Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Mothers, You Are Magnificent

“Stay on the toilet while you’re going potty!”

“No, you cannot have a sip of melatonin!”

“I had to put a lock on my refrigerator so the boys won’t get in it.”

“Before you get a treat you have to show me a cool dance move.”

“Don’t fight with real knives!”

“Just because you know fighting moves does not mean you can use them on your sister.”

The few phrases above are from phone conversations I have had with sisters that are interrupted by these phrases or similar ones. I have 6 sisters and sisters-in law, a wonderful mother-in-law and a loving mother who are great examples to me over motherhood. I grew up in a loving home, believing I had one of the best moms in the world and as I’ve grown and matured, I realize that I was right. My mom is a light in darkness. She shines bright and does her best to share her light. I am blessed to have married a man whose mother is also one of a kind in her graciousness. I could go on for ages about how amazing examples these two women are in my life.

I have many examples of motherhood in my life between sisters, sisters-in-law, and close friends. One things that stands out to me as I watch these women I love mother their children; they all have different methods and parenting styles but all those methods work for them and their families. I am generally in awe that such different methods yield similar results it is because they have one things in common: They are all in line with ‘The Family: A Proclamation to the world’ which states,
 “Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live…. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principle of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreation activities… In these sacred responsibilities, father and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.”
Being a mother is a huge responsibility, one that I look forward to with eagerness. I am blessed to have so many great examples in my life. I know that no one could have taught me to love more fiercely and constantly, and to show kindness no matter the circumstance than my own mother. She will always be an example to me.

I know that because I am a woman, I have been called to be a mother. Even though I do not have children I can still fulfill this calling; by following the example of the many mothers in my life; by showing love to all those who need it. I know as I work to do this I will become more Christlike because that is what I have seen in the lives of my mom, mother-in-law, and sisters.

In closing, I would like to recognize that being a mother is tough. Again, I do not know this from experience but from watching my examples. I get a lot of chuckles from listening to things my sisters say to their children when I’m on the phone with them but I also listen as they tell me of their struggles, heart aches, and their pains. To mothers everywhere, and especially to my own, I would like to quote Elder Jeffery R. Holland, an apostle of the Lord, 
“May I say to mothers collectively, in the name of the Lord, you are magnificent. You are doing terrifically well. The very fact that you have been given such a responsibility is everlasting evidence of the trust your Father in Heaven has in you. He is blessing you and He will bless you, even—no, especially—when your days and your nights may be the most challenging. Rely on Him. Rely on Him heavily. Rely on Him forever. And press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope.”
Who loves all her nieces and nephews

Monday, September 29, 2014

Parents in absentia

Imagine that you are a child, let's say preteen, and your parents are going to be away for awhile. Let's also say your parents are as perfect as possible, for the sake of this scenario, and therefore love you perfectly. You have some contact with your parents via radio or phone, something of that nature. No visual, though. And for whatever reason (but it's your fault), the device you are using to talk to your parents isn't functioning properly; they hear everything you say to them, but you only occasionally here what they say, and it is generally fuzzy and difficult to understand. What would perfect, loving parents do in a situation like this in order to insure that you are safe, doing what you should, and getting what you need?

Awhile back, during my normal scripture study, I decided to look for evidences of Heavenly Father's love for me. I wasn't looking up scriptures with the word love or something similar included, but rather reading straight through the scriptures and trying to identify examples of His love. I was reading in The Book of Mormon and came upon an example immediately, in 2 Nephi 6:2-4.

In these verses I identified three ways that God shows His love for me (and all His children):

1. He calls and ordains to His holy order people who teach me many things and are concerned for the welfare of my soul;
2. He exhorts, or encourages, me towards doing what's right through those people;
3. He teaches me truth about what is and is to come, through those He called.

Now returning to our imaginative scenario and the question posed: what would the parents do? Isn't the answer the same thing that I found in the scriptures? They would find reliable people and give them the authority to act on their behalf in your best interest; through those people they would encourage you to do what is right; and they would clarify what is right by teaching truth about what is and what is to come.

I know that God loves me. One proof is that He has called prophets and apostles, both ancient and modern, in order to communicate to me what He wants for me. This Saturday and Sunday I will witness again His love for me as I listen to those prophets and apostles speak His will.

