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

 

 

 

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

The Messenger

“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.” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Helping-Others

Over the past several months I have been trying to become better at discerning when the Spirit speaks to me.  I have prayed for the ability to know how I can be used as an ‘instrument’ in the hands of the Lord.  Subsequently, I have been having regular experiences that I can not deny, come from listening to, and following through with the promptings of the Spirit.

One such situation that I will share, happened with one of my daughters.  One of the practices that I’ve started is to end my evening prayer with a plea to the Lord, “Is there anything that you would have me do or know?”  And then I will try to listen intently to the promptings as thoughts begin to fill my mind.  I say try, because that seems to be a difficult thing for me (and probably most of us) to do… just calm my mind and listen.  But I am finding that as I practice, I am getting better at discerning what thoughts are actually coming from Him.

Anyway, on this particular night I said my evening prayer and then proceeded with my usual question.  Very quickly and with great force, my daughter’s name tumbled through my mind repeatedly.  I was perplexed, as I had just spoken with her that evening and things seemed to be fine.  I made a note to call her in the morning and make sure things were ok.  I had a busy morning but I texted her first thing and asked if she had some time later that day that we could talk.  The morning went by as usual and I wasn’t terribly concerned and I didn’t feel that she was in danger or anything, but she continued to weigh on my mind.  When we were finally able to talk, I briefly explained what had happened and then she began to cry…. and then I began to cry, lol.  I knew that the Lord had spoken to me and that I was to be the messenger.  She told me that she had been having some hard days.   And we both agreed that the promptings that I felt to call her and tell her of my experience were meant to help her realize that He is there and that He does hear her cries and that He is very aware of what she is going through. And above all that He loves her enough to use someone else to bring that message to her.

And that is how it works a lot of the time.  We are are the Lord’s messengers.  We just need to be open and ready to receive the message and then, the most important part, is to deliver that message, or ACT on that prompting.

It’s funny because in life we always seem to want the latest and greatest!  We can’t wait for the new thing to come out and we stand in lines to be one of the first to see it, or have it, or hold it and try it out! The world promises us money, fame, and fortune but the Lord promises us peace, understanding and eternal life.  In the world today, we have a hard time seeing past ourselves and our selfish desires.  But what the Lord wants is for us to look to Him and His ways to find ourselves.  King Benjamin preached in the  Book of Mormon: “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17).  And in the New Testament the Savior taught His disciples, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it” (Luke 9:24).

I believe another important aspect of learning to listen to and follow promptings of the spirit is to get “unplugged” and tune in.  Kind of sounds like an oxymoron.  How do you “unplug” and “tune in”?  Technology is a great and positive tool for sure!  I mean you are probably reading this blog on your smartphone, lol, so I can’t tout them.  But I do know that cell phones, tablets, computers, etc. take up an extreme amount of our time and can cause the lines to our spiritual communication to be full of static and distractions.  And it is so important for us to be “tuned in” to the still small voice of the Spirit to feel and hear the promptings when they come.

I found it so funny when I saw a photo of someone on FB that said “Here we are, all watching a movie.  And then in the photo several of them were looking at their phones, and a few others were really watching the movie, haha.  How can you focus on listening to a still small voice when your mind is full of distractions?  Again in the Bible we read in (First Kings 11-12) “And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lordbut the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:   And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.”

In April 2017 Elder Ronald Rasband of the Quorum of the twelve apostles taught:  “The Holy Ghost binds us to the Lord. By divine assignment, He inspires, testifies, teaches, and prompts us to walk in the light of the Lord. We have the sacred responsibility to learn to recognize His influence in our lives and respond.”

