Thursday, April 13, 2017

Early morning scripture study in a stinky gym

I get up every morning and go to the gym REALLY early.

It is not easy. It is difficult some days. But I am always grateful.

The first thing I do when I arrive is walk on the treadmill for 10 minutes and read my scriptures.

This sounds insignificant but I have noticed this "preworkout scripture study" time is one of the most revelation flowing sessions I have of the day.

I am not sure why that is. Now if you remember I am at a gym. I am surrounded by people in workout clothes, pop-fitness music is playing and Televisions are broadcasting overhead. It isn't an environment that a person would usually feel the spirit.

So why is it that I feel that great "mysteries of God" are revealed to me in those short sessions right before my workout?

I have thought about this alot.

Shouldn't it be only that only quiet moments in the temple are when I get that inspiration?

Shouldn't it be when I am completely away from the worlds influence in all it's forms and I have fasted and prayed or when I am at church?

Why in a stinky gym with music playing, with TV's broadcasting would I have very tender revelations?

The other day it occurred to me.

Sacrificing a tiny slice of my early morning workout time (I get up at 4:45 again it is not easy) to read my scriptures is my own form of a personal tithe or my own "widows mite." I don't always have a lot to offer to the Lord but my workout time is something that its truly something of worth to me.

Reading 10 minutes may seem insignificant but I feel the Lord blesses me for it.

 I try to also read at other times during the day but this is what I do to make sure I get it in before anything else and to make a special offering before the Lord each day.

One of my sessions this week I read Mosiah Chapter 1. King Benjamin is talking to his sons about the Plates of Brass so essentially the "scriptures" hes says:

"My sons, I would that ye should remember that were it not for these plates, which contain these records and these commandments, we must have suffered in ignorance, even at this present time, not knowing the mysteries of God."

I had never considered not reading the scriptures as "suffering in ignorance". But as I contemplated all the glorious truths of the gospel and the great things that we have learned from the scriptures, not even to mention the guidance of revelation or "mysteries of God" in my personal life then yes the word suffering would fit that state of absence without these things very much.

I can't imagine life without what the gospel brings me and not only the gospel but the additional "mysteries of God" or these little slices of personal revelation that I get when I feel connected and doing what I know is right and reading the scriptures.

So yes even in a stinky gym, with pop fitness music playing and television broadcasting while reading scriptures we can feel the spirit!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Preparing for conference- Having our tent doors open towards the prophet

Friday night for scripture study we had one of those nights.

Jared was sick and went to bed early and it was just me and the boys. Instead of pulling out the scriptures I decided to do a "scripture story" which means I talk about either a scripture I read in my own studies that stuck out to me our we talk about an actual story.

We do this once or twice a week. This may sound like a slacker way of doing things but these discussions actually turn out to be rich in discussion and longer than many of our actual reading sessions. I have found these to be very useful and spirit driven.

Tent door open towards the prophet
On Friday night in preparation for Saturday conference the story of the people of King Benjamin came to mind. The scripture is: Mosiah 2:6

"And they pitched their tents round about the temple, every man having his tent with the door thereof towards the temple, that thereby they might remain in their tents and hear the words which king Benjamin should speak unto them;"

Every family had their door towards the temple which means it was towards the prophet.

I told them to liken it to us in our day. I tried to make it a little silly and asked them to listen carefully.

"Tell me if I am saying this right." I asked "If we had a tent and the prophet was speaking to us we would pitch our tent with the door facing away from him."

They all being the smart boys that they are jumped up and immediately caught my flaw and said "No mom you need to face it towards the prophet"

"We don't have tents that we pitch today" I told them "but we do have hearts that we get ready for conference so how do we get our hearts ready so they are facing open towards the prophet just like our tents should be."

I thought that I would have them stumped but not a chance they immediately answered "Scripture study and prayer."

One child even thoughtfully replied "Mom I always see you writing in a journal during conference. Is that something you do to keep your heart open?" Wow. I hadn't thought of it that way but yes. That is exactly why I do it.

