Joy Journey Day 7: Seek God

Psalms 16

11 Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

Know God, Know Peace. No God, No Peace.

The verse from Psalms posted above teaches us that the same thing applies to joy as to peace. If we want to have a fulness of joy we can experience that as we spend time in the presence of God. The more we seek Him, the more we will know Him. The more we know Him, the more we will love Him and trust Him. The more we love Him and trust Him, the more we will have peace and joy in our lives. The more peace and joy we have, the more we will be able to share that peace and love with those around us. So, you can see why it is so important that we take the time to seek Him. How can you get to know someone you have not spent time with?

And just because we have found Him before does not mean that we are always as close to Him. Sometimes we find that distance has grown between us either because of a trial we are going through, because we are too busy, or even because life is going so well that we don’t feel a yearning to turn to Him.

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.

What would happen to us physically if we only ate a meal once a week? We would starve, of course. Our spirits have the same need for nourishment that our bodies do and going to church to be fed once a week is certainly not enough to keep us healthy, nurtured and growing. I am afraid many of us are actually spiritually starving to death.

What are some of the signs that we are spiritually starving?

*Weakness: When we become spiritually weak we start to lack self-control and commitment. We have an inability to separate needs from wants and to prioritize properly.

*Confusion: Over time our thinking becomes murky or distorted. We start to rationalize or justify the things that we are doing wrong, or time not being used wisely.

*Irritability: We begin to find ourselves being easily offended and more annoyed by the people around us, especially our family members.

*Immune Deficiency: We become less able to fight off temptations that lead to sin, sin being the disease. We are more tolerant of things that at one time we would have shunned and we are less resistant to things that we normally wouldn’t even give a second glance.

*Internal Shutdown: We find ourselves behaving out of character, saying things we wouldn’t normally say or responding in ways we normally wouldn’t respond. We find that we are lacking in compassion or patience with those we should be most loving and compassionate towards.

*Comatose: We have complete apathy. We have detached from anything spiritual and don’t feel drawn to do good or to connect with God.

If you are feeling any of these symptoms, your spirit may be dying. It may be crying out for nourishment and connection. It may be time to assess your daily habits and commit to centering your day around seeking God.

God loves us so much, whether or not we are worthy of it. Because of His love for us He has a plan to make sure we always have a way back and a way to connect with Him. His trust is earned by our actions and there are blessings contingent on our level of obedience and commitment to Him, but His love is never earned. He has offered His Son as a sacrifice for us so that we can always repent when we have strayed and return to Him. And He has made Himself constantly accessible to us through prayer. Please use these gifts! Your spiritual health depends on it!

When we regularly seek God and connect with Him, He is there to help with every aspect of our lives. He can strengthen us, comfort us, direct us and inspire us. He can teach us and answer our questions and concerns. He can help us manage our stress and give us refuge in the eye of the storm. He can increase our clarity, energy, ability to both forgive and to let go of things. He can fill our cup and give us an added measure of peace, gratitude, love and joy. He can do all these things when we open up the conduit between ourselves and Him. He stands at the door and knocks, but we must open it and let Him in.

I’m not going to tell you that it is easy to connect with Him regularly. It is simple, but it is not easy. It requires sacrifice and commitment. We must be willing to sacrifice the time and some of the activities we are filling that time with. We must be willing to commit to scheduling that time and following through. We may need to set an alarm to remind us of the most important meeting of our day. But if we will do this, we will find that what we receive from our sacrifice is paid back in full and then some. Overall, our days will go smoother, our problems will be more manageable, our minds more clear, and our abilities magnified. It is not a cure-all, we will still have bad days, but it will be better.

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When we show God that we want to connect with Him, He will even help us come up with solutions and find pockets of time to do so. No matter how busy we are, there are always pockets! You can get up a little earlier and meet with Him in the calm before the storm. You can spend time with Him as you drive in your car or as you wait in a line. You can listen to His word or music as you do your chores. You can create a schedule in your home with a required quiet time. When my kids were little we called this half hour window in our day “rest and reading.” They were required to be in their room resting (often they fell asleep) or reading. But it was my “me” time and it was desperately needed. You can also include your family in your connecting time if that works for you. You can even find a reprieve in the bathroom or shower. I am pretty sure this is considered praying in our closets! 🙂

What are some things you do to feel connected? The more we connect, the more we are aware of what things we are doing that make that connection feel the strongest. I will share some of my favorites to start you thinking, but keep in mind that we are all different and what works best for you may be something completely different.

