My church congregation has just started reading the Book of Mormon in 90 days (so we will finish before the end of the year). The beginning of the Book of Mormon deals with a family who leaves Jerusalem and heads to the Americas (in a very, very simplified summary). This journey takes YEARS and YEARS and along the way, many different trials happen to the family. As I've been re-reading the beginning of this book for the umpteenth time, I have been particularly impressed with a couple of things.
1). Most of the time, God gave this family a general idea of what they should do, and no specifics on how that should be accomplished. They were expected to figure it out. Or have enough faith and patience to recognize a solution when it came.
2). Those who were the most successful in the family were problem solvers. They did not dwell on things that happened in the past or things they did not have control over. They used their skills and resources and came up with the best plan possible. And guess what? That plan failed. A LOT. Their plans failed! I've been thinking about this and why God would allow them to keep failing. Or put so much time and effort into one plan, when He knew they would ultimately end up doing something else.
Ok- so keep that in mind :)
Elder Richard G. Scott passed away this past week. He was a member of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles, men who help guide the church under the direction of Jesus Christ. My favorite thing about Elder Scott was the way he loved his wife (which I'm sure most girls will say because it was LEGIT. future husband, if you exist, please love me like that). I also loved the issues that he frequently spoke of. One of my favorite talks of his, correlates with what I have been reading in the Book of Mormon.
In response to my questions, Elder Scott gave a beautiful conference address in October 1995 (which you can read here, and you should because it's incredible). So! In conjunction with my aforementioned points, lessons from Elder Scott's talk:
When you face adversity, you can be led to ask many questions. Some serve a useful purpose; others do not. To ask, Why does this have to happen to me? Why do I have to suffer this, now? What have I done to cause this? will lead you into blind alleys. It really does no good to ask questions that reflect opposition to the will of God. Rather ask, What am I to do? What am I to learn from this experience? What am I to change? Whom am I to help? How can I remember my many blessings in times of trial? Willing sacrifice of deeply held personal desires in favor of the will of God is very hard to do. Yet, when you pray with real conviction, “Please let me know Thy will” and “May Thy will be done,” you are in the strongest position to receive the maximum help from your loving Father.
The family in the Book of Mormon grew in faith as they gave into the process of learning and didn't allow their frustrations to immobilize their progress. However, those that held onto what they wanted were always halted in their journey.
I testify that when the Lord closes one important door in your life, He shows His continuing love and compassion by opening many other compensating doors through your exercise of faith. He will place in your path packets of spiritual sunlight to brighten your way. They often come after the trial has been the greatest, as evidence of the compassion and love of an all-knowing Father. They point the way to greater happiness, more understanding, and strengthen your determination to accept and be obedient to His will.
With each "door" that God closed to the family, He was guiding them toward a better life than they could have ever planned for themselves.
This life is an experience in profound trust—trust in Jesus Christ, trust in His teachings, trust in our capacity as led by the Holy Spirit to obey those teachings for happiness now and for a purposeful, supremely happy eternal existence. To trust means to obey willingly without knowing the end from the beginning (see Prov. 3:5–7). To produce fruit, your trust in the Lord must be more powerful and enduring than your confidence in your own personal feelings and experience.
I can't imagine the kind of faith this family needed to abandon everything that they had ever known to follow God's counsel.
What I've seen most through these examples of faith, both in the Book of Mormon, and through the teachings of Elder Scott, is that paramount to our successful living is the ability to trust in the Lord. My hope is that I can become that trusting. I have always loved to learn, and the amount I learn is directly correlated to the amount of faith that I have. I love the Lord and the patience He has with me as I learn to trust Him better :)
love you too much!
This week I got a call from my mom at 11:32 a.m. on Thursday morning. I answered the phone because I knew that she knew I was at work. I knew that if she was calling me at that time it must have been important.
It’s interesting how a two-minute phone call at 11:32 a.m. on a Thursday morning can change the tone of your entire day, your mood for an entire week and your perspective on your entire life.
At 11:32 a.m. on Thursday morning I found out that my dad’s mom has cancer. We still don’t know much about the prognosis, what stage the cancer is in or what to expect but things don’t look very good. In the past few days I’ve had a lot of varying thoughts. I guess this is normal when you are reminded of just how fragile life can be but it’s amazing that something as cruel and unforgiving as cancer can actually teach us things and fill us with gratitude.
In the past few days, here are a couple of the things cancer has taught me:
1. God is good and gives us opportunities to avoid regret.
Someone recently taught me that guilt is not from God. It is not productive and does not help us progress. God doesn’t want us to feel guilt. That is why He gave us repentance. That is also why He gives us little nudges that save us from a lifetime of regret. I love Him for that.
I live over 2,000 miles away from my family in North Carolina and that can make keeping in touch difficult. Sometimes it’s the time zones that make communicating a struggle, other times it is a feeling that I don’t have anything important to say. But what is important to say really? Is there anything more important that can be said than a simple, “I love you?”