--who is glad his football team is playing on Friday this week

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Learning From Each Other

This evening, I am going to watch the General Women's Meeting for our church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is a meeting where women all over the world can gather and watch and listen to the leaders of the women's and children's organizations of our Church, as well as a member of the First Presidency of the Church give inspiring, Christ-centered messages and counsel. 
A couple of years ago, as I was listening to the messages shared at one of these meetings, I was particularly struck by the words of Linda S. Reeves. She told the story of a time in her life when her husband was diagnosed with a rare disease that she believed was killing her husband. This is how she described her feelings:
"We had a large, young family and a loving, eternal marriage, and the thought of losing my husband and raising my children by myself filled me with loneliness, despair, and even anger. I am ashamed to say that I pulled away from my Heavenly Father. For days I quit praying; I quit planning; I cried. I finally came to the realization that I could not do this alone.
For the first time in many days, I knelt down and poured out my heart to my Father in Heaven, pleading for forgiveness for turning away from Him, telling Him all of my deepest feelings, and finally crying out that if this was what He really wanted me to do, I would do it. I knew He must have a plan for our lives.
As I continued on my knees to pour out my heart, the sweetest, most peaceful, loving feeling came over me. It was as if a blanket of love was flowing over me. It was as if I could feel Heavenly Father saying, “That was all I needed to know.” I determined never to turn away from Him again. Gradually and amazingly, my husband began to get better until he made a full recovery.
I was floored when I heard her message, because it came at a time when I was going through the beginnings of a  similar experience--and her words were a great strength and comfort to me. I felt like the message was specifically for me and was amazed that it came into my life when it did. It gave me hope.
Sister Reeves continues the story by saying:
Years later my husband and I knelt by the side of our 17-year-old daughter and pleaded for her life. This time the answer was no, but that same feeling of love and peace that our Savior has promised was just as powerful, and we knew that even though Heavenly Father was calling her back home, everything would be all right. We have come to know what it means to cast our burdens upon the Lord, to know that He loves us and feels compassion for us in our sorrows and pain."
"Whatever sin or weakness or pain or struggle or trial you are going through, He knows and understands those very moments. He loves you! And He will carry you through those moments, just as He did Mary and Martha (See John 11). He has paid the price that He might know how to succor you. Cast your burdens upon Him. Tell your Heavenly Father how you feel. Tell Him about your pain and afflictions and then give them to Him. Search the scriptures daily. There you will also find great solace and help." The Lord Has Not Forgotten You
I have never lost a child, but I can only imagine the suffering I would feel if I did. And Sister Reeve's account of losing her daughter is one of the most humbling stories I have ever heard. I could relate to her first experience in a very specific real way. I could not relate to her second experience--but hearing it, makes me want to be the kind of person who can rely on the Lord the way she did when faced with such a heart-wrenching experience.
I am grateful for these opportunities to gather and be uplifted and to hear words matter to me in my life and that make me want to be a better, stronger, kinder person. I know that anyone who tunes in and listens to these messages can hear something specifically for them and be strengthened by it. That is how our Heavenly Father speaks to us sometimes: through other imperfect people who work and struggle and wonder themselves, but have found peace and strength in Him.
So tune in here and Enjoy!
-who still has so much to learn
“And [Jesus Christ] shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
“And he will take upon him … their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, … that he may know … how to succor his people according to their infirmities.” Alma 7:11-12

Friday, September 26, 2014

Weak Things Become Strong

Last night as we were taking a walk, I shared some concerns with Ben about insecurities and weakness I have. He listened patiently, put his arm around me, and when I was through, he looked at me said, “Well, with the Lord’s help we can make these strengths.”

I am grateful for Ben’s response to my concerns and it was just what I needed to hear. I am even more grateful for a loving Savior who wants us to be strong. He helps us recognize weakness and he helps us change them into strengths. Jacob 4:7 says,
“Nevertheless, the Lord God showeth us our weakness that we may know that it is by his grace, and his great condescensions unto the children of men, that we have power to do these things.”
Ether 12:27 says,
“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

There are countless examples in the scriptures of this process and I have had many experience in my life where, because of a willing, faithful heart, I have seen people change and become stronger. I am thankful for God’s grace and His ability to make us better. 

-Who enjoys going on walks

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Finding Truth: Scientific and Spiritual

In my professional life, I use the scientific method to determine (as best I can) what is truth or fact. This means an initial question is posed, a hypothesis formed, experimentation is done to gather data or evidence, and the data either supports or does not support the hypothesis. If enough data supports the hypothesis, it is deemed to be correct, true, or factual; although, that is always liable to change based on additional data.

As a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we challenged people we taught to do an "experiment" in order to determine what was true. While some elements of this search for truth followed the scientific method, it largely did not. The main reason for this is because the "data" gathered wasn't something tangible or quantifiable. Paul teaches about this in 1 Corinthians 2:10-11:

"But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, except he has the Spirit of God."

