Sunday, September 28, 2014

Lessons From Family History

For the past year or so I have been spending a lot of time on family history. And I mean a LOT! Have you ever read those "Family History Moments" in the Church News? You know, the ones where someone has been searching for years with no luck and suddenly they meet a random stranger who happens to have thousands of names ready for the temple or something equally miraculous? That has been my year.

Well, sort of.

I have, in fact, been overwhelmed with information about families that seemed to have appeared one day with no past history. I have met distant relatives who had a wealth of information for me. I have seen photographs of people who lived and died long before I was ever born. It has been humbling and deeply gratifying.

But many unexpected blessings have come about because of this. I used to think I understood the Spirit of Elijah. I now know that I was clueless.

I have learned about my ancestors lives. I have looked at more than names and dates and places. I have been able to see the bigger picture. I can imagine what they felt when they immigrated to America. I can better understand the efforts they made to survive in the rural frontiers. I can better understand the heartache of loss when their children died from war and disease. I can marvel at their longevity in a time when the average life expectancy was quite short. I have laughed at the strange names they gave their children. I have raised an eyebrow at their scandals. No matter what I learn I feel deeper love and respect. I also feel hope.

There have been many challenges in our family in recent years. When you are in the middle of those problems, whether they come one after another or all at once or are on-going, they can seem overwhelming. I sometimes feel frustrated that life is not easier, that the perfect life I imagine is just a mirage. At times I have been deeply discouraged. Learning about my ancestors has given me better perspective.

I realize that they, too, had dreams and fears, trials and triumphs. I find myself feeling very blessed to have so many luxuries. I am ashamed of my slothfulness when I see what they were able to accomplish. I see the ripple of their choices, both good and bad, through their children and grandchildren.

Most of all, I want to be worthy to stand with them someday. I want to add to the legacy they have left behind in a way that would make them proud. I want to be a person who will one day engender such feelings in future generations.

I never knew such blessings were possible.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Life Is A Battlefield

Life is a battlefield. (Doesn't that sound like a Pat Benatar song?) Seriously, though, I sometimes feel like I have spent my day fighting an unseen enemy, dropping into bed exhausted, only to wake up and do it all over again the next morning. Too dramatic? I think not.

During my first year of early-morning seminary, we studied the Book of Mormon. Our teacher got really excited about the so-called war chapters. He kept telling us that we were preparing for our own battles. He even went so far as to print T-shirts that said "Statesville Pre-Battle School" for us to wear as a seminary class. It felt a little much at the time but not exactly wrong either.

More than 20 years later, I see it. I see the war between good and evil raging around me. We have been warned for centuries that this day would come. Were we prepared?

It seems that some of these evils are so subtle, so unassuming, that they sneak up on us. We turn around and there they are, ready to strike.

I was feeling burdened by these thoughts last fall. I was feeling anxious about sending my children out into that battlefield. I wanted to keep them home, safe and hidden from the horrors of "war". Yet I struggled. How could they be a force for good if they were locked away in our fortress? How could we possibly defeat the enemy if we didn't go out to meet it?

This is where my mind was during Stake Conference in September 2013. The closing speaker was President Micheal Hamilton. He started talking about the rescue at Dunkirk. Suddenly, my mind was not on his talk but my own concerns for my children. My thoughts were filled with images and ideas as though they were being poured into me. Here is what I wrote in my notes:

We get injured and dirty in the fight against evil but we are on the winning side. We will heal, we will be clean again but we must fight. We can't hide in our pristine caves in the hopes of remaining unharmed and undamaged.

I kept remembering the Stripling Warriors. They were young men who chose to help defend their homes and freedoms. After one difficult battle, we learn

...there were two hundred, out of my two thousand and sixty, who had fainted because of the loss of blood; nevertheless, according to the goodness of God, and to our great astonishment, and also the joy of our whole army, there was not one soul of them who did perish; yea, and neither was there one soul among them who had not received many wounds. Alma 57:25 (emphasis added)

All were wounded but none were lost. I felt some-what reassured but I was still struggling with my fears and shortcomings. How could I ensure that my children would be able to survive this war? Another scripture came to mind.

...wtalk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins. 2 Nephi 25:26 (emphasis added)

That was it. The solution to my problem was already in place. I felt peace. Still a little afraid but no longer overwhelmed.

I have thought of this experience often in the past year. This month, the Ensign included an article about protecting our children against pornography. The first few paragraphs were so close to my experience that I had chills!

This past weekend we had Stake Conference again. In his closing remarks, President Hamilton said "Filth splashes on all of us. He doesn't care how pretty it is as long as we get back to him."

I used to think that if we were keeping the commandments, trying our best to do what is right, we would be safe from the spiritual dangers of this world. Now I know better. There may have been a time when it was easier to avoid the splash of filth. Not now, not today as we are preparing for the second coming of Christ. 

But that is no reason to loose hope. Our Heavenly Father knew these days would come. He knew what trials we would face. He prepared a way for us to overcome them. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ we can all be cleaned and cured from every injury. Because of Him, there is no need to fear.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Flood The Earth Challenge: Like, Share, Comment

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, recently spoke at Brigham Young University about the power of social media. ( It is a REALLY awesome talk! You should listen to the whole thing to get the full impact of his words!) He encouraged all of us to use social media to share gospel truths.

What has been accomplished thus far in this dispensation communicating gospel messages through social media channels is a good beginning, but only a small trickle. I now extend to you the invitation to help transform the trickle into a flood. Beginning at this place on this day, I exhort you to sweep the earth with messages filled with righteousness and truth -- messages that are authentic, edifying and praiseworthy -- and literally to sweep the earth as with a flood.
           Let that sink in for a minute. We have been sharing trickles of truth with the world. Now we need to              flood it.  But how?

I have simple, personal goal. My goal is to post one uplifting, gospel related message on social media every day. I encourage you to do the same.  But I know that is not enough. I realize that a message needs to be "popular" to remain at the top of a news feed and reach more people. How can I make my uplifting posts visible?

When I share something funny I get over 50 "likes" and about half a dozen comments. Without fail. That one status post will remain at the top of the feed for days. Why?

Because everyone who sees it "likes" it!

That is where all of you come in. My "Flood the Earth " Challenge is simple. Every time you see an uplifting, gospel related post, whether it is a video, photo, article, or quote do one or all of the following: "like" it, "share" it, comment on it. That's it! If we support one another's efforts to spread positive messages we will truly be able to flood the earth with the gospel!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Why I Can't Do It

I have a problem.
This problem is very hard to deal with at times.
It is difficult for others to understand.
I do not have this problem because of something I did wrong.
This problem keeps me from enjoying all the blessings God has promised.
I don't want to have this problem.
I struggle daily.
Sometimes I question why God would allow this to happen.
Why doesn't he remove this burden from my life?
Why me? Why do I have to suffer with this issue while others do not?
Haven't I been faithful?
Haven't I been obedient?
It isn't fair that I should have this problem.
I don't deserve this.
I didn't choose this.
I want it fixed. I want it gone.
God hasn't removed this problem so why should I obey him? Why should I trust him?
I want it to be okay that I have this problem.
I want others to make exceptions for me.
The rules shouldn't apply to me because I have a problem.
It would be different if I was like everyone else but I'm not.
I am different.
My problems are different.
I need different answers.

What is my problem?
Substance abuse
Old age
Poor health
Same-gender attraction
Advanced Education
Birth Defect
Mental disorder

Which one did you choose? Which one fits the description best?

Couldn't those feelings apply to any of these struggles? I have heard them all and many more. They are excuses. "I can't obey because______________"

Life is hard. It is SUPPOSED to be hard! In the church and even in the world we hear statements that contradict this truth. Something like "Obedience brings happiness" can be misleading. We get this idea that if we are obedient we will have everything we want. We will be healthy and wealthy and happy all the time. Life should be a romp through a field of daisies, right?

Obedience brings protection from much of life's suffering. However we are not here to rest. This life is not meant to be heaven. It is not meant to be easy. This is the battlefield and we are behind enemy lines.

Mortality is the crucible that refines us for eternity. (See 1 Ne 20:10) That refining is not pleasant but the results will be dazzling.

Think of any figure in the scriptures. Nephi, Samuel, Elijah, Esther, Alma, Paul, Jesus Christ. Did any of them have an easy life? Did any of these righteous people get special privileges? Did they follow an easier road than the rest of us?

No. If anything we have it easier. No one has tied me up and threatened to kill me.

The solution is simple, really. It is the atonement. The Savior sacrifice covers all our pains, all our suffering, all our sorrow. We simply need to look to him.

1 Ne 17:41 And he did straiten them in the wilderness with his rod; for they hardened their hearts, even as ye have; and the Lord straitened them because of their iniquity. He sent fiery flying serpents among them; and after they were bitten he prepared a way that they might be healed; and the labor which they had to perform was to look; and because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished.

The world offers many solutions to life's trials. Some are successful, some are not. Some support the truths of the gospel while others are in opposition. But everything available in mortality falls short of the atonement.

"There is only one way to happiness and fulfillment. He is the Way. Every other way, any other way, whatever other way, is foolishness." Elder Lawrence E. Colbridge. "The Way" October 2008

I know that Heavenly Father loves his children. All of them. He awaits our return from the ravages of this world with countless blessings. Let us do all we can to receive them.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Why I Love the Commissary

Before I married a soldier I had no clue what a commissary was. It is a grocery store for military members. It is considered one of our military benefits. For some reason, many military members don't take advantage of this wonderful buying option.

When we lived overseas the commissary was a huge blessing. It allowed us to buy familiar foods for reasonable prices. (I can't tell you how soothing peanut butter and hot dogs and American cheese could be when you are feeling home sick!) Because of the fluctuating exchange rate, food from local stores could be quite expensive at times.

When we returned to the states we naturally continued to use the commissary. I was shocked to hear that many fellow military families shun the commissary completely. I am still baffled.

  • The commissary doesn't charge taxes but does charge a 5% surcharge to cover expenses. Depending on the state this is likely cheaper than local sales taxes.

  • The prices are almost always lower than non-military stores. At each of our stateside duty stations we have lived closer to a local grocery store than the commissary. We go there sometimes for milk or bread, things we need in a pinch when the commissary is closed. Rarely are the prices better. After our most recent move I actually made lists of food items we commonly buy and noted prices at each store I visited. The list of items that are cheaper at another store is quite short. I can buy a huge container of peanut butter at Sam's Club for a few cents less per unit than the same brand at the commissary. I do it because we eat a lot of peanut butter. Those giant bags of Malt-o-meal cereals are cheaper at Walmart but the commissary only carries the smaller bags. (Notice that these are bulk items!) For most common foods, including milk, eggs, bread, cheese, and meat, the commissary is a great deal.

  • There are usually coupons available on the shelf for many items. There have been times when I came with no coupons and ended up saving $15 just from in-store coupons. There is also a rewards card  (which I LOVE!) that allows you to go to the commissary website and add coupons to the card. You can then use these in the store without having to click and sort and print.

  • The commissary offer many foreign products that you can't buy elsewhere. We appreciate this because we can buy an occasional treat to remind us of our time in Europe. I imagine for military spouses born in those countries this is a true comfort to have a taste of home.
When I talk to others about the commissary I hear a lot about how busy it is. This varies from place to place but generally Wednesday and Thursday mornings are pretty light. Avoid paydays at all cost! I have had good luck on Saturday afternoons but Saturday mornings are usually a nightmare! But isn't this true of most stores?

I guess what baffles me the most are the people who claim to be so savvy, so skilled at saving money, running all over town with their coupon and sales fliers getting good deals. When they share their "deals" with me they are often the same price as the commissary. If they had used that coupon there they would have actually saved more. I usually get a disgusted response like "Ugh! The commissary gives me a headache! Why would I go there?!" Um, one stop shopping? Less gas usage? Great prices? Tons of coupons on the shelf?

I don't get it.

Normally I wouldn't care what other people did. What concerns me is that if this benefit isn't used it will be taken away. Many commissaries have cut their hours due to budget cuts and a few have been completely closed. If the commissary isn't being used congress just might cut the program all together. At our current commissary I most often see retirees. A few spouses who have been around as long as I have know the value of this wonderful service. But the younger crowd don't bother. I might say "their loss". But it isn't. I know the commissary helps keep those retirees off welfare. Someday that will be us. It would be great to utilize the commissary to continue feeding our large, ravenous family of locusts until they are all grown. And feed ourselves for the rest of our lives.

If you haven't been to the commissary in a while, check it out. Make an effort to take advantage of this valuable resource. It just might surprise you!