Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Earthly Lessons that Point Heavenward

I have been blessed with an earthly father who has loved me unconditionally, helping me to feel safe and secure.  One of my fondest memories of my dad happened when I was in the 3rd grade.  My grade school class was having a read-a-thon and we were encouraged to bring a blanket, pillow, and treats to enjoy as we read a chosen book for the afternoon.  I remember the day before the event being so excited to gather all these items in preparation for the following day.  We didn't have much by way of treats but my mom told me that I could pop some popcorn and take that to eat.  I still can see in my minds eye the brown paper grocery bag that I used to put the buttered popcorn inside causing grease circles to speckle the bag.  It didn't bother me to take as my treat a big bag of popcorn!  The following day our teacher gave us the rules for conduct during the read-a-thon.  We could choose any place in the classroom to read as long as we were quiet.  I chose to sit next to the classroom door.  As I prepared my blanket, pillow, and bag of popcorn, there was a knock on the classroom door.  My teacher went to the door and began speaking with the person who had come.  I could not see who the visitor was but I could hear my teacher say, "Yes, I will give it to her."  After closing the door, I could see my teacher holding a small paper sack. She turned to me, bending over and said, "Kendi, this is for you, from your dad."  I was such a timid girl and did not like attention.  All of my schoolmates eyes were on me, wondering what my dad had brought for me.  I shyly took the bag from my teacher and was surprised to feel that it was heavy.  I looked inside and saw a bottle of soda and a candy bar.  A warmness came inside of me and I felt the reassuring feeling that I was special to my dad.  I can't remember ever having something so random as this happen to me before.  It was such a simple act and yet it has left such a big impression of love upon my heart.

My parents did not have much when it came to earthly treasures but when I was almost 10 years old they decided to invest in a snowmobile to give their children something fun to do during the long winter months.  The first week that we had the snowmobile my dad was working on the farm and called home to see if someone could come and pick up my younger brother Rusty.  As I was the oldest, my mom sent me to get him and allowed me to drive the snowmobile to pick him up.  When I arrived to get my brother, my dad gave me strict instructions to go straight home and I promised him that I would.  However, as I drove near the hills that were next to my home, I was tempted to take my brother for a quick ride up and down the hills.  I pulled the snowmobile into the gate that led to the hills, as I did I felt the warning of the Spirit and remembered my promise that I made to my dad to go straight home.  I sat there and debated as tho what I should do.  Ultimately I decided to try and turn the snowmobile around and not go through the gate.  As I worked to turn the snowmobile it started to slide into the ditch and eventually rolled over, cracking the windshield.  Thankfully my brother and I were safe but as I looked at the machine, I was horror-stricken!  I knew that I was in serious trouble for disobeying my dad and for causing such serious damage to the machine.  My brother ran home and explained to my mom what had happened.  I walked a very slow, tearful walk back to my home.  As I entered my house, my mom was visibly upset with me and sent me to my room.  I deserved whatever punishment that would be given to me.   I can remember laying on my bed, feeling so guilty for what I had done.  I had broken something that I could not fix and my parents had sacrificed so much for our family to provide this gift.  Oh how I cried and lamented over the situation.  There was nothing that brought me peace or comfort, that is, until my dad came home.  As I lay crying, I heard a gentle knock on my door.  I was so distraught that I did not answer it but eventually my dad came into the room.  He looked at me with his gentle eyes and instead of yelling at me or punishing me, he put his arms around me and told me that he loved me.  I think he figured that I had suffered enough with the guilt that I had experienced.  Even though I had disappointed him, he was able to comfort me.

So why these stories today?  I feel so grateful for all that my earthly father has taught me.  Because of his teaching and example, it has been easy for me to feel a strong feeling of kinship and love for my Heavenly Father.  My father was a giver of good gifts and we all have a Heavenly Father who has given us His son, the greatest gift of all.  I have been able to learn that when I make mistakes, my Heavenly Father is there, and that He wants to forgive me.  In Helaman chapter 11 verse 14 it says, "If this people repent I will spare them."    In my life, during my stumbles, I have come to know that He is always there.  I don't know how He does it, but He is approachable and constant.  His love is perfect and He stands ready to help with outstretched arms.  I am so grateful to know that:

Saturday, October 10, 2015

We Thank Thee, Oh God, for a Prophet

As I have studied the Book of Mormon this week, I have been amazed at how powerful these special words are to my life.  Lately I am finding it more difficult to stop my studies due to the relevancy of what I am reading and it's application to my life.  My love for and testimony of this holy book of scripture continues to increase and I am grateful for the timely counsel it's pages offer to me.  

