(P.S. There might be more to come on this amazing week!)
Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own
understanding. [Make plans, yes, but don't worry if things don't work the way you planned! "All things work together for good to them that love God." Romans 8:28)] In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct they
paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Sunday, December 31, 2006
Saturday, December 23, 2006
I was studying the parable of the talents. You remember the story. A man needed to go away, so he entrusted his servants with his goods. One received five talents, another two, and the last received one. Upon his return, he asked for an accounting. The servant who received five and returned ten, as well as the one who took two and returned four, were declared good and faithful servants. But what caught my attention was the servant who received one, took care of it, and returned it safely back to his lord. I was surprised by the response of the master: “Thou wicked and slothful servant, … take therefore the talent from him, … and cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness”! (See Matt. 25:14–30.)
This seemed to be a harsh reaction to one who seemed to be trying to take care of what he was given. But the Spirit taught me this truth—the Lord expects a difference!
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
I can recite the names of all of the children in my kindergarten class. In alphabetical order. On demand (if I'm in the mood). I've performed this amazing feat for at least one ward talent show. I think it's one of the things that impressed my husband most about me....
I graduated from BYU with two degrees (over a course of six years), without finding a husband. (That was not for lack of trying, mind you!) I joke that I should have received a tuition refund....
I can touch my tongue to my nose. My youngest child is pretty proud that she also shares in this amazing talent. (Wow. Two hidden talents revealed in one post. Are you impressed?)
I served in a mission in South America in the same country where my father served, where his father served, and where my parents are now serving.
I recently discovered that the boys over at ABEV are not-too-distant cousins of mine. We have the same great-great grandparents. (If they don't want people to know that they are related to me, then pretend you don't know.) :)
I want to tag Téa, Tigersue and my pear-tickling friend, if they are up to playing. :)
A few years ago, I attended a BYU Religion class taught by Todd B. Parker. He gave a lesson that has always stuck with me. It was based on 2 Nephi 11:4, which teaches us that "all things which have been given of God from the beginning of the world, unto man, are the typifying of him." This is something Wade touched on in a post in July (well worth the read). I wanted to expand upon Wade's post to discuss how not only elements of the gospel, scripture and so forth testify of Christ and His life and mission, but also how we can find Him in our day-to-day lives, and in the world around us. Life can teach us about His life--which encompasses not only His years in mortality, but includes His characteristics, and His eternal roles and mission.
It is my hope that in reflecting on this topic, we might find it easier to keep from having the Savior be "a stranger … far from the thoughts and intents of [our] heart[s]” (Mosiah 5:13). Looking for symbols, types, and shadows in daily life can help us "always remember Him."
Let me begin by sharing a few thoughts from Brother Parker. Consider the process of going to bed each night and getting up in the morning. Our bodies are designed to wear out by the end of each day. Symbolically, each night, as we fall into bed and (gratefully) succumb to sleep, we die. [Ideally (especially if we go to bed with a calm mind and heart), isn't that a state of "rest, as state of peace, where [we can] rest from all [our] troubles and from all care, and sorrow" (Alma 40:12)?] When we awaken, symbolically, we are resurrected. [Could this be one reason why we are encouraged to arise early, that our "bodies and...minds might be invigorated" (Doctrine and Covenants 88:124)? (Spoken like a true morning person, which I am NOT.)]
Adding to that, what can the darkness of night and the break of dawn and warmth of the sun teach us about the Son and His roles as Creator, Savior, Restorer of Truth, and Light of the World?
Consider what Elder Maxwell once said:
Whether in the structure of the atom or of the galaxies, or in the truths about temples and families, for those who have eyes to see, all things “from the beginning of the world” (2 Ne. 11:4) “bear record of [God]” Moses 6:63). [Let me insert that entire verse: "And behold, all things have their likeness, and all things are created and made to bear record of me, both things which are temporal, and things which are spiritual; things which are in the heavens above, and things which are on the earth, and things which are in the earth, and things which are under the earth, both above and beneath: all things bear record of me."] They are designed to point us to Christ, typifying Him, so that we might follow Him, have faith in Him, and keep His commandments. (Neal A. Maxwell, “Called and Prepared from the Foundation of the World,” Ensign, May 1986, 34)
What might we learn about Christ from things on the earth? In the earth? Above and beneath the earth? [Is it any wonder He commands us to learn about all of these things (and more)!] What can we learn from the earth's revolution around the sun? What about the order and motions of other planets? What about the seasons? Look at creations such as the butterfly or the redwood tree with its intricate, interconnected root system. Or, on the other hand consider other types of trees with deep root systems. How can these things help us turn our thoughts to Christ, His teachings, His life, His roles, His mission, His gospel? Can we even number the things God has created that testify of Christ? Mountains, rocks, valleys, rivers, oceans, planets, seeds, trees, roots, fruits, branches, the sun, stars, animals (e.g., eagles, hens, lions, donkeys (to name a few))...even the sands of the sea--all things that God has given us testify and teach of Christ.
How can family life help us understand Christ's life better? What do we learn about the Savior from marriage? The miracle of life surely evokes reverence and spiritual experiences. Can it not also call our minds to the need for spiritual birth? What do our parental roles teach us? Fathers, what do your daily tasks teach you about the Savior? What does your daily work for daily bread teach you? What does the servant leadership of priesthood teach you? Mothers, of course we can consider the Creator when we consider the unspeakable blessing of creating life within our bodies. But do we look to the Savior's life and roles as we nurse our babies, kiss skinned knees, succor sick children, change diapers, and cook so that our families "should hunger not, neither should they thirst" (Alma 31:38)? We do things our children cannot do for themselves! Can we not remember His grace as we perform our sometimes seemingly mundane (and seemingly endless) tasks?
