It is 2:30 A.M. I'm MORE then tired. It has been a long but great Thanksgiving surrounded by our wonderful family we love BUT I couldn't lay my head on my pillow tonight without dedicating a post to sweet Dakota...because let's face it...this is really HIS blog, not mine!! Any that still read this read it because of HIM...because of the SWEET, SWEET spirit they feel through each picture and post that he is in. It ALWAYS amazes me at how even through a simple picture people can feel what I feel in his presence. It is AMAZING. So for him...I post!
5 years ago our lives were changed!! I thought for the worst. I relived that day yesterday as we had Dakota's quarterly check up at Primary Children's Hospital. They built a new outpatient wing, separate but connected to the hospital recently, so we rarely walk the same halls we once did. But this particular appointment they told me he could get a flu shot while we were there but we would have to walk over to the pharmacy connected to the hospital. No big deal!! But on this particular night as we approached his 5 year anniversary the next day...being in those same halls, eating the same cafeteria food, it was different. I allowed myself to relive those dark, difficult, and life changing days. I observed my surroundings and watched the people, staff and parents. My heart ached as I watched a dad walk in with his pillow and suitcase, the woman carrying in a large ziploc baggy full of breast milk. I ached that they would be spending their Thanksgiving here...in a hospital. I longed to stop them, hug them, and tell them to NEVER give up!! That the light WILL come and there will be GREAT blessings and happiness ahead. Your future REALLY is as bright as your faith as President Monson has said!!
I didn't as I'm sure they would have thought I was a crazy lady and called security on me!!
But my message tonight is just that!! I have learned A LOT of life changing things over these past 5-6 years from Zach's blindness to Dakota's accident to now. I am a COMPLETELY different Tessie Friedli then I once was. My life was changed, my perspective is different, and my focus is forever better...thanks to my dang trials that I wished had NEVER come as I was living through them.
I have been asked to speak at several different types of settings..woman, young woman, and youth over the past few years. Public speaking is NOT my favorite thing...AT ALL!! But I have never said no, (except once only because it was soon after Navy would be born) because I feel that if I can help just 1 person in my lifetime through their life and trials then ALL of the sleepless nights, tears, and heartache I have experienced is not in vain. Helping others is what gives purpose to the madness. EVERY time I speak my own testimony of EVERYTHING I have learned and gained through my challenges are strengthened and I am reminded over and over how important the lessons I have learned truly are!!
Each time I have been asked to speak the focus/topic has always been a little different although each time they want me to share my story...because let's face it...I AM my story!! It has defined who I am. Just a couple weeks ago I spoke to a group of Young Woman. They asked me to share about Finding Joy in the Journey. Tonight as I sit here on this 5 year anniversary I want to share what I shared with them because EACH and EVERY person on this entire planet will experience pain, heartache, and sadness. It is part of our earthly experience. I don't know what it will look like for each person...but I can promise it will come. But the great thing is...it is not our life experiences that define us...it is what we CHOOSE to do with them that determine who we are and how happy we can be!! No matter what has happened in your past, what you are facing now, or what your future holds...YOU get to decide whether your story has a happy ending...no one else can!!!
SO...in honor of Dakota...Here is what I shared in hopes that whoever may read this can learn to find JOY in their Journey because as I LOVE to say, "Life Doesn't Have to be Perfect to be Wonderful!"
At the end of this post I made a slideshow of OUR story to date. I am not a technologically advanced person so I won't tell you how many hours it took me to do this! LOL!! But it represents our story, our fight. I chose to do it to the Fight Song because I feel like life is a fight at times...sometimes we are winning and sometimes we are down. I LOVE this song and so does my whole family!! We blast it in our home or in the car and Zach and I sing like we are on stage, Dakota smiles, Navy dances and then as soon as it ends she says "GO!" (which means play it again.) So ENJOY and keep on fighting!!
JOY IN THE JOURNEY!
Tonight they asked me to talk about how I have found joy in MY journey!! I have been pondering this thought and I feel like our lives, our journey, is broken up in to a 3 sequence story!!
