Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Worth of One Soul

My husband is sick. In our own little family this is enough to set everyone into a tizzy. He rarely gets sick, and definitely not with fever chills and body aches. He even opted to stay home from church today - also a rare occurrence.

In and of itself this may not seem like a big deal, but my husband is not just your ordinary church-goer (if there is such a thing as an ordinary church-goer). You see, he is a bishop over a ward in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the Mormon Church). He is the figurative father of a local congregation, or ward. He is their spiritual leader. And today he was greatly missed.

As news of his nasty sickness spread throughout the meeting person after person came up to ask me about him. Was he okay? How was he feeling? Was there anything they could do? Wish after wish for a speedy recovery was pressed upon me to pass along to him. Much love was expressed, and promises of prayers being offered in his behalf. Even as my heart grew warm with the utter love and concern shown for him, I knew there was no way even I - a self-proclaimed artist with words - would be able to let him know just how much he was missed, and how much the people he has served over the last four years loved him.

One person. Just one person has had an amazing effect on a group of people. I began to think throughout the day about how precious a single individual can be to another, especially as that was what our lesson in young women's was on today. What are we doing to personally enrich the lives of those around us, to make that relationship between ourselves and those with whom we come in contact a little more meaningful.

My husband is extremely service oriented. If someone is in need he is the first one to jump up and say, "I will help." At times I worry he doesn't know how to say no, but over the years I have recognized in him a need to never look back and say, "I should have..." I honestly believe that is why he's so sick today - his body simply couldn't keep up with his willing heart.

When we serve those around us there becomes a softening in the relationship, for we are putting our needs away for a time to focus instead of another soul in need. It is one of the ultimate ways for us to truly come to know Christ and how He lived His life, for there is no better example of loving service than that of our Savior.

My husband has learned to be a fantastic listener. He knows when to offer advice and when someone simply needs to talk. He has learned to approach people he doesn't know and welcome them with open arms. He has been a shoulder to cry on, an arm upon which others lean, and a trusted voice of reason. His hands have joined others in giving blessings to those who are sick or otherwise afflicted, those who mourn, and those who simply need words of guidance and comfort from their Heavenly Father. He is loved by those he has served in ways he will never comprehend.

Of course, were a person to say any of this to his face, he would deny it all, unable to see what good he has done. As we all tend to do with ourselves, he constantly berates himself for never doing enough, for never being enough, and for looking more on negatives than positives. And at times this idea makes him try to be every thing to every body, which means he burns out - like today. For myself, though I hate to see him sick, I am grateful it forces him to stop and focus on himself and his need to rest. This same sentiment was echoed many times over today by different members of his congregation.

I know the difference this wonderful man has made in the lives of others, even if he doesn't always see it himself. I even know there are those out there who love me more than words can say. I also know it is because of the love we try to give in various ways that we receive this love back. We are not perfect, not by any means, but we keep trying.

I ask for you to take some time out of incredibly busy schedules, find just one person, and begin to express your love for them in little ways. Pray for them. Pray for ways of expressing love to be shown to you. Write a friend a little note saying what you admire about him/her. Do the dishes for your mom. Take the trash out for your dad. Make your husband's favorite dinner. Offer to take your wife out so she doesn't have to cook. Spend some quality time reading a book with your child. The possibilities are endless.

I love my husband. I am grateful he is taking time out to sleep today, to rest and recover. I also hope he'll get better fast, for I know what a crazy few weeks he has with work and church. I am incredibly proud of the man he is, for his willingness to serve both our family and our ward family. He constantly reminds me of what I need to do to be a better person, even if I do it whining a lot of the way. I only hope one day he will be able to know how much the love he has given is returned.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

"Our" Flood

Saturday morning my kids came running into my room. "Mom! Mom! A pipe burst and now our back yard is flooded!" Um...uh...huh? I am not exactly known as the world's brightest coin first thing in the morning, and that day was no exception. It took a few minutes for my fuzzy, sleep-induced brain to wake up and figure out something might be wrong.

Sure enough, the faucets wouldn't turn on, and in the back yard I could see a giant swamp attempting to take over the back portion by the fence. Not until going outside to really assess the damage did I come to realize this wasn't just out house. A pipe down the street had burst, causing a river of water to course through a portion of our neighborhood.

Just outside my house a few firefighters and city workers collected in a circle, trying to figure out what was going on and what to do next. After making arrangements for me and the kids to go potty elsewhere, we began to assess the damage to our own home. We weren't too concerned until word that a few of the homes' crawl spaces were beginning to fill with water. Sure enough, so was ours. I think with the rising sun and warming of the land, the water began to find places to go besides six inches above ground.

Here's a picture of our crawl space. We didn't have too much water at the hole itself, but it had gathered several inches in one particular corner. My hubby set up a water pump where we attached our blue hose and threaded it through the kitchen, into the living room and out the front door.

Here we are coming out the front door, with little Miss A's mildly muddy shoes. She couldn't seem to stop wanting to come out into the action. While with daddy she got to sit in the front of a fire truck! Good times. Too bad on the way back to the house she slipped and landed in mud - and with all the water sitting outside the house, rather than inside the pipes, getting her cleaned up wasn't the funnest activity ever.
Turned out the blue hose wasn't long enough, so we had to bring in the green one too. This managed to make it out to the gutter, where we lovingly added to the all ready gushing stream.

Here's a small sampling of our 'almost swamp.' I kept thinking, if it froze, we'd have an awesome ice skating rink! But if you think this is bad, wait until the next picture.

My next door neighbor is an avid gardner. What you're seeing here should actually be the recently cleaned up and immaculate garden area. Instead, I could have sent the kids in for a pretty awesome mud bath. Those from the city working to help with the damage had to bring in a big pump to get rid of this water into the park behind our houses. As this water diminished, so did ours. Ah well. No ice rink this year.

I wanted to take loads more pictures of everything, but when a worker came up to me asking if everything was okay and that they hadn't personally done any damage to our home, I realized I was making everyone nervous. But I still got two cool shots out of it. This first one is the little 'waves' of mud running up the length of our driveway. It still makes me sad to think of the awesome pictures I could have taken while it was "fresh."

Here's the muddy mess at the end of our driveway. I think it looks amazing! Granted, I'm not looking forward to cleaning it up, but hey, I know an awesome display of the force of nature when I see one.

All in all it wasn't the best way to begin what was supposed to be a relaxing Saturday, but I do have to give props out to those who worked so hard to fix it all. The pipes were fixed and water returned to homes by early afternoon. Some of the men stayed until after the sun set in an effort to help make sure certain homes were properly cared for. Thanks guys!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Reason Behind the Season

Hello friends. It's been a few months since I last sat down to write here, and I thought on this most beloved Thanksgiving Day, the one that begins the holiday season, I would take a few minutes to leave you with a few messages about this time of year.

I am one of those die-hard believers that every holiday deserves it's due, which is why I have such a hard time with the few weeks that separate Halloween and America's Thanksgiving celebration. Before Halloween is even over the shelves at stores are first emptied and then filled with Christmas decorations.

Don't get me wrong. I love Christmas decorations. Just not before Thanksgiving. I love Christmas music. Just not before Thanksgiving. I love the thought of buying presents for my family. Okay I'll do that before Thanksgiving, but I don't go crazy with it.

In the same way I don't like to hurry through our Thanksgiving holiday, I'm not one to simply shove aside the real reason we celebrate Christmas. It's not easy. I myself can be said to have had an attack of the "gimme's" here and there, especially when some of the latest and greatest gadgets flash across the screen or stare at you screaming "you really want me!" as you walk down the aisles of the store. And in that moment, I really, really do want whatever it is. Passionately.

This is when I must take a step back and remember. Today we celebrate being thankful, a truly God-like quality. I am thankful, for everything my life has been blessed with. Even the rough things, for they teach me my greatest lessons. As I begin to count my blessings I remember who made this wonderful life of mine possible, and that is when I remember the real reason behind this season.

A week ago I was invited to participate in a presentation put on by our Relief Society (the women's organization of my church), wherein the people invited would go on a walk with Christ. There were three presenters. One portrayed Peter the Apostle, one portrayed Nephi - a prophet who witnessed Christ's arrival in the America's as written in the Book of Mormon, and for myself, I was given the chance to portray the Samaratin woman Christ met at Jacob's well.

I studied up on my person, finding several books at the library, reading through the Bible passage several times, and using the ultimate guide to interpreting what this woman experienced - prayer. I put together a simple costume, decorated my room accordingly, and sweated bullets until it was my turn. I could hear the first group shuffle in and take their seats, and when all became quiet I entered as though coming from the door flap of my home. It was then I left what was meant to be said up to the inspiration of God.

