Look for the light!

Sometimes, in this ever darkening world it gets harder and harder to find the light.  Who am I?  Where am I going?  What is my mission?  Do I even have a mission? Do I matter?  What is my purpose in this life?  These are  questions that we ask ourselves in times of darkness.  Or when we are really struggling to find the light.  The light of Christ.  The light within ourselves.  The light of others.  So how do we answer the tough questions?  How do we find the light?

I would like to say there is an easy answer! And here is exactly where you go to find it!  Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending how you look at it) we have to do the work to find the answers to those questions.  And it’s HARD work!  Many of us may not be willing to put in that kind of work to find the answers to these, and many other questions that plague us.  Many more will find the easy way out by placing the responsibility on others to change or conform to what their belief is.  I guess some could argue that that is what I am doing.   But what I am doing, is trying to get you to look at your life and what questions you have and then do the HARD work to find the answers to those questions.  Find out for yourself!

When I wrote What Being Away from the Church Taught Me, I was in the mind frame that if there was someone else going through what I went through and they could be helped by it, then it was worth sharing.  I still feel that way and I have had many experiences that have led me to believe that we all have something to share that will help each other on this path in life.  The struggle is real, and its HARD!  But we don’t have to do this life alone.  In fact we are not meant to.  Although there are some things that we do have to do alone, like finding the answers to the questions that we struggle with.  What I am asking you to do is: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He will direct thy paths.”  Proverbs 3:5

Sometimes, when we do this, we are directed into the path of others that can help us find those answers.  In fact, many times people will be placed in our path to help us open doors and find new and better ways of looking at our questions.  A new perspective can open our minds and fill us with knowledge that we hadn’t previously considered.   We will find that there are new ways of finding the answers to those questions.  We are never completely alone in our quest!

I hear and read all the time that my church is full of judgement, and self righteous people that don’t understand that what they are saying or the way that they treat people is keeping them from coming back to church or joining the church to begin with.  Believe me when I say that there was a time when I felt that way myself.  I remember at one point (maybe on several occasions) saying “Shouldn’t the people be a reflection of the Church?  And if that is what the Church is then I don’t want to be a part of it.”,  But you know what that was?  It was an excuse.  It was an excuse for me to take the easy road.  Why?  Because the other road is much HARDER!  It takes effort and grit to really ask the tough questions and then find a way to get answers.

I’m not saying that there is not judgement in the church, there is plenty of it… way too much, in my opinion.  I have often said, I believe that will be the first question we get asked when we face Christ, “Did you love others, as I have loved you?”  For this is the second great commandment:

 “And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. (Matt. 22:39; see also Gal. 5:14).

BUT….. That does not mean that we can let the judgement of others keep us from finding the light. Or, keep us from doing the work to find the answers for ourselves to the questions that we have.   We have to dig deep!  We have to take responsibility for our own life.  It’s the only way to truly find peace and happiness on this Earth.

In the Bible,  James 1:5-6 It reads:  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.

But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.

So there is our answer!  That is how we can find the answers to the seemingly impossible questions.  God will not let us down!  But we need to do the work!  Praying once may not do it.  Praying for an answer a 100 times may not do it.   But if you continue to pray, study, ponder, search, it will happen!  I can promise you this because it’s happened to me. And many people that I know and love.

Certainly, God is not just going to pour down answers upon your head of everything you’ve ever questioned.  You have to do the HARD work!  But with each question, that you use this above process to find answers with, I promise you, it will work!

The other part that often gets overlooked is that we have to have intent to do something with the answer that we’ve been given.  We have to have “faith unwavering”! Knowledge always comes with responsibility.  We have to acknowledge that when we find the answer, we will do something with it.  Faith precedes action! We can’t just sit back, tap our heads, and say hmmm.  Sometimes it requires a major lifestyle change.  Or an extreme reversal in thought process. So the HARD work comes in again here!

It is not easy!  I’ll say that a hundred times because it’s true, it’s not easy!  Especially when sometimes it feels as though we are just trying to keep our heads above the water to keep from drowning in all the information that is thrown at us from every angle.  But if we are diligent in working towards finding the answers, doors will be opened, hearts will be changed and miracles can happen in our lives!

The Savior teaches that He is the light that “enlighteneth your eyes,” “quickeneth your understandings,” and “giveth life to all things.” The Light of Christ will help us see ourselves and others through the Savior’s eyes.

President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Russell M. Nelson, said “… the spirit that dwells within each of us can be enriched with enthusiasm and enlightened by the Almighty. The process of spiritual growth is revealed in the scriptures: “Intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; … [and] light cleaveth unto light. ”  That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.” (See Doctrine and Covenants 50:24 ,also Doctrine and Covenants 88:40)

I can’t imagine what truths await us if we put in the HARD work to find our answers.  And I hope that with those answers comes a greater determination to move forward, onward and upward.  We owe it to ourselves to take action!  He loves us and wants us to succeed!  Of that I am confident!

