Sunday, December 27, 2009

Greatest Dad in the Universe

As a father it is hard to imagine anything better than hearing, "Thanks Dad; you're the greatest dad in the universe!" I recently heard that phrase from my daughter after performing the incredible task of getting her some cheese, crackers and lunch meat.

That got me thinking about how I need to tell my Heavenly Father much more frequently how wonderful a father he is to me, and not just when big things happen in my life, but for all the amazing "cheese and cracker" blessings I get each day.

My son was feeling a little sick today, so he went home from church earlier than my daughter. Not forgetting about her sick little brother my daughter made sure to collect some extra candy from her class, and the Bishop, to bring home. She then proceeded to come home and hide the candy in my son's new toy workbench so he would find it when he woke up from his nap. She also made sure that the candy she gave to her brother was bigger than her own because, "that will make him feel better".

While hearing that I'm the greatest dad is hard to top, seeing my daughter serve my son without any prompting from me is actually better. I imagine that our Heavenly Father feels the same way. I'm sure he smiles when we worship him and when we talk about his greatness. But also imagine that he smiles a little bit wider when we not only worship him, but take care of one another as well, just as brothers and sisters should.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My Medical Miracle

Swine flu, seasonal flu, pneumonia, bronchitis, strep throat, RSV, colds, colds, and colds. This is only a partial list of the many sicknesses that have been in our neighborhood since my baby was born. When we found out the good news that we were expecting and after some 9-month calculations, her due date in late August made me very nervous. A newborn at the beginning of fall was going to be so difficult to keep healthy and as everyone knows these "little" sicknesses in adults are very, very not little problems for tiny babies. So I prayed.

Everyday since my baby was born I have said prayers asking for her to stay healthy. Recently after she was born I was given a new calling and was subsequently set apart for my new responsibility by a priesthood holder in our congregation. In this priesthood blessing counsel was given and the blessing was extended that I would be able to remain healthy with the many sicknesses around so that I would be able to take care of my family. I felt very humbled and grateful in the words that I heard and hoped that they would be true.

Now our baby is almost 4-months-old and in that time my own little miracle has occurred: despite my "big" kids getting different sicknesses four or five times each and my husband also contracting some pretty bad colds, I have been able to remain healthy and so has our little baby! I know that so many parents, despite numerous prayers, have children who still get very sick, and I feel overwhelmed that we have been blessed to avoid this trial. I know that Heavenly Father is mindful of our family's needs and has helped strengthen me these last few months.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Not Too Hot, Not Too Cold

My son is two years old. He has never been a great sleeper. He consistently wakes up one or more times a night which means I get up one or more times a night. One of the problems is that we cannot seem to figure out the temperature in his room. It's either really, really hot or freezing cold, and often goes from one extreme to the other during the night. The other night I was saying my prayers and prayed that my son wouldn't get too hot or too cold during the night. It was something I hadn't prayed for before, but I didn't think much of it.

I had been asleep for a few hours and was in the middle of a dream when I was suddenly awake and felt like I should go check on my son. It took me a few minutes to convince myself to get out of my warm bed, but I am so glad I did. I went into his room and it was very cold. My little boy had kicked off all his covers and his poor bare legs (he went to bed in shorts) were icy cold. I covered his legs with his blankets and went back to bed. He ended up sleeping through the night. It was great!

I know that my prayers always get answered, but it is such a testimony builder when something small that you pray for is given to me. I feel like this was a tender mercy given to me from Heavenly Father, showing me that he loves me so much that my simple little request was granted. Heavenly Father is just waiting to give us blessings and all we need to do is ask.

"Therefore, ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; for he that asketh receiveth; and unto him that knocketh, it shall be opened." 3 Nephi 27:29

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Service

Recently I was talking to my brother who lives in Cleveland. He's nearly done with a master's degree and is in process of getting a job. In conjunction with one of his interviews, he, with other almost grads, was able to go on a tour of Cleveland. The tour started out like a normal tour, but then the tour guide began to excitedly point out the best bars, then men's clubs, then strip clubs. It went on and on.

My brother was in awe over how excited the tour guide and some of the other grads were. My brother began to wonder how a person can serve and make the world a better place if all he or she can think about is the next best place to indulge oneself.

In the Church, we are encouraged to serve. In fact, the leaders of our Church at every level are not paid for their service. It is all voluntary. It sometimes takes A LOT of time. But, it's worth it. Friendships are gained. Satisfaction is felt in that what we are doing is what the Lord would have us do.

I guess in a way, it's a bit of a modern utopia where we are taught to take care of everyone and make the world a better place.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I didn't vote for you, but I will pray for you

A former President of the Church, Heber J. Grant taught, "Politics reminds me very much of the measles. The measles don’t hurt much if you will take a little saffron [herbal] tea or something else to keep them on the surface. But if they once set in on you, they turn your hide yellow and sometimes make you cross-eyed. So do not let politics set in on you. I believe absolutely in the best men for the office. I believe in honest, upright, good men being chosen to occupy places and positions."

"That the Lord may help him to think straight, and to pursue a straight course regardless of personal advantage, factional interest, or political persuasion, should be the daily prayer of every Latter-day Saint." (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, Chapter 17).

It is that last bit that really strikes me, although I find the first part fairly humorous. In political systems around the world there is a great deal of animosity between political parties, and between those who are in power and those who would like to be in power. In the United States, the Republicans and Democrats cannot seem to see eye to eye on anything. So what do we do when our party is not in power? President Grant has a wonderful suggestion, we pray for those that are in power. We pray that they will "think straight, and to pursue a straight course regardless of personal advantage, factional interest, or political persuasion."

We may not like who is in power, we may not like their policies, but would it not be productive to pray that to the Lord, who is over all, that those making decisions will make good policies and see beyond politics.

On the mount the Lord taught, "Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you" (Matt 5: 42-43).

I believe that faithful prayer from good people can make a difference. That even if we don't like someone, the Lord does love them, and can influence them for good, particularly when those decisions they make affect so many of his children.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Perfection

Lately I have been thinking a lot about how the world views perfection. We see glimpses of perceived perfection all of the time - like the beautiful air-brushed faces in magazines or "the perfect family" that is around the corner in our neighborhood. It often feels like we need to do so much more to even become close to these ever-unattainable ideals.

The other day I was reading a lesson from the Joseph Smith manual that we have used for the past two years as the basis of Relief Society and Priesthood lessons and it came to a part where Joseph was talking about how people perceive his imperfections. He was explaining how he is just a person, like all others, and how he is not free from making mistakes. He points out that, "no man lives without fault. Do you think that even Jesus, if He were here, would be without fault in your eyes? His enemies said all manner of evil against Him - they all watched for iniquity in Him." This idea felt like a slap in the face to me. If I would have been on earth at the time of the Savior would I have found fault in a poor, seemingly unschooled, travelling preacher? Would I have been looking to the prominent citizens of the day as my ideal of a perfect life and have missed the true perfection that was found in our Lord when he was on the earth?

A friend recently shared the idea that we should be striving for excellence in this life, not perfection. I know that I need to take a step back and reflect on what true excellence could be in my own life. I can also do better to overlook others' possible flaws and realize that they could be much farther on their journey of excellence than I. I am never going to have airbrushed features or "perfect kids", but I can have a stronger family and a strengthened commitment to the things that really matter.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Step in the Dark

I posted this on my personal blog last year. It still applies to every day of my life!!

