Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Refiner's Fire

I've been having a really bad allergic reaction to something that I ate. On tuesday around lunchtime I had terrible, burning stomach pains and I noticed my throat closed up a little. That night I noticed a few red, itchy bumps on my hip and I thought maybe a family of mosquitos had a picnic. But the next day when I got home from work and all of my appointments, I looked in the mirror and was shocked to find a bright red rash in place of my pasty white skin. I was completely covered with raised, itchy bumps surrounded by reddened, inflamed skin. So, naturally, I freaked out and went to the Urgent Care Clinic. It ended up being hives as an allergic reaction. Not sure what it is I'm allergic to but I got a prescription to reduce the swelling and the nurse told me to take Benadryl to reduce the histamines in my blood from the allergic reaction. (that was the first time ever taking Benadryl)
So aside from turning into an itchy red monster with a screaming upset stomach, this month has been packed full of trials. My boyfriend and I broke up, I have a horrible job at which I am severely underpaid making a few pennies above minimum wage and aggressively exploited by the management, a close friend attempted suicide, my relationships with other friends have vanished, my digestive system has temporarily shut down, my finances are disintegrating under my feet despite my attempts to budget and be careful with my money, and I haven't had time to fold laundry or accomplish anything at home during the past three weeks. I can't help feeling a little like Job. As soon as I came back to the church and found the fiery determination to be a good person I was bombarded with trials and tests. This morning I was reading in Alma 36 and verse 20 made me pause and re-think my situation. It reads: "And oh, what joy and what marvelous light did I behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!" That made me think of another scripture in Doctrine and Covenants 121:7-8: "My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; and if thou endure it will, God shall exalt thee on high." Those two scriptures gave me a lot of comfort and reassurance. That as it says in the next chapter "all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good." I know that I am not yet as Job. I have a good life and I still have my family and a safe place to call my home and there are many people in this world who have it much worse than me. I am still grateful for my life and for all of my experiences. I am grateful for the scriptures and the blessings and the peace that they bring into my life. But most importantly, I am grateful to Heavenly Father for his beautiful eternal plan. It might not seem like such a good plan while we're stuck in the heat of trial and temptation but we just need to remember that in the end it will all be worth it and we will be "reimbursed" in full for our sorrows with eternal happiness if we keep up the faith and endure to the end.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

My Adventure at Church :)

Today was my first day at the singles branch. There were probably five guys and about forty girls, which is the usual for most younger-aged LDS gatherings. I made a really nice friend right off the bad and that was awesome. I thought it would be really awkward glancing around the room after all of the uncomfortable introductions but it was nice. We have a lot in common and it was sad to leave after relief society because we had such a fun time. I'm really starting to get excited to go to all of the family home evenings, temple trips, sports nights, and institute next year.
The lesson today was about giving the Lord equal time, meaning that when we spend an hour worrying and doubting the gospel we need to stand back up and spend an hour reading the scriptures. Heavenly Father cannot help us through our situations and problems in life if we don't turn everything over to Him, including our time. It was really nice to hear that message because I've been having a lot of trouble dedicating and setting aside time just for me and Him to draw closer. But I know that if I give Him the time that He deserves out of the entire 24 hours that he has blessed me with, he will be there for me during the stressful moments when I'm not able to focus and concentrate on Him.
Breaking up with my non-member boyfriend was definitely the right decision. I've learned a lot about myself, including the fact that I don't want to spend the rest of my life with someone who doesn't share my beliefs. It's too easy to put God on the back burner when you try to live your life with someone who doesn't understand why I want to spend three hours at church or stay at home and study when I could be having "fun." Anyway. I know it's going to open up a lot of opportunities and for now I'll have more time to focus on my relationship with the Lord and I'm grateful that He has helped me get through this with the wisdom and the emotional strength that I would lack if I was on my own.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

