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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Search The Scriptures
- Trim It
- Affix Your Verses
Mark It Up
- Illsutrate with Inspiration
Make it Vivid
- In The Details
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sometimes being human can be painfully lonely. It’s amazing to me how alone I can feel sometimes even knowing I have a loving family and a caring circle of friends who mean the world to me. At times I think this very essential sense of loneliness originates from the feeling of being dwarfed by the universe. Thoughts might come like, “If I’m just a speck in this great vastness, what do I mean to the bigger picture? How do I fit in? How do I even matter? What difference can I even really make when there’s so many others out here.”
I came across this quote on my best friend’s mission blog. Sister Eskander is currently on a mission for the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. This quote was by Dieter F. Uchtdorf, an Apostle in the LDS Church. It read:
This is a paradox of man: compared to God, man is nothing; yet we are everything to God. While against the backdrop of infinite creation we may appear to be nothing, we have a spark of eternal fire burning within our breast. We have the incomprehensible promise of exaltation—worlds without end—within our grasp. And it is God’s great desire to help us reach it.
– DIETER F. UCHTDORF, You Matter To Him
This does more than answer my questions. It brings peace and comfort to my soul. Through the knowledge in this Gospel, I know who I really am. – a Spirit child of God. I know the the bigger picture and my role in it. I know how much I matter to my Heavenly Father. And I know the difference I can make.
I loved this quote so much I decided to design an illustration to go with it. I sent one to Sister Eskander, and now I’ll share it with you. To help us all remember who we really our. Our eternal heritage and exalted potential.
Paradox of Man Illustration1
You Matter To Him – Dieter F. Uchtdorf
The Lord uses a scale very different from the world’s to weigh the worth of a soul.
Today was Valentine’s Day. That means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. So whether you thought today was a day to eat lots of chocolate or a day to send lots of love notes or even a day made up by a card company, I think today was a good reminder to appreciate the love we have in our lives. Sometimes it’s overwhelming to think about how much I’m blessed with love in my life. It’s funny, even though I occasionally have feelings of loneliness or not being cared for, when I start really thinking about the blessing of love in my life, I realize my cup is overflowing.
One main source of love in my life is my friends and family. Their love and support through even the darkest of times strengthen me. And I have some much love for them in return. One of the main ways I show my love is through crafting. So I made some Valentine’s to give to some of my closest loved one.
Unfortunately Valentine’s Day only lasts one day, and now it’s already come to a close… until next year. But all the grand Valentine’s gestures don’t have to be a once a year thing. Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t wait to shower each other with tons of extra signs of affection until there was a designated day? I for one want to strive to spread a little bit more Valentine’s Day love during the other 364 days of the year.
So what can you do to keep the Valentine’s Day spirit year round?
Text, Email, or Call your loved ones to let them know you care and are thinking of them.
As You Wish
Tell the people in your life, “I love you” often and sincerely.
Little token gifts now and then make loved ones feel remembered. Remember it’s not about how much you spend, but about how much thought you put into it. It can even be something handmade like a card.
Heart to Heart
The most profound way to show your love is simply by being there for your loved one as they experience the ups and downs of life. Be a listening and compassionate ear!
What other ideas do you have to create an atmosphere of Valentine’s Day love all year round? Please leave your suggestions in the comments!
Life is hardly ever what we expect it to be. The harder we try to plan out our lives, the more God shows us that He has bigger things in store for us. Like when you try to hold sand in the palm of your hand. Relax your grip completely on your life and the pieces of your life all fall through the cracks. Plan your life too tightly and it all starts to slip through your fingers despite your best efforts. But God’s hands are infinite. He can hold all the sand of our lives and more. He won’t let any sand slip away if we allow Him to help us hold it. We simply have to turn to Him and ask for His help, love and guidance in ALL things.
Sand in it’s size is much like the minutia of our lives. Tiny in the grand scheme of things. When struggling to hang on to the little granules, we often forget to pull back and see the larger picture. We are worried about loosing a few grains of sand when we are standing on the beaches of infinite blessings if we would only look around and realize it. Not that each grain isn’t important, but we shouldn’t let it distract us from remembering who we are and where we are going as divine children of Heavenly Father on our journey back to Him.
But in the topsy turviness of life, all this is all to easy to forget. And suddenly you aren’t just loosing sand, you’re up to you’re being consumed, even suffocated by it.
A few months and a lifetime ago… or back in November, I celebrated my 30th Birthday with a Mocktail Soiree. I was surrounded by numerous friends and family and had a wonderful time. I was in good health, and I was able to walk around the party. That night was a high point for me, and I had no idea I was headed for a very low point just a week or so later. I had plans for how I would spend the next several months. Plans I intended to keep.