 

 

 

 

Soul Survivor

It has been several months since I have written.  Not because I haven’t wanted to, but because the words just haven’t been there.   For weeks and weeks, the words just would not come. I rely heavily upon the Lord to open my mind so that I can write what HE wants to sink deep into the souls of those who read it.  So imagine my excitement when the words started to come again.  Hopefully I can do them justice.

The most precious part of ourselves is our very soul.  It’s what we were before we came here and what we will be after we leave.  It is what we believe (as Mormons) gives life to the body.  The  very essence of who we are.  So it makes complete sense that we are in a war between good and evil for our very souls.  God wants our souls to become enlightened, stronger, healthier, full of love, more serviceable, ultimately more like Him.  While Satan wants to destroy our souls, demoralize, demonize, and demolish it.  He wants us to be fearful and full of hate!  What a contrast that is.

But the great characteristic of we humans is that we are “survivors”!  And in this war of worlds, we are “soul survivors”! Today I want to talk about how we can steer clear of Satan’s traps that he sets for us.  I want you to re-examine your life and make sure that your SOULS are surviving the onslaught of his evil.

Here are 5 ways (in no particular order)  that Satan works to capture our souls.  Hopefully if you have fallen into some of these traps, this will help you realize it and get back on God’s path, safe and sound so you can be a “soul survior”.  🙂

1. Confusion and Contention- All you have to do is open your facebook page or watch the daily news to be bombarded by these two friends.  The political, religious, and other negative debates that happen online are among the most damaging weapons to our soul.  Sometimes we become so consumed with being right that we begin see things less clearly.  Even if it’s wrong, it becomes “right” in our mind.  If Satan can get us to argue amongst one another, in our homes, workplaces, on social media, or even in our churches, then the Spirit can not reside there.   If we participate in this  practice we our opening up ourselves to this trap (or flaxen cord, if you will).

Elder Kim B. Clark of the seventy said, “Our time is a dangerous time—a time of great evil and temptation, a time of confusion and commotion. In these perilous times, the Lord’s prophet on the earth, President Thomas S. Monson, has called us to rescue the wounded in spirit, to stand for truth with courage, and to build the kingdom of God. Whatever level of spirituality or faith or obedience we now have, it will not be sufficient for the work that lies ahead. We need greater spiritual light and power. We need eyes to see more clearly the Savior working in our lives and ears to hear His voice more deeply in our hearts.”

I encourage you to take a look at the words and discussions that you are having.  Check to make sure they are positive and uplifting in every way.  There is no better way to remain on the Lord’s side than to use your words wisely and with great care.  They are something that we can’t take back once they are said. So be wise.

2. Distraction- A Distraction is something that takes away from what matters most in our lives, our relationships with God and our families and friends.  Recently, in my church, our prophet President Russell M. Nelson, spoke to teenagers ages 12-18 about the dangers of distractions.  Mainly social media distractions.  He recommended that we “take a break from fake”.  For 7 days he asked us to get off of social media and see what we find in our lives that might be different.  But it’s not just social media that distracts us and sets us up for Satan to work on our souls.  It can be work, our phones, the internet, well meaning events that take time away from our families and what matters most.  This idea of distractions has become such an easy trap for Satan to ensnare us with.  If he can get us to look the other way and become distracted by “shiny objects” then he is keeping us from looking at and hearing what is most important.  This also can muffle the Spirit from teaching and guiding us in the right direction.  When we are distracted, we are not paying attention.  And when we are not paying attention, Satan can sneak into our lives and set his trap.

King Benjamin tells us that we should hearken unto the word of the Lord. He tells us, “open your ears that ye may hear, and your hearts that ye may understand, and your minds that the mysteries of God may be unfolded to your view.” (Mosiah 2:9.) Sometimes I  become so distracted by the world that I do not hear.  Do you ever find yourself in that spot?  Let’s try harder to slow down, look around, and  pay attention to the things that really matter. The Spirit can work more effectively in our lives when we are not distracted by less important matters.  It can mentor and teach and help us along our way in this journey to win our souls.

3. Busyness- Sometimes we become so busy and stressed out that it feels as if we are in a vortex being dragged down and down to the gulf of misery and woe.  Haha, I know that seems so depressing.

