"...but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer." 3 Nephi 22:8







Monday, March 31, 2014

Wind

The scriptures are filled with experiences and stories of people who have great faith. Noah built an ark because God told him to build an ark. Nephi built a boat because the Lord told him to build a boat. Samuel stood on a wall to preach repentance because God sent him to teach the people who hated him. Thinking about it, none of those seem to be projects that very many of us would volunteer for. But because of their great faith, they were able to choose to be obedient.

I know some people who have great faith. They also do things that most would not volunteer for, because they are asked. And because of their faith. Sometimes the results of their faith are obvious and apparent, because we can see them with our eyes. I know someone who  needed a new bed. Because of her faith, prayers, and the goodness of Heavenly Father it appeared. Brand new, set up in her bedroom, queen size. To my knowledge, no one ever accepted responsibility for providing the bed.

Sometimes the evidence of faith and prayer is the gift of healing. It may be that faith is seen when someone is miraculously spared from a fatal car accident. It may be seen when a family is preparing for the opportunity to send a missionary and there is not enough money to pay for that mission. Faith is seen in prayers and searching for answers to where that money will come from. The answer could be a job promotion. It could be help from family members. It could even be in the ability of the family to live on less money.

Faith may be seen when on a difficult day the phone rings and a friend asks, "How can I help you today?" It may be evidenced when someone shows up at the door and says, "Heavenly Father sent me to you. Can you tell me why I am here?" Or it could be that because of the faith of others, we make the phone call or knock on the door, knowing that we were sent by God to fill a need.

I am trying to 'grow' more faith. In the Book of Mormon there is a story about the brother of Jared who has great faith. Because of his great faith, he is able to see the finger of the Lord. For several weeks now I have pondered on these scriptures and wondered how does one grow that kind of faith. What is required? How do I begin? Is it even possible for someone like me to grow that kind of faith.

Perhaps I do not ever need to 'see' with my natural eyes. But I do believe my faith is not as strong as I want it to be. So I am trying to help it grow.

I am not sure I have all the elements that I need or that the mixture is quite right. But I am happy to tweak the formula anytime. I am choosing to spend more time on my knees, more time in the scriptures, and more time studying other inspiring resources.

This week our community was pounded by great gusts of wind. We were without electricity for much of the day. Trees were toppled and roofs blew away.

Perhaps it may not seem sensible to anyone but me, but the strength of that wind increased my faith. Heavenly Father is controls the wind, which blew over garbage cans and storage sheds. His wind blew garbage through the streets and bark from our flower beds. I could physically see His power and His strength. I could see how in charge of the world God is. I could feel my complete dependence on Him.

The physical evidence of His power enabled me to see and think differently about what He can do. Though the wind was powerful and created damage in its wake, it reminded me of how powerful God is and how much good He brings into my life.

His power makes the impossible seem more possible!

I am learning an interesting lesson from the wind.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Broken

I decided that I wanted this year to be a good year. Notice the word "I" in that first sentence. You see it would appear that somehow the memo did not make it around the circle of people who are part of my life. I know, hard to believe. I could make a case that since I decided that I wanted to create a happy year the universe would line up with me and start sending me all good things. Or at least not so many challenging things. So far, I think there has been a major communication flaw in the system.

That does not mean that nothing good has happened. Many good things have. Given the appropriate effort, I could come up with some of them. I do not suppose I would ever remember them all. I may not even recognize them all, because my perspective can be out of whack. But I am certain I could make a list of good things. Even miracles!

But this has been a week of challenges. Hard things for me personally. Hurtful memories. Hurtful experiences.

And I feel broken!

No, it is not the first time. And it may not be the last. Because I have I felt broken, defeated, and hopeless, it seems difficult to keep up the goals I made for myself at the beginning of the year.

But I have not yet given into defeat!

I have risen from my bed every morning to face the world. I have tried to smile more through the difficult moments. I have carried on with normal daily activities. I have conquered some hard projects. I have pushed outside my comfort zone.

And I have gone to my knees!

I believe in prayer because I believe in God. I believe that when I talk to Heavenly Father, no matter where I am, He will listen to me. I have prayed in many places throughout my life. I do not think that it matters where I am or who I am with or what I am doing. I can still pray. The door to heaven is open. Heavenly Father is there for me.

This year I wanted to demonstrate a greater willingness to be humble and teachable. I decided I wanted to participate in more frequent kneeling, meaningful, listening prayers. Thanks to the bombardment of life, I have exceeded my own goal of kneeling prayer. I am still working on the meaningful and listening part.

