The Space Between

When Alma was counseling his son Corianton, he spoke about the space between death and resurrection. This “space between” was of great interest to Alma, and of great concern to Corianton. It is something that has always interested me as well.

Sunset at Half Moon BayThe very idea of this “space between” is evidence of our faith that life continues after death. This is not a new concept and is referred to in various ways throughout the scriptures. In John 14, Christ talks about preparing a place for us in his father’s house. Verses 1-2 say: Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

We also read in Peter that after Christ’s death, he went and preached to the spirits in prison. 1 Peter 4:6 says: For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. And in Corinthians we read: Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead?

This paints a clear picture to me that our spirits continue on after this life.

Levels - Ogden TempleWhen we go to the temple, we go for one (or two or all three) of these reasons: For the living, for the dead, or for comfort/guidance.

Ordinances of the temple are absolutely crucial. President Nelson has said that we cannot return to God’s glory without them. Ordinances of the temple provide for reconciliation with the Lord and seal families together forever. In the temple, we make covenants that allow us eventually return to God’s presence.

It is easy to look at those covenants we make as constraining or as a burden. But by keeping covenants we lose nothing of value. Think about it- what do we lose by staying morally clean? What do we lose by serving others or mourning with those who mourn? What do we lose by withholding judgment or avoiding light mindedness? Nothing of value is lost in this, and in fact, so much more is gained. President Nelson said that “Keeping a covenant is not constraining, but enabling. It elevates us beyond limits of our own perspective and power…”

Boys at Half Moon BaySo if these ordinances are absolutely crucial, and we are to be judged according to the flesh, what about those who have not received them?

In Moses 1:39, the whole purpose of God’s work is given. Is says, “For behold, this is my work and my glory – to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”

jesus-praying-in-gethsemane-39591-printIt is through the atonement of Jesus Christ that this, bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man,  is accomplished.

Immortality is free. Unconditional. It is a free gift to all mankind because of Christ’s resurrection.

Eternal life, or exaltation and life with God and our family, is available through our obedience to the covenants made and ordinances received in the temple. So when we go through the temple for the Living, for ourselves, and keep our covenants, we are taking hold of that purpose -the eternal life of man.

Circling back to the atonement of Christ – to atone means to suffer the penalty of sins, thereby removing the effects of sin from the repentant sinner and allowing him to be reconciled (or to coexist in harmony) to God. We, a fallen people, cannot save ourselves. Christ, who was perfect and worthy, was the only one who could to it for us. Through the atonement, we can become clean. We are able to repent of our sins and be forgiven. We can also be comforted in all of our trials, and so much more that I can’t even understand.

We rely on Jesus Christ to become worthy to enter the temple, where we receive the ordinances that allow us to be exalted.

This atonement was infinite, covering everything (sins, pain, heartache, etc.) and everyone (good, evil, nice, not nice).

Every soul.

It makes no sense for such an infinite atonement to only be allotted to those lucky few who find and accept it in mortality. And this is where the second purpose of temples, for the dead, comes into play. It is also where we return to that “space between” that Alma spoke of.

As I mentioned earlier, as written in Peter, after Christ’s atonement and death he ministered to those in the spirit world.

Grouse Mountain Light WalkDoctrine and Covenants section 138 is a record of an amazing vision given to Joseph F. Smith in 1918. In it, President Smith saw the saints assembled in the spirit world waiting for Christ to come and declare their redemption from the bands of death, which he did, declaring liberty to the captives who had been faithful. Verse 19 says: And there he preached to them the everlasting gospel, the doctrine of the resurrection and the redemption of mankind from the fall, and from individual sins on conditions of repentance.

But that said he was among the saints. He didn’t go among the wicked.

President Smith wondered about that, how on earth Christ had spent about three years ministering and teaching, and yet, as it says in verses 26-27, “notwithstanding his mighty works, and miracles, and proclamation of the truth, in great power and authority, there were but few who hearkened to his voice, and rejoiced in his presence, and received salvation at his hands. But his ministry among those who were dead was limited to the brief time intervening between the crucifixion and resurrection. And I wondered at the words of Peter, wherein he said that the son of God preached unto the spirits in prison, who sometimes were disobedient..”

