Just Waiting Isn’t Patience

Just Waiting Isn’t Patience

All of us come into this life exceptionally near-sighted. According to WebMD,

Babies are born with a full visual capacity to see objects and colors. However, newborns cannot see very far — only objects that are 8-15 inches away.

Compared to our Heavenly Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ, we are all spiritual infants. Like infants, our eyes can often only see what is right in front of us, blind to eternal perspective. Fortunately, just as an infant’s eyes mature we too can develop our spiritual eyes.

D&C 58:4 -3  expounds on how, in the midst of our struggles big and small, we can be so blind to God’s greater plans to bless us.

“3  Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation.

4  For after much tribulation come the blessings. Wherefore the day cometh that ye shall be crowned with much glory; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand.”

From this scripture we learn that our natural eyes, or in our natural state we cannot see God’s plans.  We also learn that glory and blessings come following tribulation. But how does one get from experiencing tribulation to receiving blessings? Elder Neal A. Maxwell expounded on the connecting factor.

“One of the functions of the tribulation of the righteous is that “tribulation worketh patience” ( Rom. 5:3 ). What a vital attribute patience is, if tribulation is worth enduring to bring about its development!

Patience, in turn, allows us to have the needed experience, as noted in the stunning insight the Lord gave to the Prophet Joseph Smith: “All these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good” ( D&C 122:7 ).” Patience

To put it another way, being patient in difficult circumstances, even and especially in the our greatest trials, allows us to grow from experience. Patience is the key factor.

But what is patience? Maybe it’s easier to begin by illustrating impatience.

When I was about 8-years-old, my best friend and I were at a Golf ‘n Stuff arcade. We were playing ski ball which was fun, but we weren’t very good at it, so winning highly coveted prize tickets was slow going. That’s when my friend had a brilliant idea, or at least it seemed so at the time. She said if she climbed up to the top of the ski ball cage, she could put all the balls directly into the 500 slots and win prize tickets much more quickly. I wish I could say I realized that this was cheating and protested, but it never occurred to me that gaming the system was dishonest. So, a few minutes later, as I passed the balls up to my friend and tickets poured out of the machine, ll I could think about was how many prizes I’d be able to get that day, That was until I felt someone tap my shoulder. I turned around, and to my horror one of the arcade employees stood there frowning down at me. We both received a word or two about cheating. What’s worse was that all of our tickets were taken away, not just the ones we had won through little scheme. But what was worst of all was that I could hardly sleep for a week I felt so horrible about what I had done. In my impatience, I not only lost my chance to win junk from an arcade, but I had lost peace of mind and self-respect.

How often do we impatiently sacrifice promised blessings, or even blessings we’ve already received, by taking perceived shortcuts? How often do we trust in only our own timing instead of Heavenly Father’s?

Apostle Joseph B Wirthlin stated:

“A word about patience with our Heavenly Father and his plan of eternal progression. How incredibly foolish to be impatient with him, the Father of our spirits, who knows everything and whose work and glory, through his Son, Jesus Christ, is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” ( Moses 1:39 ). Patience, a Key to Happiness, April 1987 General Conference

Maxwell taught:

“Patience is not indifference. Actually, it is caring very much, but being willing, nevertheless, to submit both to the Lord and to what the scriptures call the “process of time. […] Patience is tied very closely to faith in our Heavenly Father. Actually, when we are unduly impatient, we are suggesting that we know what is best—better than does God. Or, at least, we are asserting that our timetable is better than his. Either way we are questioning the reality of God’s omniscience,”

If impatience is a lack of faith in Heavenly Father’s divinity, then patience is an act of faith in Heavenly Father and His timing. Maxwell goes on to say:

“Patience is a willingness, in a sense, to watch the unfolding purposes of God with a sense of wonder and awe, rather than pacing up and down within the cell of our circumstance ” Patience

When we trust in our own timing we are captive to our circumstances. We often let ourselves feel that life is unfair, like we are trapped, find ourselves frequently asking, ”why me?”, and wonder when it will be our turn to get life’s metaphorical prize tickets. We forget that our Father in Heaven has a great perspective and a greater plan for us than we could ever dream up for ourselves.

Isaiah reads:

“8  ¶For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.
9  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9 -8 

We forget that the real prize comes in the form of personal development.

As Presiden Dieter F Uchtdorf put it:

“Patience is a process of perfection. The Savior Himself said that in your patience you possess your souls. Or, to use another translation of the Greek text, in your patience you win mastery of your souls. Patience means to abide in faith, knowing that sometimes it is in the waiting rather than in the receiving that we grow the most. This was true in the time of the Savior. It is true in our time as well, for we are commanded in these latter days to “continue in patience until ye are perfected.” Continue in Patience  F. Uchtdorf, April 2010 General Conference

Fortunately we have a perfect example of patience as our model, in our Savior Jesus Christ. Hillary Olsen wrote:

“The Savior is our ultimate example of patience. To me, His words spoken in the Garden of Gethsemane embody His patience. In the midst of unimaginable suffering and sacrifice, He asked that, if possible, the cup of His suffering be taken from Him. “Nevertheless,” He said, “not as I will, but as thou wilt” ( Matthew 26:39 ). The word nevertheless carries a powerful message. In spite of what the Savior really wanted in that moment, He expressed His willingness to accept His Father’s will and to endure.

We’ll all be required to wait for things in our lives—even at times the most righteous desires of our hearts. But Jesus Christ, our “best, [our] heav’nly Friend,” 4 can comfort and reassure us of good things to come. And He is lovingly patient with us as we learn to be like Him, as we learn to face the expected and unexpected plot twists of mortality and say to our Father, “Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”” Patience: More Than Waiting

Nothing has taught me patience and its powerful ability to bless my life like having multiple chronic illnesses. I’ve learned to patiently endure as I’ve laid in the hospital for months at a time unable to move a muscle or even breathe on my own. I’ve learned to be patient as I’ve been taught that healing doesn’t always come in a miraculous instant. I’ve learned to be patient with friends and family who haven’t always understood what I go through.  I’ve learned to be patient with myself and to treat myself more kindly.  Most importantly, I’ve learned to be more patient with my Heavenly Father’s timing in all things. In developing that patience, though my illness hasn’t gone away, I’ve been greatly blessed.  I’ve been able to do missionary work from my hospital bed even once giving a Book of Mormon to my respiratory therapist. I discovered my love of crafting, painting, and writing novels. Most of all, I’ve come to a knowledge of the Gospel and of my Savior Jesus Christ. I’ve been able to go His  Temple, the House of the Lord, and walk its halls.

President Uchtdorf explained:

Brigham Young taught that when something came up which he could not comprehend fully, he would pray to the Lord, “Give me patience to wait until I can understand it for myself.” 5 And then Brigham would continue to pray until he could comprehend it.

We must learn that in the Lord’s plan, our understanding comes “line upon line, precept upon precept.” 6 In short, knowledge and understanding come at the price of patience.

Often the deep valleys of our present will be understood only by looking back on them from the mountains of our future experience. Often we can’t see the Lord’s hand in our lives until long after trials have passed. Often the most difficult times of our lives are essential building blocks that form the foundation of our character and pave the way to future opportunity, understanding, and happiness.”Continue in Patience  F. Uchtdorf, April 2010 General Conference

In closing, I’d like to leave you with my testimony on patience.  Through patiently enduring all things even and especially what seem like the worst things, we have the opportunity to be refined and perfected, even blessed beyond what ever thought possible. As we trust in the Lord’s perfect timing, we begin to see our lives more as He sees them, and it becomes more evident to us just how rich and numerous those blessings are in our lives. I think I can best sum it up in the form of a poem I wrote:

Patience

By Lauren Soffer

Patience is a game
For only one to play
With two it’s not the same
To watch the clocks wind down the day

Just waiting isn’t patience
With the tapping of the feet
While the words have the same fragrance
Patience without calm is incomplete

To wait with patience is to trust
And to not anticipate
That comprehension is now modest
That God is never late

So have a patient heart
With a serenity of mind
To wait is just a part
To wait with patience is divine!