All Grown Up

I have spent so much of my life wishing it would go by faster. But here I am now; my life is filled with the most beautiful, sweet moments. Just about everything in my life feels like it has fallen perfectly into place through the past year. Finally all of my hard work is starting to pay off and it does so in a growing love and appreciation for the life my dear Lord has granted me. So here I am, a breath away from leaping blindly into the whirlwind of university life. Breathing a sigh of relief, I reflect on my past decisions with gratitude for my family. Through their guidance I have steered through a difficult but worthwhile path. However, there were also so many nights that I filled with stress, assignments, and textbooks. So many times I tried to avoid acquaintances because I didn't have time for friends, I wish I could go back and say "I'd love to come!" Knowing who I am and the more outgoing and friendly I have become through my newfound self esteem I regret waiting to reach out to others. But those tender moments are gone. Now that I'm here, I want it to stay just the way it is. I want to savor my last few weeks in high school but, oh, how quickly they seem to fly! After wishing I could just get high school over with and get on with it, I don't want to go. Deep down I'm not sure if I'm ready to grow up. But ready or not, I have no say in the swift dealings of Father Time. I must soon face my eighteenth birthday and turn my head from the compelling backward glances toward my childhood. But through all of the challenges and decisions that I anticipate, it is relieving to know that I have a Heavenly Father who knows what's best for me. A dear Father to whom I can turn when I am weighed down with the travails of this life. We are all able to speak with the One who created the world in which we life. The One who created us in the first place. One who has a complete and utter understanding of every aspect of life. Next time you are in need of a friend or just someone to vent to, I hope you will remember this fact. He is always there and whether you are moving, graduating, seeing a child graduate, or whatever it may be He cares.

Friday, April 9, 2010

We are all God's flowers

I have developed a sudden affinity of and a compulsive desire to keep plants. It's really weird. In the past every time I walk by a potted flower or hanging basket of ferns I would think, "oh! They're so lovely! But think of all the other lovely plants you've killed. However, with the flourishing new growth (that has struggled through Bend's bipolar weather) I felt inspired to give myself a second chance at gardening. I now have a lovely azalea tree, lilies, ivy (my favorite!), and miniature daffodils as well as an assortment of neglected plants from around my house, which I am attempting to resuscitate. But amid the clatter of clay pots and fresh potting soil, I have learned a lovely little lesson. When I was sixteen, I used to wonder about the point of life and what the value of a life was. Through planting and tending my "indoor garden" I have come a fraction closer to an understanding of why Heavenly Father wanted me around in the first place. Maybe Heavenly Father is like a skilled gardener. He has given everyone unique abilities and talents like the varying colors of flower petals and He wants each and every one of us to grow and be strong in the foundation that He has provided for us. I think it brings Him joy to see us excel and grow in each of our colors, shapes, and sizes. But when we struggle and begin to wilt spiritually, He is always there with nutrients and a kind, listening ear.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Scripture Therapy

I have a part-time job at Cold Stone Creamery and I usually work nights as a shift lead. Shift leads are responsible for setting the alarm and locking the door, sanitizing almost every surface of the store, counting up the tills, and are responsible for the other workers. Also, in the morning shift leads make the ice cream and set up the stone. Last night we had people coming in the store half an hour past closing. At Cold Stone, we like to stay open for people because they usually have to come from across town. We have an hour after closing to scrub brush and mop all of the floors, sanitize the stone, fill carmel and fudge bottles, wash all the dishes, put away the fruit, count up the tills and do a report, clean the bathroom, wash tables, clean all of the counters, and many other tasks. The two of us had a lot to do in half an hour aside from the fact that we were exhausted and sleepy. At eleven o'clock I had done all I could do and wrote a note to the person opening the store that we didn't have time to mix the smoothie and shake base and asked her to do it. When I got there tonight I found one of the carts on wheels with a flat surface like a countertop covered in a sticky, hardened mess from the person who made the shake and smoothie base. The cart was pulled away from it's usual place next to the wall, making it an obnoxious obstacle. It was as if she was trying to say "thanks for making me do your job." I got really frustrated. As the night progressed, I found other little things that she had done, or neglected to do, that got on my nerves. My frustration with this individual was irritated by my thoughts, which were growing more and more negative. I found myself silently criticizing the person I was working with as well as customers. When particularly rude comments surfaced in my mind, I would think of the Savior and how disappointed he would be to know I was judging and being critical of others, who weren't doing anything wrong. The thoughts kept poking their way through my attempts to think with a more positive attitude. Soon I started searching for other ways to stop these thoughts, which were beginning to seep into my attitude and mood. I suddenly thought of reading my scriptures and how I longed to have the words of the Lord drown out the rude and demeaning thoughts that I could not rid from my head. I recalled a quote that I found recently by Bruce R. McConkie about the temple. It goes like this, "Eternal life is not a name that has reference only to the unending duration of a future life; immortality is to live forever in the resurrected state, and by the grace of God all mend will gain this unending continuance of life. But only those who obey the fullness of the gospel law will inherit eternal life." At the time I could only remember the final phrase, that we can only inherit eternal life and an unending residence with Heavenly Father if we strictly obey the gospel law. Remembering this quote led me to think about scripture stories. At a later time when my heart had been softened and I was able to let go of criticism, I reflected on other ways to get rid of counterproductive thoughts. For the future I am prepared in knowing that whenever my mind is plagued with the criticism of others, I could recite the articles of faith to myself or think of a primary tune or hymn and hum it to occupy my mind.
In my earlier years when talking to my mom about bad thoughts that would not go away, she gave me an example that helps me understand the way my mind works. She compared a person's train of thoughts to a stage. There can only be one scene at a time, though scenes are complex. They are filled with dialogue, costumes, and a specific setting. When a bad thought won't go away, it's like a bad scene in the play. "You are the director so you can move on to the next scene in the play. Your mind can only concentrate on one thing, or one scene, at a time."
I appreciate you reading all the way through this post. Sorry about the length. To reward your efforts, you can have two virtual Jessica hugs and I'll give them to you in real life the next time I see you. :)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Standing Fast

