Tag: Christ

Sacrament Meeting Talk: Developing a Relationship with God

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So tomorrow I am giving a talk in church for the first time since 2010.  (My last talk was on patriotism https://smilingldsgirl.wordpress.com/2010/06/27/patriotism-my-sacrament-meeting-talk/).  The topic was ‘The Power of Testimony”.  The more I thought about it the more I kept coming back to my relationship with my Heavenly Father and how essential that relationship is to my testimony.  It’s not just a set of facts or experiences but a lifetime of being nurtured by the Lord.

It is a missionary farewell so I tried to relate it to my mission in a way that felt natural and on topic.  So this is what I came up with , with a few modifications for the blog.

I’d be curious to know what you all think.

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When I was a little girl I was bullied for 2 years.  After trying the normal school channels, my parents took me out of the situation and then we moved across the country.  It proved to be a fresh start for me and a chance to figure out how to make friends which I was able to do.   However, I always knew that despite my best efforts the world could reject me.  I could not rely on them for my self-confidence and happiness.  So what was I supposed to do?  I looked at the people I loved and none of them relied on other people for their self-worth.  They had an inner fire that come from something higher.

I realized I needed to not only pray to God each night but that I needed something that could build a life around.  Something that could protect me in the lonely times.  It was then that I first started building my relationship with God.  Some may call this a testimony but I prefer to think of it as a relationship that but is a work in progress.

Speaking to the women of the church Elder Russel M.  Nelson described this type of relationship with God

“Her self-esteem cannot be based on physical features, possession or lack of a particular talent, or comparative quantities of anything. Her self-esteem is earned by individual righteousness and a close relationship with God. Her outward glow is generated by goodness within. And her patience is much more apparent than any imperfection.”

So to God I went and the first step in building this relationship was learning that He was there and that He loved me.  As a middle schooler , I first asked these questions and have asked them again and again with each time getting the sweet confirmation that ‘Yes, Rachel.  I love you.  You are special’.

How could the bullies hurt me again with that in my pocket?  I had the God of the Universe tell me I was special.

As I grew the relationship grew.  I learned repeatedly about repentance, forgiveness, family, trials, rejection, patience and hard work and all of these experiences made the relationship better and stronger.  It was work, but it was a sweet work.   There were seasons where I forgot to trust him where my anxieties felt almost overwhelming but in the end I always knew He was there rooting for me if I just took the leap of faith.

Elder Wirthlin said,

“I have been impressed recently with the thought that this life is made up of little things—little things that count a great deal. I believe that the little things are of great importance in our relationship with ourselves, in our relationship with others, and in our relationship with God.

The Lord has said, “Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great” (D&C 64:33).

Now I don’t know if I’ve done many great things but I know the Lord is happy with my efforts.  I know this because of the relationship I started way back as a bullied youth.

Elder Oaks described this type of relationship with God:

Of course, we have leaders, and of course, we are subject to their decisions and directions in the operation of the Church and in the performance of needed priesthood ordinances. But when it comes to learning and knowing the truth of the gospel—our personal testimonies—we each have a direct relationship with God, our Eternal Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ, through the powerful witness of the Holy Ghost.

So what can we do to develop such a relationship with God?

President Uchtdorf tells us how:

We improve our relationship with our Heavenly Father by learning of Him, by communing with Him, by repenting of our sins, and by actively following Jesus Christ, for “no man cometh unto the Father, but by [Christ].”10To strengthen our relationship with God, we need some meaningful time alone with Him. Quietly focusing on daily personal prayer and scripture study, always aiming to be worthy of a current temple recommend—these will be some wise investments of our time and efforts to draw closer to our Heavenly Father. Let us heed the invitation in Psalms: “Be still, and know that I am God

Doesn’t sound too hard right? A little quiet time, personal prayer and scripture study?  I’m sure all you Mom’s are wondering how you can get such time and if it really exists?  My only thought on that topic is to think of the quiet times I’ve had in my life where I was surrounded by people and yet alone.  The mind can ponder while the body is busily engaged.

