Tuesday, July 11, 2017

A Fun New Project :)

I posted this on my website but I thought I'd also post it here just in case. This is the official announcement so forgive me if it sounds a little too formal. ;)

I’m excited to announce that I’m finally putting a long-held dream into action: I’m starting a CHRIST-CENTERED SUGAR ADDICTION RECOVERY FACEBOOK GROUP. I recently certified as a Holistic Life Coach (Holistic just means I believe wellness has an emotional and spiritual component, not just physical). But even more importantly, I’ve now been free from my own sugar addiction for 12 years and I’ve also worked for several years with the LDS Addiction Recovery program in the area of Food Addiction. So I truly know how much help and encouragement it takes to accomplish such a challenging journey. With this group, my hope is to create a community where the members will have access to amazing resources that unfold the healing process step by step (I promise, you don’t have to go cold turkey!) as well as the loving support of others who are walking the very same path. I’ll explain more in the group as we go along. Overcoming sugar addiction radically changed my life physically, emotionally, and spiritually, and I want nothing more than to share that journey with others who may be struggling. Freedom really is possible! If you’re interested (or even just intrigued), I invite you to join us and we’ll get this life-changing adventure underway. 🙂

 Here’s the link if you’d like to request to join our group:

It's been so exciting already! 170 members have joined us in just over 3 days, and the conversations have already been really enlightening and inspiring. I think what I love most is the sense of community....that we're all in this together. And that now, there's somewhere safe to talk about this particular struggle and get answers and support. Anyway, I just had to share my fun new project and invite any who'd like to join us to come along for the ride!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Some beautiful words

I haven't had much time to write a full blog post (still moving in and getting settled), but I wanted to take a quick minute to share a verse I absolutely love. I don't hear it quoted very often, perhaps because it's from the Old Testament, but I read it again tonight and I feel like I need to memorize it so I can let the words wash over me again and again.

It's from the book of Zephaniah:

"The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing" (Zeph. 3:17).

Just for fun, listen to the way it's phrased in a couple other translations:

NLT: "For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With His love, He will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs."

ESV: "The Lord God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you with his love; he will exult over you with loud singing."

Do you think for just a few minutes, you can imagine that those words are true about you? Imagine that the Lord really does rejoice over you. That He takes delight in you. That He wants to not only quiet you with His love, but exult over you with loud singing. Can you picture Him joyfully singing at the top of His lungs? For some reason, I love that visual image so much. It's a picture that I'm going to try very hard to savor in the days ahead.

He really does love us. I hope we never forget it. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

A Tough Week

A week ago, my in-laws were involved in a terrible traffic accident when a car turned into their lane and hit them head-on. Thankfully they avoided any life-threatening injuries, but it’s been a very difficult recovery process for both of them so far. Greg’s 80-year-old dad required surgery for a shattered hip and will be in a rehabilitative care center for at least a month. And while his 78-year-old mom only suffered a concussion, she’s covered with deep bruises and gashes from the force of the hit, and has needed home nursing care in order to recover. Needless to say, we’ve rallied as a family to do all we can to support them as they try to rest and heal from this awful trauma.

We were surprised when the texts and calls started coming in almost immediately. We soon learned that the accident had been featured on the local news (which means it also showed up on social media), and the love and concern began pouring in like a flood. Because Dad served as both a mission president and a temple president, comments literally came from all over the world. It meant a lot to read all the sweet words from friends and loved ones who so kindly offered their faith, prayers, and encouragement.

However, as I read all those texts and comments and even talked to friends who stopped us at Walmart, I noticed a theme that kept coming up again and again. It’s the idea that something like this should never have happened to them. That they shouldn’t have to go through something like this at their age. That they don’t deserve it after all the good things they’ve done. And I totally get it. We’ve all asked why when confronted with some sort of awful or unexpected adversity. Sometimes these kinds of horrible trials just don’t make any sense.

But even though I understand the sentiment, I’ve learned to think twice before entertaining those kinds of thoughts and beliefs. If I believe that serving enough or being a good enough person or even reaching a certain age means I’ll no longer have to go through any trials, then it’s really easy to blame God when those types of things do happen in my life or the lives of those I love.

Besides, I’ve never found a promise in the scriptures that if I do x, y, and z, then the Lord will remove all my hardship and adversity. That adversity is one of the most important things I came to earth to experience, and like my in-laws, it will most likely follow me until I take my very last breath. So to say that someone shouldn’t have to go through something or that they didn’t deserve something really seems to miss the whole point of mortality. Just look at what some of the Lord’s own apostles have experienced, like the death of a beloved spouse or cancer or severe illness. Elder Maxwell’s brutal battle with leukemia—not once, but twice—proves that no one is immune to challenges, no matter how righteous they may be.

