6 Year Baptisversary

Six years ago today I did the single best thing I’ll ever do for myself.  Going in I was really nervous, but at the same time very sure of what I needed to do and what Heavenly Father needed me to do.

My caregiver and I change into all white for my baptism.

Only six weeks prior I was bound to a wheelchair due to debilitating joint pain, but that day I walked on my own to feet toy all sogrens kydrome.   all white.  My friend was in white as well so she could help me downt he steps into deeper water only to wait shivering back at the waters edge while she watched and waited help me out again.

With a smile and a nod bewteen me and the young missionary performing the ordinance, I sat down in a chair.  With a tip of the chair I  was completely submerged backwards.  Under the water for that split second was so serene, and as I came up out of the water I felt a inner calm, and sweet delicate peace that would never leave me.

The day was March 7th 2010.  It was the day I was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  The following Sunday I was confirmed a member of the church and received the Gift of the Holy Ghost.

With the elders before my baptism

The decision to get baptized has infintely blesssed my life.  From the sweet calm in my soul that the Spirit brings to the love I feel for and from my Heavenly Father and my savior Jesus Christ to the life long friends I’ve made and to the knowledge have about Heavenly Father’s plan and purpsoe for me, I am so grateful to have these tender mercies in my life.  And to commemorate my baptism, I painted this page in my illustrated scripture study journal.

Alma 7:14-16

14 Now I say unto you that ye must repent, and be born again; for the Spirit saith if ye are not born again ye cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye may be washed from your sins, that ye may have faith on the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world, who is mighty to save and to cleanse from all unrighteousness.

15 Yea, I say unto you come and fear not, and lay aside every sin, which easily doth beset you, which doth bind you down to destruction, yea, come and go forth, and show unto your God that ye are willing to repent of your sins and enter into a covenant with him to keep his commandments, and witness it unto him this day by going into the waters of baptism.

16 And whosoever doeth this, and keepeth the commandments of God from thenceforth, the same will remember that I say unto him, yea, he will remember that I have said unto him, he shall have eternal life, according to the testimony of the Holy Spirit, which testifieth in me.

Read About My 4 Year Baptism Anniversary

Read About My 3 Year Baptism Anniversary

Read About My First Baptism Anniversary

About Lauren

Lauren believes that life can be full of joy and gratitude especially in the face of life's toughest trials. A highly creative person, the 32-year-old has a background in web & graphic design, musical theater, competitive improvisation, film production, and Alternate Reality Games. She is passionate about creative writing and is working on the final drafts of two science fiction novels. As a graduate of Landmark Education she has developed herself personally and professionally allowing her to powerfully create the life that she wants. After being diagnosed with multiple autoimmune diseases including Myasthenia Gravis and Sjogren's Syndrome, she adapted to new limitations while also discovering new interests and creative outlets that have given her life renewed purpose. Although she was raised Jewish, she converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Her faith helped her to endure and even flourish.

From the Depths of Pain I Found the Greatest Peace

Sitting in my bed Sunday night, I could no longer hold back my sobs.  Tears flowed from my eyes, more like a raging river than a stream.  My whole body shook.  The emotional pain was a ocean so deep, I thought I might drown.

Sometimes it can seem easier to numb ourselves than allow ourselves to feel the depth of our own sorrows.  We live in a world that offers us an endless array of ways to detach from our own human experience much of which is negative.  Easy fixes.

For example, why would you ever want to feel the anguish of a bitter divorce when they can distract from those difficult emotions with the instant gratification of endless hours of Farmville instead.  Why feel lonely when you can zone out in front of the television all evening.  When you can mpathize with the sorrows of fictional characters instead of paying attention to your own.  What else do the advertisements for alcohol and other substances teach us than to forget our problems?  Hard day?  Forget it with a glass of wine, a cup of coffee, or a cigarette.  If we can’t feel happy all the time well then at least we can feel a little more numb, right?

For much of the last two years and in a way for most of my life, I’ve been operating under this assumption that emotional pain is to be avoided at all cost. For years I’ve been avoiding it subconsciously, not realizing what I was doing .  So I’d stay up half the night talking online to perfectly nice people from across the globe I barely knew rather than facing a dark bedroom where the pain of a traumatic event might slip in through the shadows.  Better to sit in the false light of energy saving bulbs than think about things that were just too painful to consider.  And yet at the same time I’ve been on a journey to find a better way.  Sunday night I found it.