We were invited by the closing speaker to take the messages shared with us through each presentation home, to ponder upon them, and to remember them as we began the holiday season. It was a remarkable way to begin it all, as it has brought home the need to make Christ central to each day, especially at this time of the year.

I realize not everyone who may read this believes in Jesus Christ as our Savior. I also know many who read this believe the members of my Church do not really believe in Jesus Christ. But I also know this - the only person to whom I am responsible to when it comes to my beliefs is that man whom they revolve around: Jesus of Nazareth, born in Bethlehem. He who walked and talked among all people alike. He was no respector of persons. He knew sinner and saint and believed them all to be special and worthy of His time and effort. Him I believe. Him I love. Him I strive to be like. And in His name I invite you to make him the reason behind this season, beginning with the simple task of being thankful.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Life has been...intense these last several months. Always something going on, always someone wanting to talk, always somewhere we need to be. I've been trying to take steps to calm things down, lessen the stress, but removing things from the schedule has only presented open slots ready to be filled by something else.

I have become withdrawn, seeking comfort in my own presence and those I hold dearest to my heart. My thoughts have been my greatest and worst companions, depending on what track they choose to run at any given time. I am being prepared - for what only God can say. I find myself drawn to books on the Savior and His apostles of old.

The New Testament has been calling my name for quite some time, though I am sorry to say it's only been recently that I have begun my study. Before this I had picked up some books to help me better understand the conditions surrounding the time of Christ. They have opened my eyes just a bit wider, helping me see a little more of the bigger picture, and how small I am in comparison. Small, yet significant.

I often feel out of place, as though I am reserved to sit just outside of the puzzle, a piece that looks as though it matches in color and shape, but never seems to fit exactly right. Whenever I come to believe at last I've discovered which pieces are supposed to surround me, which are the perfect fit, it turns out there's another puzzle I might be a part of and another puzzle piece that fits in my former spot far better than I could ever have done. I am always sad to leave behind these magnificent puzzles as I have grown to know and love each individual piece so well. It's much like leaving family behind.

Yet I must always move on. The Lord has work for me to do, work that is normally preceded by a time of study and contemplation as is happening now. I do not know what is coming. I know not what it will entail. I do know there would be no hope of me being successful without His help. Maybe, just maybe, I am led to study up on Him so I might come to know Him better, in the hopes I will be able to help others understand Him better.

I have written a story, one I have mentioned before. In my humble opinion it is perhaps the best of my life thus far. It is no literary masterpiece. Grammar and punctuation errors abound. There is no doubt others could have written it with more feeling, more power, and more depth. But this story was not for anyone else to write. My Heavenly Father said to me, "This story was reserved for you to bring forth at this time." There are experiences I have had, people I have been placed with, and times I have been asked to endure that have worked to prepare me for this one beautiful piece.

As we speak this story has been sent to a printer. It will be put together for all the young women of my stake, and next Wednesday I will read it to all who come and with open hearts and ears listen to the words I have to share. This is the beginning of a new stage in my life, something which the Lord and Heavenly Father have been preparing me for over the last several years.

I still have much learning to do, both in life and in writing, but this is what life is all about - taking the opportunities to live and learn and grow. I am grateful for my life, even hard times. Especially the hard times. For I know it is during the hardest times of our lives we are able to learn the most. I can only pray His hand will ever be there to guide me, and that I will remember to hold on tight.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Lessons in Faith, Trust, Humility, and ... More Faith

A few months ago I received an e-mail from our Stake Young Women's president asking me to be a part of a very small group put together for the purpose of coming up with a spiritual activity for our Girl's Camp, which was to be held on the stake level this year.

(Allow me to pause and explain for those who may not understand. Think of a collection of local church congregations - which we call "ward", and then those wards being placed in a group under the leadership of a presidency. That group is known as a stake. Any "stake" leaders mentioned are members of wards called to help lead and direct different Church programs like Young Women's, who are girls from 12-18 years of age.)

I felt honored to be asked, but little did I know how much of myself would be put into this one particular project. What was supposed to be a twenty-minute story to help illustrate how each young woman is a beloved princess who must make choices in this life, choices that will either keep her on God's path back to His kingdom, or lead her off the path, well, let's just say it's now a good 40 pages long.

I have felt beyond inspired while writing this story. I have felt words flow through my mind that were not my own. The main character made choices I ached over until tears could not be stopped. Were it my choice, she would have never fallen off the path, but that is why this is not my story.

Things were going well in the planning of this camp. Though not a part of the planning committee I certainly felt an avid interest in all that was going on. I was fully aware of the major concern behind our crazy weather this year, and the fact that getting up to the camp site was looking almost impossible, as rain and melting snow had washed out many of the roads.

What I had not seen coming was the decision of our stake presidency to cancel camp at a stake level and ask the wards to take over. After all the planning, praying, and trust that things would work out, it was simply...done.

My husband and our stake YW's pres. had to remind me this morning that these men are inspired of God. They did what they thought was necessary. It was not done on a whim. There was much prayer going into it. But, I cannot help asking, where does that leave us?

The truth is we don't know. So many of the leaders I've spoken to over the last few months have all agreed: something amazing is being prepared for these girls. I have felt more than once if we don't reach many of these girls on a spiritual level this year, we may lose them to the influences of the world.

I have had many thoughts running through my head today. Some I wonder if they are my own stubborn need to fix everything. Or is there any chance they are thoughts being given to me by my Savior, though I haven't figured out how to make them all fit into this gigantic puzzle placed in my path.

It has only been in the last few minutes, and after many e-mails with our beloved stake yw's president, that enough of the puzzle pieces have been put into place to allow us peace. The first piece is my reminder that I do not need to fix everything. Actually, let's make that a whole lot of pieces to my puzzle. I don't have to fix it all. I do not have all the answers. I have not been put in charge. It's time to humble myself once more and keep in mind the Lord is ultimately over this, and that brings us to the next few pieces of the puzzle.

Trust. We must trust that even though it looks as though everything is falling apart, this may not be the case. Who knows what the Lord has in mind at this time? Who knows what he has helped us prepare for, even though we may not be able to see how this puzzle will, in fact, come together?

How much do I trust in my stake leaders? How much do I trust we on the ward level are every bit as inspired and deserving of inspiration when it comes to the lives of these young women placed in our care? How much do I trust in the Lord's ability to make a frustrating situation turn into a wonderful blessing? How much do I trust? And that brings us to our last handful of pieces.

Faith. Oh that one little word. It is not something we automatically have. It is something we do. Now is the time for all of us who are leaders to put faith into action. We will place our faith in the Lord, he who directs this wonderful Church, who inspires all who are willing to listen, right down to the leaders of the ward, and see what blessings will come.

We will be humble, we will trust, and we will show faith. And at the end, when we have proven ourselves worthy to take on and accomplish this challenge, we will be blessed. Our story, the one we are living at this moment, will have a happy ending.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Finding Purpose

I am the sort of individual who needs to have a purpose in life - something to work towards, put my energy into. Having recently finished a writing project I'd been asked to do, the last week has left me feeling a bit listless (this typically happens after I've finished a big project).

If you read my last post, you know I've been trying to re-sort my priorities. Over the last few months I've been given several opportunities to attend the temple, but there have been too many worldly (and sacred) things that I have allowed to take first place. As children are preparing to get out of school for the summer it hit me quite hard that my opportunities would lessen with the kids home.

This morning I took firm hold of the free time I'd been blessed with and headed off to the temple. I spent two absolutely beautiful hours there, and had a good "chat" with my Heavenly Father, thanking Him for so many good things that have happened lately as well as asking for some help.

More than anything today I wanted to know what my purpose needed to be for the next little while. I've been doubting so many things - one of the biggest being whether or not I am truly supposed to be in our Young Women's presidency. I'm not over anything specific, like preparing and giving lessons, monitoring personal progress, nor even making lists. Without something specific to do I have begun to wonder what my purpose in this program is supposed to be.

Along with my questions there I have also wondered what I needed to be doing as the wife of a bishop. Talk about someone with purpose - he's got so much it's oozing out his ears. But what about me? I often find myself stuck in this funny middle ground where I'm either expected to do everything, or absolutely nothing.

