Monday, January 11, 2016

Reader Report Catch-up

I've been reading a lot of books lately, most of them I've sped through in one day. Here's a brief review of what I've been reading.

Faith: The Essence of True Religion, Gordon B. Hinckley
I absolutely loved this book. President Hinckley has always been my favorite latter-day prophet, even before I'd ever read a single word he said. I'm not sure why, but I've always loved him, and knew that he was a prophet before I had a testimony of the callings of our current leaders. Anyway, this is the second of Pres Hinckley's books that I've read, and I really loved this one. This book was compiled of General Conference talks and other Ensign articles by Pres Hinckley, making it kind of like a "Teachings of the Presidents" book - no wonder I loved it! - with chapters on a many different subjects. Books by the prophets are always good, so of course I'd recommend this one.

Heaven: The Heart's Deepest Longing, Peter Kreeft
This book quickly became one of my favorites, up there with Carry on, Warrior. Kreeft is a philosophy professor, and a member of the Catholic Church. This book examined both from a philosophical and religious standpoint or yearning for heaven, and what it might be like. His conclusion? Joy. Kreeft is a fantastic thinker, and he really knows the Bible. Every page blew my mind and changed my life. Everyone yearns for something, and this book discovers what that longing is for.

"Who ever put such a thought into our heads? . . . Who whispered in our ear the desire for heaven? And when? And even more mysterious, why do we understand it? We recognize it, that is, we re-cognize it; we cognize it again; we remember it. When did we first learn it? And when and how did we forget it?" (p 55).

My Heart is an Autumn Garage, Anne Thériault
I've been reading Anne's blog, The Belle Jar, for many years now. I was ecstatic to finally read her book. Anne is a great writer, she molds words into paintings and draws you into whatever world she's creating. She's fantastic. So her book, of course, was magic. This is a memoir of depression. Thus, it's kind of sad. But not the kind of sad that makes you want to cry, because this book makes you turn the pages too quickly to cry. As someone who also suffers from depression, I related so much to many things in this book. If you know someone who suffers from depression - read this book for a peek into their mind and life. A lot of people don't get it, but this book can help you understand a little bit.
(If you suffer from depression, I personally suggest reading it during a period when you're in "remission." It could be a difficult read, so be prepared.)

More Than the Tattooed Mormon, Al Carraway
I think every convert, if not every Mormon, is in love with Al, who joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints when she was 21. Her story is incredible and her testimony is vibrant. This book is kind of her story, kind of your story, but it's mostly about God. She doesn't talk so much about what she experienced or did, but what God did in her and through her - and what God can do in you. So, so inspirational. Perfect pick-me-up on a rainy day. If you ever forget that God loves you, just ask Al.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Hello 2016!

Well, 2015 was a huge year for me. I met so many amazing people, was baptized, finished the Book of Mormon for the first time, moved out of my college town (best one in the country, if you ask me), received my first calling, and so, so much more. I experienced many trials, but was strengthened and taught by each one. It was a very full year.

I have learned so much. About myself emotionally, about my illnesses, how they work, and how to get through (sometimes). My mind has been fed; I have read so many good books and packed myself so full of knowledge that sometimes I thought my head might burst. I grew so much as a dancer and an artist (mostly in the spring, but that's still this year!).

Most importantly, though, my spirit has grown SO much. I have learned about prayer, about humility, about leaning on Christ, about the Atonement, about charity and loving everyone like Heavenly Father does. I've learned that everything God does is for good, even if we don't understand right away. I have learned that the most important thing we need to do in this life is endure, be diligent, persevere - Don't give up. All Heavenly Father asks is that we keep trying, that when we fall (and we will), we get back up and recommit. This is so important, that He tells us to do this every week: taking the sacrament. That's His promise to us every seven days - that when we fall, we can turn to Him and get back up. He'll always help us.

I have fallen a lot this year. A lot. I have made mistakes, I have doubted, I have lost faith. But I always find out that even though I wasn't faithful, He was. He is always faithful. This year has shown me so much about His faithfulness. He's the best at showing up. He always shows up. He's always there. We just have to open our eyes and look at Him.

I'm not a big fan of New Year's Resolutions. I never really made them in the past. But, as I've been attending Church, I'm learning the value of setting goals. This year, my goal is to see Him more.

In General Conference last October, Devin G. Durrant counseled members of the Church to "ponderize" a verse of scripture each week - "a combination of 80 percent extended pondering and 20 percent memorization" ("My Heart Pondereth Them Continually"). Like most, I found the concept intriguing. But, it never happened for me. I listened to this talk again a couple of days ago, and the Spirit prompted me to make a better effort to "write a new verse of scripture on [my] heart and mind."

As I have thought over this counsel and prompting, another thought has come into my mind: "The Spirit works with us at our own speed, one step at a time" (Larry L. Lawrence, "What Lack I Yet?"). In the Book of Mormon, King Benjamin also taught, "It is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize" (Mosiah 4:27).

Just as it did in October, ponderizing a new verse each week seemed really intimidating to me. I knew that if I ever missed a week of pondering, I would become discouraged and quit. So I continued thinking and sought the guidance of the Spirit for ideas of how I could follow this counsel at a speed that would work for me. 

I've decided to set a goal of ponderizing one verse each month. If I can do more than that, one each week, or two each month, I will. I feel confident in my goal, and feel that as I seek to grow closer to the Lord, I will. I know that this goal will help me to see the hand of God in my life more.

What goals are you setting this year?