Friday, May 29, 2015

Reader Report: Becoming Sister Wives

Becoming Sisters Wives: The Story of an Unconventional Marriage

Kody, Meri, Janelle, Christine, and Robyn Brown

Publishing Info:
Gallery Books, New York, 2012

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Disclaimer: As I was reading this book, I was asked by my family a few times if I was planning on "becoming a sister wife." The answer is no. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I believe that the Lord instructed Joseph Smith to institute the practice of plural marriage among the early Saints, and that this practice was discontinued by the Lord through the prophet, President Wilford Woodruff in 1890.

For more information about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and polygamy, check out these links:
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I am a huge fan of personalities, and thus read a lot of personality books, or books simply because I love their authors (Miley Cyrus, Glennon Doyle Melton, Lisa-Jo Baker, Jefferson Bethke, etc). The Brown family is definitely a TV personality. Came across their book in the library, and decided to read it. I learned three lessons from this book.

In the book, the women stated that most of their contentions with each other often arose from problems between one wife and Kody (the husband), not the two women. One wife (Janelle, I think) said she sometimes gets jealous because Kody will be giving something to a wife or treating another wife a certain way. She says often, she has to step back and say, Do I really want what he's giving her? Sometimes she sees another wife getting apples, and in turn says she wants apples, when really she wants oranges. Lesson: Know what you actually want - apples or oranges?

All of the wives stressed that it's important to communicate their wants and needs to Kody. That is not only important for a plural marriage, but all marriages. Further, this is also not only true for marriages, but for every relationship. A husband or friend can't help you if he doesn't know what you want or need. Lesson: Tell your people what you need - apples? let them know. 

Multiple times, the women quoted the old adage "It takes a village to raise a child." They said that, between the five adults in their family, they had a village. Every mother was confident in the abilities of the other to care for all the children - whether she'd birthed them or not. They worked together in raising the children. They were each confident that when they were not available, their children had other mothers to go to. They had security in knowing that they were not the only parent their child had. And that's kind of a beautiful thing. To know that if you died, your children had your sister wives to raise them just how you'd want them raised. So it got me thinking. This had made me realize that I do want to live near my family when I'm older, so that my children will be around extended family. The way these women described their children as siblings, coming and going between homes, always welcome to eat or swim or play at whomever's home. And I think it would be so great for my children to live in this environment with their cousins. For my children to be fed and disciplined at my sister's home, to know they're always welcome and my brother's. For my nieces and nephews to know they are always welcome at my home and to come as they like - planned or not. That sounds so beautiful. My family now (and hopefully the family of my future spouse) will be the village that raises my children. Lesson: It takes a village. 

The family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Reader Report: Dug Down Deep

Dug Down Deep: Unearthing What I Believe and Why it Matters

What are you going to build your life on?
Dug Down Deep is systematic theology like you’ve never seen it before. Readable. Relevant. Powerful. As best-selling author Joshua Harris shares his own journey from apathetic church-kid to student with a burning passion to truly know God, you’ll be challenged to dig deep into the truths of God’s word. 
With humor, conviction and compelling insight Dug Down Deep covers the basics of faith—God, scripture, Jesus, the cross, salvation, sanctification, the Holy Spirit and the church. Don’t settle for superficial faith, dig deep.

Joshua Harris is senior pastor of Covenant Life in Gaithersburg, Maryland, which belongs to the Sovereign Grace network of local churches. He is the author of Why Church Matters and several books on relationships, including the run-away bestseller, I Kissed Dating Goodbye. He and his wife, Shannon, have three children. Find out more at

Publishing Info:
Multnomah Books, 2010

I found this book in a roundabout way. I hadn't planned on reading it. I was looking for Harris' most popular book - I Kissed Dating Goodbye, recommended for teenage girls by the Duggars on their website and in their books. When I went to the library, that one was checked out, but Dug Down Deep was available. I picked it up.

I started this book right after I finished my last - on May 9. Yikes. That's a long time. The first couple chapters were agonizing. I didn't agree with everything he said, I wasn't sucked in. Unsure whether I should keep trying or just not finish the book, I put it on hold, starting another book and reading more scriptures.