During conference I continually get little thoughts about what I should be doing in my life so  not only do I take notes of the talks but I write down impressions that I have.

***I make three little stars like this by impressions that come to me. When I review my notes I review those impressions and try to act upon them.

Last April conference I had a distinct impression to serve a sister in my ward in a special way. Little did I or anyone else know that she would die within a week of conference. My heart breaks thinking about her loss.

Conference Question Challenge
I ended our "scripture story" session with a challenge for them. I asked them to think of a question that they had for Heavenly Father it could be anything that they felt right about asking him. I challenged them to pray about it and then listen for the answer in conference.

Asking a question at conference is one of the best ways to open our hearts towards the prophet and might I add the apostles.

They are taking that challenge this conference. We will see how it turns out!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

A Slow Conversion like A Pearl... How I came to believe

(This was a talk/testimony I gave in stake conference this past weekend and wasn't meant to be in written-blog-form but here it is. Please pardon all the grammar errors until I can find time to edit. :)

While on a mission, in Spain, 20 years ago, my trainer companion Sister Sancho would share her testimony. She was the only member in her family and in a land that only had the gospel available for a mere 20 years she had been converted through an extraordinary angel-like experience. When she would share her conversion and I was expected to follow up with mine I would feel intimidated but I was taught through the spirit that I was not to feel like this. That my conversion to the gospel, although different from hers, was just as important and valuable.

My experience though not angel-like was pearl-like.

I use the parable of a pearl when explaining to my children how I came to know the truths of the gospel that I hold dear and that anchor me to the principles in which I live my life.

An oyster for example has a problem. The oyster has a grain of sand stuck in its shell which acts as an irritant. This oyster works on this grain of sand slowly, day after day, layer after layer until he covers over this grain of sand and turns it smooth. Making this problem a pearl.

This is how I feel with my experience with the gospel. I have had various problems which I have brought before the Lord. And the Lord Line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little and taught me. Some grains of sand have been hard trials, some have been questions and the Lord has worked with me through scriptures, through revelations, through promptings and unique experiences. He has had time to work with me and sediment a slow, layered process of conversion which defines who I have become. I may not have had missionary knock on my door but the spirit has knocked on my heart. My missionary was the Holy Ghost and the Book of Mormon.

I grew up in the church. With goodly parents. We were expected to go to church and live strict principles of honesty, respect and hard work. I had a Sunday school teacher in my youth who challenged us, as young girls, to read the Book of Mormon every day for thirty minutes. This soft spoken women told us it would become a habit if we did this. I took this challenge and I read the Book of Mormon every day and it did become a habit. I remember being surprised when I read that Nephi died. I had thought that he wrote the entire book of Mormon. I knew so little about what really laid in its pages when I first read it. As I read, answers to daily struggles often seemed to come at the right time. Like when one of my friends read my journal. I was young and this was a big deal to me. That night I read the words of Christ when he was talking to the Nephites and he said “Forgive men of their trespasses and our Father which art in heaven will forgive you for your trespasses.” I didn’t know what a trespass was but I figured it was like a sin and I knew it was a message from Heavenly Father that I was supposed to forgive this friend and so I did.

I continued to read in the scriptures every day through my teenage years. And it was incredible. The Lord guided my life. I once was put in a bad situation and the scripture “Stand ye in Holy Places.” kept running through my mind. I got out of that situation. Over and over again this things occurred. I can’t even begin to share all the beautiful experiences I had with the scriptures as a youth.

One experience I did not want to share but praying about it I felt compelled to share was my testimony of Joseph Smith.

To be honest I didn’t always have a strong conviction of him as a prophet. I had grown very fond of the Book of Mormon and its power in my life and knew it was of God but I realized that everytime I read about Joseph Smith or discussed him in seminary I had feelings of disbelief. I knew these feelings did not correspond together. So one night I took the matter to the Lord. I asked him in humble prayer to help me know more fully the truth about Joseph Smith. If he was a true prophet of God I didn’t want to doubt anymore.

I left my prayer feeling like I could leave it in the hands of the Lord.

