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







Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Covenents

Because I feel so much like a spiritual pygmy, I keep trying to learn more and new and better, the things that I think everyone else knows already. I am trying to play catch up to the rest of the world who have greater faith and testimonies than I do. Things that come as great revelation to me are old hat to others. Inspiring insights and ah-hah moments are yesterday's news. But I keep plugging along, trying to not be too discouraged at the turtle pace I walk.

I came home from BYU Women's Conference with a fairly long list of things I need to learn more about; and the desire and determination to learn more. But I also came home and soon started to not feel very well. So as the crud invaded my body and my life, a bit of that desire began to fade. Though I really only felt pretty sick for a few days, the level of health that I was hoping for has seemed slow in coming. So it has seemed like it has required more effort to feed the fire of desire to learn. But I am still slowly, but surely pressing forward at my usual turtle pace, to learn!

Wendy Watson Nelson taught me about covenants, a definite subject on my list. So I have spent some time thinking about covenants and reading about covenants. There is much for me to learn but I have a few notes I took as I listened to her speak.  I have placed these statements from her message on my fridge, to help remind me that I am seeking Heaven's inspiration about covenants.

Covenants are a gift from God.

I have asked myself, how do I value these gifts from God?  Do my words and my actions demonstrate to God that I value His gift?

I promised God I would follow His Son in what I do, think, and say.

Though sometimes I think that I do this, is it frequent enough?  Would others answer this question them same as I might? What does Heavenly Father think?

Nothing is more urgent and nothing has more power than keeping my covenants.

Am I feeling the power of keeping covenants? What changes do I need to make in the way I am living to be a more dedicated covenant keeper?

Nothing in this life is more important than making and keeping covenants with precision.

How precise am I really? How often do I find myself making excuses and slacking off?
 
Sister Nelson quoted from Elder Russell M. Nelson, "The greatest compliment that can be earned in this life is to be known as a covenant keeper."

I have thought about the compliments I have received and longed to receive. I must be honest and say, this idea had never, ever occurred to me. So, since I have not thought about this, it is a pretty safe bet that I have not put forth any effort to be known by anyone, even God, as a covenant keeper.

Ouch!

Reading and pondering on these words remind me that this topic is pretty important for me. I am seeking, knocking, and asking more about covenants. I am pondering questions like, what covenants really are and what covenants I have made. I am pondering about how my choices, words, and deeds actually fit in with my own covenants with God. And maybe more importantly how do the things I do not fit in with those same covenants.

Sister Nelson taught of the fruits of covenant keeping.

The Savior becomes more real and prayers change. We prepare for and can expect revelation. Our very natures change.

So, that is who I want to become, the person who knows Jesus Christ and knows He is my Savior. I want to receive more revelation and know that it will come. And yes, I know that I want my nature to be changed to be a little more like Jesus Christ, every single day.

Memorial Day

Memorial Day has come and gone once again and I have spent some quiet moments pondering my heritage and my ancestors. Though I recognize that no family is perfect, I have a great love and appreciation for those of my family who have already completed their time on this earth and returned to Heavenly Father. I recognize that those who went before me struggled through life in different ways than I have, sacrificing much so that my life could be as comfortable as it is.

My parents would have loved much of today's technology. I cannot imagine that they could have possibly comprehended cell phones, texting, Skype or Facetime. My Mother and Father loved the world. They enjoyed studying and learning about other countries and cultures. They traveled to Mexico and South America. They visited China and Europe. They made friends everywhere they went. But it would have made their journey so much easier to be able to access the mountain of information available on the internet today. Cell phone, texting, and face to face communication would have thrilled them.

Mother was an avid genealogist. She and her family members spent a great deal of time and money researching their ancestors. She had drawers of records and documents. They hired researchers in foreign lands to help in the quest to connect the family together. She spent hours at the local Family History Center, poring through records and extracting data. I believe she would be awed by the availability of research information available on line today. The Family Search website sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints would be one of her favorite things.

As we prepared flowers to take to the cemeteries of our ancestors this week, I thought of how different Memorial Day was when I was a child. My Grandmothers loved Memorial Day. Though they had poor health, they prepared and celebrated this day. Fresh flowers from their own yards and gardens accompanied us to the cemetery, along with containers and water and tools. It was a day that they honored their loved ones as the headstones and cemetery plots were tidied and decorated with flowers. We spent a long time at the cemetery. I often wandered among the tombstones, looking at names, dates, and places. I looked at the artwork carved on the stones. I was always struck by the headstone of a child, died much too young and missed by family. I looked at American flags, recognizing a lost soldier.

Friends and family gathered for this day at the cemetery. It was a chance to see those who traveled to honor their loved ones. It was a day to remember together; times of joy and times of sorrow. Visiting was an important part of the day, renewing those old kinships, holding on to the past and cherishing the time together. Folding chairs allowed my aging Grandmothers to sit and rest, in between visits.

