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.

 

Advertisements

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.