Thursday, April 23, 2015

Hard Things

I've been attending college in a small town for years. Its Southern charm always gets me. The trees, the food, the mom-and-pop businesses. What I love most about this city, though, is the people - my people. Over the years I've created bonds with so many people. This is my hometown. This is home. I have so much family here. This is where my classmates are, my best friends. This is where I found the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. This is where I received my first Book of Mormon, this is where I met the missionaries, this is where I found and nurtured my sprouting testimony, this is where I was baptized. This is my core.

For the past few months, I have felt prompted to move home to be with my family. So I'm listening. But honestly, I'm very nervous. I don't know anyone in my old city. I've never been to the ward (local congregation of members) there, either. I'm starting from scratch. My family doesn't get along as great as we should right now (maybe part of why I need to go back?), so I'm stressed about that. Basically, I'm worried about a lot of things.

However, as I've made these plans, I am remembering to have faith. Faith in what my Heavenly Father is asking me to do, faith in my ability to hear Him, and faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ to give me strength through these hard times. Faith over fear.

Henry B. Eyring said "If you are on the right path, it will always be uphill" (link). I know that we are on this earth to learn and to be tested. If life was always easy, we wouldn't learn. If Heavenly Father only asked us to do easy things, we'd never grow. The things is, God never asks us to do something that we can't do without His help. He might ask us to do something that is beyond our individual capacity, but when He does, He stands ready to help us. Because "in His strength [we] can do all things" (Alma 26:12).

In this life, we will have to deal with hard things, whether they come about due to our own sin, the sin of others, the fact that we live in a fallen world, or Heavenly Father giving them to us. Hard things is the whole point of us being here. But I know that Heavenly Father will not let us be tried above what we can bear. He is there every step of the way, encouraging, sustaining, uplifting us.

I know that He will help me accomplish the thing He's asked me to do (1 Nephi 3:7). Whatever trials you're facing right now, I know He can help you through, too. I know that He will help you if you ask Him. He stands ready to help, just waiting for you to ask. May we all seek His help, for if we seek, we will receive.

(To learn more about why we're here on earth, click here.)

Saturday, April 11, 2015

"Pray Always"

Sometimes, prayer is hard. Sometimes, prayer is hard for me. Okay, a lot of times, prayer is hard for me. I think we would belying if we said that we never had any difficulty praying as we should.

From the foundation of the earth, men have prayed. In earlier times, prayer was not a commandment. It was not part of the law. God didn't have to tell people to pray. But we know that they did (1 Samuel 2:1, all of the Psalms, 1 Kings 8, Daniel 6:10, Ezra 9:5, 1 Nephi 18:3, Jacob 7:22, Alma 5:46). Throughout the scriptures, ancient and modern, people prayed in the Sanctuary, on their housetops, in an upper room, at street corners, on the tops of mountains, in solitary places, in a secluded forest in Palmyra, New York.

At some point, people didn't pray. We know that because prophets began teaching about prayer (Matt 7:7, Luke 18:1, Eph 6:18, Ether 2:143 Nephi 18:15, D&C 10:5). Why did people stop praying? Well, they forgot how God saw them.

The Bible Dictionary states: "As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are His children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part (Matt. 7:7–11). Many of the so-called difficulties about prayer arise from forgetting this relationship." When we know that we are children of God and that He is our loving Father, we want to speak to Him. When we forget this, prayer becomes strained. When we get wrapped up in guilt, we sometimes feel that we are unworthy, or think that God does not want to hear from us. But I know that those feelings come from the devil. The antidote to those feelings of inadequacy? Prayer. As we kneel in humble prayer before our Father in Heaven, we will feel the love He has for us. He just loves it when we go to Him.

When we love someone, we want to help them succeed and be happy. We want to comfort them in struggles and give them support to overcome. Our Heavenly Father loves us. He wants to comfort us in our struggles and give us support to overcome. "The object of prayer is . . . to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them" (Bible Dictionary).

God does not ask us to "call upon His holy name . . . cry unto Him . . . let [our] hearts be full, drawn out in prayer to Him continually" (Alma 34:17-27) because He needs an ego booster. God commands us to pray for the same reason He gives us every commandment: because He knows that it will help us. Prayer does not change God. Prayer changes us. When we cry out with all energy of heart, we are filled with the Spirit and the love of God (Moroni 7:48). We can overcome. Prayer strengthens us.