As I completed a call with my best friend who has recently moved to Texas, I found myself getting more and more lonely and distraught. That normally would have cued me to immediately get on my computer to do something to distract me.  That night was different.  I decided to do an experiment.  I would let myself just feel what I was feeling and see what would happen.  Instead of shutting my emotions down or off, I welcomed those troubling feelings, letting them flow thorugh me on every level. I started to journal my emotions to help me both delve in and get it out of my head.  But even still I felt so alone in my suffereing, it was nearly unbearable.

Then, after 10 or so minutes, the most amazing thing happened: I started to feel better not worse, and I started to feel God’s love wrapping its arms around me.  I began to feel grateful for those painful feelings, because I finally started to see what was on the other side of experiencing them completely.  On the otherside was peace and relief, even hope.  In my journal I wrote:

Sometimes I guess I just need to let myself feel how deep my sadness goes. I wish I had someone to hold me right now. I’ve gone through so much. Over and over again. And the trauma doesn’t seem to go away. I change. My mood changes, but something in me stays with the trauma and mostly I deny myself the ability to feel what I’m gong through. But through it all there’s the sweetness of the Spirit of God. It it warm and comforting and I feel wrapped in it, it gives me permission it feel these things. To put my toe in the deep abyss of my heartache.

Even more than that, allowing myself to feel these heavy and very human emotions, gave me the chance to give it over and give if up to something larger than myself.  I wrote:

I know He [Christ] can heal me in ways I cannot heal myself. It takes time. It takes patience and faith and more faith. I sometimes don’t know the answer of who to be. But Christ has the answer, even if I’m not ready to receive it. […]  Life is so hard sometimes. Emotions are so overwhelming sometimes. I am reaching for the light that only Christ can offer. He, and only He, is the Prince of Peace, the one who can bring me calm waters to my soul. It amazes me how deep His love for me is. How He is willing to hold all my suffering even now and again and again. Even though he bore it all already. He is always there to bear by burdens.

At the end of the day, on some level it is still easier to just numb myself, but I’m learning how that isn’t the way to feel true relief.  There is so much better on the other side of our sorrows if we just let ourselves feel and endure them for a little while.  Sometimes you have to go through a dark and treacherous swamp to reach the castle, and sometimes you have to sob to feel peace.

About Lauren

Lauren believes that life can be full of joy and gratitude especially in the face of life's toughest trials. A highly creative person, the 32-year-old has a background in web & graphic design, musical theater, competitive improvisation, film production, and Alternate Reality Games. She is passionate about creative writing and is working on the final drafts of two science fiction novels. As a graduate of Landmark Education she has developed herself personally and professionally allowing her to powerfully create the life that she wants. After being diagnosed with multiple autoimmune diseases including Myasthenia Gravis and Sjogren's Syndrome, she adapted to new limitations while also discovering new interests and creative outlets that have given her life renewed purpose. Although she was raised Jewish, she converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Her faith helped her to endure and even flourish.

Crafting My Testimony

 

Illustrating your scripture notes can help you gain deeper insight into even the most familiar scripture.

Sometimes despite all we do, it can feel like our testmonies are hanging on by a unraveling thread.  It’s so easy for us as mere mortals, to get sucked into the humdrum of life.  We feel out of control.  We percieve ourselves as victims of either circumstances outside our control or at the mercy of other peole’s harmful decisions.  How easly we forget or even give up our agency, our ability to act for ourselves, to make our own decisions, and to reep either the rewards or consequesces of our actions because we forget who we are.  We forget we are children of a dvine being.  We forget that Heavenly Father’s greatest power is also His greatest gift to us.  We forget that just like our Father in Heaven, we too are creators.

As creators we aren’t just bystanders in the game of life.  We are the players.  But when it feels like we are just watching everything happen around us, we do better to remember that we have the same creative spark in us as Heavenly Father does.  Whether it is exercising our ability to create human llife or singing a hymn, creativity brings us closer to the the unvierse’s preeminent creator, God.