A few weeks ago in church we had a lesson about elderly people. The teacher read this quote by Ezra Taft Benson:
"The key to overcoming aloneness and a feeling of uselessness for one who is physically able is to step outside yourself by helping others who are truly needy. We promise those who will render this kind of service that, in some measure, you will be healed of the loss of loved ones or the dread of being alone. The way to feel better about your own situation is to improve someone else’s circumstances."
She then pointed out that maybe we, as young single adults, have more in common with the elderly people in our lives than we think. Just as we sometimes feel lonely and may dread being alone, they feel those very same things.
My grandpa passed away 15 years ago, leaving my grandma to feel many of the same feelings that I feel on a daily basis. I imagine that she often dreads going home to an empty house and hates that she can’t share sweet life experiences with someone she loves.
That simple quote and suggestion gave me a renewed determination to be a better granddaughter. I called my grandma a couple of days later. Our phone conversation gave me other ideas for how I could be a better friend to her, even from a distance, and I tried to put those into practice immediately.
Having received that encouragement from Heavenly Father just a couple of weeks ago has made this news so much easier to handle. I’m grateful for a God who wants us to feel peace.
2. A knowledge and trust in a “happily ever after” makes everything better
My grandma joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when she was 22-years-old. At 22, I don’t know that she really understood everything about the gospel but what she did know was that she was in love with a good man who loved her and who loved the Lord. She knew that she wanted to raise a family with that good man and that together they would teach their children about God.
She knew that she was joining a church that talked a lot about “forever” and “eternity.” And maybe she didn’t know how important those words would be in her life then but what she did know is that the things she learned about them seemed true and they felt good in her heart.
In the many years that have passed since my grandma made the decision to be baptized, she has learned more and more about the gospel from the Sunday meetings that she never misses, the firesides she looks so forward to attending and from the missionaries that she still invites over to her house on a regular basis. But perhaps most importantly, my grandma has learned from personal experience the value of the gospel doctrines.
In 2000, when my grandpa passed away, it was the foundational principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ that gave her hope; hope that she could see him again and that her family would someday be together forever.
They had raised a strong family together and when he passed away the family vacations, dinners and home evenings didn’t stop. To this day, she always calls on someone to say the prayer in her home and always shares her testimony with her family. She is never preachy but in her own quiet way she makes it clear that she knows.
At 22, “forever” sounds like a word that belongs in fairy tales but it is when life is not a fairy tale that you really need faith in a forever.
I am so grateful for a grandma who embraced truth and believed in a “happily ever after.” I’m grateful that she taught my dad who then taught me. It is this faith that helps me know what she knows: that this life is not the end and that we can be together with the people we love forever.
Have you ever noticed the difference in days that leave you feeling happy and satisfied at the end and days when you go to bed just kind of bleh? I've been thinking lately about some contributing factors - and the one that sticks out to me most is PURPOSE.
This is the thing - if we understand the purpose behind our actions, we will increase our effectiveness and productivity. Inconsequential matters seem to fall by the wayside and we begin focusing on what matters most. When we do not know our purpose, we end up wasting time and effort.
This applies at work, at school, in our relationships with other people, essentially in everything we do. I think it would be a good practice for us to periodically, throughout the day, take a step back and ask ourselves, "Why am I doing this?" And I imagine we would often be surprised a) at our answer b) our lack of an answer.
Understanding our purpose can help us through challenges. (Ex: spending 12390483213472093847 hours looking at spreadsheets/reports the past few days. The better I understand the reason I am doing these reports, the more focused I am and the quicker it gets done :) ) I go to an exercise class every day at lunch and inevitably at the beginning of class the teacher will instruct us to set our "intention" for the next 55-minutes. Which - I mean, sounds kind of hippy dippy. But it always makes me pause and think. "Am I just here to check something off my list today? Am I here to avoid doing work for an hour? Or am I here to get stronger and better myself?"
Understanding our purpose will help us to be the best version of ourselves, and the people that God intends us to be.
President Monson gave a great talk about purpose in the April 1982 Priesthood General Session. In it, he relates how a German warship during WWII, the Bismark, was nearly indestructible until it lost the use of it's rudder, or symbolically, it's ability to have a purpose.
A man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder, never likely to reach home port. To us comes the signal: chart your course, set your sail, position your rudder, and proceed.
I know that as we better understand our purpose, and the reasons behind our actions, we will become better servants of God. Love you too much! Hope it's a good week :)
2 Nephi 31:13 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ ... then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost ... and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel.
Hope is the confident expectation of and longing for the promised blessings of righteousness.
The scriptures often speak of hope as anticipation of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ.
One of my friends this week just got engaged. I remember sitting with her a year ago as she told me about some guy she met. She wasn't sure if she wanted to go out with him.
A year before that I remember sitting with her and talking about life. The way that it is sometimes unfair, the way that we can do all the "supposed to's" but still end up in a place we weren't expecting. I remember trying to convey to her that no matter what, if we have faith things will work out- one way or another, we will/can be happy.
I am a believer in the diligent, daily, path of perseverance, hope, and faith.
There was a day almost ten years ago from now, when a woman I didn't know told me and others that someday we wouldn't believe how incredible our lives had turned out. I think of that woman almost everyday, I see myself sitting awkwardly on that cold folding chair, I see the flicker of hope sparked within my soul, and today it has all come true.
