Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Joseph: No Ordinary Man

Joseph: No Ordinary Man or The World's Greatest Step-father

I have been thinking about Joseph a lot lately. He pops into my mind during random conversations, in the temple, while I am studying my scriptures. I figured I better blog about him and get my feelings for him out on paper or he will keep popping up randomly. He is probably the most amazing man the world will gloss over and not look twice at. He is a very unassuming man but he did a remarkable thing. He raised the Son of God with love and tenderness. He is not mentioned very much in the scriptures. In fact he is only mentioned by name 16 times, 2 of those times were to show the genealogy of Jesus Christ, 3 were as a reference to who Christ was; ie. Jesus the son of Joseph. Back in those days there were a lot of Jesus's or Yeshua's as was his Hebrew name. Miriam was a very popular name in those days, as evidenced by the fact that including His mother, Jesus knew at least 7 Miriams. Yeshua was a form of Joshua, a very popular name at the time so using Joseph's name was akin to our using last names now. So of the 16 times Joseph's name is used in the New Testament only 11 are about what he was actually doing. Now most of what I will be writing is my own opinion based on scriptural evidence.
Joseph was an amazingly righteous man. It doesn't out rightly state that in the NT but look at how much care was chosen for the mother of the Son of God. She was pure, holy, righteous, obedient, and humble. She was raised in such a way that when the angel Gabriel came and told her what would happen her responses showed both virtue and humility. Her first reaction wasn't "how can I do this?" or "why me?" it was "how shall this be, seeing I know not a man?" Her second response was, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord..." If so much care was taken to find a righteous and pure vessel to carry the Son of God, how can we believe any less care was taken to find the man who would raise this precious child. After receiving this information Mary went off to her cousin's house for 3 months, in those days it was uncommon for a woman to make that kind of journey without her father or her husband's permission. Mary was already "espoused" to Joseph. The way Jewish custom worked was as follows, "The word eyrusin means - Betrothal. The period is also called - kiddushim - meaning "sanctification" or "set apart." This word really defines the purpose of the betrothal period - it is a time in which the couple are to set side to prepare themselves to enter into the covenant of marriage. The betrothal was so binding that the couple would need a religious divorce or (get) in order to annul the contract (Deut. 24:1-4). After the couple had undergone - Mikveh hwqm (immersion) , each separately, they would appear together under the Huppah - or canopy - and in public they would express their intention of becoming betrothed or engaged. While under the Huppah the couple participated in a ceremony in which some items of value were exchanged - such as rings, and a cup of wine was shared to seal the betrothal vows. After the ceremony - the couple was considered to have entered into the betrothal agreement. This period was to last for one year. During this time the couple was considered married - yet did not have sexual relations - and continued to live separately until the end of the betrothal. (1)" So after getting engaged, which in those times was like being married but not having sex, Mary goes off by herself for 3 months and comes home pregnant. Joseph knows he is not the father. There are several biblical laws about virginity and stoning. A man who takes his bride and discovers that she is not a virgin can publicly denounce her and she will be stoned. Also a woman taken in adultery can be stoned as in NT when Jesus saves the woman taken in adultery by pricking the conscience of those who want to stone her. Either case is possible with Mary and Joseph. They are betrothed and therefore considered married by law so her being pregnant and not by Joseph could be considered adultery. It is here that we see that Joseph was a truly noble and righteous man. It was within his rights to ask that Mary be stoned but he wanted to quietly divorce her. He didn't rashly decide that though, he was pondering it. Studying it out in his mind and praying about it. It is here that an angel comes to him and explains the situation. This is not the only time that an angel comes to him. There are 3 times in the book of Matthew that an angel comes to Joseph and tells him what he needs to do. Each time the very next scripture states that Joseph gets up and immediately does what he is told, one time in the middle of the night.
How many times do we feel like we need to do something, or call someone, and we tell ourselves, "I'll do it tomorrow"?
By taking Mary as his wife, even though he had no relations with her until after she gave birth to Jesus, the people around him took that as his accepting the child as his. It was tantamount to a confession. Mary and Jesus were not the only ones who were mocked, Jesus was called the result of fornication by the pharisees, but Joseph surely was as well. Her family probably looked down on him as impatient and muttered about eating green grapes as he passed. His family probably blamed Mary. This might have been hard for him to take as well, it is obvious that he cared about Mary and had accepted his divine calling to raise the Messiah. To hear the slander against Mary would have been hard. But again, what a great example of righteousness. He willingly took the ridicule and was probably a great comfort to Mary as one of only 3 people that knew the true lineage of the child she bore.
