Showing posts with label #Christmas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #Christmas. Show all posts

Monday, December 26, 2016

Don't Go and Box Jesus Up with the Christmas Ornaments: #LIGHTtheWORLD All Year Long

Many inches of snow fell where I live this Christmas weekend.  It was silent and perfect.  A magnificently white Christmas.  This morning the sun is melting what the snow plows left behind on the roads and the trees are sparkly and wrapped up in perfectly white fluff.  It looks exactly as the world should look on the day after Christmas.  A happy sun and a glistening earth that must be rejoicing because it by itself knows we have a Savior and a way back to God, a way to repent and be made clean again, a Heavenly Father who loves us eternally and completely.  Why wouldn't the earth rejoice when Christ Himself is the one who made it?    

The #LIGHTtheWORLD campaign has been a great experiment.  Many participated in small and large ways.  Some did it quietly and kept the exercises to themselves, while others posted on social media and shared their thoughts and experiences.  I did a little of both.  Some topics I chose to blog about, some I wanted to keep just to myself, and some I shared with my family and friends only.  

There isn't a #LIGHTtheWORLD day on the advent calendar today for December 26.  I woke up this morning a little melancholy about not having a "day" to choose an action for or come up with one of my own, but I decided I could indeed make up one of my own.  For me it will be #LIGHTtheWORLD by keeping the fire alight in your soul and in your life.  Don't let it end with the advent calendar.  Don't stop focusing on Jesus Christ just because Christmas is "over" for another year.  

I learned many things by participating in the campaign designed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  It was a terrific experience for me.  I learned many new things by thinking of broader ways that the various daily themes applied to me, to our family, and to the world.  I chose to dig a little deeper and do a little stretching.  Some days I simply reflected and studied more, and other days were more of a big experience.  

Today on December 26, I am wondering if the Lighting of the World will continue.  It should.  It needs to.  Did we only participate because it was a good thing to do during Christmas?  On what level did we commit to more closely align ourselves with Christ and His teachings?  For the things that we did that were a little difficult for us, are we committed to change or will we quickly go back to our "natural man" ways?  Was our commitment to the #LIGHTtheWORLD campaign broad and inclusive to all our brothers and sisters, a.k.a, the world, or did it only apply to our small circles of family and friends?  

Personally, I noticed some things that I thought were a speck sad.  People writing about the #LIGHTtheWORLD campaign and focusing on Christ, but also refusing to say hello or be kind to certain people.  Still there were others who appeared to be using the campaign to get ahead in social circles---the 'look-at-me" mentality of "aren't I the greatest person ever born," instead of really making it about Jesus.  In recent years I've noticed a trend of the socially politicizing of Christmas gifts and Christmas cards.  There are people who send cards every year to family and loved ones and the ones who take some people off the list one year, but put them back on the list the next year.  I guess it's a good way to know where you stand with some people, whether or not you got a card that particular year.  Many people don't send cards at all anymore.  I guess it's a tradition that has become expensive and tedious and some feel it's old-fashioned.  I think it's a grand tradition that should never die and it's one of my favorite parts about the season, the getting and sending of cards.  

Most importantly, I noticed many beautiful things around me this Christmas time.  Maybe it was simply because I was consciously choosing to look for those good things.  I learned of tremendous acts of sacrifice and service at the school where my daughter teaches; things that I'm pretty sure would never have happened at the schools my own children attended.  I am grateful for the service given to my son and his new wife 1200 miles away when they needed help replacing a dead car battery and my son was sick and needed a blessing.  My own youngest sister came to my aid when I needed help running errands because I wasn't well enough to drive.  A friend in my neighborhood took me to the store and shared her time and sense of humor with me.  Many people from my church congregation offered love and support when I fell ill a few weeks ago.  And out in the world of holiday hustle and berry-colored bustle, I witnessed things by total strangers that will last in my memory for a very long time.  