I just barely started reading the Book of Mormon again. This time I am reading it along with the study Manual Making Precious Things Plain by Randal S. Chase. It has given be so much insight into the very history and details of these sacred scriptures. I admit that I am only on 1 Nephi:3, but the in depth studying will be so worth it. I read just yesterday something in this manual that really gave me something to think about. It was as if I needed it right at his time in my life. I have said many times recently that I am so tired of always taking a step into the dark. For the past year and a half we have always been right there at the edge, never knowing what is going to come next, or how we are going to make it. You will understand the lesson that I learned from this story. It is told by Elder Boyd K. Packer: (Click on the text to enlarge)




When we moved to San Francisco we came without even knowing were we were going to live. We stayed here even when we weren't sure where we would get the money to stay. Now we are getting ready to leave without even knowing where we are going next or how we are going to live. It has been so hard. But we have come this far, we have made it. I just hope to keep the faith that the Lord will guide our family where it needs to be and that he will light the way in the darkness.

Afterthought: We are now settled in our first home in SLC, after a long journey. We made it... we took that step in the dark. Put our faith in the Lord's hands... and prayed that He would take care of us. He has never let us down.

An Inspirational Song

I love music. I also love to share the great music that I find. I found this little treasure a while ago, and have listened to it several times, I actually have it bookmarked. So I thought I would share it with you. I will put in the words too, they are beautiful. The music is by Lex de Azevedo.




If You Could Hie to Kolob

1. If you could hie to Kolob
In the twinkling of an eye,
And then continue onward
With that same speed to fly,
Do you think that you could ever,
Through all eternity,
Find out the generation
Where Gods began to be?

2. Or see the grand beginning,
Where space did not extend?
Or view the last creation,
Where Gods and matter end?
Methinks the Spirit whispers,
“No man has found ‘pure space,’
Nor seen the outside curtains,
Where nothing has a place.”

3. The works of God continue,
And worlds and lives abound;
Improvement and progression
Have one eternal round.
There is no end to matter;
There is no end to space;
There is no end to spirit;
There is no end to race.

4. There is no end to virtue;
There is no end to might;
There is no end to wisdom;
There is no end to light.
There is no end to union;
There is no end to youth;
There is no end to priesthood;
There is no end to truth.

5. There is no end to glory;
There is no end to love;
There is no end to being;
There is no death above.
There is no end to glory;
There is no end to love;
There is no end to being;
There is no death above.

Text: William W. Phelps, 1792–1872

Music: English melody, arr. Ralph Vaughan Williams, 1872–1958, from the English Hymnal

“284: If You Could Hie to Kolob,” Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, no. 284

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Making Amends



This is kind of a hard post for me to write, more awkward than anything, but I feel that it should be done. I have a cousin who died a week ago Friday. She'd had cancer 12 years ago, recovered, then was feeling tired recently. She went to the doctor a couple weeks ago and was told she had days to weeks left; cancer was throughout her body. Within two weeks, she was gone.

If that's not sad enough, she was only 43 and left behind her husband and two children, ages 13 and 9.

What I feel is even more tragic is that she and her immediate family had been estranged from her family (mother & father or my aunt and uncle and basically all our extended family) for the last 20 years!

Now luckily, or should I say mercifully, amends were made and forgivenesses given before she passed on, but I see such tragedy in losing that 20 years. My cousin's kids did not know their grandparents, nor most of their cousins on my side of the family. In fact, I was able to witness my uncle meeting his 9-year old granddaughter for the first time. It should have been joyous, but it was painfully awkward!

As far as I know, the estrangement was not caused by a major, horrible event, but many small, insignificant events. There were times over the last 20 years when amends could have been made, but were not. There were times when forgiveness could have been granted, but was not.

I, like anyone, do not have perfect relationships with all whom I associate. This experience, however, inspires me to do better with my strained and awkward relationships and to be forgiving and more merciful.

I can do my part in fixing my relationships, but where I get stuck, the Lord can help me make it further, help make it the rest of the way. How dreadful it would be to die and reach the other side wishing I'd had better relationships here on Earth.

I pray we can all improve our relationships and not waste decades holding grudges. Give it to the Lord.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Strengthening of My Testimony

First, I want to thank Bridget for inviting me to contribute to this blog. My sister Catherine is already an author, and I think that it will be fun. My name is Amy. I am a mother of three small children. My spiritual strength goes in waves. I have good times, and hard times. Sometimes, when so inspired, I will share something spiritual that I feel strongly about. Which takes me to my first post. It focuses on testimony. I recently posted this on my personal blog, and thought I would share it with you too.



Ya know, I have given this a lot of thought. I made the following post and then wondered whether or not I wanted to post this talk and share my testimony. I went to youtube to see if it was on there.. and all I found it a segment of it, that had cut out a great deal. Then to look over the comments... it broke my heart. There were people saying he was a devil... that we, "Mormons," are delusional and have vivid imaginations. People commenting on things they misunderstand or know nothing about. If there is a question you have, I would love to answer it. If there is something that you would like to understand I will do all in my power to find those answers. I have searched out answers myself.... still do. People don't think that you can base a belief on how you feel. But then I think... personally, that that is how the Spirit communicates with me. I get good feelings... bad feelings.. feelings of warning. Sure it is not physical proof. It is not the worlds way of proving that something is true. But once you feel that burn in your heart... and your whole self feels warm... when in my most difficult times in my life... I pray, and feel the comfort like a warm blanket. Like the Savior's arms are holding me up. Those kinds of feelings one cannot deny. When I draw close to my Savior... that is when I am the happiest. It is a happiness so deep within, that only He could bring. I am not delusional. I have had doubts... questions. I always want answers, to make sure that this is truly right. BUt when I have doubts... when I just want to give it all up, there is one testimony that I cannot deny. That is the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. If I know that is true, then I know that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God. Since I know that I cannot deny any of it. No matter what anyone tells me to try to sway my beliefs, no matter how much our church is pounded on... it doesn't matter... because I have felt it... and I know that it is true. It would be wrong for me to deny it. I wish that the world knew how much peace and comfort can come to you. The church isn't about a whole bunch of rules and regulations. It is about our Father in Heaven giving to His children guidelines that will make them the most happy. He knows us better than anyone, even ourselves. He knows what we need. I trust that. That is how I have lived my life. I leave this testimony with you, in the name of my Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.

I wish more than anything that I could find a way to post this video on my blog. All I have is a link that will take you to it. This testimony of the Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland is so touching, so beautifully spoken, with so much power and authority, that it brought tears to my eyes and pierced my very soul. In these hard times, it can be difficult to hold fast to our testimonies and our faith. The world around us is in such turmoil, that it is hard to feel that inner peace and calm. Please, please, take the time to listen to this. If you are a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, it is a great reminder of what we believe and why. If you are not a member, this will give you insight on the power of testimony, I promise, you cannot listen to this and not feel your soul and heart stir. It is special. It brings to light the Book of Mormon. Why we believe in it. What it means to us. I add to Elder Holland's testimony, that I know this book will change your life. I know that it is true. I could not and would not deny the feeling within my heart when I testify of it.

To watch it or listen to it, follow this link, scroll down the the talk titled
Safety for the Soul, by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. It is in the Sunday afternoon session.

http://lds.org/conference/sessions/display/0,5239,23-1-1117,00.html

It is worth it.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Service

I love that General Conference always leaves me thinking. From past conferences, I have been reminded to improve things like my scripture study, prayers, or temple attendance. But, this time I came away with the feeling that I need to not only teach my children about the importance of meaningful service, but I need to find ways that I can reach out to others as well. President Monson's talk about service summarized these ideas for me and I loved the adorable Primary idea of creating a collection of their "warm fuzzies" that they obtained from serving others. As we come into a season where a lot of us look for opportunities to serve in our community, how can we find ways to truly teach our children about the responsibility we have to help others? How do we instill in them and ourselves the desire to lighten another's burden? I would love to hear ways that you have taught children about this important principle or have incorporated service into your own busy lives.

