Seeking the One

This picture is called “Seeking the One”and it was created by Liz Lemon Swindle. My son and I put together a big puzzle of it and until we sold our house recently it hung above the stairs in our home. I looked at it every day. And every day I felt deep gratitude for the Man who would leave the ninety and nine to find the one, because I have been that sheep, the one He seeks.

I honestly don’t know where I would be without my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! I can’t imagine having to live out my life with the shame and regret of my mistakes and bad choices! I am so grateful for His love for me and willingness to sacrifice on my behalf so that I can shed the pain of my past and try again.

He loves each of us like that! He reaches out to us one by one and desires for us to come. He wants to heal us, help us, and walk us home.

Jesus Christ suffered in the garden, died on the cross, and rose again on the third day. Because of His willingness to do these things we have the opportunity to recognize our wrongs, repent and move forward becoming a little bit better day by day.

Courage to Be Vulnerable

I have thought a lot about ministering in the Savior’s way over the last year and one of the things that struck me as very relevant is that being vulnerable enough to allow others to serve us is just as important as reaching out to serve those around us.

I think that in a general sense, we are all great at serving, especially when we are specifically asked to. However, I know that many of us struggle with being vulnerable enough to actually accept service from others, even when we need it.

There is a quote by Rick Warren, in his book The Purpose Driven Life, that says, “Vulnerability is an endearing quality. We are drawn to humble people. Pretentiousness repels but authenticity attracts.”

Our brokenness is part of our perfect journey and God will ask us to share our vulnerabilities to bless the lives of others! How will you consecrate your suffering to God’s purposes?

Ministering as the Savior Did

We are taught our whole lives to love one another, to get outside ourselves and serve, that we are God’s hands on the earth. I have been the recipient if service enough times to realize how important these things are, but for the longest time I felt guilty because I never felt like I was serving because I wasn’t organizing or being involved in big organized projects. It wasn’t until recently that I finally realized what it meant to follow Christ’s example in the way we minister.

I’m not sure what it was that brought the epiphany I had. It was probably a combination of reading about His life in the gospels again combined with other articles on service, but suddenly a lightbulb came on for me. Our Savior was never involved in big organized projects, He served as He went. He saw a need and He filled it. And generally these opportunities came as He was on His way to somewhere else. With this understanding also came a realization that there have probably been many opportunities to serve in my life that I have bypassed because I was too focused on the next place I was going or the next project I was wrapped up in.

Understanding that the little things we do to make another’s life easier are the essence of service has really been a game changer for me. It has created a desire in me to be more aware of those opportunities throughout the day. It has made me want to slow down a little and pay more attention to the whispers that come showing me the needs around me. It has helped me feel validated in the little things I do to show love to those around me. Now I feel great when I take an hour to listen to a friend vent, or go out of my way to write a note and create a special treat for one of my kids who is having a hard week, or take the afternoon and spend some quality time with my husband. I have begun to see the time I invest in facilitating my scripture study or writing for my blog as opportunities to serve as I share God’s word and love with those who read my testimony. I never really saw these as service before, and as good as it is to be part of big organized service projects, better understanding Christ’s way of ministering helps me to recognize that maybe service in the little things along our daily path are just as important, if not more so.

Serving in the Savior’s way means keeping our eyes and our hearts open to see a need and fill it, just like He did.

Decisions For Which I’ve Been Grateful by Clayton M. Christensen

I learned so much from this talk, especially on the topic of real intent. After listening to it a few years ago I was able to look back on my life and recognize the truth of what He was saying. God does want to answer or prayers and share great knowledge with us but He first wants to see that we really do intend to do something with the answers, that we aren’t just asking out of mere curiosity. The most profound answers and insights I have gotten in my life were during times I really needed them! Times I desperately plead for them! Times I intended to use them to take the next step in my life! God knows our hearts and our intentions matter to Him!

https://video.byui.edu/media/Clayton+M.+Christensen+%22Decisions+For+Which+I%27ve+Been+Grateful%22/0_tdb0a80p/14336742

Ask God How He Feels About You

I never imagined that just the prospect of the transition into empty nesting would hit me so hard! From the time I was a young girl playing house with my sisters, the only thing I ever wanted to do was to be a mother. I loved school and I have enjoyed eacg job I have had, but the dream of my heart was motherhood. And though it has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done, caused me the most anxiety, and had me in tears many times, I’ve never been disappointed in the thrill of it. I love being a mom! I love nurturing, teaching and connecting with my children. I love creating memories and traditions with them. I love learning from them and realizing that they truly push me to be a better me. So it was crushing when a few years ago I suddenly realized that I only had a handful of years left of this being my full time, all encompassing, day consuming job. I felt like I abruptly hit a brick wall. What was I going to do with my life? Did I have another purpose? Something that would give me as much joy and fulfillment? Or at least a portion of that?