As for the angelic visits, they are in and of themselves very significant. There are several instances of angels visiting people. In all the times of biblical angelic visitations all but 2 of them were to righteous people. Saul's conversion to Paul on the road to Damascus and all of Israel was chastised by an angel of the Lord. I am sure that the Holy Prophets had visitations frequently but they are only mentioned 1 time each for Daniel, Lot, Jacob, Abraham and Peter. Twice for Hagar and Samson's mother. The shepherds that were called as witnesses to the birth of Christ and the women that were witnesses of his Resurrection saw multiple angels. Joseph had at least 3 visits from angels, it was his righteousness and obedience that led to the additional visions. I personally think that he had at least 4 just because he didn't touch Mary until after Jesus was born. I personally would be terrified to and would need an angel to come and tell me it was ok to finally be married.
Joseph was not a wealthy man. Both he and Mary came from a very poor area. Where they lived is known for it's hard land. It is not easy to make a living there. Their poverty as a couple is documented in the NT and no I am not talking about when Christ was born. The fact that they stayed in a stable only says that they weren't rich enough to kick someone out of a room in the inn. My reference is from Luke 2. After the days of her purification were over, meaning 40 days (a girl child would be twice as long for purification) she went to offer the ritual sacrifice, a pair of turtledoves. Leviticus 12 explains the sacrifice and that the woman brings a lamb of the first year for a burnt offering and a turtledove for a sin offering. The bible does allow that if they are too poor to buy a lamb they may use two turtledoves instead. This had been the law since the time of Moses so they would have been saving money for the trip and the offerings. Joseph might have been counting on the year engagement to save up money. Instead, he finds out shortly after the betrothal that his fiancee is pregnant. To take on a child when you do not have a lot of money showed his trust in the Lord. Here was the Messiah, the son of Kings. People were expecting him to be a military leader, to be a wealthy man, and yet the Lord chose a humble, poor man to be his guardian. The timely gifts of the Magi were what allowed them to flee to Egypt and then return several years later.
Joseph taught Jesus both spiritual and temporal lessons. Jesus learned a lot by the Spirit but he also learned a lot from Joseph and Mary. Jesus was able to quote scriptures and expound on them. Alma 7:13 teaches us, "Now the Spirit aknoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the bflesh that he might ctake upon him the sins of his people" Jesus could have had all knowledge just given to him but he chose to learn the way we learn. Seeing how righteous Joseph and Mary were I am certain that they took the time to teach him as soon as he was old enough to understand. Like any of us with children we start teaching them as soon as they are born, sometimes even before they are born. We talk to them as if they can understand us (because they do), we sing to them, we read to them. I have friends who don't believe in God and therefore do not teach their children anything concerning God. I have a strong belief and have taught my daughter since she was small. She is only 8 but she knows who her Heavenly Father is and that she can turn to Him in times of need. She has also used my very words and scriptures to counsel and comfort me. We do not know much of Jesus's youth but by the time he was 12 he had a firm grasp on religious concepts and knew who his Father was. He loved and respected Joseph as was proper for his position, but both Mary and Joseph knew who his real Father was. When they went back to the temple for him Mary referred to Joseph as his father. Jesus gently reminded her that his Father had business for him to be doing. He knew who his Father was, which meant he knew who He was, all because Joseph had taught him scriptures and answered his questions. Joseph also taught him carpentry. It might have been while Jesus was sanding wood for his earthly guardian that they had spiritual talks as well.
Joseph's 4 sons eventually chose to follow Jesus as well. It took them a while and I can't really blame them. They had grown up with him, they had seen his perfect example. I personally think it would have been difficult to have such a perfect sibling. I am sure that Mary and Joseph tried not to compare their other children knowing Jesus's divine lineage, but it would be hard not to wonder why my older brother always did the right thing and no matter how hard I tried I still messed up. I think also it would be hard to watch your brother do everything right and then suddenly turn the world upside-down by declaring that he was the Messiah. That would be blasphemous to them. It would probably be especially hard for Judas who, according to biblical scholars, was studying to be a rabbi. Also possibly for James who was closest in age to him and had known him the longest. Joseph wasn't at liberty to explain why their brother did the things he did or the quiet reverence he showed Jesus. Jesus's divinity was declared at the Lord's timing. It must have been hard, as a parent we sometimes want to make things easier for our children, and I can see how it would have been easier for Joseph to just let the other kids know why their big brother was special and the things he would do. But ever obedient, Joseph just taught them to love the Lord and to study the scriptures. It was these teachings that eventually let them feel the spirit and be converted to their brother and accept him as their Savior.