Other than Conference, two blog posts I've read lately that have kept me thinking about this topic were here and here.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Answered Prayers

Over the past few months I've been going through some rather hard trials mostly due to health issues. While I know it is temporary, I have been struggling with a lot of emotions while I've been sick as well. Mostly I've been feeling guilt over not fulfilling my family responsibilities which include caring for my two children, keeping with our tradition of family dinners and keeping our home tidy. I've felt worthless.

My prayers have been focused on begging Heavenly Father to help me feel better so that I can start functioning again. One particular night I finished a similar prayer and seemed to get even sicker. Sadly, I remember thinking "Why did He not answer my prayer?!"

The following morning a dear friend called. She said she was going to come over to help me around my house. I'm just not good at accepting service so I told her over and over not to worry about it...that we would be fine.

And then she said something that really struck me. She said, "You don't get to decide how Heavenly Father is going to answer your prayers."

And I knew she was right. My mind flipped back to my prayer the night before and I realized she was the answer that Heavenly Father was giving me. I am grateful He answered my prayer. He doesn't always answer our prayers in the ways we intend or in our time frame but I know he always answers our prayers- even in ways that we can't imagine at times.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Comings and Goings


Yesterday we welcomed our new baby girl into our home. When we got home we had a brother and sister, grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins waiting for us. It was an exciting, if not particularly peaceful, welcome home. Right across the street from our apartment is the city cemetary and I noticed, as I was carrying my new daughter into the apartment, that a funeral was taking place at that moment. What an interesting contrast. On our side of the street there were a bunch of people gathered to say "hello" to a loved one and on the other side were people gathered to say "goodbye" to someone equally loved.

I then realized that on the other side of the veil the scene was very different. I don't know anything about the person whose funeral it was, but I can envision that he or she was having a very exciting welcome home by perhaps parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, brothers and sisters, cousins and friends. While for my little daughter I'm sure there was excitement and apprehension before she started her new journey here on earth, perhaps some tears shed by friends and family being left behind for a time.

I am sure of two things. First that there is much more to life than the scene played out here on earth. We lived before we were born, and we continue to live after our body dies. Second, after all of these comings and goings we can be together as families for eternity through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The arms of love

My husband and I recently moved our little family almost 2,000 miles away from our hometowns to South Texas. I have never felt so lonely in my life.

I would count down the hours until my husband would get home and I would cry when he left for work in the morning. Even though I had my wonderful baby girl to spend my days with, I was desperate for adult interaction. I have always been a people person so being alone was especially hard.

I went to church the first Sunday dreading being by myself but I wasn't. From the second I walked in the door I was surrounded by the arms of my brothers and sisters in the gospel. These people whom I had never met before welcomed me into their lives. They immediately cared about me and wanted to help me in anyway they could. One of the sisters in the ward even said to, "Debra, even though you may be so far away from your family, you really aren't. Your ward is your family and we will take care of you."

I now have a strong testimony that we are all children of God and we have the opportunity to take care of each other. It is an opportunity that I will never pass up again because I have been so grateful that the people in my ward didn't pass up the opportunity to take care of me.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Priesthood: The Power of Healing

I knew it was going to be hard when my husband and I decided that the Army was for us, we just didn't expect the blessings and learning experiences that would come our way. We have two little boys (3 1/2 and 2) and our oldest is "special needs" -- so I knew it was going to be hard being a single mom while my husband was gone for 8 months of training. In a way, I had been preparing for it for a long time. What we weren't prepared for, was the physical trials my husband was going to endure in Basic Training (boot camp).

He has always been a physically active guy, and can run a mile or two in a cinch. We thought he would fly through Basic Training and that would be it! But fate had other plans. A couple weeks into training and my husband broke his toe -- had to be on crutches for a few days. He was so depressed because he felt he was missing out. Once he was off his crutches he did really well, though. That is, until a fateful run.

He was doing a long distance training march/ run and was doing great until he started to feel a sharp pain in his leg. At first he thought he must have strained a muscle, but the longer and harder he pushed on the stronger the pain in his leg. By the end of the run he was in so much pain he could barely move. His drill instructor rushed him over to the hospital where they ran some tests. In an MRI, it showed he fractured his hip bone. My husband was devastated when they told him the news and that they were probably going to have to send him home for a month to recover. He only had 3 weeks of Basic Training left! And now it was looking bad for him.

He called me with the news on Saturday and thought I was going to be disappointed in him -- but I wasn't. Instead, I told him he needed to do everything he could to get to the church the next day there and find some priesthood holders and get a blessing. I just knew we were doing the right thing and the Lord would help us. My husband, so far, hadn't had an opportunity to go to church while at training, and worried that they might not let him go, but promised me he would try.

After that call, I called all my family and friends and asked them to pray for his speedy recovery so he wouldn't have to come home. Everyone was more than supportive. I even fasted for him, and told the Lord in prayer, that whatever happened I would except it as his will.

I waited all week for Ben to call to tell me what was going on. No call. I have learned quickly that in the Army, no news is good news. Finally, on Sunday, over a week since I heard from him, he called me.

He told me that he had gone to church and the moment he walked through the door, he was blasted by the warm feelings of the spirit. He said he started to cry because he felt at home. The church services were wonderful and afterwords they asked if any one needed a blessing. My husband hobbled up to them on his crutches and told them he really needed one.

He said the blessing was amazing and lifted his spirits and gave him hope. The next day, when he woke up, he was feeling better. But he grabbed his crutches and went over to the hospital to get some follow up tests to see if he was going to get to stay or have to come home. When the doctors took his x-rays they were completely mystified. He no longer had a fractured hip. There was no sign that he ever did. My husband said it was funny to watch them trying to figure out what happened. He knew. He knew that the Lord had healed him.

They took his crutches and he walked out. He has been running and training ever since.

I feel so blessed to have the power of the priesthood in our lives and even more so for getting to see the miracles first hand in my family. I know that my Father in Heaven is mindful of us, all the time, and wants to help us. I am so thankful, that we get to have these trials, not only for the growth that we receive, but so we can also be part of His miracles.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Service


Less than a month ago I had my third baby, so I've been a (thankful) recipient of much service. As I've reflected on the types of service people do, I've made a few observations on different forms of service.

1. No Service.
As a member of the Church, I think it's hard to imagine life without service. Service seems to be an integral part of the Church, and we can't ever seem to get away from it! We may serve because it's our calling, or an assignment, or voluntary. I suppose some people don't do service as I've observed that the "food co-op" that we're a part of encourages some sort of service by members each year. (Each YEAR? I ask.) I didn't realize it was an option to not serve!

2. Service when Convenient.
Sometimes we serve when it is convenient with our schedules. If it's not convenient, we don't do it. If we remember the opportunity, then great, but if we forget, oh well.

3. Service when Asked.
Sometimes someone asks us for service and we willingly do it. We may not know how to help the person who has asked, so we are glad they did ask.

4. Seeking out Service.
This is when we see a need and we take care of it. We are "observationally literate." My mom is an excellent example of this. She told me that she and my sister were going to come be my "merry maids" for an hour. They came and cleaned my house, and it was wonderful! My mom also snuck over at 6:00 a.m. two times to pull weeds in the yard.

I also have neighbors who see needs and take care of them: one showed up up with a picnic lunch/dinner one day that could be used now or later. Another dropped by enchiladas ready for the oven or the freezer.

