Monday, June 12, 2017

The Prodigal Son

"No one of us is less treasured or cherished of God than another. I testify that He loves each of us—insecurities, anxieties, self-image, and all."
-Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

This last week in my religion class we studied the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. This story has always stuck with me and has always effected me differently over the years. Studying it this time I felt compassion towards the son who spent his birth on vain and frivolous things. Up to this point I had always associated myself with the feelings of the older son who feels jealously and resentment towards the younger brother who has received "the fatted calf" and his father's ring. 

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave a talk entitled "The Other Prodigal" where he discusses the feelings of the older brother and how we can all refrain from the tendency of comparing ourselves and ultimately trusting in God's love for us and all of His Children and how we must love and forgive them ourselves. In his talk he states:

"Feeling unappreciated and perhaps more than a little self-pity, this dutiful son—and he is wonderfully dutiful—forgets for a moment that he has never had to know filth or despair, fear or self-loathing. He forgets for a moment that every calf on the ranch is already his and so are all the robes in the closet and every ring in the drawer. He forgets for a moment that his faithfulness has been and always will be rewarded."
"No, he who has virtually everything, and who has in his hardworking, wonderful way earned it, lacks the one thing that might make him the complete man of the Lord he nearly is. He has yet to come to the compassion and mercy, the charitable breadth of vision to see that this is not a rival returning. It is his brother. As his father pled with him to see, it is one who was dead and now is alive. It is one who was lost and now is found."
"Certainly this younger brother had been a prisoner—a prisoner of sin, stupidity, and a pigsty. But the older brother lives in some confinement, too. He has, as yet, been unable to break out of the prison of himself. He is haunted by the green-eyed monster of jealousy."
How can we overcome such a tendency so common in almost everyone? For one thing, we can do as these two sons did and start making our way back to the Father. We should do so with as much haste and humility as we can summon. Along the way we can count our many blessings and we can applaud the accomplishments of others. Best of all, we can serve others, the finest exercise for the heart ever prescribed. But finally these will not be enough. When we are lost, we can “come to ourselves,” but we may not always be able to “find ourselves,” and, worlds without end, we cannot “save ourselves.” Only the Father and His Only Begotten Son can do that. Salvation is in Them only. So we pray that They will help us, that They will “come out” to meet and embrace us and bring us into the feast They have prepared.
I truly love this scriptural account because it helps us look inside of ourselves to understand what is most important. We need to trust that Heavenly Father will be the judge of all, but it is our job to love all those whom we come in contact with as our brothers and sisters. I know that God's love for us is real and unconditional and we must share that love with others.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Beautiful is the word "Eternal"

"Love is intended to last longer than time,
to span the veil of death,
and continue everlastingly."
-Robert L. Millet

I felt a desire to create this post mainly for me to understand more fully the grandeur of God's love and how it is able to distill upon those who feel the least deserving of it. 
This post is mainly from journal entries following Emory's birth. I know I could have created this sooner but let's remember the crazy, wonderful chaos of motherhood ;)

Before referring to my journal I'm not proud of this but I feel it's important that I share how indifferent I felt towards Emory while she was 'in the womb.' All too often to me 'she' was just the 30+ runs to the bathroom at night, morning sickness, aggravating heartburn and my distorted whaleness. It didn't even occur to me to pack an outfit for her in my hospital bag! It seemed too abstract and surreal to comprehend that a baby was coming into our home. That is why I now stand in complete amazement and awe of the love of God and His willingness to endow us with the unconditional, unfaltering, infinite love that He has for His precious children into the hearts of their mothers. 

"No love in mortality comes closer to approximating the pure love of Jesus Christ than the selfless love a devoted mother has for her child." -Elder Jeffrey R. Holland 

September 20, 2016: "I feel so overwhelmed with emotions as I write in my journal at this time. Right now I am hearing aloud and feeling the warmth of the hiccups of our sweet, new baby girl, Emory. I don't know if I've ever felt such pure joy in my life, it brings tear to my eyes just thinking about it. I loved seeing my husband's reaction. Just like our hike  King's Peak, he held my hand the whole way. He was my strength and I loved him more in that moment then I felt I ever had the capacity to before. I loved holding this pure, precious little body in my arms, I felt as though Heavenly Father had literally just placed this child from his hands into my arms and endowed us with the power and strength to love her as He does. I felt such reverence and awe towards her. 
All fear, indifference, and anxiety was gone as it was replaced with warmth and light."

