30 December 2012

So long, 2012!

I like beginnings, and on occasion, I like endings.
They both can be so very bittersweet...
which is what 2012 has been for me.

This year I learned how to love; I learned how to love in an eternal sense. I learned what it means to really be invested in something, and what it feels like to have that taken away. I learned first-hand, what betrayal and a shattering of trust feels like. I learned, all too well, what it feels like to be drowning in a deep sea of misery. I have learned that my faith in this gospel, has and will always be my saving grace. I have learned to value myself in a whole different kind of light. My self-esteem, as you can imagine, initially took a pretty big hit; but today, right now, I have never loved myself more. I love people more, and I cherish people more. I am more qualified to reach out to those who are struggling, and I am better able to comfort and assist those around me who are in pain, and who need a friend. I, in a very, very small way, have experienced one more thing that the Lord Himself suffered, and because of that, I am able to better understand the Atonement and the implication of it.

These are just a few of the lessons I have been blessed to learn, and there are so many more. So, 2012, you were rotten at times. You brought me way too much sorrow, and heartache. You stretched my soul until truly, it was unable to stretch anymore, but I am so much better because of you. 

The ending of this year could be perceived as a tragic ending to what once was, but for whatever reason, I feel like it is only the beginning of something so much better.

23 December 2012

Hark, the herald angels sing; glory to the Newborn King!

This year, Christmas has been so special for me. I haven't thought about presents, or Christmas trees, or Santa, or our big Christmas Eve dinner. It could be because I am in a beautiful country where the sun is shining every day, and the Santas here are on surfboards... I love the excitement of Christmas, I do, I truly do, but this year it solely represents one thing.

I have come to know my Savior Who was once so small, and laid in a manger; Who ministered to the sick, and the hopeless, and the downtrodden. I have come to know my Savior, Who knelt in the garden of Gethsemane, and suffered for my sins, my weaknesses, and my pain, both physical and spiritual. I have come to love my Savior, Who was nailed to a cross, and Who took death upon Him because He loved me so much, He wanted to give me an opportunity to return home to Him, and be with Him once more. I have come to love my Savior in a way I don't know how to sufficiently articulate. I have come to love my Savior with a love divine; my Savior Who has carried me through every moment of every day for the last six months. I have come to know my perfect, omnipotent Savior, Who has helped me, strengthened me, loved me, and Who has never let me go.

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given... and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace."
Isaiah 9:6

21 December 2012

Character and Integrity

"Integrity is fundamental to being men. Integrity means being truthful, but it also means accepting responsibility and honoring commitments and covenants... Though he will make some sacrifices and deny himself some pleasures in the course of honoring his commitments, the true man leads a rewarding life. He gives much, but he receives more, and he lives content in the approval of his Heavenly Father." -D Todd Christofferson

I believe the character of a person is a primary element of who they are. 
I believe the lack of character, is also, a primary element of who they are.

Character and integrity are peanut butter and jam; they both coincide perfectly together; for you cannot have one without the other. Character is defined as qualities of honesty, courage, or the like; integrity. Integrity is defined as adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty. It has been said that the character of a man is the sum of his actions, and in the words of Elder Richard G. Scott, he says that it is our character that will be evaluated to assess how well we used the privilege of mortality. 

I believe, the character of a person is shown in times of trial. I believe the character of a person is discovered when responsibility is needed. I believe the character of a person is recognized when they treat those around them with love and loyalty. I believe the character of a person comes to light when honesty is required and righteousness is expected.

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin (who I miss so much) says this: "...personal integrity implies such trustworthiness and incorruptibility that we are incapable of being false to a trust or covenant."

Character, in this particular case, is strengthened when one can move past unholy vindictiveness. Character is challenged when we are asked to rise above distasteful false accusations. Character is proven when one becomes better from actions of cruelty and malice. Finally, character exceeds expectations when one can let go of well deserved resentments.

Character cannot be developed in times of peace and comfort, it is only through affliction and suffering we can be molded into what the Lord expects; and He expects greatness.

When all is lost, and when faith is weak, we make a decision. We can live life with ease, ignore responsibility, and justify incorrect decisions - which in the temporary scheme of things, brings contentment, and satisfaction - or, when our character is tested, we can turn away from ourselves, sacrifice an easy but mediocre way of living, and submit all that we have to the Lord.

Our character is what will be assessed when mortality passes and we meet with our Father, and I hope and pray to continually live my life in a way that meets the Lords high expectations.

