Thursday, January 2, 2020

9-months and Counting

Today I commemorate a milestone of 9-months. 9-months of anguish, joy, sorrow... I've settled into acceptance and a certain happiness-- which always has an undertow of sorrow. It's hard to explain really. So, I won't try. # Remembering April 2, 2019 # etched in my memory # forgiveness-love-humility keeps me calm

I want to write briefly about my New Year's Day. Wednesday, my husband, children, and I braved the severe storm warning and traveled an hour and a half to have a New Year's family party. We enjoyed french toast dinner with a white elephant gift exchange. This game is always fun! I think that one of the gifts we brought was the topper of the worst, yet pretty funny gift! We boxed up an enormous pumpkin (which we have carefully maintained with our cool household temperatures and window placement) and Halloween chocolates. It was dubbed by one family member as "Pumpkin-pie-in-a-box make it yourself kit"... or something funny like that. :)) I personally LOVE pumpkin pie, baked pumpkin, or pumpkin soup (the last two of which I acquired a taste for in my travels to Australia several decades ago. Hey, I just remembered that I have an old photo of me in Australia in the 90's! I'll post it at the bottom of this post.:)


To get there we drove through some pretty horrible weather. In fact, for about ten seconds (not shown in a photo because I was too scared to think about taking one!), everything went white as we traveled through a very dangerous snowy canyon. Zero visibility with the snow. I have to say it was terrifying! Happily, when we made it through the steep canyon, we were pleased with the sunshine and lighter snow once we surpassed the deadly canyon!

Now... tangent's aside....


This is not the photo I took as I had the following thoughts on the freeway, 
but it is another photo I recently took of a sunny afternoon beyond the snowy canyon.
As we pulled onto the looping freeway to turn into our family's community I looked out over the sunny and dry, dead freeway roadside land and notes touches of orange, yellow, and red among the barren brush. On the Christian radio station, the announcer said: "We wish you a happy 2020 new year!" I took a big breath and calculated the years I've been waiting to see God fulfill his promises to me. I sadly noted that it has been 8 years. I went through my usual questions: "Did I misunderstand the Spirit of God?" "Is there still hope?" "Do I believe in what I perceive as promises?" "Should I give up now?" And so many other questions.....

As I sat there feeling sad, a song begins to play after her New Year's well wishes. And with this bit of non-coincidental hope, I decided that I will continue to trust God's perfect timing-- over my own short-sided impatience.

Here's the song I heard. I hope it helps you hold on to hope for as long as it takes for God to work his mighty miracles.

"Reason" (by Unspoken)

This year's felt like four seasons of winter
And you'd give anything to feel the sun
Always reaching, always climbing
Always second-guessing the timing
But God has a plan, a purpose in this
You are His child and don't you forget


He put that hunger in your heart
He put that fire in your soul
His love is the reason 
(Hey) (Ooh, ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh)
To keep on believing (Hey) (Ooh, ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh)
And when you feel like giving up
When you feel like giving in
His love is the reason (Hey) (Ooh, ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh)
To keep on believing (Hey) (Ooh, ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh)

If we could pull back the curtain of Heaven
We would see His hand on everything
Every hour, every minute
Every second, He's always been in it
Don't let a shadow of a doubt take hold (Take hold)
Hold on to what you already know

He put that hunger in your heart (Hunger in your heart)
He put that fire in your soul (Fire in your soul)
His love is the reason (Hey) (Ooh, ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh)
To keep on believing (Hey) (Ooh, ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh)
And when you feel like giving up (Feel like giving up)
When you feel like giving in (Giving in)
His love is the reason (Hey) (Ooh, ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh)
To keep on believing (Ooh, ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh)It's the reason, ah-ah-ah
It's the reason, ah-ah-ah-ah-ah
His love is the reason, ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh

He's the peace in the madness
That you can't explain
He's the hope in the heartbreak
The rest in the suffering
He's closer than the air you breathe
From the start to the end to the in-between
Don't you dare doubt even for a minute
What He started in you, yeah He's gonna finish

He put that hunger in your heart 
(Hunger in your heart)

He put that fire in your soul
(Fire in your soul)

His love is the reason 
(Your love, Your love) 

(Ooh, ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh)
To keep on believing 
(Just keep on believing) 

(Ooh, ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh)
When you feel like giving up 
(Feel like giving up)
When you feel like giving in (Oh)
His love is the reason (Your love, Your love) 
(Ooh, ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh)
To keep on believing (Yeah)
It's the reason, ah-ah-ah
It's the reason, ah-ah-ah-ah-ah
His love is the reason
It's the reason, ah-ah-ah
It's the reason, ah-ah-ah-ah-ah
His love is the reason (Hey, hey) 



So, what do I do from here? Give up on my dreams? Or keep believing in Him and in myself to know how to understand His voice and His love? 

Well, it's hard, 
but I've got to believe that His love 
is leading forward toward beautiful promises.

I hope that if you have sacred, holy, and righteous desires, that you will keep on believing in His love to shine a rainbow of promise on the landscape before you. It doesn't mean you won't have to pass through some severe storms like I literally did (and figurately have), but in the end it will all be worth it.

I don't have all the answers now. And you won't either-- but if we remember one thing only-- it will help us reach glorious destinations. That truth is that  Jesus Christ is the Possible in impossible and the Hope in hopeless. Jesus is the answer to every question and Jesus is the only way to make it hHome! Please have the courage to follow the Savior's narrow road of promise. 

Trust in God's timing, Love, Christine

My first taste of Vegemite. A joke that Australian's love to play on their visitors!

And my first taste of meat pie-- now that is something to go back for! :) Delicious!


# courage # do not delay # decide your future by today's decision # gone but not forgotten

As I was finishing up this blog post this song line played into my thoughts: "The sun'll come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there'll be sun." I have a lot of sun through the Son of God, but I can hardly wait to see what tomorrow brings with His light to shine upon that new day.





Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Happy New Year

My Dear Reader, 

I just have a moment because I am going to play New Year's Eve games with my family, but I thought I'd share a letter that I wrote my missionary who is serving a mission in West Africa-- for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  We are so proud of his efforts to teach people about Jesus Christ! :) :) :) :)

Anyhow... here are a few of my thoughts to him. I hope it will benefit You. 


Happy New Year to You!
Love, Christine

== Letter excerpt Below==


For sacrament, two people spoke.... My friend Emily... spoke first. She spoke about how she has observed God's love in her life (through several brief examples. Then she shared two personal stories. 
 I really liked when she said that there are "NO boundaries of whom the Lord is willing to help." I hadn't necessarily considered it in that way. 

I liked the reminder that "Where love is, there God is also." But I also wrote in my notes: "Where God is, there is love." Meaning that we must remember that the presence of God exists anywhere that true love is being demonstrated. I continue to strive for love-- even when there is tenseness and anxiety in situations. I have found that if I keep my heart inclined to God with prayers to love that He helps me through tough moments and I don't regret the things I say because I know that my motivation was to speak with His love. This is something I will work on until the day I die because it’s not easy and the natural man and pride tend to pop up! I hope you will work on it too. I love the words by President Thomas S. Monson (which I've probably shared before):

"Never let a problem to be solved, become more important than a person to be loved." 

 
The two stories were these-- simply retold:
 
1. She was a cardiothoracic nurse and one time she was the nurse for Elder Neal A. Maxwell. She said that he showed such beautiful Christ-like love. Every time his family or friends (which were generally apostles) came into his room he introduced Emily to them as though she were someone truly important and special. This experience helped her to catch a glimpse of how the Lord loves her and sees her. (She said in her talk that she's no one special, but I (and so many others) know differently! She has a gift of helping others to feel special and loved!:) 
 
2. She was also a nurse in a lockdown facility which was comprised of men and women who were mentally ill and had also had committed egregious crimes on society but instead of being put in traditional prison they had been put in a controlled hospitalized setting because they are not mentally stable. She said she grew to love these people and one day she asked a patient what makes him want to keep living. His reply was truly profound. He said he wanted to keep living because of the sun that rises in the morning and shines into his cell. 
 