The Lord wants to be able bless our lives by “using” us to bless the lives of others.  I know that might sound a little backwards, but that’s really how it works!  If we can find ways to serve him, even if they are small and may seem insignificant, that is how we will begin to grow to our full potential, feel his Spirit, and to become more like our Savior, who was the ultimate example of compassion and love.  We become the “messengers” by regularly submitting to His will by acting on the promptings that we receive to help and serve others.  Even the smallest act of a simple phone call can make such a difference in the life of someone who is struggling.

broken-violin-1501727-gallery

I put a lot of thought into the blogs that I post hoping they will reach and touch the lives of others in a positive helpful way.  But what I have found is that as I think about and try to figure out what to write about, it always ends up helping me more than I think it will ever help anyone else.  I have come to understand that that is the way the Lord refines us and builds us into the people he wants us to be.  Sometimes I feel like the ‘Old violin’  worn and used and sometimes beaten down with the daily struggles of life,  but when touched by the “Master’s hand” able to do amazing things, not only for myself, BUT especially in being His messenger for others.

“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.” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

 

 

 

Adversity and the Adversary

Note:  This post is referenced in this previous post where I said I would share the story about finding my Doctor.

praying hands

It has been almost two years to the day that I lay on my living room sofa in a complete pile of tears.  I had all but given up on finding the right medication and a good Dr. to take me on my journey to wellness.  I had been put on waiting list after waiting list to get in to see a psychiatrist.  I had a scheduled appointment, and the day before I was to see the Doctor I ended up back in the hospital following another manic episode.  The Dr. I was supposed to have seen said that since I was unable to make that appointment,  that I would be scheduled for another 6 weeks out.  I felt so beaten down and forgotten.  Why was God not helping me in this? Where was He when I needed Him the most?  And why am I so broken?  These were the questions that I asked myself over and over again.

My husband Joe, had come home to check on me during his lunch break.  He gave me the news that he was finally able to land me an appointment with a strongly referred psychiatrist…. for 6 weeks from that day!  I was torn, I knew this was a good thing but I was completely devastated that I had to wait so long.  I am not going to make it another 6 weeks I cried, I’ll end up in the hospital again, I just knew it.  Joe could see that I was near my breaking point.  We were both at a loss of what to do.  The adversary was working so hard on us, trying to break us down.  I think he knew that we were nearing the fork in the road where we would be required to make the choice of whether to try and do this all on our own or put our trust in the Savior  and let him carry us.

The Savior said: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30)

I know I’ve used that scripture previously but it describes so perfectly what I was experiencing, and what I needed to know.  And although at the time I was probably further from God than I had ever been, I also knew that he would hear my cries.  I think the important point to remember is that we all have our loads to bear.  Each one of us goes through hard things, each of us experience opposition and trials that can lead us away from God.  Or they can build and strengthen us if we will trust in His plan for us.

Elder David A. Bednar of the quorum of the twelve Apostles once stated, “Sometimes we mistakenly may believe that happiness is the absence of a load. But bearing a load is a necessary and essential part of the plan of happiness.”  Adversity, then, is essential to our success!

Joe calmly took my hand, and said I think we need to ask God for some help on this.  Can we pray? (This is my non-religious husband whom I had never seen pray before).  Of course, I said a resounding “yes, please pray for us!”  He then poured out his heart right there in front of our sofa.  I don’t really remember the exact words he used but I know that he truly pleaded with a true and honest heart that God would exercise his hand in our situation and somehow bring us peace and comfort and help us get through this hard trial that we were experiencing.  He closed the prayer and I felt a peaceful calm settle over me.  Joe went back to work and I fell into a deep sleep, which was unusual during that time because of my condition.  I awoke to my phone ringing about an hour or so later.  The woman on the line explained who she was, the receptionist of the highly referred Doctor that Joe had spoken with earlier, she explained that they had had a cancelation and knew that I was in desperate need to get in to see him.  “Could you be here at 8:30am tomorrow morning?”  “YES!”  I exclaimed, “I’ll be there.”  I hung up the phone and dropped to my knees,  I knew this was truly God’s hand working a miracle in our lives!

That phone call changed everything for me and for us.  We were now at least “on the journey” towards me becoming healthy again.  The Doctor turned out to be exactly who I needed and has helped me throughout the past couple of years to get and stay well.  However it has been, and continues to be, fraught with many obstacles along the way.  Once we chose to lean on God and get on the right path in that fork in the road the adversary started throwing fiery darts, it seemed, at every turn.  We are told in the Book of Mormon that there is opposition in all things  “It must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, … righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad” (2 Nephi 2:11; see also verse 15).

