100 in 1000

Yep, I know. It has been a LOOOONNGG time. But you know what? I learned something in that long time. I learned that I needed to do this for me and nobody else. I started writing two years ago because I thought I had something to say…but mostly because I thought that what I had to say could make me some moolah$ on the side. Turns out, I’m not THAT good.

But here’s what I learned: I don’t need to be that good. A week ago, I went back and read what I wrote a year and a half ago. And I realized that I really loved what I wrote, despite what some people said to me regarding my posts. I loved it because I felt like I gave 100% to what I wrote. I loved it because I gave ME to what I wrote. So, I’m gonna try again and this time, I’m doing it just for ME. 🙂

A while back, a long-time friend of mine posted her own blog post that caught my eye. She was attempting to do 99 goals in 999 days. I loved that idea. I loved it for a few reasons:

  1. I’m not very good at keeping personal goals.
  2. They looked like really cool experiences to try.
  3. They were focused, but not like “New Year’s Resolutions” focused. They were just something to work on.
  4. She GREW in many different ways from her experiences.

I was super impressed and inspired by her experience. So, I did what I’ve learned to do as a teacher: I adopted and adapted. 😀 I stole her ideas, but made them my own. Sorry, friend! You were an inspiration for me!

100 in 1000
These are 100 things I want to accomplish in the next 1000 days.  I will document my experiences here and each time I finish a goal, I will add $10 to my savings account.

  • Start Date: January 1, 2018
  • End Date: September 24, 2020

Outdoors

  1. Hike in all 5 National Parks in Utah
  2. Camp overnight in Zion National Park
  3. Plan and carry out a multi-day backpacking trip
  4. Hike the Subway in Zion NP
  5. Complete a Color Country bicycle tour (Will dad sag with the trailer?)
  6. Hike the Diamond Valley and Dammeron Valley volcanoes
  7. Complete a full century under 6 hours
  8. Ride LOTOJA
  9. Camp under the stars
  10. Go camping with friends
  11. Hike Mount Timpanogos

Get the Most out of St. George

  1. Experience 10 new things in St. George
  • Food Truck Roundup
  • Attend 3 concerts at the Tabernacle
  • Downtown Farmer’s Market
  • George Fest
  • Movie on the Square
  • Play Frisbee golf
  • Golf at least 9 holes at 2 courses
  • Visit the desert garden
  • Volunteer for three races of various sports
  • Attend 3 parades

Be a Foodie

  1. Eat out at 10 new places, such as:
  • Even Stevens
  • Capriotti’s
  • Capeletti’s
  • Twisted Noodle
  • Anasazi Steakhouse
  • Gun Barrel
  • Apollo Burger
  • Bear Paw
  • Rigatti’s
  • The Habit

Get the Most out of Utah

  1. Go to “This is the Place” Monument
  2. Go to 5 festivals, such as:
  • Peach Days – Hurricane
  • Swiss Days—Santa Clara
  • Corn Festival—Enterprise
  • Strawberry Days – Pleasant Grove
  • Chalk Art Festival at Kayenta
  • Provo Freedom Festival–balloon festival
  • Chalk Art Festival at Riverwoods
  • Jubilee of Trees
  • Dicken’s Festival
  1. Go to the Utah State Fair
  2. Museum of Church History
  3. Olympic Park in Park City, including Alpine Slide $
  4. Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City
  5. Go to Dinosaur Museum in Vernal, UT $
  6. Take a road trip through 5 of Utah’s national parks in one week
  7. Visit 5 new temples:
  • Payson
  • Vernal
  • Bountiful
  • Cedar City
  • Jordan River

Travel

  1. Plan return trip to Hawaii
  2. Learn to surf in Hawaii
  3. Complete a humanitarian service trip
  4. Overlook the Grand Canyon from all rims
  5. Stand in four states at once
  6. Experience Death Valley in the summertime
  7. Stay at the Bellagio in Las Vegas
  8. Go on a cruise

Academia/Intellectual growth

  1. Complete one certification (LDS S&I)
  2. Write a blog post once a week for three months
  3. Watch 10 movies I’ve never seen that are older than I am
  4. See 5 documentaries
  5. Read 10 of the following books:
  • The First 2,000 Years – Cleon Skousen
  • The Lost 500 Years: What Happened Between the Old and New Testaments – S. Kent Brown and Holzaphel
  • The Cleansing of America – Cleon Skousen
  • The Signs of the Times – Perry and Perry
  • 1776 – David McCullough
  • Jesus the Christ – James E. Talmage
  • Jerusalem: The Eternal City – Skinner, Ogden, Galbraith
  • Biography of Gordon B Hinckley – Sheri Dew
  • Women and the Priesthood – Sheri Dew
  • Doctrine Series – David A. Bednar
  • Mere Christianity – C.S. Lewis
  • The Infinite Atonement – Callister
  • The Messiah Series – Bruce R. McConkie
  • Les Miserables – Victor Hugo
  • The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkein
  • The Qur’an…in English
  1. Read 5 well-referenced/influential books about an aspect in my field that I’m interested in
  2. Read 1 book that I would never have chosen