In my previous life (the one before children), I worked for LDS Employment (they help people find work and educational opportunities and train Church leaders to assist members of their congregations in doing such). We strongly encouraged Church leaders to seek out those in need and not just wait for the needy to show up for help.

Now some may say, "But what if a person doesn't want service?" Well, maybe that's a pride issue that person needs to deal with. Some may also feel that a person doesn't deserve service. In that case, we are not the judge, but need to listen to the Holy Ghost to determine when it is right to give service.

I've recently compared service to our Fast Offerings (voluntary monetary donations to the Church to assist those in need). We are encouraged to give a generous fast offering, enough that it hurts (or at least that we can feel it). Perhaps this is how we should treat service. Are we serving enough that we are rearranging our schedules? Is it just a little inconvenient, but not so inconvenient that we don't like it? Are we sacrificing to serve? Are we showing charity to others through our service? Are we exemplifying the Savior in our service? Are we doing the things He would do?

I hope I will seek out those in need and be happy to serve. The more we serve, the happier this world will be, and people will feel loved and taken care of.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Leap of Faith

As I was reading in the Conference edition of the Ensign, I came across a talk entitled, "Get On With Our Lives" by Elder Steven E. Snow. The full article can be found at lds.org under gospel library if you are interested in reading it in its entirety, but I thought immediately of the change that sometimes seems to be forced upon us. It sometimes seems a bit like this:

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I feel that this change offers so much opportunity for growth and learning. It can be a really difficult thing to undergo change, we feel that we have to keep things the same, have a sense of the norm being good, but how can we truly go from our "natural man" state to becoming like Christ without a hefty dose of CHANGE?

Elder Snow states that there are four simple ways we can prepare for and face change. The first is to follow the words of the prophets. Sometimes it may seem difficult to follow the prophet and their council, but as we do, we find peace and direction. In the primary song, "Follow the Prophet", it simply states, "We can get direction all along our way, if we heed the prophets- follow what they say." The second way is through keeping an eternal perspective. Sometimes much easier said than done. As we focus on the here and now, we lose focus on what is really important. Is moving away from friends as important as working towards eternal things? Or is losing a job, as terrible as it is, as bad as not living with your family forever? Keeping an eternal perspective helps us to focus on where we REALLY are headed. The third way Elder Snow says we can prepare for change is having faith. President Gordon B. Hinckley stated that we should "move forward with faith". We are often counseled that we sometimes don't know where we are headed, but that as we take that "leap of faith" the answers, peace and assurance will come. Even in the bible we learn that faith will guide us. In 2 Corinthians 5:7 Paul teaches the people of Corinth that "...we walk by faith, not by sight." It always reminds me of a clip from an Indiana Jones movie where he comes to a cliff and there isn't a way across. His father says from the other room, "You must believe boy, you must believe"... and then Indie takes his leap of faith to find an invisible path across the cliff. (The clip can be viewed at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-c8_OFwZoY)


It's not easy, but as we take the "leap of faith", we can find the path we didn't see before.

Finally, Elder Snow tells us to BE OF GOOD CHEER! What a great thing! Laughter through our hard times can bring so much joy and love to our homes and our hearts. I know that there are many people in my life, including myself, who are dealing with change right now. I hope that we can all remember that as the changes come, and they inevitably will, that there is a reason and a purpose through the change in our lives.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Submissions

Do you have any small stories or parts of your testimony that you would like to share with friends, family, and those interested in the gospel? If so, we invite you to contribute to our blog. Please submit any short, gospel-centered experiences to particlesoffaith@gmail.com. We appreciate any submissions as well as any suggestions on how to make this blog a more meaningful tool to spread messages about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Opening Our Hearts


This is somewhat of a continuation on my 'Give a Care' post. I was listening to a General Conference talk given by Gerald Lund while I was driving home from work yesterday, and I felt grateful for his perspective on the importance of allowing our hearts to be softened and receptive to the Holy Ghost:

"The heart is a tender place. It is sensitive to many influences, both positive and negative. It can be hurt by others. It can be deadened by sin. It can be softened by love. Early in our lives, we learn to guard our hearts. It is like we erect a fence around our hearts with a gate in it. No one can enter that gate unless we allow him or her to.

In some cases the fence we erect around our hearts could be likened to a small picket fence with a Welcome sign on the gate. Other hearts have been so hurt or so deadened by sin that they have an eight-foot (2.5-m) chain-link fence topped with razor wire around them. The gate is padlocked and has a large No Trespassing sign on it.

. . . I say again, the condition of our hearts directly affects our sensitivity to spiritual things. Let us make it a part of our everyday striving to open our hearts to the Spirit. Since we are the guardians of our hearts, we can choose to do so. We choose what we let in or hold out."

During the talk, he encourages us to purify our hearts and avoid setting our hearts upon the things of the world. Then we can be partakers of the Lord's promise that "the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers." (Doctrine and Covenants 112:10)

I know that God will never force or coerce us to believe in Him or to follow Him -- it is up to us to soften our hearts. When we choose to let go of our fear, our pride, our sin, our skepticism, our old hurts, or whatever it is that keeps our hearts padlocked, He will send His Holy Spirit to whisper peace and truth to our hearts. Our love for Him and for others will increase, as well as a true understanding that we are God's children and that He loves us. Again I know, and have experienced, that in yielding our hearts to God, there is nothing to fear and everything to gain. He follows through on every promise and simply desires to give us all He has.

Elder Lund's talk can be found, along with other General Conference addresses, at lds.org.


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Forgiveness

I recently had the opportunity to teach a lesson on something that I don't usually take the time to think about: forgiveness. Of course when I make mistakes (as I regularly do), I quickly hope for others' forgiveness so that I can move on and try to do better the next time. But what about when I am in a position to forgive another? Sometimes, hurt or frustration at being wronged makes it difficult to forgive and move on from a negative situation.

A family member shared the wise saying, "carrying a grudge is like slowly being stung to death by the same bee." While I regularly hope that others will forgive me, it is often times difficult to reciprocate that forgiveness to others. How can we move past hurt feelings and gain the peace that comes from forgiveness? Answers are so specific to each instance, but I know that through prayer and sometimes humbling ourselves, we can find the strength and the power we need to forgive those who have wronged us. As the Savior taught on many instances, it is not our place to judge others, but to humbly ask our Heavenly Father to, "forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" (Matthew 5:12). I hope that I can learn more fully to move beyond past hurts and not only forgive others to gain peace for myself, but to also extend a small portion of the gift we have been given through Christ's sacrifice for each one of us.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Scriptures: the word of God


I have always been a little silly about my scriptures, especially because I've always had a copy with the Old and New Testament, The Book of Mormon, The Doctrine & Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price. When I started college, I knew that my scriptures from high school seminary were a bit marked up and there wasn't really a meaning in my markings; simply, the more markings, the more I liked the scripture or the more times I had learned from its teachings. My best friend finally suggested we move on to new scriptures together. Well, I did it. I bought new scriptures and I signed up for a scripture study/power of the word institute of religion class at my university. It was such a hard thing for me when I would go to do my personal study of the scriptures to pick up the completely unmarked copy and study. I found myself more often than not turning to my seminary scriptures looking for the comfortable feeling I found there.

As I attended my institute class on scripture study, I was grateful I had purchased the new scriptures. I was grateful that I was able to start over in my marking and create a process of marking that really meant something and aided in my learning from those great pages. I found that as I marked and read and studied, I found greater and deeper meanings from the pages of the books I had read since I was a young girl. I found that I could identify principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ and then ponder upon the applications to my own life. Changing to what I now refer to as my "institute and college" scriptures was a great decision. It opened the doors to new learning and growth in my understanding of Jesus Christ, His atonement, His love, and His plan. I found that this change was something I needed. So often, change is hard. We move places, we end schooling, we find a career, we meet someone who changes our life, we question what we believe, we wonder if mom and dad really did know everything, but no matter what it is, things change. These changes can and often are wonderful opportunities for growth. Moments when we can put our trust and faith in the Lord and know that even though we may not know the outcome, He does.

