Monday, August 22, 2011

"No Trial that We Experience Is Wasted"

WARNING: LONG POST AHEAD. PROCEED WITH PATIENCE.

I was in a church meeting Saturday night, and for once, I was alone. Honey Bear was home, taking care of our two rambunctious gremlins so I could enjoy the meeting, and the stillness was…enlightening. A theme emerged for me pretty quickly (a theme usually does when I’m really paying attention), and that theme was learning how to endure trials with grace and perseverance.

I’ve been querying Bob for almost ten months now (although I spent five of those months revising the manuscript in two separate rounds), and the whole process has started to feel more like a trial than anything else. But even as I write this, I realize how trivial that sounds. There are much worse things to deal with, including several I’ve dealt with already, so if this is the hardest life experience I’m facing at the moment, then maybe life isn’t all that bad. Still, I think the lessons I learned that night apply to any challenge, large or small, literary or otherwise.

The talk that made the biggest impact on me was about overcoming adversity through the atonement of Jesus Christ and was given by a friend of mine named Laurie. She is, in a word, remarkable, and I thought that even before she lost her husband of thirty years to a rare kidney disease in January. The intervening months have proven just how right I was.

One of the highlights of her talk was a quote she shared from a man named Orson F. Whitney. I’ve heard the quote before, but it took on added meaning in the context of Laurie’s talk. After hearing it for the first time not long after his diagnosis, her husband made it his battle cry over the long months and even years of his illness.

From Orson F. Whitney: “No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude, and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God…and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire.”

That one line in particular--“All that we suffer…makes us more tender and charitable”--stuck out to me, perhaps because I’ve recently seen the truth of it in my life. Back in May, Honey Bear and I found out that we were pregnant, and a month or two ago, we started sharing our good news with our friends and family. When we got back from our month-long trip to Utah, we decided to tell our ward members, or the other people in our congregation, that we were expecting. I happened to be scheduled to teach our first Sunday back, and I planned to make a general announcement at the start of my lesson.

But then Stephanie walked into the room. I knew she and her husband had been trying to get pregnant and had suffered several miscarriages over the last year, and right then, I knew I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t accept everyone’s congratulations--including, I imagined, Stephanie’s--in such a public way, because I knew exactly how it would make her feel.

A few months after Honey Bear and I were married, we experienced a miscarriage. It was and remains the single worst day of my life. It happened on a Wednesday, I remember, and the following Sunday, I had to listen to a man describe the recent birth of his first child in excruciating detail. He wrapped up his remarks by saying something like, “I am so grateful that God has given us this child, that He trusts us enough to send this choice spirit to our home.”

As soon as he said that, a dark voice at the back of my brain couldn’t help but whisper, “Well, if that’s the case, He must not trust you with one.” It took me a long time to realize how wrong that kind of thinking was.

In the end, I learned Orson F. Whitney was absolutely right. Our trials do make us “more tender and charitable,” more apt to put others’ feelings above our own. They teach us how to see things from another person’s perspective. In short, they teach us how to be more like Jesus Christ.

(Which isn’t to say I don’t think good news should be shared, because I absolutely think it should. I’m just saying we should be mindful of other people’s feelings and not say stupid things that have a high likelihood of wounding someone else.)

I don’t know why some people can have children so easily and why some people, like my parents, can’t have them at all. I don’t know why some people only have to send out sixteen queries to get an agent and why some people have to send out what seems like six hundred. I don’t know why some people land a book deal in the first couple of months and why some people have to write three manuscripts and endure the grueling submission process for years and years and years. But maybe those aren’t the important questions, anyway. Maybe the important questions are, "What can I learn from this experience?" and "How will I let this trial change me?"

So how have I let querying change me? I’m afraid I’ve let it turn me into hopeless, dejected Krista more times than I’d like to admit. (I don’t let hopeless, dejected Krista blog, mind you, so you probably haven’t met her. Unless you’re one of my beta readers. She does hijack my e-mail account and whine to them sometimes…) I’d rather let it make me a better writer and a better person on the whole--more thoughtful and patient, more inclined to look on the bright side of things.

