Tag: Jesus Christ

Thoughts on Quiet

On such a night, or such a night,
Would anybody care
If such a little figure
Slipped quiet from its chair —
So quiet — Oh how quiet,
That nobody might know
But that the little figure
Rocked softer — to and fro —
On such a dawn, or such a dawn —
Would anybody sigh
That such a little figure
Too sound asleep did lieEmily Dickinson

I haven’t shared with you all any poetry in a long time but I found myself thinking of this verse today. You see, my house was empty and I was trying to recover from this darn cold and I couldn’t think of anything to watch so I found myself sitting and thinking.  In the words of Gaston ‘a dangerous pastime…’ It’s just so quiet sometimes when you are alone.

And I know you Moms are probably thinking ‘I would love nothing more than a quiet house all to myself for the day’ and there is some truth to that.  But I bet you wouldn’t find the quiet so refreshing if you knew those little voices weren’t ever coming back…

This is not an ‘oh feel sorry for me’ post.  It really isn’t.  It’s just a ‘today  I was alone and I noticed’.  What’s wrong with admitting that?  We all have our lonely moments, sometimes when we are surrounded by people.  It’s part of being human.  After all, if we never felt alone why would we need to turn to God?

But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wish for a companion to share these kind of experiences with.  Yeah, yeah I can hear you all saying ‘marriage is hard’ and ‘grass is always greener’.  Well, it is also ‘not meant for man to be alone’. Humans need companionship and sometimes I wish I had it. But I know God has His plan for me and I am doing my best to humbly follow His timeline for my life.  That doesn’t mean I don’t feel a little sad on those days when the house feels extra quiet. Again I’m only human…

I saw The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel this week and it is not a great movie but I liked it.  One of the things that I stood out to me is Maggie Smith’s character is a single woman who has never married.  However, she has found this place to live where she has an urban tribe of other seniors and a ‘child’ to help nurture in the Dev Patel character.  I had more of that in my 20s when sociability and friendshipping was so much easier but I hope I can get it again.  If I never meet Mr Sunshine I hope I can find an urban tribe like she does and maybe even a young person to help mentor.

In my 20’s I also had much younger siblings who looked to me for advice and guidance and family that lived nearby.  Now they are all grown up and my nieces are far away.  It makes me a little sad sometimes.

But again I am not trying to make anyone feel sorry for me.  I am greatly blessed. Mostly I have the miracle of all of you who are there to share in my silly life. Goodness knows why you have all read all these years but I am sure grateful.  I have a job I love, a social media presence that I think helps people, hobbies I love, great friends, a beautiful home and most importantly a faith in Jesus Christ that ensures I am never really alone.  That is never forgotten.

Thanks for letting me share and I love you all.  Can any of you relate to the quiet times when maybe it feels a little lonely in life? I’m sure I am not alone.  God bless.

Mormonism and Pain

judaskiss

Last night I had a spirited discussion on twitter about trials.  The statement was made “In the present, we call them trials; in the future we will call them tender mercies of The Lord.” .  I took issue with the statement because trials are still trials even if they serve a noble purpose in the end.  To me calling them tender mercies from the Lord is like giving people permission to cause pain because in the end the Lord uses it to do good.  As my old seminary teacher used to say

‘Judas is not off the hook’. 

I actually heard someone argue once that rape victims should be grateful for their experience because it made them strong and turn to the Lord.  The person last night was not inferring this but isn’t it a necessary stretch of the argument that if trials are truly blessings from the Lord than when we are victimized (the worst kind of trial) it is secretly a blessing and we should be grateful for it.

No! Now, we shouldn’t be bitter and allow it to control our life but call evil, evil, call trials, trials and be grateful for the Lord helping you through the evil and the trials. Just because you are able to clean dirty clothes does not mean the dirt didn’t exist!

This goes to the question of forgiving and forgetting- a question of much debate in the church, can you really forget?  Some claim that through the atonement you can forget sins and move on.  I’d say you can forget the pain but not the event itself.  We are humans and I don’t see how you can just erase such trauma from your mind and I have about as intimate and close a relationship with Jesus Christ of anyone I know.  So far no forgetting but the pain is lessened.

In fact, I have found that those moments of pain are sometimes the most clear, the most distinct of my life.  I’ve always found it ironic that the memories of being bullied and harassed as a child are clear as day in my mind but the happy times like Christmases and family vacations are a blur.  Why is that?  Why do we remember the tough times so clearly and not the good?  I’m not sure.