We understand the things of God differently than we do the things of man, and therefor our search for "evidence" is different. As a missionary I loved to use this verse from James to invite people to find out the truth for themselves:

"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

I liked using this verse for a few reasons: it removed the pressure from me of having to "convince" someone that what I was saying was true; it allowed the listener to relax from feeling like I was trying to convince them; and it allowed truth to come from God, through His Holy Spirit to the listener's spirit. And because God cannot lie (Enos 1:6), does not change (Mormon 9:9), and is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34-35), His answers would not only be consistent, they would be true. And no additional "data" could ever disprove them.

-Who really hopes he is remembering the scientific method correctly.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

In Media Res aka What's Going On Here?

I recently heard about an author who writes about life in a post-WWII rural English village. I've enjoyed similar books so I picked up a couple of them from the library and dove in. The first one was well-written but a little quiet in its characters and plot. The second one, however, grabbed me from the first few pages, and I ended up enjoying it much more than the first. As I considered why I liked it better than the other (since they were set in the same time period, the same place, etc.), I realized it was because the second one begins in media res--it begins in the middle of the action. From the start, you are thrown into a village event without any lead up or introduction and meet character after character whose life is being affected by the event of the day. It is exciting and busy and full of life.

After this recognition, I had the thought that this is kind of how life is for us here on earth. Like many other religions, ours believes that death is not the end--there is life after death and we take with us, not possessions or prestige, but who we have become inside and any knowledge, skills, and talents we acquire. And like many cultures and some religions, we believe that our birth on earth was not the beginning. (For more information, see Professor Terryl Given's book that discusses many cultures that believe in a pre-existence.) In fact, we believe that before we came here, we lived with God, who organized a "plan of salvation and happiness" so that we could gain physical bodies and experience opposition, adversity, and form eternal families. With these kind of experiences and with help and healing from the atonement and love of Jesus Christ, we can one day have the kind of joy and knowledge that Heavenly Father has and be able to live with Him again with our families.

Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog Caspar David Friedrich
So those of us, born here on earth, enter the world in media res. (I am going to keep italicizing that phrase. I'm not sure why, but the fact that it is in Latin--and I don't know much Latin--seems to merit at least that...) It seems like we are kind of thrown into the middle of things. We aren't quite sure why we are here or where we are going, but we are trying to figure it out along the way. For some reason this whole in media res idea makes me think of the painting to the right. For me, it just evokes a kind of "What on earth am I doing here & what am I supposed to do with this" attitude. But the man's stance seems to suggest he wants to figure it out.

I am so thankful for the Bible and the Book of Mormon and the word of God to living prophets and the answers I have received to my own questions and prayers. They help me to see why I am here "in the middle" of things.

- Who walked outside into 70 degree Fahrenheit temperatures and feels really good about it. Bring on the autumn and the pumpkin chocolate chip muffins!

If you want to read more about this topic, here are a couple of people who say it better than I can:

“The course of our mortal life, from birth to death, conforms to eternal law and follows a plan described in the revelations as the great plan of happiness [. . .]
“The plan of redemption, with its three divisions, might be likened to a grand three-act play. Act 1 is entitled ‘Premortal Life.’ The scriptures describe it as our first estate (see Jude 1:6Abraham 3:26, 28). Act 2, from birth to the time of resurrection, is the ‘Second Estate.’ And act 3 is called ‘Life After Death’ or ‘Eternal Life.’
“In mortality, we are like actors who enter a theater just as the curtain goes up on the second act. We have missed act 1. The production has many plots and subplots that interweave, making it difficult to figure out who relates to whom and what relates to what, who are the heroes and who are the villains. It is further complicated because we are not just spectators; we are members of the cast, on stage, in the middle of it all!” (Boyd K. Packer,The Play and the Plan [address to young adults, 7 May 1995], 1–2).
Gary E. Stevenson's talk Your Four Minutes

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Seventy times Seven

I can’t think of anyone I know who has not been harmed by another’s actions, myself included. In minor instances, it is not too difficult to forgive but for major, heartbreaking circumstance it can be quite difficult. We are commanded to forgive all and putting our faith and trust in the Lord can help forgiveness com easier. This commandment is in D&C64:10, “I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.” How can we expect the Lord to forgive us our trespasses, when we can’t forgive our fellowmen?

