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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

FOOD FOR THE SPIRIT -- A Spiritual Day

Yesterday was an incredible day!  I had the opportunity to attend a session at the Brigham City temple with my nephew and his family as he received his endowments in preparation for a mission.  The spirit was there in abundance.  I started thinking about my post from the other day about learning to love myself.  I wondered how I could do that...how to learn to really, truly love myself!  My answer came and the floodgates opened.  It occured to me that I can learn to love myself because the Savior first loved me.  He loved me before I was even born!  He loved me so much that He suffered for me!  He loved me so much that He provided a way for me to return.  Why?  So He could associate with me for eternity!  He loved me even though He knew that I would make countless mistakes in my life...mistakes that caused Him great pain.  Today, He loves me still.  As the enormity of these truths sunk in, I was unable to hold back the tears.

I realized that angels were truly present there with us in the temple.  My nephew Collin and I are related, after all!  Why wouldn't my grandparents be there?  And they were!  I could totally feel them there with me, and it was if they were all communicating with me, spirit to spirit:  "Kristen, we love you without condition!  We love you so much!  You can learn to love yourself!  You are so loved by so many!"

I received specific personal revelation in other areas in my life.  It was a spiritual feast.  In all my years of temple attendance, I've never had an experience quite so powerful.  It was so wonderful and I do feel loved.  I feel now that if so many loved me and love me still, I can learn to love myself a little better!  It is always so powerful and wonderful to feel love from beyond the veil.  So very wonderful!

Monday, June 24, 2013


"I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble."  --Helen Keller

FOOD FOR THE SPIRIT -- Learning to Love and Forget Myself

A few days ago, I was standing in front of the mirror in my bathroom, wearing nothing but my skivvies (sorry, Mom!), and I had a revelation of sorts.  I am OK with my body.  I'm not OK with the way I feel physically, but I'm OK with the way I look.  Sure, I'd like to be a few sizes smaller, a hundred pounds lighter, a little younger-looking, whatever, but in the meantime, I'm OK with the way I look.  So, why the low self-esteem all these years?  Why the desperation to lose weight, knowing full well that as shallow as it seems, it hasn't always been about health or quality of life as much as it has been about numbers and measurements?  Or about what others thought about me?  I realized that in the past, I needed and wanted to lose weight mostly for others, only secondarily for myself.  I have always had something to prove:  to my family, to my Weight Watchers leaders, to my friends, even to the blog readers following my journey online.  Have I ever truly, truly loved myself the way God intends:  without condition?  Or is my self-respect only present when I am tearing it up in life, completely tied to success as the world and others see it?

Last night I watched a documentary about Gordon B. Hinckley.  Since I was already an emotional basket-case after a fantastic day at church, the tears flowed freely as I watched this film:  a tribute to a truly great man.  He told the story of an experience he had as a rail manager, when a baggage car went missing.  He searched and searched for this missing car, while angry passengers waited for the solution of the mystery.  After a long and stressful hunt and several phone calls, he located the missing baggage car thousands of miles from its intended destination.  The rest of the train arrived as planned in New Jersey while the baggage wound up in New Orleans!  The problem came when a careless worker unhooked the car and changed a switch a mere three inches.  Three inches off course ended up leading the car on a completely different journey, a completely different path, and to a completely different destination!

After watching the film, I considered my own life and wondered what, if anything, was possibly setting me off course by merely three inches.  I decided that my not loving myself enough could definitely be leading me astray.  In a big way.  The more I thought about it, the more this thought made sense.  The spirit then confirmed to me that humility is much different than discouragement and doubt in my own abilities.  Humility is knowing that I do have the ability to accomplish ANYTHING, but ONLY with God's help.  Humility is accepting God's will for my life, then giving Him everything I have, trusting completely that my life will be so much more rewarding with His every day help.

I also love to hear about young missionary Gordon B. Hinckley who found himself in the field, feeling completely inept in every way, guilty for using his family's much-needed resources.  He was beyond discouraged!  He wrote to his father, expressing these concerns and received life-changing counsel back from his father:  "Forget yourself and go to work."  Elder Hinckley fell to his knees that night, and covenanted to the Lord in that moment of humility, that He would spend His life thinking of and serving others from that day forward.  And he did!  He spent the remainder of his days lifting others, serving others, providing for others, and leading others.  As he told this story, he affirmed that all good things that had come to him in his life could be traced back to that moment in his life.  He said that it was a turning point for him:  a day of decision.

I feel similarly discouraged and inadequate at times:  with finances, with my duties as a wife and mother, with my church callings, with my health, with my eating disorder.  I felt yesterday that the keys to healing are to forget myself and think more of others, to work harder, and to learn to love myself as God loves me.  I think as I find joy in the service of others and in doing many jobs well-done, this love and respect for myself will grow.

