Wow- this inspires me!

Gathering Light

Good morning friends!

Here’s a quote that I love:

“As you keep your face towards the sunshine, the shadows cannot help but fall behind you.” (Unknown author, quoted in talk “Light Cleaveth Unto Light”- https://abn.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2021/04/53dyches?lang=eng)

This morning I was determined to gather light and point my thoughts in a positive direction. I thought I’d share with you what has been a boost to me this morning.

I just love that one! It fills me with hope and faith and courage.

There is an absolutely beautiful arrangement of “Glorious” with music and dancing that was at the end of a BYU Women’s conference session. It has spoken to my heart more than once! Here is the link, it’s at 1:18:38 (right at the end of the session):

And this is a talk that I just loved and thought you might too. It’s at 59:47.

I hope you have a wonderful day!

Love

Laura

Thought

Golden Nuggets

Photo by Lucas Benjamin on Unsplash

Dear friends of mine,

It’s May. My trees outside in my view are full of beautiful and fragrant blossoms. It is a beautiful day.

I last posted on February 21st. That was the day before surgery. I had “made it” and was feeling relief. I was sure the next part would be easy compared to what I had experienced. Here I am over two months later. I’ve written “Tender Mercies 4 1/2” and “Tender Mercies 4 3/4” and “Tender Mercies 5″…but they’ll stay in my personal files, at least for now. It’s hard to say why I have had a hard time posting since the surgery. I can say for certain that I have felt more tender mercies, not less, during these last several weeks. I haven’t lost hope, and I have a lot to say. For now, I’ll share a few musings and see if I can get back in the saddle…

Have you heard the analogy by C.S. Lewis comparing us to a little cottage? Here it is:

Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of — throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.

I love that so much. It’s very similar to the analogy I shared on here earlier about the Provo Tabernacle being burned and charred and then was transformed into a temple. You probably can guess which part I have REALLY been able to relate to: “He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense.” Oh man, friends, that’s the road I’ve been walking. It has hurt abominably- physically, mentally, emotionally- all of it. Mercifully, I am healing. Each week I get a little stronger, feel a little more like myself, feel more up to the responsibilities in front of me. But the road has felt long and steep.

I heard a Ted talk the other day that said “Suffering can break you, or break you open.” If it breaks you, you will have a tendency to pull inward, pull back, and feel that the world is a less safe place to be. If it breaks you open you become better at connecting with people, warmer, more connected, and less guarded. I have loved thinking about that idea this week, and to the degree I can choose, I want this suffering I have experienced to break me wide open; open so I can feel closer relationships, so I can help others heal from similar challenges, and so that I can be more gentle, patient, submissive- in short, more like my Savior, Jesus Christ. A friend of mine offered this variation which is a prayer: “Help me allow myself to be transformed.” That is my prayer too.

4 years ago, my Dad was diagnosed with Lymphoma- cancer of the lymph nodes. His treatments were difficult and he was very ill for some time. Nobody would want to go through that- right? I have no desire to experience cancer treatments either- just to be clear. But one day while my dad was fighting cancer and was sharing with me some of the things he was experiencing, I felt…was it jealousy? Yes- I was jealous that he got that experience. You see, it wasn’t the sickness that I was intrigued by (yikes!)- it was the gold nuggets he was getting out of it. I could tell that he was learning important life lessons, becoming a better version of himself, and I could tell that it was cancer that had given him this dynamic opportunity to grow that I didn’t have. He was becoming more gentle, more humble, more peaceful. And that’s what I wanted…without all the hard parts, right?! Ha! It doesn’t really work that way…

Well, you probably would rather not have a cranky uterus, mad intestines, and ripple effects of a psychotic episode. Ya, me neither. And yet…I have gathered gold nugget after gold nugget during this experience and I’m not done yet. They are mine to keep and they grew out of struggle, pain, and sorrow. And ultimately….that’s what I want…right? The Master Healer is still at work, but I trust that I’ll come out of this a much better version of myself than I was before.

This beautiful version of “Savior, Redeemer of my Soul” has spoken to my heart so many times during my recovery. If there is one golden nugget I want to share today, it’s that Jesus Christ is real, and is way more aware of us personally than I ever realized. I know Him better now; He is full of mercy and compassion and weeps with us as we suffer. He rejoices as we learn by our own experience, wherever we are at right now, how to reach for Him, and reach for Him again.

He has promised to “fill with sweet my bitter cup” and I believe Him.

Savior, Redeemer of my soul,
Whose mighty hand hath made me whole,
Whose wondrous pow’r hath raised me up
And filled with sweet my bitter cup!
What tongue my gratitude can tell,
O gracious God of Israel.

