Sunday, July 24, 2011

Getting to Teach

Wow! I’ve got so much that has happened this week I don’t even know where to start. So, I’m just going to list out a few things.

Item One:

First, I do NOT have liver cancer. It was such a complete relief to eliminate the worst case scenario first. We don’t know what is wrong with me, but we’ll find out. I so grateful that I do not have to go through cancer treatments again. Though I had a blessing that promised I would survive, I was worried about going through that as a single mom. I still remember how hard it was when I was married and had cancer. At that time I only had one child. Now I’d be alone, no help, and 4 children. Thankfully that wasn’t my lot. My doctor is setting up an appointment with a specialist, so we’re looking at other possibilities. I’m not worried in the least. I feel really confident about things.

Item Two:

We start our school year tomorrow. I’m so excited. You would think someone whose schedule is so challenging would be dreading the start of our school year, but on the contrary I’m thrilled. I get so much joy out of teaching my children. I’m looking forward to this year’s subjects as well. I’ve decided for the children to do creative writing three days a week and essay writing the other two. By the end of the year my two oldest children will have written a short adventure novel. Not only that, but Dillon starts rhetoric and Rachel starts logic. It opens up a new world for them. Plus, Dillon gets to take Physics and Calculus. We’re finally getting to some challenging work. I’ve been looking forward to this since Dillon was in Kindergarten.

Item Three:

I’ve begun having some gospel discussions with my youngest. Although, he overhears the discussions with the other children, for the most part they are completely over his head. Now he’s old enough to begin teaching. How it began is actually kind of funny. I was telling Dillon about the horrific terrorism that took place in Oslo this weekend. When I told him about the youth camp I didn’t realize Neil had been listening. He walked up to me and asked how many lives they had left. At first I was confused, but then I realized the only exposure he has had to “death” is playing games on the wii. First, I had to explain to him that in real life you only get one life on earth, but that we get to live with Heavenly father forever after we die. He didn’t understand why we only get one life, but asked really good questions. It was fun trying to come up with ways to put the answers on his level.

Item Four:

Technically this is part of three. I’ve been trying to come up with ways to help my children understand why we live out our covenants if the Savior has already paid for our atonement. They weren’t violating their covenants in any way, nor do they have a desire to. I just wanted to make sure they understood the vast importance of our earthly existence. Someone emailed me a BYU devotional that covered the topic perfectly. It is called His Grace is Sufficient by Brad Wilcox. You can download it for free on the link I’ve provided if you’re interested. I really recommend reading it. Then this morning in Relief Society my friend Deanna was teaching. She read a quote that I want to teach my children. “We live to die and die to live,” I can’t wait to discuss it with them. First we’re going to watch a video of a general conference talk by President Packer that I think is perfect for pioneer day. It is called The Test.

Well there are so many more things to write about, but they will have to wait until I have more time. Enjoy your pioneer day!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Holiness and Happiness

I’ve said this many times, but I am re-learning God. It’s like moving to a different country with vastly different cultural norms and understandings. How God views me is one of those areas that I am re-learning. There was a saying at the church of my former faith, “God cares more about your holiness than your happiness.” That does not mean they believe God to be an evil dictator, on the contrary they see the fact that we are sinners and the unmerited blessing of God choosing ANY of us for salvation as evidence of His great mercy. I agree that He is a merciful God, but I always had a hard time thinking that He cared about my happiness as a result of some of the teachings. Any failure left me feeling as if I deserved the worst of punishment, after all my holiness is more important than my happiness. Yet no matter how hard I tried, I would still have occasions of failure.

One of the things I found confusing as a new member was the fact that God could be interested in my life outside of obedience to Him. After all the Scriptures speak often of God being the one who deserves all the glory. Why should I have a right to think I deserved anything. Then I was taught a scripture that began a journey for me I am still continuing. Now when I tell you this Scripture, you’ll think me a simpleton. Most of you dear Latter-Day Saints have known this Scripture since childhood and its teaching is as natural to you as breathing. But to me….it was the most foreign concept I had ever come across. Moses 1:39 “For behold, this is my work and my glory — to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” I remember thinking could that really be God’s glory? No. We’re supposed to glorify Him. Heaven is all about Him. I had a theocentric view of eternity. It astounded me the thought that my immortality could be God’s glory.  Why would God care about me? My occupation should be glorifying Him, not His glory about helping me.