I was wondering the same thing. He basically had three days to teach everybody. Not really possible. But the Lord had/has a great system:

We learn later in the same section of the Doctrine and Covenants that the Lord “organized his forces and appointed messengers” to carry the gospel to those who were in darkness, “even to all the spirits of men; [small and great, the unrighteous as well as the faithful] and thus was the gospel preached to the dead,” those who had died in their sins, with or without a knowledge of the truth.

And what were they taught? The principles and ordinances of the gospel. Verses 33-34 say: These were taught faith in God, repentance from sin, vicarious baptism for the remission of sins, the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, and all other principles of the gospel that were necessary for them to know in order to qualify themselves that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.

Those who receive this message in that “space between,” can do a lot of things. They still have agency- they can choose to accept or reject the gospel. If they accept it, they can repent, and through the atonement of Jesus Christ become worthy to receive the ordinances that qualify them for exaltation.

Elder Cook said that every soul, living or dead, who is accountable for their actions, need the blessings of these sacred ordinances, and we can help our family members receive them. As church members, we have a divinely appointed responsibility to seek out our ancestors and compile family histories. This is far more than an encouraged hobby. The ordinances of salvation are necessary for all of God’s children.

But they cannot save themselves.

We are commanded be like the Savior as much as possible. Most of us have that righteous desire to become like him, but since we are mortal, we fall short. 

In performing temple work for our dead, I believe we become closest to the Savior than any other way. Just like Jesus Christ atoned for our sins and made eternal life possible for us (because we couldn’t), we help make possible the blessings of the temple, and therefore exaltation, for those we do the work for (because they can’t).

If we believe this is true, that our work can be accepted by those we love on the other side, then we can gain a better, deeper understanding and appreciation for Christ’s atonement for us, which we can accept or reject. Repeating President Nelson, “Ordinances of the temple provide for reconciliation with the Lord and seal families together forever.” Just like the atonement reconciles us to God, so do the ordinances of the temple. We can help our families access that.

D&C 128:15 says: And now, my dearly beloved brethren and sisters, let me assure you that these are principles in relation to the dead and the living that cannot be lightly passed over, as pertaining to our salvation. For their salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation, as Paul says concerning the fathers – that they without us cannot be made perfect – neither can we without our dead be made perfect.”

Service in their behalf provides an opportunity for our continued temple worship, and as no unclean thing can dwell with God, we rely on the atonement of Christ to make us clean and worthy to enter the temple. This leads to a lifetime of worthiness for us. Through us, they are saved, and through them, we remain worthy to be saved.

The “Spirit of Elijah” is the Holy Ghost prompting us to search out our families who are waiting in the space between death and resurrection.

Malachi 4:4-5 says: Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord; And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

In Moroni’s four visits to Joseph Smith, he repeats this, saying, “And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers. If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at is coming.”

Utterly wasted.

Remember that God’s work and glory are to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. If our hearts are not turned to our fathers, and their work is not done, what a waste this whole thing would be. Again, they cannot do it without us.

Teton ValleyObadiah 1:21 says: And saviours shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be the Lord’s.”

Doctrine and Covenants 103 also mentions being saviors.

“For they were set to be a light unto the world, and to be the saviors of men; And inasmuch as they are not the saviors of men, they are as salt that has lost its savor, and is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men.”

Our purpose here is pretty clear here.

The Rexburg Idaho Temple 16x9Joseph Smith wondered: “But what is the object of [the coming of Elijah]? or how is it to be fulfilled? The keys are to be delivered, the spirit of Elijah is to come, the Gospel to be established, the Saints of God gathered, Zion built up, and the Saints to come up as saviors on Mount Zion. But how are they to become saviors on Mount Zion? By building their temples … and going forth and receiving all the ordinances … in behalf of all their progenitors who are dead…; and herein is the chain that binds the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, which fulfills the mission of Elijah.”

It is all connected in such a beautiful way!

God’s purpose.

The atonement of Christ.

Our covenants and ordinances.

Those waiting in the “space between.”