Living My Religion

  1. Missionary work: Give someone a Book of Mormon
  2. Missionary work: post 20 LDS-themed things on Facebook, Twitter, or my blog
  3. Emergency Preparedness: Make a legit 72-hour kit and acquire water storage
  4. Family History: Record dad’s and mom’s stories
  5. Family History: Record grandparents’ stories
  6. Family History: Complete 6 generations
  7. Service: Find a weekly service opportunity and do it for at least 3 months
  8. Temple Service: perform all ordinances as proxy for a deceased ancestor in one day
  9. Memorize The Family Proclamation
  10. Read the Book of Mormon in 30 days
  11. Read the entire King James Version of the Bible cover to cover
  12. Memorize 20 scriptures
  13. Complete Personal Progress

Learning New Things

  1. Take a Polynesian dance class
  2. Take a cooking class
  3. Take golf lessons
  4. Learn to play tennis
  5. Take a pottery class
  6. Experience paint night
  7. Be able to confidently play 20 songs out of the Primary Children’s Songbook
  8. Be able to confidently play 5 hymns out of the normal hymnal
  9. Learn about and identify 20 new local plants/trees/flowers/birds
  10. Learn how to drive a motorcycle
  11. Read the Book of Mormon in Italian

Physical Health

  1. Swim half a mile
  2. Walk a half marathon
  3. Do yoga daily for one month
  4. Weigh 175 pounds
  5. Ride three centuries in a year

Healthy Eating

  1. Host Thanksgiving dinner at my house
  2. Eat 5 vegetables I’ve never tried
  3. Try 100 new recipes, documenting each with photos and rating them
  4. Eat fish twice per week for a month
  5. Develop a maintainable eating lifestyle centered around whole foods
  6. Eat only fresh foods for one week

Experiences

  1. Join or create a choir
  2. Attend the services for 3 churches:
  • Trinity Lutheran
  • 7th Day Adventist
  • Grace Episcopal Church
  • Calvary Chapel
  • Methodist Church
  • Catholic Church
  • Buddhist Church
  1. Go in a hot air balloon
  2. Witness a sunrise and a sunset in the same day
  3. Go paintballing
  4. Stay up late watching a meteor shower
  5. Take a spontaneous trip for a weekend
  6. Go to ComicCon

Personal Finance

  1. Use my budget for three consecutive months, tracking all purchases
  2. Pay off $10,000 of student loans
  3. Pay off all consumer debt (not mortgage or student loans)
  4. Have a 3 month emergency fund.

Culture

  1. Go to a Southwest Symphony Concert
  2. Go to a drive-in movie
  3. Go to a play at the Shakespearean Festival
  4. Participate in a cooking competition

Family

  1. Plan a family reunion and carry it out
  2. Babysit 5 times
  3. Host a family dinner at my house once a month for six months
  4. Write Thank You notes to people daily for one month

Love Deeply

  1. Take a selfie every day for a month
  2. Go to dinner and a movie by yourself
  3. Buy a meal for someone else
  4. Hug 10 different people in one day

Other

  1. Take a gun safety class
  2. Obtain a concealed carry permit
  3. Grow a vegetable garden
  4. Create my own recipe book

 

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Mists of Darkness

It has been months and months…at first, it was some gloomy comments about some of my previous blog posts and I got a little discouraged. Then, it was nearing the end of my first year teaching and the world felt like it was slowing caving in. I couldn’t keep up with it all and I needed to pick through and do the things that weren’t going to add to pending insanity.

School is now out for the summer (allow me to do a little happy dance!!), allowing for some breathing time and some times to sit and reflect what I love to do and what priorities I would like to make in my life in the coming weeks and months. Besides work priorities, I have made 2 others: write more and ride more. It’s time to work on the first; I’ve already been working on the second one. Interestingly, though not in my mind while riding those painfully long 75 miles, I was, at the time, passing through what could be considered my own small mist of darkness…

20160604_125749

“Ride the Gap” 75 miles and Parowan Gap Petroglyphs

 

In Lehi’s dream, he saw a dark and dreary wilderness, filled with multitudes of people that were traveling along various pathways. After partaking of the fruit of the Tree of Life, he thought of others that he wanted to share it with. He invited his own sons, but “they would not come” (1 Ne. 8:18). He also saw “numberless concourses of people” (1 Ne. 8:21) that started walking on a path that led to the Tree. As they walked along the path, they passed through a mist of darkness, causing them to wander off different paths and were lost.