*Read His Word: Immersing myself in the word of God is one of the best ways I have found to listen to and connect with Him. I treasure my scriptures as love letters from God. I have found so many answers to my questions, comfort for my concerns, verses that lift me up and give me strength, direction for my life, and validation that I am His beloved daughter within those pages. Not only have I found verses tailored just for me, but I have found that when I open my scriptures I am also opening a conduit to heaven. It is a direct link to God and that action of opening them tells Him that I am receptive. Sometimes the answers I seek come from the pages and sometimes by other mean during the day or the week (music, an uplifting sermon, or in conversation with a friend). I fully believe that they come because I have invited them through my act of opening the door of my heart through the scriptures. And I recognize those answers because I am intentionally listening.

*Prayer: What a gift we have been given with this tool. There are no stipulations imposed with it. We don’t have a slot of time each day God is willing to listen to us. We don’t have to abide by a certain dress code. We are never put on hold or ignored until we are behaving better. We don’t have to be in a certain place or certain position. We don’t even have to be worthy, and let’s be honest, we rarely are. But every time we pray with sincerity, He is there and He is listening. I love to connect with God through prayer!

*Music: Over the last 5 years this has become one of my favorite tools to connect with God. I love listening to Christian music and recognizing that the message of the song is meant especially for me. I love how close to the Lord it makes me feel and how very loved. I love sharing these songs with others and how it can effect them in the very same way. This music is such a personal gift.

*Listen to His Word: I love listening to talks, speeches and sermons I can find on YouTube that help me feel uplifted and inspired. So often as I listen to these talks I am touched by exactly the way God wants me to apply the message in my life. Or sometimes I am inspired by ideas that have almost nothing to do with the message, but are nevertheless a prompting meant especially for me.

*Sacred Spaces: I have certain places where I can feel the Spirit more powerfully than others. These places can be a church or other religious buildings, they can be in nature, one of mine is even a chair. I have spent hundreds of hours studying God’s word and communing with Him in my recliner. That has become a sacred space for me.

*Questions: If I want to feel God’s Spirit more profoundly I go to Him with questions. I love how tethered to Him I feel when I receive an answer to one of my questions and know it is given specifically to me from Him.

*Witnessing: I revel in the opportunity to share my love for and witness of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on our behalf. I feel the bond between God and me particularly strong when I get to do this. Not only am I giving the Spirit an opportunity to witness truth to the soul I am talking to, but it witnesses the truth of my words to me as well. That feeling is so amazing! Pure joy!

*Journaling: Writing is another way I am able to process my feelings about and experiences with God. A prayer journal is one way to organize our thoughts and focus our desires. Another journal that changed my life is my revelation journal. In 2015 I had a strong desire to better understand how God talked to me. I wanted to know how often He talked to me and if I was missing any of those communications. My discovery was profound! As I went through my day and jotted down notes in my phone when I felt promptings, inspirations, or guidance. I made an effort to create a space and time of silence in each day, to turn all the background noise off and listen. Then at night I would sit down and move those notes into my journal. I would pray and ask if there was more information to go with any of the things I had felt. I could not believe how specific the messages were. I could not believe how often God was trying to communicate with me. I had been missing so much because I was filling my life with noise and because I had not taken the time to learn how to listen. The more time we spend practicing a skill the better we get at it. It is no different for learning to hear/feel the whisperings of the still small voice.

*Worry: Now that might sound a little bit weird. But I have spent a lot of time over the last 5 years trying to be consciously aware of my worrying. When I notice that I am worrying over something I cannot control I use it as an alarm and I intentionally turn that worry into a prayer and choose to let it go. I may do that a hundred times a day when a problem is particularly heavy, but the process does help me feel an almost tangible connection between me and my God.

This last week has been an incredible journey for me! I have been amazed and humbled as I have seen how much God is threaded through the different methods of finding joy that we have talked about. When we want to be more joyful and we choose to look to Him for help, He is there. When we choose to let go of things we cannot control and we give them to Him, He happily accepts those burdens. When we want to find a deeper purpose to our lives and we ask for His help in doing so, He loves to partner with us. When we set goals and create priorities in our lives and one of those priorities is time with Him, He rejoices. When we choose to slow down and be more intentional in our day, He enlarges our capabilities to all that is required by us for good. When we serve others and have a desire to be a window to God in their lives, He is the love that we share. And God desires nothing more than to be a part of our lives, to be in the details. The first step for us to receive a fulness of joy is for us to seek Him and spend time in His presence.


Song: The More I Seek You by Kari Jobe

Face to face with the author:

Joy Journey Day 6: Serve and Be Served

Service 2

John 13

13 Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.
14 If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.
15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.
16 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.
17 If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.

