Incomprehensible Love

This week’s scripture us one that runs through my mind quite frequently.  I think our human minds can hardly comprehend how much our Father really loves us.  For me, the fact that He created a plan for us to come to earth, to learn and grow and experience so much is the first testament of His love for us.   Then to make a provision to save us from our mistakes and our weaknesses during our experience here by willingly sacrificing His own beloved Son in our behalf is the second and most profound testament to me.  I think about my own limited ability to love and how much I cherish my own children.  And I think about how much I love those who love my children and sacrifice so much to help them in so many ways.  Then I think about how much Heavenly Father must love His only begotten son especially because of His willingness to sacrifice on behalf of the rest of us His children, whom He loves. It is so beyond my ability to understand!

As I pondered on this during the week a poem I read years ago popped into my head.  I cry every time I read it.  It helps my human mind have a glimmer of understanding as I can have real empathy to the father in this very vivid incident.

It’s called The Bridge Keeper. I was  unable to find the exact origin. It seems to be a version of a story that has been circulating since at least the late 1800’s.

There was once a bridge which spanned a large river. During most of the day the bridge sat with its length running up and down the river paralleled with the banks, allowing ships to pass thru freely on both sides of the bridge. But at certain times each day, a train would come along and the bridge would be turned sideways across the river, allowing a train to cross it.

A switchman sat in a small shack on one side of the river where he operated the controls to turn the bridge and lock it into place as the train crossed. One evening as the switchman was waiting for the last train of the day to come, he looked off into the distance thru the dimming twilight and caught sight of the train lights. He stepped to the control and waited until the train was within a prescribed distance when he was to turn the bridge. He turned the bridge into position, but, to his horror, he found the locking control did not work. If the bridge was not securely in position it would wobble back and forth at the ends when the train came onto it, causing the train to jump the track and go crashing into the river. This would be a passenger train with many people aboard. He left the bridge turned across the river, and hurried across the bridge to the other side of the river where there was a lever switch he could hold to operate the lock manually. He would have to hold the lever back firmly as the train crossed. He could hear the rumble of the train now, and he took hold of the lever and leaned backward to apply his weight to it, locking the bridge. He kept applying the pressure to keep the mechanism locked. Many lives depended on this man’s strength.

Then, coming across the bridge from the direction of his control shack, he heard a sound that made his blood run cold. “Daddy, where are you?” His four-year-old son was crossing the bridge to look for him. His first impulse was to cry out to the child, “Run! Run!” But the train was too close; the tiny legs would never make it across the bridge in time. The man almost left his lever to run and snatch up his son and carry him to safety. But he realized that he could not get back to the lever. Either the people on the train or his little son must die. He took a moment to make his decision.

The train sped safely and swiftly on its way, and no one aboard was even aware of the tiny broken body thrown mercilessly into the river by the onrushing train. Nor were they aware of the pitiful figure of the sobbing man, still clinging tightly to the locking lever long after the train had passed. They did not see him walking home more slowly than he had ever walked: to tell his wife how their son had brutally died.

Now if you comprehend the emotions which went this man’s heart, you can begin to understand the feelings of our Father in Heaven when He sacrificed His Son to bridge the gap between us and eternal life. Can there be any wonder that He caused the earth to tremble and the skies to darken when His Son died? How does He feel when we speed along thru life without giving a thought to what was done for us thru Jesus Christ?

I recognize that there are significant differences between the sacrifice of the father in this story and the sacrifice made by our Father in His divine Son.  But it does help me remember the love that our Father has for each of us individually and how that love has been given a tangible form through His Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ.  I do, however,  hope that we are unlike the passengers on the train and don’t sail along through life without sincerely acknowledging and appreciating the sacrifice that has been made in our behalf.

If you have yet to feel that potent and distinctive love of God for you personally, I urge you to get on your knees and ask God how He feels about you.  My answer to that question is one that still brings me to tears whenever I think of it.  I know He loves me!  I know He loves you!  He has a special plan for each of His children and that plan’s fruition is completely and utterly dependent on His Only Begotten Son!

May we each take some time to ponder on this love as we enter the Christmas season.

