Monday, August 25, 2014

Nevertheless, I Know in Whom I have Trusted

   It has definitely been an interesting few weeks. For awhile, I have postponed my blogging because I haven't felt as if there was anything in my life worth sharing with others. Not yet, anyway. At least, that was my thinking. Since I have been home from school, I have hardly had time off work, and so I sometimes catch myself feeling as if I am not accomplishing much. I realize, however, that this is where the adversary catches us. He turns our blessings into inconveniences. I have resolved to never allow him to do this to me again.
   As I was writing in my journal last night, a thought occurred to me as I looked back on my life these last couple of years. Yes, there have been quite a few struggles. I have been tested physically, spiritually, financially, emotionally, and socially, on such levels that I never thought I would be able to handle. But I have been able to handle it, in the long run, because I have put my trust in the Lord.
   I always like to bring up my favorite section in the Book of Mormon, where the prophet Nephi is writing down his woes and sorrows because of the sins which he has committed in his life. It is so beautiful to me, this subtle reminder that nobody on this earth is perfect but Christ, even the prophets and apostles feel the grief we sometimes feel over the sins and troublesome times in our life. However, Nephi stops in his mourning, and with such powerful words, which have never left my heart, he says,
   "Nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted...My God hath been my support."
   I am going to adopt this as I plan to depart on my mission, when times get hard, and I know they will, I will know that I am supported by a loving God, and that my life has been so full of little miracles that have changed my life. My older brother, Alec, on his mission in France, titles his weekly emails "Le Miracle" then his transfer number and week, so this week his email title was "Le Miracle 12.2." He is such an example to me, and I love hearing from him each week.
   Jenessa will be coming home within the month and I am so excited to see her after 18 long months, months which I know will have changed my sister's life. I can only hope that I allow my mission to do the same for me. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Don't Let Anyone Else Hold the Pen

     My mom gave me this beautiful pen before she left me at BYU before my second semester of college. It writes beautifully, it fits perfectly into my hand, but what I love about it the most is the message that it displays on its side. 

     "When writing the story of your life,
     Don't let anyone else hold the pen."

     How I love these words. Of course, my first instinct when I read it, and though I'm sure I've heard the quote before, was that it meant to write your own story, to keep record of it in journal writing.
I am, or strive to be, an avid journal writer. I love pouring my thoughts onto the page, I love recording events that happen in my life, both good and bad, and I love going back and reading about my life in my finished journals... But there's more to it.
     Don't let anyone else hold the pen. When we're acting and doing, we are writing our life story, shaping our future, and creating our past. Nobody can hold that pen, only we can. I am in control of what I do, with whom I speak, and the things I think and feel. But sometimes, and maybe this is human nature, I blame my problems, my failures, my weaknesses, on others and their actions. I blame circumstances and I pretend that they are wielding my pen... But they can't. It is mine and only mine. 
     A few days ago I had a date planned, but the guy never showed up at my apartment. He stood me up. I was bitter, upset, and for a long moment, I was angry at myself and the boy for what he'd "done to me." Thoughts swirled in my head, dark and dreary thoughts of myself, and I turned to my journal. I began to write all these thoughts down, and in a moment of wordlessness on the page I twirled the pen between my fingers. The words etched into the side slowly seeped into my mind, and the tears that had been falling ceased. I was allowing myself to let satan gain influence over me, to darken my image of myself and this boy, and I didn't want that. No matter how much he tries, I will try to. The pen is in my hand; we wield the pens. We can take control and turn away from darkness, turn away from negativity and despair, and write about the good in our lives. 
     My dear, beautiful, selfless, kind mother... She is the good in my life. She is always there for me, no matter the trial, no matter the time, and I love her so very much. She gave me the pen, she gave me life. She has given me more than I can ever give her... She is the good.
     I encourage everyone to find the good in their lives and write about that good. We have so much in our lives worth living for; Heavenly Father loves us dearly, so dearly that he allowed his son to die for us. The very least we can do is write about him in the stories of our lives, our good and blessed lives. If we are diligent, and write stories of service, kindness, love, charity, hope, peace, and most importantly, the Savior, then the stories of our lives will end in exaltation. 
I am writing my life's story, with a smile, and I will write the good. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Because of Him

      Lately everyone has been posting on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram the hashtag "Because of Him" in light of Easter weekend. I was eager to jump into the bandwagon, but there was just too much to say in the limiting space of a Facebook post. 
      I can't really think of anything in my life that isn't because of the Savior: My family, my friends, my chance to be at Brigham Young University, to be applying for a full-time mission, my job opportunities, my talents, and of course having this gospel as a part of my life. Because of Him, I have the opportunity to repent of my sins every week during sacrament, to become clean again. Because of Him I have the redeeming power of the atonement that both enlightens me, and strengthens me to go on.
     Because of Him, we have this beautiful world that we live in. I love the fact that Easter is in spring, because every blossom, every warm breeze, every ray of sunshine testifies that there is a God, and that He created this Earth for us. The happy spring colors, the Easter eggs that symbolize rebirth, resurrection, happiness, life... what a wonderful season this is. 