“Only a life lived in the service of others is worth living.” Albert Einstein

I love the story of Jesus washing the feet of His disciples.  I love that though He was our Lord and Savior He did not see himself above this menial task as He did it with love.  Knowing the culture and background helps me appreciate this story even more.  The streets of Jerusalem were not paved as ours are.  They were dirt and animals traveled on them as much as the people.  I am sure that the streets were covered in dung and the shoes of the time were sandals.  So one of the jobs given to the servant of the house was to remove the shoes and wash the feet of visitors as they came in.  He was washing off the dirt and the manure picked up as the visitor had traveled the streets.  So Jesus was not watching sweaty feet that had come out of socks, he was literally washing off the dirt, grime and crap from the world His disciples lived in.  It is no wonder humble Peter did not want His master to do this!  But Christ taught two important lessons this day.  He taught the disciples, and us, that no one is too good to serve, that if He was willing to humble Himself to care for them, then they ought to do the same thing for those in their sphere of influence.  Equally as important, He taught us through Peter that another important part  following Him is accepting service.  None of us is beyond needing to be served.

What is service?  It is a the way we can show people that they matter. Service is love in action. It is the way we show our love for others as well as our love and gratitude to God.  It is the pure love of Christ or charity.  It is the way we become a window to God’s love.

“Through the lens of pure love, we see immortal beings of infinite potential and worth and beloved sons and daughters of Almighty God.  Once we see through that lens, we cannot discount, disregard or discriminate against anyone.” Dieter Uchtdorf

What is the benefit of doing service?  It widens our lens, gives us a broader perspective and expands our vision.  It help us appreciate the blessings we have and tends to shrink our problems because they are no longer our focus.  It helps us get outside or ourselves, transforming us into a more giving less selfish person.  It helps us feel connected with the world around us and with the people we serve.  It gives our lives a deeper purpose and more meaning.  Service helps us discover and develop our spiritual gifts.  It is a great way to feel God’s presence and love in our lives both for those we serve and for ourselves.  It decreases stress and anxiety related health problems.  Service releases a hormone called oxytocin which helps us feel relaxed an happy.  Through all these benefits, it is easy to see how service increases the level of joy in our lives.

What are some ways you can serve?  There are many different opportunities to serve.  You can help organize or carry out an event.  You can visit someone who is lonely.  You can drive someone to the grocery store or a doctor’s appointment when they cannot do this for themselves.  You can help with yardwork or clean someone’s house.  You can watch someone’s kids while they do something they need to do or to give them a much needed break.  You can donate food or clothes, or you can pay it forward.

Mother Theresa said, “Not all of us can do great things.  But we can do small things with great love.”  For a long time I felt very guilty like I was not contributing much because I was not serving in big ways.  Then one day as I was reading in the Gospels I noticed the way Jesus served.  He did not organize big helpful events or volunteer at community functions, He simply went about His day noticing needs one by one and meeting them.  Suddenly I realized I was doing a lot of service for my family, friends, and others in my sphere of influence and I realized that I could do even better with this awareness.  I simply needed to slow down a little and recognize opportunities placed before me during my day.  I could serve like Jesus, one person at a time, one need at a time.  I realized that taking the time to listen to a child or a friend who needed a shoulder to cry on was a way of service.  I realized sharing my witness of Christ and hope through His teachings was another way to serve.  I realized that taking the time to get to know someone so that they could be open about their needs was a way to serve.  Even writing a note or a text to let someone know they are of value and appreciated is a way to serve.  Service is all about recognizing needs and meeting them.  For my mind and heart, this is a much more doable way to serve and I no longer feel guilty.  I feel blessed as I notice ways that people in my life can be lifted and I have the opportunity to help.  I love much and do what I can do.

Accepting help is a much harder form of service for many of us.  When we accept help we are serving the person serving us because we are allowing them to fulfill a commandment from God.  We are being vulnerable enough to tell them that we are all in this together.  I love this quote from Spencer Kimball, “God does notice us, and he watches over us.  But it is usually through another person that He meets our needs.”  How often do we tie God’s hands because we are too proud or embarrassed to ask for help or even to allow it.  We all are lacking.  We all fall short!  God sees all our vulnerabilities and our weaknesses and He wants to send us help, He wants to lift our burdens, but we must allow it to happen.  We must show our trust in Him by allowing others to lift the burdens in our lives.

Soul Searching Question: How will you either serve or accept service today?

Service 1

Song:

Set the World on Fire by Britt Nicole

Face to face with the Author:

Joy Journey Day 2: Let Go

Philippians 4:

6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

“Be careful” in this context means afflicted. We are being told that we should not waste our time and energy worrying about things we cannot control. We are to pray about our concerns and give them to God. When we do this we will have peace and He will keep our hearts and minds safe, through Christ!