Regardless, Heavenly Father knows when we are trying.  He loves us.  He wants to bless us.  He will bless us with time, patience, enhanced spirituality or the ability to persevere through seeming droughts of spiritual knowledge.  We must trust in Him.

President Uchtdorf continues on:

Our relationship with God is most sacred and vital. We are His spirit children. He is our Father. He desires our happiness. As we seek Him, as we learn of His Son, Jesus Christ, as we open our hearts to the influence of the Holy Spirit, our lives become more stable and secure. We experience greater peace, joy, and fulfillment as we give our best to live according to God’s eternal plan and keep His commandments.

I have a friend who went to the MTC and felt sad that her testimony wasn’t as seemingly strong as the other members of her district.  Such comparisons miss the point of a relationship with God.  Just as strong marriages come in many forms and styles a strong relationship with God can manifest itself with different strengths and weaknesses.

A testimony when seen as a relationship is not thrown off by questions in theology or seeming offenses of church members because a relationship ebbs and flows. It leaves room for questions and it can always be better.  A relationship is never finished.

Now I have a long way to go in my quest for perfection and my relationship with God can be much stronger than it is today.  So how do I do that? How do I make it stronger?

Since this is Elder Lampings last talk before going into the MTC, I thought I would answer this question with a little missionary advice.  Because I think how to be a good missionary is the same as how to develop a relationship with God:

  1. Be obedient-  You will meet people, even companions, who want to shrug off some rules.  Many will say ‘I’m living the spirit of the law’.  You will not know the spirit of the law unless you are living as close to the letter of the law as you can.  Be obedient.
  2. Pray for Love- pray for love of yourself, your companion, your investigators and all the people you serve, even those that reject you.
  3. Study as Hard as You Can-  Use your study time well.  Yes, you will have mornings where you fall asleep into your scriptures but try your best to think about the needs of your investigators and how you, using your skillset can help them.
  4. Be happy- Find something to be happy about each day.
  5. Serve with No Regrets-  Leave each area, each companionship knowing that you did all you could do, spiritually, emotionally, physically all you can do.

When I was flying home from my mission I had a distinct impression from the spirit that ‘We had done it’.  That the Savior and me as His representative had found everyone we needed to find, we had helped everyone we needed to help and that the work was done.  I promise it was the best feeling of my life.  I left my mission with no regrets.  I wasn’t perfect but I had no regrets.  I honestly thought that all missionaries had a similar experience but in speaking with some of my fellow sisters none of them seemed satisfied with the breadth of their efforts.  They had not received this same assurance

Now the reconciliation of their missionary labors is between them and the Lord but shouldn’t a life with no regrets be our goal no matter if we are missionaries or members.  It’s certainly my goal.  I want to be able to have a similar feeling that I had on that plane when I’m in the spirit world ready to move on.  It should be a feeling of ‘we did it’.  Because of our relationship, Jesus Christ and I did it together.

Our goals should be to say like Elder McConkie before his death

“And now as pertaining to this perfect Atonement, I testify that it took place at Gethsemane and at Golgotha. And as pertaining to Jesus Christ, I testify that he is the Son of the Living God who was crucified for the sins of the world. He is our Lord, our God, and our King. This I know of myself independent of any other person… And in the coming day I will feel the nail marks in his hands and in his feet and shall wet his feet with my tears. But I shall not know any better then than I know now that he is God’s almighty Son and he is our Savior and Redeemer and that Salvation comes in and through his atoning blood and in no other way.”

May we all strive to be obedient and to develop this relationship with God

Name of Jesus Christ,Amen.

Jesus hugging a man

Walking Hypocrites

The only vice that cannot be forgiven is hypocrisy. The repentance of a hypocrite is itself hypocrisy.

William Hazlit

Here’s the problem with Mr. Hazlit’s statement- are we not all basically walking hypocrites?’  Are we not all living lesser versions of an ideal life? Are we not all espousing greater virtues than we actually display?  Is not the essence of successful human beings an aspiration for something greater than what they currently are?