And it all culminates in the temple.

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But All Things Are Numbered Unto Me

Yesterday morning I was feeling pretty down. Really overwhelmed and a bit hopeless.

I became almost consumed with the current struggles of our family, and as I thought about reaching out to Heavenly Father in prayer, I felt almost ashamed.

Who am I to ask for help, I thought.

Yes,  I was struggling and yes, my troubles were feeling overwhelming. But they seemed so small compared to what other people are going through around the world.

My mind filled with images of fires, famines, people literally running out of water in South Africa, children being neglected, families falling apart, the homeless, the sick, wars, terrorism, etc., etc.

Who was I to ask for respite when so many others with so much more need were calling out to God for help?

I felt ashamed and very small. I felt that I was so far down God’s to-do list that I couldn’t even pray.

It was one of the worst feelings I’ve experienced.

I didn’t want to go to church but knew that I needed to. If for nothing else than to just go through the motions.

In Sunday School we studied the first couple chapters of Moses. I sat there, not paying much attention until a verse pricked at my soul.

Moses 1:35. God is teaching Moses about the creation. It says,

But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you. For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them.

Glacier National ParkAnd innumerable are they unto man, but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them.

My emptiness began to be filled at that very moment.

Yes, there are many here who need God. We all need God. So many, that man cannot count.

But God is not man.

And he knows each of his creations. He knows and cares about each of us, no matter how insignificant our problems might seem. If they are significant to us, they matter to him.

Maraine LakeI was reminded of a talk given by Dieter F. Uchtdorf in the October 2011 General Conference, in which he says:

The more we learn about the universe, the more we understand—at least in a small part—what Moses knew. The universe is so large, mysterious, and glorious that it is incomprehensible to the human mind. “Worlds without number have I created,” God said to Moses. The wonders of the night sky are a beautiful testimony of that truth.

There are few things that have filled me with such breathless awe as flying in the black of night across oceans and continents and looking out my cockpit window upon the infinite glory of millions of stars.

Astronomers have attempted to count the number of stars in the universe. One group of scientists estimates that the number of stars within range of our telescopes is 10 times greater than all the grains of sand on the world’s beaches and deserts.

This conclusion has a striking similarity to the declaration of the ancient prophet Enoch: “Were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of thy creations.”

Given the vastness of God’s creations, it’s no wonder the great King Benjamin counseled his people to “always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness.”

But even though man is nothing, it fills me with wonder and awe to think that “the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.”

And while we may look at the vast expanse of the universe and say, “What is man in comparison to the glory of creation?” God Himself said we are the reason He created the universe! His work and glory—the purpose for this magnificent universe—is to save and exalt mankind. In other words, the vast expanse of eternity, the glories and mysteries of infinite space and time are all built for the benefit of ordinary mortals like you and me. Our Heavenly Father created the universe that we might reach our potential as His sons and daughters.

This is a paradox of man: compared to God, man is nothing; yet we are everything to God.

While against the backdrop of infinite creation we may appear to be nothing, we have a spark of eternal fire burning within our breast. We have the incomprehensible promise of exaltation—worlds without end—within our grasp. And it is God’s great desire to help us reach it.

Steven in Lynn Canyon ParkI recognized that it was not anything from God that kept me from praying that morning. Satan wants to keep our connection to God as limited as possible. He knows that when we are in the depths of sorrow and humility, that is our greatest opportunity for spiritual growth. So what does he do?

He makes us feel shame or guilt for wanting to reach out. He whispers in our ears that we are not important enough to God.

For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray, ye would know that ye must pray; for the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray. But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint…

2 Nephi 32:8-9

President Monson has said, “He who notes the fall of a sparrow surely hears the pleadings of our hearts.”

Mount Hood VistaGod is aware of us. Not only aware, he knows us. He loves us, each of us, personally.

All things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them.

 

Be of Good Cheer

I have been feeling frustrated with my lack of “cheer” this week.

We have been so busy that it seems like there’s just no time for Christmas. Like we need to squeeze it in on Monday before getting back to our to-do lists.