If I’ve learned anything from our own adversity over the last year, it’s that our hardest trials often turn out to be blessings in disguise. The Lord truly hides some of His greatest treasures in the most daunting and difficult circumstances. That's definitely happened to us this year. Now that our life is settling down and we can look back on all we’ve gone through, every single one of us has said that we wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. There’s been too much growth, too many tender mercies, and too much heart-softening and life-changing and faith-growing. We’re all profoundly different, and we would choose to do it all over again just for that one reason.

So as hard as it has been to watch my in-laws struggle, I believe with all my heart that there will be great treasures hidden in the midst of their pain. The Lord wouldn’t have allowed this to happen unless He had a good reason—and I know that reason will manifest itself eventually. It reminds me of the song “Blessings” by Laura Story. If you’ve never heard it, take a minute to soak in the inspiring lyrics and see if they help you look at your own life challenges in a whole new light. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Wedding Fun

Another Wightman wedding in the books! We love these two so much. 
Welcome to the family, JaLynn!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

One of Those Unmistakable Moments

It’s been quite an adventure over the last few weeks trying to decide where we’re supposed to live now that Greg has a job. Because his new position is partially remote, it gave us a lot of flexibility in where we could settle. We thought about staying here in Rexburg so Lexi could finish her senior year, but we soon began to realize how much time Greg would spend away from home, so that lost its luster pretty quick. We also talked about moving to Orem where all our adult kids live (as well as our grandson and soon to be 2 more grandsons!), but the commute from Utah County to north Salt Lake is such a beast that we couldn’t wrap our brains around that option either. So we moved on to Plan C and started looking around the Layton/Odgen area where Greg’s job is actually located. It seemed that would be the least hassle and allow us the greatest time spent together as a family.

Eventually, we felt ourselves drawn more and more to the Syracuse area (I won’t bore you with all the details – it was just a really great fit for a whole bunch of reasons.) And yet, I could tell Lexi was really struggling with the idea of moving. The high school in Syracuse is almost double the size of Madison here in Rexburg, and she was having a hard time picturing herself there for her senior year. As much as I wanted to cajole her and do all I could to talk her into it, I felt a quiet restraint come over me and I decided to put the whole matter into the Lord’s hands and see how He wanted to handle the situation.

To my great delight, my daughter’s heart soon began changing all on her own. First, we found some really cool options at Syracuse HS that we don’t have here in Rexburg, so that definitely got the ball rolling. But even though her heart was softening toward the idea, I could tell she still wasn’t fully convinced. And that’s when the Lord stepped in and sealed the deal. It was the day Lexi came to me and said, “Mom, you won’t believe what just happened to me.”

In a nutshell, she told me she’d been reading her homework for seminary in the book of Acts, and suddenly she came across a verse that she could hardly even believe existed in the scriptures. Here’s the picture she took of the scripture to text to her Dad (it’s verse 12):

“And landing at Syracuse, we tarried there three days….” (Acts 28:12).

It was one of those moments where the Lord just seemed to be standing there smiling and nodding His head. I mean, what are the chances of her coming across a verse listing the very town we’d all just been praying about?? I don’t believe for a second it was a coincidence. No, I believe He let us all know through Lexi exactly what His will was for us as a family. And the best part was watching her attitude transform as a result of this beautiful moment of personal revelation. From that moment, it’s like she was all in. Syracuse was her new home, and she was completely OK with it. In fact, since then, she’s become so excited about it that she can hardly wait until school is out so we can move. (Of course, it doesn’t hurt that she and Kalli also got lifeguard jobs at Lagoon Amusement Park for the summer, which I believe is another tender mercy intended to make this whole transition easier for both of them. I love when the Lord lets everything come together like that. It doesn’t always happen, but it's pretty amazing when it does.)

Anyway, I just had to share this story to rejoice again in the fact that the Lord is there and He really does know our situation intimately. And every once in a while, He communicates with us in ways that are incredibly jaw-dropping and unmistakable. In ways that are so clear and so awesome we can hardly take it in. I love that my daughter had one of those moments. I know it’s something she—and the rest of us—will never forget. So bring on our new life in Syracuse! Just 5 weeks and counting and we’ll begin a brand new story in a brand new home.

(P.S. I’m looking for something part-time as soon as we move, so if anyone out there knows of any opportunities in the Layton/Ogden area, please feel free to share them! Let's just say that job hunting with a stay-home-mom resume is more than a little daunting. But I’m not worried. The “Lord’s mercies . . . are new every morning” (Lam. 3:22-23), and I know He has many more tender mercies in store when the time is right.)

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Do you have a secret something that you do obsessively?

Yep, that’s the question I’m throwing out into the blogosphere today.

Do you have something that you find yourself turning to again and again throughout the day to the point where it’s become a personal obsession?

If you're like me, I’m guessing whatever it is popped into your mind immediately as soon as you read those words. After all, we know ourselves better than anyone else, and deep down we know exactly what we spend our time doing, especially in those hidden moments when no one is really paying attention.

I know this isn’t something we talk about much in Relief Society. And it isn’t something we’re likely to chat about over lunch with friends. It’s just that quiet little something we keep to ourselves . . . that something we crave every time we have a spare minute . . . that something that’s become our own private obsession or addiction.

