Sunday, July 26, 2020

We are that we might--hopefully will--have joy

Mom loved red. She loved polka dots. She also loved having options. So, I bought two dresses for her funeral. 

I wore the blue dress with white polka dots at her service. 

This is the other dress. I am wearing it today, exactly two weeks after the day she passed, and I am smiling. 

My eyes are tired. My heart hurts, but I’m smiling because I know she would have liked it. I’m smiling because I love her. 

I’m smiling because I’m choosing to not let grief make me feel guilty for being happy even if she’s not with me anymore. 

So, today, the red dress is for her. But it’s also for me. 

And it’s for you.

I want you to have joy.

Guilt is a thief that would rob you do all peace and joy. It would tell you that you should not feel happy when you’re grieving. It would tell you that you should not feel joy when others aren’t. 

Its logic is faulty and false. If we wait for conditions in our lives and the lives of others are perfect (whatever that means) to embrace joy, we never would because there will never be a time when everything is right in the world. 

It’s not possible. It’s not meant to be that way.

Joy isn’t meant to only come when all the boxes are checked, when there’s nothing to grieve, when all resistance to our expectations is gone. 

Joy isn’t a result of our circumstances. 
Joy is what helps us through our circumstances. 

Joy is a gift from a loving God for us to feel today. Now. Regardless of what our circumstances are. 

Men and women are that they might HAVE joy.  This is what Lehi taught his son in 2 Nephi2:25.

I find it interesting that he says "have joy" not "feel joy."

To have somethings connotes that joy is something that we can possess, that can be a part of us.

This elevates joy from something external that we feel the effects of, like when we feel the sun on our faces, to something that is internal, a part of us. Something that can always be with us, on sunny or cloudy days.

A few years ago President Nelson spoke of joy. He said, 

"My dear brothers and sisters, the joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives. When the focus of our lives is on God’s plan of salvation . . . and Jesus Christ and His gospel, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening—or not happening—in our lives. Joy comes from and because of Him. He is the source of all joy."

My friends, this is so true.

This is how I can have joy--not just feel joy, but have joy without my mother here. I don't have joy because of her absence, but through my Savior, I can and do have joy in spite of her absence.

Whatever you're experiencing in your life right now, whether it's a loss of a loved one, illness, financial struggles, fear in an uncertain world, you can have joy in your life right now.

It's okay to smile with tears in your eyes and an ache in your heart.

And it's also okay if you can't smile right now. Smiling and joy are not mutually exclusive. 

Today, I'm able to smile. And I am because of Him. I am because of Mom.

And I am because of me.

We are that we might have joy. And I am claiming mine.

Now go and claim yours.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

This is my mother’s wedding ring. It left her hand twice, maybe three times in the past 53 years. I held the hand that wore this ring just 23 hours ago. 

And now, the ring rests on my hand.

Mom’s been gone less than 12 hours and I miss her deeply. I love having a piece of her with me.

This ring was on her hand when she brought me into the world. And now, this ring is on my hand when I wipe the tears because she left this world.

I look at this ring and think of the amazing things the hand that held it did, and I want to continue that legacy.

I touch this ring and feel her with me. 

I’ve heard it said that the amount of grief you feel indicates the amount of love you feel. I loved my mother to my core. And now, grief has found its way there too.

But there are tender mercies that ease the pain. Tender mercies that make room for hope. Tender mercies that keep me connected to her.

Tonight I am grateful for tender, shiny mercies.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Faith Starts Today

This morning, I was contemplating the crazy and unsettling state of the world when this calendar notification appeared on my phone: “Faith, starts today.”

I have no idea how “faith” got scheduled into my calendar. But, there it was.

I live in Washington state. People in our state and my own county are sick. Our school district is closed. Seminary and Church meetings are canceled. Our temple is closed. People are rushing to stores. No one knows what to expect.

It’s hard not to get caught up in the craziness of it all.

