Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Lord Has Not Forgotten You!

As I sit here pondering on how to start this entry, I keep thinking about the lyrics to one of my favorite hymns. It is called "How Firm A Foundation." As you read it think about your own relationship with our Savior Jesus Christ.

Lyrics:

How firm a foundation, ye Saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in his excellent word!
What more can he say than to you he hath said,
Who unto the Savior, who unto the Savior,
Who unto the Savior for refuge have fled?

In ev'ry condition-- in sickness, in health,
In poverty's vale or abounding in wealth,
At home or abroad, on the land or the sea--
As thy days may demand, as thy days may demand,
As thy days may demand, so thy succor shall be.

Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid,
I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by the righteous, upheld by thy righteous,
Upheld by thy righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not thee o'er flow,
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee, and sanctify to thee,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply.
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, thy dross to consume,
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

E'en down to old age, all my people shall prove
My sov'reign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And then, when gray hair shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs shall they still, like lambs shall they still,
Like lambs shall they still in my bosom be borne.

The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose
I will not, I cannot, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell shall endeavor to shake,
I'll never, no never, I'll never, no never,
I'll never, no never, no never forsake!

I love this song because it reassures me that despite our current circumstances, whatever they may be, the Lord is always with us. We are given the option to either withdraw or draw near to our Savior. I don't think the majority of us withdraw out of spite, but out of frustration due to our lack of understanding. We wish we knew why we are experiencing the things we are going through. We wish we knew the end result. We feel like we are being led with a blind fold on. It is up to us to trust in God to lead us to our final destination.  Sometimes we resent the fact that we are left in the dark and we are relying solely on someone we cannot see. It is during these times when Satan will try to attack. He will put the questions into our minds of....

"Is God really there?"
"Does God care about me?"
"Why would God let this happen?"
"Does God really hear my prayers?"
"Why do I feel like God has abandoned me and my family?"
"Is there any point?"
"Will this ever get better?"
"What did I do wrong to deserve this?"
"Does God even know me?"
"Is there really a God?"
"Is there any point in praying?"


I think it is normal for us to have these thoughts on occasion, especially during our trials. We feel a separation from God. The light of the future is no longer bright. It has become dark. The blindfold has been placed on us. We remember what we saw before. We remember what it looked like when it was bright. However, the longer we go in the dark, the harder it is to remember that light. We start to wonder if it was ever real. We get used to the dark and it is hard to comprehend the time when we could see light so clearly. God gave us a glimpse and now He is requiring us to rely on our faith.

Is the faith we had in the light strong enough to get us through the time in the dark?

When we go through trials sometimes we start to wonder if the Lord has forgotten us altogether. We feel like we have been praying and doing all within our power, and yet we haven't seen results. We feel abandoned. We wonder why God is not responding to our plea right away. I love this conference talk by Linda S. Reeves. She is the second counselor in the General Relief Society Presidency for our church. She gave a talk in October called "The Lord Has Not Forgotten You." I listened to it and loved it. I feel like this applies to many people throughout the world. Especially those who may be experiencing hard times in the dark right now.





As I listened to the talk I kept thinking "Madelaine you are not alone right now. You are Heavenly Father's daughter. You are important and He loves you. You are never alone!"


There is a talk given by Elder Quentin L. Cook, titled "Hope Ya Know, We Had A Hard Time"
It is a great talk and I would recommend reading all of it. Some things that stuck out to me are:



