Just gotta say I love how that last part makes sure to include "in this life or the next." And that phrase applies for all the ordinances. Because as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe that everyone has a chance to choose for themselves if they want to receive these ordinances, even those who died without knowing there was a choice to be made.
Friday, October 31, 2014
Exaltation, Part 3
Just gotta say I love how that last part makes sure to include "in this life or the next." And that phrase applies for all the ordinances. Because as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe that everyone has a chance to choose for themselves if they want to receive these ordinances, even those who died without knowing there was a choice to be made.
That is what we do in temples. We do vicarious ordinance work for those who have died. We are giving them a chance to have their own exaltation. That's what I did this morning. I went to the temple and performed one of those ordinances for a woman who was born in 1889. It seemed fitting to do service for the deceased on the day of the dead. Last time I was able to do that, I acted proxy for my great-grandmother and was sealed (ie., established the relationship for eternity) to her mother. It is a very sweet work to do when it is for my family--especially for a grandmother whom I knew and loved very much.
Exaltation for the living and the dead eventually has to have a part that takes place only in temples. It is no wonder that I find my greatest joy within temples, working towards my exaltation and however many of my Father's children that I can bring along the way.
A Day of Gratitude
I just got back from a dance that was about 1.5 hours away. I knew I should have blogged before I went down, but I was at work. When would I have had time? So you're just going to get a late/early post tonight. :-) It's much too late to start on a whole new topic. And I honestly can't think more on the topic I've been in the middle of. So, I'm just going to do a quick post on current gratitudes. Because I can never say enough about the things I have been blessed with and which I'm grateful for. And that the Lord blesses me both great and small.
I'm grateful for the social opportunities that I've been able to have lately. They have been a lot of fun while also forcing me out of my introvert comfort zone.
I'm grateful that I've been able to achieve my goal in the last month of meeting a new person at each social event I have attended. It hasn't been easy, but I have been meeting more. Expanding my list of friends and acquaintances which is nice. I'm actually starting to recognize people at different functions and I feel like I'm succeeding in not falling into hermit status.
I'm grateful I got to see my Freshman Breakfast Club friend VG. I haven't seen her in years! I'm also grateful I was able to see my Virginia friend CP. Amazing how many people I have been blessed to meet during all my walks of life, and even more amazing when our paths cross again. I'm pretty sure the Lord is in that!
I'm grateful I had a chance to attend another dance. I do love to dance. I'm not very good at it. But I love it. It's my favorite kind of exercise, too.
I'm grateful that our new friend joined us in carpooling up to the Halloween party. I like deepening friendships more than I like making them. So it's nice to get the chance to work on that.
I'm grateful that my favorite (and the best!) West Coast swing partner was there tonight, and that I got to dance with him!. TWICE!!!! Oh my goodness, I think I was on a high from that the whole drive home. Possibly still am.
I'm grateful I have my job and that it is never dull.
I'm grateful that I'm finally able to get to know the teens in my library and that we are forming friendships. It only took 3.75 years for us to figure out what way to reach them.
I'm grateful for the regulars at work who make me smile and appreciate my service.
I'm grateful my house is still standing. Each day. :-)
I'm grateful for the sleep that is coming. Such excitement!
I'm grateful for the anticipation of temple service tomorrow.
I'm grateful for the Halloween season and the time of year when other people completely accept my love of dressing up.
I'm grateful for my life. It is so wonderful and marvelous and amazing and full of great joy. My favorite Cross Country song is right: It's good to be alive!!
Each and every day I always have innumerable things to be grateful for, and I can never thank my Heavenly Father enough for them. But I believe He reads all of it in my heart and in my smile.
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Lessons from Alma and Amulek
We talked of Alma 10:6--that the Lord tried many times to reach Amulek. Our teacher asked us how often do we give up after only a few times? How often do we give up early on? This could be in home/visiting teaching. In missionary work. In teaching harder-to-reach family members. We can't give up. They need us too much. We don't want to pressure them, push them away, or alienate them. But we can keep loving them.
And I also liked that we talked of how "Sometimes you're the Alma, and sometimes you're the Amulek." In Alma 8-9, we read the story of Alma trying to preach in the city of Ammonihah. They persecute him and throw him out and he is very low. But then a friend of his, who happens to be an angel (love the symbolism--again what we see what Elder Holland spoke about) reassures him that he has great reason to rejoice. His success is measured by his obedience, not by how many he has baptized unto repentance. He is then commanded to return to preach repentance. He does so, but he is so hungry because he has been fasting for days for the people of Ammonihah. He has no place to go and no one to turn to.
That is often us. We are weakened physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually. The Lord is always there for us, but often His love and strength have to come to us through someone in our life.
He can't be there to physically hold us and reassure us with a hug. I don't think I could ever explain how much good a hug does for me. Unfortunately, my life is rather short on those these days. :-(
He can't physically be there to feed us. Yes. I've been there when I had absolutely no food in the home and unexpectedly food was at my door).
He can't physically be there to say "I love you," "It's going to be all right," or "I'm there for you." Or to be a listening ear. We can find His words of love and comfort in the scriptures, but often we need to physically hear it.
We need someone. We need an Amulek.
Because as Alma came back to the city, he met Amulek--there because an angel told him to be. Amulek took him to his home, fed him, and helped him during his low time. So, some times we are an Alma needing an Amulek. But often we need to be Amulek--reaching out to others in need.
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Exaltation, Part 2
I made an acquaintance over the weekend, who posted this video on Sunday. It is excellent, I highly recommend you watch it. Very touching, eye-opening in some ways, and a great reminder that not only are we loved, but we need to show love to others and be there for them.