Joseph's actions are only mentioned in the first one or two chapters of Matthew, Luke, and John. He isn't even mentioned by Mark. He is not mentioned anywhere else in the NT. He disappears from history. We know that he died before Jesus turned 30. Here again, another example of Jesus learning through doing rather than by the spirit alone. I don't know if Joseph knew he was going to die before Jesus, but because he did Jesus knows first hand the pain of losing a parent. He knows the pain of knowing you are going to be buried by a parent as well. Joseph was so important in the story of Jesus. He gave us so many examples of being righteous. He was given hard things to do and he did them immediately. He raised the man that became our Savior in a way that made it possible for him to become our Savior. I look at the way he obeyed, especially when he fled to Egypt. It says in Matthew 2:14 When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt... He didn't wait til morning, or a more convenient time, it doesn't say that he waited until the papyrus store was open so he could write a letter to his family, he got up, got his family and went, not knowing when he would come back. The angel just told him to stay in Egypt until the Lord let him know it was safe. I admire and respect this man. Such an amazing man, such a great example of righteous priesthood leadership, a man that as a parent I can look up to and emulate. Joseph was no ordinary man, truly he was one of the greatest of the sons of God.

1. Jewish Wedding Customs and the Bride of Messiah
Written by Glenn Kay   

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Addiction, recovery, and me

This is a hard blog for me to write. It has been hard to find the right words to say. My name is Kiersten and I am an addict. I am going to meetings for it. It is not the type of addiction most people think of when they hear about someone going to a 12 step program. I suffer from two food related disorders. I suffer from anorexia nervosa and emotional eating. Anorexia is often misunderstood, just because I don't look like a starving waif doesn't mean that I don't have the problem. For me it started in high school. I got my curves early and was teased by the other kids. I was called fat and ugly. I have blocked most of my elementary years from my memory it was so distressing. When I reached high school age I was responsible for making my own lunch. I would often tell my mom that I had but I never did. I would spend the lunch break walking around the campus so that no one would notice that I wasn't eating. When we had parties in classes it was pure torture. I was certain that everyone was watching me and thinking, "what is she eating that for, she is so fat!" I would frequently say that I wasn't hungry, or that I had just eaten whenever someone offered me food. The sad thing was that I wasn't fat. I was average size, perfectly normal, but I could still hear those childhood taunts. Anorexia is something that unfortunately sticks with you. It screwed up my metabolism and when I started eating "normally" again, the weight came on easily. My body was so used to storing every calorie that it got that eating the proper amount of calories sent me into a tailspin of weight gain that I was incapable of stopping. I would gain weight and then I would feel depressed, my marriages failing didn't help either. I turned to food, chocolate became my best friend. I would eat unhealthy food and then feel even worse about myself. I would beat myself up, no wonder my husband didn't love me, how could he love a whale? I would promise myself that I would do better the next day, No eating until I had lost the weight. I would skip breakfast and lunch but then by the time dinner came I was so fatigued and light headed that I would eat the first thing I could find. Being abused and starved in Mexico didn't help, sure I lost weight but my body went even further into it's hoarding mode. When I got back to the States, I was overwhelmed by how much food there was. I over-compensated for the months of starvation. I gained weight and knew I was unhealthy. I yo-yo dieted, did extreme diets, every pill you can imagine for weight loss I tried. They were all short term fixes and the weight always came back, and so did the emotional eating. Knowing that your body mass index is way too high and that you are considered morbidly obese is a difficult thing to face. All the childhood taunts of being fat and ugly would ring in my ears. However, I finally found a way of eating that I could stick to and that was healthy. I don't call it a diet, I call it a lifestyle change. The way of thinking though that accompanies anorexia and emotional eating doesn't go away when you change your habits. That is where the addiction recovery program comes into play. To be completely healed from the disorders that I have, I had to change my way of thinking. It's not about being beautiful and lovable, it's about being healthy. It's not about always being in control, it's about letting a higher power help. This step is particularly hard for me, oddly enough since I am such a spiritual person and believe that God directs my life, I want to be in charge and have things go the way I want them to. Emotional eating comes into play when I try to have that tight a hold on my life. When things go wrong, I feel like I have done something wrong, that I am not worthy of the things I want, and then chocolate becomes my best friend. But when I accept that a person who knows better than I is in charge, when things don't go the way I want them to I can let it go and trust God.