I am studying in what is typically known as the war chapters and as much as I hate to admit this, these chapters have often seemed long, drawn-out, and completely inapplicable to my current life situation.  As hard as I would try, I wasn't always able to find very many real life applications from these chapters.  My attitude changed this week and I have come away with a deeper sense of reverence and awe for the inspiring words that are indeed written for me today.

I'm not sure what has changed within me that has caused this shift in perspective to occur.  Perhaps it is the current trends within our society that are causing alarm and causing me to sit more upright and pay attention to the word of God.  I noticed a great lesson that I have never seen before.  In Alma 45 there are two verses of scripture that set the stage for the impressions I was to learn in my studies.  They state, "And now it came to pass...that Helaman went forth among the people to declare the word unto them.  For behold, because of their wars with the Lamanites and the many little dissensions and disturbances which had been among the people, it became expedient that the word of God should be declared among them, yea, and that a regulation should be made throughout the church (Alma 45-20-21)."  As I continued to read into the next chapter I began to see the great spiritual harm coming into the Nephites lives due to the fact that they began focusing on the teachings of a man called Amalikiah.  This man was not one who had been called of God to teach his word and he was one who was set on leading the righteous people astray.  As I read through these chapters I couldn't help but see how vitally important it is to stay focused on the teachings of those who are called by God to lead His children here on earth.  I feel so blessed to live at a time when there is a true and living prophet on the earth today.  I have a deep and abiding love for our prophet, Thomas S. Monson.  Focusing on his teachings will help to keep us safe and will be a guide for each of us as we work to make our way through our journey of mortality. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

My Awakening

One of my all time favorite passages of scriptures is found in Alma 32.  Recently as I was rereading this section of scripture, I was reminded of the influence that this powerful chapter had upon my life. I was at an important crossroad of my life.  I was only 18 years old at the time and I had made a complete mess of my life.  I was miserable and very unhappy.  I knew that there was more to life than what I was living.  Thankfully there were people in my life, whom I respected, who were able to teach me what I must do to overcome the mess that I had made.  

There is an evening that has been forever imprinted upon my memory and is the key turning point of my life.  I had been in to meet with my Bishop to seek a priesthood blessing for strength.  As I visited with him, I had shared some of the temptations that were pressing down on me, temptations that if heeded, would continue to keep me from finding lasting peace and happiness.  My bishop loved me and felt great concern for me.  Under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost he told me, "Kendi, I feel that if you fall this time, you will never be back."  His words shocked me.  I felt a great sense of fear over the seriousness of my situation.  I did not know if I would be able to be strong enough to withstand the temptations that I was facing.  As I walked home that evening, I continued to hear the words that had been spoken by my bishop and I wondered, "How can I truly make it through this time of testing?"  

As I prepared myself for bed, I knelt and tearfully plead with the Lord to help me. It was the longest prayer that I had ever given up to that point in my life.  I was spiritually and mentally exhausted when I had finished my prayer but sleep would not come to me.  I tossed and turned,and then was given the prompting to read the Ensign.  It was late, but I had the strong desire to be given strength that I was lacking. As I read, I prayed in my heart that an answer would be there specifically for me and my situation.  I read talk after talk, and while they were each beautiful messages, I did not feel that they held my answer.  As I was nearing completion of the Ensign, my prayer became more intense and I recognized that I desperately needed His help; and then it happened, my answer came.  I turned the page to one of the last talks and saw its title, "Faith is the Answer" by Virginia H. Pearce.  Tears filled my eyes as the Spirit came upon me and I knew that within the next few pages, I would find the answer that Heavenly Father wanted to give me.  Peace gently distilled upon me.  I continued to read the messages that followed, all of which were centered on the gospel principle of faith.  In the talk, "Growing Up Spiritually," Sister Janette C. Hales referenced Alma 32.  She said, "There is a chapter in the book of Alma--chapter 32--which seems to me to be written especially for young women.  Alma teaches us how to exercise our faith and increase our belief in the words of our Heavenly Father."(Link to talk can be found here.)She then extended an invitation that I accepted that night, which was to read Alma 32 and circle the word every time it was written in this chapter.  She taught that this specific chapter would "help [me] understand how [my] faith in Jesus Christ can be strengthened." 

I took her challenge that night and was blessed to have the light of the Savior dispel the darkness that was surrounding me.  Great spiritual power came into my life that evening and I have since never been the same.  My experience was much like Alma the Younger and Saul's.  Heavenly Father sent angels, in the form of a bishop and General Auxiliary leaders, to speak the words I needed to hear to help put my feet solidly on the gospel's path.   From this experience I have come to know more than I knew before that Heavenly Father does care so very much for His children.  He hears and answers our prayers.  My answer did not come immediately, it required effort on my part, but when it came, I knew it and I knew that I was never going to be the same!