Thursday, September 18, 2014

A pep talk for a Relief Society President - and anyone else who serves the Lord

I am someone who shares my testimony often. That doesn't mean it doesn't take a lot of courage and that I don't ever feel hesitant or second guess myself. Am I saying too much? Am I saying too little? Am I turning people away? Am I preachy? Am I scaring people, rather than inspiring them?

These are all questions I often hear in my mind. Do any of you ask yourselves the same questions?

I have lived long enough and experienced enough to know that I need to push through those questions and never let them stop me from doing what I feel is right. Yet, I still have moments when I need a pep talk.

One of those moments came this last Sunday.

I have written several times that I am currently serving as the Relief Society President in my ward. Within my stewardship, I am to care for and watch over all of the women ages 18 and older in our ward - about 230 women. Of course, I don't do this alone. There are many, many people who participate in this watch care. However, as the President, I often have women on my mind that no one else seems to worry about. Each week I make phone calls or visits to women who haven't been visited by anyone in a very long time or who don't feel like they fit in and/or who are afraid to come to church and join us,.

I share my testimony and love with these women and invite them to come to church. I do this often and every Sunday, before Sacrament meeting begins, you can find me waiting at the doors to the chapel, or even the doors to the building, looking for those who have promised to come. I want to greet them and help them feel welcome and glad they came.

They don't come. Sometimes they do. Most of the time they don't. I usually feel sadness at their absence but I can't let that drag me down, I have too many other reasons to be happy about all of the women who are there each Sunday.

But I care...sometimes I think I care too much. Is that possible?

That deep caring won't allow me to give up. I have a testimony that I am on the Lord's errand. I know He won't give up and so I can't. Jesus Christ has put into my heart a love for these women and I know how important and precious they are to Him. How can I give up when I know who these women really are...daughters of God?

This last Sunday was a particularly difficult day and my sadness overcame my optimism. I hate to admit it but I thought to myself, "Why? Why, Heavenly Father, why have you put into my heart a love for these sisters if it seems that they will never return? Aren't there more productive ways for me to spend my time and energy?" I will admit to some tears in Sacrament meeting.

But then in Sunday School, the Lord began to answer my question. I was asked to read this paragraph in our class and I choked up on the last two sentences, "The Apostle Paul was a great missionary sent to the Gentiles. After he was converted to the Church, he spent the remainder of his life preaching the gospel to them. At different times during his mission he was whipped, stoned, and imprisoned. Yet he continued to preach the gospel (see Acts 23:10–12; 26)." Gospel Principles Chapter 33

Then the teacher showed this video:

I will admit, once again, to more tears during this short movie - lots of tears.

In this divine answer to my questions, I was not told, "Don't give up." I was not told "Love others no matter what." I was told that I love the Savior. It was as if Jesus whispered to me that He knows I love Him and He knows my heart and that is why He asks me to do the hard things and that's all I need to remember.

It's all because of Him. That's why I go visit and share and encourage and love over and over and over again, often without any sign of progress. Because of Him. I love Him with all of my heart and the deep-in-my-heart reason why I do all that I do is because of my love for Him. If everything else was taken away, I would still want to be part of the Lord's work because it is simply that, the Lord's work and I want to be where He is, doing what He is doing.

I know I am not alone in that sentiment. I know there are many others in our world who feel exactly the same as I do.

And then the thoughts started pouring in...

My mind began to remember all of the verses of scripture that tell of how prophets or servants of God were discouraged, even shedding tears, because their assignments from the Lord were hard and often, no one seemed to listen or even care.

A desire began to burn in my heart. A desire to read the Book of Mormon again and search the Bible again for some very specific messages - messages from those who have felt exactly as I feel. If I were standing with Nephi or Isaiah or Moroni, if they were giving me a pep talk for my daily assignments, what would they say? 

I started that day with 1 Nephi chapter 1 - THE PERFECT PLACE TO START for someone who needs a pep talk from someone who knows how hard being involved in this work can be sometimes. I'm going to write about that one in my next post.