The video reminded me of the darker times in my life. The suicidal thoughts were in my younger teen years. I look on it now and think it is silly, especially as I wasn't exactly suffering from depression. Like most teens, my emotions where anywhere and everywhere. And where I was in the family line-up, I often felt misunderstood. Perhaps even unwanted. I used to wonder if I would even be missed if I were to die--hence the occasional suicidal thought. I just didn't feel like any one would care if I wasn't around any more. Hindsight, of course, lets me see that it is a silly notion. But to the person suffering through whatever they are suffering, it isn't silly. It's real to them.
It is ironic to me that what finally got me out of that funk--my dreams and desires to marry my best friend and raise our children together--are still not in my life, yet. But I have come to know that that isn't what life is all about. My life is about living as Heavenly Father wants me to. I want to make Him happy, and that makes me happy. And He wants me to live my life to its fullest.
I learned that as a teen. But that doesn't mean the road of my life was free from bumps, pitfalls, detours and such. And a few years ago, I was going through the most difficult time of my life. I don't think I was suffering from depression, but I know I was suffering from depressing things that just kept coming at me one after another, without allowing anything to let up. I was bombarded with trials and and struggles, and trying to deal with all of it while I was significantly tired. I'm almost a lost cause when I don't get enough sleep! I didn't want to get out of bed on some mornings because the thought of facing another day just seemed impossible, unbearable, or not worth it. Some days I needed to take random breaks to go cry. I created an I Need to Cry playlist on my iTunes just for that purpose. I listened to this song on repeat many times a day because it felt like the last strand of hope that I was hanging on to.
I felt like I was drowning and I was never going to make it back on solid ground. But I knew there were friends and loved ones ready to help me. I just didn't know how to reach them. Or I'd reach and feel like I was getting pulled further away. I gained a very great testimony of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and I learned to trust and have hope in Him as well as in the people He was sending my way. Elder Holland was right--there are angels all around us.
Two of my music videos were created as I came to firmly believe that I was loved and life was worth fighting for and living in.
I often re-read the blog entries I wrote during that time, because it amazes me how difficult things were. But I also never want to forget how much I felt of His love. How much I fought to find happiness, joy, and gratitude one day at a time. How much those around me reached out to me and finally were able to get a hold. All of those things helped me get back to shore. I've been climbing higher and higher ever since, and trying to remember to help others along the way to climb up high with me. In the end, you can only be responsible for your own exaltation, but you can certainly help a whole lot of others on their way to theirs.
I have loved this song since I was a child, and in 2008, on National Sisters Day, I made a music video tribute to my friends.
The lyrics in the bridge of the song are very applicable for what I've been writing about tonight:
So many lonely souls are calling
And our brightest stars would not be falling
If only they had a friend--
A real friend.
"Great hopes and much joy." Isn't that so wonderful and beautiful? We can offer others great hopes and much joy. And having been on the receiving side of great hopes and much joy, I definitely want to be a giver of those now.
Monday, October 27, 2014
Whoa. That is what I picked for today? I don't even know where to begin! I suppose a definition is a good start. I was taught that exaltation is not just eternal life. Eternal life has been promised to all of Heavenly Father's children. Exaltation is getting to live with Heavenly Father again. I'm often asked what my greatest desires in life are. Most assume that they are marrying my best friend and having children. And yes, those are two of my greatest desires. However, they are 2nd and 3rd on my list. My first, greatest, and strongest desire is to return to my Heavenly Father in my own due time. I want to see Him again. I want to live with Him again. Of course, I want my husband and children to be there with me. But I don't know if those other two desires will be granted me in this life. But I can do all that's possible to try and achieve the first when this life is over. And what is required of me is that I keep my covenants and obey my Father's commandments.
Sunday, October 26, 2014
More Than You Ever Wanted or Needed to Know about My Name
First, let's go with the fun stuff: nicknames! Here are nicknames I've had.
*Big Mama (from a foreign friend--I told him I wasn't thrilled with that one even though he said it was a huge compliment)
I love kind nicknames, because it gives me a sense of belonging to/with the person/group who has given me the nickname. There's also always a story (or more) behind every nickname, and it creates a particular bond within a relationship.
Then there is my actual name. I have a first, middle, and last name. For internet privacy reasons, I have not used my first name on this blog. But if you know me, then you know my name. :-) And you might be able to guess it otherwise. My first name came about because my mother loved the book it came from, and because my dad lived twice then served his mission in Germany. In all honesty, if I could pick my own first name, I don't think I would pick what is mine. Not that I don't like it. It's just one of those things when you step back and think of something you are so familiar with, it almost seems surreal. Once in a while it rather surprises me that my first name is what it is. Yes, I know. Bizarre. I am a definite oddity, the like of of which you may never meet another. And I'm tired. So I'm sure I'm rambling every way possible.
My mother told me that my middle name came about because we had a lot of one name on Mom's side of the family, and a lot of another name on the Dad's side. So they took the two names and combined them to form my middle name. I have loved my middle name mostly for that reason. And I always liked how all 3 names flowed together. As a child, I signed my full name whenever possible. I loved it! And then one devastating day, I learned that when girls marry, they typically take on the husband's last name--and that was often why most females were never given a middle name because their maiden name would become their middle. I hated that idea. I loved all 3 of my names. I was told I could choose if I wanted to drop my middle or my last name. I didn't want to drop either! But I noticed that around that time, I stopped signing my full name.
It was some time before at least my middle initial creeped back in to the signatures, but even then that was just for official purposes. But it was niggling at me--that middle name was important. It was a part of who I was. And my last? It speaks volumes of who I am. And as it has been my last name for a lot longer than I had hoped it would be, I certainly don't ever want to drop it. And why should I have to drop either when all 3 names are used in every blessing I've received and on all official, legal documentation? It makes sense to add on my husband's name, even if 4 names does seem pretentious.
