Sunday, April 6, 2014

Preparing to Serve

My husband and I have made the decision to submit our papers to serve a full time mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That single sentence represents a huge leap of faith and complete shift of the focus of my life. For most of the 32 years we have been married, we have talked about "Someday" going on a mission. Somehow, though, I always thought it would be AFTER I was done with my career. Here's the catch. My husband is 12 years older than I am. By the time I am 60, he will be 72. We just don't want to wait that long, recognizing that with each passing year his chances of being strong and healthy are a bit less assured. We want to go now when we have the ability to travel where ever in the world the Lord might send us and the stamina to do the work that is asked of us. We've talked about it a lot. We have prayed about it. It just feels right. Now is our time. Granted, I can think of any number of reasons NOT to go, or at least not to go right now. It does not make "logical" sense. To my non-member friends and family, it appears somewhat irresponsible to forfeit the work I am now fully immersed in. But we have a different measure of success. Yes, leaving at this time will mean we will tap into our retirement savings several years before we had planned to. It means we will have less of a parachute for the future. We also will miss out on time spent with our grand kids who are very precious to us. However, we are ready to put those considerations aside and just GO. After most of my adult life having been spent in "take charge" mode, running organizations, planing events, accomplishing things well recognized by the world it is a huge switch to release all that and submit to a "Thy Will Be Done" sort of approach to our future. Yet it feels so RIGHT. The more we open ourselves up to this new direction, the more PEACE we experience. So for now I find myself vacillating between two perspectives. A part of me wants to slow down time, to savor every single day I have here in my familiar home, with friends and family around me. But another side of me is anxious to pin on that badge. I can't wait to get that envelope that will tell us where the Lord wants us to go. I am ready to serve.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Tender Mercies

I've been thinking a lot lately about the concept of "Tender Mercies". According to the apostle David Bednar, "the Lord’s tender mercies are the very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving-kindnesses, consolation, support, and spiritual gifts which we receive from and because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ. "

I am working at being more observant, more mindful, more conscious of the many tender mercies in my life.

Some are blatantly obvious. Others are more subtle.

There are little things like what I will try to always remember as "the lesson of the notebook." Tonight I went to a church meeting for all the adult women of the church. There was a light supper of soup & salad followed by a satellite broadcast of talks by various leaders from Salt Lake City. On my way out the door I put my scriptures and a notepad and pen in my bag and headed out. Then just as I was about to go out the door I got a very firm prompting that I should go back and get a SECOND notebook and pen. I had no idea why. I just knew it was something I should do.

As I sat in the cultural hall eating and visiting with other women I forgot all about that extra notebook and the unexplainable feeling I had received to go back to get it. But when we all moved into the chapel for the presentation of the talks I found myself sitting next to a young woman I did not know. She was fretting because in her haste to get ready to come to the meeting she had forgotten to bring something to write with. She wished she would be able to take notes during the meeting. I calmly reached into my bag and handed her the extra notepad and pen I had and said to her "thank you. Now I know why I was supposed to bring these."

It was just a LITTLE thing. But it showed me all over again that even when it comes to something as simple as a woman's need for a notebook so she could record and remember important spiritual direction, the Lord was mindful of her and prepared a way that her needs would be supplied.

I know in countless ways MY needs are met through interventions such as this. Too often I fail to give credit to my creator when they do.

So I want to start paying closer attention, to deliberately seek awareness of things for which I can and should be more grateful.

There are so very many blessings in my life these days that sometimes I take many of them for granted.

I am looking forward to turning that around.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Holy Week

Several years ago I made the acquaintance of a remarkable group of people. They are the congregation of St. Silouan's Orthodox Church in Walla Walla, WA. I crossed paths with them in various ways. One was a professional colleague for a while. One was a friend from the blogoshere. One was a special friend and councilor when I was going through some tough personal times. I learned so very much from my Orthodox friends. On several occasion I attended services there and had many rich discussions with them about matters of faith. I have tremendous respect for that bunch.

Right now we are in the period called "Lent", a time of fasting and reflection leading up to Holy Week. There were years in the past when I made a point of practicing my own version of fasts and study during Lent. I did not do so this year. But I have been very conscious of the season and have thought often of my Orthodox and Catholic friends who experience it in deep and meaningful ways.

I am so grateful for the richness of my own testimony and understanding of my relationship with the creator. I do not understand why some people feel it threatens their beliefs to learn more about what other people believe.

I do not believe in trinity.
I do not believe in the need for a priest to confess to.
I do not believe in the level of ritual practiced by my my Orthodox friends.

