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Let Us Be Faithful

A couple Sundays ago, it was “fast Sunday.” As Mormons, once a month (typically the first Sunday) we refrain from eating or drinking anything for two meals. We do this as an expression of sacrifice–showing the Lord that we are willing to control the appetites of our bodies so that our spirits can be more receptive. Generally, we approach fast Sundays with a purpose–blessings we are seeking (whether for ourselves or for someone else), direction, answers we are in need of, etc. In addition to the fast, we take the money saved from those two meals and give it as a “fast offering.” That money is then used to feed, clothe, and provide temporal welfare to those in need in our immediate geographical location.

Well, this last fast Sunday began and I “opened my fast” with prayer so as to present my purpose before the Lord, and then I headed to church. The sacrament and worship service began and I contentedly listened to the sermons of testimony from my fellow church-goers (As is also customary on fast Sunday, the pulpit is open to the general membership to share their witness of Christ as they feel inspired.). At one point, I wanted to write down something someone had said, so I reached in my bag to get a pen, but instead found a package of SweetTarts. Happy day! Without thinking, I opened it up and popped all three in my mouth, chewed, and swallowed.

That’s when it hit me. I’d just broken my fast. Why my brain couldn’t register that fact 10 seconds earlier is beyond me (and totally annoying). My first thought after that was, Welp. So much for that fast. I didn’t event make it two hours. What will I have for lunch?

But then I thought, Krista. Okay, you ate something. Yeah, you broke your fast. But don’t throw the whole thing away over three SweetTarts. Keep fasting. You can still offer this sacrifice, despite its imperfection. Just start again. Continue reading →

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Where Was I

I have purposefully never posted anything about 9/11 on my blog or Facebook page. Each year, I’ve passed the day with a reverent silence on social media–but it hasn’t been silence out of respect, as one might presume, although I do, very much respect. I’ve been silent, because I haven’t known what to say. Or more truthfully, I had nothing to say. There has always been this part of me that feels like a fraud trying to join in on the conversation.

Because.

I have never cried over September 11, 2001. I never hurt or felt the fear, numbness, and confusion that so many have told me they felt. Honestly, I have absolutely no frame of reference for the events of that day. I’ve often heard older people talk about “where they were” when JFK was shot. And I hear the same thing from my generation in regards to the terrorist attacks on 9/11. “Where were you?”

Where was I? Continue reading →

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LDS Primary Temple Dedication Countdown

So I was called as the Primary President on my second week in Florida! Oh, have I mentioned that I moved to Florida? Yes. I did–six months ago, this weekend.

(For non-Mormon-lingo speakers: The “Primary” is the children’s organization at our church. All children ages 18 months to twelve years old attend Primary during the second and third hours of our Sunday church meetings. As the President, it is my job to help strengthen the faith of the families in our congregation as well as oversee the children’s Sunday gospel instruction. My ward, i.e. congregation, has about 50 children in Primary.)

So yeah. Primary President. On my second week here. :) I. LOVE. IT.

Recently, the building of the Fort Lauderdale Temple was completed. As the Primary President, I’ve been trying to think of a way to help the children get excited about the dedication. To have one of our temples so close (only 2 hours!) is such a blessing and I wanted to help them see the importance of this holy building as well as assist their families in commemorating this special, sacred occasion in their own homes.

Here’s what I created:

In this print-at-home activity packet is a template for a countdown chain. Each link has one simple activity children or families can do that day to keep their mind on the temple. The countdown begins Monday, April 7 with a Family Home Evening (FHE) lesson. Three additional FHE lessons are outlined in the packet for each additional Monday leading up to the dedication on May 4. If you’d like to print the packet, click here.

*POST EDIT: I’ve received a few requests for other temples that are to be dedicated this year (2016). Simply use the link above to download the complete packet and then select which cover you need from the options below. If you have another city you need a packet for, feel free to leave a comment on this post (with your email so I can respond).

P.S. If you’re wondering about Mormon temples, here is a 3-minute video about why they’re so important to us.

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She Said Yes

Me, Grandma Q, Mom, Karly, Kaycie outside the Columbia, SC LDS Temple

and is now Mrs. Karly Barksdale.

