25 December 2013

Merry Christmas

The thought of my Savior lying in a manger tugs at my heart strings in a way that nothing else really can. Can you imagine seeing the Savior of the world, so small and so fragile? So soon after leaving His home and His Father in heaven? I can't begin to imagine the spirit that was felt in that humble setting on that night so long ago. I cannot begin to comprehend what it would be like to look at this perfect, small Being, and to know that His birth would change everything forever. His life would be the leading example for all of mankind. This baby would one day suffer the sins of the world. This beautiful, precious, divine baby Boy, would not only change the course of history, but would ensure our future for the rest of eternity--if we so choose.

I know that Jesus Christ was in fact born in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes. I know that Jesus Christ was held by His mother Mary. I know that there were humble shepherds huddled around our Savior, and I know that angels accompanied them.  I know that there was a star that lit the sky in Bethlehem. I know that our Savior was indeed born, did indeed live a perfect life serving and loving others, and did indeed atone for all of our sins, prior to Him being crucified. I know these things took place the same way I know the dawn will break. Morning will come. The night will pass.

I love my Savior with every piece of who I am. He makes up who I am. I love Him in a way that cannot adequately be described, but only felt. His name is so sacred, He is so sacred, which makes today so sacred. I was never given a mortal brother here on earth, but with my whole heart I know I have an older Brother, who is Our Father's Son. He is my Redeemer. He is my Saving Grace. He is my best Friend. He is my hope, and He is my guide. He is my Protector, and He holds my heart in His hands. I am His, and somehow, miraculously, in the most beautiful way, He is mine. 

22 December 2013

With faith, and prayer, and humility, and sources of strength from an eternal world, we are able to live unspotted in the midst of a world of temptation. -Howard W. Hunter

It's hard not to confuse the feelings of sin, and temptation, and guilt and normality. It's hard to determine whether the guilt you are feeling is good, and helpful, or unnecessary and ultimately damaging. What I have found is there are two kinds of guilt - and those two kinds of guilt come from two different sources.

Unfortunately, in mortality, we will be plagued by temptations; some addictive and destructive. If the Savior Himself was given temptations to deal with, how we could expect any differently makes no sense. Somewhere along the way I think some people have misconstrued the idea that temptation isn't good - in and of itself. Temptation isn't always good. Some desires are normal and needed and actually a very good thing, and then there are desires that are dark, and wrong, and sometimes, even evil. Again, each kind of desire come from two different sources. What we do with those desires, is our choosing of which source we will heed.

In our world, we are plagued with temptations and desires of just about every kind. Sins dealing with morality come by the dozens. Some are prone to addictive behaviors dealing with the word of wisdom. Temptations can come in all forms and every form: anger, depression, resentment, judging, and awareness, just to name a few. There is righteous, necessary judging, and then there is unqualified and unkind judging. There is healthy awareness of the evils around you, and then there is the constant and unrelenting and unproductive awareness of the evils around you. Again, our reaction to temptation is evidence of Who we render our loyalty to.

There is a balance: a balance that is hard to define, and frankly, I believe a balance that every mortal signed up for in the pre-mortal life. We don't necessarily define the balance... The Lord, thankfully, has defined most of it for us; however, our agency is a gift designed to make us choose. The most incredible part? We have a Father in Heaven Who, if we ask worthily and faithfully, with a meek spirit and with a lowly heart, will guide us and teach us exactly what that balance is. We won't always know - hence the Atonement. We won't always know - hence the free agency. We won't always know - hence the need for diligent and consistent righteousness. But ultimately, after we have proven ourselves, after long and diligent efforts, The Lord will make it easier for us. The line will become a little more clear. The balance will seem to weigh a little more easily. The testimony and strength we gain along with the way will ultimately, make it a whole lot easier as to which source we give power to.

Yes, temptation can be a weakness, or it can be a reminder. It can be an unnecessary and unwarranted feeling of guilt, or it can be a loving reminder from God, a God who lets us know we still need Him. We need direction. We need help. We cannot do this on our own. Temptation can be His gentle reminder of His love, His trust, and His faith in us. And I choose, to let it be a reminder of who I really am, who I can be, and hopefully, through His goodness and glory and grace, will become.

21 December 2013

"Our joy at this season is because He came into the world. The peace that comes from Him, His infinite love which each of us may feel, and an overwhelming sense of gratitude for that which He freely gave us at so great a cost to Himself - these are of the true essence of Christmas." -Gordon B. Hinckley

You know those beautiful moments that we all so desperately need, when God kindly but so perfectly puts us in our place?