Today as I finished my prayer and began to put some things away before changing out of my temple clothes, I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned to see a darling little woman with beautiful white hair and a name tag that read "Sister Adair" (I think). In a sweet voice she asked, "May I give you a hug?" Of course I said yes! We embraced in a way that easily spoke love, offered one another thanks and farewells, then I watched as she spoke with another temple patron before turning the corner. I didn't see her again as I left.

Into my heart came the most beautiful feeling of utter happiness. That is your purpose it said to me, and I rejoiced. For if there is anything I can do with gusto, it's show love. Whether I am a bishop's wife, a young women's leader, a mom, a daughter, a wife, or a friend, one thing I can do in any role is to show pure love to those with whom I come in contact. I can show them one tiny little glimpse of the love our Father and Brother have for each one. Just as this sister was an angel to me today, I can be as such for someone else.

I have found my purpose.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Uncooked Rice and Plastic Eggs

No, I promise, this is not going to be a post about some weird recipe I found. This past Sunday a gentleman gave a talk in Sacrament Meeting and gave us an example of something I'd like to share with you today, as it's had me rethinking where my priorities may be skewed.

Think of a jar - large or small, doesn't matter. The jar is empty and the lid is off. Now think of two bowls. One bowl holds some uncooked rice, while the other contains some of those plastic Easter eggs (though this has nothing to do with Easter). Our goal is to fill the jar with both the rice and the eggs, and still be able to put the lid on when everything is filled.

First we put in the rice. It manages to fill our jar to a little over half. Next we take our plastic eggs and begin to stuff them into the jar. It doesn't take us long to realize we're not going to get all the eggs in. Way can try to stuff them in, but eventually they begin to crack and break. Nor will we be able to get the lid back on.

Knowing we need to rethink things we take the eggs back out of the jar and put them back in their bowl, and do the same with the rice. Being the absolutely brilliant beings I know we all are, this time we try putting in the eggs first. They fit perfectly into the bottle, but now is the true test. We take our bowl of rice and begin to pour it over our plastic eggs. To our amazement each individual piece of rice finds a little nook or slot to make a home. Sometimes we might have to shake the bottle to help everything find a place, but before we know it not only is there room for eggs and rice, but the lid fits on top as well.

Think of the eggs as the spiritual things in our lives, while the rice represents those things of the world that are necessary to keep us going, or we would just like to do. When we try to fit in all the secular things, we rarely have room for the spiritual. However, if we put the spiritual first, everything else will find it's place.

Life has been chaotic lately, not only for me but for so many I know. For myself, I have come to realize I've gained a recent "poor me" attitude. I've been so busy trying to take care of so many things for so many other people, my own spiritual needs have been slipping through the cracks. In other words, I've been filling my jar with rice.

This isn't to say the things I've been involved with have been unworthy causes. These activities and service provided certainly have merit. But when I begin to feel as though I'm being stretched too thin, the words of the counselor I saw last year starts running through my mind: you can't take care of others if you're not taking care of yourself.

And so I am forced to look at just how I am living my life lately. Here's what I've come to realize: no matter how fortified in vitamins and minerals, one cannot make it through an entire day on a bowl of cereal. Time to start eating better; even if the distance from the front porch to the mailbox feels like a mile, it does not count as a full day's exercise. Time to get moving; and no matter how much I ignore the laundry or attempt to master (or at least develop) the art of telekinesis, the laundry and bathroom simply will not do themselves. Time to get the house clean.

These are not difficult things to do. I managed a few loads of laundry today. My biggest problem is in recognizing where I really need to start. Reading the scriptures daily. I'm horrible at this. I can look and look and look at my Bible or Book of Mormon all day long, but it will do me know good unless I actually open them up and read the words. I need to pray more often. A few halfhearted sentences at the end of a very long day don't do me, nor my Heavenly Father, a whole lot of good. I need to begin my day with prayer, and keep a prayer constantly in my heart. I need to remember to ask for what I want and need. I'm fantastic about allowing things to happen as the Lord sees fit, but I always forget to ask in prayer for those things I want. And a request never sent out will simply not be fulfilled. Even if the request is for one little hour in which to read a book of my own choosing.

It is in the spiritual areas I need to focus on first. When I build up my spiritual reserves, the physical, emotional, and mental reserves will find themselves filled as well. All other things will naturally fall into place. I might have to shake things up a little for all my wants and needs to find a perfect fit, but it can be done.

So how about it? Is it time for you to take out your eggs and rice, and see where things really need to fit?

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Little Things

I have just returned from mowing my front lawn. This may not seem like something I should be boasting about. People have been mowing their front lawns for many a year before I was born. This one particular responsibility is not typically mine, however, and so the mere fact that I got outside to do something physical is in itself, noteworthy.

Since my extreme bout with depression many of the things I used to do with dedication fell to the wayside. Even as I am doing so much better there are certain things I have not been able to push myself to do. For example, the checkbook. I used to monitor the checkbook on a weekly basis. Any receipts would be promptly accounted for. Checks were cataloged. And the balance would be compared to what the bank actually claimed we still had. I could tell you within a few dollars just how much we had to spend. And once a month I would carefully reconcile all accounts.

For the last several months my husband has had to take over this job. I don't know what has changed so much, but the moment I would sit down to take care of things, like a trigger my mind would immediately rebel and I could not physically make myself do it. I hated to admit this, as my darling hubby had already needed to take over so many other things, but he knew and without a word he began to do what I could not.

Over the last few days I've been thinking about the little things we do to tell those we love the most just how precious they are. My children often utter the words, "You're the best", making my heart squeeze with joy. In return I've been trying to be better about finding little ways to let them know they're the best in my eyes. It's not always easy, as it means an awful lot of sacrifice on my part, but I can wholeheartedly testify it has been worth it.

This morning I have found myself with what my family has coined, "Mom's alone time." I've been trying to decide just how to spend it. There's definitely not a lack of things I could/should be doing. In fact there are about thirty things I should be doing besides sitting at the computer boring you all with my random thoughts.

I sat down to write today for one really big reason: I love my husband. And because I love him I chose to mow the front lawn so he wouldn't have to. It will be one less worry for the week. He has taken on so much to help me through some very difficult times - and that's not including all he's facing at work and church. But he's done it because he loves me as well. That's one of the most wonderful aspects of showing love: it's give and take.

I cooked dinner for my family last night. My hubby washed most of the dishes, then Mr. B took over and did the rest of the dishes. Miss M helped me to accomplish some things with our family home evening last night and Mr. J tidied up the living room. And what of Miss A? Well, she gives the best hugs ever.

Love is a wonderful thing, but those around us may not know we love them unless we put those four little letters into action. Don't just say the words. Live the words. Your actions don't have to be grand gestures. Sometimes the biggest ways in which we feel loved, are due to the little things.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Thoughts on Easter

(I would like to start this out with a warning - blogger is NOT being nice and has erased all paragraphs. Sorry if it makes things confusing.) Did you think I had vanished from the blogging world? Me too for a while. Life had gone from sorta dull to over-busy. It seems as though I can't find any middle ground these days. At this moment I have completed the first draft of one major project and can sit back for a moment to heave a huge sigh of relief. Easter is one week away. I have always loved this time of the year, not only because of the re-awakening of life in the world, but because of what it has come to represent on the spiritual side. In my last post I sent you off to a link that shares my experience with losing my son when he was newly born. It was terribly difficult, one of the worst times of my life, but I wouldn't trade what I have learned from knowing that special spirit for anything. With every trial we are asked to endure, blessings equal to it are sure to follow. One of the most incredible blessings I have been given is a better understanding of how glorious the Atonement of Jesus Christ truly is. I treasure the opportunity to remember not only what Christ did for us, but the ways in which this single event more than two thousand years ago is still working to bless our lives. It has given me hope of holding my son in my arms once more, as he is promised to me so long as I strive to do what is right. Even incredible events such as this do a person no good if they do not strive to keep learning more. Insights and knowledge previously granted to us can be lost if we do not try to remember. I have found this blog to be a wonderful way to remember, a sort of journal I choose to share with others. About three or four years ago I worked in writing (rather bad writing, unfortunately) for a new site being formed called It had been put together with the goal to help those who are not of our faith understand what this church is all about through the eyes of it's members. As Easter approached I found myself with a great desire to post something about the Atonement, but didn't know what to focus on nor how it should be presented. Many prayers were devoted to knowing what our Father would have me write, and the answer came in an unexpected way. I was looking through a local bookstore, Deseret Book, where my eyes were continually brought back to one particular table. There sat three different books, all by the same author, Andrew Skinner. I'd never heard of him before, but knew without a doubt I needed to buy those books. So I did. And I thanked my Heavenly Father profusely for guiding me to them. Gethsemane, Golgotha, and The Garden Tomb opened my mind to new thoughts regarding the entire process of the Atonement, from the history of the Passover Feast right through the resurrection. I did a series of posts regarding what I'd read, and even reposted them here. As you go through this week I pray you'll take some time to read through the different links I'll post here, in the hopes that you too might be able to discover something you never knew before. Most of all I pray you'll help share with your family and friends what this Easter time truly stands for. It's so fun to hunt for eggs, receive baskets full of goodies, and think about a giant bunny making it all happen (unless it's Erin in a bunny costume - then it's just plain scary, lol). But it's not why we celebrate Easter. Easter is about the Savior, all that he gave up - and took upon himself - for us to live with him again in the kingdom of our Heavenly Father. It is about not needing to suffer the pain and guilt that comes with sin, but rather the opportunity to repent and be clean again. It is about breaking through the bands of death so that we will not be forced to spend all of eternity in those sins. May you all enjoy this blessed time. May you find hope in the atonement of our Lord. May you be kept safe and loved until we meet again. History of Passover Feast The Last Supper Gethsemane: A Sacred Place The Atonement: Christ Took on More than Our Sins The Betrayal and Trials of Christ Simon Carried the Cross Christ's Crucifixion, Last Words, and Death The Burial of Christ He is Risen!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Reposting, but for a Good Reason