This realization came amidst some other really hard hitting trials and in the blink of an eye I felt like I was drowning. I know that most of my feelings of worthlessness and self doubt came from the other things happening in my life, but this sudden realization did not help. In fact, it just compounded all the other feelings I was having. I have always been a cheerful person, an optimist by nature. But this time in my life was devastating. I felt hopeless and helpless. I spent most of my days crying and trying to figure out how I was ever going to be happy again. As I said, their were many contributing factors to these feelings at that time and this was just a part of it, but it was the first time in my life I sincerely wanted to know who I really was and what my life’s purpose was. It was the first time that I realized that my children would not be my purpose forever and that there must be something more.

And then something beautiful happened. I started to feel prompted about what to pray about. And one of those things was, “Ask God how He feels about you.” Oh man! When you are feeling lower than dirt and can’t see anything good in yourself the last thing you want to do is ask God who sees all and knows all and is purity itself how He feels about you. But to my credit, I was obedient. I cannot put into words the sacred answers that came in that powerful communion with my Maker. I can only tell you that I cried harder than ever when the feelings of pure love came into my heart. I can tell you that He does know us perfectly and likewise He loves us perfectly. He knows the worst about us and loves us anyway. He cheers for us in our successes and He aches with us in our failures. He is for us and NEVER against us.

From that point on I was led to people, articles, and activities that strengthened my understanding of my diving identity. I was prompted to write a list of my good qualities. That was so hard! But again I obeyed and I know I did not make that list myself. Now one of my greatest treasures is a tangible list made by me and my loving Heavenly Father of my redeeming qualities. I was also led to create a list of my weaknesses. And in that list I found help in acknowledging them and the source to which I could go for help in creating healthy boundaries for myself to overcome those weaknesses. Aside from the personal divine assignments I was given, I had conversations with people who did not know my struggles that validated the positive things I was starting to feel. I got random texts that affirmed the heavenly love I had felt. I was led to groups that had scriptures and conference talks that taught me more and led me into deeper understanding of who I really was and how God really feels about me. And then along this journey I started to get very concise promptings and answers to my bigger purpose and how I would fulfill that.

This journey is very personal and maybe people would question how I came to be so sure of the things I am absolutely positive about now, but that is fine with me. Every one of us is entitled to the same journey of finding their true identity and purpose. In fact, I believe we are each accountable to seek out these answers. I can’t tell you what yours will look like. I can tell you it will not be an easy journey. To be honest, the vulnerability required will feel like a high price to pay. At times you may wonder if it is worth it. I promise it is! As you seek your divine identity and purpose with sincerity and diligence, if you will keep your mind and heart open and create a space for God to communicate with you, He will lead you to find your answers little by little. It will change your heart and it will change your life! As I said, I can’t tell you what your journey will look like or the specific answers you will find, but I can tell you how to start… Ask God how He feels about you.

I Was Not Fully Healed, But I Was Made Whole

Up until about 6 years ago I would read the story of the 10 lepers and wonder how the leper who went back to show gratitude was any more blessed than the 9 who didn’t go back. I knew it was a story demonstrating the importance of gratitude, but they were all healed. Yet, somewhere at the back of my mind there was a wriggling feeling that there was something more, something bigger to be learned from this story.

Then in March or 2011 I was in a car accident. It wasn’t a terrible accident, but I did hit my head and shortly thereafter I started seeing stars and shimmering lights around my right eye. I had everything checked out and they couldn’t find anything wrong, but advised me to keep an eye on it. About 3 months later I noticed (as a teacher’s aid after summer break) that the writing on the whiteboard was no longer clear. I went to my eye doctor to have the power of my contact prescription increased. It was then that I found out I was losing the central vision in my right eye. A little in my left eye as well, but drastically in my right. I started searching out specialists. I was told by two different specialists in Ogden it was probably as a result of my car accident and that it was most likely permanent and I’d need to just get used to it. A very good friend of mine was appalled by that answer and demanded that I go to the Moran Institute at the University of Utah and get a second opinion. I am so grateful for her and her response to my disappointment!

