Friday, July 24, 2015

Me, My Mother and the Mission

I have received a huge blessing from Heavenly Father.  My mother lived to see me come home from my mission and I was able to care for her before she died.  I felt the Lords hand blessing me intimately and personally during the 21 days I took care of her.  Each moment, each bit of service I felt was so sacred and such a gift.  It was exactly what I had prayed for.  It wasn’t easy, but I knew every day was a gift God was personally giving me as evidence of His knowledge of me and my mother.  I missed out on being here to help her in the last year of her life after she was diagnosed with lung cancer, when she really needed me.  But I felt the Lord prolonged her life and granted my desire to be able to care for her, at least a little while before she died.  That was exactly what I prayed for and exactly what was granted.  I want to write about me, my mother and the mission and bear testimony of the reality of our Heavenly Fathers hand that grants blessings.

Around March of last year my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.  If she did all the chemotherapy they wanted her to have she would have 1 to 2 years to live.  After just 4 treatments she decided she would rather die with good quality of life than continue on with those sickening treatments.  She went on Hospice in June of last year with the expectation of 6 months to live.  Being on a mission and only having seen her once in the two previous years, this was particularly devastating for me.

I started praying continuously for the blessing of my mother living until I got home and that I would have some time to care for her before she died.  She prayed for herself to live until I got home also, (I don’t think she ever thought of me or anyone else caring for her though, she would not want anyone to have to care for her!)  She faced her cancer head on with a positive strength that it would not beat her until she was ready to go.  She would always say she was good when asked, and keep working and moving as if nothing were wrong.  She cared for my ailing father for nine more months, made large amounts of food to feed the neighborhood, kept running her own errands and driving everywhere as if nothing was going to get her down.  She wouldn’t even entertain thoughts that she wasn’t going to make it until I got home.  She told her hospice nurse she really didn’t believe that she had cancer, she just felt too good.

In Nov of last year she told the hospice people she was going to live until July when I would be home.  The hospice people said, “Sure Lucy, whatever you say,” while inside they were thinking no way is that going to happen.

A month before we were to leave our mission my mother started to decline to the point of not being able to care for herself.  She went to live with my sister, Teresa who promptly fell and fractured her pelvis in four places.  Then my good brother-in-law, John, who was trying to care for both Teresa and mom, injured his knee and had to have surgery on it.  Eventually I decided I needed to go home 11 days early from the mission and care for my mom and give my desperate family a break.  When I got there I met Janine, her hospice nurse, she said, “It gives me goose-bumps Melonie that you’re actually standing here and your mom is still alive.  It’s a miracle.  She kept telling us it was going to happen, but we never believed it.  Her prayers have been answered.”  I cared for my mom for 4 days and then went back to finish our last week of our three year service in the WA Spokane Mission.

Don and I finished our last week in the mission and came home together three weeks ago.  Leaving a mission is not easy, but we felt as the last week approached that we were done.  A feeling settled over us that we were finished and it was time for us to go.   I knew my mother was declining rapidly and I felt anxious to get home as we finished up that week and readied the mission for the Dymocks to take over.

Within hours of arriving home we moved into my mother’s condo and took over full-time care of her.  She was so grateful to be able to come home. She was so positive and grateful for anything that was done for her.  The last thing my mom ever wanted was to be a burden.  She would say, “I am so sorry you have to take care of me.”  But what I felt and expressed to her was that I had prayed for this.  This was a blessing.  Every day, every moment of care for her, for me, was a sacred blessing from God.  God was showing His hand to me every day of the 3 weeks I cared for her.  I can’t explain it very well, but I felt the time was sacred, a partnership between me, God and her. It was hard, but it was a prayer that was being granted by a loving Heavenly Father.  God knew me, and I felt every day he was telling me He knew me.

What I have learned through this last year is that there are many things we pray for that can’t be granted.  When I pray for things that involve someone else’s free agency God can’t grant those prayers.  He can send people to influence or angels to minister, but he protects others free agency with the utmost respect. He wants to bless us and will at every opportunity though. He is eager to do so.  God does not begrudgingly grant tender mercies, he is not hesitant or indecisive in his willingness to be merciful.  His anger is slow and hard to be released, and his mercy functions on a hair trigger.  “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love” (Exodus 34:6)

As I watched my mother’s body fail her I felt I was offering a consecrated service to care for her at such a vulnerable time.  As I watched her spirit try to disconnect from her body I gained a new perspective on how death is the last work we do in this life.  It was a labor she was performing; work and labor was what kept coming to my mind as she struggled to die. But just like birth, when there is a beautiful baby at the end of labor, I know there is also a beautiful gift at the end of the labor of death, which is amazing peace and rest from the cares of this life.  I know when she walked through that door she was free, her work was finished.  She had performed her work here on the earth and returned home.  It was such a blessing.

I saw my mother filled with gratitude, love and kindness as she faced death.  She was extremely graceful as she looked at cancer and her passing.  I didn’t receive every blessing I wanted on my mission. But I received so many that my heart is full.  I can see.  I know.  His love and life are a reality.  I love my Heavenly Father, my Savior Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit and all that they offer us, just to help us.  They are not here to be a burden, but to lift, love, bless and give, if we will but receive what they offer. 

President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., testified: “You know, I believe that the Lord will help us. I believe if we go to him, he will give us wisdom, if we are living righteously. I believe he will answer our prayers. I believe that our Heavenly Father wants to save every one of his children. I do not think he intends to shut any of us off because of some slight transgression, some slight failure to observe some rule or regulation. There are the great elementals that we must observe, but he is not going to be captious about the lesser things.  I believe that his juridical concept of his dealings with his children could be expressed in this way: I believe that in his justice and mercy, he will give us the maximum reward for our acts, give us all that he can give, and in the reverse, I believe that he will impose upon us the minimum penalty which it is possible for him to impose.” 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

My last day, my last sharing, and my last testimony as a missionary.