Congratulations sister. I love you.
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Up to my Eyeballs in Fabric

Well I’m back from Girls Camp and it was a Mary Poppins week!The girls had a fabulous time, case in point:

In a gorgeous location:


Between crafts, painting nails, night hikes, 1000 rounds of Scategories, learning how to start fires and tie knots, and eating their weight in s’mores, mint oreos, roasted starbursts, and cheetos, it was a total success.

Now that I’m back, I’ve got to finish sewing bridesmaid’s dresses for the baby sister and I to wear at our middle sister’s wedding in T-minus 8 days. Bottom line: I eat, breathe, and dream taffeta and satin. I’ve also still got to make a practice round of the wedding cake (she wants strawberry shortcake).

Needless to say, it’s crazy right now … but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Today, Hope Lives

A couple weeks ago, Frit and I took a tour through the new Oquirrh Mountain LDS (Mormon) Temple. I’ve never been in a temple that wasn’t spectacularly awe-inspiring and this one was no different in its own special, unique ways (I loved the decor with the bright pink poppies splashed in with all the whites and creams!). I’ve also never left a temple without being moved to personal spiritual heights. Upon this particular visit I was reminded of a journal entry from 2005.

November 25: My friend Alicia and I went to an early temple session today at the Jordan River Temple before going in to work. We talked and laughed (quietly of course) about how we often vacillate between discouragement and hope as we watch all the couples coming and going, at the temple.

Well. This morning, like I said, it was kind of an emotional session, especially towards the end as I thought about how badly I wanted to enter into the presence of the Lord, in so many figurative and literal ways, but knowing that I don’t have all the answers to do so on my own. But there comes a point where I can’t go any further without the hand of the Lord resting upon me and prompting me beyond my own abilities and knowledge … But also knowing that that is the whole purpose for going to the Lord … to momentarily breach the line between heaven and earth and receive the answers I need.

As I walked into what we call the celestial room (a room that symbolizes coming into the presence of God) for my own quiet contemplation, I looked to my left and there, in the chairs beside me, was this dear old couple, somewhere in their 70s, wrinkled, age-spotted, rounder I’m sure than when they first met, shoulders hunched under years of life, eyes closed, each praying, and their hands–their hands quietly intertwined on the chair arm in between them–his thumb rested on top of her hand with a visible sense of tenderness coupled with fierce protection. I watched them pray. I watched for a long time. And then I watched them leave.

And today, for me, there was no vacillation. Today, there was no discouragement. Today, my hope lives and its life is light.

Oquirrh Mountain Temple 1
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How To Accomplish Great Things

After quite the Saturday morning, I spent the rest of the day preparing to speak in Church Sunday morning. I learned a lot in preparing for my assigned topic and thought I would share. If you have any personal insights, please offer them!

One of my favorite books is The Highest In Us by Truman Madsen. I received it as a gift in college and was immediately drawn into the truths Elder Madsen proposes. In the preface he writes, “The nightmare is all about us. And as we peer out at the world, whether by the aid of television or not, there is much of horror and of corruption. Yet, on occasion, quiet voices remind us, again all evidence to the contrary, that there are overwhelming possibilities locked within mankind.”

Have you ever thought about the possibilities locked within yourself? The abilities and achievements and contributions YOU could make to the world? To God’s eternal plan?

I, personally, think often about this. What will I contribute? Who am I becoming? What am I going to offer as my life’s work? What is my mission here?

I have always believed I had something important, something great, to do here in this life. And I have always believed the very same thing about those around me.

One day (July 24, 2004 according to the post-it note I wrote this experience on) as I sat thinking upon this belief–how and what I was to do–the Holy Spirit came to me and spoke to my heart, “Great things are accomplished by making yourself available to the Lord.”

Now this is not a deeply hidden mystery. It almost seems like common sense really. But on that day, at that point in my life, this truth was magnificent. Let me share it again. Great things are accomplished by making yourself available to the Lord.

Since that day, there have certainly been times that I have neglected this truth, allowing myself to be sidetracked by my own plans, wants, desires, weaknesses, and sins. But I have begun again (I love that we get to do that!) to try to live what I learned that day as I’ve recently felt an intense desire to better understand God’s plan for me, and how I can make the most of the time I have on earth.

So if great things are accomplished by making ourselves available to the Lord, the question then becomes, how do we make ourselves available to Him?