Last night I was feeling particularly sorry for myself. The rain is back here in Portland, which normally I don’t mind. In fact, I’m usually really fond of it. But the rain, the greyness all around me, the clouds blocking the stars, and the trees blocking the clouds, on top of feeling stuck in this valley that is surrounded by mountain passes that my minivan struggles with even the nicest weather and an endless list of things to be done has really had me feeling weighed down.

Last night I lay in my bed trying to find that peaceful place. I closed my eyes and pictured a big open field with a clear sky full of stars. As I enjoyed the peacefulness of my imagined scene, I thought about the shepherds standing in their fields watching over their flocks.

bible-video-nativity-shepherds-1398427-printWhat must it have been like to see the angel approach them? We know that they were frightened, but I think they must have been overcome with immense peace and awe when he spoke to them.

Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

Tidings of great joy.

Peace on earth.

Goodwill.

All possible because of the birth of this baby boy.

I fell to sleep feeling a bit more peaceful and rose early this morning (Christmas Eve) for my scripture study.

I read one of my favorite passages in all of the scriptures, 3 Nephi chapter one.

The believers were about to be put to death unless the sign of Christ’s birth was given. Can you imagine that day approaching? Would you falter or doubt? It says that they became sorrowful, “lest by any means those things which had been spoken might not come to pass.”

Keep in mind that many prophies and signs had already come to pass. But the big one, the day and night and day when there would be no darkness, had yet to come.

But behold, they did watch steadfastly… that they might know that their faith had not been vain.

I wonder how many people, on that last day, gave up. If the opposition just became too much for them.

I really feel like this is a reflection of where we are now. We have seen so many prophecies fulfilled and so many miracles. Yet still, at times, the opposition becomes so strong that many falter. Many wonder if their faith has been in vain.

Back to Nephi now, who was exceeding sorrowful because of the wickedness around him and the possible fate of the believers. So he prayed. All day he cried mightily to the Lord until he received possibly the most beautiful and hopeful passage of scripture in the Book of Mormon:

Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfil all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets.

The sign was given and the people were spared.

bible-video-wise-men-1398440-print (1)Not just the Nephites.

Aren’t we all recipients of this great gift? When the sign was given, isn’t it likely that all of us rejoiced?

nativity-scene-mary-joseph-baby-jesus-1326846-printWhen Mary laid the baby Jesus in the manger, does it make sense that we would have been anywhere else but there?

Could we have been in that heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men?

I think so. With no veil to separate us from the knowledge of who our Savior was, I don’t think we could have been kept from rejoicing.

And now, in our mortal state, having a better knowledge of how much we need him, how can we not be of good cheer?

jesus-praying-in-gethsemane-39591-printHe came to save us, and he brought with him joy and peace.

Things get hard sometimes. Like, overwhelmingly hard. We face pain and evil and temptation and incredible sorrow.

But we can take great comfort in our Lord.

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace.

In the world ye shall have tribulation:

but be of good cheer;

I have overcome the world.

Till All Success Be Nobleness

Every year when we sing patriotic songs around the Fourth of July, this line always stands out me me from the song America the Beautiful.

Till all success be nobleness…

What is success?

Yaquina Head LighthouseWe all say that we want to be successful, but what does it really mean? It seems so broad and undefined. Successful at what?

Good old Merriam Webster defines success as:

Degree or measure of succeeding;  favorable or desired outcome; the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence.

Feet on the BeachThroughout my life, I’ve wanted to be successful in a number of areas. A successful student. A successful musician. A successful runner, blogger, homemaker, photographer, school volunteer, wife. A successful mother.

How do we measure that success? Are we only successful when we reach that favorable or desired outcome? 

In terms of being a successful student- I don’t really know. High school wasn’t really my thing. I skipped a lot of school, and ended up graduating from my school district’s alternative high school a month after my class. Was that a failure, or was I successful once I was determined to finish?

Yaquina Bay BridgeI only have an associates degree and it took be seven years to get it. I found out I was pregnant just a few weeks after starting college, and went on to have two more kids rather quickly. I also supported my husband through his undergrad, graduate studies and law school. When it worked, I would take a couple of classes at a time, finally getting my “2-year” degree after 3 children, 4 big moves, and lots of hard studying. I graduated with honors. Failure or success? Or somewhere in between? And does it really even matter?