I love the story in Mark 4 where Christ calms the storm. It has been one of my favorites since childhood! Jesus had spent the day in a boat with his disciples teaching the multitude who stood on the shore. He was constantly bombarded by people needing Him, wanting Him to heal them and teach them and just be around them. I can only imagine how exhausted He must have been. So after He was done teaching He asked the disciples to row Him out into the lake. He was sleeping in the boat when a sudden and mighty storm came. The wind was blowing ferociously! The waves were crashing. And the boat was rocking like crazy! His friends were terrified… and Jesus slept. I can picture them trying desperately to row back to shore and maybe some of them were using a pail to try to keep the water out of the boat. Finally, in a panic, they woke Jesus and asked Him how He could be sleeping. Didn’t He care that they were going to die? Jesus calmly rebuked the wind and the waves telling them to be still. Then He asked them a question that so often can be applied to my life, “Why are ye so fearful? How is it ye have no faith?” This was the man, the God, who had separated the water from the water, then the water from the land when the earth was created. The same One who had parted the waters of the Red Sea so that the Israelites could walk through on dry land. Of course He could handle a few elements of water on a lake. And of course He can handle a few elements of turmoil in our lives! We must have faith and allow Him to do so. Like Themistocles once wisely declared without understanding the full truth of his words, “He who commands the sea has command of everything.” Our Lord truly is the commander of the sea!

So why is it so hard for us to have faith and trust Him with the circumstances of our lives? I so often find myself desperate for control. I want to stay in my little comfort zone and orchestrate everything perfectly. I want things to be smooth and I don’t want any storms! But what I sometimes forget is that maybe God sees I need a storm in my life, to strengthen me, to refine me. If it were up to me, there would be no storm, or at very most a light storm. But God sees the bigger picture. He sees what the storm is doing for me. And even though He can stop it, and sometimes does, He often allows it to rage and do all the cleansing and rearranging it is meant to do. I have learned over the years that when I trust Him enough to give Him control of my storms, if they are meant to rage for a while longer, He will at least allow me to move to the eye of the storm for comfort.

We want to control the things in our life so we hang onto them. But if we will trust Him enough to let them go, we will find that He is much more capable of handling the messes we are in, even if we have created them ourselves. I sometimes don’t let go of things because I can’t see how they will ever be fixed, to me it looks impossible. And so I tie God’s hands. I don’t give Him room to work because I can’t solve them, so how could He? But He is the God of miracles! And truly I have seen Him work miracles in my life time and time again, especially in the impossible, but only once I step back and let go.

When we let go of the things that are worrying us we are showing God that we trust Him. We are choosing faith over fear. When we have patience with His timing we are showing Him that we know He sees a bigger picture than we do. When we calm our mind we allow our spirit to remind us that we are not in control and that we really don’t want to be.

Here are a few things that have worked for me when I am ready to let go and let God.

*Journaling: It is so therapeutic to write out the things I am concerned about and why. When I do this it makes it easier for me to take them out of my heart and leave them on the paper, it reminds me of times past when God has sorted things out for me and it allows me to trust Him once again.

*Mindfulness: When things feel uncomfortable we tend to push them away from us rather than spending enough time with them to really diagnose whey they are a concern. When we take the time to think through a feeling to understand where it comes from and why, we can often understand the underlying issue and work through it, but we have to lean into the discomfort to start with. When we can get to the root of the problem it makes it easier to solve it, or let it go.

*Affirmations: Sometimes speaking things out loud is the only way for me to disrupt the turmoil within. We can speak positive things about ourselves or truth filled phrases. One of mine is “Faith not Fear.” It is a way I tell myself to turn off the fear and let God work.

*Letting Go Ceremony: This is something I have heard about from several different people. It can be visual. You imagine the problem and make it tiny and squash it. You picture it as an object and throw it into a fire. You put it in a helium balloon and watch it float away. Or it can be literal. Write it on a piece of paper and bury it or throw it off a cliff. One of my favorite suggestions is a prayer box. If you notice you are thinking a lot about a problem you cannot see a way to fix, you write it on a small piece of paper and put it in a box. It is a signal to you mind and you spirit that you are giving it to God to work on.

These are just a few methods of letting go. If we can do something verbal, visual, or tactile it often helps us to connect the letting go action to our minds.

Jesus said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

He wants us to have joy. When we let go of the worry over things we can do nothing about it allows Him to take them. It allows us to return to joy.

Soul searching question: What is one worry you are holding onto that you can let go of today?

Song: I’m Gonna Let It Go by Jason Gray

Face to face with author:

The God Who Sees

God Who Sees

Genesis 16:

13 And she called the name of the Lord that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?

I am feeling such a strong yearning to write!  My life has been nothing less than chaotic the last month as we have packed, moved, cleaned, unpacked, picked the piecework of our home being built and dealt with other life surprises along the way.  In the midst of these life changes I have felt lost, isolated and alone at times.  A side effect of busyness for me almost always seems to be a disconnection, even if slight, from the habits that stabilize and renew me.  In this disconnection, coming from my end, I feel myself drifting a little and my heart yearns for the anchor I need so desperately.