Lehi saw another group of people that found the same pathway, but they also “caught hold of the end of the rod of iron and they did press forward through the mist of darkness, clinging to the rod of iron” (1 Ne. 8:24) until they found the Tree. However, when they got there, they looked around and saw people making fun of them. They turned away from the Tree, “fell away into forbidden paths and were lost” (1 Ne. 8:28).

mistsofdarkness

The mists of darkness are schemed to make travel along the path difficult for every traveler. It is darkness conceived by the temptations and distractions of the devil, doomed to blind the eyes and harden the hearts of all who pass through it (1 Ne. 12:17). It perverts the ways of God and allures travelers to broad roads and dark wastes (1 Ne. 12:17, 13:27).

Travelers afflicted by the mists of darkness are plagued with fiery darts (1 Ne. 15:24, Eph. 6:16), projectiles aimed directly at their vulnerabilities, weak spots, and chinks in their armor. The rulers of darkness, principalities, and powers reign over the spiritual wickedness that permeates this mist of apostasy, darkness and despair (Eph. 6:12). They sneer and revel each time one precious soul is lost and unseeing in the vast abyss.

There was, however, a third multitude that pressed forward, “caught hold of the end of the rod of iron and they did press their way forward, continually holding fast” (1 Ne. 8:30) to the rod until they found the Tree of Life and partook of the fruit. While the first two groups of people along the path passed through a mist of darkness and were eventually lost, no mention is made of this third group ever being afflicted by the mists of darkness.

Wait, what?! You’re saying we don’t have to have these dark, miserable days when we feel surrounded by darkness on all sides? If so, sign me up!

Surely, we will all have to pass through mists of darkness even Christ Himself wasn’t exempt. Satan, the prince of darkness, tempted Christ three times while in wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). As the Savior knelt in Gethsemane and hung on the Cross of Calvary, He saw and felt the darkness and temptations we would experience as we passed through our own mists.

Of this experience, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said,

“It was required, indeed it was central to the significance of the Atonement, that this perfect Son who had never spoken ill nor done wrong nor touched an unclean thing had to know how the rest of humankind—us, all of us—would feel when we did commit such sins. For His Atonement to be infinite and eternal, He had to feel what it was like to die not only physically but spiritually, to sense what it was like to have the divine Spirit withdraw, leaving one feeling totally, abjectly, hopelessly alone.”

As you and I –we– pass through the mists of darkness in life, those times when we feel alone and afraid, when temptations, distractions, and spiritual wickedness are besieging us from all sides, when we feel that the fiery darts are striking closer and closer to our hearts, Elder Holland promises this: “Because Jesus walked such a long, lonely path utterly alone, we do not have to do so…Trumpeted from the summit of Calvary is the truth that we will never be left alone nor unaided, even if sometimes we may feel that we are.” (“None Were With Him”, Ensign May 2009).

Although we will pass through mists of darkness along the path, we will not get lost if we:

  • Put on the armor of God, especially the shield of faith that will quench all fiery darts directed our way (Eph. 6:16)
  • Continually HOLD FAST to the Iron Rod, which is the word of God (1 Ne. 8:30), and bind ourselves to it
  • Always remember to look and keep looking at the Tree of Life, which is Jesus Christ, the Love of God (Numbers 21:8).

Like the third group of people, you may not even notice that the mists are there if you don’t give them any heed and continually “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men” (2 Ne. 31:20). “His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come” (“The Living Christ”).

As we progress along the path from here, we will experience darkness, distractions, and temptations that will be spiritually challenging. To find the Tree, which is Jesus Christ, we must use our faith as a shield, hold fast to the Iron Rod, look to the Savior, and never let go. Even in the darkest parts of our journey along the path of life, the times we feel most alone, we must remember and never forget that Jesus Christ walked this path alone so we wouldn’t have to. Just hold on through the darkest of hours…the Word of God (John 1:1) will lead you straight to the Tree.

Spiritual Zombies

Years ago, I thought the “zombie apocalypse” that started with several movies, games, shows, and books would be just a fad that our society would go through, much like Hammerpants and leg warmers. But amazingly, zombies have held a tight grasp through the changing tides of societal shifts in entertainment.

While I never bought into the whole “Walking Dead”/zombie movement, I was horrifyingly introduced to them by my dad on New Year’s Eve a few years ago. Will Smith’s “I Am Legend” had been out for several months and I was home for the holidays, so he suggested (around 10:00 PM) that we watch it and stay up to celebrate the new year. I consented and sat through the next two hours of on-the-edge-of-my-seat-terror that evil of such kind could lurk in the dark shadows of neighborhoods and buildings. If that wasn’t bad enough, after the movie was over, I absentmindedly opened the front door (now after midnight in the dark) and let my dog, Murphy, out to do her business. As I was waiting for her, my head began to swivel quickly back and forth, searching for life-sucking zombies that may be lurking in the shadows around my own house. Convinced that they were on their way, I shrieked for Murphy to get back in the house as I was in a full-on sprint through the doorway. My dad was surprised at my speedy retreat back into the house, laughing his head off and wondering what had me so spooked. Gee, you got me watching scary movies…I wonder!!