Screenshot_20170507-212132What really matters to me is that I’m a successful mother. Does that mean that my children will always be perfect and happy and kind and have clean rooms and nicely pressed clothes and perfectly strong testimonies of the gospel? Sometimes I think that’s what it means, but in moments of clarity I realize that success is not perfection.

Orr Fam on Temple SquareI was not always happy, and I had my struggles and made dumb choices. My room growing up was not very tidy. And yet, when I look at my parents, I would unequivocally describe them as successful. Why? Because I always felt loved. Because they taught me how to be a decent human being and they continue to be shining examples of love, patience and righteousness, kindness and humility. I think each of my siblings would feel the same way.

When can success be measured?

I’m reading in Mosiah right now, about Abinadi and Alma. Abinadi was sent to call Noah and his people to repentance. He taught them many truths and at one point, King Noah began to fear and was about to set Abinadi free, but he heeded the words of his priests and put Abinadi to death.abinadi-before-king-noah-39651-print

When Abinadi was dying, did he think he failed? Did he reach his desired outcome? He did not change the heart of King Noah, which was his mission. At that moment, did he consider himself a failure?

A person’s influence is far more reaching than what he can see at any moment in time. Abinadi didn’t know about Alma, one of the king’s priests, who believed his words. Alma went on to teach Abinadi’s words in secret and 450 people were baptized and came to a knowledge of their Redeemer. Consider also that Alma’s son, after his conversion went on to be a great missionary. Even still, how about us, two thousand years later, who read the words Abinadi spoke, and are touched by his boldness and willingness to give up his life, and are taught truths that bring joy and peace.

As humans, we yearn for success. We have this innate desire to progress. The problem, I think, comes when we put so much importance on the finish line. Or when we start defining our success as being better than somebody else.

I make more money than him. I’m successful. I’m skinnier than her. I’m successful. I have a prettier yard than them. I’m successful… This is dangerous thinking and I think is one of the biggest problems in the world today. True success never is never measured in comparison to somebody else, but only against yourself.

Another dangerous area I have found myself in many times is when we define our lives only by the success or failure of our goals. Don’t get me wrong- goals are important. Specific goals that you can measure help keep us moving forward. But when we define our lives only by the success or failure of those goals, or if we ignore the big picture, we will never be happy.

In the 1989 General Women’s Session of conference, Gordon B. Hinckley said: Please don’t nag yourself with thoughts of failure. Do not set goals far beyond your capacity to achieve. Simply do what you can do, in the best way you know, and the Lord will accept of your effort. Stacked Rockes in the grasses

Wait- The Lord will accept your effort? That’s the key right there! If we stop measuring ourselves against the world’s standards, we will find that true success extends beyond our lives- into the lives of those around us, of our descendants, and into the eternities.

Till all success be nobleness…

Most commonly associated with royalty, nobleness describes one’s high birth or distinguished hereditary rank and title.

Another definition is: Having or showing qualities of high moral character, such as courage, generosity or honor; Proceeding from or indicative of a character; showing magnanimity. (To be magnanimous is to be highly moral, especially in showing kindness or forgiveness, as in overlooking insult or not seeking revenge- or maybe not being easily offended.)

Stephen Covey said, “If you carefully consider what you want to be said of you in the funeral experience, you will find your definition of success.”

DahliaWe often hear that when we are on our death bed, we won’t be wishing we spent more time in the office. Most of us would want to be remembered as kind, honorable, courageous. Noble.

It’s in all of us. We are all of noble birth, as we are all children of God. That’s where that yearning comes from- our spirits know of our nobility and push us to progress. Then all the messages from the world get mixed up inside our minds and all of a sudden we lose focus, we lose the true meaning of success: Living a noble life.

grandpaMy grandpa died five years ago. He was never wealthy or successful by the world’s standards, but he left behind an unbelievable heritage. He had 13 children, 87 grandchildren, and his progeny continues to grow with over 100 great-grandchildren at the time of his passing.