The thing is, it’s probably not even something all that bad. Maybe it’s just a bag of Reese’s we have hidden in the back of the cupboard. Or that TV show we’ve grown overly attached to recently. Or a game we just can’t stop playing on our phone. Or a little more cleaning than is actually necessary. Or some mental fantasy that continues to crop up in the back of our mind. Whatever it is, it’s just that thing—that thing we can’t seem to stop doing, no matter how hard we try.

Even if we attempt to downplay it as harmless, we still occasionally end up feeling guilty about our obsession (especially after General Conference or a really great lesson in Sunday School). So we make a plan to help us kick our secret little habit. We delete that app off our phone or throw out our entire chocolate stash. We invent ways to distract ourselves or tell our family about it so they can help keep us accountable. But most of the time, those strategies don't work for very long. Though we may make it a day or two or maybe even a whole week, eventually we just can’t help ourselves—we go right back to our favorite obsession and find ourselves doing it compulsively all over again.

And it’s in that moment that we get hit with a recurring sense of shame. Shame that we can’t control ourselves any better than that. Shame that this habit seems to have so much power over us. Shame that we don’t have more willpower to overcome it on our own. It’s a cycle that keeps repeating over and over, no matter how hard we try to break free. Despite our best efforts, we continue to carry this thing around with us—this obsession we both love and hate at the same time. On the one hand, we’d love to give up for good, but on the other, we can’t imagine living life without it.

Maybe it would help if we stop all our efforts at behavior modification and instead ask ourselves what’s fueling this private little habit. What’s driving our secret obsession? What is it that this thing does for our heart? I mean, there’s got to be a reward of some sort or we wouldn’t be turning to it so compulsively throughout the day. Determining what need our obsession is meeting is the first step to truly overcoming the power of our personal addiction.

It reminds me of a woman I met a few weeks ago while speaking to a group of Young Women and leaders about body image. In the middle of our discussion, she brought up her struggle with emotional eating (an obsession I've experienced myself). She said she knew very well why she did it—because food had this way of soothing and pacifying her negative emotions. It gave her a little rush of happiness, a moment of bliss, an escape from the stress of the daily grind or the realities of whatever difficult situation she may be in.

I believe that’s actually the motivation behind most (if not all) of our secret obsessions. No matter what form they may take (be it a credit card, a personal hobby, or a place we like to hang out online), the results are still the same: they really do give us that little rush of happiness, that moment of bliss, that escape for a minute from whatever difficult thing we're experiencing. These are our coping mechanisms. The happy place we run to when we’re feeling low.

But even though we may understand that idea in theory, we may have never considered that what we're really doing is using these things to feed our restless heart. That we’re trying to satisfy a soul hunger that we may not have even put into words. That we’re trying to fill an emptiness that we may not even realize we’re feeling.

It would certainly explain why that particular thing has become such an obsession in our lives. If it’s actually been feeding our heart’s deepest needs and longings, then of course we’re going to turn to it over and over and over again. That thing may be validating us when we’re feeling inadequate or insecure. Or it may allow us to live in a fantasy world that helps us forget about our failing relationship or that difficult child or an overly stressful job.  If that’s the case, the truth is that behavior modification is never going to be enough to overcome it.

Imagine what happens when we try to remove that thing from our lives without replacing it with something that truly fills our need. Won’t the resulting emptiness eventually drive us right back to our special little something? Making ourselves stop our habit out of sheer willpower doesn’t even come close to addressing the real problem. The real problem is that inner need (whatever it is) that keeps driving us to find relief from our obsession. If we'll pinpoint that need, we’ll finally be on our way to true and lasting healing. For once we understand what our heart is truly longing for, we can take those pressing needs to the One who really, truly can satisfy us (Psalm 36:8). And once our hearts are filled with His grace and His glory and His love, that little obsession will suddenly feel like small potatoes in comparison to the exquisite taste of the fruit of the Tree of Life.

So maybe the next time we feel a need to invent some strategy to help us overcome a personal obsession, perhaps we could focus instead on the true “bread of life,” a nourishment that promises us that we’ll “never hunger” and “never thirst” ever again (John 6:35). It’s the only thing that can fill us in a way that is “everlasting” (John 6:47). Once our heart is truly that satisfied and content, our secret little obsession will simply no longer hold the same appeal and will drop right out of our lives. And we'll wonder why we ever even tried behavior modification. ;)

“Yea, he saith: Come unto me and ye shall partake of the fruit of the tree of life; yea, ye shall eat and drink of the bread and the waters of life freely” 
(Alma 5:34).

Friday, March 24, 2017

Light At The End of the Tunnel

Greg got a job. :) It feels really good to say that. It's been almost a year since he was laid off. While he definitely had some amazing opportunities to work over that time (and we're incredibly thankful for it), it's been a long, hard search for the new career he's been hoping for. And finally he found it. We could feel the Lord's hand continually throughout the application process, and it quickly became apparent that this is where he's supposed to be. So basically, we're all doing a happy dance around here and preparing to adjust our lives to a fun new level of normal.