I guess what's on my mind today is what will I do to continue to Light the World?  I don't ever want to fall in line with society and box Jesus up with the tree and the lights, only to pull Him out and back into my life for a few weeks again next December.  I don't want to be like the people who profess to be followers of Jesus during Christmas, but when there aren't any excuses to drop off goodies, they go back to ignorance and intolerance.  It's none of my business what you will choose to do.  I am only in charge of myself and my commitment to Christ and His Gospel.  I can only be who I am and try to become better by applying the atonement of Jesus Christ.  I can only try to have integrity by being sincere in my actions and interactions.  I guess some people might be offended by this, but I don't use Christmas to get ahead in social circles.  For me and for my family, Christmas is about Jesus.  

For me, Christmas is also about integrity.  It's about doing what you say you're going to do.  It's about not giving up when the crowds in the tall and spacious building and the devil himself are laughing at you.  It's about looking to the ultimate example of the One who finished gloriously what He started and what the Father asked Him to do.  Because They loved us and still love us, God called Jesus to perform the ultimate assignment ever given and Jesus did not shrink.  He did not let us down.  He was true to the end and He is still being true.  Some people don't believe this, but He does actually expect the same from you and me.  God expects us to be true.  He expects us to win.  He expects us to try.  And He knows we can because He has given us the Way, the Truth, and the Life in His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

My hope and prayer for myself, my family, and the world is that we will continue, or start in the first place, to focus on Jesus Christ and His gospel.  The whole point of even being here at all is not about us---it's about Him.  It's about serving Him by serving others, honoring Him by respecting and honoring others, loving Him by loving others, and repenting and seeking forgiveness and also forgiving others.  The mistake we make is judging others, their motives, and their hearts.  Nobody knows another person's heart except God and Christ.  Why are we so hard on each other then?  One wrong word said in error or in honest ignorance means a lifetime of condemnation in some circles, but God and Christ are pleading with us to repent truly and humbly and then we are forgiven freely?   No wonder the world crucified Jesus.  I used to wonder how that could happen, but the older I get, the more I see how it did.  

We choose every day which side of the fence we walk on and how closely we travel alongside that same fence.  Are we trying to straddle the line with one foot in both camps?  I personally don't believe in fence sitting and I don't much care for people who do.  I know who is the leader of fence sitting and it's not Jesus.  

On this December 26, 2016, I know that I want to continue to Light the World, even if it's in my own heart, my own home, my own marriage, and my own family.  I made a covenant when I was baptized that I would do so.  I'm not even close to being perfect and I'm grateful that perfection is not required in mortality.  But a pure heart, a soft heart, and clean hands are what are required and they're completely and totally achievable in this earthly life.  One more new year is around the corner and with the excitement and personal strength that has come to my life from #LIGHTtheWO#RLD, I will promise to keep the light afire in my heart and in my life.  And I hope you will, too.  

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

#LIGHTtheWORLD: Rejoice in Christ and Keep Your Promises

My husband has some very special aunts and uncles and a particular one came to my mind today in thinking of the #LIGHTtheWORLD theme today which is, "Jesus read the scriptures and so can you."  I thought of Uncle Scott.  He has been gone for several years, but what he taught me in those short years I was acquainted with him left a lasting impact on me.  He loved the Gospel of Jesus Christ and he was converted.  He loved the Savior.  At his funeral it was shared that his favorite scripture was this one from the Book of Mormon, in the book of 2nd Nephi, Chapter 25, verse 26.  It reads:

"And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, and we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins."  

I had young children when this great man named Scott passed away.  He showed so much kindness to our family and taught us so much.  He knew what was important.  He had money from a very successful business and could have had a fancier house and a nicer car.  But he drove a broken-down Chevy Suburban that had to be one of the earliest models.  It had seat belts that didn't work and even broken seats.  But in that truck he took us up rocky red cliffs and very close to careening drop-offs in San Juan County, Utah, to show us the beauties of God's magnificent creations.  He loved people.  I didn't know him that well, but I knew he loved even me.  He had lost a young little son many years ago and then many years later, his beloved wife.  Then he found himself ill with cancer.  But he was still happy.  He still wanted to serve people.  He still wanted to drive us on adventures when we came to visit.