Never can I repay thee, Lord,
But I can love thee. Thy pure word,
Hath it not been my one delight,
My joy by day, my dream by night?
Then let my lips proclaim it still,
And all my life reflect thy will.

O’errule mine acts to serve thine ends.
Change frowning foes to smiling friends.
Chasten my soul till I shall be
In perfect harmony with thee.
Make me more worthy of thy love,
And fit me for the life above.

Love,

Laura

Uncategorized

Tender Mercies (Part 4)

Photo by Chirag Nayak on Unsplash

When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,

My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply.

The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design

Thy dross to consume, thy dross to consume,

Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

(Hymn, “How Firm a Foundation”)

Hello again, friends! I hope you are having a happy sabbath day. I have some thoughts to share that I hope you will find meaningful. They sure have helped me.

First, though, I’d like to shout a “Hallelujah!” that tomorrow is surgery. We made it people. I’m grateful for the many prayers and thoughts that have been offered in behalf of us through this ordeal. We are so blessed to know so many good people and have felt so loved and taken care of. Thank you! I don’t actually feel much nervousness about surgery or the recovery- maybe that is just because of how clear it is that this will significantly positively influence my functionality and allow me to resume life the way I want to live it. I do really trust my doctor, and feel safe in his hands. That is a huge blessing.

One other side-note, in the middle of my crisis, my sister’s family has entered a crisis of their own. My brother-in-law is in a burn center in Iowa City and they are having tough days like THEY have never known. It’s easy to go the route of pity (our poor family!), or even frustration (what the heck?!) but though my heart aches for their family (and I don’t love our situation either!), I also can see what a blessing it has been to not suffer alone- for either of us. Three weeks ago if you had told me that me and my brother-in-law would both have some scary experiences with mental health, I’m not sure I would have believed you- how unlikely! And yet within a week of my scary episode, my brother-in-law has had some very frightening experiences mentally as well as terrible pain and trauma.

I don’t say this to minimize the pain of their experience, but in the vein of tender mercies, I (and they!) are seeing SO MANY tender mercies for EVERYONE involved in the ordeal. Don’t get me wrong- my heart absolutely aches for them too, as I see the suffering and struggling and tears. But I have to share a few of the blessings I’m seeing. One is that I have felt the power of our family relationships growing to a place I never could have anticipated a month ago. My relationship with my sisters will NEVER be the same after this. I also hope to NEVER experience what I had to go through again in my life, but somehow it has become something of a blessing in the sense that I can provide some support and comfort to Otto (that’s my brother-in-law and faster to type!) that I could not have done before my experience. Another really amazing thing to see is that Heavenly Father is teaching me things and helping me see His hand in my experience as I reach out and support Otto and family. It is with them in mind that I share an experience that is tender for me and brought me peace in the middle of my storm.

We arrived in bad shape at my parent’s house on a Thursday and that weekend was really hard. I was grateful that my husband came down and stayed (rescheduled two full work days so he could be with us until I was in a better place mentally and physically) for a long weekend but he had to go back and work on that next Tuesday. I don’t remember if it was Tuesday or Wednesday that a friend of my Mom’s mentioned that Hank Smith, a well known LDS youth speaker (very entertaining!) was going to do a devotional with the teenagers that are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in this area (via zoom). She told me what time it was and told me she was looking forward to it. I thought it was a fun idea, but didn’t expect to actually watch it because my mom was teaching piano lessons during that afternoon and it seemed like just one more thing that I wasn’t up to dealing with. Those days I felt so weak and fragile and wasn’t able to do much. But while my mom fixed dinner she turned it on and it was just going while I sat nearby on the couch. It didn’t take me long to get hooked- he was so fun to listen to.

As we started eating dinner, we kept listening and he started talking about a story that I am familiar with- and even familiar with the symbolism some members of our church have talked about in regards to it. But his approach touched me so deeply, so I thought I’d retell what I remember from his story so you can enjoy it as well.

There was a building in Provo, Utah called the Provo Tabernacle. It was a really historic church building, built before the turn of the century in the late 1800’s, an all brick building. Besides being the meeting place for numerous church meets on Sundays through many decades and including many generations, it also had been a place of other neat church meetings over the years where many prominent leaders of our church had spoken. It was a sacred, special building for many members of our church and a special, historic building in the community.

