A few weeks ago, I read this blog post about the wheat storage program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This paragraph in the post stuck out to me.
"How can each of us help relieve suffering in our own communities? When you glean a handful of time for a friend who needs to talk, you are following in this tradition. When you collect cans for the local food pantry, or teach your children to support each other’s dreams and goals, or donate to the Humanitarian Fund to feed others you are continuing the tradition of Relief Society wheat. Our contributions may look slightly different from that of our foremothers who gleaned fields and filled granaries, but the purpose is the same: to relieve suffering, to cooperate for good causes, to offer something substantial to those who are hungry."
As I read, my eyes were drawn to the phrase “relieve suffering.” I felt deep in my heart that that was something I wanted to do. I began including in my prayers opportunities to “relieve suffering.”
At this time in my life, I don’t have the flexibility to volunteer outside of my home with a local food bank or community organization. My life revolves around the schedule of a 10-month-old boy, who I can hear banging toys against his crib right now, even though it’s naptime. I knew there were other ways I could serve my local community, and I prayed for God to open my eyes.
I live about five minutes from Wal-Mart, and I seem to find myself there at least once a week. As I leave Wal-Mart and head home, I drive past a 7-Eleven, and outside that 7-Eleven is a homeless man who sits with a sign requesting assistance. He is always there; no matter what time of day or what day of the week. A couple weeks ago, I had the thought that I should pick him up something to eat while I was in Wal-Mart. Of course, I forgot once in the store. I drove past him on my way out and felt a small twinge of guilt (just like the hundred other times I’ve driven past him). However, this guilt didn’t motivate me to act as my mind quickly shifted to matters of my own life and what was on my to-do list. The next time I was there though, I remembered my desire to pick something up for him and I did.
Today I went to Wal-Mart, and once again I saw this man. As I left, I drove past him and I had the thought that I needed to get him something cold to eat or drink (it’s over 90 degrees outside today). Immediately, I somewhat begrudgingly thought to myself, “This man is always sitting here, am I going to have to pick him up something every time I come to the store?” Two thoughts came to my mind almost simultaneously. The first, “relieve suffering.” And the second, “Christ extends His hand of mercy to me over and over again. There is no limit to His grace, and there should be no limit to mine.” So, I offered a silent prayer of repentance, and I made my way to Wendy’s, where I picked up this man a frosty and a cup of ice.
This experience today reminded me that God answers prayers. He gave me the eyes to see a way I could “relieve suffering” in my own community. I’ve driven past this homeless man likely over 100 times, but it wasn’t until I offered a prayer asking God to help me see how I could “relive suffering” that I was encouraged through the Holy Spirit to take action and help this man.
Last October, I had my first child. A few weeks after he was born, I came across a book called “The Wonder Weeks.” The book asserts that all babies during their first couple years of development will go through predictable fussy periods that generally occur right around the same weeks for all babies. These fussy periods are referred to as the “wonder weeks.”
The book teaches that the reason babies may seem more agitated or more whiny during certain weeks is because during these periods, there is significant learning and skill development taking place.
A few months ago, my little boy seemed especially fussy. So I cracked open the book, and sure enough he was smack dab in the middle of one of his “wonder weeks.” As I continued reading, I realized his brain couldn’t understand that when I left a room that I would come back. Previously, he was too little to consciously realize I had left the room. His brain was in the process of learning that people can come and go from rooms. As he was first learning this, his brain would often feel fear and abandonment when I left the room.
Understanding that fear was causing my baby to fuss more helped me have more patience with him. I felt so grateful for this book that enhanced my perspective and gave me a clearer picture of what my baby was experiencing.
Throughout our lives, all of us will have periods of learning and growth. These periods of development can be hard and sometimes can cause us to act in ways that may be frustrating to others.
Watching my baby grow and recognizing that learning can create negative (but necessary) emotions caused me to realize that I need to have more patience with all people. I think sometimes I hold people to an unfair standard. I don’t know what sort of learning and development those around me are experiencing through their life experiences. When someone cuts me off in traffic or says something unkind, I need to extend more grace and patience. Perhaps they too are going through their own “wonder week?”
One scripture that means a lot to me is from the Sermon on the Mount when Christ says, “And whosever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.” We need to extend extra compassion when people’s actions cause us to metaphorically walk a mile. The Savior knew that we’d all have periods in our lives when we would need extra love, patience, and compassion because of the learning and growth we would experience here on this earth.
Just like I want my baby to learn, grow, and develop new skills, even if that creates more challenging periods in my own life, I should want all people to have those same blessings of growth and development. After all, we are all brothers and sisters, children of God.
