I have been a teacher for 4 years now, and it has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life. I have felt so much joy as I have seen my kiddos grow. I have felt so much sorrow as I have watched them struggle. And I have felt so much frustration as I have struggled to know how to help them. But most of all, I have felt so much love as I have gotten to know them and learn from them.
I think it is through teaching that I have come to understand more fully the scripture found in Isaiah 11:6, which reads, in part: "...and a little child shall lead them." I think that it has been through my interactions with my students the last 4 years that I have come closer to Christ. You see, it is because of my students that I have REALLY come to understand my own weaknesses and shortcomings. It is because of my interactions with them that I have seen that I need more patience, more charity, more knowledge, and certainly more humility.
Even more than those Christlike qualities, though, I have also learned how dependent I really am on the Lord to be successful with these kids. This year I have two of the most challenging kids I have ever had. I'm pretty sure if I'd had these kids my first year of teaching, I would have gone home crying most nights, and probably wanted to quit every day (Oh, wait! I already did want to quit every day!). One morning as I was praying before I left for school, I was talking things over with God (aka complaining about these kids and asking what in the world to do with them), and I had the distinct thought, "Maybe they're not acting out--Maybe they're REACHING out."
I came to realize that most of the time, kids (and people in general) want to do what's right. They aren't trying to make our lives miserable or test every ounce of patience we have. When an infant cries, he or she is really trying to tell us that it's time for a nap or to eat. When a kindergartener throws a chair in class or bites me, maybe he's not really acting out for the fun of it, but maybe he's crying out that he just really needs to know that I will love him--no matter what. That no matter how violent he is or how much he screams, I will never be violent back or scream back. Maybe he just needs to know that I know who he really is--and who he can become. And maybe this could apply to the rebellious teenager, or myriad of other people who do things we just don't understand.
Looking at my kids this way has made such a huge difference for me. It has helped me to be more patient and more consistent with them. It has helped me to figure out ways to help them. And most of all, it has helped me to be more grateful to a loving Heavenly Father who knows His children inside out and is always willing to reach back when we reach out to Him.
I’ve been reading a book by a Christian author on the metro home from work each night. The book has opened my eyes as to what it means to be, as the author puts it, a “Capital C Christian,” or a true follower of Jesus Christ. A chapter in this book talks about gratitude and explains how sometimes we can unknowingly be prideful in our gratitude. For example, as we reflect upon the good fortune of our lives and count our blessings, do we (often inadvertently) turn our backs to others who may not have been so fortunate? Below is a quote from the book:
“Others are thankful for their circumstances and good fortune (knock on wood). They glance at the hunger telethons and ‘feel so lucky’ to have a pantry full of food. They read about the rising number of AIDS-related deaths and feel so lucky not to have to deal with such a plague. They hear about a neighbor with cancer and thank their lucky stars not to have it. They learn about the adulterous co-worker and wonder if his rejected wife drove him to it. These people think they’re the lucky ones and hope luck won’t run out.”
Can I get an amen? I’ve definitely been there. In fact, I was there last week. Let me explain… Last week my car had some challenges. Thankfully there is a car repair shop walking distance from my house. Last week was also a very cold week. As I was walking home from the repair shop, I began to reflect upon how grateful I am to have a warm home. I started thinking about my pioneer ancestors who had to trek across the United States in freezing temperatures. I thought about how grateful I am I was not in that situation, and I felt a little bit of guilt because I realized my gratitude for my warmth was perhaps stronger than my sympathy for their plight. But then my guilt increased ten-fold as I remembered an announcement made at church that I had brushed aside and forgotten about. It was announced that a number of church congregations from our area would be collecting blankets for the Syrian refugees. I heard the announcement, and yet I did nothing about it.
I knew the recollection of this announcement was a lesson from God. I needed in that moment to be reminded that gratitude is active. When we are truly grateful, we don’t just find satisfaction in our personal blessings, but we seek out ways to help others.