I heard a song this week that shook me to my core.  I felt my spirit reawaken and my yearning deepen for a shift and reconnection.  It is so interesting to me how when we go through turbulent times, big changes, or even just an increase in life’s demands we tend to drift from the source that can soothe our spirits and heal our hearts.  We feel like we are in a wilderness or a desert, dry and parched and desperate for the living water that can revive us.  It is in these places that we can most appreciate the revitalization and renewal that only that spring of water can bring to our lives, if we choose to turn to it.  But we must take the time to seek and to drink. This song truly reminded me that we have a God that sees us in every circumstance of our lives and desires more than anything to not only be involved in the details, but also to comfort, lift and strengthen us.  I am so very grateful for the God who sees… me!!!

The song is on the long side, but it so powerfully  melds bible stories with music.  I promise if you take the time to listen to it, you will not be sorry!  Here are a few of the words that have infiltrated my mind and heart this week…

The God Who Sees by Kathie Lee Gifford & Nicole C. Mullen

Then He speaks in gentle whispers And He softly calls her name She feels His arms enfold her As He holds her And she’ll never be the same ‘Cause I’m the God who never changes And My promises are true And when this world deserts you This is what I’ll do

And I will be a ring of fire around you And I will be the glory in your midst And the power of My presence Will bring you to your knees Then I will lift you up again For I’m the God who sees

Sees you in your wilderness Sees you in your brokenness When you’re feeling lonely, I’m the God who sees In the desert places, in your empty spaces I’m the God who sees I’m nearer than you dare believe Here in the very air you breathe I’m the God who sees… You

Read more at: https://www.christian-songlyrics.net/2019/04/the-god-who-sees-lyrics-kathie-lee.html
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Tribute to a Friend


“We can’t fully appreciate joyful reunions later without tearful separations now. The only way to take sorrow out of death is to take love out of life.” Russell M. Nelson

I want to share my thoughts from the last couple of days. I am so very grateful for my Savior, Jesus Christ, who gives me His strength when I have run out of my own.

Amidst the chaos that is my life right now (between packing to move and also getting ready for a 3 day event selling my flannel board stories in Bear Lake) I found out yesterday that one of my very dear friends has passed away. So I’ve been moving forward with the action that life demands but with a lot of breaking into tears moments as I grieve for myself at his loss. I just want to take a minute to pay tribute to my friend, Tom Petko, and share my top 6 things he taught me over the last 19 years of friendship.

1. You don’t have to be blood to be family. This man came into our lives and treated us as if he were an extension of our family. He treated my children, my husband and I like gold. I did what I could to reciprocate the love I always felt for him. That usually came by the way of a homecooked meal or baked goods, but it never seemed to measure up to his generosity. He and his parents always spoiled us!

2. Chasing your passion is a good thing! He opened my eyes to the sport of trap shooting, something I never knew I could love so much! He would always laugh about the fact that he and Chad made plans to shoot and I tagged along. He admitted repeatedly that he initially thought, “The ball and chain can’t just let her man have some time with the guys.” Then I asked if I could try… I always loved changing the way that man thought about things! We spent hours and hours shooting together or traveling to shoots with kids in tow to shoot little orange clay disks out of the sky and it was fabulous! He once bought me a shirt that said, “Happiness is a warm shotgun.” I fully concur with that! One of my favorite memories was a turkey shoot we attended in Weber County. We won so many turkeys together that there were some men who really wanted us disqualified from winning any more. (As Tom pointed out he probably just hated being outshot by a girl!)

3. Taking time to pursue my dreams actually makes me a better wife and mother. There were a couple of times that Chad (and my sisters) watched the kids so that I could take a road trip with Tom to go shooting. I always came back refreshed and ready to put more energy and love into my roles at home. Not only was the hobby enjoyable but Tom was such a great conversationalist! I am really going to miss our discussions!

4. You can have completely different beliefs from someone else and still respect and love them. I am a bit of a religious nut and Tom was far from it. But I honestly learned so much about myself and my beliefs from the deep conversations we had together. I knew he didn’t always agree with me, but I never for one second doubted that he respected me. He even nicknamed me the “shooting saint” because I refused to shoot on Sundays. And he would help me find the nearest church and drop me off so I could worship in my way while he “went to church” in his way (shooting).

5. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. After many years of “batching it” (as Tom called his bachelor days) Tom found love and companionship again. And though I was so glad that he was not lonely anymore, his new companion seemed to find me and my family competition for some reason. Because of this and Tom being restricted to a wheelchair, our relationship has been limited to phone calls, text messages and Christmas gift exchanges (Tom was the best gift giver I’ve ever met!) We have missed him so much over the last few years. We have missed our regular dinner dates (my kids learned a lot about patience as we would sit for hours in a “BS session” as Tom called it). We have missed his irreverent sense of humor and his hilarious way of looking at the world. We have missed his vocalized support and encouragement for us as parents. I have missed shooting with him. And I have really missed his giant teddy bear hugs!