 "Driving away from the hospital I had what they call a defining moment: an event that typifies or determines all subsequent related occurrences. 
I felt terrified by every car driving past us that could potentially harm my baby. (I was white knuckled, flustered and ready to send out a public service announcement telling everyone to just get off the road!) Why is it so easy to feel fear?

In that moment there was a decision staring me right in the face: I could choose to not give my heart to her, therefore not be hurt if something bad were to happen.
I knew that if I chose that route I would be losing so much more than death could ever take. I knew that by bringing this child into the world I had been given the greatest blessing and privilege God could ever give to his children. "Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have JOY." (-2 Nephi 2:25) This opportunity before me right now is what this life and the next life; eternal life with God is all about.

I chose then that no matter what heartache, trials, or hardships we would face that I would always take care of her, I would never give up on her, and I would do everything that I could as her mother to help her return back home to her Heavenly Father." 
 "Grief is the natural by-product of love...grief is the natural by-product of love. One cannot selflessly love another person and not grieve at his suffering or eventual death. The only way to avoid the grief would be to not experience the love; and it is love that gives life its richness and meaning." -Lance B. Wickman

Now we could blame this next part on "changes in hormone levels" but I believe it to be much more than that. I was afraid that when we brought Emory home that I would be freaking out about the cleanliness or harmful exposure. I was amazed by the spirit that she brought into our home. It felt so right. It was a spirit that we could not have replicated any other way. I don't believe I have ever felt so calm and so whole in my life.

 In the days and weeks following I was oftentimes brought to tears by the love and gratitude I felt in my heart. One day I was staring a picture of the temple we were married in and realized that there was no way I could have opened up my heart the way that I needed to to be able to take care of my family without the knowledge that my family could be together forever. It made me feel so grateful that I was able to serve a mission to be able to share that message with so many others. I knew that the temple was important and significant but now I really know and feel that. Words cannot adequately express the joy that I feel. This is what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is all about. 

Image result for lds quotes on eternal families

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Trust in the Lord

“It is extremely important for you to believe in yourselves
not only for what you are now but for what you have the power to become.
Trust in the Lord as He leads you along.
He has things for you to do that you won't know about now but that will unfold later.
If you stay close to Him, You will have some great adventures.
You will live in a time where instead of sometimes being fulfilled, many of them will actually be fulfilled. The Lord will unfold your future bit by bit.”  
-Elder Neal A. Maxwell
This last summer Preston ran the Teton Dam Marathon as a fundraiser for his internship with the Borgen Project. He performed incredibly, though he did not have adequate training to complete such a race, was not receiving near enough sleep and had a good ole' case of the shin splints the power of his mind helped is what got him to the finish line. Or maybe it was the endless supplies of chocolate milk ??

Both my mom and his parents came up to watch him. While together, my sweet father-in-law shared some neat insights and personal experiences with us. At one point he got really tender and said "I never expected to see my grandchildren, I'm not even supposed to be alive."
Up to this point I was still so unbelievably cranky and crabby about this whole pregnancy thing! Because (selfishly) it was taking time of my schooling, my summer and my sanity!! 

In this moment it hit me that this pregnancy is no accident- it's not even a 'whoops!'
Somehow this was all meant to happen. Sure this whole time it didn't seem conducive to our schedule and future plans. But there was a much bigger picture that I wasn't able to see if I just kept feeling so bad for myself. Why is it so easy to feel that way? I needed to look up and outward to understand God's purpose in this.
There was a moment right in the beginning of my pregnancy when I was in my state of tears and despair while Preston didn't even seem phased or upset. 
I cried "it's your internship that is ruined because of all of this!"
He calmly looked at me with the deepest love. He wouldn't even agree that it was ruined, he just said "Things are just happening sooner than expected, but this was part of the plan and the most important thing to us all along. We will just adjust and Let it Happen"

*Just as a side note: The time while I was on my mission, Preston was working so hard at school (working, 18 credits, starving college student) and on the roof (15 hour days rain, shine sleet, anything in between). At one point I asked why he was driving himself in the ground to work so hard! He stated simply that everything that he is doing is ultimately to prepare for our eternal family. So while this was inconvenient it was the master plan.

