Last fall, my husband and I had the opportunity to spend two weeks in Taiwan. One of my favorite parts of the trip was visiting a black sand beach. The beach was gorgeous. We took many beautiful pictures of the scenery.
What the pictures don’t show is that just 50 yards away from the ocean’s edge, there is washed up trash – lots of it. When looking at the pictures, all you can see is the beauty of the black sand, rocks, and ocean.
On Sunday, while looking through these pictures, I thought about how these pictures are just like life. Often we look at other people’s lives and see only beauty. We don’t see the trials and the struggles that others are dealing with in their lives, but that doesn’t mean they're not there.
At different times in people’s lives, they face trials unseen to the world around them. They need support; they need love; and they need compassion. Just like my pictures don’t show the trash 50 yards away, we can’t always know who is going through an unseen struggle.
We must strive to treat each person like the Savior would. He knows their hearts; He knows what we can’t see; and He always responds with love.
I just finished reading the book “The Shack.” In it, the main character Mackenzie (Mack for short) comes to know the Godhead after experiencing great tragedy and suffering that has caused him to have a bleak outlook of the future. In a conversation with Jesus Christ, Christ says to Mack, “Mack, do you realize that your imagination of the future, which is almost always dictated by fear of some kind, rarely, if ever, pictures me there with you?”
This question posed to Mack struck my heart. Often, I get anxious when I think about the uncertainty of the future. After reading this question, I realized my anxiety is caused because I too don’t always picture Christ in the future with me.
Based upon conversations throughout my life with friends and family, I think anxiety and fear of the future are very common feelings. Whether fear and anxiety come because of uncertainty or because of past heartache, Christ has the power to help us have hope if we remember to picture Him in our future.
If you’re fearing what lies ahead for you, my invitation is to remember to envision Christ in your future with you. He will be there and can cast our fear.
Where is God in this?
I asked myself, while lying in a hospital bed hooked up with IVs, feeling the blood pump back into my veins. It was excruciating. Every aspect of it was the opposite of my expectation.
It came on a rainy day in July, during the middle of a thunderstorm. "I think my water broke" I muttered at 4am to my husband. The pregnancy was much easier than my first, why wouldn't the delivery be just as good or even better this time around?
My first nurse stared at the computer screen for over an hour, unable to remember the password. This was the person who wanted to hook me up to meds, which I refused after seeing her dazed state of mind. This was the beginning of mishaps that would only increase through my two day hospital stay.
From a nurse with a stroke, to a nurse who couldn't find my veins over and over again, to an epidural that made my entire body numb only to stop during transition of labor, to 2 liters of blood loss (that no one figured out happened until day 2), to my doctor not signing off on pain medication after delivery.
I delivered a baby naturally, lost 2 liters of blood and had a transfusion, and went thru the first 24hrs after delivery on only IB profine. And during this, my basement flooded so my husband had to leave the hospital over the first night.
The delivery felt like actual torture, for no reason I could understand. I had a healthy, easy pregnancy, this was my second child and the first had a very easy delivery at 8.7 lbs. This one was a week earlier than planned and smaller. But if something could go wrong-it did.
I came home, mind reeling, and traumatized. But atleast it was all over right? Well two weeks later, more bleeding, ER visit, D&C surgery, and being told I was now high-risk for next pregnancies and... oh yeah if anything like this happened again would need a hysterectomy.
Wow, so much, crazy, but atleast it was over right? Due to the bleeding I was put on birth control right away, it was at this time that colic seemed to begin with my new baby. After three months of long days and nights full of crying, a Lactation visitation, and no improvement, we started formula.
I felt cheated, that if I weren't on birth control then my milk would have worked for my baby. I tried every other diet to help and felt inside it was the medicine affecting her. So, again, an expectation blown to pieces. And I thought, at least we switched to formula and now everything is going to be all right.
And for the most part, things are better, but I still have a difficult child who cries much more than my first. Leading up to the delivery I prayed, I worried, I had blessings that everything would go smoothly. I told Heavenly Father- I need your help, please be there with me during this, please make everything go perfectly.