The last time we saw him, he was thin and frail.  He still insisted on coming along to our adventure to Monument Valley.  He didn't drive this time.  He came to be our tour guide.  Oh, how I loved his stories and his impressions of that country.  It was one of the most spiritual adventures I've ever been on.  Knowing that he was so sick, but wanted to share that time with us and his sister, my husband's mother.  He had promised our young children a ride on one of his tractors before we came home, but I noticed how tired he was getting and we didn't want to say anything to remind anyone, knowing he had already given us so much of himself.

We had spent an evening up at the family cabin in the mountains surrounding Blanding, Utah.  It was a lovely time for all and I loved seeing how much compassion he had for his children and grandchildren, sisters and brothers, kin of every kind, and his friends.  He was weak and thin, but still loving and teaching.  We decided to slip out quietly, return to where we were staying and journey home the next morning.  It was starting to get dark after all.

After getting down off the mountain and back into town, we stopped at the grocery store for some snacks and breakfast items for the next morning.  When we came out of the store, who do you suppose was waiting by our car?  Uncle Scott.  He remembered he had promised to show the kids the tractor and he was a man of his word.  I couldn't believe it.  It tore me up inside.  He insisted and you always want to please Uncle Scott.

We followed Scott over to the tractors.  He picked out a nice big back-hoe that he thought the kids would like.  He insisted they get in the tractor scoop and he got behind the controls and gently lifted them up and down, slowly and gently.  A simple little ride in a tractor scoop for a few short minutes.  I could hardly keep the tears back.  I knew we would not see him again in this life.  I knew he knew it, too.  And I knew why he kept his promise.  Because a promise to ride in a tractor is a big deal to a little kid, but mostly because he was a Christ-like man.  He didn't just study about Christ or teach about Christ.  He lived like Christ.  He didn't take more than he needed and he lived freely.  He didn't lose his faith or testimony when he lost his sweet son and his beautiful wife.  And he didn't stop serving when he himself became ill.  No, Uncle Scott did all of these things, preaching of Christ, talking of Christ, but mostly rejoicing in Christ.  He knew what Christ meant to him and should mean to all of us.  Uncle Scott understood.  He knew that Christ will always keep His promises and to be like Christ, Scott was determined to keep his own promises.  Even to little children who wanted to ride a tractor.  I am sure that it will be similar, but on a much grander and fantastic scale when we come to fully and completely realize just how Jesus is really going to come through on the promises He has made to us, if we will be worthy.

The new scriptures my husband gave me for my birthday!  The others were completely worn out!

The holy scriptures speak for themselves.  I love the Bible.  I love the Book of Mormon with all my heart.  It changed my life and the lives of so many people for good.  I know it is true!  It is the word of God.  I have read and studied it many times and prayed to receive an witness from God that it is true.  My prayers were answered.  The Holy Ghost testified to me that it is indeed God's word.  It testifies of Jesus Christ and He is the prominent figure in the sacred record.  An excellent article about this is found here, Names of Christ in the Book of Mormon.

If you've never read the Book of Mormon or need to read it again, I encourage you to do so.  It's the story of all time.  It's packed with drama, war, redemption, love, brotherhood, and peace.  It will do your heart good.  It just might change your life---it could even save your life.  I know it has the power to make us happier.  Anything that gets us closer to Jesus has to be a good thing!  

If you'd like a free copy, click here to receive one, Get a free copy of the Book of Mormon!

Monday, December 5, 2016

#LIGHTtheWORLD: The Art of Medicine is the Love of Humanity

"I do hereby affirm my loyalty to the profession I am about to enter.  I will be mindful always of my great responsibility to preserve the health and the life of my patients, to retain their confidence and respect both as a physician and a friend who will guard their secrets with scrupulous honor and fidelity."
Hippocrates said:   
"Wherever the art of medicine is loved, there is also a love of humanity."   

What does it mean to be a healer?  Did you know that physician really means teacher?  It actually makes perfect sense.  Doctors spend many, many years learning and their whole careers teaching.  Some do actually teach at medical schools and other universities, but healing is actually teaching.  A doctor is teaching his or her patients all day, every day.  They're drawing the anatomy requiring surgery or other intervention.  They point to charts and models teaching patients how to manage diabetes.  A physician takes whatever is available, even a paper towel from above the sink, to draw an explanation of a problem and its solution.  They teach us what to watch out for, when to call them back, and when to go straight to the Emergency Department.  A doctor teaches us how to get and stay healthy, stop smoking, lose weight, and get a healthy blood pressure.  The best doctors are the ones that take their own advice and are the pictures of health themselves.  