Yesterday, my family went to the pool, but I didn't feel like swimming, so I brought this book, thinking that this would be the last day and I'd decide whether I'd finish it or not. At the pool, I read about 50 pages. It got good. After my nap (6-9pm, why did I do that), I couldn't sleep and started reading again. I stayed up for hours reading because I couldn't put it down, and finished around 2 am (not typical for me).

So, I guess you could say I enjoyed it. Harris' book is basically an explanation of everything he believes. It's divided into chapters about the most important aspects of Christianity - God is very different from us (holy), the Bible is how God speaks to us, Jesus was fully God and fully man, in Jesus Christ we can find redemption, etc. I'll share some of my favorite points from the book.

Near But Not in my Pocket: God is utterly different from me. And that is utterly wonderful.

  • "I would never dare to call God my divine Butler or Cosmic Therapist, but how often do I treat Him as if He were?" (p 41)

Ripping, Burning, Eating: When we read the Bible, it opens us up. It reads us.
  • "Revelation is for relationship" (p 61). We have scriptures and prophets and answered prayers for one reason: so we can know the truth about God and be brought into relationship with Him through the Atonement of Jesus Christ
  • "God's Word meets us where we are. It meets us in the midst of doubt. It speaks to us in the midst of spiritual struggle. Maybe that's where you are. The teachings of a college professor has you feeling like a fool for trusting in an 'outdated, flawed book.' Or maybe you're just tired. Reading the bible feels like an empty exercise. God can meet you and me in these moments of life. The Bible isn't just for people who feel strong. I'm grateful we don't have to lead perfect lives to read God's perfect Word. Jeremiah's life teaches us this. Jeremiah suffered. He was discouraged. God's Word isn't just for the happy people of the world. We can find joy in God's word and the trustworthiness of His promises even when we lack joy in our hearts. Sometimes we have to work to find delight in God's Word. Jeremiah said that when he ate God's words, they became a joy. They don't become a joy sitting on a shelf. We have to taste them to receive them. The fact that this requires effort shouldn't discourage us. As we grow in our knowledge of how trustworthy and powerful scriptures is, our love for it will increase" (p 71).

God With a Bellybutton: Jesus is unique. And He came to accomplish something that no one else could. 

A Way to Be Good Again: For too long the news that Jesus died for my sins had no real meaning.
  • "The Cross wasn't the tragic upending of Jesus' plan; it was the fulfillment of His plan" (p 99). The Atonement was and is the plan. 

The Invisible Made Visible: God's plan has always been a group plan--He reveals himself through His people.

I really loved this chapter on the church. As many Christians do, Harris uses "church" to describe the worldwide community to self-professed believers, wherever they may be, and whatever specifics they believe. I however, know that there is only one real true and living Church, being the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. As I read this chapter, I read it with my worldview, reading what the bible says about the church (or the Church). And it was fascinating.
  • "What if we saw that the church is more than a human program, more than what some disparagingly refer to as organized religion? What if we saw that it originated in the heart and mind of God himself and that His plan began before the dawn of human history and stretched into eternity? . . . What if the church is the means by which God has chosen to accomplish His purpose for us and for the world? And what if it is irreplaceable?" (p 199). He chose us to do His holy work. Isn't that amazing? 
  • "God chose to join Himself to a ragtag group of humans. He set them apart as His special people and gave them the privilege of representing Him to the world" (p 201). He chose us. We imperfect, flawed, weak humans. He chooses to work though us. And it is our responsibility to represent Him to the world as best we can. When Latter-Day Saints take the sacrament (communion, the Lord's Supper), we "eat in remembrance of the body of [His] Son, and witness unto [Him], O God, the Eternal Father, that [we] are willing to take upon [us] the name of [His] Son" (Moroni 4, Doctrine & Covenants 20:75-79). Every week we take His name upon us and promise to represent Him to the world. "In [our] worship, in [our] obedience to God's laws, in [our] rituals and commitment to holiness, the character of God [is] displayed. . . . The Church, comprised of men and women from every nationality and ethnicity, is now God's chosen people in the world. The church is how God makes Himself known in the world." (p 201). "The world can't see God. They can't see His reign in our hearts. But we join our lives together in the church so they can see Him. They see Him when we obey his commands. When we love one another. When we preach His Word and proclaim His gospel. When we do good works and serve the poor and the outcast. On earth everything we do--our worship, our building of Christian community, our service, our work--is to done with an eye to spreading to fame and glory of Jesus Christ so the nations might know and worship Him with us" (p 207). People look at Christ's Church to learn about Him. Are we showing people what God is like in the way we act, dress, speak, use our time?
  • "What is the church? It is the fulfillment of God's promises to Abraham to bless all the nations of the world" (p 201). "The mission of the covenant people is to serve the Lord by blessing others with the gospel" (Institute Student Manual Religion 301, p 72)
  • "God's purpose for me is inextricably tied to His purpose for His people. My faith isn't all about me. It isn't only about my story and my journey" (p 207). This hit me, because it's a lesson I've just learned, and have thought about countless times. "My faith isn't all about me." When Sister A got transferred and I didn't want Sister D2, I wondered how in the world could this be for my good?! Why would God do this to me? He didn't move them for me, but He moved them and taught me through that. He taught me that the church and the world and His work don't revolve around me. Mt faith isn't all about me. My faith is about Him, and His people, and His work, and His Church. I'm not saved alone. This faith is for the whole human family. It's about the other people who need Sister A or Sister D2 in their respective cities. It is about every single person on this earth hearing the Word of God and coming to his banquet. I've learned of Him, I've been baptized, I attend church every week and read the Book of Mormon. I have tasted and seen that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8). I don't need the missionaries now like some others do. Other people need the missionaries to hear the word and be "snatched out of [their] awful, sinful and polluted state" by the mercy of God (Alma 26:17), as I have been. 