6. Life is short. Tom was a big man! This caused complications with his knees. He was not a candidate for surgery unless he lost a certain amount of weight and being in a wheelchair eliminated the ability to lose weight through exercise. Tom had big dreams. He worked very hard for 40 years to save for retirement. He planned to travel and shoot and fish. He planned to go on safari and shoot some amazing pictures (a different kind of shooting he found a love for later in life). He planned to really live and enjoy what he called the “best years.” And so, even though I grieve for me and the fact that I will never get to have the catchup dinner he promised us once surgery restored his mobility, I mostly grieve for him and that he never got to do all those things on his bucket list that he worked so hard and saved for!

Tom was a good man! He had a huge heart! He was one of the most loving and generous men I ever knew. He was so good to me and to my family. He was our family! And he will be sorely missed. I realized as I looked for pictures of my friend that I don’t have them. But I am so grateful that I have hundreds and hundreds of memory pictures in my data bank! We made some really great memories together that I will treasure forever!

I look forward to the time when I will get to stroll along this giant of a man and catch up on all we have missed out talking about. That is going to be the grandest of all BS sessions!!!

He Knows You and He Loves You

Have you ever had one of those days (or maybe even weeks) when you just don’t feel like you’re enough?  Like you aren’t measuring up to the expectations those around you have for you? Like no matter how much you do there just isn’t enough time to do all that is required?  Maybe you just feel lonely and unappreciated?

I think we all have those times!  Even those of us who normally feel cheerful, optimistic and blessed beyond measure… This post is for one of those days.

There is always one who loves you.  He knows you completely –  the best of you and the worst of you – and He still adores you! He knows your strengths and your weaknesses.  He knows you intentions and your desires. He knows how hard you try.  And He admires  you for all of those things.  In His eyes, there is no disappointment, only love. If you are feeling weak and weary…  If you are feeling broken and discarded… If you are feeling overwhelmed and underappreciated… He is there.  Go to Him.  Ask Him if He loves you.  You can find peace and comfort in His heavenly embrace. To Him, you are always enough!

Zephaniah 3:

17 Thy Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.

Song: I Am Loved

Favorite Find: God’s Love letter for you…

Talk: Living the Gospel Joyfully

https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2014/10/living-the-gospel-joyful?lang=eng

Talk: Trust in the Lord

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/1995/10/trust-in-the-lord?lang=eng

 

Day 20: He Suffered and Died for You

Luke 22:

39 ¶ And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him.
40 And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation.
41 And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed,
42 Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.
43 And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.
44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
45 And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow,
46 And said unto them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.
47 ¶ And while he yet spake, behold a multitude, and he that was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them, and drew near unto Jesus to kiss him.
48 But Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?

54 ¶ Then took they him, and led him, and brought him into the high priest’s house. And Peter followed afar off.

Matthew 27:

27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers.
28 And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe.
29 ¶ And when they had plaited a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!
30 And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head.
31 And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him.

Mark 15:

22 And they bring him unto the place Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull.
23 And they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but he received it not.
24 And when they had crucified him, they parted his garments, casting lots upon them, what every man should take.
25 And it was the third hour, and they crucified him.

Luke 23:

45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.
46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
47 Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias.
48 And straightway one of them ran, and took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink.
49 The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him.
50 ¶ Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.

John 19:

38 ¶ And after this Joseph of Arimathæa, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.
39 And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.
40 Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.
41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.
42 There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.

Matthew 27:

60 … and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.

Today I have posted just a few verses for a glimpse of the agony our Savior went through on that first Good Friday. His anguish began with the distress of the atonement in Gethsemane, followed by a painful betrayal at a friend’s hands, an unfair secret trial, the demand for His death by His own people, mockery and torment by soldiers who knew nothing of His mission or who He was, and finally a horrific death upon a cross. I would highly encourage you to read these chapters in each of the Gospels for your own personal understanding and insight of these events. (Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 19)

It is hard for me to put into words my feelings about these torturous last hours of my Redeemer’s earthly life.  As I read talks, listened to music and watched videos to prepare myself for this post I found myself weeping with compassion for my Savior, remorse for my own part in His suffering, and gratitude for what He was willing to go through for each of us.  His love-driven willpower is incomprehensible to me.  As much as I know His Grace is an offering free of my earning it, it does make me want to prove my gratitude through my actions.  I want to show my love to Him by using my time wisely and serving Him and those around me well. I think one of the other important ways for us to show our appreciation to Him for all He did for us is to accept the gift He has offered.  We must allow His atonement to be applied to us and not just believe in its effectiveness for other people, but to really believe we personally can be cleansed, sanctified and empowered by it.

