Sunday, June 8, 2014

Where Two or Three are Gathered

A few weeks ago my 12 year old step daughter said to my husband and me, "What if I like my mom's church more than our church?"

I tried not to freak out too much. This was coming from a wonderful young woman who, I thought, had a rock solid testimony of the gospel.

So rather than freak out, I asked questions. I asked what she liked about her mom's church, what she felt like there, and some other questions to help me figure out just what she was saying.

We ended up talking for several hours about the gospel, about what it means to be Christian, and about what makes the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Jesus Christ's restored church on the earth.

At some point in the conversation a scripture popped into my mind where the Savior had said (this is the paraphrased version that popped into my head), "Where two or three are gathered in my name, the Spirit will be there." (the actual text is in Matthew 18:20 and says, "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.") I shared this scripture with my step daughter, hoping that it would help her see that you can feel the spirit in a lot of different places, not just on Sundays in sacrament meeting, or not just when you are reading the Book of Mormon or listening to General Conference.

This conversation with my daughter got me really thinking about what makes the Church true. I believe that there are many many good Christians and some fantastic churches that do a lot of good in the world. So what does the LDS Church have that is different?

My answer? The priesthood authority of Jesus Christ to act in His name and do what He would do if He were on the earth (and everything that comes through that authority - prophets, apostles, temples, etc).

I am glad my children are asking these kinds of questions and I hope and pray that I can guide them through their soul searching. I worry every day that I will say or do something wrong or miss an opportunity to guide them or influence them.

But then I remember that the atonement is infinite, and I try to remember that no matter what I do, Christ is more powerful than I and His atonement will cover everything I can't do.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Change Your Life

There are a lot of things I don't know yet. And it seems the more I study, the more I realize I don't know. But I am trying to learn and study and grow. For the past several years I have done a lot of gospel studying. Mostly I have been studying about womanhood and what it means to be a woman and what my place and my responsibilities are as a mother.

But then a few weeks ago I was asked to give a talk on Easter Sunday (today) on the atonement. I put a lot of my other studies on hold to do an in depth study of the atonement and what I found was remarkable. My life changed. My attitudes, actions, my ability to receive revelation, everything changed. I was given more strength to do the impossible (and with a full time job, a husband, and six kids twelve and under it seems like every day is impossible!). It took me a while to figure out what had changed, but then I was writing my talk and I realized that studying the atonement of Jesus Christ is the single most important thing that changed my life.

From now on in my study of gospel topics I am looking for the connections to the atonement. What does the atonement teach me about my purpose as a woman?

There is a power that comes from studying the atonement, and I hope that putting the atonement at the center of my other studies will help me better understand those other studies.

(by the way, Elder Callister's book is a fantastic place to start your study of the atonement!)

Do you notice a change in your life when you study the atonement? How does the atonement help you understand other gospel topics that you study?

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Patience and Healing

As part of my therapy I am studying the concept of patience. A lot of my anxiety and frustration comes from a lack of patience.

I have always thought of myself as a relatively patient person - people don't easily annoy me, even children's "annoyances" don't usually bother me (you know, kids kicking the back of your seat in the car type annoyances). I patiently endured a lot of adversity in my marriage, hoping and hoping things would get better.

But when it comes to myself - my progression, mistakes I make, and my life goals and plans, I have little patience. I feel like I should work harder and faster and if only I would work a little harder I could progress faster.

Healing from my past experiences has been one of these things. I want the healing, and I want it now. It's not that I want a magic wand to wave and make everything perfect. I just wish that there was a way I could do something to fix things right away.

I have been looking up scriptures about patience and stumbled across this one today:

Okay, okay, I get the point. My pride is what makes me want to fix everything on my own, as fast as possible. Sometimes God wants to teach us something and mold us, and we just have to wait for that healing and change to take place.