The crazy thing is, although the job is with a company in Utah, it's partially remote so we can live wherever we want. So right now we're going through a million different scenarios and trying to decide what will work best for us and our college-bound kids. Hopefully we'll settle on a spot in the next few weeks, but until then, we're content to finish the school year here and enjoy every minute of our jam-packed, track-meet-and-ballroom-dance-filled last two months. Bring on that gorgeous weather!! (Anyone with me??)

I thought to go with our happy dance theme, I'd post some happy pictures of random stuff we've been doing lately. I love these people more than words can express. Truly, I can't imagine life without them. :)

My Red Robin birthday dinner with Greg & the girlies

Lexi pole vaulting at Simplot Games in Pocatello (woot woot!)

20 days left til the wedding! So excited for these two!

Kalli modeling her graduation robe. Love that crazy girl.

Time spent with Squishy and the crew down in Orem.
(Grandbaby #2 on the way this August too!  Congrats Shay & Isaac!
Life really couldn't get any better.)

Friday, February 24, 2017

One Way To Come To Know Jesus Christ

In the last General Conference, one talk that jumped out at me was by Elder David A. Bednar. I loved how he pointed out that, “we can not only know about the Lord but also come to know Him” (Oct. 2016, emphasis mine). It’s a subject I’ve studied a lot over the last several years, and I’ve discovered many different quotes from the Brethren that encourage us to do the very same thing. Here are just a few of my favorites:

F. Enzio Busche: [The] real treasure . . . [is to] to develop a close relationship with Christ, the Savior, the Redeemer, the Messiah, Jehovah, the Only Begotten of Elohim, and let him and his Spirit take possession of our lives. . . . I am speaking about the treasure of having found Christ, of being able to know him—not merely to know all about him, but really to know him. (The Only Real Treasure, New Era, Dec. 1979).

M. Russell Ballard: I would like to encourage you with all the strength of my soul to learn to build a real relationship with the Savior of the world (Ensign March 1979).

Lorenzo Snow: The Lord wishes to establish a closer and more intimate relationship between Himself and us (Journal of Discourses, 23:193).

James E. Faust: Is not the greatest need in all the world for every person to have a personal, ongoing, daily, continuing relationship with the Savior? . . . We should earnestly seek not just to know about the Master, but . . . to be one with Him (A Personal Relationship with the Savior, Ensign, Nov. 1976).

To be honest, there’s nothing I want more in the world than to know Christ like that. When I hear Him call certain disciples His “friends” in verses like John 15:13 and D&C 84:77, my heart yearns to hear Him say the same thing about me. And after reading what the Brethren said above, I feel completely comfortable pursuing that kind of relationship with Him. I believe it’s the only way we can truly come to Christ in the way Elder Bednar described.

Recently, I’ve been working my way through the Book of Mormon to see what I can find about building that kind of personal bond with the Lord. So far I’ve only made it through 1st and 2nd Nephi, and already I’ve discovered a gold mine of information on the subject. For one thing, the friendship or connection Nephi had with Christ was amazing. I also noticed that one of the main ways he nurtured that relationship was by communicating almost continually with the Lord—about his life, his struggles, his relationships . . . literally anything and everything. Again and again, the prophet stopped what he was doing and took the time to counsel and communicate with the Lord directly about whatever issue was concerning him (see 1 Ne. 2:16, 7:17, 15:8, 17:7-14, 18:1-3 and 2 Nephi 4:30-35, 5:1 for just a few of the many examples. I also wondered if I could assume when Nephi said “Lord,” he was talking about Christ. But then I found verses like 1 Ne. 10:14, 19:18, 21:7, and 2 Ne. 6:18 & 10:7 that showed Jesus truly is the “Lord” of the Book of Mormon).

Now, I’ll admit that this idea of talking and counseling with Christ stirs up some very difficult questions. (At least it has for me.) The main issue is that the scriptures make it clear we’re to pray to the Father in the name of Christ (2 Nephi 32:9, 3 Nephi 13:9, 20:31, etc.). It’s something the Lord Himself taught throughout His ministry both in Israel and among the Nephites. And I believe it’s a very important part of the gospel.

But the question is, does that instruction about praying to the Father mean I can’t ever talk to the Savior? Looking at the life of Nephi, that certainly doesn’t seem to be the case. Like I said, he discussed things with the Lord all the time. So is it okay for me to do the same thing? And more importantly, how can I build a real relationship with Him (or in the words of the brethren above, a close, intimate, personal, ongoing, and daily relationship) without talking to Him? How can I grow close to Him without communicating with Him one-on-one?

As I’ve pondered these questions over the last several years, I’ve found some direction that’s brought a great deal of clarity. For starters, I absolutely love this quote from President Brigham Young:

The greatest and most important of all requirements of our Father in heaven and of his Son Jesus Christ, is . . . to believe in Jesus Christ, confess him, seek to him, cling to him, make friends with him. Take a course to open and to keep open communication with your Elder Brother or file-leader—our Savior (Journal of Discourses, 8:339).  