I believe the answer to this question is the key to unlocking what Elder Madsen called the “overwhelming possibilities within us.” The answer to this question is what Sister Elaine Dalton, General President of the Young Women organization of the LDS Church, asked us to return to. The answer, is what President David O. McKay said is worth more than our lives.

I believe the answer, is Virtue.

The word virtue comes from a Latin root meaning strength, courage, and excellence. Today the word virtue means moral excellence, goodness, chastity. It also means an effective force, power.

Such interesting definitions, wouldn’t you say?

Let’s take a look at the very first definition, “moral excellence.” To be moral means to understand the distinction between right and wrong and then live by those rules of right conduct, rather than on legalities or customs.

To be excellent means you possess outstanding quality or superior merit.

So to be morally excellent, or virtuous, means you have the outstanding quality of living by rules of right conduct. It means you have a superior understanding and ability to make choices based on the distinction between right and wrong rather than on legalities or customs.

Sister Dalton described it as “‘a pattern of thought and behavior based on high moral standards.’ It encompasses chastity and moral purity. Virtue begins in the heart and in the mind. It is nurtured in the home. It is the accumulation of thousands of small decisions and actions.”

So what does this mean for me? Or for you?

First, let me ask, what are the patterns of thought and behavior by which you live? How do you treat and speak to your family? How do you serve in your Church capacities? Are you an honest employee? What media and entertainment do you partake of and bring into your home? What sort of language do you use? How do you respond to counsel? What do you do when a prophet or apostle, or God for that matter, asks you to do something?

May I share a recent personal experience? I love music. I love all different genres and styles. But I’ve felt a prompting of my conscience for a while that I needed to clean out my music. Now don’t jump to conclusions that I had an iPod full of smut. I don’t, and didn’t. But there were a few songs, that I loved to run to and to dance to, that had a great beat, melody, and production, but they insinuated immoral situations lyrically that I shouldn’t have been listening to. But I kept avoiding the prompting…because well…I liked my music. And change is hard.

Now simultaneous to these thoughts about cleaning out my music, Frit and I began training for the triathlon. Anyone, who has trained for a physically brutal event like this can attest to the fact that it consumes your life. We ate, drank, and slept triathlon. And as I trained, whipping my physical self into shape, I found a greater desire to do the same for my spiritual self. I was stepping it up in my exercise and nutrition plan and felt my spirit asking, almost begging, for the same stretching and pushing. Additionally, those thoughts of life and accomplishments and making myself available to the Lord began to appear in my mind.

So, I put together a spiritual training plan similar to my physical training plan. It’s a difficult plan, one that stretches me and forces me to make this aspect of my life a focus. One element of the plan is to read, listen to, or watch, one General Conference sermon every day. In preparation, I downloaded the most recent Conference onto my iPod.

Well, last week as I was on the train to work, I was listening to music and the screensaver on my iPod appeared. It’s just the generic one, where album covers from your playlists bounce around the screen. Different artists bounced around, and then Elder Holland’s face appeared, and then LL Cool J, or Nelly, or someone. And I felt immediate discomfort—discomfort knowing that those two things couldn’t exist in the same sphere. I couldn’t live in both worlds. I couldn’t, and can’t, expect to enjoy the fullness of the Spirit and some of the music in my iTunes library. But change is hard. And I said to myself that I’d clean it out soon, but not that day.

Then Frit and I completed the triathlon. It took me two and a half hours to complete the course and the experience was physically excruciating at times. At one point I really didn’t know if I could keep going. There were killer hills on the bike route and the run and I’d never trained on hills (which is a whole other gospel lesson in and of itself). But as I ran past the finish line with everyone screaming for me and knowing that I’d done it, I knew that I’d never again be able to say, about anything, “I can’t do this.” Because I’d just done that race.

So when I sat down in front of my computer this weekend staring at my iTunes, making a list of the dozen or so songs that needed to be deleted, feeling ridiculous that such a task was as hard as it was for me, I thought of my race. I thought about the finish line. I thought about that moment when my legs were shaking at the top of a hill and my lungs couldn’t find enough air and I turned to Frit and said, “I really don’t think I can do this,” and she said, “Yes you can.” And then I did. I thought of my belief that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true. I thought of Elder Holland’s face and how it’s his world that I want to live in. I thought of all the other right choices I’ve made in my life and how I felt after making them. I thought of my Savior and how much I love Him, and how much He loves me. And I remembered that I’ve done hard things before. And I pushed delete.