The Lord expects greatness,
and I intend to be great.

18 December 2012

Why should my heart be lonely? From care He sets me free: His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

This past week, I was blessed with one of the most precious experiences I have ever had. Without saying too much, I was blessed to know, undoubtedly, how very aware the Lord is of me and my struggles. I was touched in a way that has given me a new found sense of hope and direction. It was a testament to me, (not that I needed one), that the Lord is very aware of His children. Our lives, though uncertain and filled with doubts, are a marvelous work of the Lord, and the Lord does not make mistakes. I have been thinking of Matthew 10:31, which says, "Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows." Our perfect Father and Savior are aware of each and every sparrow, so how is it that we can doubt our value to Them? 

I came across a poem the other day, written by a soldier during the U.S. Civil War that has very much resonated with me.

I asked for strength I might achieve. 
He made me weak that I might obey.
I asked for health that I might do greater things.
I was given grace that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy.
I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men.
I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life.
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I received nothing that I asked for.
All that I hoped for.

There are aspects to this gospel we don't fully understand. There are questions and doubts, but the essence of the gospel is so simple.

He is aware of us and He loves us.
This gospel is true; 
of this I know.

15 December 2012

“Empathy during agony is a portion of divinity.” -Neal A. Maxwell

There are times I so badly want to give a thorough account of my divorce. There are times I want to talk about what has happened since then; the things I've learned that were going on during our marriage, the sickness I've been faced with emotionally and physically, the hopelessness I have dealt with, the hurt I have so carefully tried to hide. I want to write about each and every minute, each and every emotion, each and every last thing that happened.

These past six (almost) months, have been the most trying, and most rewarding six months of my life, (but if you quote me on that, I'll probably deny I said it.) When I think about the amount of pain I have dealt with, it hurts my already hurt heart. I want to nurture my heart back to healing, because it is so far from mending. I want to hug myself, and tell myself that it's going to be okay. I want to sit right next to me, and promise this vulnerable twenty one year old girl that everything will be alright in the end. It is hard, not to want bad things for people who inflict this kind of pain, but I genuinely, would not wish this on anyone, ever. Betrayal is an all-consuming thing, and it is so difficult to know how to deal with it gracefully. I have learned that hard things happen in life, to everyone, no matter what, and it is completely and entirely our decision if we choose to learn from them, or if we choose to let it create malicious feelings in our heart. 

I think back to the girl I was going into this. I remember the day perfectly. I remember laying on the bathroom floor, body shaking, being taken to the hospital, spending the next three days there. I remember staring at the ceiling tiles, counting each one, trying to distract myself from the pain, trying to distract myself from it all.

I look at myself now, and yes, I am lightyears away from who I want to be. I have a lifetime and the next to get there, but I do not recognize the girl I was six months ago. I have become unbelievably strong. I have become completely reliant on my Heavenly Father and Savior. I knew I loved the gospel six months ago, I knew the gospel was true, I knew it meant everything, but now? I have a love so deep for this gospel, it consumes my soul, and it consumes my every thought. I live with a prayer in my heart, and the Holy Ghost as my companion. I live solely to represent my Savior the best way I know how. I live with the intention of becoming a true disciple of Christ, with everything I think, everything I say, and everything I do. I have given back everything the Lord has given me, and laid it at His feet. My life is His, and whatever His will is for me is what I will do. I feel like Nephi, (I am in no way comparing myself to Nephi) but I feel like I am ready and waiting to follow the Lord, regardless of what happens, regardless if it is difficult, regardless if it is not wanted. 

I don't understand why people say the gospel limits us, or results in 'missing out' on something greater. The gospel sets us free. It brings happiness. It brings hope. It brings a sweet solace and a special presence that you can not find any other way. It brings an understanding of mortality, and eternal life. It offers us the remarkable gift of the Atonement, of being forgiven, of struggling with our shortcomings but learning from them. It blesses us with the power of prayer, and the knowledge of the Book of Mormon. It blesses us with extraordinary men who lead this church, and teach us what we need to know in these latter days. It blesses us with every resource we could ever need to work through our mortal journey, it blesses us with every answer to our questions, and it blesses us with the assurance, that if we will live righteously and worthily, and endure to the end, we will not fail. We will not fall short. We will not be left alone. We will not be forsaken. We will not be led astray. We will not be forgotten. We are each entitled to these blessings.