Harris ends his book with a chapter called "Humble Orthodoxy" (now a book itself). He says it's important to know truth, but it's more important to live truth - and live it humbly. 

This book had a lot of great things (as you can see). I would recommend it. I would also recommend that Harris publish a second version with the first chapters taken out or moved to later in the book because they're boring. So, if you can trek through the first couple chapters (or skip them), this is a great read! 

"Jesus Christ is the most famous, most powerful, most controversial and revolutionary person in all human history. And He has promised to come back."

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Faith is for the Future

“There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.”

C. S. Lewis

Yesterday, I traveled back to my college town to visit friends and attend my high school's graduation. It was a good day. I had lunch with Sister M and Sister D2, went to graduation, and visited my surrogate parents. I so enjoyed seeing everyone. When I said goodbye to the sisters, I said "Oh man, this is like leaving all over again." It was almost like ripping open a healing wound. Today, I have thought of them and Sister A constantly. I miss all three of them. I'm not thriving in my new ward as I was before; I don't know anyone, I don't feel at home. I loved them, I loved spending time with them, I was home in that city.

Today, I was reading in Genesis. I came across the story of Lot's wife. I remembered a talk on my "to read" list by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, "Faith is for the Future: 'Remember Lot's Wife.'" In Genesis 19, God commanded Lot and his family to flee Sodom, to leave a lot of things behind in that city. And Lot's wife looked back. "She wasn't just looking back; in her heart she wanted to go back. . . . It is possible that Lot’s wife looked back with resentment toward the Lord for what He was asking her to leave behind. We certainly know that Laman and Lemuel were resentful when Lehi and his family were commanded to leave Jerusalem. So it isn’t just that she looked back; she looked back longingly. In short, her attachment to the past outweighed her confidence in the future. . . . I plead with you not to dwell on days now gone, nor to yearn vainly for yesterdays, however good those yesterdays may have been. . . . she did not have faith. She doubted the Lord’s ability to give her something better than she already had."

I have been looking back. I have been longing to return to the past, to the days in my college town with Sister A and Sister M and Sister D2. I have been resentful. My attachment to the past, though it was a very good time, has caused me to forget the glorious future that God has planned for me. Elder Holland was talking to me when he said "she did not have faith. She doubted the Lord’s ability to give her something better than she already had." I have been doubting God's ability to bring me something better than I have had. But I know that He brought me here for a wonderful purpose, here with my family.

Today, I'm looking forward. Faith is for the future. God has promised to transform us and bring us a future better than anything we've had before, better than anything we can imagine. Though I have had good things in my past, I have to remember that things will only get better as long as I am following the Lord's plan for my life.