Then in college, I started to make a lot of acquaintances and friends who went by two names. I liked the sound of that. Started to wonder if I could go by both. On one move to a new place, I almost started. But my best friend lived there at the time and I didn't know if I could convince him to help me go by both (especially when my friend his sister started to go by two names in college and he only calls her by one). When I moved back here, I was determined that I would switch to two-name status. For a few reasons:
*I liked the sound of my name that way. I always had.
*I like the two-name sound. My niephews call me by two names (Aunt + First Name). At work I'm called by my kids and teens by two names (Miss + First Name). Two names just sound well to me.
*I could finally honor my ancestry and love of family history work by using my middle name
*It is a nod to my southern girl beginnings
*There are SO many girls where I live now who have the same first name. I would like to distinguish myself from them.
*I actually think my middle name by itself is kind of ugly, and reminds me of others I've known in this life who I don't have the most pleasant memories of. I don't want to go by it alone.
*Now going by two names, when it comes time to add my husband's name to mine, then my maiden name can become the middle. Easy solution! :-)
In 2004, Sharon G. Samuelson said, "Each of our names represents who we are. We become known by our name to all with whom we associate. Our reputation or the opinion generally held of us is always inextricably linked to our name. Yes, our name and reputation are inseparable....To have an unspotted name and reputation is of greater value than all the wealth one could acquire in a lifetime." She also referred to a few other stories related to what some people in history and scripture did with the names that they have received.
In 2010, Elder Mervyn Arnold also spoke about what we do with our names. His main message was the same as one of Sister Samuelson's points: that in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we take on the name of our Savior. What have we done with His name? What am I doing with His name? How does taking on His name affect me? It has influenced my decisions. It helps me want to deserve His name. And it gives me a great responsibility, for every day I want my Savior to see that I have kept it unspotted and that I am still worthy to be called by His name.
I think Anne was right when she disagreed with Shakespeare: "I read in a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I've never been able to believe it. I don't believe a rose WOULD be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage." (Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery). I don't think I'd be who I am without the name my parents blessed me with, because that name makes me who I am. But more importantly, the Savior's name--which I have covenanted to take upon me--is the greatest influence in helping me be who I am and who I want to be.
Saturday, October 25, 2014
Daily Gospel Study Reflections
Anyway, tangent aside, I'm going to blog a bit about what I read in my daily scripture study today. I read Alma 54 in the Book of Mormon. This is when Moroni and Ammoron are exchanging epistles negotiating the exchange of prisoners. In these letters, we see even more how their causes for fighting in this war are so very different. Ammoron wants to subject the Nephites to his will, to be ruled by the Lamanites. If he can't have that, then he wants to kill them. Moroni just wants to protect his people the Nephites, preserving their rights. He wants to coexist peacefully with the Lamanites.
Never before have I seen such a strong parallel in this story to our day. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a lot of principles, values, standards, and beliefs that are no longer shared by the majority of the world. And we are under attack for them. We acknowledge that there are many who do not choose to believe as we do. They have different customs, beliefs, practices, standards, etc. We may not agree with those, but we still love those people and we want to live in harmony with them.
And yet there are some of those people who fight us because of our beliefs--just as this combined group of Lamanites and Zoramites fought the Nephites because of their beliefs. Today, there are some who want to silence us. They get angry when we speak about what we believe, or when we stand up for what we believe. I can imagine that there may be people out there who are reading these simple blog entries of mine, or my meme quotes on Facebook that come from these entries, who do not like what I have to say. Or perhaps they simply find it annoying that I keep saying anything. But anyone who knows me should know I can't help saying something about my beliefs. I love what I believe! It makes me happy. I want to share it and talk about it whenever I can because I want to share that joy with others. (Elder Bednar's recent Conference talk nailed it when it comes to why I do this.) But there are probably many who would just rather me be silent on it all.
Then there are those, perhaps the same ones, who want us to change what we believe, or how we practice it. In essence, they want to control us and our religion. That would be taking away our freedom. That would be trying to rule us. Moroni led the Nephites in this battle against the Lamanites because he was defending their rights--the right to be free, to practice their religion, to live peacefully. The Lamanites wanted them to do as they said, or to be silent (or be silenced in that case). I see this happening now, and it is scary. Yet I have no reason to fear, for our Captain Moroni is a living prophet, President Thomas S. Monson. He will navigate, guide, and lead us through this battle. Like the Nephites, if we are righteous we will have the strength of our Savior Jesus Christ to aid us. And with the Savior, we cannot fail.
Developing Our Talents, Part 3
Playing the Piano
Playing the Organ*
Playing with hair/creating hairstyles
Working with teenagers
Reading out loud
Identifying, understanding, & imitating accents*
Keeping a clean home (except for my one allowed Spot of Mess)
Period Drama discussion
Laughing freely and whole-heartedly
Writing in excess (especially when getting out thoughts, feelings, etc)
* = more recent ones that I am working on
Believe it or not, but each of these really can be used in helping to build the Lord's kingdom. Some may seem like a stretch to you. But they really be of use there. Sometimes the challenge is trying to see how you can use your talents to help others. It might not be easy, but it will be worth it--especially to those you were able to help.