My sister tells me to blog about something other than the church, because I know, it is all I talk about, but it's all I talk about because it truly has become my life. It is what I think about, it is what gets me through every difficult moment throughout the day, and if I could scream all of this from the rooftops I would. The church is true, it is so, so true, and I love my Heavenly Father and Savior more than words on my blog could ever convey.

12 December 2012

The laughter of the world is merely loneliness pathetically trying to reassure itself. -Neal A. Maxwell

Self-confidence is a funny thing. It's ironic the whole phrase is aimed directly at self-confidence, yet we are so quick to discover our confidence through what other people may think. Self-confidence. Definition? Assurance: freedom from doubt; belief in yourself and your abilities...

If self-confidence is something we need to develop ourselves for ourselves, why are we so completely adamant to let others define it for us? Self-confidence isn't what we feel about ourselves, but how others feel about us, and we let them have that power; we let them make that decision. 

This isn't to say all people rely solely and directly on others opinions. Some rely on the face they see in the mirror, or the number they see on their scale, or the clothes they see in their closet. Others rely on their feelings of loneliness throughout childhood, or the mean words of a girl in high school, or the kind of love they have received in the past. For whatever reason, we have come to believe that our past determines who we are, the love we have received is the love we deserve, and the imperfections in ourselves, ultimately determine who we are. If these things my dear friends, are what define us, the way we feel about ourselves will destroy us.

For myself, as a twenty one year old girl, I have flirted with each of those sources in hopes of validation. I too, have betrayed myself, only to appease another's opinion. Why do I do that?

Lately - I have come to realize more so than ever - that no matter who I'm looking at in the mirror, it will only be that; a reflection of my exterior. I might be having a great hair day, and I might have a super cute shirt on, but I will never be able to satisfy the worlds high expectations, and once you let go of that feeling of desperation to do so, you will be exalted. Once your only sense of security comes from what your Heavenly Father and Savior think of you, which in return, results in how you feel about yourself, you will be freed, in every sense of the word.  When I get on my knees and talk to my Heavenly Father, that is when I catch a glimpse of myself, and not as an imperfect, mortal twenty one year old girl, but as an eternal being and daughter of God.

I absolutely believe we should take care of ourselves on the outside, the best possible way we know how. In fact, I believe in large part that is something that makes womanhood so wonderful, but do not let it consume you, do not let it take over, and do not let it take precedence of what really matters. I, from personal experience, have discovered buying a church literature book instead of an extra pair of shoes, has brought me more comfort. I have found that the extra ten minutes spent in front of the mirror every morning, is much more rewarding if I pull my scriptures out instead. If I come across a girl who isn't quite 'up to par' with Hollywood's ideas, I have found that if I look inside her eyes and see her light, I walk away much better than I would if I were to point my finger, and thoughtlessly say something insensitive and certainly not Christlike. Girls can be so ruthless.

To live in the world but not of the world... right? It is easier said than done, but if that is our goal, if we truly desire to live that way, we will receive the help we need, and certainly, it would help us to develop the self-confidence we so often wish we had. The Lord works from the inside out is a true sentiment, and I have come to deeply love and appreciate those words. What if we each believed that? Well, I can only imagine it would be a much prettier place to live.

10 December 2012

The Truth About Marriage

"A Harvard law professor describes the current law and attitude toward marriage and divorce: “The [current] American story about marriage, as told in the law and in much popular literature, goes something like this: marriage is a relationship that exists primarily for the fulfillment of the individual spouses. If it ceases to perform this function, no one is to blame and either spouse may terminate it at will... Our Church leaders have taught that looking “upon marriage as a mere contract that may be entered into at pleasure … and severed at the first difficulty … is an evil meriting severe condemnation...” "The weakening of the concept that marriages are permanent and precious has far-reaching consequences. Influenced by their own parents’ divorce or by popular notions that marriage is a ball and chain that prevents personal fulfillment... many who marry withhold full commitment, poised to flee at the first serious challenge...” -Elder Oaks

“Two individuals approaching the marriage altar must realize that to attain the happy marriage which they hope for they must know that marriage … means sacrifice, sharing, and even a reduction of some personal liberties. It means long, hard economizing." -Spencer W. Kimball

If couples understood from the beginning of their romance that their marriage relationship could be blessed with promises and conditions extending into the eternities, divorce would not even be a considered alternative when difficulties arise. The current philosophy—get a divorce if it doesn’t work out—handicaps a marriage from the beginning... Our concern is not just that media producers and writers don’t portray happy, fruitful marriage, but that many married couples don’t take their marriages seriously enough—to work at them, protect them, nurture them, cultivate them day in and day out, week in and week out, yearlong, quarter-century long, half-a-century long, forever." -David B. Haight

