Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Blessed beyond measure

Yes, there are times I find life challenging. In fact, most days I am completely overwhelmed. Even today. But, as I was scurrying about it occurred to me how completely blessed I am.

First, I have GREAT kids. No, they’re not perfect and there are things I’m concerned about, but there are things about myself that need improving too. Second, Heavenly Father provided a way for me to work from home and continue raising my children. I have always been committed to being my children’s mother and being there for them. My Father in Heaven has assisted me in doing that even as a single woman.

We are not rich. In fact, we live considerably below the poverty level. But, we are still a thriving family. As an added bonus He put people in our lives that willingly, under no compulsion, and in great sacrifice to themselves assist us. The Nance’s have assisted in my children’s music education since the day my parents said they wouldn’t. You might think it is silly that I think music is so important, but I believe we were created to create beautiful music to our Heavenly Father. It is part mathematics (like He used in creation) and part soul (such as He put in us). 

You’d think that is plenty of service in itself, but when I lost my ride for Dillon (my teenager) to get to early morning seminary and couldn’t find a replacement they volunteered to come get him. Let me put this in perspective for you Utah natives who’ve never experienced early morning seminary.  The students have to be there at 6 am. Yep. AM. Do the Nance’s have a child in seminary and are headed there anyway? Nope. Their children are all in college. They volunteered so I would get a little more sleep with my late night work schedule and so I don’t have to get all four little ones out of bed at 5 every morning.

On top of that, they are my friends. I trust them as much as I am capable of trusting anyone. They listen to me, are willing to have dinner with us at our home (my pathetic attempt at repaying their kindness) as much as possible, and are in general just the kind of people you like being around.

Then I have the Kings in Utah. They lift me up in prayer daily and often send me email that are designed to lift and encourage me. Bill King has hired me to pen the lessons he has learned fly fishing. He’s kept a wonderful journal and sends me entries to put in a book format. I feel honored he’s entrusted the task to me. I recently started outlining some of it. As I didn’t even know what fly fishing was, I suspect they did this to find a way to help us financially while not letting me feel like I was receiving charity. That is double kindness. On top of that they came and spent some time with us some months back. They traveled across the country simply to find a way they could tangibly make my life easier. They walked in, looked around, and said your laundry room needs some shelving. Then Susan King proceeded to do all my laundry (what a gargantuan task that was), while Bill took off to Home Depot and purchased and built and entire shelf and drawer system. It has made my life much easier and my laundry room stays organized. Every day that I go in there to do laundry, I think of them and what a blessing they are in my life.

Sometimes God sends me tender mercies. I’ve always been ashamed of my home. All my furniture is shabby and it is so small that it is nearly impossible to buy pretty things for it. Not just because I can’t afford them, but because  there is no place to put them. Yet, this week God gave me a gorgeous loveseat, that is in pristine condition, free of charge thanks to LeeAnn Stehle. I’ve never had anything so pretty. As soon as I am able to afford a slip cover to match it for my big couch I will have a pretty living room for the first time ever. Kind of exciting!

Then there are myriads of little blessings in my life. Marian Bailey is always willing to come, if she can, when I have a babysitting emergency. Vicki Lorimer has been a steady, faithful friend since they day I’ve met her, and has blessed our lives in countless ways. Alison Jones always encourages me with one of my callings. Susan Adney looks for ways to bless my family.

When I look at all the blessings I’ve received, there is very little room to grow impatient with the stress and burdens of my life. I truly am blessed beyond measure.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Lord’s Handmaiden

by Annmarie Worthington



Sometimes it is easy to idolize certain people from Scripture. It is tempting to forget they were human just like the rest of us. They had fears and faults. Many of them learned to overcome them, and that is what makes them almost super-human to us. One of my favorite ladies from Scripture of all time is Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Have you ever taken the time to think about things from Mary’s perspective? Research shows she was probably quite young when the angel first appeared to her. She may even have been as young as 14. What do you think girls from that time period (and even a few still from this time period) dream about? Getting married. She was already espoused to Joseph.  I’m sure she spent much of her time daydreaming about her future with Joseph. She dreamt of romantic evenings and all the wonderful children she’d be blessed with. Then out of nowhere comes an angel that changed everything.

His pronouncement almost certainly meant loss of her marriage to Joseph. Depending on how severe his reaction was, it could even mean being stoned to death. Did she flinch from her calling? Not at all! At first she was confused. How could this be possible? She’d never known a man. When the angel told her, she accepted his answer even though there was much of it she couldn’t understand. She simply replied,

“….Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” ~Luke 1:38

End of questioning. Compare that sweet young girl’s response with the high priest that fathered John the Baptist. He had trouble accepting the angel’s pronouncement. So much so that the angel was angry and caused him to be mute for the duration of Elizabeth’s pregnancy.

Not only that, but Mary didn’t even grumble about the possibility of losing her marriage. She would have lost it too, if the angel didn’t intervene and explain things to Joseph. He had already decided to “put her away”.  The serene submission of this woman is something to be treasured and emulated.

We often skip to the next “big” trial of Mary: her labor and delivery. But think about how trying those nine months must have been. Whispers from neighbors and friends. The uncomfortableness and newness of pregnancy that she had to face alone, for at least part of it. There must have been a lot of both emotional pain and physical hardships. All was endured without complaint.

Then it was time for delivery. She may have thought that Heavenly Father would at least want His son delivered in Kingly array. Whatever she expected, I doubt is was a stable after traveling for days from Nazareth to Bethlehem on a donkey. After the birth of her child, she becomes surrounded by shepherds who told her of the angels’ pronouncement to them.  Luke says, “But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” I’m sure she wasn’t sure what to think. But, she was a thoughtful young girl. Her Father in heaven gave her many things to ponder.