Then a series of events led to a serious health decline that landed me in the hospital with my life at stake. A series of serious infections caused the autoimmune disease I have, Myasthenia Gravis, to flare making me unable to breathe on my own so that I required a ventilator just a week after my party.
Life is strange. Unpredictable and sometimes difficult to comprehend.
As I fought for my life in the hospital, some might wonder if I was left asking why God would allow me to withstand this hardship. Why would God allow me to suffer so much? And if that’s the case, what does it say about God?
To which I would answer, I asked nothing of the sort. Though it might be tempting to blame God when things go “wrong” in our lives, that is an entirely counterproductive approach. Heavenly Father provides us trials in our lives as a backdrop against which to bloom and grow. Without it we would never progress and become more like our divine parents. My health trials have given me a chance to learn things about myself that I may not have otherwise (or may have taken much longer to learn otherwise). I have become more sensitive to the needs of others and to my own needs. I have become more introspective and intuitive. I have gained faith and perspective that even the seemingly worst things come with spiritual gifts.
He also gives us trials as a chance to practice choosing and agency – or being utilizers of His gift of freewill. When we exercise our divine right of freewill and choose good, we can grow closer to Heaven Father.
It is hard to see this larger picture when in the moment. Just like it is hard to see the beach for what it is when grappling with the granules of sand. But when we put the sand of our lives in God’s capable and infinitely wise hands the landscapes of eternity will become more apparent to us. And for that we will be blessed even more than we can fathom now.
“And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours.
And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more.”
It’s been a long nine weeks. Another nine long weeks I’ve spent in the hosptial with whole month spent in the ICU. I’m supposed to go home in the morning finally. I’m hesitantly relieved. I don’t want to be disappointed.
Being in the hosptial for any period of time is really hard. Probably one of the hardest if not the hardest thing I’ll ever have to do. Espeically when the stay is super long and the reason is life threatening involving ICUs, ventillators, comas, and the like, it’s especially important to feel the love of those around me, to know that I am not alone in this.
And my friend and family have really risen to the occasion over the last 9 weeks. I couldn’t be more grateful for everything they’ve done for me. They have been my emotional and spirital life support while on physical life support most of the time in the hosptial. I can’t thank them enough.
When your friend or family memeber is extremely ill in the hosptial and ICU it’s hard to know what to do or say. Here’s some of what I appreciated the most to serve as an idea guide to helping support someone through a rough hosptial stay:
- Call or text ahead.
Let the person or the family memeber staying with them that you are coming so they can be prepared or let you know if its not a good time. For example, the person might be in a proceedure or be sleeping when you plan on coming.
- Ask what you can bring. Often times ICUs have restrictions on live flowers and other things that can be brought in. Very sick patients often have dietary restrictions, allergies, or simply aren’t eating at all. Don’t be afriad to come right out and ask what the situation is before you bring something. Your thoughtfulness will be appreciated.
- Bring reminders of life outside the hosptial. The most amazing awesome thing my friends did for me was decorate every inch of my room with photos and artwork and Christmas decorations for the holiday. My friend Katy took photos off my own facebook accooutn and got them printed out and posted them in a giant collage covering an entire wall under the window to remind me of all my friends and happier times. I have photos of my dog, myself as a kid doing fun things, my family, and other fun stuff. She also took a calendar with photos of Christ which is extremely important to me as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and got them laminated then hung them all over another wall. That allowed me to feel the Spirit of God in my hosptial room and be constantly reminded of my Savior’s and God’s love for me. Other friends decorated for Christmas since I spenddt the holidays in the hosptial as well. They put up gingerbread men, wreaths, garlands and more. My mmom got me a tiny Christmas tree and a star. My room had to have been the most amazingly festive of the whole hosptial because everytime anyone came in to give to a treatment or do a proceedure the ooo’d and ahh’d over my decor! It brought joy to everyone who entered my room, and especially me! I am so grateful to everyone who took the time to do it
- Promote Health If you think that you are sick, don’t come and visit! A person in the hosptial has a weakened immune system and can get much worse from a simple cold.
- Remember Their Other Family and Pets If you can offer to help out with their other family members who may also need things during this time as well as their pets who don’t stop needing walks, love and attention while your friend is in the hosptial for prolongued periods.
- Listen and Love The most important thing you can do is just listen, love and otherwise be a emotional and spiritual support while your loved one goes through this hard experience. They need your listening ear to vent sometimes, to cry sometimes, to worry, and be angry sometimes. They need your kind words to comfort always, to remind them you love them always, to be in their corner always, to boost them up when they are down, and to always be their friend and support and cheerleader. Remind them how much they are loved and missed by everyone else.