At church on Sunday, one of the speakers during the worship service shared that his cousin was a victim in the Columbine school shooting in 1999. He then shared with the congregation a portion of an essay his cousin had written shortly before her passing. Her family discovered this essay in her backpack about a month after the shooting when her backpack was given to them by police. The essay asserted that we shouldn't judge people based on limited interactions with them and we should always look for the good inside of each person. This is the quote that stuck out to me:
"Have you found the light in their eyes? You will always find the light."
I was so touched by these words. I felt thankful for the example of this young lady who's life ended early but who's legacy positively impacted me nearly 20 years after her passing. We all will encounter difficult people (sometimes we are the difficult person!). Regardless, we must always look for the good in each person.
Last night my husband and I watched this short snippet from a Brigham Young University Devotional (see above). As I watched, I was reminded that fear is something that plagues all of us. Fear does not discriminate based on gender, race, socioeconomic status, or age. The antidote to fear is also available to all of us no matter our position or status in life. We each can choose to believe and have faith.
Earlier in the day, I came across this quote by Thomas S. Monson, a prophet of God, "Your future is as bright as your faith." I've heard this quote many, many times. Perhaps in the past I viewed it simply as a positive life motto. But for some reason yesterday morning, it occurred to me that this statement is more than that; it is a prophetic promise. We can make our future bright by having faith. It is our choice. We've "gotta believe."
I saw this beautiful picture quote online and wanted to post it here. I was reminded recently that our spiritual pedigree is only one generation. We are directly connected to God by only one line because we are His children. I think if I truly internalized what this means every day, I would be more patient with myself, with others, and with life in general. Each day is a new day for us to remember that we are children of God!
The Temple is a sacred place for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. One of the core principles members of this faith hold dear is that families can be together forever through the priesthood power of God when a couple is sealed (married) in the Temple by someone who holds this power and the authority to perform the sealing.
I am a member of this faith, and because my husband and I were sealed in the Temple, we know that we will be a couple forever and that the children we have will be a part of our family forever. Since many of our ancestors were not married by someone who held this authority, we can serve as proxies for them in the Temple, and they can be sealed to one another. In addition, their children can be sealed to them, so they too can be families forever. I believe the work that goes on in the Temple is truly the work of the Lord.
My husband and I live an hour from the Washington D.C. Temple. On the evening of March 3, 2018, this Temple closed its doors for the next 2+ years (for renovations). The next closest Temple is three and a half hours away in Philadelphia. On March 2, we had the opportunity to go one final time before the Washington D.C. Temple closed. We went to serve as proxy for three ancestors who needed to be sealed to their parents.
March 2 was an incredibly windy day. So windy that the federal government was closed. Despite the wind, the Temple remained open. Because we knew the Temple was closing, we earnestly wanted to attend on this day. While we were there, the power went out. We were in the middle of serving as proxies for families being sealed together. The person officiating did not skip a beat when the power went out. He continued with the sealing and as soon as it was over, pulled out a flashlight to dimly light the room. A couple minutes later, a Temple volunteer brought an electric latern to the room where we were. We continued on with the work being performed for those who had passed on.
This experience greatly touched my heart. I was reminded that nothing will stop the work of the Lord. The sealing of families together is His work. He desires that we can be families not just in this life but for all eternity. There may be metaphorical winds in our lives that seek to knock us down. When this happens, we must trust in God. We are His children. He will help us; for we are His greatest work.
Currently, I am reading the Book of Mormon, another testament of Jesus Christ that goes hand-in-hand with the Bible. The Book of Mormon is a record of those who lived in the ancient Americas. This morning I was reading a section where the people of the Lord (we’ll, call them “the believers”) are at war with a group of people who severely persecute and punish the believers.
Two chief leaders of the believers are writing letters to each other about how they can sufficiently defend their people and win the battles that are being waged against them. At one point, they speak of two war captains that are in need of more food and more men in order to keep fighting and protect their lands. One leader says to the other, “See that ye strengthen Lehi and Teancum (the captains) in the Lord; tell them fear not; for God will deliver them...” (Alma 61:21).
As I read this, it struck me that what the war captains needed was physical strength – food and men. Yet, the focus of the instruction from one leader to another was to strengthen the captains spiritually. To me, this illustrated the importance of spiritual strengthening to enable us to face all hardships – physical or spiritual.
What does it mean to strengthen ourselves spiritually? One key thing I have found to strengthen myself spiritually is to take time to connect with God each day. This can be done by kneeling in prayer, taking walks in nature, serving in our homes and communities, reading scriptures or uplifting books that focus our perspective on God, etc.
Just like the believers in the Book of Mormon we will all have times of trial and hardship. What I learned in my reading of the Book of Mormon today is that no matter what type of trial we face – be it emotional, physical, etc. – we must seek to strengthen ourselves spiritually and God will deliver us in His time and in His way. I find it interesting that less than two years after the exchange of the letters I mentioned above, Teancum (one of the war captains) actually dies in battle.