In his address, Elder Holland shared a story from early in his marriage. Money was tight, he and his wife worked all the time, and he wondered if finishing college was worth it. His wife, smart woman that she is, said: "We are not going back. We are not going home. The future holds everything for us." I am taking Sister Holland's advice. I am not going back to those days with Sister A and Sister M. I am not going back to my college town. I am not going back to my home ward. I am moving forward. "Faith is for the future." I am trusting in God's plan for my future.

"Live to see the miracles of repentance and forgiveness, or trust and divine love that will transform your life today, tomorrow, and forever. . . . I leave a blessing on you--every one of you--to be able to do so and to be happy, in the name of Him who makes it all possible, even the Lord Jesus Christ, Amen."
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

Friday, May 22, 2015

Decorating, Dancing, and Other Life Things

Wow! Again, I have been so busy. Lots has been going on.

For about two weeks, I've been working in our home (painting in my parents' bathroom, moving furniture in my and my sister's room, and decorating) every day. It's been a task! My room is almost done (I'm just waiting on my desk, which I'm inheriting from my aunt). It's really exciting and I'm loving the change of scenery. I also hooked up my TV and Pac-Man game from my dorm room, so the siblings have loved hanging out in my room and playing games.

Since it's the end of the school year, I went to my brother and sister's awards programs this week. After each, my grandma took them and me out for an afternoon of whatever they wanted to do. With my brother, he chose lunch at Popeye's (crazy kid), and we saw the movie Home, which was so cute. On my sister's day, we shopped a bit and ate at Olive Garden.

Since the university here doesn't offer dance classes over the summer (encouraging students to attend dance intensive programs around the country), I've been trying to figure out what I'm going to do dance-wise over the summer. This past semester, I've really missed doing contemporary/modern things. The two master classes at my university this spring were both contemporary, and I loved them. Watching my little sister's dance recital a couple weeks ago, which included a lot of contemporary jazz, made me think about this again and really want to do some of that. I started googling and found ONE adult contemporary jazz class in our city (crazy). My mom and I attended a free trial class this past Wednesday, and I loved it! The class is small and personal, enriching, and a great price. I am so looking forward to taking this class over the summer!

Reading: ugh. I started a book probably about two weeks ago now (right after I finished my last one), and I am not really liking it. At all. So it's really hard to read. Not sure if I want to finish it or give it up and move on. Such a tough choice. I'm over halfway done with my second read through the Book of Mormon, which is pretty exciting! I also have a goal of reading the whole Bible by the end of next summer. So far, that's going pretty well, too!

And the most exciting news - tomorrow, I'm going back to my high school/college town to see some of my friends graduate high school, and I'm having lunch with my Sister missionaries! I am so excited to see them again and hear their voices and give them hugs!!

It's exciting and busy down here in my life. Praying that you are doing well, too!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Faith Over Fear

"In the premortal existence we chose God’s plan . . . signifying that our love for Heavenly Father and Jesus and our faith in a plan that preserved our agency to choose was stronger than our apprehension about mortality."
Chieko Okazaki, former First Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency

Before we lived on this earth, our spirits existed and we lived with our Heavenly family (read about that here). Our Heavenly Father presented a plan by which we would leave His presence, get a body, and learn many things. In Heavenly Father's plan, we would all have agency to choose right from wrong. We all knew that we would choose wrong sometimes, so Heavenly Father provided for a redemption. Jesus Christ volunteered to be this Redeemer, who would save us from our wrongs, if we would repent. We knew some would be lost. Lucifer volunteered a plan that went against Heavenly Father's plan: he proposed to be the savior, offering to take the agency of man away that not one soul would be lost.

We knew that we would choose wrong sometimes. We knew that there would be trials and challenges, sickness and loss, in mortality. But we had such love for and faith in our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ, that we "shouted for joy" as the earth was created (Job 38:7). We were excited to come here. We chose faith over fear

"If ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?" (Alma 5:26)

We have "felt to sing the song of redeeming love." I know that we all sang in the heavens because of our Savior who would clean us and bring us back to Him after this world tore us up. But now we're torn up. So I ask, "can ye feel so now?" Do you still "sing the song of redeeming love?" Are you remembering to have faith in the redeeming power of your Savior? 

We were not without fear before we came to this earth. We likely had fears and apprehensions. But we did not let those conquer us. Our faith was stronger than our fears. 

