Archive for April, 2011
Today I gave my first ever talk in Church! I got the topic, faith, almost a month ago now, and I’ve been preparing ever since. It was exciting to get up there and share my thoughts on faith with everyone. And in honor of Easter, I ‘ll share it here:
Developing and growing your faith in life often occurs in the midst of great trials. One of my favorite scriptures on faith is from Ether 12:6:
“faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.”
This really resonates with me and my own experience with faith and trials. First of all it defines faith as things “hoped for and not seen”. Faith is when we believe despite a lack of tangible or concrete reasons to do so. The second part of this scripture talks about the “trial of your faith” which tells us not to question due to the lack of evidence because we won’t have that evidence until after that trial. During trials we have the opportunity to exercise our faith or act in faith. Our faith then grows. And as our faith grows we receive witness confirming our faith through the power of the Holy Ghost.
But how do you start to develop faith when it isn’t strong in your life or even when it seems to be totally absent? Most of my life I considered myself to be a person of little faith. Though I was raised as a Reform Jew and was Bat Mitzvahed, Confirmed, and even assistant taught Sunday school at my temple in high school, I didn’t really believe in a higher power. And a belief in Christ wasn’t even on my radar. As a child I never felt I was loved unconditionally, so the idea that something I couldn’t even see could love me unconditionally was beyond my understanding.
But I saw the way that my Christian friends felt connected to God. I saw that the connection they felt was a deep and profound source of joy, comfort, and surety in their lives. I longed to have that in my own life. The question was where find it. Up to that point, Judaism had never given me that sense of a personal connection with our Heavenly Father. I wanted more than anything in my life to feel close to Him and to know Him as my Father in Heaven who loved me unconditionally. So I began searching for the religion that would bring me to Him.
I began to research and check out other religions. But the fundamental problem I kept encountering was that I just plain didn’t believe in God. However, I realized that my life would be so much happier if I could just believe. I wanted to feel connected to something larger and feel unconditionally loved. I realized that if I could just believe in God, my life would be better for having this faith in it. Logically I figured (and I tend to be a very logically minded person), that if I could just make that leap of faith and believe it wouldn’t even matter if God really existed because the act of believing in Him would bring me so much intrinsic happiness.
So one day I made a choice. I chose go forward from that moment in my life as if God existed. I figured I had nothing to loose. So I made that great leap, and I was rewarded. I didn’t have the context to understand it at the time, but that act of faith of choosing to believe was soon rewarded with increasing genuine certainty that God existed.
Upon reflection it was much with me as it is described in Alma 32:27:
“exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.”
It goes on to say that finding faith is like planting a seed inside of you, and if you do not resist it and allow it to grow inside of you…
“will not this strengthen your faith? Yea, it will strengthen your faith: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow.
43 Then, my brethren, ye shall reap the rewards of your faith, and your diligence, and patience, and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you.” Alma 32:28-43
So I made this choice to believe in God and let Him into my life, and the seeds of faith were planted inside me and began to grow.
In the meantime, I was going through probably the most significant trial of my life to date. When I was 18, I started getting sick. It started with strange but fairly mild symptoms like fevers and joint pain that the doctors couldn’t explain. But as the years progressed, so did the symptoms. By my mid 20s, I was spending sometimes months at a time in the hospital. And the diagnoses started to pile up. I didn’t have just one illness. I had five of them. All of them were autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases are a type of illness where your immune system starts thinking your own body is a foreign invader and begins to attack your own tissue. There is no known cure and the only medications for it have serious and sometimes life threatening side effects.
It was a very difficult time, going through the years of not knowing what was wrong. I lost a lot of friends who just didn’t know how to be there for me through my illness, so it was a very lonely time. And at the time I didn’t have my faith to lean on. I had no knowledge of Heavenly Father and his love and plan for me. So it was very lonely in that way as well. I did, however, have an an unidentifiable feeling that I would get through it and that somehow everything would be okay. At the time I didn’t know how to label it other than faith in myself. Now I know that sense of peace with the situation came from my Heavenly Father, but at the time I didn’t even know what it meant to have faith in someone other than myself. And I certainly hadn’t a inkling that my illness would be the thing that lead me to this Church and the Gospel. That through my own infirmity my prayers would be answered.
