Sunday, July 28, 2013

"I Am Ready Now."

I went to a devotional tonight. The speaker was a man named T.C. Christensen. He's a filmmaker who has produced the shows: 17 Miracles and Ephraim's Rescue, among others. His presentation was fantastic, funny and spiritually uplifting.

Brother Christensen said over and over again that, though Ephraim Hanks was not a perfect man, Brother Hanks was a man who had been prepared through life and tried to do what the Lord asked of him and that made all the difference. T.C. Christensen also said repeatedly (though not redundantly) that when we are prepared and if we're willing to try, the Lord will use each one of us to do great things.

As Brother Christensen spoke about some pioneers, and about Ephraim Hanks in particular, I found myself drawing some parallels between those stories and my own life. I wondered how the choices I make each day will impact generations to come. I wondered if I use my time as effectively as I am capable of. I thought about those who have gone before me and the legacies that they've built. Brother Christensen's presentation made me wonder how my own everyday, mundane moments will impact countless others -- or if they will.

Hanks experienced many things in his own life which prepared him for the time that he would be sent to the rescue. His willingness and readiness to answer the call to help the handcart pioneers has impacted generation after generation like the ripples in a pond. I began thinking about the times in my life when I've seen miracles, the times when I've seen God's hand opening doors, guiding me through challenging lessons, and pointing out opportunities for growth. I thought about the times that the Lord has allowed me to walk through difficulties and unexpected situations so that I could develop talents and abilities I didn't know I possessed, even in embryonic form.

These thoughts led to more questions. Have those times been in preparation for my own opportunities to answer the Lord's call to His service? How will that preparation impact my future? I found myself wondering if my own stories are of any significance and how they will possibly mean something to those who may hear them someday in years to come. I'm a pretty average sort of person, and it's hard to picture the things I say or do or write leaving a mark that will ripple through generations.

Brother Hanks made choices that became the hinging points that allowed families to survive and grow. Those hinging points opened the doors for the people he actually helped, but even now, several generations later, those families are still feeling the impact of his willingness to answer when the Lord called for Hanks to ride to the rescue. I don't know that I see my own life as one that will have such dramatic results. Then again, Ephraim Hanks likely didn't see his own life as one that would carry the weight of generations to come.

I questioned, if and when the time came that the Lord asked for my help, would I be willing and able to step forward and say, "I am ready now" as Brother Hanks did? Would I recognize the urgency of the Lord's request?

I'm not sure that I have an answer to these questions. I'm not sure that an answer exists. At least not in the now ... However, it has made me think a bit more deeply about some of the things I've always taken for granted. I've thought about my time, and I think there are ways that I could use it more wisely. I don't think I'm likely to be called to an urgent rescue mission as Ephraim Hanks was, but I've seen times when the Lord has opened doors for me to serve His children. Perhaps, my experiences have been preparing me to better meet those needs. Maybe, in the future, I'll better recognize the urgency of those requests, and that will be enough.

I don't know what the future holds for me ... or my children ... or those who will follow. I don't know what kind of ripples will fall forward from the choices that I make. Like Brother Hanks, I'm not a perfect person. I fall short of my own aims often enough and then some, but like Brother Hanks, I hope that I will be prepared, that I will try, and that -- with feet already set in motion -- I will answer clearly and with confidence, "I am ready now."

Monday, July 22, 2013

Finding My Brave

I've always loved camping. But, it's been many, many years since I've had the opportunity to go. We took my kids when they were babies to my parents' ward camp out. My oldest daughter is 11 1/2 years old now. It's been a while.

In recent years, I could probably have gone camping, but I'd never, ever planned a camping trip. I was also a bit overwhelmed at the idea of taking my kids camping entirely by myself. (Alright. Let's be honest. I was absolutely terrified!)

Earlier this summer, I had the chance to visit a friend's girls camp for a morning. I realized that the time had come to face my fears. I came home and booked a camp site that same day. Nearly a month later, the big days arrived. I was only slightly panicked ... or a lot. But, I was determined. I began telling myself that it was only a couple of days, and I couldn't possibly kill my kids in a couple days away from civilization. It would be fun, and then it would be done became my mantra.

The girls weren't excited or anything. M brought her camera so that she could document our first ever family vacation. (I was just excited that I remembered how to set up the tent. It only took about ten minutes to get it put together.)

Our campsite was beautiful! It was close to the bathrooms and the tap so that we could get drinkable water. However, we were far enough away and surrounded by enough vegetation that if felt like we were in our own little world.