The addiction meetings are amazing. To listen to other people talk about the way they rationalize their behavior, and realize that they are my own excuses was eye opening. It helped me feel not alone, it also helped me accept that I do have a problem and I can't fix it by myself. It also helped me feel more compassion towards my ex-husband. He did a lot of bad things but he was also an addict. To listen to the people in my group talk about the family members they had alienated, the family members they had lost, all because of their addictions, made me realize that at some point my ex will come to the same realization. There was a lot of pain in the confessions that were said. I was moved to tears many times. The Spirit was so strong there it was amazing. There was a lot of love in that room, we entered as strangers and yet we were able to bare our souls and talk about our darkest moments. One man talked about how safe it was at the meetings, how even in places where we should be safe we put on a face and don't tell, but there it was safe. It was so true. I have never felt as safe opening up as I did in that room, it truly was a holy place for all of us there. I confessed things I have never felt safe enough to tell anyone. I knew they would understand and not judge me. It was very liberating. I also felt the presence of those who have passed on from our realm. To realize that family members that have passed away were there supporting their loved ones was humbling. The first meeting I went to I felt a little awkward. They were on step 8 of the 12 step program. I didn't even know what steps 1-7 were. As I was feeling awkward and out of place the thought from Elder Uchtdorf's talk popped into my head, "lift where you stand". It didn't matter that I didn't know the first steps, I would learn them eventually. The important thing was to start, to "stand {where I was} and lift." One of the themes I heard from other people was that of trying to do it on their own. I am guilty of this a lot. I think that as a woman and as a single mom I should be strong enough to do this on my own. Ether has a different idea about this though. He tells us that the Lord gave us all specific weaknesses, weaknesses designed for us individually. Ether 12:27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
I was wondering how I could make this weakness a strength, well, how the Lord could make it a strength. Going to these meetings has been humbling, and that is one of the key requirements in turning it into a strength. I think that the Lord gave me this particular weakness so that once I (through His help) got through it, I could help others. I have a loud voice and I have much compassion. I think the Lord uses those two strengths of mine to help His other children. This blog post is about turning my weakness into a strength. It is hard for me to admit my failings, my weaknesses. Satan is really good at making me feel like I should be strong all the time, that people that I love and admire will look down on me if I admit that I have a problem. I hope that admitting that I have this problem and am getting help for it will help others in a similar situation. It's ok to be weak, it's ok to ask for help, it's ok to make mistakes. The atonement of our Lord, Jesus Christ covers all of that. It covers our weaknesses, it covers our mistakes, it heals our wounds. Maybe having a food addiction isn't a great sin, but it does still cause a lot of hurt and shame. The atonement helps erase those feelings. The Saviour didn't just suffer for the wrong things we do, He suffered for every hurt, every illness we will ever face. His atonement can help me overcome this weakness. His atonement in effect in my life right now causes me to feel compassion for others, makes me want to help others, makes me not ashamed to write this blog and share it with others.
The people in the meetings also talked about the great amount of love that they felt in the meetings. Being able to talk about their problems with people that understand helped relieve a burden and helped them be able to feel the Lord's love for them. Life is hard and sad sometimes but there is also great happiness and love. We laughed, we cried, we hugged, we all felt uplifted and loved. It has been an amazing journey. I am grateful that the Lord has not only shown me this weakness but provided a way to overcome and given a purpose for it.

