Friday, May 30, 2014

What INSTAGRAM taught me about the Savior

I entered the new age of technology a few weeks ago when my sweet husband got me a smart phone for Mother’s Day. I am always kind of on the tail end of the “new” things out there so I realize this isn’t the “new age” for most of you. As I start figuring this thing out and playing with it I start to feel pretty cool and quite empowered. I then decide I want to further my coolness… so I join Instagram---Now I realize again I’m coming late to that party as well but I always eventually get there. I start setting this up with admittedly some help from my son and it starts asking me who I want to follow. Which my son explains to me means that if you follow them you can see the pictures and updates and things they post.  So if I “follow” someone it gives me the opportunity to get a glimpse into their lives and maybe get to learn something or get to know them a little better or it can remind me of what I love about the people I already know really well.

          This got me thinking….while it is ridiculously easy to follow someone on Instagram is it as easy for us to FOLLOW our Savior, Jesus Christ?     I think we would all say of course we would be willing to Follow Jesus Christ—it unfortunately isn’t near as easy as it is to hit a button to say I want to follow Him and then on occasion passively scroll through a screen to either learn more about Him or remember what we love about Him.

            Elder Dalin H Oaks in a talk named “Followers of Christ” said : Following Christ is not a casual or occasional practice but a continuous commitment and way of life that applies at all times and in all places.”

So how do we accept the Saviors invitation to “Come Follow Me”. I think 1st we have to decide that we want to and that we will and then take the time to learn about him. We can’t be like someone if we don’t know who they really are.

We have to know who the Savior is and was when He walked the Earth---not the cliff note version of the timeline of miracles performed and events surrounding his death but we need to KNOW Him---not the social media way of knowing someone. You can’t truly know someone by just reading a few comments or posts. It gives you a glimpse but you can’t truly say you know them solely by scrolling through their pictures and posts. Just as we can’t expect to really truly know the Savior by just scrolling through the scriptures and pictures we see of Christ.

          Our family went to the beach last summer, the first day on the beach My husband showed the kids this unique round house right on the beach and said this is your reference point when you are out in the water. Look to this house and don’t get too far away from it. I really hadn't been to the ocean before so I didn't fully understand why this was important. I realized though just after a few minutes in the ocean that I had drifted pretty far from that house. I didn't even feel like I had been moving at all. It surprised me. I quickly got out and made my way back up to the beach—to our starting point. We had to do this time and time again. Sometimes we got distracted and forgot and went really far and the hike back wasn't fun but we didn't want to get too far and be lost so we readjusted and regrouped and began again.
          Christ and His Gospel is our round house—our anchor—our point of reference! I have found in life I can drift away from Him without even realizing it. I think I’m good, I feel like I’m fine and then when I really look—I’m not. I’m further from Him than I thought. The house was constant…it didn't move. I did. The same with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, they are always there our constant—we are the ones that drift from Them. We need to consistently take the time to stop and look up—to evaluate where we are and adjust accordingly. The further we get from Them the harder it can be to make that trek back.

          However, They are always there..waiting for us to come back when we do get distracted and get too far. In the ocean it can get physically exhausting countering the waves and staying close to our fixed point but unlike the ocean with our journey in life we don’t have to use just our own physical strength to accomplish the goal. Heavenly Father and Jesus are there to help us, strengthen us, guide us—we don’t have to and are foolish if we try to do it alone. He has given us all the tools and gifts we need to stay close to Him. We have the scriptures, the Holy Ghost, Prophets, and the ultimate gift His son Jesus Christ with his example of who we should strive to be and then with his atoning sacrifice for us. We need to use these things to first study and learn so we can KNOW and  then continue to DO the things we need to so we can then BECOME the people He knows we are-- the people He needs us to be to accomplish His work and so we can feel of the love and peace that can only come when we are close to the Savior and heeding the call to Follow Him
              We have to continue taking those steps..sometimes they will be baby steps..but keep taking those steps to come closer to Christ so when obstacles appear, we will keep going, when doubt comes, we will keep going. I’m so thankful for a loving, patient and forgiving Father in Heaven and for His Son Jesus Christ who is always there for me, my constant, my anchor! 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Manna AGAIN??!