I actually remembered how to start a fire, and we ate really well. (Check out these posts on my other blog for some pics of our food. :) Channeling my Inner Pioneer (Chef) and Roasted Laffy Taffy (and More.)

We took an impromptu trip to the local reservoir. The girls swam. I stood at the edge of the water or sat on the burning sand so that I could be close by if I needed to go in and drag them out.

Built some great memories ...


I learned that I can do things I never thought I was capable of. I can give my kids opportunities like camping even when I have to do it on my own. I don't have to be afraid or worried or feel inadequate. Life is different than I expected it to be at this point, but I can find my brave, and I can make it beautiful!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

It Is What It Is

It is what it is. It's a saying that I use pretty regularly. It's kind of a catch-all for any situation. It works for good and bad, and reminds me to let things roll off my back and cheerfully work with whatever hand I've been dealt. Some time back, I saw a pin on Pinterest that said, "It is what it is, but it will be what you make of it." It's funny how that one thing changed my perspective on things. Now, when I find myself saying it is what it is, my mind often echoes the rest. We can't always control the cards, but we can build great things from what we're given.

A friend and I were talking recently, and he said something that added another layer to my perception of this idea. He said that we use this saying a lot, and that we do it almost flippantly. He said, though, that it is what it is, but what it is ... is usually pretty amazing. This morning, as I was driving out to pick up my kids from their dad's house, I found myself thinking about that. And, well ... I think my friend is right. (Don't tell him I said this, but ... he usually is. He's pretty wise.)

My life is what it is. It's a lot different than what I ever thought it might be. Blessings that I thought my life would hold have been withheld -- sometimes temporarily, sometimes for the course of this lifetime. Blessings that I never thought I'd need have been found in abundance. There have been some hard things that I've been asked to walk through. That being said, life is beautiful just the way it is. "It" truly is amazing.

"It's" amazing because:

* I have everything I need, even if the world would say otherwise. 

We have never gone hungry. I've learned to cook and live with what we have. I've been blessed to be able to pay my bills and clothe my family. I have a car that runs well and lets me do what needs to be done easily. We have a comfortable apartment. We have good friends and family and people who love us and watch out for us. Truly, all our needs have been met, and so have many of our wants.

* "It" is a full and abundant life.

My life has great meaning. It is not empty, but is deeply blessed by those who are in it. I have been blessed with opportunities to serve and help in ways that allow me to find fulfillment and joy. I've had the chance to further my education. I've learned to build new talents and develop abilities in ways I never thought possible. I have become far more than I thought I was capable of being, and I haven't finished growing yet. My days are full, and so is my heart.

I have two amazing children. 

They are beautiful and strong and unique. They've got their own set of growing pains. Everyone does. But, who they are is pretty fantastic, and they have the opportunity to become more amazing still. Who knows if they would be growing into the people they are if life had been easier for them? The challenges they've faced have helped them to be their best selves.

* I am growing into the mom that I need to be.

As a mother, I'm keenly aware of my failings and weaknesses. There are times when I simply don't know what to do. However, I learn a little more each day. Parenting comes with its own set of adverse circumstances sometimes. My parenting days have been no different. But, looking back, it appears that those very adversities are the things that have stretched my abilities and forced me to be more dependent on the Lord for guidance and direction. As I become a better mother, I become a better person in the other areas of my life as well.

* I've seen miracles.

No, really. I've seen true miracles in my times of greatest need. The windows of heaven have truly been opened and blessings have been poured out with great bounty. I have seen the Lord intervene in my behalf. I have watched, over and over, as He has built the miracles that would put me on the path that He wants me to walk.

* I've seen miracles withheld.

I've been blessed to have times when the miracle was withheld. Sometimes it is because I've needed to learn my own lessons. At other times, there have been loved ones who have needed a lesson of their own from my difficulties. Regardless of the reasons, those times of waiting and hoping and walking in the dark have strengthened my faith. They've taught me that it's okay to walk blind until the path becomes more clear. And, they've taught me that -- during the times when I can't see, my Father in Heaven can. It is during those times that He is allowing me to learn to be more like Him. These are the times when He prompts me to walk in faith. Each time I do, I find that I have a bit more strength to trust His care and His timing. I've seen miracles, and I've learned to trust that when the miracle is withheld, it is withheld for a purpose.

It is what it is. And, what it is ... is truly amazing.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

A Follow-up

A question I've been asked since I gave my talk:

* Did my ex-husband ever go back to church?