There came a point where I could no longer completely care for myself due to my illness. My joint pain was so severe that I needed to use a wheelchair full time, and I no longer could preform basic tasks by myself like dressing or making meals. My mom who I live with couldn’t do this every moment for me, so I ended up hiring a caregiver to help. The second caregiver I hired is the one who first introduced me to the Gospel. At the time I knew very little about what it meant to be LDS, but we would talk a lot about it. She shared her faith with me and her testimony almost every day. I was fascinated. I shared with her my religious background and it led to some amazing conversations. I also shared my own quest to find a way to have a close relationship with Heavenly Father.
She encouraged me to start to pray. I had never really done so before. At least not in my own words with my own personal hope and dreams, wants and desires and needs. At first it felt so strange. So unnatural. But it soon became more and more comfortable. And also a comfort. But I still sensed that something was missing. And I deep down I think I knew what it was. So I did an experiment. I started adding the words “in the name of Jesus Christ” to the end of all my prayers. The difference that made was subtle but profound. So I planted that next seed of faith inside myself. But I didn’t really believe in Christ at that point. It was just something that I was trying on. But that is how it started for me.
There’s one conversation that I had with my caregiver that stands out in my mind. I said out loud that “I wonder what kind of miracle I would have to experience to make me go from not believing in Christ to believing in Him.” At that point I honestly didn’t think it would be possible to experience that kind of miracle in my life. Fortunately I was wrong.
If I recall correctly, it was only a few days later that my caregiver convinced me to attend Church with her and getting a blessing for healing afterwards. When I entered the Chapel I had this sense of peace that I had rarely experienced before. But it wasn’t until I got the blessing that things really shifted for me. From the moment the missionaries put their hands on my head I was overwhelmed with such an intense sense of Heavenly Father’s presence that I nearly couldn’t bare it. It was so intense that I thought I was going to pass out. I felt God for the first time in my life. And I knew that He lived and that He loved me. More than that I knew that this experience occurred where it did for a reason. I was suddenly sure that it wouldn’t have happened anywhere less than His true Church. And that church must be called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints for a reason. I knew that Jesus was the Christ. Heavenly Father had heard my words spoken a few days prior and granted me that miracle that would allow me to believe in Christ as the Son of God and my Savior.
But the miracle of that blessing didn’t end there. I was surprised a few days later to notice that I was suddenly in much less pain especially in my joints. And so I started walking again for the first time in over a year. I walked “by faith , not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7
That week I also started taking the missionary lessons and I was baptized about 6 weeks later.
It reminds me of D&C 63:9-10
“10 Yea, signs come by faith , not by the will of men, nor as they please, but by the will of God.
9 But, behold, faith cometh not by signs, but signs follow those that believe.”
I’d like to conclude with this quote from Richard G. Scott from October 2010 General Conference:
“Thus, every time you try your faith—that is, act in worthiness on an impression—you will receive the confirming evidence of the Spirit. As you walk to the boundary of your understanding into the twilight of uncertainty, exercising faith, you will be led to find solutions you would not obtain otherwise. With even your strongest faith, God will not always reward you immediately according to your desires. Rather, God will respond with what in His eternal plan is best for you, when it will yield the greatest advantage. Be thankful that sometimes God lets you struggle for a long time before that answer comes. That causes your faith to increase and your character to grow.” (The Transforming Power of Faith and Character)
I’d like to bare my testimony that it is through trials that we are able to develop our faith in Heavenly Father and Christ. As we act in faith we will be rewarded with increasing faith. I have a testimony that Heavenly Father has a plan for each of us and loves us all unconditionally. And I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
I’m excited to announce that I finished the first draft of my novel, The Riddlebane Chronicles, last week! It’s been a long time coming. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when I began this novel writing journey. I suppose you could say that it started back in November of 2009 when I began writing it in earnest for National Novel Writing Month under the title The Alone Elevator. I wrote about 30k words of it that first month, and then it took me nearly another year and a half to finish the remaining 46k words.