- Visit!!! Phone calls and texts are great, but nothing beats an in person visit when you are lonely and scared in the hosptial for long periods of time. And the longer the hosptial stay goes on the worse it feels, but the less people tend to remember to come because the novelty of it starts to wear off. Don’t forget your friend is still going though it in the hospital just because it’s been going on for 2 months!
- Don’t Unload Don’t tell the person in the hosptial how hard it is for you to see them in the hosptial. It only makes the patient feel like a burden. Of course you are worried and stressed yourself but make sure you talk about it with someone who isn’t as close to the person as you are and definitely not the patient themselves.
- Be Yourself If all else fails just be yourself. The person that the patient missed from when they were well and wants to see is YOU! Don’t overly worry about what to say and how to act. They just miss you and want to be with their friend or family member. They want your company and comfort that only you know how to give because you are the only person who is you. The worse thing you can do isn’t to say or do the wrong thing but to do nothing and make the patient feel completely forgotten about and abandoned by you.
- Bring Them Home! When your loved one in the hospital makes it home, don’t forget about them then either! They often will be stuck at home for some time and need just as much love and attention brought to them there as they did in the hosptial. So bring them home!
I am so grateful for my friends and family who did everything I just described above and so much more! They made it possible for me to emotionally and spiritually survive this hosptial stay. It really wouldn’t have been barable without all of you so thank you soooo much!!! I am especially grateful to God and Christ. They are always there for me and I know that this too shall pass and even this difficult trial I have endured will be for my benefit. I know it is slowly and rather painfully shaping me into who I am to be someday. But the pain was made less by some photobombs and a lot of love from friends and family.
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!!!!!!
Wouldn’t it be amazing if, during our darkest hour, we could reach under our bed and open up a box of hope? A “box of hope” could be a figurative thing that we reach inside ourselves or out to God to find. But sometimes you need something more. Sometimes you need a literal box of hope. And that is just what I created for myself during my darkest hour.
When I was 16 years old, during my senior year of high school, I was immersed in a deep and serious clinic depression. My Obsessive Compulsive Disorder had just been diagnosed but was not yet under control. I had constant intrusive thoughts of hurting myself – of ending my life.
Looking back I really had amazing self control on the whole. But I could only handle so much. The second time I caved in to the constant bombardment of intrusive images of self-harm, and I ended up cutting myself using razor blades my parents had forgotten to hide out in the garage.
Afterward I was on the phone with my therapist at the time. She was telling me I was at a crossroads… that if I chose to continue down this path of cutting I would probably end up in a hospital. I wasn’t really listening to what she was saying. Instead, I was transfixed by what was sitting on the desk in front of me – the candle-lighting piece my mom had made for my younger sister’s Bat Mitzvah. She had glued this tiny shells all over the outside of it go with my sister’s tropical theme. And it struck me then with incredible intensity how very beautiful those tiny shells were – how simply amazing it was that something SO tiny could be SO beautiful. And if something that tiny in life could be that beautiful… well all of life was beautiful and precious as well.
I rushed to get off the phone with my therapist. I knew that I had to find a way to hang onto this feeling. I had stumbled upon my internal box of hope! But I knew that it wouldn’t be easy to tap into again. I had to find a way to make it physical while it was fresh in my mind. I had to find a way to remind myself of this epiphany every day because I knew there would be many dark days ahead where I would desperately need to draw on my box of hope.
So I had my mom (who is good at crafty things) help me cover an old shoe box with some bright pretty wrapping paper. I wanted my box of hope to be private and inconspicuous on the outside. I didn’t tell her what it was for, but perhaps sensing my urgency she kindly helped me anyway. Then I took the box upstairs to my room and set to work.
Going through pictures and old magazines I decorated the inside of the box with things I wanted to do with my life, places I wanted to travel, people who cared about me, things that filled me with hope. I hadn’t yet found out if I had gotten into USC Film School (a few months later I did), so I put a picture of a director’s chair with “USC Alumni” written on it. I glued in some of the very shells that had led me to make the box to remind me of how beautiful life could be.
I put a picture of myself as a child to remind myself of happy memories of my childhood innocence. I was obsessed with The X-Files and desperately wanted to know how it would all end, so I put a picture of that as well.
Most importantly I wrote in large purple letters:
I CHOOSE TO CONTINUE LIVING
I WILL GET THROUGH THIS
Then it was time to fill the box. Inside I placed a smiling drama mask to remind me of my love of theater and the creative arts since creativity had always sustained me during dark times and given me something to look forward to.
Next went the rug I wove myself while learning about Native Americans in elementary school. I had always hated looking at it when I was younger because I hadn’t done it perfectly like my best friend Jennifer. But over time I came to love it for it’s imperfections. In the box, it reminded me that imperfection could be beautiful too!