About two months ago, my husband and I packed up our belongings, put them in storage and moved in with my parents for a couple of months, hoping we would have our own place soon. This was just one of those changes I would face in the coming months. I was unpacking and went to grab my scriptures when I suddenly realized they were no where to be found among the heaps of belongings we had transferred to my parent's home. I was devastated. Were they in the car? At the old apartment? In the storage unit? I worried and prayed and searched for those beloved scriptures that had come to symbolize so much for me. I scoured the car, cleaned every part of the apartment and even went through most of the boxes in our storage unit. I did not find them. I was sure they were accidentally packed away in the far reaches of a box I couldn't get to, or that they would simply show up eventually. Luckily, I had another set I studied from during the month and 1/2 that we were there, but that didn't save me from a few tears.

We did finally get our own place and as we unpacked every box, my apprehension grew. My scriptures were not there. I again gave myself up to weeping on behalf of my scriptures. They had come to mean so much to me. They had been the tool for much of my gospel growth and learning in the last 6 years. I had taken them to 4 different countries. I was devastated and sat on the floor crying. I finally moved to my knees and asked my Father in Heaven if He could help me find my scriptures that were such a treasure to me. As happens when we pray, He answered, but not in the way I was hoping. I had the feeling come over me that seemed to say, "Change is important. You are changing, your life is changing, and your learning in the gospel also needs to change. It's time to get some new scriptures. There is much more for you to learn." I can't say I heard those words exactly, but I do know that I felt very strongly that it was time for me to change. I am grateful that the Lord sees fit to teach us in ways that are so perfect for us. My scriptures have been a symbol of growth and change for me so many times. I know that they truly do hold the word of God for us and that as we truly study the words within the pages, we will grow, change, and find new life for the new us.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Give a Care



It's a recognized fact that "children say the darndest things," likely because they see the world in such a literal way. For example, my two-year-old nephew one day overheard his dad saying about something or other, "I don't give a care." And my nephew, after a few moments went up to his dad and held out his tiny, clenched fist. Then he said, "Here, Dad. Here's a care," and placed an invisible "care" on the table for his dad.

There was a time in my life when it was safer not to care too much about things because I feared that they would be taken away or ruined. Even at a young age, I had experienced the heartache of losing things and people that were very dear to me. I deliberately walled off my heart, and was probably heard to say at one time or another that I didn't "give a care." Certainly that was my calloused approach to life for quite some time.

I remember in the early weeks of being newly married that I frequently experienced a lot of fear about losing my husband. I had opened my heart to him and had learned to care for him deeply. I could not bear the thought of the pain it would cause me to lose him, and it made me a little worried that I had let myself become so emotionally vulnerable.

Now we are expecting our first baby. And already, the intense and pure sense of care I feel for this little one is overwhelming. There are moments when I wonder if I could possibly handle any more.

The more I live it, the more my life seems to teach me to "give a care." I cannot honestly say I have completely abolished the fear of losing what has come to mean more to me than anything in the world -- my family -- but I can say that the edge of my fears has been softened by a better understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I know through revelation given by God to modern prophets that "the divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally." (See also "The Gospel Blesses Families and Individuals" at mormon.org)

The love and care I give to my family changes when I remember that the relationships I develop and nurture now will last not only through this life, but also throughout the eternities. I desire to be more patient, more understanding, more helpful and more grateful.

I marvel at how rich life can be when I allow myself to care a little more about those around me. It always seems that a day is brighter when I am at peace with others in my life. Even after the glow of the "honeymoon period" in marriage has been replaced by the common tasks of day-to-day living, the sense of loving care I feel toward my husband has not diminished, but has been enriched. I anticipate the same will be true with our little baby, despite the expected onslaught of diapers, midnight feedings, and meltdowns. Opening our fists to give a "care" on a daily basis is not mundane, but is exalting. Indeed, in so doing, we become more like our Savior, whose hand, which bears the marks of His sacrifice for us, "is stretched out still." (Isaiah 49:16, Isaiah 9: 12, 21)

Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Great Gift

Life feels like it is speeding up around our house. With growing children we forced to make an increasing number of decisions about activities and education. It can sometimes feel like we're bombarded with options on how we should spend our time and I know that as our family grows the pace of our activities will as well.

However, something that one of our church leaders said in our last General Conference made me refocus on the fact that the complications of extra activities really should not be my main concern. Elder Kevin W. Pearson stated, "In uncertain and difficult times, faith is truly a spiritual gift worthy of our utmost efforts. We can give our children education, lessons, athletics, the arts, and material possessions, but if we do not give them faith in Christ, we have given little." I am grateful for this reminder and hope that children and adults alike can have faith in and partake of the greatest gift we have been given - the Atonement of Jesus Christ and His plan of happiness for us.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Colors of Life


Like she tends to do, my little girl made me stop and think the other day when she asked the question, "why are there colors?" I began attempting to extract my dusty junior high science knowledge about wavelengths and light spectrums and then I paused for a second and simply explained that it is because Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ want us to be happy.

At the time I felt like I was giving her the easy answer. But after I have thought about it a little bit more I have felt the reality of this simple truth. Why are there so many colors and so many incredible things to see? Why do we have the opportunity to experience wonderful smells, tastes, textures, and sights? I believe that the answers to these questions really are as uncomplicated as this: our Heavenly Father wants us to enjoy our mortal existence. As we can read in the often-quoted scripture of 2 Nephi 2:25, "...men are, that they might have joy."

Where I live we are finally officially enjoying the season of spring. Everything seems so vibrant this year. From bright greens on newly budding trees to the clear blue of the sky there are many gorgeous reminders of the love of our Father in heaven and his desire for us to be happy. I hope that we can each enjoy life's small pleasures a little more fully and give credit where credit is definitely due.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

How you can get the perfect body for free

If you spend anytime on the Internet, watching television, reading magazines or even driving on the road you've probably seen ads, commercials, billboards, etc. promoting various and sundry ways to make your body "perfect". They are all over the place. Our teeth must be whiter, our waists must be thinner, our wrinkles . . . well, we just shouldn't have wrinkles or stretch marks anywhere. A person could get very carried away with worry, time and money trying to reach that elusive perfect physical body. I am very much convinced that this is just another of Satan's tools to take our focus off of that which is of real importance.
The most amazing thing is that all of us will have perfect bodies. Yes, you heard right, everyone gets a perfect body, but we have to wait until the resurrection. In the Book of Mormon we read that "The soul shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul; yea and every limb and joint shall be restored to its body; yea, even a hair of the head shall not be lost; but all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame" (Alma 40:23, italics added).
Now, I'm not advocating we do nothing to improve the health of our bodies, or that we shouldn't try to look good. What I am proposing is that the world is obsessed with a false and ephemeral perfection and that we should not be sucked in. We should and can find more important things to worry about. A more lasting and eternal perfection.
The Lord is much less concerned with what we look like on the outside then what we have on the inside. ". . . for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7, original italics).

Mothers

For Mother's Day I thought that I would share one of my favorite motherhood quotes, by Gordon B. Hinckley (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 386):

"The true strength of any nation lies in those qualities of character that have been acquired for the most part by children taught in the quiet, simple, everyday manner of mothers... Jean Paul Richter once declared, "What a mother says to her children is not heard by the world, but it will be heard by posterity.""