       I still can't help but feel like I am not expressing my gratitude for Jesus Christ and his sacrifice accurately. I am always better at expressing my feelings through poetry, so I decided to write a poem about it. Can you guess what I will title it?

Because of Him the grass grows green 
And the sparrows sing their songs
The sunshine brings warmth to all the land
As the Easter season comes along. 
Because of Him, a child's birth
Is celebrated, sacred, and blessed 
An eight year-old child submersed in water
Cleansed and perfect, at their best.
Because of Him we can try again
Through prayer, we can be redeemed.
His gentle hands cleaning the apostles' feet
On His hands and knees, he scrubbed and cleaned.
Because of Him we have an example
And a path to follow every day of our lives
Where, if we follow the straight and narrow
With our parents, children, husbands, and wives,
We know that we'll reach His kingdom
Where He will greet us with arms outstretched
Call us by name, and welcome us home,
The kind lines on his face so delicately etched.
Because of Him, His sacrifice,
and the wounds that pierce His side,
Because of Him we can be whole again
Because he suffered, bled, and died.
Because of Him the sun on that Easter morn
Shined so perfectly on an empty tomb
Mary cried and wept, while He
Sought to ease her troubled gloom.
He lives today, He rose again
We will testify in every hymn
For today we rejoice, and celebrate
We have everything because of Him.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Born of Christ

I have gained much insight in taking this Book of Mormon class for BYU. One thing that really intrigued me, is that in Mosiah 5:7, King Benjamin praises his people for their love and acceptance of the Savior. He promises them blessings for their righteousness and change of heart, telling his people that they have received in their countenance the image of the Savior. In doing so, they have accepted Christ, resolved to be better, and made commitments and covenants to the Lord, as an assurance of their change of heart. It is in this moment that King Benjamin says to his people that they are born of Christ, for they- in taking upon themselves His image, His name- have become His blood and His seed. They are renewed.
            Upon reading this, I wondered, what does it mean to become a son of daughter of Christ, to be born of Him? Are we not born of God? 
            The scriptures give great insight and tools to better understand what it means to be born of Christ, in contrast to what it means to be born of God.
            Becoming sons and daughters of Christ is a process, not an event. There are steps, each with deeper levels of understanding of the gospel, the atonement, and Christ Himself.  The process of becoming sons and daughters of Christ consists of many steps, the first of which is to have faith in and accept Christ as the Savior and redeemer of the world. The people in the Nephite kingdom, at the time King Benjamin preached upon his tower, were willing to repent of their sins and accept Christ (Mosiah 5:4). They admitted that it was through faith that they were willing to repent, and through this faith they were able to accept Christ as their Savior. Through this acceptance of the Savior, the Nephites learned that their hearts could be changed by only believing on His name.
            Provoked by deep and spiritual introspection, the second step of becoming born of Christ is to understand a vital concept of His gospel: The only way to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven is through taking upon oneself the name of Christ (Mosiah 5:8). To take the name of Christ is to commit with the Lord that sinful actions and behaviors will no longer be desired. In order to come unto the Lord at the last day, He requires of His children clean hands and a pure heart (Alma 5:19). In more literal terms, this means that one must enter into the waters of baptism.
 The ordinance of baptism is critical in becoming sons and daughters of Christ, because it cleanses the body of all sin, thus bringing one back into the fold, and closer to Christ. This step of the process is also meant to being great joy and great blessings, so long as the baptismal covenants are made and kept. The Lord God and His Begotten Son have always intended life on this Earth to be full of joy and happiness; accordingly, they require that some sacrifice be made. The people of King Benjamin must have had some guilty pleasures, and yet they were so willing to give them up and follow their prophet, to follow their Savior (Mosiah 5:2).
The third step of becoming sons and daughters of Christ is to enter into a covenant with the Lord, in promising to honor and obey the commandments that He has set forth (Mosiah 5:5, 5:7). The most important of these covenants are those made in the waters of baptism. The children are invited to come into the fold of God, and do so when they accept to abide by their covenants. They covenant to help the children of God around them, to bear one another’s burdens, and to comfort those who need to be comforted. They covenant to stand as a witness of Christ the Savior, whatever the circumstances may hold, wherever they may be; They understand that as surely as Christ lives, they must testify of Him.
Finally, in order to become sons and daughters of Christ, the people covenant after baptism to take upon themselves His name, the name of Christ. After they are lifted up out of the waters of baptism, not only are the sins of the past washed away, but their old countenances. The light of the Savior has entered into their eyes, and they have finally become sons and daughters of Christ.
To truly become a child of Christ is to be spiritually born of God (Alma 5:14). I now understand that this is not a physical relationship between man and His creator, but a deeply invoked connection between the sinner and the Savior. It is the deeper knowledge that, without divine help, we cannot hope to make it back to Heavenly Father on our own; it is the persistent hope and endurance that leads men and women to change their ways, and to follow the light provided by the ultimate example. Spiritual birth, becoming reborn of the spirit, is often indicated by a humbling experience or realization. This realization must be, and often is, solidified by a solemn covenant to the Lord to endure to the end, and to remain a worthy son or daughter.
While being born of Christ is a spiritual process, the act of being born of God is a physical one. To be a son or daughter of God, is given in birthright; for every man and woman upon the Earth is a child of God, therefore no effort and action will be able to change that identity. Just as the earthly fathers and mothers cannot be changed, neither can the Heavenly Father. As the creator, everything upon the earth is not only for the benefit of His children, but for their growth and hope that one day, they will not only be children of God, but children of Christ as well. Just as the earth was created for the children of God, the Children of God were created to inhabit the earth (1 Nephi 17:36). The earth is a physical birthright of His children, born out of space and time, much like each individual’s physical body.
To be born at all is to be born of God, and all of His Children will remain so even until after death and through to immortality. Every Son and Daughter of God will be forever precious in the eyes of their father, and will have the love of God forever, despite any of their sins and any of their wrongdoings.
To remain a son or daughter of Christ, however, one must act in accordance to His gospel, His standards, and abide by the covenants in which they have made. If His children choose to abide by these covenants, He promises to forgive all of their sins. He promises the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, and promises His own companionship for those who actively display His light and His image upon their countenances.
Lastly, the Lord has made a promise to all the spiritual children of Christ, that they will be blessed to enter into the Celestial Kingdom prior to resurrection to live with him, and to participate in the activities of the Millennium.