For me, that is the good news that keeps me hanging on. When there is no friend or family member or even acquaintance who cares, or is available, or has the time. Heavenly Father is waiting. He does not check His watch because He has another more important appointment. He isn't half listening during the television commercial. There are no impatient tapping toes or drumming fingers. I do not hear him interrupt me while I a speaking.  He does not point out why what I am saying is wrong before I have even finished saying it. He does not storm from the room in anger or turn His back and walk away while I am talking. My prayers are not answered with a tirade of criticism or profanity. No rolling eyes, unpleasant groans, or other annoying noises come my way.

He is always there and when I need a friend, He just listens!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Obedience

There are so many things in life I need to do better. One of them is obedience.

This was brought to my mind as I remembered an experience many years ago. I was a member of a young women presidency in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. We were planning an activity for the young women, as a presidency. I believe it was New Beginnings. As plans came together, we each suggested our ideas. Some ideas were accepted. Some ideas were not. The president listened willingly to each suggestion and they were discussed freely and openly. We all seemed to be in agreement until the planning neared an end. The other counselor seemed set on one of her ideas. After it's discussion, the president kindly rejected the idea. Carefully she explained the reasons she would not approve and I thought the issue had ended. But this woman would not let it go. She continued to plead her case. But to no avail. The president stood behind her decision. For whatever reason, the counselor again would not accept the decision of the president. Matter-of-factly she informed us all that it would be happening. She would make it happen. She would make all the arrangements and cover the financial cost. End of discussion.

I remember how shocked I was by her attitude. My belief then and now is that the president has the final stay. While it is certainly easier if we can all agree, once the president has made the decision, it is time to get behind and support that decision.

That definitely does not mean that we should do anything illegal, immoral, or that goes against our own standards of belief or values. But this was not that kind of issue. For me, it was not a big deal. But it had suddenly become one.

My recollection is that the meeting was over and it felt rather awkward and uncomfortable as we parted company. I was stunned by the defiant attitude of this woman. It was puzzling to see her behavior and wonder what was driving her to open rebellion. For her this was a very big deal.

I was never involved in any further discussion of the matter. The evening came and went. She did indeed carry forth with her desire. In essence, she won the victory. Or did she?

As I have pondered this experience, I have envisioned myself in my own acts of defiance. I have seen me battle for my own cause and agenda. Believe me when I say it is not often pretty. I can behave just as this woman did. Maybe even worse.

It has been a good reminder for me about obedience.  And my need to repent and change. I can be found muttering and complaining with the best of them. I can grumble and gripe and murmur. I can stand in opposition.

I believe we are lead by a prophet of God, who speaks for Heavenly Father. I believe that when a prophet of God speaks, we should listen and obey. Yet, my actions do not always match my beliefs.

Scriptures teach that obedience is the first law of heaven. I guess that is a very good place for me to begun!

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Flaw

Started a new project last week. Though unfamiliar with how to do some of the project, the initial portion should have been simple. Or so it seemed. Yet, it did not seem I made much progress over the course of the week. As I sat picking stitches out of the pieces of fabric, again; my discouragement and frustration at my mistakes grew. I am not certain, but I think I really spent more time picking out stitches than I did putting them in.

My current project is as small quilt, a new design and a new method. It sounded like a fairly simple project, in theory. I tried to learn and prepare before I even started on the quilt. I shopped multiple times and in multiple locations before spending one single cent. I asked a friend for coaching. And I began.

As I worked with one of the fabrics, I discovered a small flaw. A run. The fabric was already cut. I only purchased enough to complete the quilt. I talked myself into using the fabric piece with the flaw. No one would notice it. And I sewed the pieces together. As the days passed, I completely forgot about the small run in the fabric. It never crossed my mind again.

With all the pieces sewn in place, I carefully laid the quilt top upon the quilt back, checking the sizes. Time to cut the batting. As I measured, I saw the run in the fabric. I studied it a bit. I tucked the batting behind the flawed fabric to see how it looked. Would anyone notice?

Unsure, I stopped work on the project for the day.

But the flaw bothered me. It was there. I had seen it. Even if no one else ever saw, it would still be there and I would know that this gift that I was giving was flawed. Many of my own mistakes will make this quilt less than perfect, but this flaw could damage the integrity of the quilt. It may soon be a hole.

Though awkward, I returned to the store with my quilt top. I did not know how this would turn out, but even if I had to buy another piece of fabric, I was going to replace the flawed piece. The store owner greeted me and handled my problem with kindness and haste. She apologized and I returned home to begin again. Twas not such a quick and easy fix as I had hoped. But was worth the trouble to me.