In any case, I have not been able to forget my pain; nor, do I necessarily want to.  I learned a lot of hard lessons through God’s walking me through the pain.  I grew close to Him as He helped me see the higher purpose and that I was loved by Him.  Does that mean he sent down the bullies so that I would be close to Him?  Of course not!  Judas is not off the hook and neither are the bullies or rapists or whatever hurts us in this life!

Perhaps we cannot forgive and forget because time does not stand still and we can forever live with effects of even repented sin.

The reason I wanted to title this post Mormonism and Pain is I thought I might explain why some things seem to be particularly painful to Mormons compared to other Christians.  You see, we believe in an eternal growth cycle.  We believe the things we do here on this earth have eternal consequences and that a mistake now while always redeemable still can have eternal results.

For example, I met a family on my mission who years before decided that paying tithing was too hard and fallen away from the church.  Eventually they came back to full fellowship and restored their temple covenants, which was great, but it could not take away years of inactivity when they were raising their children.

In addition, the family found no suitable replacement for teaching their children right and wrong (as many who leave Mormonism are able to do quite successfully) so they were without much of a moral compass and certainly far away from the teachings of the church.  Zoom ahead to the present and the children are way off track with prison sentences and illegitimate pregnancies as examples. So, yes they came back to Jesus and His grace, which is fabulous but their eternal family could be forever damaged because of choices they had already made. They cannot after all raise their children over again. It is that eternal gravity that can make us sad.

Another example can be seen in marriage. While divorce is never a pleasant experience for anyone of any faith or persuasion, think of the added pressure for Mormons where an eternal family is being dissolved.   Even a break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend can be all the more devastating because for at least a moment the individuals involved could see them as part of an eternal union.  When things don’t work out its brutal because of the potential.  Of course, when they do the eternal covenants make things all the more sweet and happy but there is that darker, more morose flip side to our beliefs.

So, when you scratch your head and wonder ‘Why are they making such a big deal over this?’  Remember that for Mormons we are seeing things through a longer and larger telescope than you.  To us, we can see eternity and have it as our goal.  There is nothing more important to a Mormon than eternal families but that is not a guarantee.  Human action does affect whether we will be with our loved one’s again.  The song after all says ‘families can be together forever through Heavenly Father’s plan’. Pain and trials are an essential part of getting there but still more weighty than just a ‘hard time that will pass by’ especially when they are the result of sins, whether our own or sins of others that can, even if repented and forgiven, have eternal ramifications.

We also believe in covenants made on earth have massive importance.  In fact, they can only be made here or via proxy.  That’s how important our behavior and life on earth is to Mormon theology.  Mortality really matters, and the behaviors of human beings can have consequences for forever which can make us feel an eternal sadness (and joy!), and the sadness is sometimes shared even by God Himself:

Moses 7: 28-33 (this doesn’t sound like a God who is glad for trials/sadness of his people)

28 And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the aresidue of the people, and he wept; and Enoch bore record of it, saying: How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains?

 29 And Enoch said unto the Lord: How is it that thou canst aweep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity?

 30 And were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of aearths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of thy bcreations; and thy curtains are stretched out still; and yet thou art there, and thy bosom is there; and also thou art just; thou art merciful and kind forever;

 31 And thou hast taken aZion to thine own bosom, from all thy creations, from all eternity to all eternity; and naught but peace, bjustice, and truth is the habitation of thy throne; and mercy shall go before thy face and have no end; how is it thou canst cweep?

 32 The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own ahands, and I gave unto them their bknowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his cagency;

 33 And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should alove one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they bhate their own blood;

btw- I’m not necessarily saying this pain is right or wrong, it just is, and so if you puzzle at why certain things are so painful for your Mormon friends this is the lens that many I know are looking through.  Just thought that might give a little empathy when you see the tears! Thanks

https://smilingldsgirl.com/2013/04/01/a-god-who-weeps/

Not Smiling All the Time

Sometimes I’ve wondered if I am doing myself a disservice by declaring myself as a ‘smiling lds girl’. Some who do not know me very well think I am perpetually cheerful but the truth is much more complicated.

The germ of the name started when I set up an email after my mission.  I was on such a high then that I really was smiling all the time.  I felt like nothing could be harder, nothing more intense than my mission, and I had done it, done it for God.  In many ways I felt invisible.

But such bubbles are made to be burst and they sure were.  It took just 2 years to get to one of the lowest times of my life.  I’ve talked about it many times but in 2007 I left a job that was like a black cloud in my life.  The details don’t really matter. All that matters is I was in a low spot and I had the courage to claw myself out of it.