In the last General Young Women’s Meeting, Sister Mary N. Cook said, “You must establish patterns of virtue that will keep you on this path throughout your life.”

Patterns of virtue. Patterns of making choices based on what is right. In a special pamphlet for LDS youth called “For the Strength of Youth,” which is just as much for me as it is for the teenage girls I teach every Sunday, it says, “Have the courage to walk out of a movie, turn off a computer or television, change a radio station, or put down a magazine if what is being presented does not meet Heavenly Father’s standards.”

Elder Madsen, later in his book, writes, “One supreme compliment to a member of the Church is, ‘He is active.’ But so are falling rocks and billiard balls. The word the Lord uses, and the question derived from it is, ‘Are you a lively member?’ Are you alive? It is no longer a question of whether you have been through the standard works, but whether the life and light in them has somehow passed through the very skin of your bodies and enlivened you. It isn’t whether you say your prayers in a proper fashion and position and time, but whether you open up honestly what is alive and more or less dead within you to the Source of live and stay with it and with him until the return wave of life enters you.”

It is Virtue that makes us lively. It is right choice upon right choice, based on right motives, that enlivens us and transforms us into a vessel through which the Lord can work mighty things and great accomplishments.

We do not live in a world of grey, although the world would tell us it is so. But matters of morality, honesty, chastity, modesty, gender, and integrity are black and white. Period. And Virtue is the power, both literally and figuratively, to make the distinction between what is black, and what is white.

“Virtuous women and men possess a quiet dignity and inner strength. They are confident because they are worthy to receive and be guided by the Holy Ghost. President Monson has counseled: ‘You be the one to make a stand for right, even if you stand alone. Have the moral courage to be a light for others to follow. There is no friendship more valuable than your own clear conscience, your own moral cleanliness—and what a glorious feeling it is to know that you stand in your appointed place clean and with the confidence that you are worthy to do so’” (Elaine S. Dalton, A Return to Virtue).

What can each of us do to return to virtue? As Sister Cook said, “the course and the training program will be unique to each of us.” But as I’ve looked at my own life, a particular article of my LDS faith has played and replayed in my mind:

“We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”

I have since begun to measure my music, my literature, my movies, my work ethic, my desires, my Church service based on those qualifications. And if it doesn’t measure up, I have begun to delete it from my life. (Please note, I am not perfect at this.)

But it is what ends that article that stands out to me most. Those last five words: We seek after these things. I have come to understand that it is not just what we rid our lives of that makes us virtuous. It is what we seek after.

And that which is virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy will not be found on Access Hollywood or in the pages of Cosmo or on primetime television. Please don’t misunderstand. There is absolutely a place for entertainment and enjoyment (and believe me I have plenty of favorites) but not at the expense of our personal Virtue. Just as Virtue is gained by patterns of right choices, it is lost by patterns of bad choices. And each pattern begins with one choice.

In closing may I read another excerpt from Sister Cook’s talk? She says, “It is the cleansing power of the Atonement that makes it possible for us to be virtuous. We all make mistakes, but ‘because the Savior loves you and has given His life for you, you can repent. Repentance is an act of faith in Jesus Christ. … The Savior’s atoning sacrifice has made it possible for you to be forgiven of your sins. … Determine to partake worthily of the sacrament each week and fill your life with virtuous activities that will bring spiritual power. As you do this, you will grow stronger in your ability to resist temptation, keep the commandments [remain clean], and become more like Jesus Christ.’”

May I encourage you, as the Lord has encouraged me these last few weeks, to make yourself available to Him by cleaning out that which is unvirtuous and seeking after that which is lovely and of good report. In doing so, He WILL help you accomplish great things. He WILL help you live a life of value and worth and strength. That is my witness.

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My Journey Back to Joy: Part 6

[These are the transcripts from a keynote address I gave at an LDS Women’s Conference in Yuma, AZ. Here is Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, & Part 5.]