I’ve learned that life can change in an instance for better or worse – cancer can come, a loved one can die, a heart can be broken, a job can be lost, etc. Recently, as I’ve reflected upon my blessings, I’ve been worried that I’ve been doing so in a way that is centered too much on the blessings themselves and not the Giver of those blessings. I think if we focus on the blessings themselves, then when those moments come that bring unexpected sorrow and sadness to our lives, we feel even more forsaken and distraught than we would have if we had focused on the Giver of our blessings.
I am far from perfect in my offering of gratitude because I recognize that my gratitude is sometimes too situational. Recently, I’ve begun to include in my prayers the request that my heart be prepared to accept with gratitude and humility the joys and the sorrows that may come throughout my life and my family’s life. As I grow through life, I hope I’ll be able to develop the true faith and gratitude of Job when he said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” – Job 1:21
Years ago, I watched an interview with Anson Dorrance, women’s head soccer coach at The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. I am a lifelong Tarheel fan. Both of my parents graduated from UNC and I bleed Carolina blue. My dad and I used to watch anything about UNC that we could get our hands on and one day that happened to be an interview with Anson Dorrance.
The short interview that I watched changed my life. The ironic thing about this is that I wasn’t then nor am I now a big soccer fan. I’ve never played in a soccer game in my life and I rarely watch the sport but in this online clip Coach Dorrance told a story that I have found to be applicable in all aspects of life.
He said that he was once driving by a park in Chapel Hill and he saw a girl running wind sprints back and forth all by herself. He was intrigued that someone would be doing this completely on their own and so he drove closer. As he approached he recognized the girl as one of his players: Mia Hamm. Hamm would go on to become an olympian, she would later be considered one of the greatest female soccer players of all-time but it was what she did when she thought no one was watching that made her great.
Dorrance later wrote in a book “The vision of a champion is someone who is bent over, drenched in sweat, at the point of exhaustion when no one else is watching.”
I have thought many times since about how ultimately it is what we do when we think no one is watching that makes a difference in our lives.
F. David Stanley said in the 1993 General Conference, “Great athletes are hard workers. Points, rebounds, assists, tackles, goals, and home runs are all the result of long hours of painstaking practice and hard work. The bulk of that practice will always be on your own, away from the coach. Victory is brought to pass by one’s personal diligence and commitment to hard work. The view of a champion, and the glory that surrounds him, must never be overshadowed by the long process of becoming one.”
This is true, not only for athletics but for all of us. These moments when we think that no one is watching shape us as human beings and help us become what God intended us to become.
I was a high school seminary teacher at one point (a job I loved- a story for a different time), and one day when we were studying the scriptures the concept of being like a little child came up. I thought it may be good grounds for discussion, so I asked what it is about little children that we should want to be more like? Why are we asked to be as a little child?
Then I rephrased the question to see if we could at least get them thinking. "Well, we all know little kids... what are they like?" The result was disastrous at first... Don't get me wrong, there was a LOT of participation- but they had all decided this was the perfect time to bash their little siblings and cousins who drive them crazy. "Kids are messy. Kids lie. Kids hit and sometimes do things they aren't supposed to do and ruin things and throw tantrums. My little sister bites sometimes when she doesn't get her way"
At first all I could say was "you're right, they do all those things" and tried to collect myself and ask some better questions to get them thinking. I don't even remember what questions I asked, and to tell you the truth I was caught off guard and the discussion didn't go exactly as wonderfully as I had planned. All those things were true- kids can be brats, they can be a pain in our side, they can willfully do things wrong when they KNOW they are wrong. So why are we asked to be like them?
I think I had gone through my whole life thinking that every time Christ said be like unto a little child I had thought of some sweet, perfect, little angel who never did anything to displease his/her parents. But my experience with my seminary class really made me think- is that really what it meant? If Christ created little children (who go through teething and terrible twos), he knows more readily than I do that there is no child out there who is sweet and angelic and never pusheds boundaries or asks questions 100% of the time. And even though He knew all this about them, He has still asked us to be like them. Fortunately for us, he asked us to be like them in specific ways.
Before I explain anymore, it's helpful to know what the Lord really says:
Mosiah 3:19 For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he [through the atonement of Christ] becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.