Since that dreadful experience, I have learned how to deal with and avoid zombies and “walkers”. If you are curious what I learned, please check out this video that I found beyond helpful:

As hilarious as the video is, there is some absolute truth to it and how to deal with zombies, even the ones that lurk in the dark shadows of our souls.

SpiritualZombie

Spiritual zombies. Yep, there it is. Here’s another phrase that I could have sworn I coined, but alas, I googled this one too…and someone already said it. But, the “spiritually walking dead” I think is mine. 🙂 Hehe!

SpirituallyWalkingDeadThe first chapter of Isaiah is known as the preface to the rest of the 66 chapters of his book. He begins by telling Judah about the spiritual condition of their hearts. They had rebelled against God and had become sinful, iniquitous, evildoers and full of corruption. Their “whole head [was] sick” and their “whole heart faint”. From head to toe, they were spiritually ill, covered in “wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores”. Their spiritual wounds had been left open to infection and no healing ointment had been applied in order to start the healing process. In essence, Judah had become the spiritually walking dead, spiritual zombies.

Having worked in the medical field for several years, I know that there are people that are walking around with physically open sores that need healing. And I would say that the majority of people are seeking treatment to heal those wounds. But what about those that are walking around, spiritually wounded or even dead, and don’t physically appear to need any kind of healing?

What does spiritual death look like? Perhaps it doesn’t always look the way we think it does. For Judah, they were openly rebelling against God, ripe for destruction and Isaiah prophesied MANY times that such destruction was imminent. But for us, today in our world, what do spiritual zombies look like? The Apostle Paul taught that in our days, apostasy of all kinds would exist:

  • Departing from the faith
  • Giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils
  • Speaking lies in hypocrisy
  • Forbidding to marry (I’d better be careful with this one…sensitive subject! :-0)
  • Abstaining from meats

He went on in another chapter and said that in the last days, perilous times would come and men would be:

  • 2 lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
  • 3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
  • 4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
  • 5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof…
  • 6 For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins

Like real zombies, these spiritual zombies creep into our lives and lead us away captive to sin and destruction. But I almost think that spiritual wounds and spiritual death look even more different in the last days than in Isaiah’s time. Spiritual death, by definition, means a separation from God. And a “separation” can be the act of moving away from God or even a disconnection with God, which can take any form.

It may start like someone struggling with some doctrines of the Gospel. A disconnection may be present in someone struggling with same-sex attraction and how to balance it with their religion. It might look like someone contemplating suicide because they feel no one, including God, understands the despair they are experiencing. It might even be a person that never misses a Church meeting, but doesn’t fully support the words of living prophets.

They don’t have to be huge cuts, but if those spiritual wounds somehow get infected and start to affect the spiritual health of a person, they begin to fester. Meg Ryan said it perfectly in “French Kiss” when she said, “Fester, fester, fester. Rot, rot, rot.” Then their spirits begin to rot, until eventually, they become dead to the goodness going on around them. Paul quickly admonishes us to do the same as the video above: “From such turn away”. Just walk away. Walk away from the death, disease and darkness that is associated with the spiritually walking dead.

Like real zombies, spiritual zombies avoid light. They live and lurk in darkness. That’s why “nothing good happens after midnight”. That’s why horror movies are always dark and mysterious. That’s why we are too often, but for good reason, afraid of the dark. Joseph Smith said, “Herein is the condemnation of the world; that light hath come into the world, and men choose darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil.” The spiritually dead and dying will always choose darkness. Isaiah even invited us to “walk in the light of the Lord”.

As a self-test to see how spiritually alive we are, we might try asking ourselves the same question that Samuel the Lamanite, standing atop a wall, asked the wicked Nephites: “How long will ye choose darkness rather than light?” If we choose to dwell on the dark and negative things in our lives, it will cloud our thinking and will keep us in the dark. Dark storms of trial and despair will come, but they will also pass. I wonder if some of the most comforting words in the scriptures aren’t “and it came to pass…”. One of my most favorite hymns and the first line of the first hymn in the book starts: “The morning breaks, the shadows flee…”

Those shadows won’t last long and when we look to the Light that is breaking through the dark storm clouds of our lives, that is breaking over the eastern dawn after a long, frightful night, the shadows of our spiritual darkness will begin to dissipate and the festering of spiritual wounds will begin to be healed with the Ointment only He can provide.

In fact, in the very same chapter that Isaiah more or less refers to the people of Judah as spiritual zombies, he gives them the treatment they need to once again be spiritually whole and alive. He said,

  • 16 ¶Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;
  • 17 Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.
  • 18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

When we turn to Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, and allow Him to cleanse our spiritual wounds, He will drive away all the spiritual zombies that lurk in the shadows of our souls. In any case, if you see a zombie, spiritual or otherwise, just walk away and turn toward the Light.

 

 

 

 

Choose the Good Part

It was a beautiful Sabbath morning, so I made my way to my reading chair conveniently placed near the window with the sunrise streaming through the blinds. I cracked the window a bit and let some fresh air in.