Monday, June 25, 2012

I will give away all my sins

At church yesterday a lady gave an amazing talk. She was talking about her favorite Book of Mormon stories. The first one was from 1st Nephi, chapter 3. She talked about how the 4 sons of Lehi were returning to Jerusalem for the sacred records. Once they get there they draw lots to see who will go. It falls to the oldest son Laman. He goes and talks to Laban and gets threatened with death. He returns to his brothers ready to go back to their father in the wilderness. Nephi told them "As the Lord liveth, and as we live, we will not go down unto our father in the wilderness until we have accomplished the thing which the Lord hath commanded us. Wherefore, let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord." He understood that just because the Lord gives a commandment, it doesn't mean that it will be quick or easy. He was willing to take the time it took to do what the Lord asked. In fact it took a total of three tries and some deep soul searching for him to accomplish that which the Lord had commanded. Her next story was in Alma, chapters 20 and 22. Ammon had converted King Lamoni and most of his people. King Lamoni was supposed to go to a great feast held by the king of all the land, his father. He didn't go and later ran into his father on the road with Ammon to free Ammon's brother and brethren. Understandable the father was furious; his son not only refused a royal order, but was also traveling with his "sworn enemy" to free more of their mortal enemies. He drew his sword and tried to kill Ammon. Because the Lord had promised King Mosiah that his son's would be safe, the old king had no luck in subduing Ammon. In fact Ammon hit him with the sword in such a way that disabled him. He realized he could die and pleaded with Ammon "If thou wilt spare me I will grant unto thee whatsoever thou wilt ask, even to half of the kingdom." Ammon didn't want half the kingdom, he had already refused the whole of his own kingdom, he just wanted his brethren freed and King Lamoni to be free to worship as he chose. King Lamoni's father of course agreed to those conditions and was so intrigued by Ammon, a Nephite who wasn't acting anything like the king believed Nephite's should act. He had been raised on false traditions and wanted to know more about Ammon. It was Aaron who went to the king and taught him the gospel. The king had a great question for Aaron "What shall I do that I may have this eternal life of which thou hast spoken? Yea, what shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast, and receive his Spirit, that I may be filled with joy, that I may not be cast off at the last day? Behold, said he, I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy." Aaron told him to pray and repent. I love the king's prayer "O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day." The king was willing to give up half his kingdom to save his life, but he was willing to give up his entire kingdom to save his soul. He was willing to give away all his sins as well. Not just the major ones, like not killing Nephite's anymore, but even the little ones. I know that I have my favorite sins that I have a hard time letting go of, I even try to rationalize them sometimes, "well it's not like I am killing anyone or being anti-Christ so it isn't that bad, right?" Every single little sin he was willing to give up. Combining these two stories there is a great lesson. We need to be able to give up everything for the Lord, and just because we have done that, it doesn't mean that life will be easy or that the things we need to do will be accomplished quickly. Following the Lord is not always easy; there are times we have to try at something over and over again. There are times when the path to where the Lord has asked us to go is not clear to our mortal eyes. There are times of deep soul searching, even times when we “shrink and would that we might not” have to do what the Lord asks of us. There have been nights where I have cried in the anguish of my soul, “Lord, do I really have to go through this?” There have been nights where I pleaded in confusion, “Lord where in the path I should be on? I cannot see it.” Every time I have prayed the Lord has tenderly answered.The answer, “Yes, my child, you do need to go through this. Trust me” has come on many occasions. The path is not always shown to me, in fact I was told to just trust one step at a time.  I know I am not as righteous as Nephi or King Lamoni’s father, but I know that I am blessed for my efforts. I know that as long as I keep moving forward and trusting the Lord that I will receive the blessings that these great men received, the blessings of peace and comfort, the blessing of knowing that the Lord looks out for me in all my trials. I am grateful for the examples of these great men. I honestly hope that I get to meet them one day.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Of death and dying: Thoughts on suicide

Glee the other day really got me thinking. One of the story-lines was about David Karofsky, a jock who bullied Kurt the openly gay teen on the show. Last season it was shown that the reason he was so antagonistic to Kurt was because he was attracted to Kurt and wasn't ready to admit it. It got out that he was also gay and he himself became the bullied. On tonight's episode there was a lot of bullying and he went to his room. As he cried and looked at his stuff I saw a look on his face that I recognized. The look of utter despair, complete hopelessness. I have felt that in my own life. I knew where the plot line was going, I gasped at the TV and said out loud, "he is going to kill himself." The show handled it very well and very real. This touched me for two reasons; my former stepson, who I claim as my child, is gay; also I have thought about suicide a few times. I never did anything serious but I was a cutter, which I guess actually is rather serious. I would use pins and pocket knives. I would carve words into my thigh just above my shorts hemline so no one could see them. I would also carve words or cut lines in my wrists underneath my watch band. I never went deep enough to be in any danger or leave scars but I did go deep enough to draw blood and to create injuries that would hurt for several days. I thought doing this would somehow relieve the internal emotional pain I was going through. My life was awesome, I was spoiled, middle class, white and a girl, I pretty much had the world handed to me on a platter. So where were these dark thoughts coming from? As I got older different thoughts came, turning slightly into the big rig passing me, stepping off the balcony etc. So why am I telling you all these things? I am not looking for pity or concern. I want you to know that I have looked into the darkness and come out the other side. I want you to know that no matter how dark it gets the sun always rises! I have come to realize that anytime I have those dark thoughts it is because a dark force is whispering them to me, because Satan hates me and is trying to prevent me from reaching my full potential.
