Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Fear vs. Faith

I try not to worry, but I do. I worry about a lot. I have basically been a worrier all my life. It's kind of wired in me to worry.

There are lots of things weighing on me right now, and I'll admit that the flu thing is one of them. The potential of what could happen freaks me out. It could just pass, but it could be big. It could not affect me personally, or it could.

We are told that if we are prepared, we don't need to fear. When it comes to natural disasters and things like a possible pandemic, there are things we can do. Right now, I'm seeing people discussing disease prevention and hunker-down prep, and that's good. There is much that we can do to prepare physically - have food and supplies on hand, wash hands often, etc. (The church even has fact sheets on pandemic prep and illness prevention.)

But you know, if this turns into a pandemic, even the healthiest, best-prepared people might get sick. And some even might die. In fact, of course, some people already have gotten sick and even died, and some of them were probably really good people. The rain falls on the just and the unjust, and so does illness. Sometimes I wonder if we sometimes think that we have more control over life than we really do. God is still in charge. That doesn't mean we should stop temporal preparedness efforts, but I think there's more.

While I think a lot about physical preparedness, I am also working to increase my stores of faith, and to teach my children about that principle. In the end, all the food and supplies and masks alone won't help me truly be at peace, not at the core. Being prepared to the point of not being afraid for me takes more than food storage and hand washing and 72-hour kits in my closet, as important as these things can be.

It takes faith.

Most of us have thought about how to prepare for storms. We have seen and felt the suffering of women, men, and children, and of the aged and the weak, caught in hurricanes, tsunamis, wars, and droughts. One reaction is to ask, “How can I be prepared?” And there is a rush to buy and put away whatever people think they might need for the day they might face such calamities.

But there is another even more important preparation we must make for tests that are certain to come to each of us. That preparation must be started far in advance because it takes time. What we will need then can’t be bought. It can’t be borrowed. It doesn’t store well. And it has to have been used regularly and recently.

What we will need in our day of testing is a spiritual preparation. It is to have developed faith in Jesus Christ so powerful that we can pass the test of life upon which everything for us in eternity depends. That test is part of the purpose God had for us in the Creation. - then-Elder Eyring

At one level, I have always known this, but I'm feeling my faith being stretched in new ways, different ways, many ways -- at the personal level, and also as I consider the challenges we face at the global level.

Below, I review some of the talks from conference as I ponder fear vs. faith.

Pres. Monson:
It would be easy to become discouraged and cynical about the future—or even fearful of what might come—if we allowed ourselves to dwell only on that which is wrong in the world and in our lives....The Apostle Paul declared, “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

None of us makes it through this life without problems and challenges—and sometimes tragedies and misfortunes. After all, in large part we are here to learn and grow from such events in our lives. We know that there are times when we will suffer, when we will grieve, and when we will be saddened. However, we are told, “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.”

How might we have joy in our lives, despite all that we may face? Again from the scriptures: “Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you.”

...My beloved brothers and sisters, fear not. Be of good cheer. The future is as bright as your faith.

I am reviewing conference talks to help fill my stores of faith. From Elder Andersen's "You Know Enough" talk:

Fear and faith cannot coexist in our hearts at the same time.

I'm going through a hard time personally right now, and it makes it all the harder to have things globally feel so uncertain, so frightening. My mind plays out what-if scenarios (worst case, usually). I find no peace alone. And so I cling to words of truth, and hope they will wash over me, bring me peace.

And yet, I know that it's all a process, too. Just as we can't build up a year's supply in an instant, our spiritual reserves are built upon gradually, over a lifetime. But I feel the urgent need to be doing all I can to keep letting the Spirit guide me, rather than to let fear dominate me.

Pres Uchtdorf: Brothers and sisters, we have to stay with it. We don’t acquire eternal life in a sprint—this is a race of endurance. We have to apply and reapply the divine gospel principles. Day after day we need to make them part of our normal life.

Too often we approach the gospel like a farmer who places a seed in the ground in the morning and expects corn on the cob by the afternoon. When Alma compared the word of God to a seed, he explained that the seed grows into a fruit-bearing tree gradually, as a result of our “faith, and [our] diligence, and patience, and long-suffering.” It’s true that some blessings come right away: soon after we plant the seed in our hearts, it begins to swell and sprout and grow, and by this we know that the seed is good. From the very moment we set foot upon the pathway of discipleship, seen and unseen blessings from God begin to attend us.

But we cannot receive the fulness of those blessings if we “neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment.”7

Knowing that the seed is good is not enough. We must “nourish it with great care, that it may get root.”8 Only then can we partake of the fruit that is “sweet above all that is sweet, and . . . pure above all that is pure” and “feast upon this fruit even until [we] are filled, that [we] hunger not, neither shall [we] thirst.”

It's sobering to realize that I cannot rely on others for my supply. I can and must rely on the Lord.

When the winds blow and the rains pour, they blow and pour on all. Those who have built their foundations on bedrock rather than sand survive the storms.1 There is a way to build on bedrock by developing a deep personal conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ and knowing how to receive inspiration. We must know—and know that we know. We must stand spiritually and temporally independent of all worldly creatures. Elder Allan Packer

I KNOW that the Church is true, the scriptures are true, that this work we are about is real. But I'm feeling the need to deepen my roots of faith.

And as I even do a simple glance at the conference talk titles, it's clear that we are being reminded of the need for real, deep faith. It is that faith that brings lasting, real peace.

[W]hen adversity arrives in our lives, the only true source of comfort is God. "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27) - Elder Rafael E. Pino

Just saw this from Pres. Uchtdorf as well:
When we hear the transcendent truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ, hope and faith begin to blossom inside of us.5 The more we fill our hearts and minds with the message of the risen Christ, the greater our desire is to follow Him and live His teachings. This, in turn, causes our faith to grow and allows the light of Christ to illuminate our hearts. As it does, we recognize the imperfections in our lives, and we desire to be cleansed of the depressing burdens of sin. We yearn for freedom from guilt, and this inspires us to repent.

I have to say that that cycle of realizing weakness and imperfection is a hard one for me. But it is good to be reminded that that is part of the journey of faith.

That's all for now, but it's good for me to reflect on these wise words of counsel, encouragement, and truth.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

"Let it wash over you"


Life is very interesting, and quite challenging for me right now. I have already written much about my health struggles. They are my resistance training, which is why I write so often about them. (When we build muscles, we have to break them down to build them. I feel like I'm in the spiritual gym a lot these days!)

Recently, things have been worse, as I have had migraines that keep coming (or maybe A migraine that has never left). I have already written a little about that, too.

This last weekend, I got another one. I wasn't as angry as I was before, but I was deeply discouraged. And afraid. And feeling lost as to what to do. I was trying not to feel hopeless, but I did.

Once again, as the week before, I found myself in my bed, crying and praying. I needed help and guidance. I didn't even know where to start. I wasn't even sure what to ask (a favorite scripture comes to mind). I shared all of this with Heavenly Father.

My dear husband came up and listened for a while. He counseled with me, and I with him.

"I feel like everything I do is wrong!" (Migraines had hit after doing good things...like going to a family Easter dinner, serving my family. One even hit after lying in bed reading my scriptures, even before I had done anything else.)

"Is that really what you are feeling?" hubby asked.

No. I knew that the Spirit wasn't saying I was doing everything wrong. But I felt within myself that I was. (Hence, my hopeless feelings.)

But my husband kept listening while I sorted things out, out loud. (I am a very verbal sorter-outer, as those who know me know.)

After a while, I started to talk about things I could do to make some changes. A peace settled over the conversation, and my husband identified it. He could sense the change in my demeanor, my voice, my emotion level.

And he helped me realize I was getting answers. I was getting answers!

I called a friend, and the conversation I had solidified that I was heading in the right direction. I cannot thank my friend enough, and I cannot possibly capture it all here, but I will say this:

God heard, and answered. Again. I was in the dark, and He gave me some light.

I recalled a conversation I had last week with a friend. I had shared my many mini miracles experience, where I received a clear message about God's love.

She wisely noted, "But you don't fully believe it, do you?"

And then she said something that has stuck with me.

"Let it wash over you, Michelle."

I know intellectually that God loves me, loves us, loves His children. But for so much of my life, when things have gone wrong, when I have goofed, I have gone to a place in my mind, a dark place of shame and personal criticism. I am coming to recognize more fully and quickly that this isn't truth, but I know I need the Lord's help to change my mind and heart, to let the truth of His love and mercy wash over me.

Of course, the truth of His love and mercy doesn't absolve me of responsibility, doesn't give me permission to slack off and sin. But I think I am at the extreme end, trying still to earn my salvation alone, on my own merits, with my own spiritual résumé (which, of course, is pretty thin -- after all, I am mortal!)

The scripture that has come to mind today is Alma 42:30:

Do not endeavor to excuse yourself in the least point because of your sins, by denying the justice of God [after all, I shouldn't justify sins; that said, I'm still mulling over the difference between sins and mistakes]; but do you let the justice of God, and his mercy, and his long-suffering have full sway in your heart; and let it bring you down to the dust in humility.

I felt like I was face-down in the dust for a while there on Sunday, gritty teeth and all, struggling for breath. That's not it, though. He doesn't want me choking on the dust! I realized that as I started to feel the power of humility as answers and TRUTH started distilling about why I need to be humble: because God loves me and wants to help me. And I need to let those truths wash over me. I need to figure out better how to let Him. To make space for Him and His love in my life. To not be afraid of not being able to do it all on my own, because that isn't the plan. Or that isn't how to access the power of God's perfect justice and mercy -- the power of the plan.

Lots to mull over. Will probably post more as I continue to sort through it all....

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

When Innocence and Tax Season Collide

#3 is a bundle of wonder, energy, love, compassion, and faith. Lately, she has been praying in a tender and precious way -- thanking Heavenly Father individually for each member of the family. "I'm thankful for brother because...." Her prayers are actually long. They are heartfelt. They nearly take my breath away.

(The fact that her siblings listen intently and patiently, and melt afterwards with hugs and love takes my breath away, too.) [Yeah, can you tell I'm in love with my kids?]

This past week, she thanked Father for her dad. It went something like this:

"Thank thee for Dad, that he works so hard for us so we can have a house, and a life that is easy --"

[I am thinking, "What a blessing that even with the challenges of our life, with Mom having health stuff and all, that she feels her life is easy....]

In the same breath, she finishes her thought with this:

"-- except for taxes, cuz they are hard."

Ah, the wisdom of little ones. :)

When it Rains it Pours

We really, really like the rain. We were loving the pounding against our roof yesterday. We loved watching the big drops splash in the street.

We loved it, that is, until the rain decided to enter our entry way.

I am so grateful I heard something before I went to bed (although disappointed that my efforts to go to bed early were thwarted...trying to get these headaches under control). The antique buffet, still moved away from the wall from our earlier leak problems (we've had workers come out three times to fix the problem -- but if anything, things are worse), was getting dripped on. I caught it before it really became disastrous (the water had not yet entered the drawer or cabinet where pictures are stored, and was still on the surface enough to be quickly dried off, and it hadn't taken over the floor yet).

Hubby was already in bed. I got a big bucket for the new leak, and arranged some more towels around the other bucket to trap the water streaming rapidly down the wall.

I jumped online to see what time it was in Australia; the only people I knew with a ladder I could use at that time of night were in Australia vacationing! I got their permission to use their spare key that we happen to have to get their ladder. (Yeah, well, what do you do at midnight?)

I reluctantly woke my husband. We managed to get some holes punched in our vaulted entryway ceiling so the water doesn't pool behind the paint and do more hidden damage.

I woke up this morning to a LOT of water in that big bucket. And the realization that we are going to have to replace our roof. But with the realization that things could have been a lot worse had this happened while we were sleeping.


Life stays interesting.

BTW, my good husband's first action was to pray. He prayed that a miracle might come about, that the rain might stop over our house.

It is now snowing.

[p.s. That IS a blessing, because it slows the direct flow of water. Right now, there is no dripping, and no stream of water down our wall. So the blessing came in a different form, but I'm still gonna count it as a blessing.]

Monday, April 13, 2009

From Migraine, to Mad-ness, to Many Mini-Miracles

I haven't been in blogging mode much lately for a couple of reasons. One is that I am trying to do less on the 'puter when my almost-edible chillens are home and awake, and another is that I have had some monster headaches the past few weeks. But most of the time, I sorta just do my best to do what I have to do. Unless I get the classic migraine aura thing going on, then I stop.

I had grand plans of spending some good time with my aforementioned precious ones this week, since it's spring break. I was up for a whole two minutes when I got an aura today. And I was mad. Hopping mad. Like the kind of mad-that-is-bad-for-your-spirit mad. I had even just prayed specifically to avoid *that* kind of migraine so I could take my kids to see their out-of-town cousins, whom we didn't get to see Saturday because of their dad's headache (yeah, we are quite a pair, I know).

I got my meds in me and went promptly to my bed, where I pouted, and vented (I really am trying to do less of this -- it's often that same kind of not-good-for-my-spirit kind of thing), and prayed, and sobbed until perhaps I could sob no more. (That probably isn't the best thing to do with a migraine, but it did provide its own kind of relief.)

And, did I mention that I prayed? A lot...in that kind of way where I am stumped and feeling stuck and feeling hopeless and afraid and wanting to quit.

And as my day comes to a close, I look back and I can see the miracles.

-Hubby was home, and was well enough to help a little. He also did a lot of listening while I vented. Even though my venting probably gives him a headache.

-So did a dear, dear friend, who not only listened, but sobbed with me, and told me she wished she could take it away, and wished she could fix it, but knew she couldn't, and because she knew that, she was a great sounding board in thinking through what I might need to be learning through all of this. (If you are reading, thank you. I love you, friend. So much. You are such a blessing in my life.)

-My kids, as usual, were amazing and kind and compassionate and caring. But they also had friends to play with all day. So mom being in bed all day wasn't so bad.

-And then I got a message from a friend from whom I haven't heard for quite a while. And her love and concern, even without knowing what kind of day (month) I was (am) having, was so evident, and so needed today.

-And then my sis called, and we talked for quite a while in a way-that-is-really-good-for-my-spirit kind of way, and she reminded me why I don't quit, and why I never will -- because the Savior is there, and because I want to be there with Him.

-And then I found a message from a Relief Society president who said she just kept thinking about me today. And I haven't seen her for weeks.

-And to finish the day, another friend posted one of my fave quotes ever:

"Each of us will have our own Fridays - those days when the universe itself seems shattered and the shards of our world lie littered about us in pieces. We all will experience those broken times when it seems we can never be put together again. We will all have our Fridays.

"But I testify to you in the name of the One who conquered death - Sunday will come. In the darkness of our sorrow, Sunday will come.

"No matter our desperation, no matter our grief, Sunday will come. In this life or in the next, Sunday will come." (Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Sunday Will Come," Ensign, Nov. 2006, page 30 )

And then, as I mulled over all of this, the thought came loud and clear: God wasn't mad at me, even though I got mad, and even though I pouted, and even though I doubted, and even though I vented. He sent many miracles today, through the love and simple efforts of numerous people, and by so doing, reminded me of this pure and perfect and powerful truth: He loves me.

As Elder Holland and Pres. Eyring recently testified, I realized that I was not alone, even though I felt alone.

I know answers to prayers sent to heaven from our times of deep pain are not always answered as quickly as mine were today. I have many, many of those prayers, too. They also aren't always answered as we want them to be (my head still really hurts, and probably will for days, even weeks to come, and that is hard). But I have had enough experiences like this, where I have cried out in my extremity, and I have seen His loving hand enter my life in ways that continue to amaze me. In His own way and time, He lets me know time and time again that He Is There.

I go to bed still with a headache, but with a full and grateful heart.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Stats on Online Activity Around General Conference Time

Thought this was interesting.... (I love LDS Media Talk's blog!)

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Companies hiring right now plus other employment links

There is much to reflect on after Conference, but I was moved to hear about Bishop Edgley's talk and the responsibility we have to help people who need to find work, I wanted to post this link that I saw when I opened one of my rarely-used browsers.

Apparently, there are several big-name companies who are hiring right now. I figured it might be worth posting.

Also, here are some other links aimed toward LDS Employment, networking, etc. Please share links and resources of which you are aware.

The Church's employment site, which includes job postings, job search hints and tips, resources for those serving in LDS Employment Resources callings, and more.

Networking tips from LDS Employment services

A Facebook group for Stake and Ward LDS Employment Specialists

And for someone who might be interested in a service internship with LDS Employment services, I found this