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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

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Tender Mercies (Part 3)

Hello friends! This has been a really wild 2 weeks. Because I hate not being in the loop, I thought I’d quickly share where we’ve been and where we are so that you know. I’ve previously shared that I have surgery scheduled for February 22nd to get my uterus out. I’ve been having problems for some time that have recently been accelerating. Last week the pain and nausea got bad enough that I was having a hard time eating and drinking and at some point I slipped into a type of psychotic episode where I was not fully in touch with reality for a time. It was short-lived and everyone is safe, but it was terrifying. Fortunately, Jon and my parents and guardian angels helped me get to a safe place (my parent’s house) where I could rest and regroup. As my mental fog lifted, I could feel how much pain I was in and my uterus ended up deciding to go into labor (!!!) so I ended up going to the ER this past Monday. I was hoping for an emergency hysterectomy (get this thing out!) but instead they said that everything except my uterus and pain levels looked healthy and they sent me home with more medicine to wait it out until surgery. The surgery date cannot be changed (you can bet I was pretty persuasive!) so we are holding tight until the 22nd. I’m staying with my parents until surgery and my husband will be bopping back and forth between home and my parent’s house. The kids are with me.

I find it interesting that I already had set up this series of documenting “Tender Mercies” happening along this very difficult path before everything hit the fan a week ago. I don’t think that’s by chance, and I have felt drawn to continuing this series of posts with the purpose of choosing to see the good, to see God, in the details of the experience I have walked through. I’m not gonna say it was all pretty and peaceful- cause it WASN’T. There was a point at which I wanted to yell, “How GENTLE God’s commands? Gentle? This has been anything but gentle- I feel traumatized. Where was He when I needed Him most?” My heart was raw and in the middle of it, I felt a sense of betrayal or abandonment.

As I have been healing this week, I have been blessed to begin to see the evidence that I was never really alone- even in the darkest, scariest moments. Heavenly Father simply does not ask us to do it alone. I’m grateful for a Savior who understands exactly what I’ve been experiencing, and for angels seen and unseen that have been able to do for me what I couldn’t do for myself. As I continue to move forward, I need the excuse to dwell on the good I can see, and share the things I’m learning from walking through some really challenging experiences. So you can plan on several posts over the next little while that add to my “tender mercies” series. For now, I want to share two links- you know that music is my thing 🙂 so of course it’s music that first helped me feel hope. I hope you enjoy these two pieces that lifted my spirits, and maybe save them for a rainy day when life feels extra hard and it’s tough to remember YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFIFH42ITpg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azfG6WCJzrY&feature=youtu.be

Love,

Laura

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Tender Mercies (Part 2)

Yesterday, my mom commented (through text), “Wow. You are on a journey…” That’s about the best way I can sum up my experiences lately. Are you ready for the next installment? This is part two of this multi-month adventure, so if you missed part one, check the previous blog post and it’ll catch you up to speed.

Surgery is scheduled- February 22nd. Less than a month away. As a quick review- I’m getting this uterus OUT. It’s getting evicted. I’m so done with it. Hallelujah! Until then….lots of slowing down and yet…its only kind of slowing down…I’ll fill you in, but first, I have to follow up my last post by telling you about my Savior being near.

Picture yourself flailing around in an ocean somewhere far from shore (though the shore is visible- it’s just quite a ways away). You’re getting a little worried you might drown because the water is choppy, deep, and cold, and your muscles will only hold out so long. Can you see it?

Ok so then here is the question. If the Savior is there in this mental picture, where is He? This is not “where do you want him to be,” but how close is He to you? Right now? (Hold that thought till I come back to it!)

I began studying about the Savior in earnest this past fall after two priesthood blessings that directed me to do so. I was instructed that I need to learn about how much He loves me and learn how to draw on His power, daily. I was surprised by this instruction. I thought I had been learning about him and was trying to implement the things I was learning about drawing on His power. But apparently there was a lot more that I needed to learn, and for whatever reason, I was now in a position to learn it. Perhaps it had something to do with the whole “slowing down” I was doing physically- that I had much more time and space to ponder than before. (As it turned out, YES, it did have a lot to do with slowing down!)

