Keep your head up, keep your heart strong

I must confess, that as amazing and fun as college life is, there are still struggles and difficulties. There are days when it is so difficult to get every task accomplished when stress is at it’s highest. I will not lie, this past week was one of the hardest. It was long, I was lethargic, missing home, my mind stuck in memories from a year ago.

Writing this out, speaking about this, even thinking about it, is difficult for me. It brings back some of the strongest and scariest emotions for me. I go back to some of my darkest days. But sometimes it’s important to remember and as hard as it is to write and speak about, there are lessons to be learned in every trial, between every rock and hard place.

I woke up on February 27, 2012 as I had any other Monday morning. I crawled out of bed not wanting to get out from it’s warmth, not wanting to go to school. I had already been accepted to college and I was eager to move on and move out. I showed up slightly late to my early morning class where as usual, we watched videos of baby animals, one direction and just sat around and chatted.  I was in my first period class at 7:38 am when I heard the gunshots and screams of my classmates from the cafeteria as they ran down the hall, one girl ran into our room with my teacher as she came from her office. She hurriedly closed our door and shut the lights off as we all piled into a dark corner of the room. We had gone through emergency drills in the past, and many of the other students in the room thought that this was a drill, but as I looked at the face of the girl who had ran into our room, I knew that it wasn’t. That was when we heard the gunshots right outside our door. And we all knew this was real. I cannot describe the fear that pulsed through me. I had never been so scared, so afraid. A fellow student had opened fire in the cafeteria, near our classroom. Huddling on the ground with 20 other students in my math class, I said a silent prayer, I prayed for safety, to wake up, for this to not be real. And although I never woke up and it was real, the comfort I received from the Holy Ghost was real too. Almost instantly after saying that simple silent prayer I felt enveloped in a hug I felt protected, safe and loved in a time and place where safety seemed so far away. And in my deepest depths of fear a small voice whispered to me and told me I would be okay. I carried that knowledge around with me throughout the incident and the weeks that followed. There are times when I still remind myself that I will be okay.


And we were okay. The City of Chardon rose up from tragedy together and healed itself. As students we relied on each other to carry us through the darkness, we mourned together and we grew together. We found safety in the outstretched arms of one another. We were bound together by this tragedy and it made us stronger. The place that weeks earlier I couldn’t wait to escape I found myself attached to. This was my home. Suddenly our school became the poster child for successful schools recovering from tragedies. And we received and outpouring of support from schools and individuals around the country. As students, staff members, citizens, we had all lost a sense of Safety  but we gained a sense of Christ’s love. We gained strength together. We all felt the same pain, we all felt the same love. We would be okay.


One of the messages recieived by the school. Photo c/o Lynn Monaco.

Sometimes, especially when we look at the world around us and we see that the adversary is working so hard around us trapping us in fear, inspiring hate, and violence, it’s a hard thing to think that Heavenly Father is allowing this. And just like anyone I wondered: How could He let something like this happen here? Was there nothing He could do to stop it, to save the lives of those three boys?  What could cause so much hurt and pain in another person, that would make them compelled to hurt others in this way? Why, why, why? And the truth is, we all have our free agency, we all make choices, some of them bad. And sometimes Heavenly Father allows things like this to happen. Is He happy about the choices his children make sometimes to cause pain? Of course not, but he will never take away our agency. He will allow things to happen, and we can either allow the experience to help us grow closer to Him, or we can allow it to break us down.  There is opposition in all things.

Heavenly Father is a righteous judge. He knows our circumstances, He knows what we are going through and the reasoning for our actions. T.J. Lane plead guilty to three counts of aggravated murder on Tuesday February 26, 2013. Heavenly Father knows the personal struggles of this boy and the troubles he has faced. He understands, and although He is hurt and pained by his actions, Heavenly Father still loves him.

As I look back upon that event and my senior year in it’s entirety, I know that Heavenly Father had a definite plan for me. He knew that I would need Him. He helped to guide me to  the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, knowing that I would need the support that it would offer me four months later. He knew that I needed to be here, at Brigham Young University   He knew that I would need the roommates I have now and the friends I have made to help me and teach me. He was there the whole time, and I know that He hasn’t left my side since. I am so grateful for this knowledge. It is a scary thought, to think where I would be without this knowledge, what would have become of me if I hadn’t been baptized. How would I have coped with such a paralyzing fear?

I’ve been worrying that we all live our lives in the confines of fear.
I truly believe that fear is one of the greatest tools that the adversary uses against us. It traps us into not acting on the righteous desires that we ought to, it forces us to forget how loved we are by Heavenly Father. But fear is something that we can get over and once we remove it’s chains from us, we can become someone so much greater. Fear is paralyzing, but hope and faith in Heavenly Father’s plan allows us to fulfill our true potential.

I love this talk by Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve. In it, Packer says some wonderful things. I encourage everyone, of any faith to read it and really take in all it has to say.
Some of my favorite quotes:

  • They [the youth] will see many events transpire in the course of their lifetime. Some of these shall tax their courage and extend their faith. But if they seek prayerfully for help and guidance, they shall be given power over adverse things. Such trials shall not be permitted to stand in the way of their progress, but instead shall act as stepping-stones to greater knowledge.”
  • “Fear is the opposite of faith (D&C 6:36).”
  • “Each of us came into mortality to receive a mortal body and to be tested (Abr. 3:24–26).”
  • “Life will not be free from challenges, some of them bitter and hard to bear. We may wish to be spared all the trials of life, but that would be contrary to the great plan of happiness, “for it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things” (2 Ne. 2:11). This testing is the source of our strength.”

There is so much happiness in this world. And I am so grateful to have the opportunity to experience it all. Along with all these wonderful happy moments, there  are going to be some hard times. But I know that no matter what difficulty I face, the Lord will be with me. He will guide me and help me, he will bless me and strengthen me. “I will be on your right hand, and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up. (D&C 84:88)”

It has taken me a year, but today, I learned a very important lesson about myself and who I am. I learned to stop defining myself by an event in my history. I am not a victim of fear any longer.



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