Sunday, July 27, 2014

All Is Well, All Is Well

Today as I attended sacrament meeting, I was feeling pretty down. A young woman in the ward gave her farewell talk, for she is reporting to the MTC this Wednesday for her mission to California. I also asked for my mission plaque to be removed from the wall outside of the bishop's office until I figure out whether I'll be going back on my mission. It was also the first time in a few weeks that I was able to partake of the sacrament because of travel and illness. My feelings were tender and I struggled to pay attention to what the speakers were saying, and I continued to struggle until the choir stood up to sing a special musical number. The piece they selected to perform was "Come, Come Ye Saints," and it wasn't until hearing it today that it had special meaning to me. 
"Come, come ye saints, no toil not labor fear. But with joy wend your way. Though hard to you this journey may appear, grace shall be as your day."
One mission companion loved the phrase "grace shall be as your day," because grace is part of Christ's love and His sacrifice for us. Because of the Atonement, we are able to partake of His grace and be healed and forgiven. When going through a difficult time, like I am right now, we need only rely on the Atonement. To be honest, that is something that I struggle to do. I like to be my own savior, but that's not how this life works. We don't have to be our own savior, because we have a Savior who sacrificed all for us because of love. 
"Gird up your loins, fresh courage take, our God will never is forsake." When we face something that looks so daunting and difficult, like the loss of a loved one, or a mental illness like depression or anxiety, sometimes we want to curl up in the corner and close ourselves off to the world. But this hymn counsels us to gird up our loins and take courage! Roll up your sleeves and labor with all your heart, might, mind, and strength to overcome the trial that looms before you. 
"We'll find the place which God for us prepared, far away in the West." That was my mission. God prepared a place for me to serve my mission there in the Salt Lake City West mission. There I labored diligently, but fell under a difficult trial that I couldn't overcome while on my mission. 
"And should we die before our journey's through, happy day all is well!" I "died before my journey's through," because I had to go home before my mission was over. It's a social stigma that you have to finish your mission to have served an honorable mission. What a load of lies and deceit! I served honorably, and it's okay that I didn't finish, because all is well! God will bless me because of my service, and will strengthen me through my weaknesses. So through these trials, I will "make the air with music ring, shout praises to my God and King." I am His daughter, and I will pull through this. And I know that whatever trials each of you is going through, you can pull through them as well. Don't give up when the fight gets hard. Have faith, and everything will work out the way God intends it to. I know this with all my heart. God bless you all. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Right Place at the Right Time

Does it seem like the Lord has a sense of humor sometimes? Or that maybe He gets frustrated with us when we're too impatient to wait for good things. Or when we're not grateful in every circumstance. Like when things go horribly wrong but somehow turn out okay, or blissfully right, and you think to yourself, "God, you really do know what you're doing up there!" That's the moment that we, as His children, begin to trust Him. And every time we lose our way, but have these moments again, we again realize that the Lord has His hand in our lives, and He is directing our paths. 
One example of this is a series of incidents that have happened to me over the past month or so. After five and a half months of my mission, and dealing with depression and anxiety daily, along with little to no sleep, I finally asked my mission president to consider letting me go home to take care of the problems I was dealing with. Three days later, I was crying myself to sleep in my own bed at home. I struggled with adapting back to "civilian" life, and was so lost and confused about my situation. I was tearful a lot, and angry that I was in this situation. I began regretting putting my papers in and going on my mission. I regretted not being a healthier person. I cursed my genetics and biological makeup for causing me problems. I resented my sister, who has no health problems, and just observes as I deal with the "gifts" I found at the shallow end of the gene pool. I also lost myself. I stopped reading my scriptures and praying. I completely cut myself off from my loving Heavenly Father. I convinced myself that He didn't love me anymore, and that He really didn't care what I did with my life. Even when I went to the temple, I pleaded with Him for an answer to my questions, but I had cut myself off, and allowed no communication to occur between Father and daughter. Then, a miracle happened. My cousin's wedding day was approaching, and where should she decide to be married? Why, no other than the beautiful Nauvoo, IL temple! Nauvoo always has and always and forever will hold a special, tender place in my heart. My pulse will always quicken, and my heart jump into my throat whenever I see or hear anything that draws my nostalgic thoughts back to the City of Joseph. I now had this glorious opportunity to revisit the place that means so much to me, and soak in the spirit that occupies that sacred city. I was restless the entire trip there, and made myself sick with nervousness as excitement. I had a few close friends serving as young performing missionaries in Nauvoo this summer, and the thought of seeing them, coupled with the ever-nearing destination of Nauvoo, made my heart flutter and my mind soar. When I finally arrived, I felt whole and complete. Like a missing part of me had been found and replaced. I can now say that I'm content with where I am. I can feel God smiling down at me, and I have a feeling He is saying, "Now, this is what happens when you just trust me. I know you. I know what you need. Please, daughter, trust me and follow me." I can see the path laid out for me. Even though I didn't want to return from my mission, and even  though I was angry and resentful, I can now say that all of these things had a reason. And this isn't the final outcome of the incidents that have occurred in the past month. The things that have happened will have an eternal impact on me, and I will have to carry them for the rest  of my life. But now I know that I really don't have to carry them alone. I now know that the Lord will always make sure that we are in the right place at the right time, but people, we've got to trust Him. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