Thursday, October 23, 2014
Developing Our Talents, Part 2
For me, this has some of the most obvious lessons in a parable. We receive talents; we are to use them; when we use them they will be increased and we will be greatly blessed. If we don't use them, they will be taken from us and we will not receive the blessings we could have. Some people are given more talents than others. But we are to remember that they are given according to our abilities. Not that one person is better than another and should have more. One person's situation in life may allow them to work with more at that time. Some talents may take more time to work on and develop, and thus the person with that talent may only need just a few more. I don't know what the Lord's reasons are for who gets what talents and how many of them. They are the Lord's reasons and not my concern. All I need be concerned with is what the Lord has given me and what I do with that. I need to know what mine are, focus on and develop them, and use them to serve others. But most importantly, I can't bury any of my talents or I will lose them.
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Developing Our Talents
In my own words: Heavenly Father has blessed all of us, His children, with talents. We are not blessed with every talent that exists. Some talents are innate, and others can be acquired. Every talent needs to be recognized or discovered. All talents can be developed and improved upon. And all talents can help build Heavenly Father's kingdom as they are used to serve others.
Examples may help. I'll share what I know personally. A few talents I have discovered and worked on developing in my life include singing, playing the piano, playing the organ, and reading. My organ talent is still in very early development. And yet I have been able to use it to serve, including just this past Sunday when I filled in for our ward organist. Music plays a huge role in our worship. I have also been able to help in that area with my piano playing andy my singing. Even my calling draws on my talents. I was never professionally trained in how to conduct music. But I am able to draw on the times I was working on developing my singing talent in the many choirs I was part of, and remember how my choir directors worked with me.
I love to read. Our family often read our scriptures out loud. This helped me develop reading aloud as a talent, and is something I use every week at work for storytime, but can also use in Church classes when things need to be read out loud. If I can't follow along in what is being read, my mind will wander if the reader isn't very good at reading out loud. I don't know why. It's been that way all my life. If there are others like me, hopefully I can read aloud well enough that they can focus, too. Seems a bit of stretch, but one never knows how their talents may affect others.
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
I was baptized October 21, 1990. In our family, my parents set up the requirement that we read the entire Book of Mormon before deciding if we wanted to be baptized. After all, they didn't want us to just get baptized because they wanted us to, or because that's what the other 8-year old children in Primary did. They wanted us to know why we were getting baptized, and to have a testimony of our own about the Gospel, no matter how small or new. It should be the same with any one considering baptism in the Church. They should never do it for anyone but themselves--and know why they are doing it.
I remember trying to get through. I think I finished just after my birthday. Not sure on the date. But I remember reading the end. I was with my mother. And she asked me to tell her what Moroni 10:3-5 meant after I'd read through it. I looked at it again, not quite sure. Then she explained that it said I was to ask Heavenly Father to know if the Book of Mormon was true. That it was important for me to do this for myself. I remember going to my room and praying about it. And as I prayed, I knew immediately not just that the Book of Mormon was true, but that I had always known it was true. I still do.
My baptism was scheduled almost a month after my 8th birthday because, at the time, I was the last child in the family. Some siblings had shared their baptisms with others. Mom wanted her last child and her baby girl to have her own special day. So we waited a few weeks because of Fast Sunday, General Conference, and other baptisms occurring. And I was able to pick the music, and the prayers, and the talks.
Mom got me a special, beautiful white dress to wear to church that day. I adored that dress. Mom still has the dress. I've seen nieces wear of it when playing angels in our family Christmas Nativity re-enactments. There wasn't a dress in the ward's baptism clothing closet. I almost had to be baptized in pants. Not that that is a bad thing. But I remembered seeing all my girl friends baptized in white dresses. And I was OBSESSED with dresses at that age. Rarely did I ever wear pants, so the idea of being baptized in pants seemed tragic. I know. Perspective and such--but I was 8. Fortunately, I have a loving Heavenly Father as well as loving earthly parents. And they found a girl in the ward who was willing to let me wear her dress to be baptized in. (I now know at least one reason why it is easier to be baptized by immersion in pants. :-) )
My brother and I sang "I am a Child of God" as a duet.
He started to sing the wrong words to the 2nd or 3rd verse and I smacked his arm with mine. As we were singing. I'm so loving like that. :-) I guess even then I never wanted mistakes when I sang. I still prefer that, obviously, but I'm much more accepting of mistakes. At least in the way of not beating myself or someone else up over them, then repenting of them and letting them go. What a great thing to know in life, too.
My parents also sang a duet. I wish I was more familiar with that song. It was called "To a Child." Not sure the artists behind it, but I remember seeing the piano music among our family's collection. I'd link to it if I could find it. One of the other songs we sang was new to us that year in Primary, and I absolutely loved it. It is called "The Church of Jesus Christ." The lyrics grace the top of this blog. Because it is all truth to me.
Another brother spoke. Not sure who the second speaker was. Possibly another brother? Because that left the two prayers being said by the last two brothers. My sister played the piano except for my parents' duet. Their accompanist was the mother of the crush I had at the time. In fact, before the baptism he and I were talking about it. He said he wouldn't come to mine because I didn't come to his. Well, I would have loved to have gone, but my family didn't stay for it. But I told him his mother was playing for it, so he had to come. And he did. Such importance. Again, I was 8. :-)
But there were many spiritual aspects surrounding that day for me. I loved having my family present. I loved being baptized by my dad. I was the last child he baptized (for their own ordinance, not for proxy in the temple) since my baby brother was baptized by the brother just older than me 10 years later. I loved the feeling of peace I had. And I felt that the Lord was very pleased with my decision. It was the best decision I have made in this life. It was the first ordinance of the Gospel and I had now entered into a covenant with Heavenly Father.
I have tried to keep this covenant for 24 years. It has given me guidance, direction, peace, comfort, and more as I have tried. No decision could be more important in my life, especially as it influences all other decisions, minor and major, for the rest of my life.