Above is a picture of our son this summer, donning his short coat for the White Coat Ceremony, marking the beginning of medical school.  The long white coat is earned upon graduation.  The new medical class all stood and recited this oath, part of which I've presented here.  I thought it remarkable to ask them this early to "affirm loyalty to the profession."  If any people were in this to become wealthy, this ought to make them squirm.  Many doctors do get rich, but this is the art of healing people, loving people and respecting people and I have no doubt that many would still want to do it, even if it paid less.  Many have had experiences that have driven them to want to be healers.  It is my opinion that they will make better doctors than the ones simply in it for the prestige and paycheck.  

Let me tell you a small part of my son's story.  He had a bad accident when he was 22 months old, requiring am ambulance ride and emergency surgery.  I know he can't remember that event, but he has heard us talk about for the rest of his life and he knows the outcome he was blessed with was a miracle.  He knows personally the powers of healing.  Both from the gifted hands of the surgeon who helped him and from our loving and all-knowing Heavenly Father who granted us all a miracle that day.  He also suffered excruciating earaches and infections from infancy to toddlerhood.  You might think with all of his trips to see the people in white lab coats that he would have grown up with disdain for the doctor's office, but the opposite is true.  

Our son didn't like being the patient at all, but when he was in that setting, he was mesmerized with all of the science behind it.  He wanted to know how the stethoscope worked, how the otoscope worked, why they were taking his blood pressure, and the why of why he needed immunizations to enter public school.  He wanted to watch what the doctor was doing and look at all the gadgets and gizmos.  He dreamed of having a microscope of his own.  He started making plans as a little boy to be a heart doctor.  He poured over National Geographic about the heart and human anatomy and wanted anatomy books for Christmas.  One of his first toys as a little boy was a surgery doll where the soft doll's organs could be removed from a Velcro-closed tummy.  Even the brain was removable.  The little doll's jammies zipped back up and the doll was good as new after the surgery performed by a 3-year-old.  As he got older he read medical case histories and biographies and memoirs of renowned surgeons.  He did science fair projects and grew live Strep and Staph cultures in our home.  He did get that microscope, a gift from his good grandpa who found an excellent specimen at a surplus sale at the university where he taught.  He brought the glass slides and crystal violet to stain the bacteria samples.  This boy was in heaven.  

We all learned just how difficult it is to become a physician.  You really can't just wake up one day and decide to do it.  Well, you can, but it won't happen the next day.  It takes years of planning and preparing, service hours and service projects, leadership experience, research planning and orchestrating, writing skills, people skills, good grades, graduating college, physician shadowing, MCAT scores, interviews and more.  And then there are the decisions about where to apply and why, the financial cost, and the living arrangements.  

While we were watching this all unfold, there were some roadblocks along the way.  People telling him it was too hard.  An important university research project fell through 2 weeks before the trip to Peru.  Changing majors.  Physics.  General Chemistry.  Organic Chemistry.  Organic Chemistry again.  So many labs and credit hours in any given semester it was almost impossible to work a job other than tutoring Chemistry.  Exhaustion, self-doubt, burnout and anxiety.  All because he wanted a unique opportunity of helping people.  There were also miracles and connections and experiences to build faith all along the way.  Tender mercies like being asked to translate Spanish to English during oral surgeries performed in a third-world country while on his mission for our church.  A new and better research project literally floating down from Heaven into his lap right after the other one fell through.  Good jobs with connections working around his hectic school schedule.  Meeting amazing people on service trips that later wrote letters of recommendation.  And making real friends with doctors he shadowed who continue to support and encourage him.  