Although our divine roles are different as men and women, they all can point us to Christ, for He emcompasses all of the qualities and gifts that our roles are designed to help us develop (with His help, of course). His life is the perfect example for all of us, regardless of age, gender, or stage in life.
What about the children? What can they teach us about Christ? Can they not help us reflect on what our relationship with the Savior should be like--and what His relationship with His Father is like? He is both the perfect parent-figure and the perfect child, even the Father and the Son.
For those who are not yet married, what can your life teach you about the Savior? As you wait for your beloved to come into your life, and it may feel that he/she delays his/her coming, might that be something that can turn your thoughts to the Bridegroom who tells us not to worry when it appears He has delayed His coming? Trusting in God's timing is hard, but looking to truths that teach that "all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things" (2 Ne. 2:24) can help bring peace and perspective. To all those who struggle in singleness for one reason or another, look in your life for the meaning and for those things that can point you to Christ. You may not be bound to someone in this life in covenant, but being bound to the Savior means that He can and will fulfill all of your dreams. He is your "high priest of good things to come."
How can our daily routines teach us of Christ and His purpose and mission? One example is the fact that we (and those around us!) may suffer consequences if we don't regularly shower. We are more healthy and happy when we are clean. Is there something to be learned as we then clothe ourselves? What about when our clothing is filthy? Can we learn something about Christ when we then wash our clothes? Certainly, we know we should wash our hands and surroundings regularly to protect ourselves from invisible enemies that might put our health at risk. What can we learn from these things about spiritual health and about He who cleanses and protects? What about our daily, constant need for nourishing food and drink (especially water)? What can that teach us about the Living Bread and Living Water?
What do our bodies themselves teach us about the Savior and coming to Him? How do our eyes, ears, tongues, hands, feet, minds, hearts, lungs, cells, blood, bodily processes (e.g., cell death and regeneration; digestion, transmission of nutrients, and elimination of waste; healing) help us understand Christ and His life and His role in our lives?
Last but not least, consider what trials, pain, blood, sweat, tears, death and irony teach us about the life of the Light and Life of the World. We know that these things help us learn how to find His healing power and peace. But consider also what Elder Keith R. Edwards said in his talk in the last General Conference:
As we are called upon to endure suffering, sometimes inflicted upon us intentionally or negligently, we are put in a unique position—if we choose, we may be allowed to have new awareness of the suffering of the Son of God. While Alma tells us that Christ suffered all that any of us will ever have to suffer that He might know how to succor us, the reverse may also be true: that our suffering may allow us insight into the depth and magnitude of His atoning sacrifice....
Although suffering may provide insight, we must be careful not to compare but rather to appreciate. There will always be infinite differences between us and our Savior. His comment to Pilate, "Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee," reminds us again of the willing and voluntary nature of His sacrifice. We can never endure the depth, the exquisite nature, or the magnitude of His suffering, "which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit." But like Nephi, we can have a greater appreciation for that which He did, and we can feel His spirit succoring us, and we can know the Savior in a very real sense, "and this is life eternal, that [we] might know" Him.
Even as I have written this, I have become aware of more things in my daily life that can help me learn of Christ and point my mind and heart to Him. The links included here don't begin to scratch the surface of the scriptural references that support this idea that all things testify of the Savior. I encourage us all to find Him not only in the gospel and in our Church activity, but in all aspects of our mortality.
Wednesday, December 6, 2006
That's all I have time for tonight, but I hope to pull together more thoughts on this soon.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Today I had a hard day. (It seems I have had a lot of those lately. Ugh.) Anyway, I try hard to not let the children see when that is the case, but today I just needed to curl up and have a good cry. I sneaked upstairs while they were downstairs playing ping pong with their dad and closed the door so I could have a few minutes to myself. Within minutes, though, hubby came in and they followed, and, well, I just told them I wasn't feeling good today. (It was one of my not-so-good days physically.)
They left me to stay curled up for a bit. A little while later, though, they came upstairs saying that I needed to come to their playroom. They were very anxious to show me something.
I was simply stunned (and deeply touched) by what they had been working on.
On the wall in their playroom, they had taped a sign that says, "MHF" -- which stands for "Mom's Helping Friends." They had gathered together and made a list of about eight different things they could do to help Mom, from making me cards to letting me sleep to not having contention.
It's not hard to imagine how much my heart melted. The empathy and compassion that my children have developed through this trial of mine -- er, ours -- is sometimes almost breathtaking to me. While I should be feeling guilty that they were the ones nurturing me at that moment, I don't (or I can't) because this is where I am. And this is who they are.
MHF is an exclusive club, by the way. Only children with my last name are allowed. I overheard that they will be holding weekly meetings on Saturdays....
Life may be hard for me right now, but I have three little blessings for whom I am very, very grateful.
Sunday, October 29, 2006
DS: Yes, in January. You can come if you want.
HT: Thank you. I will. Why are we baptized? We are baptized because Jesus showed us the way.
DD: We have a picture and a statue of Jesus right there. Did you know that my aunt painted that picture?
HT: Wow, she's a good artist. That's a great picture (said more like pitcher).
