Sunday, January 31, 2016

My Conversations With God- A Warrior In The Making

I've learned quite a bit this week while strolling the streets of Romania, taking train rides to Moldova, and pondering life while showing love to my beautiful orphans.  Honestly, I sit here and I don't know where to begin... or more so... where to end with all that i've learned. I feel humbled and my thoughts are swirling around in my mind. I love to blog because it allows me to put into words how I feel. It is very healing and I always learn from what I write. I learned several big things this week. They aren't entirely related, but I feel like its important to share all of them. So be patient with me if it doesn't transition as smoothly as I would like.

Lesson 1:

In church last week I was looking through my inspiration journals and reflecting on God's hand in my life. I like to do that and be reminded of how many answers the Lord gives me on a daily basis. I think it is vital to reflect back on God's hand in your life in order to give you an increase of faith for whatever difficulties you may be facing at the moment. Like all good things, the passage of time can weaken our memory and lessen our awareness of the blessings we've been given. I try to make it a habit of continually reading back on prayers that have been answered, inspiration that has been given, and lessons i've been taught. I highly recommend doing that. I always have an inspiration journal where I write down my conversations with God. While I was reading through my journal on Sunday I came across something I wrote a few months ago. It resonated with me once again. It gave me an increase of strength to push through the difficulties and stay focused on what really matters.

"An Inside Look Into My Conversations With God"

One day everything that is broken will be fixed.
Agonizing sorrow will turn into indescribable peace.
Doubts and fears will become unquestionable assurances.
Hatred will dissipate, anger will cease, and love will remain.
Our uncertain purpose and future will reveal itself.
Forgetfulness will be replaced with remembrance.
Darkness will be over-swept with light... things will be clear.
We will no longer ask "who am I?" because we will know.
We will learn that coincidences were actually miracles.
The times we felt alone we were actually surrounded by unseen angels.
Questions lead to answers which lead to knowledge-truth.
Ponder on the things you know and you will come to know more.
Do not doubt the place you are in... learn from it.
Let every mistake you make refine you.
Never give up. Don't let go of what matters most.
Every day is a new start.
Let go of who you were, and you will become who you were meant to be.
Life wasn't meant to be perfect. It was intended to teach us.
Every experience we encounter molds our character.
Embrace those experiences. They are there for a reason.
Hold fast to what you know and move forward.
Always keep moving forward.
Don't let your mistakes define you.
Believe that anything is possible. Believe it!
Your purpose has been outlined for a very long time.
God will reveal that purpose as you seek Him.

I've been thinking about that a lot this week. Isn't it amazing how much God will tell you if you simply just ask. That's it. He is such a loving, generous God. He has ALL wisdom and He is willing to give it to us, we just need to be ready to hear it. It reminds me of a quote my teacher shared with me several years ago in college. It said "The teacher will appear when the student is ready". We are the only thing keeping us from receiving more truth and knowledge. We get in our own way, and if we are aware of it, we can step aside and allow ourselves to be taught from God.

Lesson 2:

When I returned home from my mission several years ago, I had to go get a new temple recommend. I sat across from a member of the stake presidency where I proceeded to answer the questions he asked. When I was done, he asked if he could pray with me. He offered to say the prayer. When he started speaking it felt like he was giving me a blessing. The spirit was so strong. I remember silently crying and wiping away the tears. I cannot tell you everything he said in that prayer, but I do remember one thing standing out to me. He said that I was a warrior. I came down here to fight. When the prayer was over I thanked him for what he had said. He also was emotional as he told me that I will live a very unconventional life. He said the spirit told him very strongly that I was a warrior! I've thought about that off and on over the past few years. However, recently it has been on my mind a lot more.

I reflected on the concept of being a warrior for many hours this morning as we traveled the countryside back to Romania. What is a warrior? What makes them different? What qualities make up a good warrior? What is their purpose? I had many questions and I just wanted God to teach me what He meant by that comment. In order to be a warrior I need to know what that entails. The following are some of the answers to my questions.

-A warrior is deeply rooted and unwavering in a cause much deeper than themselves.
-A warrior has a very clear purpose- they know what they are fighting for.
-A warrior is bold, hopeful about the final outcome, and determined to succeed.
-A warrior is filled with assurance and conviction.
-A warrior steps forward knowing there is no turning back. They are fully committed to the cause.
-A warrior is not distracted by enticements of the foe.
-A warrior always knows which side he is on. It is a position he defends with his life.
-A warrior has something to live for.
-A warrior pledges themselves to the cause long before the battle begins.
-A warrior does not falter. They are devoted and firm in their purpose.

