Tuesday, April 30, 2019

He Knows Me

Individual Worth #1

In this personal progress experience I read several scripture passages where the Lord tells prophets that he knew them before they were born or where He calls them by name. He tells them they were forordained to do the work on the Earth that they are doing. (Psalms 8: 4-6; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Abraham 3:22-23; Doctrine and Covenants 18:10; Joesph Smith History 1:1-20.)

When we read the scriptures, it is most impactful if we can put ourselves into them. I like to think of myself as being in the place of the person writing the scripture. Surely, if the Lord knew Moses or Abraham or Joesph He also knows me. This is what these scriptures teach me.

But I also have had numerous experiences where I have felt that the Lord knew me specifically. He knows my joys and sorrows, my strengths and weaknesses. He knows what I need to be happy and to grow. He points me to things that will help me do that.

One example of this is my current project of doing Camille's Personal Progress. I wrote that I had felt in a sort of slump in my first post on Keep the Faith (which I wrote right after I decided to do Cami's Personal Progress but before I decided to journal all the journal entries on the blog.)

The next morning I dove head long into doing this Personal Progress thing. I wrote like 4 posts that day and completed nearly all my Faith experiences. I only have to share my testimony this Sunday to finish my Faith experiences. I have felt so uplifted and purpose filled. Doing this has completely taken me out of my slump. It has reminded me how important it is for me to journal and write. I have not been good about that the last 5 years. I have relied on Instagram to document my life. But I have missed journaling. I need to be better about that even when I am done with this current project.

I am grateful that the Lord knows me well enough to know what I need and that He gives me those gentle nudges to do that which will make me happy and fulfilled.


Faith #7

I have been paying a tithing of 10% of my income to the Lord for as long as I can remember. At certain times in my life this has been an easier thing for me to do. At other times, it has taken faith. One such time was when I was in law school. I moved to Washington D.C. with basically nothing. I had about $1500 when I graduated college and I spent most of that backpacking Eurpoe for a month. (Priorities right?)

So I took out loans to pay my first tuition and my dorms. My parents had supported me 100% through college but aside from paying my car insurance, I was esentially on my own financially. I was doing night school and looking for a job to help me pay for school so I wouldn't have to take out so many loans. I felt led to go to school at Georgetown and had faith that the Lord would make a way for me to pay for it.

My brother Morgan though I was crazy. He and my sister Lesli had driven the car my parents were letting me use out across the country to pick me up after I got back from Europe in NYC and drive me down to D.C.  We were walking the streets of D.C. and he asked me why I was coming to school out here when I could have gone to University of Utah on a scholarship.

"You are gonna get married and have all this debt." He wasn't sure I would ever even practice. I told him I was gonna get a job to pay for it. He pointed out that as a public relations major, there was no way I was gonna get a job making enough money to pay for Georgetown tuition plus living in one of the most expensive cities in America.

After trying to justify my decision and him arguing with each of my points, I finally said, "listen, I know the Lord wants me out here. So He is going to make a way for me to pay for this."

He responded, "Okay, but you do understand that is the only reason you have given me that makes any sense right?"

Sometimes the Lord asks things of us that don't seem "reasonable." Anyway, I signed on with a temp agency while I looked for a job. The first gig I was assigned to was editor of a newsletter for a lobbyist. He liked my work. After a couple of weeks he offered me the job full time. He had also done Georgetown Law as a night student. He told me he didn't want me "eating Ramen" every night to get by and then offered me a salary twice what all my colleges at other publications were making. $36,000 a year. That was $1,000 more than my brother was making at his accounting job. :) I enjoyed calling to tell him my miraculous good news.

When I got home after that, I wrote out a budget. Before I started I figured I needed at least $100 a month to live. My housing and books and tuition was all paid in advance with loans. I wanted to save enough to cover my tuition for the next semester and only take out the subsidized Stafford loans that didn't accrue interest.

I started forming my budget and figured out how much I would need to put away each month to save for tuition. I factored in my tithing and a generous fast offering given my budget. After I deducted all my set expenses from my monthly net income, I was left with exactly $100 to spend on food and transportation. It was a sign to me. The Lord does provide, sometimes exactly what we need.

I did get married during law school and only worked for a year after school before I had Sabrina and quit. I ended up coming out of law school with only subsidized Stafford loans. (I think it was about $36,000 of debt. Tuition at that time was about $25,000 per year.) I was able to make enough money practicing law to pay off all my debt in 6 months, before it accrued any interest.

I attribute this financial miracle to faith, hard work, and paying a full tithe.

Jonathan and I have been through a few financially difficult times and times of unemployment. Even when we have lost everything, the Lord has always helped us find ways to regroup, find employment, or send helping hands to see us through. These are blessings of an honest tithe.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Promises at Baptism - Atonement

Faith #4 and #5

I take my baptismal covenants seriously. Probably because I have felt keenly the cleansing power of the Atonement in my life. I know what it feels like to suffer the pains of godly sorrow for your sins. It is not pleasant. Sure we may grow comfortable here on this Earth living in and among sin without much thought. But that is like being comfortable being dirty in a dirty place surrounded by dirty people. We grow used to what is around us and no longer see the dirt.

