It's Thursday, which means I missed my assigned day to post on this blog. I imagine many of you are like me and find yourself missing deadlines or falling short on a number of duties and tasks because there is so much to be done. It's 7:10 a.m. here on the East Coast and in less than 20 minutes I need to leave for work. I've been up since 5 a.m. trying to get done a number of "good" things before I head out the door. Will I accomplish everything I wanted to this morning? The answer is no.
The reason I put the word "good" in quotes is because everything on my list is truly a good thing. All of the items on my to-do list this morning were either focused on personal communion with God or serving another person or a group of people.
This morning as I was reading in the scriptures, I came across this gem: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, even as you desire of me so it shall be unto you; and if you desire, you shall be the means of doing much good in this generation." (Doctrine and Covenants 6:8)
As I continued to read and study, I began thinking about how sometimes all the "good" there is to do overwhelms me. And then I kept reading and came across another gem: "Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they can not prevail." (Doctrine and Covenants 6:34)
In reading this morning, I realized that often I am overwhelmed by all the "good" there is to do because I rely on my own strength and forget that Christ can and will help me (and you) accomplish the "good" we desire. He is there for us, and when we are built upon His rock, we will prevail.
I also realized that perhaps my stress comes from the fact I measure my "good" not by God's standards but by the standards or men. For example, writing this blog was in some ways causing me stress because I wanted it to be perfect. However, God doesn't mind if there are typos, if I write in passive tense (which I do wayyyy too much), or if the blog only makes sense to me. What He appreciates is the fact I am taking the time to stop, reflect on the power of faith, and share my faith with others.
I think all to often we become stressed by the "good" there is to be done because we are measuring our "good" by the eyes of men. I have more to say on this subject, but it's now 7:25 a.m. and I have to head to work. My prayer is that God will help you and I accomplish our "good" things and see the "good" we do through His eyes.
Art has always been one of my passions. For two years in college I even majored in art. Visuals create extra meaning beyond the words. One of the great miracles mentioned in the New Testament is when Christ calms the sea, this visual is probably one of my favorites.
The entirety of the event is wrapped in symbolism for His role in our lives. It wasn't until I saw a statue of this event depicted that I felt a connection to the story. It is a story about faith, a story about trust, and also a story of love- that goes both ways. The picture below is another representation.
I've found that God expects us to have faith in Him. He sent us here and gave us an uncanny amount of freedom, with the most positive of hopes that we would return to Him because of His Son. He trusts us, He knows us, and He is always there no matter the storms in our lives.
“Be of Good Cheer; It Is I; Be Not Afraid,” by Carlos Lozano
Mark Chapter 6
45 And straightway he constrained his disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side before unto Bethsaida, while he sent away the people.
46 And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray.
47 And when even was come, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and he alone on the land.
48 And he saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them: and about the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and would have passed by them.
49 But when they saw him walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit, and cried out:
50 For they all saw him, and were troubled. And immediately he talked with them, and saith unto them, Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid.
51 And he went up unto them into the ship; and the wind ceased: and they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered.
About a month ago, I had a baby girl (hence the short hiatus from writing on this blog). Whoa! Talk about a life-changer! I suddenly went from working full-time outside of the home, getting a decent amount of sleep (as decent as you can expect for a pregnant woman), spending loads of time alone with my husband, and being fairly free to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, to working full-time in the home as a mom, sleeping very little, having very little time to spend alone with my husband, and being constrained by when the next time I need to feed the baby is. It has been challenging at times, but also amazingly wonderful. I could--and sometimes do--stare at my little girl for hours on end. It's incredible to me that she's really mine. It is crazy to me how much I love this little human and incredible to me that I would do ANYTHING for her. There is a huge part of me that just wants to spare her from every pain, every possible trial she could face. And yet, I know that I can't.
It is precisely that reality that I want to write about today. My baby girl is usually a pretty happy baby. She doesn't usually fuss too much. We are really lucky. But, there have been several times in the last month where she has been up (which means I have been up) literally ALL.NIGHT.LONG. We suspect that she has reflux that is causing her a lot of pain, and her little digestive system just isn't quite sure what it's doing yet. A few nights ago, she just screamed and screamed for hours and hours. I tried everything I could think of--walking around, holding her in different positions, singing, bouncing on an exercise ball while holding her, rocking her in the rocking chair, trying to burp her, feeding her again--but to no avail. She was just miserable. My heart was breaking. I wanted to badly to just take away her pain. I felt so helpless.