But even after reading that I have this vision of perfect angel children! One side of me sees the meek, humble, patient angel children the Lord describes and half of me sees the wild, tantrum throwing children my students described.
It wasn't until Clara that I caught a glimpse of the Savior's love and have been able to reconcile my two conflicting views. Clara is my niece, and I love her as wholly and unconditionally as I have ever loved a child and probably ever will until my own. Clara is feisty, and homegirl KNOWS what she wants. She can throw a dang good tantrum when she feels the need, and I'm not going to say I've never received a bite/attempted bite from those brand new little two year old teeth. Sometimes she wants candy for dinner (or always), and she's almost never satisfied with the word NO when she has her mind set.
But somehow, with this perfect-imperfect, bursting heart of love I have for Clara, I see what the Lord means. Though she throws tantrums, they are short lived. And though she doesn't love the word no, she listens to reason. She may act silly or coy, but the love you receive is unconditional and has nothing to do with how you look, dress, or what you do. She may not be patient with how fast her candy gets from her hand to her mouth, but she's never impatient with the Lord's timing. She never means harm. She may be curious, or not understand fully, but she's never malicious. She doesn't gossip. When she gets mad, it's for lack of full understanding and capacity, and she forgives readily when she's been wronged. She doesn't recognize physical faults in others because they don't matter to her. She's still learning and growing and never thinks she's learned everything or knows everything. She doesn't get to a point where she doesn't need anyone. She wants to learn and grow and progress.
So yeah, tantrums and fits come with the territory of being two.
So yeah, we all throw tantrums. We do things we know are wrong even when we KNOW they're wrong. Sometimes we're messy and we ruin things. But, like a child, do we learn and grow out of those things? Do we listen and learn from our loving Father who is trying desperately to teach us? What if we all lived like a child? What if we always needed our Savior? What if we didn't gossip? What if we saw others through eyes that didn't see worldly imperfection? What if we were each submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon [us]. What if we always were curious, but penitent. And what if we continued always to want to learn and grow and progress.
The good news is for those of us who feel like we just keep throwing tantrums and falling down and making a mess there is hope. There is so much more hope than we give the Lord credit for.
Doctrine & Covenants 78
17 Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye are little children, and ye have not as yet understood how great blessings the Father hath in his own hands and prepared for you;
18 And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of goodcheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours.
19 And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more.
I feel like a child most of the time. Sometimes I feel like I just don't know what I'm doing or that I'm making a mess or messing up without meaning to. But there's hope for me like there's hope for you. Even if I mess up, if I strive to be what he asks me to be, if I recognize my need for him and stop relying on myself and become meek and submissive and loving.... He will lead me along. He will guide me and help me understand all that I cannot yet understood. He wants to give me (and you) all He has.
And if I just accept His help with thankfulness, I can be made glorious.
Thanks Clara girl, for teaching me how I should be.
I was told when I moved to Chicago never to get a basement apartment, this is if I wanted to avoid the winter depression and darkness. We listened to that advice. Every morning I swing open the curtains to light, streaming and pushing to get into my home. I cannot contain the light when I open them, it bursts through my entire living room. This instantly brings me happiness, and I am grateful it has become a morning routine. There is such bright light
It is interesting that when my curtains are closed I don't see any of that light, I hear the sirens, I feel the cold, I even hear my neighbors fighting, as I stumble around trying to make a meal for my son, Samuel, in the dark. Sometimes my laziness stops me from walking to the window and pulling the curtains back. It seems so simple doesn't it? Something that brings me so much happiness, something that helps me live in this crazy city- a few rays of light that multiply.
There are such simple things that bring light. Whether it is standing up, walking across the room, and gently brushing back the curtains to see the sun, or giving a stranger a compliment in the elevator, or helping around the house after a long day-It is the little things that bring in the light. Jesus Christ is the light, He is the truth, the way, and following His example brings the most light- even in the darkest of Chicago winters.