This was a talk I gave in church a few weeks ago during Sacrament Meeting of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

7 Year Baptism Anniversary

7 Year Baptism Anniversary

March 7th 2010
“Today I am walking at my baptism. I got a blessing a month ago and three weeks ago I started walking agan and I know that I couldn’t have done it without God’s help. Heavenly Father has bles shised me so much with so much healing.  I feel so happy. I know for the first time in my life htat all this gospel is true. I know the Book of Mormon is true.  I know we have a living Prophet.  I know that Jesus and our Heavenly Father lives.

[My friend] Jacob just said, “Through small and simple things, greath things come to pass.” I know that this is also true.  Because today I am walking at my Bapitsm and that is a huge miracle in my life!

I know that Heavenly Father loves me and he has so blessed me.  Even the bad things have been blessings.  Being sick has […] brought me to this church.


I walked down into into the fonte with a little help from Melissa.  She had to leave the fonte for the actual baptism thogh. I sat sideways on a chair in the water and Elder George said the the prayer and then dunked me back. I FLOATED! Elder George had to push me down to get me all the way under. And then ath twas it. I came up Baptized! With the name of Christ taken upon me! I felt different than I thought I would. It wasn’t the same intensity as the blessing I got the first day. But I felt peaceful and so so happy! Everyone said I was just glowing afterwards. […] It was just the best day!”

It’s amazing to me that it’s been seven years to the day since I wrote that.  Seven years since I became baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It’s been the best the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.

The most amazing thing though isn’t that I got baptized seven years ago, though that was truly a miraculous day I never would have predicted growing up a Jewish girl in an all Jewish family. My baptism was the spark of faith that would grow, over the next seven years, into an unquenchable flame in spite of and even because of the most challenging of circumstances. Despite all the harrowing health and other challenges my faith has grown, even flourished.  That is the miracle of the gospel in my life.  That challenges and even the most crushing of life’s hardships haven’t blown out that flame; they’ve been the life-giving oxygen by which my faith and testimony have turned from a flickering candle to a glowing lantern.

Over the last seven years, I’ve received the Gift of the Holy Ghost, received my Patriarchal Blessing, served in many callings, received my Endowment in the Lord’s Holy Temple, became a Volunteer Temple Worker, and most recently I put on the physical name badge of the Lord as I was set apart as a Service Missionary as a Family Search Specialist. I am so blessed to have this opportunity to serve my Heavenly Father, my Savior Jesus Christ, and all my brothers and sisters. It is my hope and prayer that I will be able to serve well for at least the next 12 months from keys of my computer as I help build websites for the familysearch.org.

I am so grateful for my membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In a lot of ways, the past seven years have been the hardest of my life, but they’ve also been the most beautiful, fulfilling, and enriching years of my life. If these seven years have taught me anything it is this:

“And if thou shouldst be cast into the apit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the bdeep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to chedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of dhell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee eexperience, and shall be for thy good.”  Doctine & Covenents 122:7

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

With the elders before my baptism

With the elders before my baptism

6 Year Baptisversary

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.

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

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.

6 Year Baptiversary Painting

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

From the Depths of Pain I Found the Greatest Peace

From the Depths of Pain I Found the Greatest Peace

SobbingSitting 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?

NumbFor 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.

HopeThen, 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.

Healing HelpEven 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.

Hope on the Horizon

Crafting My Testimony

Crafting My Testimony

 

Illustrated Scripture Journal - Moroni 10:2-5

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

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:

  1. Illustrating the Book of Mormon

    Affix the scripture onto the journal page

    Search The Scriptures

  2. 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.

  3. Trim It
  4. 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.)

  5. Affix Your Verses
  6. 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.

  7. Take Colorful Notes

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

    Mark It Up

  8. 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.

  9. Illsutrate with Inspiration
  10. 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.

  11. Continue to Illustrate

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

    Make it Vivid

  12. 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.

  13. In The Details
  14. 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.

Illustrated Scripture Journal - Moroni 10:2-5

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.

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

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:

Boy Scout Waves Gay Rights FlagAnswering 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.

Forever and AlwaysThat 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

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

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

TrialsThe 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?

Growing From TrialsBut 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.

  1. Seek Guidance
  2. Ask Heavely Father QuestionsIt’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.

  3. Conduct Research
  4. 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.

  5. Count Your Blessings
  6. 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.

  7. Serve Others
  8. 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.

  9. Do It Together
  10. TogetherWhen 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!

Finding Wellness When You Can’t “Get Well Soon”

Finding Wellness When You Can’t “Get Well Soon”

A balloon slowly twirls in the corner of my room in the ICU.  “Get Well Soon!” it proclaims, in its bubbly font pastered on a backdrop of a smiling kite floating above smiling flowers.

Get Well Soon Balloon

I am grateful to have it cheering up the overwise sterile and dull place I’ve called my home-away-from-home five times in the last year alone.  I am grateful to my thoughtful friend who brought it when she visited several days ago.  But the truth is life doesn’t fit neatly into phrases we so often use to comfort our loved ones when a major life trial afflicts them.  For me, “Get Well Soon” is a lie.  I won’t be well soon.  Yes, I’ll recover from this hospitalization, but I live with several serious chronic illnesses that will most likely sent me back to the hospital again.  When “getting well soon” isn’t possible, the challenge is to find insight, peace, and even gratitude in my situation.

I firmly believe that we are faced with trials on this earth, so that we can learn lessons we couldn’t learn any other way.  Through my illness I’ve learned patience, compassion for other’s trials, and trust that my suffering is all for a purpose and even brings blessings.  Nothing would have taught me patience, for example, quite like waiting through seemingly endless and prolonged hospitalizations.  I couldn’t have learned to have as much compassion, had I not suffered myself and felt the pain and loneliess of chronic illness.

I have even found blessings in my trials with chronic illness.  As I was forced to adapt and find new interests, I discovered my passion for writing novels, my love of web and graphic design, and, most importantly, my faith in Christ when I was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  All these things came to be in my life directly as a result of my chronic illnesses.  They have blessed me in more ways than I can number, and especially blessed me with a sense of a life calling, purpose, and knowledge that I am not alone.  Realizing these blessings give me insight into the person my trials are helping me to become, a person I couldn’t have learned to be without these trials.

Knowing that trials have brought me great blessings fills my life with peace, purpose, and meaning.  And I am grateful for the role of trials in my life to make me a better person.  I am grateful for the ability to bless the lives of others that I learned from these trials.  I am grateful for my testimony of a loving Heavenly Father and Savior, Jesus Christ, that I’ve learned from experiences I’ve had being sick.

As I look to the bigger picture, I see the role these trials play in becoming the best person I ultimately can be.  I may not “Get Well Soon”, but as I look beneath the harsh surface of life with multiple serious chronic illnesses, I’ve come to recognize that, on many levels, things are already “well” with my life.  And as I strive to find insight, peace, and gratitude in the face of my trials, all will be well.

He Knows Us All By Name

He Knows Us All By Name

It’s easy to feel alone in this temporal life I live in.  It’s easy to forget that my God, my Heavenly Father knows me by name.  And  not just me but all of us.  How can we really know God knows each of our names?  How can we be sure that God knows and loves us all personally?

I had the joyous opportuntiy to visit Utah for the first time this past October of 2014. I went because I’d never been, to visit friends, to sightsee, and most importantly to gain a stronger testimony of my Savior Jesus Christ by attending General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

General Conference was an amazing Spirit filled even in which the Prophet of the Lord, President Thomas S. Monson and his counselors, Apostles, and Auxillery Leaders spoke to us over four two-hour session.  I was able to attend two of those sessions and be in the same room with these holy men and women.

One of the talks given that hit me the most was by Elder David A. Bednar entitled “Come and See”.  If you’ve never watched General Conference before, if you aren’t sure why you are reading this Mormon-centric post, then this is the perfect video for you because Elder Bendar speaks directly to the questions of people who do not belong the the LDS Church.

Come and See by Elder David A. Bendar

Read the transcript!

But the true highlight of my trip occurred the very first evening I arrived in Salt Lake.  By happenstance, the couple I was visiting with that evening had been invited to a Mission Reunion.  And this was no ordinary reunion for return missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  This was something extraordinary.  It was the mission reunion for the missionaries who had served under our Current Prophet over 50 years ago when he was a young man and the Mission President of a large Mission in Canada.

I was so excited to go.  Hardly daring to hope that I’d get to see the Prophet up close, I was still buzzing with the mere idea.  And I wasn’t disapinted.  President Monson came to greet his missionaries!