That week I had a hard teenage experience that left me feeling very sad. Feeling overwhelmed and without comfort I turned to the scriptures and ended up flipping to Joseph Smith history. Joseph recounted how he felt like Paul telling his story before King Agrippa. As I read the words they reflected, in my soul exactly how I felt at that time with the trial I was going through and I felt the conviction that was behind them. I knew that Joseph's words about his own trial were sincere and I felt a spiritual confirmation of their truth. I now knew that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.

I realized that this was the answer to the prayer that I had said a week before.

Many more experiences have been layered to create my pearls, the same pearls that made me feel like I wanted to do a heel click when president Buck first asked me to share my testimony. Pearls of great price. Pearls whose value does not rest in their density but in their layering process over time.

To sum up why I believe, I believe because I choose to believe. A process that has never been forced upon me at any time. But as I have chosen carefully to believe, day after day, line upon line, precept upon precept, obedience upon obedience a power which is not my own has been with me. Something that is not my own has come upon me and I can strongly testify that I know that God lives that, Jesus Christ lives, that even if an angel had appeared unto me and declared it I would not have a stronger conviction than what I have with the process of obedience that I have been through. I have learned there is no timeline on Moroni’s promise about the Book of Mormon. Personal revelation paired with experience is more fortifying than almost any immediate spiritual manifestation. We came here for a mortal experience.

I am not perfect. This life is not perfect. We were not meant to live a life of ease, without trial, without temptation, without awkward situations. That was satan's plan. God’s plan was to have bumps in the road, to, again, walk the refiners fire, to have a mortal experience. For in this process we walk the path towards perfection leading us closer to the goal of  having a prize in which we obtain a more fullness of Joy.

I know God lives. I know my Heavenly Father loves me and is mindful of me. I know Christ has atoned for my sins and has offered me redemption. I am grateful for this opportunity to share my pearls of great price and why I believe.

Friday, March 10, 2017

3 Blessings of Infertility

This is not a post about why someone should be grateful for infertility. Despite the title. I do not want to deceive anyone into thinking that infertility is not a deep and lonely trial that should be desired or that someone who is walking with this trial should be happy with their circumstance. Instead this is a post about 3 things that I learned when dealing with infertility that I feel have gloriously blessed my life and future for the better.

11 years ago I had just undergone yet another grueling medical procedure hoping that I might somehow, possibly have a child. We were thousands of dollars invested in our effort, I had undergone years of needles, diagnostics, hormonal treatments and surgeries with the end goal of having a child.

On this morning we were on our way to the doctor for a blood test to see if I was possibly pregnant. Like a hundred times before I knelt in prayer asking that if it was the Lords will that I could have a baby. Unlike thousands of times before, however, I felt a silencing presence with a quiet prompting that I was indeed going to have a baby and that my test would be positive but this prompting came with a warning "That I needed to not forget all of the things I had learned from this trial of infertility."

The next few hours were filled with anxiety followed by tears of joy as I found out that I was indeed pregnant. A few months later I gave birth to beautiful twin boys. Now years later I am responding to that prompting and warning by putting my thoughts into words to try to explain what I learned from that trial and the blessings that came from it.

Not only did I learn empathy for others trials that I may not understand but I learned to have empathy for those who may unknowingly offend others in an effort to help them. While going through infertility it is easy to get angry at other people who say things that can be perceived as offensive. I can't recount how many times I heard someone say "If you would just relax you could become pregnant." or "Maybe if you didn't exercise you might become pregnant." These people did not understand that I had already contemplated all the possible reasons time and time again, pursuing every solution hundreds of times over. Saying that a person should just relax or do something differently suggests that it is "their fault" and is more a statement of blame then help. 

I came to realize that people were just trying to help but were perhaps misguided in the best way to help not because they weren't good people but because they did not understand my unique trial. I became more aware of what I said to others in the middle of trials that I did not understand. I began to recognize that I also was guilty of saying dumb things while trying to help. 

