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

Saturday, December 10, 2016

#LIGHTtheWORLD: Trust Your Guide on the Treacherous Trail


Three years ago for Christmas, our family went on an adventure to the Dominican Republic where our son had served his mission for our church.  It was an amazing, forever life-changing trip.  We saw such beautiful people and breath-taking scenery, ate such delicious food I never wanted to come home, and swam in a turquoise sea.  One of the things we did was ride horses to see a waterfall.   We needed horses and guides to take us on the treacherous trail.  The waterfall was nestled deep in the forested jungle at the end of a dangerous trail that crossed a river twice and was covered in clay and giant, slippery rocks.

It was a beautiful, sunny, Caribbean morning.  The humidity was 100% and the heat was 85 degrees.    We left the hotel and hired a little broken-down taxi to take us to where the horses were.  After seeing the horses and meeting the guides, we paid our pesos and were ready to go.  I was a little concerned because the horses were skinny, without any shoes, and only blankets tied on with ropes instead of saddles.  Our guides were small, sweet, Dominican men with big, happy smiles.  They chose the horses for each of us and who would be our guides.  Soon we were each on our horses, ready for the trail.



At first the trail was just a steady, even slope.  Quickly the terrain changed and the trail was very steep, with large and smooth stones covered in wet clay.  It was very slippery.  I was feeling terribly guilty that we were on these horses while the little guides were trudging through the slippery mud and on the clay-covered stones.  They just smiled and gently followed the horses, whistling once in a while, or swatting the horses on the backside with a bundle of grass.

We crossed the river and the horses stopped to take a long drink.  It was pleasant and cool there in the river, but soon it was time to make the ascent back up the slippery trail.  In some places the trail was almost a vertical slope, it was so steep.  Large, jagged rocks covered with sticky clay looked like a disaster to me.  The horses lunged forward to keep our weight properly balanced.  They knew the trail and exactly where to hug the edges, where to gather speed to gain momentum, and where to take it slowly and carefully.  The guides were not leading the horses.  The horses were in front with the guides behind.  The guides were simply encouraging the horses in a loving way with kissing sounds and swats on the behind with their plumes of grass.  The horses just needed the positive encouragement to get up the rough and rocky mountain.

We finally reached what appeared to be our destination, only to have the guides show us the waterfall, still off in the distance.  We were told the horses could go no further and we would have to hike the rest of the way.  When we saw the trail before us, a straight decline of very steep and muddy rocks, I started to wonder how this was going to happen.  The guides said they would go the rest of the way with us, to help us on the dangerous trail.  We were not accustomed to it, but they seemed to glide over the danger with ease.

My little guide (named Papa) was in tune with me needing some extra help.  We had been staying on the coast where the heat was not as intense and there was a steady ocean breeze, but here in the mountains, it was intensely hot with nauseating humidity.  My heart was truly pounding like it was going to jump out of my chest.  Papa held my hand the whole way down the trail.  He moved things out of my way and pointed to the safer places to put my feet.  Papa was an old man with ragged clothes, but he smiled bigger than I have ever seen and kept calling me Senorita.


We reached the waterfall at the bottom of the slope and spent some time there wading in the pools beneath it.  It was truly beautiful.  A prettier picture than I have ever seen in National Geographic.  Even the pictures we took do not do it justice.  Our guides held our shoes for us while we went wading and rested.  They knew we needed our strength to get back up the mountain.  Soon we finished our picture taking and swimming and knew it was time to start the climb.  It was hard for me, but my family was patient as I needed to stop many times to catch my breath.  John was concerned and tried to help me, but he was new to the territory and needed his own guide for help.  Papa kept stopping and forcing me to rest.  He waved leaves over me to help cool me off.  I told him in my very limited Spanish that I had a heart condition and he immediately took even more care to help me rest and wait.  Finally, we made it back to the horses and had to start the journey back the way we had come, over the slippery, steep mountains.

It was an exhilarating experience to be so close to danger.  It was both terrifying and exciting to know that if any one of us fell off our horse, we would probably be killed.  We were in a third-world country, tucked away deeply in the jungle, and hours away from Santo Domingo and any hospital.  Even though I am prone to be anxious, I never worried while on that horse.  I trusted him and I trusted Papa.  They both knew the way.  I wasn't anxious for my family because I trusted their horses and their guides.  I also trusted God.   I felt deep humility in that place, with our new friends, surrounded by the Lord's creations.  They had made me feel safe.


A lot people have helped me to walk at different times in my life.  My parents helped me when I was a baby learning to walk.  A kind land-lady helped me to the hospital when I fell and broke my arm. Whenever I've been in the hospital to have a baby or surgery, the nurses have helped me to walk.  Last year I had two hip surgeries, 3 months apart, and I needed a lot of help to walk with crutches and therapy to get well.  And no, they were not hip replacements--I'm too young for that actually.  It was reconstructive surgery for defective joints.  Worse than hip replacements.  I've had trouble with a heart problem that causes me to lose consciousness and I need help to get up and to a chair.  I've had kind strangers help me to my car when I wasn't feeling well in a public place.  Just a few days ago, my sweet husband came to my aid and helped me walk to the car to go home from church.  I'm so grateful for all the kind people in my life and that I've met through trial and hardship that have helped me to walk---both literally and figuratively.  

The One who helps me walk the most is Jesus Christ.  It is comforting to know that He knows the trails I've walked and the paths I'm walking now.  He knows about all my struggles.  He is kind to me and doesn't judge me because of any physical limitations.  Jesus gives me strength to walk the road as a Christian wife and mother in this increasingly unkind and judgmental world.  He's proud of me when I accomplish anything with eternal merit.  He's cheering me on and wants me to make it.  Like little Papa, he never leaves my side and won't, until my journey here is through.  He will see me to the end of the trail, the glorious waterfall and epic vistas.  He will carry me when I can't walk and provides the sure-footed horse for me to ride upon over the rocky and slippery slopes.  He knows the way because He has already been there before.

The most important part of this is that Jesus will never, ever drag me up or down the trail.  He will never force me to my destination.  It is up to me to choose Him.  If I accept the horse God has blessed me with, which is His perfect Plan of Salvation, and I trust the Guide behind the horse, I am destined to reach my goal safely and soundly.  If I reject the horse and the guide, I am sure to fail.  And it's not a race.  That day in the D.R., sometimes one person and their horse and guide were in front of the others and sometimes they were in the back.  We all need a little more help at times.  It only matters that we're on the right trail of making correct choices and honoring our covenants, keeping our promises we made to God and Christ before we were even born.

Little Papa helped me reach the waterfall safely.  It was a taxing and exciting journey, but we made it. Together.  And my husband and children made it, too.  We were all there together.  God cannot force us to Heaven and we can't force our families.  We can only love and honor God and His Perfect Son, keep our promises to them, and keep on working our way to them.  We have the best guide, a perfect guide.  Jesus Christ.  He won't let us fail, IF we choose Him and His gospel.