Hello all. Two years ago I sat down to write to you all about my son who passed away, and my experience that day. Two years ago. It's hard to believe how quickly time passes when you're not paying attention...or in denial.

I want to put out my Happy Birthday wishes to my son, D, who would have turned 11 years old this year. Your presence has been felt recently in our home. We all love you so much.

Sending Out a Birthday Wish

Monday, March 7, 2011

Calling All Prayer Warriors

Several years ago I was a part of a marvelous online group dedicated to the author Jan Karon, who penned the books known as "The Mitford Series." For anyone who may not know much of these books, I highly recommend them. They revolve around a certain Father Tim Kavanaugh, who is the spiritual leader over a parish of very unusual, funny, and downright lovable characters.

As an online community I grew to love the women I'd met there. Every once in a while we'd get the trouble maker who loved to stir things up for the sheer intent of creating discord, yet on the whole I enjoyed the friendships made.

One of the most beautiful parts of this site were the needs being met in the area of prayer. Prayer is a powerful tool, especially when a group of people are brought together for a single purpose. Eventually those who chose to participate in the prayer threads of the site were referred to as the Prayer Warriors. It seemed particularly fitting as there is always a battle to be fought on spiritual levels, and the combined efforts given had proven to be a powerful force on more than one occasion.

It's been many years since I was last on that site. Things in it had changed a little too much when it came to the general aura of the site - at least for me it had. I didn't enjoy it as much. However, the term "Prayer Warrior" still makes my spine tingle. I was thinking of this term earlier in the week when the need for serious prayer in great numbers came to me.

About six weeks ago I was asked to be a part of a very small group of women who would work on a special spiritual activity for our stake girl's camp this year. Our leader had an idea of what this needed to be about. As a group we filled in the details and then, due to the special talent for writing my Heavenly Father has given me, I took the assignment home and began.

For almost two straight weeks every spare minute (and even some not so spare) was dedicated to writing. I felt the words and ideas flow through me as they had not for almost a year. I could tell the Holy Spirit was with me during this journey. The beginning was at first tough to pin down as I wasn't sure how to begin what had to match the already blossoming middle. Little inspirations struck, helping me understand which ideas our little group had come up with would or would not work, and before I knew it about twelve pages had been put together. I was ecstatic, elated, and other exciting words starting with the letter e. Mostly I was humbled with the incredible project the Lord was helping me to create.

Then Thursday hit. From the moment I awoke everything felt...wrong. I was tired, grumpy, down, depressed. The weather that day dawned dark and rainy. No matter how hard I tried I could not get myself to sit down and work on my beloved piece. I couldn't seem to wrap my mind around anything except for one fact - for I was overcome with a nauseating "truth" - that everything I'd written was simply no good. It was so off course. It was horrible. It was far too long. There was no possible way the others in my group would like it.

I was in absolute despair.

Everything in me said, "Just erase it. Start over. Don't let anyone know how you failed." It is difficult for me to help you understand what it means for a writer to be threatened with the thought of needing to get rid of something we once thought of as brilliant. I'd put my heart and soul into these wonderful combinations of words and ideas. To erase it all felt so much like erasing a part of myself.

In despair I retreated into my mind and pleaded, as a child of God, "Father, what do I do?"

As though He'd been waiting for me to ask the words of the ladies at our first meeting came to my mind. They'd talked about how difficult this entire camp had been to put together, not like the last one which seemed to come about with ease. This time around they found themselves constantly finding one stumbling block after another. They would get one block out of the way only to find another even bigger one needing to be moved. They began to despair, wondering if they were completely off track, until the thought to stop and pray came. Once their plea to have Satan's hindering hand removed from their efforts, things began to flow smoothly.

I clutched on to those words, to the hope they offered, as a frightened child might grasp tight to the hand of a parent. My thoughts and actions went to the very place I knew I could find my own group of Prayer Warriors, and to the computer I went. "Help me," I implored to my friends and family on Facebook, for that was the place I could reach the greatest number of people immediately. "I think Satan is attacking me this morning, tempting me to destroy something important. Please pray that his hand will be removed from me."

The responses were immediate. Within minutes the sun literally broke through the clouds, lighting the world outside my front window. From my mind a giant pressure was lifted. I could even breathe easier. Throughout the entire day my Warriors helped to stay Satan's hand, and my own hand as well. To my mind came the thought, "Leave it alone." And so I did. That night my wonderful husband gave me a very special priesthood blessing where it was confirmed that not only was I meant to write for this project, but that Satan was indeed trying to bring me down so it would not happen.

Throughout the entire next day I was still told to leave it alone, and so I filled the hours with laundry, a bit of cleaning, my family, and as I was told, did not touch the project. This did not mean my mind wasn't constantly on it. I kept thinking, "If I just read it, that wouldn't matter right?" But no, came the instant impression to my mind, leave it alone. And so I did.

Not until late Saturday morning was the restriction lifted. I only made it through a few pages when I realized what it was I might have destroyed. As though the sun broke out in my own head I knew that what my very own fingers had typed was not only good, but greatly inspired of God. Later that afternoon I read it to my three ladies and they confirmed what the Spirit had told me, and I was grateful.

There is no doubt in my mind that if I had not gone to ask my friends to pray in my behalf, every word I'd lovingly put to paper (figuratively speaking) would have been lost. There is no doubt in my mind my Warriors, and indeed I think of them as my heroes, who came together in prayer when my soul was in need saved me that day from doing something I would forever regret. I am here to offer them my intense gratitude and love.

And so I leave you with this thought: the next time you are in need of prayers offered in your behalf, don't be afraid to ask. The more people you ask the more you will be blessed. Just as important is the opportunity to be a Prayer Warrior for someone else in need, even if you barely know that person.

I will end with the request that those who read this will continue to pray. My project is not done, but with Satan trying to keep from writing it I need all the prayers I can get. When it is complete, and offered to the young women for whom it is being written later this summer, I hope to share it here with all of you.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Adoption: The Gift They Cannot Give Each Other

I have two wonderful friends who are so very dear to my heart. For many years now they've tried and tried to have a baby, but God has asked them to try a different path to seek their goal. Almost a year ago they began the road to adoption.

Adoption is a wonderful thing, even if it does come out of difficult circumstances. There are many in my life who have had the opportunity to adopt, and many more who are hoping to adopt one day. But this particular couple are on my mind in such a fashion I cannot think there is a baby about to be born who is meant to be a part of this glorious family.

I don't know that the answer to their prayers will come through this blog, but if I had the chance to further their opportunity to have a baby and did nothing about it...well, I couldn't very well live in peace.

I am putting up a link to their adoption site, and pray someone out there who knows of a baby in need of a family will take a good, hard look. For those who don't, I beg you will include them in your prayers. There is nothing these two want more than a little one to raise, and the love they can provide him or her is immeasurable.

Before the link, I want to share the lyrics to two songs written by a Christian musician by the name of Michael McLean. He has been one of my favorites for years. One day he received a phone call from a young woman who asked him to write a song for her and the baby she had chosen to let someone else raise. The first song is his inspiration. Later he penned another song, this one done through the voice of an adoptive mother who was so grateful to have received a gift she and her husband could not give each other. Please, stop and read these lyrics, and think about what you can help give to these friends of mine.

