A Dose of Reality

The Albrethsen family

The Albrethsen Clan, circa Thanksgiving, 2014. From left to right, front: Trevor, Anna, Angela, Evan. Back: Glen

My wife and I have been separated for the better part of 13 months.

She has been in Oregon, where our home is, working as a housekeeper at the local hospital so I can be in Utah, staying with some very gracious friends while I muddle through an associate degree.

As you either know because you’ve spent any length of time away from your spouse, or can well imagine, the arrangement has not been easy.

Nor did I expect it to be. I didn’t get married, let alone for time and all eternity, to be away from her weeks at a time. Nor did I marry to have her be the breadwinner.

It’s helped to go home once or twice during a semester to see her, get a chance to attend the temple with her, celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, even though she worked most of those, and try to grab hold of a sense of normalcy for a while.

Rage Against the Machine

I could be bitter about it. We pay tithing. We attend church. We do our home and visiting teaching. We try to be obedient. I could wonder how others around me merit being better off, when it’s easy to see their faults and feel like I’m at least as good as they are. I could stew on why the Lord has abandoned us in our direst time of need, why the windows of heaven have been closed, or rail against the vagaries and senselessness of society which contributed to my predicament.

There Is Sunshine

But, when I dwell on my situation for any length of time, inexplicably, I’m taken to a place some might call fantasy land. Blessings flood into my mind, too numerous to count and too large to ever repay and I’m reminded that God was looking out for us even when I didn’t know He needed to.

Times are tough, but they haven’t always been that way. And they could be worse. Far worse.

God Is Always Way Ahead

Before a legislative change wiped us out at the end of 2012, our newspaper business had three to four fat years. There was money enough to renovate our dilapidated and leaning office building, to completely pay off the main part of our home and make some valuable additions to it, get out of car loans and still have money left over.

For the first year after the business failed, while I looked for work, I qualified for unemployment benefits, which helped stretch our savings through to the end of a second year after the unemployment ran out. Then, when things seemed their darkest, I made two small, but life altering changes in attitude. I really didn’t want to in either case, but my wife finally persuaded me to apply for school as she tried to get the full-time job.

She got the job and I got accepted into college.

Our financial situation did not immediately stabilize, yet despite the precariousness of it, all obligations were met. After a semester, our oldest son and his wife moved in, alleviating a major concern of mine that my wife was totally alone. They also helped out with food expenses.

Then, after more than two-and-a-half years of being on the market, our office building finally sold. The purchase price was well under the market value and way under the combination of what we paid and renovated it for, but thanks to the sale, we’ve been able to pay off or pay down other debt while putting money back into savings.

I’m Not A Trials Guy

I don’t like trials. I don’t ask for them. They find me regardless. Yet I recognize that good comes out of them and I’m somehow prepared to go through them. Beyond our improving financial situation and the hope of a degree getting me back to primary wage earner status, there have been other blessings. I’ve proven the adage, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” My love for my wife has grown as I’ve watched her selfless willingness to do much more than her share on our behalf.

And though it pales in significance to her innate sense of sacrifice, I’ve found the will to plug along and to move way outside the comfort zone that 49-plus years of living creates.

I Wish I Knew

My family and I are very blessed. I don’t know why. There are definitely times when it’s not because of me. I don’t know why I’m reminded of the blessings, or how my attitude remains cautiously optimistic. I don’t know how many times the phrase, “There but for the grace of God go I,” has gone through my head.

There are many others in far worse situations than I. Others have been far more righteous than I have and yet are still waiting on the blessings. I know some are giving up or are being dragged under by those around them. I don’t know why any of it is happening to them.

Nowhere Else To Go

What I do know is, I’ve bought hook, line and sinker, into the “fantasy” of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. I have experienced and continue to experience the love of Our Heavenly Father. I still believe that if we do the best that we can to do all that we can, sooner or later, God bridges the gap. I find comfort in the words of prophets and apostles, in the scriptures, and in the answers to my own supplications.

I know that the decisions I make have significant bearing on the outcomes.

I know I have tried to live the commandments and follow the counsel of the prophets. To the extent I’ve managed to, I’ve been blessed. I also know I’ve fallen short many times, and yet the Atonement and the Hand of Mercy have been extended to me. Miracles continue to happen all around me and I find myself compelled to be grateful. Not by anyone or some outside force, but by the knowledge that I know God lives, that I am His son, and that regardless of what happens to me here, I owe Him everything.

Besides, where else could I go? Who else could I turn to? What other refuge is there? There is none other save the Lord Jesus Christ.

Whatever my reality may be now—and I pray that it will always be this way—I still believe in what the world may call the fantasy of God’s love, His abundant blessings, and His promise of life eternal.