Yes. He returned not long after I moved out. He was able to baptize both his daughters, and my kids get to go to church with him every other week. It's an experience they'd never had as my oldest daughter was only one year old when her father quit attending church. It's been a great blessing for my children to share those experiences with their father. He's made his share of mistakes, but haven't we all. He's trying now, and that means a lot to my kids.

Building a Legacy of Faith (A Sacrament Talk)

          President Ezra Taft Benson has been quoted as saying, “The Lord knows and loves the elderly among His people. It has always been so, and upon them He has bestowed many of His greatest responsibilities. In various dispensations He has guided His people through prophets who were in their advancing years. He has needed the wisdom and experience of age, the inspired direction from those with long years of proven faithfulness to His gospel” (“To the Elderly in the Church,” 4). [April 2005, Appreciating the Counsel of Those Who are Bowed in Years]
          It's true. The experience of the elderly does bless other members of the church. But, that legacy begins long before one qualifies to be called elderly. When I was a young girl, I was often told faith-promoting stories about family members. One such family member was my dad's cousin. When my dad was about the right age for college, he wasn't living up to his full potential. Luckily, he had a great cousin who loved him and set a righteous example. She dragged him to BYU. My mom always said it was a turning point for him, that his cousin’s choices helped my dad get on track, decide to serve a mission, and eventually marry in the Temple. She might not have known it then, but this cousin was building her own legacy of faith. Because of her example, her faith, and her love, I was raised in a home where the priesthood was an everyday part of our lives.
          President Boyd K. Packer has said, "We live now in troubled times. In the lifetime of our youth, the troubles will never be less and will certainly be more. Old folks offer a sure knowledge that things can be endured." (April 2003, The Golden Years)
          My grandmother was an example of a living legacy of faith. When she married my grandpa, he wasn't a member of the church. My grandmother chose to go to church every single Sunday. When my mother and her siblings were born, Grandma bundled up those three children and took them to church. She took them to all the meetings faithfully. She taught those children to love the scriptures. After a while, my grandpa joined the church. Their family was sealed in the Temple when my mother was still in her childhood. Building new habits isn't easy though, and my grandpa slipped in and out of activity in the church during the years that followed. Grandma still packed up those kids and kept them involved in the Gospel, not just learning it or even living it, but loving it. In time, two of her children would go on to serve full-time missions, two of her children would marry -- both in the Temple, and all three children have always been active in the Church. Seven out of eight of her grandchildren are active in the church and nine out of ten great-grandchildren are being raised in the Gospel.
          I spent my whole life looking up to my grandmother for her example. I knew that my life was different because, when hard times hit, my grandma was spiritually prepared to do what needed to be done. I felt my Savior's love because my grandmother was strong enough to be a spiritual shelter for her children. She didn't just make it possible for them to survive. She allowed them to thrive spiritually. I assumed that had to have been difficult for her, but I couldn't really imagine how hard it was. All those times hearing my mom tell the story of her mother strengthened my testimony and built my gratitude for God's tender mercies in my life, but I couldn't know then just how deeply my life would be impacted by my grandmother's example.
          Ten years ago, my oldest child was one. We'd just come home from church, where my husband and I had spoken in Sacrament meeting. He'd informed me that though I could keep going if I wanted, he wasn't going to continue attending church with me. I was fairly certain that my world had fallen apart. I didn't know what to do, so I did what I'd always done. I packed up my baby and went back to church the next week, and the week after, and each week that followed. When the Bishop realized I was on my own for church, he released me from my calling to try and ease the burden. I felt completely adrift. When I looked at my daughter, I thought my heart might burst. How would she know what was right and be strong enough to live it if both her parents weren't actively living the Savior's Gospel? How would she get through the difficulties that are part of life if she didn't have the priesthood in her home? Still, I realized that all I knew how to do was keep putting one foot in front of the other. Each day, I focused on doing what I knew was right for that day. I sang "I Love to See the Temple" to my baby every day even though the peace of the Temple blessings seemed so far from what was happening in my world. I prayed with her and told her about Heavenly Father. I talked to my toddler about Jesus and how much He loved her. I was teaching her, but I was reminding myself too. Each Sunday, I bundled up my daughter and took her to church.