But I know that one day we will all be brought before the bar of God to be judged and in the presence of His holy cleanliness, the "dirt" from our sins will be all to apparent and painful to us. I have had an experience where I felt that pain and been shown the "dirt" from my sins. It was unbearably awful. Like I can't imagine having to live with that awareness and pain. I felt so bad, I felt unworthy to even pray.

Yet in the depths of that despair, I remembered how the Lord had commanded us to pray. He wanted us to turn to Him when we felt like that. I realized that it was Satan that didn't want me to pray. So I gathered all my strength and uttered a very simple, direct prayer. "Lord, please forgive me." The words were few but the feeling was deep and powerful and pleading.

In an instant, all those painful, uncomfortable, sorrowful feelings were wiped away and I was filled with joy and forgiveness and light. It was miraculous beyond anything words could adequately describe. I KNEW the Lord had forgiven me and I didn't need to worry about my past sins any longer.

I felt such gratitude to the Savior for bearing the weight of those sins and for suffering the punishment for them. I felt purchased. From that moment at the age of 14 on, I have not considered my life my own. For, I could not have lived under a consciousness of my guilt. My life was purchased almost 2000 years previously in the Garden of Gethsemene.

This is what I think of when I take the sacrament each Sunday now. I think of the debt He paid for me and thank Him for it by repenting anew and striving to recommit myself to doing my best to do His will and His work on this Earth for the remainder of my days. I take His name on me and promise to keep His commandments and I REMEMBER Him.

A Faith Strengthening Experience

Faith #3

I am glad to have the push to journal this experience which strengthened my faith.

In the spring of 2018, my family made the decision to move to San Antonio, Texas. My husband, after being unemployed for a year, got a job in San Antonio and had been commuting the 4-5 hour drive down from Flower Mound for a year. It looked like he liked the job and would be at it long term so we decided it was best to uproot the family to move down.

However, we had a big beautiful home in Flower Mound and lots of dear friends and a fantastic church congregation. None of us were eager to leave and we weren't sure the market would allow us to sell our home without us losing money on it. So, we decided to set a price on the home that would get us out breaking even and if we could sell for that amount, we would move. We hired a realtor, got the house prepped and put it on the market.

The house got an offer within a couple of weeks that was below our asking price but above the break even point we had set. We accepted the offer and started searching more diligently for a home in San Antonio. We looked at lots of home but couldn't find one we liked that met our needs.

A week or so into the process, our buyers backed out. We were disappointed, but had been having lots of traffic before we got that offer so we figured we would get another offer soon. We were wrong. Once we put our home back on the market, it was like crickets. Very few showings and none of them making offers.

Months passed. All this time, we are emotionally in limbo. We kept wondering if we would move or not. We couldn't make firm plans one way or another because we simply didn't know what the future held for us. I kept praying to enjoy the time we had there for as long as we had it and that if the Lord wanted us to move that He would help us find a buyer that could pay at least our break even price.

June came around and in the middle of June we decided to go down to San Antonio to spend a week with Jonathan. Just before we left, we got an offer on the house. Now we had recieved a couple of REALLY low ball offers that we rejected without hesitation in the weeks just previous to this but this offer, while lower than our break even price point, was worth considering.

The offer was within $10,000 of our break even price. We went back and forth with them trying to negotiate a price that would get us up to our break even point. The whole drive down to San Antonio, I was talking back and forth to my realtor and Jonathan about negotiations. By that evening it came down to a $3000 gap between what they were offering and our break even price.

Our realtor told us it was not very likely we would get a better offer since our house had been on the market so many months. But it was up to us. Jonathan was adamant that we stick to our guns and demand the break even price - which they had repeatedly refused to go to and had told us this offer was the best and final. He wanted to make sure they really wanted the house and weren't going to back out like the other offer we accepted. He felt, if they REALLY wanted the house, they shouldn't mind going up the $3000. He said he was willing to commute another year if needed.

So we said no to the offer. As we cleaned Jonathan's house in San Antonio that night I kept wondering if we were crazy. Was it really worth $3000 to have all this uncertainty and stress? Finally I told Jon, we need to pray about this. I mean we had been prayful but hadn't specifically knelt together to ask the Lord. So we paused in our cleaning and closed the bedroom door and knelt in prayer to ask the Lord if we should just accept the offer. Both of us got a fairly clear answer to just wait.

So we went forward, trusting our fate into the hands of the Lord. About 2 hours later, our realtor texted us to say the buyers were willing to go up the extra $3000. We texted back to tell her we were good with that. A minute later, she called us. She said she had just gotten a call from another interested party who had been through the house previously and wanted to see if we had any action on it. She had not yet responded to the buyers we had been negotiating with all day. It was after 10 pm at this point.