Monday, October 20, 2014
Mid-singles Conference report, Part 3
The other session which I have not yet spoken of was about healthy relationships. It was basically an overview of the book and course of How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk. We wrote on the board a list of traits that one would find in a jerk. And she pointed out that we have all been guilty of some of those traits ourselves. But then she reminded us that there is a difference between sometimes acting like a jerk (because we all make mistakes) and being a jerk (which is persistent resistance to change). Some of the things she breezed over were familiar to me because I've heard Sis. Snell talk about them. Indeed, I was hoping to get the book some time. Now I am determined to do so soon. Especially as it talks more about the Relationship Attachment Model and hopefully more about the 12 general areas of compatibility.
The relationship stuff was all good info, but what stood out the most to me were the necessary ingredients for change.
1. Insight (see that you need to change)
2. New information (research; read books that deal with this, etc.)
3. Deliberate Effort (and have a way to measure it)
4. Time (and forgiveness of self and others)
This is such a great list to have on hand for any and all the future times that change will need to take place in my life. But I loved that I was able to step back and look over the last 18 months of my life, particularly related to dating and social life. These 4 ingredients were emblazoned over those 18 months. I was finally ready to get back in the dating world, but I knew something wasn't working. I knew it was me, but I wasn't sure what it was about me. And then Sis. Snell entered my life. She was the beginning source for me to obtain new information. I've been reading her materials as well as articles and other books. My eyes were opened to so much and understanding was flowing in. But I think a huge reason it was able to flow in was because I was ready for change--I was embracing it. (Which was a very difficult thing for me only a few years ago.)
I have certainly been making deliberate efforts. There are very, very few people in my life who truly understand just how difficult it has been for me to make those efforts. It is against my nature in so many ways, and light years from my comfort zone. But that was one of the things that needed changing. Not that I'm changing who I am, but that I needed to change some habits and views and behaviors in my efforts so that change could come about. And it has. So amazingly, it has. I still can't believe how far I've come in the last year when I took my first step into the scary, unknown darkness. Alone. And the Lord has greatly blessed me for those efforts. He continues to do so. Thus, when I have my disheartening moments, as I have been feeling a lot over the last week or two, I need to remember that 4th ingredient. Time. Forgive myself for the mistakes I have made and continue to make. Forgive others related to this in my past as well as presently. And be patient and diligent in that time as I keep on with my deliberate efforts. I can't have my breakfast brought to me. I have to go make it. I can and I will.
To end, I shall leave you with this quote that she gave, which I find absolutely brilliant: Love is a fulness to give, not an emptiness to fill.
Sunday, October 19, 2014
Mid-singles Conference report, Part 2
The opening session speaker (Bob Kittell) talked of living waters. He mentioned 3 things about living waters:
1) Living water heals us through the power of the Holy Ghost
2) Living water nourishes and sustains us
3) Living water brings peace and joy
I really liked that he focused on using gratitude to help us be more useful as a fountain of living water that can give to others. It's hard to give when you have nothing inside to draw from. I have found that the best way to build up what's inside is by looking at what you do have and expressing gratitude for it. I loved the exercise that he had us do where we ended up thinking of 20 things we were grateful for within a couple of minutes. It's the shorter version of what he does with students in getting them to think of 100 things in about 5 minutes. I think it's a brilliant exercise and I must try it once in a while.
*In the introductory, um, welcome, we were counseled: Be the one who says "Hello." Be the one who loves first. Definitely something I can always work on being better at.
*"If you're not going to listen, don't ask anymore." From a story he shared, but I feel it goes very well in relation to how we are when we ask the Lord for help. Do we ignore answers that we don't like, or don't want to hear? So why do we keep asking if we aren't willing to the answer he gives us? Or why do we keep asking for an answer ignoring the scriptures that are filled with answers if we'll but look there.
*"Let it go--I promise there are better things to come." In relation to being upset over difficult things in our lives.
Mid-Singles Conference report
That first one I figured I already knew. Any regular reader of this blog would know that years ago, during my darkest time of life, music was the one constant that helped me feel of the Lord's love and understanding. It often felt like the only thing that could reach me through all of that darkness. The only thing that let me know it was OK to cry at times. It helped me get through one day at a time. As David Osmond said last night, "Endure to the End...of this day." So hearing what Brother Scott Schroeder had to say was a complete affirmation that I had a testimony of exactly what he talked about. Our dark, difficult times were completely different, but we both knew what it was like to be suffocating in darkness. And for music to be the one thing that helped us let the Spirit in to allow the Savior's atonement to heal us.
The other session on self-love was something that I would have realize I'd known if I'd sat back and thought of it. Just not something that ever really came to mind. And yet Dr. Rick Hawks quoted scripture after scripture and apostle after apostle of things they have said related to self-love. Note that self-love is more along self-esteem, self-worth, and self-respect. It is NOT self-focus. It is NOT selfISH. And it is NOT selfLESS. He pointed out the difference in all of those things. The main thing I got was just how important self-love is to our progression in life. My number one priority is always the relationship between me and my Heavenly Father--I won't get personal revelation and inspiration unless I have a personal relationship with Him. But I won't be able to have that relationship until I first am able to love myself, and then love my neighbor as myself. So I need to take what time is needed to help me achieve that. Which I started to do immediately after when I laid out in the beautiful weather with the sun setting for an hour. Complete rejuvenation! I loved it.
Such a wonderful, uplifting conference. I gained a lot, and I am so glad I was blessed to be able to go--and that I followed through on the promptings that I should go.
Friday, October 17, 2014
Prayers, Part 7
I feel that Elder Scott--for whom I have a tender spot ever since meeting him (twice!)--sums up all I've been trying to say the last few days in absolutely the best way possible when he said the following in General Conference just two weeks ago:
Choose to converse with your Father in Heaven often. Make time every day to share your thoughts and feelings with Him. Tell Him everything that concerns you. He is interested in the most important as well as the most mundane facets of your life. Share with Him your full range of feelings and experiences.