As I said, sometimes my testimony feels like it is just hanging on.  I”ve come to realize that this is a result of me ceasing to be a creator in my own life.  I get caught up in fear and worry and anger, and forget to use creativity in all asepcts of my life.

I’ve decided to counteract this tendency by using creativity to enhance my testimony.

I hadn’t been able to go to the Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in a very long time due to one prologued hospitalization after another.  To bring my focus back to the Temple, a friend and I made custom Temple Recommend Holders  We used scrap paper and the We R Memory Keepesrs Photo Sleeve Fuse tool.  I added sequins and a mini key inside to shake areound.  I got to go to the Temple two weeks ago and it was fun to use my new holder.

Handmade Temple Reccomend Holder

I’ve had a hard time with Scripture Study lately.  With all the time in the hosptial, it’s hard to stay with a good habbit.  I decided I need to study and ponder the scriptures more than just read them to really have a desire to read every single day.

I decided to start an illustrated scripture journal.  I’ll make an entry for my favorite scriptures I encounter each day and week. Here’s what you need to know to make your own:

Affix the scripture onto the journal page

Search The Scriptures

Find a scripture you want to journal while doing your daily scripture study.  Look for somethign that jumps out to you and speaks to your heart.  Listen to the Holy Ghost. He will guide you to the right scripture.  I chose Moroni 10:2-5. Trim It

Cut out the sripture you’d like to use  out of an inexpenive extra missionary copy of the Book of Mromon.  (Actually to do this properly you’ll need two Books of scripture – one for the front sides of the pages and one for the back side of the pages.) Affix Your Verses

Glue the scripture to a page in an art journal.  I used a journal with watercolor paper so I could use water-colors and other mediums in it.

Take notes on the scripture in vivid colors of words and images.

Mark It Up

Mark the scriptures with the words and phrases you want to highlight or that are especially meaningful to you.  For this I use Staedtler Triplus Finelliner Pens because they have an exceptionally small felt tip point and don’t bleed easily. Illsutrate with Inspiration

Using watercolor colored pencils, draw your thoughts on the scripture in words and images.  This really made me think about the deeper meanings contained within the versus I chose.

When using watercolor colored-pencils, started painting water over parts of the illustration.

Make it Vivid

If you are using water colored color-pencils, next go over all your drawings with a paintbursh and clear water.  This will make all the colors blend and appear more vivbrant. In The Details

Finally, go back over the words and other key drawings with felt tip, metallic, and other kinds of pens.  Make sure you title the journal page with the scripture reference and date.  Add a page number in the lower left corner, so that Iyou can make a table of contents of all the scriptures in the front of the journal.

Not only am I pleased with what I created, but I learned a lot more from this intense and creative study session than I had during many attempts to sit down and read scriptures.

Add details with metallic or other pens.

Maintaining a testimony can be difficult when life doesn’t go the way we want, but I have a testimony that as we engage in our divine creative abilities we will realize our potential, purpose, and a relationship that’s closer to Heavenly Father and Christ than we ever realized.

About Lauren

Lauren believes that life can be full of joy and gratitude especially in the face of life's toughest trials. A highly creative person, the 32-year-old has a background in web & graphic design, musical theater, competitive improvisation, film production, and Alternate Reality Games. She is passionate about creative writing and is working on the final drafts of two science fiction novels. As a graduate of Landmark Education she has developed herself personally and professionally allowing her to powerfully create the life that she wants. After being diagnosed with multiple autoimmune diseases including Myasthenia Gravis and Sjogren's Syndrome, she adapted to new limitations while also discovering new interests and creative outlets that have given her life renewed purpose. Although she was raised Jewish, she converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Her faith helped her to endure and even flourish.

How a Question About the Relationship Between Boy Scouts of America the LDS Church Prompted Me to Ponder My Beliefs

What are your thoughts regarding the Mormon Church’s response to the Boy Scouts of America’s policy change?