This morning I woke up and had a tremendous sense of gratitude fill my heart.  It would be the last day I would spend in the mission home.  I thought about how many times I have lain in this bed in the early morning hours and had spiritual insight given to me in dramatic ways: trainings clearly come into my mind that I would be giving that day, things to say to help missionaries, and insights into my own struggles that were amazing answers to prayer.
So many memories were flooding my mind this morning and every one of them I remember feeling the Lord was showing himself to me because He loves His missionaries, love me, and needed me to be able to do my job with his blessing. 
How many times have I rolled over in the morning and prayed in this room and felt light given, knowledge imparted and strength granted so I could get up and go.  How many times have I laid there and looked up at the ceiling and thought of all the things I’m so grateful for, or cried about something.  And how many times have I come to this room, exhausted and just been so glad to get into the bed and give it all to the Lord and rest.  As I thought about it all this morning I thought about all the Dymocks will go through in this room, and all the mission presidents past who have prayed, wept, and called down the powers of heaven to help them in this bedroom.  I felt kind of like all of those experiences were showing themselves to me and I felt so grateful.
I feel this is a sacred home.  I can just imagine 30 years of spiritual light being shed on the mission presidents in various ways.  The Lord truly has revealed himself to me in this house, especially in the living room.  So many testimonies have been born in the living room: departing missionaries full of strength and confidence as they have finished their service and felt the Lord’s gratitude, and incoming missionaries who have born humble testimonies who have been full of trepidation and exhaustion. It is such a sacred house.  I’m so grateful for all the spiritual experiences that have happened here for the last 30 years and for all that the Dymocks will experience in the future. And now we are leaving.  My heart is so full of love and gratitude for the Lord and all he does to help us when we try to serve him.
The last post I shared was what my last training was when we had, “Muffins with the Mullens”.  But we also gave the missionaries our, “last advice.” I thought about what I would leave them with.  I felt I had shared my heart and mind with them completely, so what could I possible say.  I decided to try to summarize what I have learned on my mission. This is knowledge that goes deep into my heart and I thought it would be the best thing to share.  Here it is:
First: You can’t see the way the Lord sees.  You just can’t.  You’re not as good as he is.  You don’t understand the way he thinks and you don’t have the perspective he possesses.  You aren’t capable of seeing, understanding and knowing all that God does.  Just accept that and trust him.  That is my first bit of advice, just trust in the Lord.  He knows, sees and understands better than you.  He is aware of you and He does have a plan.  Just decide you’ll trust him even though you don’t see the plan, and then you don’t have to worry about everything else.
Next is repent.  I don’t mean just repent for sin.  Repentance is for anything you need it to be that takes you away from the spirit.  It’s allowing the atonement to work in your life to change you.  Repent of needing to be the center of attention, to be seen of man, needing your own way, to be right, for fear, hardness, bitterness and even worry.  You can repent of all of it and give it to Christ. It means change every day from what the natural man pulls you too.
I don’t think of, “I do so much and Christ does the rest.”  I think of Christ and I as a team, joined at the hip.  He is the strong, best, part of us.  It’s not fair, but I hand him all of that pull of the natural man I go through during the day.  That pull to be: negative, critical, prideful, fearful, etc.  I give it to him, hand it to him, slide it over to him, and ask for his atoning blood to be applied in my life.  He is the strong, capable, good, part of us.  I just accept that I am the weak link, and let him have all that is trying to get at my heart that may defile me.
When I live with Christ like this; wanting to constantly change to be in line with God, then I become empty of myself.  God can’t do a lot with me if I am so full of myself. I have to get out of the way for him to be able to do anything with me.  That change; called repentance, empties us of ourselves so we can create a place for God.  When we are empty of our expectations, our fear, need to be valued, our judgments, our irritation, anger, and needing things our way, then we have made a space for him.
Then the third thing to do is wait.  Wait on the Lord.  He can’t give you everything at once.  Not because of him but because of you.  You learn line upon line.  He will give you layers of understanding as you stay soft and open creating a place for him, and then wait.  The first layer may just be the whispering of, “hold on, stay with me, I’ll get you there.”  The next spiritual whispering may be pray to see blessings.  Then what may come to you is another layer of something that you need to repent of to stay soft and open.  The next thing he may teach you is to be grateful and think and pray with gratitude in your heart.  After you’ve worked on that for a while you may receive the layer of stop seeing through the world’s eyes and valuing the things of the world.  Then you may come to accept the Lord’s will and just value what he has given and feel grateful for all He has done for you.  And then when your finally there, you’re at peace, he gives you the answer, the healing, the clam comfort.  And you know it’s going to be ok, it will all work out in the end, that’s when you’ve changed in a sacred way.  This kind of change is hard fought and it is absolutely sacred.  Sacred because of the price paid and the work the God head has done for you to receive it.
When your there, at peace, knowledge, and strength, then you’ve had the mysteries of God unfolded to you.  He has revealed himself to you and then you’ve bonded yourself to him.  You see more like He sees, you understand a little more like He understands, and you know more of what He knows.  You’ve allowed Him to reveal himself to you and you’re bonded to Him.  What a beautiful process He allows.  It takes spiritual work on our part and His. 

So Trust in the Lord, Repent, and Wait. Pay attention while he teaches you in layers and gets you where he wants you to go.  This is the gospel of Christ.  My testimony is God lives.  I don’t need to know everything I just need to Trust, Repent and Wait while He does his work in my life.  I am deeply grateful for all he has allowed to happen to me, to our missionaries, to our converts and to our members in the Washington Spokane Mission over the last 3 years.  Love to you all.  

Sunday, June 28, 2015

My last training with the missionaries

I’m not a runner, but I run.  I don’t run well, I even joke that some people can walk as fast as I run.  I use to only walk though, so I feel good that I can run at all.  About 11 years ago is when I decided I wanted to get better at running and started working on it.  I started slow, (walk/running), around the square block by our house.  I got better and better and after 3 months I could kind of make it without stopping; kind of. 

One Saturday morning my daughter Meghan who was around 15 at the time, said she would go running with me.  So we headed out and I noticed she was better at running her first day and could go faster and farther without stopping than I could. What an eye opening experience for me.  I commented to her about this and she said the most profound thing, “Mom, you just have to decide to run.”

This phrase went through me and I have thought about it many times since.  When I get tired and want to stop, not just running but anything, I say to myself, “Melonie, you just have to decide to______.” Decide to:…. run, get up, have faith, trust God, eat healthy, study in the morning, let it go, that you can do it.  Something about this phrase speaks to me.  When I say it to myself it gives me mental strength to do it.  This phrase has helped me dig deep and exercise discipline many times in the last 11 years.

We just finished our last training with the missionaries.  I decided for the last doctrine training I would teach here on the mission I would talk about something Sister R asked Elder Clayton when he came to our mission a few weeks ago.  She asked, “How does someone develop better self-mastery?”  This is a fantastic question for not only this young generation but for everyone living in our world of instant gratification.  It seems it is the foundational principle for every other doctrine we have ever trained on, so I decided we should look at it more in depth. 

We have had 12 different discussions with 12 different zones over the last 2 weeks as we have gone around to say good-bye to the missionaries, answer questions and talk about the transition of receiving a new mission president.  In my training we have talked about how self mastery is our spirits having control, power and dominion over, not just our actions, but our thoughts.  We have talked about the reason why it is important- that we need to be able to abide the law and become that person who can live with God again.  Self Mastery over the natural, fallen man inside of us and giving our will to God is the key to this process.  Then we had many interesting discussions on how to do this. 

Two things have stuck in my mind as we have shared over the last few days:
ONE- Everything is a decision. It’s just like what Meghan said to me, you just have to decide.  Recognizing everything I feel, think, do and become helps me see that my life is my own and I am the master of my fate, the captain of my ship.  Even coasting and just treading water is a decision.  Faith is a decision.  Love is a decision.  Hope, trust, forgiveness and mercy are all decisions.  Sleeping in, getting to bed late, eating dessert, not exercising, and even being mad or offended are all decisions.  Elder Maxwell said, “You better want what you want because you’re going to get it.”  I love that.  I decide if I will run, hate, be angry, speak kindly, judge another, save my money, pay my debts,love, etc.  We are constantly making decisions.  When we have the vision to see into the future of what we want to be, have, and do and make decisions and choices that will get us to that place that is self discipline.  I think of it as being “firm of mind”.

I’ve seen this in missionaries lives.  I have seen most missionaries decide they could work hard, train well, lead in righteousness and love others.  I have seen amazing progress that feels like exponential growth in most missionary’s lives.

But the opposite is also true.  We’ve seen a few missionaries, very few, never really reach the potential we see inside them.  Even at the end of their mission they are still saying, “I can’t, it’s too hard, I’m not able.” They have still progressed and grown, and they are good young men, but they just can’t quite see what we see inside of them.   I feel they just are not able to see clearly their divine potential and just decide they can do it.  They just never quite get there.  I want to just shake them and say you are so much better than you think you are, you are capable, you just have to decide you can do it.  Then I realize they are deciding.  They are making a decision that they can’t, won’t, or are not able.  (These few are not missionaries who have depression or anxiety.)

When E. Clayton came to our mission he shared the scripture, 2 Ne 2:26…men are free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon.. He said, “This means, you are not a Kleenex box; an inanimate object sitting there with no choice, only to be acted upon.”  I love that. You are not a Kleenex box, suffering through whatever happens to you.  We don’t live our life on accident, even when we do nothing and the day just rolls over us with no purpose.  We still chose that. 

We can live our life with purpose, on purpose.  When we’re mad it’s because we want to be mad.  When were hurt and can’t forgive it’s because we want to be hurt and not forgive, more than we want to be free and happy.  We get what we want.  We can or can’t do what we decide we can or can’t do.  Recognizing and accepting this brings a tremendous amount of power to us.  Because then we come to accountability with acceptance and responsibility.

TWO-The other thing that really stuck in my mind from our discussion is that how we feel about our sacrifices determines our staying power of discipline.  If a child wants to learn to snowboard they come up with a plan instinctively.  They want a season pass, they arrange for driving, they figure out how to get equipment, they want to spend the time driving, and love the work of practicing to get better.  Desire and motivation increase the ability to be self disciplined.

To me this means having a vision of what I want to become, obtain and achieve and loving the sacrifice or work to get there means I’ll do it.  If I want a college education and see the vision of what that will do for me I don’t mind saving money and going without that nice car, new clothes or full price movie.  If I want to be physically fit more than I want dessert and to sit around relaxing then I’ll love to eat healthy and exercise.  If I really want to be a scriptorium I love spending time studying.  If these are just dreams that sound great but in the moment we hate saving, eating healthy and studying we will never have the staying power to make those dreams a reality.  If we tell ourselves how much we hate something, how we don’t want to do it and how hard it is, we will never keep trying, working and making the sacrifice.  But if we love our sacrifice we have tremendous staying power.