During their time as slaves in Egypt, the Israelites must have longed and prayed for freedom.  They endured back-breaking work, abuse from their captors, and even genocide.   Eventually, many miracles took place to bring about their deliverance -- not the least of which was the parting of the Red Sea.
However, their freedom, which ended up looking like a hot, dry, barren wilderness, was not what they had expected.  I suppose that as they had dreamed and longed for freedom, they pictured it like a dream-life -- free from care and worry and strife.  But it wasn't like that, it was hard.  And, they tended to focus on the 'hard'.  And, BOY, did they complain about it!
Yet, in the midst of all that dust, and walking, and sun beating down, there were beautiful, mind-boggling, life-sustaining miracles!  They received water from a rock.  They received sweet water from an undrinkable pool.  They received healing by merely having faith to look at their Prophet's staff.  And, daily, they received life-sustaining manna as a gift from Heaven above.
Manna, however, did require work.  Each day, with the exception of the Sabbath, the Israelites would gather enough manna to feed themselves for that day.  The Bible dictionary explains, "It is impossible to find any natural product that will answer to the requirements of the scriptural narrative in regard to this heaven sent food [manna]. With regard to the name, we are told (Ex. 16:15) that the people, seeing the small scale-like substance, said one to another, 'Man-hu,' 'For they wist not what it was.' This also translates 'What is it?'” (

"What is it?" was probably quickly followed by, "What do we do with it?"  As far as I know, there was no manual or cookbook that came with the manna.  There was likely some trial and error as they learned to use this nourishment to their good.  And, with a significant lack of herbs, spices, and other ingredients, the culinary possibilities were probably quite limited.  And, this was their main dish, three meals a day, three hundred sixty-five days a year, for forty years.  
With their tendency to focus on the 'hard', they quickly lost sight of the miracle of it all--sustenance delivered daily, straight from God!--and instead got caught up in the repetition, the lack of variety, and the blandness.
I can almost hear them whining, "Manna AGAIN??!"

Admittedly, each time I have reviewed this story, I have become frustrated with the Israelites.  They were SO unappreciative, ungrateful, and blind to the miracles that surround them and to the source of those miracles.  

I shared this story with my children a couple of weeks ago, when they were complaining about some blessing in their life.  I felt it was important for them to change their perspective and their attitude.

Not long afterward, the Spirit whispered to my heart that I, too, was behaving like an ungrateful, blind-to-the-miracles-around-me Israelite.  I was complaining about the laundry, dishes, and clutter that constantly pile up.  I was complaining about the backseat bickering in the car, and the daily meltdown at family scripture and prayer time.

From my earliest childhood, my strongest desire was to be a mother.  Just as the Israelites had longed and prayed for freedom, my husband and I spent many years longing and praying for children.  Our diagnosis of "Unexplained Infertility" seemed to be the Red Sea blocking our way to our dream family.  Eventually, many miracles took place, including medical intervention and also adoption to bring about the parting of our Red Sea.
However, my family is not quite the picture-perfect, clean-up-after-themselves, help-without-being-asked, respect-others-and-their-stuff, peaceful family of my dreams. Instead, it often looks like a messy, loud, rambunctious, quarreling, unhelpful crowd. And, BOY, have I complained about it.
The truth is, kids require work.  Daily.  And, they don't come with a manual.  I have personally had a great deal of trial and error in raising my children.  Besides the physical work of cleaning, laundry, doing dishes, sorting clutter, etc., there is the mental and emotional work of "What do we do with [our children]?" who are still learning and making mistakes.  
I am ashamed to admit that, somewhere amidst the day-in-day-out, three hundred sixty five days a year, year after year repetition, I began to see my MIRACLES as MUNDANE and even irritating. I had started to focus on the 'hard'.  I had been complaining about the most significant miracles in my life!  I had forgotten that my daily interaction with these spirits straight from heaven is a miracle.  I had forgotten that the piles of laundry and dishes were evidence of our abundance and of a full family.  I had forgotten that clutter comes with the blessing of a young family.  I had forgotten that the backseat bickering in the car is evidence that God brought two miracles into our family, and that they are strong, independent thinkers; and besides that, the blessing that we have a car which provides reliable transportation to us.  And, as for the meltdowns at family prayer and scripture time, I had forgotten the beauty and blessing of being a family who prays together, however imperfectly, and who are blessed with the word of God in our home, and for the freedom to practice our religion.  

My life is so full of miracles, that I had begun to take them for granted, and now I need a change in attitude and perspective!

On the topic of gratitude, President Uchtdorf, counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has said, "As disciples of Christ, we are commanded to 'thank the Lord [our] God in all things,' to 'sing unto the Lord with thanksgiving,' and to 'let [our] heart be full of thanks unto God.'"   I looked, but did not find any exceptions to this commandment.  He continues, "Could I suggest that we see gratitude as a disposition, a way of life that stands independent of our current situation? In other words, I’m suggesting that instead of being thankful for things, we focus on being thankful in our circumstances—whatever they may be."   "Whatever they may be??"  But what about when we've had manna for 39 1/2 years?  Or when the kids are fighting?  Or when we've lost a loved one to death or estrangement?  Or when we or someone we love is facing a crisis? Or a hundred million other 'hard' circumstances?  President Uchtdorf assures us, "those who set aside the bottle of bitterness and lift instead the goblet of gratitude can find a purifying drink of healing, peace, and understanding." (

I expect that, for those Israelites who were able to maintain an attitude of gratitude for the manna they received, life (and probably the manna) was sweeter.  That's the kind of Israelite I would like to emulate, the grateful-for-God's-unending-miracles-in-my-life Israelite.  How about you?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Great Expectations

I’ve always felt I’ve had an expectation to live up to. Growing up the daughter of two steadfast members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints people have always expected me to be just as spectacular as my parents. Don’t get me wrong I am forever grateful for their example and what they have taught me but it wasn’t always easy.

