At age 22 while living in Mongolia I developed a severe chronic pain condition that effects every aspect of my life. Continuing this blog reminds me that life's challenges are stepping stones meant to lift us, not roadblocks meant to defeat us.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Poem, just in time for Christmas.


A babe in a manger, mother resting and tired,
animals looked on while the husband admired.
A few startled shepherds were surprised in the night,
angels above them sang beneath new star light.
Privileged they were when they headed the call
to run to the stable, at Christ's feet they did fall.
Miles and miles far in the east,
kings gathered and studied which way they should seek.
They wanted so badly to find the child fair,
but it took years of searching to finally get there.
In the neighboring inns more lay quite in bed,
not knowing who was born or the path he would tread.

Who would you be, if called to be there,
maybe the mother weary under her load to bear.
Too young and inadequate to raise God's begotten son,
but you have been chosen, His will, not your's, be done.
Then humble and trusting you prayerfully seek
for the strength to accomplish what's been placed at your feet.
Or are you like Joseph, asked to take a role that's not your own,
always standing by the ones you love, helping them down life's road.
Or has chance blessed you, like the shepherds that night,
you recognize God's messengers, leave all and hurry to the sight.
Perhaps you feel so far away from where you want to be.
The wise men searched the hardest, but the new born they didn't see.
It took years before the kings' righteous desire was fulfilled,
but persistence was rewarded, in front of God's Son they kneeled.
Or are you asleep, like those in their beds,
Do you know it was for you that the Christ child lived and bled?
So many blessings are yours to be found,
look and you will find God's love all around.

Like those in the Nativity, Christmas is different for all,
some get to see angels, some stay in lowly stalls.
Some must learn patience as they face years on the road,
others have loads they can't bear on their own.
No matter who or where you are on this year's Christmas Eve,
Let us all remember this: Christ came, died, and lives for you and me.

As I wrote this I realized I've felt a little like all the people in the nativity story. But the important thing is to remember and be grateful for Christ, and God's love. Happy holidays, and Merry Christmas to you all :)

SMA syndrome, and Gluten Free

Sorry its been so long. I had surgery at the end of September to take out my hyper active gallbladder and check for evidence of celiac disease, but the main reason for surgery was to correct something called SMA syndrome. Apparently it is very rare, and it is caused by rapid extreme weight loss. There are certain fat pads in the body that help hold things in place, and I lost the fat pad that held up my superior mesenteric artery. It blocked my intestines, pinching off the duodenum right outside my stomach. I cant remember how much space there was but it was something like less than 8 millimeters. That is why I was never hungry and why I couldn't eat very much at all, unless it is surgically corrected it is permanent and gets serious, as you literally can't eat and you starve. I think it is a miracle that the doctor thought to check for it, he was briefing me for the gallbladder surgery and as I was walking out the door he thought to check for this, on the very small chance that I had it. Tests then showed I had it pretty severely, and I am SOOOOOO grateful that I didn't need to have surgery twice ;)

The surgery was a success but because my nerves are hyper active the pain was difficult to control, I was in the ICU for a few days for pain control and ended up getting an epidural. I always expected surgery to be tough but there are all these things you don't anticipate that made it one of the roughest weeks of my life, I feel for all those out there who have had similar or worse experiences. I'm grateful I didn't know how bad recovery was going to be or I wouldn't have been nearly as excited about surgery haha. I had to withdraw from school last semester, and have been focusing on recovery ever since. The Celiac Disease was confirmed and blood tests showed that I have the type that attacks the nervous system. I have been on that strict diet since October, I've stopped loosing weight (still not gaining), and can eat more than I could before. Surgery fixed some of my bad right side pain, but I still have chronic pain pretty bad. This past week I could tell my energy and physical endurance was a little better, and that is exciting ;)

It has been over a year since I got sick, and it is interesting looking back over the whole year, and see that I didn't "do" much at all. And even though I wasn't able to take classes, I have learned so much. It might be months to years until I am back to normal, but I now do believe that I really will get better. I will rejoice and thank God every day that I wake up without pain for the rest of my life.

So, i'm learning a lot about Gluten free diets! Apparently it is way more common, and its symptoms way more broad than doctors anticipated. The typical blood test is inaccurate over 20% of the time, if you or a loved one is struggling with anything from IBS to fatigue that can't be explained, maybe ask a doctor to think about Celiac disease, and do more than just one blood test. I love suggestions for meals or anything, and I hope in the future to be able to help those diagnosed with this. Hope you all have a great week and enjoy the holidays!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Health Update, and possible explanation (finally!:D)

I received the results from a HIDA scan I had done on my gallbladder, and it was abnormal. Not in the typical sense of having a low ejection fraction, mine was 98% with normal being between 35-50%. The medical field is still studying what really high ejection fractions mean, but it has been the cause of severe pain for other patients, and when they get it removed the organ is diseased and many of their symptoms go away. So, I'm getting my gallbladder removed next week and I AM SO EXCITED!!!! There is also a chance that I have Celiac disease, (gluten intolerance) and that could explain every single other symptom I have, even the neurological ones (who would have thought?) Well -35 pounds and ten painful months later, we might have an answer. I am hopeful.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Why the hardships and suffering?