We chose faith over fear then, and we can choose it again. 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Reader Report: Jesus > Religion


"In Jesus > Religion, Bethke unpacks similar contrasts that he drew in the poem—highlighting the difference between teeth gritting and grace, law and love, performance and peace, despair and hope. With refreshing candor he delves into the motivation behind his message, beginning with the unvarnished tale of his own plunge from the pinnacle of a works-based, fake-smile existence that sapped his strength and led him down a path of destructive behavior.Bethke is quick to acknowledge that he’s not a pastor or theologian, but simply a regular, twenty-something who cried out for a life greater than the one for which he had settled. Along his journey, Bethke discovered the real Jesus, who beckoned him beyond the props of false religion."


Publishing Info

Here's the poem that put Jeff in the public view:

When we come into contact with any media, we all look at it through the lens of own own experiences, values and beliefs. So, when I read this book, I read it as a former Methodist, former atheist, and Mormon convert. After seeing Jefferson's viral video a couple years back, I was intrigued to come across his book in the library. I had seen the video as an atheist, and hadn't seen it or even thought about it since coming to Christ. 

In this book, there were a lot of things I agreed with, and a lot of things I didn't. Bethke said that "religion," in the way he uses it, refers to "what one must do, or behave like, in order to gain right standing with God." Throughout the book, Bethke emphasizes that it's not about what we do, it's about what Christ did for us. He talks a lot about grace, and how nothing we can do makes us worthy of heaven or God's love. A lot of things he said reminded me of Brad Wilcox's address, "His Grace is Sufficient." If you haven't read it, do so now. 

Because I'm looking at the world with my new Latter-Day Saint goggles, I read a lot of this and thought "Does this describe our church? How does his theology relate to His doctrine? Are we embodying the teachings of Christ? Am I embodying the teachings of Christ?" In one part of the book, Bethke talks about "fundamentalists," who add rules to the Bible and live according to their rigid set of rules. "They are slaves to their self-imposed morality and in turn become joyless and hypocritical." This made me think of a lot of cold Mormons and ex-Mormons we see online and in the media, and sometimes myself. Sometimes we get so caught up in the "do's" that we forget what He has already done. We think about commandments and laws so much that our faith in the Living God turns into a lifeless checklist, rather than seeing these guidelines as the gateway by which He rains blessings and joy upon our heads. When we focus on the commandments, we lose all joy. When we focus on our shortcomings and His perfection, we gain all joy. There is no way we will ever be good enough to earn heaven. Jesus Christ did that for us. We need to stop stressing about being "good enough" and start celebrating His righteousness, letting it inspire us to do good in His world for His children.

Bethke includes a section about obeying with joy, because it's a delight. He says, "There is no glory brought to God's name when people are doing something because it's an obligation, with no real enjoyment of their Creator. . . . Heaven isn't a place for people who are scared of hell; it's for people who love Jesus. The reason heaven is heavenly -- full of joy, life, and bliss -- is because we'll be with Jesus." His advice to do what is right because we love God reminded me of a talk entitled "Living the Gospel Joyful." This hit me because this is something I've been trying to work on, constantly, for months. One thing that's hard for me is coffee. I love coffee. However, drinking coffee is against the Word of Wisdom, or the Lord's law of health given to His people. I know that following the Lord's commands will bring blessings, spiritual and temporal, now and through eternity. Sometimes, however, I crave a cup of coffee. And sometimes I complain about it. Sometimes I complain to my roommate, who isn't a member of the Church, or even a Christian. What kind of image am I setting when I walk around complaining about how hard my faith is? Not a good one. That kind of grumbling and complaining won't make her want to come to Christ, and it doesn't really help me either. We are commanded to "live the gospel joyful!" Because the "good news" is a joyful thing. We obey because we love Christ!