But it’s true, when stress and busyness become a burden on us, it can literally start to affect our health and well being.  We can make ourselves physically sick trying to “do it all”.  And really where does this come from? It is another little trap that Satan uses, and quite effectively I might add.   We can look at any image on magazines or in movies, or on our phones.  We are constantly bombarded with “superwomen and men” who seem to be “doing it all”.  But the sad thing is, that it really is mostly fake.  You get to see the one thing in their life that is going really good at the moment.  We don’t see the stress, the anguish, the despair that is happening behind the scenes.  We just want to be like them!  We have all heard this compared to holding spinning plates in the air.  We keep adding one more thing (plate) to our “to do” list until our spinning plates become so burdensome that we soon end up dropping them all.  We need to slow down… SLOW DOWN… Learn to say no when it’s too much.  Turn off the switches that are making us think that we need to do one more thing. It’s ok to be yourself and not try to do it all.  In fact, that is what God wants for our precious souls.  Calmness, peacefulness and love to envelope us, our souls are so tender and important to Him.  We should treat them with great care.

4. Deception- In our shifting and changing world things are not always what they appear to be.  Appearances can be deceptive and destructive. And unfortunately Satan has been at this game for over 1000 years.  He seems to have a bit of an advantage on us.  I mean, most of us have only been around for less than 100 ;).  But again, we have the Lord on our side.  We have the Holy Spirit to guide us if we are open and listening for it.  But that doesn’t take away the fact that deception is real.  And it can be scary.

Have you ever been in boat on a completely calm lake and then suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, the wind kicks up and the waves become dangerously large?  I have and it’s very, very scary.  We were at Lake Powell one year with my little family, enjoying a sunny day out on the boat.  The storm started to kick up and then our boat stalled.  It wouldn’t start, no matter how hard we tried.  We were floating in the lake that was quickly becoming rougher and scarier.  What were we we to do?   Of course we said some pretty strong prayers and tears were shed.  But thankfully, in that situation, we had life jackets and others nearby who came to the rescue when all seemed lost.  They threw out a rope and towed us to safety.

Likewise, in our lives we are attracted to what seems to be calm and serene at the time.  But then once we jump in, we find that the waves are too much for our tender souls to take on.   When we find that we have been deceived in some way, we can reach out for our “life jackets”, we can look to our leaders as our guides.  We can follow what the Prophet said.  We can stay on the covenant path.  Most importantly, we can seek the Lord in honest prayer to help guide us in the right direction.  If we have lost our way, or find ourselves somewhere different than we had planned to be, we need only look up!  God will throw us a rope, He will tow us back to safety.  Obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel are our life jackets.  We must use them to be a “soul Survivor”!

5. Comparison- Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else, is the greatest accomplishment!” I love that quote because it really defines how important it is to guard our souls.  Remember our soul is the very essence of who we are!

Comparison is such an easy trap to fall into.  We all want to be loved, admired, and looked up to.  But doing it at the cost of losing our identity or who we really are, can bring great damage to our souls.  I have seen it happen to myself and others when we get caught up in trying to be like someone we admire.  We may start to dress, talk, and act differently than what we normally do.  Our very core values may begin to shift.

Now, I’m not saying that we can’t improve ourselves. We should always strive to be moving in an upward direction, stretching ourselves to reach toward our full potential.  But the real trap comes when we change ourselves to match what some one else is doing.  I have seen many people change their whole value system as they try to emulate someone.   And it happens very slowly and almost unnoticeably.  Then they start to become examples to others who are not seeing them for who they truly are.

Here is another way that I would encourage us to take a good strong look at what we are putting out there for the world to see.  Is it truly who we are?  Does it promote our own value system or someone else’s?  Are we trapped in an identity that we no longer identify with?  These are some really tough questions, but also very important in evaluating where you are at and where you want to be.  And also what type of role model you want to be for others. When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare and compete, everyone will respect you!  And your soul will survive and thrive!  God loves our sweet souls so much!  He is fighting this war for our souls, right along side us.  But we must be aware of the traps that are meant to ensnare and capture our very souls.

**I want you to know that in all honesty, the only way that I can speak on these things is because I have, at times, fallen victim to them.  I have found myself in all 5 of these situations.  It is only through honest and thorough examination of ones self that we can reverse our direction and get back on the path towards God.  Sometimes it’s just a mere meander off the path and we pause for a moment and then turn back and we are right back on the path in no time.  But sometimes it can be a fork that we took in the complete wrong direction.  However, all is not lost.  God is on our side in this war of souls.  He is doing everything that He can to help guide us and lead us safely back to the right path.  He is sending angels our way, I know that with all my heart. Our very souls depend on it! One of my very favorite scriptures comes from the Doctrine and Covenants section 84:88  And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.

We CAN do this life!   And we CAN do it GREAT and BIG and WONDERFUL!  We CAN be “soul survivors”!  I know it and God knows it!  You are His and He loves you.  Let’s take great care of our tender souls!

