Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Challenge!: An Update

I can hardly believe how fast time this year has gone. The holidays are fast approaching and I am excited in a way that I am not sure I have ever been. After being so inspired by the goodness of so many people that have served my family, I decided to make an effort to pay it forward. Although our projects weren't anything magnificent, we did complete one service project each month as a family.

Every month, usually at the first family home evening of the month, we would try to come up with a service project that we could do. Sometimes, we would complete our service project as a family home evening activity. After the project was completed, we would sit down together and each write about what we did and how it made us feel. My younger children would tell me what they wanted to say and I would write it for them. My kids also drew pictures showing what we did.

All of our written experiences have been placed in our "gift" box that has sat on a little desk we have in our kitchen/dining area. The gift has been where we could see it all year long. I can hardly wait to put it under our tree. On Christmas Eve we will add to our tradition of having hot chocolate and homemade cinnamon rolls with reading some of our service experiences . I really can't wait to present our family gift to the Savior this year. We have been so very blessed and I wish to let Him know how grateful I am.

 Lessons I have learned this year about service:

1-Service doesn't have to be some grand project. Simple acts of kindness can be as meaningful as the "big stuff."

2-Anyone can find ways to serve. In the beginning of this I had a hard time finding projects that I could do with my children who were the ages of 7, 6, 4, and 1 years old. Once we got going, we found many things they could do even at their young ages such as picking up garbage, cleaning up parks (sweeping woodchips or rocks off of pathways), making cards for people who are sick, etc. There are no boundaries as far as age, physical conditions, or special skills go. Anyone can find ways to serve.

3-There is always time for service if you make time. I went back to school to finish my degree at the same time we started this goal at the beginning of the year. I am a single mother and also work out of my home. Sometimes I felt too busy, but I realized that there was a problem in my life if I couldn't make enough time to do something good in the world with my children once a month. It takes a little planning, but just like anything else in life, you will make time for the things that are the most important to you.

4-Service is fun. I am not sure there is anything more rewarding than seeing your children work happily together to serve the Lord and His children. Often my kids teamed up to complete things. We made games out of it like seeing who could fill up their bag of garbage first or who could drop off their treat/note without being seen. Reading my kids write about how they "felt happy" or how a certain project "made them feel good inside" is so fulfilling.

I wish to again thank all those who have been such examples of giving and service. I pray that one day I can grow to be the kind of Christlike person that so many have been to me. I am excited to make this a permanent family tradition and 10 years from now have a pile of presents under our tree for our Savior.

Monday, March 9, 2015

How Could I Forget Thee?

At nearly the same time that I hit my low point during the hardest time in my life, I was up watching some TV.  I usually go to bed at 10:00 but I just sat there not feeling motivated to get ready for bed.  The ten o'clock news came on and there was a story about an accident that happened while a family was up at some sand dunes.  They didn't disclose any names or a lot of detail of what had happened.  A few other stories came on and then the weather report started.  I decided I better get to bed.

The next day, I saw hundreds of messages on Facebook offering prayers and support to my friend.  tried to figure out what all these messages were about and somewhere was a link to a news report that shared the story of what I saw on TV the night before.  My stomach instantly dropped.  immediately called someone in my ward to see if everything was alright.  It didn't look good. Their 15 year old daughter was life-flighted to Salt Lake. She passed away not too long after. 

I was sitting on my floor next to my bed in the exact spot I had knelt not too many days before
when I plead for my suffering to be taken from me.  I just started sobbing.  Why? Here was this
family who was perfect.  The parents seemed to have respect and love for each other and their
children were such good kids; smart, kind, and good examples. They taught and lived the gospel. Their daughter Whitney, who had passed away,  was so beautiful and she radiated the light of Christ.  She bore her testimony once in Sacrament Meeting about prayer and her words were so touching. She helped me to remember how powerful prayer is in a time when I needed to hear it.  Why did this happen to them? THEY DID NOT DESERVE THIS!  No one had done anything wrong to cause their hurting. I wished that I could take it from them. This wasn't fair.

