Sunday, December 20, 2015

Christmas & Humility

This time of year is so magical.  The sights, smells, lights, presents, family parties, Santa, wrapping paper and all the things that go along with the Christmas season are around us at every turn.  It is so easy to get caught up in the worldly celebration of the word, Christmas.  It's so easy to get caught up in giving and receiving gifts, eating yummy food and going to family parties.  But, what is not always easy about this time of year, is actually taking a step back and recognizing why it is that we celebrate Christmas.

"To catch the real meaning of the 'spirit of Christmas' we need only drop the last syllable and it becomes 'The spirit of Christ'"
Thomas S. Monson

Anyone that truly knows me, knows I can be a bawl baby when it comes to the Gospel.  I have to pray really hard before I give a talk so that I don't cry through the whole thing.  But, truly thinking of the Savior, "being born in a lowly stable because there was no room for him in the inn", brings tears to my eyes.  The Son of God, who would be the perfect example, live a perfect life and ultimately die for each one of us so that we could repent of our sins and return to our Heavenly home, was born in a stable.  Honestly, what more humble circumstances could someone be born into?

Humility: To make meek and teachable, or the condition of being meek and teachable. Humility includes recognizing our dependence upon God and desiring to submit to his will.

Christ was and always has been the perfect example of humility.  As we learn in the scriptures, Christ, in the spirit world, from the very beginning, wanted to submit to Gods will and do all that his father asked of him. Every step Christ took, every word he spoke, every thing he did was to accomplish the thing that God had sent him here to do, and he did it perfectly. 

In thinking about Christmas, humility and the Savior it has caused me to reflect on my own life.  I like to ask myself some questions, and you can ask them to yourself as well.  Am I striving each day to submit my life and will over to God?  What, if anything is holding me back from fully submitting to the will of God?  What can I begin to do in my own life to change and submit more fully to the will of God?  What does God see in me and want me to become, and can I see that potential in myself?  Do I believe in myself?

We are not here to impress our family and friends.  We are not here to prove something to those around us.   But as D. Todd Christofferson has said, "Just as Jesus, we came down from Heaven to do the will of him that sent us." We are literally sent here to do the will of God, to prove to Him that we love him and his son.  That, is all that matters.  There will be critics all along the path of life, people that don't want to listen to what you have to say, or that criticize the way you do things or the way you live your life.  They may even criticize your personality and the person that you are, but it's mostly because they don't understand.  They truly don't care to get the know the real you.

Remember, that Christ was criticized and hated by men, because they did not understand.  Even while on the cross, Christ said: "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do."  The point is, don't stop being you!  Don't let the critics along the path cause you to call out defeat.  Christ never allowed what others thought of him to cause him to not follow through with the will of the Father.  Remember that what God our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ think of us is what matters.

I love my Savior so much.  I am so grateful he was born thousands of years ago.  He has done so much for me, that I can never repay him back.  The only gift I can give back is to use my agency for good.  To stand back up when I fall.  To serve those around me, to love those around me and to be grateful for all that I've been given.  To utilize my gifts and talents for the building up of the kingdom of God on earth.  And hope that all my efforts, failures, strengths, weaknesses and utilizing of the atonement can bring me to the moment where I stand in front of my Heavenly Father and Savior and can say that I did all that I could.  And to hear, "Well done."

Saturday, September 12, 2015

5 years since dads death, 5 lessons learned.

Today marks five years since my dear dad passed away.  Five years?! To say it's been an easy five years would be a complete lie.  But to say that the last five years have been completely miserable would be a lie, too.  I've experienced tender mercies of the Lord all along the way.

Since it's been five years, I want to share five important lessons I've learned since my dads death.

God loves us perfectly

"Though we are incomplete, God loves us completely.  Though we are imperfect, He loves us perfectly.  Though we may feel lost and without compass, God's love encompasses us completely."
- Dieter F Uchtdorf

I often hear of people who, once something bad happens in their life,  blame everything on God.  They truly believe that if such a thing could happen in their life, then God must not love them.  I am here to tell you that that is a complete lie! I see how the easy way out for me would have been to believe that God didn't love me, because if he did, then he would have let my dad stay here with me.