Yet, as I thought about it more…and yes it took a while….it began to make sense. I’m a mother. I LOVE being a mother. My children mean more to me than life itself. How do I spend my days? I spend all my moments  raising and providing for them. All my energy goes to helping them learn and grow and become the future leaders of our world. My work and glory is often bringing to pass their future. Why wouldn’t God’s be bringing to pass ours? After all, He is my Parent. That opened up an entirely new world to me and it made trusting Him so much easier. Let me try to explain it another way. We once had a dear woman, Sharon Jones, speak in Relief Society who said that in her pre-existence she must have asked Heavenly Father to take very good care of her on the earth because she had an earthly father who was one of the godliest men she knew, and a husband who rivaled him in godliness and treats her like a princess. She spoke about how well loved and cared for she has been her entire life. I never got to meet her father, but everything I’ve heard about him confirms her words. Her husband is my home teacher and I can testify of his godly character and compassion. He is very kind to my family. I’ve also seen the way he treats her, and yes she gets to be a princess. I love watching them.

At the time, her comment made me feel like a complete schlep. My first thought was…Why didn’t I think of that? Was I like the pre-existent idiot who never thought to ask to be cared for? Maybe I was like the stubborn child who, even though the task is way above their abilities, keeps yelling “I can do it myself”. After that though I began to wonder if their might have been something wrong with me. Maybe I didn’t deserve to be cared for the way she did. Could it be that I had done something wrong in the pre-existence? I asked someone, who then often served as my counselor, about that. He said that if he were to speculate it would more likely be that I told Heavenly Father I wanted the advanced course on this earth. That does sound a little like me. If I were given a choice between two chemistry classes with descriptions as follows: Chem A: Here you will learn chemistry or Chem B: Here you will REALLY learn chemistry. It’s four times the amount of work, but at the end of the course you’ll be an expert. I would be the enthusiastic puppy to sign up for the Chem B class. Yes…I’m that stupid.

However, while there could be some truth in all of those explanations, I think it is probably closer to Moses 1:39. God is about bringing to pass our immortality and eternal life. He knows us. He knows what will best instruct us. Therefore He intentionally brings things into our lives that will help us learn the best. He gives each of us special struggles and weaknesses that teach us to depend on Him AND be independent simultaneously. Now I can know that each thing sifted through His hand is truly for my good. Maybe I wouldn’t learn as well if my life were like Sharon’s (though between you and me I’m willing to give it a whirl). Heavenly Father knows Sharon too. He knows how she learns best. Those are the things that will bring about her immortality and eternal life.

I now have a better understanding that God can and does love me, but not only that, He is interested in more than my submission. He wants me to be happy. He wants me to have a good future. Sometimes, when I saw my weaknesses and failures, I worried that maybe He loves me because He is my Father, but that I’m a real disappointment to Him. Though, when I was really worried about that a few weeks ago, He was merciful enough to give me words of encouragement through a blessing. While my home teacher, President Jones, was uttering the words that said my Heavenly Father wanted me to know that He was very proud of me, he could not have known the impact and gratefulness I felt for them. A flood of relief came throughout my soul. You see, even though I don’t always know and understand God correctly yet, I still love Him with all my heart. I want to please Him.

But the constant worrying about each and every failure made it hard for me to see that God could be the least bit interested in my happiness when I lacked so much holiness. Each time things were difficult in my life (and they often are), I was sure it was because I deserved it. How could God bless a person who has as many unkind thoughts as I do? Or who sometimes gets jealous of other women who are loved and cared for? Now I realize the difficulties aren’t because I lack holiness, they’re to help me develop it. It has completely changed the way I forge through trials. Though the end result of both mindsets was to be more holy, I realize now that the trial is the source of holiness, not the cattle prod to keep me straight. I can look at the trial and think eternally. What in this trial can I learn that will make me more like my Savior? What is in this that is designed to bring me closer to immortality and eternal life.

