer together. Even though neither one of us was able to complete that marathon.
Everywhere I move you have been there for me. At times you may leave me tired and sore, but that reminds me of the blessing of my body. Each muscle and bone is connected and serves a purpose. Those tired muscles you produce teach me to try new things like Yoga and water aerobics.  These things help to decrease the soreness in my body and improve my thought processes.
Sometimes I forget how much you mean to me and I don’t exercise for a day or two. I feel tired, lethargic, and sad without you. My mind wonders what is different and then I remember you. I always end up missing you and find my way back. I know I am happier when I am with you, and you are always there for me.
Thank you for saving me from the depression that is always bubbling under the surface. I am eternally grateful and I love you.
Yours forever,

Jennifer Autry 

(This was an assignment from my English Pathways class. It was a fun writing experience.)

I am curious; if you wrote a love letter to something, what would you write to? 

Thursday, April 5, 2018

One Step Enough for Me


"Lead Kindly Light" by John Henry Newman is one of my favorite church songs. It is not one that is sung often, but the poetry and words of the song are so beautiful and meaningful for me.

I usually focus on the lines, "I do not ask to see the distant scene - one step enough for me." When my family was dealing with unemployment and a move and a lot of other stresses I heard that line and sought out the source. That is the first time I remember reading "Lead Kindly Light." Since then I have needed and read this song a lot. Life can be so challenging and I want to know what happens.

I have always wanted to know what happens. As a child I would get a new book and read it obsessively until I found out what happened. Everything around me would melt away or at least I wished it would so that I could find out the ending. When I got married and had kids I realized that I couldn't escape into a book and not take care of my family. So I started to read the ending so that I would be able to finish the book at a slower pace and not be constantly wondering what happens in the end of the book.

Unfortunately, life doesn't work that way. There was no last chapter that I could read to see how that time period of unemployment will end. I can't look ahead and see if my children will ever overcome any of their struggles. I had no idea where the path of infertility would lead me or what would happen when my husband joined the military. I wanted to know, but I couldn't. So instead I was simply given one step at a time. Not getting pregnant...ok get fertility testing....still not getting pregnant...ok try medicine...still not getting pregnant...just relax and let go for a while...Wahoo finally pregnant. Those are just some small steps in one small part of my life. I know a lot more now and I am grateful for those steps and the knowledge gained, but I couldn't say that at the time. No, I wanted to know the end.

Last year when my husband was deployed, I thought about this song and I once again wanted to know the ending of that part of our story. Actually, I would have been happy to know the next step because I had no idea where we were even going after John got back from Afghanistan. Instead I read this song again and the spirit whispered to me, "it says one step, not the next step." I realized then that I didn't need to worry about the future. God would take care of that. I knew what I was supposed to do at the moment and that was "good enough for me."

This last week I read and heard this song, "Lead Kindly Light," again and this time I was struck by a new thought. Whoever wrote this and those of us who sing it are asking a question. We are asking for the Light (God) to lead us through life. We are seeking the light of God during our dark moments and throughout our walk on earth. At least in the first and third verses we are seeking the Lord's guidance. During the second verse we are acknowledging that we haven't always sought the Lord's guidance and asking that He not remember those years.

This poem/song was written on a boat while John Henry Newman was recovering from a dangerous illness. John's life had not been an easy one, but it is no surprise that later in his life he became a religious leader in England. We all have our struggles and trials, but I am so glad that we all have a loving Heavenly Father to help us with each step of life. *

We need only ask ("Lead Kindly Light") and as we seek with humble hearts, we can find our way through this life one step at a time.



*https://www.mormontabernaclechoir.org/articles/lead-kindly-light.html




Saturday, March 24, 2018

Fear

A little before Christmas my family adopted a puppy. She is the most adorable Chihuahua Pekingese mix dog ever. Currently she weighs 7 lbs and that is probably as big as she will ever get. We have been wanting a dog ever since our Weimaraner dog, Maze, died a few years ago. However, we waited until after John's deployment and we were settled in our own home to get one. In the meantime John and Celia have looked at dog adoption websites planning and hoping for the family puppy for the last two years.

When we went to the shelter to meet Rae, she kept trying to hide and was very fearful. So we figured it would take a while for her to warm up to us. I started to do a lot of research on fearful dogs and how to help them. What I learned is that fear can be the hardest thing for a dog to unlearn and that the people in the house needed to have a calm and confident presence to help her overcome this fear. We also need to expose her to lots of situations and allow her to experience some confidence boosts.