Today at work, a beautiful woman walked in. We made small talk, briefly talking about Christmas shopping and the snow, (yuck!) She said to me, you know, I'm just feeling very grateful this Christmas. My 24 year old son is on life support in the hospital. The doctor called us on Wednesday and told our family to come in and say our goodbyes - but he's doing much better now. He is my Christmas miracle!

Out of the two of us, it definitely would have made more sense if she was the one who started crying, but it was me. I asked her if I could hug her, because I honestly just wanted to squeeze the daylights out of her. Her radiance and faith is exactly what I needed to witness this Christmas season, and her goodness stayed with me all day. God knows when we need to be shaken a little bit... reminded of what this is all about. All I can say is I am forever and eternally grateful for my Father in heaven and for His children here on earth, who so constantly reflect the goodness of Him, His beloved Son, and Their plan for us. 

Little did this woman know that as she told me about her Christmas miracle, 
she quickly became mine.

18 December 2013

... So let's arise with joy in our hearts.. & share it with everyone. The meaning of Christmas will always be, The birth of Jesus Christ – God's son. -M.S.Lowndes

I work at a bookstore. It's retail. It gets crazy around this time of year. I get it. There's a running joke that customers are always meaner at this time of year... and can I just tell you the running joke is 100% accurate but not very funny.

I get that it's stressful. I understand you're in a hurry. Roads are icy and there's not enough time in the day. But you know what I bet was more stressful? Being pregnant, (a pregnancy which wasn't really expected, by the way,) preparing to have this baby and having no place to stay. By the way, that baby was Jesus Christ.

No doubt Mary and Joseph felt the stress but no doubt they handled it gracefully and beautifully. Remember what this season is about. Remember Who was born so long ago. Remember Who still lives. Remember Who is the reason for this season. And for heaven's sake, be kinder.

This season isn't about you. 
It's about Him.

17 December 2013

"Faith is not believing that God can. It is knowing that God will." -Ben Stein

Dear future husband,

Sometimes I wonder where you are. I wonder what you're like & what you're doing. I wonder what experiences you've had in life that make up you, & who you are. I wonder what your laugh sounds like. I wonder if you'll find my sense of humor funny, (let's be real... of course you will.)

I've been told a lot about you. In priesthood blessings, you're mentioned a lot. Our future is mentioned too. I know that we will be happy, "abundantly happy," to be exact. I've been told of our beautiful children, & the "eternal love" that we will share. I've been told many special things, & I hold those things awfully close to my heart.

I wonder when the Lord will guide us to each other. I don't worry about it though, because I know He will. It may be in five years, it may be in fifteen, but He will lead me to you. You're going to be a great husband, but more importantly you're going to be a great father. You are going to lead our family in righteousness, & you are going to be a worthy priesthood holder in our home. I know this.

I'm grateful for you already. You give me hope in my weak moments. 

You know, I've heard that good things come to those who wait, & I don't know how but somehow I already know, that you, future husband, are very worth the wait.

13 December 2013

Our limited perspective would be enlarged if we could witness the reunion on the other side of the veil, when doors of death open to those returning home. Such was the vision of the psalmist who wrote, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” -Elder Russell M. Nelson

In my teenage years, I intently looked forward to receiving the Readers Digest in our mail, only to skim the pages so I could read the jokes in the back. There was one joke, that apparently I found funny enough to remember 9 years later. It went something like this: I apologize in advance for butchering it.

... "I was talking to a friend, and I profoundly asked him what he would want someone to say about him at his funeral. My friend said, "well that's easy. I want someone to say, "look!! He's alive!"

I got a good laugh out of that one, (it's funnier at 13,) but in all honesty, when I die, that is probably the last thing I would want someone to say, because let's be honest, after 60 or 80 years of this mortality stuff, I'm pretty sure I will be more than happy to peace out and head over to the other side. I've pondered that joke a lot, and have wondered what words I would want said at my funeral.

