Wednesday, December 25, 2013

My Reward - Surprise!!!

This almost feels weird, but it is my blog so I guess I'll get over it. You know that reward I mentioned for finishing 500 miles?? Well, I asked my very talented sister-in-law, RJ, to take some pictures of me.The surprise? These were for my parents for Christmas (my picture at their house was a little dated). I LOVE how these turned out!! And I think it's a pretty great reward! Can't wait to do it again...perhaps after the next 500. :)

Monday, December 23, 2013

Another One Bites The Dust

While it may sound like a negative thing, this would be in reference to yet ANOTHER goal completed this year!! I just finished reading the Standard Works today which includes the Old and New Testament, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price! What an incredible journey it has been!

I am glad that I was able to finsih it around Christmas. I realized what an incredible gift it is to have the gospel of Jesus Christ restored to the earth to bless each of us! It helped me see that without the our Savior being born all those years ago, we wouldn't be where we are - I wouldn't be where I am! I am so grateful!!

Merry Christmas!!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

What Motivates Me

I’ve had a few people ask me what has motivated me this year. Why these goals? Why so many goals? What kept me going? There are really two main things.
First, I knew who I wanted to become and it wasn’t the person I was then. I didn’t really like who I was.  I was having a really hard time at the end of last year making decisions, feeling settled, and just dealing with life. I had this idea in my head of the woman I hoped to be and was basing some major decisions off of that, but I wasn’t her. It was then that I decided I would never be her if I didn’t make some changes and DO something about it. It was time to turn my words into actions.
Second, I didn’t want to waste the 18 months my sister was gone on a mission and have nothing to show for it. We were getting letter after amazing letter from Lori and I could see how much she was learning, changing, and accomplishing. I didn’t want her to come home, look at me and give me that “I saved the world, what did you do?” look. I wanted to be someone she could be proud of, just like I am of her! I wanted to live up to the high example she has set.
Every time I felt like I couldn’t walk another mile, or when I felt like the Old Testament would never end, or when my hair wouldn’t cooperate and seemed to be screaming for a cut, one of those two reasons would come into my mind. I became so determined that these things have seriously become a part of me. Reading my scriptures daily is almost a no brainer (except for the weekends…I’m STILL trying to get the schedule to stick on Saturday morning), and working out is more like play time now (words I would NEVER have said before accomplishing this goal), it’s become my reward for surviving my days.
If I had any words of advice for someone planning to tackle big goals, it would be this. JUST DO IT! Make a decision, move forward, and don’t look back. Make adjustments as necessary, but don’t give up. Determine what it is that motivates you and keep those thoughts close at hand.  I would also suggest making your goals visual. For me, it involved putting everything into a PowerPoint presentation and posting all the slides on my wall. Not once did I ever forget what I was trying to accomplish. And lastly, don’t worry about comparing your goals or the accomplishments with anyone else. I had a goal to walk 500 miles, yet had people posting on various media outlets that they had just finished 100 miles in a month, or run so many marathons, or some other really impressive accomplishment. I was tempted to throw in the towel at times because my goals weren’t as grand as theirs. But then I remembered that my goals weren’t their goals. Accept yourself and what you can do. You are doing so much better than you probably give yourself credit for! Just do it!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

If I Could Walk 500 Miles

So you know that little goal I had to walk 500 miles? Well.....

This is the face of the woman who just finished her 500th mile!! Granted, this was actually last night and I'm just getting around to putting it on the blog, but it is AMAZING!!! In my monthly and year end recap I'll tell you more about how awesome this was (and it was INCREDIBLE!!)!! I have learned so much just from walking!

I also decided to reward myself for accomplishing this goal. One reward is a surprise and can't be shared just yet (I had to tell someone that). The other is an appointment to the doctor. Remember way back in June I stepped on that nail. Well, "someone" is a bit stubborn and didn't want anything to stand in the way of achieving this goal, so "she" just kept walking and well, let's just say its way past time. Until then, and after that, the walking continues (except for tonight - I gave myself the night off AND ate some peanut butter...that's living on the edge)!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Eyes Have It

It's 8:30 in the morning and I'm sitting at my desk. High ranking officials of the company are expected today and I'm running around last minute (is there any other way) attempting to finalize presentations, organize the conference room, make sure the break room isn't too disgusting. In the middle of this the copier dies, the phone is ringing off the hook, people are lined up at my desk, and I'm just trying to remember to breathe.