I feel bad, it is easy to be depressing when writing about chronic pain and its effects on life, but I really don't mean to be a downer.
I also don't want to paint a glossy and happy picture, one where faith simply conquers and hope never ever gives in to despair. I'm not saying that faith doesn't always conquer, because it does. Its just that no matter how much faith we have, we still get to taste a little bit of the bitter. And that's the way its supposed to be. "For if they never should have bitter they could not know the sweet" (Doctrine and Covenants 29:39).
I've been in Utah for several weeks, and things are good. I'm a firm believer in having goals to actively work towards, it is when we stop trying that life really becomes meaningless. It is very refreshing to be taking steps forward again. The pain is still there, worse actually, but I suspect that is from being more active than I was at home. I came out here with the hopes of taking 14 credit hours and physically getting stronger and stronger as I walked to and from class. But after trying and failing, I now have a handicap parking pass that has become a necessity. I also had to petition the scholarship committee to let me take less credit hours, and I've very grateful that they approved.
I'm still working on getting to know people again, but it is hard when you look perfectly fine yet hurt so much. I've tried explaining it to a few people, but they see me from the outside and I don't blame them for not taking me seriously. I can barely shower and get to class, so going to all the get-to-know you social events is usually out of the question. And here I go being depressing again. Sorry!
The point is that life is just plain hard sometimes. Not just for me, for everybody. There is so much suffering that goes on in this world. And some poor strong souls seem to only get served the bitter. I have so much in my life that is sweet, no matter how much I hurt I have access to excellent medical care, my family, friends, a warm and comfortable bed, and plenty of food. I met many in Mongolia who have none of those things, PLUS serious and painful health problems. As missionaries the main message that we teach is that "God love us." But many people we taught had a hard time believing that. They saw all the hurt, loneliness, pain and evil around them and found it really hard to believe that anyone loved them, let alone a divine being, one capable of stopping all the hurt in their lives.
While trying to balance my knowledge of God's perfect love for us, and all the seemingly contradictory pain and suffering in the world, I've come to this conclusion. He must see and know something that we don't. He must know that the reward is so beautiful, happy, and perfect that it all will be so worth it. He must know that the lessons we learn are so valuable, so important, so impossible to learn any other way that He lets the hardships befall us. And He must know that we can do it. No parent wants their children to fail. When there is very little else to take comfort in, remember that God does not want you to fail. He won't give you more than He knows you can handle. I have seriously doubted His judgement at times, felt like I'm drowning under all the weight and pressure, but He has never let me slip under.
In His own words as recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants,

"If thou art called to pass through tribulation;
if thou art in perils among false brethren;
if thou art in perils among robbers; if thou art in perils by land or by sea;
If thou art accursed with all manner of false accusations;
if thine enemies fall upon thee; if they tear thee from the society of thy father and mother and brethren and sisters; and if with a drawn sword thine enemies tear thee from the bosom of thy wife, and of thine offspring, and thine elder son, although but six years of age,
shall cling to thy garments, and shall say,
My father, my father, why can’t you stay with us?
O, my father, what are the men going to do with you?
and if then he shall be thrust from thee by the sword, and thou be dragged to prison,
and thine enemies prowl around thee like wolves for the blood of the lamb;
And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers,
and the sentence of death passed upon thee;
if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee;
if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness,
and all the elements combine to hedge up the way;
and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee,
know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.
The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?
Therefore, hold on thy way, and the priesthood shall remain with thee;
for their bounds are set, they cannot pass. Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever."

- Doctrine and Covenants 122:5-9

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Mission Impossible?

I've realized several things these past few weeks.

1- My situation isn't changing, and might not for a long time.
2- That's depressing.
3- I can't keep life on hold or just wait for this illness to go away,
4- but I can't live life like I used to.