Emily then shared the scripture of Matthew 5:45 and it took on an enhanced meaning in the context of her story: 
"...your Father which is in heaven... maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
I was touched by the symbolism of Christ the son ("sun") of God who can reach even into our darkest prison-like cells of existence. What a glorious concept that His light can shine through the narrow slots of existence and offer hope to even the very most wretched of human beings. 
 
I never understood the power of  Jesus Christ before the last year (well, definitely not as much as I do now), but I have come to truly understand that with the help of God all men and women can repent.
 
Last night as I sat by your brothers' bedside as they fell asleep, I was praying. And as I was praying, I remembered a story I once emailed a dear friend years ago about a story I heard in a BYU devotional about how a man addicted to drugs and alcohol knelt by his bedside and pled with God for help. The Spirit of God enveloped him with love and thus began this man's journey of repentance and returning home. God was able to help him climb out of the darkness that he had been in because the light of the Son shone through his prison-like existence. 
 
While not exactly the same conditions, I still have felt the light of the Lord's love penetrate the darkness of my mind and I have been renewed and strengthened by his perfect and patient love for me. I continue to be renewed each day as I humble myself before the Lord and allow Him to teach me of my worth in His eyes.
 
My dear [son], I hope that you will understand that the world places a lot of emphasis on talents, ability, and trophy-worthy successes, but Heavenly Father doesn't look upon us that way. He truly looks at our hearts and the motivations that drive us.  
 
Your worth has nothing to do with successes or statistics (not even those of a spiritual nature-- like baptisms), he cares about whether you are willing to be humble before him and willing to do His will above your own. When we are willing to consecrate ourselves to Him, then He can use us in beautiful ways and He can truly make our weaknesses become strong, and he will compensate for our shortcomings.
 
This week in my scripture study of Jacob 5, I discovered something I have never noticed before. I began to view myself (and others) in terms of the tree in need of pruning. 


64 Wherefore, dig about them, and prune them, and dung them once more, for the last time, for the end draweth nigh. And if it be so that these last grafts shall grow, and bring forth the natural fruit, then shall ye prepare the way for them, that they may grow.


65 And as they begin to grow ye shall clear away the branches which bring forth bitter fruit, according to the strength of the good and the size thereof; and ye shall not clear away the bad thereof all at once, lest the roots thereof should be too strong for the graft, and the graft thereof shall perish, and I lose the trees of my vineyard.

Jacob 5:64-65


I’ve been thinking about how Heavenly Father has been helping to "clear away" the branches in my life which bring forth "bitter fruit" (Jacob 5:65). He doesn't do it all at once because I would be imbalanced and topple over. Instead, he gradually helps me to prune away the parts that are weak and unholy. 
 
I know there is a larger gospel application to missionary work in the vineyard of the Lord, such as you are doing, but I read it with an analogy to my life, and I take comfort to consider that this grafting in of righteousness is a possibility for each one of us. I am so grateful that God is a God of second chances (which is also signified in this chapter). I am grateful that he can reclaim us from a spiritually dead condition and bring new life into our roots and branches. Oh, what a glorious plan we are part of!
 
The second sacrament talk was by Michael... He shared several touching stories about how he saw the Love of God in his life-- as well as the power of repentance to change and improve.
 
Here are a few of his stories:
 
1. When he was a young teenager he went to see his bishop because he felt he needed to repent of a few things. He said he could not remember what the bishop said, but Brother F... said he remembered the Bishop's smile and kindness with him-- despite how very uncomfortable and embarrassed he felt to tell the bishop what he had done. When he left the bishop's office, he said that "The sun never felt warmer." He felt like he was "walking on air." (Compare this experience to the idea of the light of the sun shining through the prison bars.)
 