And yet, few concepts are as inherently repulsive to modern audiences as hypocrisy.  In the world where ‘being open-minded’ is essential the idea of a hypocrite who asserts one thing but does another is a cardinal sin.  I know people that have been unable to commit to much in their life because of a fear of sinking into hypocrisy.   These people seem to say “you can’t enter something unless it is a perfect moral fit, unless you can do it all the way”.  I’ve seen people that the tiniest tinge of hypocrisy they give up and keep searching for something more authentic.  Usually life ends up teaching them to be more practical and less ideologically pure.

“He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it.”

George Orwell

Is not this a high standard for participation in life? Everything that is worth doing will challenge initial goals and presumptions.  If we are not willing to humble ourselves and admit we may have overstated our initial claims, admit to a bit of hypocrisy, can we ever really learn anything?

“I was not a hypocrite, with one real face and several false ones. I had several faces because I was young and didn’t know who I was or wanted to be.”

Milan Kundera

Having a strict abhorrence for hypocrisy sticks people in one spot and never allows them to try on different ‘faces’, to see who they might be if they went another way.  I’ve known people that started out the class clown and could never quite break free from that role. If someone has always been sweet do we not feel betrayed and saddened by an outburst? Would this not encourage someone to never be real and complicated because of a fear of the hypocrite label?

Even Jesus spoke about hypocrites, calling out the pharisees and sadducees, for preaching one thing and then behaving in an entirely different manner.

“Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.”

Matthew 6:2

I’ve been thinking about this topic because in many ways I feel like a walking hypocrite.  I am an open book with my life and yet I find it almost paralyzing to deal with any kind of conflict.  I am a romantic at heart and love pink, sappy movies and the whole idea of romance; and yet I am a realist that has a hard time with human physical affection and traditional feminine roles.  I love living alone and espouse it’s virtues but I also thrive off of a wide circle of friends.  I am the epitome of a goal-setter but goals often make me crazy with anxiety.  I am incredibly independent and yet needy in a certain way.  I hate being told what to do but I love mentors. I am a warm, happy (even smiling!) girl who also feels great anger and struggles to forgive. I could go on.

What do you think about hypocrisy? Where is the line between common, every man variety of hypocrisy and the type that Jesus warned against?  When does it become repulsive and at the least irritating? Is it perhaps the vibrato with which a person declares their character (such as sounding a trumpet)? If someone is very fervent in their perfection do we hold their conduct to a higher standard?  Probably but I think there is more to it than that.  I think hypocrisy is the kind of thing that is easy to ignore in yourself but feel appalled by in others.

For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

Matthew 7:1-5

So what can we do to be less hypocritical and more authentic? What do you think? My Dad is an extremely honest man who is totally comfortable in his own skin. He is also a man of constant self-examination.  Meaning he wants to be better, he thinks about how he can do things better and then he does it to the best of his ability.  He then is almost always happy with his effort.

Maybe being aware of your hypocrisy and striving to reduce is the key?  Maybe a constant effort to purify our hearts and behaviors of negative tendencies makes those around us less likely to apply the label of hypocrite?  Is this just the process of thwarting the natural man, making the hypocritical parts of ourselves smaller and less pronounced the older we get?

I wonder if the problem with hypocrisy is tied to judgement, either with ourselves or others.  That we judge something to be negative or evil and yet we are not perfect ourselves? Perhaps hypocrisy itself is not bad, only when the ‘pot calls the kettle black’ in judgement?

“We are all hypocrites. We cannot see ourselves or judge ourselves the way we see and judge others.”

Jose Emilio Pacheco

Or are we as human beings diametrically opposed to balance?  Meaning we have left brain/right brain mentalities that are by nature opposed.  This creates conflict with our behavior.  Maybe despite all we can do all of us are a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde?

“All of us have to be prevaricators, hypocrites, and liars every day of our lives; otherwise the social structure would fall into pieces the first day. We must act in one another’s presence just as we must wear clothes. It is for the best”

O. Henry

What do you think?  How do you judge someone to be a hypocrite and how do you feel about your own hypocrisy?  This is a topic that has been on my mind a lot lately and forgive me if the above post was a bit esoteric but it was just the way my mind has been contemplating the subject.

