Beauty in imperfection

As I age, I appreciate beauty everywhere, even in the imperfect. When I do something artistic, I like it to be a little asymmetrical. There is beauty in the realness of life experience. It’s still hard for us to see. We are used to constant images of near perfection. We’re like broken glass. Pretty, sure, but kind of junk.

image from amazon.com
image from amazon.com

God created us. He knows we’re broken and rough. But He loves us. “Think of the purest, most all-consuming love you can imagine. Now multiply that love by an infinite amount—that is the measure of God’s love for you.

“God does not look on the outward appearance. I believe that He doesn’t care one bit if we live in a castle or a cottage, if we are handsome or homely, if we are famous or forgotten. Though we are incomplete, God loves us completely. Though we are imperfect, He loves us perfectly. Though we may feel lost and without compass, God’s love encompasses us completely.” (Elder Uchdorf)

God loves us because He made us. He knows we have worth beyond what we see. He has plans to help us achieve our potential, the potential He created us for. He invites us to come closer to Him so we can feel His love and see His vision for us.

“He loves us because He is filled with an infinite measure of holy, pure, and indescribable love. We are important to God not because of our résumé but because we are His children. He loves every one of us, even those who are flawed, rejected, awkward, sorrowful, or broken. God’s love is so great that He loves even the proud, the selfish, the arrogant, and the wicked. What this means is that, regardless of our current state, there is hope for us. No matter our distress, no matter our sorrow, no matter our mistakes, our infinitely compassionate Heavenly Father desires that we draw near to Him so that He can draw near to us.” (Elder Uchdorf again)

God expends continual effort to give us this life to experience, and he knows even more perfectly than we do all about us, including our imperfections. He is willing to keep working with us in detail despite all our failures. And His plan is for us to succeed gloriously. He knows what He is doing.

scott-succeed-gloriously

Sister Marriot quoted President Hinckley in conference, saying “If you do your best, it will all work out. Put your trust in God. … The Lord will not forsake us.” It’s so hard to do, isn’t it? Trusting God when you don’t understand what He sees?

One thing we can do to understand God’s perspective of us is to pray. I have been working on my life handbook (slowly). One exercise I did was to write my most important goals and then prioritize them so I could see which ones I want to keep focused on daily and which are more long-term or lower priority. When I finished prioritizing everything I do, my top goal was to pray on my knees aloud morning and night. This was my top goal because my personal relationship with God is my highest priority. That being said, I have taken prayer for granted. I say prayers, not expecting a response, and sometimes not thinking much about God as I talk to Him. But if I want a better relationship with God, I need to be more sincere.

I believe our imperfections are beautiful to God because He knows we can overcome them. We see broken glass, He sees in us something else.

glass_mosaic-landscape
image from http://kasiamosaicsstore.blogspot.com/
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Feeling down

Today I notice this verse of scripture

And now, my son, I have somewhat more to say unto thee than what I said unto thy brother; for behold, have ye not observed the steadiness of thy brother, his faithfulness, and his diligence in keeping the commandments of God? Behold, has he not set a good example for thee?  – Alma 39:1

After writing fifteen verses to his obedient son Shiblon, Alma proceeds to give much lengthier advice to his disobedient son.

Parents tend to give more attention to the children in need of correction. Which means sometimes the obedient children wonder if they’re worth commending. They make right choices and then fail to get as much attention as their wayward peers, which can make rebelling look more attractive.

To give some credit to Alma, his fifteen verses to Shiblon include some great counsel.

And now my son, Shiblon, I would that ye should remember, that as much as ye shall put your trust in God even so much ye shall be delivered out of your trials, and your troubles, and your afflictions, and ye shall be lifted up at the last day.

Alma believes Shiblon is making decisions that will end in his ultimate happiness. That is doing pretty well, if you ask me. Alma doesn’t give his wayward son the same approval.

alma-younger
Alma had experience to share with his son. He had rebelled as a young man until he had an amazing conversion experience.

I noticed this verse because sometimes I feel like the obedient child who doesn’t get noticed. And although I try to show positive attention when my children are trying to make good choices, I know they also sometimes feel this way. It would be easy to pass over, but sometimes I also wonder if God is happy with my attempts to do right, or if I’m failing miserably. It’s possible to slip into feelings of depression and discouragement without anything major going wrong. There are probably lots of factors that play into feeling down. But if you’re sacrificing everything inside to try to accomplish something, it becomes important to know you’re on the right track.

Here’s what Elder Bednar said about these feelings:

My beloved brothers and sisters, godly fear dispels mortal fears. It even subdues the haunting concern that we never can be good enough spiritually and never will measure up to the Lord’s requirements and expectations.

I can tell you that haunting fear is real. I feel it.

mother-baby-sadness
Motherhood: the most rewarding and also hardest job in the world. See my last post.