We were in a small chapel way far out of Salt Lake.  Where I sat a mere 4 rows back from the modern day Prophet of God, I was overcome with the Spirit of the Lord.  Though the thing that impressed me the most, that strengthened my testimony the most was something that harkened back to my questions:How can we be sure that God knows and loves us all personally?How can we really know God knows each of our names?

  1. How can we really know God knows each of our names?
  2. How can we be sure that God knows and loves us all personally?

As President Monson stood on the stand, something incredible happened.  He began pointing to various missionaries aged by 50 years since he last saw them and calling on them by name.  He said that he still could recognize and name all his missionaries from his Mission President days.  And I could see the love he had for each of them.

What a gift!  A divinely bestowed gift.  It truly testified to me that if a mortal Prophet could know all his missionaries by name, than our Father in Heaven must have an infinite capacity to do the same.  And God’s love for each of us, His children much be infinitely greater than even the Prophets.

Throughout the trip, and even now, that testimony really stuck with me and left me feeling so loved and understood that I felt surrounded by the divine embrace of Heavenly Father’s love for me.

Preying on Writers’ Dreams: “This Letter is an Advertisement”

Preying on Writers’ Dreams: “This Letter is an Advertisement”

Caution - Self Publishing Scam AheadSelf-publishing is a big industry right now.   Which means big money.  Not necessarily for authors but for companies who sell self-publishing services to authors wanting to self-publish.  One contender, Balboa Press has been calling my cell phone every month or so. Writers Beware!

A class action complaint has been filed against Balboa Press’s parent company, Author Solutions, for its sketchy dealings that are bringing in the big bucks.  The class action complaint breaks it down:

4. Author Solutions’ revenues are estimated at $100 million per year. Of the $100 million Author Solutions earns as revenue, approximately one third of that amount, or $33 million annually, comes from book sales. The rest of its revenue is derived from the services it offers, such as editorial services, formatting and design services, production services, and marketing services (“Services”).

5. Despite its impressive profits from book sales, Author Solutions fails at the most basic task of a publisher: paying its authors their earned royalties and providing its authors with accurate sales statements.

6. Author Solutions also fails to take diligent care of its authors’ works, making numerous and egregious publisher errors — errors made by the publisher, not the author. These errors include errors on book covers, in addition to various typographical and formatting errors. In fact, Author Solutions profits from its own mistakes. Aggressive sales techniques ensure that these errors are corrected only for a fee of several hundred dollars. Even though, as a matter of policy, Author Solutions promises to correct publisher errors for free, it rarely does.

7. Most of Author Solutions’ earnings are derived from its publishing and marketing Services. These Services, which can cost authors tens of thousands of dollars, likewise fail to deliver what they promise: more book sales and more opportunities for authors.

8. Therefore, even while Defendant Author Solutions prominently markets itself on its website as “[t]he leading indie publishing company in the world,” authors often discover, once it is too late, that Author Solutions is not an “indie publisher” at all. It is a printing service that fails to maintain even the most rudimentary standards of book publishing, profiting not for its authors but from them.

Self-Publishing

The apple doesn’t land far from the tree.  I’ve had a pretty shady experience with Balboa Press so far.  I’ve checked them out and everything I’ve read indicates they are ripping off their own customers.  If you want a prime and horrific example look no further than this author’s experience:

The illustrative sketches and colorization were a disaster. It was apparent that there was a problem with adherence to the RAD/character description form. Pictures that were provided, or the coinciding text (page number and line number) from the manuscript provided to aid the illustrator were obviously ignored or subjectively reviewed. It was so evident, to the point where I was wondering if anyone bothered to read, or if they even couldread the RAD form. There was clearly no oversight of the illustrator’s work before remittance to me. I had continued to write, please call if you have any questions…

After months of inexcusable errors, it was apparent the Art Director, or whomever, did not adhere to “set up an artist that best suits your project.” The project was/is light, airy, and whimsical. I received “dark.” In most cases, the illustrations were sparse (not intricate detail) with no color consistency, no innovation, wrong genders, wrong race, missing or incorrect features, etc. An ancient woman was drawn as a bald-headed, old man numerous times, despite repeated pleas and request for adherence to the RAD and characterization forms. The little girl’s bed looked like a cot out of an army barracks or prison. Angel wings on a helicopter were inverted, objected to, and objections to the CIAC remained ignored – a lame excuse was offered.

How much does it cost to self-publish a book?My own experience with them so far has been subpar at best.  They called me up and tried to rope me in by getting me excited about my novel’s potential.  They told me how great my ideas were and how much I deserved to get my book out there.  They wanted to help me achieve my publishing goals.  All they needed was to relieve me of $999 to $7,999 of my money, and we could get started.  Even if I had that kind of money lying around I wasn’t totally sold that first call.  No deal.

typing once upon a timeA few months later someone else called again.  But this person had no clue about me or my novel.  What was my book about? No idea? Back to square one.  Apparently no one at Balboa ever cares enough about what potential clients say to make any file notes.  No points gained there. * Click.*

And on it went.  For a few years now.  (Yes really.)

Which brings me to another call today.  Same thing.  Starting from scratch with another clueless representative from Balboa.  I wasn’t buying.  *Click.*

Then I get the following email.  Then it hits me.  Not only did they pack this letter so full of stupid writing cliches that it reads hilariously, but they are preying on the dreams of writers’ with this letter and others like it.

Subject:  Believe in Yourself

Hi Lauren,

Be proud of who you are as a writer. An author’s voice is unique and no one will tell your story like you do. Don’t lose your voice. Stand out by having your own style. And your book doesn’t have to have an outrageous plot to be important. Simple can be good. Stick to who you are as a writer and your message will always hold significance.

Financial stability is a challenge nowadays. Money is something achievable but it will depend on you. It will depend on how committed you are in publishing and sharing your message to the world. Money comes and goes in life. If it is meant to be, it will happen. We can’t just wait for it to happen though. We need to do something about it. Dreaming for success is for everyone but putting it to reality is for those who are brave enough to take the next step even if there is fear of the unknown. Let us take this one step at a time.

Why make excuses when you can start your dreams? Why do nothing when you can begin something? Look, you have a lot more power within you that you’re revealing to the world. We all do. But because of distractions and interruptions and responsibility and excuses we sell to ourselves, we coast along at the same level for the best of our lives.

Only few have the guts to make A LEAP – a leap to new habits, new routines and a whole new story about their new place in the world and their service to it.

The Gandhi’s and the Mandela’s and the Zuckerberg’s and the Mozart’s were just ordinary people who had an idea, protected it from the voice of dissent, advanced it via tiny wins and got up every time they got knocked down.

You have this power too, but power unused deteriorates and potential not expressed turns to PAIN.

Now is your time to fly and to shine and to rise up. This is the day to show the world who you truly are.

I would like to assist you with your dreams. Yes, publishing will ask you to shell out money from your own pocket, but what I can assure you is that Balboa Press can expose you and your book to the rest of the world. This way you truly get to say to yourself, “I’ve done my part, let the book speak for itself now!” It is not easy to invest in something that you’re not sure of its future, but nothing is ever certain. What you can do as a writer is to invest in your dreams and believe that you can be someone that you never expected to be. Your sacrifices can result to a life changing journey if you give your book a chance.

All the best,
[Name Redacted]
PUBLISHING CONSULTANT
Balboa Press
A DIVISION OF HAY HOUSE

[Contact Information Redacted]

This email is an advertisement.

Gambling Piggy BankSo I’ll be staying away from Vanity Presses.  There are ways to legitimately Self-Publish but using Balboa Press isn’t one of them.  If they contact you, remember it is called a vanity press for a reason.  They play to your vanity and emotions.  I know they tried to get me that way.  It’s enticing to think that the only thing standing between you and your dream is your savings.  But it’s a gamble.  And Balboa Press is the house that  always wins.  The only way to beat them at their own game is to not play.

Eternal Goals: Making & Fulfilling on Life’s Purpose

Eternal Goals: Making & Fulfilling on Life’s Purpose

Last Sunday I was asked to speak in church about making and fulfilling on goals.  I also introduced an exciting new project that my ward (or congregation) will be participating in.  I attend a ward for young single adults members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.