 THREE-Ok, (you know me), I just want to add one more thing a missionary talked about that stuck in my mind.  He shared something his dad taught him.  Most of us have heard the analogy to teach about choice and consequence of when we pick up a stick we pick up both ends, one end is the action, the other end is the consequence, for good or bad.  When you pick up the stick you pick up both ends, you don’t get one without the other.  When we choose an action or thought we also pick up the consequence that goes with that action or thought.  Well this missionary made the comment about the way his dad taught him about choice.  He taught him to never think of the action when making a choice, but only think about the consequence you’re choosing.  When you pick up the stick don’t look at the end of what you’re doing, look at the end of what you’re going to get.  What a wonderful thing to teach- Look, see clearly what you’re picking up, and then decide if you want to do it.  How would that change our life if we always made choices based on what the consequence was going to be.

I know self mastery is the foundation of purity, virtue, education, financial stability, spirituality, confidence, conversion, great work ethic, integrity, patience, etc.  We just have to have it to achieve anything meaningful.  We need to be the kids who can wait for the marshmallow so we can get something better later. We can’t serve God and mammon.  I know it is through Christ, Jesus that we can be more than conquerors.  He is our anchor, our hope, to be more than ourselves.  We are not alone in the fight.  He gives strength and second chances.  I’m really glad for that second chance.  We get to practice because of our beautiful savior, and it gets easier and easier when we do.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

A journey to happiness

 We are right in the middle of saying goodbye to all the missionaries.  We are visiting each zone one by one, giving a last training, our words of council and advice, having a question and answer time and then talking about the transition of getting a new mission president.  We are calling it, “Muffins with the Mullens”, because then we are eating some really delicious muffins to end our last training.
President Mullen is giving his last doctrine training on choosing to be happy.  I have had so many layers of learning about happiness this last 3 years.  I don’t think I’ve written about it before, (I can’t believe it, but I’ve looked and looked and can’t see that I’ve written any of my experiences about this), so I’m going to start at the beginning and write a little of my process of learning about happiness and how that works with the Lord.

When I came on this mission I was very happy.  Within a few months I noticed I was feeling more weighed down and burdened.  I was studying and came across the saying by Joseph Smith, “Happiness is the object and design of our existence.”  I thought a lot about this.  Really?  Why am I feeling so weighed down then, especially when I’m trying to do so many good things?  What am I missing? 

That week a scripture also popped into my mind, 2 Ne 2:25, Men are that they might have joy.  Really?  Is that true?  I know I’ve thought about life as needing to progress, learn, grow, change and become perfected so that I can live with God.  How does happiness play into that?  I reasoned that all learning, growing, progressing and becoming perfected is to live with God again so that we can be happy.  It doesn’t sound like we are just working in this life so we can be happy in the next, we are actually meant to be happy in this life.  I wondered, how do I find joy in all this work and duty?

Then I had this little spiritual epiphany in church that week.  I was sitting down and looked over at the sweet little Baer family.  I looked right at their little girl, who was about 2 years old at the time, and she had the most sweet, loving, trusting look on her face.  She looked absolutely burden less, carefree and perfectly happy.  The thought came to me, “we are to become like little children.”  God wants us to be as happy and joyful as those sweet little children.  They looked so free and burden less.  It hit me.  God wants me to be like that.  That is why He has provided a Savior. So I can feel like that now.  I knew I needed to use the atonement and cast my burden on His care; not be so weighed down with thoughts of there is so much to do, am I getting it all done, and is it all good enough.

I went to pray after church and immediately went into my old routine thinking, “What do I need to do, what should I have done, didn’t do, etc.  I thought, “No, God doesn’t want me to just do my duty, work hard, be responsible, fulfill my calling and obligations.  He wants me to be happy, he actually cares how I feel. 

I felt so different as this sunk into my heart.  I learned so much about God in that moment, about love and about my own parenting pattern. If I really believe God loves me then I can know he doesn’t just care about what I do, but how I feel.  That means He feels merciful when I can’t give anymore, forgiving when I am weak and understanding when I didn’t get it all done. HE loves me, I’m not earning his love by the things I’m doing.  He is kind. Most of you are probably thinking, duh, well of course to all of that.  But me and my personality had a huge ah ha moment.

Then I saw a DVD about Christ at a baptism we went to later in the week.  I saw Christ accept the pain and pressure of the atonement, and wondered if He was happy in that moment, it seemed so hard and painful; not a joyous moment.  But I remember Pres Holland saying Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ wanted to perform the atonement for us.  It made Christ joyous to achieve and perform His Father’s will and His own foreordination.

A few months later I was reading 3 Ne 11:37,38 while the sacrament was being passed.  It is the verses about becoming a little child….repent and become as a little child.  It was so ironic that I was sitting in front of the Baer children.  I could hear them humming and singing softly as the bread was being passed.  It was the most beautiful, spiritual moment.  These beautiful children, who were so free and happy were singing and humming during the sacrament.  It was so sweet.  That is what the sacrament does for us.  The thought struck me, I’ve always thought of this scripture as saying become like a child: teachable, humble, forgiving, easily entreated, and believing.  But in that moment I realized we are to become like that so that we can be happy.  A child comes clean and free, loving himself, loving others and expecting everyone to love them.  God wants us to be like that.

Ok this may be long, but one more story and then my point about Don’s training.  This also happened early on in our mission.  It was a transfer weekend and that Saturday was so busy.  I worked out and got ready quickly, because the week had been so busy I hadn’t done any of the cooking or shopping yet.  I went shopping for 2 ½ hours, (it reminds me of cooking and shopping for youth conference every 6 weeks), hurried home after picking up Don from the office and cooked with Helen for 4 ½ hours.  Then I worked on the Spokane Word, (the mission newsletter), made dinner, prepared my talk for stake conference and went to speak there, came home to finish the newsletter and sent it to Sister Dean, counseled a sister missionary on the phone for about 40 minutes, made sure my numbers were right for housing for the departing and incoming missionaries and then found myself folding a load of whites at 11pm I was trying to get done before Sunday hit.  The thought came to me that I hadn’t read my scriptures yet.  AGG!!  I thought, “I’ve been serving God all day, surely I’ve done enough and I don’t now need to read my scriptures too.  It will be ok to miss a day.”  I heard these words in my mind, something I had never thought of before, “Melonie, now it is my turn to bless you for all you have done.  Reading scriptures is not something you do for me, it is what you do so I can bless you, give to you, fill you, strengthen you and speak to you.” “If you don’t read it is ok, it is your choice, I don’t condemn you, I just can’t bless you.”

It hit me.  This is true.  So many times I’ve thought of things like scriptures, temple attendance, prayer, etc. as things I do for God to be crossed off the list; one more thing to do, and hope he’ll bless me for it.  But the Lord was teaching me, this is a misperception; I don’t do these things to be obedient so he will bless me, doing these things are the blessing: he will enlighten me while I’m reading, speak words that will help me, give me feelings of strength, knowledge I didn’t have before while I’m reading, etc. 

It reminded me of a testimony that a friend Liz gave years earlier in a sacrament meeting.  She spoke of receiving promptings to write a nice note, visit a friend, help a neighbor, or some other kind act.  She felt guilty when she hadn’t obeyed the promptings because she was so busy.  She had the spirit teach her one day that the Lord wasn’t berating her for not obeying those promptings, she had just missed out on the blessing of that warm memory, strengthened relationship, increased feelings of love or the increased confidence that obeying promptings brings. 

This testimony was so powerful to me because I’m always one to turn things into a job, duty, responsibility and work.  In that moment I understood a little more about how God is trying to bless us.  He prompts us to do things so we will be blessed.  It’s just a little twist but it made a huge profound difference for me.  In my mind I had been working to serve the Lord and cross those things off the list so that He would be happy with me.  In reality he prompts me to do those things for me, not for Him.  He wants me to be happy, he wants to bless me, not just have me work.

Ok now fast forward a year and a half to yesterday and one more thought about happiness. In President Mullen’s training he was talking about Happiness is the design of our existence.  There are eternal laws, and all commandments and principles God gives to us is to be happy and reconciled to Him and obedience to these laws.  Commandments, prayer, scriptures, faith, principles of self discipline, sacrifice, and forgiveness, are all principles that when lived by we will be reconciled to God and it will be happiness.  They are for us, not for God.  God does nothing except for the benefit of the world.  Everything is to bring us to happiness.  The only true happiness is to be reconciled to God because everything he asks is for our good; for our happiness.