A few years ago I was attending a church meeting in an area that warranted the whole sermon being given in Spanish. I know I like to brag about my Spanish proficiency, but in all honesty, I'm Spanish level 5-year-old. And at that point, I was probably more along the lines of Spanish level 3-year-old. Anyways! The main speaker stood up to give his talk and I started to pay closer attention. Over and over again he repeated a phrase that even my basic knowledge of Spanish could understand, "sin la caridad, no eres nada." Repeatedly he told the congregation, "without charity, you are nothing."
Charity is commonly defined as the "pure love of Christ," (Moroni 7:47). We are told that charity "suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things," (see also: 1 Corinthians 13:4).
Since having charity was the one part of the meeting I really understood, I thought about that phrase a lot over the next few days. And I have thought about that phrase a lot since then. And the fact that if I don't have charity, I am "nothing." Acting without charity, limits the potential I have to do good" in the world. Instead, I become a shadow (nothing) compared to what I could be. So, I've been trying to thaw out my cold, grinchy heart and learn to love better. And particularly, with a Christlike love. In this endeavor, I have found a couple of focal points to be particularly useful and I hope you will, too!
Be patient. "Endureth all things"
We cannot change others. A fact of life is that EVERYONE gets agency, or that ability to choose how they will act in any given circumstance. If we have charity, we don't just love people when they are doing what we want them to do. We love them always. We patiently love them, as Christ patiently loves us. And how wonderful is it to have people who you know will love you always, even on those days when you are having a rough time? In order to receive love like that, we need to give love like that.
Forgive. "Thinketh no evil"
In the most recent General Conference, Jörg Klebingat said, "Forgive everyone, everything, all the time, or at least strive to do so, thus allowing forgiveness into your own life. Don’t hold grudges, don’t be easily offended, forgive and forget quickly, and don’t ever think that you are exempt from this commandment." Being who I am, I always ALWAYS think I'm right. Forgiveness can be a struggle. But! As I've tried to apply this principle in my life, I've noticed not only have I become happier, I have felt an increase of love, or charity, towards the people I forgive.
Hope. "Believeth all things, hopeth all things"
I think we could all have a little more faith in each other. Have faith that rarely, if ever, will anyone ever do anything to make you upset on purpose. Everyone is honestly trying their best with the knowledge they have. No one is perfect. Everyone is learning. So instead of seeing those we associate with in their imperfect current states, we should strive to see their potential. We each need to develop the ability to see others as they could be. I think part of the reason that God loves His children so much is because He sees us as the wonderful people we have the potential to be, and does not focus on our faults or imperfections. We could do well to love others with that same kind of love.
Learning how to have charity toward everyone will be a lifelong pursuit. I'm grateful for the perfect example I have of my Savior. And I'm particularly grateful to always know that He loves me. And guess what?! He loves you too :)
I shared this story a couple of years ago on my personal blog, but it has been on my mind as of late, so I decided to share it again. Enjoy!
A couple of months ago I had an experience that proved to be quite profound for me. I was visiting my family in Utah, and was on a walk with my little nephew, Daxton. He is quite adorable, and I loved spending time with him. And, luckily, it was pleasantly warm outside, even though it was in December. Anyone who knows Dax knows that he does not like to be held very much. So, I was following along as he was walking down the street. There came a point when he turned and started to walk toward the road. He stopped on the little strip of grass, facing the road. I said to him, "Daxton." That was it. And he just stood there. I could almost see the wheels turning in his 19 month old brain. He was clearly trying to determine whether or not he should go into the street. He took one step. I said again, "Daxton." I did not yell, or scream, or even talk loudly whatsoever. I just said his name quietly. Finally, he looked back at me, thought for a couple more seconds, looked at the road, looked back and me, and then finally walked back to me. We finished our walk down the road to my parents' house, and that was that.