The experiences that I've had have created a deeper sympathy in my heart for those dealing with chronic illness and pain. Those 9 months seemed like they'd never end but that is nothing compared to the relentless pain that others have had to feel when faced with sometimes undiagnosed ailments and illnesses. My heart goes out to all of you who keep those brilliant smiles on your faces despite the pain and the unknown.
It has made me ponder the significance of each of our trials and heartaches and why they are a part of our mortal existence.

The following poem is from the book Charlie's Monument by Blaine M. Yorgason,

before He sent his children to earth
gave each of them
a very carefully selected package
of problems.

He promised, smiling,
are yours alone. No one
else may have the blessings
these problems will bring you.

And only you
have the special talents and abilities
that will be needed
to make these problems
your servants.

Now go down to your birth
and to your forgetfulness, know that
I love you beyond measure.
These problems that I give you
are a symbol of that love.

The monuments you make of your life,
with the help of your problems,
will be a symbol of your
love for me.

Your Father.

Elder Kim B. Clark spoke to us in a stake conference in Rexburg and shared these thoughts
"When the Savior was in the Garden of Gethsemane taking upon him all our infirmities the Savior saw us, personally, every single one. He experienced everything that stands in between us and eternal life. Eternal life is within reach for all of us. We can ALL feel his redeeming power in our lives. He went before us. Even with all the pain this the world. He can make everything right. There is nothing that can happen to us that He has not already overcome."

In the weeks following this journal account I had numerous other experiences that taught this principle further. The loss of a dear friend and fellow missionary, seeing how a mother's love is represented through taking her child to the doctor to get shots and attending a temple session. I felt and learned that in the beginning we developed a deep love and gratitude for our Savior as we learned everything that He would suffer for us so we could return home. We probably looked at Him with longing and sadness thinking of the pain that He would go through for us. He did it so that we wouldn't have to suffer our pains alone.
His love is so pure, enabling and redemptive.
We may not always understand God's ways but we can trust that He does love us and that He knows what is best. 

"If we approach life's adversities wisely, our hardest times can be times of greatest growth, which in turn can lead to times of greatest happiness."
-Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

"Love is what we go through"

"Marriage is a gift from God to us,
the quality of our marriages is a gift from us to God."

These thoughts are from a journal entry dated March 2016
One day in my environmental health class were learning about teratogens and other causes for potential birth defects. I told a girl in my class how all this information became very personal to me now because I was 5 weeks pregnant. She excitedly gave her congratulations and then asked if I had felt sick at all. I almost scoffed and said, no, not at all! I feel so great! (I honestly have had no firsthand exposure to morning sickness and hardly knew it happened!) The class carried on and out of nowhere I didn't feel so good, I rushed to the bathroom and found myself vomiting in the toilet. How funny to know that was just the beginning of what would happen multiple times a day for multiple months ;)

I couldn't stand the smell of any food let be able to take the energy to prepare any sort of meal for my husband. This broke my heart. Upon returning to school I had this surreal vision of being the perfect wife and homemaker. Healthy meat-filled meals, all the chores done, a spotless clean apartment for when he turned from work.
I thought that was how our love would grow.

I thought perfect circumstances would yield the perfect foundation for a happy, healthy relationship. In my 'vision' this was the picturesque opportunity to show Preston how great of a wife I could be because by completely of all these 'checklist' items that would reveal my worth.
I was so humbled to learn how wrong I was, I had absolutely no idea JUST how much he truly LOVED me. He already loved me unconditionally. As he helped take care of me by doing the simplest things his love for me grew deeper than ever before. (I honestly did not clean a single dish for two whole months!) True love grows through caring for the well being of another.
Love grows through crisis, it is when we are incomplete and weak that we are able to grow and strengthen one another

That semester we had the blessing of President and Sister Bednar coming and speaking to the married couples. It was fascinating to hear them talk about how their personalities could not be more different but at the end of every discussion they are always able to come to an agreeance. They shared with us that
"Marriage requires work, it's not always roses and cupids. You just need to learn to love the work."
"You do not find the marriage you hope to have;
you create it. You create it from the differences of men and women. Why do we search for the perfect person? so that we can avoid hardness and heartache?