I realized that before a war begins the sides must be chosen. It you don't actively choose a side, then you will fall to the side that wants a warrior without a cause. Now is the time for us to choose whose side we are on. It is the time to let go of the things that keep us from God. It is the time to make a decision and not look back! It means taking a step forward and removing all other options. We have SOOO much potential to change the world. We have God on our sides. He won't leave us alone to fight His battles. He will empower us, strengthen us, and direct us. We will see miracles as we stand firm in our convictions without hesitation. This is our purpose! We came down here to do God's will and return to live with Him again. We cannot expect to choose whose side we are on once the battle begins. We need to do it now. Choose to be a warrior! Choose to devote yourself to a cause much bigger than who you are. Choose to step into the light and leave the dark and confusion behind.

One of my favorite scriptures is Doctrine and Covenants 45:62 "For verily, I say unto you, that great things await you;" 

This scripture resonates with my soul. It inspires hope and trust in God and in what lies ahead. The future is so bright with possibilities and unknowns. The adventures are right around the corner and new opportunities to grow are always presenting themselves to us. Never give up on what lies ahead, because what lies ahead is great! It is something to look forward to with hope! 

Lesson 3:

Being here in Eastern Europe, I haven't been able to communicate with very many people. It has been difficult for me. Through this, I have learned the importance of being understood. Sometimes all it takes is a better way of communicating. Poor communication is a breeding ground for doubt and threat. It is a haunting shadow of fear. I realized it is almost impossible to trust someone you don't understand. It creates a barrier that is impenetrable. The barrier can be taken down once communication improves. I have been able to see how vitally important it is to find ways of understanding each other. 

Lesson 4:
Ah... so the final lesson I will write about deals with light and dark. We went into some beautiful cathedrals in Moldova yesterday. I've been in many cathedrals before when I did my art history study abroad in Italy. However, something new stuck out to me this time. When you walk into these ornate and glamorous buildings you see gold crown moldings, tall domes filled with paintings, marble floors, and many more details that involve the finest work available. The lights are dim and the mood is somber. I watched the people as they prayed to God. They looked like they carried heavy burdens on their backs. They looked weighed down and distressed. They looked like they were experiencing guilt for what they caused the Savior to go through. Then, I started thinking about the temple. The temple is light and white. It is nicely decorated, but it is not distracting from the real reason you are there. The temple is a place of hope. People who go to the temple often feel like the burdens are being taken off their backs. They reflect on Christ's life and that He rose again. We focus on the concept that He lives and because He lives we don't need to be weighed down by our burdens. His atonement is what lifts us up. The contrast was so apparent to me! I don't know why I didn't quite notice it before. 

Christ taught His Gospel, took the world's sins upon Himself, died on the cross, and rose again for us! He did it so that we wouldn't be stuck in a state of gloom and despair. He did it so that we could learn from our mistakes and move forward. Take the lessons and improve your life. Our perfect loving Savior didn't want us to feel hopeless, afraid, and alone. He wanted us... He needed us to know that He is with us ALWAYS! We are never alone! He performed the atonement so that He could say "I know how you feel... and together we will overcome it". How could we not want to be on God's side! He is so clearly on ours! How could we struggle deciding which side of the war we are on. Isn't is simple... so obvious! Our Lord, our God, the creator of the world... of each one of us, is asking us to stand by Him. More importantly to STAND WITH HIM! Take a stance. Move forward. Commit yourself to the cause and never look back. Remember that with God, we can have confidence and assurance in the final outcome. We know who will win. So be His warrior! He is always fighting your cause. It's time we stood with the Lord in defending the truth and bringing love and truth to all those around us!!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Our Biggest Adventure... LIFE ITSELF... Is Happening Right Now! Lessons From My Romanian Loves

This was my first week at the orphanage. It went by so quickly. On Monday we went and toured each room. There were rooms with little babies, rooms with toddlers, and rooms with bedridden children with severe mental handicaps. I spent time with the babies and loved it. I spent time with the toddlers and loved it. I spent time with the kids that were bedridden and I couldn't help but cry. I felt so much empathy for them and the lives they were living. I came home that night and thought about how I don't think I could ever work with the bedridden children because I would be an emotional wreck everyday. I decided that was the room I didn't want because I didn't think I would be able to handle it.