When I was younger and tried to picture the atonement made in our behalf, I would imagine Christ suffering for culminations of individual sins, for instance, first He would suffer for all the lies that were ever told, then for all the murders that were ever committed, then for all the impure thoughts that were ever considered, and so forth.  A combination of study and spiritual growth over the years has given me a better understanding of the reason for what our Savior went through. He was willing to suffer for us because He loves us wholly and completely.  He loves us individually and wanted to understand us each perfectly so that He could succor us in the exact way we need to be attended to.  I believe the atonement was much more personal than suffering for clumps of similar sins.  I believe He suffered individually for each of us.  I believe He knows every moment of my life, my joys, my sorrows, my strengths, my weaknesses, my sins, my sicknesses, and every burden I will ever carry.  I do not know by what miracle this is possible, but I believe He is the God of the individual and this is the only way He could truly know me well enough to care for me in every way I need Him to.  And I believe He did the same thing for each of you.  It is a personal atonement.  An atonement made one by one.  And I believe He would have been willing to do it even if you were the only one.

Song:

Lay Down My Life

Song:

Peace in Christ

Talk:

Gift of Grace

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2015/04/the-gift-of-grace?lang=eng

Talk:

Pattern For All

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2005/10/a-pattern-for-all?lang=eng

Soul Searching Question:

How can you allow the atonement to work in your life? Is their something specific you need to repent of? Is there something you’ve repented of you need to forgive yourself for?

Day 13: He Can Make Us Whole

Luke 17:

11 ¶ And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.
12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:
13 And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.
14 And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.
15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God,
16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.
17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?
18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.
19 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.

Matthew 9:

22 But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour.
Mark 10:

52 And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way.

There are so many stories in the scriptures of Jesus healing people. The phrase “made whole” has always struck a chord with me. Especially reading the first story I shared here. When I would read about how 10 lepers were healed and only one went back to show gratitude, I always wondered why Jesus would tell him that his faith had made him whole. He had healed all 10 of them, so how was this grateful leper’s blessing any greater? For a while I thought maybe it was because he was given the knowledge of how he was healed. Then I had an experience that taught me for myself that there actually was a difference between being healed and being made whole.

In 2011 I unexplainably started losing my vision. It affected both eyes, but my right eye more dramatically. I went to many doctors and no one could ever explain why my retina suddenly started to become defective. My blood vessels were leaking and I was losing my color and central vision. The first year was incredibly hard, especially because they could not identify the cause and therefore could not tell me how it would progress or whether it would spread to other systems. It was a time of great loss and much fear for me.

In my religion we believe in the power of healing blessings through God’s power. I received many blessings of healing over this time. I struggled because I had faith that God could heal me, but for some reason felt that He did not want to. After nearly 2 years of working through things, turning to God for strength and answers, seeking the best medical help, sharing my feelings and fears with my friends and family, I got 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 time been made whole.

Through that experience I was able to understand the story of the lepers. All were healed, but only that grateful leper was healed from his mental, emotional, and spiritual scars that had stemmed from his affliction. He was made whole because he turned back to the Savior. Though we may not be healed physically in this life, we can ALL be made whole emotionally and spiritually by doing exactly as the leper in this story did, we can turn to the Lord. And as we do this, He will help us start that journey of healing.

Song:

Made New

Talk:

Wilt Thou Be Made Whole

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2018/10/wilt-thou-be-made-whole?lang=eng

Thought by Merrill J. Bateman:

(He was listening to a woman who had been paralyzed in a car accidentally bear witness to Good having healed her on the inside.)

“As I listened, the Spirit bore witness of the great miracles of the Atonement and the Savior’s power to mend broken hearts, to heal from within. The Savior’s parable of the ten lepers took on new meaning. Luke describes Jesus meeting ten lepers. Upon seeing the Savior, they cried, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” Jesus responded: “Go shew yourselves unto the priests.” As they went their way, they were cleansed. One returned, fell on his face at the Master’s feet, and gave thanks. Jesus said, “Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?” And then the Lord said to the one who returned, “Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole” (see Luke 17:12–19). In becoming a whole person, the grateful leper was healed inside as well as on the outside. That day nine lepers were healed skin deep, but only one had the faith to be made whole. The tenth leper and Sister Hee were changed eternally by their faith in the Savior and the healing power of his atonement.
The Savior’s atonement in the garden and on the cross is intimate as well as infinite. Infinite in that it spans the eternities. Intimate in that the Savior felt each person’s pains, sufferings, and sicknesses. Consequently, he knows how to carry our sorrows and relieve our burdens that we might be healed from within, made whole persons, and receive everlasting joy in his kingdom. May our faith in the Father and the Son help each of us to become whole.

Soul Searching Question:

How can you show faith and allow God to make you whole in one area of your life today?

Day 8: He Calms the Storm

Mark 4:

37 And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.
38 And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?
39 And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
40 And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?
41 And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?