For now I want to say that I am a happy, cheerful, optimistic, hopeful person who also feels sadness and discouragement as I take part in the Work of Salvation. I know I'm not the only one. I'm normal and so is every one of you who has  felt those same feelings.

I'm going to write about the pep talks I am given as I study how those who lived thousands of years ago overcame their fears, insecurities and discouragements and served the Lord no matter what, even when it was hard, no, especially when it was hard.  They have much to teach me and I'm so excited to have them be my tutors in this work.

 I can't think of any better teachers than those who proved themselves to be the Savior's friends, for that is the title I want most of all...I want my dearest, truest, most loyal friend, Jesus Christ, to be able to look at me and call me "friend" as well.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Spencer was right!

Many years ago, as an 18-year-old girl, I was asked to teach the 5-year-old Sunday school class. My class consisted of 7 very active, rambunctious boys and one little girl who could put those boys in their place. Needless to say, although I planned great lessons about how Heavenly Father loves us and how He made the sun, moon and stars, my lessons usually ended up being about why we don't stand on the chairs or color on the walls.

One Sunday, in "Sharing Time", the teacher asked the whole Primary a simple question, "Why are we here on earth?"

Hands shot up and the older kids were shouting out the usual answers: "To get a body!" "To be tested!" All the right answers; they had been taught well. But then someone taught me something greater.

A little boy in my class named Spencer began to tug on my shirt sleeve. "Teacher! Teacher! I know the answer!"

"Raise your hand Spencer and maybe she'll call on you to give your answer."

He shook his head in embarrassment but continued to tug at my sleeve wanting to share what was bursting from his little heart.

So, I asked him if he would be willing to whisper his answer into my ear. He liked that option so I leaned in closer to him.

I can still feel his little whisper in my ear, "We're here on earth to love Jesus."

My heart melted. With a quiver in my voice I said, "Yes, Spencer, you are right!" as my eyes filled with tears, I realized this little 5-year-old had just taught me more than I could have ever taught him.

The first great commandment, is the first great commandment for a reason."Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." (Matthew 22:38) The Lord is not selfish or vain, He knows that when we love Him, we will keep His commandments and make it Home to Him.

Keeping the first commandment always leads to keeping the second, because to love the Father and the Son is to serve those They love. In answer to our prayers for guidance, They send the Holy Ghost to tell us how to help others and to feel at least a part of God’s love. So in that service, our love of God increases and the keeping of the second great commandment leads us back to the first, in an ascending circle. In time, our very natures change. We are filled with the love of God, which, even in a world with so much misery and despair, brings us happiness and hope. [Henry B. Eyring, Because He First Loved Us (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2002), ix] 

Spencer was right. We are here to love Jesus because when we do, we will do all of the other things Jesus has asked us to do. We will know that He gives us commandments and guidelines because He sees what we do not see and knows what we do not know. When we love Jesus, we will trust Him and follow Him and long to be with Him again. We will not worry about what others think or if they agree with us because our hearts will belong to the one who loves us most. When we love Jesus, we will find peace in this life despite the chaos and heartache that may be going on around us. We will have the courage to do what is hard no matter what. When we love Jesus we will know that He will help us overcome ALL things in our life and that we will never, ever be alone.

Even with all of those good reasons to love Jesus, the simplest reason is that, "We love him, because he first loved us." (1 John 4:19)


...and He always will.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Once upon a time there was a little red headed girl...

I once knew a little girl whose mother was an artist. This mother wanted to help her 5-year-old daughter develop some artistic talents. She learned of an art contest at the school and decided to have her daughter enter the contest. Each entrant was asked to create a piece of art/music/poetry finishing this phrase, "Love is..."

The mother sat down with this little girl and said, "I am going to say something and I want you to finish the sentence for me....'Love is...'" The little girl didn't even think for a full minute. She replied, "Everyone!"

So the mother and the little girl sat and decided what kind of picture to create. They decided to make a picture of different people from around the world. The mother practiced what to draw with the little girl a few different times. She gave her some artistic tips and encouraged her to use certain colors and styles, and taught her how to fill in all of the spaces with her crayons, but the art was done completely by the 5-year-old.