Although trials come, we must remember that opposition permits us to grow, it strengthens us it helps us to learn to trust God even more and to …lean not unto our own understanding Proverbs 3:5.  And let Him direct our path!  Because even though we may think we have a great plan.  He sees more and His plan is better for us!

President Henry B. Eyring stated in the October 2017 General Conference address “… as much as we have already built faith and courage in our hearts, the Lord expects more from us—and from the generations after us. They will need to be stronger and braver because they will do even greater and harder things than we have done. And they will face increasing opposition from the enemy of our souls.”

So we see that the obstacles that the adversary throws at us our necessary so far as we are leaning toward and trusting in the Lord to guide us through these obstacles.  Life is not easy, it was not meant to be easy.  As Elder Bednar stated. “Happiness is not the absence of a load…”.  It’s what and how we deal with that load that really matters.

Joe and I were recently commenting about the length of this trial and how we just didn’t think it would take “so long” haha.  But I can honestly say that without experiencing the ups and downs of these past few years, we would not have grown so close to our Savior.  We would not know God the way we do now.  We would be floundering wondering which way to turn and how to move forward.  But through the strength of our Savior and  Redeemer we have learned that we CAN have happiness even amongst the loads!

Choices and Change

Our lives are full of change.  It’s the one variable that we can always depend on no matter what.  From the minute we are born, our lives are in a constant state of change and it’s part of God’s plan for us.  But in that Change, there are a lot of choices to be made by  each of us.  We are met with choices every single minute of every single day!  So how do we know how to make the right choices for us to bring forth the change that is intended by God for us in our journey?  

Our lives are full of change.  It’s the one variable that we can always depend on no matter what.  From the minute we are born, our lives are in a constant state of change and it’s part of God’s plan for us.  But in that Change, there are a lot of choices to be made by  each of us.  We are met with choices every single minute of every single day!  So how do we know how to make the right choices for us to bring forth the change that is intended by God for us in our journey?  For me it really comes down to two categories; One, what are we willing to sacrifice for our salvation, what changes are we willing to make?  And two, what choices will we be willing to make in order to get where God wants us to be?

Over the past several years my husband and I have been in a constant state of change and upheaval in our lives.  We have had to make many choices along this journey that we never thought we would be confronted with.  Sacrifices that have been required in order to move closer to where we need to be.  We have felt like we are on a raging sea at times, where you can’t see the bow of the boat for the waves that are coming over the top.  But then at other times, the waters seem calm and serene pushing us along steadily in the direction we are meant to go.  It is a trip not met without some sea sickness, lol, and a lot of opposition which makes change and choices for that matter, even harder.  But through it all, I have found that one of the most important ways that we can learn to calm the waves and make those tough decisions is to rely even more heavily upon our savior.  In the Book of Mormon (another testament of Jesus Christ) we read:

Alma 38:9

And now, my son, I have told you this that ye may learn wisdom, that ye may learn of me that there is no other way or means whereby man can be saved, only in and through Christ. Behold, he is the life and the light of the world. Behold, he is the word of truth and righteousness.

Our Savior will never, ever lead us astray.  If we pray to him with our full hearts, with real intent, He will show us the direction that we need to go.  And even though, through those choices comes much change we are able to withstand those changes because he will make are burdens become light and our weaknesses become strong.

Ether 12: 27

27 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… (also found in the Book of Mormon)

Did you catch that first sentence?  And if men come unto me…  We are the ones that need to do the walking here.   It is us that walk away from Christ and it us that walk toward Christ.  We are the ones that make that critical choice!  That is so important to understand.  So many times we can be caught saying why me, why this, why now?  And to be clear, I’m not saying that there aren’t many things that reach beyond our control.  Most certainly there are many!  But how we choose to face those changes along this journey that we call life, is so important when realizing the sacrifices that we have been required to make.  There is always a purpose in God’s plan for us.

