Tuesday, November 22, 2016

My Hope

Soon after I was divorced, I got myself into school so I could provide a better life for my kids and I. For one of my courses (public health), I was required to do some service hours in the community. I chose to spend some time at the local homeless shelter. From the moment I arrived, I was feeling so much compassion for the people using these services. I also felt a great deal of gratitude for all that I have. As I was working in the pantry, I saw a paper on the wall that listed the income limits for those eligible to live at the shelter. My heart dropped when I realized that I qualified to stay there. Whoa, what? I had no idea I was that poor. The word "humble" doesn't really begin to describe what I was feeling.

On my way home, and for days following, I reflected on this. Why was I in such a better situation when we had the same financial resources? I concluded that it came down to choice. After all, when I was there working, quite a few people were sitting around picnic tables smoking cigarettes, gossiping, and just hanging out. In contrast, I was actively seeking a better life and willing to work for it. I was taking advantage of available opportunities such as finishing my education to obtain a better way of life. These people have the same choice, right? I thought this was lesson I learned that day - that it's about hard work and self-reliance. Although I strongly believe in those principles, there is a completely different and more meaningful lesson I have come to understand.

Fast forward a few years to a night when I was reading my scriptures and came across the words, "perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery...his punishments are just." This is essentially the conclusion I had come to through my experience at the homeless shelter. As I continued to read, it said that whoever says/thinks this about others, "the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God." (Mosiah 4:17-18). Uhm, punch to the stomach right there! I felt awful for weeks realizing where my heart was. The thing is, and as it points out in the next verse, "are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God for all the substance which we have...?"

In that moment, I realized every blessing that God has given me that has allowed me to get where I am. Yes, I have done my best to work, but without His help, I would still be nowhere. You see, I have a great support system. I have wonderful family and friends who have been there for me this whole time. I am physically and mentally healthy. And greatest of all, I have a knowledge of who I am and where I am going. I understand, believe in, and use the Atonement. I have hope!

I didn't know any of those people. Maybe they have no one or feel they have no reason to try. Maybe they have illnesses that prevent them from attaining education or employment. Maybe they have never hoped for anything better. I don't know and that's the point.

It is my prayer and hope that we can withhold judgments, serve freely, and realize where the true source of all that we have comes from. I hope that we can "succor those that stand in need of succor [and] administer...substance unto him that standeth in need." (Mosiah 4:16)

Sunday, October 16, 2016

He lives! And He has given me a weekly reminder...

Every Sunday when I attend church I partake of the Sacrament. I partake of the bread that symbolizes Jesus Christ's body and drink the water that symbolizes His blood. I had always thought we are to remember His body that He sacrificed for us. I pictured His Atonement and what His body suffered and endured to make that possible. I believe that is part of it, but perhaps there is more.

Jesus Christ appeared to the people of Nephi after His resurrection. There He administered the sacrament. In 3 Nephi 18:7, Jesus teaches, "and this shall ye do in remembrance of my body, which I have shown unto you." In this account, it seems to me that the bread is to remind them of His resurrected body.

In a book written by Stephen Covey titled, "Spiritual Roots of Human Relations," he discusses how it is the Lord's work and glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man (Moses 1:39). "When the Lord revealed [this]...he essentially outlined the two great parts...of all that he has attempted to do among men since the beginning." The first part is immortality, and the second part is eternal life. Immortality is for everyone because of the miracle of the resurrection. Eternal life, "which has to do with the quality of the resurrection...is personal achievement by each individual made possible through the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ."

Could it be that the sacrament symbolizes exactly that? We remember His body and the gift we have of immortality. We rejoice in the miracle that Jesus Christ indeed lives! Not only that, we will have that same opportunity! Then after we partake and remember that marvelous gift, we partake of the water to remember the second part. We realize our need for the Atonement in order to achieve eternal life which is really only possible because of the first part.

I've gained personal insight on the meaning of the sacrament cup and the role of being able to follow the will of God no matter how bitter the "cup." Now, I add that it's really even a miracle in the first place that that matters. It matters that I choose His will because Jesus Christ actually lives! Otherwise there would be no point!

The sacrament, in addition to other important symbolisms, represents very well God's plan - to bring to pass the immortality AND eternal life of man.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

I AM NOT A "SINGLE MOM"

Yes, I am a mom. Yes, I am single, but I don’t define myself by it. The term “single mom” seems to imply so many things that I am not. I am not broken. I am not lonely. I am not stressed and struggling every single day to make it. I am not bitter. I am not angry or resentful. I am not an emotional wreck. I don’t cry myself to sleep. I am not overwhelmed.

I am, however, grateful. I am grateful that I have become the person that I am today. I am so grateful that I have learned to trust God. I am so grateful that I have become so aware of His hand in my life even during the times when I didn’t know if He really cared. I am thankful that my faith has been tested in a way that only solidified it. I am so grateful for the increase in love for my Savior who provided the Atonement that could bring peace and healing to a broken heart. I am thankful to have experienced the power of forgiveness made possible through that Atonement. I am thankful that I’ve learned to have an understanding heart and be less judgmental as I have come to realize that I don’t know what someone might be dealing with behind closed doors.
I am grateful that I am me again. For so long I lived to make someone else happy who really could never be pleased. I felt responsible for the actions and happiness of someone else. I was so busy living for someone else that I forgot who “Angela” was. Since being a “single mom,” I have remembered who I am and it feels so good to be able to be myself again. I am smart, capable, and worthy of being loved – all things I forgot somewhere during my marriage.
I am grateful that I can be a better mom. I can focus on my kids without carrying around the heavy burden of a broken marriage. That was a load that nearly crushed everything that I am. I have energy and light because I no longer have turmoil draining me from the inside out. I have more patience and can give so much more attention to my children because I’m no longer distracted by problems that use to occupy my heart and mind.
Obviously my life has changed a lot since I was divorced. There are random days that I still mourn the loss of so many dreams. All I ever hoped for in life was to be a good wife and mother; to have a good marriage and raise good kids. I was going to have five or six kids by the time I was 30. Well, that never happened. It sometimes hurts knowing I don’t have the ideal situation for my kids and that I don’t have the “cute little family” in the way that I spent my whole life dreaming about. It stinks to be part of the statistics of divorce even though I still wanted to fight for my marriage. So, sometimes it can be rough, but…
I will not be the victim and I will not label myself or define myself by my current marital status. “Single mom” describes my situation – as in, I am a mom and I am no longer married - but it does not describe me.