 I felt sick to my stomach knowing the pain I had been enduring in my life probably wasn't even a fraction of what they were facing.  I knew I couldn't begin to imagine their suffering. I prayed
and prayed and prayed that they would feel comfort. I didn't know if that was possible when they
had just lost their beautiful girl, but I prayed for it anyway.  I plead that they would feel Jesus
Christ with them.  I hoped that they knew that He had not forsaken them.  Heaven's eye was not
turned when this happened.  They were not forgotten. I hoped they could hear Jesus Christ telling them:

 How Could I Forget Thee?
 When you're graven on my Hands
 Every pain and heartache I understand
 Come to me and rest
 I'll never leave you comfortless
 I've carried your sorrows
 And bourne your grief
 Please trust in me

When I first wrote this song every verse was about horrible tragedies such as a mother losing her child, but I changed the verses because although I can't imagine anything more heart breaking or painful than losing a child, I believe there are different degrees of pain and people feel pain for so many different reasons.  Sometimes it is because of something that wasn't caused by anything or anyone.  Other times, pain comes from our own choices or the choices of others. Sometimes people feel pain just because they don't understand who they really are or what their purpose is. So no matter what is causing our aching, Jesus Christ suffered and atoned for all of it, no matter how big or how small our trials are. 

I have pondered why Jesus Christ still has scars in his hands and his feet if He has been
resurrected.  I have always understood that we won't have scars or blemishes when we are resurrected.  I don't know if there is a doctrinal reason (if there is, someone please teach me), but to me it is because His atonement is infinite.  He didn't just suffer while in the Garden of Gethsemane or while on the cross and that was the end of His mission so He could move on and forget it all. He continually feels our pain and sorrows.  We are imprinted on His hands.  We are continually before Him and He sees and He feels everything that we go through...still! And forever!!! Even though he actually Atoned for our sins and sorrows long ago.

 So, to my amazing friend, Karin, and her husband and all of their family, I know that there are no words that can take away your pain, but I know that Jesus Christ is there even when you can't
feel Him during the moments when  your heartache consumes you. He cannot forget you.  You
are graven on His hands.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Christmas of Miracles

It has always seemed completely crazy how people in the scriptures lose their faith so quickly after a miracle. Isn't it insane that after the Israelites were freed from bondage and experienced the Red Sea parting that they were so quick to worship other idols and turn to their prideful ways?  How could somebody forget so fast?!
In The Book of Mormon, Laman and Lemuel were beating Nephi because of his determination to do as the Lord commanded to get the brass plates.  An angel came and told them to listen to Nephi and that they needed to get the plates.  It says that after the angel had spoken, he departed.  IN THE VERY NEXT VERSE, Laman and Lemuel began to murmur.  Immediately! Really?!
I always think, "if I saw an angel, I would be so in awe that I would never doubt again!" But, I have a confession.  I am just like them.
2014 was filled with so much happiness and peace. I experienced so many miracles and without a doubt in my mind I can say that I know Heavenly Father has been guiding me. I had a tough day towards the end of that summer.  I thought, "nothing ever goes right for me!!! I am trying so hard to do what is right.  I am doing all I can to take care of and provide for my kids.  We have FHE every week and family scriptures and prayer each night.  I am doing all that I've been asked.  Then, why?"
Despite every miracle and blessing that I had received the whole year (and my whole life!!!), I got so frustrated.  I am so ashamed at my lack of faith.  I am no better than Laman and Lemuel.  I am no better than the children of Israel. 
This Christmas was one of many miracles.  The scripture comes to mind in Malachi from the Old Testament that says, "I you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it."  That is exactly what I experienced at Christmas.  So many people have shown so much kindness and generosity. The things I was worried about taking care of, were taken of and then there was much, much more.  I felt that way many times.  "This is so much.  I can't even take it all in.  I don't deserve this."  I thought back on my down days and thought, "how could I have ever questioned that God was taking care of me? After all I have already experienced and continue to experience that make it so clear He is aware."  So I am pathetic! But I have to say thank you to all those who were my angels and who served in a way that was nothing short of how the Savior would serve. You all know who you are! I have cried many, many tears of gratitude for the way that you all have blessed my life!

The Challenge!

I realize I will never be able to repay everyone for their kindness and generosity, but I am inspired and determined to pay it forward.  I was thinking about the spirit of Christmas and how there is something in the air that makes people so giving and thoughtful around that time of the year.  I have made a goal with my children to turn the "12 days of Christmas" into "12 months of Christmas." Every month we will find someone to serve or something to give to. We will decide on the first Monday of the month at FHE what this will be. I plan to have my kids and I write about each experience on a paper and put it in a box that is wrapped like a present which I will put somewhere visible in our home. On Christmas Eve this year, we will read our experiences which will be our "gift" to the Savior.  I invite anyone who wants to join me in this goal, to do so.  Feel free to send me any special experiences that I can share on here anonymously.
The Savior spent His whole life giving.  I want to be more like Him.  I hope that this year my family and I can show our gratitude to all of you by spreading His goodness and love.  Thank you all again.  I have been changed forever and your love will not be forgotten!