Tuesday, December 1, 2015

And So It Begins!

Oh how I love the Christmas season! I find it strange that my eagerness and enthusiasm at this time of year continues to grow. I would think that my younger years would have been the most exciting, the most magical of all the years of Christmas. I have concluded that it must be related to my testimony and love for Jesus Christ. As I have continued to grow in regards to that relationship, so has my love of this Christmas season. Bring on the lights, music, magic and love! I love this time of year!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Surviving to Thriving(a few tips on how to make it through church as an Introvert)

 Heritage 09T Stake Center, Rendering

I am a recently aware Introvert. I have touched on this subject here once before. Going from thinking that I am strange to believing instead that I am strong in a quiet way is a difficult thought pattern to change. I have felt and told myself that I am strange for a very long time. Growing up I would watch my siblings play and think to myself "that looks so fun" but when I would join in their play I would wonder "why is this not fun?".
This is in no way a negative reflection on my siblings or my family life. I had a great home, great parents, great siblings that are actually quite funny and wonderful to be around. Therefore, by my very inexperienced deductive reasoning, I concluded that there must be something wrong with me. Over the years I have learned to compensate for my quiet nature that revels in solitude. The problem with compensating and acting against my true self was that it made me feel like I was doing something wrong that needed to be hidden. I was worried that someone might realize I was "faking it" and call me out on it one day. Then I was given this book: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking.  My quiet self had found a source of validation and my need to don a false extroverted persona at times had a new light shed on it.
According to a new field of psychology, Professor Brian Little has come up with way of explaining why a true blue introvert might at times be mistaken for an outgoing extrovert, it is called Free Trait Theory. "Little believes that we are born and culturally endowed with certain personality traits-introversion for example-but that we can and do act out of character in the service of "core personal projects." In other words, introverts are capable of acting like extroverts for sake of work they consider important, people they love, or anything they value highly. According to Professor Little our lives are dramatically enhanced when we're involved in core personal projects that we consider meaningful, manageable and not unduly stressful, and that are supported by others."
Free Trait Theory explains why an introvert like myself would join the PTA, or teach a class, or agree to give a talk in sacrament meeting. It is why, when I'm with the Young Women in my ward, I can let loose with the girls and be silly at times, or appear outgoing in different social situations. I have even noticed that I tend to adapt my social mannerisms according to the needs of the person with which I conversing. My core personal project in these situations is that I love those persons I am talking with and genuinely want them to feel at ease, uplifted, and encouraged in life. So if I am talking with someone that is of a shy and quiet nature I will do more of the talking. If I am with more of an extroverted person, I am content to listen and offer validating gestures instead of my own thoughts.
This happens all over with all different sorts of people. A normally cantankerous grandpa will be tender as he interacts with his young grandchildren. A normally agreeable mother might act hard-nosed in defense of one of her children. Deep down we are the same people we have always been, we just learn to compensate for what we lack in certain situations, particularly the ones that have meaning to us.
This has been an eye opening theory to me, greatly decreasing my discomfort in donning a so called "false persona". Which brings me to the point and title of this post.
In a religion as social and as extroverted in nature as the LDS church it is important that an introverted personality be prepared to stretch beyond their limited boundaries of comfort. It is also important to thrive in such situations, not just survive.
My very first tip on going from surviving church to thriving at church is have the Father and Jesus Christ as your number one "core personal project". I have found that when something is uncomfortable and I don't really want to do it, if I give it to God in prayer and ask through the grace of Jesus that what I am doing will work for the good of His glory and my eternal salvation, then I generally have an easier time finding the energy required for that particular task-even if that task is simply showing up to church at all. The Sacrament portion of our meetings is a great time to talk to God and work this out with Him. 
The second tip I have found useful is to do as I was talking about earlier and learn to use the Free Trait Theory, or in other words "fake it". It's 3 hours. I can smile, be engaged in class, talk to other people, and carry out a calling for 3 hours.
If you are feeling like its getting too much during those three hours, head for the stalls. There is no shame in taking a breather and gathering energy by taking a moment to yourself in the bathroom. Introverts love the solitude of a bathroom stall.(now you know where to find me if I suddenly come up missing-don't come talk to me-I'll come out when I'm ready ;)
Tip number three, make time after church to personally regroup and charge your battery again. I'm serious about this one. When introverts act as an extrovert it is draining, even when our core personal project in as meaningful as worshiping the Lord. If you will take the recovery time needed from such social endeavors as church, you will feel in greater depth the love God has for you, the atoning grace of our Savior and other positives that come from worshiping and attending church on the Sabbath. You will be given that great gift of charity, Christ's love, for the people you serve and attend church with. And you will have a much more willing heart next time, to do all that is required of you as the Lord stretches you and helps you grow beyond your boundaries of comfort.
These are just a few of my own helpful experiences. If you are an introvert, I highly recommend reading Susan Cain's book and reading the blog link by clicking on the title above. It is full of enlightening experiences of others.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Weightier Matters of Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy

A week and a half ago I received a phone call asking if I would speak in the Sunday session of our Stake Conference tomorrow. I was hesitant for personal reasons, but accepted the assignment anyway. One early morning shortly after the call, I woke to words running through my head. I knew the Lord was giving me the words to my talk. I was taught day after day as I read and studied and wrote. I had several personal hardships along the way which usually stunt inspiration, yet it continued to flow. I am so grateful for that experience. Having finished my talk early, I decided to go to the temple yesterday to calm my nerves. I came home feeling peaceful and ready. Then I received a phone call from my Stake President informing me that the agenda for the weekend had been changed and my talk was no longer necessary. Truthfully, I felt completely deflated and hurt. I had given this talk my all for the last week and a half. Hours and hours of study and work and practicing as I geared myself up to actually stand at the pulpit and say the words. I share this not for sympathy, there are far worse things that can happen to a person(ok, a little sympathy would be nice though) I share this because I don't know what else to do with all of my hard work. I recognize that some things in life are just for our learning alone, but I was kinda hoping this one what would help someone else as well.
Here is the talk I was going to give:

The Weightier Matters of Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy

One early Spring morning many years ago I took a walk down the shady dirt lane near our home in Perry. Fields of cows slowly grazed along side of the dusty road, separated now and again by a fence indicating the property line of neighboring farmers. After several minutes of walking I came upon a cow that had gotten her head stuck between two pieces of a wooden structure. In her distress she had given birth to her calf which still lay in its sack of waters at her feet. This poor mother unable to attend to her baby let out a bellowing cry for help. Being nearly 9 months pregnant myself at that time, I felt an immediate kinship with this poor mother cow and waddled as fast as my belly would allow to go find help. I saw a neighboring farmer out working around his house.
I thought to myself "surely he knows what to do".
I quickly related the distressing scenario to him with something like this:
"Mr. Farmer, there is this cow down the road and she is stuck and she has had her baby and she can't get to it!"
Thinking he would heroically and immediately jump to the rescue of this poor creature and her newborn baby, I was quite fairly shocked when his response came
"Not my cow."
Stunned and in somewhat of a stupor, I asked him who's cow it was so that I could call and alert the proper owner. He gave me the name and I left him to continue his own work, on his own property, with his own fields and his own cows.
Through the years Craig and I have, in good humor, often repeated the farmer's response "not my cow" when referring to something that in our minds is not our problem. There are times when keeping our noses out of other people's business is the proper response, but in regards to living Christ's gospel and following counsel from our Prophets and Apostles, having this attitude of disregard will surely hinder our progress along this mortal walk of life.

Recently in our Stake the three hour time block on Sundays has been rearranged to have the Sacrament portion of our meetings first. This change of schedule is in response to counsel given from Apostles and leaders to place a greater emphasis on the sacred nature of the Sabbath day.
Why is the commandment to keep the sabbath day holy of such importance to us that it would render the given attention from those who we sustain to guide us?

From Adam down to our day, those that follow Christ have been taught to obey God’s commandments. Out of the ten commandments revealed to Moses by the Lord in ancient times, there are only two that specify to do something rather than “shalt not” do. In Exodus it reads “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8) This commandment along with the other nine, pave the way for obedience to other gospel principles. President Uchtdorf once said "In striving for obedience to God’s commandments there are many good ideas. However, one person’s good idea-that may work for him or her-can take root and become somewhat of an expectation [for all]. Gradually eternal principles can get lost within the labyrinth of “good ideas”."

This was one of the Savior’s criticisms of the religious “experts” of His day, whom He chastised for attending to the hundreds of minor details of the law while neglecting the weightier matters.

What are the weightier matters in regards to “remembering the sabbath day, to keep it holy”?

At the beginning of the Book of Mormon, Nephi gives record of the vision his Father had of the tree of life. Having a hope and desire to know the things his father had seen, Nephi sat and pondered in his heart until he was “caught away in the Spirit of the Lord”.
And the Spirit said unto Nephi: “what desirest thou?”

