I recently spent 100 days recording "Moments of Joy" on my personal blog. Doing so helped me see more clearly the blessings of life.
I felt inclined to record daily experiences of joy after watching LDS General Conference last fall. I was a few weeks away from getting married, and my internal "bridezilla" was in full force. I felt myself stress over inconsequential matters all of the time.
So for 100 days I actively sought after joy. Joy came quickly and easily during experiences such as my Temple sealing (marriage) and date nights with my fiancé and now husband. But at other times, I felt weighed down by inadequacies, by the coldness and darkness of Winter, and by my own selfishness.
I learned to find joy in places I wouldn't expect - like the refrigerator. For example, this past Saturday I went shopping for groceries like I always do. After coming home and putting the groceries away, I looked into the refrigerator and saw how full it was. Gratitude and joy filled my heart to the point that I felt guilt for often taking for granted the blessing of daily food to eat.
I am grateful for the prompting I had to record "Moments of Joy" for 100 days. While I still too often allow useless stress into my mind, I've learned joy can be found everyday in unanticipated ways if we look for it.
Each new day brings challenges and new memories. As the mother of a 2.5 yr old I am finding myself being replaced in position of head “boss”. Through all the new assertiveness I’ve found that my downtime it is more “recovery time” sort of like the first 3 months of having an infant.
Though they seem like the smallest prayers and the quickest little pleadings, I have found myself encompassed in the help of heaven. Today was a day where I especially knew that God loved me. After a few late nights this week and extra stress outside of family life, I prayed that I could have a closer relationship with Samuel.
I have felt myself in another place mentally and emotionally even when I am with him. To make matters worse he has been pushing me away in order to be more independent, which is completely normal at this stage of his development.
Today I had the greatest day with my boy. We played together, we laughed, we cuddled, and I know it was an answer to my prayer. I know the simplest things today will turn out to be the most pivotal things in the “tomorrow” of my young son’s life.
I am grateful to know that I am not only a mother; I am also a daughter of a loving Heavenly Father. I feel his love surround me, bring peace, and create moments full of light and meaning that will far surpass this mortal existence. He knows me, of that I am sure. He answers even the smallest plea and the simplest cry, and I am so grateful to feel His love within the walls of my home.
As a general statement, I have always been very proud of my work. I always try my hardest and have been blessed to have some accomplishment doing my best. The past month or two at work, I have been overwhelmed with the feeling that my best just is not enough. I told a friend that every day I go into work I think, "Well, here it is, today is the day they will probably fire me." :)
There has been so much anxiety weighing on me that it has affected a lot of different areas of my life. I've even gotten sick a few times in the morning because of it (this started when I was doing Teach for America --> epic side note: at first my coworkers thought I had morning sickness. Upon realizing this was an impossibility, it was determined it was anxiety :) ) Every Wednesday I volunteer at the Seattle LDS Temple from 4 pm - 10 pm. This past Wednesday I got pulled into a meeting and then asked to do something by a Senior Vice President. I was not leaving work until that project was finished. And finishing that project made me an hour late in getting to the temple.
The same anxiety that I have been feeling in the morning as I head to work, was coursing inside of me as I was driving to the temple. "This is it, they are probably going to fire me," I thought (though I'm not quite sure how you get fired from volunteer work... regardless. It was a legitimate concern). I walked in expecting to be met with people who were upset I hadn't told them I'd be late, or that I had messed up the schedule for the night, or that I might as well go home if I wasn't going to show up on time. Instead, I was met with nothing but love. Everyone was so happy to see me! Since I had arrived later than usual, another woman covered my work for 20 minutes so I could run downstairs and eat dinner. No one even mentioned that I was late. They were only appreciative that I was there.
Important takeaways from this experience:
1. The temple is the great antidote for anxiety :) Inside of that holy place, the cares of the world are truly stripped away and peace flows into your mind and heart.
2. I need to go to work to provide for myself and be self sufficient. That can be dreadfully weary. However, and in sharp contrast, when you are serving others as the Savior would if He were here, you receive strength beyond your own to accomplish all the things He needs you to do.
3. It is beautiful that the Lord proclaims His work as solely being focused on helping others.
I suppose we will all have rough days (or months) at work. I think that if we can shift the purpose and meaning of that work away from only considering ourselves, and start to think about how we are working to benefit those around us, perhaps that work becomes not as tiring and more fulfilling. And perhaps we are able to receive more help and guidance from the Lord. Again, I am so grateful for the time I get to spend inside the temple each week, working alongside people who teach me so much about being more like our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Love you all too much -
This morning I woke up missing my grandma. I watched the video I made for her funeral and cried like I haven't let myself cry since she passed away. I’m still crying an hour later.
I am used to living across the country from my family and not seeing them very often but there have been little things in the past couple of months that remind me that Momel is no longer just a phone call away. For example, on Thursday night when I still typed her number in as my Walgreens rewards card number when I needed a discount on cold medicine or each time I see the commercials for American Idol. We used to watch every episode of that show together. I've decided it's appropriate that American Idol is in its final season because the show probably shouldn’t go on without Momel. I stopped watching seasons ago because it wasn’t as much fun to watch without her.
Momel loved to write. I am lucky enough to have a career where I get to write about incredible people who do amazing things every day. She often said to me, “You’re living my dream.” But I have realized that sometimes people live their lives doing amazing things very quietly. These people don’t make the news but they permanently etch their mark in our lives. I know countless people like this and so do you. Elsie Jones was one of those people.