By 9:45 I've accomplished these various tasks, the guests have arrived, the conference room doors are shut, and I get to go about my day. I sit down at my desk and take the first relaxed breath of the morning as a coworker walks by, smiles at me and heads out the door. The pattern is repeated as she comes back in a few minutes later. Typically on her return trips she'll stop and chat for a few moments, but this morning she just smiled and kept walking. I assumed she had a lot of work to do and didn't think twice about it.

A few minutes later an email arrives from her asking if she and I are okay, and that the reason she is asking is that I was giving her the evil eye. I have this conundrum. Do I feel flattered that my friend is concerned about me and making sure I'm okay, or do I feel perturbed that this person who thinks I'm giving her the evil eye and has not made any attempt to speak to me all day feels a passive email is the right approach?

While I'm pondering these questions my mind begins to replay these interactions and wishing that I could see my face at those moments. In my mind I feel certain there was a smile on my face, a happy nod of recognition, everything "normal". Somehow my eyes weren't reflecting the same. So now my next do I change this? What I want more than anything is for the light and love of Christ to be reflected by me, especially from my eyes.

I can't do anything about this morning, evil eye or not. Right or wrong on my part or hers those moments are gone. I have an opportunity now to correct myself, and my eyes, to change my attitude, to focus on how I can love and serve those I'm with. At the end of it all, I feel grateful that a friend took a moment to give me a reality check and provided me with this learning opportunity. At the end of this day, I hope I can say I'm a little better because of it.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Single Humor

Every once in a while you just have to laugh at yourself, or your situation, or whatever! On Saturday mom and I were doing our routine grocery shopping (why shop alone when you can shop with someone else??). She was gathering ingredients for her homemade fruit cake and kept saying "I need dates". She said it a time or two before I replied with "You and me both!".

I shared that story via email with Lori tonight and included that apparently it is the southern dating desert in which I live, but somewhere we would find the promised land. Until then, life is grand and I love where I'm at! Life's too short to worry about that which we don't have. And we're so much more blessed than we ever realize.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Shut Your Mouth

It’s the worst feeling in the world. Sure, you’ve said what was on your mind, but you didn’t process it or do it in a calm and collected manner. You hurt the feelings of someone you care for. And though you can seek forgiveness that’s always going to be there. This December I’m going to try to watch my mouth, to be kinder in the words I say, calmer in my reactions, and overall more loving in my dealings. This morning didn’t go well, and I hate that I chose to let myself overreact poorly. I hate that I start the day in tears. I hate that I hurt someone else. Here’s hoping that this day only goes up from here and this month results in happier feelings because of my actions.

Monday, December 2, 2013

2013 - November Recap

Here we go again!! Another month gone...and though I can't believe how quickly it's going, I'm so excited!

Walk 500 miles: I made a goal to walk 50 miles in November just to help December go a little easier (I got a little bit behind). Believe it or not, I DID IT!! That only leaves 33 miles for December...33!!!!!

Read the standard works cover to cover: I needed to make it through Doctrine & Covenants 100 and I did it too!! Only a little bit more and I'll have this one completed too!

Grow my hair out to donate it: Still hanging in there on this one!! I'm hoping by my birthday next year it will be good to go!

I can't even begin to describe how amazing it is to be this close to reaching all of these really big goals. I'm so glad I didn't give in to the voices in my head telling me to quit, or that it was too much, or for the voices of others who told me I didn't have to push it so hard, or that I made the rules and could easily change them. I did this for me, to BECOME someone more, and hopefully better, than I was before!

I'm so excited for December!!! I'm excited to finish! I'm excited to find yet another new beginning at the end of my finish line!!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Language We Speak

In each unit of my Family Foundations class we are assigned a project. This unit we are focused on Love Languages (I SOOOO didn't see that coming). All of the others have been relatively easy and I felt prepared for, but this one came out of nowhere. It's been a really interesting experience though. At the YSA conference I attended in August, one of the speakers I listened to talked about this and identifying our own love language to understand what it is we need out of our relationships, whether it be with a spouse, family member, friend, or even coworker. In order to function well within relationships, we need to know what we NEED! At this conference I took the little test and no doubt learned that I'm a "quality time" kind of girl. I knew that about myself so long ago, but it was nice to have it on paper.
This project has forced me to take notice of people I deal with on a regular basis and do my best to determine what their love language is. And then the kicker...I have to focus on one person in particular and do things to "speak their langauge".  I had a hard time at first but identified my "victim" and embraced the project.
I'm not quite finished, but I've already drawn some conclusions. Focusing on someone else's "langauge" brings me happiness! I find that I'm spending quality time in trying to learn this about these people and in turn feel more love and respect. The second was that as I tried to learn and speak this different "langauges" to people, I've discovered the ways in which they communicate. I found in one case that someone was speaking their language but because it wasn't my language, I felt they didn't like me at all! I'm slow, I guess, but I'm learning. And as I continue to learn I feel that I'm becoming a better person who will be able to communicate with EVERYONE (at least a bit better than I was the previous day). 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

