Sunday, July 3, 2016

What I've Learned

As many of you know, we have been in the midst of what we call a HUGE trial at this moment in our lives as individuals and collectively as a family.  During this time I've come to know that many of you are also struggling with many different trials as well, and as you may already know, we all have to help each other "carry" the burden of our trials together.  It's always amazing to me that EVERYTHING worth while in life is always made better when shared with good people.   
As you know, the trials we face in this life are part of our Heavenly Father's plan for each and every one of us.  However, doesn't it seem like lately we've all been experiencing a busy season lately?  At the same time I personally feel like I am seeing things through different eyes, and every day I see more and more of the hurt and pain around me.  My heart goes out to everyone who is suffering.  Everyone struggling with hard things.  Some of you are of my same faith and some of you are not.  Then it dawned on me and the words the covenants I've made with my Heavenly Father come flooding back to my mind and I suddenly remember.  What a word.  Remember.  In the Doctrine & Covenants the Prophet Joseph Smith was also dealing with an incredible trial.  In fact, the biggest trial of his life when he poured out his heart in prayer to a loving Heavenly Father replied in D&C 122: 7-9
7 And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.
8 The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?
9 Therefore, hold on thy way, and the priesthood shall remain with thee; for their bounds are set, they cannot pass. Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever.
It's those words that have kept me up nights, "that all these things shall give thee experience."  I'm not going to lie, those words have caused me more grief than probably any other scripture that I've been moved to read over the past 10 months than any other.  I found myself saying, "Experience!  Anytime I try to talk about the things I have dealt with everyone things I'm being negative and a "Debbie Downer" and they don't want to hear it.  Until I realized I was sharing the wrong things.  
Why YES, I've experienced some crazy things like my husband balling like a baby,.....watching him having to train his body to void waste because those things don't work anymore......having to help clean him up after accidents......and rushing him to the hospital after a simple bladder infection has turned my somewhat normal husband into something right out of the droolsville of any of our valleys nursing homes....or better yet, when he can't even remember us taking him to the hospital......., his daughter's wedding reception......, or the trip we took to Montana. (!!!!!). I'm telling you.  The weight of the world has positioned itself squarely on my shoulders and at times I get frustrated and just need to talk about it.  Other times, the burden is extremely light and I feel like I can handle things.  
So, not until recently, did I finally realize what WE, Kevin, and/or I need to do with all of these EXPERIENCES.  (Can you see the figurative lightbulb turning on in my head???)  It's funny how some answers to prayers come and when they come, because I'm telling you it was right in the middle of my day today at work that I came to know that I need to share MY "words of wisdom" for handling the trials of this life.  
1) Keep your focus on Jesus Christ.
One of the things, I have found, that I often do right snack dab in the middle of a trial is to dwell and focus on the things that are happening.  Sometimes I would focus on the things happening around us, to those I love and to myself.      At that moment, it reminded me of the account of Peter in the Bible when he was walking on water.  For a while, he did just fine, and then he took his eyes off of Christ and started to sink. 
Think about this for a moment.  This had to freak Peter out!  If you've ever even been close to or been in a drowning situation like I have, then you'd know that the second you went into fear mode, you panic, and you know what that means....the drowning situation just got WORSE.  
In our a natural human tendency towards life, you start to struggle against the water when being calm and relaxed in a drowning situation is much better
I have thought about Peter and imagined him flailing around in the water, struggling, after taking his eyes off of Christ, while Christ was being somewhat disappointed in Peter for having a lack of faith in Him, and then in that moment Christ outstretched Hus hands to save Peter from himself.
In looking at that story, I'm sure we have all thought we could clearly see that, "Oh okay Peter starting sinking because he lacked faith."  But let's look at this a bit closer.  At what point did Peter actually fail?  Was it when he started to thrash his arms in the water sinking, or was it the second he started to doubt?  I believe it was when he started to doubt.