I mentioned a while ago that I was starting a new mission, separate from mongolia and full time missionary work. Before I left I was busy busy busy, working while going to school, volunteering for work experience, playing volleyball a decent amount, camping and hiking on the weekends. Then I started this blog as an energetic, totally excited sister missionary who had a crazy strong desire to serve the Lord and the Mongolian people. While getting ready to go I remember sprinting during every gym time and trying to get physically exhausted in order to handle sitting at a desk for the rest of the day studying. While in Mongolia I was lucky to have a companion who was williing to get up at 5:30 a.m. on preparation day so we could play soccer with the Elders. Then we would sometimes run to appointments so we could fit more lessons in a day. Some weeks we would stop by several homes on the way to church and pick up as many people as we could. We stood out enough in our skirts and everything, sprinting in the ger districts and trying to hold onto our bags I'm sure made people think we were crazy. ;)
Sorry about the trip down memory lane, its just that I didn't realize until now how much we define ourselves by what we do. Our accomplishments, our hobbies, how we spend our time and what we love to do make up our identity and how we would like the world to see us. I love being known as an athlete, it embodies what I truly love to do. I really enjoy working with people who have developmental disabilities, I value their friendship and it is a very rewarding and fun job. I love hiking, camping, being outdoors, and taking pictures of beautiful places. This is who I am. But now......... the things I do are vastly different. In a way I have lost what I thought was my "identity". (at least temporarily, I don't think my illness is permanent but it is definitely choosing to hang around longer than I'd like).
Its been a rough week pain wise, but besides that I was trying to understand why I was mourning so deeply and completely. I had lost some months of my mission and time in Mongolia, that was really sad, but I was lucky to have the time I did. I still have my wonderful family, and good supportive friends. I have knowledge about the plan of salvation and my Savior, so why was I so blue? Along with the things I've realized lately, I need to add that

5 - I am mourning for the loss of myself.

If we are defined by what we do, then I really don't like who I am now ;) (couches, movies, trying to sleep, pain control.) But that isn't how it really works, right? Each of us is more than just what we do. So i'd still like to write about my new mission; the mission to take control of this illness instead of letting it take control of me.

Mission Impossible? I think not, for with God all things are possible.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Living with the Point System.

"Imagine that you wake up each morning with a certain number of points. If you slept really well and did nothing to make you sore the day before, you might have 15-20 points. If you had a rough night and worked a lot yesterday you wake up with only 5 points. On the average day you have 10 points. Each movement and action costs something. Showering = 5 points. Getting dressed = 3. If you put your shirt on backwards or want to try on something different, the 3 points are wasted and you need to use 3 more. On an average day showering and getting dressed uses up most of your points before breakfast. You realize showers aren’t necessary daily.

Breakfast means lifting the gallon of milk out of the fridge (1 point), carrying it to the table (1 point), getting a bowl and the cereal (1 point), you get what I mean. Putting breakfast away is costly too. Sitting up strait in a chair costs a point every few minutes, so things like responding to e-mails or working on a computer become difficult. Not even talking is free. As you run out of points you get short of breath and need to stop talking.

Walking drains points too. Anything more active than walking is out of the question right now, you barely have enough points to shower every few days. Pain keeps very careful track of the points that you spend so there is no cheating the system. When the points run out you have no choice but to stop and rest. That might mean having a chair in the kitchen so you can rest while you stir a pot on the stove, or finding the closest bench in a store and waiting until you have enough points to get back to the car. Resting can earn you a few more points. You learn to save them up for what you really want and need, just like you would save money for that new bike you really want. You save points so you can call and talk to your friends on the phone, make it to a doctor’s appointment, or paint for an hour. But each day there are things you really want to do that you simply can’t pay for. You can’t overspend, because it physically hurts and makes you weaker and poorer for tomorrow. The worst is when you really need medicine but you don’t have enough points to go and get it. Thank goodness for close family and friends at this point, calling out loudly and asking for help costs points too.

When you are in public and around others you worry about seeming rude and standoff-ish. From the outside you look fine, others can’t see the painful point system you are tied to. They wonder why you won’t play volleyball or join in the conversation. It is hard to focus on others when pain keeps bringing you back to yourself, and all your points go towards staying standing and composed. What you want to do and what you can do become two very different things. It is hard to meet new people because their first impression of you is so different than who you really are. But you can’t stay out long anyways, your points are almost used up."

I was trying to describe to a doctor how I could only do a certain amount of things a day and how sometimes i'm just plain spent, and the idea of points came to mind. Those that suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, auto immune disorders, chronic back pain, clinical depression, foot or knee injuries, fibromyalgia, or aging in general, experience the limiting “point system”. It is invisible to others. It has definitely made me more aware of what others might be going through, and I have no place to judge anyone. Even when people look “fine” and “healthy”, they can be battling with pain or disease. I’m going to try starting college again in a few weeks and that is going to add a lot of physically costly things to my to-do list, but I’m already marking out where the good soft comfy chairs are around campus so I can earn more points during the day ;)

So to all of us that aren’t limited, ENJOY LIFE!!!! :D. We might not always be so lucky, do all you can while you can. And to those of us that are limited, I can promise that there will be relief. Christ conquered death, and has promised that all of us will be re-united with a perfect, healthy, pain free body for eternity. Sounds so wonderful, and it will be a free gift to all of us :) (see Alma 11:44-45 in the Book of Mormon. If you don't have a copy of one you can access the bible and book of mormon from our church website, Click the link on Alma 11:44-45 to read those scriptures, seriously they are so good! (and give hope to all us hurting people ;)