What I Learned From a Goat

My parents have a small flock of goats. We enjoy going out to the barn and feeding them, trying to win these animals over (we want them to be more like pets than farm animals...we have lofty dreams). Today we took apple slices. There are eight goats, so you can imagine how quickly one apple goes. But those little goat mouths don't give up easily and they will nibble on anything they can, including fingers. I was letting one of them nibble on my finger. When we first got the goats I was told that they don't really hurt when they nibble as long as you keep your fingers at the front of their mouths. Apparently the dangerous teeth are in the back.

Well, mom and I sat there and as we were talking and feeding the goats, she got a pretty hard nibble. She warned me again to be careful. I was watching what I was doing, but apparently I can't focus on two things at once and turned my head away from the goats and the next thing I know, my finger is in the grinding teeth of this goats!! OUCH!! It bruised the nail badly, and even broke the skin on my finger tip (and there may or may not have been some cries of pain). I learned a very valuable lesson and experienced an amazing tender mercy because of it.

The lesson: Be aware!! Not only when you are feeding goats, but in life. Be aware of the pain that comes from being distracted, the result of thinking "I have it all under control" or "I know what I'm doing". I'm sitting here tonight typing with only 9 fingers because I didn't pay attention for one moment. Satan is quick and crafty and only needs to distract us for a moment to cause us pain that comes from following him. We need to always be alert and on the path, never looking away from what our ultimate goal is (which, in case you're wondering, is to return to the presence of God).

The tender mercy: I was asked to accompany a quartet in church today. This week as I've practiced, I've been more nervous than ever that something was going to happen to my hand and that I wouldn't be able to play. I hurt my wrist mid-week and thought that my worries were coming true. I took it easy and prayed a lot and I didn't have any problem. They performed today and it was one of the most beautiful pieces I've heard, sung by four very talented individuals. I was grateful to be able to play as planned. The miracle to me is that I didn't have a goat bite my finger last night. There will be no piano playing for a day or two, but I accomplished what I needed to today, and I can deal with the rest.

Saturday, November 16, 2013


Everywhere you turn on Facebook, you find notes of gratitude that people are posting through the month of November. I'm apparently a bit of a scrooge about this, not because I'm not grateful, and not because I don't want to share, but I've been handling my thoughts of gratitude a bit differently this year. I've been (attempting) to write down my things that I was grateful for. Among those things are things that I'm blessed with, but I have also been including daily experiences I've been having. My intent was to put them in a mason jar and fill it up throughout the month. But they've gotten as far as my purse, and it's getting full. I just have to share a few.

1. Making new friends and feeling apart of something.
2. The testimony of my Savior, Jesus Christ, and of His restored gospel, and the opportunities I have to bear it. The day I wrote this came a day after having had the opportunity to voice my testimony of the importance of marriage and family and missed it. I didn't turn away from it, but I just wasn't with it. I prayed that night that I wouldn't let that opportunity pass by me again. I was blessed the very next day to have an opportunity to tell a coworker of my testimony of the importance of marriage and families and how that is something that I'm striving for.
3.Words of the modern day prophets & apostles and the strength and direction they offer.
4. Tender mercies!! The day I wrote this I had a CRAZY busy week and couldn't see how I could possibly get everything done that I needed. And then I got an email that the assignments for one of my classes and been postponed and entire week! Amazing!
5. Jesus Christ, the gift & power of the Atonement, and for His restored gospel.
6. Good music that lifts the soul.
7. Family! I am fortunate to be blessed with such wonderful parents. They raised me well and taught me to work, serve, and love others. They taught me the importance of church attendance, family prayer, and quality time together. For some reason they love me despite my sometimes awful attitude and silly quirks. My sister is my best friend! I grow more and more thankful for her every day! I'm grateful for my older siblings! I don't know them as well, but I'm beginning to and I LOVE spending time with them. I'm grateful for all of these wonderful and amazing people that I get to call my family!
8. Children who love me and give me hugs! I'm grateful that they want to be my friends (my philosophy in life is that it doesn't really matter if any other adults like me, as long as there are children who do, I'm all set).
9. I'm grateful for trials I've gone through and the mistakes I've made, and for the lessons both have taught me. There are lessons I couldn't have learned any other way than going through a trial, and there are some lessons I learned as a result of my mistakes that I wish I hadn't learned, but all have strengthened me and have helped/are helping me become the woman I want to be.
10. I'm grateful for the knowledge that families can be together forever. I've been lucky that death hasn't been a very large part of my life to this point, but recently tragedy has come to many that I know and love, and I know that one day it will also happen to those that I know and love personally (and it will even happen to me). I know that the separation has got to be so difficult and heart breaking, but how truly comforting to know that it is only temporary, that they, and we, will live again and that we can live eternally with our families!