I have realized that rather than relying on the atonement to cover my sins, I want to pay for them myself. Who does that?! Wouldn't most people jump at the chance to have someone else suffer for them? I think my problem is that I would rather suffer all at once and have it be done. But that isn't the way repentance works. We don't get to be beat with a few stripes (or even a dozen or a hundred or a thousand) and be forgiven. We can't suffer for our own sins and allow the Savior to heal us with the atonement. It's one or the other.

And allowing the Savior to heal us takes humility. And patience. And I am learning to do that.

Slowly. But I am learning.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Divorce and Family

I love learning about motherhood and the family, and my testimony of eternal families and the importance and benefit of a strong nuclear family unit is one of the reasons divorce was such a hard decision for me.

In October 2013
General Conference, Elder D Todd Christofferson (quickly becoming one of my favorite general authorities - if having favorites is allowed) said,
A woman's moral influence is nowhere more powerfully felt or more beneficially employed than in the home. There is no better setting for rearing the rising generation than the traditional family, where a father and a mother work in harmony to provide for, teach, and nurture their children.

This would have been lemon juice in a paper cut if it wasn't for the next statement:

Where this ideal does not exist, people strive to duplicate it's benefits as best they can in their particular circumstances.

Yes! I can strive to duplicate the benefits of a traditional family! However, in order to do that, I need to know what the benefits are, and how to duplicate them. So that is my quest as a mother of a blended family - to create the benefits of a traditional family for my non-traditional family.

The most influential doctrine that will make this quest possible is the atonement of Jesus Christ. His eternal and universal atonement can and will cover all the gaps between what should be, and what is.

Isn't that what we expect the atonement to do in our personal lives? Then why not in the lives of our children? Can the atonement help my children experience the benefits of a traditional family, even though the family they are a part of now doesn't meet that ideal?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, January 3, 2014

An Eventful Year - Revelation and the Lord's Timing

I don't usually post "Year in Review" type blog posts. However, I was reading my New Years' post from 2012 in which I wrote that 2011 and been "the best of times and the worst of times". Perhaps that statement could sum up life in general, because 2013 definitely fits that same description.

I'm sure you have all been missing me, dear readers. And I just want to warn you that this is not me "coming back" really. I hope to be back eventually, and I imagine the summers will be better, but life has thrown me a few curve balls.

In 2013, I had five major life events: birth of a child, starting school, divorce, new job, and remarriage.

Birth of a Child

There are so many thoughts and feeling that are rushing around inside of me about the birth of my second son. His birth was amazing and spiritual and perfect and wonderful and everything I wanted it to be.Heather, from Women in the Scriptures, was my doula - and she was an amazing doula. She will deny it up and down, but I regard Heather as a spiritual giant. I feel like the labor and delivery went so well because she was there, with her faith and her knowledge and her testimony, I could just feel the power of God around me and with me. And if not from Heather, then from what she has taught me about the priesthood and womanhood and motherhood through the past several years, both on her blog and in personal conversations. She is an amazing woman.

Starting School

I felt inspired this year that I should go back to school to finish the few courses I need to qualify for a teaching license. Although I have a bachelor's degree in Math, I don't have a teaching license, and I had been feeling something nagging at me to get my license and teach. Because I was married to a soldier I didn't know how much time I would have in any one place, so I figured that I needed my education to be as portable as possible. So in May I applied to an online university to finish my teacher prep courses. Because of the next major life event, I am so grateful that I listened to the prompting to go back to school and prepare to be a teacher.

Getting a Divorce

This is probably the longest story, and I am not going to tell it all right here, right now (but you can read my emotions about a lot of it in my previous posts about my faith crumbling through adversity and trials). Suffice it to say that when I was scared to death (literally) of leaving my marriage, when I thought it would be better to be dead that divorced, when I argued with Heavenly Father, wondering why He would ask me to do something I knew was against His plan, when my faith seemed to be threadbare, something happened. I got strength from a place I had forgotten about, and somehow, I got out.