When I am harmed or someone has offended me, before I feel anger I feel sadness. During those moments of sadness a scripture usually pops into my head, Matthew 18:21-22, and the following parable of the Unmerciful Servant found in Matthew 18:22-35 (<--- watch the video in the link);
“Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but until seventy times seven.
We are expected to forgive always… not just a couple times and there is no chart saying which actions we should forgive and which ones we shouldn’t. I am grateful that this scripture pops into my head when I need to hear it. Generally, I feel humbled by these words and the anger never comes.
Christ can help heal our wounded hearts for "he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows”. He knows us and he knows what we are going through. It is only through him that our broken hearts are mended. I know this to be true.

In closing, I would like to share a quote and a video. They both give me hope and faith to forgive. Happiness is possible for those who are hurting due to another’s action. The future is bright.

“When someone has hurt us or those we care about, that pain can almost be overwhelming. It can feel as if the pain or the injustice is the most important thing in the world and that we have no choice but to seek vengeance. But Christ, the Prince of Peace, teaches us a better way. It can be very difficult to forgive someone the harm they’ve done us, but when we do, we open ourselves up to a better future. No longer does someone else’s wrongdoing control our course. When we forgive others, it frees us to choose how we will live our own lives. Forgiveness means that problems of the past no longer dictate our destinies, and we can focus on the future with God’s love in our hearts.

                                                                                                 -Elder David E. Sorensen

-who is ready for FALL

Monday, September 22, 2014

Coming Unto Ourselves and Living Prophets

Between my freshman year of college and serving my LDS (Mormon) mission I worked for a metal recycling company, where I mostly cut scrap metal into recyclable sizes. One day I was asked to drive to a nearby town to get some needed supplies, a trip of about 40 miles. For whatever reason I was extremely drowsy, to the point of nodding off a couple times behind the wheel. That is, I was drowsy until I woke up and realized I had somehow made it through a couple lights and a 90 degree turn with no recollection of having driven that stretch. The fear in that realization shot enough adrenaline through my system that all traces of drowsiness were gone. I was fortunate that an off-road experience wasn't what chased the drowsiness away.

The parable of the Prodigal Son is a well-known and well-beloved story of repentance and forgiveness, and recently one verse in particular has caught my attention:

Luke 15:17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!

The key words for me in this verse are "he came to himself." The Prodigal had been feeding the pigs when he caught himself being envious of the pigs and the food they had. That was a wake-up call, a moment of realization. The Prodigal had essentially hit rock bottom, and he knew it. What is unfortunate is that he had to reach that point before he realized the error of his ways (see verses 12-13).

I believe that a loving God wants us to come unto ourselves, and that He doesn't require us to hit rock bottom before we do. He gives reminders and promptings and nudging through any means He can. One of the ways He does this is through modern-day prophets and apostles, one of whom spoke on this same topic a few years ago during a General Conference of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In two weeks, October 4-5, living prophets and apostles will be giving all who listen an opportunity to come unto themselves by hearing the will of the Lord. I plan on hearing everything they say with an open heart and ready to act on their words, so that I can come unto myself more fully.

Who now only nods off during work meetings...

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Keep, Keeps, and Keepers

Have you ever had the experience of reading something and suddenly having a word, an ordinary word that you have read a thousand times, jump out at you? I recently had that happen with the word “keep.”

What does it mean to “keep” something? To keep a secret, keep a promise, keep the commandments, keep our covenants. To hold? To do? To obey?  (For members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, obeying the commandments and making and keeping sacred covenants are key points of doctrine and bring promised blessings of peace, joy and spiritual protection. You can learn more about commandments here and more about covenants here

Thinking about it, I found myself remembering the time that my family spent in Europe when I was a child and later as a teenager.  During those trips we toured a lot of very old castles and fortresses. (When I was little, I was always excited when told we were going to visit a castle because I thought they were far more interesting than the museums that my parents tried to help us appreciate.)

Many of the older fortresses we visited were mostly crumbling walls, but often the most intact part of the ruin was a tower, usually in the very center and sometimes on elevated ground, called the keep. The reason that keeps tended to outlast the rest of the castle was that when the castle was built, the keep was purposely reinforced, constructed with the strongest materials to withstand the fiercest attacks. It was used as a refuge of last resort if the rest of the castle fell to an adversary. The owner of the castle kept his prized possessions there, sent his family there if the castle came under attack, and posted his most trusted guards to watch over it. Those guards were known as the “keepers.”

