Friday, February 3, 2017

Why I Stay



I often get emails about my conversion.  The trend lately has been people incredulous that I'm STILL Mormon, as if it were some kind of infection they were certain I'd have recovered from by now.  Let me tell you why I stay.

When I was protestant, I lived a faithful life. I studied my scriptures diligently. I prayed. I strived to keep my life free from sin. I did my best to serve. Yet, whenever I read the verse from John 10, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me," I'd get worried. I couldn't hear His voice no matter how hard I tried.  I was sure that meant I wasn't "saved".

I talked with my husband about it. He always blew it off saying, "If you're not saved, no one is." While I appreciated his confidence in my spiritual life, I couldn't help but feel a shard of ice cold fear. I spoke with a pastor about it. He asked me to go through 1 John and look at the "tests" of discipleship. I would always pass that test with flying colors, no matter how many times I took it. Yet, I didn't feel at peace. Why couldn't I hear the Savior's voice? I'd pray and ask that question all the time. Heaven seemed silent.

Enter my conversion.

While my worries about the passage from John had absolutely no influence on my conversion, one of the HUGE (and surprising) benefits I received from being Mormon was an answer to that prayer. Suddenly, I could hear and recognize the Savior's voice--clearly and often.

I can't begin to describe what a blessing that is to both myself and my family as a whole. That single answer to prayer is enough to keep me Mormon forever. I'm not willing to give up my intimate communion with the Savior through the Spirit of God simply to make my life easier and my religion more palatable to others.

I stay because it has brought me closer to my God and Savior than I ever fathomed possible.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

You Need a Shower!


I had the privilege this weekend of going to an elderly relative's house and going over her bills and medications with her and getting her ready to be transferred to a new place. One of my goals going there was to make sure she got a shower.  She hadn't had one in a while. A long while. She has a stronger will than her previous caregivers.  I was determined my will would be stronger than hers.

I'd prepared her ahead of time telling her one of my goals when I came was to get her clean. I reminded her when I arrived we were going to get her a shower.  She kept finding things to go over to avoid it.  She made many excuses. When that failed, she cried.  She did not want a shower. I felt for her, but I knew getting clean was important.  I was trying hard to be patient, but firm.

Then when I'd finally got her compliant there was no hot water.  I saw a smile creep across her face. I couldn't make her take a cold shower.  That would be cruel.  She thought she was off the hook.

I walked over to a neighbor's house where I knew there was a man and asked him to come look at her hot water heater and tell me if it was an easy fix.  He graciously obliged and determined the heating elements were out. Now she was sure she was off the hook.  He knew what was happening and offered his shower to us.

When this dear woman heard plan B, she literally wailed. Suddenly, she determined she couldn't walk over to his house.  She actually could, but to let her know I was serious I said we'd carry her if necessary.  More tears.  The whole way to his house she told us why she couldn't do this.  The neighbor tried to suppress his laughter. It was like dealing with a toddler.

The shower was no easier. She complained the whole time. While I washed her hair. While I cleaned her back. While I gave her a soaped up washcloth and instructed her how to get herself clean anywhere I thought she was capable. The entire time I reminded her how much better she'll feel after she was clean.  She didn't believe me.

It occurred to me there was something to learn from this experience. Sometimes we're in need of a shower. Not a literal one--the cleansing of repentance. But, like this elderly woman, the process of getting clean sounds like the worst possible experience. It's going to be hard. We like our dirt.  It's comfortable. It's easy. Then when we finally think we're ready, we realize we don't have the resources. Fortunately, like this woman's neighbor, Christ has provided what will get us clean through His atonement.

I made a decision while showering her. I never want to fight against what's good for me. I don't want to get in a battle of wills with my Savior. When He tells me I need a shower, I want to jump in. I want to be clean.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Honesty

I was at Walmart today....
Yep, two days before Christmas. It was a madhouse, of course. But, everyone was polite. In fact, everyone pretty well knew what everyone else was going through. The last minute mad dash to make sure you have Christmas properly squared away. At one point, a woman and I were coming down an aisle from opposite directions. I don't know what my face looked like, but as we passed she laughed and said, "I know, baby. I know.  It's almost over."  We both laughed.

