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.