That little girl started to think even more about her picture and she felt the truth of those words deep in her little heart...and she still does 37 years later. She is no longer that little girl. She has two children of her own, a busy life and lots to think about, but she still believes. She still chooses to believe that "Love Is Everyone". Despite the fact that since those days, she has had some experiences which challenge the simple truth she drew about so long ago. She knows that in the eternal scheme of things, in the eyes of our Savior, love truly is everyone.

She is so grateful for a mother who took the time to help her develop a talent (although she doesn't draw much better now than she did back then - maybe the talent being developed was a different kind of art ). There was a lot of sadness in their home, but there were bright, beautiful experiences too - this was one of them.

BTW...the little girl won the contest and went on to receive other awards as the picture was passed on to different levels of competition. The little girl was excited to win but all she really understood was that several times she was asked to stand up in front of large groups of people, hold up her picture and say, "Love Is Everyone'".

( that little girl, who is all grown up, has a blog devoted completely to Jesus Christ, the one who has filled her heart and taught her to continue to love because He always loves. The blog is called "Much More Him" and maybe it is her adult way of standing in front of groups of people and saying "Love Is Everyone", because she has learned, on even deeper levels than before, that to our Savior Jesus Christ, that saying is very, very true!

This one was obviously not done by me (the little red headed girl, if you did pick up on that.) This one is by Greg Olsen - a true artistic talent.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Even More Confessions of a (no longer newly called) Relief Society President

I've written two posts on this blog since becoming the Relief Society President in my ward.

Confessions of a Newly Called Relief Society President


More Confessions of a Newly Called Relief Society President

Every so often I get curious and I check the stats of this blog and what I am shocked at each time is how many hits those two posts get, how often they are shared and what search questions lead readers to those posts. Search questions such as "Overwhelmed Relief Society President", "How do I be a good Relief Society President", "Helps for Relief Society Presidents", "New Relief Society President needs help"...the list goes on. Somehow typing those questions into a search bar leads them to these two posts on my blog.

I want to write more but here's the thing...I NEED THOSE SAME HELPS MYSELF!! How can I write a post of encouragement and support when I'm sitting in the same circle with all of those who need help from someone who knows?

So I want to ask some questions...

*Does the busyness of this calling sometimes come in waves? (Sometimes Tsunami waves?)

*Do you love it when you see the sisters in your ward supporting each other and loving each other and you think, "Oh this is wonderful!"

*Visiting Teaching? (I think I can leave that at just those two words and you'll get it.)

*Just when you think you have some situation under control, does it suddenly blow up again?

*Do your kids hate your phone? (Because you are always on the phone)

*Do you love sharing your testimony with the Sisters and feeling the love of our Father in Heaven flow through you to them?

*Are you sometimes amazed at the ideas the Holy Ghost gives to you and you know they aren't from you and you are so grateful?

*Are you amazed at how clueless you can be about what to do sometimes?

*Do you want to stand up and shout for joy when you see a sister who hasn't been to church in a very long time walk through the chapel doors?

*Do you go through weeks when you hear of sad situations in your ward every day and you can't help but just sit down and cry and plead with our Father in Heaven to bless those dear sisters and help you know how to help?

*Do you struggle to set appropriate boundaries?

*Do you call the temple to put names on the prayer roll more than you ever have before?

*Do you sometimes wonder what in the world the Lord was thinking when He called you?

*Have you been more aware of your weaknesses than ever before?

*Are you so grateful for good and talented counselors who have great ideas and you are glad they share those ideas?

*Do you want to depend more on your counselors but sometimes you just don't know how and they have busy lives and their own trials too?

*Do you sometimes feel like you are drowning in all of the varied and differing responsibilities that rest on your shoulders?

*Do you wish, with all of your heart, that you could respond to every distress call your heart detects but you just can't, so you turn to the visiting teachers and hope they do?

*Do you wonder how your Bishop is able to take care of a whole ward when you sometimes feel overwhelmed just taking care of the women?

*Are you so touched by how giving the women in your ward can be?

*Are you amazed at the many different talents the women in your ward have and you want to find a way to let them all use their talents and be more involved in each others lives?