The President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Thomas S. Monson, told this thought provoking story in an October 1976 General Conference talk:

Several days ago, while driving to my home, I approached the entrance to Interstate 15. At the on-ramp I noticed three hitchhikers, each one of whom carried a homemade sign which announced his desired destination. One sign read “Los Angeles,” while a second carried the designation “Boise.” However, it was the third sign which not only caught my attention but caused me to reflect and ponder its message. The hitchhiker had lettered not Los Angeles, California, nor Boise, Idaho, on the cardboard sign which he held aloft. Rather, his sign consisted of but one word and read simply “ANYWHERE.” Here was one who was content to travel in any direction, according to the whim of the driver who stopped to give him a free ride. What an enormous price to pay for such a ride. No plan. No objective. No goal. The road to anywhere is the road to nowhere, and the road to nowhere leads to dreams sacrificed, opportunities squandered, and a life unfulfilled.
Thomas S. Monson, Which Road Will You Travel?

Imagine each of you are holding a sign up right now that says where you are going in life.  What does your sign say?  What would you like it to say?  And what would you like it to say if Christ were sitting next to you right now?

Your sign is another way of representing your life goals.  There are a lot of types of goals in life that lead down many different roads in this world.  We all want to go somewhere in life that will bring us happiness.  Though many things of the world try to convince us they offer happiness, how can we choose worthy goals that will bring us lasting happiness?  Even eternal happiness.

Eternal happiness is a life long goal.   Like many goals in life, we cannot get there in one stride.  There are steps we can take to help us set worthy goals for our lives as we ultimately seek eternal life.  Here are six steps we can take to make and fulfill on worthy goals:

  1. what_are_your_goalsDecide
  2. Ponder and pray
  3. Place milestones
  4. Set reminders
  5. Take action
  6. Be accountable
Step One is to decide.

When set a goal you first need to decide where you want to be in the future.   As President Monson’s earlier story illustrated, you can’t get where you want to go, if you don’t know where you are going.

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said:

“[…] set explicit goals. You should look ahead now and decide what you want to do with your lives. Fix clearly in your mind what you want to be one year from now, five years, ten years, and beyond.” (“Running Your Marathon,” October 1989 General Conference)

Goal Setting

Goal Setting

Once you know where you want to get to in the future, you need to decide on a goal.  Goals can be big and small,  long and short term, and fall under any category of your life.

President Ezra Taft Benson, thirteenth President of the Church said:

 “Every accountable child of God needs to set goals, short- and long-range goals.  […] Some will be continuing goals.[…]” (“Do Not Despair,” Ensign, Oct. 1986).

President Benson also mentions that there are four main areas of goals in our lives: mental, physical, and social, spiritual, as well as the lifetime goal of becoming perfect unto Christ.

A.  Mental Goals may include completing higher education, learning new trades or occupations, improving skills in a craft or creative area.

D&C 88:118 reads:
And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.

D&C 130:19 promises:

And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.

Target and Arrow

Target and Arrow

B.  Physical Goals may include increasing your body’s strength, endurance, dexterity, excelling at sport, or improving overall health.   These would also include goals to improve your obedience to gospel principals like dressing modestly and obeying the Word of Wisdom.

“Cease to be idle; cease to be unclean; cease to find fault one with another; cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated” (D&C 88:124).

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 reads:

19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

 20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

C.  Social Goals may include improving skills in listening, parenting, public speaking, and leadership.

Proverbs 18:24 tells us:

 24 A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.

The Master's Touch

The Master’s Touch

D.  Spiritual Goals may include building your testimony, increasing your faith in a gospel principal, magnifying your calling, doing a service project, and increasing temple attendance.

D&C 42:61 states:

 61 If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.

E.  Lifetime Goals are goals of an eternal nature that help you to become perfect unto Christ.

President Ezra Taft Benson said:

Each week when we partake of the sacrament we commit ourselves to the goals of taking upon ourselves the name of Christ, of always remembering him and keeping his commandments. Of Jesus’ preparations for his mission, the scripture states that he ‘increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.’ (Luke 2:52.) This encompasses four main areas for goals: spiritual, mental, physical, and social. ‘Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be?’ asked the Master, and he answered, ‘Verily I say unto you, even as I am.’ (3 Ne. 27:27.) Now, there is a lifetime goal–to walk in his steps, to perfect ourselves in every virtue as he has done, to seek his face, and to work to make our calling and election sure (“Do Not Despair,” Ensign, Oct. 1986).

Step Two is to Ponder and Pray.
Woman Praying

Woman Praying

Once we’ve decided on what we want for ourselves and your futures, we can prayerfully ponder steps we should take and make a plan of action.  We can seek revelation in our Patriarchal blessings as to what goals to make and how to execute those goals in our lives.

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin said: 

Receive your patriarchal blessing and strive to live worthy of its promises. A patriarchal blessing is one of the most important guides in life that members of the Church enjoy. Write your goals and review them regularly. Keep them before you constantly, record your progress, and revise them as circumstances dictate. (“Running Your Marathon,” October 1989 General Conference)

Step Three is to Place Milestones.

Milestones are defined as “an action or event marking a significant change or stage in development.”  Milestones help us to see we are growing and changing.  They help us to strive towards something and achieve more than we otherwise would have.  Goals are not meant to be achieved in one large chunk, but just as learning is done “line upon line, precept upon precept“ (D&C 98:12) so should goals be broken down into smaller goals.  Place milestones on the path to your goal ahead of time and work towards them.

Step Four is to Set Reminders.

When you have a constant physical reminder of your goal it becomes more real.   One of my goals is to always become more Christ-like, so I have a painting and a stature of Christ in my bedroom that I can see from where I sit while I work.  Whenever I need a extra sense of peace or need to be reminded of my goal I glance up at Christ and my purpose is restored.  Wearing a CTR ring or setting a daily reminder in your phone to exercise or read your scriptures are other examples.

Step Five is to Take Action.

It’s great to decide where you wan to go, ponder and pray, place milestones, and set reminders, but all of that will be ineffective if we don’t take action.

D&C 60:13 reads:

“Thou shalt not idle away thy time, neither shalt thou bury thy talent that it may not be known” (D&C 60:13).

Step Six is to Be Accountable.

When you have a system of accountability your results in your goals will increase.

Elder M. Russel Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said:

Write down the tasks you would like to accomplish each day. Keep foremost in mind the sacred covenants you have made with the Lord as you write down your daily schedules. (“Keeping Life’s Demands in Balance,” April 1987 General Conference)

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin suggests:

Write your goals and review them regularly. Keep them before you constantly, record your progress, and revise them as circumstances dictate. (“Running Your Marathon,” October 1989 General Conference)

There is no where on Earth more important to achieving Eternal Life than The House of the Lord, the Temple. 

We should all make the Temple our biggest goal whether it’s to get there for the first time, to get there more often, or to increase or testimony of the Temple.

The Los Angeles Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

The Los Angeles Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

The first time I wanted to enter the Temple I was four years old.  I remember the moment so vividly.  I was riding in the car with my parents and we drove by the Los Angeles Temple.  I was immediately drawn to it.  It felt very special and I knew I had to go in.  I had never been so curious about what occurred inside a building before, but I ached to be a part of it.  I asked my mom what it was, and she answered, that it was “someone else’s Temple and I couldn’t ever go in.”  As a young Jewish girl, I was curious who else built Temples, and was disappointed that I couldn’t be involved, but I accepted her answer.  However I hung onto that early memory though it was buried.

I wasn’t until years later that I was investigating the church more than twenty years later that the memory surfaced.  The desire to go into the Temple was stronger than ever.   So I decided consciously this time that my goal was the Temple. And I placed milestones to get there.  I set Baptismal date.  Took the missionary discussions.  Got Baptized four and half years ago.  Once that was completed, I went to the Temple to do baptisms for the first time.  It was amazing and powerful.  It Spirit was so strong.  But my Temple journey didn’t end there.  I wanted to get endowed.  So set new milestones.  I accepted callings.  Took the Temple Prep class.  And then I received my endowment.  It was the best decision I could have made.  My decision to set the Temple as my goal has blessed my life more than I can even comprehend.  More than I had ever imagined as a little four year old that had a secret goal of going to the Temple.