The beauty of prayer is that God listens. The beauty of the Atonement is that "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). The relief and joy in prayer is that when we go to Him, He will not judge us. He will not turn us away. He will listen with open arms. He's not waiting for us to perfect ourselves before we seek Him. He knows we're imperfect. And He still loves us. We don't have to try to hide the messy, human parts of us, because He knows they're there. He knows about our messy parts, and He loves us, all of us. He wants us to bring those messy, broken parts of ourselves to Him so that He can paint them with the blood of Christ and heal them. We go to Him, and He says, "Child, be of good cheer, thy faith has made thee whole" (Matthew 9:22). He makes us whole. When we have faith in Him and we remember that we are His children and we go to Him with our messy broken insides, He will hold them and love them and make us whole.

"He is jealous for me. He loves like a hurricane, and I am a tree, bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy. When all of sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory. And I realize just how beautiful you are, and how great your affections are for me. Oh, how He loves us . . . And we are His portion and He is our prize, drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes. If grace is an ocean, we're all sinking. And heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss, and my heart beats violently inside of my chest. And I don't have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way He loves us."

I pray that you will pray. I pray that you will remember that God is not angry with you, but He is your biggest cheerleader. Heavenly Father wants you to succeed. When you fall, He does not want you to beat yourself further down into the ground. He wants you to take His hand and let Him help you. I pray that you will remember how He loves you

Monday, April 6, 2015

Easter Sunday: He Always Comes

Easter is the most important day for any Christian. Of course I'll blog about it. I'm a day late because my Easter Sunday was spent with family. If I was a smart blogger, I would have written a post beforehand, knowing I'd be busy all Sunday. But I wasn't exactly in the Easter mood a few days ago. It would have been a really bad Easter post.

"Each of us will have our own Fridays—those days when the universe itself seems shattered and the shards of our world lie littered about us in pieces. We all will experience those broken times when it seems we can never be put together again. We will all have our Fridays.

But I testify to you in the name of the One who conquered death—Sunday will come. In the darkness of our sorrow, Sunday will come.

No matter our desperation, no matter our grief, Sunday will come. In this life or the next, Sunday will come."

-Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Sunday Will Come"

Last week was a Friday. A really long week, where my world was shattered and I was left to look at the pieces of what I thought had been glued back together. I thought I was healed, and then last week happened. I won't go into details about what I experienced, but it was bad. That's all that matters. It was bad. I had hope that the Lord would heal my life, but I didn't know when that would happen; I kind of assumed I'd be in a funk this week, too. 

I received a priesthood blessing (I get a lot of those) on Monday night for my anxiety. I didn't really feel healed. I had faith in the priesthood, but I couldn't think a coherent sentence enough to know that I'd feel better (I could use this opportunity to talk about the faith to not be healed, but that's a whole post all by itself). Tuesday was hard. Wednesday looked up a little bit, but I fell apart again that night. Thursday, I was dying again. I received another blessing on Friday morning. Friday afternoon, I left school to spend Easter week at home with my family. Saturday was average. 

But on Sunday morning, the power of the resurrection filled me. My family and I woke up with the sun to celebrate the Son. We sang of His rising, His victory, His living still today; We sang of His leading us through life, we sang He "is the life that will never, never die." We read scriptures describing that morning, when women looked for Him but the tomb was empty. He arose! We spoke of His atoning sacrifice, how He took our sins upon Him, that He gives us victory, that He gives us hope. We lifted prayers of hope and thanksgiving for the gifts of family and new life in Christ Jesus. I was filled with hope and joy and new life. The Savior lifted me out of my emotional grave with HIm on Sunday morning, and lifted me up to joy greater than I could have imagined. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
There is sunshine in my soul today,
More glorious and bright
Than glows in any earthly sky,
For Jesus is my light.

Oh, there's sunshine, blessed sunshine
When the peaceful happy moments roll.
When Jesus shows his smiling face,
There is sunshine in the soul.

There is music in my soul today,
A carol to my King,
And Jesus listening can hear
The songs I cannot sing.

Oh, there's sunshine, blessed sunshine
When the peaceful happy moments roll.
When Jesus shows his smiling face,
There is sunshine in the soul.

There is springtime in my soul today,
For when the Lord is near,
The dove of peace sings in my heart,
The flow'rs of grace appear.

Oh, there's sunshine, blessed sunshine
When the peaceful happy moments roll.
When Jesus shows his smiling face,
There is sunshine in the soul.

There is gladness in my soul today,
And hope and praise and love,
For blessings which he gives me now,
For joys "laid up" above.

Oh, there's sunshine, blessed sunshine
When the peaceful happy moments roll.
When Jesus shows his smiling face,
There is sunshine in the soul.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I know that Easter is real, that Jesus Christ, my Savior and your Savior, did walk this earth, feel every pain and joy we feel, and did rise from His grave. Because of Him, we have help through the Fridays of this life. Because He lives, we know that Sunday will come. He rose from the grave, and so will we, the spiritual graves of sins and mistakes and sicknesses, and the physical grave. He is our salvation. He lives and He loves.