"It is simply there. It is there for you when you are sad or happy, discouraged or hopeful. God’s love is there for you whether or not you feel you deserve love. It is simply always there." -President Monson
Easy as pie. Heavenly father’s love is simply there. I can illustrate this by using a simple, non-climatic story. This past Wednesday started off like a typical “hump day” for me. I was excited about the shortened day with my students. Like most Wednesdays I had survived afternoon professional development. However, as I was driving home midweek exhaustion had simply decided to catch up with me. I was hopeful though that I would be able to accomplish some homework for grad school before going to meet a friend for dinner. As I pulled up to my apartment and began to enter my gate code, I suddenly recognized that I did not have my wallet with me. Of course I frantically searched my car…dug through my never ending bags..and I still came up empty handed. I conclude that I must have left my wallet at school. Frustrated from this simple and stupid mistake, I would need to go back, so that I might be able to pay for my dinner which I was meeting a friend for within the upcoming hour . Fighting five o’clock traffic, I rushed back to my classroom. Unfortunately, there was no wristlet to be found. (Don’t worry, the wallet was found the next day) Feeling defeated I humbly texted my friend that they would have to buy my dinner for the evening. While heading to dinner I noticed my gas gauge dropping, I would be running out of gas shortly. However, I managed to make it to restaurant safely and before my dinner date. As I was outside waiting I received a phone call from my younger sister that was simply anything less than positive. Already feeling beaten down from the past few hours, I just sat there listening to her vent.
Then I simply decided to look up. Walking towards me I saw an old, college friend who I hadn’t seen in about a year. As she approached me I swiftly ended the phone call. In a matter of seconds she was giving me a much need hug. (Along with her boyfriend, so that’s two hugs) Right then I knew it. Someone else was watching out for me. Through that simple hug I could feel the love that my Heavenly Father has for me. I was overcome with such peace and joy. I tried to simply explain to my old classmate how much it meant to me to “run into her that night”, but I'm not quite sure she truly grasp the role she had played. After, brief catching up, we both went our separate ways. My spirit had been lifted and I had an enjoyable dinner with the friend I had originally planned to meet. (Also, it was FREE)
I can’t help to reflect on what many would call a simple coincidence…bumping into an old friend. Although, I know exactly what it was. It was my adoring heavenly father’s love. It was comforting. It was resilient. It was “simply there”. What leaves me completely awe struck from this experience is how present he is in our lives. When I look around me I have currently have close friends who have recently lost love ones, husbands who have been laid off, testimonies being tested, struggling relationships, houses that have been robbed, cancers that have been found, undeniable work exhaustion and futures that seem uncertain. Yet he’s still willing to let me know he has my back simply because of few crummy hours I was having on a Wednesday evening.
President Monson said, “We were not placed on this earth to walk alone. What an amazing source of power, of strength, and of comfort is available to each of us. He who knows us better than we know ourselves, He who sees the larger picture and who knows the end from the beginning, has assured us that He will be there for us to provide help.”
How true and simple this is.
When Samuel's asleep and the day is done I see my child growing before my eyes and it is hard to accept. He feels like a limb or an organ of my body because at one point he was. I feel my whole life has become him and even when I may want pieces of my old life, I can't bear the thought of his life being separate from my own. I have been defined by his birth and I will never be the same again.
The beginning of this "motherhood" has connected me even more to my past mothers, past fathers and all that has lived before so that Samuel could be here. Family history is the history of our lives before we were here. The past creates the complete story, and I really love stories.
Living in the midwest has given me the opportunity to visit the places where some of my family raised their children. In the rolling hills of Indiana I've been able to see the small baptist church where my great-great grandfather was named after the preacher, the streets of the one stoplight town, the site where my great-great grandfather owned a shop and made his living. They have become a memory for me today, they have become real.
I love to discover Samuel's family, my husband's side of the family and how it all comes together to make this uniquely special individual. Stories of faith are recorded and passed down through FamilySearch.org where I can go on for hours and never tire of what I discover. It has given me great hope to know that one day our story -the little family of 3 in Chicago- may be that testimony of faith for someone else. So today, this picture of Samuel is a new story to add to the others, a memory for someone to find and to cherish, and a piece of me and my story forever.