Before I was faced with this trial, I thought I knew that God loved me.  But, I have never felt Gods love more in my life than when my dad passed away and the years that have followed.  God is very sensitive to our feelings, and cares about us more than we can even comprehend.   

Tender mercy after tender mercy occurred in my life as well as my families life during the past 5 years.  I cannot say enough how much God loves me. 

Take away message:  Bad things don't happen to us because God doesn't love us.  Often times bad things happen to us BECAUSE God loves us.  Bad things happen to good people. What matters is how I personally choose to show love to those around me and most importantly to God.

The veil is very thin

"In the Gospel of Jesus Christ you have help from both sides of the veil, and you must never forget that.  When disappointment and discouragement strike... you remember and never forget that if our eyes could be opened we would see horses and chariots of fire as far as the eye can see, riding at reckless speed to come to our protection."
-Jeffrey R Holland 

I know without a doubt that my dad is very aware of me now more than ever.  He is still very involved in my life.  If there is anything I've learned over the past five years, it's that he is very near!  I have felt his presence on a few occasions and more recently have felt him helping me through some of life's challenges, that only he would truly be able to recognize.

One of the most difficult parts about losing my dad as of late, is that he isn't here to be a grandpa to my kids.  But, I KNOW he is aware of Baylee and that he loves her.  I know that he knew her before she came to earth and that he helped her get ready.  I am grateful that all my future kids are spending time with their amazing grandpa before they come to earth. 

Take away message:  Our loved ones that have passed on are not far from us.  In fact, they are very near.  Never doubt the help you can receive from those close to us, but that are on the other side of the veil.  Pray for the opportunity to recognize these special moments.

I am strong

"Challenges help us become more like our Father in heaven."
-Richard G Scott

After losing my dad, I didn't really know how I could possibly go on.  I didn't know how my mom, brother and I were physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually going to go forward in life.  But, somehow you do.  You move forward, you grow and learn.  I realized that there was no reason to be sad and dwell on the situation at hand, but to become better because of it.  

I realized that there is nothing in this life that I cannot handle.  Anything thrown my way may not be easy, but I know I can do it.  I realized my own strength and the strength of my family.  My dad would want us to grow, learn and become more like God.  I believe we all did and still are, but most of all I think we learned how strong our family ties are.

Take away message:  Never underestimate the strength from within.  God does not give us anything that we cannot handle.  God will always be there to help strengthen us when we are weak.  But most importantly he will cheer us on when we believe in our own self and prove the strength we have already inside us.


Families ARE Forever

"What matters the most is what lasts the longest and families are forever."
- Russell M Ballard

I remember sitting in sacrament meeting a few short weeks after my dad passed away and the song, "Families can be together forever" was the closing hymn.  To say I bawled through the whole song is an understatement.  The lessons I had learned from sunbeams all the way up to Relief Society had taught me that Families can be together Forever.  This seemed like such an amazing gift, but until I lost my dad i didn't fully understand.  The spirit spoke to me that day that I would be with my dad again someday. This beautiful truth gave me so much peace and joy!  

Take away message:  Families can be together forever, dependent on how we choose to live and conduct our lives.   I hope to live in such a way that I can be with him again someday!

I NEED God

"Men and women who turn their lives over to God will discover that He can make a lot more out of their lives than they can.  He can deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, and pour out peace."
 -Ezra Taft Benson

I need God every hour of every day.  With him I am strong!  He has helped me overcome my trials, given me comfort from the Holy Ghost, poured out blessings and much, much more.  Without God I honestly would be nothing.  He has helped me become a much better person, and more importantly is continuing to help me become a much better person.  

Take away message:  We all need God in our lives to overcome all of life's struggles.  It is the only perfect way to live this life.  If we truly allow him to be there for us, then we can find joy even in the darkest of times.