I'm not there yet (obviously), but that meeting Saturday night made me want to get there someday. It made me want to try harder, to focus more on the positive. Because life and even querying can be wonderfully, splendidly beautiful--but only if we let them.

29 comments:

Michelle Mason said...

Krista, I really appreciate this post. You're right. Everyone's journey is different, whether you're talking about the path to publishing or just life in general. We don't have all the answers. All we can do is make the best of our experiences and learn from them. Thanks for the agent info and advice you share on this blog and good luck!

Melinda Williams said...

Awesome post! Great reminders. One of the best things about Sunday: It grounds me once again. :)

Bethany C. said...

Francesca Battistelli has a great song playing right now about the dealing with all the annoying stuff of life. While it deals more with typical day-to-day things; lost keys, speeding tickets, etc., it has a great message we all need to learn (over & over again).

God uses all that "stuff" to help refine our character. I miscarried w/my first pregnancy, too. I know now that that experience has made me more empathetic to couples going through it, and that much more grateful for the safe arrival of my two little girls.

Thanks for this post--we need to be reminded that even though it doesn't always go the way we'd like, it's going the way it should.

Nicole Zoltack said...

What an amazing post, thanks for sharing it with us.

E.R. King said...

I so loved this! No trial is wasted. Thank you so much for sharing this. You've given me lots to be thankful for.

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

Great post, Krista. It's so true that life is incongruent and unfair sometimes. Or at least it seems that way on the surface. I'm so glad you're not giving up! I won't either.

And by the way, I like both the positive Krista and the not-so-positive Krista. Friends need to share both sides with each other, right? Helps us all stay sane. :)

Amy

Krista V. said...

Michelle, thanks for dropping by, and for commenting. I'm so glad you've found the blog helpful.

Melinda, YES. I need Sundays to ground me, too.

I loved this line, Bethany: "Even though it doesn't always go the way we'd like, it's going the way it should." That's so true. We just have to have the faith to let go of the wheel a little. (But like you also said, that seems to be one lesson we have to learn over and over...)

You're welcome, Nicole. Thanks for commenting.

Oh, thank you for your comment, E.R. All the comments today have been straight-up wonderful.

Amy, so relieved to hear you don't mind hearing from the not-so-happy Krista every once in a while. I'll try not to let her overwhelm you... :)

Carol Riggs said...

Confession: I don't usually read long blog posts. I don't like 'em, I'm a busy gal. But I got sucked into this one and kept reading!

Argh--I am always fearful of making a happy-me-announcement and unknowingly stepping on someone's feelings. I suppose that shouldn't make me/us wary of doing so, but if we do know of someone who would be hurt, then it's wise to refrain (as you did).

Life is NOT equal, and that's just the way it is! And we can grow from it...tough tho it is sometimes. Thanks for sharing this side of Krista. :)

Jenny Phresh said...

Thanks so much for this.

Jenilyn Tolley said...

This is a lovely post. Thanks for sharing! (And congratulations on the pregnancy!)

Melodie said...

Agree with all of this! So glad you shared...and may your pregnancy be blessed. :)

Krista V. said...

Carol, it's such a give-and-take. People who are still waiting for their good news to come along also need to learn how to be charitable, how to find joy in others' successes, so the sensitivity goes both ways. I think if we're all just doing our best to love and care about each other, we'll be all right.

You're welcome, Jenny. Thanks for stopping by.

Thank you, Jeni. And thanks for your congratulations! I kind of buried that little piece of information in a lot of blog post, so I'm glad someone found it:)

Melodie, I'm glad I shared, too. It felt good to write. And thank you for your well wishes.

Chantele Sedgwick said...

What a beautiful post, Krista. Thank you so much for sharing. And you're right. Always focus on the positive. If you let the negative in, it will never leave you alone.

Myrna Foster said...

