Thursday, July 31, 2014

My Thoughts As I'm Getting Closer To My Mission

Hola mis amigos!

I thought I would give some of my thoughts as my departure date is drawing nearer, and maybe some future missionaries might be having some of the same thoughts as I am.

The language barrier is glaring me in the face and making me more and more fearful. When I got my call, I studied spanish seriously alllll day, but as time has gone on and my "to-do" lists have gotten longer, I have found myself unable to keep up the rate that I started studying. I feel like I make progress and talk to someone who knows spanish and the normal response is "yes that's how you say it, but in the DR they probably won't say it like that, and it'll be 100x faster and you won't be able to understand because they cut off the end of words and take out the s's..." To say that response was a helpful tip, is a major overstatement. Comments like these are things I hear on a daily basis, and it's starting to really break me down rather than build me up.

The hardest thing is something I never, ever expected to be hard. When people ask where I am going, the response is almost always the same: "That's great! Have you heard that ... (negative thing).... about the DR?" I thought my mission really just must be the most dangerous or something, but unfortunately mine is not. I asked other almost-missionaries if they were getting the same response, some going state-side and some foreign, and they said they all got the same response. No matter where someone is going, people feel the need to bring up all of the negative aspects to their mission. I really wish more people understood that, yes we as missionaries are aware of the negatives however, we like to focus on the positives.

My last thoughts are that, as I've read many missionary stories, I worry about what kind of missionary I will be. I've made a lot of goals, but am I able to keep them all? Am I able to always represent Christ?

But as I have been stressing more and more, I also feel the power of my Heavenly Father comforting me. I feel peace in the storm and within my worries. I know that Satan is doing everything he can to stop me from going, but he won't succeed unless I let him. I have to keep filling my life with light, and combating the darkness with my Heavenly Father's love. I know this isn't the happiest blog post in the world, and I really am doing well overall and so excited to go, but I am aware that many almost-missionaries are struggling with Satan holding them back. If that is you, maybe these words can strengthen you, or let you know that you are not the only one feeling the pressures of going on a mission. I just want you to know that, if you keep relying on that light, keep doing the little things we are asked to do as well as reading your patriarchal blessing and doing service, that you will be able to beat the worries and the fears. It can all replace with confidence and excitement. I'm getting to that point where, those comments people say and those fears I have, are dwindling. I'm finding ways to trust in God more and more, and I find the best way I can do that is by reading the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon truly is a powerful book that can change lives and bring an immense amount of peace flowing in the midst of our fears. When you are going on a mission, you are challenged to read the BoM one more time all the way through before entering the MTC. I used to think this was so that we were more familiar with it and be able to teach more efficiently. Although this might be the case, I believe it is also because church leaders are aware that Satan works extra-hard on missionaries and the Book of Mormon is a powerful tool to use to strengthen us in these harder times. There is something about reading that Book that my fears just vanish and my faith strengthens the more I dive in!

So my overpowering thoughts are not the ones that made me more broken-down I mentioned at the beginning of this post. The one thought that is more powerful than any of the others is that, my Heavenly Father loves me and wants me to participate in His work. No negatives are ever strong enough to beat that one major positive. Focus on that, and be optimistic. The future is as bright as your faith. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Why Does God Give Me What I CAN'T Handle?

I have heard many times in my life phrases such as,
"God gives his hardest battles to His strongest soldiers"
"God won't give you anything you can't handle".

Because of such phrases, which for me offered minimal comfort, I have found many frustrating nights in my life calling out to God and saying "You were only supposed to give me what I could handle!" To me, these phrases are lonely and discouraging. What happens when i'm in the heat of a battle and i'm so exhausted from wounds that I feel I can literally step no further, fight no harder, move no quicker? Am I just supposed to quit the battle because I guess I really am not strong enough? What happens when i'm going through such a hard trial and I can't handle it, and I can't just say "you are right, I am strong" and just move on? I have found moments in my life feeling like God must not have good judgments on me because I am not one of his stronger soldiers, and I can't go through this terrible battle.

It wasn't until one night of the beginning of my freshman year of college that I changed those phrases to something entirely different. I was sitting in the library on campus staring at my books. I recently failed a test I had studied hours for (which I was not used to, to say the least), and had a discouraging pile of homework to do. I was staring at my laptop screen which seemed to absorb despair as it poured from my fingertips into the system. In the midst of this academic frustration, I was also having issues with some family members and also some friends. One of my very best friends confessed some lies he had told me and had basically turned his back on me. I closed my laptop, put my head down, and decided I couldn't do this anymore. I had worn myself 100% out.

This was not the college life I pictured when I saw my acceptance letter, in fact, it was quite the opposite. I thought no matter how hard it would get, I could push through. I was strong enough to man-up to any battle college had in store for me. I was God's strong soldier who was willing to go through the fire for Him because I am strong... right?

Well, at that moment I was anything but strong. I pulled out my Book of Mormon and started to read because it was the only thing I felt I could do to help me not break down in the middle of study rush-hour. I remember finally, at least for a moment, feeling light. I felt stronger, but not strong... does that make sense? I felt strength beyond my own that sustained me but didn't give me all the strength I needed. I needed to start moving, and step by step things got easier and I started tackling the monsters in front of me.

