I cried when she landed. It was her finial vault attempt at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Sprinting toward the vault she flew into a round-off moving into a backhand spring landing on the vault with her hands upside down and then preceded to do a back flip off of the vault while twisting her perfectly straight body and rotating through the air landing with solid confidence onto the floor. A split second later everyone knew something was wrong. Immediately picking up her injured foot, she hopped on one leg saluting the judges with her arms outstretched above her head, and then collapsed on the mat below her unable to take another step. Somehow she had done it, having injured her leg on her previous vault, she had still managed one last attempt at the vault and by doing so she secured the gold medal for her team.
Embarrassed of my tears I hid my face and left the room. Watching her push through the pain of her injured foot to and to persevere to the end was both inspiring and emotional, but that was not the only reason I was crying.
My biggest dream as a little girl was to be an Olympic gymnast. I held onto that dream clinging to it tightly like a child holding on to a piece of candy fearful if they open their now very sticky hand it will somehow disappear. I didn’t realize I was still clinging onto that dream even though it had been years since I was last able to take gymnastics. As I progressed in gymnastics I was invited to be on the competition team. The time commitment and the cost was too much so I had to quit. But I still clung onto the hope of being in the Olympics, unwilling to let go. But at that moment, as I watch Kerri Strug, I felt cheated, like she had robbed me of my opportunity. She took my place, that was suppose to be me. For so long I still believed it could happen, but at that moment, reality stuck with ruthlessly telling me it never would happen. Who starts training for the Olympics their senior year of high school? Most gymnastic Olympians are retiring by that time.
Reach for the stars they say, you can be anything you put your mind to they say. They lied to me, strung on me with false hope. I was opening my fist for the first time in years realizing that it was empty. What had I been holding onto all that time? My heart hurt.
My daughter is about the same age I was when I left gymnastics for the last time not knowing I would never return. Her love is ballet. Just after she learned to walk, she wanted to learn to dance. Living on one income and while my husband finished school, the only ballet lessons we could afford were some online lessons I found for free. She practice diligently everyday taking it as serious as if the instructor was actually in our living room (which, by the way, was also our bedroom).
Dressed in pink tights and a black leotard at the age of four years old, she was able to start her first ballet class at an actual ballet studio. At age five she choreographed her first ballet and preformed it for an audience of her parents, grandparents, and her kindergarten teacher. At age 10 she put on a Christmas ballet which she directed and choreographed, and designed and made the sets for. She taught 10 children, ranging in ages 3-11, their different parts, and then put on a performance before an audience.
She dreams constantly of owning her own ballet studio with it’s own performing hall. She’s drawn out blue prints for it, made Lego designs of it, talked about it, and asked about how to buy property. By the way, she’s just 11 years old.
She recently came to me and asked about taking lessons with a professional ballet company. I didn’t love the idea and figured it was too expensive so I didn’t even look into it. But she kept asking. I realized that it was unfair to say no without really knowing about it. We needed to make a decision out of good judgment rather than ignorance, fear, or anxiety.
I sat down with my husband and we looked into what it would take to enroll my daughter into the ballet studio. The cost, the time commitment, the overall experience, the environment. Taking it all and and giving it an honest consideration, we decided in our best judgment that the overall cost, not just the financial cost, would have more of a negative impact on our daughter and our family than a beneficial one, so we decided not to enroll her. I knew this would crush her.
I went to her room and found her sitting on her bed and told her that her dad and I had looked into the ballet company. She immediately lit up with anticipation only making it harder for me to tell her our decision and why we came to that decision. The answer hurt her deeply. She felt like a door was being shut on her dreams and goals with ballet. Being a part of this studio legitimately could make the difference down the road as to whether or not she gets a scholarship or makes it into a ballet school in the future. Her heart was broken.
I knew what it was like to hope for something with all you heart, and then to watch it pass you by. I was familiar with that pain, and that made it even harder for me to tell her that we decided not to enroll her in the ballet company that she so desperately wanted to be a part of was hard. Even though I knew it was a good decision, it was painful to tell her. It may be a long time before she understands why we made the decision that we made. We cried together that night, she for her broken dream and me for my daughter’s broken heart.
I could relate to her confused feelings of hurt. There have been times I have turned to God with sincerity asking for answers or for a desired outcome, but have had to accept that His answer was no.
“Sometimes our most earnest and worthy desires are not answered in the way we hope… And sometimes our righteous desires are not granted in this life.” -Brook P. Hales, Answers to Prayer
Those moments in our life when our heartfelt prayers go seemingly unanswered (or when we are told “not yet”) are some of the most trying.
