It’s all about love

Today I want to share with you another way that the Savior uses His grace to influence and guide our lives.  In his recent conference talk Elder Gary E. Stevenson shares a story about a scientific experiment on bunnies.  I am not going to tell the whole story here but I encourage you to go and listen or read it. I will link that in the show notes.  It is really quite remarkable.  After sharing the story he concluded by saying, “In recent years, Dr. Kelli Harding published a book titled The Rabbit Effect that takes its name from the experiment. Her conclusion: “Take a rabbit with an unhealthy lifestyle. Talk to it. Hold it. Give it affection. … The relationship made a difference. … Ultimately,” she concludes, “what affects our health in the most meaningful ways has as much to do with how we treat one another, how we live, and how we think about what it means to be human.”

Now apply that to the way the Savior taught us.  In the New testament in John 13:34 we are commanded to “love one another as I have loved you,that ye also love one another”. 

But it seems this simple commandment is often overlooked in today’s world. Everywhere we turn we find judgement cast upon others.  Whether it be a disagreement on social media that sparks heated discussions and contentious encounters with people we may not even know, to neglect and abandoment of those who may be less fortunate or afflicted in such a way that we feel repelled by them.  And so we fear getting involved.  That is not Christ’s way!  

If we are to be true disciples of our Lord and Savior, we will do everything we can to lift up the hands that hang down to mourn with those that mourn. To love those that despitefully use you and persecute you.  None of us are any better than another.  We are all God’s children and we all deserve the love of a God that LOVES ALL of his children deeply.  

Yes, some are harder to love than others but that is not our call to make.  We are commanded to love one another as I have loved you.  It’s not optional.  We are commanded to share the grace that we have found through the Savior with everyone that we encounter.  Jesus spent his days with those who were deemed unloveable.  But he took them by the hand, picked them up, and loved them until they were whole again.

I’ve told you before that I believe a lot of what I share here is for my own benefit, so don’t think for a minute that I don’t struggle at times with this commandment. 

We are human, we are going to make mistakes and hurt people.  That’s part of how life is on this side of the veil.  But I think we owe it to our Savior who gives us so much grace, more than we could ever handle, to then turn that grace, that strength that love to someone in desperate need of the “rabbit effect”.  

Elder Stevenson goes on to say, “We have a primary responsibility to set a tone and be role models of kindness, inclusion, and civility—to teach Christlike behavior to the rising generation in what we say and how we act. It is especially important as we observe a marked societal shift toward division in politics, social class, and nearly every other man-made distinction.

The Lord expects us to teach that inclusion is a positive means toward unity and that exclusion leads to division.”

My invitation to you today, is to soften your heart.  Open your eyes to see and your ears to hear those around you that are suffering or are in need of the grace that our Lord promises.  Love them, include them, give them the “rabbit effect”.  And then watch how the Savior’s grace will not only descend upon them, but upon you as well.

Have a great day my friends.  And we’ll do it all again tomorrow!

XO Wendy

Hands

It was barely dawn and I sat in the quiet.  I let the heat of my cup of hot chocolate warm my hands.  My heart was breaking because I was unable to use these hands to help because I am so far away.  I’m struggling with this thought as I hold the mug and let the heat of the cup burn into my useless hands.  And then as I ponder and plead and pray, the sun begins to peek up over the clouds and I am reminded that the sun always rises. It is a symbol to me, that the Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, who was put up upon the cross to die, was for the exact situation that my heart is breaking for in this very moment. 

As the tears fell, blurring my vision and the ink on my journal page.  I have another thought and I dry my eyes as I realize this is Him, my Savior sending me what I needed in this moment.  I am comforted to know that He will use another’s hands in place of mine, when I am not close enough to use my own.  

I am thinking about the pain that my friend is feeling in these moments.  How broken she must feel.  How lost alone. But God….I am reminded again, He will be there for her.

You see, as I have said many, many times, God is in the details. He meets us where we are and then takes us further than we could make it on our own.  In our broken fragile state, He heals.  He restores.  

In Mosiah 14:5-6 and also found in Isaiah 53:3-5 it reads

5 Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted.  

6 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.   