And Nephi answered:  “to behold the things which my father saw.”

Further questioning the testimony of Nephi, the Spirit asked him if he believed that his father Lehi had seen the tree of life. Answering in the affirmative, Nephi was then granted a vision of his own.

“And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me: Look! And I looked and beheld a tree; and it was like unto the tree which my father had seen; and the beauty thereof was far beyond, yea, exceeding of all beauty; and the whiteness thereof did exceed the whiteness of the driven snow.

“And it came to pass after I had seen the tree, I said unto the Spirit: I behold thou hast shown unto me the tree which is precious above all.”

Nephi then wanted to know the meaning of the tree. The Spirit proceeded to show him the time of Christ’s birth and said to him

“Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?

And I answered him, saying: Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things.”

And he spake unto me, saying: Yea, and the most joyous to the soul.”

Nephi recognized the simile between God’s only begotten Son and the precious tree of life. When we prepare to partake of the sacrament each Sunday, it is as if we are approaching the tree of life itself. It is as if we are approaching the Savior himself.
With this image in mind, it is of little wonder that the sacrament portion of our meetings is the most important part of every Sabbath day. The Sacrament is the most repeated ordinance in Christ’s church, the only one that we repeat for ourselves. It is a sacred moment in a holy place.

If you had an appointment on your calendar tomorrow to personally visit with the Savior, would you want to be prepared for that meeting? After such a meeting would you rush to the next item on your busy schedule or would you enjoy some time to think about your experience? Would you choose activities that helped you remember your time with the Savior or ones that took your mind elsewhere, causing you to momentarily forget?

The commandment to remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy is not a commandment that is meant to benefit God. He does not need us to worship Him.
“His power and glory are not diminished should we disregard, deny, or even defile His name. His influence and dominion extend through time and space independent of our acceptance, approval, or admiration.”(President Uchtdorf)

No, God does not need us to worship him one day out of seven for His benefit. (Mark 2:27)

It is for our benefit that God has given us this small portion of our week to rest from our daily toils and labors, to be healed and cleansed of our sins through the partaking of the sacrament, to learn and grow with a clean and pure heart in our gospel classes, and to love God and feel loved by Him in return.
God's love is infinite and pure. God's love gives us a divine sense of security as it binds us to Him, replenishes us, and brings unspeakable joy to the soul. God's love is the motivating source of life that lends us courage to make the changes that are necessary to our salvation. God's love is the enabling power that turns ordinary daily acts of devotion into extraordinary mortal experiences that will perpetuate beyond the grave. God's love is the key to happiness in this life and in the life to come.

"For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments." (1 John 5:3; 2 John 1:6) If we choose to regard the Sabbath day and keep it holy, leaving our "fields" and our "cows" for one day, we show our love to God and we will feel His love more abundantly in our lives.

I bear witness that God lives. He knows how to love us perfectly though we be imperfect. Because of that love we have the gift of His son Jesus Christ as our mediator with the Father and it is through Him that we can return to live with them once more. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

One Who Moves Forward

I was asked to speak in sacrament last week. Posting the results here so that I may return and learn from it again at some future date.

Having just celebrated Pioneer Day and with the upcoming Pioneer Trek for our youth, we turn our thoughts back in time to those that made it possible for us to be sitting here today, the ones that have gone before us in life. Webster's Dictionary defines the word pioneer as "To go before, to prepare or open a way for others to follow". Being the oldest of eight children in my family, I naturally had several 'pioneer' moments growing up. The earliest one when I left my siblings at home to play while I went off to start school. Then the day I was Baptized comes to mind, after that learning to drive, requesting my patriarchal blessing, getting married, and to even the most recent distinct pioneer moment when we had to let my Dad go and it was time to leave the hospital. After living for 5 days in the waiting room of the thoracic intensive care unit in Salt Lake City, Craig and I were the first to leave. I distinctly remember the strange peace that settled over me as we picked up our things and walked out into the daylight. Moving forward that day definitely felt like a huge Pioneer moment.