#holdtotherod #soulsurvivors  #lovewhoyouare

 

 

 

Am I enough?

Why is it that we, especially women, think that we need to be completely perfect?  From our head to our toes, inside and out, we are constantly chasing that ever elusive perfection!  This thought has been on my mind quite consistently over the past several months as I have thought back over my life and the many mistakes that I have made in search of “perfection”.

It seems I always come back to my illness, because it is part of who I am and has helped shape me into the work-in-progress that I am today.  But I haven’t always felt that way.  In fact it is a day to day struggle to accept that this is part of who I am.  My personal struggle to let my light shine through the darkness, at times, becomes diminished because I let doubt and fear creep in.  I let Satan convince me that I am not enough.  But what I have learned over the years, is that I can, through His Grace, be perfected in Him! That no matter how hard I try, I can’t earn Christ’s love because it is freely and fully given to me.  It is His great gift to all of us!

In the Book of Mormon, Moroni counsels us in 10:32 Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you…

What we are aiming for is to become accepting of His Grace by showing gratitude and showing love.  Not only to others, but to ourselves.  We are relentlessly harder on ourselves than anyone else.  We tell ourselves constantly that we are not enough. We demean and discredit ourselves instead of lifting and building ourselves.  We must stop it!  We must learn to love ourselves. After all it is the second great commandment love thy neighbor as thyself… not, love thy neighbor and forget thyself.  No! LOVE THYSELF! YOU ARE ENOUGH!

you are enough

There is no shame in wanting to improve and become better.  In fact, that is the purpose of this life right?  We are trying for perfection, even though it is something that will not be attained in this life.  It is “toxic perfectionism” that we are trying to avoid. What makes perfectionism so toxic is that while those in its grip desire success, they are most focused on avoiding failure.  We must learn to embrace failure.  Avoiding toxic perfectionism doesn’t mean that we quit or give up. No, we keep trying.  Though the road may be long and hard and winding, we must press forward with steadfastness in Christ, knowing that He will make up the difference in the end.

One truth that I have come to understand is that Satan tries to convince us of all that we are not!  Satan’s biggest lie is that we have to be perfect! And we have to do that all on our own.  It is a tool that he is using, and quite successfully I might add.  So many of us are convinced that we have to be perfect in every way and that if we fall short, if we fail, then there must be something that we are doing wrong, there must be something wrong with us.   And so we just try to push harder, we wear ourselves and our souls out trying. We become over stressed and our light begins to dim.

Satan’s deception keeps us from perfection.  It produces shame because we become so consumed with having to do everything right that when we fail (and we will), we feel ashamed and unworthy of Christ’s Grace.  But failure is not a sign of imperfection, it is a sign of progression.  If we aren’t failing then we aren’t trying. And the important part is to not give up, to get back up after we fail and try again. But in that process remember that you need Christ.  You need His Grace!  It is that process that creates and builds confidence and love for ourselves.

After all, it is Christ who said “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect” Matthew 5:48.   Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the twelve apostles said “Surely the Lord would never give us a commandment that he knew we could not keep.”  “If we persevere, then somewhere in eternity our refinement will be finished and complete.”

The Savior convinces us of all that we are and all that we can be!  He says come unto me and I will make you better than you can be on your own! Because He loves us, because we are His. What He wants us to know is that we are enough.  That through Him we can overcome the obstacles, we can move forward and build ourselves up.  Turn on your light!  And let it shine bright!  You ARE enough!

We don’t have to be perfect, in fact we will never be perfect in this lifetime. So give yourself a break from chasing that “toxic perfectionism”.  Keep trying, keep pushing, keep moving forward but realize that His Grace is sufficient.  YOU ARE ENOUGH!

Though We are Broken…

Though we are brokenAs Easter approaches, we get to take a tiny moment in our busy lives, to embrace and remember the life, death, and resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ.  He suffered unbearable pain in the Garden of Gethsemane so that we can be healed from all of our afflictions.  He died on the cross to complete the act of His infinite atonement so that we could once again return to our Heavenly Father’s presence.

He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it. Isaiah 25:8

Several years ago when I was diagnosed Bipolar disorder, I didn’t want to accept it.  That wasn’t who I was I told myself.  I’m not “broken” I’m completely normal.   I don’t need to be on medication when this is something that I can manage on my own.  In fact, I thought I could do it ALL on my own.  Not just manage my mental state, but everything that was going on in my life.  I was a busy stay-at-home mother of 4 with a home business, trying to run a household, and several other plates that I was balancing, including the state of my mental health.  I told myself, “I’m not so different than everyone else, that I can’t do it just like everyone else”, (at least that’s what I was thinking.  Now I know better, that no one is really doing it all).  What I was forgetting is THE MOST IMPORTANT ELEMENT.  It is, in fact, the only way.  And it took me a long time to really figure that out.  It is through His Atonement that we can seek to heal our broken souls.  It is through Him, that our burdens become light.

