A Special Holiday

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Last Sunday in Primary, the sharing time teacher asked the children if they knew what General Conference was.

One adorable little boy raised his hand and said, “It is a special holiday where we stay home from church and watch it on TV.”

I loved his words. ...A special holiday. So true!meme-mcconkie-words-prophets-manna-1389784-print

We all have holiday traditions. For Christmas, we always get our tree and set things up the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Every night we have our advent gifts and study the life of Christ. On Christmas Eve we always see a movie and go out to dinner. Stockings always have the same goodies- I have one child who makes sure of it. Thanksgiving, Easter, even Halloween for some people. We love our traditions and it makes the day even more special and meaningful.

Well, many of us also have traditions for General Conference weekend (called GenCo at our house). Many of them may have started out of desperation when our kids were young, in order to keep them still for at least a few minutes. We have always had a buffet, and gathered in our pajamas with comfy blankets and pillows. We look forward to it every 6 months.

At Thankgiving we give thanks, and spend time with the ones we love. Christmas celebrates the birth of our Savior, and at Easter we remember and celebrate His atonement and resurrection. Our thoughts are turned to important, eternal things on these special holidays. It is the same with General Conference.

first-presidency-lds-477209-printWe are so flippin lucky! Think about it- we get to be directly instructed by a prophet and apostles of God! Twice a year! Us Mormons seriously have it good- 2 extra holidays a year, which fill us and teach us and increase our capacity and ability to love and to work our way through this life.

Like many holidays- let’s be prepared. For Thanksgiving, we plan and prep the meals with care. At Christmastime we decorate and prepare gifts.

What about General Conference?

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said,

“As you prepare for general conference, I invite you to ponder questions you need to have answered. … There are messages in each general conference given as a gift and a blessing from heaven specifically for our personal life situations.”

And from Elder Robert D Hales:

“As the time for conference arrives, we sacrifice other activities, laying aside the things of this world, to seek for the things of a better. Then we gather our families to hear the word of the Lord, as King Benjamin’s people did.”

So how can we prepare?

  1. Pray- we all have something going on in our lives right now. We all need direction. Write down what you need, and pray and ponder on it over the next week so that you are prepared to receive answers during conference.
  2. Actually watch (or listen to) conference! It’s 2 days that will fill you for 6 months or more. Set the time aside. Sacrifice the things of this world for something better.

By coming to conference with a soft and open heart, and laying aside the things of the world, we will be ready for what God would have us hear. And we will be ready to implement those teachings into our lives.

Decide now to make general conference a priority in your life. Decide to listen carefully and follow the teachings that are given. Listen to or read the talks more than once to better understand and follow the counsel. By doing these things, the gates of hell will not prevail against you, the powers of darkness will be dispersed from before you, and the heavens will shake for your good.              – Paul V Johnson, of the Seventy

What a blessing!

What a special holiday!

 

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He Shall Prepare a Way

Last week I finished the Book of Mormon, which means that I also started the Book of Mormon again.

Those familiar words are like coming home. I Nephi having been born of goodly parents… perhaps the most read passage in the Book of Mormon?

Anyway,  today I read 1 Nephi chapter 3.

This is a classic and well known chapter where Lehi sends his sons back to Jerusalem to get the brass plates from Laban.

Laman and Lemuel murmur as they do, but Nephi is faithful and says in verse 7..

I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.

path through the painted hillsThis is such an important scripture because it tells us that it is possible to follow the Lord in all things. We’ve all experienced moments of weakness or great times of trial. This scripture assures us that there is a way through it.

Something that stood out to me this time through was Nephi’s idea to go and get his father’s gold and silver and precious things in order to gain the brass plates. Laman had tried to get the plates by asking Laban, which did not work. So Nephi, knowing that God will provide a way, remembers their riches that they had left behind.

I wonder if he thought, “oh! It makes sense now. It all fits together! We left our riches so that they would be here just when we needed them in order to get the plates.” He definitely thought it was the solution to their problem.

But, it wasn’t.

They gathered their riches and presented them to Laban as a trade for the plates, but Laban lusted after the gold and tried to kill them. They lost their property and still didn’t have the plates that they were sent to retrieve.

I wonder if Nephi was at all confused. His brothers were certainly angry. So much so that they beat Nephi with a rod so badly that an angel had to intervene for his sake. But if Nephi was discouraged, he doesn’t talk about it. Think of it though! He thought he had received the answer and was willing to give up all of their riches, and it turned up nothing.

How often has this happened in our lives? We seek guidance and feel prompted to go a certain direction only to have it not work out. It can be incredibly discouraging.

boy on a pathBut as we see in the coming chapter, there was a better solution. One that Nephi could never have imagined on his own. One that not only benefited Lehi’s family by providing them the plates, but also gave them Zoram, and later allowed them to get Ishmael. And who knows how many other lives were blessed because of the removal of a wicked man.