This is certainly not a comprehensive list, but are the things that I felt I wanted to share tonight. My heart is overflowing in gratitude for the many gifts, blessings, and opportunities the Lord has given me! I'm learning that the best way to find contentment in life is to be grateful.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Law of Chastity

We've started another section of my Family Foundations class regarding The Law of Chastity. Below, I'm sharing one of the posts I made for this class, not because I think what I wrote is worth sharing, but because as I'm studying and understanding more and more the "why" of keeping the Law of Chastity, my testimony is being strengthened and I know now what I wish I had known so much sooner. I mention several talks below, but the talk I loved most on this topic was Elder Holland's "Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments". I know that we were given commandment to keep the Law of Chastity and to uphold the sanctity of life. I know that Satan is out to thwart the plan of God and to lead us away, and he's successful. For those of us who have made mistakes, we have the privilege of being able to repent and to be made clean and pure again. I am so grateful for the gift of the Atonement! Hopefully this will help you gain further understanding as it has helped me!

I was particularly touched by Elder Holland’s talk “Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments”. In speaking of the future he said, “But the future, at least any qualitative aspect of it, must be vigorously fought for. It won’t “just happen” to your advantage. Someone said once that the future is waiting to be seized, and if we do not grasp it firmly, then other hands, more determined and bloody than our own, will wrench it from us and follow a different course.” Outside of ourselves, there are really only two people who are so concerned with our commitment to the law of chastity; Heavenly Father and Satan. The future of our souls, of our spirit and body, is what is at stake as taught by Elder Holland. If we wish to remain morally clean and to be worthy of the blessings the Lord has for us, including exaltation and eternal life, we have to make it happen. Heavenly Father has provided the plan and tools by which we can achieve this success, but make no mistake that Satan has readied his arsenal against us. In his talk entitled “Things as they Really Are”, Elder Bednar stated, “Because a physical body is so central to the Father’s plan of happiness and our spiritual development, we should not be surprised that Lucifer seeks to frustrate our progression by tempting us to use our bodies improperly. One of the ultimate ironies of eternity is that the adversary, who is miserable precisely because he has no physical body, invites and entices us to share in his misery through the improper use of our bodies.” Daily, we must be careful, we must be “steadfast and immovable” (Alma 1:25). 

Elder Richard G. Scott, in his talk “Making the Right Choices” said that as we learn to make right choices, we “will have confidence to do right and overcome strong negative peer pressure and bad influences.”  We are the ones responsible for what we think and ultimately do. We must, as it says in D&C 10:5: “Pray always, that you may come off conqueror; yea, that you may conquer Satan, and that you may escape the hands of the servants of Satan that do uphold his work”. With the Lord on our side, we can expect to see miracles in abiding by the Law of Chastity.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Seeking the Will of God

I got to watch the CES Devotional tonight. The speak was Brother Russell T. Osgethorpe. I just had to share two quick thoughts. These are not direct quotes, but rather notes I took as I listened to him, but hopefully they are close.

1. With the Lord at your side, you can do ANYTHING!! You WILL experience miracles!!

2. Desires are EVERYTHING! We need to want what God wants!!

I also really liked that giving our will to God isn't a one time act, nor is it an "end" act. It is just the beginning. We give the Lord our will and then returns it to us with an even greater capacity to do what He requests!

Did you get to watch it? What did you take away from it?

If you haven't had a chance to watch/listen, check it out HERE (please accept that I'm forgetful. They haven't posted the link yet for the video (it did just end 30 minutes ago) and I'm likely to forget. Check out the page and search for Brother Osgethorpe).