As I watched Daxton that day, I thought of how we have moments of decision, just like Dax's moment of decision, every day. We see this option ahead of us, and it is sometimes appealing. It is exciting and new, and we'll probably survive it just fine. After all, there were no cars coming down the street. And the other side of that street just might be better than this side. And how are we to know if we don't try? But then we hear that quiet voice calling our name. We try to ignore it. And yet, it's a voice we know well. It's a voice of someone we know loves us, and wants us to be safe and happy. And yet, the other side of that road! What if we're missing out?! There it is. That critical moment when we have to decide who we trust more... Do we trust ourselves, with all of our wisdom and experience? Or do we trust someone who has experienced more? In the end, Daxton chose the latter. He chose to follow me, not because he could necessarily see the danger for himself, but because he trusted that I could see the danger.
I sometimes have a hard time with that. I have a hard time putting my trust entirely in the hands of the Lord. I stand on the edge of that precipice, sure that I must know better... Sure that I have it all figured out. And then I remember that I made this decision long ago. I chose years and years ago that I would follow the Savior. I have made sacred covenants that no matter what, I will do His will and put my trust in Him. Not because I always understand His plan for me, and certainly not because I am blindly following. No. I follow Him because He knows better. I follow Him because I have seen too much and experienced too much to deny that His plans for me are infinitely better than my own.
When the call from the doctor came, it felt like the ground beneath my feet had caved in. After two years of marriage, my husband and I found out that we would not be able to have children. We were devastated. All my hopes and dreams seemed out of reach. We grieved, we cried, we prayed, we turned to each other and we turned to the Lord. These verses in the Doctrine & Covenants gave us so much peace, comfort and perspective: “Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation. For after much tribulation come the blessings.” (D&C 58:3-4)
Fast forward two years later to another life-changing phone call. This time, it was about a birthmother who wanted to place her soon-to-be-born twin daughters for adoption in our family. We were overjoyed. Days later, we drove to St. Louis to meet the birthmother and birthfather. We have so much love and admiration for these two people who made the most difficult of decisions and gave us the most precious gifts.
Less than two months later, the girls were born. We got to be there at the hospital for their birth. We watched nervously and excitedly as they wheeled the girls into the NICU. The nurse at reception who gave me my visitor’s name-tag labeled, “Mom”, may not have thought much of it, but to me this name-tag was everything. I was a Mom.
I was their Mom. My dreams had just come true.
The road to adoption did not come without its challenges. It was long, heart wrenching and emotionally exhausting at times, but ultimately we trusted that it was all in Heavenly Father’s hands. And it was. Three weeks after the girls were born, we were awarded legal custody of the girls. Our girls!! After the court hearing, we rushed to the hospital to see our little angels.
Six months later, we were sealed in the St. Louis Temple for time and all eternity. It was the happiest, most heavenly day of my life.
I do not doubt God’s awareness of me, for I know He knows me. He knows my heart. He knows my desires. I do not doubt God’s love for me. I see it every day as I watch my daughters learn and grow and laugh and play. I do not doubt God’s plan for me, because only He could orchestrate something as beautiful and perfect as the adoption of our sweet little girls. I do not doubt that His way is better than my way, because I could have never dreamed of the great blessings and glory that have come…after much tribulation.
Yesterday was Veterans Day, and I had the unique privilege of welcoming veterans to the World War II Memorial in Washington DC through the Honor Flight program.
As I observed the veterans – some with tears in their eyes and others with big smiles on their faces – I thought of a veteran who means so much to me. His name is Golden Dyer. I only met him once for about 30 minutes, but those 30 minutes were influential.
In high school, my church’s youth group participated in a national project to record the history of America’s veterans. We went to the Veterans Hospital and visited with some of the members who reside there. We asked them a series of questions and recorded their answers. The final question we would always ask was, “If there was one piece of advice you could give to America’s youth today, what would it be?” It is through this project that I met Golden. I was assigned to interview him.
Golden was a gentle and kind man. At the conclusion of our interview, I asked him the standard final interview question, “If there was one piece of advice you could give to America’s youth today, what would it be?” Honestly, I don’t remember what he said. We parted ways and I went to meet up with the rest of my group members who were conducting interviews with other veterans. I walked down a few flights of stairs, and as I walked out of the building, I paused looking to my left and right wondering which direction I needed to walk.