So here we have a prophet of God encouraging us to “open and keep open” a line of communication with our Savior. We’re told to talk to Him, cling to Him, and even make friends with Him. Or in other words, to do exactly what Nephi did in the Book of Mormon. To counsel directly with Him about all the various issues in our lives.

I also found the same idea taught by the Lord in D&C 6. Notice the emphasized phrases in the following passage:

Verily, verily, I say unto thee, blessed art thou for what thou hast done; for thou hast inquired of me, and behold, as often as thou hast inquired thou hast received instruction of my Spirit. If it had not been so, thou wouldst not have come to the place where thou art at this time.
   Behold, thou knowest that thou hast inquired of me and I did enlighten thy mind; and now I tell thee these things that thou mayest know that thou hast been enlightened by the Spirit of truth (v.  14-15).

Then, just to make sure we know who is talking, the Lord identifies Himself and continues His instruction:

Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God. . . . Verily, verily, I say unto you, if you desire a further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things. Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God? (v. 22-23).

These verses show Oliver asking the Lord about some concerns he had, and being rewarded with both instruction and peace. I also found the same idea (that of talking to Christ) in other parts of the D&C. I think the most interesting one is this passage from section 29:

Listen to the voice of Jesus Christ, your Redeemer, the Great I Am, whose arm of mercy hath atoned for your sins;
   Who will gather his people even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, even as many as will hearken to my voice and humble themselves before me, and call upon me in mighty prayer (D&C 29:1-2, see also D&C 30:6 and section 109 where Joseph’s prayer alternates between praying to the Father and Jehovah).

Now, I’ll be the first one to say that I don’t understand how it all works. I also know it’s a pretty new idea to our LDS way of thinking and we should definitely proceed with caution. That’s the reason I used so many quotes and scriptures in this post – so this wouldn’t seem like my own thoughts, but a product of the words of prophets and apostles that anyone can study for themselves.

But regardless of the specifics, I do know that I’ve loved drawing close to Christ, not just by following Him or serving HIm, but by communicating with Him directly. Yes, I still pray to the Father often in His name (and we do as a family as well), but now I also talk to the Lord on a very personal level. And it’s radically changed the way I feel about Him and His role in my life. In fact, I believe this kind of communication is absolutely crucial if we want to come to know Him as our Savior. At the very least, it’s something each of us could ponder and study further, for as the Lord has promised us, “if you will ask of me you shall receive; if you knock it shall be opened unto you” (D&C 11:5).

***If you’d like to learn more about this idea, turn to 3 Ne. 1:11-13 (v. 13 shows who Nephi is talking to), Ether 3:1-16 (v. 14 identifies who it is the brother of Jared has been addressing in his prayer), Ether 12:22-41 (v. 22 shows who Moroni talks to for the entire second half of the chapter), and Abr. 2:6, 8 (Abraham prays “to the Lord” in v. 6, and v. 8 identifies exactly who he’s talking to). You can also check out 3 Nephi 19 and Alma 36:18, 37:33-37, and 38:8 for further insight.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Woo Hoo!! We're getting a new daughter-in-law!!!

Chase and JaLynn got engaged this week & we couldn't be more excited! These two clicked so quickly, we saw it coming almost immediately. Here's to another spring wedding and adding another Wightman to this crazy tribe. :) 
Love you two! So incredibly happy for you both!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Some Thoughts on Fear

As a family we’ve been talking a lot about the story I mentioned in my last post—the one where Christ calmed the storm in Mark chapter 4. And as we’ve been looking deeper into the account, something stuck out to me that sent my mind reeling in a whole new direction. Specifically something Christ said to His disciples, which means it’s something He’s saying to me as well. I’ll share what it is in a minute, but let’s run through the story really quick just to review all the details:

   And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side.
   And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships.
   And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.
   And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?
   And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
   And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?
   And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him? (Mark 4:35-41).

The first thing that jumped out at me is that this wasn’t just another Judean storm. This was as bad as it could get. I have an app where I can look up the account in several different Bible translations, and one (AMP) said the tempest was “of hurricane proportions.” In other words, the storm wasn’t just tossing the boat around a bit and getting the disciples a little wet. Verse 37 says the waves had beat on their ship with such force “that it was now full.” Stop and picture that for just a minute. It’s the dark of night, and the men have reached the point where their vessel is completely filled with water. It’s ready to sink at any moment. I’d say they’re way past the point of a little nervousness and anxiety, and they’ve moved into the realm of all-out terror.

And yet, where was Jesus?

Yep, that’s right. He was in the back of the boat, “asleep on a pillow.” I love it. Even with the mountainous waves and the howling wind and the cries of the terrified men, He remained as calm as a summer day—so calm, in fact, that He was sleeping like a baby. He wasn’t troubled by the danger in the least.