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Words, Words, Words

My daughter is a very beginning reader and my husband and I have been trying to encourage her to recognize a few of the simple words that she can sound out. After reading advice from others, we thought we could easily translate this to scripture reading by letting her have her own Book of Mormon to underline the important words that she knows. While this did result in her unfortunately loud utterance during a recent Sacrament meeting of, "I see God!," in general this has been a great activity and she really loves looking in her own scriptures.

What has amazed me by this simple exercise is the frequency of meaningful words in the Book of Mormon. It seems on every page, we can find references to essential topics. In a online search of the Book of Mormon, the word "God" appears 202 times, "Christ" 99 times, "Jesus" 64 times, "Spirit" 113 times, "faith" 109 times, "prayer"/"pray 88 times, and "love" 40 times. It is no wonder that the introduction to this book teaches that it is, "the keystone of our religion, and a man [will] get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book." I am grateful that we truly have "another testament of Jesus Christ" in the Book of Mormon and that I have been able to feel the life-changing power of this book of scripture.
"Without reservation I promise you that if you will prayerfully read the Book of Mormon, regardless of how many times you previously have read it, there will come into your hearts an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord. There will come a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience to his commandments, and there will come a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God."
~Gordon B. Hinckley

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Teaching

Many of us struggle with effective ways to teach those around us the things we know to be true. We don't want to be perceived as "preachy" or make the person feel belittled in anyway and fears such as these often make us not say anything at all about our beliefs. There is a wonderful article in this month's Ensign entitled "Teaching True Doctrine" by President Henry B. Erying. He outlines powerful reasons to share our beliefs as well as meaningful ways to do so. He encourages us to keep messages simple and begin teaching early and sharing often eternal truths with the young.

I love these and many other lessons in his message, but I felt most strengthened in his counsel regarding those who are not necessarily receptive to hearing what we have to teach. President Erying says, "truth can prepare its own way. Simply hearing the words of doctrine can plant the seed of faith in the heart. And even a tiny seed of faith in Jesus Christ invites the Spirit." I am grateful that in teaching, as well as all other efforts in the gospel, we do not have to rely upon our merits alone to succeed. As President Erying has reminded us, eternal truths, simply upon being heard, will plant a seed in the recipient that will invite the Spirit into that person's life. I know that it can sometimes be overwhelming to teach others, but I also know that we can simply and surely plant the seeds of truth that can lead others to true happiness.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Noise of Worship

Growing up in a Protestant faith I was used to quiet Sunday services. Hymns were sung with enthusiasm, prayers were said, but unnecessary audience participation was rarely heard. The community of my youth was predominantly LDS and it was a running joke among those outside of the Mormon faith at the noise level of their main Sunday meeting - sacrament meeting. Attending these meetings did little to dispute the stereotype as I observed children moving in and out of pews and parents trying to corral activities and voices. Before I had children I vowed that I would never add to the irreverent activities that I witnessed during my conversion process. But, as motherhood has taught me once and again, I should certainly never say never. My husband and I do the best we can to help our little ones learn reverence and respect for Sunday services, but it is admittedly a long process with very slow results.

Why doesn't our church have a nursery program during sacrament meeting? Wouldn't the added reverence surely help people worship more fully? These questions may have occurred to many a tired parent, but there is a very simple reason why we include all ages in our worship services: the Spirit can testify truth to even the very young (and sometimes disruptive) members of a congregation. Why it would certainly be easier to have young children in a different room, even the very small can learn about eternal truths by being present when they are taught. In a wonderful article that appeared in the Ensign, Joan Hughes and Helen Hughes recounted some important scriptural lessons about children:
"When the Savior ministered to the Nephites following His Resurrection, He
took care to include the children in the transcendent acts of worship that took
place. It is recorded that “he took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them.” He said to the multitude, “Behold your little ones.” The adults watched in awe as angels descended “as it were in the midst of fire; and they came down and encircled those little ones about, and … the angels did minister unto them” (3 Nephi 17:21, 23, 24).

Our children were not there; nor were they present during the Savior’s mortal ministry when He said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:14). Yet our children are also precious to Him, and their hearts can be touched by the Holy Ghost. One of His opportunities to so touch our children is in sacrament meeting, the sacred worship service held in His name for all Church members."

We invite all to attend their local LDS church meetings. We hope that you will feel of the reverence that church members have during sacrament meeting and you will be patient with the little ones that are also there to learn more of our Heavenly Father's plan for all of us.

For LDS parents, two great articles about helping your child learn reverence are found here and here. It is certainly a work in progress in our family! If you have any suggestions for helping children learn these traits, I would certainly love to hear any advice.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!

I hope the Easter Day we can all remember our Savior, His great sacrifice for us, and that He lives and loves us so much!


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Relief Society

The Church of Jesus Christ has an amazing organization for women called the Relief Society. This group includes all women, ages 18 and older, and gives those involved the opportunities to learn and serve together. Recently, my ward had a wonderful lesson on the Relief Society Declaration and I have since been studying the powerful points in this message. We were given the challenge to focus on one point and work to improve in that area. I hope that we can all review these powerful ideas and implement them more fully into our lives.


Relief Society Declaration
We are beloved spirit daughters of God, and our lives have meaning, purpose, and direction. As a worldwide sisterhood, we are united in our devotion to Jesus Christ, our Savior and Exemplar. We are women of faith, virtue, vision, and charity who:
~Increase our testimonies of Jesus Christ through prayer and scripture study.
~Seek spiritual strength by following the promptings of the Holy Ghost.
~Dedicate ourselves to strengthening marriages, families, and homes.
~Find nobility in motherhood and joy in womanhood.
~Delight in service and good works.
~Love life and learning.
~Stand for truth and righteousness.
~Sustain the priesthood as the authority of God on earth.
~Rejoice in the blessings of the temple, understand our divine destiny, and strive for exaltation.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Come, Listen to a Prophet's Voice


I love General Conference and the amazing opportunity everyone has to listen to the words of inspired leaders. In troubled times like these, messages of hope and strength will probably be especially meaningful to many. We invite all to participate in the 179th Annual General Conference. If the sessions that occur this Saturday or Sunday are not shown on your television, they can also be viewed online. The words of the following hymn seem particularly poignant leading up to this weekend's events.

Come, Listen to a Prophet's Voice
(lyrics from hymn #21)

1. Come, listen to a prophet’s voice,
And hear the word of God,
And in the way of truth rejoice,
And sing for joy aloud.
We’ve found the way the prophets went
Who lived in days of yore.
Another prophet now is sent
This knowledge to restore.
2. The gloom of sullen darkness spread
Thru earth’s extended space
Is banished by our living Head,
And God has shown his face.
Thru erring schemes in days now past
The world has gone astray;
Yet Saints of God have found at last
The straight and narrow way.
3. ’Tis not in man they put their trust
Nor on his arm rely.
Full well assured, all are accursed
Who Jesus Christ deny.
The Savior to his people saith,“Let all my words obey,
And signs shall follow living faith,
Down to the latest day.”
4. Then heed the words of truth and light
That flow from fountains pure.
Yea, keep His law with all thy might
Till thine election’s sure,
Till thou shalt hear the holy voice
Assure eternal reign,
While joy and cheer attend thy choice,
As one who shall obtain.

Text: Joseph S. Murdock, 1822–1899. Verse four, Bruce R. McConkie, 1915–1985. © 1985 IRI

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Message from the Church: Why We Have Temples

These are a couple messages from the church that were posted on the church website concerning temples as an answer to the questions and rumors that have been recently circulating throughout the media and the world.



