Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday Inspirations March 28, 2010

This morning during my fast thoughts came racing to my mind regarding the suffering we go through in this life, the hard times we frequently find ourselves enduring. Images and connections seemed to come at lightening speed as I thought about Christ and the Atonement. I snatched up a pen an piece of scratch paper and began to write as fast as my imperfect hands would allow. I'd like to share these thoughts with you.

Let me paint you a picture. Christ has just arrived at the Garden of Gethsemane with His closet friends, the apostles. Inviting three to accompany Him, Jesus finds a spot a ways off wherein He resides Himself to "partake of the bitter cup." Leaving Peter, James and John - for this is something so sacred no mortal can behold the unfolding events - Christ enters the sacred place in a garden He dearly loves.

An unexpected heaviness weighs on Him, something He's never felt before. Even before He begins to pray a change in the very atmosphere affects Him. It is no stretch of the imagination to think of Him being a bit alarmed. In His prayer we witness a small crack in His composure. "Father," He may have prayed, "I'm not sure what's going on here. For the first time I'm feeling nervous, anxious, and heavy. I'm not certain if I can do this. If it's at all possible, Father please, please let this cup pass." Yet His plea does not end there. "Nevertheless, Thy will be done."

Let us think for a moment what it must have been like for our Father to hear this most extraordinary Son ask for the harshness to be taken away, and yet be willing to endure if that's what He felt was best. Don't you think His arms reached out in an instinctive motion to take his Son in a big hug and say, "Of course you don't have to endure this. No more, my perfect Son, no more." He did not, of course, because there were lessons to be learned, trials to be experienced, and mercy to be met - not for Christ. Not for the perfect one, but rather for the rest of us. Because both knew there would be times when we would feel just as dark, as scared, and hopeless.

At last the excruciating agony ended, but only for a time. Once more Christ knelt to experience the extreme pain of sins compounded upon even more sins. Perhaps this second time was even more difficult than the first. I cannot help but think the most extraordinary part of all is He came back a third time. The agony was so great He bled from every pore. Heavenly Father sent down an angel to support Him during this dark time. Things were so bad Christ prayed "more earnestly." Can you imagine that, the need for our Savior to pray more earnestly? Perhaps at that moment He finally knew what it felt like, that need to pray harder and longer when we are in the depths of darkness.

I believe the most frightening moment for Jesus was when the Father withdrew His Spirit. For the first time in His entire life Christ knew what it meant to be utterly cut off from the Father. There was no influence. No light. No angels. No support whatsoever. And because the Spirit was not there, Satan's influence was free to enter; to buffet Him from all sides, even to help Christ know more than any of us can realize what it means to be in complete darkness.

What do you think it felt like when the Spirit at last returned, for the light to come back? Do you think Christ appreciated it more than He had ever done before. Don't you think this connection to the Father became more precious than ever before?

We are sometimes given experiences to help us grow and learn in ways we could not do otherwise. Some of these things we even agreed to endure in the pre-existence, knowing they would help us in becoming the individual Heavenly Father knows we need to be to help further His work along.

One of my greatest trials in the last few years has been depression. It's an ugly thing, leaving one with no hope, no light, no way of feeling the Spirit. I can look at others around me and see them being influenced, and simply feel dead inside. At times I have wondered what was so wrong with me. I have heard others wonder why Heavenly Father hates them so much, though I have never thought that myself. Prayers appear to go unheeded. All that seems left to us is a sensation of falling deeper and deeper into intense and seemingly everlasting sadness.

Here is what I've learned. Sometimes when our prayers seem to go unanswered, it's because we're not praying the right prayers. What we want to have happen simply cannot be done, because there is a greater purpose to our suffering. We cannot see the bigger picture and struggle to understand why the life of one little soul here on earth could be so important in the grand scheme of things.

What we need to do is change our prayers. We cannot stop with telling our Father what we feel we need, but always add, "Thy will be done." And of course ask for support, help and love. That's when He sends us angels. They come in the form of family, friends, and others who give what little they can during our time of need. Christ was sent one angel. Just one. To the rest of us are given angels in abundance to support us during our difficult times. They are not perfect angels, and they cannot take the pain and heartache away from us, but they can be the shoulder we need to cry on, or the arm we need to lean on when things are too heavy to bear.