I’m working on building my relationship with God so that I can feel His acceptance and love for me, instead of fearing I will never measure up. I testify that as a parent, I’m learning how parents love. They love their children unconditionally and watch their childishness with patience, hoping to build them and help them accomplish their potential. I know God feels that way toward me. He isn’t discouraged by the things that get me down. He knows they are small things that I will overcome in time. He also sent His son, Jesus Christ, to rescue all of us from our mistakes. Christ’s atonement is so all-encompassing it empowers God’s entire plan for His children’s growth.

There. I feel better just saying all of that.

Everything that gets us down can be overcome because of Jesus Christ.
Everything that gets us down can be overcome because of Jesus Christ.

Images from lds.org

#LDSconf thoughts

exterior-lds-conference-center

Conference Weekend

It was a whirlwind weekend. Saturday morning DH went out riding motorcycles with a friend. Five minutes before conference started, I tried to move the computer out to the living room so we could all watch. But I didn’t know how to set up the wireless internet connection, and daddy wasn’t home yet, so we listened to primary songs and worked on cleaning the house instead. Once our chores were done, we went over to Grandma’s house to watch the Saturday afternoon session with extended family.

Watching conference as a family is my favorite way to spend conference. Some Sundays get harried and hectic by the time we get ready for church and do all of our assignments. On Conference Sunday, we can just be together. I love it. And whenever there is a family gathering, there is good food. Since it was Saturday, I asked my kids to watch one talk plus watch if President Monson spoke. The rest of the time they spent playing with their cousins.

On Sunday we stayed home and watched conference as a family. By this time our computer was all set up and ready to go. We turned on the Tabernacle Choir broadcast and enjoyed the Easter Sunday concert. Sometimes it can be hard to watch conference with little kids, but mine were pretty good this time. My daughter had the Friend magazine out and played bingo on the board in the magazine. My son sat and read a book, pausing to pay closer attention once in awhile. The little ones played in the room with us.

I love the messages presented at conference. There is always a smorgasboard: messages of personal improvement, testimonies of Jesus Christ, gospel application, missionary work, and the plan of salvation. Usually there is a balance between calls to repentance and consoling our efforts. For example, Elder Oaks helped us evaluate our soil in the process of conversion. He has spoken many times on the theme making eternal goals our highest priority. Elder Bednar spoke about fear: how the fear of God can actually help us feel peace in a troubled world. For those of us who get over-anxious about the challenges we face, his message was soothing.

Video quote: Source of Enduring Peace — David A Bednar

My favorite messages were the back to back talks on Grace. First, Elder Holland’s talk about how Jesus Christ’s mission was the greatest expression of love ever known. Christ gave us “the gift of victory over every fall we have ever experienced, every sorrow we have ever known, every discouragement we have ever had, every fear we have ever faced—to say nothing of our resurrection from death and forgiveness for our sins.” Then Elder Uchtdorf gave a beautiful and concise explanation of grace. It is the power that erases sin, raises us to a level beyond our capacity to reach, and pours into our lives the power to accomplish all we strive for. Without understanding grace, Latter-day Saints get depressed when we try to achieve perfection and fail (every time)!

Video quote: The Path of Discipleship — Dieter F Uchtdorf

I also appreciated the talks about Returning to Faith and Waiting for the Prodigal. Because there ARE casualties in the trials of life. Living the gospel is hard. Some of us fall away, become inactive, etc. Yet even for those of us bogged down with difficult doctrines or difficulty living the doctrines can find peace in the gospel. And those of us who are strong can extend love and help to those who need it. Because none of us are strong enough on our own. We need each other and we need Jesus Christ.

I’m grateful for conference. It gives me a chance to take my spiritual temperature and evaluate where I need to improve. I know our leaders are righteous men who are in tune with God’s direction for the church. I also feel the camaraderie of the worldwide Saints. There are people like me who are also trying to live this glorious gospel and feeling its blessings in their lives.Pres-Monson-exiting-conference

Spiritual Food

Have you ever fasted? Fasting is going without food for a period of time. Usually it is done to increase spirituality. I think the idea is to control your physical cravings in an attempt to feel the spiritual cravings that exist.

spiritual-bread-food-LDS
source lds.org

Do you ever feel spiritual hunger? Usually I am so caught up in daily life that I don’t think about what my spirit feels. That’s one reason God commands us to observe the Sabbath, to give our souls a chance to be fed while our bodies rest. Once in awhile I feel a kind of spiritual longing that I believe is homesickness for heaven. Since I don’t remember what heaven is like, it’s hard to be sure.

I like this scripture found in 2 Nephi that talks about spiritual food.

Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy. Hearken diligently unto me, and remember the words which I have spoken; and come unto the Holy One of Israel, and feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted, and let your soul delight in fatness.