Finally, the disciples couldn’t take it anymore (can we blame them??), and they woke the Lord up in a panic, incredulous that they were about to die and He didn’t even seem to care. But before we get to His response, let’s freeze the story right here and think about how we would react in a similar situation.

Wouldn’t we be scared out of our minds just like the apostles? Sure, we could pretend we’d be all stoic and brave, but put us on that ship in the dead of night and the truth would reveal itself in about 2 seconds. That’s because, just like the disciples, the threat of death scares us. A cancer diagnosis scares us. A financial crisis scares us. Losing someone we love scares us. These kinds of trials are very real, and can be very, very terrifying.

And the weird thing is, it’s not like we have to try to be scared in these situations….it happens so naturally that we hardly even think about it. Suddenly, our heart begins to pound, our mind runs through all kinds of “What if” scenarios, and soon we’re completely overtaken with feelings of stress and anxiety. It appears that fear is sometimes just part of the human experience. What's more, if we happen to be feeling what the disciples were feeling—that Jesus appears to be “asleep” and He isn’t doing anything to help us in our precarious circumstances—well, then, our fear may even rise to higher heights and deeper proportions.

So just like the disciples, we run to Him and try to wake Him up as fervently and loudly as we possibly can. We cry out in prayer again and again, overcome with anxiety over our scary situation and His apparent unwillingness to come to our aid. I think what we’re hoping in these situations is for the Lord to wake up and say something comforting to help us calm down. Something like, “Awww, I know how hard life is right now. I can see why you’re so scared. But don’t worry, it’s OK, I’m here and I’ll help you.” (And I’ll admit that sometimes in the scriptures, He does say exactly that. Like in Isaiah 41:10 for example.)

But that’s not at all what happened in Mark chapter 4. When the Lord woke up and saw them in full-blown panic mode, He didn’t offer any comforting words or sympathetic pats on the shoulder. Instead, He actually rebuked His terrified disciples with the words, “Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?”

I have to say, this moment in the story totally blows my mind. He asks why they’re so fearful, but seriously....don’t they have a MILLION reasons to be fearful?? Their boat is full of water in the middle of a hurricane! Why in the world would Jesus ask such a question? Isn’t it completely obvious? Don’t they have every right to be freaking out? How can He be so insensitive to the terrifying thing they’re experiencing?

Thankfully, I found some counsel from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland that really helped me understand this account. Here's what he said about Christ’s unique (and what may appear to some as unfeeling or insensitive) response to His terrified men:

Always remember in that biblical story that He was out there on the water also, that He faced the worst of it right along with the newest and youngest and most fearful. Only one who has fought against those ominous waves is justified in telling us—as well as the sea—to “be still.” Only one who has taken the full brunt of such adversity could ever be justified in telling us in such times to “be of good cheer.” Such counsel is not a jaunty pep talk about the power of positive thinking, though positive thinking is much needed in the world. No, Christ knows better than all others that the trials of life can be very deep and we are not shallow people if we struggle with them. But even as the Lord avoids sugary rhetoric, He rebukes faithlessness and He deplores pessimism. He expects us to believe! (October 1999 General Conference)

The thought is actually pretty daunting if you think about it. Yes, the Lord understands our plight when we’re knee deep in a really tough trial, but regardless of our feelings, He lays down an almost mind-boggling expectation. Bottom line: as His disciples, He expects us to trust Him. Period. Even in the most difficult and stressful and frightening of circumstances. No matter how hard or scary or out-of-control things seem to get.

At first glance, it's an expectation that can seem almost impossible to comprehend. Somehow we’re supposed to stand fearless in these types of trials when our initial gut response is to quake and tremble and perhaps even completely lose it?? Yep. Apparently, that’s exactly what Jesus is saying.

I like the way Christian author Oswald Chambers explains it:

When we are afraid, the least we can do is pray to God. But our Lord has a right to expect that those who name His name have an underlying confidence in Him. God expects His children to be so confident in Him that in any crisis they are the ones who are reliable. Yet our trust is only in God up to a certain point, then we turn back to the elementary panic-stricken prayers of those people who do not even know God. We come to our wits’ end, showing that we don’t have even the slightest amount of confidence in Him or in His sovereign control of the world. To us He seems to be asleep, and we can see nothing but giant, breaking waves on the sea ahead of us.
   “…O you of little faith!” What a stinging pain must have shot through the disciples as they surely thought to themselves, “We missed the mark again!” And what a sharp pain will go through us when we suddenly realize that we could have produced complete and utter joy in the heart of Jesus by remaining absolutely confident in Him, in spite of what we were facing. (My Utmost For His Highest).

So this week, I’ve been asking myself over and over and over again: do my feelings of fear actually reveal a lack of trust in the Lord? Does my anxiety show that I “don’t have even the slightest amount of confidence in Him”? Can He take me to my breaking point without seeing me break, or am I turning back to the "panic-stricken prayers of those people who do not even know God"? It's definitely something to think about. (And it's something that I'm sure will bring a Part 2 blog post in the days ahead. This story is just too chock full to just leave it at that.) :)

Friday, January 13, 2017

What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger (Part 2)

This blog has been so therapeutic for me lately. It’s been a great way to work through things I’m thinking and feeling as our family goes through this experience. I know I’ve already written on the above-mentioned subject, but some additional ideas came as I sat in the temple today, so I wanted to take a minute to jot them down (maybe more for me than for anyone who will ever read them here).