I don’t know if I’m making any sense. I feel like this is one big ramble where I ‘m trying to order my new thoughts correctly, but cannot. I guess I’m trying to say Heavenly Father is interested in both our holiness AND our happiness. He is busying Himself and bringing Himself glory by bringing us to eternity. If we remember that, we can look at every trial as another stair step to the celestial kingdom brought to us directly by our Father who truly loves us and knows best how we learn.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Character of God



Nothing affects the way we live more than the way we view God. Correct knowledge of the character of God is a prerequisite for correct faith. When I became a Latter-Day Saint I had to re-learn God. There were some substantial differences in the way I previously understood Him, to the way I was being taught in my new faith. It has been a marvelous journey. Getting to know Him correctly has brought me not just knowledge, but faith, joy, and peace. As I’ve probably mentioned many times before, I am constantly trying to develop greater faith. The journey I’m on now is stretching that. I was so grateful to my Heavenly Father for stirring the heart of my home teacher to give me a blessing BEFORE I needed it. It was a great blessing when I had it, and it felt like one of the most powerful I had ever received, but I didn’t realize how important it would be until a week later, when my latest trial began to make itself known.

I have had to place my faith in the words of that blessing many, many times. I continue to do so. At one point today, I worried about how I would be able to handle next year’s school schedule with my current health issues. The Spirit immediately said, “Remember your blessing. You were told you’d be able to care for your children.” I rested from worry. Then the Lord blessed me again. I picked up my Scriptures not too long after that today and it opened to Enos, a book I’ve begun studying in depth. The first thing my eyes laid on  was verse 6.

“And I, Enos, knew that God could not lie…"

If God says something, He will bring it to pass. I’m thankful for His constant, sweet reminders and bits of encouragement He’s been thoughtful enough to give me. I grateful He sent two godly men with stewardship over me, who were sensitive enough to the Spirit to bring me the message I needed to see my doctor. I’m thankful I have a God I can trust. One I know is after my best interest. One is looking to establish my immortality and eternal life. One whose character I can trust. I love my God.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Feasting Upon His Love


There have been many opportunities for me to have faith the last couple of weeks. My health had been declining. During a visit from my home teacher, he gave me a wonderful blessing. Some of the blessing was private, but I will share that he said the doctor would find out what was wrong with me and I will be healed. He also said I will be able to care for my children. I was thrilled. I felt happy and peaceful. I honestly just expected the doctor would say my thyroid medications needed adjustment and I’d move on with my life. Instead I received a call from my doctor saying some of my liver tests came back abnormal and he wanted me to come in that day. I couldn’t. My van was broken down, so I had to set an appointment for this Wednesday, which was the soonest he will be available due to travel.

I began to panic. I’ve had cancer before. There was a part of me that was afraid that would be my latest challenge again. The Lord reminded me of my blessing, so I called my dear home teacher. I told him what was happening and asked if his blessing meant that if it was cancer I would survive. He said he felt sure I would survive and said that even as he spoke the Spirit was testifying to him of its truth. You can imagine my complete relief and gratitude for the gift of both the Holy Spirit and revelation. I knew it was now an opportunity for me to have faith. Faith that I’ve been praying for all these long months. Faith I’ve been desperate to improve. Well, now is my chance.

Then my problems were compounded with some trials my children are facing and will face for quite a while. Those trials were addressed by my patriarchal blessing. So, again, it was a matter of faith and obedience. However, our kind God did not just leave me there. He has reminded me all weekend of the words uttered in my blessings through talks and scripture that I had come across. I have felt surrounded by His presence and His love. He also showed me passages that said, God cannot lie. What a great reminder! I can trust God to keep His word; To only utter truth. The encouragement continues regularly. Even this morning I read a wonderful passage in Jacob 3. The notes in my scripture journal look like this:

Verse 1

To the pure in heart:

  • Look unto God with firmness of heart.
  • Pray unto Him with exceeding faith.

the result--  He will:

  • console you in your afflictions
  • plead your cause
  • send down justice upon those who seek your destruction

Verse 2

Lift up your heads. Receive the pleasing word of God. Feast upon His love.

I don’t know how to explain it, but that is what I’ve gotten to do all weekend. I’ve been feasting upon His love. I am grateful for all His tender mercies toward me. My prayer is that I will live with a faith that pleases and glorifies  Him.