I would love your feedback and I promise I won’t find it a bit hypocritical! 🙂

I Fought Satan

“I often laugh at Satan, and there is nothing that makes him so angry as when I attack him to his face, and tell him that through God I am more than a match for him”  Martin Luther.

I promise this will be my last religious post for a little while.  I’m afraid I’ve had that subject on my mind of late.  The title of this post refers to an experience from my mission.  One of my companions struggled to learn the missionary lessons and remember when it was her time to share with investigators.  To mitigate this problem I developed lessons using large art posters produced by the church.  When she saw her picture she knew it was time to speak.

To get more practice we gave the lesson to members as a family home evening presentation.  At the time there was a great family called the Bolin’s that had an energetic son named Wilhamayus (not sure if I spelled that right).  He was so excited about the gospel and loved watching church movies and reading the scriptures.

One day we decided to practice our lesson for Wilhamayus and his family and they were excited as usual.  When we got to the Joseph Smith picture he looked at it and said without missing a beat- ‘That’s Joseph Smith.  He fought Satan”.

What he was referring to was the feeling the Prophet Joseph got before having what we refer to as the First Vision.  He talks about being overcome by an evil spirit, of an actual being trying to prevent him from conversing with God.  We believe Joseph persevered, clinging to God, eventually seeing God the Father and Jesus Christ.

I was thinking about Wilhamayus’ statement “He fought Satan” this week.  Because of some personal challenges, particularly the constant struggle of my health, I’ve been feeling a little blue.  At one moment I felt almost overcome by a sense of worthlessness, hopelessness, and despair.  My world felt out of control and there is nothing I hate more than that.  I felt angry, upset and frustrated.

Trying to find relief I opened my scriptures and read Joseph’s story.  Then I had an ‘ah ha’ moment. I realized Satan is trying to get me down.  He knows I have power to make a difference in the world, and he doesn’t want that.  He wants me to be unhappy and even angry.  He wants to thwart my legacy and leave me bitter and resentful.  He wants me to focus on what I don’t have, instead of my many blessings.

Closing my scriptures I realized “I fought Satan”.  I fought Satan that day when I turned to my scriptures and I fight him every time I decide to follow Christ. Everyday that I make a good choice, a choice to be happy, to serve others, to obey God’s laws, I fight Satan.  We all do.  Every good choice we make is a victory in the war against Satan and his minions.

I had thought about my own weakness and the power of Satan many times but never quite in this way.  That he knows my frailty and will try to use it against me to help his cause.  He knows when I feel blue it is more difficult for me to serve God and feel the Holy Spirit.  He knows this and monopolizes it.

Since that moment of clarity I’ve had passing thoughts of sadness and loneliness but each time I said to myself ‘Satan, you aren’t going to win. No, not this time.  Get out of my head’.  As I’ve prayed and relied on God, I have felt my Heavenly Father’s presence stronger than ever.

Will I have bad days, sad days? Of course, and perhaps a certain degree of self-recognition is healthy (we don’t want to hold everything inside or be a doormat); however, it is a spot if left unchecked that Satan can use to reduce my happiness and my effectiveness in spreading God’s word.  I know that now and I’m on the watch for it!

It’s like CS Lewis said “there is no neutral ground in the universe; every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counter-claimed by Satan”

One more C.S. Lewis quote “The long, dull, monotonous years of middle-aged prosperity or middle-aged adversity are excellent campaigning weather for the devil.”  So true!

Remember that you can be a warrior for Christ and this will not only make the world a better place but immeasurably increase your personal happiness.

I know this is true!

PS.  Whoever sent me the valentines flowers- thanks! It made my day!

Boasting?

I hope I don't come across this way!

So recently I had an interesting experience.  In meeting a new person I began to share events from my life.  These experiences came naturally in the course of conversation.  For instance, he mentioned sushi so I spoke about the time I went to a sushi restaurant in Japan.  He asked about my work, I told him about my grandparents and our family company.

As we had extremely pleasant back-and-forth he made a joke about how I should use “daddy’s credit card”.  Suddenly I realized that my sharing had been taken as boasting which was not my intent.  I told him that I have been financially independent since I was 18 and have never had access to “daddy’s credit card”.