DD: It's not a pitcher. A pitcher is what you use to pour water. It's a pick-shur.
Mom: Yes, she's the one who reminds us that it's "CosTco" not "Cosco."
But let's let our home teacher finish his lesson. It's an important one for DS.
Dad: As an aside, Brother So-and-So has always been teased by his children because he says the days of the week, "Mondee, Tuesdee,...."
HT: Well, those of us who come from the southern part of the state talk different. You know why? Because the Danes settled in that area. It was called "Little Denmark."
Dad: Really? Do people still speak Danish there?
HT: No, but my dad and grandad did. They went on missions to the Norweigan countries, so they spoke the Norweigan languages.
BUT, back to the lesson on baptism....
(By now, I was laughing. DD#2 took us on another detour later on...wish I could remember it all, but it was all pretty funny. We did end up having a nice lesson, though.) :)
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Her cancer had returned. This time, it attacked not her breast but her liver and lungs. (That's never a good thing, as you well know.)
She was in my ward. I didn't know her that well, and yet I feel as though I really did. She had been our Relief Society President for only a few short months when the devastating news arrived. How could it be? No, please, no.
We had all fallen in love with her. She was unassuming, genuine, loving, faithful, approachable. She invited every sister who would come over to her house for some gathering. For the mothers of young children, it was a breakfast. She wanted to know about our lives, our thoughts, our suggestions. She even implemented one of my suggestions in a Relief Society class.
She was a mother of nine, eight of whom were living. She was an exemplary wife and mom, focusing her energies and time on building Zion within her home. (If you didn't know how humble and wonderful she was, you would be intimated by her. But you couldn't be intimidated. You just couldn't because of who she was.)
When her cancer came back, we as a ward mourned. We prayed. We fasted. We reached out in love as much as we could. Her family reached back, and shared intimate details of their struggle with us. We received regular emails updating us on their journey. They decided that they would open up their usually-private life so we could exercise our faith better, and so we could travel with them. It was one of the most unifying things I have ever experienced in a ward.
And it was one of the most tender experiences of my life. I felt a love and concern and connection with her and her family that has remained to this day, even as their life has moved on. And the experience reached a deep, deep part of my soul.
Part of the reason I connected so much is because so many of the struggles she had were struggles I was having, just in a different context, and perhaps to different degrees. I understood struggles with fear, concerns about the future and life and family and all of those things that surface when your health is in question. I was pretty sure that I didn't have cancer, but there were still so many unknowns, so many concerns that were the same. I just empathized with her--and she did with me.
I will never forget the day that I left an Enrichment class and went into one of the alcoves that leads to the stage -- to cry. I couldn't handle the normalcy with which the presenter was talking about getting up just a little bit earlier to exercise. That may sound silly, but she could never understand what a little bit more sleep could do for someone like me. She couldn't know how much I missed my normal life when I was a runner and could sacrifice sleep. She didn't know how hard it was when life just isn't normal. It was a straw for my camel that night, and I lost it. (Part of why I was so close to tears anyway was because I had had an abnormal brain MRI, and I was beyond worried.)
So who was the one who came to comfort me and to listen? You guessed it. Here she was, facing the possibility that her cancer would not go away this time around, and she was listening to me sob and vent my concerns and doubts and fears. Of course, it's because she understood. As I apologized for complaining about my life, given what her life entailed, I realized that the severity of her trials didn't change what my trials were to me. (We can't compare suffering.) She never made me feel that she "won" because her health problems were worse. She just cared.
As things continued to get worse in her life, we as a ward continued to exercise our faith together. Between pregnancy, nursing and health issues, I have only fasted once or twice in the past eight years or so, and one of those times was for her. We had very specific purposes to our fasting and prayers, and I felt strongly that we were exercising faith in a way that was pleasing to heaven. I had the sense that if she passed away, it would have to be God's will, because we were truly doing all we could do.
During this time, she would openly share her doubts and concerns and questions in Relief Society. These were the times I felt that much closer to her. I know that no one really knew what to say, but oh, how I could understand the questions she asked, because I had many of the same ones. What do you do with blessings that don't seem fulfilled? How do you exercise your faith? I think in the end she really understood the answers. Faith is not about getting what we want. It's about submitting with faith and trust to whatever God's will was. Ultimately, we have faith in Him and in nothing else.
God's will was made clear. She deteriorated rapidly in the end. She slipped peacefully into eternity on the day that I had anticipated finally going to her home to say my last and personal goodbye. (I hadn't done it sooner for fear of intruding on very necessary family time.)
She actually chose to wait a couple of hours before moving on, until her oldest daughter arrived from out of town. The family then sang a couple of hymns, then prayed, then let her go.
I have no doubt that she passed her test. And in doing so, she gave those around her more strength and desire to do the same. This journey was one filled with light, peace, understanding and hope. As she and her family shared the journey with us, they strengthened our testimonies about the truthfulness of the gospel and the plan of salvation. It all reached me so deeply that I will never be the same.
I miss her. I love her. And I will be forever grateful for the influence she had on my life.
And, so, sometimes I still cry.
Sunday, October 15, 2006
I forced myself to go out and take a walk. (Gotta get exercise! Besides, sometimes it helps me get a little more energy.) As I headed off to our neighborhood track, I remembered that we had a project that HAD to be done today (the source of materials for our project will be disappearing Monday). I suggested to my husband that this could be our exercise for the afternoon. It took a few minutes to convince him that my idea wasn't completely crazy, but finally, he relented.