In conclusion, I want to now go back to the middle of my story and share how I moved from a life that lacked true joy, to where I am now–that is, living in joy daily.

But I want to ask you again, a third time: Is there anything in your life right now that you’d like to change or have different? Would you like more joy in your life?

If so, “how can we know the way” to do so?

David O. McKay said, “Christ’s divine answer was: ‘I am the way…’ (John 14:5-6). And so He is! He is the source of our comfort, the inspiration of our life, the author of our salvation. If we want to know our relationship to God, we go to Jesus Christ. If we would know the truth of immortality of the soul, we have it exemplified in the Savior’s resurrection…He is the one Perfect Being who ever walked the earth; the sublimest example of nobility; Godlike in nature; perfect in his love; our Redeemer; our Savior; the immaculate Son of our Eternal Father; the Light, the Life, the Way” (David O. McKay, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay, 2003, 3-4, 5).

And so it is. At both the beginning and the end of my long list of “look what I’ve done Lord to change my life” filled with scripture studies and prayers and charitable works (all of which are certainly so very important to knowing Him and living in joy), there stood One. And it was on my knees, in a simple, humble prayer that I found Him again. I finally realized I would never have enough to give Him. And it was okay. And so I handed Him my my tattered, fraying, sad little life, independent of all the things I thought I needed to do first. Because ultimately, only He could change it. And He did.

Because when I face the wall in front of me, it is He who says, “Thy walls are continually before me” (1 Nephi 21:16).

When I am lonely, it is He who says, “and lo, I am with you, even unto the end” (D&C 105:41).

When I am burdened, it is He who says, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:30).

When I wonder which direction to go or choice to make, it is He who says, “Trust in [me] with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge [me], and [I] will direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

When I am seeking greater peace in my home, family, and heart, it is He who says, “Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me” (D&C 19:23).

When I am saddened, faced with fear, hurt or illness, it is He who says, “I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you” (John 14:18).

When our world swirls around us, it is he who “arises, and rebukes the winds and the sea; until there is calm” (Matt 8: 26).

When I don’t feel strong enough to handle what I’ve been given, or face what is ahead, it is He who is my “strength and [our] song” (1 Nephi 22:2).

When I am out of breath, it is God who “breathed … the breath of life” into Adam (Moses 3:70).

When I feel dead, it is He who said, “I am the life” (John 14:6).

When I want, it is He who says, “Ask and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you” (Matt. 6: 7).

When I feel condemned and ashamed, it is He who says, “neither do I condemn thee” (John 8:11).

When I feel I need to suffer more for my sins, it is He who says, “I have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer” (D&C 19:16).

When I hunger, it is He who says, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:48).

When I thirst, it is He who says, “whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst” (John 4:14).

When the present seems dark, it is He who says, “I am the light” (3 Ne. 18:16).

When I don’t know the way, it is He who says, “I am the way.” (John 14:6).

My friends, it’s not that we choose joy. It’s that we choose Christ. It doesn’t matter what we do to change our lives on our own or how much we tell ourselves to be happy. It is only because of Him that bad things can be good, that sinful things can be wiped clean, that aching things can be healed. That is what a joyful life is … that despite, and most times in spite of hard things, there most certainly can be peace, comfort, strength, joy. For He said, “in this WORLD your joy is not full, but in ME your joy is full.”

My journey was not so much a journey back to joy as it was a journey back to Him. May you seek Him. For you will most certainly find Him. He is there and ever will be.

That is my personal witness.

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My Journey Back to Joy: Part 5

[These are the transcripts from a keynote address I gave at an LDS Women’s Conference in Yuma, AZ. Here is Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, & Part 4.]

My “baby” sister recently experienced a heartbreaking end to her engagement. She’s 8 years younger and the most adored gem of our family. When it happened, I felt a surge of love and protection well within me that mixed with memories of my own broken hearts. All of that poured out into a letter that I posted here on my blog.

In writing that letter, I was reminded of the fact that the perfect God of the universe is in perfect control. That certainly doesn’t negate my agency to choose my destiny, but it provides me with an added measure of assurance that He will not steer me wrong. There is joy in knowing that God is in control. I was also reminded that there is joy to be found in the path I’m currently on. All too often, I find myself dreaming about what I want to happen next, or even what I wish the path were like today. And while yes, we must plan and prepare and hope for the future, we must not miss the experience of today.