This is why I live here, I thought to myself. It’s so pretty here!

Pulling out my scriptures, I found my place in 2 Nephi 2. Lehi taught me about agency and the need for opposition. He spoke to me about the importance of a Messiah that would overcome sin and redeem all of mankind from the effects of the Fall of Adam. He even counseled me to choose eternal life over the captivity that comes from sin and following Satan.

As I finished studying 2 Nephi 2, I noticed a familiar phrase in the last verse. Lehi said “I have chosen the good part…”

Even though it is underlined in green in my scriptures, I hadn’t paid much more attention to it before. This time, however, I was reminded of one other place that I have heard that phrase before.

“Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.
But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou are careful and troubled about many things:
But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)

MaryMarthaIntrigued by this particular phrasing, I wondered if it was found anywhere else in the scriptures. Thanks to our trusty phones, this search is SO much easier than it used to be! Using Gospel Library, I searched for “good part” in the scriptures. I only found 2!

These two stories are the only places where choosing the good part is used. They can’t even be related because Lehi lived 600 years before Martha was complaining about Mary not doing her chores! There is no way Lehi could have read this account in the brass plates because it wasn’t there yet and there is maybe no way that the Savior could have quoted Lehi, unless of course the Savior is quoting from Lehi’s record without ever having read it.

And the other thing that struck me was that in Lehi’s account, he says “I have chosen the good part, according to the words of the prophet.”

Which means that SOME prophet, of which we do not have record, refers to choosing the good part…and the Savior could have been quoting THAT prophet…hmm…

Regardless of who said it first, what does it mean? What does it mean to “choose the good part”? Mary was blessed because she chose the good part and was promised that it wouldn’t be taken away from her. Lehi left this as his last parting testimony to his son, Jacob.

What was so important about choosing the good part that the Savior quoted it to a busy, hard-working but distracted woman and Lehi bore testimony of it just before he died? And if it is of such importance, why only two recorded references?

In 2003, Sister Bonnie D. Parkin said, “The Savior’s response strikingly clarified what mattered most. On that evening in Martha’s home, the good part was not in the kitchen; it was at the Lord’s feet. Dinner could wait…

“Like Mary, I hunger to feast at the Savior’s feet, while, like Martha, I need to somehow find the laundry room floor, empty my inbox, and serve my husband something other than cold pizza…I don’t have lots of time. Like all of you, I have to choose…These two loved the Lord and wanted to show that love. On this occasion, it seems to me that Mary expressed her love by hearing His word, while Martha expressed hers by serving Him.”

We could easily have a discussion about love languages and how we communicate our love for others, but it would be much more than you want to read.  🙂 Suffice it to say, Martha and Mary were showing their love for the Lord the best way THEY knew how. Sister Parkin went on to say, “I don’t believe the Lord was saying there are Marthas and there are Marys. Jesus did not dismiss Martha’s concern, but instead redirected her focus by saying choose ‘that good part.’

So, have you figured it out yet? 😀 What is “that good part” that shall never be taken from us? In Lehi’s testimony to Jacob, he gives the answer and it is so simple. (In theory, right?)

28 And now, my sons, I would that ye should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit;

Sister Parkin chimed in: “The only thing that is needful is to choose eternal life. We choose daily. As we seek, listen, and follow the Lord, we are encircled in the arms of His love–a love that is pure.”

Daily, every living day, we choose. We wake up every morning and choose whether we will “choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men” or we “choose captivity and death”. Satan wants us to give up and give in. He wants us to be just like him, miserable and alone.

When we choose eternal life and we choose Christ, we choose “that good part” of the gospel and all the blessings the Father has for each of us and that blessing cannot be taken from us as long as we seek for and choose Him. And can you imagine for just a moment what it must feel like to be encircled in the arms of His love every single day?!?! That’s the good part!

“Faith It Till You Make It”

Last week, I was in Sunday School and we were having a discussion about the ironic plight of being single, attending a singles ward on, of all days, Valentine’s Day.

Throughout the course of the class, several members made comments:

  • sometimes we have to fake how “happy” we are in a singles ward
  • put on a plastic smile about how hard it is to show up alone
  • often sit alone
  • and leave alone

Essentially, the overall message for several of these comments was “fake it till you make it.”

One sister commented that “faking it till you make it” requires a whole lot of faith because you don’t know how things will turn out and you don’t know how long you’ll have to hang on alone.

Immediately, my mind married the phonetically similar words of “fake” and “faith” and I thought of a brilliant new adage: “FAITH it till you make it.” Then I Googled it. It’s not new. 😩

2016-02-21 18.20.18

Just when you think you are brilliant…you discover that somebody was brilliant before you were. 😉 Dang! Haha!