_______________________________________________________________________

I am so grateful to God for helping me to become a better person during a difficult trial, like losing my dad.  It didn't come easy, and it didn't come over night.  I am far from perfect, but am learning each new day how to become a better disciple of Jesus Christ.  To show love to all those around me.  I can now say I am grateful for many of the trials I have faced, because they have helped me to become a better person, they have uniquely shaped me into the person that I am.  

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Competitive

Ever since I can remember, I've been competitive in nature.  I loved to play in a good game of soccer or softball and experience that feeling to be the very best I could be, to prove what I could do.  I loved to run a race against my friends, and even if I didn't win, still feel the need to push myself to be the best I could possibly be.  I loved to plan, prepare and do the things I had been taught during practice and then to actually execute what I had learned during the game.

When I was young, the two people I wanted to prove myself to were: my mom and my dad.  I wanted to be proud of my accomplishments and I wanted my parents to be proud of me.  Nothing mattered more to me than to make my parents proud.  Probably more than I cared about what I thought, as long as they were proud then that was enough.

Many people like to say that being competitive is a bad thing, but I don't agree with that.  As I've grown older, I've learned through trial and error to channel that competitive nature into other things.  Now, my thoughts of who I want to prove myself to are a huge list of people that are looking to me to see what I will do.  My husband, my daughter, my mom, my dad, my brother... and most importantly my Heavenly parents.  I want to prove to them that I can be the very best version of me.  That I will follow God despite what I face here on earth.  That I will never let my guard down in fighting for what I know to be true.

Recently, I have faced a trial that I never thought I would have to face!  It's been a difficult one, and one where I had to dig down real deep to find out if I had the faith that I always thought I did.  To find out if my testimony really was as solid as I always thought it was. To find out if I TRULY did believe in a Heavenly Father who loved me.... his daughter.  How else would I find out how strong my foundation is, or how much I truly KNOW the Gospel is true, or how much I know God truly knows and loves me?  If we never have trials of our faith, then how will we truly KNOW?

A few months before my brother Chandler left to boot camp, he was having some second thoughts about going.  He realized the big "LEAP OF FAITH" that he was going to be taking.  Believing, trusting and relying on all the tender mercies, little detours and signs from above.  Having faith that they were true, and were honestly from a loving God.  He had sent me a text that day regarding how he was feeling.  It's amazing how inspired I felt to send him a certain string of texts, but one has stuck out to me as I have gone back to read them.

It says:
"Things WILL work out how they are supposed to.  You need to have faith over fear.  Trust God that he knows.  Will it be tough sometimes?  YES.  Will there be some sacrifice?  YES.  Will there be moments of fear and doubt?  YES.  But anything worth doing is worth having patience through trial and error and giving it significant time to come to fruition and bear fruit."

And you know what, that text was an answer to my own prayer as well.  It answered all my questions about the current trial I've been facing. God works in mysterious ways.

Before we came to earth, we knew what we would face in this life.  I don't doubt there was some talk amongst us, just like the text I sent to my brother.  We KNEW it would be hard, we KNEW there would be some sacrifice, we KNEW there would be fear and doubt, but we also KNEW that we wanted to take that leap of faith.  To come to earth, to face trials, pains, sickness, sadness, hurt.... and the list goes on, because we knew who we wanted to be like and we knew what it would take to get there.  We wanted to be like our Heavenly Parents, and to be like them we would have to do hard things.  And we have to do those hard things well, and prove with every ounce of competitiveness we have in us, that we can do this.

So no matter what trial, sadness, pain, sickness or heartache comes my way, I will remember this.  I will remember that we chose to come here, because we knew our potential.  Even more importantly, God knows our potential.  And even when I don't measure up, God already had in his loving plan to send the Savior to the world.  His only begotten Son to take upon himself all of the horrible things that we face.  So that when I don't measure up, He makes up the rest.  It's a perfect plan.