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.  John 14:6

He is the one that we can run to when we are broken, the one who heals us and makes us feel whole again.  He does what none of us can do for ourselves.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.  Mosiah 14:6  

He mends our broken souls and minds and his only plea is Come…. Follow ME.

This past couple of years I have had the unique opportunity to attend mid-week worship services outside of our normal Sunday worship.  In my church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, better know as Mormons), we have a building that is called the temple and there are many throughout the world.  Going every week is quite a commitment as it takes up several hours of the day (especially since it is about an hour drive each way), but it has been such a huge blessing in my life and has taught me so much about myself and about my Savior and the Gospel.  As I have witnessed the people who come each week, I am deeply impressed by the commitment that it takes for some individuals to be there.  At this time in my life it is relatively easy to rearrange my schedule to make time for it.  And my health and situation allow for it.   I don’t take for granted that it may not always be like this.   When my children were little, I was not able to have this opportunity so often.  But for now, I rejoice in the opportunity to serve, that the Lord has allowed me at this time in my life.

On one particular day, I was deeply touched by one woman that had obviously gone to great lengths to be there.  I was late getting there.  I had felt an unusual pull that I needed to be there at that particular time.  The weather was terrible and thus, traffic was a nightmare.  I became extremely anxious thinking I wasn’t going to make it.  Normally, I would not have been too stressed about it.  If I didn’t make it in time it wouldn’t have been a big deal.  But for some reason on this particular day I felt extremely drawn to be there.  I made it, though almost too late.   I ended up being one of the last ones there but still in time for a few other latecomers to make it in.   And then a certain woman came into the room.   There was a hush as she struggled to her seat.   She was wearing the kind of crutches that attach to your arms and she hobbled precariously to her seat.  Her hands were deformed and her breathing labored.  It was not easy for her to be there.  Several times throughout the service she struggled and it was obvious that this was very difficult for her.  I could tell that she felt “broken” as it shown on her face.  Though there was something else that shown even more and that was sheer determination and love for the Lord and this Gospel!

I learned something that day that I will carry with me always.  Never, ever, take for granted how easy it is for me to serve so often at this time in my life.  And second, it is not about me!  Yes we serve God to get closer to Him and to learn and grow.  But this life is not about us.  We are here to minister to one another, to look outside ourselves for opportunities to help others in their quest for truth and light.  It doesn’t take much for us to fix a meal, or write a card, or telephone someone we’ve been thinking about.  It doesn’t take much for us to give a little bit of ourselves to help someone’s burden become lighter, to help someone feel a little less “broken”.

I read a recent article by Carole M. Stephens entitled The Master Healer in it she says, “As we increase our understanding of the doctrine of Christ, we soon discover that we are developing a deeper understanding of “the great plan of happiness.” We also recognize that our Savior, Jesus Christ, is at the very heart of the plan.”

She continues, “When we learn how to apply the doctrine of Christ to our individual circumstances, our love for our Savior grows. And we recognize “that regardless of perceived differences, all of us are in need of the same infinite Atonement.” We realize that He is our foundation—“the rock of our Redeemer, … a sure foundation … whereon if [we] build [we] cannot fall.”

I have often thought about how God made each of us as individuals, unique in our own special and eloquent ways.  We each have our own set of behaviors, character traits, problems, talents, trials, successes and failures. Not one of us alike, and yet not so different in so many ways.   Although, sometimes we feel like we are totally alone and that there is no one that feels the way we do about what is happening in our lives.  I am sure that is the way this woman felt that day.  But, God also gave us each other, to help us along in our journey through this mortal probation.  We are not alone!  He also gave us a gift that is beyond our comprehension.  He gave us his only begotten Son, the Savior of the world.  A Savior who loves, cares, and suffered for us, so that we can overcome all that this life throws at us.  I am eternally grateful for that!  Let us turn to Him in times of heartache and sorrow.  Let us glorify him in times of health and prosperity.  He has given us so much, even our very lives.  Though we are broken… He is the Healer!

Look Inward, Then Look Upward

man-person-people-trainOn one of my many trips to Utah, I sat on a delayed airplane outside the Denver International Airport.  A storm was pushing through and there was no way that plane was going to get in the air any time soon.  Sitting there on the tarmac for what seemed like hours, I had an experience that I know now, was not a coincidence.  I chose the window seat (I always fly SouthWest so I get to choose), and a young man about the age of my oldest son sat down next to me.  We didn’t converse much at first, he seemed to be exhausted and wanting to sleep.  But after the captain came on for about the third time to let us know that we would not be getting off the plane or in the air for at least another 45 minutes, he struck up a conversation with me.  He started by asking questions.  And in a round about way we began to talk about marriage.  I think I must have told him that I’d just visited my boyfriend in Nashville and was going home to UT.