And so, we spent the next two and a half hours hauling rocks from the construction site next door. We are using them as decorative rocks in our what-is-usually-a-weed-bed on the side of the house. Hubby's skepticism faded quickly. He wants to put rocks in all of our sorta-flower beds (often more weedy than flowery) now! And, hey, you can't beat the price! (Although we may not be able to move tomorrow....)
Besides the rejuv that can come from working hard, getting fresh air, and focusing on a major project, what may have topped off our evening was the fact that this was a family affair. All three children pitched in, carrying rocks in their tiny plastic wheelbarrows, their shirts, and even the secret compartment on a princess big wheel. It was long after the sun had set that we finally went inside to shower, eat (late dinner, yes) and head to bed. (The children didn't want to go in. Their determination and hard work warmed my heart.)
The snapshot moment of the evening: I was pulling a heavy-laden wheelbarrow, and my children helped by pushing. I mentioned feeling like I was pulling a handcart, and my children broke into song. "Come, come ye saints, no toil nor labor fear...." Priceless.
Friday, October 13, 2006
Well, fortunately, #3 didn't notice today. I think the birthday part of the day was a success.
However, it WAS a Friday the 13th for me. (Although, remember, I'm not superstitious.) But, what was up with today? :)
How was your Friday the 13th?
(And since I have had a bad day, please refrain from telling me I'm an awful mother for inducing or, worse, for inducing on the 13th of the month.) ;)
Thursday, September 21, 2006
[Miracles] can happen and will happen when there is kindness, respect, and love. Why do any of us have to be so mean and unkind to others? Why can’t all of us reach out in friendship to everyone about us? Why is there so much bitterness and animosity? It is not a part of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
(Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Need for Greater Kindness,” Ensign, May 2006, 58)
I have been reminded of this lately. (Isn't it sad that we must be reminded of something that is supposed to be so basic to Christian life?) Sometimes being on the receiving end of unkind actions and words can remind me of how important it is for me to be kind.
I had a hard day a couple of days ago. I suppose I was probably already on the verge of tears anyway. But a woman serving samples at Costco was unkind to me, and I spent the rest of the time in Costco with tears trickling down my cheeks. I was reminded that "in the quiet heart is hidden sorrow that the eye can't see" (Hymns, 220).
I have had a few other experiences where a stranger has been incredibly unkind -- once in a parking lot, and once as I was crossing the street (a woman actually stuck her tongue out at me from her passing car after I had tried to signal for her to slow down while I crossed the street with my precious daughter!) I have been surprised at how those actions affected me. They hurt, even though I didn't know the people and even though I didn't have to face them again. I was reminded that even strangers deserve my kindness. Certainly they don't deserve impatience and mean words and actions.
I'm not trying to play the victim, but instead am reminding myself that even seemingly insignificant interactions plagued with mean-spiritedness can have an effect on someone. I know because of the effect these experience have had on me. I am resolving to be more kind, especially when my impulse may be to be selfish and snappy. I might just spare someone some pain that they didn't need added to their lives.
"Savior may I love my brother as I know thou lovest me."
Wednesday, September 6, 2006
I hate it when that happens. (Yawn.)
Thursday, August 31, 2006
Weighed down by these thoughts, as I did dishes last night, I finally slumped over the sink and began to cry. The gift of that article, however, must have allowed an image to form in my heart and mind. In that instant, I pictured the Savior also slumped over, in Gethsemane, pressed by the "infinite and eternal" weight of the sins and afflictions heaped upon His soul.
That image enabled me to stand up a little straighter and dry my eyes. "I am trying to be like Jesus," right? Somehow, I must summon the strength to bear this trial gracefully. Even the Savior wanted His cup to pass, but, in the end, He submitted. "Thy will be done."
Irony is the hard crust on the bread of adversity. Irony can try both our faith and our patience. Irony can be a particularly bitter form of such chastening because it involves disturbing incongruity. It involves outcomes in violation of our expectations. We see the best laid plans laid waste.
Amid life’s varied ironies, you and I may begin to wonder, Did not God notice this torturous turn of events? And if He noticed, why did He permit it? Am I not valued?...
Irony may involve not only unexpected suffering but also undeserved suffering. We feel we deserved better, and yet we fared worse. We had other plans, even commendable plans. Did they not count?...
In coping with irony, as in all things, we have an Exemplary Teacher in Jesus. Dramatic irony assaulted Jesus’ divinity almost constantly.
For Jesus, in fact, irony began at His birth. Truly, He suffered the will of the Father 'in all things from the beginning.' (3 Ne. 11:11.) This whole earth became Jesus’ footstool (see Acts 7:49), but at Bethlehem there was 'no room … in the inn' (Luke 2:7) and 'no crib for his bed' (Hymns, 1985, no. 206.)
At the end, meek and lowly Jesus partook of the most bitter cup without becoming the least bitter. (See 3 Ne. 11:11; D&C 19:18–19.) The Most Innocent suffered the most. Yet the King of Kings did not break, even when some of His subjects did unto Him 'as they listed.' (D&C 49:6.) Christ’s capacity to endure such irony was truly remarkable.