In the recent April General Conference Elder L. Whitney Clayton spoke of a young 7 year old girl who survived a plane crash that took the lives of the rest of her family. After calling out and realizing she was the only one left, she courageously set off barefoot across the hills of Kentucky in search of help. Stumbling through the darkness she spotted a light in the distance. With cuts and scrapes and a broken wrist she fought her way through the rough countryside toward that light where a man took her into his care and helped her to the hospital for further care and healing. Having a little orange haired 7 year old myself, I am in awe of the strength of this young girl and her innate desire to move forward despite all that she had been through. She took courage in the fact that no matter how bad things were, her rescue would be found in the light. At some time or another, all of us will have to traverse our own spiritual wilderness and undertake our own rugged emotional journey. However dark and seemingly hopeless these moments might feel, if we choose to look for it, a light beckons us giving us the hope of rescue and relief. That light has forever been and will continue to shine from Jesus Christ, the Savior of all mankind.

In Doctrine and Covenants it states "O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day."
Being the theme for this year, our youth are coming to know the words of this scripture well. What their leaders, and parents, hope is that these words will fuse within them and become part of who they are as they learn and grow in testimony and in life. I have witnessed many of them reaching out in kindness and in service on their own which tells me this is taking place.
Like the word pioneer, embark suggests to the mind a new journey. A way of leaving something behind and moving forward. Naturally when our paths ahead are unwanted or unknown it is easy to allow our fears, worries and doubts overtake our ability to see any light ahead. Corrie Ten Boom once said "Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength."

There is a scriptural account in Mark chapter 9 of a father who, in desperation for his afflicted son, sought for a miraculous healing from Jesus. With anguish the father pleads to Jesus:

"If thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us.

"Jesus said unto him, if thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.

"And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief."

What we can learn from this account is eloquently described by Elder Holland:
"Without hesitation the father asserts his strength first, [with his declaration of "Lord I believe]" and only then acknowledges his limitation [with "help thou mine unbelief"]. In moments of fear or doubt or troubling times, hold the ground you have already won, even if that ground is very limited."
There will always come moments in life when the resolution of a question, problem or troubling time will not immediately be given. Elder Holland encourages us, almost pleading with us to "hold fast to what you already know and [stay] strong until additional knowledge comes. Do not start your quest for faith by saying how much you do not have, leading as it were with your "unbelief." I am not asking you to pretend to faith you do not have. I am asking you to be true to the faith you do have."

In a clever movie released by DreamWorks, there is a story of a prehistoric family and their adventures as they are forced to embark on a journey when their cave, that has always shielded them from danger, is destroyed. In attempt to influence the family for what he thought was best, the father tells the bedtime story of a bear who listened to her father and lived her life in a cave of routine and darkness and fear. In regard to life in a cave, the daughter's response is accurate to the folly of this plan, she emphatically states "That wasn't living-it was just not dying".
Keeping our faith merely alive is very important, but tends to leave our feet planted in a spot that stunts our growth. If the little 7 year old girl had remained at the sight of the plane crash, she would have perished eventually, along with her family. Instead she gave everything she had, all her heart, might, mind, and strength to her desire and belief that moving forward would bring her what she needed. She had her own 'pioneer' moment.

In preparing this talk I asked myself these questions: What is a pioneer in my day, here and now? Am I a pioneer? Have I embarked in the service of God? Do I serve God with all of my heart, might, mind and strength?
The answer that came to me is that a pioneer is one that embarks on their journey with whatever amount of faith they do have, giving it all in the process despite the heartaches, cuts and scrapes, fears and worries. A pioneer is one who moves forward. In doing so we are paving the way for others. In our daily devotion to God and following His Son we mark the way for future generations through our children, or in service to our co-workers, neighbors and friends. As we traverse our own rough countryside trail we gain experience that is beneficial to our salvation and may even prove to be of help and use for another. As we live life in the light of Christ's gospel, we are being a pioneer.

"Whether we are young in years of age or young in years of membership or young in years of faith" may we all focus on the saving light of our Savior and press forward in our own pioneer trek, leading with whatever amount of faith we have. 
Choose to embark. Choose to move forward. Don't stay in the cave. Jesus Christ will help you on your way. He will heal your tired heart and broken spirit. I have felt this in my own life. I know that He lives. I close in that sacred name, even Jesus Christ, amen.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Cherry Blossom

A friend recently gave me a bracelet with a bead of the Cherry Blossom. Little did she know that this is one of my many favorites in life. I love the arrangement of the five almost white petals and the spray of dark pink emerging from the center. I love that they bloom on the branch of a tree and I love that it is a symbol of something deeper in the Asian cultures.