When I told him I had 4 children, he asked what happened with my previous marriage.  I explained the situation as best I could, and then he started to tell me about his family and how his parents had divorced.  He was not so long married himself, I think about 10 years, and he wanted to find a way to stay married to his wife and not let that happen to him.  So we discussed various reasons why divorce happens.  And so the conversation went….then the captain came on and said we’d be in the air soon.  We’d already sat on the tarmac for over an hour and half.  I watched out my window as the storm clouds rolled in, menacing and gray.  And thought about this chance encounter with a young man half my age, who seemed to know more about life than I did.  And I realized that is was not by chance.  You see, I believe that God places people in our paths for a reason.  And depending on where we are at spiritually or otherwise we can see those encounters for what they truly are.

Before I knew it, he was telling me about his life long use of drugs and his road back to the LDS church.  THE church, that I was in the process of leaving.  He told me of an experiences that he’d had with God.  Mind you, during this time in my life, I didn’t really want much to do with any church.  I was perfectly happy where I was.  He asked me about my boyfriend and we talked about him not being a member of the LDS church and that I was currently not active.  It wasn’t until much later that I realized this young man was a messenger  sent by God and he was there to give me a message.  I began to listen intently to what he was telling me.  It was incredible, the life he’d been through at such a young age.  But what he’d learned and was able to share was truly extraordinary.  After telling me pretty much his whole life story, he said that one conclusion that he’d come to after being at rock bottom and then working his way back up, is how important CPR is.  Not the traditional CPR but CHURCH, PRAY, READ.   EVERY DAY!  He said that he felt like he’d found the solution to most of life’s ups and downs and that was CPR.  I thought, ok I can see how that has worked for you in your life and I’m happy for you.  But, I tried that and it didn’t work for me.  And that was that.  We had arrived in Salt Lake City and we said our goodbyes.

When I got home, I pondered on that conversation several times.  I began to think, maybe I didn’t use CPR like I should have. Was I attending CHURCH ever single week (well yes, but was I REALLY doing the best I could to get everything out of it…probably not)?  Was I really PRAYING?  Or had my prayers become routine and repetitive?  Probably somewhat.  Was I really READING my scriptures every single day? No.   Did I have a lot of work to do?  YES!  And slowly….. VERY SLOWLY…. my heart began to turn back toward God.

Now, it was a super slow process turning my heart back.  It really took me getting to MY rock bottom, before I realized what a big part that chance encounter had played in my life.  And this past 2 years since I came back to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, has been 2 years of extreme spiritual growth.  We have gone through temporal trials that have caused us to look inward and upward.  We have struggled with questions like, why did this happen?   And how long will it take to get through?  And what did we do to get here?  And where do we go from here?  Questions that I think many of us struggle with.  And I certainly don’t claim to have any of the answers to those questions.  All of our trials are different, with different time frames, and different variables.  But I do believe that they all have one thing in common.  God knows us!  God LOVES us and He knows, HE KNOWS what is best for us.  Whatever we think is good for us in our life, God’s plan is better!  It’s so important for us to look at where are hearts are and then to look upward.  To look to God, He knows the way!  His hand is in every facet of our lives and all He asks of us is to “remember HIM”.  “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” John 14:6

Remembering him when our hearts are hard is not easy.   When our hearts are hard we are far from him.  We look to the world for our answers and not to our Loving Father in Heaven.  It is only when our hearts become softened that we are able to hear and heed the voice of the Lord and remember Him always.

There are many other practices that we need to be doing to stay close to the Lord and keep our hearts soft.  But CPR, CHURCH, PRAY, READ, is a pretty good recipe for success in the process of softening our hearts and learning to look inward and upward.

Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good…  Doctrine and Covenants 90:24

When we are struggling, when we are having success, when we have doubts, when we have joy, our God ALWAYS, ALWAYS remembers us!  Is it too much for Him to ask that we ALWAYS remember Him? Look inward and then ALWAYS remember to look up to that God that LOVES you!

I will be forever grateful for young man on a plane, that took the time to tell me about his life and his struggle to find life’s meaning.  For having a soft heart and the courage to listen and act on the Spirit’s prompting, to teach a total stranger about CPR!