But I absolutely have been inspired many times over by their sincere efforts to live their faith fully as they understand it. My walk with God has been made richer because of their examples.

As we approach "Holy Week" I think much of the Jesus Prayer they taught me, I remember times past when I was able to go to hear the story of St. Mary of Egypt or when I went to a Pascha celebration years ago...

Those memories are very sweet to me as we approach what I know as Easter (rather than Pascha) and gives me much to reflect on as I prepare to celebrate the reality that Christ is Risen.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Change in direction

I've drifted away from following the book I started using as a bases for posts here, but that does not mean I have drifted away from trying to find a deeper understanding of and relationship with Christ. The book has beautiful artwork and some good reflective questions, but it just isn't what my spirit resonates with right now. I'd rather be immersed directly in the scriptures themselves rather than somebody else's experience and perceptions.

So I've set it down and am returning to reading more of the Bible and the Book of Mormon. I'm also studying talks from General Conference, words of living prophets today.

I go through spurts where I feel prompted to record my thoughts and feelings here so I have it to look back at over time and then I go through periods where I prefer to simply ponder it all quietly in my heart. But whether private or public, my walk to know the Savior continues.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Day 7 of 21 Days - A Promise Without Parallel

"Inasmuch as ye are humble and faithful and call upon my name, behold, I will give you the victory." (D&C 104:8)

In today's lesson the author gives an analogy of running a 10K race as a symbol for building a strong relationship with the Savior. She says:

"Paul the Apostle has counseled us, 'Let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.' Heb 12:1-2 Each of us has been given the opportunity to run the race of life. We are given two guidelines as we run the race - to run with patience and to look to Christ. Running with patience suggests rhythm, pacing yourself, and being able to endure. Looking unto Jesus helps us understand we weren't sent to run the race alone."

I am not a runner. But still, this analogy works for me.
In 2001 I walked 60 miles in three days as part of the Avon 3-Day walk for breast cancer. Along with a little over 3,000 other people I went from Enumclaw, WA to Seattle. If you are at all familiar with that part of the country you will recognize there are some substantial hills between those two places. Also this particular walk was held in August, so it was really hot. It was a long, gruelling journey that taxed my endurance to its very edge. I spent months before hand training for this event and raising funds for the cause. Then, within the first hour after beginning the event, I had an accident. I fell.

Starting out on the walk I wanted to get a steady pace that I would be able to maintain throughout the morning. There were a lot of people filling up the road ahead of me that were going much slower than I wanted to walk. So, I tried to skirt around them. Keeping my eye on the horizon I did not realize that there was a rather abrupt drop from the edge of the pavement to a ditch below. There was tall grass that obscured the edge. When I stepped around the crowd of people I was trying to pass by my foot landed partially on the edge of the pavement and then slipped into the ditch. I seriously twisted my ankle and went tumbling down in the ditch, scraping my knees and hands.

After picking myself up and brushing myself off I determined that there was no serious damage other than a sprained ankle and some road rash. However, the prospect of walking for 60 miles in that shape was a daunting one. Several of the people around me encouraged me to give up. After all, I was injured. I couldn't really expect to keep walking with my foot like that.

I admit, for several minutes I did consider calling it quits. My foot HURT. However, I had a reason for doing that walk. My 25 yr old step daughter, Stacy, had died from cancer the year before. While her tumor had been in her chest wall and not her breast, the issue was the same for me. When she had been hurting she did not have the option of getting on the rescue van and calling it quits. I also thought of my sister-in-law, Donna, who had died from breast cancer some years before. I was not going to give up.

I teamed up with a couple from Detroit who stayed by me and encouraged me all along that long three day adventure. They comforted me when I was discouraged. They cheered me when I reached each incremental goal along the way. Step by step I stayed with it, and the victory in the end was so much sweeter because of the sacrifice I had made to get there.

In life sometimes, like that walk, we start out with grand intentions and then we fall. We find ourselves spiritually in a ditch, bruised and bleeding and sore. We can call it quits - bail out, get on the "rescue van" of abdicating our willingness to follow the path of the gospel. Or we can get up, brush ourselves off, and keep going step by excruciating step until we reach our goal.

Jesus Christ has given us many rich promises that if we will follow Him and endure to the end that we will be blessed. It isn't always easy to do what we know is right. The "natural man" quite often will make us want to quit. However, I know that through the presence of the Holy Spirit we will have the Lord's influence comforting and encouraging us on our path towards eternal life if we can just muster the courage to get up and brush ourselves off when we fall, to humble ourselves enough for true repentance and to keep going step by step.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Day 6 of 21 days - When Hope is Gone

Today's lesson is about Hope.