*Are you also amazed at the talented women around you and know the ward is filled with smart, wise, spiritual women who would all do a wonderful job as the Relief Society President and you are humbled that at this time it is you?

*Do you absolutely love the time you get to spend with just your family and you see even more clearly now why it is so important to teach them the Gospel of Jesus Christ and love them and forgive them and remember that your most important calling is to be a wife and a mother?

*Do you find that you are more able to handle whatever may come if you read the scriptures every day, pray several times a day and keep yourself away from many of the world's distractions?

*Do you know that you will be a safe place for some women to vent their heartaches and frustrations and sometimes that includes taking out their frustrations on you and you needn't take it personally, just love them. (Although you don't need to allow yourself to be abused. That is an important boundary to set.)

*Do you know that you will never be everything to everyone and the mistakes you make will always be pointed out much more than the successes you have?

*Do you know you aren't perfect but you are doing your best and you realize that is all you can do and that is all the Lord expects of you and so you square your shoulders and keep moving forward?

*Do you need the Savior every moment of every day?

 *Do you know He is with you? Do you know He is giving you this opportunity at this time to help others but, even more so, because He knows how much you need this growing experience. When you look at that picture of Him, does it feel as if you are looking at your best friend, someone who knows you better than anyone else and still loves you? He keeps loving you and He keeps healing you and forgiving you and raising you higher. He keeps reminding you that He loves you so much, no matter what. Are you so very honored to be on His errand and in His service and part of His Relief Society?

This song seems to fit perfectly here:

* Do you just want to help the women of your ward to grow closer to Jesus Christ because you know you can't solve their problems or heal their hearts and homes? You know that only He can.

*Do you know that everything will be okay?

I hope you do...because it will.

This life is so short compared to our eternal existence. If we learn as much as we can right now, someday, off into the eternities, we will each look back at these experiences and know that our Father knew exactly what He was doing and we will be so grateful.

Right now it is our turn to be the Relief Society President in our individual wards. We have each had different callings before this one and we will each have different callings after this one. In actuality, the specific calling isn't as important to our Father in Heaven, as is the lessons we learn. Because within each calling and other learning experiences that are given to us are opportunities for our rough edges to be smoothed over and our impurities to be purged out and for us to become more like our wonderful elder brother Jesus.

Each calling and each opportunity we have is designed by a loving Father to lead us Home to Him. That is what it is all about - going Home and helping as many of our brothers and sisters as possible to get back there too.

What this is all about is LOVE.
Truly, that's what it is about.

What I'm trying to say with all of this is...we can be faithful, spiritual, righteous, loving and dedicated Relief Society Presidents AND still have hard days and struggles and make mistakes and feel inadequate and desperately need Jesus Christ in every moment! We are not alone. We have each other and we have the Creator of the Universe on our side. I welcome any and all comments - from those who are struggling and from those who are not. These issues are not reserved only for Relief Society Presidents - every calling and assignment has similar challenges - especially that greatest of all callings and assignments...parenthood!

I don't know who will read this but my prayer is that you will know you are wonderful and doing a fabulous job and the Lord knew exactly what He was doing when He called you!

Once again...everything is going to be OK!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

More Confessions of a Kinda Newly Called Relief Society President

I was reading my post entitled "Confessions of a Newly Called Relief Society President" and WOW I was exhausted trying to sift through the craziness of that post! A lot of people have read that post and I'm wondering if you all had to take a nap afterwards?! But it was very authentic because that is how my brain was at that time - overwhelmed!

Now I'm 6 months into the calling and, well, I'm still overwhelmed but in a sure, solid, know-I-will-survive kinda way...I think. :)

Here are a few lessons I have learned over the past few months. They aren't in any specific order...just what comes to my head first

1. I'm still super grateful for the Visiting Teaching program of the Church. After sifting through my records to find out who still lives within our ward's boundaries and who doesn't, I have come up with a grand total of 230 women in my ward. 134 of those sisters are assigned a Visiting Teacher. That means 96 women do not have someone assigned to check in on them. How is that possible? 96 women is a lot and I need to find these women!