My youngest brother is currently serving a church mission in South Korea. I wish you could all know him. He's such a crazy little guy- definitely the life of the party :) It has been wonderful to see him grow and mature while he has been serving the Lord. One thing that he has expressed again and again to me is that he never could have anticipated how difficult being a missionary would be. And that he sometimes just doesn't know if he can do it! (But anyone that knows Buddy knows he is one of the hardest working, most dedicated people, and that he will be just fine :) )
I know that feelings like this are common in all of our lives. How many times have you been in a situation where you think to yourself, "I just can't do this. There is nothing left. I have nothing more to give." Good news is, if you have felt like that, you are in good company.
Matthew 26:39 is a scripture that is Christ speaking to Heavenly Father in prayer right before He is about to perform the Atonement. It reads, "And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt."
As I read this scripture I think about how Christ is perfect. And yet even in the scriptures it indicates that He knew experiencing and completing the Atonement was going to be difficult. And perhaps if He could have gotten away with not having to do it, He would have. But what was even more important to Him than how he felt, was doing the will of Heavenly Father.
Studying this scripture has given me a renewed resolve to adopt this attitude in my own life. It is the way we can and should strive to be. That being said, I do think it is ok if going into certain experiences in your life, you recognize they are difficult and a lot is going to be required of you and you may not even want to do them. But! What made all the difference for the Savior can make all the difference for you (and of course for me, too) and that is our attitude. And our willingness to do the Lord's will, even when it's hard.
I know that when we put the will of God first in our lives, those things that we would never be able to accomplish on our own are supplemented with the power of the Atonement and we will "renew (our) strength; (we) shall mount up with wings as eagles; (we) shall run, and not be weary; (we) shall walk, and not faint." Isaiah 40:31
I served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Cleveland, Ohio. I was a missionary for 18 months. When I had been out about 15 months, I was asked to train a new missionary. Her name was Sister Robertson and she was AWESOME. I feel like she taught me much more than I taught her. For real.
One of the greatest lessons she taught me came about when we were teaching a wonderful lady named Gail. Gail had such a pure heart and such a desire to do exactly what God wanted her to do. We loved her so much. In the course of teaching Gail, we discovered that her biggest concern was that she just didn't understand her relationship with God and His true nature. We tried so hard to help her understand. We read scripture after scripture about who God really is and how much He loves us. We had a fabulous friend named Carla who came teaching with us, and she also tried so hard to help Gail understand, but to no avail. We all wanted so badly for Gail to feel that God was her Father and that He loved her. We wanted her to understand that God is not some unknowable, unreachable Being, but a Being who knows and loves us and aches for us to return to Him one day. But nothing we did made any difference.
Finally, after a few weeks of teaching Gail, we all realized that coming back to teach her was not going to be helpful anymore. We were going to have to stop teaching her. We were heartbroken. We had been studying and praying and working so hard to help her. And I was at a loss. I just didn't know what to do or what to say to Gail. I felt like such a failure because I was the one who had been a missionary for almost a year and a half. I was supposed to be teaching Sister Robertson how to be successful. But instead, she taught me. On that last visit with Gail, Sister Robertson said, "Gail, I know that God lives. I know that He is my Father. And I know that when I die, I will give Him a hug. I know that I can give Him a hug because I am created in His image, which means that He has a body. He has eyes to see me with. He has hands to touch me with. I will hug Him because He is my Father, and He loves me. And I love Him."
At that moment, I felt so much love and so much hope and so much joy. I knew that what she said was true. That has stuck with me over the years and I think of that experience quite often. I am so grateful that I know that God is my Father and that He loves me. I know that I am created in His image. And because of that, I know that I can be like Him. I know that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Savior and our Redeemer. I know that while Jesus was here on Earth, He had a Father who was a separate Being from Himself. I am grateful for this knowledge and the peace it brings.
For further goodness on this topic, please see this talk by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, who is a member of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
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I had the opportunity to go to Luray Caverns this past weekend in Luray, Virginia. Luray is about two hours from Washington D.C., and I highly recommend a stop there for anyone visiting or living near our nation’s capital.