As I thought about those keeps, and the men chosen to be keepers, it gave me new understanding into the meaning of the verb keep. We, like the noblemen who lived all those centuries ago, have things that need to be cherished, protected, valued, guarded. Our loving Heavenly Father has given us commandments and sacred covenants—not just simply to obey, but to keep—to cherish, protect, value, treasure, guard. We truly keep them as we remember them, strive to understand them, honor them, live them, are grateful for them, and renew them with faith and joy and integrity of heart.

President Thomas S. Monson has taught: “Sacred covenants are to be revered by us, and faithfulness to them is a requirement for happiness.” I know that this is true, and I know that as we truly keep—revere--our covenants, our homes become keeps, places of refuge and safety from the attacks of the adversary.

Finally, this insight into the meaning of the word keeper can give us greater appreciation for the role of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Listen to the words of the Book of Mormon prophet, Jacob, in 2 Nephi 9:41-42:

O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man in narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel, and he employeth no servant there, and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name. And whoso knocketh, to him will he open.

I love this talk by Barbara Thompson about the joy and power that come as we truly keep our covenants.

Who still loves visiting castles...

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Faith is...

"There are two kinds of faith. One of them functions ordinarily in the life of every soul. It is the kind of faith born by experience; it gives us certainty that a new day will dawn, that spring will come, that growth will take place. It is the kind of faith that relates us with confidence to that which is scheduled to happen.  There is another kind of faith, rare indeed. This is the kind of faith that causes things to happen. It is the kind of faith that is worthy and prepared and unyielding, and it calls forth things that otherwise would not be. It is the kind of faith that moves people. It is the kind of faith that sometimes moves things. Few men possess it. It comes by gradual growth. It is a marvelous, even a transcendent, power, a power as real and as invisible as electricity. Directed and channeled, it has great effect." — Boyd K. Packer, "What is Faith?" "Faith," [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], p. 42

I have a very good friend who is a seeker of truth. She looks for truth in the world around her but still struggles with the concept of God. Years ago, during a conversation with her, she said, "You are lucky that faith comes so easily to you." For some reason, that bothered me. I didn't like the idea that some for some people, faith was just easier. That makes is seem a little unfair for those seeking truth who don't have a natural inclination to believe in God or that Jesus Christ is our Savior. (Not that anything in life is necessarily "fair" in that sense of the word.)

One of our Church's (and probably any religion's) most fundamental doctrines is faith. In fact, "We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ..." (You can see an outline of our fundamental beliefs here.)

First comes faith. As with a lot of things in my life, I thought I understood what faith was until life got hard. And then I struggled. I believed in God and in Jesus Christ--but did I believe that they could help me in my day to day life and struggles? Did I believe that I could be better today than I was yesterday? Did I believe that I could change? The promise is that true faith in Jesus Christ gives us the capacity to overcome hard things and to truly change (Like He promises here and here and here.)

What I have come to realize through study and prayer and experience is that faith is gift from God. The desire to believe in Him may come more easily to some than others initially. But once you have that desire to believe, you have to work to have more faith and to understand and see Heavenly Father's hand in your life and in the world around you. Just like you have to work and experience things to obtain any other kind of knowledge or belief, faith in Jesus Christ requires effort. It requires studying God's words through His prophets. It requires "trying out" or experimenting on those words.

"But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words."  Alma 32:27

So yes, the desire to believe or ability to believe that God is real might be easier for some initially. But once you have that desire, everyone has to work hard to keep it. To understand it. To develop the kind of faith in a Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ that allows them to truly change you and make you more than you could ever be on your own.

When my little girl was learning to walk, I would hold onto the back of her shirt and follow behind her. As long as she felt the tug of my hand on her shirt, she felt like she had enough support to walk by herself. And then I started to let go. She would walk a few steps on her own, but once she realized I wasn't holding on anymore, she would grab onto her own shirt. It was kind of funny because obviously, her grip on her own shirt would ultimately do nothing to keep her on her feet. She couldn't hold herself up with her own hand. She needed somebody else to hold her up when she was unsteady. It was kind of funny until I realized that I do the same thing in my own life....I hold onto myself sometimes, as if I can really keep myself from falling just by holding onto my shirt.

I have had to reason things out in my mind and study and think things through and ask a lot of questions. And sometimes, I have had to get out of my own way--let go of myself and what I thought I understood...because my reasoning and logic wasn't enough. When I have done these things, I have found and been given answers and felt peace every time. Sometimes the answers came immediately. Other times, they took a LONG time to come. But I have had prayers answered in inexplicable ways. Miraculous ways. And this makes my faith stronger. I believe that anyone can have this experience if they put the thought and work into.