Thursday, October 31, 2013

2013 - October Recap

It occurs to me that I totally missed my September recap. So, before I report on October, let's do that...


Walk 500 miles: I only managed 33 miles. Not quite what I was planning on, but it IS better than nothing. Also note that I started school in there, so while it is still just an excuse, I feel it is pretty valid.

Read the standard works cover to cover: I was supposed to make it to Alma 36. Would you believe I only made it to Alma 35?!? Talk about LAME! I'm not sure where my brain was when I stopped reading, but I missed that one. That's okay though...and I'll tell you why in a minute.

Grow my hair out to donate: STILL growing...and I feel like it is taking forever!!!

As I mentioned, I did start school again which puts me on track to accomplish yet ANOTHER bucket list goal - graduate from college with a degree! Granted, this goal will take a bit longer than a year (by a LOT!), but at least I am on my way!!

Now to the fun stuff!!


Walk 500 miles: I made it 46 miles!!! During October I also walked my 400th mile! As of tonight (because let's face it, it's already late and there is NO way I'm working out!), I have completed 416 miles!! That is only 84 miles to go between now and December 31! It's certainly not time to get complacent...or to break a leg...but I feel like I can really do this!!

Read the standard works cover to cover: I wasn't about to pull a lame stunt like last month and miss my goal by one measly chapter. The goal was to read through Ether 15 and I made it through Moroni 6. That is a nice start to the next month, but again, it's no time to be casual. There is much work to be done!!

Grow my hair out to donate: I haven't given in yet!! And today I even took a picture!!

Yeah, that's my LONG hair. Seriously, I don't even remember the last time it was this long. If I remember correctly I need to have 8 inches before I can donate it. I'm a heck of a lot closer to reaching this goal than I was in January, but we're not out of the woods on this one. Does anyone have any good suggestions of how to make it grow faster??

School is still going well! I'm one night away from finishing one of my classes!!! YAY!! And since it's my blog and I can...I'll totally brag that I'm still pulling straight A's!! Now THAT is a HUGE improvement since the first college experience!!

Here we go...bring on November!! I'm thinking of tackling "no candy November"...I have a few hours to decide. We'll see...

Halloween and the Challenge to Become

"How on earth is she going to tie these two things together?"

I'm SO glad you asked!!

I was working on my computer the other night and was trying to come up with a Halloween post idea. I'm not going trick or treating, I don't have kids or pets to dress up, and I was going to claim that I don't have time to decorate my apartment, but I'm just sort of lost in getting this place to feel like a home I haven't really considered seasonal decorating. Unlike holidays like Christmas or Easter, Halloween doesn't have a religious tie. So I made it my mission to tie it out and I came up with it (or more correctly the Spirit did and I was just blessed).

On Halloween, we (or the people we know) dress up in costume and pretend to be something or someone they are not. The less you look like you, the better. We hide ourselves and do all we can to take on this alternate identity, if only for a night.

As I contemplated this pattern, I thought of our task to BECOME (my favorite word again) who and what the Lord wants us to be. Along our way, we put on "costumes" of who WE want to become. Sometimes we may only add a hat, a goofy shirt, or even add many layers, but regardless of what we wear, our loving Heavenly Father knows who we really are and ultimately what we can BECOME if we turn to Him! It isn't until we remove the costumes we've put on ourselves that we get to see who we really are.

I'm still in the process of becoming. I've gone through a LOT of different costumes. I've tried several of what I thought I wanted to be, I've tried a couple of what others thought I should be, but it wasn't until I hit a rocky patch that I decided it was time to remove everything and try to be the "me" He had in mind! And you know what? It's the most freeing feeling in the world!

So, this Halloween as you try on different costumes, give a thought or two to what you're currently "wearing" and if you should consider trying a different outfit!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Brownie S'more

There are some things you think of and wonder, "why didn't I think of that before??" This is one of those things for me! I introduce you to the brownie s'more! I totally cheated tonight, though what I ultimately have in mind is much more delicious I'm sure. This, however, is quick, tasty, and for dessert, is great on Points!!

I didn't go start a fire (the first modification I'd make next time), but the oven was hot and it worked just fine! Here's what you need:

1 full graham cracker (or 2 squares, whatever!)
1 Fiber One brownie
1 large marshmallow 

I broke the graham cracker in half first and laid it in an oven safe pan. On one half I laid the brownie, the other half got the marshmallow. I baked it at 400 degrees for roughly 5 minutes. You may want more or less...totally up to you! When it's finished, sandwich them together and voila, brownie s'more!! 

