Monday, March 30, 2015

"I am... the Life"

Spring has always been my favorite time of year. 
There were lessons that I needed to learn the past couple weeks that I could not have learned any other way than by seeing new life come about in the world around me among our Heavenly Father's creations.

Returning home from the mission has been a trying, hard yet faith promoting experience.
On the mission you gave every waking thought and ounce of energy to the cause of spreading the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 
You feel you gave everything but the beauty of being in the service of the Lord is that this promise is always sure 

"He that findeth his life shall lose it; and he who loseth 
His life for my sake shall find it..." -Matthew 10:39

I found a new way to live my life. To be filled with faith, hope and charity. To always seek the Spirit and remember the atoning sacrifice of my Savior forever. 

Returning to the home that I always loved I felt as though I was walking back through a ghost town on my life with lifeless skeletal memories of my poor choices and mistakes from before. As though I had all the goodness drained out of me and I was left completely alone to fight my own personal battles. 
These thoughts distressed me because they are contrary to the message I'd given my whole heart to declaring the past 18 months. 

One day I had the blessing of babysitting for a family in my ward. They were the sweetest children and I learned so much from their examples. They live for joy and were always searching for fun. T.V. was a bore, laughter was the melody and were so quick to forgive one another. Despite my weaknesses they loved me perfectly, unconditionally and whole-heartedly. 

My previously numbed, doubtful and hesitant heart became softened that day from the love of these children. I walked out the door completely exhausted from their games and active lives but as I soaked in the late afternoon sunshine I felt so full of joy! Before I was afraid to look around me because everything seemed to contain a painful memory but in that moment I could feel God's love being placed in my heart for others and making me whole.

Driving around town I realized something, in late February most of the trees were empty and barren. Single branches held one or two leaves from the autumn before. They had been left to stand their lifeless as they withstood the winter. Our Heavenly Father didn't intend for those trees to hold onto those bright fall leaves forever. They were to come back in the spring (return from their missions) and become something new, something better and even more radiant for the new season in their lives. 

We've been so blessed to see the glorious blossoms of spring which only come as the trees are willing to accept whatever the will of the weather is, rain or shine. They are always reaching up and out, to embrace whatever experiences God wants to give them. That's how they gain new life.

The purpose of this life is to be willing to grow and experience, no matter how painful those steps of faith may be. We can't be afraid to love and give our hearts because '...that's what gives life it's richness and meaning' There's so much that our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ want us to learn and experience for the purpose of us coming to know them and becoming like them. 

"I am the light of the world: he that followeth me...shall have the light of life."
-John 8:12

I know that God's love for us is real and as tangible, warm and real as the sunshine. The purpose of His love is that we literally become new creatures in Him. That our burdens and our fears may be eased. That we can experience life and joy because our Savior Jesus Christ has felt, endured and overcome it all. We can find life, light and healing in our lives as we forever have faith and trust in our Savior and His infinite atonement.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

In His Hands

"What I originally viewed as a complete disaster ended up being a plan...
perfectly crafted and instrumented in the Hands of the Lord."

Serving a full-time mission for my Savior, Jesus Christ, has been
one of my most treasured experiences I have yet had in my life.
It was full of heartaches and sacrifices. It resulted in one of the most unique 
and personal tutoring curriculum's straight from my Heavenly Father to me. 

The mission was just the beginning of my mortal education. 
I have learned and will continue to learn that
He is so involved in our lives. 
Nothing that happens is random. 
We will make mistakes and we will fall short. 
   We will feel pain and we may have regrets.   
These things happen to fulfill our purpose of mortality, to grow 
and become stronger and come to know who we can always trust, 
who provides the 'healing balm' and whom we are to forever abide in.

Coming home was like walking into the Ghost town of your life before 
and you're not sure what to do with the broken pieces still around you,
while still trying to hang onto the memories of your mission.
One Sunday morning I realized the journal I used the last part of my mission was missing. That afternoon I was searching frantically for it for two hours.

It was devestating having doubts that the beauty of the mission 
happened at all and having the evidence of the end of it lost.
This occupied my mind and created a two hour set back for an intended trip an hour south to deliver a wedding present to a former boyfriend. 

Parking the car off the highway I walked the mile up his driveway, 
relishing in the memories that occured along that road and urging a smile thinking about the happy state that he was in now. There was strength beyond my own helping me make the earnest strides to my destination.

On the doorstep doubts filled my mind as I wondered 
'what on earth am I doing here?!' 
His parents answered with a similar look on their faces. 
They kindly invited me in and expressed how I had just missed him.
Handing over the gift, with a jab to the heart I was then overcome with peace and filled with awe that my Heavenly Father saw and understood things that I did not but he lead me to the perfect place at the perfect time.