For those of you who struggle to even believe that God is real and that He loves you and wants you to be happy, but don't see how that can be possible because of the world we live in and the things you have had to face in your life--or simply because it logically doesn't make sense to you-- I like the example that Bruce C. Hafen gives in a speech he gave a few years ago about the battle between reason and faith:

He showed this painting by Eugene Bernard. 

It is a depiction of Christ's disciples, Peter and John, who have just been told that Jesus was alive. Someone had seen him. It defied all reason. These 2 men had watched their friend die on a cross. They had seen his broken, lifeless body in the tomb. So why are they hurrying down the road to the place where Christ supposedly will be? It is because they cling to the belief that it is possible. It is worth it for them to put in the effort to go and see. It is worth the trip down the road if there is the slightest possibility that their friend has defied all natural laws and risen from the dead. And even though it makes no sense to their brains, they want it to be true. And it was true.

Who is still working on her faith...

Friday, September 19, 2014


By Del Parson


Have you experienced peace? During difficult trials and trying times?

Where is peace found and how can it be achieved?

I am only 28 years old. I have, like everybody else, experienced a couple tough trials in my short existence. There have been times when I felt completely surrounded by darkness, a thick pressing darkness. It felt as if I would never find my way out.


Came light, a small light, but still, a light.

That light was hope, hope found in Christ.

As I realized I had the knowledge to get me through the darkness, that light grew. My hope grew and eventually,


I experienced peace amidst trial. Peace while experiencing pain. Peace took the place of fear. Did I know what was in my future? No, but I did know that I could find peace in the Savior. He would be with me on my journey.

My journey to find peace is, sadly, a repetitive one. Even when life seems like it couldn’t be better; I need to rely on my Savior to find peace. Living righteously brings me closer to Christ; being close to Christ brings me peace and joy.

Elder Quentin L. Cook said,
“We all long for peace. Peace is not just safety or lack of war, violence, conflict, and contention. Peace comes from knowing that the Savior knows who we are and knows that we have faith in Him, love Him, and keep His commandments, even and especially amid life’s devastating trials and tragedies.”
For those of you in darkness, I know that you can find light and peace. Christ knows you. He knows what you are experiencing; He has experienced it all. Take His hand and let Him lead you to peace.

Here are the lyrics to the Hymn, “Where can I Turn For Peace?” by Emma Lou Thayne, that is always a good reminder for me:

1. Where can I turn for peace?
Where is my solace
When other sources cease to make me whole?
When with a wounded heart, anger, or malice,
I draw myself apart,
Searching my soul?

2. Where, when my aching grows,
Where, when I languish,
Where, in my need to know, where
Can I run?
Where is the quiet hand to calm my
Who, who can understand?
He, only One.

3. He answers privately,
Reaches my reaching
In my Gethsemane, Savior and
Gentle the peace he finds for my
Constant he is and kind,

Love without end.

Two great talks on peace can be found here and here

Who is craving some peppermint patties at this very moment

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

I am a Child of God

So I have a confession: "I am a Child of God" was never my favorite primary song. In our church, we have this lovely collection of children's songs that the children learn in their Sunday School classes (we call their classes Primary), but that many of us like to sing and play in our other church meetings and in our homes. Well, the one that gets sung the most in Primary and that seems to be everybody's favorite is called "I am a Child of God."

I'm not quite sure why it was never my favorite. I don't know if it is because I thought it was overplayed or just wasn't a big fan of the melody or what. If I got to choose a song, I would always pick this one or this one to sing.

So when I had my own child to sing to, I wanted to be sure not to push any songs on her just because they were everybody else's favorites. I sang "I am a Child of God" to her every once and awhile, but I sang a ton of other songs a lot more. And you know what song is her favorite? That's right. "I am a Child of God." At first, I didn't understand it. I didn't sing it any more than the others. I didn't push it on her. She isn't old enough for Primary yet so it's not like she was around a bunch of other kids singing it. (I'm sure, like every other kid and adult in America, the song she has heard most around town is "Let it Go.") And yet it is the song she requests all the time. It is the song she wants before she goes to bed. It is the song she sings to herself when she is fighting going to sleep. (That song and the "ABC" song.)

What is it about this song?!!! I ask you? I think it must be the words, the message. God is our Father. And He loves us. And he tells us this:

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved."   John 3:16-17 
I believe this. I believe that the things we experience, He allows us to experience because He is our Father and He loves us. And in the end, all that is wrong can be made right for us through the Atonement of His son, Jesus Christ. God's love is a powerful thing, whether we realize it or not. Children seem to sense it innately. (I love this talk about the love of God.)