4 Generations with Grandpa

Each and every one of those children and grandchildren revere him as a man who left a great legacy of faith, hard work, good humor, wisdom, and good stories to his family and all who knew him. He was a noble man.

Meerdink men at Portland Japanese GardensCan you imagine what our country, or what our world would be like if we lived by those words. Till all success be nobleness. If we all sought to live lives that honored our God, and honored each other. If we were generous and courageous. If we could be kind, and stop being offended so easily. Let us seek to be noble, to live to that higher standard. Then will our lives be filled with success.

As It Were A Dream

There is a passage in the book of Jacob that always stands out to me.

In Chapter 7 verse 26, Jacob is concluding his record, and says:

 “…the time passed away with us, and also our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream, we being a lonesome and a solemn people, wanderers, cast out from Jerusalem, born in tribulation, in a wilderness, and hated of our brethren, which caused wars and contentions; wherefore, we did mourn out our days.”

Jacob’s life was full of many many trials.

Mist on Antelope Island

He was born in the wilderness, after his family had already left Jerusalem. So he never had a real home. All he knew was wandering, moving from place to place in order to survive. He had amazing parents, and Nephi was probably the best brother a person could ask for. But he grew up with his brothers Laman and Lemuel constantly causing contention and trying to murder their family! When Lehi blessed Jacob in 2 Nephi chapter 2, he told him, “..in thy childhood thou hast suffered afflictions and much sorrow, because of the rudeness of thy brethren.” His days were filled with wars, and probably much confusion. Temporally, I wonder if Jacob ever felt secure.

Spiritually, he was a giant.

Going back to Lehi’s blessing, he continued, “…Nevertheless, Jacob, my firstborn in the wilderness, thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.”

In writing of Sherem, the antichrist, Jacob said “And he had hope to shake me from the faith, notwithstanding the many revelations and the many things which I had seen concerning these things; for I truly had seen angels, and they had ministered unto me. And also, I had heard the voice of the Lord speaking unto me in very word, from time to time; wherefore, I could not be shaken.”

Jacob knew the goodness and glory of God. He was blessed with a great testimony of Christ and of the gospel.

He became a righteous and great minister among his people. He gave us the allegory of the olive tree. He rejoiced in keeping the record on the plates. He was bold and said what needed to be said. I mean, just think about the book of Jacob. There are so many nuggets in those few chapters that teach and fill the reader with the desire to be better.

So focusing back on the phrase he uses- our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream. I’ve been thinking about that a lot over the last month or so.

Because I feel the same way.Rainstorm on Antelope Island

When Carey was laid off last December, it was a shock for sure. But I was certain that within a month at most, he’d be back to work and that it would be even better than what he was doing before.

A month passed, and then another. We still had some energy, and were blessed with a temp position to help pay the bills. Still looking for the next step, and certain it was just around the corner.

Then all of a sudden it is July. And I’m not really sure where the last seven months have gone, except that they have gone and we are still trudging along feeling almost directionless. Still so grateful for the temp work, but keenly aware that there are only a few weeks left until that dries up.

I admit that the stress of the last seven months has really gotten to me. I’ve put on some weight, I have less motivation to keep up my house and keep up my regular routine, tensions are often high at home and my kids definitely feel that lack of normalcy and security. While we aim to stay where we are, we really don’t know if we’ll be here even a month from now. It’s not like we haven’t continued living- we have. We still go on little getaways, we still have movie night, we still make plans, we still live. But there is this shadow hanging over all of it for me.

With all those emotions and stresses, it really does feel like the months have passed away like as it were unto us a dream. It’s the best way I can describe it.

But I have had this growing feeling inside of me that I don’t want to waste this time. I feel like I have just been waiting for this trial to end, and not much else. I’ve been sleeping through it.

So how do I wake up live intentionally, instead of just waiting out my days? How do I grow and learn during this trial?

Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.  (Ephesians 5:14)

We see that word several times in the scriptures.

Awake.

In chapter 3, Jacob tells us to, “…arouse the faculties of your souls; shake yourselves that ye may awake from the slumber of death..”