 

Sharing our witness of Jesus Christ

There is an old saying that goes something like this.  “There are 2 ways of spreading light,  to be the candle, or the mirror that reflects it!”  Elder D.Todd Christofferson of the twelve apostles, wrote a talk entitled Becoming a witness of Christ.   He said “people should be able to see in us something of Jesus Christ.  the way we act, speak, look , and even think will reflect Him and His ways.”  In other words we should be a reflection of the Candle (meaning Jesus Christ the light of the world).  In 3 Nephi 18:24  from the Book of Mormon, we read “Hold up your light that it may shine unto the world.  Behold I am the light which ye should hold up- that which ye have seen me do.”  As you read this today, I pray that the spirit will be with you and that you will feel impressions on your heart and mind, as to how you can answer these questions. Ask yourself :  1. In what ways do I show that I am a reflection of Jesus Christ to others? and 2. What do I need to do to become a witness of Jesus Christ?

Those are some pretty big questions that hold a lot of weight with them right?!  And truly when you think of a special witness of Jesus Christ we usually think the 12 apostles, who are specifically called to be “special witnesses of Jesus Christ”.  But I believe, and D.Todd Christofferson does too, that it is within the capacity of each of us to become His witness!  Now this certainly does not come easy and hopefully we are making it a lifetime pursuit.  Very often it involves growth and change that is slow, almost imperceptible….  I have seen this happen with my husband as he learned about the gospel and that this is indeed Christ’s restored church on the face of the Earth today.  His testimony began to grow little by little.  He began to make small changes (well he might say the were big, haha) that began to turn his life in a different direction.  We both did really, because I had gotten myself off of the path and had to make those changes to lead me to seek again for Jesus Christ in my life. 

  There are many ways that come to my mind when I think of being a witness of Christ or a reflection of His light.   But here are a few.  I think pure love (he atoned for us, it doesn’t come much purer than that) I think of compassion, a server, a healer of hearts and souls, a giver of light and so much more.  As I was evaluating my life and trying to answer those question I started to think of ways that people I know have shown those types of qualities to me.   

I have had many experiences throughout my life of people who have shared there witness of Christ with me.  Through the ways that they treated me or things that they helped me with.  The first ones that came to mind are my sweet parents!  They have always worked so hard to care for me, love me, and give me the precious fruit of the gospel. 

When I was going through my divorce and then when I became less active, never once did they waiver in their support and love for me.  They never made me feel rejected or left alone.  I always knew that I could turn to them, counsel with them, vent to them if needed and that they would never judge me.  I can truly say that I have goodly parents and that has been such a blessing in my life!  And through the way that they reflected the Saviors love they constantly bore silent testimonies to me of the truthfulness of the gospel and of their witness of Jesus Christ.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson stated that “All of us who are baptized and confirmed have taken upon us the name of Jesus Christ with a commitment to “stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things and in all places (Mosiah 18:9).   

He doesn’t ever say, well if your busy you don’t need to be my witness, or if your kids are sick and your house is a mess and laundry needs to be done, you can take a break for awhile, or if you are just tired of always doing what’s right and you feel like it’s all just too much, well then,  just go ahead and take some time off. 

He doesn’t say things like that because He knows what our potential is and He knows the fight that we are in against evil.  He knows the importance of taking a stand!  Standing means being strong, unwavering, leaning not unto our own understanding.  We can’t afford to take breaks from being a witness of our Savior.  There are too many souls that need saving, that need healing, that need something that only we can give them.  They need the peace of the Gospel plan they need the peace of Christ in their lives. 

In our church we have a youth program.  Each year they pick a theme to follow.  I love our youth theme for 2018.  If you haven’t watched the video  I encourage you to go and watch it. I’ve also posted it above.  The theme comes from D&C 19:23  “Learn of me, listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my spirit and you shall have peace in me”.  There is a great song that goes along with it.   The chorus goes like this: He gives us hope when hope is gone, He gives us strength when we can’t go on, He gives us shelter in the storms of life.   When there is no peace on Earth there is peace in Christ.

I came a cross this statement in Elder Christofferson’s talk and it really made an impression on me.  He says “a prophet has told us that the witness of the Holy Ghost makes an impression on our soul that is more significant than a “visitation from an angel”!  That thought just really struck me … the Holy Ghost makes an impression on our soul that is more significant than a “visitation from an angel”!   We have the opportunity to help make those impressions on others souls.  By having the witness borne to us through the Holy Ghost that Jesus Christ lives and that He truly is our Savior puts us in unique standing because we then in turn can bear our witness to others and then they will have that impression or that mark borne to their souls through the power of the Holy Ghost.  It is through us, most likely, that others will have that witness make a mark upon their souls.   

Now ultimately, we as individuals are responsible for our own personal spiritual growth!  But it can come through the witnesses of others that we turn our life just a little bit more toward the Savior.