My interest in these naturally quiet cultures has only increased by having three kids in the Chinese program at our local elementary school. Here is a little more about the meaning of this cute little flower...
China considers the cherry blossom to be a representation of feminine beauty.
The Japanese see it as a representation of the beauty and fragility of life. The season of the cherry blossom corresponds to the calendar and fiscal years in Japan. This marks the start of new beginnings, like a pupil's first day in school or a person's first day at work. The intensity and liveliness of the cherry blossom gives warrant for anyone to dream and hope for big things in the future and to be optimistic, therefore it is seen as a symbol of hope. 
The blooming period of cherry blossoms is very short(two weeks!) leading to an instantaneous flourish and sudden death. In the Japanese culture, this serves as a reminder of mortality and humanity knowing that the life of a human being can end anytime just like the flower. The cherry blossom exemplifies this human condition, making people realize that life is short and that they should live it well, therefore it is a symbol of humility as well.

I have the privilege of working with the young women in my church. This responsibility has been both daunting and rewarding. Recently one of our girls decided that her time on earth was through. She chose to end her mortal journey one dark night after a fight with her sister. With the limited sight of her mere thirteen years, she made a choice that would affect many. My own heart aches for all involved and my conscience was overcome with guilt upon hearing the news. Like many, I felt that I had failed this young girl and had failed her family as well. I had not worked fast enough in my new calling and as a result a tragedy had taken place. Such heavy guilt I carried, I knew I was not the only one feeling the pain and weight of her choice. I turned to Jesus Christ and His atonement for refuge from such a burden. I sought strength to lift her family and the other young ladies in my ward. I felt a portion of that prayer answered as I and the other leaders gathered our girls together the Sunday after. We had a very open lesson with the option to ask anything they wanted about what had happened. There was a very unique spirit throughout our discussion and lesson. It was extremely tender and very powerful. Many tears were shed and hearts were softened allowing each of us to love a little more openly. Acts of service were put into place and healing began as the girls reached out to serve the family of the young girl. 
Like the Cherry Blossom signifies, life is indeed short, and at times even shorter. Most likely the world will not take note when one bloom falls, but to the one who's heart they did tread upon, a lasting imprint of love will be left behind to hold until the time of meeting once again. 
We each will one day go home to that great God that gives us breath. We will stand before our Lord and Savior and take into account all that we have done with our time on earth. The beauty of that moment will be the fact that Jesus Christ already has a perfect knowledge of our hearts, intentions, limitations and struggles. He sees us as we truly are, here and now in the living, and it is stronger, more intelligent, more beautiful, and of greater worth than we see in ourselves. He is the perfect mediator between us and the Father. 
I have felt Christ's healing love. It is possible to be encircled about in His arms while we are yet in the flesh. When life feels too heavy, turn to Him and He will carry your burden. (Alma 33:23) 
There is always hope when we have love and faith in Him...


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Hopeful Tomorrows

 Sometimes there are days when the most welcome sight is that of the setting of the sun. On these days, I generally offer a simple prayer of gratitude for the opportunity to start again tomorrow.
Good night today.........

Thursday, April 23, 2015

When Heaven and Earth Align

(Taken by my talented mother-I am forever grateful to her for capturing such moments)

As previously mentioned, I believe in magic. I also believe that when we recognize magic in our lives then we have seen the hand of God working in our favor. The tricky part is slowing down enough to make note of such times and to take what God intended from these moments and learn from them.
I am grateful to the Father for teaching me in ways that I best understand what is given.

From the very beginning, Father Adam was commanded to “call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore” (Moses 5:8).
Men and women of integrity, character, and purpose have ever recognized a power higher than themselves and have sought through prayer to be guided by such power. Such has it ever been. So shall it ever be.
Well might the younger generation ask, “But what about today? Does he still hear? Does he continue to answer?” To which I promptly reply: “There is no expiration date on the Lord’s injunction to pray. As we remember him, he will remember us.”President Thomas S. Monson

I have felt and experienced the truthfulness of these words. Having received at a very young age my knowledge of Jesus Christ our Savior, I do not doubt in the existence of a higher being. I have read the scriptures and believe what is taught in them. I have experimented with their teachings and have only ever benefited from doing so. When I am tempted to leave behind all that I have been taught, it is this sure knowledge and foundation that keeps me anchored in the world of turmoil and strife. God does indeed hear our prayers and He will answer them. The most magical of all moments I have experienced is when I have felt that my prayers, whether they be for my benefit or another's, have come in alignment with God's will. There is almost a quiet yet tangible shift in the world. I am grateful for these few times when I once again am given the reminding knowledge that God is there. The world may indeed be positively affected by one faithful mortal on his or her knees. There is power in prayer.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Inspiration In Strange Places: Glimpses of Truth Within a Movie Review

I recently went to see the new Cinderella film that is now playing in theaters. I fell completely in love once more with this classic childhood fairytale. I have always loved and found quite relate-able the character of Cinderella. Being number one in the lineup of eight kids, naturally I had to help and work as a child, and as childhoods are meant to do, this helped mold me into who I am today. I may procrastinate starting a job, but I know how to work and I am grateful for that. Being part of a large family also gave me plenty of reasons to escape to the quiet of my bedroom where books and music became lifelong friends. I was a boring sister to my adventurous brothers. Now that we are grown they don't mind as much since I tend to be the one holding their children so that they may continue to play as adults.