Sunday, March 22, 2009

And now for my next trick...


In the Book of Mormon there is a story of a prophet named Nephi who had been tied up with cords by his wicked brothers who were going to leave him to die in the wilderness. Nephi prays to the Lord to be delivered from his brothers and asks that he can have "strength that [he] may burst [those] bands with which [he] was bound" (1 Nephi 7:17). Nephi is a righteous man and has some serious faith so the Lord does in fact deliver him. What is interesting however is that he is not given the strength to burst these cords, but the Lord simply loosens the cords from off Nephi's hands and feet and his is free (1 Nephi 7:18).
I think life is like that a lot of times. In faith we will pray for something extraordinary to happen, like having the strength to burst some cords, but what ends up happening is something somewhat less remarkable, cords being loosened. Loosening cords is just as effective as bursting them if the goal is freedom, and perhaps even better because now Nephi has some perfectly good rope to use in the future. The real question is whether or not we recognize the hand of the Lord in those very effective, but somewhat less remarkable blessing we receive in life. Nephi could have rationalized that his brothers were pretty poor knot-tiers and that the cords sort of loosened on their own, but being the righteous man that he was I'm sure he recognized the hand of the Lord instead of just relying on his own strength or good luck. I know that the Lord is involved in every person's life and gives us blessings big and small. I pray that we can recognize those blessings and their divine source.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

His Help

Challenges seem to come in all forms, but my current hurdles are approximately the sizes of large garden gnomes. To be more specific, they are my four-year-old and two-year-old. Please don't get me wrong - I love my children dearly. I love being a mother more than anything else that I have been able to do. However, it never ceases to astonish me how these two rambunctious beings can continually throw me for a loop. For me, parenting is a constant lesson to try and learn more patience, creativity, and love. And, sometimes after a full day of attempting to teach difficult skills like sharing and kindness, I feel utterly exhausted.

After one morning of particularly loud sibling rivalry, a sweet hour of nap-time quietness came. Picking up the Ensign (March 2009), I had the chance to read an interview with Sister Julie B. Beck, Relief Society general president. She enthusiastically spoke of all the wonderful things that women have the opportunity to accomplish and when asked how women can do all of this she responded, "If she is helping the Lord with His work, she is entitled to His help." On this particularly hard day, Sister Beck's message powerfully struck my tired soul. One of the things that I know to be true is that families are the work of our Father in Heaven. He wants children reared in homes filled with love and compassion. My work as a mother is His work. Therefore, I am entitled to His help. To me, this is an amazing gift to know that I have a Heavenly Father who wants me to succeed and who is constantly trying to help me. Thank goodness, because I need all the help I can get trying to keep these two on the garden path.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Mormon girl interviewed at Harvard

This is a wonderful clip of a discussion held at Harvard concerning the personal search for purpose. On the panel were college students of different faiths, including this Latter-day Saint girl, Rachel Esplin, as well as a Muslim, Jew, Presbyterian, and Buddhist. They all answered wonderful questions concerning their faith and religious practices. Rachel Esplin answers questions regarding her upbringing, the development of her personal testimony, women's roles in the church, her belief in Christ, Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, knowledge of spiritual truths, temple marriage, temple covenants, and missionary work. This is a great clip to see!!

Day of Faith: Personal Quests for a Purpose - 3. Rachel Esplin from Harvard Hillel on Vimeo.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Create

The Relief Society has put together this amazing, short (1:40), presentation with the words from President Uchtdorf's address to the women at the last General Relief Society meeting. It is a poignant reminder of the amazing desire and gift we've been given to create.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Lead Me, Guide Me

My husband is currently in the Army Reserves. This weekend I had a choice experience. As my husband was getting ready to leave for his weekend duty, he tucked my little girl into bed. I heard this conversation from the other room:

"Tomorrow when you wake up, I won't be here. I'm going to do my work with the army, but I'll be home in two days, and I'll call you every chance I get, okay?"

"Nope."

"Yes, baby, I have to go. It's my job, and people are counting on me to be there. But you'll be here with mommy and I'll be home before you know it, okay?"

"Nope."

"I'm sorry, sweetheart, but this is what Daddy needs to do. Just because I'm not around, doesn't mean I don't love you and aren't watching out for you."

"I will cry for 7 days and nothing will make me stop."

Aside from the dramatics verse of a three year old, I knew that she really was upset. At this point I was in tears ... my poor little girl! She just didn't understand. She remembered that last summer, when daddy was 'at the army' he was gone a very long time. When he leaves now, it's a difficult experience for her. Her daddy talked to her about the Holy Ghost, and told her that when she was feeling sad she could say a prayer to Heavenly Father, and that he would send the Holy Ghost to help her feel better and know that Daddy was thinking about her.

When she woke up the next morning, Daddy was gone. I was relieved that it seemed she wasn't really affected, as he generally has already left for the day when she wakes up anyway. Partway through the day, I walked down the hall and saw her kneeling by her little bed with her little sister at her side. I was again brought to tears at what I witnessed.

"Heavenly Father, my daddy says he's close to me. I don't see him here, but you could tell your holy ghost to come and make my sister happy because she doesn't believe me. But my Dad said it so I know it is true. So tell her she can know what I know. My daddy's always watching me even when I can't see him. And thank you for Cinderella. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen."

How humbled I was to realize that this prayer, the prayer of my sweet little girl, was the prayer I should be offering. We all have the ability to know what our Father tells us is true ... our Father is always watching over us, even though we can't see Him. I know that this is true, but it's something I often 'forget to remember'. And I hope I can remember to keep my 'sister' in my thoughts and prayers. Not everyone is so blessed to know what we know, and I hope we can remember to pray for their comfort, and pray that we are able to reach all of our Brothers and Sisters, and help them to find their way to our Savior, to His gospel, and to His comfort.

I'm eternally grateful for a loving Father in Heaven. I am grateful for the faith of little children. So often the lovely verse from the beloved primary song "I am a Child of God" is reinforced to me by my children.

"Lead me, guide me
Walk beside me
Help me find the way"

It is a plea from all of our Father's Children. And if we listen, we will find that He is leading, constantly guiding, and trying to show us the way. We need only to ask. The 'noise' of the world is deceiving, and can be overbearing. He is there to show us the straight, clear path that seems lost in the confusion of these days. But He IS there, He IS watching, and He is waiting for us to let Him in. Just like my little girl who believed that her Daddy was watching over her because of his promise, we too can believe, because we have been promised. For that I am so grateful.

Also, I am grateful for Cinderella. Because really, who's not?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Joseph Smith, a True Prophet of God

I remember asking my mom many years ago, "What is the most important thing for me to know?" And I will never forget her answer. Without hesitating she said, "That Joseph Smith was a prophet of God." Through my teenage years and on into adulthood I have often pondered her simple but profound answer. If Joseph Smith was a prophet, then the Book of Mormon was true. If Joseph Smith was a prophet, then the church was true too. My mom had pointed out that by knowing this simple truth, my life would change and my testimony of the gospel would grow.

Now, I had always believed Joseph Smith was called of God, but I don't think I really KNEW until near the end of my mission. When I sent in my papers to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints I had no idea what a mission it would be. First of all, I have a major handicap, I can't memorize to save my life! And when I got called to serve a Spanish speaking mission, I was terrified. The first thing they had us do when I got to the MTC (Missionary Training Center) was memorize the First Vision in the words of Joseph Smith in Spanish. No matter how much I tried, I couldn't do it. So I didn't.