Is that what taking upon us the yoke of Christ is? When I was younger I used to think the yoke of Christ was the breakfast Christ must make (haha). But the yoke is like an oxen's yoke. We both need to pull but Christ doesn't quit, He doesn't turn around, He helps and supports us every single moment. Or, we can try to do it on our own. We can convince ourselves that anything is within our ability to handle. We can do anything, God doesn't give us stuff that we can't handle anyway... right? I don't believe so. I believe God gives us some trials (not all) that we need to rely on Him and the Savior's Atonement to get through. We need to step with Christ as we take His yoke, and he will make the burden light.

Mosiah 24:15: And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.

The burdens were made light! They needed their burdens to be made light, so what happened? They were strengthened! They needed a strengthening power that them, themselves, could not offer one another. Every one of those faithful followers felt depleted under immense trials, and they needed someone to strengthen them. They were facing trials they couldn't handle on their own, and they needed God. And their burdens weren't taken away or made easier, but they were made light because the people were made stronger. I believe we apply the atonement by believing that we can be strengthened through God through hard trials. I believe in a God that sometimes gives us things we need His help to get through, and He will. As my Book of Mormon professor, Brother Marsh, put it along the lines of,

"You can decide to do it on your own, and I guess you can. Eventually, at least. The road will be a lot harder and a lot lonelier if you do the extremely hard things believing you can do it by yourself. But, if you ask for God's help and others, you will find the journey to be more enjoyable and more rewarding. Some trials we get, we need God's help. And if we choose not to take it, I guess there is still a chance you can get through it. You'll come out with a lot more battle scars and tears though." 

My family had a scare with my baby sister last week. For a moment, I guess we thought we would lose her. For my sisters and I at girls camp, it really was for a moment because we found out she had almost drowned after she was okay. I guess it wasn't a trial because she was okay, but in that moment before hearing the good I felt like my whole insides crumbled into dust, and I was empty. I was watching "Heaven Is For Real" And the dad says that when he thought his son was going to die, a piece of him broke and stayed broken, even though his son was okay. I teared up because I completely understood. Part of me broke that day, a part of me I don't think will ever be 100% fixed until after this life. In an instant, and thankfully for an instant, I felt my world shatter from losing a loved one. I kept focusing on the "what ifs" and the "alternatives that could have happened" or "guilt because I wasn't there in case it was worse". I'm very grateful she is okay, and I can't imagine what I would feel like if she was actually gone now. But, I believe that, if she had passed away I would have needed God. God doesn't give me trials so that I can do it all alone and try to be the "best possible soldier by never asking for my generals help". No, God is the general that wants us deeply to ask him for help and support. I don't believe He throws His strongest soldiers, based off physical and emotional strength, into the battle. I believe He throws some of His soldiers into the heat of the war because He believes they will ask Him for Help. He knows they will be able to feel His love and see Him in His enabling power to get them to keep moving forward. I like to think God gives the hardest battles to some of his most humble soldiers (and also soldiers who need to be humbled).

When we try to eliminate the need for Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in the equation of our trials I believe sure, we can get through them, but it will be a lot more painful. When we simply put out "He won't give us anything WE can't handle" And make the We an "I" we forget the need for The Atonement. Instead I like to think,

"He sometimes gives me what I can't handle, so that WE (The Godhead + Me) can handle it together"

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Why Harry Potter References Should Be Used In More Lessons at Church

We live in dark, horrible times, but we don't have to feel dark and horrible. We can live in the light and love of our Heavenly Father, and feel peace with hope for a brighter day. 

"Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light" -Albus Dumbledore. (Harry Potter rocks my world). 

I was reading the news this week and just was totally overwhelmed with feelings of despair and fear. I was honestly wondering how I could handle living on my own for 18 months because it's just getting worse and worse! But I watched Harry Potter and this quote really helped me (haha). Happiness really can be found in the darkest of times, if we remember to turn on the light that living the gospel has to offer. We don't need to fear when we allow God to shed His light into our lives and allow Him to guide and direct us by being obedient to Him.  

Two correlating scriptures can be D&C 59:23 and a New Testament Story:

He who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace (not a perfect life, but peace in the trials) in this world, and eternal life in the world to come. 

In the New Testament there is a passage about the tempest raging while Christ and His disciples are on a boat. While the storm is raging from every side Christ is sleeping, and the disciples ask, "carest thou not that we perish?" And Christ calms the storm and asks why they feared. It reminds me that life won't always be perfect by following Christ, but I will be okay. The ship won't sink but it can rock. I can have peace knowing that I can't and won't sink if I am on the Lord's side. 

Our ship will go up and down in our lives. We will have great  moments, and we will have dreadful ones. We can experience the love of our God in both of those moments. Our lives will never be forever in the same place- they will be either moving up or down, but as Brad Wilcox put it: "Our lives are like a heartbeat- the ups and downs let us know we are alive". 

 Remember that in your times of darkness or loneliness, Jesus Christ will always be there for you. Remember that when you go through failure or rejection, it's an opportunity to feel more deeply what Christ felt and become more like Him, because he faced so much rejection during His mortal ministry. You can find peace if you rely on Him and ask for His help and comfort.