(This is Rae that first night - so fearful)




Since it was an hour plus drive to bring Rae home, she threw up in her kennel on the way back. Then she stayed in a corner hiding the rest of that night.

Rae had never had a leash put on her and she would drop down refusing to move when we put one on her. So going on a walk was not possible that first week. Instead, I started putting a leash on her and walking/pulling her in a circle in our back yard. Every time I went out with her or she had to go potty I put the leash on her.

Celia kept holding her even when she didn't seem to want to be held and that helped as well.

The first night she was so scared that she didn't make a sound in her kennel by herself in the living room. After a day getting used to us, she started to whine at night and I brought her kennel into my room where she did much better. For a few weeks she woke me up in the middle of the night and I fed or took her potty, but then even that stopped. Now, she hardly ever barks and I was surprised to find that she could because it took so long for her to bark. The only place I have seen her bark a lot is at my friend's house when she barks at anyone who passes by the house.


Slowly, Rae has been warming up to me and my daughters. Now she takes long walks with me, loves to run short distances and is a playful fun puppy during the day. She loves to hang out with me and can often be found curled up on the computer or floor next to me.




(The video below is how Rae acts during the day. She is so fun and loving.)

Unfortunately, Rae has two different personalities. She is a fun loving puppy who chews, chases, and plays fetch during the weekdays and at night or on the weekends she is a fearful puppy who runs around the house hiding. What is the difference? John. For some reason she is so very afraid of my husband that she can't think straight. She won't eat when he is around or if his shoes are next to her food bowl. For a while she would run away from camo clothes, but I was able to break her of that by wearing camo myself and keeping it around the house so she got used to it.

(Rae let out a little Hershey squirt of poop after jumping by Reese in the video. Another tell tale sign of fear. Did you know you poop when you are afraid...well at least animals and some humans as well.)

It makes me so sad that my husband who has been looking at dogs for two years and was so very excited for one ended up with a dog who is so afraid of him. He can't even pet her.

All of this has been challenging, but it has also provided me with a strong visual of what fear looks like when it goes untreated. We are still working through this and praying that we can retrain our puppies brain to love and accept John. In fact, Rae is on medicine to help her calm down and do better because it isn't just John she is afraid of. She is afraid of loud noises, her shadow, men in general, big or aggressive dogs, and the list continues to grow.

Rae has definitely caused me to think a lot about fear, though. Really fear is not an uncommon thing for animals and even people today. I myself struggle with my own fears. I am afraid of failure and so sometimes I don't do something. I am afraid of rejection and so I struggle to reach out to new people.I could go on, but you get the picture. What I have realized is that fear can hold us back from some amazing life experiences. Just like Rae's fear is preventing her from being comfortable in her own home all the time and from creating a bond to an amazing man who wants to love her.

Fear can be challenging to overcome, but it is so worth it. This week as I was reading for my religion class I read the scripture Isaiah 41:10. "Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness." When I lean into God through scripture study and prayer, drawing myself ever closer to Him, I am able to deal with and overcome my fears a lot easier than trying on my own. I find the strength and the ability to face my fear through Him. I am grateful for the support that is always there from God. I am also grateful for a loving Heavenly Father that wants to help strengthen me so He allows me struggle but also provides a way for me to deal with those struggles.

I hope that someday soon I will be writing a new post about how we were able to help Rae to overcome her fear of John and that they are now good friends. If not, look for another dog to be joining our family at the end of this year. My husband deserves a dog that loves him. (We fostered one for a weekend and I wanted so badly to keep the dog. Unfortunately, that dog could have eaten Rae and we don't have the extra money to spend on more pet deposits and things. It was a beautiful German Shepard. You can see a picture of her on my Instagram account. )

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Hoping Against Reality - a little sad and a little funny

Sometimes in life, I hope against reality. I don't want something to be the way it is.  One of those things I don't want to believe is really real is the death of Amos Abplanalp. In order to write Hillary Albplanab's story I have been reading her blog. They are such a busy and involved family. Most of their days are filled with such good and service. Amos is particularly inspiring with all that he is doing for others while still struggling to deal with the pain of cancer and fight death off. As I am reading their story of the last few years they had together on earth, I find myself hoping that Amos will beat the cancer. He has so much good in him. We need people like him.