"We resonate with the Prophet Joseph’s petition after he had been falsely accused and imprisoned in Liberty Jail for months: “O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?”
The Lord’s answer is reassuring:
“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.” 1
One of the essential doctrines illuminated by the Restoration is that there must be opposition in all things for righteousness to be brought to pass. 2 This life is not always easy, nor was it meant to be; it is a time of testing and proving. As we read in Abraham, “And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.” 3 Elder Harold B. Lee taught, “Sometimes the things that are best for us and the things that bring eternal rewards seem at the moment to be the most bitter, and the things forbidden are ofttimes the things which seem to be the more desirable.” 4
The novel A Tale of Two Cities opens with the oft-quoted line “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” 5 The scriptures make it clear that each generation has its own version of best and worst of times. We are all subject to the conflict between good and evil 6 and the contrast between light and dark, hope and despair. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell explained, “The sharp, side-by-side contrast of the sweet and the bitter is essential until the very end of this brief, mortal experience.” 7 We know from our doctrine that good will overcome evil, 8 and those who repent and are sanctified shall be given eternal life. 9
He went on to say, “There are many people who cannot now get employment, but the spring is going to open upon us soon, and we are not going to suffer any more than what is for our good.” 16
The challenges we face today are in their own way comparable to challenges of the past. The recent economic crisis has caused significant concern throughout the world. Employment and financial problems are not unusual. Many people have physical and mental health challenges. Others deal with marital problems or wayward children. Some have lost loved ones. Addictions and inappropriate or harmful propensities cause heartache. Whatever the source of the trials, they cause significant pain and suffering for individuals and those who love them.
We know from the scriptures that some trials are for our good and are suited for our own personal development. 17 We also know that the rain falls on the just and the unjust. 18 It is also true that every cloud we see doesn’t result in rain. Regardless of the challenges, trials, and hardships we endure, the reassuring doctrine of the Atonement wrought by Jesus Christ includes Alma’s teaching that the Savior would take upon Him our infirmities and “succor his people according to their infirmities.” "
We are engraven upon the palms of His hands. He has NOT forgotten us!
The Savior is aware of us. God does hear our prayers. We are never left alone. When we are in the dark, we need to use it as an opportunity to strengthen our faith. It will be hard. Just like the title of the talk says "Hope Ya Know, We Had A Hard Time." He is leading us. He will continue to lead us if we let Him. 
For those of you who may be experiencing difficult things in your life right now, don't give up. Don't withdraw. Draw close to the Savior for that is where you will find consolation and peace. It is through the Savior and His Atonement that we will be given the strength to press forward through the dark. Just like any storm, there will be an ending. We will see better days. We will come out a stronger version of ourselves if we allow Christ to lead us. Look for examples from your life of the Lord leading you. The recollection of those experiences will strengthen faith in times of trial, trouble, or despair. 
I would also add that it is not good to hold everything inside. Find an outlet for your stress or anxiety. Go on a walk. Write in a journal. Read a book. Paint a picture. Play a game. Look for the beauty around you. Find the things in your life to be grateful for. Don't allow yourself to stay in a rut. It will do no one any good. Tell your Heavenly Father how you are feeling. Tell Him what is on your mind. Then give it to Him. Put your faith in Him and trust that He will do with it what is best. Dwelling on things we cannot change will only make it worse. We will feel like giving up and withdrawing. Find ways to serve others. Look for the miracles in your life and please remember that EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON! Remember the Savior and what was told to Joseph Smith during one of the hardest times of his life 
“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.” 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Becoming like Jesus Christ

I want to start out this post by posing several questions for you to think about.

  • Who are we?
  • What motivates us to change?
  • How do we make these changes?

I gave a workshop on my mission to a small group of missionaries. I was asked to speak on the Atonement of Christ. I was told I could take the lesson which ever way I felt inspired to. So I spent several days pondering the Atonement and what I would say. I spent several hours praying for guidance. The day before I was to give this workshop/lesson I was praying at my desk. I had all of these thoughts and ideas come to my head and I spent the next hour and a half just writing them down. I filled up several pages in my notebook. By the time I was done I had more than enough material to cover the lesson. I went back and reread what I had written. I didn't remember writing most of it. As I read it, I learned more about God, Christ, and myself. I thought I would write about that today. So as you read, keep in mind the questions that I wrote above.

Becoming like Christ:

We cannot be like our Savior if we aren't striving. Change requires effort and self-discipline. It requires strong motivation for an end result that is greater and more promising than where we are at right now. 


There are several scriptures I found that I loved. I will explain them in a moment.

Alma 46:15

15 And those who did belong to the church were faithful; yea, all those who were true believers in Christ took upon them, gladly, the name of Christ, or Christians as they were called, because of their belief in Christ who should come.



Mosiah 5:7-9

 And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the achildren of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are bchanged through faith on his name; therefore, ye are cborn of him and have become his dsons and his daughters.

 And under this head ye are made afree, and there is bno other head whereby ye can be made free. There is no other cname given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye shoulddtake upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives.
 And it shall come to pass that whosoever doeth this shall be found at the right hand of God, for he shall know the name by which he is called; for he shall be called by the name of Christ.