(Neal A. Maxwell, “Irony: The Crust on the Bread of Adversity,” Ensign, May 1989, 62
Though stretched by our challenges, by living righteously and enduring well we can eventually become sufficiently more like Jesus in our traits and attributes, that one day we can dwell in the Father’s presence forever and ever. By so living now, our confidence will 'wax strong in the presence of God' then (D&C 121:45). Confirmingly, the Prophet Joseph declared, 'If you wish to go where God is, you must be like God, or possess the principles which God possesses' (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith , 216).
Again, our experiences surely do not approach those of Jesus, yet the same principles and processes apply. His perfected attributes exemplify what can be much further developed by each of us. There is certainly no shortage of relevant clinical experiences, is there?
(Neal A. Maxwell, “Apply the Atoning Blood of Christ,” Ensign, Nov. 1997, 22)
Sunday, August 27, 2006
- I found out a friend's missionary son came home six months early from his mission. Not for health reasons. (I was thrilled, however, to see the love and warmth that he found at church. We have an awesome ward.)
- We had two babies born, both who ended up in the ICU. (I think they will be fine.)
- I spent RS talking to a friend who is on the brink of leaving her husband. Hard situation on many fronts. They have two small children.
- I met yet another woman who was deserted by her husband (of 20 years) for another woman, whom he then deserted months later. I can't comprehend the pain they must have experienced.
- A friend has decided to be done with the Church. If you wonder why I worry about too much intellectualizing about stuff related to our religion in ways that calls into the question the foundations of our faith, this is one reason why. I have walked with her through part of this journey, desperately hoping that she could see the light instead of the darkness of doubt, but to no avail. Dancing with doubt is dangerous business. It's devastating to me to see someone I care about so deeply walk away from Living Water and the Bread of Life.
- Our Sunday School lesson was one of those last-days-gloom-and-doom lessons. Of course, I know all the righteous-need-not-fear answers, but still sometimes the realization of our perilous times gets to me, ya know?
- On a personal note, I had a hard time not breaking down at the hospital when we visited one of the new moms. I am feeling old and tired and still not sure if having another child will be something we get to experience. While it doesn't stop my life, the pain of that potential end is ever-present -- made more so when I see a new little life.
I'm really fine, but it has been quite a heavy day. Thank heaven for the gospel which is my anchor, reminding me that there is hope in these last days, that trials can be overcome, and that nothing can go permanently wrong if we trust in and follow the Savior.
Saturday, July 22, 2006
Friday, July 21, 2006
I was really going to exercise tonight, but now I'm afraid if I do I will have an even harder time than usual falling asleep. So I'm eating ice cream instead. :) (Sad to think I used to jog 4-6 miles a day, 6 days a week. And then I had children. Ah, well, they are worth it. I am determined to get back into some sort of exercise regimen however. There's always tomorrow....)
Thursday, July 6, 2006
I read through 2 Nephi 4, which has always been a favorite of mine (especially when I'm feeling down on myself and frustrated about my weaknesses, as I was yesterday). And then, "somehow," I ended up in Helaman 5. Verse 12 has been a constant favorite since I discovered that scripture in Seminary. (I even chose it as our class theme when I was Laurel president way back when, if that tells you anything.)
And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.
First of all, I have always been intrigued by this word "remember" -- and by how many ways the Lord tries to help us remember. Repetition is a key part of the gospel. We go to Church every week to partake of the sacrament. We discuss each of the standard works every four years in Sunday School. The temple ordinances are the same each time, and are repetitious by design. And so it goes.
But, ya know what? I've forgotten. Somehow, in the flurry of activities the past while, and in the daily slogging I've done in the face of feeling yucky, I've forgotten. I'm ashamed to say it, but I've not had myself founded on Christ. It's not that I haven't thought good gospel thoughts and done good things and tried to be good. I have. But I haven't really remembered Christ specifically, especially these past couple of weeks. I've been worried about my parenting. I've been consumed with the projects and activities I've had pressing on me. I've been doing the stuff of life. But the Savior hasn't really been on the radar screen as He needs to be.
Now, I fully admit that I'm not exactly sure what it means to build my foundation on the rock of Christ. But in the instant that I read (and then re-read) this verse, I realized that something needs to change. And I think that when it does, I will feel better. Actually, just realizing -- just remembering -- that I need to remember the Savior more brought a little light to my soul. And a surge of hope -- especially when considering the promises contained in that scripture that "when [notice he says "when" and not "if"] the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo." NO POWER. Wow. What a promise! But that's not all. We are promised that we "cannot fall" if we are built on the rock of our Savior.
How are you feeling in your life? Have there been storms and winds and lightning and despair? If so, go read Helaman 5:12. And remember.
Sunday, July 2, 2006
Now, more than a decade later, the pain of my imperfection is sometimes nearly unbearable as I am now a parent. A parent of three of the most amazing, life- and light-filled souls you will ever meet. Why on earth would God send them to me? My heart weeps. (My eyes, too.) My soul, today, lingers in the "valley of sorrow" and my strength slackens. I have felt this before. Yes, Nephi described it well. Sometimes the pain causes my flesh to feel that it may somehow "waste away." Have I committed some terrible sin against them? No, but the sin of imperfection is enough to sometimes grind me nearly to a halt. I'm still not used to failing every day like I do as a parent.