Like Disney, why do we like to relive these age old tales? Because they have an effect on the human imagination and the characters in them generally possess desirable qualities. Why wouldn't we want someone like that in our lives?

In Disney's revisit of Cinderella, the producers and director Kenneth Branagh have given us a broadened view and a deeper glimpse into this timeless character. Keeping with the storybook element of a fairytale, the use of a narrator throughout the film gave greater insight and depth to what was happening on screen as well as within the character's hearts and minds. The beautifully composed music added an emotional element to the background of the enthralling lush settings. To some this was just a cute version, one of many interpretations of this classic tale, but to me it stirred something a little deeper.

Truth number one: "Once upon a time there was a girl that had a way of seeing the world not as it was but as it could be.....with a little bit of magic." Childlike yes, but I have always believed in magic. I have seen and experienced too many moments in life that seem, well.........magical. I also believe that when we recognize these moments then we have seen the hand of God working in our life.

Truth number two: The great secret, "have courage and be kind, it has power and magic." How true! The desire to see the good in people, to think generously of others, to offer a kind word, a simple smile, or even a positive thought on someone's behalf seem like nothing really, but with kindness they are everything. These seemingly silly contributions in fact make up an enormous cumulative difference to the world, the space, the oxygen that we occupy. In this version of Cinderella we are given someone that we can look to as an example in life. Here is a girl that took her mother's advice and didn't see it as a "glib piece of cracker philosophy", but rather a practical means in which she could live her life. Even if it was inevitably difficult to do so. What I liked so much in this film was that unlike the cartoon, this Cinderella had more human dynamics. She was educated, spirited, perhaps even a little snarky when meeting the Prince, but still she remained true to her mother's advice. I hope to always mindfully treat others with an open heart and an open hand.

Truth number three: I wasn't quite sure how to put into words the great scene of Ella emerging at the top of the stairs in her beautiful dress with all eyes focused solely on her. It isn't the desire for attention that draws me into this scene, and as much as I would love a pretty dress and a dance with a prince, it isn't that either. I think what I like best about this scene is the fact Cinderella is given a nice moment in her life, that she is good enough to have this nice moment, and that the people around her are good enough to be there(which was every maiden in the land :) Does that even make sense? I think there will always be points in life where we probably will count ourselves unworthy of some particular blessing or the bestowal of certain attentions in some form, but that simply isn't true. We are all children of a loving Father in Heaven and as such we are worthy of poignant moments that aide in our progression through life. Have courage and enjoy the moment. Don't be afraid of who you are.

Which brings me to the final truth I want to elaborate on: "The greatest risk any of us will ever take, to be seen as we truly are." At this point in the film Ella is asked to present herself to the Prince. Dressed plainly, hair unkempt she looks in the mirror, would who she was really be enough? We all will be summoned at some point to present ourselves to the ultimate Prince, that Prince of Peace. Will what we have become along this mortal journey be enough? Enough to warrant the bestowal of the Father's kingdom? Enough to earn all that the Father has promised us? Enough to live with Him once more? If we follow the advice of a loving Savior, which reverberates much the same to that of Ella's mother's advice, we will have our ultimate moment. To be seen as we truly are, and with the grace of Jesus Christ, accepted as such.

See, wasn't that such a great movie!!

I could go on and on about other less relevant affirmations and realizations I had during the film, but I won't. Go see it for yourself and enjoy a pure, good, romantic form of entertainment...............with just a touch of magic.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Finding A Voice: An Introverts Perspective in an Extroverted Religion

Finding A Voice

I may find myself posting on this particular topic more than once in the future. I am reading a fascinating book right now "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking" by Susan Cain. In the beginning of the book there is a true/false quiz to help the reader identify if they are an introvert or an extrovert. I am most definitely an introvert. Knowing this about myself, and knowing that it is OK be so, has helped me in untold ways. Through research and personal experiences of the author as well as many others she has interviewed, Susan Cain takes the reader back in time to view how America has become an extrovert nation and how it continues to value and promote the Extrovert Ideal. She notes several times that this isn't a bad thing, quite the contrary, there are multiple positives for both the extrovert individual as well as the introvert individual. She also notes how they both can compliment each other in working together for a common goal or purpose.