I know, I know, I can hear you, "You can't get to all of them." I believe that is not correct. If a shepherd had 230 sheep and lost track of 96 of them, you can bet he would search out every single one of them...every single one! Maybe some of them don't want to be found? Maybe. But I don't know which ones those are and I will not stand in front of the Lord one day and say, "I thought she might be one of the sisters who didn't want to be found so I didn't bother her." That's not happening. So, my counselors and my Visiting Teaching staff and I are in the process of developing a way to reach out to each sister. It is a big undertaking and I'm going to rely on the sisters in my ward a lot but the sisters in my ward are wonderful and I know they will have some great experiences serving the Lord by finding these lost sheep - who actually happen to be living, breathing people with hopes and dreams and who need our Savior so much.

2. If you want to cause your Relief Society president to be speechless, call her one morning and say, "What task can I do for you today?" or "Is there someone today who really needs a visit but you can't get to them? Let me go." or "I would like to be your assistant all day today. What's on your list?" Seriously, she'll be speechless. But then hang on, because she'll take you up on that offer (if she's smart.) What she'll have for you to do may not be too glamorous, but she'll be so grateful!!

3. This is kind of the same as #2, but a tad different...if you notice your Relief Society President (or a President of any organization or Bishop for that matter) is doing a lot of work in their calling and looks like they need a rest, DO NOT say, "You need to slow down. You can't do it all."

Let me tell you why...I am running all day long doing things for Relief Society and for my family but I am painfully aware that I'm not even close to doing it all. I feel like I'm barely scratching the surface. I'm doing my best, yes, but I'm not doing it all and I don't see how I can slow down. With the amount of texts, phone calls, requests, emails etc. that come to me daily, I'm usually just getting to the fires that need to be put out and yes, I am using my counselors and yes, I do have great women working in other areas and yes, I do call the Visiting Teachers to enlist their help and still, I feel like there are so many things not getting done. (My laundry is one of those things!)

A better thing to say would be, "What can I do to take one thing off of your plate today?" and then be willing to actually help her do that one thing. She will love you forever!!

4. Taking dinners into people is so wonderful and absolutely a great service and we sisters are super awesome at taking in meals to others. I know without a doubt that the sisters in my ward will jump and get to baking if I ask for someone to organize a meal and I am so grateful!!

Sometimes dinners are not what people need.

Sometimes people need you to sit with them and listen. Sometimes people need you to help them do their dishes or pick up their kids or take them to figure out why they aren't getting the right amount of food stamps (plan on 3 hours for that one) or help them find a bed or help them learn how to clean properly or hug and not judge them when they find out their child has just made a very sad decision or listen as they tell you their gut wrenching life story or help them find a lawyer or take them grocery shopping because they don't own a car or invite them over for dinner even though they smell like cigarette smoke or listen as they tell you that they aren't sure they have a testimony or love them even when you know they know they are making a wrong decision or take them to the ER or pray with them in the hospital or hold their babies so their arms can rest or text them an encouraging note or love them even if they are yelling at you because they need someone to yell at and you just happened to be there at that moment or not take their insults personally or take them to the Addiction Recovery meetings or encourage them to talk to the Bishop and repent or hold their hand while they are in the process of getting a divorce or give them a you get the picture?

There are easy ways to serve and there are ways to serve that require us to roll up our shirt sleeves and get into the mess. In these last days before Jesus comes again, things are going to get messy and we RELIEF Society women have some work to do and I know we can do it and I know when we really come to understand that we are on the Lord's errand and He has enlisted our help and He is with us every moment, we will not hesitate to do what needs to be done...okay, maybe sometiems we'll hesitate a bit but that is just because we are mustering the courage necessary and that's okay, as long as we get that courage mustard. (is that a word or a condiment?)

5. Which leads me to my last lesson for this post because I've got to get busy...we Mormon women are so private!! What I mean is, we are soooooooo afraid to let someone know that we have weaknesses and we're not picture perfect! It has to stop! Why are we afraid of letting someone know that we are not perfect? Hello? Mortality here! Imperfection is normal!

