“His Hand is Stretched Out Still”

Yesterday I had the chance to go ice skating with Jessica.  Having only been a few times in her 7 years she’s still a bit unsteady on the ice.  She enthusiastically donned her skates and  I watched her stumble through the door to the rink and wait with anxious anticipation for the Zamboni to finish it’s job so she could begin skating.  Her initial enthusiasm quickly channeled itself into focused determination as she gripped the wall and unsteadily made her way slowly around the rink.  After a few minutes, I followed her out onto the ice, watching her strong little legs jerkily move along as she tried to master the feel of balancing her entire body on two very narrow blades and gliding on a very unforgiving surface.  When she was ready to leave the wall she took my hand and held tight, scooting one leg and then the other shuffling herself around the rink again and again.  After a while she began to let go at intervals.  Feeling increasing confidence in her steadiness, she would move a few feet from me, sometimes falling, sometimes skating and inevitably looking back to see if I was watching.  After a few laps of back and forth hand-holding, I began skating close to her holding my arm out.  I opened my hand and flexed my arm muscles so that my arm was strong and available to her.  I imagine watching me skate was pretty comical, partly stooped with one arm bent at the elbow.  It didn’t matter though, I wanted to serve as firm support for her when she needed it.  She grabbed on quite a bit but increasingly she could balance on her own.  A few times she skated farther from me and someone would come between us.  Other times she’d fall and look up at me with the tears that come from pain (knees+ice=hurt) and question why I wasn’t right next to her, why I’d left when she needed me.  I told her it was because she had skated on her own, she’d quickened her pace.  I thought about God, as I always do in my contemplative parenting moments, and how his support for us is the same.  He tells us his arm is extended, and that for all our faltering moments, His hand is stretched out still.  Just like I held my arm firm and steady, He offers his strength, support and solidarity as we learn new things, as we stumble, as we venture out and gain confidence in this thing called living.  And when we stumble and fall and look up blaming Him for His absence, he simply holds out His arm, helps us up and reminds us He’s never been far and that He’ll skate with us as long as we want Him there.  I love that about Him.

Take Action: Nourish your soul with a prayer today, gratefully acknowledge one blessing and ask to have the eyes to see His hand in your life.

Intentional Sacrifice

The Lord has always asked His people to sacrifice.  It’s looked different throughout Judeo-Christian history but the principle has been constant. Regardless of the sacrifice, Israel of old and the Savior’s followers now are asked to give something to the Lord that puts them in a vulnerable position.  That’s the nature of sacrifice right?  It hurts a little, or sometimes a lot.  We give something we want or love or maybe even need.  When the Lord asked Israel to offer up the firstlings of her flocks and her beautiful, unblemished rams, she was handing over very useful, perhaps even vital elements of her livelihood in order to be obedient.

In this day, one of the sacrifices that the Lord asks for is a broken heart and a contrite spirit.  A lot of times that feels like willingness to me and I find myself struggling to find clarity in what the Lord is asking me to do.  In an effort to wade through the overwhelming number of ways to humbly obey and give of myself, I grapple with words like ‘needful’ and ‘expedient’ and ‘requisite.’  I seek to understand whether a situation is calling for specific talents or time or energy that I can lay on the altar.  This intricate dance is one that I get wrong often, either withholding too much or diving in with gusto that I actually can’t sustain.  It’s in those moments though, where I have the opportunity to see Him, to have Him teach me where I crossed the “needful” line or what about my offering was just below requisite.  I think it’s important to be willing to experiment because the process of learning to sacrifice can have sweet blessings.

Gratitude for Resurrection

It is Easter.  I am 35 and it feels like maybe I’m wholly celebrating it for the first time.  I’ve spent the past 2 years seeking to put an autoimmune condition into remission.  In the process of working with healers, both in heaven and earth, to accomplish this seemingly miraculous feat, I have cultivated a deeply affectionate and respectful relationship with my body, this friend of my soul.  I have sought to understand the way it communicates to me, to come to terms with it’s vulnerabilities and utilize it’s incredible strengths.  I have learned how to nourish its different systems and respect the interplay of this intricate work of God.  I have had a front row seat to some of the inherent rebalancing capabilities that are built into it and I have grown to love it in a way that you love an old worn set of scriptures or a favorite book, one that you re-visit many times because it contains more wisdom than you’ll ever glean in a lifetime of study.  You see, this body of mine, it carries both the signature of God and the story of my life, manifesting so much of how I have lived and been treated and what I have chosen to make a part of me, all of it written in the fleshy tables of my heart.

When my spirit is called home, it will still the beating of that heart which has guided me to so much goodness.  It will lay aside this mind which has sought to make sense of my experiences in ways that lead to learning and growth. The eyes that have watched many a sunrise will close and the ears that have heard laughter and birdsong and music will cease to collect sound.  The departure of my soul will quiet the breathe that allows life to flow to all of me. Life will withdraw from these bones which have structured my work and it will leave the muscles which have given strength to my endeavors.  It will leave the arms that have cradled my child and held my spouse and the hands that have opened books, written words, prepared meals, dried tears, planted seeds and pulled weeds.  The legs and feet that have kicked soccer balls, walked the dog and held me firmly to the earth each day will cease to carry me.  Without the atonement, that separation of my soul from my experiences would be permanent.