My Heart Delights in the Scriptures

Though I have always appreciated the scriptures, I never really came to love them until my life was in such a chaos that I desperately needed a lifeline to heaven. Then they became a collection of love letters, a roadmap, and a place of refuge for me. Now I wonder how I used to go days or weeks without feasting from their pages. I need their daily nourishment. I need the constant connection with my Father that they bring. I love the peaceful feeling that comes over me as I read them. I learn so much from the stories and wonderful heroes that are in them. I especially love to make application between their situation and mine. I also learn from them as I better understand the principles that the stories are teaching and try to use those principles to improve and add positive character traits to myself. Another way that I have learned that the scriptures profit me is that simply by reading them my mind and heart are more open to spiritual things making it easier for the Lord to communicate with me throughout the day with inspiration and revelation about my life.

They are a previous gift from a loving God prepared to be used for guidance and direction. They are small and simple things easily taken for granted. They are activated by faith. And I have found that I progress best in my journey by using this divine tool. When neglected our journeys more easily go off course and we tend to bring hardships on ourselves as we wander. We can find our own promised land full of peace and happiness by using the scriptures to direct our path.

The scriptures come with a warning to be vigilant (not slothful) in using the tools which have been prepared for us. If we use them well we will be on a path full of peace and joy, even though there will be storms along the way. If we take the scriptures for granted and neglect them because they seem insignificant we will stumble more easily and lose that peace.

Without the scriptures, we cannot understand the mysteries of God. Without the scriptures, (and our journals) we can’t possibly remember all the mercies of God.
Without the scriptures, we wouldn’t know the commandments of God and we would dwindle in unbelief.

Because of the scriptures, we know the commandments and are blessed by obeying them. Because of the scriptures, we know God lives and that He loves us and seeks our happiness. Because of the scriptures, we know Jesus is the son of God and is our Redeemer and the Savior of the world.

We are so blessed to have all the scripture that we do. It is so important for us to study them regularly to show our appreciation for them, to know and live the commandments, to better understand who our Father is and what He desires of us, and to enable Him to communicate with us, not only through their pages, but also through the spirit after we have opened the conduit to heaven by opening their pages.

Name Them One by One

It wasn’t what I wanted to hear when the Spirit whispered, “Make a list of things you are grateful for.” This direction came during one of the hardest times in my life. Things were not going well and I was really scared about how the future would work out. There were a million things I was worrying about and so many understandable reasons to be upset and still the voice was clear.

How do you make a list of things you are grateful for when it feels like nothing is going right? I’m not sure how it works. I have no words to explain it. But I do know that as I obeyed the command and started to make a list I was overcome with grateful feelings, joyful feelings. What started with one or two things I was grateful for became a very long list of things and trickled into my mind of the next few days and even weeks. Somehow that list broke into my gloominess and reminded me how very much I was loved, how very much I had to be grateful for, and how very temporary what I was going through was in the eternal scheme of things . Though my circumstances did not change immediately , my feelings and my attitude certainly did. And as those feelings changed I found myself feeling happier, more peaceful, more confident and capable of handling the stressful situation I was in.

When I was younger and would be having a hard time my mother used to say to me, “What can you learn from this situation?” She taught my sisters and I to take time to be conscious of the struggles we were having and to try to gain something positive from it. Sometimes are easier than others to do this, but I do know that as I make an effort to see the lesson the Spirit can more easily help me recognize what the Lord wants me to gain from the experience. Sometimes the realizations don’t come till some time down the road, but they usually do come.

I am grateful for a wise mother who taught me well. I am grateful for a God who loves me enough to want me to be happy and gives me personal direction and correction when the path I am on is not leading me to that happiness. I am grateful for lists I have made and lists I will make of the gifts from God that make my life more joyful. When was the last time you made a list?

Faith Not Fear!

There is an old Cherokee legend called the two wolves. It goes like this:

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

I think this legend illustrates very well how fear and faith come into conflict with each other, especially since I believe fear is really the root of most negative emotion. If you have ever taken the time to examine the two feelings within yourself then you know that the two cannot exist in the same space at the same time. Either we are feeding the one or we are feeding the other, but never both.

The topic I felt inspired to write about this week was one picked specifically for me. My husband is a police officer and he in the process of trying to switch departments. The department he received a conditional offer from is in a small town and in the same area we are hoping to buy a house in sometime in the near future. It perfectly fits our needs and desires. He found out about the testing during particularly stressful time at his current job and only two days before the testing. I believe the the circumstances of the situation are too timely to be coincidental. I believe it is a gift from God. The only problem is, he will have to take a pretty hefty pay cut to transfer. We went back and forth on moving forward with accepting the offer because of this one huge drawback. As much as I worry about the money part of it, when I pray about it I feel peace. Many things have fallen into place to give me confidence that I will be able to use my business to make up the difference in funds needed, but it is still a really scary step for me because it is really putting all of my faith in the idea that if this is a gift from God then He will not let it sink us. He will provide a way for us to make it work as long as I am moving my feet.