And there I was, hurting, broken, but feeling like I had burst out of a dark prison.

I felt like my life had crumbled around me, but God gave me a vision of what my new life could be if I would just cling to Him. And that is what I have been doing.

Starting a New Job

Due to the previous major life event, I needed to get a job so I could provide for my family. I submitted applications for a job on Monday in between filling out divorce papers. I filed for divorce on Tuesday, interviewed for a job on Friday, and was offered the job on Tuesday of the next week. A full time job teaching math at a middle school in a nice neighborhood about 10 minutes from my house. My good friend was looking for a job and is a fantastic mother and I asked and she offered to be our day care practically at the same moment. It was meant to be.

However, my first paycheck wasn't going to come until late September. Because I had started school I had just received some student loan funds. Between the student loans and my amazing ward I was able to make it to September with money to spare. Heavenly Father is watching out for me.

Getting Remarried
This story is probably longer than the divorce story, but I am pretty sure it can be summed up in two principles: receiving and understanding personal revelation (which I wrote about here) and the Lord's timing is not always our timing - which the Stake President mentioned in that blessing.

Did you know that "in due time" doesn't necessarily mean "in a loooong time"? That's what I thought when the Stake President promised me that I would experience the joy of marriage again and followed that promise up with "in due time" which he repeated! I was thinking "so, I'll get married again in a really really really long time. Imagine my surprise when I met my new husband and three days later Heavenly Father informed me that he would be my new husband. Come to find out "in due time" means "at the appropriate time" - which apparently is 3 months after a divorce (for me). Who knew? It didn't take my husband long to receive the same revelation, so then the only question was "when"? We prayed about it and I felt inspired that we should pick a date and take it to Heavenly Father for approval. We looked at my calendar (being a teacher I don't get a lot of time off work) and picked a date mid-January. After a few days I had a nagging feeling that it wasn't soon enough. So we thought "After Christmas would be great". Nope, wrong again. Finally we picked the day before Thanksgiving (which at this point was about a month away). Yep. It felt right. We talked to my bishop, we talked to my parents, we talked to his parents, we told our kids (six of them altogether!), and it happened! So yeah, it all boils down to receiving and understanding revelation and the Lord's timing is not always our timing.

So now you know where I have been for the last 6-12 months. Going through a painful divorce, starting school and a job, and getting remarried to a wonderful man who loves God with all of his heart, might, mind and strength, with me as a close second.

I hope to be able to write more often, but don't hold your breath. Of course, now that I have "come out" and you all know my little secrets, it will be easier for me to write. I always like being open and "real" on my blog, and I feel like I have been lying the past year or so because my marriage was so awful. So, comment on here and tell me you're still reading and I will try to post more often. If no one cares that I was gone I will probably just post whenever it happens (which might not be very often!).

What lessons did you learn last year?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

When I Am Baptized Clarinet/Flute/Violin Obligato

A clarinet obbligato I arranged for our ward primary program. Please feel free to use at will for personal or church us. Please do not remove my name from the arrangement, and don't sell my arrangement.

Below you will find links to PDF copies of sheet music for both the clarinet version and the flute/violin/other C instrument version.

Update 1/3/2014: Sorry for the delay in getting the PDFs up! They are up and accessible now!

When I Am Baptized - C Instrument Obligato (for flute or violin)

When I Am Baptized - Clarinet Obligato (for Bb Clarinet)

Other instruments available upon request.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Can Ye Feel So Now?

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of personal inspiration for me. After going through a time in my life when I felt cut off from God, when I wondered where He was hiding from me (and why) this has felt a little like the spring snow melt rushing down the rivers from the mountains, cleansing the rivers from the stagnant waters of the summer and winter months.