When we fight against God, His commandments and His will, we just fight against our own happiness.  I have seen captions of stories in the media that are so accusing against anyone who believes in Christian values.  These people are haters against anyone who would say there is good, right, and correct behavior.  They say people who profess belief in values are bigots, hypocrites, judging and intolerant.  But the very behavior they are attacking, they are exhibiting, times 10.  It makes me kind of laugh/cry inside.  How can someone be so  old in age and be so totally self unaware-when they are so intolerant as they scream about intolerance, judging as they rant about being judged, hateful as they spew out hate.  It’s just weird how blind haters can be to their own behavior. They hate and fight all in the name of a worldly good.  It is so ironic to me.  What they are fighting against is the very thing that would bring love, peace and happiness to their lives.

Ok I lied, one more thought about happiness, I really want to say two more things but I know I may be rambling now.  This is it.  I haven’t been too happy at the thought of going home.  It’s kind of overwhelming.  We have to face a lot of things back home that are not easy.  But I have thought to myself that God will make us happy when we get there, because it is His will that we finish here and go home.  So I’ve just tried not to think about it; a great technique, and trust the Lord that we will be happy when we get there.  But yesterday as I was thinking about God and his desire for us to be happy I thought about our situation going back home of: moving, what to do with our house, looking for a job, caring for the health of my parents, and putting our family back together.  It occurred to me that the Lord wants me to be happy.  I said the words, “I’m happy to be going home and I’m happy to be in the situation we are in.”  As I said it I actually felt that way for a minute. The spirit did a work on my heart and I felt a godly perspective of it’s good to look for a job and be empty nesters with a great, big huge house.  I couldn’t go any further than that.  But I thought, I just need to change my mind.  I know with God I can be happy. I’m going to really work on this in the next two weeks and see what the Lord can do with me.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Learning and the heart.

We are ending our mission.  How weird!  It just seems so surreal. I want to write more than usual in the next two weeks to share some of the ending experiences we are having. Here is one about learning.

I think the Lord is prompting many people to be very kind and generous to us.  We have always felt very loved and accepted on this mission. But here at the end, more than usual, stake members and missionaries are telling us that they love us, what a difference we’ve made and how much they will miss us.  It has been touching for us.  I think these people are like little angels sent by the Lord to spread love and help us know that it has all been worth it.

I really appreciate those in our stakes who have expressed that what was said or taught touched or changed them, but I always feel a little uncomfortable too.  The reason why is because I know learning is a very personal thing between the Lord and the heart of the listener.  I never know how to respond.  I think teaching is also a very personal thing between the Lord and the heart of the teacher.  I try really hard to focus on the Lord before, during and after I speak.  I try to focus on people’s needs and what the Lord wants said and then after if the Lord is pleased with what I said, but not if the congregation thought it was good.  This helps me not feel nervous about speaking or anxious about what I said.  Focusing on the Lord and not how people view me, has saved me in this assignment.  I’m grateful when I feel the Lord is pleased.

But what I wanted to write about is learning, not teaching.  Here are a few observations.

A funny experience:  A new sister missionary came up to me after a training and said, “Sister Mullen everything you say is like gold to me.”  I thought about that later and wished I would have pin pointed to her the deeper truth of that statement.  I wish I would have said, “The spirit teaches you because you have a soft heart and open mind.  When you listen and are focused, humble, teachable, soft and open, that is when the magic occurs.  That is when gold happens to your learning, it has nothing to do with me.”

Now the funny part: The exact same training I asked another older, more experienced, sister missionary, “What did you learn today?”  She said, “I am sorry Sister Mullen, I feel so bad, I just wasn’t present here today.  I really didn’t get anything out of it.  I was kicked out of an investigators house yesterday and I just couldn’t focus today.”  We talked and laughed about missionary work being bi-polar; you have these incredible highs and some really bad lows and it can all happen within hours of each other!

But that is really true and I have had the same thing happen to me.  I have stood up from a meeting and my husband has said, “Wow that was the best talk”, and I realize I didn’t hear a thing that was said.  I feel I missed out and I want a re-do, but I don’t get one.  My heart and mind were not present to learn.

The point is that sometimes we think our learning is based on how someone else teaches.  When we learn something really good that touches our hearts we feel so much gratitude and go to the teacher and tell them how great it was.  In reality I wonder if most thanks just goes to the spirit and the heart of the listener. The spirit absolutely taught, and touched when the heart has been changed!   All good things come from Christ.  That really is true. “Why call the teacher good, there is none who is good except God.”

One more funny thing: There has been quite a few times when missionaries will say, “When Sister Mullen taught…….. I learned……..”  What is so funny is I will look over at Don and think, “I never said that.”  Now it could just be I’m in the night and can’t remember stuff.  But I really think, “No, I said something kind of like that but it got changed from my mouth to your heart.”  I’m an innocent by standard in the process.  This has happened so much it’s become funny to me.  When people start a sentence with, “When Sister Mullen said…….”  My eyes get big and I just kind of wonder what they are going to say.  The important point is that this is evidence that the way things are said can be changed so that little precious spiritual moments can happen. The information needed is spiritually changed so that when they hear it, it is exactly what they needed for that magic to occur and then gold happens.

Why is this important?  For me it is important because I love to learn and I have had some great teachers in my life.  Steve Robinson was a gospel doctrine teacher in our ward when I was newly married, starting my family, and he taught me so powerfully.  I loved that man!!  What an amazing teacher.  He motivated me to read the scriptures and love them.  It was the first time in my life that I loved gospel doctrine more than relief society.  He opened my eyes and got me to actually think.  I had a beloved stake president Dan Judd.  He taught me so much.  I still think of the way he taught and things I learned from him.  I remember specific things he said and the way he said them because they were “tags” in my brain.  That is how powerfully he spoke to me.  He opened his mouth and I felt the spirit.  He spoke and it went straight to my heart.  I love him!  But I remind myself, it’s feeling the spirit that I love.  It’s not the men themselves.  Even when I listen to Elder Bednar, Pres Uchtdorf and Elder Holland, who are master teachers in my book, I remind myself, its God I love and His holy spirit. That is what I’m loving.  I think it is ok for me to love them too, but I just always remind myself that it’s God and his holy spirit that I love; the teacher is just the vehicle to the real thing that is good.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The heavens are open and God is speaking.