As we were walking through the caverns, I was in awe of the beauty of the rock formations. However, what struck me even more than the beauty of the caverns, was the amount of time it took the rock formations to grow. The guide leading us through the caverns shared that the stalactites grow one cubic inch every 120 years. For the rest of the tour through the caverns, I reflected on this fact and the personal application it has to our lives.
Sometimes we expect change or growth in our lives to happen seemingly instantaneously. We want to be more charitable, more patient, more humble, more faithful, and we want all of these attributes right now. Or perhaps we want our life circumstances to change. We want a new job, a promotion, to get married, to have more children, to buy a bigger house, and we want these things to happen within the next year.
Yet I was reminded in the caverns that God has a plan and timetable for our growth, and that plan is perfect. When I learned the stalactites grow only one cubic inch every 120 years, I didn’t think to myself, “Seriously, it takes stalactites that long to grow an inch? That is pathetic.” Instead, I felt this great reverence and awe for what the rock formations could become through the course of time.
I think we all would be better off if we looked at our lives with this same awe and reverence. Instead of becoming disappointed when we fall short of meeting the goals we set for ourselves or attaining spiritual attributes we desire to possess, we should look to God and trust, that as we do our part, He will help us grow according to His perfect timetable.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell wrote: “The issue for us is trusting God enough to trust also His timing. If we can truly believe He has our welfare at heart, may we not let His plans unfold as He thinks best? The same is true with the second coming and with all those matters wherein our faith needs to include faith in the Lord’s timing for us personally, not just in His overall plans and purposes.”
I know this is a lesson the Lord desires for me to learn. As I’ve gone to Heavenly Father in prayer, I’ve been reminded that I can’t judge my life by a single day. Sometimes we don’t get to know what’s going to happen in the next month, year, five years, or tens years. We must trust that we are growing day by day and that our hearts are being prepared to receive the blessings God desires us to receive and to become the people that He desires us to become. Just like the stalactites, I am God's creation and will grow and develop in the timeframe He knows is best for me.
Last week as I sat in a class at church a girl raised her hand. We had been discussing the concept of facing opposition or difficult things in our lives. Specifically, we talked about how these trials are actually a necessary part of our Heavenly Father’s plan. The girl said that she had recently been going through a really hard time in her life. She said she occasionally wonders when God will intervene and make all of these difficulties make sense but the thing that keeps her going is remembering all the times He has helped her previously and trusting that when the time is right He will help her again.
I have thought a lot about that since our class and about how it is that we are able to remember those times when the Lord has helped us previously. It is by recording those experiences in a journal.
President Spencer W. Kimball, the twelfth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, spoke frequently about the importance of keeping a journal. He said, “Get a notebook...a journal that will last through all time, and maybe the angels may quote from it for eternity.”
President Kimball didn’t just preach the importance of journal-writing, he was an incredible journaler himself. During his life he kept his journal in black binders. When he was called to be president of the church he had already filled thirty-three of these binders.
A few weeks ago I, myself, was going through kind of a rough time when someone reminded me that the same principles I taught people to live on my mission about how to be happy still applied. Being the hard-headed human that I am I thought ‘I’m still doing those things.’ The next week I got a letter from my sister. In it she said she had been reading in the scriptures and had picked out the keys to being happy from a chapter she read. As I read the different things she had pulled from the chapter I thought ‘I’m doing all of those things, why am I not happy?’ but then I read the last key: keep a journal.
On my mission I had written in my journal every single day but I realized when I read her email that I had no written in my journal since July. I have since resumed writing in my journal. I still don’t write every day like I did on my mission but I have made an effort to record the important things that are happening in my life as well as the feelings of my heart. For the first time in a while I have felt really truly happy.
Why is it that journaling makes us happier people and why is it so important that President Kimball once called it a commandment?
“Those who keep a book of remembrance are more likely to keep the Lord in remembrance in their daily lives,” President Kimball said. “Journals are a way of counting our blessings and of leaving an inventory of these blessings for our posterity.”