In the meantime, I will continue to study and live, growing and feeding my living testimony.  I am grateful for my sweet friend, President Hinckley and for his wise words which lifted me in a dark and discouraged hour.  He is still lifting others, even from the other side of the veil!

Friday, June 14, 2013

FOOD FOR THE SPIRIT --- Fan the Flame of Your Faith

I have been reviewing the addresses given at the April 2013 General Conference.  This morning I had the privilege of reading Elder Holland's masterpiece:  "Lord, I Believe".  If you haven't had the chance to read this gospel classic, please, please read it here:  http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/04/lord-i-believe?lang=eng&media=video#watch=video

Elder Holland's words, as usual, were exactly what I needed to hear this morning.  As He speaks about the man who came to his apostles, pleading for any help they could offer him, I was so touched by his honesty.  After the apostles were unable to help, he turned to the Savior himself, begging for ANY assistance, any lightening of the load which his family had bourne for so long as caretakers of a severely handicapped child.  His plea was desperate.  Then, when asked if He believed that the Savior could help, he firmly replied:  "Yea Lord I believe," then frankly and honestly added, "Help thou mine unbelief."

This story has always been one of my favorites in all scripture mostly because I relate to this man so much.  I have faith, but I am all too aware that it is imperfect and young and at times, even vulnerable.

As I was driving to work this morning, not knowing that this address was the next one I would be listening to, I was actually thinking about my faith and wondering about its strength.  At times, my heart is so strong, filled with faith, devoid of doubts or questions.  Then at other times, I feel very little.  It's probably a little bit of the pride cycle going on in my life.  Perhaps small choices I make are making the influence of the Spirit harder to feel at times.  Whatever the reason, at times, my faith still wavers.  Lately, I have been feeling very overwhelmed at the thought of becoming a mommy again.  Motherhood is already hard, with four!  How will I manage my day-to-day craziness with one more?  How will we make it financially?  The doubts at this stage, especially on hard days, are all around me.  I wish I could make them stop.  I pray that the Lord will grant me peace and allow me to feel more joy about this little one coming our way.  I desperately want that!

I love what Elder Holland said about HOW to show honesty in our weakness:  When problems come and questions arise, do not start your quest for faith by saying how much you do not have, leading as it were with your “unbelief.” That is like trying to stuff a turkey through the beak! Let me be clear on this point: I am not asking you to pretend to faith you do not have. I am asking you to be true to the faith you do have. Sometimes we act as if an honest declaration of doubt is a higher manifestation of moral courage than is an honest declaration of faith. It is not! So let us all remember the clear message of this scriptural account: Be as candid about your questions as you need to be; life is full of them on one subject or another. But if you and your family want to be healed, don’t let those questions stand in the way of faith working its miracle...

Furthermore, you have more faith than you think you do because of what the Book of Mormon calls “the greatness of the evidences.”7 “Ye shall know them by their fruits,” Jesus said,8 and the fruit of living the gospel is evident in the lives of Latter-day Saints everywhere. As Peter and John said once to an ancient audience, I say today, “We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard,” and what we have seen and heard is that “a notable miracle hath been done” in the lives of millions of members of this Church. That cannot be denied.9

Brothers and sisters, this is a divine work in process, with the manifestations and blessings of it abounding in every direction, so please don’t hyperventilate if from time to time issues arise that need to be examined, understood, and resolved. They do and they will. In this Church, what we know will always trump what we do not know. And remember, in this world, everyone is to walk by faith.

So be kind regarding human frailty—your own as well as that of those who serve with you in a Church led by volunteer, mortal men and women. Except in the case of His only perfect Begotten Son, imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it. So should we. And when you see imperfection, remember that the limitation is not in the divinity of the work. As one gifted writer has suggested, when the infinite fullness is poured forth, it is not the oil’s fault if there is some loss because finite vessels can’t quite contain it all.10 Those finite vessels include you and me, so be patient and kind and forgiving.

Last observation: When doubt or difficulty come, do not be afraid to ask for help. If we want it as humbly and honestly as this father did, we can get it. The scriptures phrase such earnest desire as being of “real intent,” pursued “with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God.”11 I testify that in response to that kind of importuning, God will send help from both sides of the veil to strengthen our belief."

I love this blog and now I know one reason why it is so helpful to me as I face life's challenges.  It is a place where I can express first my faith, then my doubts, in that order!  It is a place where I can acknowledge the ground I have already won.  I can (and often do), look back over past experiences and see the hand of God in the solutions that invariably come to me as I experiment upon my faith.  God has helped me move mountains.  Even though my faith is still small and imperfect, God accepts it gladly.  He blesses me extravagently!