Health up-date

We still don’t have a name for whatever is going on with me, but the doctors have been great and have done a bunch more tests. More ultrasounds, blood work, acupuncture trials, and referrals are in for the next few weeks, i’ll keep you posted and let you know if we find anything out. My reflexes are still hyperactive and I have weird little muscle contractions and spasms throughout my back, ribs, arms and legs that suggest something neurological, and my pain sensors are still revved up, especially on my right side by my ribs. The neurologist said some infections and viruses can cause damage to the central nervous system, so maybe that happened. A GI doctor says my liver is very firm and might be enlarged so we are looking more into that too. We have ruled out anything rheumatologic we think. The plan is for me to see doctors at the University of Utah when I get to Utah in a few weeks, and maybe go to a pain clinic. At this point I am totally okay with us never finding out what it is as long as it goes away ;) We will see how college goes, I won't be able to have the life style I used to but I should be able to at least make it to class. Whether or not i'll be able to focus in class is pending haha ;) I'm excited to see family in utah soon! love you all!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

joke and hope.

Did you hear about the circus fire? ........... it was intense! (in-tents).

Haha this joke doesn't work when you type it. I wanted to write a joke and this is the only one I can think of. More to come later, but for now thought of the day....

"Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God."
- Ether 12:4 (Book of Mormon)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

About us. (a little reminder.)

It is funny how we can take advise from ourselves as time goes on. We all hope to continue moving forward and progress during life, but sometimes it gets slippery, the trail gets hard to follow, or we simply run into a wall. And that can make us fall back. I've never been one to keep a journal. I admire all those who do, but I haven't been able to make it a habit. I end up writing when I am having a hard time, so if anyone found my journals they would think me a very depressed girl who liked to pep talk herself. I am usually very happy actually, but I sadly don't write about much else ;) I have heard that it is important to write down spiritual experiences or things you are learning because they can help you down the road. I wasn't much of a believer before. Now I am.

The following was written while I was in mongolia, I think I wrote it on a day that I had to stay home sick. I am in no way bragging at all, I was struggling a lot at the time so this was written as another pep talk. One of my friends in mongolia was an american who had also gotten sick and had needed surgery while on a mission. I was talking to her and she started telling me about faith, how God loves us and is there to help, etc, but then she stopped, hit me on the shoulder and said "you know all this! you just need to remember it." So this is to all of us who know this, and just need a little reminding. (including me.)

December 16th.

There is a quiet confidence that you are never alone. There is a grand plan in action with God Himself as the director. We don't know the whole story as it is only revealed in pieces, but that is okay. And we don't know how it ends because we probably can't even comprehend how wonderful it is anyways. There is definitely peace that comes from knowing the ending is too good to be true, but is true ;) And so each day we try a little harder. We see our faults and mistakes and desire to repent instantly. We love people more unconditionally, and desire to wrap everyone around us in the love that we feel. We despise evil and flee from it. We are aware of our own limitations and weaknesses but are not discouraged by them. They are necessary, and give us the chance to call upon the powers of heaven, and see God's hand in our lives. A desire to help others becomes a part of our very being, and we act on those desires. We do not fear, we do not complain, and we rejoice all along the journey because even hardships are seen as blessings when we know God is shaping and leading our lives, and is always right beside us. We are eager to learn anything that is virtuous, lovely, of good report, etc because we know the end goal is perfection, and we have a lot to learn before we even come close. We wear a smile because we know death is not the end, that we can be forgiven of our sins and mistakes, and that God is our Heavenly Father who loves us, misses us, and has given us our older brother to show us the way home. There are always many reasons to rejoice, no matter how hard the current circumstances, when these beliefs become more than beliefs, and truly become a knowledge that becomes an anchor for our souls. We know God lives and He loves, so we trust and are not afraid. That is who we are, and what we become when we seek to follow Christ.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Bad dream.

My goal is to be able to start writing without needing to say that I am embarrassed. I am embarrassed that I don't have much positive to say about this past week, and it is my fault. Things health wise are getting worse, I spent some time in the ER and after seeing a neurologist doctors think I have some kind of long lasting virus, not fibromyalgia. It is a mystery virus, so the plan is to try and get me to one of the MAYO clinics where there are more specialists. But for now longer lasting pain meds, a free month trial of netflix, and a determination to pray and study the scriptures more should help ;).
I had a funny dream today (some impressive nausea kept me from church, and the nausea medication kept me asleep). For the past few months I have been a bit sad to wake up because I was healthy and in mongolia, but not this time. It was a really realistic dream, I was back at school with roommates and I was really really frustrated and upset. As the days went on, I couldn't get happy, and I was mad at life. Other than being able to shrink my car and fit it in my backpack, it was a really realistic dream and such strong negative emotions, (at least that long lasting,) were new to me. And then hallelujah, I woke up!
Although we can't control all situations, we do have control over if we are happy or not thanks to the help that is available. I hope to be able to write soon and say that I am very very happy, and enjoying life :)
These things are on my to-do list...