I want to pause for a moment to share one thought regarding something we will NEVER be asked to endure. The only way we could go through this is if we purposely turned away from the light of Christ, denying Him and the Father. We will never be asked to know what it means to have the Spirit and influence of God taken from us. There will never be an absence of light, of hope, so long as we choose to do precisely what Christ chose - to keep going on.

During your darkest time when friends and family offer words of hope, of love, and of testimony, imagine the arms of the Father being opened up to you, to embrace you as He cannot. He will not always take the hardships away, for that is not a part of His plan...of OUR plan. It is not the way to eternal happiness.

Many of us out there stand as a living testament to what a small amount of hope and faith can do for someone in need. I myself have endured pain and sadness so intense I felt as though I might drown in the darkness of it all. I would never want to repeat these experiences, yet I am grateful for each one, as they have taught me much in my short life. Each time the darkness is lifted, the light appears so much sweeter than before.

If you are suffering at this time, I ask you to hold on. Hold tight to your testimony, no matter how strong or weak it may be. Pray for strength, for angels, and for the support you need until the time He lifts the suffering from you. I cannot say when that time will come, but I can promise one day there will be an end. And oh how sweet will be the light when it is returned to you.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Once Bitten, Twice Shy

Some of you may remember my previous posts about the horrible experience I had with the salesmen of Dead Sea Cosmetics (I still shudder at the thought). Well, in case you were wondering if I've learned my lesson, let's hope today's post will be an encouraging one :)

Two days ago someone gave a few hearty knocks to the front door. I normally peek out the window to see who's interrupting my glorious solitude - well, as alone as one can get with a little one around the house - when said little one changed my plan by getting to the door first. My chest literally tightened when I saw two young men with clipboards in hands.

"We're not selling anything today..." were the first words out of the leader's mouth. You just know you're doomed when they say that. Of COURSE they're trying to sell something, otherwise they wouldn't have knocked on the door in the first place!

He began giving his spiel about needing to get in a certain amount of presentations done in a month and he realizes we all ready have a vacuum but could he just take a look...

The next thing I know he's pushed past me and is checking out my entire living room. So there I am with a stranger who went into my house without my permission with my little girl clutching my leg, when the other guy came in as well!

The first thing to go through my mind was my experience with the Dead Sea guys, and my ornery side went right up.

"You need to leave my house right now," I said, pointing to the door.

"But," he started.

"Nope. My husband is not home and I did not invite you in. You need to leave now."

The guy huffed and walked out. Had he not, my next move would have been to call the police.

Oh yeah, I've learned my lesson! Hopefully those guys have learned theirs (probably not, after all, they're salesmen).

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

BOYS! (And Yes, I'm Talking About Mine)

Those who have known me for many a year may be a tad surprised to hear we now own an xBox, as I've always sworn I never wanted one in my house and that if my kids wanted one they'd have to earn it themselves. Several months ago my hubbs and I were concerned at the enthusiastic playing our boys did on our aged computer, and were thinking along the lines of picking something up to give it a break.

This was such a huge concession on my part, as I knew full well how easily hours could be wasted playing something silly and unproductive (hello - I am a Facebook junky after all). The thought of my kids sacrificing time outside to sit in front of the tv didn't seem like a good trade. However, at the time I put out the idea in my family newsletter winter was setting in, the kids were in the house more often than ever, and they were off-track. This translates into a whole lot of time spent on my computer!

My big brother and his sweet wife called me with some wonderful news - they had an old xBox with some games they were completely willing to give us. That's right! The entire system and games were a gift. How awesome are they! Though it took a bit of practicing how to be nice and share, and after a bunch of time-outs happened combined with a lovely set of rules, the kids were doing really quite well at balancing time outside (on nice days) with taking turns on their new beloved toy.

Until yesterday.

