Thursday, April 30, 2015

A mighty leap of faith - Personal Progress Faith #1

I am working on the Young Women's Personal Progress program again. I have received my medallion twice, but it has been awhile. I believe being single is a beautiful time in your life to become your absolute best self. It's a time to improve in every area until you meet the one you want to spend the rest of eternity with and then you can proceed to grow together.

I am working on Faith exercise #1.

Gaining a testimony doesn't happen all at once. I wish I would've known this at different parts of my life. As a little girl, up until I graduated high school, my testimony was rock solid. I followed every commandment and standard to the T. As life progressed, different situations I was put in really tested my testimony and my faith.

I've come to understand it's the moments where I look back often saying "Why isn't it like this anymore? Why don't I feel that way anymore?" That's when the actual change has taken place. Things are never supposed to stay the same. If you are looking back missing what was comfortable to you, you've already changed. These changes aren't often noticeable day by day, week by week, or even month by month. The changes I have seen within myself are often small and slow . You're always changing and growing when you're depending on your faith. It's not meant for you to see because that would be perfect knowledge and faith isn't perfect knowledge. {Alma 32:21} Heavenly Father wants you to keep walking forward and He doesn't always point out how far you have come because then it wouldn't be faith. Have faith that if you are doing good things in your life, then you ARE moving forward! Have faith that as you make good and righteous choices daily, that are becoming the person God desires you to be.

Changes don't come all at once, that's not the way it's supposed to be. But slowly and surely you will get there. Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare? Who won? The tortoise because he took his time. Faith takes time, patience, diligence to grow where we would desire it to be. If your faith isn't where you desire it to be, just keep living and acting on the faith you do have and I promise you it will grow!

There is also such thing as a 'leap of faith'.

Elder Boyd K. Packer said, "Somewhere in your quest for spiritual knowledge, there is that “leap of faith,” as the philosophers call it. It is the moment when you have gone to the edge of the light and stepped into the darkness to discover that the way is lighted ahead for just a footstep or two. “The spirit of man,” is as the scripture says, indeed “is the candle of the Lord.”"

Three years ago around this time, I had some major decisions to make. One in particular.

This exact song was playing in my car one day, and something about one of the scripture heroes in this song struck me hard. It was then that I knew exactly what I needed to do and while I didn't know the how, I knew the what. It was the hardest decision I had ever had to make in my life. I relied on this song constantly, as it gave me the courage and strength I needed to follow through with the decision that would be my biggest leap of faith yet. 

But what exactly is a leap of faith? A leap is to move or act quickly or suddenly. When I think of leaping, I picture myself leaping across from one mountain to another, unsure if I will make the land or if the long and deep valley will catch my fall with deep pain and sorrow instead. To take of leap of faith it is believing that Heavenly Father will always help you land and will never let you sink or fall in-between the mountains. A leap of faith is letting go of something/someone that has great value to you, knowing it will be replaced with something much more fitting for your life because Heavenly Father knows you perfectly.

So back to my story, yes I took the leap of faith. I did what I needed to do. It was so hard and yet so right. It took so long for me to understand all the reasons, in fact somethings are still unfolding for me but I have never been happier and I know I am on the track Heavenly Father wants me on and I know He is pleased with me. I couldn't have taken that leap without much diligence in prayer, scripture study, and pondering. The Lord loves to bless us and all we have to do is make the simple sacrifices He asks of us. What seems like the biggest sacrifice we could possibly fathom, is really but a small seed because in the eternal perspective of things, all sacrifices and leaps of faith are worth it because they bring about the most joyful of all blessings. Personally, I desire to be like the King in Alma 22:15, so willing to give away my entire kingdom, absolutely anything and everything I have, even my HEART. i would give anything for my Father.

He asks us for our heart, meaning "our will" or "our desire", not just because He wants to collect all our hearts in a jar for Himself and see how much He can make us live without. It's actually on the contraire, He desires to bless us with SO, SO much more, and the Lord always keeps His promises.