Today my family hiked through the California redwoods. It was an awesome hour-long hike ending at the beach with private access to some abundant, hidden tide pools.
I really enjoyed seeing how enormous most of the trees are (and I enjoyed giving them hugs, I love trees!) For hundreds of years they have stood fast to the ground where they sprouted. Scarred by fire, smitten by the wind, and pummeled by rain, these giants have earned their lofty thrones in the sky through their perseverance and the strength from their roots.
I likened the trees to members of the church. As seeds we have been born into a time in which the fullness of the gospel is restored. We have been nourished through the teachings of living modern day prophets as well as the prophets of old. The winds and storms work to bring down the young trees. Those that do not fall are afflicted by fires and parasites. Many may fall and conform to the will of their adversaries because the task seems to hard or the roots are not strong enough
However, the young trees are given a constant supply of nutrients through their strong foundation. If they can stand up against the tribulations, their faith and determination, they will weather the torrents and make them stronger for the storms to come.
With faith deep in the roots of the church, giving ourselves the nutrients and water we need from the scriptures and general conference, we too can weather the storms of this world. We can stand fast like these great trees and make it to a high destination of happiness.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Day by Day

Life is a journey, or so many have said. Though one's experiences are unique, as are their fingerprints, people have a lot in common. All people have goals in life and those goals lead to a destination.
I'm sure you already know this. What I have noticed is that we form a "model" for how our life should be and what we need to do in order to go from here to there. So if I have a well-paying job then I will have lots of money and that means I will have lots of friends and lots of happiness. In our minds it's like an equation. A+B=C. We feel the same about forgiveness. "If I say I am sorry and work to make things right, then the person that I wronged will forgive me.
But things don't work out like that all the time. Sometimes people are not able to forgive and money certainly does not bring happiness.
However, it is not the destination, or the "C", that brings happiness. It is the process. Happiness comes through loving every moment of the journey and having gratitude for this beautiful gift of a life and other beautiful lives that we can touch.
I believe that the turning point in depression and the only way to proceed to a full recovery from depression is to look at yourself, accept what you see, and say to yourself "I love myself despite my flaws and imperfections because I am a child of God and He loves me."

Here is a presentation that changed not only my outlook on life but my life as a whole. I hope that it may have the same impact on you as well.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Waking Up

I have always been a morning person. Something about the refreshing new start or the still, crisp air brings about an awakening not only of my physical body; my inner core is stirred. After being frustrated to tears by the mistakes yesterday I can get up and try again.
Parallel to waking up in the morning, my spirit is beginning to finally wake up.
It wasn't a dramatic, once in a lifetime spiritual experience like the ones I often hear in testimony meetings and in the scriptures. I was pondering events that are expected to unfold in the coming years such as college next year, my future job as in intensive care nurse, but the thoughts on one particular subject struck me the most: marriage. With weak faith in the church, I did not hope to marry in the church, let alone continue in my parent's footsteps as a fully pledged member. However, while pondering the concept I felt the need to read my patriarchal blessing. This I did and it opened the floodgates of uncontrollable tears and sobs. To paraphrase the portion of the document that had the impact on me, temple marriage and a family built on the principals of the church would bring me the greatest happiness and the greatest opportunity. Though I do not know what the greatest joy could be or what the opportunities are, deep down I knew that I had a testimony of my patriarchal blessing and of all of the teachings of the church. I knew that I could no longer deny my faith to myself and stumble with eyes covered in the dark places of the world. At times before I have criticized myself in the preexistence for choosing to come at this time in the history of the world. However, when my spirit finally arose from its dormant slumber I decided to take up the challenge and put on the full armor of God every day. One of the first things that I did was listen through an old tape with the soundtrack to Saturday's Warrior. That is my reason for creating this blog. I know that like waking up it will be great and fresh at first and then through trials and tests weaken as the night draws on. I hope to strengthen and renew my spiritual fortitude by writing about my experiences and hopes for the future. Also, I would encourage any and all who read this to share your experiences through the last days of the world if you have the desire.