I wanted to share this so that anyone else feeling like they are the only one who is hurting, that no one understands, or that life isn't worth living, to know that it isn't true. I am here. I understand and I care. Life is so amazingly beautiful! I love my life right now, it is not perfect, it is not easy, but I have so much joy in my life, so much love.
I also wanted people to realize that just because someone seems to have everything and seems happy, they might not be. I know that many times I was brought back to reality, brought out of the dark haze by a friend or family member who had a feeling that they should call me or stop by and see me. So, if you feel like you need to check in on someone, don't delay, they may be in a lonely dark place and you may be God's angel to help them return to the light.
Depression is real, pain is real, suicide is hard for those that are left. Be an angel to someone you love. And if you are in that dark place, message me, I will always be here and I will always care.
I love you all so very much :)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Opening our hearts to love

It was Valentine's day recently. Love has been the topic of the day. In general I resist love as I feel it makes me weak, trusting someone else with my heart is not an easy task, even when the person asking for my heart is God Himself. At church the other day, as people were giving their talks, this simple and yet profound thought came into my head, "We need to open our hearts to love, we need to be vulnerable. We need to not worry about our hearts being broken for two very important reasons - first, the Lord requires of us a broken heart and a contrite spirit and second, there is no heartache that the Lord cannot heal. All the greatest blessing in history came from people being willing to risk everything, including heartache, to do the Lord's will." I made a decision at that moment. I decided that I would stop struggling against my heart, even promptings that I was receiving, and open my heart to love and to possible heartbreak. A very surprising thing happened when I did that. I found that I felt incredibly vulnerable and it was scary. I had always been hard, maybe a little too hard, I needed to be I thought. To get through everything I had gotten through, I built a strong shell. I was used to being strong, used to not letting anyone in. Being vulnerable by choice was very strange. I felt like I could feel the wind rushing past my heart, like my chest was open and my heart was just there, exposed to the elements. I must confess, I did touch my chest just to make sure my heart wasn't exposed and about to fall out, I felt like a dork afterwards :) Then an amazing thing happened, another wall was put in place, but not my wall, a soft wall and a voice promising me that He would take care of my heart. I thought for a moment that everything would be pie after that. Not so much, opening my heart and putting all my trust in the Lord was a little more than Satan could stand. The attacks started shortly after that decision. Doubts and fears crept into my mind and as I prayed for strength and faith, the attacks got more vicious. I do not doubt that the devil is a very real being, with vast knowledge, millennia of experience and an eternal hatred of those that choose righteousness. Dark thoughts that were not my own popped into my head unbidden. I would frequently feel a dark, malicious force near me. Sometimes the darkness was so thick I could feel it, surrounding me like a wet blanket, making it hard to breathe. It was scary at times. Last night I was having a discussion with my Heavenly Father, discussing the fact that every night since I had made that decision I had gone to bed with a broken heart, and every morning He bound up that heart and gave me hope for the new day. It has not been easy, and there have been times I have been like Lehi when Nephi's bow broke. The Lord knows I trust Him, but that didn't stop me from complaining. I am working on that :/. As we discussed what opening the heart to love looked like several thoughts and scriptures came to my mind. Opening my heart meant praying more fervently for those that had hurt me or people I cared about. I used to pray for my ex husband and his family but hadn't done so in a while. All this week with renewed determination I prayed that the men that abused me in the past would find their way to the Savior and His healing love. I prayed for friends and their families, I prayed for the ex-spouses of friends, people that I have never met. I prayed that the Lord would bind up the broken hearts of those I love. I came to realize how important two scriptures are, they really need to be read together. The first one is not really all that clear by itself. Galatians 5:14 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  Now my problem with this particular scripture is that some people are a little too much in love with themselves, to the exclusion of all others. Some people do not love themselves at all, so loving their neighbor as themselves means demeaning them and hurting them, as they do to themselves. That scripture needs to be read with this one: John 13:34 A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. The commandment is to love others as God loves us. If then, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, and love others as God loves us, we must also love ourselves as God loves us. We are His children. If we are to reach our full potential we must accept that and love ourselves as children of God. We must first love ourselves to be able to then share that love with others. I found that as I accepted myself, my vulnerability, and potential heartbreak my prayers became more kind and loving, my actions towards others was more gentle. I prayed with true intent for people that I had never met before, people I never thought I would be praying for. People who, by the world's standard, deserve every bit of bitterness and anger I have. And yet, out of love, I was praying for them to be healed, even as I was healed. Opening your heart is scary, Satan knows that the best way to keep our hearts closed is to play on those fears. He played on my fears a lot these past weeks. However, the Lord is stronger. He loves us beyond measure and if our hearts are broken, He can heal them. Opening my heart to love has made me a better person, a better friend, a better mother. I don't know where this path is leading to, but I trust the one showing the way. The King of Love, my Shepard is. His goodness faileth never.