I was tired.  Really tired. I only needed candy for the children's stockings, scotch tape, and a couple of presents for my third child.  I got everything I needed as quickly as possible and dashed to the self-checkout.

I still had one last stop to go-- the grocery store. After that, it was home to unload groceries, then it would be time for me to go to work.

Did I mention I was tired?

I checked out and got to the door. I even got through the machines that are supposed to tell you if you've stolen anything. I was to the parking lot when it occurred to me I didn't remember putting the tape in a bag. That meant I didn't pay for it either.  I looked into my cart. There it was, sitting nice and pretty underneath the bags...my stolen item worth $1.00.

I really wanted to get on with my day, but I couldn't. That $1.00 would bug me for the rest of my life. So, I turned around, told the door guard what I did and asked if I could just go back to pay for it. There were a couple of workers standing nearby. One of them looked at me like I was insane.  Another put a hand on my shoulder and said, "You'll be blessed by heaven."

I smiled and went to pay for the tape.

When I got home, there was a bag of groceries sitting on my door. Not just a bag of groceries. A bag of Whole Foods groceries that contained everything I needed for an Italian Christmas Eve dinner. I'm Italian and haven't been able to afford the fish for Christmas Eve for many years. It was such a blessing.

Was that a blessing for my honesty? Maybe. And believe me, I valued that anonymous gift on my doorstep. The thoughtfulness, energy, and expense that went into such a gift was incredible. I can't wait to share it with my children.

But, I'm also grateful for the gift of a clear conscious. You see, if I'd have left Walmart, I would never have been at peace. A clear conscience is its own blessing.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Review Your Light and Knowledge


Yes, I have been gone a while.  I've been working hard on other things. Even better, I'm starting to see those goals coming to fruition. I'll be back here a little more often because I've found a good pattern for taking care of my family, working, my callings, and homeschooling.  It's taken a bit. Truthfully, it will always be a work in progress with occasional course corrections. The same is true of our spiritual lives.

I'm in the habit of jotting down an application to myself after my scripture reading. Today I was in Alma 9. Verse 23 stood out to me.
"And now behold I say unto you, that if this people, who have received so many blessings from the hand of the Lord, should transgress contrary to the light and knowledge which they do have, I say unto you that if this be the case, that if they should fall into transgression, it wouuld be far more tolerable for the Lamanites than for them."
It's easy to take light for granted. We've been given so much. But, if we start ignoring the light. Willfully living without it. We destroy ourselves.

I jotted down Alma 9:23 "Review the light you've been given. Are you neglecting the things you have already been taught?"

If you're feeling stagnant in your walk with the Lord ask yourself if you're doing what you already know. The Holy Spirit isn't going to give further light and knowledge until we're honoring what we've already been given.

Maybe you just need a course correction.


Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Trust of Prayer

prayer

A young Amy Carmichael, who grew up to be a missionary in India, learned about prayer from her parents.  She learned that Heavenly Father heard her prayers. She learned He could do anything. And she believed.  That night, at bedtime, she went to her knees and asked Heavenly Father to turn her eyes blue.  She went to bed with the excitement and faith only a child can muster.  In the morning, she ran to the mirror gleeful to look at her brand new, blue eyes. Her heart broke when her own brown eyes were staring back at her.

Does that mean that her prayer was not answered? Did Heavenly Father break His word? She certainly had the faith that was required. Amy learned something. She learned that “No” is an answer too.

When we pray for something, we need to do it in faith. But, we also need to do it in submission, trusting that our Heavenly Father knows best for us. 

I remember a time, shortly after my conversion, there was something I prayed for desperately. I couldn’t imagine how I would survive Heavenly Father saying “No” to this prayer.  I would weep during the prayer. Each time, though, Heavenly Father said, “There are things you don’t know.  Trust me.  I have something so much better for you.” 

Now, I can look back and see His wisdom.  At the time, it felt like I was being asked to endure too much. I recently found out just how much my God had protected me.  He knew things about the situation I didn’t. I have more gratitude for that “No” than I do for almost every “Yes” I have ever received.   