As I looked forward to speaking in Yuma, I began praying for the women there–praying to know what God needed them to hear. And when I am waiting for an answer from God, I pay special attention to the situations, conversations, and lessons that pop up around me. I look to see what He places in my path. And a message that reoccurred time and time again in the weeks that led up to the conference was this: We can (and must) find joy in womanhood, and especially in motherhood.

At first, I wondered how I, a single woman and mother of no children, could testify, with strength and understanding, of this principle. But after thinking about it (a lot), I came to realize that I am actually perfectly suited for this task. Please know that I am certain motherhood is hard. I realize that it is not all peaches and cream. Sometimes I’m grateful I can give crying babies back to their mothers. But most (all) of the time, there is nothing I ache for more.

To those of you who wish you were “doing something” with your degrees or lives, I’d like to tell you that, as someone who has earned the positions and the promotions, who has earned a dollar or two for her day’s work, who has received awards and praise and pats on the back for a job well done, who has a resume that could get me almost any position in any marketing firm in the country … I would trade every dollar, every award, every pat on the back, every promotion, and every business suit to wipe up a puddle of spilled milk, to wash off spaghetti faces, to find a crayola mural on the freshly painted wall, or to rock a crying baby back to sleep at 2 a.m. Because with all the spills, the messes, the tears, and the sleeplessness, a mother also gets all the kisses (no matter how slobbery they may be), first steps, afternoons baking cookies, Christmas mornings, and sleeping little ones with all their sweetness cradled in her arms.

I hope that those of you who are blessed with children realize what you have. I hope you don’t forget the joy it is to be a mother. I hope that when you finish reading this that you’ll go scoop your babies up and smooch them, and squish them, and love on ’em. I hope you can find your smile when the temper tantrum happens in the middle of the store. I hope you’ll take a picture when your 4-year-old sticks an entire sheet of stamps to the car window (I did that to my parents). I hope you can laugh when your teenager uses dish soap in the dishwasher and it fills the entire kitchen with a 4-foot wall of bubbles (I did that too). I hope you enjoy those moments! Enjoy what you’re a part of. You are mothers! And you are blessed.

To those of you like me, who don’t have children yet, I hope you will realize (and remember) the divinity that lies within you. I hope you will cultivate a mother’s heart and look forward to the day when you can bear and rear children. I know that there is no greater calling than to be a mother.

And to all of you ladies, I hope that you will ever find the joy that comes from being a woman–a daughter of God. Your worth in the eyes of heaven is beyond comprehension. I plead that you will let that understanding work in you and settle into your soul. And never let the world tell you otherwise.

Click Here for Part 6

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My Journey Back to Joy: Part 4

[These are the transcripts from a keynote address I gave at an LDS Women’s Conference in Yuma, AZ. Here is Part 1, Part 2, & Part 3.]

One of my favorite scriptures reads: “But behold, the Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell; I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love” [ital added] (2 Ne. 1:15).

I know the Lord loves me. I know He loves you. Period. But sometimes I keep him at arm’s length. Close enough, but not too close. Do you ever do that? Or am I the only one? Whether we admit it or not, sometimes we limit His love, by not letting Him love us–all of us.

Do you let him love you, mistakes, imperfections, sins, weaknesses and all? Or do you only let Him love the good parts. Sometimes, we (I) think that because He’s perfect, and we’re not, that He wouldn’t want to love those parts of us. But it is because He’s perfect that He can. And does.

I live with my best friend. And as we’ve grown in our friendship, she’s learned a lot about me–things I sometimes wish she didn’t know. She knows my darkest corners. I remember the day I told her my deepest, darkest, not-one-soul-knows, secret. And as I cried, she moved closer, put her arm around me, squeezed me, and told me it was alright, all the while loving me.

I also remember the day I had to apologize for something I had done–something that in my eyes, warranted an end to our friendship. She had every right, I thought, to never trust me again, let alone speak to me again. But instead, she smiled, moved closer, put her arm around me, squeezed me, told me it was alright, and to never think of it again.

I would imagine most of you have a friend like this, whether it be a spouse or a sister or a friend. Why is it that we allow these people to love even the hard parts of us, and yet, we don’t always allow Christ to do the same? Why don’t we let Him love us the way He wishes He could, but cant, because we stay far, worried that He won’t?