Some ideas for feeding our spirits include prayer, meditation, self-evaluation, reading God’s word (AKA scripture), sharing our testimony, and keeping commandments. Here’s a description of spiritual nourishment from President Uchdorf:

The more we incline our hearts and minds toward God, the more heavenly light distills upon our souls. And each time we willingly and earnestly seek that light, we indicate to God our readiness to receive more light. Gradually, things that before seemed hazy, dark, and remote become clear, bright, and familiar to us.

When our spirits get malnourished, we experience symptoms like loss of testimony, disobedience to God, unhappiness, and confusion. Elder Neal A Maxwell said, “When spiritual decay occurs, it is almost as if a physical light goes out in the countenance of such individuals.”

I hope to continue feeding my spirit through daily acts of devotion so that some day when the limited perception of mortality is gone, I will be able to see my spirit for what it truly is: a divine individual with unlimited potential for expansion. I hope my spirit will be healthy and vibrant.

girl-smiling-peru-wall-potential-LDS
source lds.org

Your Mission in Life

I love LDS General Conference! It’s an amazing worldwide gathering of church members where our leaders speak on current gospel topics. Each leader picks their own subject matter, prayerfully asking for guidance. No two talks are alike, though sometimes multiple speakers choose similar themes.

In Sept 2011, Elder Bednar gave a message about preparing for General Conference. He said, “Members of the Church are entitled to personal revelation as they listen to and study the inspired words spoken at general conference.” He also stated, “The words spoken at general conference should be a compass that points the way for us during the coming months.”
After the October 2013 conference, I pieced various quotes together into a theme. I can’t do this after every conference, but this particular once was very powerful to me personally. The theme I discovered answered the question, “what is my mission in life?” While the interpretation is my own, I’m grateful for inspired leaders whose words help guide us in life.

Do I have a mission in life?

We believe that each person has a mission in life.
Abr 3:22-23 Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones; … and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born.”
Taking time to ponder my life’s mission.
Moses 1:6, God says, “And I have a work for thee, Moses, my son;”
Alma 13:3And this is the manner after which they were ordained—being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works.”
Elder Russell M Nelson: “Your Heavenly Father has known you for a very long time. You, as His son or daughter, were chosen by Him to come to earth at this precise time, to be a leader in His
great work on earth.  You were chosen not for your bodily characteristics but for your spiritual attributes, such as bravery, courage, integrity of heart, a thirst for truth, a hunger for wisdom, and a desire to serve others.”
Elder Robert D Hales: “To the young members of the Church, I promise that if you will listen, you will feel the Spirit well up within you. The Lord will tell you what He wants you to do with your life.”

Each person’s mission is unique, so you can’t just follow the actions of someone else.

As Henry B Eyering said, “Heavenly Father has made each of us unique. No two of us have exactly the same experiences. No two families are alike. So it is not surprising that advice about how to choose happiness in family life is hard to give. Yet a loving Heavenly Father has set the same path to happiness for all of His children. Whatever our personal characteristics or whatever will be our experiences, there is but one plan of happiness. That plan is to follow all the commandments of God.”

As I’ve thought, I’ve come up with 10 steps that are part of accomplishing our mission in life.

Step 1: Gain a mortal body

Family Proclamation: “In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshiped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward
perfection and ultimately realize their divine destiny as heirs of eternal life.”
Elder Nelson: “With your body being such a vital part of God’s eternal plan, it is little wonder that the Apostle Paul described it as a “temple of God.” Each time you look in the mirror, see your body as your temple. That truth—refreshed gratefully each day—can positively influence your decisions about how you will care for your body and how you will use it.”
For the Strength of Youth counsels: Your body is a temple, a gift from God. You will be blessed as you care for your body. Choose to obey the Word of Wisdom.… To care for your body, eat nutritious food, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep. Practice balance and moderation in all aspects of your physical health.

Step 2: Learn how to control your mortal body

Alma 38:12
“Use boldness, but not overbearance; and also see that ye bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love; see that ye refrain from idleness.”
Mosiah 3: 19
“For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord.”
Elder Nelson “A pivotal spiritual attribute is that of self-mastery—the strength to place reason over appetite. Self-mastery builds a strong conscience. And your conscience determines your moral responses in difficult, tempting, and trying situations”
Ulisses Soares: “I believe, brothers and sisters, that only those who are humble are able to acknowledge and understand the Lord’s answers to their prayers. The humble are teachable, recognizing how dependent they are on God and desiring to be subject to His will. The humble are meek and have the ability to influence others to be the same. God’s promise to the humble is that He will lead them by the hand. I truly believe that we will avoid detours and sadness in our lives as long as we
walk hand in hand with the Lord.”