From God's Arms, To My Arms, To Yours

With so many wrong decisions in my past, I'm not quite sure
If I can ever hope to trust my judgement anymore.
But lately I've been thinking, 'cause it's all I've had to do.
And in my heart I feel that I should give this child to you.

And maybe you can tell your baby,
When you love him so, that he's been loved before;
By someone who delivered your son
From God's arms, to my arms, to yours.

If you choose to tell him, and if he wants to know,
How the one who gave him life could bear to let him go;
Just tell him there were sleepless nights; I prayed and paced the floors
And knew the only peace I'd find is if this child was yours.

And maybe you can tell your baby,
When you love him so, that he's been loved before;
By someone who delivered your son
From God's arms, to my arms, to yours.

Now I know that you don't have to do this,
But could you kiss him once for me
The first time that he ties his shoes, or falls and skins his knee?
And could you hold him twice as long when he makes his mistakes,
And tell him that he's not alone, sometimes that's all it takes.
I know how much he'll ache.

This may not be the answer for another girl like me;
But I'm not on a soapbox saying how we all should be.
I'm just trusting in my feelings and I'm trusting God above,
And I'm trusting you can give this baby
Both his mothers' love.

And maybe you can tell your baby
When you love him so that he's been loved before;
By someone who delivered your son
From God's arms, to my arms, to yours.

The Gift We Could Not Give Each Other

When she was a little girl she held her dolls like children
Dreaming of the day when she'd have babies of her own.
Now those dolls lie on a shelf as lifeless as the dreams she dreamed.
It's become the deepest ache her heart has ever known.

There's a man who's trying his best to comfort her with roses,
Telling her he'll find a way to make their dreams come true.
He's been saying this for years, but now his tears reveal the truth.
In his heart he fears there's nothing else that they can do.

Then a gift is given, a phone call straight from heaven.
There's a child that's nearly due that a young girl's giving you.
She gave more than just one life
When she makes of this man and wife a father and a mother.
She gives the gift they could not give each other.

More than we could ever know this couple thanks the heavens.
Every time they hold their child, they feel they hold the world.
Words will never be enough to share the way the family feels.
From deep inside their hearts they want to tell that girl:

Not a day is ever through till we've thanked the Lord for you.
Your sweetness lingers near in our hearts and thoughts and prayers.
You gave more than just one life when you made of this man and wife,
A father and a mother.
When you gave the gift we could not give each other.
You have changed our lives forever.

Only you and God above could give this gift of love
We could not give each other.

Please, please, help God give this gift to Brian and Erin.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Tithes and Other Offerings

Today I opted to share with you the talk my husband gave during sacrament meeting today.

Tithes and Other Offerings

"Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it" (Malachi 3:10).

Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught us that, "Tithing is a test of faith with eternal blessings. In the Old Testament, Abraham proved his faith by paying tithes to the great high priest Melchizedek. Abraham's grandson Jacob vowed to the Lord, 'Of all thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.'

"Tithing has been established in these latter days as an essential law for members of the Lord's restored Church. It is one of the basic ways we witness our faith in Him and our obedience to His laws and commandments. Tithing is one of the commandments that qualifies us, by our faith, to enter the temple - the house of the Lord."

When pondering upon what to speak about today, the topic of tithes and other offerings repeatedly came to mind. As a bishop I am given a deeper insight into the ways these tithes and other offerings are made useful in the workings of this Church. Not just the Church as a worldwide religion, but in our own stake and individual ward. The responsibility of choosing how the Lord's money is to be distributed is a heavy one, and I do not take it lightly. But I am here to testify to you today that when we, who are able, pay our tithing and willingly contribute to the other needs of the Church, the windows of heaven will truly be opened and blessings will be poured out upon us.

How important is tithing? Think on this. When asked whether members of the Church could be baptized for the dead if they had not paid their tithing, President John Taylor, then of the Quorum of the Twelve, answered: "A man who has not paid his tithing is unfit to be baptized for his dead. ... If a man has not faith enough to attend to these little things, he has not faith enough to save himself and his friends."

Tithing is an exercise in faith. Elder Hales states: "Tithing develops and tests our faith. By sacrificing to the Lord what we may think we need or want for ourselves, we learn to rely on Him. Our faith in Him makes it possible to keep temple covenants and receive eternal blessings...The obedient payment of tithing fortifies our faith, and that faith sustains us through the trials, tribulations, and sorrows in our life's journey."

Think for a moment of Alma chapter 32. Starting in verse 27 we are taught the steps to take when starting out with a small hope to learn if something is of God and through a simple experiment learning to make it a strong testimony.

Think of a seed, a tiny seed, and you've planted it in the ground hoping something beautiful will grow from it. You water it, give it lots of sunlight, fertilize the soil, and make certain no weeds overtake it. One of two things will happen. Either the seed will die for it was not a good seed to begin with, or the seed will grow.

For today our seed is tithing. We have a hope it will be a good seed, but are sometimes afraid of what will happen if we choose to pay it instead of something we feel is more needful. And so it's time to go to the Lord in faith and plant our seed by paying our tithing before anything else. We pray over our decision, we read our scriptures, we continually trust even when we're scared. In time one of two things will happen. Either we will find ourselves lacking both spiritually and temporally, or, by some miracle, everything has turned out okay.

I'm here to testify everything will be okay. But is it enough to leave it after this one experiment? No, because like any seed, it needs more water, more sunlight, and more love to keep the building of your testimony strong. In other words, keep paying your tithing, and the Lord will continue to bless and protect you.

Of paying tithing President Gordon B. Hinckley said, "We never felt that it was a sacrifice to pay our tithing. We felt it was an obligation, that even as small children we were doing our duty as the Lord had outlined that duty, and that we were assisting his church in the great work it had to accomplish.

"We did not do it with the expectation of material blessings, although we can testify that we have been so blessed. The Lord has opened the windows of heaven and poured out his blessings in marvelous measure. I know that he will bless all who walk in obedience to this commandment.

"Now, do not get me wrong. I do not say that if you pay an honest tithing you will realize your dream of a fine house, a Rolls Royce, and a condominium in Hawaii. The Lord will open the windows of heaven according to our need, and not according to our greed. If we are paying tithing to get rich, we are doing it for the wrong reason. The basic purpose for tithing is to provide the Church with the means needed to carry on the Lord's work. The blessing to the giver is [a secondary] return, and that blessing may not be always in the form of financial or material benefit. In speaking of opening the windows of heaven, Malachi says:

" 'And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field. ... And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of hosts' (Malachi 3:11-12).

"There are many ways in which the Lord can bless us beyond the riches of the world," President Hinckley continues to tell us. "There is the great boon of health. The Lord has promised that he will rebuke the devourer for our sakes. Malachi speaks of the fruits of our ground. May not that rebuke of the devourer apply to various of our personal efforts and concerns?

"There is promised in modern revelation a great blessing of wisdom, of knowledge, even hidden treasures of knowledge. Malachi has told us that ours shall be a delightsome land if we will walk in obedience to this law. I can interpret the word land as people, that those who will walk in obedience shall be a delightsome people. What a marvelous condition to be a delightsome people whom others would describe as blessed!"

Tithing can help us in other ways. Elder Hales said, "Tithing also teaches us to control our desires and passions for the things of this world. Payment of tithing encourages us to be honest in our dealings with our fellowmen. We learn to trust that what we have been given, through the blessings of the Lord and our own diligent efforts, is sufficient for our needs."

Note that he tells us it will be sufficient for our needs. Not our wants. It is not difficult for our wants to become needs. I think of my mother, and how for years she never had a microwave. She had never seen the need for one. When she and my dad were on their mission in Seattle the little place they were given to live had a microwave. It broke. Let's just say mom made sure they had a new one right away. The microwave went home with them. Mom now needed a microwave.

A microwave is a one-time expense, but how many of us are paying for things we may not need on a monthly basis? What sorts of things might we feel are something we need, rather than simply something we want? Take some time to sit down and look over your finances. Be strict with yourselves and see where you might be able to cut out certain expenses. Search to discover what is truly a need - something necessary for your survival such as food, shelter, water, heat, etc - and what is simply extra. Yes, an xBox or a Wii is fun to have, but it is vital to your existence? How much is your cable or Internet or phone bill? Are there ways to decrease the amount of money you're paying for these things? How many extras are there in your home you might be paying for without realizing what a drain they can be on your finances?