It started a few weeks ago when I started attending an institute class. The title of the class is "Receiving and Understanding Personal Revelation. I am going to admit that I didn't get much out of the first class. I felt like a zombie during the class - I hadn't slept at all the two nights before that, and had just started teaching school two days before. But the second week I was more rested, and ready to learn - and what I learned changed my life. Very quickly.

Brother Casaday, our instructor, led a fantastic discussion about the different parts of testimony. We read Doctrine and Covenants section 8 verse 2 which talks about how the Holy Ghost affects us in our minds and in our hearts and came up with three aspects of testimony - KNOW, FEEL, DO.

As I sat in class, pondering this concept, I thought about my own status in each of the aspects.

Do I know the Church is true? Absolutely. Always have, probably always will. I just know. I think it is one of my spiritual gifts. ("To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world." D&C 46:13) I definitely claim it as a gift, because I don't think that I did anything to deserve this knowledge, and I don't think I have been more pious than others who perhaps don't have this knowledge. I simply know. Like I know I exist. It's that clear to me, and no one could ever convince me that it isn't true.

Do I DO? Do I live the gospel? Yes! Not perfectly, but I consider myself someone who actively lives the gospel - I serve others, I keep my covenants, I rely on the atonement for repentance when I mess up, and to heal me when I am wounded. And when I fall short (because I do) I understand that tomorrow is a new day and I can try again. I consider that living the gospel.

Do I feel the Holy Ghost? Rather than being discouraged that the answer was "No" I actually almost jumped out of my chair. I figured it out! The reason I have been feeling so separated from God is because I don't feel it anymore! I know the gospel is true and I live it, but for some reason I couldn't feel it anymore.

But then came the hard part. How do I feel again? I shared my dilemma with a few friends who know what my personal situation has been for the past several years. Sometimes you just need outside eyes to tell you something that might be hard to see from the inside. One friend said:
When you've experienced a lot of spiritual trauma, there is a period of time needed for your spirit to heal. I liken it to the period of recovery time needed after every long run you take in preparation for a marathon.
My sense from what I know of you and what you've shown of your testimony is that what you've been dealing with the past few years has stretched and broken you down and that you're now in that "recovery" period where you are rebuilding your spiritual and emotional muscles again, stronger than they were before.
As I read this friend's words I realized what she was saying was absolutely true. In the past few years of spiritual trauma I have been working so hard to shut down my emotions and feelings to protect myself form a lot of hurt I experienced. I unintentionally made myself numb not only to the pain, but also to the joy of the gospel.

And so I figured I should start on a journey to feel again.

I started praying more fervently, studying the Book of Mormon more purposefully, and trying to figure out how to un-numb myself. I figured it was going to be a long process, and I didn't expect to be fully back to feeling for months, maybe even years.

Then last week a call came from my bishop, saying the Stake President would like to meet with me. I was a little surprised, I wasn't aware he knew my situation, although thinking about it now it's obvious that the bishop would have informed him. But mostly I was excited and a little nervous. But when President Edwards and one of the counselors in our bishopric walked into my home that Wednesday evening (four days ago now) I just felt peace. After a brief visit, President Edwards said he felt prompted to ask me when the last time was that I had a priesthood blessing. I couldn't even tell him when the last time had been. I told him I would love for him to give me a blessing, and he did. There was a lot in that blessing, but the part that is relevant to this post was the feeling of warmth that washed over me and seemed to melt the block of ice I had placed around my heart. The sensation of emotion coming back to me was immediate and overwhelming, and I couldn't stop the sobs that came from my body. For the first time in years, the sobbing was not from pain or hurt or anguish, but rather from joy and peace and comfort.

Since that night my life has been different. My spirit is rejuvenated, my testimony is strong, I feel peace and joy and hope every day - feel it, not just know it!

I know not everyone who perhaps struggles with a loss of feeling will have the same experience I had - perhaps for you it will be more gradual. But it is possible to have that feeling back - I believe it. I know it. The atonement of Jesus Christ covers all pain.

If ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now? (Alma 5:26)
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