In 2010, the building caught fire, and by the time the fire was put out, the damage was devastating. The entire building was charred and gutted by the fire. Interestingly there was only one picture that survived the fire- you can find out which one if you google it (another super cool detail from the story). Anyway, it was heart-wrenching for many to see this beautiful building burned to ashes. Not long after the fire, one of Hank Smith’s friends was asked by the leaders of our church if he could figure out a way to preserve the outer brick shell which was actually in decent shape, and lift the shell in order to create a stable foundation for rebuilding the structure. They preferred that to knocking the building down and starting over. The friend said it couldn’t be done- there simply wasn’t the technology in place in order to do something like that to an 1800’s brick shell. The leaders simply said, “We believe in you!” Amazingly (and you can google pictures of this too) they found a way to gradually raise the building shell up into the air, and later even higher in order to put in a basement. It was unbelievable what they were able to accomplish, and really the only explanation is that they had heavenly help.

The crews eventually poured a new foundation and it was announced in a General Conference that the old provo tabernacle would be transformed into a temple. Many members gasped. A temple? The most sacred of our buildings? We were in awe. Soon the frame was set back down and modified and eventually in the place of a scarred, burned, gutted building, there stood a magnificent temple. What an amazing transformation- really there aren’t words to describe the beauty that literally came from ashes.

At the end of this telling, Hank Smith showed two pictures on his screen side by side. I’ll see if I can find two to put up here after I finish writing this. One picture was of the charred remains of the Provo Tabernacle. The other was of the finished Provo City Center Temple. He asked us to pretend for a moment that we are that burned down building. What could our prayer sound like? What is the prayer of the burned down building? Here are some suggestions:

“How could you do this to me? I’ve tried to be good all these years. HOW could you DO THIS TO ME?! Why didn’t you stop the fire if you knew this was going to happen? Where WERE you? I feel so alone. So broken. I don’t even know if you’re really there anymore.” I could relate to this prayer so deeply and felt a sense of deep healing taking place as he then said, “Ok, now you are going to pretend for a moment that you are Heavenly Father. You can see both pictures- where the building is now, and what it is going to become. Tell the person next to you what He might say to the burned building.” Take a minute to think about what He might say.

My first thought was “Just wait” but I liked Hank Smith’s version so much better: “Hold on, you’re gonna love what comes next!” Isn’t that neat?!

And then what is the prayer of the finished temple? It’s “Thank you. Thank you.”

As I listened to all of this, my heart found great comfort. For one thing, I felt validated, realizing that it is ok to feel burned down and even wonder if we’ve been abandoned when we’re going through hard times. It doesn’t mean we should turn away from God, but it’s ok to ask those questions of “Where were you? Do you care?” Those questions help us find healing, help us reach for Him. He knows we’re hurting, and he doesn’t criticize us for that, nor does he expect us to go through it without struggling, crying, suffering…He knows exactly what we’re experiencing. But what I loved the most is that I could feel Heavenly Father and my Savior comforting MY heart as Hank said the words, “Hold on, you’re gonna love what comes next!” I felt that so deeply, and believed that was true, even though I sure couldn’t see what really that would look like. And I definitely was not in the place of saying “Thank you” for the challenges I had walked through…but even 2 weeks later, as I have felt empathy for Otto’s pain and my sister’s suffering in a different way than I would have, there is a part of me that is already starting to say “Thank you” (and thank you very much, I’d rather not do it ever again, too!). Isn’t that beautiful?

I shared with my sister today something that goes right along with that. This is something a friend told me about 2 weeks ago, before I arrived at my parent’s house. This is what I wrote to my sister:

“In the process of refining silver (I think it’s silver? Maybe she was referring to gold…either way…) there is an optimal amount of heat to put it through- too little doesn’t finish the purifying process, too much and the silver is ruined…Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ know exactly how much we need in order to become who we need to become and will ONLY allow the amount of suffering that is needed for growth- and not one second more…The atonement of Jesus Christ was accomplished the same way- not a little extra suffering for good measure or just in case- only the amount that was absolutely needed and not one more drop of blood.”

I think it is imperative to realize that “The wind and waves still know His voice who ruled them while he dwelt below.” (This is a line from “Be Still My Soul.”). To me this means that our Savior and Heavenly Father obviously have the power to step in and stop fires, literal and figurative in our lives. Sometimes they protect us from the fire, and sometimes there are purposes for allowing the fire to happen. HOWEVER- they will not let it burn any longer than ABSOLUTELY necessary- any longer than will be for our good, our transformation, or exaltation. They will never let it get beyond the optimal heat. That is comforting to me when I see Otto suffering and wonder why and how long. I don’t know the answers to either of those, but I do know that Heavenly Father, hearing each prayer, is comforting us, weeping with us, and is also sending us the gentle, hopeful message, “Hold on, you’re gonna love what comes next.”