A friend gave the boys two of his old games: Lego Star Wars 1&2. J is ecstatic, but B got tired of them awfully fast. #2 had to be fixed so we only got it back yesterday, and J's whining side came out full force! He didn't WANT to eat dinner. He finished some homework at school all ready! What do you mean it's bedtime?!?!?! By the time he actually said goodnight to everyone we were ready to ban him from the xBox for the rest of the week.

A little before nine he came in crying. "What's wrong?" I ask (first mistake). "I just know B's going to wake up before I do and he'll get on the xBox and play what I don't want to play!" I had to try really hard to keep my eyes from rolling around in my head. What could I say? Certainly not "You've been whining all night long so I'm going to reward your behavior by telling you B can't play his own game in the morning before school?" But I was too tired to think clearly, and that's when I made my second mistake.

"Whoever gets up first gets to pick what game you play."

Dumb, Laurie. Major dumb! Know why? At four o'clock in the morning I hear someone cry out and think one of the kids' is having a bad dream. I jump out of bed and go into the hallway where the flickering lights of the television are coming from the living room.

"No way," I think. "Yes way," my inner taunter shouts back. Sure enough, both my boys are on the xBox. AT FOUR IN THE MORNING!!! I made them get right off, saying their dad hasn't even gone to work yet, and told them to go back to sleep. When I get up a couple of hours later they're back on the xBox. I wasn't sure if they'd even gone back to sleep until I talked to hubby later on this morning. Sure enough, when he left for work, they asked if they could get back on and play.

If the boys are even a little ornery with me tonight, you'd better believe they'll be getting ornery right back!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Another Post of Pictures

So I've apparently been saving up a bunch of pictures to load on here... either that or I may have been lax in my attentions to the blog. I'm leaning toward the latter.

In an attempt to make up for my serious lapse in blogging fun, I've decided to inundate you with pictures. The first three are of my sweet baby girl. She wanted me to take her picture next to "Cindallella", as A calls it. While she posed she tried to give me her: Angry Face

Her sad face:

And her Happy Face. Do you see the difference? 'Cause I'm a bit puzzled, lol.

As part of our Valentine's date my hubby and I went to the Spaghetti Factory. In the parking lot I saw something I HAD to take a pic of for my boys. Methinks there are others that would enjoy it too :)

Oh yeah, that's a Hummer with a Batman decal!
About two weeks ago my hubby was sent on a work conference leaving me and the kiddies at home. I thought to myself, "No problem. We'll find some fun things to do while Dad's gone!" Uh, no. Instead EVERY ONE OF THE KIDS got terribly sick!!! During that week and for the first half of this week I found myself wiping hoards of noses, going through boxes of tissues and bottles of medicines in an attempt to keep the sick at bay. All four of the kids ended up at the doctor (on different days, of course) where they were all put on anti-biotics :( I am happy to report a much happier and healthier household, though M is still in recovery. There was a lot of school missed, but I did stop to take a picture of a precious moment.
Miss A and Mr. J don't always get along the greatest. It has everything to do with A's ornery nature - come on, those who really know her KNOW she can be an ornery cuss, especially when it comes to J. However, there was an evening when she was stretched out on the couch with a fever, and J came to sit next to her and act as body guard. She actually didn't shoo him away.

My nephew had a big birthday last weekend with some of his cousins. It was SO much fun. They started out by playing a game my parents introduced to us called "Don't Eat Pete."

There's a little "board" filled with M&M's characters. On this you put one small candy (my bro used marshmallows) on each box.

One person goes away from the board while another picks which character will be Pete. Then the first guy comes back and begins taking one candy at a time in the hopes of clearing the board without picking Pete. If he/she picks Pete, the rest of the group yells out "Don't Eat Pete!" It's hilarious when you get my brother involved.
The birthday boy naturally got to go first.

After everyone had a few turns Pirate Dad came out to go on a treasure hunt with the kids.

Here's the finished map. (And yes, I realize the picture is upside down.)

He had them running upstairs and down, doing jumping jacks, running around the couch.
After they found the treasure it was time for birthday cupcakes.

And then opening presents :)

It is so fun to watch him open gifts - he gets SO excited.

Here are the kids "helping" to put the race track together.

Those who couldn't wait to have some fun popped over to launch the Buzz Rocket.