Opposition and trials were an inevitable part of life. It is designed that way so that we learn that we are not supposed to 'handle life' all alone. Preston has always taught me that relationships grow through crisis. We sometime wish we could put our most precious relationships in an incubator so they can grow in the safety of a perfectly regulated and controlled environment but ultimately that's not how they grow.
In this life we have the opportunity to learn to love each other as the Savior loves us, unconditionally despite our incredible and recurring weaknesses.

I'm very grateful for my mission president always sharing this valuable lesson with us, "Love is what we go through, True love is what we go through together."

"Be able to laugh, this is serious business but don't be so serious that it's not fun. Don't stress over the things that you cannot control. Laugh and Love. Don't waste your whole life waiting for happiness to come. Create it." -Elder David A. Bednar

"...the joy that awaits"

“We see ourselves in terms of yesterday and today. Our Heavenly Father
sees us in terms of forever. Although we might settle for less, Heavenly Father
won’t, for He sees us as the glorious beings we are capable of becoming.”
-Elder Joseph F. Wirthlin

The experiences of this post are a little overdue and a long time coming but I believe things are better recorded late than never. At this time of year I can't help but reflect on the thoughts and feelings I had this time last year.

January 2016 Preston and I returned to BYU-Idaho to start our first semester as a married couple. In the second week of the semester I realized a delay in a regular monthly event. I thought it was most likely stress with the start of a new semester but I somehow worked up the guts to go to the grocery store and buy that lovely stick to put my thoughts at ease so that I would be able to focus on my homework. 
As embarrassing as it sounds the instructions sounded a little complicated (so many things that could potentially go wrong weeing on a stick. ;) I didn't want to risk my pride by having to go back to the store for another one if I messed up this test. Therefore I humbly knelt down on my kitchen floor and said a prayer. My intent was to pray that I would be able to perform the test right, that it would read it accurately and that I could get back to peacefully working on my homework.
As my mouth opened my mind was filled with different words. I had the
feeling to pray to accept the outcome and to know that everything would be okay. I felt peaceful and calm and that God had blessed me in that moment to trust Him.

I finished the test and was ready to walk away and let the answer develop as it would.
My eyes wandered over to see and low and behold it was positive.
I was shocked and COMPLETELY distraught, I didn't want it to be real, I felt upset and anxious. I called Preston and my mother is utter despair and tears. Mainly because we had plans to go to Albania in the Fall for an internship and now that was out the window.
As I talked to my sweet mother she was tender and compassionate and listened to my concerns. Their was the deepest and most sincere joy in her reaction despite my despair. Now I understand the joy that she felt and how she probably dearly wished I could see that then, it would have saved on some tears.

In the days following that, amidst my worshiping of the porcelain throne morning sickness, this life change was a major struggle for me. I had a plan to finish my degree and travel the world helping people, how come this wasn't pleasing enough to the Lord?
I still stand back in amazement at the most promising and beautiful feelings of peace and happiness that were manifest to my heart and mind. Even so early on at the beginning of this adventure I KNEW this was the right thing for our family.
The following Sunday the spirit was so strong in our Relief society lesson that I was able to escape the cold, nasty winter/morning sickness afternoon and get a glimpse of the deep, immense joy that I would feel on a beautiful, warm autumn afternoon. Though I still felt miserable, lost and confused deep down I could feel that this would amount to the greatest joy we had yet experienced.
This is just one part of the plan, so much joy awaits. Eternity will be about learning, teaching, loving and serving but most importantly it will consist of the family.

My fears, though very prominent and real, were completely vanquished before my eyes. Learning the doctrine of the eternal family was my lifeline, it was still so easy to feel fear and selfishness but there was a power even deeper inside of me that I had yet to uncover.

"The highest and noblest work
in this life is that of a mother."
-President Russell M. Nelson

I know that Our Heavenly Father loves us all so much and this His greatest purpose is for us as His Children to have eternal joy. He knows the experiences that we need and He knows who we are meant to become. It is easy to disregard our potential and become complacent doing what's within our comfort zone but we are meant to become eternal beings full of joy and to inherit eternal life.