I don’t want to breach copyright, so I’ll let you look up pictures, but if you’d like to watch a quick 7-minute video that takes you through the story of the building burning down and the temple being built, hop on this website:

https://www.ldsliving.com/Interior-Photos-Provo-City-Center-Temple/s/80971

Love,

Laura

Uncategorized

Guest Post: Emily Shill

Hello again, friends! I want to share an uplifting talk given by my sister, Emily Shill, 2 weeks ago. It speaks to how important the role of women is in these tumultuous days. Although it specifically references our religious beliefs (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints), it is an empowering, widely applicable message that anyone can relate to. Thank you, Em, for allowing me to share!

I love being a woman in the church in the last days. Let me tell you why. Women and  men alike are bombarded with messages, often contentious and confusing about who  they are, and what they should want out of life. God has promised that for those who  are sincere in heart, He will teach us, guide us, and bless us with both knowledge and  power from heaven- knowledge to know who we are, what we are capable of, and  what he expects of us, and power to accomplish His work and purposes.  

In our Come Follow Me lesson this week, we studied a talk by Sister Julie B Beck,  former General Relief Society President, entitled, “Upon the handmaids in those days  will I pour out my Spirit.” We are His handmaids, we live in “those days” prophesied  anciently, and we know, from this scripture in the book of Joel that, as we qualify  ourselves, we have unlimited access to His spirit to guide and bless us.  

The term handmaid means servant, and you’ll remember, in the book of Luke, Mary, the  mother of Christ uses this term when she makes the declaration, “Behold, the  handmaid of the Lord.” Like Mary, we can face overwhelming tasks with the same  humility and determination to be His dedicated servants, trusting in His power to guide  us in our work.  

President Spencer W. Kimball has been quoted as saying,  

“Much of the major growth that is coming to the church in the last days will come  because many of the good women of the world (in whom there is often such an inner  sense of spirituality) will be drawn to the church in large numbers. This will happen to  the degree that the women of the church reflect righteousness and articulateness in  their lives and to the degree that the women of the church are seen as distinct and  different- in happy ways- from the women of the world….  

Thus it will be that female exemplars of the church will be a significant force in both the  numerical and spiritual growth of the church in the last days.” 

And Sister Eliza R Snow said the following: 

We know the Lord has laid high responsibility upon us, and there is not a wish or desire  that the Lord has implanted in our hearts in righteousness, but will be realized, and the  greatest good we can do to ourselves and each other is to refine and cultivate  ourselves in everything that is good and ennobling to qualify us for those  responsibilities. 

The following statement from Sister Beck outlines what a few of those responsibilities  are: 

“The Lord depends on His daughters to do their part to strengthen the homes of Zion,  and build His kingdom on earth.” Breaking it down even further, we are to build faith,  strengthen home and family, and provide RELIEF. I love that image, or the daughters of  God going about, providing relief to those in need. 

Qualifying for the Lord’s work, and becoming practiced and skilled at seeking and  receiving His guidance and power in our lives is a pre-requisite to doing His work. It  occurred to me while preparing this talk that if we are anxiously engaged in qualifying  ourselves for this great work, we don’t have a lot of time or energy left over to worry  much about how the world defines us or what the world expects of us.  

At baptism, we are given the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the promise that we can  “always have His spirit to be with us.” But receiving this gift is just the beginning of  understanding how to use it.  

As we studied D&C 8 this week, I was particularly struck by this scripture in vs 2-3:  

Behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost which shall  come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.  

Now behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses,  brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground.”  

Do we realize the magnitude of that statement? In the last days, His spirit will be  poured out upon his servants and handmaids. That means, we have unlimited access  to that same spirit that Moses used to create miracles for the children of Israel. The  same spirit that parted waters, changed hearts, saved lives. Miracles will be done  according the Lord’s will and His timing, but we can be the conduit for those miracles,  just as Moses was in ancient times.  

The Lord reinforces this in vs 8: Therefore, doubt not, for it is the gift of God; and you  shall hold it in your hands, and do marvelous works; and no power shall be able to take  it away out of your hands, for it is the work of God.  

Now let’s go back again to our baptismal covenants and look carefully at the wording.  What does it mean that we can “always have His spirit to be with us?” We know we are  imperfect. We know we are easily distracted, and make a lot of mistakes that can drive  the spirit away. Yet, President Eyring, in a talk given to the young adults reminded them  that in the Book of Mormon, we learn about Lehi and Nephi- sons of the prophet  Helaman, who qualified through their righteousness to “receive many revelations daily.”  President Eyring points out that this story teaches us that, “yes, it is possible to have  the companionship of the Holy Ghost sufficiently to have many revelations daily. It will  not be easy, he says, but it is possible.”  