One day my husband Jon and I began to talk about how capable we are. Doesn’t that sound conceited! In this context, it wasn’t really a positive thing. We were talking about how much we can handle, and how we’ve been blessed with some really good genetics- bright, active minds and healthy (for the most part!) bodies. We have a lot to give and we know it. That is a good thing- unless we try to do this life thing all ourselves and forget to turn to the Savior. We were talking about how if we’re feeling like we’re drowning (with whatever responsibilities are on our plate right at the moment), both of us tend to just start swimming as hard and fast as we can, figuring that we’d better lose no time trying to get to shore. We can probably make it before we pass out or drown…

We were laughing about that, but it also raised a question: in this analogy, where do we picture the Savior? How far away is He? For some reason, I pictured Him on this far distant shore calling out “It’s gonna be ok! I got you!” as I splutter “Great, thanks for the support, but I’ve gotta start swimming with everything I’ve got in me or I’m gonna drown!” Now an important aside is that I fully believe that if I indeed was fully drowning, He’d be there in a second somehow; I don’t know how, I just know He’ll save me. He’s the Savior- that’s what He does. He has that kind of power. I’ve always believed that. But if I have one ounce of energy left, He’s on the shore still. Way off in the distance. The thought made me squirm. And I wondered, why do I picture him that far away?

Jon’s next question caught me off-guard: “What if Jesus Christ is right there in a lifeboat at our side? What if the whole time He’s inviting us into the boat and instead we’re swimming like a crazy person toward “Him” at the distant shoreline- figuring that’s our only option?” We laughed as we thought how ridiculous we’d look swimming like crazy with Him reaching out His arm right at our side. “Come,” He invites. “Come all ye that are heavy-laden and I will give you rest.” The truth of that rang in my ears and as I went about my day. I couldn’t get it off my mind. Is it really that simple? How does that change things if he’s really right there? Is he really that close? Why have I been picturing Him so far away? I don’t expect Him to give me a free-ride through life- surely that’s not the purpose…I assume there will still be miles to swim and obstacles to deal with, but how does that change things if He’s really right there?

That evening I had my first opportunity to put this analogy to the test. I was feeling highly anxious about some of my symptoms and felt myself wanting to go into “high intensity swim” mode. You know the feeling- that I should research all over the internet what my symptoms mean and try to solve the physical problem so I can feel peace. Before going there though, the Holy Ghost whispered, “What if He’s really right there?” I found myself stopped in my tracks. I looked up at a picture of Jesus Christ that hangs on our wall and I just pondered for a few moments. I pictured myself reaching out my hand and taking His. And the truth of His closeness rushed over me again. “What if He’s really right there?” I thought. How does that change things? As I continued to ponder that week, I decided it makes ALL the difference. It means I can learn and try and swim WITHOUT THE DANGER OF DROWNING. I cannot drown with Him right there. It’s the way to find peace in the MIDDLE of whatever I’m experiencing.

A line from one of my favorite hymns was running through my mind often (the hymn is “How Gentle God’s Commands”): “I’ll drop my burdens at His feet and bear a song away.” Bear a song away. I WANT that buoyancy in the middle of the struggle. Drop my burdens- suddenly it felt so much more available with Him right close to me instead of at the distant shore (picture trying to throw a heavy suitcase to shore- ha!). I began to realize in a new way that dropping my burdens at his feet is the ONLY way to really find peace and buoyancy in my life.

Another line became important too (from Be Still My Soul): “Be Still.” Once again I found meaning in the analogy: I can only really find stillness if I know I’m not going to drown- not with Him right here. I can trust Him. I am safe with Him. I can be still. The moments of stillness and peace were feeling more frequent but people, I’m human. And the symptoms suck. And I am highly anxious a lot. So don’t go thinking I know how to do this perfectly, cause I don’t. But I could see clearly where I was headed, and it felt SO. GOOD.