Thanks for sharing that wonderful quote. And thanks for letting not-so-happy Krista hijack your e-mail every now and then. I need those highly educational bonding moments. ;o)

Ben Spendlove said...

Wow, that says so much it doesn't seem long at all. Thank you. And congratulations on your good news.

Krista V. said...

You're welcome, Chantele. I'm glad other people have enjoyed reading it as much as I've enjoyed writing it.

Myrna, you're so sweet. But you'd better be careful - if you keep bringing me chocolates every time I complain, you might turn me into one of Pavlov's dogs:)

Thanks for your congratulations, Ben. We're both excited - and a little nervous - for baby number three. I will now be officially out of arms for all my children. Maybe that's why octopi have eight...

Cassie Mae said...

This is exactly what I needed to hear. I find myself asking those same dreaded questions and getting angry and depressed feeling that querying is a lost cause, that hope is useless. I know from experience that this isn't the case, but sometimes those demons haunt you. If you don't mind, I'd like to share this post link on my own blog.

Elizabeth-Anne said...

Thank you.

Krista V. said...

Cassie Mae, this was exactly what I needed to write, so that works out well:) And you're always more than welcome to share any links you'd like to. Thanks for spreading the word.

Elizabeth-Anne, you're welcome.

Caryn Caldwell said...

Well put! When I look back, there are certain experiences that made me who I am but which I would NEVER re-live.

As for your writing, you have such drive and so much agent interest that I KNOW you're going to make it. It can seem like a long haul, but you never know - the next response could be a 'yes'!

Krista V. said...

Way to look on the bright side, Caryn:) And congratulations on recently signing with an agent of your own! (I hopped over to your blog and saw the post about your good news.)

Kelly Bryson said...

Krista- congrats again on the baby, and never hesitate to send a whiny email...unless you don't want to recieve one in return. I try to be selective about who hears my whining, too, but you're selected;)

Thanks again for the comment on my blog, it does sound like we're in similar spots, query-wise. Not pregnancy-wise;)

And I've been mining through BYU women's conference the last few weeks, it's really helped me, esp talks about not expecting to be perfect and the reasons for adversity, etc. Have fun! At least you know about when baby will come along, unlike an agent or book deal.

Krista V. said...

Kelly, thanks for your congratulations, and it's good to know you don't mind those occasional e-mails. Feel free to whine back anytime - makes me feel like a good friend:)

Michael G-G said...

Bless you, Krista, for your honesty and for the life lessons you share with us, your readers. And may your pregnancy be blessed in the months ahead. You are a truly decent person for holding back the news from the woman who had just had a miscarriage. I know: my wife had four miscarriages between our first and second children. It makes the brutality of querying agents look like a walk in the park.

Krista V. said...

Michael, thank you for this comment and for your well wishes. You're right - the woes of querying don't hold a candle to the woes of miscarrying. I have to remind myself of that sometimes. I've survived far worse, so I can certainly handle this.

Liesl Shurtliff said...

I'm always amazed at how you approach life with such wisdom and patience. I know this isn't easy for you, and I agree that it seems confusing why some people must be denied certain pleasures and blessings despite all their hard work, while other get what they're after with seeming ease. But you have depth of character, Krista, and in the end it will serve you better, both as a person and a writer, whenever you may get your turn to shine. And when your turn comes I believe you will shine very brightly. Like a sunbeam. :)

Krista V. said...

Such lovely things to say, Liesl. If I can shine as brightly as my little Sunbeam always manages to, I will shine brightly, indeed:)

Rose Green said...

I've seen you around QueryTracker and Absolute Write, and so I stopped over. Thank you for this post! I expected writing stuff, and got a quote from Orson Whitney as an unexpected extra. :) The writing journey is quite hard, and in that as well as everything else, it's important to back up and see things in a long-term, eternal perspective. Thanks!

Krista V. said...

Rose, thanks for stopping by! And I have to remind myself to back up and see things from a more eternal perspective all the time:)