Well, like most things in my life, this spurred a search about “faithing it till you make it” and I am loving what I am finding. It is so incredible that a Father in Heaven, who has SOOOOO many children to watch over, can take time to give us ALL personalized instruction and tender mercies when we are in need…every time.

Young Women’s Personal Progress on Faith said to read about faith in the Bible Dictionary, so I went there first. It first starts with the scriptural definition: “Faith is to hope for things which are not seen, but which are true” (Heb. 11:1; Alma 32:21), but the next part taught me a deeper-than-expected lesson.

Here’s what it said:

“The Lord has revealed himself and his perfect character, possessing in their fulness all the attributes of love, knowledge, justice, mercy, unchangeableness, power, and every other needful things, so as to enable  the mind of man to place confidence in him without reservation.”

Wait, I thought. Did I read that right? Did it just say that the Lord has done everything in His power necessary for me to believe Him, to have faith in Him, to place my full confidence in Him…WITHOUT RESERVATION? Like fully, completely, 100%-ly?

SO, why do I so often feel like I approach Him WITH some sort of reservation? Why do I so often feel like my faith is somehow-unbeknownst-to-me lacking? And more pointedly, how does a single woman remain faithfully righteous despite feeling like she’s not progressing in the ways the rest of the world-okay, Mormon world-does?

After pondering the words I read for a while, I decided that there are no fence-sitters when it comes to the gospel. We are either moving toward God or away from Him. Our thoughts, actions, and/or behaviors are either leading to Him or the other direction, but nobody gets to sit idly by on this one. We all make a choice which direction we are heading. The strange thing is that too often, we are moving away from Him, while trying to keep focused on Him. If you have ever tried to walk backwards for any length of time, you know that at some point you have to turn your sight to look at the path you are heading-backwards. This means turning your focus from what is in front of you to what is behind you, even though you are walking in that direction. It is at that point that we shift our focus from the Savior and turn our gaze from Him. This shift, or turn, in our focus usually leads to us to physically turn around and walk normally in the same direction we were headed-away from our Savior and away from everything He has already done for us. The Bible Dictionary taught me that a lack of faith, or a turning away from God, often leads to iniquity, which always leads to despair. When we demonstrate a lack of faith in our Savior, it can ultimately lead us to feelings of despair and hopelessness.

When I read that, I first wondered how deep I fell into the iniquity pool, but I’ll spare you the long list of my faults and weaknesses… 😩 I then realized that perhaps my faith is better off than I give it credit. I mean, I feel like I am trying to improve my life and do good things, trying to serve God and do His will. If I were involved in truly iniquitous behavior, I wouldn’t have a desire to do good things. Which means that those feelings of “despair”-if you can call it that-that occur once in a blue moon when I go alone to a singles ward on Valentine’s Day aren’t feelings of true despair that come because of iniquity, but rather small heartache that what we desire isn’t in the cards.

How do we do it then? How do we move forward, if ever so slowly, in the direction toward the Savior if we feel like our faith isn’t as strong as we think it should be? President Boyd K. Packer shared this personal story:

“Shortly after I was called as a General Authority, I went to Elder Harold B. Lee for counsel. He listened very carefully to my problem and suggested that I see President David O. McKay. President McKay counseled me as to the direction I should go. I was very willing to be obedient but saw no way possible for me to do as he counseled me to do. I returned to Elder Lee and told him that I saw no way to move in the direction I was counseled to go. He said, ‘The trouble with you is you want to see the end from the beginning.’ I replied that I would like to see at least a step or two ahead. Then came the lesson of a lifetime: ‘You must learn to walk to the edge of the light, and then a few steps into the darkness; then the light will appear and show the way before you.’ Then he quoted these 18 words from the Book of Mormon:

“‘Dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith’” (Ether 12:6). President Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “The Edge of the Light,” BYU Magazine, Mar. 1991, magazine.byu.edu.

Every day we have to make choices-choices that either move us toward the light or away from it. Sometimes those choices require us to walk through the darkness toward the light at the end. Sometimes it really might get worse before it gets better. Sometimes things hurt before they can heal. And sometimes, we might be in the dark for a long time before a light appears. But, He will never leave us alone in the darkness.

“What do you do when you have prepared carefully, have prayed fervently, waited a reasonable time for a response, and still do not feel an answer? You may want to express thanks when that occurs, for it is an evidence of [Heavenly Father’s] trust. When you are living worthily and your choice is consistent with the Savior’s teachings and you need to act, proceed with trust. As you are sensitive to the promptings of the Spirit, one of two things will certainly occur at the appropriate time: either the stupor of thought will come, indicating an improper choice, or the peace or the burning in the bosom will be felt, confirming that your choice was correct. When you are living righteously and are acting with trust, God will not let you proceed too far without a warning impression if you have made the wrong decision.” Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Using the Supernal Gift of Prayer,” Ensign, May 2007, 10.