          One Sunday, we were sitting on the bench in Sacrament meeting. The hymn that day was "Let the Holy Spirit Guide." I sang the words and tried to find peace. Then, we got to the third verse. As I sang, "Let the Spirit heal our hearts thru his quiet, gentle pow'r" I felt more broken than I'd ever thought possible. If ever a heart needed healing, it was mine. In my mind, I begged my Father in Heaven to heal my heart, to give me peace, and to help me to be enough. It may seem strange, but until this point, I'd felt too broken to think about my grandmother's story. As I cried out for help though, I began to remember. Though it still didn't sink in.
          Not long after, I found out that another little baby was coming. Life continued in much the same pattern: sing, pray, teach, go to church; sing, pray, teach, go to church. By then we were in a new ward. Somewhere along the way, I finally realized that my life was following the pattern of my grandmother's story. Only, this time, instead of being one of the generations that followed, full of gratitude for her strength, I was the one left to hold the chain together, to forge ahead in faith so that my children would not be severed from the strength of Temple covenants. My grandmother was strong and valiant. I always knew it. I was just treading water. Where she was a pillar, I felt like a wet noodle. Where she was a shield of faith, I felt exposed and vulnerable. It would be hard to have felt more inadequate for the task Heavenly Father had given me. But, by then, I'd learned something about the Gospel. When there are parallels in the stories, there are often parallels in the results. I began to feel a glimmer of hope.
          As our pattern continued, I clung to the end result of my grandmother's story. She was living my life, and her kids turned out fine. They grew up solidly rooted on the Lord's side and actively tried to live the Gospel. Her kids were safe, and mine would be too. This became my new mantra. Sometimes I said it with faith. Sometimes I said it with joy. Sometimes I said it with clenched teeth and sheer determination to prove the odds wrong. But always, I said it.
          After a couple years, I was sitting in Sacrament Meeting in a new ward. One of the hymns that day was again, "Let the Holy Spirit Guide." As we neared the third verse, I braced myself. I sang, "Let the Spirit heal our hearts thru his quiet, gentle pow'r. May we purify our lives To receive him hour by hour." I felt a deep peace as I sat with my little ones. I knew then that the Spirit had healed my heart. I knew that, because of this refiner's fire, I was better able to feel and recognize the Holy Ghost. As I looked at my daughters, I realized that they too were stronger for the challenges we'd faced. They learned to love the Gospel, and they learned to love their dad. They tried to share the Gospel with him because they loved him. The challenge wasn't over. There were many years to come before my children would have the blessing of going to church with their dad, but I'd discovered the true legacy of my grandmother's faith and what it meant to my children and me.
          Little did I know that one day, when life had broken my children and me again, we'd move into a ward where the author of that hymn lived. I didn't know that, in this time when we again needed healing, that I'd meet the author of that hymn and be reminded that the Lord had healed my heart before and that He'd heal us once more. I didn't know that we'd be in a ward where the people, elderly and otherwise, would live their own lives, building their own legacies of faith that would provide safe shelter for those to come. But, the Lord did. He started nurturing those people and their faith long before my need for them came into being. He prepared their hearts so that they could heal mine.
          None of us know how our lives will affect those around us, but the Lord does. He's weaving our lives into a safety net for those who will one day need our strength. As we live our lives, choosing to follow the Savior -- no matter what our individual challenges are, we are building a legacy of faith. Our experience will one day be what gives others hope to carry on. We can be the Lord's hands by lighting the path for those that will come our way.
          In her book, A Return to Love, Marianne Williamson, states, "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us, it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same."
          May we all let our light shine, that those who follow may see the light of Christ reflected in our lives. May we see the lessons in the experience of others around us. And, may we build our own legacies of faith for those still to come is my prayer.

Sacrament Meeting Talk: A Background

Back in April, I was asked to give a talk in Sacrament Meeting about how the elderly bless the lives of other members of the Church. From the time I received the assignment, I knew what I was supposed to say.

Usually, when I give a talk, I just use notecards with a basic outline or key concepts to speak from. I don't write the whole thing out. However, this talk refused to cooperate.

When I sat down the night before to outline all the thoughts I had, I kept getting the prompting to write my talk out ... word for word. This prompting and I argued back and forth for a bit. Guess who won? (I'll give you a hint ... the entire talk is typed neatly, word for word.)

I've debated for a couple of months now whether I wanted to post the talk here or not, but I keep feeling a need to do so. It is, in large part, based on my family history and my own life. And, since this is an extension of my journal, I felt that perhaps I'd better. Because it's somewhat lengthy, I'm posting it in my next post as an entry all it's own. However, I felt it needed just a bit of background first, so now you have it. If you'd like to, feel free to read the next entry to see what I'm rambling on about ...