This scripture is also found in Isaiah 53:3-5

My mind races with the thoughts she must be feeling. And then I feel a peace come over me becauseHe will make her whole again.  But not the same. No, she will never be the same.  

She will be different…. stronger, more capable, more empathetic and compassionate because she has suffered the unimaginable, not in spite of it.  

Brene Brown said. “One day you will tell your story of how you overcame what you went through and it will be someone else’s survival guide.”

I love that so much!  We can be a source of strength for another…His hands. After and sometimes even during, our struggle.

But as with all trials, our hearts will break for a time… it will come in waves slapping us from behind with no warning at all.  Our legs will buckle and we will fall to our knees over and over to beg for relief from the seemingly endless pain.  But the Lord can pick up the pieces and make us a new heart.  It sounds cliche’ the overused statement, “there is always a silver lining”, but that IS how the Lord works.  As said by Thisweeksgrace on IG “I never would have guessed He was this good. God exceeds expectations. He always does.  He will make life better than we could have expected.  He is that good!”

And yet, as we look around and see the despair, the grief, the longing, the anger, the hate, we wonder.  Is there anyone that sees ME in this moment?  Is there anyone out there that really sees ME. 

I have come to understand that we are not so different, you and I.  We struggle, we strive.  We bleed, we heal, we cry, we laugh.  We are indifferent, we are passionate.  We feel betrayal and we feel love. 

We may be of different faiths, races, creeds or cultures.  But we are one to Him who created us. And He wants us, expects us, to be His hands.

I recently read an 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. But…God gave us each other! He gave us each hands and hearts to reach out and embrace when He can not be there to embrace us physically.  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. 

We can and should turn to Him in times of heartache and sorrow as our first line of defense.  Let us glorify Him in times of health and prosperity as well as in times of despair and grief. But then, open your heart up to be loved by those who are sent BY Him for YOU.  Their hands can come and embrace you and start to heal your broken heart.

Deiter F. Uchtdorf once shared a story about Hands.  It reads, “A story is told that during the bombing of a city in World War II, a large statue of Jesus Christ was severely damaged. When the townspeople found the statue among the rubble, they mourned because it had been a beloved symbol of their faith and of God’s presence in their lives.

Experts were able to repair most of the statue, but its hands had been damaged so severely that they could not be restored. Some suggested that they hire a sculptor to make new hands, but others wanted to leave it as it was—a permanent reminder of the tragedy of war. Ultimately, the statue remained without hands. However, the people of the city added on the base of the statue of Jesus Christ, a sign with these words: “You are my hands.”

Elder Uchtdorf goes on to say that the way we become His hands is to embrace, comfort and serve.  I’ll link that talk in the show notes. It’s a good one.

I remember hearing a friend talk about a similar experience that she had as a teenager.  She had a small statue of Christ sitting on her dresser in her bedroom.  Unfortunately, I don’t remember the whole story except that she was very upset as teenagers sometimes are. She had stormed into her room and slammed the door shut behind her, the statue of Christ fell to the floor as she flopped onto the bed in tears.  When she realized that the statue had fallen, she reached down to set it back in it’s place. It was then that she realized that His delicate hands had been broken in the fall. She recalled how that was a reminder that in this particular situation that she had been upset about, she was being called to be His hands. 

Marjorie Paey Hinckley once said, “never suppress a generous thought.” Maybe it’s because she understood the power of hands.  Hands that work from a distance when God can’t be there in person. 

So I guess the question is how do we get better at becoming His hands? It’s so simple really, it’s all in the follow through. Let me explain my thought.

My stepson is a wonderful soccer player.  Which ironically, is a game played without hands.  We have been to so many games and practices and learned so much about the strategy of the game.  I remember one day when he was a few years younger, walking past the coach of another team and I heard him say, there are 3 things that I want you to remember when encountering your opponent and you have possession of the ball.  Stop, change your speed, change your direction.  Oh and one more thing.  After you have shot the ball toward the goal, don’t forget the follow through.”

As I recalled that experience today I thought, it’s much like receiving  a prompting from the Lord, or receiving a generous thought as Marjorie put it.  