The image in particular that came to mind was that of an oil press. It’s what the word Gethsemane actually means. The garden where the Lord suffered the atonement was a place that was used to press olives and release their precious oil. In this process, huge stone slabs or wheels were lowered onto olives that had already been crushed, and the weight of the slabs slowly squeezed all the oil out of the pulp.

How symbolic that, in that very same place, Christ felt such immense pressure from the weight of the world’s sins that He truly bled from every pore. To me, the image of an oil press makes His sacrifice that much more profound and meaningful.

Then I started thinking about how adversity in our lives can also feel exactly like an oil press. Like a huge stone slab pressing on us and weighing us down at times almost more than it seems we can bear. Now, I’m definitely thankful to know that, in these moments, the Lord truly can carry our burdens. In fact, He’s promised to do so if we’ll just come to Him in faith (Matt. 11:28-30). The heavy weight of adversity really does have its solution in Him.

But let’s lay aside the burden part for a minute and focus specifically on what comes out of the press when the olives are crushed. It's the oil. It’s as if the weight of the slab reaches right into the heart of the olives and releases what was previously invisible to the naked eye.

So what is it that’s released when we’re under the heavy pressure of adversity in our lives? Some may say it’s in those moments that we truly shine—that we display great courage or faith or patience in some of our most difficult and excruciating moments. And I won’t argue with that. I’ve seen it time and time again. Victory in the midst of tribulation can be incredibly inspiring.

But as I mentioned in an earlier post, sometimes what adversity squeezes out of us isn’t inspiring at all. As the pressure of our challenges bears down on us, suddenly it’s our fear or our insecurity or our bottled-up anger that comes oozing out with increasing intensity. Just like the oil press, the weight of our adversity forces things out into the open that we may have been really good at hiding (at least, up until now).

Once I started thinking along these lines, all kinds of examples of this began coming to mind. Christ’s apostles may have vehemently proclaimed their faith in Him, but put them on a boat in the middle of a brutal storm where the waves have completely filled their vessel with water...and suddenly it’s fear—not faith—that comes oozing out to the surface (Mark 4:36-40).

After all the visions he’d seen, I’m sure Lehi was convinced that he believed in the goodness and omnipotence of God. But let his sons’ bows stop working and the hunger pangs begin to plague him...and suddenly the good prophet finds himself murmuring “against the Lord his God” (1 Nephi 16:20).

And what about me? Oh, I can stand up in Fast & Testimony meeting and testify of my faith in Christ with such exuberance that I start thumping the pulpit...but why is it that I feel such anxiety when it looks like we won’t be able to pay our bills? Why is it that I feel so inadequate when the Bishop hands me a new assignment? Why is it that I have food in the fridge and gas in my car and clothing on my back and I still want more, more, MORE??

It’s just that darn oil oozing out from under the weight of my adversity. It makes it so I can’t deny the truth about myself any longer. I have to admit that sometimes I’m terribly impatient. Sometimes I don’t appreciate what I have. Sometimes I struggle to trust the Lord when circumstances in my life get precarious or scary. But I’m learning that’s okay because those oozing character defects are exactly what the Lord has been trying to get me to see all along.

For far too long, I subconsciously hid those character defects behind a mask of active Mormon “busyness.” I read my scriptures, said my prayers, and planned killer FHE lessons. I took cookies to the neighbors, made darling handouts for Relief Society, and watched every hour of General Conference without falling asleep even once. All those outward activities somehow convinced me that I was a really good person. That it was all those other people who were lost. All those other people who needed to repent. Not me. Nope, I believed I’d reached the pinnacle of what it meant to be a good Mormon wife and mother.

But all the Lord had to do was apply a little pressure in the form of adversity...and wham, I couldn’t remain in denial for one moment longer.  I remember first noticing this when I had a house full of crazy little kids. I thought I was doing everything right, but then why couldn't I stop myself from losing my temper? Why did I continue to freak out at these cute little people I adored so much? The answer is simple. All the spilled milk and crayon on the walls and sleepless nights applied enough pressure to bring the oil oozing out of me in about 2 seconds. I’d lose it. I'd yell at them. Or I'd grab the car keys and tell my husband I couldn’t take it anymore and I was running away from home. So much for the pinnacle of perfect Mormon motherhood.