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Nephi's Journey, My Journey

I was reading in 1st Nephi the other day. We are told that we should "Liken the scriptures unto ourselves" so I started thinking about how the scriptures I was reading could be likened unto my life. I happened to be reading 1st Nephi chapter 2. In this chapter the Lord commands Lehi and his family to leave everything behind and travel into the wilderness. Lehi left his job, his home, his inheritance, everything except for what was needed for the trip. I started to think about all the other things they left behind that aren't mentioned, I never thought much about what Laman and Lemuel were leaving behind except for wealth. They were in Jerusalem 600 BC. I find it highly unlikely that Lehi or Sariah were only children. In fact it is much more probable that there was much family that was left behind. Uncles, Aunt's cousins, grandparents, friends also would have been left behind. I think it would be hard to be told that someone you had loved you whole life was going to be destroyed because they were being wicked. They then go out into the desert and only return briefly twice for scriptures and wives. They end up in the wilderness for 8 years where they suffer much frustration, trials, hunger and pain. As I read these chapters I had a sudden understanding of how this related to my life right now. First I want to say that I do not have evil, murmuring brothers. My brothers and brothers-in-law all really rock and I love them more than words can express. My journey has been about 8 years, just a little jumbled in the order that things happened. I was inactive, married to a drug dealer (not by choice) and pregnant. An angel of the Lord visited Laman and Lemuel to let them know that they needed to change their course in life, likewise I was visited by angels of the human kind who helped me get my life back on track. Having the Lord guide your life does not mean that there won't be suffering, and as Nephi suffered at the hands of his beloved family, I also suffered abuse at the hands of him who had promised to love and cherish me. Like Nephi I turned to the Lord and was eventually freed from my bonds. When I got to CA I thought I was done with my journey, but the Lord had other plans. The family of Nephi ended up for a little while in a beautiful place they named Bountiful. Santa Rosa was my Bountiful, as beautiful as it is, it is not where the Lord has in mind for me to receive all the blessings He has in store for me. One day in September I was in church listening to a talk when all of the sudden I was struck by a prompting so simple and yet life changing. I needed to quit my job and move out to Utah even though I had no job lined up. Now I did not leave behind great wealth, but I was making 30k+ a year and that was sufficient to live decently. It was really hard to leave my family. I did not worry that they would be destroyed, but I knew that with my limited resources the chances of me seeing them again any time soon were slim. Leaving my friends behind was hard too, I still feel it's sting even though I have made wonderful friends here. I drove through the desert and ended up in Provo, not where I expected to be but time and again the Lord has shown me His wisdom in the place that I have been led to. The journey didn't have to be as long as it was, as evidenced by the Jaredite journey being a different length, but it was the length that the family of Nephi needed. I am certain that my journey could have been shorter if I had been more obedient in the earlier years of my journey. Every persons journey to the promised land is full of trials and blessings, learning experiences and peaceful oases. Nephi's journey was filled with much sorrow, his brothers rebellion, death of loved ones. My journey has been filled with sorrow at the poor choices of people I care about and death of loved ones. Nephi's journey was also filled with love and rejoicing, reminders of the Lords love and finally the promised land. My journey as well has been filled with much love and rejoicing. To know that the Lord of all creation looks after me is astounding. He knows the name of every star, and yet takes the time on a daily basis, and sometimes even a minutely basis to let me know that He is aware of my struggles, that He knows the path and to remind me that if I follow His plan, I too will reach the promised land. I am grateful to know that the Lord looks over me and my daughter. I am grateful to see His hand in my life.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

In the shadow of the Mountains