The older I get, the more I appreciate the words to the song, especially when my little girl sings it:

I am a child of God,
And He has sent me here [. . .]

Lead me, guide me, walk beside me
Help me find the way.

Teach me all that I must do
To live with Him someday.

I really do believe it too.

Who wishes she could sleep for 12 hours every night like her 2-year old.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

You're not alone

Because of my husband’s employment, we are required to move often. We have lived in an area for as little as 2 months to as long as 11 months. There have been times when housing wasn’t quite ready for us so we stayed in hotels for several weeks. The furthest move has been across oceans and the closest across several states.  Driving around town, I often have to remind myself where I am and what the road system is like. Occasionally, during the credits at the end of a movie in the theater, Ben turns to me and says, “Where are we again?” and I have to think about it.

We have a wonderful life and I love being able to experience different cultures and meet so many wonderful people. However, the first couple weeks are tough and, at times, I can get to feeling very lonely and lost. A few months ago I came across a video that brought me much comfort.

Whatever the reason for feeling lonely; it is reassuring to know that we are never truly alone. One of the things I have learned from traveling so often is not only do I need those who reach out to me, but many times they needed a friend as well. Feelings of loneliness often stem from being physically alone or lost, suffering through trials, feeling the pain of sin, addictions, temptations, physical pain, standing up for truth and righteousness… the list is endless. I would guess that almost everyone has experienced most, if not all, of those reasons listed for feeling lonely. We need to cheer and comfort each other.

I am grateful for the knowledge that Christ is always there for me. He knows exactly what I am going through and He knows how to help me. As I look back on my life, I recognize times when Christ carried me through difficult times and I know I could not have done it alone.

In John 14:18, Christ says, “I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you.” I know that to be true.

Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my righteous, upheld by my righteous,
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

- How Firm a Foundation; 3rd verse

Who loves the GPS function on her phone

Sunday, September 14, 2014

My Thoughts and His Thoughts

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."
The first time I came across these verses was probably in seminary as we studied the Old Testament. (Seminary is a daily gospel study class that members of our Church take during the four years of high school.)

For a long time--until fairly recently--I viewed these words as something of a put-down from the Lord. I interpreted them something like this: "Look: I'm God. I know what I'm doing. My ways are much better than yours. You don't know as much as me. Just do what I say." And on top of this interpretation, I seemed to hear or feel condescension or disdain. Like an older sibling trying to straighten out a younger. (I have 3 older brothers.) To some degree, I bristled at these verses. While I believed the Lord knew all and I didn't, the idea wasn't comfortable nor the position it put me in--being dependent on Him.

This could be a lesson about context--the 2 verses come across differently when you read them in context with the rest of the chapter. But it is more about the goodness of God. I no longer see these words as a challenge to my abilities or intelligence, but as an invitation from the Lord to rely on His omniscience so that I don't have to find out (usually the hard way) whether my way will suffice.

Why do I see it differently now? In part, because "my way" usually doesn't work. At least I've figured out that much. The next step is being willing to choose God's way.

- Forrest
Who is ready to watch some college football.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Flipping Tires... Not Pancakes

Last night my husband, Ben, and I went to check out a new gym with our two cousins. This gym is, as they say, legit. There are huge chains, atlas balls, ropes, things called ‘slosh bars’, huge tires, and a whole lot of other things that I did not recognize and cannot even imagine how to use. We did a somewhat routine work out using the equipment we would normally use at our normal gym. Throughout our work out the giant tires kept catching our eyes. We all wanted to try using them before we left.

There are three different tire sizes at this gym. The heaviest one weighs 840 pounds and the smallest weighs 250 pounds. I knew right away that I would have to use the smallest one… the boys knew right away that they could handle the largest. We rolled the tires outside and got to work. I looked down at my tire on the ground and with some excitement squatted down to get a good grip on the tire and lifted it up to flip it over, like a pancake. It was tough but not enough to stop me after one flip. After a few rotations, I realized the large tire was still where they put it initially and the men were standing around it looking rather worn out. I heard Ben say that he had to try a couple more times. I watched as he squatted down, put his hands under the tire and hefted with all his might. The tire lifted a foot off the ground and then, after stalling, quickly returned to the ground, with Ben on top of it. This is when I decided to stop watching because I feared he would get hurt. I returned to my tire but continued to listen to the guys try to defeat this massive tire.