Do you know what I'm doing at this very moment at 8:30 in the morning? I'm in my pajamas, eating a bag of mini snickers while I'm sitting in my messy kitchen, not folding the mountain of laundry on my bed, I haven't read the scriptures yet or walked the dog, I have at least 239 other things I could/should be doing but I'm not, because this is on my mind so I'm doing this.

If my visiting teachers were to come over, I would apologize like crazy...for what? For being mortal and being like everyone else? Those ladies probably left a messy house and might have cried themselves to sleep last night because of some heartache and even if I told them that I cried myself to sleep last night because of a pain in my own heart, they probably wouldn't know what to do with that because they don't want to pry and push but we'll sit and smile and share a sweet little lesson and then they will be on their way. THAT MUST END!! If we sisters are going to help each other make it through these last days WE MUST BE OPEN AND HONEST AND AUTHENTIC with each other. I'm not saying we should be negative or pessimistic or just talk about the bad stuff. I'm saying that we can be real with one another BECAUSE...look at Who is in the background of that fabulous selfie I just courageously posted...

Yes, Him whose organization for women I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE! We are all imperfect and we serve imperfectly and we are imperfect wives and mothers and daughters and friends and imperfect visiting teachers and I am, most definitely, an imperfect Relief Society President but, as Nephi wrote, "I know in whom I have trusted." (1 Nephi 4: I don't know the verse right now.)

This is one of my favorite pictures because I imagine that the woman standing there is me. I want to be that woman at that well. I want to have Jesus Christ all to myself for a few moments and just listen to Him and learn from Him and have Him listen to me and answer my questions. I want Him to ask me to serve Him because He knows I will do it. I want Him to know that I will do the hard work and seek out His lost sheep and follow His counsel and His example.

I want to give Him my life and my heart as this woman is giving Him some water. I know He will reach for me as I reach for Him.

See the two women behind Jesus Christ in this picture? I want to be the woman in green who is taking the blind woman to Jesus Christ to be healed. I want to help each of the sisters in my ward to go to Him and be healed...and I need to allow them to do the same for me.

Lesson #6 I LOVE being the Relief Society President right now because I LOVE feeling the Savior's love for the women in my ward. I love seeing them through His eyes. I LOVE watching them serve each other and grow and develop stronger testimonies of Him. I will admit that something about my calling makes me shed a few tears almost every day - tears of joy and gratitude but also tears of pain, sorrow, frustration and loneliness. But the Lord always reaches down and dries those tears with some tender mercy He has prepared just for me. I love Him.

I LOVE being in His service in this way at this time in my life and I will love whatever other ways He will need me in the future.

P.S. I love that my children are watching me do this and I try to involve them as much as possible. My 7-year-old son's legos had a "meeting" the other day. Wonder where he learned that?

To read my first confessions click on this link "Confessions of a Newly Called Relief Society President" 
or read what comes after this post:
Even More Confessions of a Relief Society President

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

You Never Know...

I shared this story in a newsletter for the women at church. I feel the need to share this here as well. maybe someone needs to read this story today. I hope it inspires someone, somewhere to act upon promptings that come. I know we often wonder if an impression to do something for someone is from God or not. What I am learning is that if an impression to do something is going to help someone, it is from God. Do it. Do not delay.

As a full-time missionary, I served refugees from Southeast Asia living in the Fresno, CA area. 

Much of our work was with the rising generation of this group of people. The parents were displaced and didn't know how to live in a new country where they didn't speak the language or understand the culture and they couldn't be rice farmers because that was no longer an option. This often lead to the parents feeling depressed and losing the desire to take care of themselves, let alone the children. These were good people who had been through something horrific and although they were out of physical danger, the mental anguish was still very real. Unfortunately, the children and teenagers often picked up much of the responsibilities of raising each other. 

A 14-year-old girl named Nongyao was in this sad situation. She took care of 5 younger brothers and sisters while her parents were always somewhere else. She wanted to be baptized, but her parents would not consent. Eventually, we stopped seeing her on a daily basis because we needed to concentrate on others who were progressing toward baptism. 

But one day, our morning suddenly became empty of appointments. As we thought about where to go, my companion had a very strong impression to go visit a less-active member who happened to live across the street from Nongyao. I trusted my companion's feelings so we went.