This happened for me as a certain individual truly stood as a witness to me of the Savior.  Every time that I did come to church (and it wasn’t that often) she made sure that I knew that she knew that I was there.   She reached out and tried to find things in common.  She was a lifeline making a mark on my life that literally saved it, when the time came.  When I went through my health problems, she was the one that I reached out to.  She was the one that I knew, no matter what she was doing, would drop everything to come to my rescue.  And she did!

What kind of mark will you make in the lives of those around you?  What kind of reflection will you be?  I invite you to put some real thought into those questions over this Special Christmas season when we remember the birth of our Savior.  When we come to a new year and re-evaluate our lives and our priorities.  What kinds of changes can we make that will help us to be that special witness of Jesus Christ for some one else? We know that because of Him, our eternal happiness is assured.  As our faith in Jesus Christ shines through, we show others who “labour and are heavy laden” how to find rest in Him how to find peace. 

I have shared scriptures today from what we believe as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, to be another testament of Jesus Christ.  This is one of my favorites:  We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins. (2 nephi 25:26)

We must write according to our prophecies, that our children may know…. or that the world may know, to what source they need to look for peace. 

 I testify to you that Jesus is the Christ,  the atoner, the sacrificer, the giver of light, the healer of souls.  My redeemer and your redeemer He is where we go to find peace.  Can we work just a little bit harder to share that peace through our witness of Him?  I know we can.   

Gratitude starts with an attitude

It’s interesting to me that within the word “gratitude” lies the word attitude (without the extra “t” of course).  Isn’t it ironic that this character trait of Gratitude, that is so important to have in our lives would be intertwined with another important characteristic?  I don’t think so, I believe it really is intertwined for a purpose, that it is all in our attitude as to how much we value and use gratitude in our lives.  I sincerely try to be grateful for all things.  Even the events that I can not understand and the hard experiences that I go through, such as my illness.  I “choose” to experience them with a heart of gratitude.  You see, we each personally get to choose our attitude.  Thereby making it possible for us to have an attitude of gratitude daily in what ever comes our way.  Now it’s certainly not easy, in any sense of the word.  But if we can try to “live in thanksgiving daily”  as it states in Alma 34:38 of the Book of Mormon, we may find that it makes our days significantly better;   …and that ye live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you.

After I went through my divorce, I really struggled with this concept.  I felt lonely, betrayed by some and I was bitter.  I had a hard time choosing to have a grateful heart.  I knew that it was up to me and that I needed to change my attitude and when it came right down to it, it wasn’t difficult to find things to be grateful for.  I had 4 amazing healthy children, whom I love with all my heart,  I had a roof over my head, and most thankfully I had a good enough relationship with their father that made it much easier to deal with the divorce and all that comes with it.  I know that not everyone gets to experience a divorce in that way.  Like I said there was plenty for me to be bitter about, but I chose to look for the things that I could be grateful for during that time and that’s how I was able to survive it.

Elder Wilford W. Anderson of the Seventy said something in a recent BYU address that I found very important he said: “Gratitude will inoculate you against pride and make a way for your escape from the pride cycle,” 

So the opposite of Gratitude is pride!  He goes on to say: “There is a prevalent pattern of behavior in the Book of Mormon commonly referred to as the ‘pride cycle,’” he said. “It is repeated so frequently that one begins to sense that the Lord and His prophets are trying to teach us something important—that perhaps its inclusion in the record is meant to be a warning from the Lord to each of us in our day.”

One of the ways that we can experience more gratitude and inoculate ourselves against pride in our lives, is to reach outside of our little circle and find ways to serve others.  The Christmas season is a great time to begin that habit.  We just had Thanksgiving and hopefully you got to spend time enjoying those closest to you.  Now it is time for us to look for ways that we can help others who may be lonely, hurt, lost, or in need in some way.  The LDS church of which I am a member, has a great program designed to do just that!  It is called #lighttheworld I would invite you to participate in this great program with your family throughout the month of December who knows, maybe it will become something that you can do all year round!

Elder Anderson ended his remarks with this statement “Recognize that all good things come from God,” he said. “He is the source of every blessing you receive. Fill your heart with gratitude for His merciful kindness. Treasure and follow the counsel of His servants. Your gratitude will inoculate you against pride and make a way for your escape from the pride cycle.”

Let’s let go of our pride this Christmas season and look outside ourselves and find the one who needs YOU!  Sometimes YOU are the one that is called to touch another.  Don’t let that opportunity pass you by!

Use this calendar put out by the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints for inspiration in coming up with ideas and activities that you can do for #lighttheworld

https://www.mormon.org/christmas/25-ways-25-days-calendar