3 Nephi 27:27

27 And know ye that ye shall be judges of this people, according to the judgment which I shall give unto you, which shall be just. Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am.


Moroni 7:48

48 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father will all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen. 


Jacob 4:11

11 Wherefore, beloved brethren, be reconciled unto him through the atonement of Christ, his Only Begotten Son, and ye may obtain a resurrection, according to the power of the resurrection which in in Christ, and be presented as the first-fruits of Christ unto God, having faith, and obtained a good hope of glory in him before he manifesteth himself in the flesh.


Mosiah 3:17

17 And moreover, I say unto you, that there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent. 


Alma 38:9

9 And now, my son, I have told you this that ye may learn wisdom, that ye may learn of me that there is no other way or means whereby man can be saved, only in and through Christ.  Behold, he is the life and the light of the world. Behold, he is the word of truth and righteousness. 


So what can we learn from these scriptures?
  • The people took upon them GLADLY the name of Christ
  • We are children of Christ.
  • We have to decide to take His name upon us.
  • We need to strive to become like Christ.
  • If we do this, when He comes again we will be like Him.
  • We need to be "reconciled" through the Atonement. Which means we need to re-establish a friendship with our Savior. We are already close to Him. We just can't remember. As we learn and study about Christ, we re-establish that friendship. 
  • Christ is the ONLY way to salvation!!



I love a song by Mindy Gledhill that is called "A Little More like Thee." 






So what motivates us to want to become like our Savior?

Our minds don't remember, but in our hearts is an internal longing and innate desire to be like Him. When we realize why we are here, that longing and desire increase which then becomes a strong source of motivation for change. 

The principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ are faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, and endure (or remain faithful) to the end. The first principle is FAITH! If we don't have that burning desire to change, then we need to study Christ and His life. When we learn more about our Savior we are reminded of who we are, our divine nature, and our future destiny.  We are inspired to change because we know that is why we are here. The Gospel becomes embedded in us and in a very real way we start to become like our Savior. We realize who He is and the potential we have to become like Him.  We strive to be obedient and keep His commandments, not because we have to, but because we know that is the only way we have to become more like Him. That is the only way we will have LONG LASTING JOY. 

Our hearts yearn to be in alignment with His. Inside each one of our hearts we are seeking for that bond ... it is there. It has been there throughout eternity and it will continue to be there as we use the Atonement in our lives. We need to re-establish that friendship with Him.  Our relationship with the Savior is not new. It is a very old friendship. We just need to be reacquainted with Him. We start to remember as we study about Him, follow His example, and live His teachings.  Our personal faith in Christ, as our Redeemer, will grow and His Atonement will become more real and an intricate part of who we are. It is no longer a distant concept, but a tangible reality in which we are led home to our Heavenly Father.   

As we strive to see ourselves the way our Savior sees us and routinely try to improve and develop Christ-like attributes, our minds will be enlightened. We will start to become more familiar with who we are and the great potential we each possess. We have that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. 
At the end of this life we can't take anything with us except WHO we are... our character! 



How do we make the changes to become like Heavenly Father and Christ?

In Preach My Gospel page 115 it says: 

"The restored gospel enables you to become like Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. The Savior has shown the way. He has set the perfect example, and He commands us to become as He is (see 3 Nephi 27:27). Learn of Him and seek to incorporate His attributes into your life. Through the power of His Atonement, you can achieve this goal and lead others to achieve it also." 


This says that it is through the RESTORED GOSPEL that we become like our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. The Restored Gospel is:
  • FAITH
  • REPENTANCE
  • BAPTISM
  • RECEIVE THE HOLY GHOST
  • ENDURE TO THE END (REMAIN FAITHFUL)

Faith and repentance= a change of character. 



In Preach My Gospel page 116 it says: 

"Your faith will increase through diligent study, prayer, dedicated service, and obedience to the promptings of the Holy Ghost and the commandments.Your faith in Jesus Christ grows as you become better acquainted with Him and His teachings. As you explore the scriptures and search them, you learn of His ways, His love for all people, and His commandments. "


Faith and repentance= a change of character.



