Written By Rachel Coleman
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I never considered myself a pioneer. Leave the comforts of home for my beliefs? Blaze a trail? Forge a path across the wilderness to a new frontier? No way, not me. Well, sometimes our journey in this life requires faith just as great as those stalwart pioneers. Sometimes our challenges are equally intense. The consequences of success or failure are just as eternal as they were in the past.
Two years ago, I developed a set of mysterious health problems. It began with what I thought was the flu: fever, muscle weakness, and nausea. But the symptoms never went away. I lost a lot of weight . . . and my hair. I developed severe allergies to many foods, asthma, and a heart arrhythmia. My blood pressure was often too low to stand. Over the next year, I saw many specialists, most who just shrugged their shoulders, scratched their heads, and suggested I talk to my general practitioner about taking an antidepressant.
Overnight I had gone from running mountain trails and caring for a busy household of four children to lying in bed with only the strength to stand for a few minutes each day.
A year into my illness, my seventeen-year marriage ended in divorce. It’s hard to put into words how low, how broken, how completely depleted that experience left me. I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to work and support my family with my health problems. I was devastated for my children and worried about the legacy a divorce would have on them. I was stressed, sick, and grieving the loss of a dream.
At my lowest point, an inspired home teacher gave me a beautiful priesthood blessing. He blessed me that I would have joy and that I would be able to share that joy with my children. He blessed me that I would be healed. In every way. As I sought solace and direction in the temple, Heavenly Father promised he would protect me, that I would be compensated for every loss because of my faithfulness, and that all would be well.
At the time, those promises were hard to believe. Wading through the weight of grief took monumental effort. Even the most simple of daily tasks sometimes seemed insurmountable. No one in my family had been divorced. All my friends, it seemed, were happily married. Seeking employment required job interviews, learning skills at lightning speed, and putting myself into new and uncomfortable situations daily in a way that was excruciating for an introvert like myself.
It seemed as if I was making my way utterly and completely alone in a foreign land I didn’t know how to navigate. The term “frontier” is used to describe a territory farthest away from the settled parts, or an outer limit in a field of endeavor. I felt, many times in the last year, like I was forging a path on a new frontier. My Mormon pioneer ancestors set out on their journey with faith and optimism. They saw potential in disconcerting environments. I knew I would need those same qualities if I was to reach my promised destination.
During this time, a good friend gave me a picture of the temple with these words from Elder Jeffery R. Holland written on it: “Don't you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead.” I stuck it to my fridge and read those words every day. When my great-great grandmother Asenath Viola Wilcox began her journey west as a pioneer, her family traveled on what her sister called “trackless prairie.” The grass was so high that her father had to stand on top of the wagon bed in order to get his bearings. I did the same thing, praying to know God’s will for me and trying my best to follow Him, without knowing where I was going. I put one foot in front of the other, on my own trackless prairie, knowing only that God keeps His promises, even if I couldn’t see how the things he promised would ever be accomplished.
And the miracles came. Of course they did. I found a job I love that enriches my life every day. I was accepted into an excellent master’s degree program that will increase my ability to provide for my family. I found a doctor who was able to give me a correct diagnosis and effective treatment. I witnessed the resilience of my children and the miraculous healing power of the atonement in their lives. And I experienced that healing power in my own as well. Everywhere I turned, I found unexpected blessings and tender mercies.
This past week, I climbed an 11,000-foot mountain. As I stood on the precipice of an overlook and surveyed the magnificence of God’s creations, my soul flooded with joy. On my ascent, I felt such complete happiness. It was as if it was trailing out behind me on the trail. This was a victorious moment. I knew I had received the blessings promised me. I had arrived in my own promised land.
“A pioneer is not a woman who makes her own soap. She is one who takes up her burdens and walks toward the future.” Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
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