It's enough to write a whole book about.  The important thing to know is that this boy of mine has never studied on Sunday.  He has always attended Church.  He has always found time to enjoy the little things like learning new songs on the guitar or writing his own, playing basketball with friends and with strangers, and visiting with his parents and sister on the deck outside.  And he has maintained that he wanted to be a doctor.  He has been committed to his own health and wellness and encouraged it in others.  He may have needed several pep talks in order to not give up and walk away from it all, but in the end, he got himself on that road to become a physician.  And now medical school is a whole new gig.  

It's a whole new gig because of the profoundly gifted class of students he's a part of.  These are amazing people!  He's making connections and friends and has mentors everywhere.  His Church ward is supportive and a blessing.  The material he is learning is what he's passionate about.  The intensity is what makes it so worthwhile.  Anything difficult is worth doing.  And now he has a beautiful new bride to share this with him, to help him learn, to learn along side him in her own pursuits and interests, and to create a formidable team ready to serve humanity and God, together.  

To my son I say this.  You worked so hard for so long to even get a ticket to this incredible journey.  I know you're exhausted and your eyes hurt, that a week to just rest on the couch with your new bride sounds like the epitome of luxury to you right now.  That all you really want for Christmas is just time.  Time with your bride, time with your family, time with your friends, and time in Church all together as a family.  I know it's difficult to become a doctor because if it were easy, everyone would do it, and that's just not the way it's supposed to be.  Medicine demands and deserves people who want to be healers so badly that they will sacrifice sleep to study and studying to make dinner for their spouse.  Mankind needs healers who will listen and who care about people, not Porsches.  It needs family men who honor wives and children.  The world needs men who honor God and are obedient to Him.  If you continue to put God and your own wife first, school second, then every single other thing will fall into place, just like it always has.  There might be ear infections along the way or flat bike tires and dead car batteries.  But in the end, it will all work to your good. 

To your loving wife, I say this.  You are a miracle in your own right, just like you came down from Heaven on Special Delivery.  You bless our son's life every day because of your goodness, sweetness, faith, humility, charity, kindness, and loyalty to God.  What a blessing you are.  You are work so hard and you too, are a healer.  Yes, you are. You heal and strengthen others with your faith, your quiet tenderness, your grace, and your completely guileless nature.  Please never take for granted how important your role is in all of this because it is a team effort and you together with that young husband are winning every single day.  

I love how the scriptures refer to Jesus as the Master Physician because He heals us from our infirmities, saves us from physical death, restores spiritual life to us if we repent, and teaches us about God, our Eternal Father whose work He came here to do.  He always put His Father first, then other people, and never himself.  He was and is the ultimate example.  He is a teacher and an example.  He wants us to be well and safe.  

To anyone wanting to become a doctor, please go for it and don't give up!  It's hard, but that's what makes it so worthwhile.  If God planted that seed in your heart, then wouldn't it be a shame not to see it come to fruition?  You can do it.  There are so many people to help you.  

To people like me who aren't going to become doctors, we can still be healers.  We can help heal hearts by forgiving freely, by being kind, listening honestly, sacrificing some of our comforts for those of others, remembering to keep confidences that have been confided in us, and being trustworthy.  We wouldn't go to see a doctor who told everyone about our health histories; it is indeed healing behavior to keep sacred the things others share with us.  We can stop judging.  Sister Jean Bingham said that one of the highest forms of charity is simply to withhold judgement.  We can notice people and give aide when it's needed and it's something we can do.  We can pray for people.  We can fast for them and think of them kindly.  We can be patient with people and situations.  

I'm grateful my son desires to be a physician and a helper to people.  I'm grateful for his sweet companion who supports him in this.  I'm grateful for their union which will be a strong force for good in this world.  I am grateful for what they are giving up in order to help others, for their commitment to being selfless and good.  I'm likewise grateful for my doctors I've had help from over the years and especially the ones helping me now; they are amazing people and I consider them my friends and trust them implicitly.  Thank Heaven for people on a mission to help others.  It is my opinion that the most noble profession garnering a paycheck is that of teaching, followed very closely in second place by doctoring.  Motherhood is the most noble, but there is no paycheck for that, and that's a post for another day.  