As I have pondered on this project I have been reminded that we are all flawed, just as this piece of fabric. Our flaws are not the same, but they are there. Some are readily visible and some are hidden away. Some of these flaws come because of our own foolishness. Other flaws are acquired because of our own poor choices. We may find we have a little rip here or a tear there because of the unkindness of others.

Had I been more wise, I would not have used the flawed piece of fabric in the first place. Had I returned immediately to the store for a replacement, my task would have been much simpler, quicker, and more pleasant. I could have saved myself time as well as frustration.

So it is with the things that go wrong in our lives. The sooner we recognize that we are in need of repairs, the better off we all are. Our flaws and wounds can grow and poison not only our own systems, but the lives of those around us. Yet the natural man prefers to hold on tightly to those holes and runs in our souls. They soon become comfortable crutches for us to lean on. We spout an endless stream of excuses and justifications. Sometimes the bigger the sin, the bigger the lie we tell ourselves and the more tightly we hold on.

Miraculously, we have a Savior who is desirous for us to succeed. He is aware of us through life's challenges. He knows that we are flawed and wounded and loves us anyway. Jesus Christ has already taken on Himself the consequences of our mistakes for us, on the condition of our repentance.

The Atonement has already paid the price that we simply cannot pay.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Roller Coaster Ride

Once in awhile I find myself riding the roller coaster of life. Because I boarded the ride, I get to experience the highs and the lows and the zigs and the zags that are part of the ride. Some moments may be slow and building, accelerating to what feels like uncontrolled speed. There may be gentle curves or nauseating spirals. There my be seriously high spots and some major downward dips. Part of the ride may be actually fun and exciting or even thrilling. But some moments may actually be frightening or even cause my stomach to just be filled with knots. Because I boarded the ride, I must remain until the ride is over.

Sometimes I buy the ticket and board the ride of my own free will and choice. Right or wrong. Wise or foolish. I decide I want to get on the ride, purchase a ticket and hold on until the end. After the ride I may be really glad that I had the experience. I may even see that I learned some things or was blessed by the ride. Sometimes I may realize that I survived the ride and wonder why in the world did I even think it would be a good idea to buy the ticket in the first place.

Once in a while I end up riding a roller coaster that I do not remember wanting to ride. I am quite certain that I never purchased the ticket and want desperately to get off. I probably have even looked over the edge of the roller coaster to see if jumping off was a possibility. I have found myself on a roller coaster ride and never known how I even got there in the first place. But once on the ride, the only thing I could do is hold on until the car came to an end.

In some cases the ride feels as if the course is solid and set and there is nothing I can do to change the path of the car I tide in. Some rides seem less rigid and more open to change, affected by my choices. It feels like I have some agency or stewardship over the outcome. Some rides have given the impression that there is agency and choice, but in the end it was all counterfeit.

Recently I realized that I was on another roller coaster ride. I did not purchase the ticket. I did not walk under my own steam towards the roller coaster and board the car. Almost none of it was really my choice. But once on the car, all I could do was hold on until the end of the ride.

At first I thought that the ride had only lasted for about two months, but looking back it really began last summer. It was a bumpy ride from the beginning. Broken promises and disregard were prevalent almost from the beginning, but in my own blindness I was not able to see that. I was working so hard, trying to make lemonade out of lemons, that I did not see things very clearly. It was only during the last two months of this particular ride that I began to see things somewhat differently. I could say that it was because it was the roughest part of the ride. But that would not really be true. The entire ride was difficult and unpleasant only sprinkled on occasion with moments that could be described as the 'calm before the storm,' But the last two months were different. First weird and then bizarre. And all along the way there was an amount of emotional hurt, growing discomfort, and downright emotional pain. For much of the end of the ride, it felt that I had been emotionally kicked in the stomach.

Today, it feels like a huge relief to be off that ride, though there are lingering moments of heartache and sorrow. If I allow my mind to wrap around this roller coaster ride, I still shake my head and wonder. Puzzled, the answers still elude me.

I have asked Heavenly Father to help me understand the lessons I am to learn from this difficult ride. The answers have not come yet, but I believe they will. Maybe not even soon. Maybe not until the next life. My faith in Heavenly Father is real. My trust that I will understand is also real.

Through some of the more challenging moments near the end of the ride, when the speed and the danger seemed so frightening, my angel Rexburg sister walked beside me, and helped me carry the burden, when it was too heavy for me to carry. As she helped ease the pain and calm my fears, I could again feel the Savior as he also walked beside me. 

Though I still feel clueless regarding so much of this ride, I can say I hung on to the end. I gave all I could give until the last moment. I did not jump from the roller coaster car.

I finished the ride!