Very quickly I was seen by 3 different specialists who took my problem very seriously. I spent days completing tests, having photos taken of my eyes, inside and out, and lots of medical tests too. I had a CT Scan, an MRI, a chest Xray, an ultrasound of my heart through my stomach and about 12 vials of blood drawb abd tested for anything and everything they could think of that might be causing my loss of vision. They didn’t know what it was, but they were determined to find out. They thought it might be autoimmune. They guaranteed me that it was not a result of the accident and that if was just coincidental that the symptoms started at the same time. In the end they could not pin it to any particular thing, but they did find that the blood vessels in my eye were leaking and it was causing major damage to my retinas. They decided to treat my symptoms since they couldn’t find a cause to treat instead. By that time most of the vision in my right eye had been affected (I was seeing 20/300 at that point, with my contacts in) and I was at about half vision in my left eye. Thanks to those doctors and the God inspired technology and medications that they have they were able to stabilize my vision and by some miracle the vision in my left eye has come back almost completely.

That first year and a half was probably my hardest year of life up to that point. I was scared. Really I was terrified! I didn’t know if what I had was life threatening or if I was just going to lose my vision completely. In either case, it was life altering for me. I am an artist, a baker, a reader, and an outdoor adventurist (ghost towning to be specific). Everything I love to do requires my vision. I’m sure no one is happy to lose their vision, but I was feeling especially devastated. Not only was I an emotional wreck with the worry of what might happen to me, but my every day routine was exhausting! I had no idea how much losing some of your vision would affect you. I had to exert so much energy straining to read with the kids I was helping in school, I found myself forgetting things my past peripheral vision would have picked up, therefore much of my day was spent retracing my steps. I lost my depth perception and would find myself tripping over things I didn’t realize were poking up a little or falling off little ledges I didn’t see were there. I was tired. I was sad. I was scared. Not just physically, but emotionally and mentally too. It was so hard!

Phew… that was a long story to prove my point. In my religion we believe in the power of healing blessings through the Priesthood. I had A LOT of blessings during that year. After about a year of working through things including going to a specialist in Oregon to get another opinion on the permanence of my condition I had gotten another blessing. After that blessing I had the strangest calm come over me. And in that calm I distinctly felt a lesson being taught to me. The anguish and uncertainty that had been so prevalent in my life for almost two years was gone. I felt peace. I could look back and see times of comfort, tender mercies of love, and so much I had gained… empathy for others, gratitude for the blessings in my life, an increased closeness to my family, and a better relationship with my God. I had received the miracle of one eye being healed and the other eye was being left with me the way it was, maybe as a reminder of those lessons. Maybe to keep me humble. Maybe so I would remember to testify of God’s mercy in the other things I had learned. But at that point, it didn’t matter. Even though I had not been physically healed in that eye, I had through God’s power, my faith, my positive attitude, my searching for lessons in the trial, and my patience over that year been made whole.

I now know for myself that the leper who came back was blessed far more, beyond what words can express, for having come back. He was made whole. The others were, like him, healed physically. But unlike the others, the anguish and grief of the previous years or pain, sickness, and banishment, the emotional aching and mental stress were wiped away when he was made whole.

He Hasn’t Moved

How can the Lord have an individual relationship with each of us? How do we form this relationship with Him?

I’ve been thinking about these questions all week. I don’t know how it is possible for the Lord to have a personal relationship with each of us. It is too difficult for my mind to comprehend how this can be when there are so many of us in the world, but I do know of assurity that it is possible because I have had so many experiences where His tender mercies have proven to me that He is perfectly aware of my circumstances and wants to make my burdens lighter. He is there. He is our Father. He know us. He loves us. He wants to help us. He yearns to have a relationship with each of us.

The second question is much easier to answer. How do we form a relationship with Him? Simply put, with time and effort. There have been times in my life when I have felt great distance growing between myself and my God. When I recognize this gap I can trace the reason back to MY lack of time and effort in praying, studying His good word, and pondering on His love and mercy.

I once heard a joke that I love to relate to this exact concept. There was an elderly couple riding in their truck one day when they came to a stoplight. They looked over and noticed a younger couple in the cab of the truck next to them. The couple was snuggled up on the seat looking very in love. The elderly woman looked at her husband and commented how sweet they looked and then asked, “Why don’t we ever do that anymore? Her husband looked at the couple and then back at his wife and said, “Well, I haven’t moved.” This is exactly the case with our relationship with God. If there is distance between us it is because we have moved, not because He has. He stands at the door and knocks. He seeks His lost sheep. He waits to be found. And what do we need to do? Seek. Diligently seek. This is not a casual, once a week seeking, but an intentional whole hearted effort. And when we invest the time and effort the reward is far more than we could ever dare to hope for!