Step 3: Create families, develop relationships, and learn to love

Henry B Eyering: “Life in families will test us. That is one of God’s purposes in giving us the gift of mortality—to strengthen us by passing through tests. That will be especially true in family life, where we will find great joy and great sorrow and
challenges which may at times seem beyond our power to endure them.”
Eccl. 9:9
Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest … for that is thy portion in this life
Elder Nelson “As children of God, we should love Him with all our heart and soul, even more than we love our earthly parents. We should love our neighbors as brothers and sisters. No other commandments are greater than these.”

Step 4: Education—this has a few different parts

Temporal: includes learning how to work, father providing, mothers caring for the family, accountability for your stewardship

“And verily in this thing ye have done wisely, for it is required of the Lord, at the hand of every steward, to render an account of his stewardship, both in time and in eternity. For he who is faithful and wise in time is accounted worthy to inherit the mansions prepared for him of my Father.”
David O McKay taught: “God will have no interest in how you earned your living, but if you were honest in all your dealings.”

Line from a hymn:  “Do your duty
with a heart full of song” – I’ve found this challenging at times when doing monotonous work puts me in a bad mood.

Spiritual: understand good vs evil, how to choose the right, faith, keeping the commandments

2 Ne. 2: 27 Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal
life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil.
Ulisses Soares: “It is our duty to try to be perfect, … to improve each day, and look upon our course last week and do things better this week; do things better today than we did them yesterday.”
Elder Scott: “The more closely you follow divine guidance, the greater will be your happiness here and for eternity—moreover, the more abundant your progress and capacity to serve.”

Learning ourselves vs Teaching others: especially our children

Elder Scott: “Make the spiritual development of your spouse and children a very high priority. Be attentive to the things you can do to help each one.”
Mosiah 4:15, talking about children: But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another.

Step 5: Ordinances; complete the steps to exaltation

Carol Stephens taught, “To achieve [our] divine destiny, each son and daughter of God needs priesthood ordinances and covenants.” She listed baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, the temple endowment, the sealing ordinance, and the sacrament. “These priesthood ordinances and covenants provide access to the fulness of the blessings
promised to us by God, which are made possible by the Savior’s Atonement. They arm sons and daughters of God with power, God’s power, and provide us with the opportunity to receive eternal life”

Step 6: Share the blessings of the gospel

D&C 81: 81
Behold, I sent you out to testify and warn the people, and it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor.

Step 7: Repent, understand the atonement, become sanctified

Henry B Eyering: “Heavenly Father has perfect foresight, knows each of us, and knows our future. He knows what difficulties we will pass through. He sent His Son to suffer so that He would know how to succor us in all our trials.We know that Heavenly Father has spirit children in this world who sometimes choose sin and great unhappiness. That is why He sent His Firstborn to be our Redeemer, the greatest act of love in all creation. That is
why we must expect that it will take the help of God and time to polish us for eternal life, to live with our Father.”

Step 8: Service, develop talents

D&C 46: 11
“For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God.”
Elder Uchdorf:
“Come and add your talents, gifts, and energies to ours. We will all become better as a result.”

Step 9: Endure trials, tribulation, to prove ourselves

President Monson: “My brothers and sisters, may we have a commitment to our Heavenly Father that does not ebb and flow with the years or the crises of our lives. We should not need to experience difficulties for us to remember Him, and we should not be driven to humility before giving Him our faith and trust.”
“This should be our purpose—to persevere and endure, yes, but also to become more spiritually refined as we make our way through sunshine and sorrow. Were it not for challenges to overcome and problems to solve, we would remain much as we are, with little or no progress toward our goal of eternal life.”
Psalm 11:5 The Lord trieth the righteous
John 16: 33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

Step 10: Participate in specific events that we agreed to accomplish during our lives.

A family walking together
Many of us may have accepted the mission to become a parent.
Those who have received a patriarchal blessing should read it humbly, prayerfully, and frequently. It contains personal revelation and instructions from Heavenly Father, who knows our strengths, weaknesses, and eternal potential. Patriarchal blessings may contain promises, admonitions, and warnings.While a patriarchal blessing contains inspired counsel and promises, it should not be expected to answer all of the recipient’s questions or to detail all that will happen in his or her life. Similarly, the recipient of the blessing should not assume that everything mentioned in it will be fulfilled in this life.
Elder Nelson: “One day each of us will stand before the Lord in judgment. We will each have a personal interview with Jesus Christ. We will account for decisions that we made about our bodies, our spiritual attributes, and how we honored God’s pattern for marriage and family.”
If this list feels a bit overwhelming, Elder Uchdorf said: “Some might say, ‘I don’t think I could live up to your standards.’ All the more reason to come! The Church is designed to nourish the imperfect, the struggling, and the exhausted. It is filled with people who desire with all their heart to keep the commandments, even if they haven’t mastered them yet.”

 

I believe that this life is the hardest thing we have ever been asked to accomplish. I know with the understanding from the gospel, we can complete our mission in life and return to live with God someday.