I’m so grateful for a mother who instilled in me that importance of journal writing. When I was young, my mom not only kept a journal for herself but she also kept a journal for us until we were old enough to be able to keep one ourselves. This taught me by example how important keeping a journal is.
President Kimball gives a few suggestions in journal writing that I think are a useful reminder for anyone:
Sources: 1. The Angels May Quote From It, https://www.lds.org/new-era/2003/02/the-angels-may-quote-from-it?lang=eng
This is the question following me throughout my life. Leading back to why I'm different, why I don't drink alcohol, why to all the curious life choices. The Smithsonian Magazine recently ran a collector’s edition highlighting “the 100 most significant Americans of all time," Joseph Smith was listed as #1 in the category of religious figures.
Not a God, not a cult worship figure, not a (insert idea here), but a prophet, Joseph Smith has made an impact upon American history itself, religious world history, and my history. I like to re-read old journals (when I have the time), usually late at night when I have been up with Samuel and can't seem to get back to sleep. I go through high school years, college years, and view the thoughts and passions that have become decisions and memories. It is sometimes sad to come across some of the years, I read the pages anyway though, I like to feel it all over again sometimes just to empathize with the narrator, me. Through the winding stories of love and heartbreak, the stories of friends, stories of leaving, returning, moving, and staying, I find a connected chain of hope, I find pages between pages of scriptures written, mostly from the Book of Mormon.
Stories that build together to create faith, a unity of hope, pressing forward. Pages with writting such as these: "But that ye would humble yourselves before the Lord, and call on his holy name, and watch and pray continually, that ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear, and thus be led by the Holy Spirit, becoming humble, meek, submissive, patient, full of love and all long-suffering; Having faith on the Lord; having a hope that ye shall receive eternal life; that ye may be lifted up at the last day and enter into his rest" Book of Mormon, Alma 13: 28-29.
And then days when the story is " Take no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself" -Holy Bible, Matthew 6:34
Days when someone else's prayer has become my own; they become songs, pages ruffled in the night become strength for the new day ahead. These links of hope connect to my understand and chain of faith, built scripture upon scripture, prayer upon prayer. Leading me to Jesus Christ, to his salvation, to his love that is never-ending.
A prophet is a man that speaks to God face to face and relays information to God's children on His behalf. In the article published by the Smithsonian Magazine it begins from Joseph Smith's own journal, “There was in the place where we lived an unusual excitement on the subject of religion” (see Joseph Smith—History 1:5) It goes on to explain, “That was in the part of New York State that became known as ‘the burned-over district’ for its fervor during the Second Great Awakening of the early 19th century.”
A time when religion was upheaved and thrown about like a tumultuous rugby match, Joseph went to a grove of trees for contemplation and answers from God. Praying vocally, for the first time in his young life, he was visited by God the Father and his son Jesus Christ. Previous to this encounter he didn't have a notion of who God was, what he looked like, if he was separate from Jesus Christ etc.. The bible was unclear in translation and many could take the nature and form of God and create them in the image of their imagination. But this one incident (if nothing else) is why Joseph Smith matters to me, because without his first-hand account, I would not know who God was and who my Savior Jesus Christ was in relationship to God the Father. I would have been searching for "an unknown God", not a Father.
My relationship with God and Jesus Christ are the foundation of my life. It is woven through my journals, it is carved on fleshy tablets of my heart, and it is who I am. A daughter of God, a disciple of Jesus Christ. It is the decision maker and the reason of the hope that is within me. The teachings from scripture are what sustain me through this winding road of tomorrow, the Holy Bible and the Book of Mormon are testaments of Jesus Christ, containing promises, covenants, miracles, and tarrying of Jesus Christ. Without both in my life there would be a hole, a gaping black pit of missing pieces, mixed ways of understanding, and a reliance of one person's word over another. But with two witnesses that back each other up it is hard to go amiss. This is why Joseph Smith matters to me, why it is personal, because he translated the Book of Mormon.