Creepy or not, I want every person there to be rendered speechless; just content in the silence. I want my loved ones to simply sit there, and smile. They will smile because they will know how beyond excited I am to meet Nephi and tell Gordon B. Hinckley he was my favorite. They will be happy because they know I'll be wandering around aimlessly until I find C.S. Lewis, and Neal A. Maxwell, and bothering them to their wits end with my questions and intensely awkward compliments. They will know that I am running around trying to find each and every last animal in heaven, because my goodness, heaven wouldn't be heaven without the animals! But above all, they won't have a lot to say because all is well, life is how it should be, God is in control, and hopefully my feeble efforts in this life might, maybe, may... sneak me in to re-unite with my Heavenly Father and my Savior again.

Death is an interesting thing; an emotional concept. It sounded so scary when I was younger. Death was the last scene, the close of the curtain, the doomed ending where it all stopped. As I have walked through more pathways in life, and as my understanding of the gospel has developed, death is a beautiful five letter word; a five letter beginning. It is the final victory - the last triumph. And as my Grandpa, my incredible, beyond unbelievable Grandpa laid in his hospital bed, hours before his last breath, he feebly raised his arms and said, "I did it. I won the race."

I imagine that will be my reaction the day I pass. I might be weak and frail, but the joy I will feel won't be hidden. "I did it. I made it. Look at what I did. Look at where I am." All of this will be nothing but a beautiful journey, which to be perfectly honest, it is already starting to feel that way. 

I know there is life after death. I know there is forever after death. I don't really know what it will be like, but how amazing is it that because of the knowledge we have, we know there is more beyond all of this? Sometimes - but not enough - the veil is more thin. I have felt support and love from the other side that I cannot deny, love that has cemented my testimony even more. I am so grateful for all of this, and I cannot help but be overly grateful for all of it this month. It started with the birth of our Savior, and this month His life and ministry weighs so heavily on my heart. I'm grateful for His Atonement, and for what that made possible. I'm grateful for my Grandpa, who feels so near at times like these, and I'm grateful for a loving God, who so willingly allows me to feel that.

10 December 2013

"To catch the real meaning of the spirit of Christmas, we need only drop the last syllable, and it becomes the Spirit of Christ." -President Thomas S. Monson

"As our great Exemplar, Jesus taught us how to live, to love, and to learn. He taught us how to pray, to forgive, and endure to the end. He taught us how to care about others more than we care about ourselves. He taught us about mercy and kindness... He taught us how to find peace of heart and mind.
Those who so suffer can turn to the Lord. His is the consoling message of peace on earth and good will among men. Brothers and sisters, peace can come to your soul as you build faith in the Prince of Peace.
Peace can come to those whose labors are heavy...
Peace can come to those who mourn...
Peace can come to all who earnestly seek the Prince of Peace.
Peace can come to all who choose to walk in the ways of the Master. His invitation is expressed in three loving words: “Come, follow me.
We’ll sing all hail to the Prince of Peace, for He will come again."
Elder Russell M. Nelson

06 December 2013

It is a pretty weak girl if she has only her body to attract somebody. -Spencer W. Kimball

I whole-heartedly believe that the way one dresses speaks volumes of what one thinks about themselves, and how consistent one is with their beliefs. I think it speaks equal volumes regarding the respect they have for others, and of course themselves. I believe it says everything of what one considers their body to be, which, fyi, shouldn't be an object on display for the whole world to see. 

When I was younger, I'm sad to say I didn't appreciate the significance of modest clothing as I should have. I honestly didn't consider modesty a concept worth worrying about until I truly began to see and recognize the love my Father in heaven had for me. It was by my Father's love I began to understand my worth as His daughter, and it was only by understanding my worth as His daughter, I truly began to cherish that role.

When I see outrageously skin-tight clothing, or shorts that aren't really shorts, and swimsuits that aren't really there, I think one thing I think... you know, that lovely daughter of God hasn't yet discovered her worth, or she hasn't yet come to appreciate who she is. When a woman comes to the realization of who she is and what makes her matter, the amount of clothing one wears and the skin we reveal is irrelevant. I say this like I know this - because I was once that girl.

Maybe it's something you only learn over time. Some perspectives only come with experience; and maybe this perspective is one of them. But from someone who has been on both sides, I know the importance of modest clothing, and to be perfectly bold, with the rise of pornography and the destructive objectifying of women, those who are immodest are not only justifying these things, but encouraging it. And to be even more bold, dressing immodestly is entirely selfish on our part, selfish to our Father in heaven who - in purity - created us reverently and righteously, and selfish to future generations, who will lead by our example.