My Thoughts on Light

"For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God... search diligently in the light of Christ that ye may know good from evil; and if ye will lay hold upon every good thing, and condemn it not, ye certainly will be a child of Christ."
(Moroni 7:16, 19)

If any of you are like me, you may at times feel like a little black rain cloud is following you around all day, and you can't seem to shake it. You sometimes wonder if you'll ever "see the light" again. It happens to all of us. We have bad days, or bad weeks, or bad months. But it's not a bad life. When I think of this little black rain cloud, I am reminded of the phrase "shadow by day," which refers to the cloud that followed the children of Israel in the wilderness. The cloud was the Lord, and it was His protection and watchful care that got the Israelites through the wilderness and into the Promised Land. I've decided to turn this little black rain cloud into my "shadow by day," and also learn to depend on my "pillar by night." I want to turn all of these hard things over to the Lord, and He will lift the burdens that I carry.

My dad is the bishop of our ward back in Tennessee. He works hard, especially with the youth. He has been studying the concept of light as it occurs in the scriptures, which has inspired this blog post. I love light! Light chases away darkness, and it defeats the blues! It's refreshing to wake up in the morning to light streaming in through the windows. Your body needs light to feel good! Vitamin D and warmth are two important things that come from our biggest and brightest source of light. Just like our bodies need light to feel good, our Spirits need light to feel good too.
Psalms 27:1 says, "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" When we have the light of Christ in us, we have no need to fear, and we can do anything! We know that what we believe is the truth, and we can boldly testify of that. When we are righteous and worthy, the light of Christ is evident in us. "Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness: he is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous." So when we are righteous, we are light, even in the darkest of times.
In Romans, we are exhorted to "put on the armour of light." How cool is that to imagine?! I can just imagine a young person, standing for what he or she believes, and radiating the light of Christ, in the midst of darkness and despair.
So now, my dear brothers and sisters, I issue you the same invitation. Put on the armor of light! Let your light so shine! The Lord has said, "I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldst be for salvation unto the ends of the earth." Be the one that reaches out and helps bring others unto salvation. I know without a doubt that we are God's children, and as we seek out light in the darkness, we will become children of Christ.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

For Ye Have Need of PATIENCE!

STOMP STOMP STOMP! I made sure my companion could hear my footsteps as I made my way to the door of the cultural center at the church. I was ready to go, but wasn't patient enough to wait for her to finish gathering her belongings and catch up with me. I sighed loudly, and emphatically pushed the door open, making a loud clanging sound, and stomped into the hallway, as my companion finally caught up with me and followed me down the hallway.  
This isn't the first time something like this has happened. I remember how impatient I was with my companion at the MTC. I had to stretch myself to be patient with this wonderful young sister when she woke up late, etc. Now I'm the one being impatient again, and my current companion is so patient and loving with me as I struggle through some health issues I face. What right have I to be impatient with her?

The apostle Paul wrote, "for ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise" (Hebrews 10:36). I think he's trying to tell me something. I often find myself anxiously awaiting the next exciting thing to happen in my life. When I'm at home, I can't wait to get back to BYU-Idaho, but when I'm at school, I can't wait for the semester to be over so I can go home. Christmas is too far away! When will it be summer? How much longer is this road trip? Why won't this webpage load? When will that boy call me? When will Friday get here? Will this class ever end? Yep, that's me, all the time, 24/7. One thing that I find myself saying often is, "When will this trial ever be over?" In Romans, Paul tells us, "We glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope" (Romans 5:3-4). So, what you're telling me is that if I am patient through my trials, I will gain experience, and this experience will give me hope? I guess I can believe that! And why do I have these trying times? Why do I have to endure such horrible trials? Well, James put it this way: "The trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." After this, he tells us that if we lack wisdom, we must ask of God (James 1:3-4).