As shown, this is 5 WWPP!! 

I have a KILLER brownie recipe that I'd like to use next time, but I'm sure the points will be MUCH higher!! 


Monday, October 21, 2013

Must Be His Favorite

At the beginning of the semester in my Family Foundations class, we were instructed to complete a Provident Living Project in addition to our standard course load. I was panicked about this because I knew I was already going to be busy and I wasn't sure how it would all work out. But then the first project came and it was implementing/improving a scripture study program in my life. I was totally already on that because of my goal to read the Standard Works cover to cover. Check!

Then Project 2 came and I was nervous again. This time it was working on health, nutrition, and fitness. Another slam dunk thanks to my goal to walk 500 miles and working on losing weight with Weight Watchers (I seriously don't give enough good plugs for them considering all the good they've helped me accomplish)!!

That brings me to today. I happen to know that this week is CRAZY busy and I hadn't even seen my homework list for the week when I made that determination. I also knew it was time to start the next project. I took a deep breath, said a little prayer, clicked on the assignment tab. This week...
I NEVER thought that I would be excited about anything to do with budgeting, but at the YSA conference I attended in August one of the speakers spoke about budgeting, living within our means, and even mentioned a cash system. Well, I took the ideas he gave, looked at my own situation and formulated a plan that would work for me. Since August I have been doing GREAT, if I do say so myself. I still have some room for improvement, and that's what I get to focus on for my project!!

As I sat in front of my computer reading this assignment, I was so incredibly humbled. Heavenly Father has been preparing me for this all along! I thought I was making all of these goals and changes because I was focusing on the woman I wanted to become, and that is true. But what I see now is the hand of a loving Heavenly Father who has guided me to make these choices at the necessary times to make all of this come to be. I may not know everything, but I KNOW that Heavenly Father loves ALL of His children. And though it may be a bit selfish, today I feel like I might be His favorite (but I'm willing to share the title tomorrow). :)

Sunday, October 20, 2013

"His Grace is Sufficient"

I have to admit that, even though I LOVE blogging, with my new school schedule and assignments which are done on discussion boards (read "blogs"), I'm finding that my drive to write here is not quite as strong as it used to feel. But that's not such a bad thing. I'm hoping that you find what I do post now more inspiring or helpful, and perhaps just a bit less of my rambling.

This morning as I prepared for church, I listened to another talk on the Speeches page from BYU. If you have checked this site out yet, go there!! It's amazing!! The talk I listened to was entitled "His Grace is Sufficient" by Brad Wilcox. This gave me such a new and wonderful understanding of, and appreciation for, my Savior and the grace He offers me. Instead of my standard comments, I'm going to share just a few quote from this inspired message. I hope you'll take the time to listen to it as I did...if so, click here. :)

“Jesus doesn’t make up the difference. Jesus makes all the difference. Grace is not about filling gaps. It is about filling us.”

"The miracle of the Atonement is not just that we can go home but that—miraculously—we can feel at home there. If Christ did not require faith and repentance, then there would be no desire to change. Think of your friends and family members who have chosen to live without faith and without repentance. They don’t want to change. They are not trying to abandon sin and become comfortable with God. Rather, they are trying to abandon God and become comfortable with sin. If Jesus did not require covenants and bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost, then there would be no way to change. We would be left forever with only willpower, with no access to His power. If Jesus did not require endurance to the end, then there would be no internalization of those changes over time. They would forever be surface and cosmetic rather than sinking inside us and becoming part of us—part of who we are. Put simply, if Jesus didn’t require practice, then we would never become pianists. "

"The grace of Christ is sufficient—sufficient to cover our debt, sufficient to transform us, and sufficient to help us as long as that transformation process takes. The Book of Mormon teaches us to rely solely on “the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah” (2 Nephi 2:8). As we do, we do not discover—as some Christians believe—that Christ requires nothing of us. Rather, we discover the reason He requires so much and the strength to do all He asks (see Philippians 4:13). Grace is not the absence of God’s high expectations. Grace is the presence of God’s power (see Luke 1:37). "

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Receiving Answers to Prayer through Scripture Study

I was asked to speak in church this past Sunday. This is a similar version of what I presented (not exact because I wasn't clever enough to save the revised copy to my computer and I no longer have the original in my posession), so if it doesn't sound quite right, please forgive me.