If faith as small as a mustard seed can move a mountain, how much more can a mustard seed of doubt?  That, in my opinion, was the point for Peter, when he doubted.  
I realized something, in fact, just about a week ago, when I was doubting myself and struggling with our own trials.  I realized that I the Holy Ghost was teaching me that doubt, or my lack of faith, was my greatest stumbling block through all of this, and THAT struck me like a lightening bolt.  I was ALLOWING Satan to tempt me by allowing him to plant that mustard size seek of doubt in my mind.  He is a sneaky little sucker that's for sure!!!
So, the only way to resist the advasary is to not doubt and exercise faith in our Heavenly Father.  Right??!!! Or as Barney from The Andy Griffith Show would say, "Nip it....Nip it in the bud!"  We have to resist Satan's sly little performances to get us to doubt.
One thing that makes it easier for me to not doubt is to think of Satan literally fleeing and running like the wind away when I resist his temptations as I don't give way to my doubts, when I do not listen to him, and when I hold fast and remain fixed in my faith in God and the truthfulness of His word.  
The battle I'm talking about is in the mind.  That's were doubt and fear start.  So, we need to heep our focus centered on our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Keep it looking towards the future.  And most importantly, keep it anchored in the gospel.
2) Remember that it's might not be YOUR fault.  
Why YES, we do need to be examining ourselves to see if there might be anything we learn in our trials, because there is always something to be learned from a trial.  That's for sure!   BUT, sometimes the trials we face are not your fault.  Sometimes things just happen.  It doesn't mean it's a reflection on you or because you did something  wrong.  A good example of this is like the trial we are going through right now.  Sometimes I feel like we have to defend everything and that people are thinking we are lying.  We could provide these people with written proof and they still would doubt and not believe us.  At times we have felt attacked and it seems like they are just out to do persuade others, make false accusations, and make things difficult for us. 
I want you to know that I have been known to fail a I took one time for a prospective employer because I was to honest on their questionairre.  Kevin says I'm too honest to a fault.  That's one thing my mother taught me, never to lie because once you tell one lie you eventually find yourself having to tell several others to keep up with the first one.  Then before long you've got yourself in a big mess just trying to keep all the lies going.  Who needs that?!!!  I say, let them think what they want or even say what they want, because it was never about them and me.  It's always been between God and me.  He knows me.  He knows my heart, and that's good enough for me.  So NEVER lie.  Besides, my word and integrity are worth it.  Now keep in mind, that I am FAR from perfect, but I really try hard to always be 100% transparent, genuine, and honest.  Do I contradict myself, of course I do.  I'm learning as I go just like everyone else, and I do love to learn.  That means that what might have been true yesterday, may not be true for me today.  I hope you know that my heart is right.
Yet, others, they accuse me, through absolutely no fault of my own.  Meaning, I'm just minding my own business when they accuse me and start attacking me.  
Here's the thing.....did I cause this problem???  No!  I did nothing.  I did nothing to cause it.  I'm blameless in that area and my Heavenly Father knows that.  Honestly, anyone that knows me, knows that too.
It's not always our fault.  We can't always control what happens to us and the trials we will face, which leads me to the next thing you should know....
3) You Can’t Control It
Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.
What we fill our hearts with, our minds, our souls…THAT is what comes out of us.  Think about it this way.  If you took a soda bottle, shook it up, and then opened it up.  Does it explode everywhere?  Of course it does.  Would the same thing happen if you did that with a water bottle?  Of course not.
When we fill that bottle with soda, we get an explosion.  When we fill that bottle with water, we don’t get an explosion. It’s as simple as that!
That, my friends, is something I will never forget! It is one that had such a profound impact on my life as a member of the church.  All of a sudden, like 12 tons of bricks falling on top of my head.
It was this that made me realize that I'm not unique in my suffering. That people all over the world suffer every. single. day and it’s ALL ABOUT what I put in my bottle.  Am I filling it with soda (the world) or water (God’s Word)? The world or the Word of God…what is YOUR bottle filled with?