- Talk to my Father. (Better sincere prayer every morning).
- Serve someone. (A simple note to a friend, make a gift, etc.)
- Be more kind to and appreciative of my family. (I am not used to being the recipient of service, and I can accept it more graciously.)
- Do something productive. (No matter how small. Learn a few more guitar cords, or paint a picture.)
- Count my blessings. (And don't forget them.)
- Read good books. (The best are the scriptures.)
- Learn how to shrink a car, and put it in a bag. (Just kidding.)

Hope everyone's week was great!!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Lessons Learned.

I am embarrassed to admit that I hit a low point this week, and felt pretty sorry for myself. Several of the past evenings it has felt like someone had mistaken my spine for their wet laundry and they were trying to wring it out, while both sides of my ribs felt like used punching bags, and my sternum and chest felt broken. I couldn't lay down or even lean against anything because of the pain, my muscles were cramping and twitching, and the pain medication wasn't helping like it usually does. My doctor noticed some unusual neurological symptoms and took me off of the medication that has been calming down my nerve's pain response until we could have a neurologist see me. I didn't think the medicine was helping much but now that I am off of it, I can tell it was. My pain receptors seem to be throwing quite the parties to make up for the for all the time they were blocked ;). So, I learned several things from this!

1 - Family support is so important.
My mom read to me this week like I was a little girl again. My brother set up movies on a bed to help distract me. My Dad prayed with me and blessed me. And my sister decided to do her school research paper on fibro myalgia so we can understand it better, and she has started listing all the treatments that have helped others for me to try. These things snapped me out of being sorry for myself, and instead made me realize how incredibly blessed and lucky I am. I am so incredibly grateful for my family.

2- Experience helps us empathize and increases our ability to serve.
I knew that a lot of people in this world suffer, but I had never experienced much suffering so I could only guess at what it would be like. This little sickness I have is nothing compared to what other people suffer from, but in a way I am grateful for this experience because of the new "eyes" it is giving me. I am studying to become a recreational therapist and we help all kinds of suffering people improve their quality of life. I hope I now will be able to sympathize with them a bit more, and be able to treat them a bit better. I also can see how important it was that Christ experienced all we do through the atonement. He can empathize perfectly, and is the most able to help and understand us.

3- When no other relief is available, Christ becomes essential.
I have seen how Christ and His gospel has added incredibly to my life up to this point, but for the first time I realized that without my knowledge of Him, I would go crazy. Literally. I wouldn't be able to put up with this, or see any purpose in life. I don't know how people who haven't felt His love get out of bed in the morning. And it made me want to share what I know all the more.

4 - So many have it so much harder than I do.
This is a short clip about one of those people. I first saw it on our church website, and this woman is a great example to me! If you have 8 minutes to spare, it is worth watching ;)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Poem. (not written by a poet.)

I am not a poet. In fact the only time I remember trying to write poetry was when it was for a 5th grade project, and we needed to make our own poetry books. I thought it was a very difficult assignment ;) But I was looking through a study journal I used in Mongolia today and I found this poem I had written a night or two before I flew to Hong Kong. Our mission president had asked us to study consecration and sanctification and so much was going through my mind as the possibility of my mission coming to an early close was becoming more of a reality. In those late last hours in Mongolia, these words came to my mind. I think the Lord was and is still trying to teach me.

I am still realizing what it really means to be in the Master's hands, and to surrender all to Him. I have taken some pottery and sculpting classes and I love the messy clay covered rooms, if you have ever worked with clay you can probably picture a room or studio covered with lumps of clay similar to the poem below. ;) I am still not sure what this poem should be called.

A master in his studio looks out at his supplies,

There is clay a plenty to fulfill his grand design.

He picks up a piece of clay and attempts to start,

But is interrupted by a cry, “Hey I’m not your piece of art!”

This clay is hardened, cracked and cold, shapeless and ugly too,

Then the master kindly explains “I have great plans for you.”

“If you will let me sculpt you, and will be moldable in my hands,

I shall make you beautiful. If you could only see my plan.”

But the stubborn clay refuses and remains cracked and dry,

“I can not shape or mould you” the master softly cries.

“You have become too hardened and refuse to follow my will.”

He placed it on the table, it remains cold and shapeless still.

He moves on and starts working and things are going fine,

This clay is soft and allows the master to shape his design.

It comes time to remove little pieces, unwanted clay from here and there,

But once again the master stops as a voice fills the air.

“Haven’t I been shaped enough? You’ve improved me with your hands,

Now don’t pick or take anymore, this is where the sculpting ends.”

The master sighs and thinks “If only they knew,”

And then he kindly explains “I have great plans for you.”