I’m so excited to have this opportunity to speak today, and I’ll tell you why. Somewhere in December last year I decided that I was going to set some really ambitious goals for the year. I was serious about taking charge of my life and wanted to become more than I was then. A few of the goals I set were to walk 500 miles, grow my hair out to donate it (which is taking a LOT longer than I would like), and to read the standard works cover to cover. That was a goal I had set for myself a long time ago but I don’t think I ever intended to do it any time soon (in all honesty I think I imagined myself with gray hair before that one ever actually happened). Don’t get me wrong, I love the scriptures and I love to study them, but the idea of reading the Old and New Testament, Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price all in one stretch seemed just a  bit out of reach and a little more time consuming than I felt I wanted. But January 1st came and with it came my determination! I started this goal. I had a counselor in one of my student wards that would always tell us that if we read just 7 pages a day we would complete the entire set of scripture by sometime in November. I’ll tell you now that I’ll likely still be reading to complete this goal in December, but I will finish it this year if it is the last thing I do (and it very well may be). This goal of mine has turned what was a love of the scriptures into a passion for them. I’ve learned so much during this journey and it’s truly only scratching the surface of the experiences that I know I can have with the scriptures.
To continue with the reason that I’m excited to speak today…about a month ago I started school again. I’ve returned to BYU-Idaho where I started my college experience, this time doing so online. One of the classes I’m taking is a religion class entitled Family Foundations. The course is broken up into six – two week units. During each unit, we are asked to focus on a project above and beyond our course study called a “Provident Living Project”. As I’ve outlined, I set a lot of goals already for the year and had a pretty stringent schedule to accomplish these things. Then I decided to add just a bit more excitement with school. THEN I found out about these projects. Before I even knew what I was going to be required to do I started feeling a little overwhelmed. That evening as I began my study, I started with a prayer as I always do, but asked specifically for help to organize myself in such a way that I could accomplish all of these tasks whatever they may be. Imagine my surprise when I opened the project to find that the first assignment was to create a plan to implement/improve scripture study in my life. This wasn’t necessarily adding anything to my existing list, but it would enhance the experiences I was already having. It was such a sense of relief and felt like a direct answer to my prayers.
Now, I’m going to shift gears slightly, but I’ll be coming back to explain this further.

Why do we have the scriptures?
In a talk entitled, “A Reservoir of Living Water”, Elder David A. Bednar said:
   “You and I must look to and come unto Christ, who is “the fountain of living waters”, by reading, studying, searching, and feasting upon the words of Christ as contained in the Holy Scriptures. By so doing, we can receive both spiritual direction and protection during our mortal journey.”
The scriptures are our road map, our game plan, and our warning system. If you are heading out on a cross country trip, you use a mapping device. If you’re going out for the big game, you reference the game plan. And if you are experiencing stormy weather, you consult some sort of warning system to know what you can expect and how to prepare yourself to weather those conditions and to come through it undamaged.
How we study?
Is there a right or wrong way? Absolutely not! Just get in there and read! Due to your own circumstances, there may be times where you study or use them differently. For instance, from the same talk, Elder Bednar stated that there are “three basic ways or methods of obtaining living water from the scriptural reservoir: (1) reading the scriptures from beginning to end, (2) studying the scriptures by topic, and (3) searching the scriptures for connections, patterns, and themes.” Based on my need to complete this goal, I’m focused on reading the scriptures from start to finish. There are times where I want to gain deeper understanding of a certain topic and I study that specifically. And as Elder Bednar mentioned, there are times where we should or have need to search the scriptures seeking for patterns and themes. It’s up to you!

Another way to study is to memorize scriptures. Elder Scott once said: “Scriptures are like packets of light that illuminate our minds and give place to guidance and inspiration from on high. They can become the key to open the channel to communion with our Father in Heaven and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ.” 
“Great power can come from memorizing scriptures. To memorize a scripture is to forge a new friendship. It is like discovering a new individual who can help in time of need, give inspiration and comfort, and be a source of motivation for needed change.”
Why do we need to study the scriptures?
Elder Perry shared an experience in the April 1993 General Conference of the Saints in Peru who, due to strife within the country, were struggling. The area presidency realized a need to fortify them through this time. After much fasting and prayer, they determined that they needed to emphasize prayer and scripture study within each family. Of this experience, Elder Perry stated:
                Among the Peruvian Saints, who live in this nation racked with heartache and despair, there has emerged a stronger faith and devotion to our Father in Heaven because they heeded the counsel of His servants to hold daily family prayer.
A special maturing in the gospel has developed among the members of the Church in Peru because they added to their daily family prayers the practice of having daily family scripture study. When the revealed words of the prophets found their way into the hearts of the Saints, they brought about a mighty change in the way they lived and believed. Questions, personal problems, and important concerns were answered for them by the inspired counsel of the scriptures”.
It is interesting to me that two of the most basic teachings of the gospel, prayer and scripture study, can have such a profound effect. From his talk we note that not only do the scriptures provide a spiritual strength to us, but in studying the scriptures, we can receive answers to our prayers.
I’m sure we’ve all heard the saying, if you want to talk to God, pray; if you want God to talk to you, read the scriptures! I know that this is true. God does hear and answers prayers, and often uses the experiences we have in the scriptures to give us those answers.