The Book of Mormon has saved me so many times on this mission.  When I have needed help with a missionary, a training, a child, or some spiritual question, the perfect sentence or verse has touched me and given me the spiritual knowledge that I needed so badly right at that moment. 
For doctrine at zone conference a few weeks ago we decided that we would let the missionaries share spiritual experiences they have had with the Book of Mormon.  What an amazing experience we had!  We heard powerful witness of the Savior, the power of faith and love, and spiritual experiences they have had with God speaking to them through the Book of Mormon.
The Book of Mormon is true and living scripture that is a vehicle for God to speak to us. I have learned that there are layers of truth to be had for anyone who will study and live by it’s teachings. The Book of Mormon doesn’t just teach about righteousness and it’s blessings in a way that enriches and enlarges the soul, but teaches about wickedness and evil in a powerful, warning voice.   I took pages of notes as I wrote down each day the spiritual experiences missionaries shared from specific versus from the Book of Mormon. 
Here are a few:
Sister V – “My family are not members.  I wanted to go on a mission but my stake president said I wasn’t ready, that it is hard to serve a mission.  He said I had to:  1.  Not go to any dances, (I love to dance and be social).  2. Go without my phone; no talking or texting. 3. Not have any boyfriends.  All of these things were very hard for me to quit but I stopped all of them.  The stake president then said I needed to study the Book of Mormon.  As I was reading I kept feeling if I wanted to be a missionary then I needed to invite my mom to read the Book of Mormon too.  This was so scary for me.  But I finally did it and my mom started reading the Book.  When I left Tonga to go on my mission my family was very sad.  As I was leaving my mother gave me a piece of paper when I got on the airplane I read it, it was this verse and has been my favorite ever since.  1 Ne 2:10 – O that thou mightiest be like unto this valley, firm and steadfast and immovable in keeping the commandments of the Lord! I knew this was my mother’s prayer for me that she had found as she was reading. I love the Book of Mormon and I love my mom.”
Elder F – “I found being in Moscow was very difficult.  College kids were really making me mad.  I was feeling like they were looking down on me with a kind of derogatory attitude.  It was really getting to me.  I was reading in 1 Ne 8:30-33 and knew I was paying too much attention to the people in the great and spacious building.  It’s discouraging when the finger of scorn is being pointed towards you!!  The world will point the finger of scorn at those who are partaking of the fruit.  But those who are strong and focused will heed them not.  Since then I have had the strength to not pay attention.  I know I need to choose where to put my focus.  Heed them not -is powerful words in my life.”
Sister H – “I have had a hard family life.  I wasn’t raised in the best of circumstances.  When I started to prepare to come on a mission I felt everything was going wrong.  My family was being attacked by hard things.  I started to waiver and wondered if I should still go.  I read 3 Ne 5:13- I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life. I knew I was meant to serve.  Now every time I am having a hard time I think of this verse and I feel strong.”
Sister E – “I was having such a hard time when I first came out on my mission.  My family wasn’t emailing me and I felt so alone.  I felt I wasn’t a good missionary either, everything was so new.  I felt so small and worthless.  I read, 1 Ne 21:15, 16 For can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb?  Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee, O house of Israel.  Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.  I knew the Lord hadn’t forgotten me.  Christ will never forget me.  I remind myself of that often.”
Sister S – “I have heard so many people say various things against the church while I’ve been serving.  I felt my faith wavering one day.  I read this and knew this was for me.  Jacob 7:5 – And he had hope to shake me from the faith, notwithstanding the many revelations and the many things which I had seen concerning these things; for I truly had seen angels, and they had ministered unto me.  And also, I had heard the voice of the Lord speaking unto me in very word, from time to time; wherefore, I could not be shaken.  This was me.  I knew God was telling me to remember, and in doing so I have felt I cannot be shaken. I remember God, his goodness to me and all that I have seen, heard and felt.”
Elder J – “I was feeling a lot of opposition in my missionary work.  I started thinking about why do some get so upset, and why do I get offended and angry when they do?  I came across this scripture, 1 Ne 1: 19,20 – And it came to pass that the Jews did mock him because of the things which he testified of them;  for he truly testified of their wickedness and their abominations; and he testified that the things which he saw and heard, and also the things which he read in the book, manifested plainly of the coming of a Messiah, and also the redemption of the world.  And when the Jews heard these things they were angry with him; yea, even as with the prophets of old, whom they had cast out and stoned, and slain; and they also sought his life, that they might take it away.  But behold I Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their  faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance.  When I read this I knew pride is what keeps us from accepting Christ, correction and change.  I knew I had to protect my own humility as well.  To be a true disciple of Christ I have to be humble.”
Elder B – I haven’t always been able to stand up and have a voice.  There have been many times in my life when I have just followed the crowd.  I wanted to change but didn’t know how to do it.  When I was really seeking for an answer of how to change I found this, Hel 3:34&35 – And they were lifted up in pride, even to the persecution of many of their brethren.  Now this was a great evil, which did cause the more humble part of the people to suffer great persecutions, and to wade through much affliction.  Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God. I knew I needed to fast and pray and yield my heart to God.  He could change me then I could be brave and firm.  I have seen it happening in my life as I have done it.”
Elder T – “I come from a very violent community and have seen some bad things happen in my life.  I’ve been wondering a lot about why bad things happen to good people.  Why am I serving the Lord and all this bad stuff happens to my family and other people who I love?  I came across this verse and it hit me in a way I hadn’t thought of before.  Mos 24:14 – And I will ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.  I know because of this that God’s promise is whatever we are going through he will help us and we can strand strong with Him by our side.  I know when I need God and I receive His help, then I come to know him better than I knew him before.”
Sister R – “I have wanted to learn and understand the atonement better while I’ve been serving.  I feel I know information about it but lack true understanding. I was giving a training in MLC and came across this scripture.  3 Ne 17:7 – Have ye any that are sick among you?  Bring them hither.  Have ye any that are lame, or blind, or halt, or maimed, or leprous, or that are withered, or that are deaf, or that are afflicted in any manner?  Bring them hither and I will heal them, for I have compassion upon you; my bowels are filled with mercy.  What hit me so hard was the word, ANY.  I hold on to all my stuff.  I don’t feel worthy.  But I felt this verse was speaking to me.  EVERYONE is afflicted.  I along with everyone else need a savior.  That is why he is our savior.  All can be healed, me included.  He feels mercy and compassion for ME!”
Elder M – “I appreciate the small characters in the Book of Mormon.  One is in Alma 23:14 – And the Amalekites were not converted, save only one; neither were any of the Amulonites; but they did harden their hearts.  The Amalekites and the Amulonites are the most hardened people of the Book of Mormon.  Yet one believed and was converted.  It’s easy to join when everyone is there with you and you have support, but this unnamed Zoramite converted on his own.  I know I need to be like this unnamed man; strong enough to stand alone when none other stand.  I want to be one.”
Elder C – “It’s hard to work and work and not see much come of it.  But when I read this I had a spiritual understanding hit me.  Words of Mormon: 7 – And I do this for a wise purpose; for thus it whispereth me, according to the workings of the Spirit of the Lord which is in me.  And now, I do not know all things; but the Lord knoweth all things which are to come; wherefore, he worketh in me to do according to his will.  I realize I don’t know everyone, but God does.  And what God expects of me is to follow him and do his will.  That is all I need to know.  He will work in their lives and it’s not for me to say what that work should look like.”

Well this is getting long so I better quit.  But I hope you can feel the wonderful spirit of our missionaries and the way God is teaching and speaking to them.  He lives and is working with each one of us to bring us back to him.  He wants to communicate with us and that is why he has given us the beautiful gifts of prayer and scriptures.  I am so thankful for every spiritual blessing that has come into my life by reading and pondering the Book of Mormon.  I am so thankful for the personal work he is doing in every one of our missionaries lives.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Learning to approach the alter of His grace with gratitude for my part and portion.

I have written about being able to see and recognize blessings in previous blogs.  I am learning a new layer about gratitude now though that is changing my life.  I thought I knew about this before my mission, but I think I am learning this layer of gratitude on a whole new level.  I am learning to not just be grateful for blessings, but to actually be accepting and grateful for who I am and what I can give with the Lords help.  I know that sounds weird to us women, (and men too); to actually be accepting and grateful for who we are and what we can give. But I hope I can share what I am learning in such a way as to give this amazing treasure to you.

I expressed in my last blog that I stopped writing for a time because I felt like the pain and loss I was experiencing left me with nothing to write about.  I had lost hope.  I was letting despair and doubt get to me.  I started studying hope and the change inside of me was amazing.  But there was something else there too.  I started to pay attention to what started it, what made me lose my peace in the first place.  It was a subtle thing I hadn’t even realized was causing a loss of the spirit.  I discovered what my problem was and where it started.

A month or so ago the reality of going home had hit me and I filled my mind with of all the things I wish we had done, what I wish we could have accomplished, what I wish would have happened, questions of did we do enough, work hard enough, and had we really accomplished all the Lord had in mind for us.  I kept repenting over and over, thinking of everything we could have, should have, or would have done, when I prayed.  A lot of it was things I didn’t even have control over, but I just felt so bad I kept talking to the Lord about it, filling my heart and mind with the negative.

I have to just laugh at myself because I think of how many departing missionaries have come to council with me about this very thing and I have had all the answers: “You’ve done a great job, look at what you did do and not what you didn’t do, your mission isn’t the end of your life, you are an unfinished project and your mission is not the end of your progress, and let God’s love and gratitude into your heart and know He is pleased.”  Yet here I am at the end, and I am doing the exact same thing! It makes me just laugh at myself.  I really wonder if the Lord puts me through these things on purpose so I can understand, love and teach better as I learn for myself. 

Anyway it’s weird, but this is why I’ve been struggling so much. I kept coming to prayer with this feeling of wishing and wanting this perfect mission and feeling so much regret.  I was filling myself with a weight and burden that was exhausting to bear.  Wow.  When am I ever going to completely learn that I am not perfect, things are not perfect, life isn’t perfect and people aren’t perfect?  I know it in my mind and I think I am ok with it but then I have another experience like this and realize I’m still doing it.  I just want everything to be good, true, right, strong, brave, done, and prepared.  (Notice I didn’t put down clean and pretty, I don’t have those two tendencies, regrettablyJ). But this is how the adversary got to me and it made me vulnerable to the other hard things going on, weakening my strength.