I had been searching for understanding why my journal had to go missing. I needed to walk up that road with complete fearlessness and do the right thing as a disciple of Jesus Christ would. God had prepared my heart to be ready for the hardest thing but that wasn't the will of the Lord. I had received an answer to prayer asked for over two years ago, 'to be able to love more purely'

In the days following a man called saying he had seen my journal in an airport terminal and felt prompted to pick it up and take it home. He read through looking for contact information and was touched by the things he read. If I had found the journal any earlier I would have shown up two hours earlier and done more harm than good, God has perfect timing.

Through this experience I learned that God was well aware of me and the healing that my heart needed to experience. I felt emotionally stretched to my very limits but His strong, gentle hands came in and lovingly filled in the gaps. He knew I was capable of giving more than I thought I could. He knew my journal and the miraculous story of it being found could touch more lives than I had imagined.
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, 
saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are 
my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts..."
-Isaiah 55:8-9

I have come to a new determination to trust in God more completely.
Answers to prayer don't always come when I want them to,  
But They Come.
I won't understand certain experiences of mortality,
But He Does.
 What are the reasons for pain in the past, confusion in the present and questions about the future...We are to go forward with faith in Jesus Christ 

“The acceptance of the reality that we are in the 
Lord's loving hands is only a recognition 
that we have never really been anywhere else.” 
-Elder Neal A. Maxwell

Sunday, March 15, 2015

"Remember Who You Are!"

God is our Loving Heavenly Father. He knows us each individually and He is well aware of each of us and our own personal challenges and circumstances. As our Father He wants to bless us and has provided everything necessary for us to work through the trials of mortality and have eternal joy and peace in this life and in the life to come. 

These are principles I have heard, known and even taught to others my whole life. It was not a concept I believe I even began to really comprehend and understand to this extent until the weeks following the return home from my mission. 

It was at a point where questions and doubts were swarming my mind, my Book of Mormon sat close by my feet on this airplane but in a moment of weakness I lacked the motivation and desire to pull it out and search its pages to find the answers of my soul. Deep in this despairing mental hole, feeling as though I could get myself out of it I let pointless doubts loom.

Arriving at my new destination I felt lost more than ever before. With all the strength of Spirit I had within me I pulled it out and committed to read the Book of Mormon at the next airport gate I would be waiting at. 
The commitment was made but the darkness still did not give way.

Passing through the next concourse I had this feeling that I needed to smile. As I did so I started to notice the people and the world around me. Just getting a glimpse into the lives of these other individuals reality hit me that there was nothing for me to complain about comparatively. There is so much potential to reach out, learn, grow and love. 

As quickly as my mood changed and gratitude increased I saw this light as though an angel was descending down from heaven walking towards me. After a double take I still could not believe my eyes. It was the brilliant glow and beautiful smile of Sister Elaine S. Dalton, the former Young Women's President who's light and testimony I had built mine upon for years.
Our paths crossed and I exclaimed "I know who you are!"
She looked at me in my old worn out skirt, my temple bag and Book of Mormon in hand and stated "I know who you are too...tell me your name"
she continued, "You just got off your mission didn't you?...You still glow...and you have angels surrounding you right now..." 
I clumsily tried to express to her how much her light and example impacted me as a youth. Her gold blazers, stories of running and hiking and her description of the beauty inside the walls of the temple prompted and inspired me to be worthy and pure and do the things necessary to abide there someday.

It was a tender mercy of tender mercies. It was more than just meeting someone face-to-face that I had loved and admired for many years. 
It was for me to realize that Heavenly Father was there for me all along,
He had already sent angels to assist and lift me, I just hadn't yet done the things necessary to access that power and recognize them. He sent someone I knew and loved to help point my gaze heavenward; to His immediate and unconditional love. 

We have His light, we have the potential to receive "...all the Father Hath"
 "Remember who you are! See yourself as our Heavenly Father sees you. You are elect. You are of noble birth. Don’t compromise your divine inheritance. You were born to be a queen. Live so you are worthy to enter the temple and there receive “all that [the] Father hath.” Develop deep beauty. There is no more beautiful sight than a young woman who glows with the light of the Spirit, who is confident and courageous because she is virtuous."
-Sister Elaine S. Dalton


I know that God lives and that He is consistently and anxiously reaching out for us. No matter how many times we may turn away, He will never turn away from us. His Love is always there. We need to have the courage to reach out our hand to partake of that love and be changed into the glorious, pure and virtuous beings He has always intended us to become.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

"...Shall be for thy good"

I believe there to be beauty in vulnerability.
Vulnerability being defined as 
 referring to the inability to withstand the effects of a hostile environment; capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt.
Not being vulnerable to the forces of the world that will always try to pull us down and tear us away. Rather being vulnerable and submissive to an all knowing Loving Heavenly Father in whom we can forever trust. 
When we treasure Someone else's will above our own.
 There was a time I felt my soul had been permantently 
wounded from mistakes of the past. 
On truly sacred ground, in the House of the Lord 
I went trying to make sense of it all. 