I am here to say He will!

If the people in our lives, with all their own imperfections and flaws and weaknesses, can love us even after knowing all that we’ve done wrong. How much more possible is it that a perfect God, with perfect patience, and a perfect love, can love us that much better? He, like our closest confidant, will always, if we let Him, move closer, put His arm around us, squeeze us, and tell us it is alright.

There is joy in knowing we are loved. There is joy in allowing ourselves to be loved. For His love, will never fail.

Click Here for Part 5

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My Journey Back to Joy: Part 3

[These are the transcripts from a keynote address I gave at an LDS Women’s Conference in Yuma, AZ. Here is Part 1, Part 2.]

I just want to take a few minutes to share with you where I find my joy. Because after all, “women are that they might have joy.” Do you believe that? Really? Women “are.” Meaning women exist, were created, live and breathe and move, that they (we!) might have joy. I do. I believe in God’s words. All of them. But it doesn’t say women will have joy. It says, might have joy. It’s up to us. We just have to know where to look.

A few years ago, I found myself waiting at the bus stop one morning on my way to work. The long, cold winter was taking its final bow and this particular morning was crisp with Spring air on the verge of blooming. I was serendipitously facing east as the sun rose up behind the dark mountains, rays shooting out from oblivion and spilling down the hillside, soaking the valley floor in its warmth. I closed my eyes, tilted my head, and breathed it in. I couldn’t help but offer up a quick “thank you for the sun today,” to my Heavenly Father. And in return, I got the most wonderful response. I felt the Spirit whisper, “You’re welcome. Today, it’s for you.”

Now some may think that’s awfully ego-centric–to believe that the sun rose for me. But I believe that the reality of our Father-daughter relationship with God is Just. That. Personal.

He knew what I needed. And He gave it to me. An offering from the place He carefully crafted for the raising of His children.

I love the children’s song,
Whenever I hear the song of a bird,
Or look at the blue blue sky,
Whenever I feel the rain on my face,
Or the wind as it rushes by,
Whenever I touch a velvet rose,
Or walk by a lilac tree,
I’m glad that I live in this beautiful world,
Heavenly Father created for me.

I recently wrote about another morning when I was reminded again of the value in stopping to recognize the multitude of beauty and bounty of gifts all around us. It was the morning I “caught” President Gordon B. Hinckley taking a mid-day walk around the gardens on Temple Square. Every few steps he stopped and pointed out the flowers to the guards walking with him. Now I know it’s cliché in every way, but when was the last time you stopped to look at, let alone smell the roses? When was the last time you remember hearing the birds welcoming Spring? When was the last time you took your shoes off and let your feet sink in the sand? When was the last time you laid on the grass and watched the clouds passing overhead?

My very favorite poem is by Mary Oliver. It reads:
Everyday I see or hear something that more or less kills me with delight, that leaves me like a needle in the haystack of light. It was what I was born for—to look, to listen, to lose myself in this soft world—to instruct myself over and over in joy and acclamation. Nor am I talking about the exceptional, the fearful, the dreadful, the very extravagant—but of the ordinary, the common, the very drab, the daily presentations. Oh, good scholar, I say to myself, how can you help but grow wise with such teachings as these—the untrimmable light of the world, the ocean’s shine, the prayers that are made out of grass?

May I testify that the earth is full and there is joy to be found in her.

Look for it.
See it.
Recognize it.
And thank Him for it.

Click Here for Part 4

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My Journey Back to Joy: Part 2

[These are the transcripts from a keynote address I gave at an LDS Women’s Conference in Yuma, AZ. Here is Part I.]

By no means had I become a horrible person, but I wasn’t who I had been in years past, and I hadn’t become who I thought I would once I “became a grown up.” Life had happened. I’d gotten a real job with real stress and heavy demands. I’d accumulated bills and responsibilities and busyness. And the busier I got, the less I seemed like me. And it seemed like the farther I got from “me,” the farther I got from heaven too. So come January 1, things were going to change. But like I said only one resolution mattered. And so I wrote:

This year I will know the Savior better.

