Monday, December 15, 2014

"There went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed..."


Christmas time is one of my most favorite times of the year! I love the baking, the laughing, the gift opening... I just love everything about it. But yesterday I got a reality check about Christmas. 

Yesterday at church we had our Christmas meeting. The talks were about Christmas and only Christmas music was played. One of the speakers stood up to the microphone, said a couple of jokes, then said this, 

"And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Cæsar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed..." 

As soon as he read those words my mind shifted back to every Christmas Eve I can remember. Every Christmas Eve, my father sits on his parents' couch and reads the Christmas story from Luke 2. My heart was filled with a gratefulness in that moment when I heard the speak say those words. 

I love my parents. I love that every year during Christmas time, we take the opportunity to go to my grandparents' home and listen to my father read the Christmas story from the book of Luke. My friends, that is what Christmas is about. I know many of you are rolling your eyes and are saying, "Yeah yeah... we get it. Christmas is about Christ." But do you get it? Because even I'm not sure if I do. 

Do you realize that on Christmas we celebrate the birth of the Man who came to Earth just for us? For you. For me. On Christmas we are celebrating everything that Christ stood for and continues to stand for. On Christmas we are reminding ourselves that we owe Him everything. 

We. Owe. Him. Everything. 

We don't only owe Him Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We owe him every morning, every night. Every pleasure, every sorrow. Everything. 

Christ was born into a world that would ultimately take his mortal life from Him. He knew that would happen, and yet He chose to come here because He knows we are worth it. 

If He knows we are worth it, can't we decide for ourselves that we are worth it too? 

I hope that this lesson I learned yesterday stays with me for the rest of my life. I love Jesus Christ. I am grateful for His birth, His life, His sacrifice, and His continuing companionship with me. 

He loves us. He always will. 

All we have to do is to decide to let Him in; not only during Christmas time, but all the time. 


Friday, October 3, 2014

The Good Stuff -- October 2014 General Conference



This weekend is the semi-annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This conference holds a special place in my heart, and I am more than excited that starting tomorrow, I will get to hear the living Prophet speak to me. 

In my Living Prophets class at Brigham Young University my professor asked us when General Conference really became real for each of us. Most of the answers given in class described mission experiences that made General Conference all the more real. As I was pondering my professor's question, one particular address given in such a conference came to my mind. 

In April 2009, Elder Jeffery R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave an address entitled, "None Were with Him". In April 2009, I was just finishing my sophomore year at high school. And I remember sitting down and watching that General Conference with my family. I remember making a commitment to myself to be more focused on conference that April, and my timing could not have been better. 

Elder Holland's address, "None Were with Him" describes Christ's journey alone to complete the Atonement for each of us. Elder Holland said, 

"Now I speak very carefully, even reverently, of what may have been the most difficult moment in all of this solitary journey to Atonement. I speak of those final moments for which Jesus must have been prepared intellectually and physically but which He may not have fully anticipated emotionally and spiritually—that concluding descent into the paralyzing despair of divine withdrawal when He cries in ultimate loneliness, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