According to the Bible Dictionary, some of the effects of true faith in Jesus Christ is the knowledge that the course you are pursuing is acceptable to the Lord and where there is true faith, miracles, visions, dreams, healings, and the gifts of God are present. By these, I know that my faith, though I feel is sometimes lacking and has reservations, is centered on my Savior-because I know miracles happen in my life. I know He heals me and gives me gifts I don’t feel I deserve. The challenge is to step into the darkness everyday so that He can lead us back to His glorious Light. And that requires true faith…so just “faith it till you make it.” 😀

 

STAND

Last night, I had a sweet opportunity to attend the 80th birthday party for my grandpa. He was born on Groundhog’s Day, 1936. This was posted on the wall last night–look at the cost of a new house!

20160206_180805My grandpa married my grandmother and they were supposed to spend a romantic, long life on earth together, but after just a few short decades, he watched as she passed through the veil to the spirit world on March 6, 1989. I have no doubt that she is waiting, ever so patiently for the day when he will join her and have the most joyous reunion heaven has ever seen…and if you know my grandpa, ever heard. He has always been the loud, booming, welcoming voice at all the parties and family occasions.

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Because of my background, I tend to take notice when someone is struggling with their balance when standing. As I observed my grandpa last night, I noticed that he was anxious to stand to greet his family, but could only do so for a few minutes, before tiring and needing to sit and rest. I know he has little feeling in his feet and walking has become a chore, but he is so stubborn and wants to do so for as long as he can. I applaud him for not wanting to give up and throw in the towel as he ages. While I know that is difficult to watch happen, I can’t imagine what it is like to actually live it.

We traveled back to southern Utah this morning and my grandpa was on my mind. It is difficult to watch him struggle just to stand. While we were driving, I thought of a phrase I had read this week in 2 Kings 23:3:

“And the king stood by a pillar, and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord, and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all their heart and all their soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people stood to the covenant.”

The people that were willing to listen to King Josiah all STOOD when they made the covenant to follow the Lord. When I was studying that verse this past week, I was reminded of the Young Women Theme and our baptismal covenant found in Mosiah 18:8-10 to “stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in”. You and I made this covenant when we were baptized and we continue to renew it weekly. This is also a Personal Progress value experience for Good Works, so I took the opportunity to study this covenant a little deeper.

 8 And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;

 9 Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—

 10 Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?

As I studied these this week, I wondered if I sometimes struggle to stand as a witness of Christ like my grandpa struggles to stand unassisted. When we stand by my grandpa, we often need to hold him up and help him catch his balance…and I think there are times when we all need help catching our spiritual balance and someone to brace us from falling further from our Heavenly Father.

While I believe that I try to “stand as a witness of God” the best I can and the most I can, it can be challenging to meet all our own expectations of ourselves. Do I really take the time to provide comfort, relief and consolation to someone that is without it? I know I am not super empathetic and don’t easily “mourn with those that mourn” because usually I’m on the “tough girl” side of emotions. Does that mean that you cry because they cry? What if I just don’t cry much in general? Isn’t that what I’m supposed to do?

And like Abinadi in the Book of Mormon, am I really willing to do all those things “even until DEATH”? To give up limb and life to stand for the covenants that I have made?

When I feel like I’m failing to do all those things that Alma taught the people at the waters of Mormon, all I have to do is look around and see that there are people that stand by me and take my arm and help me stand strong a little longer. Sometimes, those are people that I know and love and call my friends and family. But more often than not and usually unbeknownst to me, it is the Savior Himself, taking me by the hand and holding me up.

Well, come on, sistah, how do you know He’s there, holding your hand, even when you think you can stand on your own?

The blessed hymn tells me so:

  1. I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me,
    Confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me.
    I tremble to know that for me he was crucified,
    That for me, a sinner, he suffered, he bled and died.
    (Chorus)
    Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me
    Enough to die for me!
    Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me!
  2. I marvel that he would descend from his throne divine
    To rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine,
    That he should extend his great love unto such as I,
    Sufficient to own, to redeem, and to justify.
  3. I think of his hands pierced and bleeding to pay the debt!
    Such mercy, such love and devotion can I forget?
    No, no, I will praise and adore at the mercy seat,
    Until at the glorified throne I kneel at his feet.

Isn’t it wonderful to have a Savior that rescues souls, rescues US, when we are struggling to stand as His witnesses? Don’t we just stand there dazed and confused at the amount of love and grace it takes to keep standing by our side forever and ever and ages on end, while we stumble and fall and rely on Him to pull us back upright? Can we ever forget that He stands by our side at all times, in all things, and in all places, with His hands on our arms, ready to lift us back higher, all the while watching and hoping that we don’t trip and fall? And when we do fall, we land on our knees to praise the Savior who let us land there.

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While my grandpa and grandma taught me many lessons as a young child, one of the greatest for me was learned at the end of his life. As we all approach each day on earth, I hope we will look for those opportunities to stand as a witness of our covenants with Christ before being welcomed back into those loving, outstretched arms that hold us up so much. Part of me is jealous that he gets to see my grandma so soon. The other part is jealous that he gets to be wrapped in the arms of the Savior’s love so soon. To be honest, I wonder if it would feel all that different, knowing my grandma.