Because He respects your agency, Father in Heaven will never force you to pray to Him. But as you exercise that agency and include Him in every aspect of your daily life, your heart will begin to fill with peace, buoyant peace. That peace will focus an eternal light on your struggles. It will help you to manage those challenges from an eternal perspective.
Parents, help safeguard your children by arming them morning and night with the power of family prayer. Children are bombarded every day with the evils of lust, greed, pride, and a host of other sinful behaviors. Protect your children from daily worldly influences by fortifying them with the powerful blessings that result from family prayer. Family prayer should be a nonnegotiable priority in your daily life.
And to end, a slew of prayer songs for you, because I love to share music. :-)
One I just heard tonight at a David Osmond concert.
Sang the following at a stake Relief Society meeting with guest Sister Julie B. Beck, who has blessed my life in ways she will never know from the words she delivered over the 6 years she was one of my YW/RS leaders. A fitting blessing from the Lord was when he had the choir director ask me to sing the opening part as a solo. A small way to say thank you to the woman who told me that every day I could look "forward to new adventures with hope smiling brightly before" me, and that I had a Mother Heart. I had the chance to sing a prayer that is always within my heart.
A song many know that is just too beautiful not to share. The feelings I have each time I listen to this song--those of peace, joy, renewal, lifting up, strength, hope, confidence--that is what prayer brings me.
Thursday, October 16, 2014
Prayers, Part 6
But soon I began to learn that I needed to pay more attention to how I prayed, meaning what I said and how I said it. I always felt the Primary song taught it perfectly:
I Pray in Faith1. I kneel to pray ev'ry day.
I speak to Heav'nly Father.
He hears and answers me
When I pray in faith.
2. I begin by saying "Dear Heavenly Father";
I thank him for blessings he sends;
Then humbly I ask him for things that I need,
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Words and music: Janice Kapp Perry, b. 1938
(c) 1987 by Janice Kapp Perry.
To hear it, here is a video:
This song gave a basic "formula" of prayer that was the perfect thing for me to hear/learn/sing when I was growing up and learning what to say. I was learning that it was important to put thought into what I was saying. I even submitted a poem about prayer to the Church's magazine for kids (The Friend) and it was published! Can't seem to find it right now online, but it exists. :-)
So, did I ever wonder or doubt if someone was really there and heard what I was saying? Honestly, I don't think I did. My faith in religious things often built its beginnings on others of strong faith. For me, that was my parents and siblings. They believed in Heavenly Father, and they believed He heard and answered their prayers. So I believed. But I still found this Primary song comforting and instructive as well. :-)
A Child's Prayer1. Heavenly Father, are you really there?
And do you hear and answer ev'ry child's prayer?
Some say that heaven is far away,
But I feel it close around me as I pray.
Heavenly Father, I remember now
Something that Jesus told disciples long ago:
"Suffer the children to come to me."
Father, in prayer I'm coming now to thee.
2. Pray, he is there;
Speak, he is list'ning.
You are his child;
His love now surrounds you.
He hears your prayer;
He loves the children.
Of such is the kingdom, the kingdom of heav'n.
Words and music: Janice Kapp Perry, b. 1938
(c) 1984 by Janice Kapp Perry.
Here is a video for that song:
It was a pretty solid foundation for me learning these things in the first decade of my life. I spent the next 2 decades building on that foundation, developing my faith in and relationship with my Father. And because of all these years of talking, confiding, elaborating, pleading, listening, crying, "joying," and laughing with my Father, there is no other relationship as strong as the one I have with Him. Why wouldn't I want to take every opportunity I can get to pray to Him?
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Prayers, Part 5
Deliverance can be from anything--financial debt, illness, nightmares, pain related to broken relationships, loneliness, being single, sorrow, sin. Anything. I don't pray with the expectation that I will be delivered immediately. I know I still have to do my part in being faithful and righteous, in learning to be cheerful in spite of the less appealing circumstances I am enduring. Yet I "know that deliverance is nigh" (LDS Hymn #19 - "We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet"). "Nigh" could be sooner or later, but the Lord promises to deliver us when the timing is right and we have grown beyond what we could have foreseen.
The Lord will enable me to be able to endure whatever my bondage may be, which will strengthen me and my faith until I am eventually but inevitably delivered, whether in this life or the next.
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Prayers, Part 4
Family prayer was a great way for us to learn to pray aloud. Our parents could use them as teaching moments in how to say prayers, as well. They might point out if we were rushing, or using vain repetitions. Things said in prayers might include safety throughout the day, direction for choices we are making as individuals or a family, help for a particular family member in something they have going on in their life. There is something about hearing a family member pray for you that lets you feel loved like nothing else can.
We would also pray for things related to our community, our ward (i.e., church congregation), our nation, and the world. Anything that affected our family whether big or small, locally or further abroad, it might be included in our family prayers. Gratitude and guidance were always a part of these prayers. But no matter what was said or prayed about, our family was blessed with the power of love, guidance, and protection because we prayed together every day.
I have been a family of one for 14 years. I miss family prayers with a larger gathering. Always a joy for me when I am included in the prayers of my friends' and family members' families. And I have enjoyed occasional Roommate Prayer. But I can still have Family Prayer with just me and still receive the same blessings. I'll just keep looking forward to when my family prayers will have more than one person involved.