As I ponder the role that hope has in my life today, I cannot help but think back to some times not so long ago when I was at the end of my rope, when I felt no hope. Today I am buoyed up by hope, clearly on track for looking ahead. That was not always the case for me.

I turn to the scriptures to see what they have to say about hope... there are so many passages, both of people who clung tight to the shining star of hope to get them through their trials and those who felt hopeless.

How do we retain "a perfect brightness of hope" when everything around us seems to be crashing?

Right now my life is good. Right now I am very much aware of the many blessings I have surrounding me. It's easy to feel hopeful when I have the sun shining full on my face. However, I've lived enough years to know that somewhere down the road, maybe sooner or maybe later, there will be other dark patches to be walked through. How can I retain hope then?

I think of Christ's struggle in Gethsemane, and the disappointment he surely must have felt when his dearest disciples kept falling asleep rather than standing ready to support him.

I think of Job, and the tremendous heartache he must have felt when after all his many losses his own few remaining friends suggested he should just curse God and die.

I think of others who faced incredible sorrows, times when the light seemed very far away indeed. How do they keep hold of hope?

Then, as I pray about this and ponder it, the question shifts for me. How might I help bring hope to others who might be struggling now? How can I build reservoirs of faith and strength in my own life to sustain me so the next time I have to face a major adversity I will remember well the sense of clarity, peace and hope that I can feel now?

Part of what helps me is to REMEMBER that having trials and difficulty are part of the plan for this life. When everything goes wrong, odd as it may seem, it really does help me to recall that I'm right on schedule. I'm learning. I'm experiencing. Even if it's shattering me. Especially if it's shattering me. That's what living in this fallen mortal world is for. To learn to endure, to learn to depend on the Lord no matter what.

I have a testimony of Jesus Christ as having been a real person who indeed lived and taught people on the shores of Galilee. I also have a testimony of Him being the Son of God, and my own personal savior and redeemer.

I have a testimony that through Christ, there is every reason for HOPE.

I know there will be times it will be harder to feel that.

Today, I go on record saying that I absolutely know this to be true. Now I just HOPE that I can stick by those convictions when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, when I face losses, when it feels like all reason for hope is gone.

I found this while searching for info on Hope all over the web:

"The late Henri Nouwen wrote, “Trust is the basis of life. Without trust, no human being can live. Trapeze artists offer a beautiful image of this.
Flyers have to trust their catchers. They can do the most spectacular doubles, triples, or quadruples, but what finally makes their performance spectacular are the catchers who are there for them at the right time in the right place.

Much of our lives is flying. It is wonderful to fly in the air free as a bird, but when God isn’t there to catch us, all our flying comes to nothing. Let’s trust in the Great Catcher.”

Do you trust God with every area of your life? Hope needs trust because part of hoping in someone or something is that there is a level of trust present for such hope to exist.

What is the Holy Spirit saying you to this morning about your hope?"

Found HERE from "Establishing Your Hope in Christ" at "Le padre ver livre" a Wordpress blog credited as "a smalltown pastor's sermons, book reviews, and other thoughts."

Photo credit: Agony in the Garden by Fra Angelico c. 1450 found HERE.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Day 5 of 21 Days - Who is this Jesus?

Whom say ye that I am? - Matthew 16:15

Some of the names Jesus Christ has been known by:
The Messiah
The Holy One of Israel
The Lord of All
The High Priest of Good Things to Come
The Good Shepherd
The Prince of Peace
The Giver of Every Good Gift
The Light of the World
The Teacher
The Fount of Every Blessing
The Son of God
The Savior

Who is He to ME?

We read in the scriptures "He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not." (John 1:10-11)

Do I fully receive him or know him?

Today's lesson speaks about the Samaritan woman at the well. She was there going about her business drawing water. What began as an ordinary task became life changing for her.

To what extent to I make room for communication with the Savior through the promptings of the Holy Ghost on a daily basis as I am doing my own mundane tasks?

In the Sacrament prayers we ask that we might ALWAYS have his spirit to be with us.
Yet so often I allow the distractions of daily life to crowd out spiritual awareness.

I DO need to earn a living. I DO need to do my daily ordinary, mundane tasks.
I cannot stop those things to immerse myself in prayer and scriptures every minute of every day. Still, how can I do a better job of keeping a prayer in my heart throughout the day? How can I draw closer to God and to the Savior so that they are with me always? What would my life be life if I did? What will it be like if I don't?

These are things I need to ponder and pray on more.....

Photo Credit: Woman at the Well by Simon Dewey found HERE