Eventually they lifted the tire together, put it away, and brought out the medium size tire. The medium tire was just right for them. They took turns flipping it over about 8 times each. When we were very much past the point of ‘feeling the burn’ we ran home and studied the gospel together. The topic for the night was ‘Spirituality.’

Last night and all day today I have pondered the connection between physical strength and spiritual strength. Like physical strength, spiritual strength does not come suddenly. Both take consistent and meaningful effort and both can be damaged by pride. Watching the guys try to flip the tire time after time with no success, reminded me that pride can stunt progress as well. By the time they had brought out the other tire, I had flipped my tire about 12 times, putting a large gap between us.

Everybody has prideful moments, but it is recognizing those moments and humbly moving on that is important. When we humble ourselves and strive to become spiritually strengthened, we are taking the Savior’s outstretched hand to guide and to strengthen us. Ether 12:27 says, "And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them."

Spiritual strength brings peace during good times and hard times. I know this from experience and I plan to continue strengthening myself spiritually.

Who has some awfully achy muscles.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Moments of Recognition

You know those moments in life where you suddenly realize something about yourself that had either never occurred to you before--or that you were unconsciously refusing to acknowledge? Sometimes it is small things like realizing that the reason I didn't like croutons is because I had never tried one before. (They just look so dry and crusty and brown.) Or seeing a picture of myself after 3 months of working at a desk, not exercising regularly, and eating wheat thins by the box and realizing that I was a bit on the plump side...so that's why my jeans didn't fit all of a sudden.

But I've had bigger moments of recognition that have forced me to see "things as they really are" (Jacob 4:13.) In the following passage from Charles Dickens'  novel Our Mutual Friend, Mr. Podsnap is throwing a little dinner party and becomes ruffled by some unwanted comments by one of his guests:

In the mean time a stray personage of a meek demeanour, who had
wandered to the hearthrug and got among the heads of tribes
assembled there in conference with Mr Podsnap, eliminated Mr
Podsnap's flush and flourish by a highly unpolite remark; no less
than a reference to the circumstance that some half-dozen people
had lately died in the streets, of starvation. It was clearly ill-timed
after dinner. It was not adapted to the cheek of the young person.
It was not in good taste.

'I don't believe it,' said Mr Podsnap, putting it behind him.

The meek man was afraid we must take it as proved, because there
were the Inquests and the Registrar's returns.

'Then it was their own fault,' said Mr Podsnap.

Veneering and other elders of tribes commended this way out of it.
At once a short cut and a broad road.

The man of meek demeanour intimated that truly it would seem
from the facts, as if starvation had been forced upon the culprits in
question--as if, in their wretched manner, they had made their
weak protests against it--as if they would have taken the liberty of
staving it off if they could--as if they would rather not have been
starved upon the whole, if perfectly agreeable to all parties.

'There is not,' said Mr Podsnap, flushing angrily, 'there is not a
country in the world, sir, where so noble a provision is made for
the poor as in this country.'

The meek man was quite willing to concede that, but perhaps it
rendered the matter even worse, as showing that there must be
something appallingly wrong somewhere.

Chapter 11 "Podsnappery", Our Mutual Friend, Charles Dickens

I know that example is a bit exaggerated (Dickens is good at that), but I like how it shows Mr. Podsnap's complete refusal to admit there is a problem that needs to be dealt with. I feel like throughout my life, I have had moments when I suddenly recognized some "Podsnappery" in myself. They are uncomfortable moments. Really, really uncomfortable. In these moments, the Spirit has shown me times when I have been deceitful. Times when I have judged a situation or person without seeing the whole picture. Times when I thought I understood a principle, but really only had a superficial comprehension of it. I began to dread moments like this because I felt like the more "moments of recognition" I had, the worse person I was.

And then I came across this quote:

"There can be no repentance without recognition of wrong. Whether by provocation, introspection, or wrenching remembrance, denial must be dissolved [. . .] the first rays of recognition help us begin to see 'things as they really are' (Jacob 4:13), including distinguishing between the motes and beams. Recognition is a sacred moment."

Neal A. Maxwell, "Repentance," Ensign, Nov. 1991, pg. 30, emphasis added

I know this might seem really obvious to everyone else, but it was an epiphany to me. Recognition is NECESSARY! Recognition is a sacred moment. Recognition is the first step to improving ourselves and the world around us. To be able to fix a problem or flaw or whatever it may be, you first have to recognize that it is there. Seriously, this concept has changed my life. I know that change is possible. I know that I can become a better person and a more aware person than I am today. Good books and people help me see this. The gospel of Jesus Christ helps me do this.

Who now loves croutons.