Thursday, December 1, 2016

#LIGHTtheWORLD: Prayer Lifted My Burden

It's December 1st!  Hooray!  I am so thrilled about the Christmas campaign for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, #LIGHTtheWORLD.  Today kicks off with a Worldwide Day of Service. How beautiful to all serve each other to unite in the cause of Christ.  I also want to do something every day to take one of the other challenges suggested by the campaign.  Today is "Jesus lifted others' burdens and so can I."  Today I share a simple story of how God answered my prayers and lifted one of my most difficult burdens.  It's personal, so please be kind.

I was a young mother of two children, a boy and a girl.  My husband and I had hoped for a large family.  But it didn't happen for us.  It was hard to understand why we could have two children, but not a third.  There were no discernible answers from the many doctors we sought help from.  We prayed and prayed, fasted and fasted.  Adoption was not the answer for us.  Another child of our own was also not what Heavenly Father blessed us with.

It was difficult to manage all the comments.  People suggested we were selfish to stop having children after being blessed with "one of each."  Others questioned our worthiness.  Still others pried into personal matters.  It was a difficult time.  I kept thinking that it was still going to happen, but it never did.  Every month I received the sad news that the answer to our pleadings was a "no."

One day I was so disturbed by the onslaught of comments at church that I got a babysitter and went to the temple.  There in the temple I felt so much peace.  The Spirit was so strong that I was covered in it from head to toe.  I still remember it like it was yesterday.  On the way home, I was so happy because I just knew that the peace I felt meant I was going to have another baby.  That had to be what it meant, right?

I kept my maternity clothes.  I bought dresses with pregnancy in mind, hoping I could wear the new dress even when pregnant.  But no baby came.  Our children got older.  The distance grew between our second child and a new possible baby.  Always on my mind was how far apart would they be if I got pregnant then?  I never did have another baby.

A few years later I was blessed to understand that the peace I felt in the temple that day was real.  I just misunderstood.  God truly had blessed me to have two beautiful and healthy, smart and talented children and we were immensely grateful.  I realized that the peace came because God was trying to tell me that everything was as it should be---not that I would get my way.

My children grew up and we got older.  My oldest child, a son, was on his mission when I required a hysterectomy.  It was a difficult operation and I stayed in the hospital for a while.  A few weeks later when at the doctor for a follow-up visit, he remarked to me that he'd never seen such a misshapen, malformed, ill-functioning uterus.  He couldn't believe that I had ever been pregnant once, not to mention twice.  He was nearing retirement and yet he told me he'd never seen anything like it.  Everything else was healthy, but not that.  He told me my children were medical miracles, in the truest sense of the word.

After all that time, so many years later, answers to the questions finally came.  It didn't answer the eternal question, but rather the physical one.  I felt so overwhelmed again with gratitude.  Gratitude for our two beautiful children and so much love for my Father in Heaven who knew I needed to learn some lessons.  My prayers had indeed been heard, my burdens lifted, and testimony strengthened.  I knew God didn't love me any less because I had two children instead of six.  My family was exactly as my all-knowing Father had intended it to be.  Who could complain about that?  Certainly I wasn't going to.

At this beautiful time of year, I testify that Jesus is the Christ, God's Only Begotten Son in the flesh, who willingly came to earth as a baby boy and grew to be our Lord and Savior.  In Gethsemane that day, He knew exactly how my husband and I felt.  He even knew how my children felt when they longed for a brother or sister.  He knew my infirmities.  He felt my sorrow.  He also felt my joy at being blessed to realize the miracle of being a mother, the experience so many of my sisters in Christ have not known.  He knows their pain, too.  He knows yours, whatever it may be.  How grateful I am to know that Heavenly Father loved me, and loved you, and all of us so much that He gave us the most important gift ever given, His Son, to help us return to Him if we choose to do so, because indeed it is a choice to be obedient, to follow Christ, and to love God.

I love Jesus.  He is my Lord.  I love Heavenly Father for He is my true Father.  I love my husband, my knight in shining armor.  And I love my two beloved children.  I am immensely blessed.  I am thankful for the power of prayer and for the distilling peace of the Comforter, even the Holy Ghost. May this little story mean something to someone out there who might be struggling.  God does hear our prayers and He does answer them; we just might need time to understand the answers.  Let's #LIGHTtheWORLD with faith and goodness!