What I want and hope for isn't always what happens. I know that Amos eventually lost the battle against cancer. I am comforted to know that he may have lost his body to cancer for now, but he won his spirit in his daily walk with God here on earth. Surely, he is doing so much good as an angel now. His short life will continue to inspire so many others through his wife and children and all those he influenced while here. Now he is continuing to watch over them all with a lot less pain, but without them seeing him. I am grateful he is no longer in pain and the knowledge that he will see his family again.

It has made me so emotional to read their story.  If you would like to read it, go to http://www.familymann.org/amos.  Or if you want a brief story version, you can wait until my book comes out and read that.

So, I promised a little funny with the sad.

Sometimes I hope that I won't do something clumsy or that I will over come that specific trait. Unfortunately, that is another hope against reality.  The other day I drove our small 2 door bench seat Toyota Tacoma to the store for groceries. I have been trying not to drive our Toyota Camry very much because we still have a spare tire on that until we can get it fixed (less than one more month). While there I picked up some soda for my husband. They didn't have his favorite (Coke Zero Cherry) and so I got him Diet Coke. It was cheaper to get the big 24 pack than the 12 pack. So I got that and loaded it up behind the bench seat in the truck because that is where there is room for groceries.

I like to conserve time and energy so in an attempt to bring all the groceries inside in one trip I loaded up one hand with the bags and started to flip the box of Diet Coke with the other to expose the handle. Right about the time the handle was finally exposed was the same moment that I accidentally poked through the box with the metal arm seat release. Coke started to spew everywhere. The bags were dropped. The box carefully removed from the metal arm and ripped open to determine the damage. I don't know how I punctured two cans, but I did.

It was a lot of work to clean up the truck and those stinking cans are still waiting in the kitchen for me to clean.- I better go do that. Here is a picture of how I had to carefully carry the cans inside.  Maybe I should start calling the blog - occasional rants of a klutz.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Dreaded Playback

This year I am going to be working hard on a book that I am writing - (side note, it is really hard for me to even announce this because I have fears that maybe I won't be able to accomplish it. However, I have faith that it is something that the Lord wants me to do and I have confidence in Him.)

I started it last year and have already interviewed a few amazing people whose story and life is so inspiring that I get goose bumps even thinking about them. As I was listening to the recording of the interview that I did for Hillary Abplanalp there was a moment when I had to turn off the tape, hang my head down, and cringe. Sometimes I say things that I wish I could take back. I guess that is why I am so imperfect.

Here I was advising an experienced and talented musician about her daughters music career. Me, a completely tone def and untalented in music in every way person. The fact that I have that on tape is horrid and I am so sorry that I even did that. The only excuse that I can give is that it was only the second interview that I have ever done for writing and I was incredibly nervous.

I was so nervous to talk to someone that I have never even met. At times I wished that I could be doing the interview in person because there is no great way to communicate your thoughts and emotions to someone who is willingly telling their very personal story to you over the phone. I was writing notes the whole time, listening, and recording. I was very attentive, but very busy.

The truth is that as a youth I was so afraid to call people on the phone that I avoided it at all costs. Even now, I talk myself out of calling people all the time. They will be busy, they won't be able to talk, etc. However, I know this is a weakness that I need to overcome and so I am working on it.

The story of how I even was able to have that conversation with Hillary is amazing. I was one of millions of people who watched "America's Got Talent" over the summer and truly hoped to see Evie Clair win and for her father to survive his cancer diagnosis. The strength that Evie Clair showed was amazing and inspiring. The whole family is amazing really. I was so impressed and when I found out that they were member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints that actually brought me some joy. Joy because when he did pass away, I knew that they knew it was not the end. Amos's spirit is still alive and they will see him again.

I sent a Facebook message to Hillary not even knowing if she would receive it or if she would respond asking her if she would be willing to be a part of a book that I am working on. I know I was inspired about what to write. I prayed so hard and have continued to pray for guidance. Hillary's response was quick and we were able to do the interview over the phone a few weeks from that initial message. I am so grateful for Hillary taking a chance on a relative novice to the book writing world.

Over the next year I will attempt to keep my family and friends in the loop on the book writing process and hopefully have a publisher for my book. Thank you so much for your support and encouragement. It is needed and appreciated.