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The one thing that is so great about choices is that if chosen carefully and with our salvation in mind.  We can literally feel our lives being molded by our maker and that’s not always a comfortable place to be.  Change never is.  In fact being uncomfortable is part of his plan for us.  It’s the only way that we truly grow and become stronger more capable individuals.  So I challenge you to get uncomfortable today!  Make that your choice, “I will do something today that will bring me closer to where God wants me to be”.  And then prepare yourself for the molding and the change that will take place.  And remember, God doesn’t make mistakes!  Move forward with faith!

What being “away” from the church taught me.

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I never considered myself in-active or “less active”, because to me, that meant that you had left the church.  That meant that you had denounced your faith in some way, which I never felt like I did.  However, I did step “away” from the church for a few years.  I had just gotten divorced and I’ll admit that I was really struggling with a lot of what it meant to be a member of the LDS church.  How could this happen to me?  I was married in the temple.  Things seemed to be going so well.  Was it a lack of faith?  Was it a lack of desire?  Was it complacency? Was it loneliness?  What was it exactly, that made me want to distance myself from all that I had known?  I was born and raised in the church.  I did what all my friends did, and most members that I knew.   Grew up, married a returned missionary, got married in the temple, had a family, and then lived happily ever after, right?!  So what had happened to my happily ever after?

The thing is, leaving the church, or stepping “away” from the church, your faith, your testimony, all that you have ever known to be true, doesn’t happen overnight!  It is a slow process that happens seemingly, without you even noticing until one day you’ve done it.  You are “away” from the church.  You don’t attend, or study or maybe even pray anymore (although I think prayer tends to be something you continue even when you are away.  Or at least you try).  You don’t practice your religion anymore.  And members of the church who know you and hear about it, think “it’s really sad”.   You are essentially known as a “less active” or an  inactive member.  I remember referring to myself as, ” no longer practicing”.  But really what you’re saying is a veiled way to say “I no longer have a testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel, therefore I have stepped “away” for a while to figure things out.” I had somehow lost my way… “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matt. 7:13–14)

The ironic part is that at first it feels very freeing!  I remember saying on many occasions, “I’m happier than I’ve ever been, and I just can’t reconcile that it coincides with my being away from the church”.  Honestly, I never thought it would happen to me.  I did everything I was supposed to do, everything that I had been taught all those years growing up.  Sure I made my share of mistakes, as does everyone.  But I had tried to be diligent in all that I had learned through the years after my temple marriage.  Holding many different callings, while raising my little family in the gospel, going to the temple, studying my scriptures and going to church.  I was keeping my covenants, and praying.  I was doing everything, wasn’t I?  Or was I?

Truthfully, I have to admit that my temple attendance wasn’t where it should have been.  I wasn’t really reading my scriptures as much as I should have.  And I probably had become redundant in my prayers…. And I am sure there were many other “little” things.  I don’t really know exactly how it happened because it all happened SO slowly.  And the scary part is, that it can happen to ANYONE! I’m hoping that by sharing my experience it can be a voice of warning.

In Matthew we read: Enter ye in at the strait gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction and many there be which go in thereat. (Matt. 7:12) It seemed so much easier to be on the path that I was now on.

But then, that is how the opposition works right? One little flaxen cord at a time.  Like a big giant fluffy, feather, gently coaxing you.  “You don’t need to read your scriptures tonight, you’ve worked so hard all day and you’re tired.  You can get to it tomorrow.”

Go ahead buy that dress that isn’t really long enough for your temple garment… it’s so cute and you’ve worked so hard to look good.”  One more little feather.

It’s ok to miss church today.  Since you got divorced, no one really cares anyway.”  One more little feather gently waving and caressing you away.  It feels so good to be free, you say!  But little do you know how hard Satan is working on you!  All of those “little tiny feathers” are turning into a very tightly woven cord, and you are being led along without even realizing it.

Joseph B. Wirthlin of the quorum of the twelve apostles stated, “We get sidetracked by submitting to temptations that divert us past the bounds of safety. Satan knows our weaknesses. He puts attractive snares on our paths at just those moments when we are most vulnerable. His intent is to lead us from the way that returns us to our Heavenly Father.”