I've never dealt well with my weaknesses. I've always been a perfectionist, and I know that's not a good thing. But oh, how I long to be perfect for the sake of my children. But it is not to be. My imperfections are part of His plan. Part of my plan. Part of their plan. In their innocence, they forgive, because they are children. Someday, as all children do, they will grow enough to know of my weaknesses. And that will be woven into the tapestry of their lives and become part of their trials. What then? I must learn to turn the pain to Christ somehow, just as they will. Only He can heal the pain that is inevitable in our families, in even the best of families. I need to trust that the Atonement can even save them from me. Save me from myself.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Something interesting, however....I realized tonight that although I am leaping from one fire to the next, I don't feel wound up. I don't feel stressed. I am exhausted (and did I mention that I feel lousy?) but I feel numbly peaceful. Not happy-peaceful. But not stressed out of my skull, which, given what has been on and is on my plate, I really should be.
I can be grateful for small things.
Monday, June 19, 2006
I truly am grateful for this opportunity....tender mercy. [Just as a post-talk commentary...I really had a hard time starting the talk, because a young woman sang a beautiful arrangement of "I Am a Child of God" which really touched me...I realized and commented on how much that song really summed up what I wanted to say. Also, it was difficult to follow a young man who plainly talked about his experiences with healing and help during and after leukemia, and a newly married man who gave a tender talk about how faith, prayer, priesthood blessings, and the love and faith of parents brought him back to the Church...wow. AND to top it off, after a very hard night (only three hours of sleep), my entire family was on my bed giving me encouragement and sympathy...and my son said, "Mom, I want to sing you a cheer-up song." And he sang, "I Am a Child of God" to me...so you can imagine what that song did to me!]
I was pretty amazed when I was given my topic. The scripture assigned to me was Matt. 11:28-30:
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye
shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
I was also asked to look at Elder Nelson's talk on Jesus Christ as the Master Healer. Interesting... as there's nothing more that a mother of young children with insomnia and chronic health problems wants more than rest and healing!
After laboring much and struggling to feel settled with a direction for this talk, I have felt to share some personal lessons I have learned about finding rest and healing even when physical rest and healing are elusive. I hesitate to talk about my trials because I know they pale in comparison to many. Nevertheless, I know our trials are tailored to our growth, and I am learning and growing a lot from mine. I know the principles I will share are true. I hope, too, that I can more consistently apply these principles because I know my burdens are lighter when I do.
Elder Nelson says that "afflictions can come from spiritual as well as physical causes." Chronic health problems are physically taxing, to be sure, but I have also suffered from fear, frustration, and feeling spiritually alone. This trial is giving me opportunities to deepen my faith, develop my patience, turn to the Lord more in thought and in action — in short, to become more converted. Elder Nelson said, "Faith, repentance, a testimony and enduring conversion lead to the healing power of the Lord" (Russell M. Nelson, “Jesus Christ — the Master Healer,” Ensign, Nov. 2005, 85).
This heavenly healing has begun to take place in my life. I would like to share some of the things that have opened up that healing – that divine rest.
I find rest and healing when:
I Understand and trust COMPLETELY in God's love for me.
Last summer was a dark time for me. At that time, I had the blessing of singing in a choir. I especially loved a couple of songs that we sang. Here are some of the words:
"What though my joys and comforts die, the Lord my Savior liveth. What though the darkness gather round, songs in the night He giveth. No storm can shake my inmost calm while to the Rock I'm clinging. While Christ is mine, and I am His, how can I keep from singing?" (Robert Lowry (arr. John Leavitt). "How Can I Keep From Singing?")
And, "The God of love my Shepherd is, and He that doth me feed. While He is mine and I am His, what can I want or need?" (George Herbert (arr. Roy Hopp). "The God of Love My Shepherd Is," Kingston, NY: Selah Publishing Co. (1993).
At the beginning of the summer, I sang these songs with a desire to feel the truth of the words. By the end of the summer, I was able to sing with more conviction and testimony. I wish I could explain all the things that helped me gain a testimony of God’s love; it was an amazing string of tender mercies. The Spirit helped me understand this doctrine in a significant and meaningful way. He has also helped me know of His love through many of you. (President Kimball says that the Lord does notice us, but it is usually through other people that He meets our needs.)
Trials are not evidence of God’s LACK of love. We need to trust that. He loves us perfectly, and knows what we really need, which is why sometimes we don’t get what we think we need. As President Faust said in Conference a while back, "God loves us more than He loves our happiness." When I really trust in that, my burdens are lighter, and I feel closer to Him.
The concept that God loves us more than He loves our happiness ties into my next point.
I find rest as I seek to have an eternal perspective.
My dad has often said that "to struggle is the program." Lehi taught there must be opposition in all things. Eve understood that the Fall and all its resulting pain and struggle were absolutely essential to gaining eternal joy. Our Father declared that the purpose of creating an earth was to prove us to see if we would do all He commands and expects.
Elder Scott sums it up well: ”A pebble held close to the eye appears to be a gigantic obstacle. (Like a boulder!) Cast on the ground, it is seen in perspective. Likewise, problems or trials in our lives need to be viewed in the perspective of scriptural doctrine. Otherwise they can easily overtake our vision, absorb our energy, and deprive us of the joy and beauty the Lord intends us to receive here on earth. Some people are like rocks thrown into a sea of problems. They are drowned by them. Be a cork. When submerged in a problem, fight to be free to bob up to serve again with happiness.