I learned a powerful lesson recently on how to make that more possible in my life.  

It was in a rare quiet moment taking the sacrament in my home just a few months ago,  when it dawned on me with such obviousness I was almost embarrassed I hadn’t  noticed it before. The promise that I can always have His spirit to be with me is directly  linked to my part of the covenant. Each time I keep His commandments with a little  more exactness, each time I stand as His witness, I invite His spirit in greater  measures. And the call to “always remember Him” in particular stood out to me- 

Always remembering Him is no small order, but the greater my commitment to  remember, the greater the frequency and intensity of my access to His spirit. Always  having His spirit to be with me is a reality to the extent at which I am willing and able to  always remember Him. For me, my ability to always remember him depends on  committing to purposeful morning and evening prayers. It means carving out quiet time  for scripture study and quiet reflection and recording my impressions. It means  repenting often. Sometimes, as silly as it may seem, I’ve set a timer throughout my day  to make me stop in the middle of the chaos and reflect, repent, and reset. It’s in the  times I’ve been consistent at those things that I feel His presence and His power the  most.  

Always having His spirit to be with me is essential if I am to do His work. I have found  that I get this right about 2% of the time. But when I do get it right, I catch glimpses of  heaven, and what I am capable of with heaven’s help. Sister Beck says, “When women  nurture as Christ Nurtured, a power and peace can descend to guide when help is  needed. It requires a conscious effort to diminish distractions, but having the spirit of  revelation makes it possible to prevail over opposition and persist in faith through  difficult days and routine tasks.  

SO…..Having access to His spirit is what allows me to build faith, strengthen my home  and family, and provide relief. Sister Beck promises, “We can feel certain that the Lord  is pleased when we feel the spirit working through us.” Here are just of few of the ways  I believe that can happen: 

I can provide relief to those around me when I have the spirit to help me: – be His eyes and ears- following small impressions to see those who need to be seen  and hear those who need to be heard.  

– Help me be his hands- following small impressions to know who needs small acts of  service, or remind me of important or difficult days in the lives of others that need  acknowledgement or extra support. 

– Help me to be His voice- knowing when to speak out for truth, and having the words  to do so with love and without contention. Knowing when, how, and with whom to  share the gospel. The spirit can also give me the courage and the words, and the  availability and the willingness to use my voice when He asks me to.  – Help me to lift burdens, mourn with those that mourn, and share love with those that  feel alone.  

– And finally, the spirit can and MUST help me to feel peace that my part is enough,  and give me the wisdom to prioritize. Sister Beck said, “A good woman knows that she  does not have enough time, energy, or opportunity to take care of all of the people or  do all of the worthy things her heart years to do. With Personal revelation, she can  prioritize correctly and navigate this life confidently.”  

I can strengthen my home and family if I have the spirit to help me:  Maintain perspective and gratitude for my blessings when I feel impatient or tired.  – I need it to detect and avoid dangerous situations that could put my family at risk  physically, (that’s funny at our house) emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. 

– I need it to be able to take quick and clear action in the face of danger, and I definitely  need it to help calm my fears and anxieties about my children’s safety. I have had real  and clear experiences in my life where I have been able to clearly see the Lord’s hand  and feel Him close to me, helping me in my work of protection even in the frightening  moments. The spirit gives me strength to strengthen my home.  

– I need it to detect the clever deception and decoys of the adversary, and have the  words and means to teach my children to do the same.  

– I need it to discern the varying, changing, and different needs of each of my five  children. What does each of them need from me each day? Which one needs extra  love, extra forgiveness, or extra attention? Which one needs to feel more seen and  heard? When do I do a better job of teaching, and when do I stop lecturing and do a  better job of listening?  

– And the most difficult for me, and perhaps the most essential: I need the spirit to  know how and when to slow down enough to create a space for opportunities where  moments, conversations, questions, and quality time happen. Those moments that I  never would otherwise know I had missed.  

Receiving revelation takes work, effort, and practice. We will hear the Lord’s voice and  see His hand guiding us more clearly with every effort we make. Sister Beck promises  that personal revelation will come to us when we 1. Ask for it, 2. Prepare for it, 3. Go  forward in faith, 4. TRUSTING that (notice the same words that Joel uses here) it will be  POURED out upon us. 

Sisters our call to serve is great, and our mission essential. The words of one of our  hymns makes the bold statement, “The errand of angels is given to women, and this is  a GIFT that as SISTERS we claim. We can, and must rise to our errand- to build faith,  strengthen home and family, and provide relief to a troubled world. I know that  engaging in His work is the means by which we qualify for His power, access His  peace, and experience true joy. 

Have a wonderful week, my friends!

Love,

Laura