As we drove closer to this member's little home, we noticed two big fire engines and two ambulances and a large crowd of people near the house. 

We debated about getting into the mess but knew we had felt impressed to go, so we continued on our path. Suddenly we noticed that a house had been completely burned to the ground - it was Nongyao's house. My heart stopped. I searched the crowd for Nongyao. But before I could find her, she had found me and suddenly this little 14-year-old Asian refugee ran into my arms and cried and cried and cried. I held her and cried with her not knowing exactly what had happened. Finally, through her tears she explained that the space heater in her 3-year-old twin brother's room had started the fire. The house had burned down. The boys had died and, of course, her parents weren't home. As usual, they were somewhere else. We stayed for hours that day just standing there and helping her endure what was happening.

I share this story because, "there are refugees among us, that are not from foreign shores and the battles they are waging are in very private wars. There are no correspondents documenting all their grief, but these refugees among us all are yearning for RELIEF." (that is from a song entitled "Safe Harbors" by Michael McLean) My companion and I followed a prompting to visit someone. On our way to being obedient to that prompting, we were able to do exactly what the Lord had needed us to do that day - offer RELIEF. Even as a full-time missionary I was part of the RELIEF Society.

Follow your promptings. Never suppress a generous thought. The Lord speaks to you. He needs you. Even if all you can do for someone is stand there and let them cry, then do it. Even if all you can do for someone is pray for them, then do it. And when opportunities come that require more than that, when it is harder to serve, dig deep and remember Who has sent you and Who's errand you are on and Who it is who will be by your side as you help Him with His work.

Trust me when I say that the Savior will find ways to let you know He has seen your service. Sometimes those ways will be grand and unmistakable and sometimes they will be very special, very private moments just between the two of you - like when He talked to this woman by the well. He sees you. He knows what you are doing. He loves you and loves that He can trust you and send you on His errands.

(Imagine that is you He is talking to...what is He saying?)

I love Him.

I found this youtube video of the song by Michael McLean I quoted above:

Safe Harbors
There are refugees among us who are not from foreign shores.
The battles they've been waging are from very private wars.
There are no correspondents documenting all their grief.
But these refugees among us are all yearning for relief.

There are refugees among us.
They don't carry flags or signs.
They are standing right beside us in the market check out lines.
And the war that they've been fighting - it will not be televised.
But the story of their need for love is written in their eyes.

Can you see through their disguises?
Can you hear what words won't tell?
Some are losing faith in heaven, cause their lives a living hell.
Is there anyone else to help those who have no one else to plea?
For the only arms protecting them belong to you and me.

This is a call to arms
To reach out and to hold. the evacuees from the dark.
This is a call to arms.
To lead anguished souls to safe harbors of the heart.
Can you feel the pleas of the refugees for safe harbors of the heart?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

What Scrooge and I have in common...

I am going to share something for all the world to know. It is something that I'm sometimes afraid to say out loud for fear someone will throw tomatoes at me or write me a hate letter or, worse, call me a "Scrooge" - even though he and I have a little bit in common.

Here it goes...

I'm ready...

1, 2, 3...

I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas.

There...I said it.

I can imagine my statement is odd coming from someone who has dedicated an entire blog to Jesus Christ. My statement would be odd coming from almost anyone. Christmas is everyone's favorite time of year.

Don't get me wrong. I do love Christmas. the term "love/hate" does have the word love in it. I love it all. I love the decorations. I love the music (I start listening to Christmas music in August!) I love the parties and presents and, of course, I am most grateful and have the deepest love for the real reason for the season - Jesus Christ. I don't hate Christmas. Let's get that straight. The "love" part is so much greater than the "hate".

But the "hate" part, well, it has given me an opportunity to dig deep and ponder and then turn to the Lord for help and answers.

Let me explain...

The first 21 Christmases of my life were actually kind of sad. My growing up story is one of those "I-grew-up-in-a-single-parent-home-with-no-money" stories. My dad died when I was 5. I am the oldest and have two younger siblings. So, you can see my mom had her hands full. We were on a super duper tight budget and went without a lot of stuff most of the time. Sometimes we didn't even have some basic necessities like hot running water, or heat or a telephone. (That's a necessity to a teenage girl.) Yes, family members helped out. People from church helped out, but there was never enough.