First sequence of our story involves our pre-earth life…when we were just cute little spirits flying around naked without a body to clothe us!! The second sequence to that story is the here and now…our Earth life. The last sequence of our story is our return home back into the presence of our loving Heavenly Father!!! It’s a book that we can’t even comprehend because we have NEVER experienced, read or seen anything like it!!
I don’t know for sure what it was like in the first sequence but I can imagine our Heavenly Father sitting down with us and preparing us for the 2nd sequence. Telling us what might happen in each chapter. I’m sure he explained to us that it was going to be REALLY hard at times but that He would ALWAYS be with us to help us through. I can imagine Him taking the time to explain that this was THE MOST important sequence to be written because we would be the co-authors of this story. We would make choices that would determine how this book would end and what the last sequence would entail. I can only imagine how many time He probably told us to REMEMBER who we are!! Reminding us of who He created us to become and how important, valued, and special we were and telling us HOW BADLY he wanted us to return back to live with Him again!! The feeling we must have felt as we left His presence and came to earth I’m sure was pretty powerful!!
So here we are!! Each one of us at different points in our story. Have we ALREADY forgotten who we are, where we came from, and why we are here??? I hope not! I hope that you will NEVER forget that!!
You girls are still at the beginning of your stories… with SO much yet to be written. SO many choices and decision to make…and so many unexpected surprises along the way. I’m about 32 years into my story and I can tell you…It has been quite the duesy!! Trust me…you will want to read this!!! It is better then any scary movie or reality show you have EVER seen!! I’m thinking I should get my own show…keeping up with the Friedlis. I’m totally kidding…kind of!!!
But I started off chapter 18…leaving YW and out into the big wide world. I was ready for this new and exciting chapter in my book!! I had a whole rough draft already written in my head of EXACTLY the way that I thought it should and would go! I was going to meet my handsome returned missionary prince charming, get married in the temple, have 5 or 6 beautiful and amazing babies, live in a big beautiful white picket fence house, and be THE WORLDS BEST mom and wife EVERY day!! My happy ending looked good!!!!! Now don’t raise your hand…but how many of you have your rough draft all perfectly written like me, ready to send to the printer for a final draft?!
Well don’t hit print because guess what?! We don’t ALWAYS get to choose what happens in each chapter!!!! Your life will never go exactly the way you had planned. If it does…I want you to find me because I will probably want your autograph or take a picture with you or SOMETHING!!!
I do have to brag…I DID get to meet my handsome prince charming and I DO have 2 BEAUTIFUL children BUT that is about all that got printed in my book! There was A LOT of editing to be done between all the lines!!!
My handsome husband and I got married in January 2007 in the beautiful Mesa, AZ temple. This was THE BEST and MOST important decision I have EVER made in my WHOLE life!! I can’t stress to you girls enough how important that decision of who to marry is. It doesn’t just affect you, it affects your family, your children, and your future posterity. It will affect EVERY chapter of your book so make that decision with LOTS of prayer and DON’T COMPROMISE your standards!
We gave birth to our sweet son Dakota in August of 2008. I was a stay at home mom and he was running his own landscaping company and going to school. Life was good…although I didn’t realize how good it really was at the time.
In August of 2009 just a short week before our darling boy was going to turn 1… My husband was driving to work and realized cars were passing him on left side and he wasn't seeing them till they were in front of him. He had already lost complete sight in his right eye at the age of 15 so he knew this was not a good sign. We went immediately into the eye doctor and they told him that it wasn't looking good. His optic nerve was swelling and if they didn't stop it he would lose his sight in his only good eye.
We spent the next 3 weeks in the hospital as the doctors did everything they could to stop the swelling and save his sight.
Now I can tell you right now…this was NOT part of my rough draft plan!! We were scared to death!! My husband and I spent every second of every hour PLEADING to the Lord to grant us a miracle. I had read lots of scriptures of how Jesus had healed the blind man and I thought…why not this blind man?! HE is a good of man as any!! He has kept the commandments, he is temple worthy, he DESERVES this miracle.