I LOVE studying Alma 32:17-43 

I am sure you have heard all of these thoughts and principles hundreds of times, but here are my personal notes from these verses. 

- It isn't faith if you know.

- You are asked to have faith in things you don't have all the answers to.

- If ye have FAITH, ye hope for things which are not seen which are true. (This particular scripture is often misinterpreted because we personally don't get to decide what is true or right for our life. Just because it's something we want or desire doesn't mean we can assume it's true. This is where prayer and revelation is SO important, we have to ask Heavenly Father what for us is true.)

- God is merciful and wants you to believe in His word.

- Men and women can receive His word through angels.

- Humble yourselves, faith isn't a perfect knowledge!

- Even if it's just a desire, let this desire work within you.

- It's a good seed if it's delicious unto you, bringing peace and understanding.

- When the seed starts to grow, you will know without a doubt that it's a good seed.

- Your mind begins to expand.

- Light is GOOD! But it doesn't bring perfect knowledge .

- Have diligence and be patient in all that is good!

And this post just reminded me of Elder Holland's last General Conference talk, found here

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Ultimate Gift - LDS lessons and parallels

If you know me well, you know my favorite movie of all time is "The Ultimate Gift." If you haven't seen it....WELL... you are missing out! It's okay, you can borrow mine! :)

I listened to this talk recently, trying to learn more about covenants and it reminded me SO much of this movie! If you don't want the movie to be spoiled, go watch it then come back and read!

Okay, here it goes!

So in this movie, a young man named Jason Stevens is sent on a beneficial journey by his deceased grandfather to gain a large amount of inheritance. But to obtain this inheritance, he must pass through "tests" of life lessons, which his grandfather refers to as GIFTS!

These are the lessons or gifts he must pass through!

The gift of work 

Heavenly Father often asks us to do His will, which takes work. Lots of work. This can require obedience, sacrifice, and consecration depending upon the situation. The work that is asked of us often isn't easy. Sometimes it takes courage, faith, and great devotion to work hard even when the road seems long ahead.

The gift of friends

The gift of friends in my perspective is about love, service, missionary work, and charity. The reason our church loves missionary work is because we know the happiness the gospel can bring and we desire all to have it. True friendship is wanting what is best for the other person. How often do we forget ourselves and serve with our whole heart? How often do we break away from our own cliques and groups of friends to make more friends and to make others feel valuable and important? How often do we dig for the heartfelt stories of others instead of just the surface ones?

I know I have improvement to make in this area and I desire to be a better friend. I want to give more and do more. I want charity to be written on my heart always! The way to live a happy life is to focus less on yourself and more on all the other people!

The gift of money

In the movie, Jason Stevens is asked to give away a certain amount of money to a good cause. He gives beyond that and learns that money is extremely valuable when it ends up making a difference in life of others, such as a very young girl who is fighting for her life day in and day out in the hospital. Happiness comes from giving away wealth instead of obtaining as much as you can possibly acquire for selfish reasons.

Oh how I love with my whole heart that we have the OPPORTUNITY to pay tithing (10% of all our income) to the Lord. How wonderful that we can learn about sacrifice and faith through this incredible principle. It's so wonderful that we can give our money to the Lord and watch what He does with it, the money goes far and blesses many. The Lord always sends blessings when we do this with much faith.

Just as the law of sacrifice is to tithing so is the law of consecration to the principle of fast offerings. I love this principle just as much. We are asking for something through a fast and we are giving something in return. Our fast offerings bless many lives as they are sent to help the needy. This is a definitely a celestial principle; where much is given, much is required. Something we need to master in this life so we will be happy and comfortable when we live with Him.

The gift of gratitude 

This is another one I'm working hard at. I try to have an optimistic, bright-side approach to ALL things, yet in the moments of trials, I am there whining and overlooking the blessings that lie right in front of me. How I yearn to be grateful in every single moment without hesitation.