But despite it all, “Faith starts today.” This is a mysterious and sweet reminder for me that faith is needed always. Today. Because I’ll be honest, things are getting kind of scary around here.

In the scriptures we read that “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). And the Lord Himself tells us numerous times to not fear but have faith (see John 6:20 and Doctrine and Covenants 68:6).

But this begs the question: If I am afraid, do I not have faith?

I mean, I’ve heard it said that faith and fear cannot exist at the same time. Yet, I know many faithful people who are nervous, even afraid of what’s happening in their lives. Are faith and fear mutually exclusive? Does this mean those who are afraid don’t have faith at all?

I don’t believe that it does.

Imagine for a moment a completely dark room. Now, imagine a flashlight is turned on in the middle of it, shining one solid beam of light towards the ceiling. Within the beam of light, there is no darkness. It is the one space where light and dark cannot exist at the same time. Light wins.

But what of the room itself? In the room, there is darkness and light, even if it is dim, from the flashlight beams. At the same time. Does this mean there is no light at all?

No. It doesn’t.
In the expanse of our minds and hearts lie imperfections, doubts, and yes, fear. We are children who lack eternal memory and are learning to be gods in a fallen world.

The Lord knew we would have some fear. This is why He so often comforts us. Because He knows that within perfect faith, fear cannot exist, but within our imperfect minds and hearts they can. He wants us to know that simply because we experience fear does not mean we don’t have faith.

Our task at hand—our command from the Lord—then is to replace our fears with faith, one by one.

But how?

First, we recognize the source of fear. President Gordon B. Hinkley counseled us to “recognize that fear comes not of God, but rather that this gnawing, destructive element comes from the adversary of truth and righteousness.”

Next, we choose where we look. Where we look determines how—and if—we live. The Book of Mormon prophet, Alma, taught his son to “look to God and live” (Alma 37:47). When we take focus away from God, we distance ourselves from Him. Fear is a faith and soul-killer. This is why President Hinckley said, “Fear is the antithesis of faith. It is corrosive in its effects, even deadly.” Satan wants us to look away from the light and cower in a dark corner of the room. He uses fear to control us, to keep our focus on him away from God. The Savior beckons us to “look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not” (Doctrine and Covenants 6:36). He wants us to live in the light faith offers.

Lastly, we walk in the faith we’ve chosen, and keep walking. What does this look like today? It is focusing on the covenants we’ve made, saying our personal and family prayers, feasting upon the scriptures through studying the Come, Follow Me curriculum, seeking Priesthood blessings, and more. It is choosing to walk around our fear and follow Him.

We need to stay strong and choose faith again and again, even when the fear creeps back in. In the book of Mark, we find something interesting that’s not recorded anywhere else. Jesus led His disciples into Jerusalem and, “as they followed, they were afraid” (Mark 10:32). This was after they sat with Him during the Sermon on the Mount, after the Mount of Transfiguration, and after only five verses after the Savior said, “with God all things are possible.”

The beam of faith in their lives was bright, but still, there was fear. And yet, they chose to follow Him, step after step. Their faith, not their fear, led their footsteps.
I was talking to someone about fear the other day. I said, “As long as I’m scared in motion, I’ll be okay.” I think a better way to put it is to be faithful in motion. Elder Neil A. Anderson said it this way: “When we choose to follow Christ in faith rather than choosing another path out of fear, we are blessed with a consequence that is consistent with our choice.”

Yes, we do live in perilous times, and we don’t know what lies ahead. We might be afraid, but we can still have faith. We have the power to recognize the source of fear. We have the power to look to the light. And we have the power, with God’s help, to grow our faith through our choices again and again.

In the face of the unknown, I choose to believe that God is leading us through His prophet right now. I choose to believe that I can have peace in the chaos. I choose to focus on the light and will continue to do so until there’s no more room for darkness. I chose faith yesterday, and according to my calendar, my faith starts again today.

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