He said that repentance is not a one-time thing. He shared a scripture (Alma 13:10) and said: " Accept righteousness or perish' That makes the decision easier, doesn't it?!" 
 
Alma 13:10
Now, as I said concerning the holy order, or this high priesthood, there were many who were ordained and became high priests of God; and it was on account of their exceeding faith and repentance, and their righteousness before God, they choosing to repent and work righteousness rather than to perish;
 
Story 2: When he was 12-years-old, he finished reading the Book of Mormon. He took on Moroni's challenge and knelt to pray. He said he got no answer. He repeated this several nights in a row with no answer. He was beginning to have doubts about The Book of Mormon. He was beginning to doubt because he had no answer. However, one night, after his repeated attempt he did receive an answer-- "You already know it's true." And he realized that he did! He had known it all along.
 
. . .
 
Story 4: He shared a baptism story of when it was pouring rain and the only place to baptize was in the river. A sister got up and said the opening prayer, in which she petitioned the Lord to clear the rain for the baptism. He had a major lesson in faith when the group opened the door to walk through the rain and it completely ceased. They were able to do baptisms without a drop of rain. When they walked back into the building following the river baptism, the rain started up as heavily as before! 
 
. . . [story excerpt removed]

Sweet [son], you were a child born ought of infertility! You too are a miracle baby! You too are physical evidence of the outpouring of blessings from the love of God. And how thankful I am that you are consecrating your life in his service as a missionary in Liberia. This is how you show your love to the Lord. I suspect that you are anxious to start your non-missionary life which probably won’t include as much physical daily exertion, but I hope and pray that you will spend your life consecrating yourself to His work as best as you can. That consecration looks different for each person, but I hope you will not sell yourself short in having the life experiences available to you-- if you choose them. 
 
Anyhow... I hope that while you are on a mission you will allow God to teach you what goals to set for yourself in order to remain spiritually minded when you get home. You do not have to be on a mission to be spiritually minded and spiritually motivated. You can enjoy the benefits of feeling the Spirit each day-- if you choose to position yourself to hear His voice.

My beloved son, I have confidence in you and the wonderful choices that you will make which will bring you joy and will also please your Heavenly Father. There is a lot of sin and evil in this world, but as long as you regularly repent and hold to the iron rod you need not fear because you have a glorious future ahead of you through the power of Jesus Christ!

I love you,
Mom


P.P.S. I forgot to write to my missionary son about another story that the Brother shared. He told how when he was in the Philippines, they had a yearly crucifixion ceremony in which men would go down the street wearing crowns, carrying a cross and whipping their bare backs with a whip. (He noted that some even hung themselves on a cross.) He noted a scripture about how Christ laid down his life and because of him we can repent and find forgiveness and joy. 



He didn't say it, but in my mind, I considered how we (or those we love) sometimes needlessly punish ourselves and futilely beat ourselves-- when what we need to do is give everything to the Lord and trust him to bear what we never will be able to carry without Him. How thankful I am for the Savior!


P.P.S. I'd like to add that some pruning must be done quickly before it has deadly consequences (both spiritually and physically). In this case, I speak of addictions such as drugs, alcohol, and pornography. Please get help for these-- and immediately. Stop making excuses about how you are in control or that it's not hurting you. Your wellbeing, healthy life, and beautiful future depends upon it! Please don't delay. The love of God can help you through the darkness and soon you will experience more than a narrow glimmer of sunligh (Son light) through your cell, but You will instead feel the beautiful warmth of God's perfect love and light upon every cell of your being. It is incredible, amazing, completely liberating, and indeed, His light is GLORIOUS! :) #You ARE more Glorious than you can comprehend #You are a beloved child of God!






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