Gratitude is what opens our eyes to the blessings Heavenly Father is bestowing upon us moment by moment. I truly desire to recognize His hand in my life more often and to do that my eyes must be more open. The more we practice gratitude, the easier it becomes to find in the moments we need it most. His hand is ALWAYS there! He loves us and wants us to see what He is doing for us. Gratitude is the perfect antidote for a broken or weary heart! Open your eyes and see what He has done for you today! There is always something to find!

The gift of a day

Life is so short. This beautiful little girl in the movie, Emily teaches us just that! Are we ones that take our days for granted? 

In Psalms 118:24, we read "This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it."

The Lord desires us to be happy and recognize the importance of life. It was our choice to come to earth, it was our choice to learn and grow. Why would we take these moments and be sorrowful in them, for they are the moments that prepare us for our exaltation. 

Heavenly Father made our lives to be measured by breaths, because it is in every breath we take that counts. It is in one day that we can accomplish so much if we just but focus and get to work! Let's consecrate our days to Him and see what He does with them!

The gift of dreams

Heavenly Father accomplishes what needs to be done on this earth through people, people like me and you! That's the beauty of our dreams, they often connect with the dreams of others or the needs of others and that's where the miracles and connections take place!

What's your dream? Is it a dream that will benefit others? Is it a dream that will bring you closer to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ? If not, pray for one! 

Dreams are powerful and they can take us to the most incredible places, allowing us to cross paths with people that we need in our lives. Our dream often require a lot of hard work and so much self-discipline. But aren't these beautiful concepts also what we need on this earthly journey to prepare us for Heaven?

Establish a dream, put it in your heart, consecrate it unto Heavenly Father and then GET TO WORK! You can do all things through Christ who will strengthen you! {Philippians 4:13} 

Quote from this movie:

"What he's trying to do is for your benefit, not your destruction." 
(Sounds like what Heavenly Father does for us!!!)

Jason Steven's: "I was expecting a different feeling or something"
"Red's Secretary: That's because you are now a different person." :-)

"If you do work like you just did, and you can do anything!"

"Our lives should be lived not avoiding problems but welcoming them as challenges that will strengthen us so that we can victorious in the future."

"Do you know God paints every color on a butterfly with His finger?"

In the end, after he went through all these lessons, which were really gifts the entire time, he was blessed. Oh SO blessed! But if Jason Stevens had just acquired all the blessings and inheritance immediately after his grandfather's passing, he would not have loved it or appreciated what he was given. He HAD to pass through these tests to be fit for the inheritance that he earned. 

We too have to obey, sacrifice, and consecrate everything we have so that can be fit for the Celestial Kingdom. If we didn't pass through these tests of trials, faith, and the test of obedience and humility towards the Lord, we wouldn't be happy or fit to live in the Celestial Kingdom. 

I know in my life, the more I act upon serving Heavenly Father and the more knowledge I obtain, the greater my desire is to return to live with Him again and obtain celestial glory. Without these experiences, we don't understand or desire what we are taught to seek after!

I can only imagine what Heaven will be like, and yet I am no artist. Heavenly Father is the most perfect creator, author, illustrator, and designer that will ever exist. I can't even comprehend what He has in store for each of us. But I do know that He not only desires to bless us moment by moment here on earth, but after we pass through all these tribulations and really hard tests in this life those blessings will be multiplied by more than we can possibly even fathom. I want to work my hardest here on earth so that I can be prepared to meet Him. I want to do everything I can so I can be prepared to live the life He lives.

Bruce R. Mckonckie said "And every member of his church has this promise: That if he remains true and faithful—obeying, serving, consecrating, sacrificing, as required by the gospel—he shall be repaid in eternity a thousandfold and shall have eternal life. What more can we ask?"

Don't forget to read the talk at the beginning of this post! :)

What will you give Heavenly Father this day so you will be prepared to live with Him again? I know what I need to do! Let's go get em'!