At that moment, I heard my name in a soft and hushed tone. I turned around and saw Golden. I had no idea he had followed me down the stairs and out of the building. He walked up to me, slightly out of breath, and said to me, “I know what I want you to tell the youth of America.” He continued, “Every day before you go to bed, look in the mirror and say to yourself ‘I did the best I could do today.’”
Golden’s words deeply touched my heart. I knew that God had a purpose in aligning my earthly path and Golden’s earthly path for these few moments. In some ways, I am a guilt-ridden person who thinks her actions of love, kindness, and service are never enough. When I feel this way, I remember Golden’s counsel. Not only do I remember his counsel, but I remember his sincerity, and I remember the way my heart felt when he shared this message with me.
Yesterday, as I welcomed the veterans, I thought of Golden. My eyes became a little teary because my heart felt so full of love for a man whose simple counsel continues to bless my life today. It’s been ten years since I met Golden, and I am so thankful to God for that opportunity. I believe God puts people in our paths to serve as messengers to us of counsel from Him. This beautiful message from an apostle of Jesus Christ reminds us that sometimes the angels God sends to us are those individuals we are blessed to walk and talk with here on earth.
I had the chance to spend four and a half months of my life in a little farm community called Basin City in Washington. In the 2000 census, the population of Basin City was less than 1,000 people. While there aren’t very many citizens of Basin City, the people that do live there are the salt of the earth. Some may call me biased but I am thoroughly convinced that Basin City is one of the best places on the planet.
One thing I love about Basin City is that it is just full of character. Each person there is unique and there are things that I will forever remember about my time there. For example: Sister Schultz' toffee, Sheffield's Cider, homemade jam and rolls...everyone has their "thing" and they do it well. But there is one thing they all have in common: they love the gospel of Jesus Christ and they live it every day of their lives.
In the Basin City LDS chapel there is a painting of Jesus Christ that hangs behind the pulpit. It’s an older painting of the Savior and while religious art hangs throughout LDS churches everywhere, it is rarely found in the chapel so I found the painting behind the pulpit a little strange for the first few months I was there...until I heard its story.
One Sunday the stake president, President Ross Montierth, was speaking to the youth in the ward and he said that when the Basin City church was built in the early 1960s it was built by the current Bishop's father who was sent there with his family on a church service mission. Turns out, he loved it so much he never left. He found a bunch of humble farmers there who in their spare time helped him build the church building. Their lack of experience but determination to build a place to worship is the reason that still to this day if you look closely you will find flaws in the construction.
In 1965, President Hinckley dedicated the church building. Years later, the church was to be remodeled. At this point it was in the church handbook that there should not be paintings in the chapel itself. They could be in the halls of the church and in classrooms but not in the chapel. In an effort to obey church policy, the church leaders went to take down the painting that had hung in the chapel since its dedication. However, when they removed the painting they found that hidden beneath the picture of Christ was one of the biggest flaws in the entire building. The church leaders then found that there was a clause in the Handbook that said that if the painting was part of the original layout of the church it could be left there. So there it still hangs.
After telling that story, President Montierth asked the youth, "How appropriate that the Savior is covering a flaw?" I have thought about that question over and over again.
It has caused me to reflect on the concept of grace. I think sometimes we think that we are supposed to be perfect but Heavenly Father doesn’t expect us to be perfect. He only asks that we do our very best.
Lorenzo Snow, former president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said, “Do not expect to become perfect at once. If you do you will be disappointed. Be better today than you were yesterday. And be better tomorrow than you were today.”
The truth be told, no matter how determined we are and how hard we try one truth remains- we need Him. We cannot do this alone. People throughout history have always needed Him and we are no different. He loves us and all He asks is that we try.
In the eyes of the LDS church members in Basin City their chapel is perfect. Why? Because just like them...it has character. It reminds them of where they came from. Like the cracks in the construction of the Basin City chapel, we all have flaws. We all make mistakes but the atonement of Jesus Christ covers all of them. The atonement of Jesus Christ is enough. Our use of it in our daily lives builds and strengthens our character. The Savior covers our flaws and in His eyes we become perfect.
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