Alma encourages us to “..awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words..”

Lehi pleads to his children, “O that ye would awake; awake from a deep sleep… Awake! and arise from the dust…”

The Light on the BeachI’ve actually been working on this blog post for a week or so. I’ve felt like there is something that I really need to learn in this, so I’ve been studying it out and pondering a lot. As I said above, I’ve been asleep. I desperately want to wake up! Because when it comes down to it, I know deep down this trial will come to an end, and I will be amazed (but not surprised) at what the Lord has done for us. But I don’t want to look back on it and see that I squandered my opportunity for growth, or that I whined my way through it.

The term Arouse your faculties caught my curiosity when I was studying. It is often seen when the writer is pleading for the reader to awake. I’ve read the phrase hundreds of times in my life, but never thought too much about it until now. I turned to the dictionary to try to understand it more.

Arouse: verb – To evoke or awaken

Evoke: verb – To bring or recall to the conscious mind. Or, to Remember.

Faculty: noun – An inherent mental or physical power.

Inherent: adjective – Existing in something as a permanent, essential, or characteristic attribute. Deep-rooted, fundamental. Perhaps eternal?

So to arouse your faculties means to remember your eternal power.

Remember who you are.

We are children of God. All of us! We have eternal spirits. We have power! We lived before this life and we will live and progress after.

We are not meant to sleep our way through this life. What would be the point of that?

It’s hard. When you feel so weighed down it’s hard to just get up.

But remember that you can. Just the desire to get up is enough to start stirring that power within you. Not just your power, but the power of God, and angels, and friends from the other side of the veil who are all rooting for you and cheering you on.

Sky

There will always be trials. That’s why we’re here. Some will trip us up and some will knock us down completely.

Ecclesiastes 7:8 says, Better is the end of thing than the beginning thereof..

At the beginning of a trial it seems it will never end. The end is where the light comes, that refreshing breeze. But the middle is where the growth happens.

The middle is where you get to remember who you are.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Having Been Born of Goodly Parents

The very first thing Nephi tells us in the Book of Mormon is about his parents. Have you ever thought about why that is?

I was just sorting through some photos of our weekend in Utah, prepping for some upcoming temple posts, and came across this photo of my parents…

Mom and DadIt touched my heart. I’ve been thinking about my parents a lot over the last couple of days, for a couple of reasons.

First, I just saw them last week, which was such a treat. It had been since July before that. We had such a great time visiting and celebrating my brother’s wedding. It was just good to be home. Funny thing how it will always be home, even though I moved away almost 20 years ago.

Another reason they’ve been on my mind is because I snuck and opened my Mother’s Day gift early (sorry mom and dad). I have a good reason though. I don’t have the capacity to not open a present if it’s just sitting there. I have sort of a history of sneaking in to the Christmas presents and knowing every gift that was coming every year. So when they texted me last week and said my gift would arrive early but not to open it, they really should have known better. I actually had every intention of waiting, but when the box arrived my strength crumbled.

Here’s the deal though. I opened the box, but I didn’t open the package inside. Yes, I knew what it was, but I wasn’t using it. …until last night.

You see, the third reason why I’ve been thinking about my parents is because I am a parent. I have been blessed with some amazing boys who are sweet and kind and so smart. They are also teenagers, and yesterday was one of those really hard days as a mom.

We want so much for our children to be happy and to never have to face the growing pains that we all have to face in order to progress. But that’s not really possible. I mean, it’s the whole point of this life, isn’t it? To progress. To be refined. To learn from our experiences and grow closer to God and Jesus Christ, which usually comes with a great struggle.

As a mom, there have been many days when I have wondered if I’ve done a good enough job to prepare them to face the world. I only have one year left before my oldest graduates from high school. Will he be ready? Have I done enough? I am usually 99% sure that I have failed as a mother. I can be highly emotional, and sometimes I don’t know when to stop talking.

So anyway, yesterday was one of those really tough days as a mother. And I started thinking about my own parents, and how they showed me so much love and kindness when I was doing my stretching and growing. There was never a time when I did not feel their love. And at specific times when I felt I was so undeserving of it, they would go to the end of the earth for me and bring me back in, always with kindness.