"There are some men who, in a spirit of arrogance, think they are superior to women. They do not seem to realize that they would not exist but for the mother who gave them birth. When they assert their superiority they demean her. It has been said, “Man can not degrade woman without himself falling into degradation; he can not elevate her without at the same time elevating himself...” How very true that is. We see the bitter fruit of that degradation all about us. Divorce is one of its results. This evil runs rampant through our society. It is the outcome of disrespect for one’s marriage partner. It manifests itself in neglect, in criticism, in abuse, in abandonment. We in the Church are not immune from it. Jesus declared, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matt. 19:6). The word man is used in the generic sense, but the fact is that it is predominantly men who bring about the conditions that lead to divorce... Every woman is a daughter of God. You cannot offend her without offending Him... The cure for most marital troubles does not lie in divorce. It lies in repentance and forgiveness, in expressions of kindness and concern. It is to be found in application of the Golden Rule. Brethren, there is too much of unhappiness in the world. There is too much of misery and heartache and heartbreak. There are too many tears shed by grieving wives and daughters. There is too much negligence and abuse and unkindness. God has given us the priesthood, and that priesthood cannot be exercised, “only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile” (D&C 121:41–42)." -Gordon B. Hinckley

05 December 2012

To live with gratitude ever in our hearts, is to touch heaven. President Monson

Lately, my heart has been overflowing with gratitude, and I truly feel like I'm going to burst at the seams. There are moments I wonder why trials are so difficult, and why things can feel so terribly hopeless, but then I'll have this one moment... this divine, sacred moment, where the spirit is just so thick in the air I can't catch my breath. I feel so much happiness and the only way I know how to express those feelings is through tears of gratitude. Why is it that difficult times are the most precious times of our lives? Because the Lord is so very near. I could thank my Heavenly Father and Savior every moment of every day and it would never be enough.

There are difficulties in life, lots of them. Everyone has a story, everyone is struggling, and everyone needs a friend. We are all children of God, brothers and sisters, and this is what our experience on earth entailed. We also have an all-knowing Savior who places people in our path when we are living righteously, who bless us, and guide us, and teach us, and who truly are, angels on earth. There are moments I just smile, and think, oh Heavenly Father, you do know what you are doing. My feelings of gratitude seem to choke me at times, and I am so in awe at the goodness of our Father in heaven. He loves me, and he loves you, more than we will ever be able to understand. I have moments where, I imagine, is what is referred to as 'celestial homesickness.' At times, my yearning to go home weighs so heavily on my heart, and I can't help but close my eyes and imagine what kind of sweet reunion it could be, if I live worthily of that. And even that sweet, sweet reunion I think of, I know, will not compare in any way, with what I really could have waiting for me.

There are moments, and I don't have them all that often, (yet), but I am so grateful for these past five months. There are moments I feel like I'm standing towards the end of it, and I can look back, and my heart is so full. My Father and His Son have carried me through, every step of the way. They have strengthened me, their child, to overcome one more hiccup in my mortal journey. My Heavenly Father, my Savior, and the sweet gift of the Holy Ghost have become my rock and my foundation. My favorite hymn, recently, has been I Need Thee Every Hour, and those words have just come to life for me. There has not been a moment I have questioned whether the Lord is sustaining me. There have been very dark moments, when my heart has felt past the point of mending, but I know the Lord is stretching out His hand, waiting for me to hold on, and let Him guide me through. I have taken hold of His hand, and I have not let go.

Oh, mortality, what a tricky thing you are. You can be so unkind, and then there are moments you take my breath away. The lessons I have learned, the sweet spirits I have met, the priceless moments you have given me... this, I presume, was what the Lord intended mortality to be. Oh mortality, with my Heavenly Father and Savior on my side, how surprisingly sweet you can be.

02 December 2012

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” -C.S. Lewis

In my wildest imagination, I never thought I would be placed into a situation that made forgiveness feel so entirely impossible. I've had plenty of moments where the need for forgiveness has felt unbearably painful, but in my heart of hearts I always believed that I could do it. It is required of us to forgive all men; we know this. There are times I get so angry. There are times I feel like sadness has swallowed me whole. Why should I need to forgive someone who is perfectly aware of how much pain they have caused, and they really actually couldn't care less if they tried? Why should I forgive someone who is unaffected by the pain they have caused and the things they have done? Why should I forgive someone who really feels my forgiveness is completely inconsequential and who finds their actions unbelievably easy to laugh off? (Literally.) I ask again, why does it really matter when the person who needs forgiving doesn't care if they are forgiven? I could write for days words taken from church literature, or spoken by our apostles, who explain it so eloquently. In less fancier words, the answer to those questions, is simply because it is right. It is required. It is a commandment of God. If we intend to live with our Father and Savior one day, compromising forgiveness will never be an option. 