I realized that we all take our turn in being the offenders and the offended. We either suffer from a trial that others don't understand or we don't understand a trial that others suffer. It is inevitable to be one or the other but if we are patient with others comments during our own trials perhaps they will be patient with our comments in their trials. 

Not passing judgement.
We had tried and tried to have a little family but of course could not. I felt inspired to pursue a higher education and a promising career as we continued to find the best route for a family. Because of this I often felt an underlying judgement from some people. I felt that they supposed that my life priorities were mixed up as a woman and often tried to set me straight.

One acquaintance, an older woman approached me and told me that I was not supposed to put a career before my family and it was against church counsel. It was one of the few times that I did not hide my feelings or my hurt reaction and the tears flowed freely in response to her words. I explained that we were indeed trying and had been for sometime. In that moment she realized her folly she began to stumble through an apology. She was sincerely trying to help me in directing me towards one of the most beautiful experiences that she herself had experienced. .

I began to understand that I had unconsciously passed judgments about others circumstances that I did not experience. 

I understood, that I didn't understand others trials. By having judgment passed upon me I actually was able to see where I was judging others. I began to look around at members in my church congregation in a new light. Single members, divorced members, members in different circumstances. My heart hurt that I had ever wondered about their circumstances at all. I became protective of their pain and compassionate for their trials.

My trial had not mirrored theirs but empathy teaches us something special and honorable as a human being that corresponds with all manner of hardship.

Lastly, I learned that the Lords time is not my time. I think this is one of the greatest mistakes we have as human beings is that we kneel and receive immediate answers to our prayers when the Lords most profound way to work with us is over an extended period of time.

If my babies would have come right away I would have loved them. I would have adored them. But my experience would have been very different. I would not have gotten a Master's Degree which has opened up a different life for me and has created an experience that was unique to me for who I was meant to be. I would have not fallen in love with education, world health, and the subjects that have captivated my time and talents in a way that I know my Heavenly Father intended.

Even Moroni's promise about the Book of Mormon doesn't have a timeline. People think that if they pray an angel will appear but the truth is that the answer will come just in the Lords time and in his own way. Patience is a Godly virtue waiting on those babies if they were to come at all, month after painful month was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do but it was one of the most rewarding waits I have ever had.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Christ's Example of Reflection instead of Reaction

In today's social media world we are constantly engaged in struggles.

Whether it is a lion killed in Africa, or injustice on the door steps of an inner city hospital, just wait five minutes and a new story will surface with unending outcries from an online mob.

There is never rest for the seeker of online storms.

Even if we don't seek out storms they are often brought to our feet just as they were in Christ's time.

An example of this is when a angry mob brought the woman caught in adultery; even caught in the very act to Christ. Her punishment was death and her condemners sought Christ in order to trick him into confessing the law, that would lead her to her condemnation. (John 8)

We are often confronted with crowds online. Mobs who we feel, at times, are waiting for our response. We get half baked stories and truths that falsely seem to need our "immediate" attention. It is so easy to react before we have all the information.

I love Christ's example in that he simply stooped down and wrote in the sand.

Instead of reacting to the situation, he reflected. We don't know what he was doing and what he was writing. The scripture is unclear of what he was doing and I think it was left that way for a reason. I personally believe he was diffusing the situation, buying some time and giving those around him time to reflect as well. The longer you look at an individual in the eyes the harder it is to cast a stone at them to kill them.

Reaction is easy, reflection takes self control, it takes practice but it is almost always a better way in the long run, when dealing with information.

I have recently thought a lot about Christ and his example and how he delt with this angry mob, who was ready to kill a woman on his command and how I can apply it to dealing with the angry online mobs that I see forming daily on my newsfeeds and how I choose my personal inner response to them. I may not have the power to help them reflect or leave and go their houses without casting stones but I do have the power to stop my self, stoop down and write in the sand and reflect for a while before I react to situations myself.

The Boy Who Lived on a Balloon (A Parable of Loss)

The Boy Who Lived on a Balloon
(A parable of loss)
By: Susan Chapman

There once was a boy who lived on a balloon. He had always been there. No one knows how.