When I found out that Momel had been diagnosed with cancer, I immediately started trying to figure out when I could make it home to see her. The doctors said six months or less so I initially thought I could just go home for Christmas. As time passed and it looked like she might not have six months, I began to look at plane tickets home for Thanksgiving but they were really expensive so I procrastinated buying one. One day I was sick and suffering from one of the random bouts with homesickness that still hit me every once in a while even after living away from home for eight years. I told one of my best friends how I was feeling. A few hours later she told me to check my email and had bought a plane ticket for me to go home to North Carolina for Thanksgiving. At the time I didn’t really understand how significant this gift was but it has ended up being a gift that I will never be able to repay.
As it turns out, I got to North Carolina just in time to have a conversation with Momel and to tell her how much I loved her. She had taken a turn for the worst earlier that day and just three short days later, she would gracefully pass from this life to the next.
I thanked her for waiting for me to get there, held her sweet hand and listened to her say “I love you” over and over again. It was one of the sweetest, most sacred experiences of my life to be with her and to watch her fight such an ugly disease so beautifully. We sat in her room and sang to her songs about families that last forever and about Heavenly Father’s love. We talked about the memories that we had shared together and she laughed with us. We made new memories there together in that little room that became a holy place, memories that will have to hold us until we can hold her again. My mom said that she felt that in those last couple of days we were able to deliver her to heaven. It just wasn’t our time to go in with her and I’ve realized that’s okay. I’ve got a lot to live up to before I can join her there.
Momel lived a life that was so full of light and love. This quote by Dennis L. Largey reminds me of her: "Jesus Christ is the light and life of the world. Spiritual people—or those who strive to always have His spirit to be with them—reflect the light of Jesus Christ in their lives and in their countenances....Their countenances reflect a life well lived. Having learned to walk in the light, they have become a reflection of that light."
I’m so grateful for her light. I’m grateful for the knowledge that she is still very much with us and involved in our lives. I can’t help but think that maybe the reason I have felt this aching to be close to her is because she also was thinking about me this morning and wanted me to be reminded of her love for me.
I read a quote earlier this week by Joseph F. Smith that said: “I believe we move and have our being in the presence of heavenly messengers and of heavenly beings. We are not separate from them. … We can not forget them; we do not cease to love them; we always hold them in our hearts, in memory, and thus we are associated and united to them by ties that we can not break. … how much more certain it is … to believe that those who have been faithful, who have gone beyond … can see us better than we can see them; that they know us better than we know them. … We live in their presence, they see us, they are solicitous for our welfare, they love us now more than ever.”
One night a couple weeks ago I climbed in bed and decided that I would read the book that my grandma wrote and had printed before she passed away entitled, “The Story of My Conversion.” I had read the book before but hadn’t opened my own copy. I flipped open the front cover and there in the handwriting that I easily recognized because of the countless times it was written in cards for every special occasion was written, “To Morgan: Love always, Momel.”
I guess I felt I needed to write this to let her know I love her too.
I brought my laptop on the metro yesterday morning to write this post. Before opening my laptop, I decided to read through my husband’s scripture notes which he’ll often text me when he reads through the scriptures in the morning. I want to share a portion of what he wrote yesterday in response to reading Luke 19:41-42, which says, “And when he (referring to Jesus Christ) was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it. Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes.”
Here is my husband’s response:
“I am not sure what this scripture means or is referring too, however, I do have a thought about it. I think Christ is saying if we knew the amount of things that had to go right so that we could have peace in our lives, we would be incredibly grateful. However, then Christ makes the statement that these blessings are hid from our eyes. What a sad state of existence that is. Our test is to know that Christ and angels are working behind the scenes for our benefit, and yet we are blind to it. All things do work for our good, even when we do not see them. Having faith in Christ so that we can better understand and see His hand in our lives should ever be within our prayers.”
What a powerful perspective. Perhaps we are blind to many of the ways the Lord is working for good in our lives. And perhaps that is a part of the trial of our faith here on this earth while we are separated from God’s presence.
I believe pondering this possible interpretation of the scripture can elevate our perspective and gratitude for God. If we do, I think we’ll feel less forgotten by God and more grateful for the blessings we do have when things don’t go as we hoped.
One of my favorite songs is “Make Me Whole” from the “Lamb of God” by Rob Gardner. The lyrics of the song are written from the vantage point of a believer in Christ who doesn’t understand all things and wants an increase of faith and to be made whole through Christ. One line of the song in particular always stands out to me. It states, “Oh touch my heart and bid it know that every breath I take is by Thy tender grace.”
I remember hearing these words about a year ago and feeling such gratitude for the ability to breath, an ability I nearly always take for granted. I love her plea to have her heart touched to remember God’s tender goodness.
I too don’t understand all things, but I believe that we can find peace and joy by believing that God is always working for good in our lives; in ways we cannot see, and in more ways than we can number.
Today marks 170 years since the Mormon pioneers began their exodus from Nauvoo, Illinois to Utah. I believe it was their faith that God was working behind the scenes in their lives to bring them peace that allowed them to cross the rocky mountain, face sickness, death, and despair without giving up their resolve to follow Christ. Just like the pioneers of old, we will have our own metaphorical rocky mountains to traverse in life. Likewise it will be our faith that God works behind the scenes in our lives that will allow us to persevere and stand strong in our resolve to follow Jesus Christ.
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