I could find the headstones of my family members easily. I recognized things that lead me to them, including a headstone that bore the name of Eppers. Every year Mrs. Eppers spent her day at the cemetery, cleaning the headstone and decorating with a myriad of artificial flowers the place where her husband was placed. It was a day she also cherished, as she remembered the man she loved. In my mind, I can still see the spot she decorated with loving care, on her knees, visiting and remembering. Mrs. Eppers is now gone too and the plot and stone appear unvisited now. It seems sad!

As I visit the cemeteries, I remember! I remember all who paved the way for me within my family and without. I remember the pioneers and the soldiers; and the price they paid. I remember the pilgrims and the patriots who laid the foundation of this land. I remember the covenants that were made with God, by faithful men centuries ago that bless my life.

And I am grateful!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Visiting Teaching is a Blessing

As my preparations for the day were underway, I thought about the friend I was going to visit teach today.  I have a wonderful visiting teaching partner and we have already been out twice this month to visit other friends. We had wonderful visits, because we have wonderful sisters to visit with. But each has trials and burdens that they carry. Sometimes having someone to listen to the struggles of life, lifts for a moment, the weight of the challenge. It can be such a sweet relief to let another help us carry the load.

I thought about the lessons I have learned as part of the visiting teaching program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I remembered how timid and nervous I felt as I began the journey. I had no experience and very little knowledge to share.

Many years later, I have a great deal more experience, but probably not much more knowledge. But I feel that Heavenly Father has tutored me, strengthened me, and sent me on this errand, when He needed me to go. One morning I felt impressed to visit a particular sister, as soon as I could get there.

So, I went.

She seemed surprised to see me and I explained that I felt I had come to visit her, because Heavenly Father had sent me. She assured me repeatedly that all was fine. So we chatted about life in general and occasionally I would ask a few very specific questions to identify why I had come. Is your husband doing ok? This family had many financial concerns, always. How is your husband's  job going? She assured me that the job was fine and their needs were being met financially. I asked very specifically about each of her five children. All were fine too. I even began to ask about her extended family and learned that they were all well.

Somewhat embarrassed, I started to say my goodbyes and leave. I was wondering why I had come myself. I had been so certain that I needed to go, quickly. I started to stand when my friend said, "I guess I should tell you why you came."

And she did. I sat and listened as she shared her deep, very personal concern. Her fears and doubts spilled onto the floor between us and I scooped down and picked them up, one by one, helping her carry them. She laid bare her soul to me and I have always guarded and protected her privacy and her feelings. No one had ever heard a word about this conversation from my lips.

I think she felt a bit lighter that day.

My friends fears were real and overwhelming to her but she could not share them with family or other friends. For several weeks, she carried the heavy burden until her issues resolved themselves in miraculous ways. Though she has moved to another town, we still keep in contact once in awhile.

During a very trying and busy season of life, I found myself grumbling and complaining about visiting teaching. Why did I need to do that when I was so buried in my own life struggles? When was I supposed to find time to go? What would I do with my own children? And on and on.

Gently The Holy Spirit taught me of the need for me to serve. The lesson was not that the sisters I was to visit needed me, it was that I needed to learn to serve others, outside the walls of my own home. I was taught very clearly that many months my service as a visiting teacher was the only service I gave that was not to my own, immediate family.

Do not misunderstand, I gave plenty to my family, every day, all day long and into the night. I knew that Heavenly Father knew that and sent me out to learn to serve anyway. All my experiences have not been positive and wonderful. But most of them have.

Today Heavenly Father reminded me that I am blessed as I serve His children and that He knew all along that I needed to learn to serve others!

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Roller Coaster Ride

This life is a lot like a ride on the roller coaster. Unexpected twists and turns are everywhere. Great experiences carry us higher for a season and low dips come without warning. We move forward with all the energy we can muster towards an unseen destination and encounter bends and swerves and bumps and jolts along the way. The ride can be momentarily smooth and then become completely unsettling in an instant. Some of the ride is exciting and exhilarating, yet some is frightening and causes us to hold on for dear life. Even in the smooth spots of the ride, tension mounts, because knowledge warns us of the rough road ahead. It can be hard to enjoy the smooth part of the ride, knowing how temporary it is. A ride on the roller coaster can be a test of endurance, patience, and tolerance.

A recent high point for my life came as I spent a few days away for therapy. I went to BYU Women's Conference to fill up my spiritual and emotional gas tank. It was running pretty low and really needed a boost.

It is such a blessing to live in this country where I can get in my car and drive a few hours with a wonderful friend and spend a couple of days feasting on words spoken by wise and experienced men and women, under the influence of The Holy Ghost. I could not listen fast enough and hard enough to catch it all, but my fish net was open and I pulled it in, filled with fish. Though I may not remember all the words spoken, I remember many of them that have penetrated my soul and pricked my conscience. They remind me of the purpose of this life and the things I need to learn and do as I navigate the rough parts of the roller coaster ride of life.