That moment that I was highly anxious was the first of a strand of moments. It wasn’t all at once, but little by little I found I was changing. My faith in Jesus Christ was growing- faith that He was there for ME. I kept asking the question, “What is He right here for?” It almost felt startling at first, as if I was discovering that someone had been sitting right next to me and I hadn’t realized it.

With this new thought process I found myself feeling Jesus Christ’s love for me more than I had before. I have always known my Heavenly Father loves me- and I have felt that love and closeness often. One way I strengthen that relationship is by speaking with Him in prayer every night. Being a very verbal person, I find that closeness somewhat easy to experience. And I have had many experiences feeling communication through the scriptures- just what I need to know to get through a tough time, or direction, or truth.

Since I don’t specifically talk to my Savior in prayer, yet he’s there (as we close in the name of Jesus Christ), I guess I always figured that the closeness to Heavenly Father was kind of the same for my Savior. They work together, are one in purpose…etc…even though they are two distinct beings. But I guess I never thought much about how much my Savior loved me personally, and differently from my Heavenly Father- though it makes sense since a relationship with different people is always different! I have always known that Jesus Christ volunteered to be my Savior because he loves me. He suffered for my sins and imperfections and He died for me. But something was different these days- I was feeling His love and compassion in a way that I knew was only possible because He was nearer than I ever realized (it wasn’t Him that changed, it was me!).

As I began feeling Jesus Christ’s love more often, I kept revisiting the idea that there is power available to us through the atonement of Jesus Christ- but how do we access that power? Because of feeling him closer, and feeling His love, would I be able to draw on His power in a new way than I had learned to before?

The next question I began mulling over often was “What is His power for?” I knew that it wasn’t likely that He would use his power to just solve all my physical symptoms…though I was sure he COULD if He chose to. It just kind of felt like my path to experience. But if it’s not for that, then what is it for? Peace? Joy? Strength to endure? Yes, all of those and more…but for some reason a part of the answer kept feeling out of my reach. Somehow, perhaps through the words of the blessing, I knew that I would discover some important things as I continued to ask, seek, and knock. Little did I know that a lot of that learning would come in the form of music.

(To be continued…)

Thought

Tender Mercies

Hello friends! Last year went fast and slow. My youngest son broke his leg at the beginning of this year before the world shut down from COVID and it seems like that happened years ago!

Today I’m writing to you from the couch with a heating pad on my mid-section. It’s been an interesting few months for me. I’m hoping to share more music soon, but in the meantime, I thought I’d share a few thoughts.

A few weeks ago, I met with my doctor and we decided that I need a hysterectomy. It’s not a surprise to me- in fact, 8 years ago my doctor was pretty sure I’d need to have a hysterectomy. At that time I prayed and prayed to be able to keep my uterus (what was I thinking! Ha!). For one thing, I was sure that a girl was coming to our family (we had already named her Lily!) and she needed a way to get here! (At the time we didn’t feel like fostering or adoption was part of our path…). Anyway, after 8 years where my health has been…less than desirable, and since we have been at peace for some time with our family being complete, I readily agreed that it was time to do surgery.

In the meantime, I get to figure out what to do with the limited energy I have. It seems that over the last several years I have gotten so good at tuning out my body that I didn’t “hear it” talking to me until it was yelling at me (aka I pretty much could not do ANYTHING else and had to lay down). How else do you do whatcha gotta do? Slowing down didn’t feel like an option with 3 boys to keep up with and a sweetheart to support, as with no end in sight to the health issues, pushing on and doing whatever I could do was my best option.

However, this issue is one that cannot be muscled through…and therefore I have literally had to slow down. A lot. Why is slowing down hard? That is the weirdest thing. Relaxing feels good. Deciding to put up your feet and pamper yourself feels good. Watching a show at the end of the day when you’ve worked hard feels good. Stopping when you have a lot that you want to or feel like you should do? Hard. Gratefully receiving the giving from others instead of feeling guilty and wondering if really you should have just pushed through and done it and spared them the work? Hard. Wondering if there’s anything you did to contribute to the pain that you could do differently…but not knowing what that would be? Hard. So I won’t lie and tell you it’s been all silver linings because it has STRETCHED me big time.