God truly does have a plan, a way for us to accomplish his works. So when our first or second or third attempt at reaching our goals, or at following the commandments of the Lord do not get us to where we thought they would, hold tight.

God will provide a way.

One Step Enough For Me

I am an impatient person. I like to be in control. And anyone who knows me knows that I’m a planner. I like to know what’s coming and I thrive on a schedule.

Carey and I are a little nomadic at heart, longing for change or a new adventure every year or two. When we moved here to Lake Oswego things really clicked for our boys and we decided that we would stay put for them so they could go through junior high and high school in one place, with the same friends and peers. We had our escape plan though- the moment our youngest graduated from high school, we’d move on to our next adventure.

Then something odd happened. We got comfortable. Happy. We began to recognize how blessed we are to live here. We truly love the people in our ward, and the idea of growing with them for many years started to sound really nice. Carey’s job was great and we were feeling good.

It was the end of November when I said to Carey, “What if we just stayed here, after the boys are gone? Like forever.” He thought that didn’t sound so bad.

A few days later he was laid off from his job, and everything became uncertain.

All of a sudden my calendar was up in the air. Our big vacation plans, our budget, our health insurance, any plans were dampened by the uncertainty of when and where Carey might be working. We hoped that he would find something really quickly, but that hasn’t been the case.

This was torture for me at the beginning. I needed to know what was going to happen! I couldn’t function, except to stare at a computer screen and try to find my husband a job. I knew that Heavenly Father would provide something, but I also knew that we had to do our part. So I frantically worried about missing the right job or the right contact or the right prompting. I needed to know how this was going to end, and I needed it to end like now!

light-from-cloudsThen something amazing happened. Carey and I started attending the temple weekly, and it began to bring great peace into our lives. Between that, studying scriptures, and prayer, I was able to start letting go and letting God be in charge

The fear that we wouldn’t find the right path or see the big picture began to fade as I was able to accept that God sees that big picture and I don’t need to. I really don’t! I just have to trust that God will lead us along, and won’t let us go down the wrong path.

There is a hymn that has been ever present in my mind over the last month- Lead Kindly Light. The first verse says:

Lead, kindly Light, amid th’encircling gloom;
Lead thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home;
Lead thou me on!
Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene–one step enough for me.
path-of-life
One step at a time- that is how Heavenly Father is leading us right now.
Last week Carey had two job offers on the table. Both were good, and would have given us great security. As we fasted and prayed about each of these, we felt strongly to turn them both down.
The first one wasn’t so difficult, but the second one brought the fear right back. The fear of making the wrong choice, of missing out on something. But then we decided to trust in the answers we had been given and were immediately blessed with peace.
So we’ve made it a few more steps along the path, and continue in faith for the light to illuminate where that next step will be. I don’t need to see the distant scene. God see’s it and knows the path perfectly. One step at a time is enough for me.

Crossing the Great Deep

Ether is my favorite book in the Book of Mormon. I just love it. It is full of so many great jewels. And is basically the entire Book of Mormon condensed down to one book.

I don’t claim to be a scholar or a deep thinker. And I’m not great with words. But I do think about things and I love seeing types or symbols in things I read.

The story of the Jaredites begins when the languages are confounded at the Tower of Babel. Jared asks his brother to pray that they, and then their family and friends might not be confounded. The Lord agrees, and then Jared again sends his brother to pray about where the Lord will lead them.

The Lord promises them a land which is choice above all other lands. And so the Jaredites prepare for their journey and take off, with the Lord leading them along the way.

They end up in a land by the sea. They call the land Moriancumer, pitch their tents, and hang out for four years.

The seashore obviously wasn’t the end of their journey, but sometimes I wonder if they thought it was. They had already left everything, and  sacrificed, and traveled a great distance. Then they come to the sea. Maybe it was a beautiful place. Maybe they thought they had made it. Maybe they didn’t know that the Lord had something even better for them.

The brother of Jared goes and prays, and after being chastened for not calling upon the Lord, he repents and is then told to get to work and build barges, which he and his people do.

They make these great ships- tight like a dish. But they are worried about air. How will they breathe while in the boat? The Lord tells him how to handle it and they make some holes in each barge.

120Then the brother of Jared cries unto the Lord again, for they have nothing to light their vessels.

Behold, O Lord, wilt thou suffer that we shall cross this great water in darkness?

The Lord asks him what he wants him to do. And then says:

For behold, ye shall be as a whale in the midst of the sea; for the mountain waves shall dash upon you. Nevertheless, I will bring you up again out of the depths of the sea; for the winds have gone forth out of my mouth, and also the rains and the floods have I sent forth. And behold, I prepare you against these things; for ye cannot cross this great deep save I prepare you against the waves of the sea, and the winds which have gone forth, and the floods which shall come.