The list of things for me to work on is long, maybe endless. But I returned home again, believing more than ever that Heavenly Father is real and loving. He misses us while we are away from our heavenly home and watches over us. I cannot say I know how God feels, but I can say I know how I feel as a parent. I ache when my children ache. I long for the success of each individual in my family. I bang my own head in frustration when one of my own bangs into a wall. My heart feels battered and bruised when that is their experience.

My heart also sings when they do. My joy increases with their successes. My faith grows as I see them grow in faith also.

I wonder how God feels when He watches His children hurt each other? I wonder how He responds to an unkind word or action. Does He cringe when the love and loyalty of His children fail?

I imagine Him as a great cheerleader, standing close by and holding His breath, waiting for the struggle to pass, or the right choice to be made, or the right thing to be done. I wonder sometimes if He weeps with disappointment with me? I wonder if those moments that drive me to my knees are hard for Him to watch.

My faith and hope and testimony were strengthened and fed by being able to learn from all I heard, saw, and felt during the roller coaster ride as it led me to participate fully in the feast of Women's Conference. I hope I came back forever changed and better to be more useful to Heavenly Father to build His kingdom on the earth. I hope I can speak of Christ more boldly and stand a little bit taller for truth and goodness. I hope I can take offense less often and forgive more easily and quickly. I hope I can disappoint Heavenly Father less often and look for more opportunities to serve and please Him.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

America is a Covenant Land

Heavenly Father sometimes teaches us by putting experiences and information in our paths. It seems that at times similar information finds its way into my life, unexpectedly, from more than one source. Some may say that this is merely coincidence. Some may say it is Karma. Others may have other ideas of why and how this happens. But the scriptures teach that all good things come from our Heavenly Father. So when information that supports an idea, backs up a principle, strengthens a theory, or feels true to me; I want to give credit to Heavenly Father. When it feels powerful, I recognize that the learning is coming from God and being manifested to me through the power of the Holy Ghost. 

I am profoundly grateful for the influence of The Holy Ghost in my life. He is a great and powerful teacher. I feel His presence often, and pray for His guidance always. Though I have a very long way to go, I continue to experiment on God's word, practice being a disciple of Christ, and work at interacting with The Holy Ghost. For me it has taken lots of experiences to learn about communications with The Holy Ghost. I have made many errors that have helped me learn to be more obedient.

My husband and I were privileged to attend the Latter Day Voices Spring Show last month where they testified through their music and their words about the importance of America in Heavenly Father's plan for His children. They taught with words from scripture, especially The Book of Mormon, that I live in a land that God intended to be a covenant land. I listened to the spoken words and felt their power. My soul recognized the truth of these words. Their music inspired and lifted my mind and heart to new levels as I felt truth penetrate my soul. There message was powerful and filled with truth. The Holy Ghost confirmed that to me.

This is a covenant land!

I thought back to experiences I have had with the Flag of The United States of America. I have always felt The Holy Ghost as the flag appears in a parade. As an elementary school pupil, I loved the Pledge of Allegiance, every single day. I felt the love for my country as I placed my right hand over my heart and said those sacred words. I remember being in grand stadiums where the Flag was raised and the National Anthem was heard. Before my teens, I knew that this land was special and I was blessed to be a part of it.

I thought of my opportunity to visit Fort McHenry and walk the grounds. I saw evidence that taught me that Fort McHenry really should have fallen to the British, based on facts alone. But it did not. God was there, fighting with the soldiers, preserving His covenant land. I saw the flag flying in glory above the fort, as a reminder of all it should symbolize today. I watched school children surround an American Flag, learn about it, and fold it with respect. I learned more about our National Anthem and Francis Scott Key.

Fort McHenry was a hallowed place for me.

I saw the tattered, torn, and cut flag that once flew over Fort McHenry, safely encased in the Smithsonian Museum. I felt the power of this flag that inspired The Star Spangled Banner and rallied weary and tattered soldiers to stand for their cause. It too was a sacred place.

I walked the National Mall and felt The Holy Ghost as I walked among the monuments to soldiers who had fallen in battle, protecting my freedom. I honor them and appreciate their sacrifice. I thought of their families, left behind to face the rest of their mortal lives carrying that loss, every single day.

I felt God's presence in The Lincoln Memorial. Abraham Lincoln has always been a favorite of mine. I respect who he was and the price he paid for the salvation of this country. As I have learned about him and the challenges he faced, I ache for his burden. As I see who he became and what he did to rescue our country from sin and calamity, I admire him more and more all the time. He was a great man, destined to unite a divided people. And the price he paid was way too high!

My soul has reawakened and I am grateful for it to be so. I believe that I live in a covenant land. That being said, I am also aware that covenants with God mean that I must do some things too. Today, and every day, I must do what I can to do my part to live up to the commands that God has given me. I must live more honorably. I must respect my country and honor its symbols. I must be a better citizen and example.

I will pray for my country more diligently and speak of it more reverently, for this is a covenant land.