“If you will let me sculpt you, and will hold nothing back,

I shall make you beautiful, in nothing will you lack.”

But try as the master might the clay refused to give

The pieces that obstructed the beauty hid within.

Then a voice called across the room, “Master, use me.”

“I am of no worth here on my own, I will follow thee.”

The master gratefully gets to work, the clay following his every will,

The clay couldn’t see the grand design but he trusted the master’s skill.

The clay patiently endures as beauty is revealed,

But sculptures tools are sharp, and pain the clay did feel.

“Must the process be so rough?” the clay meekly asked,

“Thou are poking, cutting, ripping, pressing. Is it necessary for the task?”

“Yes my child,” the artist replies, “ thank you for giving me your trust,

I only remove that which is unwanted, and cause pain only when I must.”

The master smiles and says “I have great plans for you.

With your humble trust in me, there is nothing we can’t do.”

The clay replied “I know thou lovest thy creations, and only want our best.

I do not know thy grand design, but I don’t need to know the rest.”

The master keeps on working and today is shaping still,

There is no end to what he can create when we give all and follow His will.

We too are in the Master’s hands, what will we each do

When the Master kindly says, “I have great plans for you.”

I know how I want to answer that question, but actually doing it and putting up with the pokes and pricks is a bit harder ;) But when we can remember the reason for the pushing, pinching, and purifying we don't become bitter or angry. I've sculpted things before and it is completely necessary to remove pieces and cut things away. God is the artist, and can see all the unwanted pieces. And if He wants to change certain things about me, then I should let Him. ;)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

It won't last forever.

I am laying on my bed while my lovely sister Tori is cleaning up our room for us. She holds up stuff and asks me where it should be put, and she cleans while I dictate. This is one of the hardest things for me about this new situation. I can’t clean my room by myself. And it is hard to unload the dishwasher, and to help my dad organize the garage. And mowing the lawn is now out of the question. I end up on a chair, or a couch, or a bed, and my family works around me. Now some might think that getting to lounge around and never needing to do chores would be pretty nice ;) And if you think of it that way i guess it is nice. But if you think of it as not being able to do the simplest of daily tasks without help, it is a little more frustrating.

I was talking to a friend last night and I mentioned how I just hope this won’t last forever and he immediately said “well we know it won’t last forever”. That is something my dad and doctors have been telling me since October, but as more time passed I found myself doubting that a bit. Last night my friend reminded me how comforting it is to remember that I do know that. I don’t just hope it, (well I do for the near future) but I do KNOW it. And thank goodness for that :)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A new mission...

I am not exactly sure what to write. I am not sitting in a little internet cafe in Mongolia hoping that I can hit the send button before the power goes out, or we loose the internet connection. I don't have a week's worth of experiences teaching the gosple to people in their homes, trying to stop people on the street, or getting lost on the wrong bus. I don't have any interesting foods to report, and no funny language mixup stories to tell, so I have thought for a long time that this blog was done, and that I had nothing else to write.

But, I am still trying to get closer to Christ, and am having amazing experiences in the process. I am learning and experiencing new things, difficult things, and am realizing my blessings more than ever. I am not in mongolia, I am not wearing a black name tag with my name and Christ's, and I don't get up at 6:30 am, ;) but I started this blog so I could share my experiences about learning about Christ and helping others learn about him as well. And those experiences haven't, and will not, stop.

I am at home with my family in northern California (which is a beautiful and sunny state, the rolling hills and pure blue sky look so familiar, and are similar to mongolia). And I am sick. Well, kind of. I hurt a lot. I am grateful to know that whatever is ailing me is not dangerous, in fact I am quite healthy according to medical labs and tests. But this lack of definite results also means that we can't really explain what is going on, and we don't exactly know how to fix it. The current diagnosis is Fibro-myalgia. I didn't know much about this syndrom, and I am embarassed to say that at first I didn't believe it was a real thing. I asked my dad who is a doctor if Fibro-myalgia is even a real diagnosis, and He answered by saying " You are living it, you tell me if it is real or not." It is real. I am still impressed by how completely it can alter your life, and how a body can hurt so much without an obvious cause. Chronic pain is a monster. It stocks you, taunts you, teases you, and sometimes just plain controls you. I struggled for several months with some anger and depression, which I hear is quite common in chonic pain patients, but I know now more than ever that Christ is always there to heal us. It may not be a physical healing, but the soul is more imporant than the body anyways. Once we let Christ heal our hearts, we can experience peace and pain at the same time. Sometimes it is harder than others ;), but it is possible.
You know how little children hate taking medicine? They cry and scream, and can't understand why their parent would force them to drink something that tasts so bad. But we all know medicine helps, and it really is for their own good even though it tastes bad for a few seconds. I keep reminding myself that right now I am the kicking and crying child. My current situation tastes really bad, but a loving parent knows it will help me in the long run.