First we receive the thought. Now we have possesion.  Next the trick is to maintain possession and not lose it.  That’s usually where we have the most trouble.  We start to second guess the Lord.  Was that really a prompting, or was it just my thought?  Or we start to doubt, “I can’t do that.  It’s too hard. They would think I’m weird.  Or we accept the prompting and then get distracted and lose it.  Or maybe we are so busy with so many things on our minds, that we forget about it and then pass it off as just a fleeting thought. My point is that we neglect the first reccomendation of the coach, to STOP. Just STOP and receive the ball.  Or in this case receive the prompting and maintain possession.

Second, change your speed.  In soccer this would mean, if you’re running fast, slow down.  If you’re in one spot, start running. When you change your speed it throws your opponent off balance and you can quickly maneuver around them. 

Comparing this to promptings, if you have a prompting or “generous thought”, and you’re in the middle of something, slow down.  Write it down, acknowledge it so you can keep possession.  Then you can follow through when you’re finished with your current task. If you’re not doing anything or mindlessly scrolling social media, get up and get going . Chop, chop! You have hands to fill and hearts to love on.

Third, change your direction. In soccer, the simple act of changing direction can immediately slow down your opponent because they are not anticipating the change. 

Sometimes we are prompted in ways to literally change direction.  I remember a time after I had been in the hospital and had started on my road to recovery.  Things were getting better and there had been a  lot of little miracles.  However the stress of our current situation had weighed heavily on my husband and he suddenly became very ill.  He wasn’t eating or sleeping and he had lost several pounds in just a few weeks.  I was extremely worried about him.   We both had no idea what was happening.  

One night we had been visiting with the sister missionaries in our church.  They had shared somewhat of a message with us and we had talked about the stress that he was under. He was not a member of the church of Jesus Christ at the time and not fully invested in learning anything more about it.  So they left and went on their way.  

About 15 minutes later we hear a knock on the door.  And the 2 young women stood awkwardly at the door.  One of them said, “you know we were on our way home and I got the feeling that we should turn around, come back and tell you something.  Then she said I asked her, (the other young woman she’d come with) what she thought about that” and she said, “You know , I was thinking the exact same thing”.  “So here we are”, she said.  

Joe and I looked at them and then looked at each other and opened the door wide for them to come in.

They then proceeded to tell Joe that even though he was not a member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints that he could still receive a priesthood blessing.  Joe looked at me a bit baffled about how to respond.  He didn’t even know what a priesthood blessing was. And for those of you listening that don’t know, a priesthood blessing is given by 2 male members of our church.  They lay their hands upon your head to call up on the power of God to heal you or comfort you.  I have seen many miracles come because of priesthood blessings.

I had requested a priesthood blessing when I was in the hospital (after leaving the church), and that had been a great source of comfort to me and had started the ball rolling toward me getting the help I needed.  But we had never considered that for him.  Looking back I knew in my heart, that in that moment, they were representing God’s hands in offering Joe something that God could not be there to do Himself.  He wanted someone to relay his message of comfort to Joe.  He wanted them to be His hands.  

And the cool thing about that experience is that those two girls didn’t hesitate on a dark winding, narrow, and hilly Tennesse road.  If you’ve ever been to Tenessee we have some really crazy roads!  But they just stopped the car and promptly changed direction and headed back our way.  He gladly accepted and it ended up being a great comfort to Him and me at that time.

And shortly thereafter he was able to receive the help he needed.

Now onto the follow through.  I remember one particular moment in a soccer game where one of our players had shot the ball toward the goal.  It looked like it was going to make it but it wasn’t rolling quite fast enough and the goalie was on the way to retrieve the ball, then out of nowhere my stepson came flying toward the ball faster than the goalie and shot it directly into the net.  A goal was scored and the team cheered.  That’s what is called a follow through.  Even when it looks like the goalie might get to it, you don’t stop, you continue forward in the hopes that you will make it before the goalie reaches it. (Link to that goal below, it’s awesome!)

https://spaces.hightail.com/receive/e7AMhwtptS/d2VuZHljYXJ0ZXIwMUBnbWFpbC5jb20=   

When considering promptings let’s review.  The 3 things to remember are Stop, change your speed, change your direction.  And finally don’t forget the follow through.  When it comes to the gospel of Jesus Christ, Love… is the follow through.