With a renewed vision of my potential for happiness a smile was back on my face.  All of the sudden the moniker of ‘smiling lds girl’ seemed appropriate.  I also had a bit of time and decided to join the blogging world and gave it my email name smilingldsgirl.  My first entry was in May of 2008. The freedom of Joblessness.  Back then I said:

“my first foray into the world of blogging…It is hard to describe my last 6 months but let me just say that I am in the job hunt and I couldn’t be happier. I honestly think I will be a bit sad when I have to go back into the work force. There is something wonderful about living my life the way I want to without regards to supervisors, bosses or routines. I have always been a big one for planning but after a bit of a breakdown last year I needed a change more than anything.”

It was so strange because in the eyes of most people my situation might have appeared quite pitiable (no job, no man, overweight, etc) but I was happy as can be.  I knew that I had done what God wanted me to do.  In many ways it was the same feeling I felt after my mission.  I had survived and new adventures awaited me.

So I was smiling again.

I had a period of peace and then in 2010 the crazy health challenges started and really I spent a lot of the next 2 years surviving again.  I don’t mean to seem ungrateful because I have been incredibly blessed during this time but let’s just say it was harder to smile for a little while.   It was rough and I remember going to Hawaii and just thinking ‘ why can’t I be this happy all the time?’.  But I kept pressing forward and smiling in spite of it all.

Then I found open water swimming and boxing and started smiling again.  Now I can hardly envision my life without it.  What did I do with all my time before?  It takes up so much of my time and yet I do most everything (with the exception of grad school) I did before. I wish that everyone could feel the way I feel when I’m in the water.  It is joy.  It is smiling.

Honestly it makes me a little nervous because I feel like I’m smiling again.  What does God have in store for me? I am certainly going to enjoy every season of joy I get and try to store it up for the testing that will inevitably come my way.

I suppose I had my mind on this because I am thinking of buying/building a house.  It is overwhelming and I can’t help but feel it will make my life more complicated.  It’s just one of those seminal moments of life so it seems appropriate to feel a bit introspective.  I never thought I would buy a house by myself. It makes me excited and nervous for the future.  Can I do it?  Will I keep smiling?

The answer is yes, but it will be interrupted by periods of tears; and, I believe that is how God wants it.  If we think about Jesus and His life He was not always smiling.  He wept with his followers.  He mourned with those that mourned and comforted those that stood in need of comfort.  He even got angry on occasion when it was appropriate.

We are told to have a broken heart and contrite spirit.  I’ve had broken hearts in my life and each time I have come out of it smiling because I learned in those crucible experiences that God loved me.  That is why you need a broken heart and a contrite spirit because you simply need Him more in those moments than ever before.

So in the end, I am smiling deep down inside even in the tender moments because I know God is turning me into what He knows I can be.

Thank you to everyone who has loved me in the low times. Kept me smiling. 🙂

Looking Back

So life has been a bit challenging for me lately.  Healthwise, painwise and otherwise.  I just spent most of my day today getting blood drawn and xrays done to try and determine why I am still having so much pain in my ribcage area.  Plus, there is the issue of my looming surgery on my eye and everything else.

I have decided all of the stresses in my life are out of my control.  The only thing I can control is my response.  Working on that.

I started to think about my life and particularly my teen years.  I’ve mentioned those times many times on this blog.  They were time I relate too because in like your 30s, your teens don’t have a specific job to do but get older.  Both times have brought significant health and family challenges and been introspective.

Sometimes I bet you wonder- was the teen Rachel really the girl she describes- itching to be independent and free, insecure and confident at the same time?  I was just reading over my high school journal and if anything I’ve toned it down a notch.  I was a great person!  I really believed in things and I wanted so much out of myself.  I still do. Here are some highlights:

“I wish I was more forthright.  Oh well! That’s something I can work on”  October 19,1998.  (I think I’ve worked that one out- what do you think? 🙂 )

“I love late night chats with Mom and Meg.  We talked about high school and the kids we knew with problems and why we were different.”  October 22, 1998.  (Good parenting in my book!)