Then we had new missionary training two weeks ago and my inspired husband again came up with doctrine he wanted to do for the training that was perfect for me.  We studied 2 talks about gratitude and discussed them with the new missionary’s at their training. Pres Monson shared a story about George and the oil lamps vs. electricity.  Something in the story touched me deeply.  That night I came to prayer just thinking about all the Lord had given to us and decided to only express gratitude for it.  I felt so different.  I can’t even express the magnitude of change I felt.  It was huge.  I felt the spirit so strongly and felt my Heavenly Fathers love so powerfully, just by thinking and opening up myself to the good we had done.  Pres Monson in his talk said giving thanks not only helps us recognize our blessings, but it also unlocks the doors of heaven and helps us feel God’s love.  I experienced that for myself instantly and knew it was true.   I recognized I wasn’t looking at all we had accomplished, what did happen, the spirit we felt, the good we did, all the people we had talked to and seeds we had planted. I was just looking at the lack.  I have literally trained or talked about not doing this at least a million times to missionaries in the last 3 years. Yet I was doing it. It has drained me, worn me out and caused deep unhappiness inside of me during those weeks.  Those feelings made me susceptible to the other negative things creeping in.  I asked the Lord about it and realized I wasn’t grateful for all He had given, I was just wishing for more.

As I was praying this thought struck me:  “Melonie, there is always more to do, you’ve never done it all, been it all, accomplished it all, or become it all.  You know it in your mind, but you do not really understand or believe it in your heart. There are a hundred things you could do on a mission, but you are only going to be able to do 50.  Are you going to chose to look at the 50 things you did do, or the 50 things you didn’t? Your life will always be like this; so much you can see that could be done, but not possible to do it all, so accept what you can do and be grateful!  And then apply the atonement to all those other things.  You have a savior to cover all the rest.”

It shot into my heart that it was pride that caused me to look at the 50 things we didn’t do.  I know the Lord has blessed us with so much on this mission.  I remember every training walking away feeling that it was good and the Lord had made a great work happen.  So many conversations with missionaries that helped them and I felt the Lord had blessed me to know things to ask and things to say that made a huge difference.  The Lord had blessed me with love so that I could be patient when I was exhausted, or keep going when I was drained.  I knew it, but I was pushing it away, like it wasn’t enough for me.  I think because of pride, I wanted more.  It makes me cry to think that I was looking past all He had done for us and was only thinking of what didn’t happen.  How prideful of me to negate all that the Lord had given.  I didn’t even realize while I was repenting of all we hadn’t done that I should have been repenting of not accepting what the Lord had allowed.   What I learned in my heart was that I need to be humble and thank the lord for what we did accomplish, the spirit we had, the great trainings we gave, the ways we did help, and the work that did go forth.  And stop worrying if it was good enough.  That is just pride. 

Now, every day I approach the alter of His grace with gratitude in my heart.  I feel so amazing.  I am so grateful for this wonderful experience.  I am so grateful for all He allowed us to do.  I feel so accepting of who we are and what we did. That is huge for me!  I am profoundly grateful for this learning. Every time I start to feel those feelings come back during the day, of: “we should have done this, why didn’t we do that, why didn’t we know this in the beginning, I wish I was….” I stop myself and offer a prayer of gratitude for what the Lord helped us do, made us into, inspired us to say, strengthened us to accomplish, and the opportunity to work with Him through it all.   I have this feeling that this was His mission and we are His.  He allowed us to do a part and a portion with Him.  I am so changed as I feel grateful for the portion and feel I don’t need any more.   I’m good.

I feel this is a principle for life no matter what the circumstance.  It is humbling to be accepting.  I have never understood before that gratitude is humility.  I want to keep acceptance of what the Lord grants, gives and His timing in it all, and not need more, as part of my life forever.  I really do feel it has opened the windows of heaven and I can feel God’s love as I work to invite gratitude and acceptance into my heart all day long through prayer.  I love this gospel and I love the Lord.  He is so good.   

Go here to listen to Pres. Monson’s talk:
Go here to listen to Pres Uchtdorf’s talk:

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Hope changes everything

I remember growing up and having lessons on hope.  I never could get it.  I specifically remember feeling so much frustration that I couldn’t quite get it.  It seemed so obvious to me it was like, DUH, why are we talking about this; people breathe we don’t need to be taught to breathe, why are we being taught about hope?   I think as a child I had so much hope I couldn’t quite understand why we talked about it or what we were suppose to learn about it.  It was such a part of life for me.  It is ironic to me that learning about hope now in my life is probably one of the most profound learning experiences of my life.  Let me explain a little.

I am not really sure where to start.  My purpose in writing this blog is to bring others closer to Christ, by sharing my own experiences of coming closer to Christ myself.  Sometimes when you’re in the midst of a hard trial it’s not very enlightening or edifying to hear someone talk about it!  So I have not felt able to write anything.  I feel so sad that I didn’t write the first 2 years of our mission when we were in a little spiritual bubble, protected from the cares of the world, and felt so filled and full of the spirit constantly. I had so much I could have written about.  It would have been easier and less vulnerable for me.  But I am doing it now so I have to be grateful for what I am doing and not wishing for something else.  But the contrast is HUGE.  Life now feels like we are being hit from all sides and I feel vulnerable and exposed when writing because of all we are going through.  But I still feel compelled to write, so I’ll keep trying.

The reality of life can be hard and painful and it hurts to face trial and pain without the spirit’s healing power, buffering strength or calm assurance.  I have learned so much about how investigators feel, missionary’s feel and God’s children feel when they face things on their own without the power of God being carried by the spirit to help them. 

I think sometimes God carries us and I think sometimes we are allowed to feel the full force of life being thrown at us.  I don’t know if it’s God’s way of teaching us so sometimes he retreats, or if we do it to ourselves by drawing away from Him because of pain and hurt.  I suspect when I am in the middle of it I think God has abandoned me, but when I get humble, repent, and ask God to change my heart, I can see that I allowed fear, doubt, negativity, and pain to take me away from God.  I do know opposition teaches a lot.  You know I love the doctrine of opposition, 2 Nephi 2:  Feeling the difference teaches. 

So I have been having my ups and downs.  Someday I have felt carried and lifted, and some days it hits me and I can’t seem to get past the pain.  I won’t go into a lot of details but it has to do with going home, facing our yard after 3 years of renters, moving, finances, the reality of job hunting when were old, my mom and dad’s health, and Nathan and Jordan’s painful experiences.  Coming out on this mission was a real change of life in every way, but it wasn’t hard, it felt like so much meaning and purpose being led to that point in our lives.  Going home is changing our life in every way, but it feels like it’s more picking up the pieces of our life.  Not quite so meaningful.  We are so happy to re-new relationships with family and friends and that will be a bright spot.

So I tried to make that short, hope that was ok to express.  But now I want to share how the doctrine of hope has changed me and is helping me get past my fear and pain.  I was feeling really strong for about a month, a while ago.  I thought the Lord had gotten me through; I had learned some fantastic things and felt the spirit in my heart confirm that everything would be fine in the end.  Then I let some little negative thinking in, some fear in, some doubt and confusion in.  I found myself at rock bottom almost instantly. It think when you’re kind of fragile any little negative things can pull the rug out from under you.  Like: “I can’t see the way God sees, I can’t see how our prayers were answered, I can’t see blessings, I can’t see how this can turn to our profit and learning”.  These little negative thoughts can open the flood gates. I can’t really express the pain, I just know I had no idea how painful pain could be until this last year of my life.  I feel so much more compassion for others pain now.

Anyway my good and inspired husband wanted to teach the doctrine of hope for MLC at the beginning of the month.  I read the talk he wanted us to teach from.  It was inspiring.  Then I listened to it while I followed along with the words.  It hit my heart powerfully.  We taught it and I was changed completely.  I studied it again the next day and felt even more inspired.  Then I read it again 2 days ago so I could record some of the points in my study journal.  I have never felt more changed by a talk in my life.  I am so grateful for Elder Uchtdorf and his amazing inspiration. 

Also I studied Alma 58:10,11.  And understood faith and hope are gifts that the Lord blesses us when we pray for it.  He can speak peace to our souls and that is what He has done for me.  I feel at peace.  I can quiet my mind and trust my heart that everything will be ok and work out.  Once again I feel He has strengthened me and I feel I can have courage and hope for the future no matter what it is.  Going toward God is always the right answer!