Elaine S. Dalton said the following in April 2012 General Conference:

[…] I [was] thrilled as I listened to Elder David A. Bednar invite each of you to become anxiously engaged in doing your own family history and temple work for those who have passed on without the blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  As he issued this invitation to you, my heart leapt inside. In the Doctrine and Covenants we read of “other choice spirits who were reserved to come forth in the fulness of times to take part in laying the foundations of the great latter-day work, including the building of … temples and the performance of ordinances therein for the redemption of the dead.”  This is your day, and your work has begun! Now is the time to be worthy of and obtain a temple recommend. As you do this work, you will become saviors on Mount Zion.  (“Now Is The Time To Arise And Shine!,” April 2012 General Conference)

Family File Milestones Poster

The Family File Milestones Poster I designed for the Family History project occurring in my ward

What an amazing promise: to be a savior on Mount Zion.  And we can all achieve that.  Especially in light of a new program relating to ward Temple and Family History work that’s being presented today.  You may have seen the posters in either foyer and you  should have  a copy of your own to take home in each of your programs (pictured left).  As a ward we will be collectively be researching our own family histories to find Family File names.  Familly file names are from your own family lineage.  You research them and then take them to the temple to do ordinances for those ancestors.

As a ward, our goal will be to do a thousand family file names.  Each family file name will count once (regardless of how many ordinances you do for each name).  Since goals don’t happen in one stride, we will have milestones along the way of 100 family file names completed, then 200 names, then 300, and so on up to 1000.

Elaine S. Dalton said the following in April 2012 General Conference:

The promised blessings of the temple extend not only to you but to all generations. As you make the temple your goal, your influence for good will transcend time and place, and the work you perform for those who have gone before will be the fulfillment of prophecy!  (“Now Is The Time To Arise And Shine!,” April 2012 General Conference)

I know that as we do this work for our ancestors we will bless them and we also will be blessed.

Elder Marvin J. Ashton said:

 “May we launch straightway toward setting goals that are gospel oriented, knowing that if we use the talents that are ours–that if we help others, strive for peace, avoid being overly sensitive or overly critical–strength upon strength will be added unto our own abilities and we will move straightway toward greater growth, happiness, and eternal joys”. (“Straightway,” April 1983 General Conference)

I like to leave you with my testimony that I know that setting and fulfilling on goals is a way we can achieve eternal happiness.  I know that as we set our goals on the Temple and other eternal things we will be blessed with peace, happiness, knowledge and revelation, and other things we need in our lives.  I know that through Temples families can be together forever.  I love the Temple.  I love Heavenly Father and I love the Savior, Jesus Christ.  And I say this in His name, Amen.

Angel Moroni

Angel Moroni

Paradox of Man

Paradox of Man

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

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, <a href="https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2011/10/you-matter-to-him?lang=eng">You Matter To Him</a>

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

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.

 

1If you repost this illustration please give me credit and link back to this post! Thanks!

Burning Bright: A Poem of Faith

Burning Bright: A Poem of Faith

Since I was five years old, barely sophisticated enough to write a few words into sentences, I have been captivated by poetry.  Poems just seemed to come to me as if I had plucked them right out of thin air and was merely the recorder of the words that would pour through me.  It hasn’t been that way lately though.  As my focus has moved on to my two novels, I haven’t tried to write a poem with any semblance of a rhyme scheme in quite some time.  I’ve been feeling rather out of practice.

However, today was my church’s Ward Conference, a day of spiritual nourishment. It was just wonderful listening to my local leaders speak to us young adults on the topics that were of the greatest importance to us.  Feeling more spiritually fed, and pondering some of the themes discussed today, I decided to try my hand at a poem.  The following is the result:

Extinguished

Burning Bright

The void left by burning desire;
At times nearly extinguished inside;
All but lost the inertia required;
To move and be moved to His side;

But then I close my eyes tight,
And pray with all my might;

I remember each moment of pain;
He healed all my wounds in His name;
Heart of FireI treasure trials that shook my core;
The refiners fire has polished me more;

All I am, was, and will be,
I am through Him, now I see;

And my covenant burns bright;
The unquenchable light inside;
My hope, my comfort, my insight;
To move and be moved to His side.

 

"Let the fire of the covenant which you made in the House of the Lord, burn in your hearts, like flame unquenchable” - Brigham Young

The Crucifixion: 5 Things To Apply To Our Own Lives

The Crucifixion: 5 Things To Apply To Our Own Lives

As I was sitting in during Sacrament, I prayed for the best way to deliver this talk.  I received the strangest prompting – to give my talk in a completely different order than I have written it.  I had spent at least 15 hours researching and preparing for the talk, so I was rather surprised and extremely nervous about going out of order.  But I’m not in the habit of ignoring promptings from the Lord, so I did what I felt urged to do.  The following is my memory of the order in which I gave this talk.


 

I’d like to begin with a story in President James E. Faust’s talk, The Atonement: Our Greatest Hope, that retells a story by President Gordon B. Hinckley.

Some years ago, President Gordon B. Hinckley told “something of a parable” about “a one room school house in the mountains of Virginia where the boys were so rough no teacher had been able to handle them.

“Then one day an inexperienced young teacher applied. He was told that every teacher had received an awful beating, but the teacher accepted the risk. The first day of school the teacher asked the boys to establish their own rules and the penalty for breaking the rules. The class came up with rules, which were written on the blackboard. Then the teacher asked, ‘What shall we do with one who breaks the rules?’

“‘Beat him across the back ten times without his coat on,’ came the response.

“A day or so later, … the lunch of a big student, named Tom, was stolen. ‘The thief was located—a little hungry fellow, about ten years old.’
“As Little Jim came up to take his licking, he pleaded to keep his coat on. ‘Take your coat off,’ the teacher said. ‘You helped make the rules!’

“The boy took off the coat. He had no shirt and revealed a bony little crippled body. As the teacher hesitated with the rod, Big Tom jumped to his feet and volunteered to take the boy’s licking.

“‘Very well, there is a certain law that one can become a substitute for another. Are you all agreed?’ the teacher asked.

“After five strokes across Tom’s back, the rod broke. The class was sobbing. ‘Little Jim had reached up and caught Tom with both arms around his neck. “Tom, I’m sorry that I stole your lunch, but I was awful hungry. Tom, I will love you till I die for taking my licking for me! Yes, I will love you forever!”’”

President Hinckley then quoted Isaiah:

“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows. …

“… He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”

No man knows the full weight of what our Savior bore, but by the power of the Holy Ghost we can know something of the supernal gift He gave us.10 In the words of our sacrament hymn:

We may not know, we cannot tell,

What pains he had to bear,

But we believe it was for us

He hung and suffered there.

The Crucifixion

The Crucifixion

So as you may have guessed the subject of my talk today is the crucifixion of our Savior Jesus Christ, in which He died for our sins so that we might live again with our Father in Heaven.

The events leading up to the Crucifixion give us vivid examples of both absolute faith and the absence of it.  The absence of faith can often be characterized as fear.  As I describe the following events, I invite you to think about which events are representative of faith and which represent fear.

Christ perfectly endured the Atonement in all its agony, according to the will of the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Christ was betrayed by Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve Apostles.  Jesus was arrested, and the rest of his Apostles fled.  Jesus was then subjected to multiple counsels and trials having false witnesses brought against Him.

Even the faithful disciple Peter ultimately denied Jesus and Jesus Himself prophesied he would earlier in Christ’s ministry.  In John 13:38, it reads:

Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice. (John 13: 38)

Then at one of Jesus’s trials, the prophesy came to pass.  In Matthew 26:69-75 it reads:

Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee.

But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest.

And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth.

And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man.

And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee.

Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew.

And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.n (Matthew 26:69–75)

Christ was mocked and ridiculed.  In Matthew 27:28-30, it reads:

And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe.

And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!

And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head.  (Matthew 28–30)

Christ was made to carry His own cross most likely weighting 75 to 125 pounds until a passerby named Simon was compelled to do it for him by the Roman guards.