To end I want to tell you a little piece of the recent letter my brother wrote to me from bootcamp, it says:
"Keep being an annoyance and a disturber in the kingdom of Satan."

We know Satan is real, and preys on those people whose faith may be faltering due to certain trials they are facing.  But, we cannot let him win.  

If that isn't competitive in nature, I don't know what is. 

 Just like in a game of soccer or softball, trying to prove myself to my parents.  We need to be doing the same thing here on earth in this game of life, but proving what we can do to our Heavenly Parents.

Keep up the good work, my dear friends!  Keep fighting the good fight and never give up.



Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Comparison.

 
I love this quote by Theodore Roosevelt and have had a lot of thoughts in my head about why he would say such a thing...  Why is this quote so popular and why did he feel the need to say it?

Well, It's because it happens all.of.the.time.
Many people feel the need to constantly compare their lives to others.

Comparison can come in all shapes and sizes.  People will compare how to properly parent, how to look good, how to take care of a home, how to have a good relationship, how to work, how to play, how to cook, how to be religious, how to clean and just about everything you can possibly think of.

Comparison is toxic. It only leads to one of two things: 
1.  Judgements towards the people around you who do not deserve it. 
&
2.  Negative feelings about yourself that should not be there.

Therefore, Comparison IS the thief of joy.  There is no way we can have joy in our lives when we are comparing our lives to others.

After losing my father very suddenly, I started to realize even more just how fragile life truly is.  He went into the hospital on a Thursday night, and passed away just three short days later. I personally don't want to get to the other side of the veil, just to realize that I spent most of my days comparing my life to others.  What type of life would that be?  

Is that what I want to be remembered for?

I want to be remembered living life to the fullest, to enjoying each and every moment with my family members, to serve and love all of those around me to the best of my ability and most importantly to prove to my Heavenly Father that I am grateful for the life that I lead and that I don't want to be anyone else but who I am.  I am a daughter of God.... and that should be enough for me to not compare my life to another person.

God sent us here at this time for a specific purpose.  He did not send us here for us to feel inadequate or especially for us to think that we are better than everyone else.  When we compare our lives to someone else, many times they notice and they can feel that you have some sort of issue with them.  This type of toxic activity doesn't allow loving and lasting relationships to happen, but instead causes contention and feelings of inadequacy.

Be who you are and don't try to be anyone else.  The world needs more of who you truly are and not some version of yourself that doesn't feel good enough.

I'm sure it makes God sad to see everyone comparing.  He loves us for who we are and that in and of its self should be enough.


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

No one size fits all.

Everyone handles trials differently.  There is no one size fits all for a trial... and each person will go through different challenges, trials and hard times throughout their time in mortality.  There is so much that goes into a specific trial for a specific person that we just can't know FULLY what they are going through.  We can definitely try to understand, but we just won't know exactly what they are going through until we walk a mile in their shoes.

I am very open about some of my trials I have faced, because I truly believe that being open may help others along the way.  I am very open about my trials because I have gained a firm and unshakable testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ due to some of the trials I have faced.  I am very open about my trials because I want to share my testimony of the Atonement and the miracles I have seen in my life because of it. I am very open about my trials because I am grateful in many aspects for the trials I have faced.  

Most importantly I hope to help others gain a testimony of the Savior.

My mom and I were talking the other day about trials, and why certain things happen and all that goes into it.  She said, "I don't want to go through trials and hard times and come out worse, if I'm going to be going through hard times, I most definitely hope to come out better than before the trial!"  How true that is!  How many of us know fellow friends, family members and associates that have gone through a trial and come out worse than before?  

I wish I could tell each person to.... "don't let hard times push you away, let them bring you closer to the Savior, the only person who TRULY knows what you are going through."  Those who don't yet know the Savior or our loving Heavenly Father, reach out to them in prayer and I promise they will be there to help you.  No question, trial, or sin is too big or too small.  They will be there to listen, to help, to guide and most importantly love you through it all.  

He does love you and always will.  He loved you yesterday, He loves you today and He loves you tomorrow.  That love never stops nor changes.