School and my mission are really the only major expenses that I have been given help with by my family (which btw I am very grateful for and recognize was a unique blessing many don’t have). For years I have been responsible for my own rent, food, utilities, vacations etc.  I actually pride myself on my independence and self-reliance, which is why the comment felt a little rude and has stuck in my mind these many weeks.

I don’t want to make this seem like a bigger deal then it was because I still had a good time and it blew over.  No problem.   That said- I couldn’t help but ask the question:  How do you talk about your life and share what you’ve experienced without seeming cocky or conceited? I don’t like to over-monitor what I say, I want to be natural, but I also don’t want to ostracize people or give the wrong impression. Its a tricky balance?

Make no mistake- I have had many blessings in my life but I have not gotten a complete free pass- I am not a materialistic diva.  Anyone who knows me knows I work very hard and have even been described as a “workaholic”.  I know there are people who work harder than me with far less rewards but I do try to put out my best effort.

Doesn’t everyone have blessings in their life which if construed a certain way could seem privileged, exclusive or special? Are you just not supposed to talk about such things for fear of sounding conceited? All that would cause is a whole bunch of complaining in conversations and personally I prefer to error on the side of boasting.  I mean other people gush about their husbands, kids or new homes and I’m fine with that even though I have none of those things.  I see it as them sharing the most important things in their life with me not as boasting?

Especially when it comes to my fitness goals things become tricky.  Exercise takes a huge amount of my energy and effort.  No one can deny me that! Because it is so difficult and time consuming, I talk about it a lot and I can see how all that talk could be seen as bragging.   Believe me when I say I still have a ton of work to do- about 100 lbs worth of work left to lose- but I am proud of what I have accomplished so far.

This process has been the hardest thing I have ever done, and I have relied on my friends/family/trainers/blogosphere to buoy me up.  I am sure at times they grow weary of the constant lifting, but I am SO GRATEFUL for it.  It also is partly because of my frequent belly aching that I am particularly effusive when sharing my successes.   I see it as everyone’s success. I really do.

In the end, I can’t control the way people filter what I say; however, just know this- I am humbled and grateful for every blessing in my life.  If I ever come across as conceited or boastful please forgive me.  I promise it is not my intent.  If I was going to boast of anything it would be my amazing family and friends who love me unconditionally- fat or skinny, employed or not, complaining or jubilant,  they find a way to love me.

My “cup runneth over” with blessings.

The truth is I could do nothing, including finding happiness or achieving any goals, without my testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ and His Atonement.  I have the unbelievable gift of knowing who I am and how much I matter to God- this is a gift without price.  Like Peter I say my trial and relationship with God is

“more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ”

I feel like the Book of Mormon prophet Ammon when he said:

I do not boast in my own strength, nor in my own wisdom; but behold, my joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God.  Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself but I will boast of my God, for in His strength I CAN DO ALL THINGS!”

Help with Lesson

Today I am asking for help.  This Sunday I am teaching the New Testament lesson in Gospel Doctrine (Sunday School) at church.  The lesson focuses on John 9 and while it is an undeniably moving chapter, I am having a tough time putting my feelings in a coherent form.

John 9 focuses on Jesus’ miraculous healing of a blind man.   Jesus declares ‘I am the light of the world’ and then spits on the ground, making a clay which he applies to the blind man’s eyes.  After the man washes in the pool of Siloam he rejoices saying ‘whereas I was blind, now I see!’.

Such a dramatic healing is without a doubt one of the most amazing miracles in the New Testament.  I suppose where I am struggling is why Jesus chose this man?  There must have been thousands of blind people in Jerusalem, why heal this man?  Was it just to prove a point about healing on the sabbath to the Pharisees?  Was it to because Jesus knew the man would be such a diligent missionary?  Was the man somehow more worthy or faithful than other blind people?

Also, why did Jesus feel a need to go through the spitting and the clay ceremony?   I can find no similar ordinance or practice in any other scripture story?  Biblios says that making clay with spittle was part of many spells and incantations of the day, so it may have been Christ’s way of refuting superstitions and myths?  Perhaps he was doing this just to prove that his laws and methods do not follow the worlds?