How do I get over this impatience? (Here's where the irony comes in: "When will I ever be patient?!"). Paul continues, "For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith." Faith? Oh, I have plenty of that! But I still have a hard time waiting! I think the first step in becoming patient is found in Mosiah chapter 3, verse 19. It talks about how the natural man is an enemy to God. If you think about it, the natural man is abhorrent; the natural man lies, lusts, errs, hurts, ills, and dies. But, if we "yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ," then we can find those virtues that come with putting off the natural man, one of which is becoming patient. First, we must become as a little child. I don't know about you, but I wasn't a patient child, but King Benjamin seems to think that children are patient. I know, he was talking about the innocent nature of children. Anyways, it all comes back to humility. We can't be patient unless we're humble. That's the bottom line. Humility brings patience.
I won't pretend that I'm patient. In fact, the stomping episode I mentioned at the beginning of this article, it happened just an hour ago. We're all imperfect, and we all make mistakes. We won't all be patient at all times, but we can sure try. At the end of it all, all that matters is how hard we tried. Be humble. Be patient.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A Mission Prepares You for Motherhood

I am thoroughly convinced that my mission is preparing me to be a mother. In many different ways, I am learning how to be patient, how to teach, how to lead, how to be a homemaker, and many other skills that are necessary to be a mother. It's more than just learning how to make bread and jam on P-days or dealing with difficult companions, or having doors slammed in my face. It's about the spiritual strength I am gaining now as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In October 2007, Sister Julie B. Beck gave a talk titled, "Mothers Who Know." This talk is all about good, strong mothers who raise their children in righteousness. She talks about mothers who know how to keep the commandments and walk uprightly before God, and how the mothers of the stripling warriors knew these important things, and taught them to their sons. There are 3 ways that Sister Beck has mentioned that relate to missionary work and motherhood, which I am taking to heart and applying in my life.

1. Leadership and Planning
In her talk, Sister Beck said,
"Mothers who know are leaders. In equal partnership with their husbands, they lead a great and eternal organization. These mothers plan for the future of their organization. They plan for missions, temple marriages, and education. They plan for prayer, scripture study, and family home evening. Mothers who know build children into future leaders and are the primary examples of what leaders look like. They do not abandon their plan by succumbing to social pressure and worldly models of parenting. These wise mothers who know are selective about their own activities and involvement to conserve their limited strength in order to maximize their influence where it matters most." 
A missionary spends several hours a week planning what they will do for the day or for the week. Missionaries set goals and make a plan to fulfill that goal. For example, I struggle daily with falling asleep and waking up on time, yet I've made it a goal to wake up 10 minutes before I need to, and to try to go to bed 10 minutes earlier so that I can get my needed rest. This principle of goal-setting will help me prepare for motherhood.

2. Teaching and Training
Sister Beck has also said,
"Mothers who know are always teachers. Since they are not babysitters, they are never off duty. A well-taught friend told me that he did not learn anything at church that he had not already learned at home. His parents used family scripture study, prayer, family home evening, mealtimes, and other gatherings to teach. Think of the power of our future missionary force if mothers considered their homes as a pre–missionary training center. Then the doctrines of the gospel taught in the MTC would be a review and not a revelation. That is influence; that is power."
Children come into this world with a blank slate, and will learn little to nothing without their mothers. As a missionary, I study for an hour by myself and an hour with my companion each morning so that when we are in a lesson, we will have the scriptural knowledge we need to answer the investigators' questions. I am learning now how to incorporate scripture study, prayer, and the singing of hymns into my daily life so that when I am a mother, I can teach my children to do the same things.

3. Standing for Truth and Righteousness
"Who will prepare this righteous generation of sons and daughters? Latter-day Saint women will do this—women who know and love the Lord and bear testimony of Him, women who are strong and immovable and who do not give up during difficult and discouraging times. We are led by an inspired prophet of God who has called upon the women of the Church to 'stand strong and immovable for that which is correct and proper under the plan of the Lord.' He has asked us to 'begin in [our] own homes' to teach children the ways of truth. Latter-day Saint women should be the very best in the world at upholding, nurturing, and protecting families."
I am confident that nothing is more important than being strong and immovable, and standing up for what I believe in. When I am blessed with the joyous gift of motherhood, I cannot and will not give in under pressure. I will stand for what is right, and defend my faith, for the sake of my children and for the sake of my God and my Savior. I will follow the prophet, keep the commandments, and be an example for my children of righteousness and faithfulness. As a missionary, I am doing these things each day.