It didn't. None of it. And it even got worse after coming home. Where was God in this? Where?
But I'm here. I survived all of it, my child is gorgeous and smart and amazingly agile. I delivered a baby naturally and it really wasn't that bad! My mom was here through all of it and my husband by my side. God was there, allowing bad things to happen (not causing bad things to happen) because He knew I could do it.
He knows us all, and times when we feel He has forgotten- I think He is right there next to us-wishing we didn't need these experiences to grow. But I need to grow. I need to be better. I need to become. Someday I hope to live with Him again, and in order to be able to do that I need to do things that will stretch me-body and soul. And in the end I still love Him and will serve Him all the same.
If you are wondering- where is God in this?? He's waiting for you, making room for your mansions above, and allowing you to do what you need to do in order to become like Him.
We are never truly alone, there is such a thing as the enabling power of Grace. This means we are blessed with what we need to get through- maybe it's family, friends, resources, or peace.
I know that God was there, I know He's still here, and I know that what I went through will somehow help me in my journey back into His presence.
I've always wanted to learn to ski. However! My family never went when I was younger (despite living a majority of my life near pretty excellent ski resorts) and I never wanted to learn by myself. I often put off skiing until something else would happen, like - I'd be able to learn with a friend, or maybe even a husband, or take my own family to go skiing, etc.
This winter - I decided I'd had enough of putting it off, and I signed up for ski lessons. I borrowed some stuff from friends. I put on the coats I had that might work? (I was looking reeeeeaally boot leg) and headed off to the mountain! Most of the people in the class were there with friends or family members... and then there was me. A few different instructors began gathering up students that morning. The oldest one there had a tag on the front of his helmet that said "Bear" and I decided he was the instructor for me. We got outside and while everyone else was walking around on one ski and learning "pizza", Bear told us a few basics and then had us start going down the hill. To be clear, we had NO idea what we were doing. As we started down the hill, one-by-one, he'd start shouting out instructions of how to stand or what to fix. He was teaching us in the midst of us actually DOING what we had come to learn, how to ski. At the end of a couple hours, I was going down green runs, making turns, and successfully not killing myself (which I am told is quite a feat). I attribute this to my teacher and the way he taught us - which was so radically different than everyone else who at the end of two hours were still quite literally walking around in circles with one ski on and one ski off.
Where is my point and gospel tie-in you may be wondering? Here it comes :) I have been thinking a lot since that experience and also with many of the things going on in my life right now that what God asks of us is to TRY. We need to try. And not half-heartedly, or just say we will do it one day, but strap on the skis, start going down the hill and REALLY commit to trying. I do not think God can teach us as quickly or as effectively if we've resigned ourselves to the sidelines and are more concerned with hypotheticals than what is actually happening in our lives.
I am now the number one cheerleader for trying. Try for a promotion at work. Try to get into a program or school. Try to be in a relationship and TRY TO LOVE OTHER PEOPLE :)
We have so much to gain from trying, and not a whole lot to lose. That uncomfortable edge of not really knowing what you are doing and still giving it a shot is a place we should take up residence. Admittedly, I almost didn't get out of my car at the ski resort. I sat in the car thinking of what a stupid situation I'd just gotten myself into. I almost didn't move once I got to the top of the ski lift and saw that the mountain suddenly seemed so much steeper than I thought it was (like could I somehow butt-slide down it? is that an option or even what it's called?). I hated doing it by myself and wished I had someone there with me. But! I didn't :) So! I got out of my car. I started down the hill. I fell a few times, but didn't seriously injure myself or others AND happened to learn a lot along the way.
Ultimately - I don't know that I absolutely loved skiing. It was still pretty terrifying to me thinking of going down a mountain with pieces of plastic strapped to my feet. But! I loved the learning and sense of accomplishment I felt afterward.
I want all of you to be encouraged to try! President Uchtdorf said that we live so far below our privilege, and I think that can mostly be attributed to being scared to give anything our full efforts for fear of failure. When we act in fear, we cannot be simultaneously acting in faith.
At this moment - if there is anything I could SCREAM back at the Sara of ten or 15 years ago, it would be to just try. TRY. And more often than not, things will work out better than you could have ever imagined.
Finally - I can't get this primary song out of my head - so I'll leave you with that :)
Jesus once was a little child,
Love you all too much!
I'm out there everyday- like you. Seeing the world, hearing the birds chirp, pulling my sleeve ends tight from the breeze. Lately I've been feeling grateful for all of it.
Just out of the blue and like a snowy day in March it came over me- a feeling that settled inside and made itself a home- gratitude. I don't know why, no cataclysmic event has sent me searching heavenword, no outward praise has sent me inward- all I know is that it distilled as soft a London-morning dew and was given as easily as a gift from God.
It happens like that, gifts from God, they just show up. Windows of heaven opened for keeping the simple commandments. Sometimes we don't even realize the moment but see the results later on. The spiritual gift of gratitude is blessing me, I feel it overwhelm my days with peace. I cannot describe what it feels like exactly, but right now I see my life at a high level perspective and see arms around each aspect, grasping me inside, holding me close, being my Savior.
The windows of heaven come from the faintest prayer, please help me be a good mom today. It is my daily morning prayer. Help me to be the most important thing in the world today, one more day, help me to do it again.
I love God. He knows us all, we are His children. His prayer to us would be- help me to be a good Father to them today, help me to be the most important thing in eternities.
And He lives, is real, and cares so very much.
Living over 2,000 miles from your family is an interesting thing. At some point you realize that almost everyone in your day-to-day life has never met the most important people in your life. You catch yourself telling stories (some would say too many stories) about them in hopes that the people around you will understand just how wonderful they are to come home to. It may seem like you’re talking them up, but you just can’t do some people justice.
Such is the case with the man we call, “Frankie J.” I must do a pretty good job of making him sound awesome because it is not uncommon for people to say, “I’d like to meet Frankie J.” And they should want to meet him. He doesn’t disappoint. He’s the greatest.
When I was a baby my mom wrote in my baby journal that one day she overheard my dad in my nursery talking to me in my crib. “If I had known what you were going to be like, I never would’ve wished for a boy,” he whispered. And ever since then, we’ve been best friends.
I sometimes think about how he was just 22-years-old when I was born. That’s five years younger than I am now. He was a baby! And yet, when he became a father he didn’t miss a beat. He was what every little girl should have in a dad.
You see, it was my dad who told me stories and sang me primary songs every night until I went to sleep. It was my dad who taught me the Articles of Faith when I was 4-years-old. It was my dad who took me with him to a college basketball game when I was 5 because he got offered tickets but had promised me a daddy-daughter date and he didn’t want to let me down.
It was my dad who taught me how important it is to keep the Sabbath Day holy by getting up at Midnight to study for Monday morning exams in law school. It was my dad who taught me about priorities by coming home almost every day to have lunch with us and by almost always coming home from work by 6 p.m. It was my dad who taught me how a woman deserves to be treated by always opening the car door for my mom and by always having her back.
He’s the guy who drove 20 minutes almost every night for months to take me to play practice so that I could be in “Annie,” even though I only had three lines in the whole play. In the end, we could quote the entire play together.
He is also probably the only grown man who read every book in a series called “Silver Blades” about teenage ice skaters just because he wanted to spend time with me. It was my dad who played countless games of one-on-one in the driveway with me. It was my dad who cried with me when Kelly Clarkson won “American Idol,” and who took me to see her in concert at least four times. But his love didn’t stop with his kids. It was freely given to everyone around him. I’ll never forget watching him make highlight films of the girls on my AAU basketball team in high school, which he then mailed out to colleges in an effort to help them get scholarships.