This is after all the second and great commandment found in Matthew 22:39

And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself

The first one being verse 37 Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

Sometimes we do all the right things, we receive the prompting and maintain possession, we slow down or speed up whichever is required.  We change direction if needed.  But on occasion we forget the most important part, the follow through.  What I mean by that is that sometimes we get so caught up in the steps leading up to being God’s hands for someone in need, that we forget, that in and of itself LOVE is the follow through. Our hands, His hands, they embrace,  they comfort, they serve. 

Of course, all those steps leading up to the follow through are definitely a large part of it.  That’s important! But in order to make the goal we have to follow through we have to remember it’s all about LOVE.  Check in with that person regularly from time to time.  Don’t just drop and dart for lack of a better term.  Really embrace them, love them, comfort them and serve them as our Savior would want us to.  

In his talk, Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, “…let our hearts and hands be stretched out in compassion toward others, for everyone is walking his or her own difficult path. As disciples of Jesus Christ, our Master, we are called to support and heal rather than condemn.  We are commanded to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort.” …Christ knows how to minister to others perfectly.  When the Savior stretches out His hands, those He touches are uplifted and become greater, stronger, and better people as a result.”

So let’s take a lesson from the pages of our Savior’s life.  Let’s let our hands help others be uplifted, become greater, stronger and better people as a result of us using our hands as His to LOVE them when they so desperately need His LOVE.

God has given us so much!  Is it too much to ask that we use OUR HANDS for His?

XO Wendy

Stronger than you think.

The past couple of months have been super challenging.  I know that I am not the only one that feels this way.  It’s ironic because back in February before all the craziness started, I felt better physically, mentally and emotionally than I had in a very long time.  Stronger.  More equipped to fight off the adversary.  More confident, after struggling for so long to regain what I felt being diagnosed Bipolar, had taken away from me.  Courage to face the challenges that would come my way.  Little did I know what myself and others would be facing over the next several months.

Life has a way of throwing curve balls at you, doesn’t it?  I don’t know if there is anything that could have prepared us for what we have all been through over the past several months.   And on top of the many circumstances that each of has faced together, many have had to face the normal day to day challenges and inevitable trials that unexpectedly come our way in our so-called “normal” pre-Covid life.

So as I have been struggling, I have been searching for ways to pull myself out of the funk that I have been in.  And wouldn’t you know it, God always comes through with something that I need.  It didn’t just happen.  I have been praying for days to feel better and re-gain that strength and faith and courage that I had just a few short months ago.  As I have mentioned many, many times, we can’t just wait for it, we have to look for it and ask for it.

meme_matthew_knock

Today, I just wanted to share a little bit of what I have been thinking and pondering over and what I feel like God has been guiding me towards this past month.

You may have noticed that after my last post, I’ve been pretty scarce with social media.  I feel like I have had to shield my spirit away from so much of the negativity that has been going on, just as I would to my children.  Maybe I am different than most mothers, but looking back I don’t think that I would have allowed my children to see a lot of what is blasted over social media.

I was pretty careful about what I allowed my kids to see and be a part of when they were little.  Though the internet wasn’t as prevalent as it is today, the T. V. was a big influence.  So I instituted what we called “No T.V. week” once a month.  We used that time to read books, spend time together as a family, to go outside and enjoy nature and to find other sources of entertainment.

We also had many shows that were off limits, that the kids were not allowed to view.  I just didn’t appreciate the influence and ideas of disrespect, negativity, and irresponsibility, etc. that some of those shows portrayed.  And I think it has only gotten worse as the years have gone on (especially with all the venues that are available today for viewing).

The point that I am getting to is that maybe…. maybe we need to treat ourselves and our spirits exactly how we would our children.  We are given stewardship over our children.  They are not ours.  They are His, just as we are His.

And just as tenderly as we treat and love our children, is how we should treat and love ourselves.  We need to give ourselves the grace that God gives us and that we give our children.  Even if that means taking the internet away from ourselves for a week ;).