Today life may seem unfair, with all its "supposed to's" turning into what seems as a black abyss. It may seem that you are different, looked over, un-loved. I am here to tell you that miracles do happen, they happen everyday. The thing about miracles is that they come last, preceding comes faith and first....well, that's hope.
I have been missing my niños a lot lately. I had the privilege of teaching 2nd grade for two years in Phoenix AZ. The best part was learning from my best kids.
I've thought a lot lately about love. And how I love other people. And especially how reserved I can be in how I love others. I don't want to offend. I don't want to be too much. I don't want to be awkward. I don't want to show how I really feel. I don't want to give and receive nothing in return. I don't want to be vulnerable. AKA FEAR. I am afraid of loving people. (Which like - I get is in direct contradiction to scripture (There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear) I promise I'm working on it guys :) )
Through all this wonderfully uncomfortable introspection, what I've decided I miss most about my class is the way I always felt so unconditionally loved. They were constantly and unselfishly looking to help others feel loved. I felt like for all of the effort I put in to trying to love them fully, I always received ten times in return. They loved wholeheartedly.
One of my favorite memories happened one day in class when I was having a particularly difficult time. It may have been something to do with grad school, or work in general, but I was tired and I was losing my patience. I'm proud to say that I never once raised my voice or yelled at those kids, but as I said, my patience was wearing thin. I was at the back of the classroom at my "u" table with a group of kids working on reading. The rest of the class was working diligently in their small groups. I looked around, felt overwhelmed (and honestly probably too many feelings in general), and put my head down on the table, probably wanting to cry. And since I have a penchant for dramatics, one of my hands lay outstretched on the table as well :) As soon as I had done this, I felt a little hand grasp on to mine. And then I felt little arms start hugging me. And then more and more little arms. And pretty soon I was swallowed up in a sea of 2nd grade love!
I didn't deserve to be loved in that moment. I deserved to be told, "buck up Ms. Picard, you need to teach us how to read!" or something along those lines :) but! I will always remember how the first instinct of all of those kids was to love me, and to show that they loved me regardless of how I might react to it.
Today, I felt something similar. I was sitting in the parking garage of my building - actually at the lowest level, in the depths of the parking garage!!!!! I had just finished a training for a huge group of people and was returning the company car to it's spot. As has happened throughout my life, there are decisions that are overwhelming me at the moment. I put my head down on the steering wheel and wanted to cry. Similar to my experience when my cutie babies had held my hand and surrounded me in hugs, as I began praying to God I felt a similar sense of peace and relief envelop me. I felt love in a very real way coming from our Savior, Jesus Christ.
I am so grateful for people here on earth, like my niños, who love me unconditionally and are willing to show Christlike charity in their interactions with me. My hope is that I can someday be more like them, and in turn more like Christ.
Love you all too much!
Last week I went to a new doctor's office. I was given a stack of papers to fill out.
One of the questions: Work Address?
next question: Work Phone?
And the next: Company?
It abruptly caught my attention this time. I felt flashes of insecurity, what will the receptionist think? Oh no, I've lost the years of my life meant for filling in these sections. I must not be strong enough, smart enough, driven enough, _____ enough.
After the quick thoughts collided I thought of my decision. I wasn't a victim of circumstance, culture, or a lack...
I took the shaky pen, strengthened the grip around the base, pushed down deep for ink to penetrate
Stay at Home Mother
And I have never felt so sure of my decision, my choice, my path.
Joshua tells us, "Choose ye this day," in a world of choices, paths, limitless possibilities, I am grateful I have the opportunity to Choose what is most important to ME.
Being a MOTHER is the career of a lifetime, a pursuit of an eternity, and a dream I never want to forsake because of a clipboard in a doctors office.
Every workday I ride the Washington DC metro rail system. I live at the end of a line, and I often see the same faces on this 50-minute commute to and from Capitol Hill. Earlier this week, I felt emotionally and spiritually closer to my fellow riders than I ever had before. Here’s why:
As I was walking away from the metro station, I passed a giant sign that hadn’t been there that morning. The sign said in big, bold letters, “I wish I had the courage to…” Beneath those words were hundreds of slots where people could write their responses.
“I wish I had the courage to let go of the past.”
“I wish I had the courage to lead.”
“I wish I had the courage to not be stressed out.”
“I wish I had the courage to stop racism.”
“I wish I had the courage to talk to girls.”
As I looked over the responses, my eyes began tearing up. I thought about my fellow metro riders, the ones who had written these desires, and I thought about our similarities. They like me have fears, and they have things they wish they could change about themselves and the world. I’ve always known this is the case, but I think seeing the vulnerable admittance of their fears made me feel so much more connected to these individuals.
What truly touched my heart was the response in the very first slot on this mural, which said, “I wish I had the courage to live the teachings of Jesus Christ.” Wow. Powerful.
I thought it fitting that the very first slot recognized and reverenced the Savior. For it is through Christ and following His teachings that true courage is found.
I admire and appreciate the vulnerability of these individuals, and I wish I had the courage to write on the mural.
p.s. Here's one of my favorite videos about courage...
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