That was the question I received from a friend on Facebook a few weeks ago accompanied by a link to an article in the NY Times.  It took me completely by surpise that this particular friend who had hadn’t so much as interacted with since college, which was about ten years ago, asked me such a bold question.  Even more than suprised I was apprecaitive that he took the time to even ask instead of assuming how I would respond.  At first I didn’t know how to even respond, but then a few paragraphs turned into a few more, and by two in the morning, I had written a fourteen paragraph essay in response:

Answering this feels rather like I’m walking into a minefield, but I really appreciate you asking rather than assuming what my thoughts might be, so I’ll attempt to answer this as best I can from my own perspective. Just note I speak only for myself. And since I don’t want to start an argument, I just ask that if you want to respond to this, that you do so out of place of respect and even love for the people involved on all sides.

That being said when I read the LDS Church’s official statement on this today I was a little confused. What I don’t understand as of this writing is why gay men and women in my church who keep their covenants, upholding the standards and expectations of the church can hold a recommend to enter our holy Temples just like anyone else who does the same, why is it that these same men (in this case) cannot lead a boy scout troop. I am confused why gay LDS men can do one and not the other.

Now when the Church’s response is applied to gay men of other faiths or no faith who are would be leaders of boy scout troops, I’m kind of at loss as to how to address this situation because on one hand I feel we should not impose our views about marriage and family on people and an organization that doesn’t hold the same views as us. That seems in conflict with some of our other beliefs and especially 11th and 12th LDS Articles of Faith which read:

11 We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

12 We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

As an LDS woman and a convert to the church, my feelings around marriage and how to define it are extremely deep, personal and nearly always conflicted. As a convert this is the one single issue i have, do and will, struggle with the most, and it’s a struggle that both breaks my heart and gives me hope.

That being said one of my core beliefs is that a family unit that is ordained of God is one that consists of one man and one woman joined by God, and their children, and that their primary function is to be an environment in which spirits can come down to earth and have bodies to enter allowing to experience mortal life for the first and only time.

Why do I believe it? There are a lot of complex reasons that are psychological, intellectual, and spiritual, but for me it boils down to just one thing.

1) When I ask God, in faith, if it is true, I keep getting the answer through pray and desire to understand God’s will, that it is true. And though I really don’t understand it and may never in this life, and though I really don’t like it, and though my heart breaks over it, believing it is a sheer act of faith on my part. (Some may see this as blind faith, but to me it is anything but. For me it is completely intentioned faith in which I choose to follow what I believe God wants even when I struggle with all my being to understand it).

And given all of this I have nothing but complete love and respect for my gay friends, family, and etc. Nothing can ever change that. And if anything, following Christ’s example has made me more loving towards everyone. It has really made me understand the power in not judging others.

So bringing me back to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and The Boy Scouts of America policy change. I’m inclined to think that maybe the greatest act of respect, love, and civility isn’t to try to force one party of adopt the view of the other when those views are so diametrically opposed, is to simply bow out and go our separate ways.

To many people this may seem like the LDS Church is being a jerk, taking their ball and going home. But I see it as acknowledging inherent differences and respectfully deciding not to fight it out. As sad as it is for these two great organizations to have to part, it’s much better than judging each other, disrespecting each other, and hating each other in an attempt to get their way.

My prayer is that I answered you question. Thanks again for asking. Sorry I gave you such a long answer!

I also pray that all my friends on all sides of this issue how much I love and respect them and how much I would hate for anything, especially this way too long post to come between us. I also hope that we can seek first to understand each other and above all have charity for one another. <3

About Lauren

Lauren believes that life can be full of joy and gratitude especially in the face of life's toughest trials. A highly creative person, the 32-year-old has a background in web & graphic design, musical theater, competitive improvisation, film production, and Alternate Reality Games. She is passionate about creative writing and is working on the final drafts of two science fiction novels. As a graduate of Landmark Education she has developed herself personally and professionally allowing her to powerfully create the life that she wants. After being diagnosed with multiple autoimmune diseases including Myasthenia Gravis and Sjogren's Syndrome, she adapted to new limitations while also discovering new interests and creative outlets that have given her life renewed purpose. Although she was raised Jewish, she converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Her faith helped her to endure and even flourish.

5 Ways To Gain More Knowledge & Blessings From The Hardest Trials

The ever present hiss of oxygen and the occasional beeping of a monitor are sometimes the only sound I hear for hours, as I lay alone in my hosptial room.  I stare at the white sterile walls that surround me.  The walls are totally blank with few unnoteworthy exceptions.  Sometimes I wish my life were as clean and as sterile as those walls, devoid of any adversitity.  It’s an easy thing to wish for when I’ve spend more than half of the last year in the hosptial.  If I could whitewash all the years spent facing the pain, lonliness, isolation, boredom, fear, anger,  grief, and saddness that comes with a chronic illness that requires very frequent and prolonged hosptializations, wouldn’t I want to?