So this blog is now about my new mission. It is the same mission that each of you are trying to complete. The mission is to be worthy of the reward, happiness, and eternal life that Heavenly Father wants so badly to give to us, and to help those around us recieve it too :)

Monday, March 15, 2010

mission and health update

Hello! I hope people are doing well :) I heard some news from mongolia, i got a letter from the senior couple that is serving in the sukbaatar branch, which is where I was when I left. They said that my grandma and grandpa investigator couple, the ones that were baptized while I was in Hong Kong, are doing great! They are at church every single week and grandpa is even wearing a suit now! I don't know where he got it, but it is exciting :) the couple said they were going to get him a white shirt to go with it :) And my mission president said that a few weeks ago a 99 year old woman was baptized :) It is never too late to hear the truth and be saved by it!!
in other news we still are pretty sure that we have the right diagnosis, reactive arthritis, which is an autoimmune condition that develops in response to an infection, and in my case it has got my body attacking my joints and places where tendons attach to bone. It is worst in my ribcage and spine. I am three weeks into the steroid treatment and it hasn't helped like we hoped, but with a stronger pain medicine the pain has become more manageable as we wait for this to hopefully clear up. I might start going to a university hospital to see if people there can help at all. So whether or not I go back is still not decidable, we need to wait for my health to return. But God has a plan, and loves us as always, and I know that "God would not require us to experience a moment more of difficulty than is absolutely needed for our personal benefit or for that of those we love." - richard g scott. so life is good :) - ashley

Saturday, February 20, 2010


oh and to try and keep myself sane during this I have started working on more art, and I've started a blog to try and keep me motivated ;) It is and there are some pictures about mongolia, and probably a lot more to come considering that it is one of my very favorite places :) If you have a minute check it out :)

real update!

Hey! I think we might actually have some idea about what this all is. We have ruled out about everything else, so we think that this really is what is wrong with me. My doctor was trying to decide what to do next and he remembered a patient who was a young girl and had a lot of bad, unexplained joint pain. They traced it back to a salmonella infection. He did a blood test to see if I had salmonella in mongolia, and it came back positive. There is apparently a rare complication of salmonella infection called reactive arthritis and reiter's syndrome. It causes inflammation of the joints and can inflame places where tendon attaches to bone and the vertebrae in the back. This could explain all of my symptoms and the time frame matches, so we think we have a positive diagnosis. Studies show people usually recover within a year. I have no idea what this means when it comes to trying to finish my mission, but it is very comforting to finally understand a little bit about what is going on ;) There are some medicines that can help and I will probably be starting those soon, so hopefully things will start going up from here!! yeah!! :)

I can't quite do this again yet, but hopefully I will be able to soon! ;)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

a little bit of hongkong

This woman is an angel! Her name is Trinidad and she was my "companion". She is a wonderful lady from the Philippines.
a few million people live in Hong Kong. This is how they all fit.
Big Buddah

my flight from mongolia was delayed so when I got to the airport i missed my connecting flight, they gave me a 12 hour visa for china and I stayed at a hotel close to the airport in Beijing. It was the first time I had been alone in 9 months, and it was in mainland China ;) (and mongolian sounds a lot easier after you hear chinese. I am really glad I had to learn mongolian.)

The Hong Kong Temple! We got to go twice.

more snapshots

Man herding his sheep down the road. Mongolians are the cowboys of asia.
a view of the capital from a russian monument.
Us at Naadam, the mongolian olympics!
Sukhkbaatar square, that big statue in the back is Chengis Khan.
Man who made the Mongols famous before they they became a beacon for the church in asia ;)
This is a view from a church member's apartment, we lived buildings like the big tan one. The russians built them when they were in mongolia.
Mongolian kids are born half monkey, they can climb on anything.
This girl was worried that I would get cold, so she taught me how to wrap my scarf. It was warm ;)
This is inside grandma and grandpa's ger, many people don't have power so we would teach by candle light, I loved it :)

This is our church!! it was so dark and smoky and the church was by far the biggest building in the area, and it was always lit.


The update is, that we don't have much to update you on. Still no more definite results, still might be an autoimmune disease that hasn't manifest enough to diagnose yet, the rheumatologist thought it might be some kind of long lasting viral infection, but we don't know. We are waiting for the results of some more specific blood tests, and I am going to meet with a neurologist just to make sure we rule every other thing out.
i'm kinda going crazy ;) and am learning about faith and patience, even more than I did in the mission field. But my family is wonderful and it is fun to be with them, and my dad is still doing really good in Haiti! The Hospital is completely up and running and the operating rooms are busy. They are planning on being there for several months. That is all for now! I wish I could update you on how the investigators and new members are doing, but I don't know either haha, and of course they are in the Lord's hands ;) everyone take care!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

my first area. I love this country :)


My good friend told me about a reality TV show called "Mystery diagnosis" and suggested I go on it, haha ;) But it is really kind of a mystery right now and the doctors are trying to be detectives ;) If they find any clues I will write them here if you want health updates. (I am so grateful for all of your incredible support and concern! :) Love you all!

