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 or a servant’s heart, 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 their 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 Savior’s 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 across 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 someone 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.   

XO Wendy

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

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