I in the past few months, have really seen glimpses into just how much the Savior and those beyond the veil are anxiously waiting to help us.  I have seen and felt the love that they feel for each one of us, no matter what trial we are facing. 

Many times I feel inadequate and non deserving of His love and His grace.  I always want to make my Savior proud, and most days I don't make it.  But that's what is so amazing about the Atonement...  I can try again tomorrow.  How patient, loving and kind our Savior is.  He is absolutely perfect, and lived the best life anyone could ever live, yet He died for each one of us.  He watches all his brothers and sisters here on earth.  He sees the hurt, pain, anguish and trials that we each face and He is aching for us to utilize the gift He gave to each one of us.  His life.  Use it.  Don't waste that precious gift.  He never gives up on us, so please don't ever give up on Him.  I also never forget how our Heavenly Father must feel. 

One of my favorite quotes is this:
"Get on your knees and pray, then get on your feet and work."
-Gordon B Hinckley

We can't expect life to be perfect for us and we definitely can't expect God to take away all our trials.  But, we can choose how we want our story to end and what type of person we want to be.  We can choose to have a positive mindset and be kind.  We can create a better life for ourselves despite our trials.  We can do anything we set our mind to.  We are the masters of our fate. The Lord is not going to do all the work for us.  We need to do our part and He will always be there to make up where we lack.

Friday, December 12, 2014

For Dad

God did not send us here to earth to fail.  He sent us here because he knew of our potential and knew who we could become. He gives us trials to refine us, to bring us closer to him and to cause us to seek His loving guidance.

Everyone's life has a different story.  A different start, middle and ending.  

From the time I can remember, my dad had suffered with Crohns disease.  {For those of you who haven't heard of it or don't know what it is, look it up.}  This was a huge trial on my family.  He had the absolute worst of it all.  Think of having constant cramps in your stomach, every day all day.  What manner of living would that cause you to want to have?  I know that when I have cramps of any kind, all I want to do is lay down and do absolutely nothing.

There were a few times where he probably should have died.  Like when his liver started hardening, and after much fasting, prayer and priesthood blessings he miraculously had a healthy liver again.  The doctors could only call it a complete miracle.  

Or the time he couldn't walk, so my mom and I basically carried him to the car to get him to the hospital as soon as possible.  He eventually got better and miraculously went on living his life.

Or the time that he fell off the roof while putting up Christmas lights and walked away with a mere broken ankle.  Once again a complete miracle.

What I am trying to get at is that out of anyone I've ever met, my dad went through a lot of trials.   Which in turn were trials to our family.  But, we didn't view them as such because we were and are so blessed despite them all.

These trials caused my dad to be one of the most valiant men that I have had the privilege of meeting.  In the scriptures we learn about people of our day whom are called, "the noble and great ones" and I am here to tell you that without a doubt he is one of them.

Over the last few days, I have been able to reflect on my dad, his life, his funeral and all of the things in between.  Because, I recently have lost another beloved family member, my Grandpa Wootton.  These men were the salt of the earth.

My dad didn't go to the people who were prestigious, of high stature or the best at what they did.  He went to the down trodden, the lost, the lonely and the heartbroken.  He became friends with the janitors, the homeless guy on the corner by his office and the snotty kid down the street. 

He had a corporate job as the head accountant, but chose to work at a retirement center the last year of his life in the evenings because, "he didn't feel like he was helping people enough."  What grown man has enough love that he sacrifices his time to go help at an elderly center?  That's right, my dad. 

My dad has taught me that no trial is too big, no heartache so hurtful, no sin commited that the Saviors atonement doesn't cover.  My dad was the epitome of a Christ Like man.  He made me want to be a better person.  He did this in a silent manner, no shove down your throat stuff.  In many ways I feel like he was sent here just for me.  Without him and my mom, I wouldn't be the woman I am today.