Bethke warns against self-righteousness and pride: "When something bad happens to someone I don't like, I think, Yes! He finally got what he deserved. I forget that if I got what I deserve, I'd be in hell." So true. So true. "Thank you, Jesus, for grace." (Some great stuff on pride and humility: "Pride and the Priesthood," and "Beware of Pride")

One of my favorite parts of this book is when Bethke retells a few Old Testament hero stories - Jonah, Cain and Abel, and David and Goliath. Typically, we hear Old Testament stories and we're told about heroes, we're told we should be like these people. But. Every "hero" is just a broken person who opened himself to Christ's work. Moses was afraid of public speaking, King David committed adultery and then had the woman's husband to cover it up. My favorite of Bethke's retellings is of David and Goliath. Typically, we're told that we are to be like David - have faith, kill the giant (pornography, alcohol, drugs, lying, idleness, whatever it is). But sometimes, we can't kill our giants. Why is this? Because we're not supposed to be David. We are the people of Israel, who were "much afraid," and David is Jesus Christ. "Jesus is a better savior because while David killed Goliath -- a seemingly large and terrifying opponent -- Jesus killed sin -- a much more dangerous and terrifying opponent. He chopped off its head, so it no longer has power. We can be honest and transparent about our sins and failures because we aren't the ones fighting. Jesus fought for us. This is good news because it means we are free to be messed up. If we are Israel, then let's play the character well. Be honest about your weakness, be honest that you're scared, and be honest about the fact that it's Jesus who defeats the sins that trip you up. God cast us as Israel, not the hero." 

Bethke finishes his book by talking about the church. Church comes from the Greek "ekklesia," meaning a "people called out." Bethke says we're made for community (true, because we came from a community before this life, the huge family before we were here, and God put us in families here and organized the Church for more community!), and that a church is essential to the Christian life. He says our churches should include all, because a body isn't a body if it's all hands; a body isn't the Body of Christ if we're clones. Our churches shouldn't be made up of one kind of person; our churches need to include all, because Jesus included all when He was here, and still does that today. He said church is church "when the only thing that is bringing you diverse people into the same room is their love for Jesus. Not their jobs. Not their socioeconomic status. Not their races. But their mutual love for Jesus." and when I read that, I thought, "That's us. That is what we do!" When learning about the Church, I once read something about wards. Wards are divided geographically. You live in this place, you're in this ward. We are not divided by our jobs or our money or our race. We are all equal. In the hood or the mansions. Black or white. We are all His, and we worship together. We are one body working in His name.

Bethke talks about a lot of other good things - like addressing why bad things happen to us, our relation to sin, why so many Americans are repelled by Christianity today. 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Reader Report: Kisses from Katie

Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption

"What would cause an eighteen-year-old senior class president and homecoming queen from Nashville, Tennessee, to disobey and disappoint her parents by forgoing college, break her little brother’s heart, lose all but a handful of her friends (because they think she has gone off the deep end), and break up with the love of her life, all so she could move to Uganda, where she knew only one person and didn’t even speak the language?

A passion to follow Jesus.

Katie Davis left over Christmas break of her senior year for a short mission trip to Uganda and her life was turned completely inside out. She found herself so moved by the people of Uganda and the needs she saw that she knew her calling was to return and care for them. Katie, a charismatic and articulate young woman, is in the process of adopting thirteen children in Uganda and has established a ministry, Amazima, that feeds and sends hundreds more to school while teaching them the Word of Jesus Christ."

"I have absolutely no desire to write a book about myself. This is a book about a Christ who is alive today and not only knows but cares about every hair on my head. Yours too. I'm writing this book on the chance that a glimpse into the life of my family and me, full of my stupidity and God's grace, will remind you of this living, loving Christ and what it means to serve Him. I'm writing with the hope that as you cry and laugh with my family you will be encouraged that God still uses flawed human beings to change the world. And if He can use me, He can use you."
-Katie Davis


Publishing Info
Howard Books, A Division of Simon and Shuester, 2011, Updated and Expanded Version

Katie Davis moved to Uganda straight from high school to take a gap year before college. When she prepared to go back to the States from college, she left behind eight daughters. After a semester, she realized God was calling her to Uganda for the long haul, adopting six more daughter over the next two years. Katie truly accepted Christ's call to care for the poor and needy, for the widows and orphans. 

As one can imagine, Katie said moving across the ocean without friends or family was difficult. This was great for me to read, as God has recently called me to a new place, absent of friends. Katie was confident that this was what God was calling her to do, as I am confident that this is where God is calling me to be. Katie is gaining her strength not from her own ability to be in a new, scary place, but from Christ. I need to remember to take my strength from the reservoir of Christ's love. 