In Preach My Gospel pages 61-63 it says:

"Faith in Christ leads to action. It leads to sincere and lasting repentance. Having faith causes us to try as hard as we can to learn about and become more like our Savior. We want to learn what His commandments are and then obey them. Even though we will still make mistakes, we show our love for Him by striving to keep His commandments and avoid sin."


"The second principle of the gospel is repentance. Our faith in Christ and our love for Him lead us to repent, or to change our thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors that are not in harmony with His will. Repentance includes forming a fresh view of God, ourselves, and the world."



"Thus, as we repent daily, we will find that our lives will change and improve. Our hearts and our behavior will become more Christlike. We will come to feel great joy in repenting daily."


Faith and repentance= a change of character.

It is what you do with your mistakes that define who and what you are. We are able to change because of our Savior and His Atonement.

There is a quote that I love. It says:

"LIVE IN A WAY SO THAT THOSE WHO KNOW YOU BUT DON'T KNOW GOD, WILL COME TO KNOW GOD BECAUSE THEY KNOW YOU."


I learned a lot from teaching this lesson. I learned of the importance of constantly striving to become like the Son of God. As we seek Him I promise we will find Him. We will come to know that He has been with us the whole time. It is through the grace of God that we will be saved after doing all we could do. We need to be living and applying the Gospel of Christ every day. We do this by increasing our faith and repenting. As we do this we will become changed. We will become children of Christ. We will become like Him. There is nothing else that will give you so much joy as this. I promise you this is true. I have seen it in my own life and I have been fortunate enough to witness it in other's lives as well. I KNOW Jesus Christ lives. I know He is the Son of God. He came down to earth and lived a perfect life. He did all He was asked to do. He set the perfect example. He gave us hope. He knows and understands everything we go through. He will NEVER leave us. He is there! I know that as we study and pray and try to be like Him, we will realize we have always known Him. It is not a new friendship with Him that we are forming, but rather we are re-establishing a friendship that has ALWAYS been there! He is our brother. He is our friend. He is full of mercy, compassion, and forgiveness. All He asks is for us to come unto Him. To repent of our sins and change through the Atonement. He loves us and I promise as you do this, you will experience more joy than you ever thought possible. There is HOPE! Look to Christ and He will lead you home! 


FAITH AND REPENTANCE=A CHANGE OF CHARACTER! 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Unconventional Me

I went to an interview recently with one of the leaders in my church. It was to renew my temple recommend. He asked me the questions and when I was done answering he gave me my new recommend. I thought we were done, however when I looked at him I could tell he had something he wanted to say. After a second he told me that he felt inspired to tell me that I will bless many people through my unconventional life. He told me several other things that are personal and I don't think it would be appropriate to share. However, what really stuck out to me was his description of my unconventional life. I didn't tell him much about my life or what I am currently going through. Yet, when he said that I got slightly emotional and I tried to brush it aside. Something about that statement hit home with me. It was what I needed to hear. I was not exactly sure at that moment what that meant, but I knew I needed to spend time on my own thinking about it.

I did what I always do when I am not quite clear on the definition of a word... I looked it up. Google is my good friend. It said:


Not based on or conforming to what is generally done or believed.


It made me think of how my mum always tells me that I am an "out of the box" person. I don't let others set limitations on my potential or behavior. I define who I am. Others don't get to do that for me. I used to always tell my mum "well I guess you could say my life is never boring..."

I started to wonder if I am unconventional, then what does conventional look like? The definition for conventional is:

Based on or in accordance with what is generally done or believed. Concerned with what is generally held to be acceptable at the expense of individuality and sincerity.

I think conventional to me would be conforming to the "norm." Making choices that would be consistent with what others would approve of. Who sets these social norms? Who gets to have an influence on our decisions? Who are these people and why do so many of us care what they say?

I immediately thought of fashion. Many people wear what is "in style" not because they think it is cute, but because everyone else is doing it. They want to fit in. It comes from a need to feel accepted. I think we all desire to be accepted by others. However, why in the world do ones clothes determine that?! Why does it matter if you have the latest hairstyle or color? What is acceptable now will change in three months. Why are we so determined to keep up with the Jones'? Who are the blasted Jones' anyway??

I think this is where my artistic, creative side comes out. In other words my unconventional self. I think of a quote from the movie "What A Girl Wants." It says:

"Why are you trying so hard to fit in when you were BORN TO STAND OUT?"