Even the littlest managed to catch some air!

Later in the week our little family celebrated our D's birthday. It's always bittersweet, and I've thought more than once about stopping, but for now the kids seem to really enjoy it.

Near the headstone is this fantastic tree! Our kids having been climbing this since M was a little one.

Later that night we had some cake and let the kids each blow out a candle.

And that catches us up for the past month! Hope you enjoyed today's post :)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sunday Inspirations March 14, 2010

Okay, okay, so yes this is technically being written on Monday the 15th, but yesterday found me utterly sick and I could barely find the energy to sit on the couch, let alone post on the blog.

Yesterday our family had the opporunity to attend a special meeting held only twice a year. Think of it as a gathering of local congregations of the same church to listen to messages of importance from their local leaders and selected church members. To those of us in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (a.k.a, the Mormons), we refer to this as Stake Conference.

The meeting lasts two hours. It can be difficult to get anything out of the meeting when trying to keep little children content for the entire time. This was the case for me yesterday. However, at the point our last speaker came to the stand my children all happened to quiet down for the moment, for which I am grateful. The leader over our local congregations, known as the Stake President, spoke first on conversion. This is what I'd like to touch on today.

Even those who have been members of any particular church will find a time when their testimonies, or witnesses of their faith, will be tested and tried. It is in these moments we discover what it is we are converted to.

Our stake president spoke of those who are "converted" in our own church. "Some people are converted to the missionaries, to the spirit they bring with them. Others are converted to a bishop, or a teacher, or a friend who makes them feel super loved and cared for." But what happens when the missionary, or the bishop, or the friend moves, or is released from the position? Too often we become lost and often stop coming. They are too unsure of the next step to take.

It is not enough in our churches to see someone come into the fold. We need to work hard to make certain what they are converted to is the gospel of Christ, not the people who worship Him. We need to help them, and ourselves, to build testimonies of Him and His gospel that are so strong they can withstand the buffetings of Satan, even when those upon whom we leaned on are no longer there.

I have had friends come and go in my congregation. There have been times I've felt so alone and out of place, have been hurt by the words and actions of others, and could easily have stopped coming to church. Over the years I've seen individuals stop attending church because they have been offended, or their best friend has moved, or they were released from a position before they thought they were ready. Being a bishop's wife is harder than I thought it would be often leaving me on the outskirts, or having a lot of expectations placed on my shoulders.

The difference between those who leave their churches and those who don't all comes down to testimonies - witnesses of the Holy Spirit that testify of the truthfulness of the things we are taught about Christ and His church.

I don't know if much in this post has made sense. Things clicked with me as I listened to our Stake President speak. I don't go to church because of the bishop, or the leaders I work with, or the friends I have there. I go to church because a long time ago the Holy Spirit witnessed to me the truthfulness of Christ's gospel. And even though there are days I don't get a lot out of going to these various meetings because of health or kids or whatever, and sometimes the imperfect people who make up this world make my heart hurt with their words and actions, I know I am not going to church for them. I know even when it's hardest to go my Savior sees me trying to do as He would have me do because I love Him so much.

Take some time to ask yourself over the next week, "To whom am I converted?"

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sunday Inspirations March 7, 2010

"A number of years ago, a one-inch article in my local newspaper caught my attention, and I have remembered it ever since: 'Four people were killed and seven workers were rescued after clinging for more than an hour to the underside of a 125-foot-high [38-m] bridge in St. Catharines, Ontario, [Canada,] after the scaffolding they were working on collapsed' ("News Capsules," Deseret News, June 9, 1993, A2).

"I was, and I continue to be, fascinated by this brief story. Shortly after reading this account, I called a family friend who lived in St. Catharines. She explained that the workers had been painting the Garden City Skyway bridge for about a year and were two weeks short of completing the project when the accident happened. After the accident, officials were asked why these men did not have any safety equipment. The answer was simple: they had the equipment; they just chose not to wear it" (Ann M. Dibb, "Hold On," Ensign, Nov 2009, 79-81).