There are times when the thought of forgiving someone or something feels physically and emotionally unthinkable, but we are still required to do it. I think of the Saviors life. The Lords great friend Judas, one of the twelve apostles, betrayed His very maker for thirty pieces of silver. I don't know Judas' fate, but I do know the Lord is perfectly just and merciful, and I can't help but seriously think if Judas had come to the Lord with a broken heart and a repentant spirit, Christ might have forgiven him. That very day in Calvary, when our Savior was nailed to a cross, He looked to the heavens, and said so perfectly and so purely, 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.' Christ the Savior not only forgave those people who crucified Him, but, He asked His perfect Father - who with no doubt was in the deepest, darkest, depths of despair - to do the same.

So... here I am, as small as can be, refusing to forgive someone who has caused me pain. Now obviously, Christ is our Savior for a reason. He is perfect in His actions. His example is purity and goodness. But if that is what we strive to become, if that is what mortality is all about, who am I to not extend the same mercy that the Lord has extended towards me? Who am I not to extend forgiveness to someone, when Christ expects people to extend the same forgiveness towards me? Who am I to question whether or not I should extend someone mercy, when I pray that the Lord extends me the same mercy? Who am I to question Gods requirements? Christ paid the price for not only my seemingly unquenchable temporary sorrow, but He paid for the sins of the very person who inflicted that sorrow. If my goal is to return to my Savior one day, which it most certainly is, you bet your bottom dollar forgiveness will be expected from me. 

Christ is the light and the Savior of the world. He knows our every sorrow, every regret, every disappointment. He knows us intimately and perfectly. He is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and this month, this Christmas, I am eternally grateful for my Redeemer, and the path He has paved for me. In the spirit of my Savior, in the spirit of my Saviors birth, in pure gratitude for absolutely everything He has given me, I am more determined than ever to forgive what needs to be forgiven, and move forward with my faith and integrity in tact. That is the way of the Lord. That is what is required as a disciple of Christ. The Lord never said it would be easy, He made it known it wouldn't. But can you imagine falling short in mortality, to interfere with your place in the eternities? I entirely believe forgiveness does more for ourselves than it does for the forgiven. It humbles us. It strengthens us. And above all, it makes us more worthy in our Heavenly Father and Saviors eyes. What more could you ask for this Christmas? I love my Heavenly Father and Savior. I know this gospel is true. I am eternally indebted to  my Savior and His undying love for me. This Christmas I have so much to be grateful for, and I owe absolutely all of it to Him.

There is a beautiful book which I'm sure most have read, called The Miracle of Forgiveness by Spencer W. Kimball. I would love to quote from it, but honestly the thought is overwhelming because I could never choose a particular part to quote. The whole book is perfect, so please just read the whole thing. I will leave you with a quote from Elder Holland, who, by the way, I love so much.

"... There is something in us, at least in too many of us, that particularly fails to forgive and forget earlier mistakes in life... That is not good. It is not Christian. It stands in terrible opposition to the grandeur and majesty of the Atonement of Christ... When something is over and done with, when it has been repented of as fully as it can be repented of.. it is not right to go back and open up some ancient wound which the Son of God Himself died trying to heal. Let people repent. Let people grow. Believe that people can change, and improve. Is that faith? Yes. Is that hope? Yes. Is it charity? Yes, above all, it is charity...

"Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I the Lord remember them no more." (D&C 58:42)

Provision of course is that repentance has to be sincere, but when it is, and when honest effort is being made to progress, we are guilty of the greater sin, if we keep remembering, and recalling, and rebashing someone with their earlier mistakes... Forgive, and do that which is harder than to forgive, forget.  And when it comes up to mind again, forget it again... Live to see the miracles of repentance and forgiveness... that will transform your life today, tomorrow, and forever."

With my whole heart, I know these words are true. Elder Busche, also says it so simply, but perfectly.

"If someone hurts you so much that your feelings seem to choke you, forgive, and you will be free again."