An American record of Christ written 600 years before his coming to 400 years after, explains pure and precious doctrine, outlines the plan of salvation, and gives hope and faith to a world who desperately needs it. Yes, the Book of Mormon has been there when I needed answers and it has been a sure foundation where upon if men/women build they cannot fall. Through Joseph Smith I have been able to see who Christ is physically and know who Christ is through scripture, I would say that; Yes, he is the most influential person for my life as well and because of that Joseph Smith matters.
I am a Kindergarten teacher. I have been teaching for four years, although this is only my second year teaching Kindergarten. The class this year is by far the most challenging class I've ever had. As you can imagine, when Kindergarten starts, there are a lot of tears shed--by parents and by kids. A lot of the kids in my class never went to preschool and do not attend any sort of church, so for a lot of them, this is the first time they really have to sit and pay attention. It's the first time they're expected to really learn self-control and self-discipline. At the beginning of the year, there also tend to be quite a few tantrums. And, let's be honest, sometimes those continue throughout the year. In an effort to teach the kids to seek for positive attention rather than negative attention, we notice and praise and reward like crazy the kids who follow directions and listen and work hard. Conversely, we ignore the negative behavior--unless, of course, the other kids are in danger because of the decisions of the misbehaving child (i.e., said child is hitting, biting, throwing chairs, etc.). The other kids in the class actually do quite well at ignoring this behavior most of the time, too. And, after a few months, the children who throw tantrums realize that they are not getting the reaction they desire, and instead begin to crave the positive attention the other kids are getting. The ignoring thing also works well for us, because we are able to emotionally remove ourselves from the situation, which is so important for two reasons: It helps us not say something to the child that we would later regret, and we don't take the things they are doing and saying personally.
Well, one day, one of my children was throwing a tantrum over something kind of silly as the class was getting ready to go outside to recess. I told this child that he was welcome to go outside once he stopped crying and yelling and screaming and rolling around on the ground while pounding his hands and feet on the floor. I also told him that I don't listen to kids who yell at me, so if he has an issue to talk about, he would have to speak to me nicely. And then I ignored him. And ignored him. And kept ignoring him. He started yelling, "What??? Now you're just going to ignore me???" My answer was given loud and clear--I just kept ignoring him. I think the ignoring him was making him more mad than he'd been to begin with. I did say to him that I would be happy to talk to him if he'd speak to me nicely, and then I ignored him before. After about 10 minutes of him yelling and screaming at me, he finally went back to his seat, sat down quietly, and raised his hand. I immediately called on him and thanked him for raising his hand rather than yelling. He said, "May I please go outside to recess?" I told him that as soon as the stuff he had thrown around the room was cleaned up, he was welcome to go outside for the last 5 minutes of recess. Since that time, his tantrums have lessened, and many times all I have to say is, "Does this ever work? Do I ever listen to you when you yell at me? Do I ever change my mind just because you scream?" And he'll usually calm down.
My point in writing about this is that the other day as I was reflecting on this experience, I all of a sudden became overwhelmingly grateful that God doesn't ignore me like I ignore my students. And to be honest, sometimes I wouldn't blame Him if He did. There have been times in my life where I have literally screamed at God. I've yelled about how life isn't fair and He doesn't understand me or know what's best for me. And yet, He's never yelled back. Granted, I've never yelled back at one of my kids, either, but that's simply because I ignore them instead. But because God is perfect, He has the ability to listen to us yell and scream and throw tantrums, without yelling at us back, and certainly without ignoring us. I know that He will always listen. I know He will always seek to help us, even when our behavior would merit Him ignoring us for a while. And for that, I am so so so so grateful.
Recently when people have asked me questions about my life, my response has been “I don’t know.” For example, yesterday I had my annual review at work. When asked certain questions about my professional future, in my mind, the honest answers were “I don’t know.” When talking with my mom or a friend about dating/relationships, the answers to their questions are “I don’t know.” Now lest you think I am feeling super depressed in life, I am not. I feel happy and at peace, but it’s true, there is a lot I don’t know and don’t understand.
As I was writing in my journal the other evening (journaling helps me process my thoughts), I realized that while I may not have 100 percent clarity in my life, I do have peace. Since this realization, I’ve been reflecting on clarity versus peace.