The workers who survived clung to a one-inch bit of steel while standing on about eight inches for a little over an hour before rescue workers could get them down. Though we may not find ourselves in a similar life-and-death situation, many of the temptations and situations we face today are every bit as much a threat to our eternal lives. Ofttimes we may ourselves feel as though we've found ourselves in a place where our spiritual half feels as though it is clinging for dear life to an unforgiving bit of steel.

Sister Dibb of the General Young Women's presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints tells us, "It is important to note, however, that in the scriptures there are very few stories of individuals who lived in blissful happiness and experience no opposition. We learn and grow by overcoming challenges with faith, persistence, and personal righteousness."

She relates a quote given by President Thomas S. Monson of the LDS Church: "Remember that you are entitled to our [Heavenly] Father's blessings in this work. He did not call you to your privileged post to walk alone, without guidance, trusting to luck. On the contrary, He knows your skill, He realizes your devotion, and He will convert your supposed inadequacies to recognized strengths. He has promised: '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 to bear you up'" ("Sugar Beets and the Worth of a Soul," Ensign, July 2009, 5-6).

The workers on the bridge were given their very own sets of safety equipment. Don't you think our Heavenly Father would do the same for us? Sister Dibb states: "He has given us personal prayer, the scriptures, living prophets and the Holy Ghost to guide us. At times, using this equipment may seem cumbersome, awkward, and horribly unfashionable. Its proper use requires our diligence, obedience, and persistence."

Living a more righteous life certainly does feel cumbersome at times. How much easier would it be to get through life without the sword of truth, the shield of faith, the helmet of hope and breastplate of righteousness. These are certainly not "fashionable." Think for a moment what might happen if we choose to take them off. We find ourselves unprotected against the stones of peer pressure, the arrows of sin, and the constant onslaught of temptations, sorrow and hurt.

Perhaps some of us have already taken off our safety equipment. Perhaps they now lie in a corner somewhere, gathering dust rather than being put to good use. This does not have to be the end of our choices. We can choose this day to repent, to gather up our prayers, our words of the prophets, our scriptures, and put back on our armour of God. We can choose to use the safety equipment our loving Heavenly Father gave us to help us make it back to Him.

What will you choose?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

At My Funeral

I attended the funeral of a church member yesterday. I love attending funerals for one simple reason - you get to know the person more than you ever could have in real life.

When speaking of ourselves we tend to gravitate automatically towards the negative. We can't help looking back on our lives and seeing all the things we managed not to accomplish, the things where we went so wrong. As our own worst critics we cannot help seeing where we should have stepped up, could have done more, and might have made a difference.

The funny thing is we impact others more than we know. While we may want to criticize ourselves, there are so many others who are ready and willing to praise the person we were to them. Did that make sense? Perhaps a better way of putting it is, our perceptions of ourselves is far different than the perceptions of others.

After yesterday's funeral I couldn't help thinking about what people might say about me if I were to die tomorrow. At only 34 I haven't exactly lived a long life. Is there truly anything about me and the way I've lived my life that might be worthy of notice? If you were to ask me, not really. I'm nothing too special when compared to so many others I know. It's difficult for me to believe anyone outside of immediate family who might even attend.

Oh I know I'm loved. This really isn't a pity-party, nor a cry for others to tell me how awesome I am. It's just me pondering my life, and wondering if I've really lived in such a way to be satisfied with where I might leave it. Sister L left an extraordinary legacy here on earth. The things said of her touched more than just one heart. The amount of family alone who came to celebrate Sister L was a testament to the amazing woman she was. The words spoken of how she loved, served, and lived could not have born better witness to her love for the gospel of Christ.

And so I got to thinking about what others might say about me. Have I lived in such a way that those who know me know of my intense love for them, for the gospel, for my family? Has my testimony been obvious to those I have ever spoken with? Does my Heavenly Father look down upon me feeling pleased with what I've accomplished thus far?

The natural course of my thoughts took me one step further, and I began to think about the things I'd like people to say. This is when I came to the conclusion, if I want people to say certain things about me, it's time to start living my life in a way to make those things true. Perhaps this was a "wake-up" call of sorts to begin a few changes.

In any case, I'd invite you to take a few minutes to think about what you'd like to have said about you, and then make it possible!