The other idea that stood out to me is that, not everything God brings into our lives is for our good. Katie experienced a lot of things in the poverty of Uganda and the system of adopted children that made her wonder, "How in the world is this for my good? for my loved ones to die, for my child to be taken back to her birthmother?" She learned that sometimes God uses us and asks us to deal with hard things for the good of others. And because she loved Christ and loved others, Katie did, for the the glory and the kingdom of God. 

When God moved my missionary and brought a new one to my city, I struggled to understand how taking one of my favorite people could be for my good. The Lord taught me that the world doesn't revolve around me. When He does things, it's not just for me and my good. It's for the good of the people Sister A is teaching in her new area, it's for the other people in my city that needed Sister D2, it's because Sister A and Sister D2 needed things, because I had something to teach Sister D2. While Sister D2 and I were in the same city (only 6 weeks), she taught me about charity, and she helped me learn that not everything is about me. So this move was for my good, for Sister A's good, for Sister D2's good, for Sister M's good, for the good of the members in Sister A's new ward, for the good of the people in my city, and most importantly, for His glory and the good of His kingdom. 

Favorite Quotes from Kisses from Katie:

"My candle is lit; I am on fire for God, for this place, for these people. My purpose here is to spread His light. One candle can light up an entire room. Jesus can light up this entire nation, and my flame can be a part of that. I am blown away that my God, who could do this all by Himself, would choose to let me be a little part of it."

"Everywhere I have looked, raw, filthy human need and brokenness have been on display, begging for someone to meet them, fix them. And even though I realize I cannot always mend or meet, I can enter in. I can enter into someone's pain and sit with them and know. This is Jesus. Not that He apologizes for the hard and the hurt, but that He enters in, He comes to us in the hard places. And so, I continue to enter."

"I sensed that God was calling me into my own kind of 'Canaan," a land I had never been before, a place full of His promises and barren of all things comfortable and familiar. I had to let go of my life at the children's home and let God fulfill the promise, His perfect will. I chose to believe that, like Sarah, my adventure would lead to laughter and joy."

"I believed, and still believe, that the God who created the universe did not create too many children in His image and not enough love to go around."

"I have learned along my journey that if I really want to follow Jesus, I will go into the hard places. Being a Christ follower means being acquainted with sorrow. We must know sorrow to be able to fully appreciate joy. Joy costs pain, but the pain is worth it. After all, the murder had to take place before the resurrection. I'll be honest: The hard places can seem unbearable. It's dark and it's scary, and even though I know God said He will never leave or forsake me, sometimes it's so dark that I just can't see Him. But then the most incredible thing happens: God takes me by the hand and walks me straight out of the hard place and into the beauty on the other side. He whispers to me to be thankful, and that even this will be for His good."

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Reader Report: Undivided

Undivided: A Muslim Daughter, Her Christian Mother, Their Path to Peace

"Although this is certainly a book for mothers and daughters struggling with interfaith tensions , it is equally meaningful for mothers and daughters who feel divided by tensions in general. An important work for parents whose adult children have left the family’s belief system, it will help those same children as they wrestle to better understand their parents.
Undivided offers an up close and personal look at the life of an Islamic convert—a young American woman—at a time when attitudes are mixed about Muslims (and Muslim women in particular), but interest in such women is high. For anyone troubled by the broader tensions between Islam and the West, this personal story distills this friction into the context of a family relationship—a journey all the more fascinating."

Patricia Raybon & Alana Raybon

Publishing Info
W Publishing Group, an imprint of Thomas Nelson, 2015

I've decided to write a post on each book I read, for two reasons - 1) to keep track of what I've read, and 2) to share the good stuff with you guys! I read a good bit last summer, and am anticipating the same this year. Maybe I'll keep reading good stuff into the school year, we'll see what happens there.

While cleaning out my room to rearrange, I found a couple gift cards, one to BooksAMillion. I headed there while I was out yesterday, thinking I'd pick up some bookmarks because I'm running out for things like scriptures and other Church books. There's a book I read last summer that I absolutely loved and have been wanting to purchase since, so I decided to skim the store for it. While looking, I came across this - "Undivided," the devoted mother, the hijab-wearing young lady. The title intrigued me - the idea of faith dividing family. Many people think Mormons are as far from traditional Christians and Muslims are. Is their story like mine? Can I learn about my family relationships by reading their story?