Another quote I like says:

"What makes you different makes you beautiful."

I suppose I really value individuality. I always have wanted to be different. I cant stand when someone tries to put me in a box. I don't like to be categorized with a large majority of people. I don't like to feel like one of many. There is only one me. There is only one you. We should be embracing our diversity. We are different.

I've been watching a speech by Brene Brown called "The Power of Vulnerability."





I first saw this speech on my mission and it changed the way I viewed my life. It changed the way I viewed myself. If you have twenty minutes I would HIGHLY recommend watching this! I learned many amazing things from this talk. Some of the highlights are:


  • Shame is the fear of disconnection.
  • We ask ourselves "Is there something about me that if other people know it or see it then I wouldn't be worthy of connection?"
  • In order for connection we have to allow ourselves to be seen... really seen!
  • Sense of worthiness comes from a strong sense of love and belonging.
  • It is WHOLE-HEARTED people that live with this deep sense of worthiness.
  • Courage if broken down: Cour means the heart. Or in other words to have courage means: Tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.
  • We need to have the courage to be imperfect and the compassion to be kind to ourselves first. We cannot practice compassion with other people if we cannot treat ourselves kindly.
  • Connection is a result of authenticity.
  • Authentic people are willing to let go of who they thought they should be to be who they are!
  • "What makes you vulnerable makes you beautiful."
  • Vulnerability is the birth place of joy, belonging, and love.
  • You cannot selectively numb emotion.
  • Blame is a way to discharge pain and discomfort.
  • We need to let ourselves be seen, love with our whole hearts even though there is no guarantee, express gratitude despite our circumstances, and BELIEVE THAT WE ARE ENOUGH!
I LOVED THIS!! Too often we try to avoid vulnerable situations. We try to run from anything that makes us uncomfortable or afraid. When in the end, those are the things that let us truly feel joy. Those are the situations where we get to learn and grow. Those are the times when we find out who we really are.

I have been working on letting go. I thought that it meant letting for of things from my past or beliefs that don't suit me anymore. Yet, when I was watching this speech today I realized that's not what I need to be focused on. Rather, I need to let go of the person I think I am expected to be. I feel like my personality and my thoughts are trying to revert back to what they were so that others can feel more comfortable around me. It is these ideas of conforming that are holding me down. It is these things that I need to let go of. As I let go of the holds on who I am, the other things will fall into place. 

No one can decide who I am except for me. I don't want to live a conventional life. I don't want to be classified as the "norm." I don't want to be held down or put in a box because of social norms. I don't find joy there. Joy comes from living up to our potential. Joy comes from becoming who we were always meant to be. Joy comes from following Christ.

The Savior does not care who is wearing the latest trends. He does not care how much money you make or your social rank. He does not care what size you are or what your hair looks like. He does not care how many people you dated or where you traveled. He does not care how many people know your name or what awards you have won. Those are all insignificant. He cares about YOU! He loves you for you. He wants us to find out what makes us different. He wants us to strive to change and the only conforming he wants us to do is conforming our lives to His Gospel. He cares about the love we show others. He cares about the service we offer. He cares about us. He loves how quirky or different we may be. He loves to see us develop our talents. He loves to see us happy. He loves to see us grow and learn. He loves to see us becoming who we were always meant to be. He looks at us and sees more potential than we could ever imagine. He sees our hearts. He sees our desires. He loves that we are different. He loves that we have the courage to stand out. He loves to see us strengthen our faith and increase our hope for the future. He looks at us and sees us for who we are... Children of God. Our self-worth and motivation should come from that knowledge. We are worthy of love because of our divine nature.

I am inspired to find out who I am! If I take away all the restrictions and requirements placed on me from society... who am I? My goal is to work on letting go of all of that. I have had a hard time with the idea of "letting go." How do I just let something go and walk away. Then I read a quote online that said "LET GOd." I am not just walking away. I am giving it to Heavenly Father and I can trust Him to do with it what is best. No one knows better than God. He knows all. Sometimes it is hard to have faith to do that. However, I need to remember what Brene Brown said:

"Vulnerability is the birth place of joy, belonging, and love."

I am excited to see where my unconventional life will lead me!