The Crucifxion

The Crucifxion

When they reached the site of the crucifixion, Christ was nailed to the cross.  At the head of the cross was affixed a title, “Jesus of Nazareth The King of the Jews.”  Elder Bruce R. McConkie describes the brutality of what the Savior must have physically experienced:

A death by crucifixion seems to include all that pain and death can have of the horrible and ghastly—dizziness, cramp, thirst, starvation, sleeplessness, traumatic fever, tetanus, publicity of shame, long continuance of torment, horror of anticipation, mortification of untended wounds, all intensified just up to the point at which they can be endured at all, but all stopping just short of the point which would give to the sufferer the relief of unconsciousness. The unnatural position made every movement painful; the lacerated veins and crushed tendons throbbed with incessant anguish; the wounds, inflamed by exposure, gradually gangrened; the arteries, especially of the head and stomach, became swollen and oppressed with surcharged blood; and, while each variety of misery went on gradually increasing, there was added to them the intolerable pang of a burning and raging thirst. Such was the death to which Christ was doomed. ( Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:816)

Even is this moment of extreme physical torment, the Savior was merciful, asking Heavenly Father to forgive those who crucified him.  In Luke 23: 34, it reads:

Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. (Luke 23:33-34)

Despite his tortured state, He thought of others before himself.  In John 19:26-27, it says:

When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!

Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home. (John 19:26–27)

Then darkness came over the land as Heavenly Father withdrew his presence from the Savior.  In Matthew 27:46 it reads:

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46)

It’s hard to imagine the utter terror at being cut off from Heavenly Father for the first time in such a moment of tremendous suffering.  But Christ needed to feel what it is like to be utterly alone, to descend all things.  To completely fulfill upon what He came here to do.

Andrew C. Skinner said in his book, Golgotha,

The scriptures teach us that God has not forsaken us nor will he ever forsake us. He is waiting and able to help us in our extremity. No less powerful to help is his divine Son, who has perfect empathy for us and can carry us through those times when we cannot go on, precisely because of his own experience. In fact, one reason Jesus was abandoned by his Father in Gethsemane and on the cross of Golgotha [or Calvary] was so he could descend below all things to know every human circumstance and thus emerge victor over all things, with the knowledge and power to help us. By his confirming witness, I know that Jesus suffered on the cross the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God, and because Jesus suffered that wrath on the cross, I do not have to. Even more important, I know that because Jesus was lifted up on the cross, I can be lifted up also—to eternal life. Furthermore, I know that because God forsook his Son on the cross, he will never have to forsake me.

James E. Talmage, in his book, Jesus the Christ, wrote about Christ last moments:

Lost Lamb

Lost Lamb

Fully realizing that He was no longer forsaken, but that His atoning sacrifice had been accepted by the Father, and that His mission in the flesh had been carried to glorious consummation, He exclaimed in a loud voice of holy triumph: “It is finished.” In reverence, resignation, and relief, He addressed the Father saying: “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” He bowed His head, and voluntarily gave up His life.
[…]Jesus the Christ was dead. His life had not been taken from Him except as He had willed to permit. Sweet and welcome as would have been the relief of death in any of the earlier stages of His suffering from Gethsemane to the cross, He lived until all things were accomplished as had been appointed. In the latter days the voice of the Lord Jesus has been heard affirming the actuality of His suffering and death, and the eternal purpose thereby accomplished. Hear and heed His words: “For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him.”

The Crucifixion can teach us much about living our lives after the example of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  These are the five main things we can learn from the crucifixion:

  1. Be forgiving.
  2. Be filled with mercy.
  3. Be in service of others.
  4. Following Christ.
  5. Endure all things.
Forgiven

Forgiven

The first thing we can learn is to forgive others.  Even when Christ was on the Cross he said, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.  This very Spirit of forgiveness teaches us that we need to forgive all.  Even and especially those who hate and persecute us.  In Doctrine & Covenants 64:10 it reads:

I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men. (D&C 64:10)

Second we learn to be filled with mercy.  To have mercy we must have compassion for people in our lives including ourselves.  Having compassion for and extending mercy towards others as well as ourselves is one of the greatest gifts we can give.

Matthew 5:7 reads:

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. (Matthew 5:7)

Third, we learn to serve others.  Christ’s ministry was one of continually service.  Healing the sick, feeding the poor and hungry, raising the dead, teaching the masses.  Mosiah 2:17 reads:

And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God. (Mosiah 2:17)

Fourth, we learn to carry our cross and follow Christ.  This mean forsaking anything in our lives that are not in the manner of Christ.  Giving up unrighteous thoughts, music, clothing, and activities, and exchanging them for righteous ones.  Then follow the Saviors example in all things.

Fifth, we learn to patiently endure all things.  Christ never complained, never object, never asked “why me?”  He bore his burdens with tolerance, long-suffering, and dignity, always submitting to the will of the Father.

This perfect example of how to endure all things can especially help us in times of trial.  Over the last ten years I’ve spent a significant amount of time in the hospital, often the ICU, often for several months at a time due to an autoimmune disease called Myasthenia Gravis.  Myasthenia Gravis, which means grave weakness in Latin, causes its patients to become so weak during an acute flare or it that they cannot move any of their limbs and sometimes cannot breathe on their own, requiring the assistance of a ventilator.  I have experienced this many times.  It’s hard when lying there in the ICU unable to move or breathe on my own to feel like things are going to be okay, but the thing that gives me the most strength is the sweet knowledge that our Savior descended below all things so that I don’t have to suffer that alone.  He knows exactly what extreme physical pain is like, beyond what I can even imagine, so He certainly can feel what I feel in those times.  And it gives me the ability to endure to know that He endured all things.  If he endured all things, then certainly I can endure this one trial I have been given as difficult as it seems.  And this gives me eternal hope.

We also accept that Heavenly Father is giving us trials for our own benefit.  Doctrine and Covenants 122:7-8 said:

Christ Knocking

Christ Knocking

And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.

The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he? (D&C 7-8)

Since we are not greater than our Savior Jesus Christ we can take so much comfort in all He has done for us.  All the pain He has suffered so that he could descend below all things  was for our benefit because He has so much love for each and every one of us.

I want to share my testimony that Christ not only atoned and died for our sins but that He rose again three days later.  He lives today.  He knows and loves me personally.  The Holy Ghost testifies of this to me on a daily basis.  I am so grateful for my Savior and for his atoning sacrifice that through it I can return to live with my Heavenly Father for all eternity.  I know that my Heavenly Father lives and loves me as well.  I am grateful for all of you and the Spirit that is felt here today.  And I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Christ Lives

Christ Lives

Cracking Loaded Questions:  Is there something else bothering you?

Cracking Loaded Questions: Is there something else bothering you?

crying-eye-ll-elain-awad

I don’t want to sound mean.  I just want to be honest.  Is there something else bothering you?*

Last night I was faced with that loaded question.  “Was something else bothering me?”  Because, she explained, how upset I was didn’t add up.  “Nothing happened,” she said.

At first the question didn’t even register through my sniffles and tears.  Of course something had happened.  Something terrible.  Or why else would I be so upset?  Right? I had been feeling left out of a conversation, and everything just seemed to sudden spiral out of control from there.  Suddenly friends were angry with me and I was crying and… of course something had happened.

But because I know my friend doesn’t just say things like this casually, I dug a little deeper.

Was something else bothering me?

A list started to write itself in my head.  A list that looked like it could be a mental health professional’s list of major life stresses.  Okay.  So I had a few things going on in my life right now what with the recent hospitalizations and rehabilitations, family stresses, missing friends, and so on.  So I supposed that a few things were in fact bothering me.

I felt dumb.

Suddenly everything came into focus and my reaction seemed so out of proportion.

And that’s when it happened.

sad-clown-girl-cris-motta

CRACK.

See for the last few weeks I’d been describing the stress I was under like a giant and delicate egg just under the surface of my emotional pain, waiting to crack open and drip it’s gooey and painful ooze everywhere.

It happened.  Right then in that moment of perfect clarity, I could feel all the pain I’d been hiding from myself so completely and all at once.

I didn’t know I could cry that hard.  That intensely.  And that it could be that freeing.

I prayed that I would have the strength to get through it.  To find meaning in my struggles and tears.

Then, just as suddenly as it came, it was over.

Feeling better, I’m so grateful to my friend for asking that loaded question.  It must not have been easy to have to be honest with me when I was a basket case and try to figure out what was really going on.

surreal_art

Have you ever been really upset about something only to realize that it was something else entirely that was really bothering you?  Here’s some suggestion you can try to help you figure out those upsets when they occur:

  1. Think about if your reaction is in proportion to the upsetting incident.
  2. Think about what other stresses you have in your life.
  3. Ask yourself it there is something else bothering you.
  4. Seek trusted friend/mentor or a professional counselor who can talk the problem out with you.
  5. Pray or meditate to get divine perspective on the situation.