Every one of us has trials and adversity in our lives. And I would venture that most if not all of us have at one time looked at the storm raging around us, feeling its destructive velocity, and wondered why the Lord seemed unaware or unaffected by our terror. I think a common thought in these circumstances would be the exact phrase the disciples voiced to Christ, “Carest thou not that we perish?” Most of us recognize His incredible power and ability to change our circumstances. It would be so easy for the Master of Miracles to calm the storms of our lives! Then why doesn’t He?

Well, sometimes He does, but many times He chooses not. I don’t know all the reasons He does not, but I know in my own life that it is much easier to see His reasons in hindsight. When I look back on my biggest storms, the ones in which I plead desperately for relief, I can see how much learning and growing was done for me in these moments that seemed to stretch on for eternity when I was going through them. Sometimes there were lessons I needed to learn about me and about my relationship with God that could have been learned in no other way. Sometimes there were things others around me needed from these heavy sacrificial moments that I would have gladly given if I’d recognized the need at the time. Sometimes what felt like the worst thing actually opened doors that led to amazing things. I think the most important thing I have learned through my own un-calmed storms is that my perspective and understanding is so limited. God sees the bigger picture and what is going to be most beneficial to me in the long run, rather than what would bring me momentary relief and a sense of instant gratification. I am learning to have faith in Him, rather than faith in outcomes.

The other amazing thing I have learned from the storms in my life is that even when He often chooses not to calm the storm, He will ALWAYS calm me. He has an ability to help me find what I now call the eye of the storm. When I go to Him in prayer now I rarely ask for Him to change my circumstances and rather I ask for peace in the moment. I have learned that even though I may have to go through the circumstances I don’t have to go through them alone and I don’t have to go through them in anguish. I can find rest in Him. I can almost tangibly feel heavenly arms around me. Sometimes this comes as I am on my knees. Sometimes it comes when I am reading His word or listening to uplifting music. Sometimes it comes when I open my heart to a friend or family member and allow them to see my vulnerability and pain. The peace and the comfort come in many different forms, but they come. And I recognize the source as the Master who has the ability to calm the storm in me.

As Cicero said, “He who commands the sea has command of everything.”

Song:

Sometimes He Calms the Storm

Talk:

Master the Tempest is Raging

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/1984/10/master-the-tempest-is-raging?lang=eng

Soul Searching Question:

What is a storm in your life you will allow Christ to calm?

Day 7: He Runs to Us

Luke 15:

3 ¶ And he spake this parable unto them, saying,
4 What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
5 And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
6 And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.
7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

11 ¶ And he said, A certain man had two sons:
12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.
13 And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.
14 And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.
15 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
16 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.
17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.
22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:
24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.
25 Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing.
26 And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.
27 And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.
28 And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and entreated him.
29 And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:
30 But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.
31 And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.
32 It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.

There are a few different perspectives that can be studied in this beautiful parable.  The one I want to focus on today is that of the prodigal son.  Each of us can relate to this son in the fact that we have all made mistakes and have turned away from God from time to time by not making Him a priority in our lives.  This may have led to sizeable sins or slightly measurable ones, but in either case, without the atonement of our Redeemer, these mistakes would bar us from ever being able to be in the presence of God again.

I for one have felt the guilt and shame of mistakes in my life.  I have felt the heavy burden of wondering whether or not I would ever feel loved by God or worthy of that love again.  Because of those feelings of despair I can completely relate to the squandering son who desired only to be a servant to his father, to be under his roof and protection once again, even if he could not partake fully of the abundance.

To my surprise, I learned that an acknowledgement of our mistakes and repentance of them, even of severe ones , does bring our Father running to us.  Regardless of our foolishness, He loves us and wants us to return to Him more than anything! He is waiting and watching for us to choose this course, and as soon as our heart is turned back towards Him it allows Him to run to us, to comfort us, to teach us, and to heal us. He will never cross the barriers of our agency, but when we act in such a way to invite Him back into our lives, He joyfully responds to the invitation.

Maybe you have never made sizeable mistakes that left you feeling this deep desperation, but even the smallest of sins saddens the heart of our loving Father because it keeps Him from being able to be fully in our lives.  We make choices every day that either bring us closer to Him or push Him farther away.  With each of these choices we bring Him joy or sadness. I am so grateful for a compassionate Savior and Redeemer who loves us so much He was willing to innocently suffer for and atone for our sins.  Through this great and infinite act He gives us each the key to repent and unlock the ability to return.  The most miraculous thing to me is that it does not have a limited amount of uses.  Any time, every time we come to our senses and realize we have distanced ourselves from God, we can use this gift to turn again and start on a path back to a Father who will run to us!

Song:

He Ran to Me

Talk:

Redeemer of Israel

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/1995/10/redeemer-of-israel?lang=eng

Soul Searching Question: What is one area in your life you can turn back to God today?