Last week my husband finished the last two tests necessary for the offer to switch from conditional to official. Suddenly it became very real and my fear escalated. I’m pretty sure my husband was feeling some fear and anxiety of his own because all of the sudden we were frustrated with each other and with many other details in our lives. Most of the time we are feeling stressed at different times and able to talk each other off the ledge. This time we were both on that ledge together. After having a bit of a meltdown (to say the least) I was able to take a step back and realize I had let my fears take a firm hold on me. And I could see how this had infiltrated every part of my life in that moment. After doing this I was able to pray, adjust my thinking, repent, apologize to my husband, and put my energy back into a faith filled outlook.

This is not the first time I have had an experience with fear. I’m sure it won’t be my last. But I think that the more we are able to step back and recognize what is controlling our thoughts, faith or fear, the more easily we will be able to get back on the right path.

I love the story of Peter walking on water. I admit that I also love the fact that he failed. Maybe that sounds terrible, but the reason I love it is that it gives me hope for me! If Peter as amazing as he was and as strong as his faith was could be thwarted by the wind and the waves because he took His eyes off the Savior then I know I’m going to have these moments too. And just as Christ reached down and rescued him from his lack of faith He can also rescue me from my lacking. I love Elder Holland’s recounting of this scripture from Tuesdays talk, “While his eyes were fixed upon the Lord, the wind could toss his hair and the spray could drench his robes, but all was well – he was coming to Christ. It was only when his faith wavered and fear took control, only when he removed his glance from the Master to look at the furious waves and the ominous black gulf beneath, only then did he begin to sink into the sea.”

I believe that when we feel ourselves start to sink we can be sure it is because, like Peter, we have taken our eyes off the Savior and have begun to give more of our focus to the storm surrounding us. I know this has been the case in my life. I am so grateful the Savior is there to save us. I am so grateful we get to straighten our backs, set our chins, and move forward again, even when we have let the storm get to us. And once again we can vocally or inwardly remind ourselves, “Faith not fear!”

Where you want to stay doesn’t even compare to where I want to take you.

I wanted to post so much earlier today, but it wound up being one of those days. But I’ve had this story on my mind all week, so I guess it will have to be a bedtime story.

Five months ago I was living in my home of 13 years with my husband, my son, and my daughter, feeling quite comfortable. My husband started bringing up the idea of selling our house while the market was hot and moving to a more rural area. I didn’t like the idea. It seemed like a lot of stress. It seemed like a lot of work. And to be honest, I felt like I had enough on my plate with just taking care of my family and my business responsibilities. I also didn’t want to move until after both of my kids had graduated… another couple of years from now, but he finally talked me into just going for a drive to look at some houses. He pointed out that we really could afford a nicer house in a more rural area, which had been my biggest excuse to not consider moving.

I humored him and we went for a drive, but in the back of my mind and to my daughter I kept saying, “Don’t worry. We aren’t going anywhere.” That next week one of those houses kept popping into my head and I felt frustrated with myself because I didn’t even want to entertain the idea. One day that little voice that loves me and doesn’t want me to live my life in a comfort zone said, “Why don’t you just pray about it.” At that point I literally started to cry, “If you are asking me to pray about it, I already know the answer.” (He and I have had discussions like this in the past and I was very familiar with the outcome.) I did actually kneel down and pray. The answer was a sweet and comforting, “Yes. Now is the time. Trust my timing instead of seeking your own.” So we called a realtor. We spent three weeks working really hard making some repairs, and another three decluttering and packing away everything we didn’t need. Then we put our house on the market. Within the week we had 8 offers, accepted 3, 2 flakey ones and 1 that went through smoothly.

From May to July when we moved, aside from the repairs and packing, my daughter graduated from high school, we went on a camping trip with my husband’s brother we hadn’t seen in fifteen years,we went on a pre-planned 12 day trip to Nashville (we actually accepted the final offer on our way there), and I did two trade shows for my business. I was so nervous that the sale wasn’t actually going to go through that I refused to sign a lease or look for another house until we got the text saying the final paperwork had been sent to underwriting.