As I grew up in our Church I watched girls older than me and got excited to participate in the activities that they did. Most of all I was excited that I would be allowed to attend Girl’s Camp when I turned twelve. I was so excited that I didn’t sleep a wink the night before my first girls camp, in fact in six years I never slept the night before girls camp, and I got up extra early to make sure I didn’t miss the cars leaving.
Once we arrived the festivities began and essentially never stopped the entire four days we were camping. Honestly, I don’t remember many of the activities we participated in but rather the feeling that was there. There was an undeniable bond between all of the girls that was stronger than any friendship I had ever experienced. We were united in friendship and the gospel--that is an unbreakable bond.

In particular one of the older girls took me under her wing. She appreciated my sass and I adored her because she was older, wiser and completely gorgeous. I watched and observed her the entire week. I knew I wanted to grow up to be like her. She became my big sister in those four days and has continued to be since that day.

On the last evening of girls camp we always hold a testimony meeting. My new, adopted big sister Sarah was one of the first to bear her testimony that evening. I remember that she bore a powerful witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I had a glimpse of the testimony that I wanted to have. I realized that my parents hadn’t always been stalwart members of our church. They had started as young, unsure twelve year olds once too. I just had to make stepping stones for myself to one day be like them.

My first stepping stone was bearing my own testimony that evening. I stood up shaky and unsure of what I was going to say. I made some simple comments about the knowledge and testimony that I did have and took a seat. After that evening I could never deny that this Gospel had power.

Two summers later I would take a gigantic leap in my conversion process. I attended two youth camps through the church. First I attended a camp with my local church members called Moroni’s Quest. We spent several days in the mountains reenacting the events of our scripture the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon literally came to life for me that week. We had some time to go on our own and write down our own testimony. I positioned myself on top of a hill and pondered for some time. As I looked over the valley I had a moment of pure revelation. I heard a voice distinctly say “These people were real. The people you read about in the Book of Mormon lived and breathed. This record is for you to learn from their lives not just stories.” I was shocked.

I’d never had such a clear moment of revelation in my life. That week I also had a clear moment where I realized that I really am a child of God. Not just a child of my earthly parents but also of Heavenly Parents. Things I’d learned my whole life but never pondered or necessarily believed became crystal clear that week.

The last evening we ended with a testimony meeting and I again experienced the feeling I had at girls camp every year. An undeniable and unbreakable bond between all of the youth.

I made another stepping stone that testimony meeting. I knew that as a fifteen year old I shouldn’t just sit in the background anymore, I needed to lead. I chose to be the first to bear my testimony that evening so I could be an example I am so grateful that I didn’t shrink into the back but took the lead. I didn’t realize it then but I was fulfilling those expectations that had always been placed on me. After Moroni’s Quest I could never deny the Book of Mormon. I knew it to be true and I would be held responsible for that knowledge.

Later in the summer I attended a second youth camp called Especially For Youth. Unlike Moroni’s Quest this camp is with Mormon youth from around the country and even the world. I was shocked to find that same undeniable and unbreakable bond at EFY. The bond formed with people who had been complete strangers just six days before. After we had our testimony meeting our group was heart broken that we were going to have to separate. We felt like family and we didn’t want to leave one another.

We were walking back to our dorms each of us arm in arm and wiping away our tears. Our EFY counselor stopped us and had us sit down under a tree in the summer evening. He bore his testimony about eternity and the Celestial Kingdom. In our faith we understand that we can spend eternity with our families when we are sealed in one of our holy temples and if we live righteously. He told us that if we lived righteously our group could be reunited in the Celestial Kingdom. I had never thought about or considered being with a friend for eternity. What a fantastic way to spend eternity, eternally bonded with friends and family.

Then it all clicked. The feeling I had experienced at girls camp, Moroni’s Quest and EFY was an eternal friendship. Heavenly Father had blessed me with a glimpse of eternity. I could form these friendships and have these friends forever if I only lived righteously. After this EFY I could never deny that I knew the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was true. What a blessing in my life.

My testimony has continued to grow after those pivotal summers but my testimony would have never been the same without those years. I was even surprised to find out that I lived up to those expectations that were placed on me. It did take some effort on my part but people have expected me to be great because I am a daughter of God and I have eternal potential just like everyone on the earth. What’s different about members of our church is that we have the Gospel of Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father expects us to live like we know the truth because we do. I may have had a very different conversion to this gospel than other members of the church but that’s the beauty of this gospel. The gospel of Jesus Christ is for everybody on the earth but is completely personal and unique for everyone.