He soared every day through the clouds and felt the wind and sun on his face.

He loved his balloon and he loved how it made him feel. He loved how he could see the valley below. He knew no other life than that of living on a balloon.

One day his balloon popped and disappeared in the wind. He was lucky and was unhurt but was left on the ground stunned. He looked up to the sky and clouds and missed his balloon and the only life that he had known. He began to cry. He cried hard, then harder. He missed his balloon, he missed how it made him feel safe, he didn’t like the ground. His heart was broken.

As he cried an ant crawled by him. “Why are you crying?” the ant asked. The little boy told the ant about his balloon, the clouds and the sky. The ant was amazed. “I do not know what it is like to fly in the clouds” the ant said. “That would be incredible. I only know what it is like to crawl on the earth below but that is incredible too.”

“How could that be incredible?” asked the boy.

The ant explained that he too had adventures and began to recount them to the boy. He told him that he would look for crystals in the stones below and often inspected the wonders of the ground and the creatures there. The ant loved the dirt beneath his feet. He loved to find treasures and take them back to his family.

The ant left and the boy still missed his balloon. He cried all night and when the sun came out in the morning it dried his tears. He realized he could still feel the sun on his face even though he was not on his balloon. He looked down on the ground and saw crystals shining through the rocks below. He could see how the ant found the rocks interesting.

Soon the boy came to love the feel of dirt under his feet and the wind on his face as he ran. He still missed his balloon and the days that he spent in the clouds but he began to love the ground as well. He loved the feel of water on his toes and how it felt to jump and roll.

One night he had a dream of his balloon and he asked his balloon why it left him so soon.
 “The only thing sure in life is change” said the balloon
“But I wasn’t ready for it.” said the boy
“We are never ready for change” said the balloon “And those who are, are far past the need for it.”
“I just want one more day” said the boy
“Your memories are better than one more day.” said the balloon “One more day will never be enough with something you love. A day ends and it is still just memories. Memories last forever.”
“But my heart is broken” said the boy
“Yes” said the balloon “but it is also enlarged. An unbroken heart is hard to enlarge. You not only love the sky now but you also love the land. Your love has expanded. You have grown little one, far beyond a child who once flew with me through the clouds.

With that the boy awoke. He felt the sun on his face. He ran and felt the wind on his face too. He missed his balloon. The hurt would never go away but he began to be grateful to be blessed to experience both the sky and the ground. He realized that his heart still felt broken sometimes but more than broken now it also felt enlarged with love not only for the sky but also for the ground.

An extra note about this story

One night I had a dream about my brother.

In reality he had died a few years ago but in my dream I had forgotten that. We were talking and laughing like we used to. When I woke up I remembered he was gone. My heart again ached but I felt compelled to write this story and the words flowed freely as I wrote it. I feel it was somehow a gift from him. We are never meant to "move on" but we can however learn to live again in a different way with a new perspective. There are many types of loss in our lives we never will understand the depth of each others loss. I hope it helps someone who is dealing with whatever type of loss they have. To you my friend I am sorry for your loss. May your heart find peace and may you one day soar once more.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Sowers of the Word- (To My fellow European Missionaries)

I served in Spain. It was a lower baptizing mission. Only half the missionaries, when I was there, saw a baptism. Those aren't "crazy good odds" as you can jokingly call them.

I talked to a fellow Elder on Sunday who was from Lima, Peru who served in Spain roughly the same time that I did. He told me how difficult the work became for him as he was actively engaged in missionary work at home, which was several baptisms a week, then he was called to serve in Europe where he didn't see any baptisms for nearly two years. He became discouraged and we shared an unsaid bond that European missionaries often have with one another.

It was a look of "Man my mission was kind of hard" but you don't say it out loud because people judge you instead you say my mission was a different kind of mission". And people still don't quit get it, that is unless they have been engaged in a similar work.

The truth was I was an incredibly obedient missionary. My motto was to "serve with exactness" and believe me you could not love the Lord or the people more than I did. It was with all my heart, might, mind, strength and soul. I was lucky to take part and see at least some harvest but other missionaries who were just as faithful did not.