I don't like to buy books I haven't read (what if I don't like it? what if I don't even finish it? then I wasted $20). I read the cover flaps, and then the introduction. I decided to read a couple pages and get a feel for the book. Next thing I knew, I had been reading for an hour. I decided to buy the book.

And I absolutely loved it. The strong faith of both women shone through in their writing. I realized earlier in the semester that angry fights wouldn't open my parents to my faith. I had to love and talk. That's what these ladies learned - listen, love, understand. I am grateful that our strife is not near as divisive as theirs and it seems that it won't be as long.

Both accounts taught me about faith. I related to Patricia's (mother) faith and hope in Christ. I related to Alana's struggle with the Trinity (the Trinity was a real struggle for me as a kid, too, one that was relieved when I heard about Joseph Smith's First Vision) and respect her acceptance of God as one. Alana's attempts to reconcile common beliefs or explain newfound convictions with her mother rang true to me - do I focus on what we agree about or explain my new beliefs? Planning to read the Old Testament once I find a study guide, Patricia's knowledge and quoting of this scripture has me so excited to get into this part of God's Word. Alana's beautiful Arabic phrases bring reverence into her story, and acceptance and understanding of Islam. This book has fed my curiosity of both the Old Testament and the Islamic faith, both of which I will be learning about more in the near future.

Good read, highly recommend.

(From Patrician and Alana Raybon: "19 Tips to Handle Hurt When a Child Converts" - tips for parents and children)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

My Move Home

"Where the Lord plants us, there we are to stand; when He requires us to exert ourselves for the support of these holy principles, that we are to do; that is all we need to trouble ourselves about; the rest our Heavenly Father will take care of."

Wow. It has been ages since I posted. Life has gotten me good. Over the past two weeks, I have been super busy with school finishing up my semester, packing up my dorm, saying goodbyes, and actually moving home, then working on cleaning and redecorating my bedroom. My days have been packed to say the least. 

Again in this post I'll talk about how grateful I am for priesthood blessings. I asked if the elders (boy missionaries) could come over and give me a blessing before I left for home, just for extra strength during this transition. This week we got a new elder in my college town, and he was the one who gave my blessing. And I was reminded how great the priesthood is, and that these blessing really do come from Heavenly Father, because it didn't matter at all that I'd just met this person. The blessing was perfect. 

Good news! Sister D2, who is currently serving in my college town ward, started her mission in my family's city. Which means she knows everyone in my new ward, because it's her old ward. She's told people to be on the lookout and take care of me. I was able to attend church in my home city last weekend and this weekend, when I met three or four couples who all know who I am from D2's emails. I am feeling okay about it. Not great, because it's not home yet, but okay. This ward is also a LOT bigger than what I came from, so that will take some adjusting. Overall, I think the switch will be okay. 

I am so grateful for email, so the Sisters in my college ward can keep me posted on the investigators up there (two ladies just set dates for baptism, and I am so excited for both of them!). 

I also still love being able to talk to Sister A and hear about her investigators and companions. I really love that Sister A still helps me, whether she realizes it or not. This week, she really helped me feel more confident about my transition and my family. I'm the only member of the Church in my family. I love the gospel very much, and I want to share this experience with these people because I love them and I know they'd love it, too. But it's been hard. At college, we had family home evening with all the college kids whose families were far away. My little sister at home knew that we always had "Monday dinners at TK's." When I announced that I was moving home, she asked "What about Monday dinner's at TK's?" My dad answered, "We can have Monday dinner here" - great! I was hoping to hold FHE here, and it was looking like it was going to work out! I told Sister A, and she said "FHE THAT IS SO EXCITING. They're going to make it one day. I know it. One day. Just keep watching and waiting." I also told about my uneasiness about my new ward, to which she replied, "I know that you will find your place in your new ward. It will take time and trust and patience and hope and all those wonderful things that Christ taught us how to be, but you will find your place." She's the best.

Now, I'm starting to believe for myself that things will work out here. The ward has been okay, my family has been okay, and every day the Spirit reminds me that I'm supposed to be here with my family. I know that families are important to Heavenly Father. It brings me joy to know that I am doing what He wants me to do here.

Sometimes, Heavenly Father asks us to do hard things. But I know that when He does, He will be with us every step of the way, leading us on to victory.

God gave us families to help us become what He wants us to be—
This is how He shares His love, for the fam’ly is of God.