I say that my Christmases were sad because my mom was sad. I was fine. Kids don't know the difference unless they are told.  My mom's sadness about never having much to give us seemed to dampen the Christmas season for me from the time I was very young. Being the oldest, I felt a lot of responsibility so I'm not sure if my siblings feel this same way. This was just my own experience.

Christmas was always bitter sweet.

I often wondered why the world couldn't just stay the same all year round. Why did one time of the year need to be so much about gifts and presents when those who have nothing felt no more sad at Christmas than other times of the year. Does that make sense? The emphases to "help" sometimes rubbed in the fact that we needed help. Wasn't Christmas supposed to be joyful and peaceful? Not sad? I saw then, and I see now, people give their token service for Christmas time so they can check that off on their holiday "to do" list. I wondered why we couldn't just be kind and giving and loving all year round, instead of just one month every year. I did't want to get rid of "why" we celebrate the season, just "how".

Things changed for me when I was 21. I was serving a full-time mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. That was when I began to see, really see, what Christmas should be. I began to experience the Christmases of my dreams - and it had nothing to do with presents. You can read about those Christmases here, "The Christmas That Changed My Life"

A couple of Christmases ago, the Spirit taught me another valuable lesson about Christmas, "Dusty Corners, Shoveling Snow and a Christmas Revelation". Basically the lesson was, if we never had Christmas, it would be like never cleaning the house. I clean every day - the same messes every day. It gets frustrating. But what if I stopped cleaning just because I was tired of cleaning the same mess? The mess would be worse. So, Christmas is a time when the citizens of the world clean our hearts of the dust and clutter that has accumulated since the previous year. We clean our hearts and suddenly we see clearly and we love and forgive and share and we all want "Peace on Earth".

Christmas is necessary.
We really do "need a little Christmas".

This year, the Spirit has taught me another lesson. I think it is a pretty cool lesson.

One day I saw a pattern to the holiday season:
Thanksgiving - we thank God for all he has given us.
Christmas - we are reminded of the greatest gift given to us - Jesus Christ
New Year's - we start fresh with new resolve to be a little better than before.

A year later we do it again:
Humble ourselves with gratitude.
Receive the blessings from God
Keep moving forward

It is a principle taught beautifully in Moroni 10: 3-5. Look for the pattern - gratitude, receive, move forward:

Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts

 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. 

Moroni teaches us that before we go to the Lord to receive the desires of our hearts, we should first remember all He has already done for us. This humbles us and fills our hearts with gratitude. Our hearts are soft and then more able to receive the blessings we need. The beautiful, exciting part is that we can do this for everything! " the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of ALL things." So we can go forward with faith and resolve, knowing that we can receive help in every aspect of our lives.

Did the Lord plan that? Did He plan that, at least in the United States (I'm not sure if this same pattern can be found in other countries.) we would have these three holidays in that order? I'm going with the notion that all things happen for a reason.  If we let it, we can use this season as a spring board to improve our lives and come closer to Him.

 Jesus Christ is the reason for this season and every season. Truly He is. Without Him all of this would be pointless. This life would be the end. I'm so glad the Holy Ghost taught me this lesson before Thanksgiving this year. I see the beautiful, spiritual connection between the three holidays. They are a gift to help us be humble, receive more light and knowledge and go forward working toward being a little better next year than we have been this year. All of that is possible because...

 this baby, this gift, this King

grew up to become

this man, this gift, this King.

That love/hate relationship I have with Christmas just became a bit more lop sided on the "love" side. In fact, I don't detect any "hate" part at all.

My new theory doesn't answer all of my questions that I wrote about above, but they don't seem to matter as much. I just need to worry about me, where I am in this process and live the way I know to be true...every month of the year.

I'm so grateful the Savior can help me change. ('cuz I still got a lotta changin' to do!)

So my husband just read my post and said I'm not the first person to come up with this theory.
Glenn Beck, "You must be the change you want to see in the world."

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