Recently, I have been fortunate enough to coordinate with some clothing companies, who's intent is to promote modesty. I feel very blessed and privileged to be a part of something so encouraging, and am happy to participate. At the top of my blog, there is a link that says: #promotemodesty. I will be posting pictures along with links to clothing websites, in an effort to support them and what they represent. I would love for you to be a part of it with me, so regularly come and check out what is new.

"Modesty in dress is one of the identifying characteristics of true saints.  It is an aid in preserving chastity and an outward sign that the modest person is imbued with humility, decency, and propriety.  Immodesty... is an outward sign that the immodest person has become hardened to the finer sensitivities of the Spirit and been overcome by a spirit of vanity and pride."
-Bruce R. McConkie  

04 December 2013

"From our sorrow we might seek out the sweetness..." -Richard C. Edgley

Tonight, as I was saying my prayers, 
an interesting thing happened.
I felt nothing.
And by nothing I mean I felt no anxiousness.
I felt no burden.
I felt weightless.
I was on my knees, saying nothing, 
but completely content in that moment.

There was no problem I needed to 
talk to my Heavenly Father about.
There were no tears, and no frustrations.
In that moment there was nothing but peace,
nothing but surety, nothing but an overwhelming 
assurance that The Lord was there,
He was aware of me,
He knows the intents of my heart and soul 
even when I don't speak. He knows me.
The ins and outs and the in-betweens. 
He knows my spirit. 

Tonight that was all I felt.
I felt nothing.
And somehow by feeling nothing,
I felt everything.

03 December 2013

"I am as my creator made me, and since He is satisfied, so am I." - Minnie Smith

At the beginning of this year I was sitting in my dermatologist's office, talking with him about the prescription I had been using for my skin. My doctor went on to tell me that most people think their skin is far worse than it actually is. Then, he asked me if I knew what body dysmorphia was. I told him I did and he told me that he was confident every girl ages 13-40 have been sufferers of body dysmorphic disorder at one point or another in their lives. Unfortunately, that came as no surprise to me, and sadly, I have fit into that category.

In 2007, Forbes magazine came out with an article stating that Salt Lake City was the vainest city in America.  I remember the first time I heard that I immediately felt ashamed of where I lived, but not necessarily surprised. I don't pretend to know why that would be, but I can't help but wonder if it is the perfectionism thing we have going on - Latter-day Saints in particular. We want to become more Christ-like so we are constantly trying to become better, aiming toward perfection. The problem (or at least one problem) comes when we apply that standard physically, taking it a little way too far.

If we are truly made in God's image (Genesis 1:27), which I believe we are, why are we so adamant to change our image? As women, we are blessed with bodies that can bring life into this world, which is insane and amazing, but we are trying to perfect that insanely incredible body to the point of hurting ourselves, and we, being in the world, unfortunately become very much of the world. 

Are we really suggesting that the Lord didn't do His work well enough for us to remain satisfied? Are we really telling our Father in heaven that, "hey! You've got the concept right, but there's still a lot of work to be done." Are we really so far gone that we are more worried about what our appearance looks like to the world, than what our spirits look like to our Heavenly Father? How sad would it be to return home only to come to the realization that we spent more time and energy in perfecting our outward appearance than we did in perfecting our spirits, which, by the way, is the only thing that will prove our worthiness. Guess what!? Looking our best and dressing our best doesn't include changing every last thing we've been given. Looking our best and dressing our best doesn't involve anesthesia, boatloads of money, or unnecessary feelings of inadequacy. The Lord would not - would not - ever subject us to that.

  • 90% of all women want to change at least one aspect of their physical appearance.
  • 81% of 10 year old girls are afraid of being fat.
  • One out of four college-age women have an eating disorder.
  • Three-fourths of girls with low self-esteem engage in negative activities, such as disordered eating, bullying, smoking or drinking.
  • Only 2% of women think they are beautiful.

All I know is that just because we are in the world, we aren't given a free card to become like it. Just as there is a constant war with sin, there is a constant war with people telling us we just aren't good enough. It is a constant fight, and an on-going war, but it is a fight that needs to be fought.

Remember who you are - who you really are. Stop looking in the mirror so much. Eat a freaking cupcake and put the scale away. Feel beautiful and confident in the fact your Father created you, and remember that He is pleased with your creation! And every time someone makes you feel less beautiful than you actually are (which by the way, is really, really beautiful), get on your knees and ask your Father to remind you. And with God reminding you I promise you'll win. Every single time.