I guess in going through such difficult health problems I find it tough to teach about miracles.  Don’t get me wrong.  I believe in them and have faith in my Heavenly Father, but I just wonder why?  Why are some people seen as worthy of healing and others struggle so? Is there anything I could do to be more worthy? I know my faith can always be strengthened.  It is never a finished transaction but it seems strong.  I have never wavered throughout my life in my belief in Jesus Christ’s atonement or His love for me.  I know He loves me and it is His love that has carried me through these hard months.

Still, I don’t understand why when I am trying to do such a noble thing as get in shape I am confronted with so many obstacles? I know someday it will make sense but right now I am forced to go with faith alone.   Perhaps that is what He is teaching me?  It wouldn’t be the first time.  There have been many times in my life when I faced unknowns and only years later did I understand why I needed that lonely experience.

For example, my emotionally abusive missionary companion comes to mind.  At the time I could not comprehend why the Lord had abandoned me when I was showing such faith as his obedient servant.  Why when others have such positive training experiences did I get this sister?  It was only later in my mission that I saw those months in a new light.  It was during those lonely times that I turned to the Lord the most; thereby, making me a strong and powerful missionary.  The last six months of my mission were full of converts, amazing companionships, and powerful experiences and I believe that was a direct reward from the Lord for my faith during those tough months.

There are also experiences which I still don’t understand. For instance, why did I have to gain weight at 9 years old- at an age when I was practically helpless to solve the problem?  Why did I have to be picked on and made fun of?  Was that just to make me strong and independent? If so, why is that independence so important to my character?   Couldn’t there have been another way?  God and Jesus Christ know all and evidently the answer is No, but I am not going to pretend like I understand all the why’s behind that No!

I guess in the end I just wish I was one of the lucky one’s.  I am a little envious of the blind man and of every other healing I read about.  I want that to happen to me! I believe it could happen.  I have faith in miracles but I do not feel it will happen.  I just know there are no easy solutions to this problem- no miracle drug, no quick fix diet, no exercise that will change everything.  For some reason the Lord wants me to chisel away at this bit-by-bit.  I wonder why?  What is He trying to teach me? At this moment, I don’t know.  I will someday.

Anyway, those are some of the issues I am struggling with in crafting this lesson.  If any of you have any thoughts about John 9 or healing in general I would love to hear them.  Also if you have any suggestions for teaching others when you are the one with all the questions that would be great!  How do you show the confidence to instruct others when you are unsure yourself?   You can post thoughts as a comment or if it is too personal email/call me.  Thanks in advance.

http://lds.org/manual/new-testament-gospel-doctrine-teachers-manual/lesson-16-i-was-blind-now-i-see?lang=eng

Journaling My Life

“Journal writing is a voyage to the interior” Christina Baldwin

A collection of my journals/diaries

In the last few weeks I have learned a lot about myself through a voyage into my journals.  Since I was 8 years old I have kept one fairly regularly.  (I tell people I was a blogger from an early age.)

My sister and I both grew up avid writers. This, despite the fact that neither of my parents have ever kept a journal.  I am not sure where we picked it up? I know reading The Diary of Anne Frank was a big influence as well as the stories about romantic writers such as Jo March in Little Women and Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables.  I have also always loved letter writing (something my parents do not have any interest in either.)  From the earliest entries I have addressed my journal in letter form- beginning with ‘Dear Friend,’ and ending with some variation of ‘Love, Rachel’.

I must admit as I look at the ramblings of a young me it is hard to not feel nostalgic for the past.  In fact, a massive variety of emotions ensue upon opening each book.   Some of the experiences I recall vividly, such as the despair I felt at the passing of my beloved Grandpa  and cousin Lisa in 2001 within 2 weeks of each other. Other moments I’d forgotten about or remembered with a different slant. For instance, with each of my mother’s pregnancy I express feelings of fear and anxiety. (I recall this being a difficult time but I don’t remember being scared.)  On one such occasion after she had the baby I write I feel like  “a million blocks were taken off my shoulders” (October 7, 1996).