As many times as we prayed and as much faith as we had…he still woke up EVERY morning seeing less and less until he was pronounced legally blind and could no longer see mine or my son’s face but just the shadowy outlines of our bodies.
This was devastating!!
I learned the hardest lesson I had EVER learned at this point in life...that sometimes no matter how much faith we have or how many times we pray to get the answer we so desperately think is right...Heavenly Father is truly the one that knows what is best for us! He sees the end from the beginning. He knows us inside and out! This is why he is the co-author of our life! He gets to add in sections to our book that we don’t always think should be there because we don’t know how it ends!!
Life got REALLY complicated for us as you can imagine. Life from that point on was different and it was hard. But together and with the support of friends, family, ward members, and most importantly our Savior we were learning to “get by.” I was helping him with his school work, miraculously he was still landscaping although it was far from easy.
About 1 year later our story took another turn for the worse!
In November of 2010 our son Dakota who was now 2 at the time, was outside playing at my parents house in AZ with his cousins. There were lots of family and friends inside and out of the house setting up and getting things ready for my brother's wedding reception that night. I was inside cutting vegetables and my husband came in from outside and asked me to go check on Dakota since he hadn’t seen him in a little while. Dakota was always the sweetest most cautious kid ever so I wasn’t worried…. I went to check on him to see what he was doing and found him lying under a fence panel totally blue in the face, no heart beat, and no pulse.
The worst fear of EVERY parent had come upon me. I received the hardest news I had EVER received from the doctor when he said he wasn't sure if Dakota would live or die and if he did live he didn't know what kind of recovery he would make from the brain damage that was done. As we sat by our only child's bedside unsure of what was going to happen, I felt COMPLETE helplessness!!
This chapter was NEVER supposed to be written in MY story!! This kind of thing only happened to OTHER people NOT ME!!
I turned to the only person that could help me and poured out my heart to my Heavenly Father to save my little boy!! To not let this chapter end the way I feared it could end! I knew that heavenly Father knew me and loved me! I knew that He was fully aware of my situation. I knew that He knew how much we needed Dakota in our already dark and difficult world!
But this time the answer was yes...he can stay...but NO he won't get to make a full recovery and be the boy that he once was. The 2 year old active little boy that I had watched go out to play that day was now a different little boy who couldn't walk, talk, eat, or even breathe on his own. He was physically with us but I felt like he was gone!!
After TWO huge NO's, that meant the Trials in my life would NEVER stop..that they would be something I would wake up to EVERY day for the rest of our life...my testimony was shaken!!
My perfect little story that I had written in my head was COMPLETELY erased.. I didn’t even want to continue on and keep writing!! I wanted this book to END!!!
I had NO idea how to be a mom to a brain injured child!! On top of trying to be a wife to a blind man!! It was OVERWHELMING to say the least. I struggled in every aspect of life. I struggled physically trying to care for Dakota. He didn't sleep, he needed constant care around the clock and was physically unstable. I struggled emotionally with the loss of the boy that once was...trying to find him in this boy that I now had. Worst of all I struggled spiritually trying to understand why God was allowing all of this to happen to ME!
I didn’t think it was even possible to write a happy ending to my story! I didn’t even know if I could EVER FEEL happiness again!!!
But guess what I learned?? Through a lot of sleepless nights, pillows wet with tears, on my knees pleading to my Heavenly Father for help and mercy… I slowly came to learn and understand that…Happiness IS NOT dependent upon circumstances…happiness comes from knowing WHO you are and WHOSE you are!!!
As hard as Satan tried to bring me down…as many hard and overwhelming days as I went through in those next few years…I could not deny my knowledge and testimony that I was a daughter of God, He created me, He LOVED me, He KNEW ME Tessie Friedli…and He had sacrificed HIS son Jesus Christ for ME…so even though there was not one single person on this earth that could understand my pain and heartache…not one single friend, sister, Not even my mom! But My Savior knew because He had suffered pains deeper then I could even imagine so that He would know how to help rescue and save ME when NO ONE else could!! Only through the loving compassion of my Savior was I able to find the hope, faith, and strength to move forward…to get out of bed and keep going!! Only then was I able to trust in my Heavenly Father’s plan for ME!!
