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.
Recently, I 've had a particular imagery/scripture story stuck in my head. It's when the Lord guides the people of Israel in a cloud during the day, and by a pillar of fire at night (Exodus 13). Along with this, I've also thought of this scripture, "I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up." (D&C 84:88)
Perhaps I'm waaaaay late to the party on this one, but I made some connections recently while studying. In my mind, I compared the journey of the people of Israel to our lives - easy enough to do. We are all "wandering" through the wilderness aka life on earth, working our way towards a "promised land" aka eternal life with our families and those we love. Then! I compared the way that Christ guided the people of Israel. First of all, He went BEFORE them, so He could show them the way. He was their only example. I've always known that Christ is our Exemplar - but maybe I never really pondered on the context of Him leading us and creating a path for us to follow. It even made me think of how we might follow the tracks of someone else in the snow. They do all the hard work, and if we want things to go well for us, we follow directly in those tracks as closely as possible.
I also pondered about the people of Israel not being able to actually see Christ as they followed Him. Similarly, I can't see Christ with my own eyes.
It can be so easy to try and navigate our course through this life-y wilderness according to what we think might be best. "Oh hey - I REALLY don't think I want to walk up that giant hill." or "Couldn't we maybe detour to some shade? Or water?" or "There has to be an easier way."
Lately, I've been trying so hard to find a meaningful route for my life. I see limitless opportunities sprawled before me. I want to take the path that leads me to the best job, making the most money, gets me married, etc. etc. and I mistakenly think I have a good idea of how to get there. However! The only clear and reliable path is to follow the Savior. And to do it in a more literal and meaningful way then tritely saying that I am trying to be like Jesus.
So! While I do not see him face to face or walk with Him on a daily basis, I have decided that the best way for me to more literally follow my Savior is to sincerely be more like He is. And the only way to do that is to study Him more, and implement a "what would Jesus do" type mentality - not just based on supposition but on the facts of how He lived His life and interacted with others. That even meant last night when I came home from work after a long day and saw that the dish washer still hadn't been unloaded (even though I had loaded it!!! and unloaded it!!! like every day for weeks!! #dramatic), instead of running through the house screaming at the inhumanity of it all, I decided to put away the dishes. So that was kind of ok. But then I thought, "Would Jesus be putting away the dishes passive aggressively or tallying in his mind all the times he did the dishes against how many times His roommates did the dishes?" and I thought, "no, no He would not."
I'm glad that in studying more about the life of the Savior, little by little I am able to become more like Him. It will be the journey of a lifetime, and I could not be more grateful that He will be with me through it all.
Love you too much -
PS - A lot of these thoughts started after listening to this talk - https://www.lds.org/broadcasts/article/worldwide-devotionals/2017/01/prophets-leadership-and-divine-law?lang=eng :)
Sometimes I like to go on Pinterest and scroll through my board entitled "Art". I will look at paintings, illustrations, doodles, and it is relaxing and beautiful. Tonight I found myself stopped on a particular picture of sheep in the English countryside.
I remember riding a train from the bustle of London to the outskirts of the country, feeling so far away from the everyday cares. There is something about the rolling green, the placid sheep, the creamy sky, it settles down somewhere deep inside and makes me want to take a nap in cozy slippers.
When looking at the painting, the most intriguing part were the sheep in the foreground. Staring, grazing, perfectly still and calm. Protected. I felt safe just looking at them.
Then my study tonight just happened to be in John 10:1-18, where Christ describes himself as the Good Shepherd. I thought about what I had felt earlier about the sheep and then thought of myself as one of those sheep. Do I feel as calm and collected? As trustingly taken care of? Because, I am. I really am.
This pastoral scene I so longed to be a part of-- to go back to- was already inside. Daily I have the ability to feel that calm, that guide, leading me through life. Like the sheep, staring you in the eye and standing still, because I know my Shepherd and know that he knows me.
"Sometimes we may find ourselves lost in a world of uncertainty. With so many concerns vying for our attention we may not hear the whisper of the still, small voice, we may not have time to seek out the Clarion call, and the sure and steady instructions from the scriptures may be set aside. With time we may find that we are lost. In quiet moments we might feel a silent ache that is masked during the busy flurry of our lives. We might turn to loved ones or favorite pastimes for relief, but in the still moments the longing will remain. In those tender moments we must remember that there is one who has set aside everything to seek us."
Emily Freeman, 21 Days Closer to Christ, p50
Breathe. In, out, vinyasa flow, yoga. A decade of memories traveled through my mind as I moved in the familiar poses, felt the familiar stretches. In the dark room of the yoga class I became starkly aware that though these poses were the same, I was not.
The first time I took a yoga class I had just been dumped by my fiance. Usually I say "broken off the engagement" but it is more realistically put in the former sentence. I was starting a new life and yoga became a strength when all I felt was weak.
The next time I took yoga I was single, living in California, a college graduate, and searching for the next step. During that time all I had was freedom, absolute and unquestioning freedom.
And then there was the yoga class in the city with the hippies, while me a new mom in a new world. I'd walk into the large cabin-like room and tune out the sirens and snow outside, leaving my cares behind for an hour.
I felt this while moving from stance to stance, muscle memory taking over all the while my mind reliving the past. Thinking of the person I once was, the person I became, the person I am now. It's all me, but it's all so very different.
Is it because I am now in my 30s? I don't know, but the nostalgia, the contemplative time spent, it's all gone up to a level of 3rd person narratives that I can't quiet or get away from. And I like it that way.
So much of life is changing, so many times when we think we have found ourselves there is only a new self waiting in the distance of time and circumstance. Through the many changes of life, I am grateful that my foundation has never changed.
It's been work. To read, to listen, to follow, to obey. To be a disciple. It is work. But like yoga, and the mind bending stretches that lead me to healing- it is always, always, always, worth it.
This past Christmas season, my world was full of moving boxes and packing tape. One week and two days before Christmas, my husband and I moved into a home we built in West Virginia. Because of some delay in the beginning of the building process, our move-in date ended up being closer to Christmas than was originally anticipated.
As I sat in our apartment surrounded by moving boxes early in December, I thought to myself that this would likely be a “different” type of Christmas season. So much of it would be spent preparing to move, actually moving, and then unpacking. I wasn’t sure if I’d feel much of the Christmas spirit at all.
Truth be told, it turned out to be a wonderful Christmas season full of the Christmas spirit. But during those early December days, I felt like maybe I was shortchanging Christmas by moving during this sacred and special season. I felt some guilt that I wouldn’t be able to do as many Christmas activities that help me get into the Christmas mindset.
Shortly after Christmas, I came across this quote by Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “Each of us is an innkeeper who decides if there is room for Jesus.”
This message isn’t one that just applies to the Christmas season, but it applies to the entire year. During those early December days, when I felt like I was shortchanging Christmas, I found comfort when I realized that more important than making it “feel” like Christmas was remembering to strengthen my relationship with Jesus Christ each day through daily scripture study and prayer throughout the Christmas season and always.
I know my life won’t always be full of moving boxes, but it will likely always be full of something. No matter what, I must remember that there should always be room for Jesus Christ. I am the "innkeeper" of my life and of my time. As I begin this new year, my hope is to live my life in a way that metaphorically says, "The door is always open. There is always room for Christ to enter in."
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