I’ll admit that now I’m really thankful for all that adversity (and the adversity that still continues), because it taught me how fully and deeply I needed the Lord. How much I still need Him. My oil press of adversity (both then and now) has been SO valuable in that it's shown me I am not all that (killer FHE lessons notwithstanding). In fact, like Ammon said, I’m nothing without His grace strengthening me and holding me up from moment to moment (Alma 26:12). So today I’m trying to embrace the pressure of that oil press . . . and to make sure I'm continually analyzing what kind of oil is coming out of me. And when needed, to take it to Him for a little purification. :)

Friday, January 6, 2017

Loving the Lord When It Doesn't Feel Like He Loves You

I’ve been thinking about this subject a lot lately. Maybe because the focus of my scripture study the last few months has been the love of Christ. Especially how Nephi says this love is “desirable to make one happy,” “most sweet, above all [we’ve] ever before tasted,” and “most joyous to the soul” (1 Ne. 8:10, 12, and 11:23). Add to that Paul’s declaration that nothing—“not tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword”—can separate us from this wonderful love (Romans 8:35). The scriptures really do paint a picture of the Lord’s love as the Mount Everest of mortal experience. As the most amazing, life-changing thing our heart will ever experience.

As encouraging as those words may be, I’m in a situation right now that seems to be testing those scriptural promises to the limit. For one thing, Paul says that trials and tribulations can never separate us from the Lord’s sweet love. And I believe him. Really, I do. But I’ll be honest and say that lately my heart has struggled to feel what my head so firmly believes. After more than 9 months of praying and pleading for a job, we still don’t have one. So it’s easy to drift into thoughts of feeling forsaken and abandoned and alone. Like the Lord’s not listening or He just doesn’t care.

The thing is, my head knows without a doubt that those thoughts aren’t true. My head can rehearse scripture after scripture where Christ promises us that He’ll never forsake us and that He’ll always hear the prayers of the faithful (for starters, see Deut. 31:6, Isa. 43:2, & D&C 108:8). But some days, my heart just doesn’t feel particularly loved. I mean, if He really loved me, He’d get our family out of this predicament, right? If He really cared, He’d relieve us of this long, hard struggle. Because He hasn’t, it can be tempting to believe that, unlike Paul’s scripture promises, we’re as separated and distant from the Christ’s tender love as it’s possible to get.

I think we face a difficult choice when we’re mired in some kind of difficult or long-lasting adversity. Will we trust the Lord’s promises in the scriptures and believe He loves us regardless of how we feel and regardless of the circumstances He’s allowing in our lives? Or will we listen to our heart’s pity party and start to believe that Paul and Nephi had it wrong—that trials really do have the power to separate us from His very personal and joy-producing love? When our heart is saying one thing and our head is saying another, it can be hard to know which one to trust.

And yet, we can’t just sit on the fence when it comes to this particular choice. It’s way too important. Christ made it clear that the greatest commandment of all is that we love Him with all our heart, soul, and mind (Matt. 22:37-37). But how do we love Him like that when our circumstances are trying very hard to convince us that He doesn’t care about us in return?

I know there are a lot of ways to answer that question, and I’ll probably blog about many of them at one point or another. But today there’s one idea I just can’t get out of my head. Simply put, life is about being tested and proven to see if we truly love the Lord. So if He continually gives us everything we ask for and blesses us with our every wish and whim and makes sure we avoid every possible kind of adversity, what test of our love is that? Anyone would adore a God that acts like a big, jolly Santa Claus. Anyone would fall in worship before a God who exists solely to help them avoid all illness, loss, rejection, betrayal, or suffering. A God who jumps when they say jump. Who indulges their comfort zone and allows them to sail through life untested and untried.

So rather than indulging us, I believe the Lord sometimes chooses to deny us our heart’s greatest desire. And I believe He does so on purpose. Yes, He could definitely grant us immediate answers to our prayers and make everything work out happily ever after the minute we ask him. We’d never be left out or unemployed or single or infertile or struggling or in need.

But by allowing these kinds of things to happen to us, it could be that He’s trying to get us to consider one very important question:

“What do you love more . . . Me? Or My blessings?”

I know that may sound weird, but isn’t it possible that I can love Him only for what He does for me . . . rather than just for who He is as my Redeemer?? When trials hit, I think it’s a great time to look underneath the hood and see what’s going on deep inside my heart. To see what happens to my love for Christ when He seems distant or cold or unfriendly. Or when I can’t understand what in the world He could possibly be doing in my life. In times like these, am I going to turn away in disillusionment? Or do I really love Him enough just to trust Him? To believe that He knows what He’s doing and in the end, it will all work out for my good (Rom. 8:28)?

It’s the very same way my love is tested in my marriage relationship. For instance, am I only going to love my husband if he’s bringing me roses and rubbing my feet and hanging on my every word night after night? Or will I still love him when he’s so stressed that he hardly even notices that I’m there? Am I a fair-weather wife? Is my love only a response to how well he treats me? Or is it based on a much deeper commitment than just my own need-based emotion?

And can I say the same thing is true for my relationship with Jesus Christ?

Perhaps, in the end, this whole test we’re going through is less about the Lord’s love for me (which the scriptures promise me is constant), and more about whether or not I really love Him.

If that’s the case, it’s a test of love I really don’t want to fail.