I learnen on my mission the "worth of souls" in the sight of the Lord. That concept is beautiful I would not trade it for anything.

The story of the Samaritan woman at the well is a story for every missionary that served in missions similar to mine or "served in a different kind of mission".

It starts with a question-

Why did Christ teach the Samaritan woman at the well when he knew his disciples could not baptize her?

He was careful not to minister or interact with the Samaritan people (since their time was not yet) during his ministry except for this particular circumstance and a few other rare occasions. So why her? What was his purpose?

Again why did he take an opportunity to teach this woman here and dwell with the Samaritan people for two days at this time when he could not baptism them?

He clearly states why.

He was sowing.

He was showing us that missionary work is not just about baptizing. It is about bringing souls to Christ and that there are many parts and steps along the way and one important step is done by the sowers of the word.

He lays out this process to his disciples. When his apostles are dumbfounded that he is interacting with a Samaritan woman upon their return, but say nothing, he later tells them "Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal; that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. And herein is that saying true, One soweth , and another reapeth. I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labor; other men laboured and ye are entered into their labours."

Christ then shows them personally how to sow and they sow for two days so that when Peter receives the revelation in the future, that the gospel should go to the gentiles, my guess is that these people were ready.

"So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them; and he abode there two days. And many more believed because of his own word. And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying; for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world. " John 4

The sowers of the word may not get to take investigators into the waters of baptism or watch them from the side of the baptismal font being baptized by ward members as they should. 

They do not get to secretly make a mark on the back of their black name tag as some missionaries might do. 

But they are the most treasured missionaries in heaven. They, as Jesus states, will be rewarded equally in heaven. And the sower and the reaper will sit down together. 

The sowers are the unsung heroes who painfully do not always see the fruits of their labors in this life but every blessing of missionary work will not be withheld from them.

Before my mission I had a friend. She was from Japan. I took every opportunity to share the gospel with her while in college. Before we parted ways I was unpracticed in how I may even more fully share the gospel with her. I sat down and wrote my heart felt testimony in a Book of Mormon. I told her in that testimony that everything I was, was because of this book. That if she thought that I was a good person it was because I followed the teachings of the Book of Mormon. I gave her the book and we parted ways. I later received my mission call.

Throughout my mission I wrote to her. I would ask her if she read the Book of Mormon that I had given her. She never responded to that question. I eventually stopped asking. Meanwhile my mission was difficult. The rejection was difficult. We found good people, fabulous people who were willing to love us but not listen to the gospel. I treasured every moment that I was able to share the message that was so important to me. The message that had taken me so far from home, from which I left friends, family and from which I put my life on hold to share.

After returning home within the week I received a letter from my friend. I opened it and to my surprise a letter and a picture of her in her white baptism clothes and two missionaries fell out. I read her letter and sat down and must have cried for an hour. She said that she had lost the book that I had given her when she returned to Japan. She was ashamed and didn't want to tell me but since I kept asking her about it she decided that she needed to get another one so that she could tell me she read it.

One day she happened to see two sister missionaries on the crowded streets of her city. She approached them and asked them if she could have a Book of Mormon. One happened to be from my hometown of Spanish Fork and knew me. They happily gave her a book and a relationship was born and she began to take lessons from the missionaries.

What a beautiful work it is to be a sower. The harvester does get to see the fresh face after the baptism but partakes of another mans labors and that man or woman is the treasured sower. The sower gets to see the planting of the seed. Perhaps the sower sees the sparks that begin but are soon hidden. Perhaps the sower sees nothing but the plow and the dirt below him or her and the field that has now green. But the sower is blessed. There is so much beauty there. One day all will be revealed and we will understand our precious part in this work, not to boast in ourselves but to feel the satisfaction of the harvest and the fulfillment of the love of God that is in us. 

If you think about it. The greastest missionary we know didn't preform one baptism himself.
The Savior instead always had his disciples preform the baptisms. Sow on sowers!

Your work is truly extraordinary!

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