Here are some of the things I learned about hope:
HOPE is an Infinite Power.  Infinite means without limit or boundary.  So hopes power is without limit or boundary.  Hope has the power to change our attitude, outlook, perspective, thoughts, and feelings. Hope works against the natural man inside of us.
Faith overcomes fear, Hope overcomes despair.  We must overcome the temptation to lose hope.  (I have never thought about losing hope as a temptation.  But it is.  It is what the natural man pulls at us to do.)

Hope leads to peace, mercy, rejoicing and gladness.  Hope is the foundation of faith; an anchor to our souls.  Doubt and despair lead to the temptation to lose hope.  Despair binds hearts and minds in darkness.  Despair drains us of vibrance, joy and leaves us empty!  Despair kills ambition, advances sickness, pollutes the soul and deadens the heart.  It’s so true, despair kills everything, hope brings life.

Hope encourages and inspires us to place our trust in the loving care of Heavenly Father.  Hope is the abiding trust that God will fulfill promises.  It is believing and expecting our prayers to be answered.  It is manifest in confidence, optimism, enthusiasm and patient perseverance.  I know that is so true.  Hope brings patience to bear afflictions.  Hope brings joy.
No matter how bleak this chapter in our life is, we may hope and be assured the book’s ending will exceed our grandest expectations because of Christ.

Everyone will go through discouragement and difficulty and the darkness can seem unbearable- but divine gospel principles we hope in can uphold us until we walk in the light again.
True hope is centered in: 1. Jesus Christ. 2.  The goodness of God.  3. Manifestations of the Holy Spirit.  4. Knowledge that prayers are heard and answered.  When we don’t have hope in these 4 things life can be filled with darkness and despair.  Hope is a choice!  We can believe and trust in these 4 things, or not.  When we do it changes everything.  That is my testimony.

In times of distress we can hold tightly to the hope that things will “work together for our good.”

Faith, Hope and Charity are like a 3 legged stool.  Disobedience, disappointments and procrastination erode faith.  Hope upholds faith.  (I thought a lot about why he said procrastination erodes hope.  I think it’s because faith leads to hope, hope leads to action, and action leads to personal knowledge and witness of the truthfulness of the thing you had faith in.  It’s like a circle.  Procrastination is inactivity so no witness is gained and hope is distinguished.)

Frustration and impatience challenges charity, but hope braces our resolve and urges us to love without expectation of reward.  The brighter our hope the greater our faith.  The stronger our hope, the purer our charity.

Here is Elder Uchtdorf’s talk in a link.  Listen to it, it is so good.  Print a copy of it and mark it up as you follow along.  There are so many good things in it:

Love You.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Change is sacred because of the price paid to offer it.

Elder Hamula came to our mission about 6 weeks ago.  It was very inspiring to listen to Him speak to our missionaries.  He said He felt like a forerunner to our receiving Elder Nelson to our mission. He described him as, “A prince of a man,” and promised us that we would be blessed by his visit.  But warned us that, “You get out of a meeting whatever you put into it.  You will get out of your meeting with Elder Nelson whatever you put into it.” 

I want to express love for Elder Hamula.  What a great man.  I felt so loved and inspired by him.  I felt he really inspired our mission that day.  And I have to say we put a lot into Elder Nelsons visit last weekend.  We have been on a mission of strict obedience for everyone.  I think every single missionary has raised his own personal bar of what he was willing to put on the line.  We worked very hard. 

President Mullen and I have been amazingly busy for the entire 6 week transfer.  I don’t think we had one day to ourselves and we went from one big thing to another.  We had the transfer and then had specialized training for 5 days and then 4 days of follow up trainings, we spoke in 4 stake conferences over 4 different weekends, hosted and spoke with Elder Hamula for two missionary meetings and spoke with him in stake conference, I was the closing speaker for the CES institute directors retreat, we had 12 days of interviews and training for 12 zones, we had MLC, New leadership training, new missionary training and then hosted Elder Nelson and Elder Clark in speaking to our entire mission and then drove them to Moscow to speak with them at the Moscow stake conference, drove them to the airport and then drove home to go right into transfer’s again an hour later. It was a consecrated 6 weeks, where I felt once again the Lord carried us from day to day to make it all happen.

Sometimes the mission just hits like that and you just go day after day with big things for weeks on end. I have found with this type of schedule I can’t prepare a lot for anything, I just have to prepare myself.  I pray all day long, I read my scriptures at night, and I ask for the atonement to be applied constantly for my weakness and hope preparing myself in that way is good enough.

I found myself in this situation the night before Elder Nelsons visit. I was praying, repenting, and asking what in the world I should speak on with all of my missionaries and an apostle there for the next morning.  I felt so much inspiration come into my mind and heart about what should be said.  It has happened like this so many times.  It is pure revelation.  Nothing will be there and then all of a sudden everything is given to me to say.  I don’t deserve it, but I am sure grateful for it.  That is probably the most common feeling I have had on this mission.  He just gives me so much spiritual light, so quickly, so that I can do my job here.  It is undeniably from him.  I am just not that great.  I feel this acute feeling of the reality that our Heavenly Father and Savior are real and they work through the Holy Spirit.  I feel so much love and gratitude for a Great God, a Beautiful Savior and an Amazing Holy Spirit that blesses our lives every day whether we see and recognize it or not.  I am not great.  I see that so clearly.  But he still blesses me with inspiration and power to do His work.  His love and forgiveness always amazes me.

So I would like to briefly write about what I talked on last weekend, but then write more about what Elder Clark and Nelson talked on later in the week.  It was so good I would like to write about it when I have more time.  Here are some of my observations and what I spoke about in our missionary meeting:

We are never all together.  The only other time we’ve ever been all together is when Elder Anderson came to visit.  We know all of the missionaries well, but they don’t know everyone.  That is always a little weird to me.  We are family, how can we not all know and love each other?  It’s the sad part of being in a big mission with a big area.  I do still feel like we are family and we love each other, but they just don’t know all of who that is. 

So everyone drove into the Spokane Valley, the senior couples included.  There was so much love present, it made me so tender to be all together.  All were gathered outside the temple as we drove up from the airport and they were singing. Elder Nelson and Clark were greeted by beautiful voices and beautiful faces as they got out of the car.  We took a picture with everyone and then went into the chapel to start the meeting.  As we opened I looked over their faces and all I could think about was how much I love them, know them individually, and want them to be happy.  We are very tied to them.  We know their struggles, victories, heartache, miracles, and goals.  I felt so full at having them all there and seeing each one of them together.  I wondered if it was a little symbolic of how Heavenly Father knows us, loves us and is aware of our struggles, victories, heartache, miracles and goals times 1,000.

I talked to them about these feelings and then spoke about their work in preparing for the meeting, and how it has affected their lives for good.  “Your obedience and work has furthered your consecration to the Lord and has changed you.  These changes are sacred.  Your Faith and Hope enough to Act brings a Personal Witness of truth.  The natural man will never know anything about spiritual things because he has never done the spiritual work it takes to gain this great knowledge.  This personal witness brings greater light and knowledge.  This is when the mysteries of God are unfolded to you and God is doing a great work in your life. 

These changes are sacred!  Our ability to change has come at a great cost to both Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.  Change is sacred because of the price paid to offer it.   Hold on to this knowledge and change and treat it carefully.  They are doing a great work in your life for your benefit, but also for the benefit of others.  He wants to use you to do His work.  You are to bless your family’s lives, your future spouse and children’s lives, and everyone around you.  You are to build, lift and edify others.  You are to learn to love and serve your whole life.  You are to talk of Christ, preach Christ and write of Christ all for the benefit of mankind.  Our lives are not just about ourselves.  We are to be useful to God our whole lives.”

“We are a family.  We are to do a great work here in each other’s lives as well.  We lift, strengthen and build each other.  We rejoice in each other’s successes.  We love each other.  We expect each one of us to obey all the rules.  Nothing is secret or hidden.  We are safe with each other to reach out when we struggle.  Our message to each other is, “you are capable of everything the Lord is asking of you to do.”

“We rely on Christ.  We cry, turn, follow, trust, seek, knock, wait, believe, repent, etc.  It's all action on our part to know Him.  We have faith in Christ.  We know that he makes more of us than we could ever make of ourselves but we have to do what He asks.  He won’t force, push or manipulate us.  Only by our free action of coming to Him can we reach our divine potential and be all that He has in store for us to be.  He is the Way.”