Several other themes stuck out to me as I read.  First is how often I talk about being tired, sore, exhausted, and worn out- even at the very young ages of 8 and 9.  How I wish I could reach out to the young me and give her the answers I now have?  I was probably experiencing a sugar high/low and didn’t know it!  Some people have doubted my story of struggling with weight from the age of 8-9.  Well, here’s a picture from 1990.

I still say a darn cute, if pudgy faced kid

This was a year later.  Don’t you just love the rockin fireplace background and the crimped hair!

From this young age I just kept gaining and could never figure out why

It also surprises me how much I thought about weight and how often I refer to getting in shape. For some reason, I have this picture of me as a mostly-confident kid, and I think in some ways I was, but obviously I had many moments of self-doubt, frustration and perhaps even self-loathing.

Many of the entries are predictable and probably full of the kind of details only interesting to me- grades in school, various friends over the years, squabbles with my family (some I hope the particular family members never read!) and other going’s-on in a young life.  One thing I’ve realized is that I was very independent growing up, but I was also in constant need of validation- validation from others that my choices were correct. Whether it was my taste of music, friends, books, movies, or activities I was almost never satisfied just to like something for my own fulfillment.  I’m not sure why this is but I recognize I still have some of this trait.  To a lesser extent,  but it’s still there.

The other lesson I take from reading these journals is my constant faith in the LDS Church, the Book of Mormon, God’s love  and in Christ’s sacrifice for my sins.  In years of chronicling my inner-most thoughts I do not have one entry expressing doubt or questioning.  I’m not saying I never did, but not in a dramatic, extended way.

October 21, 199o says (I have fixed the spelling but that is all), “I love the Lord and Jesus Christ and love it even more when you go to a place and have a great feeling and that place is the place where sins vanish.  In the stake center or church building when you are baptized and confirmed.”

Much later as a high school student I said, “I’m so grateful for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  He is my comforter and my best friend and I love him dearly.  It’s hard for me to comprehend what He did for all of us but I am grateful that he did.  I was once asked ‘ who in history I would like to meet’…My answer was decidedly sure.  I’d meet Jesus.  There is no one who has done more for me.” (April 2, 1999).

I love this photo. I was a senior in high school. I loved getting studio shots because they were rare and somehow I felt they made me look thin

I could give many more examples, but suffice it to say I am grateful for my faith and the grounding, comforting influence it has been throughout my life.  I think I would have been a lonely fat little girl/teen without it.

On a funny note, almost every angry, venting entry  has something to do with not wanting to work.  There is a hilarious diatribe about gardening (to this day I still detest gardening above all other chores):

Sept 4, 1995, “If you want something done right you have to do it yourself.  I wish my mother took this more to heart. Want- a garden, Way- have kids do all the work, Profit- a bunch of food you can buy in the store and is moldy anyway.”

Another entry from 1993 puts it more bluntly. (I was disappointed on this day because we were supposed to go boating but it was cold so we ended up working instead.  Also, a friend was supposed to come over but couldn’t. ):

“I finished cleaning my room.  When I grow up I am never going to make my kids do work.”  There are a lot of other examples-  my poor parents! Somehow they taught me to become a workaholic? (Well, my mission taught me that, but they helped!)

this is another one from my senior photos that I've always loved. One of the best photos ever taken of me.

I just wanted to share one more entry from June 1, 2000:

“Sometimes I wonder if there is something wrong with me? I seem to see the world through different color glasses than everyone else.  In some ways I suppose that I am more well-liked for my peculiar nature but I still wonder why I have it? Well, I suppose I will never know and if years from now, dear friend, I am reading this and have figured the answer out, I ask only that I share that knowledge with friends and family who will most likely find it most interesting as I am sure they have long been wondering what makes me tick”

Sorry friends and family…I’m still working on the answer to that question! Thanks for putting up with me anyway.

