Saturday, June 29, 2013

Open Windows

There's a scripture in the book of Malachi, in the Bible, that states:
Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. (Malachi 3:10, KJV)
Over and over again, I've seen this promise proved and fulfilled. Sometimes, the blessing is withheld for a time because there are lessons that I must learn or responsibilities that the Lord would have me fill. But, the promised blessings are always delivered, and they are always abundant.

Back in May, my car died.  (See this post and this one.) Having had a bit of experience with this particular problem, I expected the situation to be long term. However, I felt truly calm about things. As I prayed, I thanked my Father in Heaven that my car had lasted through my classes and until my employment ended. Then, I filed the problem away and determined to move forward cheerfully. I couldn't see the end from the beginning, and I was unsure how I'd manage to make it to my student teaching in the fall, but I tried to trust that doors would open (as they have so very many times before) and I'd be able to meet my obligations.

Of course, I daydreamed about what I'd look for in a vehicle when I was able to. I'd decided that I wanted an older model Honda, preferably a civic and a stick shift. It was a bit of a pipe dream, but it made me happy. So, I was a bit surprised when that exact car landed in my lap. A friend had purchased a new vehicle and had just what I was looking for. The price she was asking fit my budget perfectly. My new car has been an unexpected blessing that makes my heart sing each time I see or drive it. And, it has air-conditioning ...

This isn't the only miraculous outpouring of heaven's blessings that I've seen in my life. In very recent times, I've seen miracles that have made it possible for me to meet my rent and provide for my children even though my employment has ended for the time being. As I've lost weight, miracles have opened doors for me to have clothing that fits. And, not least, I've seen miracles in the way God has prepared me to live these moments -- with skills, abilities, and opportunities that provide a good and bounteous life.

I know that my Father in Heaven is aware of me. I know that He will provide in moments when what I can do is not enough. I've seen heaven's windows open -- over and over and over. Miracles exist today. God's hand is not stayed ... There are truly blessings greater than there is room to receive them.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Learning a Bit from Zacchaeus ...

Last night was Family Home Evening (FHE.) For the lesson, I shared the story of Zacchaeus with the kids. (A friend and I had been talking about it a couple of days before and something said that my daughters needed to hear it too.) It's found in the book of Luke, chapter 19, verses 1-10 in the Bible, if you'd like to check it out. It's always been one of my favorites.

We talked about what the story meant and how Zacchaeus must have felt -- when he was up the tree, when the people called him names in front of the Savior, and what it might have meant to him when Christ reassured Zacchaeus that one of the reasons He came as Savior was to seek out and save people who were lost. In His own life, the Lord was no stranger to sorrow, rejection, or loneliness. (See John 6: 66-67) He also had people who recognized His need and answered with words of comforting support. (See John 6: 68-69) The Lord knew how Zacchaeus felt, and sought to ease a burden.

After our lesson, I asked the girls to do a quick draw or quick write. Each of us had a paper and something to write with. This is what we came up with:

L's pic:

L chose to combine writing and drawing.

M's pic:

M did too ...
I found it interesting that both girls chose to focus on the same picture. In fact, both did it without looking at the picture in our hallway or talking with one another. (The picture it's based off of is one I tore out of the children's magazine, The Friend, and hung on the back of the bookcase.)

I've never been sure they even notice the pictures and sayings that I have hung around our apartment. Apparently, this picture has managed to make an impact.

Another interesting point is that both girls made the child in the picture a little girl. (The original picture is of a boy.) Somehow, their minds have turned the picture to apply to their own lives.

My own quick write/draw:

I sort of went more graphic organizer style than the littles, but that's because my brain tends to work in thought bubbles.

Thought bubbles 1 & 2:

Thought bubble 3:

Thought bubble 4:

Thought bubble 5:

When I began FHE last night, I have to admit I thought it was doomed to be an epic fail. (M began FHE with her nose in the corner. It had sort of been that kind of evening.) Nothing could have been more surprising than to realize that, not only had she listened to the story, but she'd been thinking of how it fit her own life. What a blessing it was that the lesson turned out to be one that somehow touched both of my children so much!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Little Miracles

It's one of those nights ... you know, the kind where your heart feels full nearly to bursting? The kind where, just for a moment -- or twelve, the doors open and you see the hand of God shaping your life, guiding your path, and making up the entire difference when your own efforts fall short ... It's a night when miracles happen and all seems right with the world.

Over the past three and a half years, I've had more than my share of these nights. In spite of this, sometimes, when challenges arise and life's mountains seem insurmountable, it's easy to think that perhaps I've exhausted God's supply of miracles for me and my children. Silly, isn't it? To think that a loving Heavenly Father would give us a set number of bailouts for one lifetime, casting us aside to bear the brunt of whatever happens after our supply has been used up ...

And yet, so often, when the answer is "Wait," my mind hears the answer as "No!"

I'm learning though to trust that little voice that says wait. I'm learning that, if I will choose to focus on that quiet bit of peace, the screaming voices of fear and doubt will recede. I'm learning that, if I will walk forward in faith when all seems hopeless, the path will open -- usually one step at a time. Often, it's only after I've walked that path for a bit that the miracles unfold, and I can truly see just how mindful my Heavenly Father has been of me and my needs. But, those miracles do come ...