This is where my brain drifted to the possibilities of introverts struggling in regards to religion, particularly in a religion as extroverted in nature as that of the LDS church. (Herein is where I begin to proceed with caution, not in anyway wanting to offend or give the wrong impression. I am most certainly NOT an expert.)

Let's begin then with the first thing that came to my mind that would make an introvert such as myself cringe and immediately feel like a failure in living up to righteous expectations: Member Missionary Work. (Any other introverts out there feel their stomachs drop and their heart rate increase with just the mere mention of those words?)

How about we drop the Extrovert Ideal for just a moment and focus on how you/me, an introvert, can take part in this divine work without having to knock on unknown neighbor's doors everyday and talk about the gospel enthusiastically and animatedly to every single individual we come across.

What if by some quiet means you can do your part?  Do you prefer one on one conversation to group activities? Do you find it easier to express yourself in writing? Are you content to listen in meetings, then take what observations you make home and think about them before formulating an opinion or stance? Not all introverts are slower in nature, but many are. I am one of those. In retrospect, it seems that I am steadily moving forward but not at a very fast rate. I like being given time to think on something before an answer is required. I recognize that not all situations are conducive to this manner of response, but what if we give just a little more space for those individuals who, when given the time to think, might surprise you with their insight. I don't have answers to the how part yet, I am simply posing the question What If...

In April of 2011 President Uchtdorf gave this talk: Waiting On The Road To Damascus
One particular part stood out to me:
"There are times when the Lord reveals to us things that are intended only for us. Nevertheless, in many, many cases He entrusts a testimony of the truth to those who will share it with others."

After listening to these words I felt moved inside to do something more, to find my voice and express it in a way that was both comfortable to me yet could be influential to another. A way that could be quiet, yet powerful. That is when I decided to begin charting my spiritual progress and learning on this blog, and by doing so, possibly helping the Lord influence at least one other person than myself. It has been personally rewarding. It also has given me a small sense of satisfaction in fulfilling the Member Missionary mantra that seems to be so heavily talked about.

If we set aside the Extrovert Ideal for just a minute, we may find that there are many, many ways in which the introvert individual can be a powerful instrument in the hands of the Lord for the good and benefit of others. We just might need to do a little more brainstorming(a pleasure for an introvert) and think outside of the box a little to help these individuals find their voice, the one that is unique to them. For it truly could be a powerful thing in a quiet way.

In the future, I hope to explore other ways of looking at different parts of LDS church service through the eyes of an introvert, and by doing so, using my voice to help further along this divine work.
If anyone out there has any ideas or thoughts to add, please feel free to share. I am not an expert by any means and hope to learn along the way as well.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A Letter To My Friends

We are so lucky, despite our trials.

This video brings tears to my eyes each time I view it (as I have mentioned before, tears are part of everything lately). I am happy this girl agreed to make this video. She demonstrates courage, which is the making of action in-spite of fear.

I have been doing a lot of self evaluation recently. After the passing of my dad I felt as if one of my life's rocks(be it a large and squishy, huggable rock) had been removed. So large of an influence was he that I didn't even realize just how much he held me up until he was gone. Maybe that is how it is for everyone when they lose a parent and I was just very unaware until experiencing it myself.

Loss comes in so many forms, not just in death alone. That is why this video spoke directly to my inner stuttering self.  No, I may not suffer from an outward speech impediment as this girl, but I definitely have an inward one that hinders my life's interactions. I have worked so very hard to hide it, overcome it, get rid of it, and everything else that would keep it far, far away. Somehow, the loss of my dad has sent me right back to my childhood insecurities. Where has my confidence gone to? I was visiting with some friends the other day and was probably visibly shaking, for that is what was happening on the inside. It took some work to control it. What is happening to me?!

In some ways I am horrified to have returned to my old childlike state, yet in others I am respectfully grateful. I want to hug the little insecure girl within myself and tell her some of the little bits of wisdom I have gained in living, despite fears and insecurities. For example, I definitely have been given a greater compassion and empathy for others, particularly young children, but especially for others that seem to be the outcast, the shy, and the troubled. I am learning that I wouldn't trade my weaknesses and internal infirmities for anything, because they are what makes the good parts of me, good. Like this adorable, huggable girl in this video, I too can help others as I reach out in love and compassion. It is scary. Fear will always trail alongside of me, but courage coupled together with action and grace from God will bring continued healing and strengthening not only to my aching heart but to those I serve with love.