It may not be easy to faithfully and honestly live the law of tithing, but the Lord promises an abundance of blessings to those who do. Some of these blessings may be temporal, like tithing is a temporal thing. But truly the greatest blessings to be poured out upon us will be spiritual in nature.

Be at peace in knowing no matter the sum of your tithing, whether it be great or small, blessings will be given equally. To the Lord the amount of money one is able to give does not matter, but rather obedience to the law of giving one tenth of your income.

President Hinckley once shared: "We hear some these days who say that because of economic pressures they cannot afford to pay their tithing. I recall an experience I had as a stake president some years ago. A man came to get his temple recommend signed. I questioned him in the usual way and asked, among other things, whether he was paying an honest tithing. He candidly replied that he was not, that he could not afford to because of his many debts. I felt impressed to tell him that he would not pay his debts until he paid his tithing.

"He went along for a year or two in his normal way, and then made a decision. He talked about it some time later, telling me: 'What you told me has proved to be true. I felt I could not pay my tithing because of my debts. I discovered that no matter how hard I tried, somehow I could not manage to reduce my debt. Finally my wife and I sat down together and talked about it and concluded we would try the promise of the Lord. We have done so. And somehow in a way we can't quite understand, the Lord has blessed us.

"We have not missed that which we have given to him, and for the first time in many years we are reducing our debt. We have come to the wisdom of budgeting our expenditures and of determining where our funds have been going. Because we now have a higher objective, we are able to curtail some of our appetites and desires. And above all of this, we feel we can now go to the house of the Lord with those deserving of this wonderful blessing.'

"We can pay our tithing," President Hinckley tells us. "It is not so much a matter of money as it is a matter of faith. I have yet to find a faithful tithe payer who cannot testify that in a very literal and wonderful way the windows of heaven have been opened and blessings have been poured out upon him or her."

Would any of us intentionally reject an outpouring of blessings from the Lord? Sadly, this is what we do when we fail to pay our tithing. We say not to the very blessings we are seeking and praying to receive. If you are one who had doubted the blessings of tithing, I encourage you to accept the Lord's invitation to "prove [Him] now herewith." Pay your tithing. Unlock the windows of heaven. You will be abundantly blessed for your obedience and faithfulness to the Lord's laws and commandments.

I would speak now to those who are faithful and honest tithe payers. The needs of this Church go far beyond tithing, though that is certainly the first and most important step. Many of you may not know, but the needs of each individual ward when it comes to welfare comes through the giving of fast offerings. The Lord does not demand a great amount to be given here either, simply the sum of money you would have spent for two consecutive meals. If, however, you find yourself able to give extra, please do so.

There are other programs you can contribute to as well. The one I would like to focus on most is our ward mission fund. We have three missionaries out right now. Contributions from the members of this ward will sustain them and their families in easing the financial pressure. Please, if at all possible, give what little you can when you find you are able to give.

To you young men and women who some day desire to go on a mission, I tell you now to begin saving every penny you can in preparation. The opportunity to go on a mission is not something you are entitled to. You must earn the right to go, including whatever money you can earn to do so. Trust that when you have done all you can, the Lord will help make up the difference.

Other areas in which you can help include Humanitarian Aid, the Church Mission Fund, Temple Construction and the Perpetual Education Fund. If you wish to contribute to one of these, but do not see it listed on the tithing slip, put it under the "Other" section and write it in.

I have watched as some members of this ward have given their tithing, and have even pulled deeper into their pockets to help sustain this ward, even if it meant going without. I have seen the generosity of you members each time a need comes our way. It has filled my heart with the greatest love to watch as you have placed your faith in the Lord, trusting He will make up for each offering freely given.

I have also watched as others have struggled to make some very difficult decisions when it comes to paying tithing. Sometimes it truly is a matter of paying tithing, or paying rent, or buying food for your family. It is at these times we find ourselves needing to trust in the Lord the most. We need to exercise the faith necessary to pay what is due to the Lord. As your bishop, I promise that if you choose to give to the Lord, He will make up the difference. As a member of the Lord's church, I have gained my own testimony of why I need to pay tithing. While my testimony may enlighten you, or encourage you to try this experiment of faith, I cannot give my testimony to you. This is something you need to discover for yourselves.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

How to Gain a Testimony

I have noticed on the occasional Sunday I wake up with reasons all ready flowing through my mind as to why staying home from church would be really quite nice. After all, I almost have a headache, or I'm just more tired than I can remember being in quite some time. Before I'm even out of bed I can hear the children arguing and it would simply be best for all involved if I stayed right where I am!

This attitude typically happens on Sundays when church is the best possible place to be, either because I'm needed there in behalf of someone else, or there is something happening - a lesson being taught or a friend who needs to talk - that is for my personal benefit. Today was one of those days where the latter reason was true.

On the rare fifth Sunday of the month the bishop of the the ward (the spiritual leader over our local congregation) is asked to give a lesson to the men and women age eighteen and over. The lesson topic is not assigned, but rather given over to the bishop to decide as the Holy Spirit guides him. As I happened to be married to the current bishop in our ward, I knew the topic beforehand.

Normally during the same hour the adults are being taught on gospel principles, I am in with the youth age 12-17 and other youth leaders. Today as I stood in the back of the class trying to take count of the girls who had come, the Holy Spirit came over very strong and said, "You need to go listen to your husband teach." Hearing actual words doesn't happen very often to me, so after the initial shock I picked up my bags and quietly left.

The room was rather packed as the meeting had started. I was excited to see assigned quotes and stories handed out, as that seems to get people involved and talking. One of our wonderful men saw me standing and directed me to an empty chair, and I managed to keep from stepping on any one's toes as I crept over to sit down.

Last week I felt inspired to write about what a testimony is. Today's lesson my husband prepared was also on testimonies. The lesson revolved around two different ideas I'd like to touch on today. First, how does a person gain a testimony?

In my last post I said a testimony is a spiritual witness given to us through the Holy Spirit that something is true. As I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, nicknamed the Mormon Church, I have chosen to refer to a particular book in the Book of Mormon - another testament of Jesus Christ. This reference beautifully describes the testimony process.

Gaining a testimony begins with hope. "And now as I said concerning faith - faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true" (Alma 32:21). We must have a sincere desire to know if something is of God. Coming to Him in prayer to ask about spiritual things without truly wanting to know the answer will do you no good. It would be akin to standing directly in front of the Lord asking Him to prove Himself by performing a miracle, but inwardly ready to explain it all away through scientific methods. Christ could perform acts of grandiose accomplishment right in front of our faces, but if we have all ready decided it cannot be real the act itself will not mean a thing. There is no way the Holy Spirit can give us a witness to the truth. We will easily reject that which has been born of the Spirit.

So before you go to ask the Lord if something is of Him, talk to yourself first. Be honest in discovering what your intentions are. Do you truly want to know? If the answer is no, perhaps now is not the time to ask. If this answer disturbs you go to the Father in prayer, asking what you need to do and where you might go to learn more in order to receive a change of heart.

If you find your desire to know the truth is sincere and full of hope, I would invite you to look upon this desire as a seed, and begin an experiment.

"Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts, and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves - It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me...

"...As the seed swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, then you must needs say that the seed is good...behold, will not this strengthen your faith? Yea, it will strengthen your faith: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for it sprouteth and beginneth to grow...

"...Therefore, if a seed groweth it is good, but if it groweth not, behold it is not good, therefore it is cast away" (Alma 32: 28-32).

You come to the Lord with a sincere desire to know if something is true, good, or right. It has been in your heart and made you feel uplifted and you want to know, not just believe, that it is indeed of God. You have turned to the scriptures to read about it, you have studied and pondered upon it, and you have prayed to know if it is true. Does the light and warmth leave you? Do you find the thoughts, ideas, and understanding leave your mind? If so, the seed was not good. It was not inspired of God, and needs to be left alone. On the other hand, does the feeling of warmth, of light, of understanding stay with you? If so, then the seed was good and deserves to be nurtured.

Like any seed our hope and faith need to be nourished. Just as a seed needs sunlight, good earth, and water to grow and become strong, the tender beginnings of a testimony needs nourishment as well. We must continually look to find out more about the thing we hope to gain a strong testimony about. Continue to read the word of God, to find other good books and works to help gain understanding, as well as continue in prayer. The more we nourish this seed, the greater it will become, until it is strong enough to stand on it's own.

As Alma says in verses 33-34: "And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good. And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand."

If you seek to gain that spiritual witness to the truth of something about which you have read or heard, ask yourself if it is good. What feelings does it bring? Seek to discover if you truly want to know if it is of God. Turn to His word to study and ponder upon the subject. Then go to the Father in prayer.