“You are here on earth for a divine purpose. It is not to be endlessly entertained or to be constantly in full pursuit of pleasure. You are here to be tried, to prove yourself so that you can receive the additional blessings God has for you. The tempering effect of patience is required. Some blessings will be delivered here in this life; others will come beyond the veil. The Lord is intent on your personal growth and development. That progress is accelerated when you willingly allow Him to lead you through every growth experience you encounter, whether initially it be to your individual liking or not. When you trust in the Lord, when you are willing to let your heart and your mind be centered in His will, when you ask to be led by the Spirit to do His will, you are assured of the greatest happiness along the way and the most fulfilling attainment from this mortal experience. If you question everything you are asked to do, or dig in your heels at every unpleasant challenge, you make it harder for the Lord to bless you” (Richard G. Scott, "Finding Joy in Life," Ensign, May 1996, 24).
Elder Scott reminds us of the need for patience, and that some blessings we seek come beyond the veil (like a perfect body — I look forward to the resurrection!!). He then talks about our divine purpose to be tried and tested and proven, and of how much the Lord wants us to grow.
We will grow more when we willingly allow His tutoring in our lives — when we seek to understand and follow His will. Questioning His will or digging in our heels at every unpleasant challenge will make it harder for God to bless us.
I sometimes joke that I easily get my nose stuck in a tree and thus can't see the proverbial forest God wants me to see. A myopic focus on my trials instead of my eternal existence and purpose inevitably makes my burdens heavier. The Savior, whose role in the plan gives us the promise that all things will work together for our good if we are faithful, stands with open arms and yoked shoulders waiting to help me see the forest. But I have to choose to step back from the tree!
So, does the fact that I haven't been healed yet mean that priesthood blessings don't work or prayers aren't answered or that heaven doesn't care? Does it mean the Lord doesn't care about my children or my husband and how difficult this has at times been for them? NO. It just means that perhaps we have things still to learn. I testify to you that I am learning things that I don't think I would have learned had I had perfect health.
Elder Nelson said: "I recognize that, on occasion, some of our most fervent prayers [for healing] may seem to go unanswered. We wonder, 'Why?' I know that feeling! I know the fears and tears of such moments. But I also know that our prayers are never ignored. Our faith is never unappreciated. I know that an all-wise Heavenly Father’s perspective is much broader than is ours. While we know of our mortal problems and pain, He knows of our immortal progress and potential. If we pray to know His will and submit ourselves to it with patience and courage, heavenly healing can take place in His own way and time."
At some point, we are, as President Benson said, all backed against the wall of faith (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 206.)— faith in God's love; faith in God's plan, both on a grand scale and on a personal level (think of the Primary song, "I will follow God's plan for ME"); faith in His timing and His will; and faith that the Atonement of Christ truly will make all things better — either in this life or the next.
The fear and worry with which I often struggle is dissipated if not eliminated with an eternal perspective and true trust in God. I am also able to be more patient in my trials knowing that "all things work together for good to those who love God" and "all these things shall give [me] experience and shall be for [my] good." (See Doctrine and Covenants 122:4, 7 and Romans 8:28).
I hope for healing in this life. I really do. But, as Elder Wickman talked about..."But if not"...I am seeking to trust in God and keep an eternal perspective, believing there really is purpose in these difficult experiences. (Lance B. Wickman, "But If Not," Ensign,Nov. 2002, 30.)
I find rest when I feast on the words of Christ (prophets, scriptures, temple)
One of the things I've noticed the past few years is that the prophets are completely unapologetic about how hard life is, and about how trials are just simply part of the program. It's not that they are cold and uncaring about it, but they are just matter-of-fact and clear about the doctrine of our responsibilities and even opportunities in our trials.
I suppose that message has always been there, but I never really heard those messages like I have during these years of trial for me. Their words are a lifeline, helping me remember God's love and helping me keep an eternal perspective.
The scriptures and temple have also always been a source of strength for me, for they bring the Spirit — the Comforter — into my life in a powerful way, which brings me rest. And, of course, the Spirit can teach me things that help me in my difficult times.
I find rest when I have a spirit of gratitude.
This is something I am realizing I need to do more. Many of you are teaching me about this, perhaps without knowing it. For example, it has been stunning to me to listen to and associate with women in the ward who are struggling with similar health challenges. These women have extremely tender hearts and focus deliberately and humbly on being grateful A spirit of gratitude can help ease my burdens and make them lighter.
Another line from the song I sang this summer about God's love: "Surely, this sweet and wondrous love shall measure all my days. And, as it never shall remove, neither shall my praise!"
Why is it that Nephi was able to praise God, even after being bound on the ship (and nearly killed at other times) by his own flesh and blood (1 Ne. 18:15-16)? Because, unlike Laman and Lemuel, who always found reasons to murmur, he "knew... the dealings of that God who created [him]" (1 Ne. 1:12) and humbly acknowledged God's goodness, even in His trials! (Think of his psalm; his gratitude helped him refocus and refuel.)
How often I have been like Laman and Lemuel, not remembering that even the fact that the air I breathe from day to day is a gift from God, let alone the many, many rich blessings I have in my life — including the gospel, a righteous and loving husband, amazing children, a dear ward family. The list goes on and on.
With a spirit of gratitude, I am also more likely to notice the tender mercies that do come (probably more often than I realize), which reinforces my conviction that God does love me.
I find rest when I cling to my covenants — when I stay yoked with Christ.
I think sometimes people think of this yoke of Christ as being restrictive or burdensome, but the Savior tells us otherwise: "My yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
If we bind ourselves and stay bound to Him through commitment to our covenants, His promise is to help us. He is bound when we do what He says (Doctrine and Covenants 82:10)!