The loss of mortal support He had anticipated, but apparently He had not comprehended this. Had He not said to His disciples, “Behold, the hour … is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me” and “The Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him”? 17
With all the conviction of my soul I testify that He did please His Father perfectly and that a perfect Father did not forsake His Son in that hour. Indeed, it is my personal belief that in all of Christ’s mortal ministry the Father may never have been closer to His Son than in these agonizing final moments of suffering. Nevertheless, that the supreme sacrifice of His Son might be as complete as it was voluntary and solitary, the Father briefly withdrew from Jesus the comfort of His Spirit, the support of His personal presence. It was required, indeed it was central to the significance of the Atonement, that this perfect Son who had never spoken ill nor done wrong nor touched an unclean thing had to know how the rest of humankind—us, all of us—would feel when we did commit such sins. For His Atonement to be infinite and eternal, He had to feel what it was like to die not only physically but spiritually, to sense what it was like to have the divine Spirit withdraw, leaving one feeling totally, abjectly, hopelessly alone.
But Jesus held on. He pressed on. The goodness in Him allowed faith to triumph even in a state of complete anguish. The trust He lived by told Him in spite of His feelings that divine compassion is never absent, that God is always faithful, that He never flees nor fails us."
This message, though only a portion of the full address given, changed my life. General Conference became real for me when I heard this talk and allowed the Holy Spirit to enter my heart. This was the moment where I knew, without a doubt, that I am a loved daughter of God and that no life circumstance or disappointment could ever take away that divine heritage. Christ suffered alone for us so that we never ever have to be alone. 
I love General Conference and I feel so blessed to have living apostles and prophets that speak to us today, just as they did in times of old. I invite you to listen to General Conference this weekend, and really hear the messages that are meant for you. 
Our loving Heavenly Father will never leave us alone. He loves us, He speaks to us, and He is always there for us, no matter how far we may have strayed from Him. His arms are open for us always. 
Take the time to hear or watch General Conference this weekend, and I promise it will change your life, just like it changed mine on that fateful day in April 2009. 
(Elder Holland's full address, "None Were with Him" can be found here: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2009/04/none-were-with-him?lang=eng)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

My 7 Months in Treatment

First off... No, I was not admitted to treatment. But I have had the experience of working at a residential treatment center for the past seven months and the experience has been incredible.

When I first started, I hated it. Going to work every day and being constantly berated with the worst language you've ever heard all the while trying to "build relationships" is no easy task. 

After awhile I realized that every person there was just that, a person. And so here I give you the 3 undeniable truths that treatment has taught me. 

#1. Addictions are real. 

Don't get me wrong. Of course before working here I knew that addictions were real. But have you ever thought about what having an addiction entails for the addict? Neither had I. Not only do addictions cause physical distress, but they also take an immense toll on a person's psyche. Having an addiction will lead you to hate yourself in ways never imagined. Being controlled by an outside substance makes you feel incapable, worthless, and unlovable. In my seven months at treatment, I have met many students with these exact feelings. Yes, they are in treatment, yes they know that they made the decisions that led to their addictions, but they are also broken. It's time to stop blaming addicts, and start encouraging them; helping them to realize that they can choose to end the cycle and that they are worth it. 

#2. Communication is the key to success. But really. 

Most students I have worked with admit to having bad communication as part of their families' cultures. Here's the thing, parents, please know what your kids are doing and who they are with. It doesn't matter if a kid has been raised in a religious home or not. It doesn't matter if a kid has been raised in an affluent home or not. Kids have friends. And those friends have an immensely profound influence on what your kids are or are not doing. Create a culture in your home of open communication. Please do this. I have learned that when kids know that their parents want to talk to them and want to know what's going on in their lives, then those kids will be more likely to come to their parents when issues come up. Good communication leads to successful families and creates safety in the home. 

Please also learn how to communicate with yourself. Know your limits, both physically and mentally. You're right, I'm not a trained psychologist and probably don't have the right to give such advice, but I have seen this principle in action. When you know yourself, you can love yourself; and that is the foundation of everything you do as a person. 

#3. Love really can heal anything. 

It can! Think of those times when you have felt alone, worthless, and stupid. Now think of how you were able to stop feeling those feelings. More than likely you were able to pull out of those feelings because either someone showed you love, or you decided to show love. Never underestimate the power that you have over yourself and others. If you wake up each morning and make a commitment to love all those you come into contact with, you may just change somebody's life. 

Share a smile with the person walking by. Call that friend or relative you've been meaning to call just to let them know you care. Do something for yourself each day. Love is one of the most powerful tools that we as humans have the privilege of using. So use it!

These seven months have truly been life changing. But these 3 simple truths have proved to be even more life changing for me. If you take nothing else from this post, then take this; learn to love. Learn to love yourself, your friends, your spouse, your enemies. Pure unadulterated love can change the world. 


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