"I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost, ye may know the truth of all things" (Moroni 10: 4-5).

A testimony does not stop with an answer, however. We must begin to live the truths we've received. For example, what good does it do us to have a testimony about paying tithes and other offerings if we do nothing about it? Our testimony in it will grow weak, and when we find ourselves tested and tried regarding paying our tithing, we may find our testimony too weak to sustain us through the trial. Testimonies are not dependent on how much we love the gospel of Jesus Christ, or on how much we love Him, but rather on how much we are willing to live it.

The second thing discussed in our lesson today was on how our testimonies are often based on answers to prayer. Or rather, what seems to us to be a lack of answers. Often we attach our belief in God and His love for us to whether or not He answers a prayer. One woman in class made a wonderful comment. She said sometimes we look for answers with a great big cone around our head and focused on the front door, because that's where we believe the answers should come from. After all, that is what has worked for us before. Sometimes, though, Heavenly Father is giving us answers through the back door, where we are unwilling to look. If we could take off the cone and turn around, we might find the answer needed.

Answers to prayers do not come in one particular way, always in a form we are familiar with, or in a time we desire. There are moments we are asked to practice patience and wait for the answer. If some of you have asked and have not received an answer, are you doing what is necessary for when the answer is ready to come? We must place - and keep - ourselves in harmony with the Lord. Continue to read the word of the Lord, to pray, to attend church, and to live according to His gospel.

How do we know if the answer is to wait? How do we know if the answer, which has come in an unexpected method, is truly of God? In the Doctrine and Covenants, a collection of revelations given to Joseph Smith during his time here on earth acting as the Lord's prophet, we have been given the needed information.

"But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right. But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong" (D&C 9:8-9).

If you receive peace, it is good. Wait until the answer you seek is ready to be given. If instead you you find yourself without peace, with a sudden stop of thought, it is not good and should be let go. In times like this it is most important to show faith in the Lord, regardless of whether or not we feel we have received an answer, and practice patience. We must remember that His knowledge and understanding far exceeds our own.

To close I want to take a moment to testify about this church to which I belong. Even though I have grown up being taught the doctrines of this religion, I too was encouraged to practice what was being preached. I planted my own seeds about the Book of Mormon and the truthfulness of this being the Lord's restored gospel. These seeds have blossomed and have grown until my original faith became dormant as belief turned into knowledge. I have received my own spiritual witness, one I cannot deny. It is a sure knowledge. I don't expect everyone out there to share this with me, as this witness was for me alone. However, I would invite all of you out there to discover the truth for yourselves, when you are ready.

If anything you have read here on my blog has brought you feelings of peace and warmth, if you find yourselves wanting to know more about this Church and what we are taught, if the desire is sincere and your heart truly seeks a spiritual witness, the best way to know is not through me but through the Lord. Read the Book of Mormon for yourselves. Feel free to ask questions of those knowledgeable in this gospel. Look up the Church approved sites to help gain further light and knowledge.

I will put up a few links to go to if you wish to read more:
Book of Mormon

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Testimony: A Spiritual Witness

At the tender age of seventeen I received a firm witness to the truthfulness of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints being Christ's fully restored gospel here in this day and age. Something in me had always known the gospel I had been taught since before I could talk was not only important, but vital to my very being.

This is not to say I took it seriously at all times throughout my life. Yet never did I rebel against it. The term "Choose the Right," the motto of our Primary program (set up to teach children ages 3-11), had set itself almost in stone in my soul. I didn't always choose the right, or makes choices with my Savior in mind. Too often I made some very wrong decisions and managed to get myself in a whole lot of trouble. Fortunately I learned from these choices. The greatest lesson, one that has stuck with me for years after, has been this: When we choose the right, or truly focus on what it is the Lord wants us to do, peace and happiness follow.

Now I'm not saying life suddenly becomes easy when we focus on the Lord. Temptations, trials and the impact from choices others make will be a constant throughout our lives. They are necessary if we are to learn all we possibly can before returning to live with our Father in Heaven, for it is through opposition, and our learning to deal well with opposition, that our greatest lessons are learned.

During our main church meeting today (Sacrament Meeting) a sweet woman and friend named Shellie spoke of the horrible year 2010 had proven to be for her. It had been a huge struggle from beginning to end, especially the end. Her grandmother, a woman with whom she shared a beautiful and intimate bond, had passed away. Shellie considered this the last straw - she simply could not handle any more. Her faith was shaken. Her testimony had grown so fragile. To Shellie it had grown apparent God had abandoned her, had turned His back and left her to wallow in misery. How could this have happened?

Shellie talked with her husband, who I imagine was lost in what to tell her. Yet his answer to her distress came in the reply of one question: "Do you have a testimony of the gospel?" She replied, "Yes." It was, indeed, still there. It had become crumpled under the pressures of the year, but it was still there. "Well then," he continued, "you have two options. You can either trust in everything you've been taught and rely on Heavenly Father to help get you through this, or you can turn your back on Him and be miserable.

His words, though hardly comforting, resonated in my friend. Here she'd been thinking God had turned His back on her. Was it possible she'd been the one who had turned? After much time contemplating the awful year, she began to see how seemingly unrelated circumstances had been provided by Heavenly Hands to help her get through all the rough times, in particular when it came to the death of a most beloved grandmother.

I can guarantee you as she continues to heal from the trials and tribulations over the last year she will find her testimony stronger than ever before.

When is this curious thing we call a testimony? I believe most religions refer to it as a witness of the Holy Spirit of the truthfulness regarding spiritual things. Testimonies, or witnesses, come after the trials of our faith. Testimonies are living things, like muscle. Muscle needs to be worked, stretched, developed if it is to remain strong. Muscle needs to be broken down so it might gain greater strength. We cannot gain a strong muscular testimony if we go through life never acting on the things we believe are true, if that faith is never broken down at times so it might gain in strength.

A testimony is more than faith. It is the culmination of knowledge given through spiritual confirmation. In other words, belief is no longer necessary because the Holy Spirit has told us it is truth. That is a testimony.

The tricky thing about a testimony is it cannot be held in your hand. It is not a physical object you can show people so they can see what it is you know. It is intangible, personal, and for you alone. You can share this precious gift by word of mouth and through deed. Others can be impacted by the strength of your testimony, but it doesn't mean they will accept it as truth. They have to discover those spiritual truths for themselves.

Brigham Young, a leader and prophet of our Church many years ago once stated, "No one can make me deny what I know." This has become one of the most important statements for me to live by. It is this little truth that helps me to realize why developing a testimony of our very own is necessary if we are to stay strong throughout this life, especially when the winds of persecution, doubt, and trials blow. This testimony is what will keep us firmly in place when everyone and everything around us whirls with the pressure to change. It is what helps me to trust in the Lord even when the tides of affliction come pounding down upon me.

I know. Two simple, yet powerful words. What do you, who have acted upon your own faith, who have experienced the trials meant to strengthen your belief into knowledge, know to be true?

This is what I know. This is what the Holy Spirit has witnessed to me. Here is what I cannot deny. I know Jesus Christ is our Savior. I know He lived as the immortal Son of God and the mortal son of Mary. I know He endured more than we can ever imagine so that we might have the chance to repent of our sins. I know He died on the cross. I know that regardless of what others may say, He did in fact rise from the dead, freeing us all from the bonds of eternal death. I know He loves us without reservation, and is always looking for the day we will stop turning our backs to Him, and will enter into the circle of His love and forgiveness. This, my friends, is what I know.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Purpose and Faith

"My dear friends, you are a royal generation. You were preserved to come to the earth in this time for a special purpose. Not just a few of you, but all of you. There are things for each of you to do that no one else can do as well as you. ... If you will let Him, I testify that our Father in Heaven will walk with you through the journey of life and inspire you to know your special purpose here" (Bishop H. Burke Peterson, "Your Life Has a Purpose," New Era).

I like to believe there's a part of every person on earth who ponders longingly on the idea that we all have a special thing we are called upon to do, that there is something God the Father needs of just him, or her, or even me. I like to think that each of us has that desires to be special, unique, and important in the giant scheme of things. Do you know what? I don't have to believe it. I know.

When Bishop Peterson speaks of this generation, he is not speaking of one specific in this current year. He is speaking about all of those who have been saved for this last dispensation when the gospel of Jesus Christ has been returned to the earth for the final time before His second coming. Do you comprehend what this means? It means our grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, teachers, leaders, siblings, friends, children, nieces, nephews, students, grandchildren, and so on down the line were saved for this time.