“I have been accepted.  I am so excited! I started to scream and weep when I read the exciting first words ‘we are delighted to inform you…’  I have never been so thrilled, relieved and satisfied, at the same time.  For once in my life all my hard work has paid off.  I was always somehow disappointed but this time I was not to be thwarted!” Feb 16, 1999

“Maybe my brother and sister are right.  Maybe different is better.  It certainly is far less stressful…” March 1, 1999

“I’m just ready to go.  I’m sick of waiting around.  I’m ready to be on my own away from my family.  I love my family but I just want to be able to control my own life and do what I want to do when I want to do it.  I’m sick of always being tied down by little kids…” March 8, 1999

“I feel worn out and yet there is still so much to be done that I do not feel justified in my fatigue…” March 20, 1999

“I was once asked in class if I could meet anyone who would it be? My answer was decidedly sure. I’d meet Jesus.  There is no one who has done more for me and for all mankind and I am so thankful” April 2, 1999

“Today marks under one month until I go away to school.  I am so excited.  Finally my dream is coming true. Finally I have achieved something in my life that I really wanted. I never thought I would be able to go to BYU.  I always thought I was too stupid for that.  But surprise, I’m not.” May 21, 1999 (You know Sue on the Middle?  That was totally me.  I never made anything I tried out for until BYU).

“I am grateful for My Savior and the sacrifice He made for me.  I am thankful that he was born on Christmas morning with the sole purpose to save my soul.  Christ is the light and moral compass of my life and I love Him with all my heart.  I pray that I will always look to Him for everything.” December 25, 1999

“I hope when I’m reading this 30 years from now I will be able to say ‘Rachel goes into any situation undaunted and unafraid of the unpaved way that lies before her”  (Still got like 16 years to work on that)

More quotes to come but got to work tonight!

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!

Perception

Have you ever noticed how 2 people can tell the same story and yet it doesn’t seem like the same story? I’ve particularly seen this with couples, especially after a break up.  It would seem like they couldn’t have been in the same marriage.  I think only in time does the nuances of memories cement in our brain.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about this lately, as life has been a bit stressful.  My reality has not always been what others see.  I came across this quote and it really rings true.

“Maybe each human being lives in a unique world, a private world different from those inhabited and experienced by all other humans. . . . If reality differs from person to person, can we speak of reality singular, or shouldn’t we really be talking about plural realities? And if there are plural realities, are some more true (more real) than others? What about the world of a schizophrenic? Maybe it’s as real as our world. Maybe we cannot say that we are in touch with reality and he is not, but should instead say, His reality is so different from ours that he can’t explain his to us, and we can’t explain ours to him. The problem, then, is that if subjective worlds are experienced too differently, there occurs a breakdown in communication … and there is the real illness.”
Philip K. Dick

Don’t you think understanding another person’s reality is the hardest thing? Its especially true when you think you know and it turns out to be more ‘unique’ than you thought.  As he says, the worlds collide and there is the real illness…

Its strange because I am an open book.  Its hard for me to think of a single thing that would surprise any of my friends. That is my reality and that’s how I communicate but I know it isn’t everyone’s. Still, seeing through their glasses at their reality is super hard- sometimes in extreme cases impossible but most of the time the act of trying expands our views, our realities, and makes us better people.

I’m trying to expand my view, look at others realities instead of just my own.  I don’t know if this will make any sense to anyone else but it makes sense to me.

However, at the end of the day you must also be willing to stand alone.  Jesus set the example, standing alone, being spit upon and dragged through the street, nailed to a cross.  Through it all He never stopped looking at others realities and having compassion for them.  He had compassion for Peter and Thomas who doubted, the Roman guard who chopped off His ear, the fellow prisoners who hung with Him, and even for Judas.

He saw through their reality and yet stood alone.  We all have our moments where we must stand alone (even if it is just a perception of standing alone, which again perception is reality).  My prophet President Monson spoke about this and it gave me great comfort recently:

“As we go about living from day to day, it is almost inevitable that our faith will be challenged. We may at times find ourselves surrounded by others and yet standing in the minority or even standing alone concerning what is acceptable and what is not. Do we have the moral courage to stand firm for our beliefs, even if by so doing we must stand alone?”

I hope I have the courage to look at the world through other’s eyes, but also to stand alone when necessary.  I know I have the faith to stand alone because the Savior understands ALL perfectly.  He loves Me and my world perfectly.  What a comfort that is.  In truth, we are never really standing alone because He is always with us, even when we don’t feel Him near.

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

Great and Spacious Building

It is no secret that the last few weeks have probably been the hardest in what has become my continual struggle to lose weight and get in shape.  With the added burden of chest pains, exercising and even basic functions like breathing have been difficult.   (I go to the endocrinologist today and hopefully will be able to exercise as well).