Can I tell you something else though? It has been amazing. Really. And honestly part of the reason I am sharing this is because I NEED to share it. This afternoon I was reading the creation story, and as I read about God seeing what he had done and saying that “It is good” I reflected on the power of dwelling on the good. Seeing the good. Looking for the good. He wasn’t focused on how mangy animals look when they’re about to shed, or how many days were gloomy in England this month…perhaps that is why God is so good at joy- he looks for it and focuses on it…So for anyone that wants to keep reading, I’m going to share the good because I need to dwell on it today.

In early October, I was watching a church conference when I had a very distinct thought that I needed to call up my OBGYN and make a physical appointment with him. “What?” I wondered. Things had actually been quite a bit better with my female parts since getting an endometrial ablation last September- so of all the times in the last 8 years to make an appointment with this doctor, right then felt a little….unusual. And unneeded! But the thought felt so distinct that I was sure it came from the Holy Ghost and I acted on it- I made an appointment. They were totally booked up until December (!) and since I was in no hurry, I made the appointment for December 18th and wondered why I just did that.

That next week I started having thoughts about getting a hysterectomy- which also felt way out of the blue. I told my brother in law the story of a friend of mine walking into my life just when I needed her. It was about 8 years ago when I thought that I may need to get a hysterectomy- and I found out that she had gotten a hysterectomy many years before. She provided the comfort I needed as she talked about what a positive difference it had made in her life. A few days after retelling that experience, I needed to stop by this same friend’s house for something and I felt a nudge to talk to her about a hysterectomy again. I did, and we had a half hour long conversation where I was teary-eyed, and when I left I was pretty sure I needed to get a hysterectomy. But I still had no idea why! This was still early October.

About a week later, in mid- October, I started having strange symptoms- I felt like I was coming down with the flu (achy, yucky, tired) and then the pain and nausea…etc. The symptoms lasted about two weeks, went away for two weeks, and then they pretty much…haven’t gone away since. Some days are better, some are worse, but the symptoms are there. At first I was really focused on getting through the pain/nausea/etc until the next reprieve…until the reprieve didn’t come and I was left with finding a new strategy. I spent some time trying to figure out what caused the pain so I could do something about it. Also futile- the ultrasound showed some internal problems that (go figure) need surgery…so there’s not much I can do about it. And the things I think might help sometimes help and sometimes don’t. Dead end.

It didn’t take me long to put two and two together. This is why I needed to schedule an exam with my doctor, and it’s also why I felt the need to think about getting a hysterectomy. The more I thought about it though, the more grateful I felt- God, my loving Heavenly Father, knew about all this before I did (of course He did!). He made it very clear to me that He was aware of me, and that He is taking care of me and that He loves me- even before I knew why I would need that message. (!!!!) The word that kept occurring to me was “mercy”. He didn’t have to do that! But he knew it would make the road I would need to walk easier if I knew before it happened that He cared. So that’s exactly what He did.

Well friends, His love has felt wonderful. Heavenly Father has been listening to my prayers and has led me through this challenge through promptings from the Holy Ghost. You know what has been even more amazing to me though? Through this whole episode, I have discovered how personal our relationship with Jesus Christ can be. And how nearby He is. HE IS!!! This morning I felt like I wanted to shout it from the rooftops. Jesus Christ is near, he is there to help, to strengthen, to empathize, to help you make more of your life than you ever thought possible. He is there.

I have more to say, but this will have to do for now.

Happy New Year, all!

Love

Laura

Tell Me a Story...

Exploring: The Story

Photo by Vlad Tchompalov on Unsplash

This is too fun! This was my second attempt at a 30 minute piece!

This piece reminds me of my two mini-scientists exploring the world of Zoology this week (in homeschool). It has been so much fun to catch ants for our ant farm, take a walk to try to find a worm (no luck!) and order a caterpillar to butterfly kit that we are anticipating will come tomorrow!

Here is my 30 second masterpiece #2!

Exploring