It was in the midst of this sleepless night that I couldn't help but think about how there must be times that our Heavenly Father feels like that. There must be times where we are hurting--physically, spiritually, mentally--and He wants to badly to take it all away for us, but He can't. There are many possible reasons He can't just take it away. Sometimes it's because the reasons we are hurting are the result of choices that we have made, and we are just suffering the natural consequences for our decisions. Sometimes it's because we won't allow Him to help us because of our own stubborn pride. Sometimes He can't help us because we don't know how to let Him help us. And then, as in the case of my baby girl, He can't help us because life is just hard sometimes and we have to experience hard things. But that doesn't mean He's not close to us, nor does it mean that He doesn't care. I couldn't take away the pain and the discomfort from my baby girl, but that certainly doesn't mean I didn't care. I was there to comfort her and to let her know that someone loves her. The Savior will do the same for us. If we seek Him, He will not always take away our pain entirely, but He will at least be there to comfort us and help us know that we are not alone. He will always send His Spirit to help us know that we are loved.
I know that the Savior is always there for us to comfort us and guide us. I know that if we seek Him, He can help us to bear our burdens. I love Him.
Today marks 150 years since the passing of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. As I think about his life, a scripture comes to mind. The scripture is found in the Holy Bible and is in reference to Queen Esther. When Esther is prompted by her Uncle Mordecai to risk her life to save the Jews, Mordecai asks, “Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).
I believe that Abraham Lincoln was prepared by God to serve as the president of the United States at perhaps our most vulnerable time as a nation. To me, Abraham Lincoln is a man of great faith who was come to the United States for just such a time. And so today, in remembrance of him, I share a few of my favorite Abraham Lincoln quotes that inspire me and strengthen my faith.
“I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right, and stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong.” - Abraham Lincoln
“Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right.” - Abraham Lincoln
“In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.” - Abraham Lincoln
“The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.” - Abraham Lincoln
For those who study the life of Abraham Lincoln, you will find that he is a man who was closely acquainted with grief, tragedy, and failure. As I study his life, I am reminded to put my faith in God and trust that through Christ I can overcome all things, and if I am humble, I can serve as an instrument in the Lord's hand despite personal hardships that may come.
Living in Chicago I have felt as if I am in a war zone. I am not just talking about parking spaces in the winter snowstorms, or basically anything to do with driving…
I am talking a general feeling of the urge and need to fight.
Our time is so limited and goes so quickly, we fight for balance, we fight for safety, and we fight for truth. The basics. That is all we have the energy and time to do.
Sometimes I want to stop fighting. Sometimes I want a week or two or three where I can put life on cruise control. (No Chicago-driving pun intended)
But I can’t. I am here, God has brought me and my family here.
Do you ever wish you could just quit fighting? That Satan could just take a break?
Here’s the thing…It is too important not to fight for it. To bleed for it. To live and to die for it.
I worry about the state of the world, I worry about the negativity out there, I worry about the lack of respect for Christ and His teachings, but an unseen power aids me. Just like the words to this beautiful song, Fear not! Courage! And let us all happily press on!
Let us all press on in the work of the Lord,
That when life is o'er we may gain a reward;
In the fight for right let us wield a sword,
The mighty sword of truth.
Fear not, though the enemy deride;
Courage, for the Lord is on our side.
We will heed not what the wicked may say,
But the Lord alone we will obey.
Fear not, courage, though the enemy deride;
We must be victorious, for the Lord is on our side.
We'll not fear the wicked nor give heed to what they say,
But the Lord, our Heav'nly Father, him alone we will obey.
We will not retreat, though our numbers may be few
When compared with the opposite host in view;
But an unseen pow'r will aid me and you
In the glorious cause of truth.
If we do what's right we have no need to fear,
For the Lord, our helper, will ever be near;
In the days of trial his Saints he will cheer,
And prosper the cause of truth.
Fear not, though the enemy deride;
Courage, for the Lord is on our side.
We will heed not what the wicked may say,
But the Lord alone we will obey.