So we had her ask the second party if they wanted to put in an offer. They went to see the house again the next morning at 7 am and made an offer at 8 am for well above our break even price. We went back to the buyers we had been negotiating with all the previous day and let them know. They came back with an offer $10,000 higher than our break even price and that was more attractive as far as closing date and other things. We also had another party request a showing. We accepted the offer of the party we had long negotiated with and the party who requested a showing ended up putting in a full price back up offer the next day.

Meanwhile, that morning in San Antonio, we went to look at a few houses withour realtor down there. We finally found one that met our needs (after not finding one in a year of looking) and were able to make an offer that night which was accepted the next morning.

These 48 hours were miraculous to me. In all those months before, I was holding onto faith. I didn't know if the Lord would really have us move. The future is never certain. All I could do was try to Keep the Faith and believe and trust in the Lord and the answers to pray we felt He was giving us. I am so glad we followed the promptings we felt. More important than the extra money we got by doing so, we now have a more firm testimony that we are supposed to be here in San Antonio and in this house. That has been helpful as we have struggled to feel at home here and have sorely missed our friends, family, and life in Flower Mound. And this experience strengthened my faith that the Lord answers our prayers and that He will be there for us when we trust in Him.


Faith #2

Motherhood is the most challenging, rewarding, and holiest of callings. We partner with God to create a person in our bodies and then suffer the agony of our own personal Gethsemene's of childbirth to bring a child into the world through the sheding of blood sweat and tears. And that is the easy part. Once our children are here, they have challenges that we must help them through. They will try our patience like no one else can. But they will also love us and we them in a bond unlike any other.

It is difficult to always live close enough to the Spirit to really take full advantage of the partnership with the divine in this process of parenting. When you are late for school or church or an activity and your child is being defiant or just distracted it is hard to keep your cool and be Christlike. We as mother's mess up - all the time.

So I guess grace is a big part of mothering for me. Giving grace to your children as they are learning and having patience with them while they learn is hard but so important. And allowing grace for yourself as you mess up and try again is equally important.

Really, I just want to so entangle myself with the Savior that I can draw on the power and grace of His atonement to enable me to be the kind of mother I want to be and help me to set the tone in our home even when others in our home are grumpy or sassy or angry. If I can be strong and stay above all that, perhaps the rest of them will come up to join me in the peace above the chaos of life.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Keep the Faith

Faith #1

I have been in a slump lately. Not a funk. Nothing that drastic. Just a little slump. Maybe it is the let down after having family in town and celebrating Camille's 12th birthday, Harrison's baptism, and Easter all one day after another last weekend.

In any case, I have been feeling lazy and unmotivated. But today I was working with some young women from church on our Personal Progress studying areas of the gospel and I began reading up on Faith. This was after I attended the baptism of a friend yesterday. There a man told a story of President Hinkley giving him one piece of advice for what to do after his mission. President Hinkley told him "Keep the Faith." That is a phrase my grandfather used frequently. He would sign his letter off with Keep the Faith. 

So as I read in the scriptures today about faith in Alma 32, and I read about the need to continually nourish the seed of faith in order to have it produce that miraculous fruit, I thought -- "This is how I Keep the Faith."

I have faith. I have a solid, and sure testimony of the Savior and our Heavenly Father and the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. But I am not alway as good about nourishing this faith as I should be. I need to seek more earnestly in my prayers and scripture study. I need to drink more deeply from the living waters. That is how I Keep the Faith.

I don't often think of my Grandfather. But I can feel him near me now. He's probably the one giving the rousing sermon to my soul on this matter. And so I commit to dig a little deeper and be more consistent in my relationship with God - that my seed may be nourished - that I can partake of the fruit - that I can Keep the Faith.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Personal Progress

Last weekend when my sister Lesli was in town with her family for their Spring Break, Camille's birthday and Harrison's baptism, she gave me an idea. Camille would have just turned 12. Her peers all started the youth program at our church this year in January. As part of that they are encouraged to start a Personal Progress program that guides them through experiences and goals to help them learn and grow. It is an intensive program requiring 46 experiences, many of which take several weeks to accomplish, and 8 projects that each must take at least 10 hours. Those who accomplish this recieve a medallion.

This year I was put in charge of this program in my congregation. This is the last year of the program and next year the church will start a whole new program for all the youth. So I have been meeting with and encouraging the youth - even those who just entered the program - to work towards completing the program this year and get their medallion. I have told them they can do it in a year. It won't be easy but it is possible.

So in honor of Camille, this year I am going to do my best to complete the Personal Progress Program in her behalf. I am starting late here. Its almost May so I only have 8 months. But I believe I can do it. There is a lot of journaling required for the program. I have decided to do my journaling here. So if you want you can follow along with me. At the very least it will keep a record of this journey for me and I will make book of it that will be one of my 10 hour projects.

Happy birthday Cami dear! This is for you!
All 4 of my little Young Women