I am meeting with a great doctor who is a member of our stake presidency and he is trying to get things done really fast to try and help me get back :) Chest x-rays, abdominal ultrasounds, and most blood work has come out normal, the only thing we have found so far is that the rheumatoid factor in my blood is elevated. That could mean many different things, but we are thinking that I probably have some type of autoimmune disease. I am going to meet with a rheumatologist and a neurologist, and have a CT scan done of just my right kidney as soon as they can get me in. I'll let you know when we find anything else.

p.s. - it is still very cold in Mongolia, but my mission president said the work prospers in the cold, so things are going very well there :) And when I was in Hong Kong I met members of the Asia area presidency, and they said that Mongolia was one of the fastest countries ever to get a stake after being opened for missionary work. Mongolia truly is a beacon to the nations!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Half Time

Hello Family! (actually I can tell you all in person now ;) I am home. I am on medical release, and I actually left most of my things in Mongolia and the plan is to try and get back there as soon as we figure things out. It is like half time! Not many people get a mission half-time, i hit the exact half way point this week, and am going to try and finish those nine months a little later ;) I am liking the song "count your many blessings" a lot, it is so true and really helps! I still believe I am the most blessed person in the world, so life is good :) I am home and released at least for now, but like all members, always a missionary ;) Ashley

Monday, January 11, 2010

January 11, 2010

Hello :)
Wonderful news!! The Grandma and Grandpa I have been teaching were baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Friday January 8th, 2010 at 6:30 p.m. :) I was not able to attend, but my mission president and his wife were :) they said it was a wonderful baptism and that their testimony was beautiful :)
I am writing from Hong Kong, with an incredible homesickness for -40 degrees temperature, icy and dark streets, and the smoky gers of Mongolia. I had no idea I could love a place or a people this much. Good and bad news. The good news, everything on all the tests so far has come out normal. The bad news, I still hurt a lot and the pain is getting worse. So that combination of good and bad news is leading me down a path that I have been trying incredibly hard to avoid. I have taken every single detour I can find and have searched for any other available route, including going back and just toughing it out as many days as possible, but I am realizing that that isn't fair to the mission or my poor future companion, and that I’m really not as strong as I’d like to be ;)
So my wonderful family, unless the Lord changes his mind and lets a miracle happen in the next 24 hours, I will be seeing you all soon. (I’m sorry but it breaks my heart to tell you that) The Lord is a powerful teacher, ;) and I do believe that the most effective teaching method is experience) I think I have just been enrolled in the hardest class I have ever taken. Missionary work, learning the language, dealing with the climate was very easy compared to this. I'm sorry, I really am not complaining and I will be okay, I am just feeling the heartache now and the reality of it all is still slowly sinking in. But there are wonderful people all over this world that need to hear this message, my family I will be making good friends with our new neighbors upon my arrival ;) and any doctors we may meet along the way ;) my ambitions to master the Mongolian language and missionary lessons during my stay here have slightly failed because of my inability to focus, or face the fact that I might not be able to use the newly learned material as soon as I would like, and so I have instead spent a lot of my time plunking though a pocket size children's song book I found at the house where I am staying on their piano. There are wonderfully inspired songs in that book!! and the simplicity of the eternal truths that are taught... amazing! You could teach every one of the missionary lessons by reading from some of those songs. i'll have to translate some ;) if any of you are bored, flip through the primary children's song book. One song that I know well hit me again, you all probably know it too:
I feel my Savior's love. In all the world around me. His spirit warms my soul through everything I see. He knows I will follow him, give all my life to him. I feel my Savior's love, the Love he freely gives me. I feel my Savior's love, its gentleness enfolds me, and when I kneel to pray, my heart is filled with peace. I feel my Savior's love and know that he will bless me. I offer him my heart, my shepherd he will be. He knows I will follow him, give all my life to him. I feel my Savior's love, the love he freely gives me.

I think the Lord knows that I will follow him, and give all my life to him. Sometimes it is really hard to follow, and the road is reallllllly rough (to us, but in reality is nothing compared to the Lord's path or what many other people have to face) and we don't understand, but if we offer our heart his gentleness will enfold us. And family, I have never been so grateful for all of you! President Hinckley wrote about the things missionaries bring home from missions, and one of them was an increased love for parents. I know that is true. My father was able to come to Hong Kong and help me through most of this, dad I can never thank you enough. Mom, thanks for letting him come ;) Well, I don't know what is going to happen. (and I don't really want to think too far ahead, it hurts a bit. I’ll just hum some more of those primary songs and not think ;) so that is all for now. I will keep you posted on final arrangements, but unless that miracle happens things are pointing me home. Love you all!! sister mansfield