Sometimes I hear people joke that God has a sense of humor because the way they find themselves delivered from their trials is not the way they wanted to be delivered. For Teancum, that meant returning home to the God that gave him life. It occurred to me this morning that perhaps part of why we must strengthen ourselves spiritually is so that we can accept with peace the path of deliverance God will have us walk, especially when it is not the path we desire.
Well if that title didn't grab your attention I don't know what will! We are fast-approaching the season of “goal-setting”. I appreciate the chance to do some reevaluation on my life, but! I also try and do this more frequently than once a year. And one practice that has been SO helpful is instead of only focusing on goals, is giving thought to my fears. (This TED talk by Tim Ferris will take you through the exercise)
Most of our fears are unfounded. And the best antidote to any of those is faith. So! Here are my latest ruminations re: the topic as told through me being irrational in social settings!
Let's get this party started!
I remember clear as day my first Stake Dance (PSA - stake dances are church dances. Can't go until you are 14-yrs-old. Kind of a Mormon rite of passage). If you didn’t know, I’m the oldest child in my family. My whole life has been doing things “first”. Generally speaking, this is not something that has bothered me. And! I love dancing, LOVE dancing. Love it. So - I wanted to go. But! My family had recently moved to the area and as one of the older people in my class - I knew absolutely no one that would be there. Well - I did know a couple people. There was the high school guy who had mooned me one day when I got off the bus and he was driving by with his friends. And a few girls a couple of years older than me who were definitely too cool to care about an eighth-grader.
My mother drove me by myself to the church building. You need to know - I love my mother dearly, but she is not one to coddle you in any way. We pulled up to the church parking lot and I literally started hyperventilating. The prospect of walking into that church building was causing a panic attack. Not sure what I was so afraid of - but I was scared stiff. I looked at my mom with wild eyes and told her I couldn’t go in there by myself. She had zero sympathy. She had just driven me there, so I was going to get out of the car and go to that dance. I held back tears and wallowed in my feeling of full-on abandonment as I trudged to the gym. I would love to tell you that I walked in there and magically life was amazing. Not true. I became the awkward clinger who drifted toward the older kids I knew and desperately tried to not stick out too much. You know I “had to get a drink” or “go to the bathroom” every time a slow song came on. All in all - not the worst experience of my life, but certainly not the best. Proud to report that I hung in there and kept going to church despite my hardships ;)
The positive result of all of this was that by the time all my friends turned 14, I had a few dances under my belt and was able to help them have a good time. Sometimes you have to be the first person to do something scary. And sometimes those big leaps of faith that you take don’t turn out well at first. And sometimes - you go through experiences just to be able to help the people around you. I eventually really hit my stride at stake dances (ha!) and I like to think that I was a catalyst in helping them be good experiences for other people. So much of the time, people need an example or a person to “give them permission” to not be afraid. It’s not always fun to be that person, but I promise it has merit.
NEXT! The last relationship I was in started somewhat inconspicuously. It was with a guy I went to church with (yay YSA wards!). I had bore my testimony and afterward he came up to say how much he enjoyed it (so classic). We talked about going paddle boarding that week because #pnw and he added me on Facebook that night. I kid you not we literally (in the literal definition of the word) messaged each other at the same time. Kismet amirite? This is where the fear comes in. That next week we went paddle boarding and hiking and I could tell I was starting to actually like this human. I had been in a relationship fairly recently and was maybe not quite ready to get back on the proverbial horse. But this guy was so nice! So nice in fact - that it literally made me nauseated. I called my sister one day to talk and she asked how things were going. I proceeded to tell her how he’d been doing so many kind things for me including taking me to the airport! ... and how it made me want to barf. She proceeded to tell me how I was an actual psycho and that I needed to "lean-in" to that barf-feeling and allow him to be nice to me. Let’s be real - this is not a normal reaction. What was really happening is I was terrified of getting my heart broken again (spoiler alert : I’m writing this as a single woman so that means that it happened :) ). However! I am so very grateful that I “leaned-in” to my fear. Grateful that I had faith in him as a human - that he had good intentions and was sincere. Faith in myself that I could handle being in a relationship. And faith in God that everything was going to work out like it was supposed to.
FINALLY! When I was young, I was terrified of the concept of eternity. When my Sunday School teachers would bring it up, or we’d talk about it in family home evening, or whatever the case may have been, I felt extreme anxiety. I remember one particular instance lying in bed and tears streaming down my face telling God that there was no way my brain could handle this anymore and that it physically hurt to think about.