My wish today is that all within the sound of my small voice may know that you are a child of a loving God. He made you unique. That includes your outward and inward infirmities that probably will stick with you your entire life. Embrace them as part of you, and do what it takes to learn to carry, and walk with them, and use them for good. I promise the Lord will bless you and others as you do so. I promise you will feel His love for you, a very sweet, tender and pure love for you. I leave you this promise in His name, even Jesus Christ. Amen

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Good Deeds

My father passed away several months ago. The details are lengthy and irrelevant to the message I wish to convey tonight. Suffice it to say, he was too young and so was I to say goodbye. My heart, having recently been opened once more, wishes to express a deeper gratitude for all the kind acts of service and love that have been given to me and my family.
Everyone experiences grief in diverse ways. For me, my senses seemed to go numb with the pain and loss. So many kind words and acts of love were given, while I appreciated every single one of them I just didn't quite grasp their full impact until now and I am overcome with gratitude, to the point of tears spilling over my heart is so full. Tears seem to be the byproduct of the numbness wearing off, but it's ok. They are less bitter when they are full of gratitude.
This is really just a reminder post to myself to never discount a good deed or kind word as naught. One never knows the after effects of a kind word or act. They will add up in the end though and the results will benefit the giver and the receiver in untold ways.

(Pretty much this entire blog is a reminder post to myself, I am a forgetful mortal and need to be taught over and over again....it feels good to be teachable once more)

Friday, January 30, 2015

Healing the Heart

Words have been silent for quite sometime now. Grief is numbing and brings silence where it is not wanted. I have been silent inside for so long. I was beginning to wonder if I would ever wake again. The tears still fall. The longing has not left, but a peace resides now within. Love is there and with that love a new hope has emerged. Bright and beautiful. A new understanding lighting the way.

"How deep the Father's love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure"

During this grieving process a friend sent me an encouraging note and a link to this talk by Elder Bednar: Bear Up Their Burdens With Ease
Heading the advice given, I paid particular attention to the section entitled "The Strengthening Power of the Atonement"
At the time, I read and re-read the words hoping to find the healing I needed in them. Nothing happened. Silence. In prayer, silence. In my thoughts, silence. In my heart silence. Naturally questions and doubt crept round about me threatening to pounce at any given moment. Thankfully in an earlier time in my life I had worked and was given experiences to build a very strong core foundation on a few very basic things. I could never deny the existence of God and His Son Jesus Christ. Each time doubt tried to get me to go there I just couldn't. I know too certain of their existence. Foundation solid. A good reminding realization. Still, the silence lingered. With knowledge of God and His Son still firmly in place I kept praying, kept attending church, kept reading, tried to serve others as often as possible, attended the temple weekly. I filled my days with good things(side note: all my kids are in school all day this year, another life event that has caused me grief. Closing that chapter has been difficult. I love it when school is out and my little/big chickens are back squawking and bossing me around). I felt better doing all these things than not doing them, but still silence through it all. Then it came. A sweet and tender gift. A prompting to act and the courage to do so, and within the space of 24 hours a much desired change took place. My heart opened once more, the heavens were no longer silent. Spiritually speaking I could hear, see, and feel once more and it was glorious and sweet. More tears of course but they didn't sting like before. They were like a balm and my heart was healed. I still miss, and long for days gone by, a loved one still here, relationships better understood, but hard things have been made easier. Returning to the afore mentioned address by Elder Bednar, "[Christ's] Atonement enables us to do good and become better in ways that stretch far beyond our mortal capacities."
It is true. The Power of Christ's atonement is real. If I were not such an introvert I would shout it from the rooftops, but that is not me. This is me, sharing a glimpse on this meager blog. Knowing that if it needs to help someone, it will. Because the Lord God is there, He really is. He will manifest Himself to all who seek Him in some way, whether through another person or in that of personal revelation. The knowledge and healing will come and with it a bright hope in the future.

"It is one thing to know that Jesus Christ came to the earth to die for us. But we also need to appreciate that the Lord desires, through His Atonement and by the power of the Holy Ghost, to enliven us—not only to guide but also to strengthen and heal us."

I am alive again in Christ.