I put in a bracelet I made when I was 11. All the beads were pretty by themselves but together well… it reminds me that you can have too much of a good thing. But also to have fun and to have a sense of humor in all things.
Second to last I put in a rope I tediously made myself during Outdoor Education in 5th grade. I spent over an hour with my hands going numb in an icy cold river laboriously pounding all the moisture out of a reed before braiding it into a rope. It reminds me of the power of hard work. And the rope itself, which could hold my whole body weight, reminds me to always be strong.
Finally I included a letter that saved my life one day. I was home alone after school and feeling very suicidal. I was searching for a knife to cut myself with. Suddenly, I had a prompting to go check the mail before I got any further. I almost never received any mail, but on that very day the following letter was there for me.
I cried when I read the letter. It quite possibly saved my life that day. I stopped looking for a knife and starting trying to figure out who could have sent it. I didn’t think about hurting myself at all for the rest of that day. The letter reminds me that I am loved even when I don’t realize it or it doesn’t feel that way, and that God is there working miracles in my life.
I looked at my box of hope every day for about a year. It got me through a lot of very dark hours and days and months. Then there came a time when I could carry my box of hope around with me in my heart, and I didn’t need to look at it so often.
Now it mostly sits in my closet, but I always know it is there if I need it. But today I was talking with a friend who is going through a very dark time in her life, and I told her about it. I offered to send her photos of it, but, I thought, why not go a step farther and share it here? Perhaps there is someone else who needed a little box of hope today.
I first published this post on my Box of Hope in 2010 on my now mostly retired blog, NovelPatient which chronicled my life with multiple chronic illnesses. At the time, I was surprised by how positively the post was received. I have since realized that everyone needs a box of hope to draw on in times of trouble. For most people that box is figurative. But for me… my hope is now something I can pull out of the closest whenever I need it. I can wrap myself in my blanky and see, feel, smell and touch the contents of box, encircled in eternal hope.
Has anyone else made a box of hope or something similar? Please share and post about it in the comments!
Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.
Yesterday my friend gave a talk in church, quoting this scripture. It’s one of my all time favorites, and it inspired me to make this poster to hang on my wall to remind me of the importance of having a “perfect brightness of hope.”
Hope is what keeps me going most days. It keeps me positive. It helps me endure to the end. Without hope I couldn’t have faith, which is hope in action. Taking action increases my faith and that gives me more hope. It builds upon each other wonderfully.
I am so grateful to have hope both in this life and hope in the next through my Savior Jesus Christ. Through Him all things are possible. Through His atoning sacrifice I can return to live with Him and my Heavenly Father again. And that gives me eternal hope!
Feel free to download my poster. Or download the poster in black & white for easy printing. I only ask that you please provide attribution and link back to this page when reposting the image! Thanks and enjoy!
Most people feel that snail mail is dead. When they want to communicate favor email, cell phones, text messages, Facebook, and Twitter over sending a letter through the United States Postal Service. But most people I know still love receiving heartfelt cards and other physical mail. I know that I always feel warm and fuzzy when I get a card from someone I love in the mail. In fact, a well timed letter in my mailbox most likely saved my life as a teen. That’s why I make it a point to devote a large portion of my crafting time to card making. I enjoy making them and I know that people get a kick out of receiving them. At the very least, it’s certainly better to get one of my cards in the mail than a bill. Over the years of card making I’ve picked up a few useful tips for making beautiful handmade greeting cards more effectively.
Save Your Scraps:
I keep a large file organizer or all of my scrap papers, organized by color. This is so useful for making cards which don’t require large pieces of paper for purposes of decorating.
Plan Before You Plant:
I always cut and lay everything out (including stickers which I explain next) before I glue down anything. Following a measure twice, cut once philosophy results in much more efficient card making and more professional looking cards.
Sometimes it’s hard to plan out where to put stickers without actually placing them, so I cut out the stickers still on their backing so I can place them on my layout without sticking them down.
Here are some examples of cards I’ve made:
Without Any Pain
by Lauren Soffer
Who would I be without any pain?
Trapped potential hidden, unclean
Who would I be without any pain?
Crippling imperfections so easily seen
As yet untouched by Refiner’s flame
Trapped potential hidden, unclean
Molten transformation won’t leave me the same
Crack under pressure or become something more?
As yet untouched by Refiner’s flame
Flame creates bounty, blessings restore
Shimmering radiance, brilliant as the Son
Flame creates bounty, blessings restore
Not my will but Thy will be done
On bended knee my heart rises in song
Shimmering radiance, brilliant as the Son
Faithful contrite glorified strong
On bended knee my heart rises in song
Who would I be without any pain?
Who would I be without any pain?