It is my prayer that all sister missionaries will realize this in their service, and will do everything they can to allow their mission to prepare them for their next mission of motherhood.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Glimpse into the Life of Job

In the past few weeks, my family has endured several trials. They are mostly temporal things, but they affect the family nonetheless. My dad lost his job, after 17 years of diligent, loyal employment. The dishwasher stopped working. The stove/oven stopped working. The refridgerator stopped working. The cars are falling to pieces. There was a leak in the shower. All these things, and more have afflicted my family. As I look at the events that have happened in my family over the past few weeks, I am reminded of the story of Job. Job was a just man who walked uprightly before God. He was righteous and humble, and he had been blessed significantly by the Lord. He had property and lands and livestock, making him a wealthy man. He had a wife and seven children, who were his pride and joy. He lived a comfortable life, while working hard to earn his keep. Then, the adversary stepped into the picture, and was allowed to tempt Job, to see if he would deny God. Job lost everything. His children died when the roof of his house fell upon them. The cattle and livestock were stolen, and the sheep were burned by the fires from heaven. His servants were slain by the Sabeans and the Chaldeans, who stole the oxen and mules and camels. Later, Job is smitten with boils, which caused him to live in constant discomfort. His wife and friends turn against him, calling him a sinner, and telling him to curse God and die.

The things that my family is facing is nowhere near as awful as what Job faced, but it tests their faith (and mine) anyways. Imagine the sorrow that Job felt. I read about he wished that he had died when he was born, or had never been born. He laments and prays and asks God to remove the hardships from him- yet he never denied God. He said, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in him" (Job 13:15).

My great-grandfather Clarence Kennedy used to say, "The cows give more milk and the chickens lay more eggs when you have a boy (or girl) on a mission." Though it's hard to see sometimes, there are still blessings being poured out onto my family. My dad now has the opportunity to study his scriptures more often and more in-depth. He has the chance to make the needed repairs on the house (like ordering parts to fix the appliances and repairing the leaks). He has more time to devote to making himself a disciple of Christ, and he is more aware of the things that affect the home. He told me that he tries to study his scriptures at the same time I study during the morning (which is 8:00 for me, 9:00 for him). My mom doesn't have to worry about being home to clean the house so much, or prepare dinner. My sister has her dad at home to help her through the final week of high school, before graduating and turning a new leaf.

Job, though tempted, tried, beaten down, and nearly defeated, said, "when He (the Lord) hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold" (Job 23:10). The process of refining gold to make it shiny and valuable involves being melted down in a fire several times, until it comes out gleaming and beautiful. How true this held for Job! At the end of his trials, he is blessed to see the Lord with his own eyes. He was restored to his former wealth and comfort, healed of his afflictions, and blessed with seven more children.

I am confident that the things that my family is facing at this time in their lives is part of the refining process to turn them into beautiful, strong disciples of Christ. They will be blessed for enduring well.  Doctrine and Covenants 121:7-8 says, "My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; though shalt triumph over all thy foes." I know that if my family and I approach these trials with an eye single to the glory of God, and praise Him in our trials and in our blessings, He will make a way to escape (1 Corinthians 10:13), and we will be able to bear our afflictions and trials.

I love my Savior Jesus Christ. I know the Atonement is real and that it is available for all who believe in Christ, if they will but come unto Him. I leave this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Doubting My Doubts

It's no secret that the adversary does his very best to instill doubts into our minds. He disturbs us with thoughts like, "Is the church really true?" "Was Joseph Smith really a prophet?" "Is Thomas S. Monson really our prophet today?" As a missionary, many of my doubts sound like this: "Am I really supposed to be on a mission right now?" "Am I doing the Lord's work, or am I just trying to convince people about the church?" "Isn't there something better I could be doing with my time?" Unfortunately, doubts are a reality of life. The adversary does everything he can to convince us that our doubts are truth. Doubts are never truth!
In an effort to encourage the members of the Church who are struggling with doubts, our dear Apostle, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf stated, "doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith. We must never allow doubt to hold us prisoner and keep us from the divine love, peace, and gifts that come through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ." My mission president, President Swain, has said that as soon as doubt comes, faith leaves. As much as it applies to missionary work, it can apply to real-life situations. I am asking you, my dear friends, to doubt your doubts. Don't let your faith waver. Trust in the Lord. Like Job says, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him." Even if God brings you low (like the currant bush story; see D. Todd Christofferson's talk, "As Many as I Love, I Rebuke and Chasten") you must always trust Him. Build your foundation on Him. Fast and pray often. Trust Him. Doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith.