Sunday, February 23, 2014

Be Still

Today at church, my young women's group was talking about trials. Trials are something that everyone encounters in their lives, no matter who they are. We can't avoid them, they are there to test our faith and make us stronger. As some of the young women in my class shared trials that they went through or were still going through, I thought about a couple recent trials that I have gone through.

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My first trial began a year ago when my grandma passed away. It was really hard. While I was still a very positive person, I did have some down days where I missed her terribly. No matter what, I will miss her for the rest of my life. But because of the Plan of Happiness, I know that I will see her again some day, and that is a huge comfort to me. Just last month, my grandpa passed away, and that was even harder for me. I'd come to know my grandpa better than I ever had over this last year, so I felt a huge loss when he passed on. But they are together again, and that makes me happy. That knowledge, and the knowledge that I will see them again is what is bringing me through this trial.

My other trial is something that I wouldn't have even considered a trial a few months ago. A few of my friends are struggling with doubts or self worth, and me watching them go through that is my biggest trial right now. The part that makes it so hard is that I don't always know what I can do for them. I can see what they need, but I can't always just sand up and help them out. I want to tell them that I love them and everything will be OK, but I know that that's something I can't make them believe. They have to choose to accept that on their own. But I know that as I pray fervently and do all that I can, they will be helped and this trial will pass.

No trial lasts for ever. There is a life after this one, and if we live this life we have here on earth to our full potential, we will be blessed in the life to come. Not a single soul ever lived their life without trial. The ultimate example of this is Jesus Christ. He was perfect, and His trials were bigger than we can ever imagine. If He, a perfect man, had to go through all that He did, we certainly have to go through trials too.

But be patient and know that you are never alone. Jesus understands exactly where you are and what you are going through because He took upon Himself all the pains and afflictions of the world. That covers sin, that covers sadness, that covers every single little thing any of us will ever have to face. That covers the scrapes on your hands when you fell off your first bicycle. That covers the hurt you felt when you got in a fight with your best friend. Nothing is unnoticed by the Atonement of Christ. Not one thing.

The words of the hymn "Be Still, My Soul" come to mind:

"Be still, my soul: The Lord is on thy side. With patience bear thy cross of grief and pain...Thru thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

"Be still, my soul: the hour is hast'ning on when we shall be forever with the Lord, when disappointment, grief, and fear are gone, sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored...

"Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake to guide the future as he has the past..."

God is there, and He loves us, and He will be beside us every step of our journey through this mortal life. Jesus' atonement is real, and it is available to everyone. I know that when our burdens seem impossible to bear, all we need to do is turn to the Lord and He will give us strength. He will never, ever give us anything that we can not overcome.

"Be still, and know that I am God." Doctrine and Covenants 101:16; Psalms 46:10

Sunday, February 9, 2014

My Testimony

Tonight, I just want to share my testimony. I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the true church. I know that God sent His son, Jesus Christ, to atone for our sins and short-comings so that we can repent and be forgiven. I know that the Atonement isn't just for our sins, but also for our sadness and sorrows. The scriptures state that Christ took upon himself all the pains of the world, not just all the mistakes. So if we ever think that there is nobody who understands us when we feel hurt or alone, Jesus understands because he felt your hurt and loneliness before you ever did.

I also know that Christ died for us and was resurrected so we could live with God again. I know that death IS NOT THE END. There is always going to be a feeling of loss when a loved one passes away, and they will always be missed, but there is also joy in the knowledge that we will get to see them again. I know that God has a plan for us, and knows us each individually. His love is infinite and unconditional. It is there for us all, but it is up to us to come unto Him and feel of His love.

I love this gospel, and I love my life, and I thank God daily for how blessed I am. Nothing is ever perfect, nor will it ever be in this life. But as we do our part to be the best we can be, God will make up the difference. We can be perfected in Christ in the life to come! And these things I say in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

I'd also like to share this quote by Elder Richard G. Scott:

"Simple, consistent, good habits lead to a life full of bountiful blessings...Stay on the Lord's side, and you will win every time."

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Thursday, February 6, 2014

He Hears Us

Today was the day I performed last-minute to accompany my friend! I came home from school and practiced until my fingers couldn't find the notes, then I took a break, then practiced again and again. Let me tell you, I was pretty darn nervous. I didn't see how on earth I would be able to play the song well enough! I didn't care about it for my sake, but I sure didn't want to make my friend sound bad.

It was down to a half and hour before I had to leave, and I decided I wouldn't touch the piano again until I got there. I was warmed up enough, and I was to the point where I was only playing mistakes. If I sat down and started memorizing those mistakes, my performance would be horrible. So I waited, rather anxiously, for time to pass.

Then it was the moment when we were walking into the judging room. Luckily the piano was turned so the judge couldn't see me when I sat down, and that made me feel like nobody was there. But I must have said five prayers in two minutes, simply asking Heavenly Father to bless my performance that it would be all it needed to be. The judge wasn't assessing me, something I am very grateful about, but if I didn't play well, the song would sound awful.

I took a deep breath and said a final prayer as the song began. After that, my fingers found the keys. It was far from a perfect performance, but whenever a note was wrong, usually it was harmony that sounded just fine with whatever my friend was playing. I didn't mess up badly on the spots where I usually had to slow down extremely as I practiced. It really was a miracle.

The thing is, I'd done everything I could possibly do to prepare that song in just over twenty-four hours. I literally don't think I could have done anything more that would have helped. Heavenly Father knew that, and so when I prayed, sincerely asking for His help, He gave it.

Sometimes I know it's easy to feel as though God hasn't heard our prayers. Maybe we say something specific, and things don't play out the way we'd hoped they would. I've come to see, however, that God absolutely hears and answers us when we pray to Him. And actually, it is almost never in the way that we plan the answers to come. Things might go wrong for a time, but it's always because it'll make something else go right. This I know with all my heart.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Be Prepared

I stayed after school today to practice for a Shakespeare scene a few of my friends and I are doing together. As we were meeting in the room where the practice would be, another one of my friends came in. She was talking about how nervous she was because the next day, she was preforming in a solo/ensemble organization, and she didn't have a pianist to accompany her.

She asked if any of us knew someone who could play, and I told her that I could. She showed me the song, and it was easy enough I figured I could learn it well enough in the amount of time there was.

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The rest of my day was crazy. It had started out as a mellow day, nothing much going on, and then escalated into a frenzy of getting where I needed to be and practicing my new piano song in my spare time. Wow!

First of all, I'm very thankful that I am on top of my school work. Yes, I have homework, and I will always have homework. I'm to the point in school where you're never really completely done with all your homework. But, even though I missed a few days of school recently, I haven't fallen behind. I've been able to catch up quickly and keep up with the pace my teachers set.

Secondly, I'm thankful that I am able to play the piano piece. Even a few months ago, the thought of having one day to prepare and preform would have been unthinkable. I wouldn't have dared volunteer myself to be a last-second accompanist! But because I've practice my piano well over the last few months, I felt comfortable accepting the piano piece.

I know that we need to be prepared, even if we don't know what we are prepared for. When I chose to quickly make up my homework, I didn't know I'd need the time later on to practice a song. And when I chose to be diligent in my piano practicing months ago, I didn't know that it would pay off so soon. It's important to feel "ready," no matter what. Today, I woke up feeling like life was going to be perfect and peaceful. It wasn't peaceful, and not even close to perfect, but because I felt that "readiness," I was able to take on this challenge and do well.

Christ was always prepared. You never hear a story of the Savior scrambling to finish something before He had to do something else. He was always ready to help those who needed His help.

I have a testimony that this gospel is true. And I know that as we strive to become more Christlike, it really does pay off and we will feel better for it. To come unto Christ is to live in a lifestyle that is desirable above all others.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

An "Amazing Experience"

Today I was sitting in one of my classes when the teacher announced that we would be taking a quiz on the material we'd recently learned. She also announced that it would be a partner quiz, and that made me just a bit nervous. I've always struggled talking to people I don't know very well, especially asking them if they want to be my partner on an assignment. I don't have a lot of people I know very well in that class, and those I do know aren't super close. My closest friend in that class is my own cousin.

Everyone I already knew in that class was already paired up with somebody else. Before I knew it, I found myself in the situation I dread: having to not only ask someone I don't know to be my partner, but also face it if they already have one. But just as I was getting ready to stand up and ask around, a girl from the back of the classroom walked up to my teacher. Her best friend wasn't in the class that day, and she bluntly told the teacher, "What do I do? I'm a loner."

I didn't leave the teacher time to react. I leaned back in my chair so this girl could see me and said, "I'm a loner, too! Why don't we be partners?" Part of me was like, what the heck did you just do??? But the other part of me was like, yes! Good job!

This girl I was partnered with was not LDS. We didn't have much in common. I like to read and sing, she likes to skate. But she was quiet and nice; something I wouldn't have known about her if I hadn't been in the situation I was in.

As we were sitting there working on the quiz, I felt like that was what I was supposed to do, and where I was supposed to be right then. It's kind of like Ammon from my last blog post. He had to be an example to those around him before he could teach them. I felt that the best thing I could possibly do was just be a friend to this girl who found herself temporarily alone.

As I was thinking about this, I found this quote:

"Everyone you know could be blessed in some way by your ministering. The Lord is counting on you to reach out to them." ~David L. Beck

I love that so much! Even though I was not preaching the gospel to this girl, I was ministering to her. I was being a friend when she thought she'd have to be alone for the test. I was talking to her as I would someone I already knew.

This may not be considered an "amazing experience" when you think, the girl didn't ask me questions about my faith. Or, the girl isn't now my best friend. That didn't happen, but it didn't need to. When I consider this, I think it is absolutely an amazing experience. I could tell that the girl noticed something about me. Maybe it was just simply that I was smiling and reassuring her about the test. Maybe it was that I trusted her enough to ask questions, even though I hardly knew her. I'm not sure what it was, but that feeling is there. And I can only hope that maybe, she'll think back on that experience and remember that I was trying to be her friend.

I know that God often works in ways that we don't recognize at first. I would never have thought that my not having a quiz partner would lead to a missionary experience. And I wouldn't have even recognized that experience as a missionary experience at first. But I know that God is watching over all of His children. Just that experience testified of that to me! He was watching over me, making sure that I could still have a partner. He was watching over her, giving her a partner. And for both of us, it turned out to be the partner we needed to be working with at the time. I know it's important to be in tune with the Spirit. Because if we aren't we won't be open to inspiration from God. We can be instruments in His hands if we are righteously living the gospel.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Be Thou An Example

1 Timothy 4:12 states "be thou an example of the believers."

Last night as I was reading the Book of Mormon, I was in Alma 17. It is the story about Ammon when he went to the Land of Ishmael. King Lamoni was pleased with him and wanted Ammon to marry one of his daughters. Ammon said he would not, but that he would be the king's servant.

Ammon goes to take the king's flocks to get water. The flocks are scattered and the other servants become dejected, but Ammon takes courage and sees an opportunity to be an example. Verses 27 through 30 are some of my favorites of the whole chapter:

27 Therefore, as Ammon and the servants of the king were driving forth their flocks to this place of water, behold, a certain number of the Lamanites, who had been with their flocks to water, stood scattered the flocks of Ammon and the servants of the king, and they scattered them insomuch that they fled many ways.

28 Now the servants of the king began to murmur, saying: Now the king will slay us, as he has our brethren because their flocks were scattered by the wickedness of these men. And they began to weep exceedingly, saying: Behold, our flocks are scattered already.

29 Now they wept because of the fear of being slain. Now when Ammon saw this his heart was swollen within him with joy; for, said he, I will show forth my power unto these my fellow-servants, or the power which is in me, in restoring these flocks unto the king, that I may win the hearts of these my fellow-servants, that I may lead them to believe in my words.

30 And now, these were the thoughts of Ammon, when he saw the afflictions of those whom he termed to be his brethren.

My favorite part of these verses is how Ammon optimistic. It would have been really easy for him to be sorrowful just like his fellow servants and fear the king. But instead, he saw an opportunity and took it. Not only that, but I love the end of verse 30: "those whom he termed to be his brethren." To me, that is the true spirit of being an example. Being an example isn't just showing people "how its done," so to speak. I'ts really caring about the people and wanting them to follow the example you are setting because you love them.

Ammon's story continues. He protects the sheep from those who want to scatter them (verses 34-38), and then returns to water the flocks. Verse 39 simply says, "And when he had driven them afar off, he returned and they watered their flocks and returned them to the pasture of the king..."

Ammon's fellow servants tell King Lamoni about how Ammon had so heroically protected the flocks from their contenders. As the king hears the full story, he is astonished and wants to know where Ammon was then. His servants reply, "Behold, he is feeding thy horses" (Alma 18:9).

Ammon went to the Land of Ishmael in order to preach the gospel to the people there. The thing I love about this story is how he begins with simply being a good example. It's as people always say: actions speak louder than words.

I know that as we strive to be examples to those around us, they will notice. We probably won't recognize it when they notice, but they will. I know that God has put us where we are today because we need to be there, to both influence and be influenced by the people in our every day lives. We have things we need to do. Heavenly Father has a plan for each one of us. We might not know what it is, but He does. I know that as we trust in the Lord, He will bless us and guide us. I know that as we diligently read the scriptures and pray to God, we will have the companionship of the Holy Ghost and be inspired as to what to do and say to those around us. Most of all, I know that Heavenly Father loves me individually, as he loves each and every one of us!