I knew that because my Savior had died for me and my family…one day they would be made whole again!! I stopped questioning and asking Heavenly Father WHY?! It no longer mattered why all of these bad things happened to me because I knew that 1 day I would understand everything COMPLETELY. That in my 3rd sequence EVERYTHING would be made right!!! The pain that I felt would be compensated 100 times greater with JOY…and oh how beautiful that sounded!!
I felt like the Lord was telling me exactly what Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said has counseled: “Don’t give up. … Don’t you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead. … It will be all right in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come.”10
I didn’t know how or when these good things would come…I wondered how many chapters it was going to take before good things really did come…But as I put my trust in my Heavenly Father, accepted His will in my life…my eyes were opened to the blessings and beauty that was ALL around me!!!
It has been 5 years this month since Dakota’s accident. They have been some of THE HARDEST years of my life but I can say with complete honesty that they have also been the VERY BEST!! I can honestly say that if I could go back and rewrite those chapters the way I thought they should have gone I wouldn’t. Because as hard as they were, they brought me to my knees in COMPLETE humility and forced me to come to know my Heavenly Father and Savior in a way I had never before known. As I turned to them…They helped me to see who I was, to see the DIVINE NATURE inside of me and have taught me what TRUE HAPPINESS really is!!
Happiness does not come from the amount of friends or followers you have, or the number of likes you get, how good you are at sports or dance, the amount of money or talents you have…Happiness come from within…it is realizing your DIVINE nature!! It is having the ability to focus on ALL 3 sequences and allowing your life to be filled with things of eternal worth!! It is seeing who your Heavenly Father sees you as and living each day to make him proud!!
Sister Wixom in this last general conference said, “God sent you here to prepare for a future greater than anything you can imagine.”9 That future, a day at a time, comes alive when you do more than just exist; it comes alive when you live your life to fill the measure of your creation. This invites the Lord into your life, and you begin to let His will become yours.
Because you are His child, He knows who you can become. He knows your fears and your dreams. He relishes your potential. He waits for you to come to Him in prayer. Because you are His child, you not only need Him, but He also needs you. Those sitting around you right now in this meeting need you. The world needs you, and your divine nature allows you to be His trusted disciple to all His children.
Now I don’t know what your story entails…what types of chapters might be written in YOUR sequence. You may lose a loved one, you may struggle to have a child, you may never get married, you may battle with a debilitating illness, you may face betrayal from someone you love…There will be chapters like mine that are so hard that you wish they were NEVER written! Ones that you wish you could stop and erase! But I promise that if you can get to the end of that chapter, relying on your Saviors love, help, and strength as you go…keeping your eye on the eternal perspective you will not only make it through…but you will find JOY in your journey!! It is through those hardest of chapters that we learn, grow, progress, and become the person our Heavenly Father knew we could become!!
When Heavenly Father sent you into this second sequence he didn’t send you into it to be sad…he sent you to be happy…to share your light for ALL the world to see!
My daily life is STILL hard. I still have to help my husband and take care of ALL of Dakota’s needs…but I am happier then I have EVER been because I have learned to find joy in the simple and beautiful things in my life!! My favorite quote is “Life Doesn’t Have to be Perfect to be WONDERFUL!”
No matter what your story has looked like in the past, looks like right now, or will look like in the future…YOU get to write the ending!! YOU get to decide if it is a happy ending…no one else can decide that for you!!
It is my hope for each one of you that you will make it to that 3rd sequence where you will get to look your maker in the eye and hear him say Well Done my Good and Faithful Servant!! And you might say back to him as Sister Reeves put it…Was that ALL that was required??
“What will it matter, dear sisters, what we suffered here if, in the end, those trials are the very things which qualify us for eternal life and exaltation in the kingdom of God with our Father and Savior?”
It is my hope and prayer that each one of you will feel the love your Heavenly Father has for YOU!! That even in your darkest of days that you will NEVER forget who you are and that that knowledge will give you the strength to keep going and to find JOY in your journey!!!