Sunday, June 26, 2011

Small Blessings

I wonder if I could just put a post that says, “I’m tired and don’t feel well.”? Probably not. Even though I feel I am on the verge of exhaustion, I have had a good week. It started with my home teacher asking if he could give me a blessing. That blessing was second only to my patriarchal blessing in its encouragement. Every doubt and fear I had was addressed in such a way as to bring me nothing but joy. I knew it was from the Spirit because I had not blogged about some of those issues, nor spoken to anyone but Vicki about them.  I also got to unburden myself with someone who has become a good friend. We talk about just about everything, but there was one thing I had never spoken with him about that has been a big burden for me the last year. I didn’t have a right to talk to him about it because it didn’t just involve me. He figured it out on his own this week, and was very sweet and encouraging. It felt good to talk to him about it. Other blessings came from my Scripture readings.

No new information or grand revelations, but sweet constant reminders. One of them was 1 Nephi 16:29 “….And thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things.” There are days that I look at all that is on my plate and despair. I cannot get it all done. I live a near impossible schedule. Yet, I am reminded that by remaining diligent and doing all I am able, the Lord can take care of the rest. I am not able to do everything for my children I used to. Being a single mom makes that impossible. I used to get beyond discouraged at that, spending a lot of time in tears. But, I am slowly learning to trust that my Heavenly Father loves my children as much as I do and is using all of this for their good.

Another was in 1 Nephi 17:41. In my Scripture journal I wrote, “When the Lord imposes trials on us, He also provides a way to be healed.” I have seen that in my own life time and time again. Each time that I am brought through a trial, I come out a little bit stronger and wiser. A recent trial that had caused me a lot of personal pain and emotional damage has been the one that has made me the strongest.   When talking to my friend about it, he made an interesting comment saying, “I’m really surprised you are still a member.” I’m not surprised though. I love this gospel. I won’t let someone else take it from me. To be honest, I should say I had considered leaving. I’d wondered if I’d made a horrible mistake. But then I realized that I should not base my testimony on the lives of others. I went back and studied the gospel again, asking myself is it true. I came to the same conclusion I did two years ago. Yes. The gospel is most definitely true. I probably learned more from it than all my trials put together…and that is saying something. The Lord is healing my heart. I will never be the same person again. I’ll be a stronger one.

Well, I really am very tired and not feeling well. Too tired to really write anything lengthy or even coherent. Let me just end by saying I’m grateful for the small blessings I receive in the midst of a challenging life.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Wasting Trials


I’ve heard it said that each thing God allows into our lives is filtered through His hands. I have at times gotten discouraged and angry about that sentiment, wondering how God can love me and not filter better. Maybe that is normal, especially when dreadful things happen. Times when it might be tempting to say, “How can you love me and allow that?” I used to wonder that, beginning in childhood. My assumption was that He didn’t love me. I always worried that I was somehow not good enough for Him to love me. Maybe I was a disappointment to Him. That was a frightening thought to me because I didn’t know how to be any better than I was. I still don’t. I’m me, and that is all I can be.

As an adult I am learning that He does love me, even while inflicting trials. I still feel insecurities at times, but the Lord always blesses me with some assurances to give me hope.  I used to worry that God was disappointed in how long it took me to convert. Three years of constant investigation does seem to be excessive. Why doesn’t faith come more easily to me?  During my patriarchal blessing that fear of being a disappointment was in the back of my mind. There was a handful of people there who came to hear my blessing. I was a little afraid they were all going to hear what I disappointment I was. The patriarch answered my fear with wonderful assurances about God’s feelings towards me during my investigation.  It took such a weight off my shoulders.  I was so grateful the Spirit told him my secret fears. He did that several times throughout my blessing- telling the patriarch my thoughts. It was a precious and sacred experience. I wish I could say that took away all my insecurities, but it didn’t.

I was feeling wobbly about my worth this week also, combined with feeling very alone. Isn’t it funny how we only see where we come up short?  I was sure there was nothing about me currently that could make me worthy of His love, no matter how desperately I wanted it, or how much I wanted to please Him. However when I pulled out my Scriptures I was greeted with these glorious, comforting words:

“For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.” John 16:27

I wrote in my Scripture journal, “God love me!”  He loves me because I love and believe on His Son! That is very exciting and takes a lot of pressure off of me. He didn’t stop there though. Remember, at the time of my Scripture reading I was feeling frightened about God’s love for me, but I was also feeling alone. In that same chapter he addressed both issues.

“Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone:  and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.” John 16:32

What a blessed reminder that we are never truly alone. It was a tender mercy of God to remind me of that. Every once in a while I become a petulant child and think I’ve given enough and it is time for me to get some blessings instead of constant trials. There are occasions when I have had evil thoughts. I’m ashamed to admit that I have occasionally asked the Father if He did not think I have given enough yet. Isn’t a marriage, all my close (and not close) friendships, my dreams about child rearing, and my financial support enough of a sacrifice? Is it really necessary to keep suffering? Isn’t it time for some blessings? What an ungrateful child I am. I’m both blessed and thankful He always gives me time to fix my perspective, when He has every right to just strike me with a lightening bolt.

When I’m behaving as a rational human being I realize the trials are a blessing in themselves. Each difficulty helps me learn and grow in ways that would have been challenging to without them.  President Kimball was once quoted as saying, “No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted.” What an important thing to remember. Of course, without any disrespect to President Kimball, it might be better said, “No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience need be wasted.” It all depends on how we handle the trial. A person can get beaten and respond by leaning on the loving arms of their Heavenly Father, feeling His comfort and presence, using the physical pain to relate to the Savior’s sacrifice on the cross, or they can respond by shaking their fist at heaven and blaming the evil on God. One wastes the trial. The other uses it to grow.

I can say with certainty that each trial I have endured and responded to correctly has taught me something wonderful about God and has brought me closer to a beautiful, eternal, and correct relationship with Him. I would not trade those experiences for anything. Brother Webster, a survivor of the Martin Handcart Company put it best.  “The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay….” Not everyone who made that journey felt the same way. Some turned around. Others became embittered against the gospel. Without repentance, those were wasted trials.

Have you ever noticed in Alma 62:41 the two opposing responses of the Nephites? “Because of the exceedingly great length of the war between the Nephites and the Lamanites many had become hardened, because of the exceedingly great length of the war: and many were softened because of their afflictions, insomuch that they did humble themselves before God, even in the depth of humility.” Both groups faced the exact same afflictions, and yet they had totally different responses.

What was the key to their successful navigation through their afflictions? Humility. They humbled themselves under the mighty hand of their God. That requires trust. It requires knowing our God is allowing it, knowing He is going through it with us, and knowing He is doing it for our good. Humility uses the trial to get to know God better. To love Him more. Pride says we deserve better. I don’t want to waste my trials. I want to know my God.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Importance of Knowing God


I once sang a song at my old church called, “Would I Know you Now?” One of the verses that always caused my heart to wonder went something like this:

“Have the images I’ve painted so distorted who you are, that even if the world were looking, they could not see you- the real you? Have I changed Your true reflection to fulfill my own design? Making you all I want, not showing you for divine?”

That may sound like an odd song to sing. But I have always pondered about the religious leaders at the time of Christ. They were men who thought they knew God. When they persecuted Christ and His followers they believed they were serving Him. They called the disciples blasphemers. The same was true for Paul. When he was Saul, he ardently persecuted the Christians. He wanted them all dead. Not out of jealousy or pure evil, but out of service to God. The Savior gave a reason for this. “But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.” John 15:21

The only way we can keep from making a horrible error is by knowing Him. Really knowing Him. That is my biggest desire. I think the only way to do that is by knowing His word and listening to His Spirit. I know I’ve said this before, but I know I’m on the right path to knowing God now. I love this gospel. It is worth every moment I have spent crying…though truthfully I’m hoping things will start to get easier.

I was talking to a new woman at my ward today. I think I’m really going to like her. Her name is Amelia. She, like me, loves to write. She also loves the gospel. It felt wonderful to talk to her this morning and to briefly get to talk about how much we both love this gospel. Well, I know this is short, but I have four wonderful children to go pick up from their dad’s and I’m running late. So, how about we all spend some honest time evaluating where we are and where God intends us to be. Let’s get to know our wonderful God. I sure love Him.