 

I love this so much. img_6954

A couple of thoughts about these verses (which are Ether 2:24-25). What if we look at the Jaredites journey to the seashore as our pre-earth life. We worked hard. We prepared.

The choice land, or land of promise, could be viewed as eternal life. Our ultimate goal and destination. Life with God and our families forever.

So that would make this life the great deep. The water we must cross. Full of mountain waves that dash upon us, and winds and floods. Trials, pains, fears, disappointments.

This is why these verses are so great…

Nevertheless I will bring you up again out of the depths. 

The winds have gone forth out of my mouth.

I prepare you against these things.20140524_193059

God knows we will face hard times. What a comfort it is to know that he is in control. And he has prepared us to face these things.
We cannot cross the great deep without light. And he has provided it for us. Christ is our light. The gospel is our light. The scriptures, the temple. We have been given so much light to get us through.


Behold, O Lord, wilt thous suffer that we shall cross this great water in darkness?

Next time you find yourself asking that question, remember the answer.

He has provided us with the light. He is the light.

A Rock and A Hard Place

So unemployment sucks.

Carey was laid off just before Christmas due to a merger at his firm and it was such a blow, completely unexpected. He has been networking, interviewing, exploring so many possibilities. Currently he is doing some temp work which we are so grateful for. But the uncertainty of it all is sometimes a bit much. It is a stressful time.

We each go through cycles of emotions- sometimes together, sometimes at different times. There is hope, stress, anxiety, faith, excitement, fear, disappointment, worry.. etc. 

The last couple of days has been a little more stressful as we are trying to decide about possibly staying on permanently with his current temp job. It wouldn’t be ideal. It wouldn’t even really be permanent because it is not what he wants to do long term. But it would give us those medical benefits and the security of a paycheck. It would also severely limit his ability to pursue other avenues.

Last night while we were talking, I thought about the phrase being stuck between a rock and a hard place. When you have to decide between two things, and neither is really ideal.

I didn’t like that. The idea that no matter what you choose things are going to suck, just doesn’t fit in with the way I view life.

Through the night, another way of looking at the phrase developed in my mind.

The rock. pictures-of-jesus-1128833-print

What if we look at the rock as our Savior.

I am Messiah, the King of Zion, the Rock of Heaven, which is broad as eternity…

Moses 7:53

The hard place is any time of trial or hard situation we are in. Which, because we are mortal, there will be many of those situations in our lives.

The good news is, because Christ is Christ, He will also always be there. And if we have him and his gospel as our foundation, there is no need for that fear and anxiety. Only hope.

Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail.

D&C 6:34

When we first learned that Carey was getting laid off, it was like a punch to the stomach. But at the same moment of the punch, there was an underlying peace. A trusting that things would work out and that we would be supported through this time. A remembrance of a proven track record of seeing God’s hand in each of our lives.

In times of trouble, when we are in that hard place, we can look to our Rock for strength and guidance.

The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.

I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.

The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.

The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me.

In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.

Psalms 18:2-6

bible-video-jesus-peter-water-1432838-printThere’s always that choice, no matter the situation, to let Christ help you. His vision is greater than ours. He will see us through.

From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

Psalms 61:2

C&C Meerdink Factory

cc1When I told Carey this morning that I was going to write about how we met, he said “Well, your version of it.”

True.

We have slightly different versions of how we met, but mine is the correct one. He can do a post sometime about his perspective.

The Date: Monday, January 18, 1999. Martin Luther King Jr Day.

The Setting: LDS Church building on Par Street in Orlando, Florida. Singles Ward FHE. Yep, that’s right. Singles Ward Family Home Evening.

The (true) Story: 
I walked into the Relief Society room with some friends. We were chatting and caught up in our own conversation. We went to the piano and I fiddled around on there for a few minutes and then we continued talking. 016
At one moment, I glanced up and away from my little group toward the back of the room where a guy was looking at me. Then I did probably the most obvious double take ever seen by man. Who is that guy? I hadn’t seen him before, and he was so freaking cute. We both smiled at each other and then it was time to begin FHE. I sat down a few rows of chairs in front of him.

As was tradition in that ward, we began every family home evening with a little get-to-know-you activity where we all stated our name and answered a common question. That evening’s questions was “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Each person took their turn. My turn came around and stood and I said, “My name is Carrie, and I want to be a special agent for the FBI.” Sitting down, I eagerly awaited for the boy on the back row’s turn. Who is he?cc2
Finally, his turn came up and he stood and said, “My name is Carey Meerdink, and I want to own my own theater company.”

Carey? His name is CAREY??

No way, I thought to myself. It’s not going to happen.