I never doubted that my dad loved me and my siblings but my understanding of his love changed when I was a senior in high school. My little brother, Spencer, had just measured in at over 6-feet-tall, a day my mom called the happiest day of her husband’s life, when he hurt his ankle and subsequently learned how to play the guitar. Basketball, the sport my dad loves almost as much as us, was immediately history as music became Spencer’s love. I expected my dad to be disappointed but I will always remember the night he drove 10 hours round-trip just to watch my brother’s band perform their first gig: a church dance.
Perhaps the greatest thing my dad has taught me is how much our Heavenly Father loves us. My brother Spencer was very small for his age as a little boy (hence my dad’s joy over his high school growth spurt) so when he went to his first midget football practice, it was a less than enjoyable experience. Poor Spencer could hardly do a jumping jack and the other boys were twice his size. After giving the first half of his first practice a valiant effort, Spencer came over to my dad’s car and said, “I don’t think this is for me. Let’s go get some milkshakes.” My dad told him he didn’t want him to be a quitter and to get back out on the field. My brother continued to make his case for why he didn’t think it was a good idea for him to play and why he really thought milkshakes sounded like more fun but my dad told him to go finish the practice and then he did the unthinkable. He cranked the car up and drove away.
It wasn’t until years later that my dad and Spencer compared notes on this experience. Spencer felt like my dad was being totally insensitive and that he didn’t care about him but he was left with no choice but to return to field. My dad explained to Spencer that driving away and leaving him there was one of the hardest things he had ever done. He told Spencer that he didn’t actually leave, he just drove to a spot where Spencer couldn’t see him and watched the rest of the practice just to make sure Spencer was OK.
Sometimes our lives are kind of like that. We feel like we can’t go on. We’re done with football practice and just want to go get milkshakes and yet, our Heavenly Father tells us to get back on the field. He tells us we can’t quit and sometimes we feel like He gets in the car and drives off, leaving us alone. But the truth be told, sometimes He is just parked somewhere we can’t see Him, making sure that we’re OK.
I wish every little girl in the world could have an earthly father like mine. I recognize that not everyone does and just thinking about that makes my heart hurt. But I do know that we all have a Heavenly Father who lives and loves us. Anything that is important to us is important to Him. He always has time for us. He will never leave us alone. We are separated from him for a time but nothing can separate us from his love. For now, it is up for us to tell others stories about Him so that they will want to meet him. He is the greatest. He will not disappoint.
When I came home from work today, I got down on my knees and prayed. My heart was feeling heavy for others whose trials I know are great. Then I curled up in bed and finished reading the last chapter of “The Magnolia Story.” It’s a book by Chip and Joanna Gaines, the husband and wife duo of the show Fixer Upper. I want to share with you the final paragraph from this book.
“Don’t quit, and don’t give up. The reward is just around the corner. And in times of doubt and in times of joy, listen for that still, small voice. Know that God has been there from the beginning – and He will be there until the end,” (page 182).
Wow. Just moments after offering a prayer expressing to God the heaviness of my heart, I stumbled across this gem. I am grateful for men and women of faith, like Chip and Joanna Gaines, who express their belief that God is always in the journey with us and will be with us until the end.
I too believe that God is always there. Even (and maybe especially) in those times when things feel dark and hearts feel heavy. We must keep believing, keep dreaming, and keep waiting for His hand to be revealed.
I remember attending a general meeting for all the women in my church. During the meeting, a video was shown of the progression of a woman's life. Problem was, after getting baptized at age 8, my life looked absolutely NOTHING like what was being portrayed to me. I didn't see myself in anything I was viewing. I was in my mid-20's, a working professional, and nowhere close to being married. Speaking with friends in similar situations afterward, we all had a problem identifying with the short film and the prescriptive life path of marriage and children. One friend even stated how her own mother had started crying while watching the film because she wanted her daughters, both not married, to know that they were appreciated and valued and loved.
I was asked by a faith-based Instagram account to write about being a woman. Over the years, I've been asked to speak or respond to this question a few times. Sometimes I feel a little "token-ized" as the single person talking about how I still am okay with the church and religion even though I'm not married. And how I am still enjoying life in my misery :)
One of my friends said it best when she stated, "How do they expect us to be happy in a place in life where everyone says you're not supposed to be happy?" And I would add - how to be happy when you are constantly looking beyond the mark to the next thing or anxiously awaiting a change in your current state?