I also love Elder Holland's mention of receiving help through our trials from both sides of the veil.  As I have turned to my fathers, learning more about them, their lives, their hopes and dreams, their stories, I truly have felt their influence on me.  The experiences I have been blessed with regaring my ancestors are precious and sacred and truly do bless me with strength and increased faith.

I bear testimony that I believe that this church is Christ's church.  I am so grateful for the knowledge that is beginning to fill my young heart as I implore and seek to do God'swill.  I am so thankful for His prophets who help me to find truth.  These truths bless my life immeasurably.  The Atonement has the power to bind up my wounds and make me whole.  It is for everyone:  the imperfect, the foolish, the proud.  I am thankful for the words of the Book of Mormon, which are an anchor to my proud heart, constantly reminding me of the need to turn my life over to my God.  I am grateful to the lovingkindness of a loving Father.  I am grateful and hope to be ever aware of the countless tender mercies bestowed upton me.  He is so good to me.  He blesses me disproportionately.  After all I can do to ever repay Him, I will yet be an unprofitable servant.  I am thankful that God has use for imperfect beings and that He has confidence in my abilities and capabilities.  That confidence in me is what keeps me going.  I offer these words as a humble testimony of His love, in the spirit of most sincere gratitude, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

FOOD FOR THE SPIRIT: Helping Equals Happiness

The last few weeks have been interesting.  Emotionally, I have been feeling a little depressed and grumpy.  I'm not sure why, but it's been hard to shake the feelings.  I should be happy that I am pregnant, that the baby is doing well, and that I have countless blessings.  Instead, I have been one million percent exhausted with first trimester fatigue unlike any I ever experienced with my previous pregnancies.  The fatigue has been debilitating!  Depression also feeds fatigue, so it's hard to say whether I'm tired because I'm pregnant, or because I'm feeling down...or both.  I have suffered from depression before and I certainly plan to talk to my doctor during my next visit and let him know how I've been feeling.  In the meantime, I am trying to get the rest my body needs, exercise daily, eat right, study the scriptures, and do those things that have helped me battle the blues in the past.  As in the past, I know the Lord will carry me through this.  It will be OK.

The other day, I found an old journal that I accidentally left at my parents' house.  It was fun to flip through the pages and read spiritual impressions I have received in the past few years.  The statement that touched me the most was very simple, yet the timing couldn't have been better for this moody mama!

"To find happiness, we should try to make others happy."

So simple.  I know that this is a correct principle.  After reading it, I went and scrubbed my little princesses in the bathtub, knowing that even the seemingly mundane acts of service I perform each day as a mommy are meant to bring me joy.  As I bathed the girls, creating magnificent hair sculptures with yummy-smelling shampoo, my spirit was immediately lifted.

Today, I read Mosiah 2, one of my favorite chapters in the Book of Mormon.  I love reading King Benjamin's counsel about serving others.  When I take care of my husband, my children, my neighbors, my visiting teaching sisters, my customers, even my enemies, I am serving God.  And I have found that the satisfaction that comes from serving others is often greater when only I and the person I am helping know what has transpired.  I hope to serve others, not to boast in myself, but to boast in my God, who has been so kind and good to me during my darkest hours.  I know that no matter how hard I work to become a better person, no matter how many loaves of bread or pots of flowers I deliver, or even how many people I help to convert to the gospel, I will still be an unprofitable servant.  I can never repay the Savior for what He has done for me.  The equation of atoning love will always be lopsided.  His sacrifice for me will always be more grand and more magnificent than anything I can offer in return.  I am so humbled that despite the many mistakes I have made and will continue to make, that I still can have never ending happiness if I live righteously.

Another of my favorite points in King Benjamin's address is that we will immediately see blessings come into our lives the moment we choose to step into the light.  Those blessings may be small at first, but they will come immediately.

President Uchdorf echoed this truth in his recent conference address:

"Isn’t it wonderful to know that we don’t have to be perfect to experience the blessings and gifts of our Heavenly Father? We don’t have to wait to cross the finish line to receive God’s blessings. In fact, the heavens begin to part and the blessings of heaven begin to distill upon us with the very first steps we take toward the light.

The perfect place to begin is exactly where you are right now. It doesn’t matter how unqualified you may think you are or how far behind others you may feel. The very moment you begin to seek your Heavenly Father, in that moment, the hope of His light will begin to awaken, enliven, and ennoble your soul."  ("The Hope of God's Light", General Conference, April 2013)

I know that God understands that some days are harder than others and that He offers the hope of the gospel to help during those times of darkness.  I love Him for that.