After a while I was so comfortable with the way that I was living my life that I began to think I no longer needed religion in my life.  I no longer needed the church or a testimony or to be “bound” down by callings and church attendance. I had entered in at the wide gate and it felt good to be just like everyone else!

And then something began to happen…. I NEEDED God.  I NEEDED the church.  I NEEDED the priesthood.  I NEEDED my testimony! I NEEDED all of it! And how had that happened? Yep, you guessed it, SO SLOWLY!  Little seeds were being planted along the way until all of sudden it was unmistakeable!  You can see my post “living with bi-polar” for some of the story but I will definitely write more about all of the little experiences that happened in between in upcoming posts.  But lucky for us, one thing that God never does, is give up on his children!  No not one.

“How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?

“And if it so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.” (Matt. 18:12–13.)

Luckily, God’s angels both here and on the other side are working just as hard if not harder to get you back!  And now that I am back, I am so thankful for that.  I know that there were many prayers and fasts that went out in my behalf.  Many times my name was probably written in the roles of the temple.  Many tears that were cried for my salvation, and many angels that were working from the other side to influence me.

So why am I writing about this?  It’s not exactly an easy subject to approach.  People leave the church for all different reasons.  There is nothing special or singular about my situation or why I left.  At least that is what I thought.  But the truth is, I believe it IS similar for most people, in that it happens SO slowly.  One small act at a time.  One small thought at a time.  One small step at a time.  And before you know it, you hear yourself saying…”I’m not sure I’ve ever had a testimony”,  “I’m really not sure if the church IS true after all”.  and “I’m happier than I’ve ever been without it!”

I think what I am trying to say and what I have been prompted to write is that you have to keep The whole Armor of God on! See Ephesians 6:10-18  Not just sometimes…. ALL THE TIME.  ALL DAY, EVERY DAY!  You must to do all the little things EVERY DAY!  Sometimes more than just once a day.  You MUST keep yourself unspotted from the world.  You must live IN the world but not be OF the world.  If you are like me you’ve heard that statement a million times growing up in the church! But it has never been more true or more important than it is today.  In The Book Of Mormon (another testament of Jesus Christ) Mormon Chapter 8  gives us insight into today’s world, Moroni says he has seen our day, and it includes wars and rumors of wars, great pollutions, murders, robbing, and people who tell us that there is no right or wrong in God’s eyes. He describes people who are filled with pride, caught up in the wearing of expensive clothing, and who make fun of religion. He is shown people who are so obsessed with worldly things that they allow “the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to pass by”3 without being noticed.  

But we should not despair,  it is the Lord’s way that will lead us to life eternal!

The prophet David O. Mckay taught: Christ is the light to humanity. In that light man sees his way clearly; when it is rejected, the soul of man stumbles in darkness. No person, no group, no nation can achieve true success without following him who said:

“I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” (John 8:12.)

Has my life gotten easier since I came back to the church?  In some ways yes, and in some ways no.  In reality it has actually been a really hard road.  Quite like a roller coaster, lol.  My family and I have had to go through a lot of things physically, spiritually and mentally that I never thought we would have to go through. But that is how we grow, that is how we become stronger and better people.  We don’t grow by being in a comfortable spot where there is nothing changing, no growth. However, through it all I have no doubt that my Savior is with me, that he is my advocate to the Father! I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.  Philippians 4:13 

I am also comforted to know that I need not fear for He is with me, I know where and how to to find the peace that only He can give.

Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Doctrine and Covenants 88:63

I am confident that as I purposefully follow the commandments that I will not be led astray again.  Elder David A. Bednar of the quorum of the twelve Apostles has been known to say, “If you read the Book of Mormon every day, you will never fall away”.  If you’ve gotten this far I commend you and if you have learned anything I hope you will realize that my story can happen to anyone!  That you can NEVER take your membership in this gospel for granted!  It truly is a gift!  A gift that is meant to be shared with others!