Inside those walls impressions and light were received.
Thoughts of the creation of mountains filled my mind,
it's a process of millions of years with events including the colliding 
of tectonic plates and erosion from both wind and water.
The tedious result is a glorious one to behold. 

While climbing and finally atop a mountain peak you gain perspective unlike anything you would have received had you stayed in the valley below.
To create these mountains causes pain, if compared to the process of our Heavenly Father perfecting a soul it comprises of heart-wrenching moments, tear-filled nights, and enduring faith in Jesus Christ. 
Just as ascending up a mountain trail in the late afternoon sunshine on an autumn afternoon has indescribable joyous feelings. Same as for the potential of our lives, desires and our hearts when we fully yield them to God. 
There are things we can learn no other way than by walking the higher yet harder road. We will come to understand love, joy, peace and redemption like we never had before placing our will in the Hands of the Father.

"...know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good."
-Doctrine and Covenants 122:7

Let Him carry the burdens of pain and heartache, He is making something great out of you through them. 

"There is the reason. It is for our development, our purification, our growth, our education and advancement, that we may buffet the fierce waves of sorrow and misfortune; and we shall be all the stronger and better when we have swum the flood and stand upon the farther shore."
-Elder Orson F. Whitney

Monday, March 9, 2015

"Go to the Ohio..."

In 1831 the Prophet Joseph Smith received this revelation for the early saints

“Wherefore, for this cause I gave unto you the commandment that ye should go to the Ohio; and there I will give unto you my law; and there you shall be endowed with power from on high." -Doctrine and Covenants 38:32

Many heeded the call and gathered at the revealed place: Kirtland, Ohio. 
One particular family, Newel K. Whitney and his wife Elizabeth had lived in Kirtland all their lives, they were very humble yet prosperous.
When they heard the Gospel and knew it to be true. 

The Prophet Joseph Smith arrived at their store, shook his hand and declared "thou art the man!...You've prayed me here, now what do you want of me?"

The Whitney's, along with the other saints, started the preparations of 
building a temple. A House of the Lord, the first in this dispensation as 
part of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the earth today. 

"The temple in Kirtland was built by the Saints in their dire poverty. It was erected at great sacrifice."

After hours of labor for members of each family including sacrificing basic needs such as sleep, water and food along with precious ones such as material and fine china the temple was completed, dedicated and glorious revelations and visitations of heavenly messengers unfolded. 

The Saints had put forth their best effort and 
the word, light, truth and hand of the Lord were clearly and powerfully 
made manifest to these converts of new, unshaken faith. 

"The Saints were forced to leave Ohio and their temple, built at so much sacrifice and such a great cost, and move to Missouri where they suffered again..."

In a video depiction shown at the visitors center Sister Whitney 
is confronted by one of her dear friends after hearing from the prophet 
that the saints were to move on to Missouri. She asked distressingly,
 “How we bear to leave our beloved Kirtland?” 
Sister Whitney pulled her back and looked deep into 
her eyes and replied with great strength. 
"The Lord commanded us to build a temple and that we did, we have been taught, endowed and grown and now He has called us to Missouri.” 

Beautiful to me in this conversation is that Kirtland had always been her life, home, and her dreams. Now with the acceptance of the Gospel the Savior and His perfect will became everything. And she would drop her perfectly good well thought out plans to follow Him. Our heavenly Father created something so beautiful out of something so little. 

A small group of priesthood brethren were gathered in a school room 
as Joseph Smith prophesied unto them that this church would grow 
to fill north and south America and the world. The bewilderment 
in their eyes yet the power of the Spirit in that room is hard to 
comprehend. In our day we have seen that come to pass, 
because of the selfless sacrifice of those early latter-day saints. 
  Their story has laid the foundation of legacy of 
strength of faith and character for each of us.

Serving in the Washington Vancouver Mission is the Kirtland of my life. 
It was hard and required great sacrifice, 
but even deeper were the blessings and the joy. 
 I wasn't meant to stay and dwell safely there. 
There are other lands he was to call me to, invitations 
to come unto Christ to extend. 
This was only the beginning of the growth from 
challenges that we would experience. 

I am so grateful for an all knowing Heavenly Father to let me suffer so much in order to reap so many blessings. I'll walk whatever trek He has planned, because I know all along and forever I will always be safe in His hands.