How awful would it be if the first time our child tried to walk, we chastised them when they fell and discouraged from trying again?  But we don’t do that.. we encourage them over and over and over again until they can do it on their own.  And then we continue to do that with everything that they come across throughout their lives, even as they grow older and have their own children.  We never stop loving and encouraging and allowing them to grow and become better than they were before.

We only have this one body…. it is a gift from the Father.  Ours to take care of, to have “stewardship” over.  And even though our bodies come to us with many different challenges, our spirits that are housed by those bodies are precious and so loved by the Father.

I remember many times, rushing to my child’s side as they fell down. Tenderly lifting them onto a counter, kissing “ouchies”  better and gently placing bandaids on the scrapes and bruises.  Giving them a hug and holding them as long as they needed until they felt strong enough to get back to what they were doing when they fell.  And most often, with that boost of love and care, they were able to try again pretty quickly without even a negative thought.

Maybe I’m not so alone in the fact that I don’t treat myself the way I would my child, my family members, or my friends.  I don’t give myself grace when I make mistakes.  I have a hard time picking myself up when I fall.  Instead of wiping away the tears as I would my child when they fall and scrape their knees, and encouraging them to get back up.  I tend to chastise and beat myself up for falling in the first place. That is not what the Lord would want for us.  There is only one place that negativity, self doubt, fear, and discouragement come from and that is from the adversary!

So as I move forward (and I hope you’ll join me) through this unchartered territory that we are all exposed to at this time, I am going to do my best to remember that this body is given to me to house my beautiful, tender, and loving spirit.  I am going to show up for myself just as I do for my children and friends and family. I am going to wrap myself in a big giant hug and tell myself that everything is going to be ok.  Because it will be.

I am going to let God cradle me in His grace when I fall.  I’m going to get back up and try again when I make mistakes or fail.  Because one thing is for sure, we can not move forward when we are always looking back.  We can not look ahead when we are always looking back.  We can not become better when we are always telling ourselves how bad we are.

Falling is not the problem.  Making the choice to get back up when we fall is where the real victory begins!

XO Wendy

 

Be grateful for today.

Be thankful for how far you’ve come and what you’ve learned along the way.  We only have one life!  

Don’t waste it away worrying about what you haven’t yet been able to do.  Make today great and full of gratitude and everything else will take care of itself.

Somebody’s angel

generous thought

It was Camilla E. Kimball who once said, “Never suppress a generous thought.”  As I have been participating in the #lightTHEworld campaign this year, I have thought about this quote quite often.  I’m reminded that even when you may think that no one cares or that you don’t measure up to what you think you should.  When you think that you’ve exhausted your last card, or screwed things up so bad that no one could love you.  Remember this; You are always somebody’s angel.

I know this because I have so many people in my life that are my Earth Angels. They probably have no idea they helped me in great times of need. From the moms that surrounded me when my children were growing up. To the family that brought us an Easter Lily when we didn’t think our baby would survive the night. To the women and girls who sat with me as I struggled with young children during church while my husband served in the Bishopric.

To the dance teacher that listened to me when I cried my eyes out on the phone.  To the young girl that knocked on my door on my birthday with a big hug and a thoughtful gift.  To the friend who always called at just the right time when I needed it most. To the woman I call mom, that raised and supported me through all of my rough days.  To the woman in my neighborhood who saved me when I didn’t know I needed saving, and then became my second mother. To the older couple that sat by my husband and I every week at church for months, as we made our way back and to the Gospel.  The list goes on and on and I’m positive that you have a list too.

This time of year can be rough for many people for all kinds of different reasons.  It may be the loss of a loved one.  Losing a child or longing to have one.  It could be a body that doesn’t function as it should.  Or an illness that is unexpected.  It could be that this is your first year alone after a divorce.  Or one of the many spent by yourself because you haven’t found your soul mate yet.  It could be sickness or depression, or loneliness, or homelessness.  No matter your situation, I want you to remember that you are ALWAYS somebody’s angel.

If you’ve ever called someone out of the blue because you were thinking about them.  Or had a generous thought to do something for someone, just because and then followed through. Never underestimate the power that one thought can have in someones life.  You truly can be their “angel” in a time of loneliness, distress, or trial.

In honor of the many angels among us, I wanted to share this video and hope you all have an amazing week!

XO Wendy