Perhaps it's simply a matter of viewpoint. Maybe that peace is to be found in learning to see the small things for the great blessings that they are. It might be that such peace is found in recognizing that these small things are often the hinging points for a great future. Whatever it is, I'm more thankful than words can express for the small things and the kind people who are the hinges on the gates that I must pass. These are the moments of miracles, the times when I've done all I can and it's not enough. These are the moments when the windows of Heaven open and I am flooded with blessings so great that there is hardly room in my heart for the depth of gratitude I feel.

Job declared:
Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the Lord hath wrought this? In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind. (Holy Bible, KJV, Job 12:9-10)
In my life, I've been blessed to see the things that the hand of the Lord has done. I know that, although I may sometimes feel like I've been lost in the shuffle, the Lord is aware of me and mine. I know that He is keenly aware of what miracles we need in order to grow. And, I know that He is more than capable of delivering them. My life would not be so rich and wonderful as it is now without His blessings.

I know that He loves me. And, maybe ... just maybe, I can be the hands He uses to work miracles for others in their own times of need.

Monday, June 3, 2013

My Faith -- It's a Learning Process

As a child, faith was something I saw as very black and white. It was a concrete concept with concrete boundaries. One either had faith or they didn't.

As an adult, I've come to see that faith is not nearly as concrete as I once thought. It's a growing thing with potential for endless increase or devastating atrophy. Faith has the capability to stretch as far as one's vision, but it can be still more than that. We have the ability to stretch our faith, but, if we let it, our faith has the ability to stretch us.

I've mentioned before that one of my favorite scriptures is found in Mark 9:17-24. As a parent, I can relate to the desperation this father felt as he watched his child suffer. As a child of a loving Heavenly Father, I can also relate to the impassioned plea of this father as he realized the faith he had was not enough to cover the miracle he was hoping for. What impresses me most, though, is that this father -- in his desperation -- recognized an aspect of the Atonement that is sometimes easy to forget. He recognized that, though he couldn't have the faith he thought was necessary, the Savior could make up the difference.

Like the father in this story, I've had times in my own life when I've cried, "Help thou mine unbelief!" This spring, I heard something that made me see this a little differently. In his talk, "Lord, I Believe," Elder Jeffrey R. Holland talked about faith. Speaking of this father, Elder Holland said:
His initial declaration is affirmative and without hesitation: "Lord, I believe." I would say to all who wish for more faith, remember this man! In moments of fear or doubt or troubling times, hold the ground you have already won, even if that ground is limited ... hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes
As I've thought about this talk (found here, by the way) I've found myself trying to lead my fears with my faith. When concerns have arisen that have been bigger than the faith I thought I had, I've tried to approach my Heavenly Father in prayer. I've shared with Him first the faith I do have. I'm learning to share it in detail, to tell Him exactly what I feel strong enough to believe in. Only after I've done this have I explained to Him about what feels like it is more than I have faith to hang on to. I've learned to ask for help in that area, a help for my own unbelief or skepticism or concern. Finally, I let Him know that, though I don't feel capable of the faith needed for those areas, I trust Him and His ability to be bigger than my fears.

I've learned, though, that faith is a verb. After I've thought about it and prayed about it and talked about it, well ... that's when I have to show Heavenly Father I mean it. That's when I have to stand up and act in faith. That's when I have to walk toward God's plan for me ... even when it means walking through the valley of my fears. Faith is going and doing and being and trusting that the Lord can, and will, make up the difference. It's trusting the answers and guidance that comes, even when it's difficult to see the path from Point A to Point B and how it connects.

I'm learning that patience is an act of faith. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf has said,
I learned that patience was far more than simply waiting for something to happen--- patience required actively working toward worthwhile goals and not getting discouraged when results didn't appear instantly or without effort.
There is an important concept here: patience is not passive resignation, nor is it failing to act because of our fears. Patience means active waiting and enduring. It means staying with something and doing all that we can --- working, hoping, and exercising faith: bearing hardship with fortitude, even when the desires of our hearts are delayed." (Ensign, May 2010, 57)
I have this quote in my scriptures by a couple of verses in Hebrews. To me, when they're combined, these verses and this quote exemplify what faith has come to mean.
Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)
Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. (KJV, Hebrews 10: 23, 35-36)
Sometimes, it seems like a big part of faith is choosing to be confident in God's guidance, in His plan, and in His blessings even when it seems that they are slow in coming. When my faith feels lacking, I find peace in remembering that, for the father who affirmed his own faith and then cried out to the Savior for help with his shortcomings, the miracle still came. The Savior made up the difference and built a bridge between this man's faith and the blessing this father so deeply desired. The Savior did it for Him, and, over and over, He's done it for me ...

My faith is not perfect. It's a work in progress. But, I've seen God's hand as I've learned to trust, not just in Him, but in His ability to stretch my faith far beyond what I ever thought possible. I've seen miracles in the face of challenges and blessings that seemed insurmountable and unattainable. I know He's there and that He cares for me and my little ones. I know that, as I let faith lead instead of fear, beautiful things will unfold.