Monday, October 13, 2014
Prayers, Part 3
I also ask a blessing on the food. Those who don't pay attention to their prayers tend to always ask that it will nourish us. But I try to be realistic. My personal kryptonite--oreo milkshakes--are about as bad for me as they could get. Sure there is a bit of dairy and protein. But they're drowned by sugar. I try to be honest in my prayers and not ask for silly miracles when I know what I'm putting in my body. So instead of asking for it to give me nourishment, I ask that I will enjoy it.
I do almost always ask that I won't get sick from my food. This probably stems from a couple of bouts of food poisoning. One of them was from food in a metal can and was quite severe. That was some of the most intense pain I have ever been in. I don't think it is beneath me nor my Father to ask that food not make me sick. Of course, I've also learned that I need to do my part in being wise in food choices and preparations.
Food prayers may include other things. Depending on what is going on for/with me at that point of the day, I sometimes give a report of what's happening. Or give thanks for things that haven't so far in the day. Or ask for help in something still to come. The prayers become little checkpoints in the day and give me yet another reason to talk with my Father. However, I do try to keep in mind what my father once taught me after I said a food prayer for family dinner: "Remember that when you're saying a blessing on the food, just say a blessing on the food." I guess I tended to be a bit verbose even when I was younger. But I liked that his point was to be to the point for a blessing that is meant to be more specific.
Sunday, October 12, 2014
Prayers - Guidance
I often pray to Heavenly Father for guidance. The guidance can and has been on any and all areas of life--work, schooling, dating, church responsibilities, missionary work, finances. I have prayed to know if I should move. I have prayed to know how to talk to a young man about my feelings. I have prayed to understand what my feelings were for the men I have dated. I have prayed to know what classes to take, if I should have pursued graduate work, and which courses to take each semester. I have prayed to help me know what to speak on in church. I have prayed to help me with a presentation at work. I pray every day for guidance in my daily tasks at work and home.
It's not that I have no mind of my own. Some guidance that I pray for is related to help in knowing which direction would be for the better, particularly when I don't know enough to have made a decision. (For example, I pray that the Lord will keep me safe on the roads, and sometimes the answer guides me on a different path or in a prompting to drive a little slower because the Lord can see all when I can see only the tiniest bit.) Most often I have searched or pondered something out and then approached my Father with the decision I have made to know if that decision will be for my and others' best interest.
I have a constant, unspoken plea that I will always be guided in the right direction. Heavenly Father wants me to put in my work and efforts, but there was one time when I was so down-trodden and overwhelmed that He let me know without a doubt what choice would be best for me--and I hadn't even realized there was a choice to be made! But that was the only time in my life. It wasn't taking away my agency. It was a very powerful urging of what would be the best decision, one that never would have entered my mind if I'd had the emotional capability to fathom it out. And it was still an answer to prayers for guidance that I'd been offering to Him all my life.
But usually I am the master of my own wits and emotions, and I look at what choices and decisions my life presents to me to make. I take what I know and feel, try to learn a bit more in both areas, make what I feel is the best decision, and then go to my eternal dad to see what He thinks. Who on earth who has had a good, loving father did not value their opinion and guidance? So it is with me--with both my earthly father and my heavenly Father. I value His guidance more than any one's and have a great, unshakeable faith in what He answers me regarding those prayers for guidance.
Saturday, October 11, 2014
Priesthood Blessings, Part 6
Anyway. Priesthood power in my life has given me a sense of security, both physical as well as spiritual. Having that power in my home as I grew up, I felt protected because I knew my father and later brothers were able to exercise that power for the good of our home and family members. To heal us, to dedicate our home, to guide us in times of trial or times of joy. The Primary song is right: "every hour [was] blessed by the strength of Priesthood power."
Priesthood power didn't just bless the home I grew up in (as well as my subsequent homes). It has blessed me at school, at work, in society, in travel, and in having fun. I believe that power has helped me improve my skills and talents by knowing what to work on, where to do that, and how to do so. It has influenced my desires for good. It has helped me to be organized in life's tasks, great and small. The Priesthood has brought me an everlasting joy because I know the source of that power is my Savior Jesus Christ.
Friday, October 10, 2014
Priesthood Blessings, Part 5
But I do know that the times I have been present for the dedication of a grave, they were reverent, beautiful, and peaceful experiences. So maybe I don't fully understand all of the why, but I'm grateful for the what of it.
Thursday, October 9, 2014
Priesthood Blessings, Part 4
However, I have been present for numerous baby blessings, including my brother, a few nieces and nephews, and children of close friends. I have witnessed the power of the priesthood as the brothers stand in a circle, holding the baby. Words said in the blessings are different, and comes from what the brother giving the blessing feels impressed by the spirit to day. Blessings can be short, medium, or long. I've heard some refer to the baby's eventual choice of spouse. Some talking about how the baby will affect others in its life.
Blessings are usually administered by the baby's father or another male relative. (My dad has blessed one of his grandsons.) In some cases, the priesthood holder blessing the baby is of no relation, though I haven't been present for one of those, yet. But I was present for mine. :-) And it was my father who gave it to me. While I think it would be nice to know what he said in my baby blessing, it isn't necessary. I know that my father spoke words of love, guidance, and protection that my Heavenly Father wanted said--and I believe that as I try to live righteously every day, that blessing surely comes to fruition every day.
More specifics about baby blessings can be found here.
Wednesday, October 8, 2014
Priesthood Blessings, Part 3
Elder Oaks spoke on healing the sick, with section III being on priesthood blessings. He points out that "faith is essential for healing by the powers of heaven" and that "the greater responsibility is with him who is blessed." The person being blessed (be it any kind of priesthood blessings) plays a huge role in the part of a blessing, as does their faith. I have some of my strongest faith in blessings of healing. Twice in my life I have felt the healing power begin just from asking for a blessing.