I recently started a new job and moved into a new house with roommates. One of the first things I noticed at this new house is a magnet that says, "Jesus loves everyone, but I'm His favorite." I thought it was funny, because I often think to myself that God has to love me extra special because of many of my life experiences. Two experiences in the past week have strongly reminded me of the love of my Savior.
Last Thursday, I went to get in my car after work and it would not start. Background: I know nothing about cars and how they work. I was tired and had been excited to go to the temple after work was over. Maybe it was one of those straws that broke the camel's back, but after trying a few more times to start my car with no success, I put my seat back all the way and just cried. I felt so lonely. I couldn't call my dad to come help me. I am still new enough that I don't even know who would be in the area to come rescue me from my parking garage. I just wanted someone to come fix it. So I prayed. And I know God heard. Because after I cried a minute and calmed down :) I got out of my car and started looking for someone to help. I got in the elevator and figured I would just start searching on each of the levels of the parking garage until I found someone. I stopped a woman who was getting into her car and asked if she had jumper cables in her car and she replied that she did, but didn't know how to use them. I told her where my car was and she said she would meet me there. As I got out of the elevator, I saw two men going to their cars. I asked them if they were familiar with jump starting a car and despite their suits and fancy watches said they would try to help. With the assistance of these very real and literal good Samaritans, I was able to start my car. Despite my effusive gratitude, I do not think they knew how much that meant to me. As I drove out of the parking lot, tears were streaming down my face again. But this time it was because 1) my faith was restored in humanity --- people are good, and they want to help one another and 2) God sent me angels. He didn't come and start my car, but I know He put those people in my path at the exact right moment to help me.
This past weekend, I was able to go with friends to a beach house where we watched the General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When I told my papa what I was doing, he responded that the coast had always been one of his own father's favorite places. My grandpa died when my dad was 12-years-old, so I have never met him in this life. I have always loved learning more about him and who he was- so I was excited to be able to think of him while at the coast. My times at the beach, and many of the talks at Conference, were extra special for me because I was thinking of how much I will love being with my grandfather one day. And all weekend I knew that Jesus loves me extra special, because He died so that I can see my grandpa, and enjoy doing all those fun grandpa things with him that I might have missed out on in this life.
I love my Savior, Jesus Christ. I think that it is incredible that the same love I feel from my Savior is accessible to EVERYONE. It makes my life whole- He strengthens my inadequacies and fills my heart with peace and love.
I glory in my Jesus, for he hath redeemed my soul - 2 Nephi 33:6
In the Nauvoo Visitor Center, there is a replica of the Christus statue by Bertel Thorvaldsen. Thousands of guests come to Nauvoo, Illinois each year and pause in front of this statue. One day while I was serving in the Visitor Center as a missionary, a little girl looked at me and pointed to the wounds in Christ’s hands. She then declared with pride, “My mom said He did that for me.” She was right.
In the days and weeks following my interaction with this little girl, I took a few moments each day to stand in front of the Christus and ponder her declaration – “He did that for me.”
We learn from the scriptures that when we are resurrected, our bodies will be perfect. Yet it occurred to me many weeks after this experience with this little girl that the wounds in Christ’s hands, feet, and side remained with Him after his resurrection. As I looked at the Christus one particular morning, I realized that while many of us hope the scars of our earthly journey will be healed and made whole in the resurrection, Christ chose to keep His scars. In that moment, a scripture from the book of Isaiah came into my heart and mind, “Yet will not I forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hand.” (Isaiah 49:15-16)
As I reflected upon why Christ would choose to have these scars graven on His hands for eternity, I realized that when He looks at His scars, He sees His greatest and most prized possession – us. He sees us and knows that because of those scars, we all have the opportunity to live together in our Father in Heaven’s presence again.
Earlier in the book of Isaiah, we read Christ’s command to “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isaiah 41:10)
I love how He says He will uphold us with his hand – the very hands that were pierced for us. Life can be challenging and confusing. Yet because of the hands of Christ, we are always protected and strengthened.
Sometimes when I feel weighed down by challenges, I reflect upon those moments I spent looking at the Christus in the Nauvoo Visitor Center. I remember that because of Christ everything will work out in the long run. It's because of His hands and His life we can find strength, know we are never forgotten, and be upheld when we feel we are drowning in affliction. We too can individually declare with that little girl, "He did that for me."
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