Tuesday we went and spent 30 minutes in each room. They wanted us to experience each room so that we could decide which room we would spend the next four months in. I really enjoyed all the rooms. I wasn't looking forward to the bedridden rooms because I just knew it was going to break my heart. Those were the last rooms I went in. I pulled a chair up to the crib of a little boy who was blind. I'm not allowed to mention the babies names due to privacy concerns. For the sake of my blog, I will call him baby C. He is probably 10-12 years old and has severe mental disabilities. His legs bent out to the sides in ways that most bodies would not allow. His feet faced away from each other and his hands curled under. I started talking to the little boy and the tears started rolling down my face. Baby C lit up when I rubbed my hand across his forehead and played with his hair. He started making audible noise and moving his limbs around. On his face appeared a noticeable smile. He was SO happy for the attention and love I was showing him.  Baby C couldn't see me. He would never be able to see my face. He would only be able to recognize me by my voice, my touch, and more so... by the way I made him feel. I felt so close to heaven as I traced the outline of his face with my finger. I began singing "I am a Child of God" to him. His body relaxed and his smile grew larger. I know it resonated with his soul. Again I cried as I watched the other children in their cribs become still and move their heads towards me as to allow maximum sound to reach their ears. They also became relaxed. I looked around and saw that there were smiles on their faces as well. My heart was full. I had a feeling that this was the room I was meant to work in. This was the room of kids that were going to teach me this semester and change my life forever.

The next couple of days were amazing! I feel so much peace in the rooms I work in.  I don't even want to call it work, because it isn't really work. I get to go in and show love to 10-12 children every day.  I get the opportunity to learn from them and express the love I have for them. More importantly, I get to tell and show them the love the Lord has for them.  The moment I step into the room my worries dissipate.  Literally I feel like everything is so much lighter, I suppose it helps me to keep an eternal perspective. I see things in a more clear way. I notice that the things we spend our time worrying about usually aren't eternally significant. In fact, I think worry comes from a lack of trust in God and in His individual life plan for each one of us. I was led to a quote a few weeks ago that says

"If we have been worthy, and if we have followed the guidance of the Spirit as manifested in the feelings of our heart, then we can know beyond doubt that what has been done was best. We can be certain, although there may have been trials or we may be having difficulties, that we are where the Lord would have us.  We will know that, although the grass may seem greener elsewhere, our decision to enter this pasture was prompted and purposeful and preparatory." _ Elder F. Burton Howard

When I am in these rooms I feel this. I know without a doubt that this is exactly where the Lord wanted me and needed me at this time in my life. I know that I am exactly where I should be. It is such an incredible feeling. I love to see how we are led to where the Lord needs us as we follow the inspirations we are given. I think inspiration is so amazing. It is so individualized. It is so specific and direct. It literally is communication from God about what He wants us to be doing. I value inspiration from God above advice from anyone else because you can't get better advice than from Him.  He is the only one that knows the beginning from the end. He is the only one who knows our deepest desires. He knows where we are, where we want to end up, and how to help us get there. Seriously... why would we ever doubt our inspiration?? I've learned since my mission to listen for inspiration and to immediately act on it. Don't doubt the feelings or thoughts that come to you, but follow them and you will end up exactly where you should be. What a miracle!

Today I was sitting next to the crib of Baby A. She is blind and deaf and severely mentally handicapped. I have to approach her slowly or it will terrify her. I touched her forehead with my finger and traced the letter M several times. I wanted her to know it was me. She smiled and her hand moved around to try to find mine. She held my hand as I played with her hair and touched her face. I started to think out loud to her. I know she couldn't hear me, but I just felt like she would understand what I was saying. She would somehow feel my words and know their meaning. I told Baby A how she is such a miracle and her life is a testimony of Christ. I told her how much joy she is able to bring to others and the ability she has to help teach others. I told her how amazing it is to see how happy and joyful she is. Literally this beautiful child of God has no parents, no eye sight, no hearing, no way to move around, a feeding tube, and no real way to progress past where she is at. For Baby A, this is her life. Yet, when she is touched or kissed she smiles. She lights up. To her, love is everything! It isn't something she takes for granted. She doesn't spend her time thinking "why me". Baby A finds joy in her life through the small and simple things. She loves to know that someone is there for her. That is all it takes to make her happy. I told her that she is teaching me so much and that I wanted to write about her on my blog. She smiled really big! At that moment, I knew she understood my words even though she couldn't hear them.  I feel like these beautiful children are surrounded by angels. They are so close to heaven. I feel so blessed to have this opportunity to sit with them each day. These are moments that will change me and refine me and help me to become more of whom the Lord would have me be. These are moments that will stay with me for eternity.