I know that the men who lead our church are called of God. I know that their words are said only to help us live the best lives we can. I know that this gospel, and each and all of its teachings are true, and they will help us live lives full of joy, and happiness, and peace, and prosperity.

30 November 2012

Smile :)

About ten years ago, my dad listened to motivational talks every morning on his way to work. John Bytheway has always been a family favorite (obviously) but he was telling me about another favorite, given by Anthony (Tony) Robbins. Anthony Robbins suggested that anyone listening to the tape should try smiling, right then, right there, at that moment. He said to smile as big as you possibly could. He said to look to the car next to you, and smile to the person driving by. He said when you don't feel like it, force a smile. My dad, being my dad, I figured was just trying to get me to stop feeling sorry for myself. And me, being me, didn't really pay much attention... mostly because smiling sounded so ridiculous at that moment. But... then I thought of all the times I use to listen to Nat King Coles song, Smile. You know, the 'smile though your heart is aching' one. So, for the sake of my dad, and in respect to Nat King Cole, I have done my research. Like usual, my dad was right. Psychologically, smiling does make you happy. The theory? Facial expressions not only show emotions, but cause them.

Research began in the 70's and 80's, and a lot of psychologists were interested in the subject. There were many different studies underway, but the one that was most interesting to me, was a study conducted by Robert Zajonc. His research began in 1989. Robert Zajonc gathered a group of people, and had each of them repeat particular vowel sounds, that would produce different facial expressions. He used the long "e" sound, and the long "u" sound. A long "e" sound, resulted in the corners of the mouth stretching outward. A long "u" sound, forced somewhat of a pouty, unhappy expression. Lo and behold, the results were unanimous. After the study, the subjects who made the "e" sound, were significantly happier than those who made the "u" sound.

So, this morning, I put my pride aside, and I made myself smile. You could have seen how fake that smile was from a mile away. But, I smiled, as wide as my mouth could go. And you know that feeling, when your alarm is set for 6:00 in the morning, and it goes off, and it's that really annoying beep, beep, beep, beep, beep noise? I would have rather listened to that, for twenty five minutes, than smile, at that exact moment. My mom, walking by my room, looked at me and asked me what I was doing. I looked at her and kept smiling. She came and sat on my bed, and my face didn't budge! You know what happened? In a few minutes, after humbling myself, after feeling like a complete loser, the smile plastered on my face slowly became genuine. And then, I just felt really dumb, so I laughed. But I cannot deny it, when all was said and done, my smile became sincere. So, basically, mad props to Anthony Robbins. You have officially got a believer out of me.

19 November 2012

An Attitude of Gratitude

"On that very night, the night of the greatest suffering that has ever taken place in the world or that ever will take place, the Savior said, "peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you... Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." I submit to you, that may be one of the Savior's commandments that is, even in the hearts of otherwise faithful Latter-day Saints, almost universally disobeyed; and yet I wonder whether our resistance to this invitation could be any more grievous to the Lords merciful heart." 
-Elder Holland

There are two reasons why Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. Partly, because I have an intense liking for pumpkin pie... but mostly because we are required for 24 whole hours to count our many blessings. It's a shame Thanksgiving only comes once a year. Strangely enough, this year I feel like my blessings have been magnified times ten hundred. Blessings feel like they are just falling from every hole from the sky.

As generous as heaven has been, there is one particular blessing I seem to have become more aware of and more grateful for than ever before.

The single greatest act in the history of the world, as Elder Holland said, was the night the Lord spent in the Garden of Gethsamane. We often times correlate the Atonement with the crucifixtion on the hill of Golgotha - and although the crucifixtion was massively significant - it was the night the Lord experienced in the Garden of Gethsamane that changed the world forever. As important as it is to recognize the small tender mercies we are blessed with every day, it is essential to never forget why we are here, where we can go, and Who made it possible.

Of course, as descendents of Adam and Eve, we inherited a mortal, 'fallen' condition. Because and only because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, our sins (due to the transgression of Adam and Eve), were justly paid for. The Lord knew what had to be done, and He loved us so perfectly He willingly suffered all of our mortal sins, our sorrows, and our sadness, to ensure that one day, we could live with Him and His Father again. He made everything right according to His Fathers will.

I feel so small when I look at myself and my life, and am reminded of the Lords great Atonement. How trivial my difficulties are. What the Lord experienced in Gethsamane is something our mortal minds could never comprehend. I feel a little uncomfortable even saying that, because the sacredness of the Atonement is something I truly feel so inadequate to be the beneficiary of. I don't feel that it is appropriate to think about, because that single act is so great and so perfect, that a human mind like mine shouldn't ever try to diminish its greatness by trying to understand. 

