Posts tagged Gifts
The ever present hiss of oxygen and the occasional beeping of a monitor are sometimes the only sound I hear for hours, as I lay alone in my hosptial room. I stare at the white sterile walls that surround me. The walls are totally blank with few unnoteworthy exceptions. Sometimes I wish my life were as clean and as sterile as those walls, devoid of any adversitity. It’s an easy thing to wish for when I’ve spend more than half of the last year in the hosptial. If I could whitewash all the years spent facing the pain, lonliness, isolation, boredom, fear, anger, grief, and saddness that comes with a chronic illness that requires very frequent and prolonged hosptializations, wouldn’t I want to?
But then I remember what I am here on earth to do. I remember that my adversity and trials aren’t punishments; they’re gifts that allow me to improve myself, transform my weaknesses, and grow into the person I was always meant to become. I remember that adveristy is a blessed opportunity – even an invitation – from my loving Father in Heaven, to become more like my Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ. I remember that if I were able to whitewash my life and forget all my trials, I’d also forget all the knowledge and blessings that come from them.
It’s been easy for me to get bogged down in the weight of a trial, and completely miss what I am learning and how I am growing from it. Perhaps if I were more methodical, more intetional about learning from adversity, I’d be able to develop more from it. There are five things we all can do to gain more knowledge, growth, and blessings from the hardest things in life.
- Seek Guidance
- Conduct Research
- Count Your Blessings
- Serve Others
- Do It Together
It’s a lot easier to learn something when you figure out what you are learning. Recieve guidance as to what’s there to learn from life’s hardest moments. Sources of guidance can be close friends, family, religious leaders, professional counselors, scriptures and other books, and divine inspiration. I personally realize the lesson in every trial most easily when I read my scriptures frequently and pray unceasingly to my Father in Heaven to reveal to me what He wants me to learn. It reminds me that I am not in control, but that’s completely okay, because the one that is in control, my Heavenly Father, knows exactly what I need to learn, andhow I need to be blessed.
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.
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.
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.
When you are in the depths of your trials, it’s easy to forget that you aren’t alone. Whether it other people going through similar things or knowledge of the divine on your side, walking foward hand in hand allows you to both receive and share knowledge and blessings. My default mentality is that I have to do everything hard alone (also that I’m alone in my trials). The good news is neither are at all true. And not only do i not have to do everything alone, but it’s completely impossible to do so. In fact, this life was *designed* to teach me (and all of us) not to do it alone. Instead I should rely on Christ, his teachings, and his disciples to get me through everything, from the smallest of small to the most miraculous triumphs that aren’t even imaginable to my feeble mortal minds. And we are the opposite of alone in our trials, we have a brother in Heaven that has a *perfect understanding* of what we are going through. I don’t even have a perfect understanding of what I’m going through, but through Christ I can start to come to an understanding.
In what ways do you gain knowledge and blessings from your trials? Please share in the comments!
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.
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.
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:
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:
- Be forgiving.
- Be filled with mercy.
- Be in service of others.
- Following Christ.
- Endure all things.
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:
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.
Today was Valentine’s Day. That means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. So whether you thought today was a day to eat lots of chocolate or a day to send lots of love notes or even a day made up by a card company, I think today was a good reminder to appreciate the love we have in our lives. Sometimes it’s overwhelming to think about how much I’m blessed with love in my life. It’s funny, even though I occasionally have feelings of loneliness or not being cared for, when I start really thinking about the blessing of love in my life, I realize my cup is overflowing.
One main source of love in my life is my friends and family. Their love and support through even the darkest of times strengthen me. And I have some much love for them in return. One of the main ways I show my love is through crafting. So I made some Valentine’s to give to some of my closest loved one.
Unfortunately Valentine’s Day only lasts one day, and now it’s already come to a close… until next year. But all the grand Valentine’s gestures don’t have to be a once a year thing. Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t wait to shower each other with tons of extra signs of affection until there was a designated day? I for one want to strive to spread a little bit more Valentine’s Day love during the other 364 days of the year.
So what can you do to keep the Valentine’s Day spirit year round?
Text, Email, or Call your loved ones to let them know you care and are thinking of them.
As You Wish
Tell the people in your life, “I love you” often and sincerely.
Little token gifts now and then make loved ones feel remembered. Remember it’s not about how much you spend, but about how much thought you put into it. It can even be something handmade like a card.
Heart to Heart
The most profound way to show your love is simply by being there for your loved one as they experience the ups and downs of life. Be a listening and compassionate ear!
What other ideas do you have to create an atmosphere of Valentine’s Day love all year round? Please leave your suggestions in the comments!
Life is hardly ever what we expect it to be. The harder we try to plan out our lives, the more God shows us that He has bigger things in store for us. Like when you try to hold sand in the palm of your hand. Relax your grip completely on your life and the pieces of your life all fall through the cracks. Plan your life too tightly and it all starts to slip through your fingers despite your best efforts. But God’s hands are infinite. He can hold all the sand of our lives and more. He won’t let any sand slip away if we allow Him to help us hold it. We simply have to turn to Him and ask for His help, love and guidance in ALL things.