Christmas Carol

As I mentioned in my last post one of my Christmas traditions is to go to a fabulous local production of A Christmas Carol at Hale Center Theater Orem.  In the small ‘theater in the round’, the audience-member becomes engulfed in the world of Victorian London and the classic Dickensian tale of redemption (btw, you know your an influential author if you have your own adjective- right!)

Everyone knows the story of the “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner” known as Ebeneezer Scrooge.   What you may not know is some of the history behind the story.   In his novels, Dickens had two purposes for writing: 1. to show a journey of redemption by the lead character (or characters) and 2. to profile the horrific state of the lower classes.  As can be seen in Little Dorrit, Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, and other novels the poor characters must fight his or her way through work houses, orphanages, debtors prisons and Poor Laws- all institutions which made it nearly impossible to progress towards financial stability.  This is the reason why Scrooge (clearly the rare non-aristocratic member of the upper class) views the work houses as the only suitable charity he can support. Scrooge was also not alone in the idea of “decreasing the surplus population.”  The poor were often perceived as lazy and undeserving by the upper class- even worthy of punishment for their apparent idleness.

However, Dickens is not as one-sided against the wealthy as he might at first seem.  For instance, we can see in Nephew Fred the type of rich person Dickens believes in- a man who uses his fortune to cheer others (even his crotchety uncle).  In the Christmas Future vision it is Fred that notices Bob Cratchit’s sorrow and offers comfort for him and his family.  The Fezziwig’s and the men seeking charity are other examples.  They hope to collect “some slight provision for the Poor and Destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time.  Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts.”   Clearly for Dickens it is not the possession of money that creates evil but the love of it- the avarice and greed.  In addition, the laws of the day supported the greedy and made service the exception to the rule.  Let’s not forget Dickens lived in the beginning of industrialization which brought with it child labor, insufficient pay and deplorable work conditions.   There is also an element of fear attached to Scrooge.  It is out of a ‘fear of the world’ that causes him to hoard money,  and the more he fears, the more he hates.

By using the happy time of Christmas as the setting Dickens creates a foil for the worldly Scrooge  and in many ways a symbolic dichotomy- Scrooge or Satan on one side, Christ and Christmas on the other.  This is why Tiny Tim is the ultimate contrast to Scrooge- Tiny Tim who hopes “the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.”   I’ve always thought Scrooge’s initial response to Tiny Tim is interesting:

“Spirit,” said Scrooge, with an interest he had never felt before,”tell me if Tiny Tim will live.”

Why did Scrooge have an immediate reaction to Tim?  I think it is Dickens’ way of showing the power the light of Christ has on a sinner- it makes an impression on even the most hardened of hearts!

Could it be there is hope for such a wicked man as Scrooge?  What about the other cold and uncaring of his class? According to Christmas Carol, the answer is yes!  In fact, this is the reason Jacob Marley gives Scrooge “a chance and hope of escaping my fate.  A chance and hope of my procuring.”  Scrooge was lucky to have such a friend in Jacob and perhaps many of us are brought to Christ through the love of our friends?

Through Marley’s gift Scrooge realizes he has wasted his life on a fear of poverty and shut out the light that the Cratchit’s have found in spite of their meager possessions.  He learns whether rich or poor, happiness comes from a changed life, “an altered life”, a life focused on God’s commandments and on satisfying the needs of others with Christian charity.

At Christmas time, I hope you get a chance to read this wonderful story.  For some it has become trite and rehearsed but give it another shot.  I challenge you to actually read it this year with an eye for the lessons it teaches- not just about making Christmas a merry time but of the peace Jesus Christ gives through His Atonement.  The power of His love can change a ‘covetous old sinner’ into “as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world”.   In truth we are all sinners and in need of redemption- Christmas Carol tells us that conversion is possible for anyone.

In addition to loving the novel, I have yet to see a film version of I do not like (even the recent animated movie with Jim Carey was good!) .  Whether it be live on stage, preformed by Mickey, or by the Muppets, the Christmas Carol is a classic for a reason.  It reminds us to use the great gift of Jesus Christ’s redemption in our lives and to give the gift to others through service and a merry heart- especially at His season of Christmas.

You can read Christmas Carol online for free.

http://www.stormfax.com/1dickens.htm