So this week, it is impossible to stay ungrateful when I remember all that I have been given. I have been blessed with the knowledge of this gospel in these latter days. I have divinity within me. I have a perfect Father in heaven and a perfect Savior. I have a constant friend and companion - the Holy Ghost. I am blessed with a loving family. Good people surround me every way I look. I have a Savior who loves me and trusts me enough to throw some unexpected curve balls along the way, because He wants me to succeed. In fact He won't let me fail. If I remain worthy, and endure righteously to the end, I can live with my Heavenly Father and Savior again. I can see my Grandpa again. I can feel the safety and security of knowing my family can do the same, and I can be sealed to them for the eternities to come. I have been blessed with every resource to learn what I need to learn, to accomplish what I need to accomplish, and to assure my place in the Lords kingdom one day. 

So, today, count your many blessings. 
And tomorrow?
Count them again. 

12 November 2012

Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservations. -Elton Trueblood

Maybe we are born with it. The need to know all the answers to our questions. At the ripe old age of three we are taught to write our name. There's a right way to write it, and there's a wrong way to write it. Then we make our way from preschool to kindergarten. We learn how to spell.


Do you remember the third grade spelling bee?
My conclusion is we are just trained at a really young age to need the answers.

I like to know the answers. And if I'm wrong, I like to know why I'm wrong. And because I'm wrong, I like to know what the right answer is. And when there are questions in life I don't have the answers to, I don't know what to do with myself. When there are questions in life I will never get the answers to, I really don't know what to do with myself. Why does toast always fall buttered-side down? I don't know. When you go shopping, why does the check-out lane you choose always take longer? I don't know. Why did this person do this to me? Why is this thing happening right now? Why is it happening to me instead of someone else? I seriously just do not know. I do know that's where hope comes in. I do know that's where faith comes in. And sometimes at the end of the day, that's really all we have left. A very small flicker of hope. A very small seed of faith.  

Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten that the Lord is able to do all things according to his will, for the children of men, if it so be that they exercise faith in him? 1 Nephi 7:12

We will never know all the answers in this life, but at the end of all of it, we will look back and smile. It will all make sense. Every doubt? Forgotten. Every question? Answered. And we will thank our Heavenly Father and Savior for knowing all the answers that we just simply couldn't figure out ourselves.

At the end of the day when faith is all I have left, I know I have an eternal Father who loves me. I know I am His daughter. I know my Heavenly Father has a perfect Son. I know the Son of God is my Savior. I know my Savior loves me despite my weaknesses. I know He died for me so I can be forgiven of those weaknesses. I know my Heavenly Father and Savior have a perfect plan prepared for me. And I know I am being watched over. 

Sometimes I have to catch my breath when I think of the goodness of our Heavenly Father and Savior. There is hope because of this gospel. There is faith because of this gospel. There is happiness and joy to be had because of this gospel. I won't ever have all the answers. But I do have the answers to the most important questions. And those answers? Well they make all the other answers don't really matter all that much anyway.

07 November 2012

Chapter Two

The other night I was talking to a friend, and we had a long conversation about being human and trying to embrace it.

You can take that in a million different ways, but here is what we concluded. Societies standards are way too freaking high. Why are the very people we are always hardest on is ourselves? Why do we feel less significant when someone's life looks better or easier? When people ask how we are, why do we always feel an obligation to tell them we're doing well? Because our life looks better to them that way. Suffice it to say, some people have a seriously positive perception of life and of themselves - and more power to them. I am not condoning pessimism, but there are times when you just need to hear that it's okay to cry, and yes life does suck sometimes, and no we don't always have to be happy about it. Sometimes we need to put our big girl panties on and deal with it, but always remember that hurting doesn't make you weak, sadness doesn't mean you're failing, and my heavens if we don't always deal with things the right way it doesn't make us more deficient or inadequate. I think a lot of us don't give ourselves half the credit we deserve. 

Nick Vujuicic is an australian native who was born with a rare condition that left him limbless. He graduated from college at 21 with a double major, travels as a motivational speaker, surfs and swims, and plays soccer and golf. Ben Underwood, who died at the age of sixteen due to retinal cancer. His eyes were removed at the age of two, but decided he would learn to do what the dolphins do! Echolocation. He learned to see things by listening to noise. Liz Murray, who became homeless at fifteen after both of her parents died from AIDS, graduated from Harvard, has become a professional speaker, and her life was made into a movie. 