So! With that I think the stage is set rather nicely for this next story. I had been dating a guy while living in Seattle and was pretty fond of this individual. He is a great human. There was going to be a meteor shower and we decided to go to a ski resort close by to watch it from the top of the mountains. As we rode the gondola up I had one of those moments in life when you are so completely happy and you know you are happy and it's extra enjoyable because of it (so meta). I wish I could accurately describe how insanely gorgeous it was up there. In that moment, I felt my humanity. Mount Rainier stood there looking us in the face and the Cascades surrounded us. The sun set and we set up to watch the stars. Not to make myself seem any more like a weirdo than I probably have, our conversation that night eventually turned to the spiritual and beyond that - eternity. I waited for that all too familiar fear to take my heart. And I waited. And it never came. I honestly don’t know if there was a place on this earth that could have made eternity seem more real to me and for the first time ever, I wasn’t afraid. The reason for this could be encapsulated in the scripture, "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear," (1 John 4:18). I loved this person, truly, and that love took away an irrational fear that I had held my whole life. At that moment I wasn't focused on what will happen to me for the rest of my existence, what would happen to that relationship or anything else, I was focused on love. And that made all the difference.
We can be afraid of being a trailblazer, afraid of trying for something we want dearly only to face the same failure we have before and we can be afraid of the unknown. But in each of these situations, we have cause to have faith. There is so much beauty on the other side of fear. If you are having problems setting goals for the next year - try examining your fears.
Throw yourself at life. Things and people will disappoint you. Life will be hard. Things will not always go your way. But it will also be so beautiful. So much better than you could have ever imagined. Perfect and holy and yours.
The faith that you carry imbues a resilience in you. You can meet with disappoint, failure, grief, heartache because you know the end. You know God is on your side and all will be well.
Love you all too much! Best of luck in this New Year :)
ps - some good talks :)
Perfect Love Casteth out Fear by Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Fear Not to Do Good by Henry B. Eyring
Your Potential, Your Privilege by Dieter F. Uchtdorf
My least favorite Christmas song became one of my most favorite Christmas songs this year as I listened to the words and came to understand its meaning. The song I’m referring to is “The Little Drummer Boy.”
I was always so distracted by the “pa rum pum pum pums” in the song that I never really listened that closely to the lyrics. My husband was the one who prompted me to listen more intently to the lyrics, and he explained to me the meaning he found in the words of this song. Below are the lyrics to the song with the exception of the “pa rum pum pum pums.”
Come they told me
A new born King to see
Our finest gifts we bring
To lay before the King
So to honor Him
When we come
I am a poor boy too
I have no gift to bring
That's fit to give our King
Shall I play for you
On my drum
The ox and lamb kept time
I played my drum for Him
I played my best for Him
Then He smiled at me
Me and my drum
This song is about a boy who recognizes the baby Jesus as a great king. However, this little boy doesn’t have the resources to buy a gift that he feels is worthy of the King. So what he chooses to do is share his talents with the King by playing his drum. As this little boy says in the song, he plays his best for the King and the King smiles at him.
Ever since discovering the meaning of this song through the aid of my husband, I’ve thought a lot about what talents I could share as a gift for Jesus Christ this holiday season. Christ isn’t living here on the earth today, but as we learn in the Book of Mormon, “…when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God,” (Mosiah 2:17).
As we give our best in the service of others and share our talents, I believe that Christ will smile at us much like the song says that he smiled at the little boy playing his drum. Sharing our talents and serving others doesn't have a monetary value, but I believe it is worth more than any gift you could buy.
p.s. One way we can give our best in the service of God and those around us is by participating in the #LightTheWorld campaign. Check it out!
I've sat down many times over the last few weeks to write a post here on The Faith Friends blog. Each time I sat down to write, I felt like I couldn't compose my thoughts as succinctly as I wanted. So tonight I'm just going to write without worrying about the flow of this post (thank you for your patience if this doesn't make sense!).
Four weeks ago today, I gave birth to a little boy. During my stay in the hospital, I met some of the sweetest nurses. To me, they were like angels there to help me when my baby cried and I couldn't calm him, and there to help me when I cried because I was overwhelmed.
Meeting these angelic nurses reminded me that all of us have been given talents from God. I don't think these nurses know how much they touched my heart and my life. One nurse in particular saw my tear-stained cheeks after I met with a lactation consultant and sat down next to my bed to share with me her challenges nursing when she had her first child. (Side-note: My little boy had trouble nursing in the hospital and my meeting with one lactation consultant there was a very negative experience). Her words strengthened me and have stayed with me.
We all have been given talents. Sometimes we may think we're not making a difference in this world, but we never know who we touch through our words and actions. We should never doubt that we can (and do) make a difference.
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