Throughout the night we kept glancing at each other and smiling. My heart was all aflutter and I knew that we had some sort of connection even though we hadn’t even spoken to each other yet.
Finally the lesson came to an end and it was time to socialize. At this point I was on the opposite side of the room as him, so I started working my way closer by jumping from group to group and conversation to conversation. I was almost to him when he walked over to the other side of the room. Arrrrghhhhhh!  I was not one to give up easily, so I began making my way over to him again. I think it was pretty obvious. I was right next to his little group of people when I heard him offer someone a piece of gum. That was my in. I piped up and asked for a piece, which he gave me. dscn3087

“I hear you have the coolest name in the room,” he said to me. So smooth. I don’t remember my answer. We talked for a minute or two and then he asked me this: “So how does working for the FBI work with you raising a family?” 
Okay, I know that that is sort of a lame question and people do it all the time. But for some reason it struck me. I had never really thought about raising a family before, or anything like that. And for some reason, when he asked me that question, I knew right then that I was going to marry him.

I don’t remember what else we talked about that night, but we both had to leave and went our separate directions. When I got home I called my mom. “I met the guy I’m going to marry,” I told her.
dscn6383I didn’t see Carey again until the following Sunday. We sat together in Sunday School and he passed me a not that said: Will you go out with me? Check Yes or No.

I checked yes and we passed notes

the rest of class. The following Friday I met up with him in Orlando. I was living about an hour or so away from him working as a nanny, so I actually stayed that night at his parents house. We went to Olive Garden and then miniature golfing, then went back to his house and watched The Truman Show. We had a great connection and it was like we had been together for years. The next day he kissed me. We hung out most of the day and talked about our lives and our future plans and everything and anything. I was already madly in love with him.candcinorlando

When he was driving me home, he said to me, “If things keep going like this we should talk about getting married. We could be the C&C Meerdink Factory…”

 

The Pride Cycle IRL

Most of us are familiar with the pride cycle that happens over and over again in the Book of Mormon.

pride-cycle-colorful
Book of Mormon Student Manual, (2009), 414

Ultimately it comes down to the people being blessed and then slowly turning away from the teachings of Christ. They are then humbled in one way or another, be it famine or war etc., at which point they begin to cry out to God for deliverance. God blesses them and the cycle continues.

The pride cycle happens in real life too, obviously. I’m not here to judge where other people are in the cycle, but I can take a step back and try to take an honest review of where I am standing.

My pride cycles don’t usually end up including famine (unless you count spiritual famine) or war or destruction. But usually a gradual slipping of one thing or another that I should be doing- like reading the scriptures or prayer.

Currently, I feel like I’m in stage five of the cycle: Humility and Repentance.

Almost a year ago we were super unsatisfied with Carey’s job. After lots of prayer and some giant leaps of faith, Carey was offered his dream job in May. We were so grateful and honestly, I can’t think of a day since that we didn’t thank Heavenly Father for that job.

Fast forward to the first week of December 2016. The firm was merging with another and Carey was the last hire, so he was the first to go. He got laid off 3 weeks before Christmas. We were devastated and felt like we had been punched in the gut. We immediately turned to prayer and sought guidance and blessings. We’re still trying to figure things out, but one of the great blessings of this gospel is that we know deep down that things will work out.

Here’s the thing though- as I look at it from this perspective, I can see where the cycle started working it’s way through. Not in an overt manner, but very subtle. And it all starts with the temple.

9 months ago, we were attending the temple often as we were seeking guidance and the blessing of a new job. Then, after he got the job, life got really busy. Too busy for the temple.

All of a sudden months went by without us going. And it’s not like it would have been difficult- we live exactly 4.4 miles from our temple, and pass it daily.

When we got the news of the lay off, one of our first impulses was to go to the temple.

How easy it is to go to the temple when we need something- direction, comfort, answers, blessings. But when life is going smoothly, it just seems harder to get there.

So temple attendance started to slip, and I began to rely less on the Lord, relying on my own capabilities and the confidence in my husband’s career. I was not in open rebellion against God, I wasn’t putting myself above others or above God as we typically think of pride. President Benson taught that pride is also “faultfinding, gossiping…living beyond our means, envying, coveting, withholding gratitude…and being unforgiving and jealous.” That’s how it happens in real life. We can all see traces of those characteristics in our lives. And as we slowly draw away from the Lord and His influence, those traits have more room to grow within us.

Fortunately step number four in my current cycle, destruction and suffering, were equal to the pride that had taken over. God is just and merciful. He will give us a nudge when we need a nudge, and a punch in the gut when we need a punch in the gut. He wants to help us get back on track, not make us suffer.

So we started going back to the temple and remembered how much we love it. We remembered that when we go- inside or outside- we feel the spirit and we feel joy. We remembered how much our children love the temple. And we recommitted to attending the temple weekly.

Step five of the cycle is great, because as we begin to humble ourselves and repent- in this case turning our minds and hearts back to the Lord by focusing on the temple, we begin to have hope. And that is the best thing of all.