In the weeks that followed, I tried to put a dedicated emphasis on that goal. I listed all the things I should be doing in an effort to know Him better. I reimplimented habits like daily scripture reading, regular prayer, and reading the Sunday School lessons each week. And I felt better about life in small measure. But I still felt as though I was far. I still felt as though I was missing something. The intensity of the Spirit wasn’t permeating my life like it had just a few years before. And so – I continued to clean out the cobwebs. I identified things that had crept into my life that were making it difficult for me to always have the Spirit – things like sins, weaknesses, imperfections, and grudges. I began to offer them up to heaven with the humblest heart I think I’ve ever had. I was so saddened by the weeds I had let overtake my heart.

I think I knew I needed change for a long time, but when I’m honest about why I didn’t do it sooner, it was because I was scared – scared to give the Lord this tattered, broken life. I was afraid piecing it back together would hurt beyond what I could bear. And I think I was also ashamed. I mean He’s the perfect God of the universe. How could I ask Him to fix me, change me, remake me? How could I offer Him anything less than perfection? And so for a long while I tried to rid my life of the busyness, sins, and weaknesses on my own, while trying to add back in the joy, service, and dedication – again, on my own. But with the New Year, the pieces began to come together – I saw that I couldn’t do it on my own. It was impossible for me to fix it alone. And I don’t know that I’ve ever wanted to know the Savior more. It’s never mattered more. And I think that’s because I’ve never been more acutely aware of my need for Him. And I told the Lord so. I would do whatever it took. I didn’t care how badly it hurt or how long it would take. I wanted my life to be different. And I would do whatever He asked.

And as I did so, I felt things changing little by little. I found myself happier and more peaceful. Less burdened and more fulfilled. But something was still not right. Like I had hit another wall, where I had offered everything up – my desires, my sins, my weaknesses – but I still wasn’t feeling complete in the process. I kept praying, “What else do I need to do? What is the way to finally achieve what I’m seeking? I’m so close I can feel it. But I feel like there is one last thing. Is it just that I need to give you more time? Do I need to be patient? Or do I need to do something else? Just tell me and I’ll do it. You know I will.”

Now, you must know that I have always been my own worst critic. And, though I would never allow another person to believe this about themselves, I’ve always thought that I needed to do more, work harder, run faster in order to receive the blessing or find forgiveness. I think many of us feel this way simply because we’re so much more aware of our own imperfections. We tend to be hardest on ourselves.

In fact, I’ve often been known to say in prayer, “I haven’t suffered enough for this. If you need to punish me a bit more, I understand.” Or I’ll think to myself, “I need to do this and this and this and this, before I ask for help because certainly I can’t kneel before God if I haven’t read my scriptures, served my neighbor, gone to the temple, and completed my visiting teaching.” And in regards to this resolution, I think I’d been telling myself that the way to get past the wall is to read more, serve more, try harder. I kept asking, “What more do I need to do?”

But in my studies, I was reintroduced to Thomas. Poor Thomas is often remembered as the “doubter” but really, Thomas was faithful and dedicated. A good disciple.

Thomas asked, “How can we know the way?”, as he sat with his fellow apostles and their Lord after the supper on the memorable night of betrayal. I revisit the question I began with: Is there anything in your life right now that you’d like to change or have different? And to add an additional question: Would you like more joy in your life? If so, “how can [you] know the way” to do so?

Now, I want to skip to the end of my story–to where I am now, and I’ll come back to the guts of what happened next later.

Today, I am living a joyful life. My life today is so different than it was a couple years ago. No, things aren’t perfect. No, I don’t have all the blessings I wish I had. No, my life’s not totally balanced and peaceful. It’s not even blue skies and rainbows every day. But it’s closer. I still sometimes say things I shouldn’t, and think things I shouldn’t, and do things I shouldn’t. And sometimes I feel frustrated or even sad. But despite the difficulties and the mistakes, I am living a joyful life.

And I just want to take a few minutes to share with you where I find my joy. Because after all, “women are that they might have joy.” Do you believe that? Really? Women “are.” Meaning “women exist, were created, live and breathe and move, that they (we!) might have joy.” I do. I believe in God’s words. All of them. But it doesn’t say women will have joy. It says, might have joy. It’s up to us. We just have to know where to look.

Click Here for Part 3

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