Wounds and Scars

Have you ever had a scar that tells a story? Like, when I was little, perhaps 5 or 6, I was sitting on the bathroom counter and my mom’s curling iron was on the ledge of the mirror. I accidentally bumped the cord and the curling iron landed on the inside of my bent knee, leaving a two inch long burn and life-long scar. And I once hit my forehead on the corner of the window on our boat when a rogue wave at the lake hit the boat from behind, throwing me forward and cutting an open extension of my hair’s natural part.

I have had enough knee surgeries that I can almost count them with two hands, with three of them being pretty invasive procedures and I have some pretty nice, big battle scars. I noticed after my first knee surgery-an ACL reconstruction-that I had a numb spot on the lateral side of my knee. It was there for years and I never fully regained sensation in that area. It’s expected-you cut a nerve, you’ll lose some feeling. After the other two major surgeries, I noticed that the numb spot on the lateral sides of my knees had gotten bigger and more sensation was gone. Bigger scars, bigger numb spots.

While I know that damage to nerves can cause permanent physiological damage, I often wonder if our emotions don’t work the same way. Like, do we develop “numb spots” in our emotions because we have been cut too deeply too often? We get emotionally wounded and things cut deep, then heal over with a scar. So, perhaps there are emotional numb spots when it comes to things that cut us to the emotional core and, eventually, over time we develop spiritual scar tissue?

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My youngest sister was married this past Saturday, leaving me the “lone wolf” in my family of three siblings. Years ago, my college roommates and I would always refer to this status as the “island” status-as in Simon and Garfunkel’s “I Am a Rock”. 😀

As a single woman, weddings and all the froo froo is sometimes a lot difficult. However, with my younger brother and sister already married, I approached this most recent wedding with sort of a numb spot in my emotions for weddings. While I really felt excited for my sister and her new husband and even bought a formal dress to celebrate the occasion, in the back of my mind I was painfully aware that I would still be going home alone after all the festivities were over. If I went numb to it all, maybe it wouldn’t hurt so bad when everyone went home.

And since, it isn’t the first wedding, nor will it be the last that I attend singly, I feel like my mind and heart have created a form of emotional scar tissue that allows me to go through the motions and emotions of the day without causing significant damage to the surrounding “tissues”.

The funny thing about wounds and scars though is that they aren’t and never will be 100% healed like before. If a wound has not fully closed, there is potential for it to re-open and become susceptible to infection. Scars, although they have healed over, are made of layers of different skin tissue and are mostly noticeable to others. I get asked about my knees all the time because the scars are so huge.

I think emotional wounds are much the same. If left open and exposed, they can be re-opened and become painful and infected. Even after several years, the wounds we thought had closed can surface and cause problems. Until one day, what we thought had healed is ripped back open because someone pulled off a scab.

What can you do when that happens?

The first reaction we always have is to grab a Band-aid. While this quote is taken out of context, Elder Neal A. Maxwell said “Some wounds require more than a quick Band-Aid.” And they do. I experienced this at the ceremony last Saturday. Wounds I thought were healed were suddenly re-opened and my emotions were raw, exposed and vulnerable to all the feelings and insecurities I had felt all those years ago.

No spiritual Band-aid would be big enough…at least I thought…until I remembered that there is a spiritual Band-aid with Neosporin that heals and doesn’t leave a trace or scar. I wish I could say that this realization came almost immediately, but I went to bed Saturday night with a wet pillow and awoke with puffy eyes and a hoarse voice.

It wasn’t until I was sitting in a sacrament meeting Sunday morning, trying to choke out the words to “The Lord is My Light” that I remembered that He takes all my scars, all my pains, all those times I sin and am sinned against, all those times that my heart aches and the wounds open, all those emotional scars that have been caused by wounds healing over, all those bad days, all those tears, all those nights when I go to bed alone with a wet pillow and heavy heart…

These words of the song spoke directly to the deepest cut parts of my heart:

“Where Jesus forever in glory doth reign.
Then how can I ever in darkness remain?

The Lord is my light; the Lord is my strength.
I know in his might I’ll conquer at length.
My weakness in mercy he covers with pow’r,
And, walking by faith, I am blest ev’ry hour.”

How could I have ever remained in darkness for so long knowing and beginning to remember that the Savior heals all our wounds and scars and He doesn’t leave a mark? The Atonement of Jesus Christ is so encompassing that it washes away all our sins, wipes away all our scars, heals all our wounds, makes up for all our faults, and replaces them with peace, love, forgiveness, joy, faith, and hope.

While the wounds always heal with time, the Savior is always waiting with outstretched arms for the moments we turn to him and, in His hand-the very hands that still bear the scars of the nails that pierced them-He holds the Band-aid you need to be healed without a scar.