Examples of how scripture study has helped me receive answers to my prayers
Elder Scott mentioned memorizing scriptures. There was a time that I was trying to break a habit I had. I knew I didn’t need to do this thing, but I was having a hard time breaking myself of it. I prayed sincerely for help to overcome this thing, but I still struggled. One night after weeks and likely months of struggling to break myself, I was reading in Moroni 9 and came across verse 28 which says:
Be wise in the days of your probation; strip yourselves of all uncleanness; ask not, that ye may consume it on your lusts, but ask with a firmness unshaken, that ye will yield to no temptation, but that ye will serve the true and living God.”

As I read that, I realized that I needed to change my prayer and desire just a bit. Instead of simply asking for help I needed to ask with a firmness unshaken and commit to always serve God. With that as my focus I knew I could go ahead and change my life for the better and break this habit. That night I committed this verse to memory. I would recite it throughout the day, especially if I started trying to allow myself to get off track. The answer to my prayer was found then through the scriptures and because of the time I took to study and memorize it, I continue to be blessed by it.
So, do you remember the assignment I mentioned from the beginning of my talk? Implementing or improving my scripture study? As I mentioned, I already had my goal to read the Standard Works this year, so I was trying to figure out a way to improve the quality of my time in the scriptures. At that point it was about trying to maximize my efforts as opposed to expanding them. I prayed for some guidance as to what would be the most beneficial thing for me given my circumstances. I considered everything I had going on, my concerns, and the things I had been focusing on in my prayers. I decided that as I read the scriptures, I would seek specifically for examples of having patience and trusting in the Lord. I was amazed as I read how frequently examples of this theme came up! They are everywhere!! 
At the beginning of the project I thought I was busy and was a little stressed. This week, the game changed a bit due to an extended work schedule, a lot of transitions and a variety of other factors, all of which equated to even less time to do my homework and do the thing I had committed to do outside of work, and that sent my stress level right through the roof. You can ask my parents. I would be the person having mini breakdowns in stores and restaurants. I could never have predicted that the themes I was seeking in my study a couple of weeks ago would help me in a VERY future time. At the time I started the project, things were going pretty smoothly. I was adjusting to my class schedule and though I felt nervous about things, I was managing. There was really no need to suppose that things would change from that. I believe that because I prayed to know what Heavenly Father wanted me to know, I was assisted in making my theme selection. It is also because of continued prayers for guidance, strength and comfort that the scriptures have been opened to me in a way at this time that is strengthening my testimony that Heavenly Father knows and loves us individually, and is quite literally sustaining me day to day.
One last experience that I’d like to share occurred on Friday night. Mom and I had talked a bit about everything and she was trying to help me realize that I need to find a way to free my schedule just a bit. As we were driving, I pondered everything I’ve been tasked to do right now, and the thing I realize is that I’ve brought most of it on myself. As I tried to think of things I could either rearrange or eliminate, a verse came to mind. Mosiah 4: 27 which says: “And see that all these things are done in wisdom and aorder; for it is not requisite that a man should run bfaster than he has strength.”
In times of need, when the prayers of our heart say more than we could with words, the scriptures that we have read can be brought to our remembrance and provide us  with the answers and direction we desperately need.
A Promise
President Gordon B. Hinckley made a promise regarding reading the Book of Mormon. He said: “There will come into your lives and into your homes an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord, a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience to His commandments, and a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God.”
In addition to the blessings promised by a prophet of God, I testify that our Heavenly Father uses the tools He’s given us to speak to us. As we pray and study in faith, we will be blessed to find the answers we seek. I can tell you that because I’ve tested and tried it, and know it to be true.
I know our Heavenly Father loves us! I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior and Redeemer. I’m grateful for the gospel in my life and the ways it helps me strive to be a little better each day.