So I am officially moved into Provo. I got here on Friday. I actually live right on the ward boundary so Friday I was calling the Bishop of the Provo Peak 7th ward to get help with the moving in bit. I found out Saturday that I actually lived in a different ward and was given the phone number of that bishop. I called and left a message, a little worried because my dad was going to be arriving in a few hours. My daughter and I went walking, the first church building that I thought we were going to be going to is just two blocks from our house. Of course that isn't our church building, we are at one that is eight blocks away - welcome to Utah. As we got closer to that one I was slightly confused, there were a lot of cars in the parking lot and the windows were stained glass. My daughter said, I bet this is our church. I told her that I didn't think it was because we don't use stained glass in our buildings, but as we went around to the front there was the sign The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It had two wards listed on the outside of the building but neither of them were the one we were told we were in. I walked in and started speaking to a man in the foyer. He let me know that I was in the right place and that he was my Bishop. He called the Elders Quorum president and in a little over two hours I had five strangers at my house helping me move my stuff in. My uncle, two cousins and my sister also came to help. Sunday morning after talking to my mom I misplaced my cell phone. I didn't realize that I didn't have it until I thought to turn the ringer off at church. Church was interesting, I have never been in a building like it before, beautiful stained glass windows, stone walls, it was also packed full of people. I was a little nervous about getting lost in such a large crowd. So many people talked to me that I feel a little bad that I don't remember their names. After church all the new people in the ward met with the bishop. There was about 9 of us. After talking to us and hearing a little bit of our stories, the bishop said a prayer. He prayed for each one of us by name and according to our circumstances. I have always known that we are prayed for by those who are called as stewards over us, but I always thought it was more like a general blanket "please bless those that I am called to serve" type prayer. To actually hear my bishop saying my name and my personal circumstances and needs in a prayer was pretty amazing. I was not just a nameless ward member, he knew my name even though we had barely met the day before and he understood my circumstances. Not only did he pray for me to find employment, but he prayed that I would find the reason for me being called out to Utah. After church we dashed home to see if I could find my phone. I couldn't so I couldn't even call my uncle to let him know we might be a little late. We left for their house praying that I wouldn't get lost, as I had gotten lost three time on Friday; going to meet the landlord, going to my sister's house and returning home. I tried to follow my uncle's instructions but still managed to get lost. My GPS system stopped working in mid-Nevada so I was more than a little scared as I was driving in unknown territory. I prayed that somehow I would find a sign or some way to direct me to my uncle's town. I felt like maybe I should try my GPS. It turned on and in 15 minutes I was at my uncle's door, not before turning the wrong way on a street one last time. Needless to say I was an emotional wreck, frustration, fear, gratitude and relief all mixed together and I sat in my car for a few minutes to compose myself. Not that that did any good, as soon as I was inside the house my sister and my father both noticed that I was upset and asked me what was wrong, which set me crying again. My cousin's husband, who I had never met before that day, got me a glass of ice water and took my daughter to get her plate ready. It was hard to not cry at the kindness of someone who, although technically is family, was still a complete stranger to me. It was wonderful to be with family and getting home was a lot easier this time. Things have still been hard, money has been really tight, but for every tough thing there has been something amazing too. I was lamenting the fact that I had miscalculated money to my older sister and then she turns around and hands me a $100 gift card. I have been to the Provo temple twice since I got here and both times I have felt the Spirit so strongly, the first time was so strong it brought me to tears and I was unable to speak for a moment. Before I left Santa Rosa, my older brother blessed me to be aware of the Spirits; those that went before me to prepare the way, those that went beside me to support me and those that went behind to provide protection. I have felt them many times and have been moved to tears at some of the most random times. He also mentioned the fiery darts of the adversary, which I have also felt very strongly since getting out here. It has been hard but I have faith that the Lord has a reason for it all. Living in the shadow of the mountain is interesting, having these towering walls all around me makes me feel safe. Living in the shadow of the Mountain of the Lord's House has been a blessing, even in it's brevity. I love living so close to the temple. I love being able to drop my daughter off at school and drive 5 minutes and be there, in that peaceful sacred place. I do not know why the Lord has sent me here at this time, but I am grateful for the blessings I have received for coming out here. I do miss my family and friends that I left in Cali, but I know that the Lord will watch over them until my return. I know He will watch over me and my daughter as He has been. I know that someday all of this will make sense. For now I will live in the shadow of the two mountains, the physical one that reminds me of the strength of the Lord and the Spiritual one that reminds me of the promises of the Lord.
The Lord is faithful :)