But then I remember what I am here on earth to do.  I remember that my adversity and trials aren’t punishments; they’re gifts that allow me to improve myself, transform my weaknesses, and grow into the person I was always meant to become.  I remember that adveristy is a blessed opportunity – even an invitation – from my loving Father in Heaven, to become more like my Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.  I remember that if I were able to whitewash my life and forget all my trials, I’d also forget all the knowledge and blessings that come from them.

It’s been easy for me to get bogged down in the weight of a trial, and completely miss what I am learning and how I am growing from it. Perhaps if I were more methodical, more intetional about learning from adversity, I’d be able to develop more from it.  There are five things we all can do to gain more knowledge, growth, and blessings from the hardest things in life.

Seek Guidance

It’s a lot easier to learn something when you figure out what you are learning.  Recieve guidance as to what’s there to learn from life’s hardest moments.  Sources of guidance can be close friends, family, religious leaders, professional counselors, scriptures and other books, and divine inspiration.  I personally realize the lesson in every trial most easily when I read my scriptures frequently and pray unceasingly to my Father in Heaven to reveal to me what He wants me to learn.  It reminds me that I am not in control, but that’s completely okay, because the one that is in control, my Heavenly Father, knows exactly what I need to learn, andhow I need to be blessed.

Conduct Research

It can be hard to know what you’re learning if you aren’t tracking your course throught the trial.  Record your journey in a journal. Look for patterns.  Ask yourself and Heavenly Father questions.  Pose hypothesis, and then experiment on the results.  I recently suggested this to a friend struggling with social situations and feelings of not being included.  Instead of thinking negatively about social situations, she tried thinking that people would perceive her in a positive way right before starting an converstation.  So far the results have been an off the charts improvement.

Count Your Blessings

When you remember to have an a attitude of graditude you get access to appreciating the good times and the bad.  Being grateful even for your trials opens up your ability to grow and change for the better and help you learn so much more from adversity.  When I take time to enummerate the ways being chronically ill has bettered my life, I am always astounded by all the good things that have come from it.

Serve Others

Getting out of your own head and focusing on helping others in need, gives you clarity and perspective that can shing light on what there is to learn from your trials.  When I take the time to be a good listener for a friend going through something really tough, the weight of my own trials diminishes.  As I lift their weight, Heavently Father lifts mine.

Do It Together

When you are in the depths of your trials, it’s easy to forget that you aren’t alone.  Whether it other people going through similar things or knowledge of the divine on your side, walking foward hand in hand allows you to both receive and share knowledge and blessings.  My default mentality is that I have to do everything hard alone (also that I’m alone in my trials).  The good news is neither are at all true. And not only do i not have to do everything alone, but it’s completely impossible to do so. In fact, this life was *designed* to teach me (and all of us) not to do it alone.  Instead I should rely on Christ, his teachings, and his disciples to get me through everything, from the smallest of small to the most miraculous triumphs that aren’t even imaginable to my feeble mortal minds. And we are the opposite of alone in our trials, we have a brother in Heaven that has a *perfect understanding* of what we are going through. I don’t even have a perfect understanding of what I’m going through, but through Christ I can start to come to an understanding.

In what ways do you gain knowledge and blessings from your trials? Please share in the comments!

About Lauren

Lauren believes that life can be full of joy and gratitude especially in the face of life's toughest trials. A highly creative person, the 32-year-old has a background in web & graphic design, musical theater, competitive improvisation, film production, and Alternate Reality Games. She is passionate about creative writing and is working on the final drafts of two science fiction novels. As a graduate of Landmark Education she has developed herself personally and professionally allowing her to powerfully create the life that she wants. After being diagnosed with multiple autoimmune diseases including Myasthenia Gravis and Sjogren's Syndrome, she adapted to new limitations while also discovering new interests and creative outlets that have given her life renewed purpose. Although she was raised Jewish, she converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Her faith helped her to endure and even flourish.