Sand in it’s size is much like the minutia of our lives. Tiny in the grand scheme of things. When struggling to hang on to the little granules, we often forget to pull back and see the larger picture. We are worried about loosing a few grains of sand when we are standing on the beaches of infinite blessings if we would only look around and realize it. Not that each grain isn’t important, but we shouldn’t let it distract us from remembering who we are and where we are going as divine children of Heavenly Father on our journey back to Him.
But in the topsy turviness of life, all this is all to easy to forget. And suddenly you aren’t just loosing sand, you’re up to you’re being consumed, even suffocated by it.
A few months and a lifetime ago… or back in November, I celebrated my 30th Birthday with a Mocktail Soiree. I was surrounded by numerous friends and family and had a wonderful time. I was in good health, and I was able to walk around the party. That night was a high point for me, and I had no idea I was headed for a very low point just a week or so later. I had plans for how I would spend the next several months. Plans I intended to keep.
Then a series of events led to a serious health decline that landed me in the hospital with my life at stake. A series of serious infections caused the autoimmune disease I have, Myasthenia Gravis, to flare making me unable to breathe on my own so that I required a ventilator just a week after my party.
Life is strange. Unpredictable and sometimes difficult to comprehend.
As I fought for my life in the hospital, some might wonder if I was left asking why God would allow me to withstand this hardship. Why would God allow me to suffer so much? And if that’s the case, what does it say about God?
To which I would answer, I asked nothing of the sort. Though it might be tempting to blame God when things go “wrong” in our lives, that is an entirely counterproductive approach. Heavenly Father provides us trials in our lives as a backdrop against which to bloom and grow. Without it we would never progress and become more like our divine parents. My health trials have given me a chance to learn things about myself that I may not have otherwise (or may have taken much longer to learn otherwise). I have become more sensitive to the needs of others and to my own needs. I have become more introspective and intuitive. I have gained faith and perspective that even the seemingly worst things come with spiritual gifts.
He also gives us trials as a chance to practice choosing and agency – or being utilizers of His gift of freewill. When we exercise our divine right of freewill and choose good, we can grow closer to Heaven Father.
It is hard to see this larger picture when in the moment. Just like it is hard to see the beach for what it is when grappling with the granules of sand. But when we put the sand of our lives in God’s capable and infinitely wise hands the landscapes of eternity will become more apparent to us. And for that we will be blessed even more than we can fathom now.
“And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours.
And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more.”
Why gratitude? I’ve been in the hospital. I’ve been sick. Really sick. Several weeks on life support when I was too weak to breathe on my own. So though there’s been moments of fear, of anger, of bitterness, of longing, of frustration, when I think about what has really filled my heart throughout this ordeal it is gratitude. This experience has left me so so so grateful for my life!
My family has been amazing. They’ve been here nearly every single day to make sure things went right and to be my support and my company. To hold my hand and to just let me know they love me.
My friends… I can’t even think about how hugely the’ve been here for me without getting teary eyed. They’ve sent cards and gifts. And most importantly they’ve showed up and entertained during these long dark weeks. My friends make me feel so loved. I don’t know how I’m so deserving, but I try to be better everyday to deserve how well my friends treat me.
My Heavenly Father and Savior Jesus Christ. Without them I would be so lost. They give me the strength to endure these tough times. And I am grateful for these hard times as the polish me into the person my Father in Heaven would have me be.
My self expression. I’ve spent most of the past six weeks a complete mute. Communicating by writing notes either on paper or one my laptop since it’s rather hard to talk with a breathing tube down your throat. But last night I got a special valve to put on my tracheotomy that allows me to start to speak again.
I love getting snail mail. (I think everyone does really.) But there’s only one thing I love more getting snail mail, and that’s sending it. I enjoy letting my friends and family know how much I love them and how awesome they are. What better way to do that than to write it out and stick a stamp on it? I like to take it one level further by making the cards I send out by hand.
Using blank note cards, scraps of pretty papers left over from larger scrapbook pages, stickers, gems, and other embellishments, I try to make each and every card a little work of art. I see it as a challenge to make each one as unique as possible – otherwise I just get bored with the whole process. I usually spend longer planning the card than I do actually assembling it because to me the layout is the most important part, followed by the materials.
Here are some examples from Christmas:
And here are some examples from Valentine’s day this year:
Finally, here are some miscellaneous examples from some other occasions:
Why do I go to such great lengths to make greeting cards? Well not only is it a fun creative outlet for me, but I never know what kind a difference a small gesture like a handmade card or a hand written letter might have in someone’s life.
When I was 16 years old, I was going through a very rough time emotionally. I was struggling with under-treated OCD and suicidal depression at the time, and on this one particular day, I was feeling like harming myself, but something made me decide to get the mail. I almost never got snail mail at that age, but when I peered into our mailbox there as a hand addressed envelope waiting for me. Inside was a letter that literally saved my life that day.
That day I became so obsessed with figuring out who had sent the timely and exceptionally kind letter, that I was totally distracted from my dark thoughts. (I did figure out who had sent it by the way.) Someone else’s heartfelt consideration for me a few days prior, came in my hour of need.
It made me realize that small kindnesses like these can change someone’s whole life just as it had changed mine. Someone else acted as God’s instrument and was an answer to my unarticulated prayer, so now years later I try to send out home made greeting cards as often as possible never knowing what effect I may have on someone I don’t even realize is in need. I figure at the very least I’ll brighten someone’s day. Just like someone did for me, I hope to pay it forward and forward and forward.