When I got out into the field (Anaheim, California), I could hardly speak any Spanish I was so terrible, let alone teach the gospel. But as time went on I became more efficient and fluent in the Spanish language, and grew to love the people I had the opportunity to teach. But one thing didn't change, I couldn't teach the First Vision of Joseph Smith, and my heart ached. Luckily, all my companions had no problem teaching it instead. I almost got away with it... until I became companions with Sister Mietzner. I loved Sister Mietzner, and we quickly became friends, but it was only six weeks until she was scheduled to go home. It was really hard for her to want to work, and I couldn't blame her, she was really tired.

One day, we were set to go teach a young woman who was very pregnant and alone. We started off by teaching her about the Book of Mormon and then I turned the lesson over to Sister Mietzner to tell about Joseph Smith like I always did, but she remained silent. Her face looked a little green, and I realized that she was feeling sick. I asked her if she would teach the First Vision, and she said, "No." I was stumped! I panicked inwardly. I couldn't do it. I begged her, "Please!" and once again, "No." So I said a quick prayer in my heart and turned to the young woman. My mouth opened and my lips moved, but it wasn't my voice. The words were perfect, they were beautiful, they were divine. I said (in Spanish):

"I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me... When the light rested upon me I saw two personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake to me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other -- This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!"

By the time I finished there wasn't a dry eye in the room. Tears ran down our faces. The spirit of the Lord was so strong in that tiny room, I could hardly breath. It was at that moment that I KNEW without doubt, that it really had happened. God the Father and Jesus Christ did appear to Joseph Smith. He was in fact a prophet of God. My mom had been so right! It didn't matter how many times people told me it was so, I had to know for myself, it was true! That moment in time is forever burned in my heart, no one can shake the testimony I have for Joseph Smith, no one. All because of the witness I received that summer day.

From that day on, I never forgot the words of that First Vision. I taught the story of Joseph Smith with all my heart for the rest of my mission in the field, and I will continue to bear testimony of him and his divine mission until I die and forever after.

If you have doubts about Joseph Smith, I implore you to go to the Lord in sincere prayer, just like Joseph did so long ago, and ask Him if all this is true. He is our Father in Heaven, he will guide us and answer our prayers because He loves us so much. He wants us to find truth in this world, and above all he wants us to return to him someday.

"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." James 1:5

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Showing Love


I have always appreciated the break that Valentines Day brings in the middle of an often too-long winters. It is nice to pull out some crafts, paper and glue, and bake some heart-themed treats. But, I love that this holiday also gives us the opportunity to let those we love know of our feelings for them. Nothing fancy is required. A simple "I love you" can go a long way in reinforcing our love for a person or mending past hurt feelings. President Monson recently wrote in a 2008 Ensign article Joy in the Journey, "
Stresses in our lives come regardless of our circumstances. We must deal with them the best we can. But we should not let them get in the way of what is most important—and what is most important almost always involves the people around us. Often we assume that they must know how much we love them. But we should never assume; we should let them know. Wrote William Shakespeare, “They do not love that do not show their love." We will never regret the kind words spoken or the affection shown. Rather, our regrets will come if such things are omitted from our relationships with those who mean the most to us.

Send that note to the friend you’ve been neglecting; give your child a hug; give your parents a hug; say “I love you” more; always express your thanks. Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved. Friends move away, children grow up, loved ones pass on. It’s so easy to take others for granted, until that day when they’re gone from our lives and we are left with feelings of “what if” and “if only.” Said author Harriet Beecher Stowe, “The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone."
I hope that we can all enjoy Valentines Day this year and reach out to those around us.


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Grapefruit in Minnesota


Prior to moving to Minnesota, where winter weather is discouragingly cold and dark, I hated grapefruit because they were too sour and bitter. I couldn’t understand why people would eat grapefruit, when any reasonable person would have to heap spoonfuls of sugar on top just to swallow. It was a rare, generous moment when I would even buy them at the grocery store for my husband.

But that all changed on some dark, cold day in the heart of my first Minnesota winter. On that day, I found myself looking at the fruit bowl on our kitchen table and, wonder of wonders, craving the last grapefruit that sat there amidst the bananas and apples. I gobbled it up, and immediately wanted more. It was delicious to me, and like all those crazies before me, I found myself squeezing it at the end to catch every drop of its goodness. It is my unscientific and unconfirmed theory that my summer-starved body was craving whatever sun-enriched nutrients the grapefruit contained. In short, I now eat grapefruit on a regular basis, and can hardly recall what it was like not to know and love its tart, rich taste.

This grapefruit conversion is to me a parable of what I have experienced in other areas of my life. It is an example of something once bitter becoming sweet due to the Lord’s hand in my life. I, like many people, unfortunately have divorced parents, which was a great challenge to me when I was young. I have therefore always identified with the account of Jacob (son of Lehi) in the Book of Mormon. Jacob’s father tells him, “[I]n thy childhood thou hast suffered afflictions and much sorrow. . . . Nevertheless, Jacob . . . thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.” (2 Nephi 2:1-2, p. 56)

I never envisioned my parents getting back together, necessarily, but it always felt to me that something was irretrievably lost. Quite simply, I was torn between two sides, because despite my great love for both of them, it was not possible for me to have Dad in one hand and Mom in the other. I do not wish to diminish the rich blessings I did have when I was young: I have been very blessed to have two parents who love me and who have made great sacrifices for my welfare and benefit. But I must acknowledge that for a long time, there was an uncured sadness wedged in my heart for my broken family. Casting blame, imagining what should have been, and leaving home were some of my coping strategies, none of which cured the hurt.

I am humbled to report, as I now reflect on it, that I feel none of that old ache – that indeed it has been swallowed up through the power of Christ’s atonement. Without going into all the details (though truly God was there in all the minute details), let me mention a few things that I have learned.

First, there is a fine line between faith in Jesus Christ and the works we must do to prove our faith. It was not enough for me to hurl my burden at Christ in tearful prayer, vigorously asserting that “I have faith,” and expect Him to take it away. True, “all things are possible to him that believeth” (Mark 9:23), and it is by faith that you are “made whole” (Matthew 9:22). And there is always comfort on the other side of a faithful prayer. But I was never truly relieved from the burden I bore until I learned to share a yoke with Christ Himself. It has primarily been while losing myself in the course of service, including church service and a full-time mission, that I have found the most peace and reassurance through Christ. And just so you don’t worry: this yoke of obedience and discipleship is “easy,” and the burden “light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Second, it is a simple truth that God, who is Master of the universe and Father to our souls, will “not suffer [us] to be tempted above that [we] are able to bear; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that [we] may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13) I have never doubted, nor been given reason to doubt, that God knew my suffering, expected me to be faithful in spite of it all, and made it possible for me to bear my burden without disintegrating into despair and rebellion.

And third, the most wonderful, delicious fruits are borne of adversity, if we endure it well! Jacob’s father taught him that “it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things” so that we might know the bitter from the sweet. (2 Nephi 2: 11-15) And do we not all know the taste of bitterness?! But Christ’s miracle – which hopefully gives new life to our sometimes sad, sleepy, or stony hearts – is that joy is borne of bitterness, life springs out of barrenness, and weakness becomes strength. It happens in many ways. In my life, my family has been made whole in ways I never thought possible, as have I. Where there was anger and resentment, there have been new beginnings and feelings of peace, understanding, and hope.

I am forever grateful for Christ, grateful that He drank of the bitter cup and did not shrink. I marvel that, as grapefruit is delicious to me because it allows me to taste sunshine in the middle of winter, so are the fruits of my childhood heartache delicious to me because they have resulted in my conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is this fruit, which is "desirable above all other fruit," that most often is found in the midst of our longest, most bitter winters. (1 Nephi 8:12)