George Q. Cannon said, "When we went forth into the waters of baptism and covenanted with our Father in heaven to serve Him and keep His commandments, He bound Himself also by covenant to us that He would never desert us, never leave us to ourselves, never forget us, that in the midst of trials and hardships, when everything was arrayed against us, He would be near unto us and would sustain us. That was His covenant." (Gospel Truth, Vol. 1, p.170)
I have always loved Mosiah 23 and 24, talking about Alma and his people and their deliverance from bondage. I love reading in chapter 24 about how the Lord heard their prayers, even when all they could do is pray in their hearts. I am also fascinated by the Lord's response in Mosiah 24:13-14:
And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage. And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions. (emphasis added)
It was the people's covenant that caused the Lord to make a covenant to help Alma and his people bear their burdens — and eventually to deliver them from bondage.
What I am realizing more and more, however, is that staying with Christ in the yoke requires serious commitment — "serious discipleship," as Elder Maxwell has said (Neal A. Maxwell, “Becoming a Disciple,” Ensign, June 1996, 12). This is not about flaky, fair-weather following. It's not about casual commitment, nor about whining all along the way that "my will be done." This is about being stalwart and true to the faith that our forebears have cherished...and is about enduring – and enduring well! (I’m still working on that one! I like what is said by Joseph Smith in the new church movie when asked what it means to "endure well." He says, "We do our best and then we go on.")
Staying in the yoke is also about being LIKE Christ — being, as he said, meek and lowly in heart, being humble, submissive, obedient, patient and trusting. I find it interesting that the two characteristics the Savior uses to describe Himself in the scripture in Matthew are "meek and lowly in heart." I think those characteristics were shown most in the times of His trials and suffering. We have the same opportunity.
Sometimes being in the yoke is about coming to understand some of what the Savior suffered. President Hunter said:
By taking the yoke of Jesus upon us and feeling what he felt ... we learn most deeply of him, and we especially learn how to be like him" (Howard W. Hunter, "Come unto Me," Ensign, Nov. 1990, 17).
It's about staying on the good ship Zion, as Elder Holland says:
When we join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we board the Good Ship Zion and sail with her wherever she goes until she comes into that millennial port. We stay in the boat, through squalls and stills, through storms and sunburn, because that is the only way to the promised land.” (Jeffrey R. Holland, "Abide in Me," Ensign, May 2004, 30, emphasis in original.)
Elder Holland also reminds us,
Christ said, 'I am the true vine, and … ye are the branches… Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me' (John 15: 1-3). "Abide in me" is an understandable and beautiful enough concept in the elegant English of the King James Bible, but "abide" is not a word we use much anymore. So I gained even more appreciation for this admonition from the Lord when I was introduced to the translation of this passage in another language. In Spanish that familiar phrase is rendered "permaneced en mi." Like the English verb "abide," permanecer means "to remain, to stay," but even gringos like me can hear the root cognate there of "permanence." The sense of this then is "stay — but stay forever." That is the call of the gospel message... Come, but come to remain. Come with conviction and endurance. Come permanently, for your sake and the sake of all the generations who must follow you, and we will help each other be strong to the very end. (Ibid)
But what do we get for staying in that yoke, [for coming to remain]? We get the blessings
President Cannon talked about. We have Someone to help carry our burdens. President Hunter said:
Why face life’s burdens alone, Christ asks, or why face them with temporal support that will quickly falter? To the heavy laden it is Christ’s yoke, it is the power and peace of standing side by side with a God that will provide the support, balance, and the strength to meet our challenges and endure our tasks here in the hardpan field of mortality (Howard W. Hunter, "Come unto Me," Ensign, Nov. 1990, 17).
What is most stunning about this metaphor is that the Savior is right by my side, if I will stay by Him through my faith and obedience and endurance. He is close. I picture Him ready and willing to give me helpful hints and encouragement along the way — indeed, He does do that through His Spirit (the Comforter!!) Through the Spirit and His prophets, He can help me see things more as He does. If I am yoked with Him, my movements can be more in step with His. He may help me lengthen my stride when I'm struggling. He knows that the shortest distance between two points (where I am and where I want to be) is a straight line, even the strait and narrow path. Staying yoked with Him keeps me on that path and can help me avoid needless wandering.
I picture that He's not behind me, cracking a whip, nor ahead of me, waiting for me to figure things out on my own and to catch up so I can then receive His help and love. He is by my side, helping me carry my burden. All I need to do is trust in His love and His Atonement — the reason I can have faith in Heavenly Father’s plan – and cling to truth and gratitude and covenants, and He will always be by my side!
I testify that these things are true. As I trust in God’s love, try to have an eternal perspective, feast on the words of Christ, have a spirit of gratitude, and try to be more like the Savior by clinging to my covenants, the Spirit fills my soul with peace, rest and healing.
Elder Nelson says: "When sore trials come upon us, it’s time to deepen our faith in God, to work hard, and to serve others. Then He will heal our broken hearts. He will bestow upon us personal peace and comfort. Those great gifts will not be destroyed, even by death."
Although I am still a long way from consistently implementing these truths, I am feeling the blessings in my life when I do. I know that the Savior is anxious to help us, but waits with open arms and yoked shoulders for us to come to Him, to stay next to Him — and to thus be more "at-one" with God — which at-one-ment IS the source of peace and rest.