I would like to begin by addressing the thought that "womanhood" means being a mother. If that were the case, there are thousands of us not experiencing the full spectrum of womanhood.
When I look to the scriptures, I don't find examples of women solely being cast as mothers. Most scripture stories about women exemplify a characteristic or trait that I am actively working on developing in my life.
Esther was courageous.
Ruth was loyal.
Hannah was prayerful.
All these characteristics and many others were chosen to be represented in the scriptures by WOMEN.
I think one of the worst things that happens is the false contention created by the comparison of women. Working full-time is hard. I'm lonely. I hate feeling the full responsibility of adult life set squarely on my shoulders. However! From what I hear, it's also difficult waking up in the middle of the night to feed babies or take care of sick kids. Or feeling like no one appreciates what you do. Or putting your body through the ringer to bring life into the world.
Why do we compare? One isn't better than the other. Any and all feelings of contention are not coming from God. I believe there are many women's issues that are worth fighting for (wage gap, anyone?) - and I also love my Savior and hope to be a mother someday. Notice there was no, "but" in that sentence. I have never felt a need to fall into one camp or the other. When the Savior is at the center of our lives, and we live according to our faith, we are all on the same team.
Our goal is to become like Christ. The women that I have read about in scripture and associated with in my life are some of the most Christlike people I have ever met.
What I think is uniquely characteristic of all these women is their faith. Faith being evidenced by things hoped for and not seen. Faith that through Christ, things can and will be made right.
The faith exemplified by women inspired me to go to college, to go on a mission, to pursue my career, and has informed all of my major life decisions. I have found exemplars ranging in age from eight to 80. My goal is to not silo these people into groups and instead more fully take advantage of and draw on the faith of all the women around me.
The faith that I am divinely created allows me to understand that I can receive all the blessings God has for His children. I love being a woman and hope that all women can feel empowered through their faith in Christ.
Love you too much - thanks for reading. Whether you are a woman or a man :) I think these are good things for us all to think about!
I recently moved to West Virginia. My husband and I put down roots and built a house. For those who know me, I am a born and raised Virginian and proud of it. I could give you a list of reasons why I love Virginia – the beautiful autumns, the rich American history, etc. – but I am sure the reason I love Virginia is because it’s my home. It’s where I learned some of my greatest life lessons thus far.
Now, I have a new home, seven minutes over the Virginia border. When my husband and I first started looking at houses out here in West Virginia, I didn’t “know” if this was the place for us. But throughout the process of building our home, doors opened in ways I couldn’t have anticipated and unexpected peace filled my heart. We truly felt led in ways we didn’t expect to the home we’re in today.
This morning, I was reading in the Book of Mormon about the prophet Lehi and his family who left Jerusalem (approximately 600 B.C.) and relocated to a new home. On this journey, the Lord comes to Lehi’s son Nephi in a vision and tells Nephi the following:
“And I will also be your light in the wilderness; and I will prepare the way before you, if it so be that ye shall keep my commandments; wherefore, inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall be led towards the promised land; and ye shall know that it is by me that ye are led,” (1 Nephi 17:13).
The phrase that stuck out to me was, “and ye shall know that it is by me that ye are led.” To me, that is a tremendous blessing. For Lehi, Nephi, and their entire family, their journey was hard and full of challenges. Yet, they were able to know they were led by God.
I know that there are challenges that lay ahead for my husband and I. I don’t know what those challenges are, but challenges are a part of life. In fact, just last week brought some challenging moments. But I find peace in knowing that as I keep the commandments, I (and my family) will be led throughout our life and we can know by whom we are led.
For those who are facing challenges and feel lost, my hope is that you’ll feel of the guiding hand of God in your lives. I’ve learned that just because we are on the path God desires us to be on, doesn’t mean that the path will be easy. But there is no greater guide through the dark times of life in the quest for our eternal "home" than our loving Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ.
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