"For nearly six thousand years, God has held you in reserve to make your appearance in the final days before the Second Coming of the Lord. Every precious gospel dispensation has drifted into apostasy, but ours will not. ... God has saved for the final inning some of his strongest children, who will help bear off the Kingdom triumphantly. And that is where you come in, for you are the generation that must be prepared to meet your God.

"All through the ages the prophets have looked down through the corridors of time to our day. Billions of the deceased and those yet to be born have their eyes on us. Make no mistake about it - you are a marked generation. There has never been more expected of the faithful in such a short period of time as there is of us" (Ezra Taft Benson, "In His Steps," in Speeches of the Year, 1979).

The lesson in our Young Women (girls age 12-18 in our church) class today focused on recognizing our vast importance in God's plan of eternal salvation and ways to find out what our purposes in this life are to be. I wanted to discuss the points made in our class today, in particular because if we are to find true happiness and fulfillment in this life, we must place our goals in accordance with that of our Father.

1. Communicate with Him through prayer
2. Holy Ghost - follow his promptings
3. Ask for a priesthood blessing
4. Patriarchal Blessing - use it as a guide
5. Study
6. Think or meditate about what you have studied
7. Inquire of the Lord
8. Choose righteously
9. Kingdom of God - SEEK IT!!!

Prayer - the strongest link we possess between ourselves and our Father in Heaven. The ability to communicate one on one with a being who loves us more than we can possibly comprehend. It does not matter if He knows everything we've done that day. It is not important that He knows our every thought. His own desire for us to come to Him in daily prayer, many times a day, is intense. He invites us to come unto Him throughout the scriptures, to seek Him. Pray for counsel, pray for peace, pray for help, pray for answers. BE SPECIFIC in your prayers. Never be afraid to ask Him for things you really want. But remember, in all things it is not our will that must be obeyed, but the Father's. Most important, take a few seconds after your prayers to listen intently for a possible answer. Don't "doorbell ditch" your prayers. He has taken time to listen to you, it is just as important to take a minute or so to listen back.

For those of us who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the Mormon Church), we believe that the keys of God's priesthood were restored to the earth through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Every worthy priesthood leader can be asked to give a priesthood blessing. It is not just reserved for those who are sick. Priesthood blessings can be offered for guidance, for peace, for counsel as well. We are given patriarchal blessings when deemed ready and worthy by our bishops and stake presidents. These are personal scripture and should be referred to often.

Study. I'm not just talking about the scriptures, though those are most important. We also have a myriad of resources available in the form of study guides, Church magazines, and books written by those knowledgeable in the gospel. Not only should we read, but we need to ponder the things we read. We must ask the Father in prayer if the things we have read are good and true. We cannot rely on the testimony of everyone else around us and expect to stay strong and recognize the promptings of the Holy Spirit. We must learn to do this for ourselves.

Make righteous choices. It's a simple enough thing to say, but not always the easiest thing to do. It is a challenge to go through life making good choices, even when we get older and supposedly wiser. Yet we must act on the things we study, ponder, and learn, for faith alone is not enough. The surest way to gain that testimony we need is to act and prove these things to be good. Elder John Groberg said:

"In the past I have tried to figure out whether I should go into business or into teaching or into the arts or whatever. As I have begun to proceed along one path, having more or less gathered what facts I could, I have found that if that decision was wrong or was taking me down the wrong path - not necessarily an evil one, but one that was not right for me - without fail, the Lord has always let me know just this emphatically: 'That is wrong; do not go that way. That is not for you!'

"On the other hand, there may have been two or three ways that I could have gone, any one of which would have been right and would have been in the general area providing the experience and means whereby I could fulfill the mission that the Lord had in mind for me. Because he knows we need the growth, he generally does not point and say, 'Open that door and go twelve yards in that direction; then turn right and go two miles.' But if it is wrong, he will let us know - we will feel it for sure. I am positive of that. So rather than saying, 'I will not move until I have this burning in my heart,' let us turn it around and say, 'I will move unless I feel it is wrong; and if it is wrong, then I will not do it.' By eliminating all of these wrong courses, very quickly you will find yourself going in the direction that you ought to be going, and then you can receive the assurance: 'Yes, I am going in the right direction. I am doing what my Father in Heaven wants me to do because I am not doing the things he does not want me to do.' And you can know that for sure. That is part of the growth process and part of accomplishing what our Father in Heaven has in mind for us" ("What Is Your Mission?" in Speeches of the Year, 1979).

Seek to further the Kingdom of God. We must align ourselves with Him, to mark our course in life as parallel with the gospel. This takes faith.

All of these things are tied together by the Holy Ghost, or Holy Spirit. It is through this marvelous individual that prayers are answered, that right choices can be confirmed, that blessings are given, and testimonies are received. This Spirit is a precious gift given to those who will receive it and act in accordance with the commandments so as not to drive this Spirit away.

In doing all these things we can find through the direction of our Father many of our missions here on earth during our short lives. We can walk as the Lord walked, strengthened by trials of our faith. There are things our Heavenly Father have planned for us to do in this life that we can do as no one else in the world past, present or future could even try to accomplish. There are people we are meant to influence as no one else in the world could do. But if we are not living in accordance to His Gospel, if we refuse to exercise faith in Him, in His Son, and in ourselves, we will never know how truly remarkable we are. We will never know just how important we were in God's plan.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Happy New Year!!!

All right so I'm a little late on the whole new year thing, but better late than never, right? Right.

I have great hope for this new year. Though I may not be able to convey to all of you out there the feelings in my heart when I think of what may come our way, when ever my thoughts begin to linger on whether or not we will see wonderful things happen my heart begins to burn with a warmth I have not felt in some time.

I think of the rainbows, and double rainbows I witnessed in 2010, and they bring me thoughts of promises and covenants. Into my mind flows the thought that if we were faithful during the trials of the last several years, if we did our best to keep our side of the covenants and promises we've made with the Lord and with our Heavenly Father, if we've sacrificed without thought of gaining anything in return, 2011 will be a time of having our faithfulness rewarded. This will be a time of healing, of good things being spread throughout the earth, and blessings will abound.

During 2010 I spent much of my time reinventing myself. At the beginning of the year I suffered horribly from the effects of a very profound depression. Only those who have gone through this can possibly understand the hole I found myself trapped in. With the prayers and help of many people I was at last guided to an inspired counselor who, over the course of many months, began to help me discover some misguided notions I'd unknowingly developed over my life. He gave me the tools I needed to not only climb out of my hole, but to start filling it up so I wouldn't fall in again.

As I reached the fall and beginning of the winter months there was an improved change in my attitude, but the filling of my hole has been slow going. I still feel greatly unmotivated to do many of the things that used to come so naturally. I have two books I've been trying to write that I have no desire to touch. A monthly family newsletter used to find it's way into the in boxes of family and friends' e-mail, but that stopped last May. For a few months my husband and oldest kiddo took over cooking and even a large part of the cleaning. It's been rough, for all of us, but I'm starting to realize it was a necessary period of rest on my part. This hit home last week as I found myself cleaning the bathroom and being perfectly okay with doing it.

For me 2011 feels like a year of beginning anew. I've even set for myself some goals to help me come back into balance and keep me focused on important things. Learning to say no and not feel guilty about it. This is one of the things I have the hardest time with, but have actually put into practice already when telling a darling friend I couldn't babysit her boys' anymore.

I need to start having some better communication between myself and my Heavenly Father. My prayers for several months now have become insincere, as though I knew what to pray for but forgot that I was speaking to my Father in Heaven, who is real, and who loves me in ways I will never comprehend. As silly as it may sound, the easiest way to fix this has been to find somewhere else to pray. In the morning when I'm warming up the car I find myself far more awake and no where near as hurried. In the evening, after everyone else has been asleep for a few hours but before I head to bed, I'll kneel down next to the couch in the living room to pray. Changing the setting for my prayers has already made a big difference.

Our family is making a bigger effort to read from the scriptures every night. Each of us takes a verse to read, as opposed to Dad and I doing an entire chapter by ourselves. The kids all moan and groan when we tell them it's time to read, but by the time we've finished for the night they all have something to say about what they've learned. It's been wonderful.

Those are my three big goals for the year. It's enough for now, and if I decide to expand on them or add more as the year continues I'll look upon it as a sign I'm doing well. In the meantime I'll keep looking for those double rainbows and feeling hope.

May this new year bring hope to all of you this year. May your hearts be full of joy, and may you be able to accomplish those things most important to benefit yourselves and those around you.