Screenshot_20170507-211938My mom was my best friend growing up- she and I have very similar personalities- a little mischievous and sometimes snarky. There were many days when she would let me skip school and we’d go to the movies together. Last summer I got to spend a lot of time with her after she had broken her back. We did a lot of crossword puzzles together, and lots of laughing. She is so in tune with the spirit and I aspire to have her spiritual capacity.

me and dadMy dad is amazing. My boys think he’s invincible. He started running marathons at age 60 and continues to impress our family with his ability to just keep going. He is so wise, and has a calm, measured approach to solving problems or answering questions that just leaves the inquisitor feeling so peaceful. At my brother’s wedding reception, I was talking to Sister Joy D. Jones, who is the Primary general president. My dad works with her on a regular basis, and she described him in the most perfect way. In speaking about how much she respected him, she said, “He is without guile.”  Such a perfect description. He is honest and humble and the perfect example for me.

Screenshot_20170507-212132Back to my story now. I was feeling really down, and needed a lift. I needed some hope that I could be thought of, at least a little bit, by my children the way I think of my parents. And also, I was just needing to know that I meant something, that it wasn’t all for nothing. So I went into my room and pulled out my gift: a beautiful blanket that feels like a big comfy sweater. Along with it was a note: Carrie, A mother is much like a soft comfortable blanket, offering love, support, and reassurance to her children. We hope this throw reminds you of your important roll as a Mother.

That’s how my parents are- offering love, support and reassurance.

That’s how I hope to be.

therefore I was taught in all the learning of my father.

A Thing of Naught

A few thoughts from my scripture reading this morning- 1 Nephi chapter 19.

Nephi is commanded to make plates of ore. He first makes a more detailed record of his time in the wilderness on those plates. Later he is commanded to make the gold plates, which contain things that are more sacred.

He sure did a lot of writing. How grateful I am that he followed the commandment of the Lord to make these other plates. He could have said, “I’ve already made plates!” But no, he knew that the Lord has a purpose in all things, so why not this?

Nephi quotes scripture about Christ and his coming, his life and his death. He writes of those of old who may have erred in their writing, but that doesn’t take away from the truth of their words.

Here’s the part that really struck me, verse 9:

And the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men.

This is such a beautiful scripture to me. This perfect man was seen as a thing of naught.

Naught means nothing,

nothing at all,

no point,

no purpose,

no effect.

It is difficult to even type those words in relation to my Savior. No purpose? No effect?

jesus-praying-in-gethsemane-39591-printOur very existence and our eternal welfare depended on Him. And because of him, we are saved both spiritually and temporally.

He is THE purpose.

THE point.

Everything.

pictures-of-jesus-crown-thorns-1127729-printAnd here’s the thing. He knew this. He knew his purpose. So when the people saw him as a thing of naught- what must that have felt like? He was there for them too. But he didn’t do any grandstanding or set himself above them. He let them scourge him, and smite him, and spit on him. And crucify him. And he suffereth it because of his loving kindness…

Do we esteem him as a thing of naught?

What do we do with his words? Do we study and seek to understand? Or do we set them off to the side until we have the time to read them.

What do we do with the temple? His house? Do we try to go as often as possible, to be in his presence? Or do we let one month, two months- or a year go by because we don’t have two house to spare? Do we see a purpose in attending?

For the things which some men esteem to be of great worth, both to the body and soul, others set at naught and trample under their feet. Yea, even the very God of Israel do men trample under their feet; I say trample under their feet but I would speak in other words- they set him at naught, and hearken not to the voice of his counsels.

president-thomas-s-monson-lds-591264-printWhat counsels have we received? Very recently in general conference we received counsel from his Prophet and Apostles.

Our dear prophet, President Monson, spoke with all the energy he could muster. He only had the strength to speak for a few minutes at a time- once during the priesthood session, and again on Sunday morning. What did he say? Read the Book of Mormon every day, and be kind. Of all the things he could have said, these are them.

Read the Book of Mormon every day.

Be kind.

Will we set these things at naught?