There are amazing people with amazing stories everywhere we look. What we don't always hear (or at least focus on) is the strength that came from their struggle. Maybe some didn't have a hard time, which makes them even cooler. But I'm sure there were days that really sucked. I'm sure there were moments when they thought why on earth is this happening. I would think there would have been some feelings of sadness at one point or another. 

In a previous post I talked about Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, and seriously she's way cool. In her ever so famous book she says, "The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen."

My point is I guess, Buddha was right. You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection. Don't let your circumstances make you feel any less than who you really are. Don't let other people's circumstances let you feel any less than who you are. Keep your head up. Be patient with yourself. There will always be someone better than you, or prettier, or stronger. That doesn't make us less special than them. We are children of God, and that in and of itself makes us of immense worth. It's okay to not always be okay. We are human. We make mistakes. We struggle. We are faced with difficulties. Embrace it.

"As a child of God, I am greater than anything that can happen to me." -Abdul Kalam

05 November 2012

Good Reads

"Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. 
At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. 
He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: 
you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. 
But presently, He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably 
and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? 
The explanation is that He is building quite a different house 
from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, 
putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. 
You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: 
but He is building a palace."
-C.S. Lewis

In the past four months, I have read book after book after book after book. We are so seriously blessed as Latter Day Saints to have a million and one resources to turn to when we're going through challenging times. The following are the books I have read the past few months, and they are so beautiful and well written. I have picked out my next 6 books, and I'm sure they will be equally as amazing. Going through difficult times or not, these books are so worth reading.

A couple months ago I put together a little video, and it has brought me a lot of comfort since. It isn't half as good as these books, and it's not great quality, but it is meant to be encouraging!

So basically, the church is so true.
I would be nowhere without my Heavenly Father and Savior.
On another note, I'm not meant to be a cottage.
I'm clearly meant to be a palace.

21 October 2012

On Death and Dying

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, a brilliant Swiss American Psychiatrist became well known in 1969 when her book 'Death and Dying' was published. This book soon became famous for her well known description of the five stages of grief. Unfortunately we can all relate. Grief is universal. It visits everyone. Death. Loss. Change. Life. 

First we go into denial. Shock. Whatever has happened is too terrible. We can't bring ourselves to say it is true. We can't believe it's true. We won't believe it's true.

Second, we become angry. We become angry with others. We become angry with ourselves. We become angry with the guilty. We become angry with the innocent. 

We bargain. We vow to do anything if only things will return to the way they were. One more day. One more word. One 'do-over'.

The worst of the five stages? Depression. Despair. Sadness. Regret.

And finally, the long awaited stage - we come to accept it. We accept life is the way it is. We accept what happened, did happen. We accept the heartbreak. We accept that it is time to move on.

The worst part about the five stages of grief? It's uncontrollable. When we think it's getting better? It doesn't. When we feel we are making progress? We take ten steps backwards. When I wake up, will this still be happening? When I wake up, will this still be true? The best we can do is be patient with ourselves. The very best thing we can do is allow ourselves to grieve. Allow ourselves to hurt. Allow ourselves to believe there is something better. Allow ourselves, when it's time, and when we can, to let it all go. 

20 October 2012

Stop Waiting, Start Living

Oh the Places You Will Go by Dr. Seuss:
The waiting place…for people just waiting
Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come,
or a plane to go or the mail to come,
or the rain to go or the phone to ring,
or the snow to snow, or waiting around for a yes or no,
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite,
or waiting for wind to fly a kite,
or waiting around for Friday night,
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake,
or a pot to boil, or a better break,
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants, 
or a wig with curls, or another chance. 
Everyone is just waiting.

Going through any difficult situation - it is impossible not to live for the future. You are hanging on by the skin of your teeth because of the future. You are living because the future holds greater promises. You are holding on, because you know that somewhere, way out there, there is something better than what we are feeling right now. We are focused on the total recovery. We are focused on the peace we will feel after we have hurt as much as we needed to hurt. We rely on the moment where we can look back, and this will be behind us. We wait for the time when the present finally becomes our past. Some heal more quickly. Some find relief sooner than others. For others it might be months or years later, when you wake up one morning and realize that you don't hurt anymore. So, the challenge is to be patient. The challenge is to make it past those first weeks, and months, and years. The challenge is to try to live right now, the best way you can, even if that means barely making it. The challenge is to accept that the future will come. One day at a time.