At that point we had exactly 10 days to be out of the house. In that time we went to look at a few houses in the area we were wanting to end up, decided renting was the better option, looked through a few apartments and decided that renting a house was the way we needed to go, applied for approval, found a house that we could afford (more than we wanted to pay, but we could make it work), packed the rest of our stuff, moved out, and cleaned the home we were leaving behind. It was like a hurricane and left my mind whirling.

After we moved into the rental house (which was about 50 miles in the opposite direction of where we want to end up) I was physically and emotionally exhausted and had a bit of a meltdown. My heart and mind kept asking,(even though it really was too late for the question) “Are we doing the right thing?” I hadn’t wanted to ask it out loud since I did get such a concrete confirmation before even listed our house for sale. But God is oh so patient and merciful. When I was finally brave enough to study out an answer, I was tangibly reminded how willing God is to reconfirm and re-comfort our hearts! My experience was powerful and exactly what I needed!

I said a prayer and sought connection with God by reading the conference talk posted in my Faebook scripture study group for that day. It was Elder Holland’s talk from April 2016 titled “Tomorrow the Lord Will Do Wonders Among You”. As I read I was reminded of past experiences the Lord has brought me through and of His constancy through those trials. I was reminded of His love and His faithfulness. I remember listening to Elder Holland’s talk when it was given in April 2016 with tears streaming down my face. I was going through a really really hard time in life because of some stupid choices I had made and his words were exactly what I needed to hear to give me hope and motivation to keep pressing forward.

As I read it again that day more tears were shed and I was reminded that I have done hard things before and I can do hard things again. And that when I trust the Lord and keep moving forward, with Him by my side, things always work out better than I could ever anticipate!

Then I moved on to 1 Nephi 17 (our scripture group reading assignment for the day). In this section Nephi and his family come to the land of Bountiful after some really hard journeying. He talks about the difficulties that they have had and how after some time in the land the Lord told them to keep going. His brothers were not happy about trying to figure out how to build a boat to keep going, but ever faithful Nephi just asked the Lord for help to build the tools. Through these verses I was reminded that we cannot get to somewhere better unless we trust the Lord to lead us away from that which has become comfortable for us (even if it is a miserable comfort.) The Spirit reminded me, “Keep going. Trust me. Where you want to stay doesn’t even compare to where I want to take you.”

And the most powerful impression of that day came when quite by accident I read one verse too far and it was exactly what I needed! Nephi was reminding His brothers that their Israelite ancestors would not have been freed from bondage if they had not listened to the words of God. Through that verse I was reminded that God confirmed to me the need for this move and someday I will be so grateful I followed that prompting and left the home I loved and was comfortable in, because through that act of faith He was able to lead me to a better place.

Finally, after opening this conduit to heaven by praying and studying His word, I had a couple of thoughts come to my mind over the next couple of days that gave me great comfort. The first thought was that the place we ended up, though just for the next year, is a place that God planned for my son’s benefit. The thought came out of nowhere and I had no way of knowing how that might be true. But over the last six weeks I have seen what a blessing it has been for him. He is closer in proximity to the friends he goes to school with and it has been great to see him be more proactive in his face to face interactions with them. Additionally, the youth and his leaders at church in this new ward have been so inclusive of him. I have seen a spark lit in him that I haven’t seen in a long time. It is truly a miracle to this mama’s heart!

The second thought came to me that the house we moved into was under priced. It is bigger than what we had initially been looking for and has an incredible amount of storage so that we were able to fit everything we own here and clear out our rented storage unit. There is enough room for me to have a workroom for my business and a quiet office space for other things I am working on. The basement is set up to accommodate my children and other needs that arose just before our move. It suits our needs so much better than what I would ever have planned for. When this thought came I realized that the other houses we looked at in the same price range were not at all comparable in either space or value. When I realized those things, I could see how much the Lord had been looking out for me when I hadn’t even considered the things I needed for this space in my life. His compensating blessings truly are great!

Once again, in His mercy, God gave me another concrete experience to prove that He is very aware of me, especially during my storms. In the midst of this storm, as He has during every storm when I have gone to Him, He gave me peace and settled my heart. He reminded me that He sees the bigger picture and wants to provide more for me than I would ever even think to ask for. He can truly give us peace in the eye of the storm!20180813_131504