“It is not all about your salvation, your growth, your learning.  We are all God’s children.  We are to be used by Him to help everyone come back to Him.” 

I know this is true.  I feel it in my heart.  We are to lift, build and edify in our thoughts, deeds and conversations.  We need Christ so much to be able to do this because we are such fallen creatures.  At least I am.  I am so grateful for the sacred price paid for my chance to change.  And I know His message is to love and serve one another.  Our ability to love and serve is the evidence of our conversion to Christ.

Challenges tell you that God thinks a lot of you.

I was talking to a missionary Saturday morning about some of the issues she is facing.  We have seen her struggle with overcoming health challenges, but also some emotional challenges as well.  Some of the physical things are related to the emotional struggles.  It seems like it’s been one thing after another and life just keeps hitting her. 

We were talking about why everything in life isn’t just perfect and why missions aren’t just perfect.  It is so hard when you feel like you are trying to do the Lords work and things seem like they would just fall into place so the gospel can be taught better and more efficiently.  It just doesn’t happen.  Over and over again I see missionaries struggle with some pretty serious things who want desperately to be healed so they, cannot just stay on their mission, but have a highly productive mission.  I have come to the conclusion that the Lord loves his missionaries and cares about their growth and learning just as much as an investigator or less active member.  Missionaries lives are not perfect and are not meant to be perfect.  I wish they were, I wish every missionary could feel good, be healthy and have spiritual, emotional, mental and physical well being.  It just isn’t life, or God’s plan. 

God’s plan for each and every one of us is:
·        We are meant to have weakness.  I love the article in the Ensign last month about weakness vs. sin.  I have realized my weakness personally in all of its forms while on this mission. J Ok maybe not all of them, but it seems like all of them.  I have realized weakness can be a strength as it turns us to our Savior and makes us rely on Him.  I have realized weakness can teach us to trust our Heavenly Father and our Savior and give them what we can’t do or make happen.  I have realized weakness seen can teach us, change us and lead us to progression when we let it.  Humility in our weakness leads to strength in our savior.

·        We are meant to go through an imperfect life with trials that don’t make sense, hardships caused by others choices, and consequences brought on by our own sins. All of these issues can help us turn to our Savior because they make us humble and vulnerable enough to reach out and accept Him.  As we go through deep pain we also understand a little better what our Savior suffered and what are Heavenly Father has sacrificed for us to experience this life for ourselves.  Pain helps us understand Them better and it also helps us understand ourselves and others as well.

Anyway back to my sweet missionary who is struggling.  Besides the anxiety she is dealing with that has caused many physical sicknesses, she is also tired physically and emotionally.  As we talked I got a deeper sense of how much she worries. It can be exhausting worrying about, and trying to control everything. She talked about worrying because she loves so much.  One of her members, who is the sweetest kindest person, has severe health challenges and needs a lung transplant.  One recent convert is going through important life decisions she is making poor choices about.  Investigators struggles and family concerns are also causing worry.  None of it she has any control over.  It’s difficult.
As we talked I felt impressed to turn her to prayer.  Heavenly Father will always listen to us, understand us and teach us everything we need to know.  As we talk to Him and receive His understanding and peace it is the greatest release of pain.  When we can get our pain validated and understood we can release the pain to Christ and let go of it or accept it. 

I also felt to teach her about having faith in our Heavenly Father.  These are the things I felt she needed to know deep in her heart, “God knows you and all those you are worrying about.  It all comes down to faith.  Can you really believe and trust Him?  He does have a perfect plan for all of us.  We must know deeply that we don’t see with His eyes or His perspective.  This imperfect view limit’s us so we have to have faith. This life is not the end.  What we go through and what others are given and are going through has meaning for life and what we need to learn or become. Trust Him so you don’t need to carry and worry about everything to the point of depletion or exhaustion.”  I know Christ can worry for us.  We can, “cast our burdens on His care” and He will take them for us, allowing us to be free. 

I also had another feeling I expressed to her….She is a wonderful, amazing young woman!!  I love her so much.  She has amazing gifts, talents and abilities.  I just wonder if God gives great challenges to those who He thinks a lot of.  I don’t know, but it reminds me of a story I once heard.,

There was a man who was visiting a ward and went to the gospel doctrine class 2nd hour.  The lesson was being presented and the man kept making comments during the lesson; bragging about his children. He made a point to bring up their sport accomplishments, their missions, their temple marriages, their education and grades, their many awards, their callings in the church and how much money they were making.  By the end of the lesson everyone was sick of it.  Finally one old man raised his hand and said, “Well God must not think a lot of you to give you such easy children.”  This story has always stuck in my mind.  I think of Joseph Smith and all of his many trials.  He was such a great man his trials probably had to be great to be trials.

I think if we could see ourselves correctly we would see a vision of amazing people put in situations of learning so as to be enlarged, to be used by God for good.  God really knows us and we need to trust Him no matter what we go through.  Struggles will come, the only question is-will we go towards Him or away from Him to get through it.  There are only two choices.  I know He is the right choice.  Our eternal, broader perspective of who we are, what this life’s purpose is about, and God’s plan and ability to help us will change our lives too faith, strength and courage. 

At the end of our visit she was expressing how much better she felt and her inspiration of how to change to feel better.  I hung up the phone and thought, “The Lord has done it again.”  He helps me help them.  I am so grateful for that, but I recognize I can only teach or talk about what I have experienced and know for myself.  I feel I have gone through so much on this mission and sometimes I wonder if some of it is just for them; so I can relate to them completely.  I know how they feel, give ideas and suggestions all according to what I am learning myself or have learned in the past though the spirit.  I have always said, “I am the poster child for change.”  He has taught me so much.  I feel the Lord has a plan and He is in charge.  I have faith in that.  He knows how to use us to do His will if we will let Him, and that amazes me.  He amazes me.

Monday, April 6, 2015

God so loved the world that He gave his Perfect Son.

I have written before about how I have learned to use the atonement, what it is and how it has affected me.  But I am gaining a new perspective and understanding I never have before that I would like to share.

The condescension of Jesus Christ was a big deal.  According to Bruce R. McConkie Christ progressed so fast in the pre-existence that he became a God in his pre-mortal state.  Can you imagine having a son like that; a perfect son, who was totally obedient, honored you in every way, wanted to do your will more than his own, loved you and trusted you enough to do anything you wanted him to?  If you’re a parent that sounds pretty fantastic!  None of us can have children like that or be children like that, but because of the struggles of parenting that opposition can give a deeper understanding of what it would feel like to have a child like that.

When I imagine this it feels amazing.  I would love and cherish that son.  He would mean the world to me and I would want to protect him with every fiber of my being.  I can try to imagine how Heavenly Father felt about this perfect son.  Oh my goodness the perfect and intense love he must feel toward Christ!  What a powerful, tender, protective feeling He must have felt.  I can imagine how I would feel if I had a son like that. It would be the most difficult thing in the world to sacrifice Him to the most painful thing anyone would ever have to go through; all the sins of the world, but in addition, to sacrifice his honor and glory to come down among man and be spit on, humiliated, abused and killed. 

The love God offers me in the sacrifice of His son amazes me.  God loved the world; you and I, so much that He gave his only begotten Son.  God’s love amazes me!

Christ amazes me.  He didn’t know what this sacrifice would feel like until he experienced it for himself.  He thought he could do it.  God knew He could.  I know all of us on earth trusted that He could do it.  I am so glad I was willing to put my trust in God and Jesus Christ that He could perform the most powerful sacrifice of all time that would save us all. 

Christ is our perfect example of loving God enough to do His will.  If we love God more than man we put our value on pleasing God and doing His will, and not pleasing or looking good to others.  If we love God more than ourselves we empty ourselves of our pride, vanity, and hardness and are willing to listen, turn to Him and obey.  I wish I could love God that much.  I wish I had a perfect love that I could be that kind of being.  When I am perfected in Christ at the resurrection and am not a fallen being that is what I want; that I can be perfect in my love for God; that I can always act, think and feel as God wants me to.

Christ loved His Father so much.  He was empty of himself; his life, his honor, his power, his way, his goals, his wishes and his dreams were not important to him, he just wanted what His Father wanted.  That is a perfect love. 

I am having a small realization of what this meant to both of them.  How painful for God to sacrifice a perfect son who loves and trusts you so much, for a world, which for the most part would reject Him.  And how much Christ loved His Father.