Sometimes you have to crack the situation wide open to see what’s really inside, but I know that on the inside of that egg is greater serenity, happiness, and peace of mind.

*Paraphrased

When Life Doesn’t Go Our Way: Relying on the Blessings of The Lord

When Life Doesn’t Go Our Way: Relying on the Blessings of The Lord

Christ Forgiving Woman in Red

Forgiven

What do we do when our understanding of our circumstances eludes us and puts our faith in peril?  How can we turn our doubt into a tool to grow closer to our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ?  I recently discovered that it is from our most vulnerable place of complete doubt and uncertainty, that upmost faith and surety is the Gospel is available.

I received a blessing for a medical procedure that promised that i would be blessed that it would all go without complication.  When that didn’t turn out to be the case, I couldn’t be help but question my own faith.  Maybe I just didn’t have enough faith to receive that blessing.  Not only was I suffering the physical effects of my unfortunate circumstances but I was filled with fear.  Doubts swirled through my head.  Maybe I couldn’t trust myself to have the faith required to receive the blessings I most desperately want and need.  Maybe I let my own fear get in the way.  Or maybe God didn’t want me to have that blessing for some reason.

The Great Physician

The Great Physician

I sought out comfort in prayer from my Heavenly Father asking why I had to be stuck in the hospital once again for a prolonged period when it was supposed to be a one day procedure.  Though I didn’t get my answer right away I was comforted through the power of the Holy Spirit telling me that The Lord works in His own time and for His own reasons.  There was a reason for even this even if it was not yet clear to me.

It didn’t start to become clear until about a week later.  Still in the hospital another complication caused me an incident of severe and dangerous bleeding, that landed me back in the ICU.  It was then that I realized that if I had been stuck in the hospital in the first place then, I wouldn’t have been in the safety of the hospital when I had started bleeding profusely and the outcome might have been much worse.

Sitting in the Love of The Lord

Sitting in the Love of The Lord

It is much the same spiritually.  When we are in the safety of the Gospel in the loving arms of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, we can bleed out all the doubt and woes of our life until we are weak and can barely stand.  Then Christ will be right there to support us.  He has already bled the same blood and so much more for us.  He has felt all the pain.  He is the Great Physician who will cure us and make us whole and complete again, so that we may return again.  Once we’ve hemorrhaged out all our doubts, we are ready to be so much more like Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ.  Even blessings that seem to fall short in our lives are opportunities to grow in the Gospel is we but turn to Christ, take His hand, and open our hearts, continually seeking the Father, repenting of all our doubts and sins, and seeking the divine healing of The Lord!

How Great Shall Be Your Joy: My 4 Year Baptism Anniversary

How Great Shall Be Your Joy: My 4 Year Baptism Anniversary

Four Year Baptism Anniversary at the Los Angeles Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

Four Year Baptism Anniversary at the Los Angeles Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!

And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!

Doctrine & Covenants  18:15-16

When that scripture is usually quoted it’s typically in reference to helping bring others to Christ.  But today, I thought of it in a different context.  Because today was truly a joyous occasion for me.  Today, Friday, March 7th, 2014, marks the 4 year anniversary of the day I entered the waters of baptism and joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  To this day I know with every fiber of my being that decision to get baptized was the best decision I’ve ever made for myself.  That day, March 7th, 2010, I brought my own soul unto Christ, and I have never been more joyful!

With the elders before my baptism

My Baptism – March 7th 2010
With the Elders before entering the waters of baptism.

It began with a quest like many good stories do.  My quest was to find a close connection with Heavenly Father.  My problem was I wasn’t really sure He existed.  But I wanted to believe so badly.  My quest, which originated in the Reform Jewish Synagogue of my youth, took me to lots of different places and to many congregations.  Never feeling complete or satisfied.  Always searching for something more.  I was interested in college in how my Christian friend cultivated a close and personal relationship with Christ and would occasionally attend her college group prayer meetings at her church to see if I could glean how they went about it and apply it to my own quest.  I told them straight up that Christ wasn’t for me.  I remember that kind Youth Pastor prayed with me that I would find my own truth in my own time.  Whatever it was.  I appreciated that a lot.

All Dressed Up For My Four Year Baptism Anniversary

All Dressed Up For My Four Year Baptism Anniversary

Years later I was going to a Universalist Unitarian Church, but I still hadn’t found what I was seeking.  At the same time, I needed to hire a caregiver.  I had been in a wheelchair for over a year due to multiple autoimmune diseases causing extreme pain that made it impossible to walk.   The new caregiver I hired was Mormon.  We would talk about religion all the time.  Sharing about our different background.  Her being raised in the Church.  Me being raised Jewish, Bat Mitzvah’d, Confirmed and having taught Temple Religious School, but still searching.  I admired how close she was to God.  How personal it was for her.  How it was such a source of strength, peace and hope in times of stress and darkness.  I wanted that for myself on some level but I didn’t believe.  And I couldn’t just suddenly believe in something I didn’t believe in just because I wanted to.

However, she convinced me to start praying on a regular basis.  I’d never said a personal prayer before.  I didn’t even know how to go about it until she explained it to me.  It felt super awkward at first but slowly more comfortable.

The House of the Lord - The Los Angeles Temple

The House of the Lord – The Los Angeles Temple

It wasn’t until I decided to try an experiment that things started to shift for me.  I decided to try adding “In the name of Jesus Christ” to the end of all my prayers, just as an experiment to see if it felt any different.  I was amazing to realize there was in fact a subtle but significant difference.  It brought a sense of calm and peace, love and comfort into my heart.

I remember telling my caregiver, “I wonder what kind of miracle it would take to get me from not believing in Christ as the Redeemer of the World to accepting Him as the Savior of all Mankind.  What would it take to change my whole belief system?”

So when my caregiver asked me yet again to attend Church with her and to get a blessing for healing I finally agreed.

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

My caregiver and I change into all white for my baptism so that she can help me into the baptismal waters. This is not a usual baptism!

I loved Church.  I remember feeling such a sense of peace and warmth come over me the entire time.  Then it was time for the blessing of healing.  From the moment the two missionaries giving the blessing put their hands on head, I felt Heavenly Father’s love for me so intensely I thought I might pass out.  The way I experienced His love for me was so all encompassing and so complete, it was just sooo awe inspiring to know that I am that loved and that known by God.  And that He is real.  And that He lives.

In that instant I knew that I wouldn’t have had this experience if I wee not the in the right place to have it.  I knew it was a signal from God to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  I started taking the missionary discussions and was baptized 6 weeks later.  And I walked into the baptismal font (with the help of my caregiver) having started walking the same week of the blessing.  My baptism was held during the 3rd hour of Church, so my whole Young Single Adult Ward attended it.  My Dad and his girl friend were also able to attend.  My baptism was so special.  I’ll never forget those tender and elated feelings I had coming out of the waters of baptism, feeling more pure than I’d ever felt before.  I will treasure those memories always.

Good Friends at the Los Angeles Temple

Good Friends at the Los Angeles Temple

The last four years, haven’t been the easiest, but they’ve been richer and more joyful with the gospel in my life.  Through the hard times and all the hospitalizations especially, it’s given me so much strength to endure.  In the happy times, it gives me so much more context in which to enjoy each moment.  The gospel truly is the greatest gift in my life.  I’ve learned so much, gained so much, my life has been so blessed in every way!

I’ve received my my Patriarchal Blessing, a piece a personal scripture and revelation that is individual to each person who receives it, given by men ordained of God to give such blessings.  I’ve held multiple callings (or volunteer positions) in my Ward at Church.  And I’ve gone to the Temple, the House of the Lord.

To celebrate, today I went to the Los Angeles Temple with a dear friend and spent some quality time there.  There was no place I felt that would be more appropriate to send commemorating my baptism, than in the House of the Lord where I can reflect, seek peace, calm, protection, and revelation from on high.

I am so grateful for this gospel and this Church.  I’m grateful for my baptism.  I am so thankful for the chance we all have to repent of our sins, enter the waters of baptism, be cleansed, and start fresh.  I am grateful for my Savior, Jesus Christ.  And I’m grateful for my Heavenly Father and the chance I have to return to Him through this work.