Friday, February 28, 2014

On Planting A Seed

Quote of the day: "You can count the seeds in an apple, but you can't count the apples in a seed."
     I hear all the time that simply smiling at other people plants a seed, but that has failed to resonate with me. Sure, smiling at people is all fine and dandy but when people smile at me, I smile back and that's that. It's just etiquette to smile and acknowledge people as they pass you, not praiseworthy kindness. Smiling at someone does not plant a seed. Planting a seed is an action, and with every action it requires effort.
     Every gardener, if they are gardening right, has a little sweat on their brow, and gets frustrated from time to time. It's the mark of a dedicated gardener to have sunburn and dirt, and often nothing to show for it. It's much the same for people, but if you can imagine, a tad more challenging. people are definitely higher maintenance than crops; they are people after all. I have found that as I am walking around on campus (yes, I do smile at people, but that's not the point), I look at people and wonder who they are, what their name is, what their major is, why they're attending BYU instead of another university, and why they wear what they wear, go where they go, do what they do.. I want to know them. It's very strange for me, because I say all the time that I'm not a people person, and I still don't think that I am, but that doesn't mean that I can't look at people and want to know who they are, and it doesn't mean I can't wish to help them in whatever way possible.
     Not that I go around looking at people thinking, "I should plant a seed in that person, they need to grow," But I think its important that we at least look to influence the lives of the people around us by doing a little bit more than just smiling.
     First, I think gardeners don't just pick a seed they've never heard of before to plant, they start with things they know, and love. Likewise, look at the people you know in your life. Just being a friend can help them in ways that we cannot imagine. I cannot begin to list the people who have influenced my own life just by being there to listen when I needed to vent, giving me a reason to laugh, a reason to hope, a reason to be happy.
     Second, gardeners don't just plant the seed and leave it alone, it has to be nourished. Sometimes we can be the one to plant the seed, and someone else takes the opportunity to nourish it, give it water, while we watch. I think, though, if we have the chance, we should be looking after the people we love continuously. It's not enough to be a friend just once, to be a sister once, and call it good. Growth is a continual process, we should treat it as such.
      We never will know what our efforts will bring, because the apple trees that spring from these seeds we are planting will either bear fruit or they won't, but regardless of the outcome we should continue to reach out to those around us. You can count the seeds in an apple. You can count how many people you've reached out to, and hope that they pay it forward, but it doesn't matter. You can't count the apples in a seed. So keep trying. Plant a garden, and watch it grow.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A Little Opinionated

I'm just going to go on a political splurge here.. so bear with me. I've been writing these weekly essays for my American Heritage class, and I'd like to share some of my thoughts:

I recently read that former governor Mitt Romney regarded the US [social] system as the best in the world. In particular, the United States’ social mobility is largely proclaimed to be above other comparative nations. Not only does the country boast of its plentiful opportunities, but the people of America largely believe that they are in a higher standard of living than all surrounding countries. There are surveys all over the internet that show that Americans believe they enjoy much higher levels of social mobility than they actually do. To me, this suggests "something more like a religious belief in mobility than a willingness to look at the facts - a belief that permeates all demographic groups in the United States and crosses the political and ideological spectrum." In other words, this notion that social mobility in the United States is- more or less- a city upon a hill, is deeply flawed. Where the U.S. has taken a fall, other countries have risen to catch the opportunity. Where the unemployment rates of the United States are rising, they are decreasing in Canada and much of Western Europe. Poverty-stricken citizens in America have a smaller chance of making it to middle class than comparative countries, and the homeless and unemployed find it harder to make a living. The United States could, with effort, once again become that city upon a hill in social mobility. However, to accomplish this, both the citizens and the government need to start heeding facts rather than ideology. On a different note, I read that President Obama recently delayed the start date of the Employer mandate (requiring all businesses with 50 or more full-time employees to provide healthcare benefits for their employees, else fined $2,000 dollars per employee) from January 1, 2014 until January 1, 2015. Aside from the many disputations over his motives, and whom it may be affecting, this act of the President violates the Rule of Law in lacking generality, but more importantly in lacking consent. Unless I am mistaken, which I’m pretty sure I’m not… every legal process must be by consent of the people and their representatives. The President does not have the power to change the law in the first place, so why he has both acted out of office and without consent of the governed (and why he is allowed to do so is beyond me,) is impairing the rights of US citizens, whether they voted for him or not. Congress themselves had no say in the delay, further supporting my conclusion that the President of the United States is, as I said before, ruling without the consent of the governed. It is imperative that any ruler, especially the President of the free nation, is leading by consent, for otherwise the people are not free from government. Isn't that why people immigrated here in the first place, to get away from an oppressive government? The idea of consent is not only to satisfy the people of America, but to protect the people; their rights, benefits, and overall prosperity should not be impaled. I have become aware that it is not only the right of the citizens to remove someone who violates the rule of law from office, it is their duty. So the question I have now, is why we are standing by as this government spirals out of control with leaders who are going beyond their mandates? I know I’m a political newbie, but I think I’m one of the only ones at the moment who’s got it right…. Sometimes I think education just makes me go insane.
Whew! Okay I'm done. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Beginning A Dream: BYU

     Well, this is it. I have arrived at Brigham Young University and I couldn't be happier. Of course new beginnings are always strange and sometimes when we go through them we don't exactly know how to handle it, but I think I have this new beginning covered. I know who I am. I know where I am. I know who I want to be, and where I want to end up in the future. Who can ask for a better start to a semester than this?
     One thing I have taken away from these past few transition days is this. You have to be ambitious. Talk to other people, start the conversation. Don't wait for others to start it for you. Be ambitious in every aspect of your life. One of the returned missionaries who bore his testimony in sacrament meeting today said, "Do not doubt, and if you have doubts turn them into questions, then go looking for the answers." This struck me and I knew I had to write it down. Because sometimes we do have doubts. I doubted that staying home a semester was the right thing for me to do; I doubted that I would fit in and enjoy my first few days in a new and foreign place, but you know what? My doubts were vain because of course staying home was a good thing. The Lord knew it, and even though I didn't, trusting in Him is more important than leaning unto our own understanding.
     One of the last times I was in Provo I was just beginning high school. My family and I had set out early to hike the Y Mountain and my dad and I were well behind the rest of the group. At the end of one of the switchbacks we walked up to was a wooden railing overlooking a beautiful view of the valley. He leaned over the railing and I followed suit, looking at all the buildings and cars below. "Do you know what that is?" He asked me, pointing at a cluster of larger buildings not too far from the mountain. I didn't reply but in my head I remember thinking... Ummm buildings? "That's BYU." He said. I looked at it and began to see the campus. He told me how smart he knew I was, how much he loved me, and explained that he saw me going to that campus. "I believe that if you work hard enough, you will be able to attend that university." We talked a little more and I think I cried, because the worry of beginning high school was starting to creep in. After awhile more, however, we started back up the mountain and joined our family at the end of the trail, on the big "Y." The view up there was spectacular still and I mulled over the things my father and I had talked about.
     I've given that moment in time much thought as the years have progressed. At times, with my grades and performance I saw no possibility of making it into BYU. I faltered in my hopes and lost sight of my ambition. However, near the end, I figured it wasn't too late and I knew I would have to work hard and I tried my best to do well in school and in other aspects of my life as well. In the end, I believe with all my heart I owe my admittance to the Lord. Who knew that 4 1/2 years later, I would be here, gaining knowledge and growing in spirit. This is part of the Lord's plan for me, and so I will make the best of it. Tomorrow classes begin, and I am ready.