Whatsoever thing ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is good, in faith believing that ye shall receive, behold, it shall be done unto you.Moroni 7:26, (see also 3 Nephi 18:20)
This scripture has tormented me in those moments when my prayers go unanswered as I tried to figure out why I received no answer. Was I asking for something that wasn’t good? Was it not right to ask for that? Was my faith not strong enough? Maybe what I was asking for wasn’t in alignment with God’s will, or maybe I wasn’t fasting enough or praying hard enough.
We always hear about the prayers that people offer who have lost something and then they say a prayer and then they find it, but what about those prayers for those who lost something ans say a prayer but never find it?
One of the year my daughters were in the Nutcracker, I bought them each a charm bracelet with different charms to represent all the different parts they had been in. My daughter Madison wore her bracelet to school the next day and somehow during the day it fell off. When she got home she realized that it was gone. We drove back to the school and decided to look all over the field where she played during recess, but when we got there there was a soccer game going on right where we needed to look. We came back later that night after the game was over but couldn’t find it. She said a million prayers and I said a million prayers for her prayers. When I tucked her in to bed that night she asked me why Heavenly Father didn’t help her find her bracelet. That’s a hard question to answer to a eight year old.
The next day she looked in the school’s lost and found and asked her teachers if they had seen it. We borrowed a metal detector and went back to the field after school and looked and looked. We never found the bracelet. Did we not have enough faith? Was it not the right thing to ask for? “Whatsoever thing ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold, it shall be given unto you (3 Nephi 18:20).” But we asked and we didn’t find it.
When I was on my mission in Manaus, I tried to learn Portuguese as fast as I could. I worked hard and thought that if I had enough faith and if I was righteous enough, then I could expect to be blessed to learn to speak Portuguese in a very short period of time.
I worked, I prayed, I put all my effort into learning Portuguese, but I never was very good at the language even after being in Brazil for a year and a half. I saw others come into the mission field and learn the language quicker than me. Was I too skeptical? Was I not doing something right? Was it not God’s will for me? Was my faith not strong enough?
After my mission experience, I grew discouraged asking God for the desires of my heart, fearful that I was asking for something that wasn’t in alignment with God’s will. It’s discouraging asking for something that you think is good, feeling encouraged by scriptures such as “ask and ye shall receive”, but never receiving that which you are asking for. I didn’t want to ask anymore for fear that I was asking for the wrong thing, or that my faith wasn’t strong enough. It felt easier to not ask than to ask and be told no.
I started looking for other people’s thoughts and experiences with prayer and faith to make sense of the struggle I was having. I found the personal story from Jeffery S. McClellan both touching and helpful in gaining a better understanding of faith.
For years I struggled with how to have faith when giving blessings or praying for heavenly help. When all depends on God’s will and when God’s will seems unknowable or mysterious, how do I have faith that my petition will be granted? What do I have confidence in when I lack confidence in knowing God’s will? Then I realized that we are not commanded to have faith in blessings but in the Giver of blessings.Jeffery McClellan
We are not commanded to have faith in blessings but in the Giver of blessings.
“We are not commanded to have faith in blessings but in the Giver of blessings.” I was focusing my faith on the wrong thing. I was putting all my faith in finding the bracelet rather than focusing my faith on the Lord. It’s a subtle difference, but one that makes the difference. Do I believe and trust that God knows me and love me? Am I willing to trust that even when the answer is no to taking ballet lessons at the prestigious ballet studio that you have your heart set on, that He really loves you and wants you succeed in ballet and is listening to your pleads? Are you willing to trust that He sees more than you see and that His ways are not your ways?
“An important and comforting doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that our Heavenly Father has perfect love for His children. Because of that perfect love, He blesses us not only according to our desires and needs but also according to His infinite wisdom. …The Father is aware of us, knows our needs, and will help us perfectly.-Brook P. Hales, Answers to Prayer
Perfect love doesn’t mean that He will grant us whatever we want whenever we want it. Perfect love is the ability to love deeply. Perfect love is the ability to say “not yet” knowing that it will break their heart but also knowing that it is the best option. In those moments when you can’t find the missing bracelet, put your faith in the belief that God has perfect love for you and knows your needs and will help you perfectly, even if helping you perfectly means you might not find the bracelet.
Now I choose to trust that I am a daughter sitting on my bed, next to parent who knows me and loves me more than I am even able to comprehend. I choose to trust that even when the answer is no, that there is a divine reason and purpose it in. I choose to believe that He can consecrate all my experiences for my gain, even those experience that break my heart.
September 4, 2019 (and a few other days)
Time writing this article: 4 hours
Total time writing on this blog: 19 hours