One thing that brings me comfort is knowing the Holy Ghost is with me.  You know, I say that reverently, because I don't want to admit this at all, but I kind of like being in a trial. Not that I love the pain and torture I feel, but that, when I am in the midst of a trial, I feel that much closer to my Savior. All day long, I’m talking to Him…I’m praying. I’m reading my Scriptures MORE, I’m seeking out His Word in Conference Talks and words of the prophets and General Authorities MORE.   I’m more aware of His presence and His hand in my life.  It’s like He’s there, hugging me, comforting me, telling me that everything is going to be okay. He’s got this.

I am never more closer to Christ than in the midst of a trial.  And what the out flowing of my heart is, is encouragement and motivation for all of you. So, in a way, when I’m in a trial or struggling, I kind of like it. Because I get to be all the more closer to my Lord and Savior. I get to SEE His hand like others don’t get the opportunity to see when you are in the midst of a trial.  
In one of the particular trials I’m in right now, every. single. day. I have seen God’s hand and Him moving me, leading me, teaching me in some way or another. In fact, something happened while I was somewhere where Sondra would have acted a completely different and humanistic way (okay, I admit, meanly), but I didn’t!  It was like the Holy  Ghost took over and I acted loving.  I acted like a follower of Christ.  I acted, not how I FELT, but in light of WHO I KNOW I SHOULD BE.  My Heavenly Father did that.  It was Him working a might change in me to control me and act how I’m supposed to act.  It’s those moments in my life that I remember. When the Holy Ghost sort of tames me and my actions. And it’s proof I’m learning and growing and that this trial is changing me and making me a better person. We prove our faith is real because we endure the trials of life well.  When we endure a hardship, when the world sees that we couldn’t get through what we got through WITHOUT Christ, they know we are truly who we say we are.  I get emails from friends and followers asking me how I get through these trials.  All I can say is these trials provide me a wonderful opportunity to just mention the word of God to them. Because I KNOW that I COULDN’T have gotten through ANY of that WITHOUT Christ!!!Not one bit of it. And what I’m going through now in one of the trials I’m dealing with, is the exact same. It’s too difficult for Sondra.
Sondra would have crumbled by now.
Sondra would have quit, given up, stopped going to church, ran to her little cave and hid out forever.
But, the Blessings I have received and the things that I have learned, and the Holy Ghost through the prompting of my Heavenly Father, helps me through and MAKES me strong.  Other people say I'm strong.  I'm not running. I'm not crumbling.  I’m right here. I may not be as strong as I want to be, seriously, this is hard stuff (!!!), but I’m here.  I’m standing in my faith, and I’m giving absolutely EVERYTHING over to my Heavenly Father, resting that HE WILL work it all out according to His will, and for the good of me and all involved.  Going through all of this has shown me I'm a little stronger than I was before the trial, Because if He didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to even write you this post right now!  This trial is temporary!!  The trial is just a season…it’s momentary as Paul calls it…”momentary light affliction.” Yes, it may be the most extremely painful thing you’ve ever dealt with in your whole life. It may be completely gut-wrenching, wroughting you to your very soul, it may feel like you’re being tortured, but it’s only TEMPORARY. 
Going back to Paul’s words of being momentary light affliction, he’s not saying that it’s nothing in that it’s not a big deal. But, he’s comparing it to the weight of Heaven and all it’s glory.  If you were to compare 6 months of the most anguish-ridden torture for Christ’s sake and put it on the scales against FOREVER with Christ in Heaven, there’s no comparison. Heaven FAR outweighs any trials or persecution we suffer through here on Earth.
And it’s not something we shouldn’t expect. Jesus Christ Himself, being perfect, was crucified, tortured and they tried to kill him several times…and listen, He was perfect. We are NOT perfect, so we have to expect that persecution will come. If you’re a follower of Christ, and if they persecuted Him, they will persecute us who remind them of Him!
It’s all part of the territory, may I remind you! Listen, in the end, we win.  It’s like watching a movie and knowing the ending before you watch it. It makes the beginning and middle of the movie a lot more bearable to watch, knowing the good guy wins in the end….and He does!  Friends, root your faith in that. God wins in the end, and you are on His team!

Be Thankful in the Midst of Persecution

 Keep a Gratitude journal.  I have friends that keep a prayer journal.  After a few entries in my Gratitude journal I realized just how selfish my prayers really were. It was all prayers asking Heavenly Father for things and barely any thankfulness. Through that, over time, I learned to be more thankful. I disciplined myself to look for the positive in every situation– just call me Pollyanna now!  Ha Ha.  You know that movie, right?  She’s always looking for something to be glad about in EVERY situation. And she spreads her cheer to even the most cantankerous of people.

That’s how I want to be.
I want to be known for spreading cheer and love to every one I meet. In order to do that, I really have to break the negative cycle I'm in. I had to start looking at every situation as if there’s SOMEthing to be thankful for. And I can tell you that even in the midst of the hardest trials, I can always come up with at least 1 thing to be grateful for. In fact, one of the trials I’m in now, I’ve counted more than 20+ things I’ve learned and can be thankful for thus far! TWENTY different things to be thankful for and this comes in the midst of one of the hardest trials I’ve ever had to endure in my entire life!
Surely, if I can find 20+ things to be thankful for in one of the hardest trials, you can come up with at least ONE thing in the midst of your trial, but just in case you need a little prompting, here are a few of the ones that I can share....
  1. It made me a much more humble person. I genuinely learned humility through this trial! The hard way, let me assure you! But it’s something that I realize that I really needed to learn!
  2. Heavenly Father is teaching me to hold my tongue. This will be a very long term thing to learn, but it all started in this very trial.
  3. A couple other people in the trial have been humbled as well. Their humility is a blessing to me to see.
  4. I know that Heavenly Father will help to do what He has asked me to do. He has showed me how to be.  And I see Him preparing me.  