So, if you’ve been pouring out your heart in prayer and feel ignored, this is the time to wait and trust.  We often don’t have the whole picture.  I promise you, that He hears you.  And sometimes, a no is a much better answer than you’d think.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Sweet Memory of Past Sin

sacrifice

That title probably sounds weird…even wrong.  No memory of sin should be sweet.  Of course not, but bear with me.  Many of you know I am a homeschool mom.  My oldest daughter will be reading St. Augustine’s Confessions this fall.  I’ve been re-reading it in order to write a discussion guide for us to use.  I came across this passage:

“I must now carry my thoughts back to the abominable things I did in those days….the memory is bitter, but it will help me to savour your sweetness, the sweetness that does not deceive but brings real joy and never fails.”  ~ st. augustine

That completely changed my view of the past.  While before it brought me low and I used it as a warning never to allow myself to be deceived again. It’s different now. Sweeter.  It’s still a good reminder to beware, but now it also draws me into praise. 

My Savior gave himself as a sacrifice, so that I could be at peace before my God.  Now, instead of being weighed down with guilt, I smell the sweet aroma of the sacrificial atonement.  No wonder the Old Testament sacrifices were such a pleasing aroma to God.  They brought to His mind the willing love and sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. 

Now, if something reminds me of the past, I think of the Savior’s gift and look toward the future, where I will dwell with my God. When I do that, my heart swells with love and praise for him.  That is definitely sweet.

 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

When You Disagree with Leadership

 

nephi

From the time Mormons are knee-high to a priesthood holder, they are taught the stories about Nephi and his brothers.  Nephi honored both God and his father. His brothers, Laman and Lemuel, complained and rebelled.  Yet, despite the fact that we’ve been taught these stories over and over again, somehow we seem to be missing the point-- How they got that way.

I hear grumblings in the church a lot lately.  I hear them in the ward. I hear them on Facebook. There are grumblings about women and the priesthood.** There are grumblings about gay marriage.  Sometimes the grumblings are about petty issues.  They usually start with the phrase, “If I were in charge…”

With all due respect, and as someone who would sometimes do things differently herself, we are not in charge.  Our job is to decide if we can sustain our leadership. If so, then get in the trenches and lift them up.  Make their burden lighter. Magnify our callings.  So, how do you decide if you can sustain your leadership on issues you feel differently?  Do what Nephi did. 

Nephi didn’t just say, “He’s our father and we’ll do what he says.” Nor will you have to say “The leadership says this so…”

Look at this verse that explains Nephi’s reaction when he was perplexed.

“Wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers.” 1 Nephi 2:16b

Therein lies the difference.  Nephi sought out what the Lord wanted him to do.  He didn’t go into it with his mind made up. He sincerely wanted to know the truth and was willing to honor whatever that was.  I love that about Nephi.

Nephi then went to his brothers and explained to them the things the Spirit had made known to him.  Sam believed. Laman and Lemuel still refused. Why were their hearts so blind to the truth?  I have a couple of ideas.

1. It’s possible they refused to even seek the Lord.  Maybe they didn’t want to know that what their father was saying was correct.  They had in mind the world they wanted to live in and their father’s visions weren’t in line with that.

2. They looked “beyond the mark”. Jacob 4:14 talks about this.

“…they despised the words of plainness, and killed the prophets, and sought for things that they could not understand. Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall…”

One of the words we translate as sin in the New Testament, literally means “to miss the mark”.  That is very interesting to me in light of the warning in Jacob 4:14.  When we insist on looking beyond the mark, the standards that God has set, we’re not just missing the mark, we’re putting ourselves at risk of spiritual blindness.

If you’re someone who is struggling with leadership, may I suggest spending some sincere time in prayer asking Heavenly Father to help you see what is right and what is wrong.  Do it with an open mind.  I promise, if you do, you will find a peace like you have never experienced before. The peace that Nephi experienced when the Spirit enlarged his mind to understand.

**To my non-Mormon readers, I wanted to make a small note about women and the priesthood.  What is not commonly known is that we don’t have a priesthood vocation.  You don’t become a Mormon priest as a career. Even our bishops, who lead the local congregations, are unpaid and generally only serve for 5 years in addition to their normal vocation that they continue to work in order to support their families.