Read about my Three Year Baptism Anniversary.

Read about my One Year Baptism Anniversary.

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Be Mine: Valentine’s Day

Be Mine: Valentine’s Day

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.

 

Valentine's Day Love Card Front

Valentine’s Day Love Card Front

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.

Valentine's Jar Flowers Card Front

Valentine’s Jar Flowers Card Front

Best Friends Love Heart Valentine's Day Card Front

Best Friends Love Heart Valentine’s Day Card Front

Valentine's Jar Flowers Card Inside

Valentine’s Jar Flowers Card Inside

Best Friends Love Heart Valentine's Day Card Inside

Best Friends Love Heart Valentine’s Day Card Inside

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?

  1. Love Connection

    Text, Email, or Call your loved ones to let them know you care and are thinking of them.

  2. As You Wish

    Tell the people in your life, “I love you” often and sincerely.

  3. Sweet Gifts

    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.

  4. 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!

Fancy Valentine - John 3:16

VALENTINE
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
John 3:16

Getting Things Done (GTD) – A Weekly Schedule System & Excel Template Download

Getting Things Done (GTD) – A Weekly Schedule System & Excel Template Download

Getting Things Out of My Brain And Getting Things Done

Getting Things Out of My Brain And Getting Things Done

This post includes a Weekly GTD Schedule – Microsoft Excel Template Download.  If you want to skip the post and go straight to the download, click HERE.

I consider myself a very productive person.  I get a lot of things done.  I’ve accomplished quite a bit.  I’ve written two novels, designed many websites, worked on Alternate Reality Games for organizations like the Cerebral Palsy Foundation and The World Bank, maintain an active social, family, and most importantly spiritual life.  I take care of my health with doctor’s and therapy appointments, meet weekly with my writing group, craft excessively, serve in multiple church callings, and blog now and then.  My plate is overflowing, so let’s just say I’m up to some big things!  However, to date, I’ve managed to do all this without any significant structured planning of my time on a day to day basis.  Maybe you’ll find it impressive that I’ve gone so long without any sort of a schedule or plan, just doing what seem right in the moment, as it occurs to me.  That’s code for “whatever task is stressing me out the most that second”.

Enough is enough.

I decided it’s time to try Getting Things Done in a more organized way.  Conveniently for me, Getting Things Done or GTD, as it’s often referred to by its adherents, is a system for just what its name implies – getting things done.  It was created by David Allen, and there’re plenty of resources in other locations where you can learn more about GTD.  But for a quick overview, check out this infographic:

Getting Things Done David Allen Infographic

Getting Things Done David Allen Infographic

Once I learned about this system, and with some help and advice from others, I decided to focus on creating a schedule for myself based on GTD.  The idea being I would now have set “Bucket Times” to manage all the areas on my life according to the principals of GTD.  But I’ll get back to Bucket Times later.

The main problem I was facing with finding a system that would work with me was finding something I could stick with.  In the past systems either were so cumbersome, scheduling and planning me so rigidly that I couldn’t realistically do it long term.  Or on the other hand, the systems were so vague and abstract, focusing only on broad goals that they didn’t help me commit to anything.  The third category of problem systems were ones that were incomplete, only addressing certain aspects of what I needed from an organization system and leaving me feeling semi-organized but ultimately even more overwhelmed.  Why?  Because now I knew exactly what I needed to do but had no structures in place to help me accomplish any of it.

To address of this, I there are 4 major components to my personalized GTD system I am putting into place initially.  (This is just to get started.  After these are going well I will add more.)

  1. Identify 6-9 Major Areas of Life
      Roles and areas are the major categories of your life such as Family, School, Faith, Friends, Work, Writing etc.
  2. List 10 Most Pressing Tasks Under Each Major Role/Area
      Most pressing tasks are tasks that currently need to be taken for that area.  For example, for Family, it might be something like “Spend time with Mom” or “Game Night.”  For Work, it might be “Sign the Parsons contract” or “Return Sonya’s phone call.”  Any task that has more than two steps is called a Project.
  3. Create A Weekly Schedule of Bucket Times To Stick To Each Week
    Weekly GTD Schedule - Microsoft Excel Template - Sample Data

    A my weekly GTD schedule with “Bucket Times” as sample data.
    Download the Excel Template for the file to create your own Weekly Schedule!

      Bucket Times are blocks of time designated at the same time every week for completing tasks in each of your Major Areas.  For example, I created Spiritual Time every evening from 10pm – 11pm.  During those times I will refer to my List of Tasks for that Area of Life for to do items to complete.  See the Downloads Section at the bottom of this post for an Excel template tool to help with this!
  4. Generate Mind-Dump Of EVERY Open Loop In Life
      Open loops are thought processes that are incomplete.  They keep the mind’s inbox full when it’s most productive empty.  Empty that inbox by downloading everything in it!  Generate a complete list of everything, every to do, action item, task, someday task, maybe task, goal, dream ,wish, hope, plan, etc.  Include everything from “Remember to pick up the milk” to “Improve relationship with Dad” to “Travel the world”.  Get that mind completely empty and onto something tangible and permanent that is workable for future reference.

Once I had a plan of action, it was just a matter of putting it into place…

Starting is always easier said than done.

I needed some help getting started. So I decided to enroll someone else to do this thing with me. No, not all of you readers! My dear writing buddy who I create my day with every morning. I told her all about his idea and explained GTD to her (the Cliff Notes version). She was on board.

Over Skype, we came up with our Major Areas of Life.  This is mine:

Weekly GTD Schedule - Major Areas of Life

Weekly GTD Schedule – Major Areas of Life

Next I began to list my lost pressing tasks under each area.  I’m constantly working on my list.

Then I created a schedule by which I would process the list of tasks. But instead of a rigid list of strictly scheduled times like ones that hadn’t worked for me in the past, I am working with a schedule of Bucket Times.  The beauty of Bucket Times is it structured enough in that it gives you a set time you are committed to making forward progress in an area of your life, but it is flexible enough that you still get to choose what is most expedient to do within that Area.  Furthermore, the whole schedule isn’t so rigid that the whole thing risks being thrown off if you go over a few minutes.  As I see it, if you get behind you are often still within your bucket time for that type of item.  And even if you aren’t you can rest assured that you have more time scheduled for that item soon.  So file add it to your Bucket Time list for later.  Lastly, the overarching rule is that this isn’t a rigid system, meaning the operative work is: expediency.

When all else fails, do whatever is most expedient in the moment.

I am committed to using this new system for a trial of the next 3 months.  In the meantime,  I’m looking forward to seeing an upswing in my productivity.  And more importantly a decrease in my feelings of overwhelm at not knowing how to handle the overflowing plate that is my life.  In this analogy, I’ve been eating off an overflowing plate for a long long time.  Sure I’ve been digesting my food and getting nutrient, but lots of things haven’t been sitting well.  GTD is a set of silverware – tools to help me eat my food, so that I can take small manageable bites and digest it easily and effectively.  The schedule works like a restaurant menu (thanks Paul for that one!) with various selections for each category of food or area of my life.  Some items or Tasks on the menu are more bland and others are the spice of life!

Give me a helping of work every weekday.  Indulge in a double portion of friendship on weekends.  A spicy side dish of romance if I’m so lucky!  Pile it on my plate and enjoy a delicious, nutritious, and satisfying life!

Stay tuned for Part Two of this post series on Generating a Mind-Dump of All Your Open Loops coming soon!  Get an email reminder when it comes out!  Subscribe to the newsletter!

I hope you enjoy the Downloads below.  The Weekly Schedule Templates for Microsoft Excel should be helpful tools for planning a schedule in the fashion described in this post.  Please post comments with ideas for improvements, and I will do my best to make them. 

 

Downloads

Sand Through My Fingers

Sand Through My Fingers

"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." D&C 78:18-19

Riches of Eternity
created by Lauren Soffer

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.

Lauren's 30th Birthday Mocktail Soiree

Lauren’s 30th Birthday Mocktail Soiree

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?

In the World, Not of the World by Greg Olsen

In the World, Not of the World by Greg Olsen

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.”

 

D&C 78:18-19

Sandy Hands

Sand slips through fingers.