  5. I learned that I have a great prayer life…better than I ever realized.
  6. I learned that because of this, He leads me more, as I am able to discern better than I used to.
  7. I can be thankful that when push comes to shove and someone yells at me to tell them the truth out of frustration, I can have boldness and unwaivering strength to tell them…”I already did.” I learned to stand firm in yet another trial, with my feet planted on solid ground, even when situations look impossible and nothing makes any sense.
  8. I’ve learned to give up EVERYTHING in my life, yet again…it’s all the Lords, including my character, other people, my reputation, family, money, everything.
  9. I’ve learned to have more faith. My faith has GREATLY been strengthened because I now see God’s hand every. single. day. working in the situation.
  10. I’m thankful because I’ve learned to look at things more through Heavenly eyes than my own. When things look impossible, they may be to us, but not to Our Heavenly Father. 

  11. I’ve learned that there are a lot more people out there that are going through a hard trial than I ever imagined before.
  12. I’m thankful that My Heavenly Father encourages and motivates me to share our situation with others going through difficult trials. That He can use me to help carry their burdens and just be a friend who listens.

  13. I’m learning how to be more patient and wait…not happy about that one. I HATE this lesson personally!  But I guess I can be thankful that God is teaching it to me.  

  14. I’ve learned to take more risks, even when it doesn’t turn out like you hope it will. There’s bravery in taking a risk you truly believe in.
  15. I can be thankful that I know that My life is in my Heavenly Fathers hands and he knows what He is doing….when many people doubt me, I know…

  16. I’m thankful for God’s protection of me and to be able to see His hand all the more clearly in this trial.

  17. I’ve learned that I’m not weird. That just because I pray about everything and seek Heavenly Father's will for just about everything I do in my life, doesn’t make me crazy or weird. That there are others out there, that do the same thing, and just knowing that, makes me feel better.

  18. I can be thankful that life is so hard because it just makes me long for and want Heaven more!

  19. I’m thankful in that I learned to be all the more picky in who I chose to spend my time with, especially friends.

  20. I’ve learned that My Heavenly Father is always right and I need to just save my breath and not try to argue with Him when I don’t want to do something He wants me to.

  21. I’m thankful because I learned that it’s okay to be me. I don’t have to be anyone else. I don’t have to change who I am inside because very few people really “get” me. I’ve learned that Heavenly Father can use me, just how I am, weird quirks and all. That I don’t need to be someone else to be used by Him. Obviously, it’s my highest purpose to become a more godly woman, but that, I don’t have to change my PERSONALITY…the part of me that makes me ME.

  22. I’m thankful that I’m not as shy as I used to be. That I’m not running away and hiding, but that I’ve come out of my shell more (always a constant battle for me) and am really trying to be who Heavenly Father wants me to be in person.

Whenever I’m in a huge trial, you always know. Because it’s usually a time when I am found to be THE most encouraging to others. If you look at my posts 6 months ago, compared to what they are today, many of them now are inspirational. It’s because I’m literally saturating myself with the Scriptures... my ONLY hope, and my blog, even Facebook posts, it’s all an extension of ME, who I am, so it naturally pours out.
In a way, you can use your trials to do the same. USE IT to help those around you. When you are in a trial, man…you can just really connect with others going through a similar trial and INSTANTLY, you’ve formed this bond with them that is not easily broken! Because all the sudden, you understand them and they understand you. You connect. And you can bounce off each other and encourage one another. If they are having a bad day, be an encouragement to them on your positive days. On your down days, let them comfort you.
When you see what others are dealing with, sometimes what you’re dealing with, doesn’t really seem all that bad. Life-crashing-down, mountains-moving, rock-shattering-world stuff to you, one day, will seem like small buckets compared to the pain that others are dealing with in comparison. Suddenly, you get out of your own world, open it up, and see the pain of others and realize that you might not have it as bad as you previously thought. I’m in NO WAY making light of your situation at ALL, just that this is what I’ve personally found to be true in my own trials.
Enough said.

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