Another part that is crucial to remember in a healing blessing is the will of the Lord. We don't pray to change Lord's will. We pray to align our will with the Lord. And if it be the Lord's will that a person not recover from an illness, or at least not recover for a time, then a blessing won't change that. Sometimes a blessing of healing is that the person who is ill (and those connected to them) will be able to accept the will of the Lord.
I'm not sure why my faith in blessings of healing is so strong. It just is. It always has been. And it has blessed me very much.
Tuesday, October 7, 2014
Priesthood Blessings, Part 2
Many of my blessings of comfort have come from home teachers, close friends, and brothers. There is something very different with having a blessing from my father. A blessing of any kind. For one, there is no one else in the world who can claim the connection I have with my father. And for another, my dad is the earthly representative for and of my Heavenly Father. I have no greater relationship in my life than with my Heavenly Father. So to have his earthly substitute give me a blessing, it's like the next best thing.
Monday, October 6, 2014
Today, I'm just going to say say a little about one of the kinds of blessings Priesthood holders provide--that of comfort. I have been greatly blessed by the blessings of comfort I have received. I have asked for one when I was in financial difficulties. It was not meant to solve the problem. It was meant to comfort me during a time when I was quite stressed and not sure how I was going to make it from one day to the next. I was filled with peace, and reassurance. Understanding friends accompanied and soon a great branch president and his wife became my life-savers when they offered me a place to live.
I asked for one right before I was about to take a step in a relationship. I was nervous about taking it, for there was the possibility that my choice would the friendship that we had created. But the blessing helped me feel more at peace the my choice, and I followed through with my decision. Years later we are still good friends.
I asked for one when I was brand new children's librarian whose supervisor went out on maternity leave which left me "over" 3 branches right at the beginning of Summer Reading--knowing absolutely nothing of what to do! A blessing of comfort and counsel, plus some amazing co-workers, helped me through that.
I asked for one only a few months ago when I was going though an emotional upheaval that I couldn't make heads or tails of--as to what I was experiencing and why. The blessing brought me peace, and reminded me that I was an intelligent Daughter of God. That I had my own agency and I knew how to work through things like that. That I also could rely on the Spirit to guide me in the right direction as I tried to discern my thoughts and feelings.
Blessings of comfort have always done just that--comforted me. They have brought me peace, clarity of mind, guidance and reassurance that all will be well. But mostly, they have never failed to remind me that my Heavenly Father loves me.
Sunday, October 5, 2014
(Please note: These are my personal notes of what I got from Conference. Personal notes = personal revelation: what the Spirit impressed on me was of use for me right now, and not necessarily what the speakers meant or even said. That's one of the best things about the Spirit and personal revelation. It is tailored to us.)
All the talks were, of course, very good. The messages were wonderful and timely. And I look forward to when all are available both electronically and in print so that I can further peruse and study them in depth. But right now, 3 talks stand out, and for 3 separate reasons.
Elder Jorg Klebingat's talk was so powerful in its straightforward, succinct message and delivery. The list he gave of how we can increase our peaceful assurance and spiritual confidence will be something I refer to often:
1. Take responsibility for your own spiritual well-being
2. Take responsibility for your own physical well-being.
3. Embrace voluntary, whole-hearted obedience. (Do the right things for the right reasons.)
4. Become really, really good at repenting thoroughly and immediately.
5. Become really, really good at forgiving. (Don't hold grudges; don't be easily offended.)
6. Accept trials, set backs, and "surprises" as they come. (Force a smile and gaze heavenward.)
Elder Richard G. Scott's talk was I think the talk most meant for me at this time in my life. He referred to struggles and challenges that we have. And while I do face my own right now, they are not quite debilitating as they have been previously. I am at a very good point in life and my outlook is pretty good. Things aren't exactly how I would wish and I am certainly enduring a lot of stress and disappointments. But I am filled with joy. Still, as Elder Scott gave us 4 tools to help us overcome challenges, the Spirit let me know that they were things I needed to work at being better at using.
1. Prayer. Make time every day to pray. Tell him everything that concerns you--the big things and the mundane.
2. Use/Study the scriptures and words of the living prophets.
3. Have (or in my case as a single adult attend) weekly Family Home Evening.
4. Go to the temple.
They are things I know about. And things I try to include in my life, and work at. But I feel that a solution to a lot of the things I'm dealing with will be answered and taken care of by re-focusing my efforts on these 4 simple things.
Elder Bednar's talk was so perfect considering what I am trying to do on this blog in this year: sharing Gospel messages. He addressed his talk to those who are not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, concerning why LDS members keep sharing their beliefs with those not of our faith. I grew up outside of Utah, where I was very much the minority in my faith. I would hope that those I was around knew that I was a member of the LDS Church, and would hope they didn't find me obnoxious in always talking about the Church and my beliefs. Honestly, the main reason I did then and do now is because I love them. And I want to share with them that which is most precious to me--which has brought me peace, joy, healing, and strength.
As Elder Bednar put it, our desire to share is a reflection of how important these truths are to us. And later, after a delightful story about his 2 sons, that I immediately want to share with others that which has helped me. Once the talk is available, I will link to it here. I strongly encourage you to read it, especially if you are one my friends who is not a member of the LDS Church. This talk fully explains why I want to share what I believe with you. Why I keep this blog. Why I am blogging 365 Gospel messages. So please don't take it as me being a nuisance, but an action of love for you. And for my Savior as well.
Saturday, October 4, 2014
Gift of the Holy Ghost
Elder Bednar gave a talk in 2010 Conference about what it is to receive. From this, I have learned that receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost takes humble work on our part. But when we do so, it is quite worthwhile.