When it was time for her to make the offering for her first born son, she heard words that probably sent fear into her heart. Simeon the prophet spoke to her,

“….Behold this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,)….” Luke 2:34-35

Again, no word of complaint came from Mary’s lips. There must have been times she thought the Lord was asking too much of her. Just imagine the pain she went through watching her first born son suffer on the cross. A suffering we have no comparison to in our modern society. Crucifixion is such an intensely brutal way to die. Picture your child, or if you don’t have children, a child you care deeply for, going through that. A sword piercing her soul is probably an understatement.

Yet through all that, did Mary get bitter at God? No. She was worshipping with the apostles even before His resurrection. What a woman.

You might be thinking “So what? Mary was great. What does that do for me?”  All I can tell you is what it does for me. Mary is an incredible example of godliness. I’m humbled by her life. Whenever I am tempted to inwardly grumble about my circumstances I think of Mary and her response. All I am left with is the profound feeling that I too am to say to Heavenly Father, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”  I can tell you the first time this verse really hit home to me.

It took me five years to get pregnant with my first child. I can’t adequately explain how desperately I wanted a child, so when I finally got pregnant it was the thrill of my life.  Beginning in my third trimester I began having physical problems. However I was pretty sure the problems would go away after I delivered, assuming they were pregnancy related. Unfortunately, they didn’t. My problems only got worse. I felt awful. I just couldn’t shake the tiredness and other symptoms I was having. I read every verse on slothfulness I could find trying to “jar” myself into feeling more energetic. It didn’t help.

Then, I found a lump in my neck, which led to several procedures. When my firstborn son was just 6 months old I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. I was in shock. To make things worse I misunderstood the doctor. When he was explaining life expectancy I thought he said the MOST I would live is 10 years. I looked over at my precious son that I had been praying to have for so long. Was I really doomed not to raise him? My heart was broken.

My husband was out of town, so I drove home alone with my new baby, devastated. After I got him to sleep I sat on my bed and opened my Scriptures. The verse it opened up to was Mary’s response in Luke 1:38. I remember distinctly praying, “God, I don’t feel this way, but I know it is how I should feel. I will say the words. Will you help me mean them?”

There will always be times that we are asked to endure things we don’t want to. We have to remember who we are. We are the handmaids (or bondservants) of the Lord. Let’s show our love to Him by our humble submission.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Know that I am God

“Wherefore, fear not even unto death; for in this world your joy is not full, but in me your joy is full.” D&C 101:36
”Therefore let your hearts be comforted concerning Zion; for all flesh is in my hands; be still and know that I am God.” D&C 101:16

I got to teach a lesson on the second coming today. I can’t tell you how much I long for His return. Though, when I was a teenager I wanted him to wait until I got married and had children. I didn’t want to miss out on those experiences. My daughter expressed that same concern when I shared how much I want eternity to start. I got to tell her information I didn’t get in my teen years…the millennium. You see, even if the Savior does return before she has a chance to marry, she’ll get that opportunity in the millennium. Plus, the Savior will be running things, so it will be even better. The look of relief on her face warmed my heart. Now we can long for His return together.

Now if you are one of those people who has a very happy and fulfilling life, that is as close to stress free as one can get on this terrestrial world, so you don’t necessarily long for the Savior’s return,  let me make you happy too. Don’t worry… your life will be even better. Look at the first verse I typed. “….for in this world your joy is not full….” See? You’re not even up to full yet. It will get even better for you.

The rest of us, however, have to struggle through this life. And let me tell you it is a constant, difficult struggle for me. Most days I am in physical pain. I’m not sure why, but it is there. So, I have to muster the gumption to get through that and just function. Then add the unbelievable stress of not knowing if I’ll earn enough this pay period to cover the bills, of trying to further my education on my own (without the benefit of an instructor) in order to increase the possibility of a better income, of raising four children with stresses of their own alone, an ex-husband who seems to look for ways to make my life more painful, a home that is in constant need of upkeep, a ridiculous amount of loneliness, and the normal struggles and trials of life, all while balancing several jobs.  Most days I feel overwhelmed. Some I am in downright despair.

There are bright spots though. I love those tender mercies the Lord gives me. I love teaching my children. It is such a joy and blessing to teach them about the world, to see lightbulbs go off as something clicks, to discuss the universe. I love learning my Scriptures. I knew my Bible pretty well before I converted to Mormonism. Now there are a whole bunch of new scriptures to learn. The glory of it is how it all fits together. The more I learn my scriptures, the more I learn my God. Which is my favorite bright spot. I love having someone I can trust. God never lies to me. He never uses me. Even when He gives me hard things to do, it is to help me grow. That is probably why verse 16 means so much to me.

I am in God’s hands. Not only that, so are the people who are using me, or trying to harm me. I’d certainly rather be in my place then theirs! The lesson I’m trying to master is to “be still and know that He is God.” If I had that down, life wouldn’t be nearly so stressful.  My goal this week is to rest in Him throughout all my responsibilities and let my heart be comforted. I’ve been praying for greater faith for quite some time. Now is the time to test my mettle and see how much I’ve grown.

By the way…..I learned something interesting. Last year I prayed for something desperately, but God said No. I was very disappointed. Then I was watching a BYU devotional and the speaker said to remember to thank heavenly Father for unanswered prayers too.  I begrudgingly obeyed…which wasn’t easy. I thanked Him for saying no and told Him I trusted He had a very good reason. Recently I found out the reason He said “no”. Let me just say I can enthusiastically thank my Heavenly Father for not saying yes now. It truly was a blessing to me! Hopefully I will always remember that lesson and never resent a no again! I’m very glad that He is God and I am not.