It brings tears to my eyes to reflect on his funeral.  It was a packed church building.  The overflow was opened and people were filling the gym.  I knew that he was loved, but what I didn't expect was the love I felt from God.  Despite losing one of my greatest heroes, I felt love and peace.  God loved me, His daughter and knew of the hurt and pain I was feeling.  Yet deep down inside I knew I'd see my dad again and I was grateful he wasn't in pain anymore.

The elderly people from the retirement center made the trek to his viewing.  I'll never forget the tears that welled up in my eyes as I saw these sweet people coming through the line.  They loved my dad, he gave them so much the last year of his life.  I know many of them have probably passed on, and I cry thinking of those sweet reunions as they thank my dad for his service, despite all the pain he himself was in.

My dad has taught me so many things. To love God, to serve others, to not complain, to always be kind, to be a good sport, to love all mankind, to judge none, to fight, and to have a good sense of humor through it all.

What I've learned over the last almost 4 1/2 years after my dads death is that, he is still helping me.  He is still very much involved in my life.  He was there the day I married my Justin, the night my Baylee was born, he was there the day I graduated.  He knows my hurts, pains and sorrows on a deeper level than he ever could have here.  

I've learned that just because he is beyond the veil, doesn't mean he's not right here with me along the way.  I've been blessed with this knowledge and I know without a doubt that because he is with me, I have been blessed in aspects that wouldn't have happened without him on the other side.

I have a firm testimony of the Gospel and it's truthfulness.  I have a firm testimony of the restored Gospel and Joseph Smith.  I have a firm testimony of the Plan of Salvation.  And most importantly, I have a firm testimony of the life my Heavenly Father and my earthly father wants me to live.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Perfect at Trying

I loved the movie "Meet the Mormons" that recently came out in theaters. I especially love the song that David Archuleta sings called "Glorious" that gives me goosebumps. What I love the most about this movie is a quote by the "Humanitarian" that says: "I am perfect in one thing, I am perfect in trying." 

This is how I feel as well. There are days where I try so hard and despite my efforts fall short, there are days that I try so hard and things fall perfectly into place just the way I had imagined. No matter the outcome, what's important is that I keep trying. A few months back I wrote a post called "Perfectionism" and the struggle I face almost daily. 

I feel like because of social media, people get a wrong idea of our lives. Most people only post the best things happening in their lives and leave out all the hard, negative moments that we each face daily. It's easy to play the game of comparison and wonder why everyone else has it so easy, when we struggle with some of the things that seem so easy for others. 

I know there have been times I have judged too quickly based on someone's social media account, and I'm sorry about that. It's best to not judge and to recognize that each one of us is just trying the best that we can.... And this is something I know I can be better at. I know that my social media accounts are literally my journal. I do not write things down very well and I don't document any other way besides my social media accounts. 

I still have a baby that wakes up in the night and is 14 months old, I still struggle with the death of my father and find myself in tears some days. I still struggle with different trials I have faced that have destroyed my confidence. I still struggle trying to find a balance in my life and trying to be the best mother and wife. I still struggle trying to be the homemaker and put good, healthy meals on the table. I still struggle with negative thoughts about myself. But none of this can keep me from continually trying day in and day out. That's something that no matter the trial, no matter the adversity, no matter the hurtful things people say and do, will ever change. I won't give up.

We each have different talents and strong qualities that help contribute goodness to this crazy world. Just because someone is better at something than us, doesn't mean that they are any better. It just means that we can learn something from them and we can strive to be better ourselves. It also means that we probably have strengths that they don't have. It's okay to be different! It's ok to have admiration for the good qualities in others. 

I know without a doubt that God loves each of us equally. He loves us more than we can even possibly comprehend. He has a divine mission set out for each one of us if we will only listen and follow Him. There are many situations/people/times that only WE have the talent or ability to change someone's life for good. And being found in Holy places and doing good things will lead us to those moments in our lives. It's in those moments that our testimony grows and that we recognize the significance and affect we can have in the lives of others. And the love God has for his children.

So, my advice to you, is to NEVER give up.... And to be perfect at trying.