So the lesson I learned this week that I wanted to focus on is finding joy through the difficult times. It is the importance of choosing to be grateful for our blessings; choosing to be grateful for the little things.  Joy and happiness is something we choose. We don't always choose the circumstances we are in, but we do choose our attitude. We have been blessed with so much! Our eye sight, our hearing, our mobility, our health, our brain... these are just some things we have that we take for granted every day. Don't get so hung up on the irrelevant and unimportant details of your lives. In the long run, they don't really matter anyway. Instead find ways to show love to others and watch as your problems seem to lessen in size. Service and love seem to be such a beautiful way to forget your problems and become angels to those around you. I have realized this week how much the Lord has blessed me with. Literally I am amazed at all that He has given me. He has placed so much trust in me to allow me to come down to earth at this time. He has given me opportunities that most people will never get. He is allowing me to accomplish my dreams and I believe that in return He wants me to give back. We have the ability to help so many people. We have the ability to change the world. He has given us that opportunity and I want to do just that!

Before I came to Romania I started thinking about how much I love adventures. I spend long hours thinking of what it will be like and what I will do when I am there. I think about who I will meet and what stories I will have to tell. It is SOO exciting! I look forward to my adventures! Then I started to think about what it must have been like when we were in Heaven. We waited thousands of years to come down to Earth. We must have had so much time to think about what we wanted to do when we were down here. I'm sure we all had ideas of who we wanted to become and how we could help each other return to live with God. It was an adventure that we had to wait SOO long for. Now we are here. We don't remember what we said we wanted to do. We don't remember how long we waited. We have forgotten. I wonder we would be happy with ourselves with what we are doing or if we would have wished we would do more. It's such an interesting thing to think about. If it isn't everything you think you would have wanted to accomplish, then find ways to do more. It isn't over! We are living our greatest adventure. We can do anything we set our minds to. Literally the possibilities are endless! What do you think you would have envisioned for your time on Earth?.... Now do it!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Love Is A Catalyst For Miracles~Week One In Romania*

Ah... I am living in Romania! It still seems so unreal to me. I have almost been here a week now. We will meet the orphans on Monday. I am really looking forward to it. In the meantime we have been exploring and soaking up the Romanian culture. It feels like the Romanian life is more somber than in America. I've noticed that most Romanians do not smile at you on the streets. Their faces show determination and their eyes are focused on destination. It isn't a country where people will stop to get to know you. That has taken some adjustment for me. I find myself smiling a lot as I stroll down the streets and I am met with blank stares. I am constantly thinking about my ancestors and the life they must have lived in Eastern Europe many years ago. I'm sure they are with me.

In Iasi, the buildings are old and some are unkempt in the way that tiles are missing, paint is chipped, doors don't fully close, etc. There doesn't appear to be an excess of money; people are getting by with what they have.  In a way, I find it refreshing. It is a more simple life full of minimalism. For example, I am learning I can shower with only one towel instead of two. I can take 5 minute showers instead of 30 minutes. I don't need a lot to be happy. I'm learning that I could get by with less if I needed to.  

I have loved spending time with my flat mates. We are all so different and yet so much alike. Heather and I have had some great conversations about life and God.  We both find it easy to empathize with other people. I started to describe situations I have been in where people have opened up to me about their lives. I realized that ultimately people just want to be understood. I think everyone wants someone to know everything about them and feel like they are understood.  We, as humans, fear others discovering too much about us and having to face another's judgment. We fear that people won't understand who we are and why we have become who we have become.  So we hide things about ourselves. We guard the core of who we are until we find someone we believe we can trust it with.

I think everyone hopes to find someone who can completely understand them... flaws and all. Then it hit me. The only person who will ever completely understand us is the Savior. He is the only one capable of knowing everything about us and still accepting us without even a hint of unwelcome judgment. We all have hard things happen to us, we all make mistakes we believe we can't rise above, we all go against what we know is right at some point in our lives, and in the end we all hope to find someone who can understand why we did what we did without it affecting their opinions of us. We all are searching for understanding. I honestly believe, that everyone has a desire to have the Savior in their life for this very reason, they just aren't sure that that is what they are searching for... not yet any way. So the next time someone opens up to you and wants to share personal things with you, remember that at that moment, you get to be a little piece of the Savior that they are searching for.

I think less judgment and more love is the answer to many of our problems. Love is what helps people climb out of hell. Love lifts and inspires and welcomes change. Love is a manifestation of Christ and the sole reason we are here. Love is a catalyst for miracles!