About two weeks ago, I was standing in the parking lot of a hospital talking to a friend about God and life. I think this friend and I would both agree this past year taught us a lot about ourselves. He shared with me how he believes that God plays a more active role in our lives than we’ll ever be able to comprehend while living here on earth, however, one day when we are reunited with God, we will understand clearly His active role and probably weep out of gratitude.
It occurred to me this morning that never in the scriptures does God necessarily promise us "life clarity" here on this earth. In the Old Testament, God teaches us: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
What we are promised here on earth is peace: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.” (John 14:27) “But learn that he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come.” (Doctrine and Covenants 59:23)
When we make clarity the focus of our lives, we sometimes inadvertently drive away the peace that God provides. We drive away the peace because we think we deserve something He hasn’t necessarily promised us right now.
Sometimes life won’t make sense. We won’t understand why God isn’t healing a loved one’s cancer; why unemployment or underemployment is a battle after receiving higher education and years of workforce experience; why someone chooses to be unfaithful to marital commitments; or why prayers for the blessing of marriage or children appear to go unanswered or not answered in the way we hope. While there may be a lot about life we don't understand, I believe God is here and involved in our lives. In those moments we struggle to have clarity, I hope we'll seek for peace and rejoice in this priceless gift.
Earlier this week I read a quote by C.S. Lewis that has resounded in my head over and over again throughout the week. He said, “Here is joy that cannot be shaken. Our light can swallow up your darkness: but your darkness cannot now infect our light.”
This quote led me to ask myself a few questions. First, what gives us joy that cannot be shaken? Second, what gives us light that cannot be infected?
I have since realized that the answer is the same for both questions. It is when we understand who we are and whose we are. It is when we understand the source of our light and when we understand that the source never changes that we have joy and a light that cannot be infected. Of course, that light is the light of the Savior of the World and we can radiate His light because He loves us. While he will never leave us, we have the ability to choose whether or not to leave Him. We choose whether or not to let His light shine in us.
In the movie, “The Lion King,” Rafiki invites Simba to look into a pool of water and tells him that he will see that his father whom he thought had died was actually alive. At first Simba says that all he sees is his own reflection but then Rafiki tells him to “look harder.” As he does he sees his father’s face and Rafiki says “He lives in you.” Mufasa then comes to Simba and gives what I believe may be one of the best speeches in movie history (Watch below). Mufasa tells Simba, “Remember who you are.”
This phrase makes me think of the lines of a few songs that I have loved since I was a little girl:
“Do you understand who you are? Part of the Father lives in you and if you continue on this path, every promise God has given will come true. If you have eyes to see what heaven sees in you.” (“What Heaven Sees in You” by Doug Walker)
“Remember you are greatest when you walk with God, when His light is in your eyes you are truly strong.” (“To Become Like Him” by Jenny Phillips)
“Walk tall you’re a daughter, a child of God. Be strong, please remember who you are. Try to understand you’re part of His great plan. He’s closer than you know, reach up He’ll take your hand.” (“Walk Tall, You’re a Daughter” by Jamie Glenn)
These are not just lyrics in a song that someone made up because they sound nice and make us feel good. I believe that people are inspired to do certain things. I believe the people who wrote these songs wrote them because Heavenly Father knows that just like Simba sometimes we forget. We forget who we are and we forget that we can have His light and His joy in our lives consistently. We can have joy that cannot be shaken and light that can swallow up darkness. Satan’s darkness cannot infect this light because it is so real. It is who we are.
“Who are we? We are children of God. Our potential is unlimited. Our inheritance is sacred.” Elder Russell M. Nelson
“Pondering this truth—that we are children of heavenly parents1—fills us with a sense of origin, purpose, and destiny. It is good to remember that you are always a child of God. This knowledge will carry you through the most difficult times in your life and will inspire you to accomplish remarkable things. However, it is also important to remember that being a daughter of eternal parents is not a distinction you earned or you will ever lose.” - President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
“We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” -President Thomas S. Monson
We are His and that will never change. We just have to remember.
Remember who you are. Find joy that cannot be shaken. Swallow darkness. Shine a light that cannot be infected. YOU are a child of God.
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