But I you could also say I started working on it several years prior when I first realized that I had a novel in me. I was listening to an episode of PotterCast with editor Cheryl Klein who was speaking about what she looks for in a novel. And for the first time I wondered if I had a novel in me. I’ve always loved to write. In fact, I’ve been engaged in creative writing since I learned how to write, turning my spelling words into short stories and poems. But I had never even considered myself capable of writing a novel up until that evening. It had always seemed so daunting. At that point writing a twenty page short story seemed daunting. But for some reason her words stirred up something inside me and I thought, “if I were to write a novel, what would it be about?” Then I remembered this one page hand scribbled “thing” I had written back when I was 14 years old in high school creative writing class. At the time I had no idea what it would turn into. I had written it out one day and forgotten about it. But that night I suddenly knew what happened next. I stayed up until 4am writing.
A few days later, the whole plot of the first novel came to me in a rush while I was driving back from a doctor’s appointment in the city. It wasn’t long after that I realized that the book was not just one book but a trilogy. So I suppose you could say that I really began writing this novel at age 14, though I hardly knew it at the time. This novel has been nearly 13 years in the making so far. And it’s not done yet!
Now the real fun begins as I start to write the second draft!
Here’s a short summary of The Riddlebane Chronicles:
Kylie Lockmoore cannot believe her good fortune when she is chosen to attend Riddlebane Academy, society’s most prestigious school for training the next generation of leaders. When the most popular girls in school accept her into their clique she is sure her time there will be absolutely perfect – that is if odd but brilliant Art will just leave her alone.
But at Riddlebane, she learns secrets that turn her world upside-down, and Art quickly becomes the only one she can trust. She finds out her now deceased Grandmother was the genius behind a chemical supplement that everyone is required to consume. Though the population is told the supplement protects them from the dangerous levels of pollution in the environment, Kylie discovers that it actually is being used to keep the population subdued.
Even more mysterious is the ancient elevator in her family’s home. The room at the top is Kylie’s special refuge. One day she accidentally discovers a hidden basement level that contains the belongings of a sister she didn’t even know existed. In her sister’s belongings is a brilliantly encrypted electronic diary.
With Art’s help she is able to unlock the diary and discover the story of her sister’s disappearance, the misdeeds of her school and society, and the plans of a rebel group who wants to change everything. And once she knows the truth she must decide where she stands – with the school and government who would use her to control the population, or the rebels who would use her to destroy the supplement and only society she’s ever known.
The Riddlebane Chronicles is a Young Adult coming of age story set in dystopian future.
And here’s a excerpt from the novel itself: More >
The more I experience life the more I get that my life is mine to create. And I’m learning that what my life gets created as is a very function of who I am being in life. So if I’m being a person who sees herself as a victim of circumstance, I will end up living a life where I am unempowered and constantly being negatively affected by what life throws at me. But if I see myself as a person who can powerfully take on whatever circumstances life sends my way, life will open up into one of endless and awesome possibility. I am no longer willing to let my circumstances determine what my life is really about. And though I have some tough circumstances to tackle, I am committed to being as creative as I need to be to live the life I want in the face of these circumstances.
For years now, living with a chronic illness made shy away from taking on the really big things in life that I really wanted. But I’m no longer willing to let that be the determining factor or even a convenient excuse. In the face of all my health challenges, I am committed to creating endless possibility in my life. So here are some possibilities I’m creating in my life right now:
- I am creating the possibility of a serious and meaningful romantic relationship that will lead to a joyful marriage and family.
- I am creating the possibility of my novel being on bookshelves by this time next year, transforming the lives of my readers.
- I am creating the possibility of my graphic and web design business taking off in a way that will bring me great financial abundance.
- I am creating the possibility of my game design business flourishing in a way that will give me complete creative expression and the experience of positively shaping the world.
- I am creating the possibility of being healthy and at a healthy weight.
- I am creating the possibility of living life passionately and powerfully in a way that leaves me completely fulfilled in all areas.
This may seem like a tall order, but, as I see it, life is a game, and there’s no point in playing to kinda sorta win a little bit. No. I want to win the game of life all stars edition! And I’m committed to being the person I need to be to create the life I want for myself.