Anyway, I have tried to be strong and keep going but it is hard to not feel sorry for myself every now and then.  I say that knowing many, if not most people, have far greater struggles than I do; however, it still can be frustrating to see one road block after another.  Sometimes it feels like my body is fighting against getting in shape, when shouldn’t it be the other way around?  Nevertheless, I have persisted and am not giving up on my goal.

That said, there is one weakness I would like to confess which still bothers me as I try to make these changes- the idea of the mocking crowds.

Let me explain…In the Book of Mormon there is a story in dream-form given to the ancient prophet Lehi.  In the dream he sees a variety of things but in the forefront is a tree full of bright fruit.  Later we learn this fruit is the ‘love of God’ or the atonement of Jesus Christ.  Once you have partaken of the fruit you are filled with indescribable joy and light.  Immediately you seek to share this joy with your loved ones in hopes they might feel it also.

However, when you look around there is a ‘great and spacious building’ standing south of the tree.  This building is grand in scale and full of people mocking the faithful for their adherence to the tree. Their mocking can be so overwhelming that some of the faithful abandon the tree and head into darkness.  Others are strong enough to resist and continue partaking of the glorious fruit.

I have been thinking about this story lately because there are a lot of people who mock overweight individuals like myself.  In the past their words were easier to brush off because I was happy with the way I was.  Its a bit hard to explain but in opening myself up to the need for change I have become more sensitive to harsh words.

To give you an idea, a woman named Maura Kelly wrote an opinion piece for Marie Claire.com about a new show staring two overweight people called Mike and Molly.  In the article she says, ‘I think I’d be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other … because I’d be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything”.

She goes on, “To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room — just like I’d find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine addict slumping in a chair.”

Why does this bother me so much?  I don’t know.  It just makes me crazy to think of someone looking at me in this way when I am trying so hard.  The saddest part is I think a lot of people share Kelly’s views of overweight individuals but don’t have the poor taste to admit it.   When I was younger someone I know used to take videos of fat people at parks or in the city and laugh at them, mocking them.   This stung deeply at the time and hurts me whenever I think of it.  The idea that someone is taking a video of me and laughing makes me nuts.

Getting back to the dream…I recognize such feelings exists because I am looking at the great and spacious building, not keeping my mind on the tree.  One of the things I dreaded about losing weight is your body becomes so much of your identity.  People immediately think  ‘Oh there’s Rachel.  She’s lost weight.’  What I would prefer is ‘Oh there’s Rachel.  She’s such a great person’.   However, I suppose such responses are part of human nature and are only an initial response with the latter coming soon after.

I just have to remember to keep looking at the tree.  I know my Heavenly Father loves me regardless of my size. I have known that since I was a little girl.  I know Jesus Christ died for me and that in His atonement He paid for my sins and felt all of my mild struggles.  I also know that my family loves and supports me regardless of my fitness choices.

I am also grateful for my Grandpa Richards who never saw me as the fat granddaughter, just his beautiful granddaughter.   He used to hold my face in his hands and tell me how beautiful I was, how my skin was flawless. It is a memory I will always hold dear- someone in my life saw me as perfect.  I know how that feels, and I am so grateful for it.  I know he is looking down on me and helping me each day.

I have received support from so many that I do not know why I let the faceless mob bother me.  It is something I am going to work at. I know as I turn more to the tree and feel of Jesus Christ’s love I will be happier and my burdens will be made light. I have faith in His love and His power.  I hope you all feel it in your life as you walk  your uniquely rocky road.

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

Happy Easter! Christ is Risen

I don’t have long to write this Easter morning, but I have been contemplating my relationship with Jesus Christ lately.  It amazes me how His sacrifice could be both intimate and infinite.  While every single person who ever lived is saved from sin and despair, I have also been saved.  His grace and power coupled by divine love and empathy gives me the strength to live my life with purpose and obedience.   What a comfort it is to know that because He conquered death and was resurrected on the third day- we all can live again with our loved ones.  In my limited experience with such things the knowledge of eternal life and resurrection was truly a balm of Gilead.  It is my greatest desire to follow Him and be a worthy disciple.  I love Him and know that His church has been restored. He truly did die for my sins and sorrows- as He did for yours.  I have gained this knowledge through personal prayer, scripture study and the promptings of the Holy Ghost to my heart.  I hope you all have a wonderful Easter morning and that you try to find ways to be more like Jesus Christ every day.  Build up your testimony and then strengthen others. This is the way you will be Happy in life!  God bless.