Inviting myself to make peace with the inevitability of this moment has encouraged my soul and body to weave themselves together to create a life where I don’t waste the moments I spend in this body, I own and cherish them. It is with tear-filled eyes that I consider the gracious redemptive work of the Savior that we commemorate today, wherein He gave me the opportunity to inhabit this body and to choose how to use it to grow and experience living as I seek to glorify and serve Him.  What a blessing that the labor of connecting my soul and body need not be a finite work, but a timeless and eternal one.  Happy Easter.

With love,

Lindsay 2.0

“Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.”

Elisha

Yesterday as I settled into the news of the terrorist attack in Belgium and felt the fear that comes when people are hurt, this scripture kept coming to mind.  These timeless words were uttered by the prophet Elisha to his servant when they woke up confronted with a seemingly insurmountable opposing force (represented by the tents).  Before taking any action, Elisha prayed that the servant’s eyes would be opened and that he would be able to see that their sincere and brave efforts supporting Israel were augmented by the surrounding horses and chariots of fire.  It was at that point that the real state of things was clarified to at least those two individuals.

Sometimes when disaster strikes or hurt abounds, it can be hard to “see” the hand of God because frequently we want to see Him in protection.  Like Elisha and his servant, we want heaven’s hand to be manifest in the avoidance of pain for innocent people.   It takes practice, patience and earnest seeking of the spirit to learn to see him in the midst of pain, to see Him in moments when resilience is being cultivated.  After yesterday, take a deep breath and acknowledge the fear that you naturally feel because it has the power to transform you, to give you the desire to see things you might not have seen otherwise.  When hurt abounds, as it does now, God can always be “seen” in the healing if that’s what you’re looking and praying for.

After acknowedging any fear or anxiety, try to see this: The signature of the adversary’s work is in fear, division and coercion. On the other hand, the signature of heaven is found in compassion, cohesion, healing and growth.  So find peace in the stories of compassion that begin to emerge, bask in the goodness that flows from people who care.   Find strength in the solidarity of humanity, the vast majority of whom abhor such violent acts.  Watch as wounds, both physical and spiritual, heal through the ministering grace of heaven.  Listen for the stories of people who draw on angelic strength and choose to grow through this hard thing that life offered them.  And hug your babies, your spouse, your parents or yourself, maybe sit in stillness for a few minutes, smile at a neighbor or a fellow driver, recognizing that whenever you choose to love, unify, heal, strengthen and support growth, especially in the midst of fear, you’re in good company “for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.”

With love,

Lindsay 2.0

The gift of sight

Jesus-heals-blind-man

In the middle of a numbness so shocking and deep, I was blessed with a measure of grace for a few days but I soon found that peace alluded me as I muddled on with life and holidays and vacations.  It is so hard to seek heaven and hear silence.  Left to my own devices,  I could glimpse moments of preparation, mostly in the form of my connections with other people.  As I continued to grasp at any strands of heaven that came my way, I was offered the opportunity to weave together a new understanding of God and to seek Him where He is instead of where I wanted Him to be.  From a broad perspective, this endeavor has turned out to be one of the more enlightening journeys that I have found myself on.  But as is so often the case, the enlightenment has been accompanied by soul-searching and a depth of awareness that is sometimes staggering.

Many times throughout His ministry, the Savior offered His listeners the opportunity to find the things they were seeking.  I think we live in a time when it is increasingly easy to find ideas, information, opinions, such that one can cultivate community around any ideas he or she wants to.  I think one of the pathways to spiritual growth is the belief that one can be a lifelong seeker of God, continually piecing together an understanding of heaven during whatever experiences one finds oneself in until the day that soul and heaven are eventually reacquainted in full and we have the opportunity to see Him as He is.  With a bit more life experience, I have a better understanding of how much effort it takes to make this reconciliation sometimes, to seek out and believe in goodness, love and mercy in the face of devastation, to courageously grow and live when there are so many reasons to fear.  With the effort has come the realization that each unique journey offers surprising beauty.  Here’s to bravely seeking to see.

The Becoming Years

Reflecting Pool

The other day I was having a conversation at the pool with a dear friend.  As a fellow traveler on this road of healing, she could relate to the place I find myself in with such gracious understanding that I reveled in the tidbits of divinity we were able to exchange.  Among them was the thought that I’m in my “becoming years.”  I’ve had many an active, doing year and I’ve hit a stretch of life, of unknown duration, where my task is to use discernment about the things I actually do and to instead utilize the opportunity I have to become.  The fullness and grandeur of this phase presents no fewer opportunities but the work, instead of being visible or concentrated on others, is an internal task.  As such, the measurement is solely my own, as is much of the effort and reward of this work.  It is my intent to take the experiences I am offered or that I seek out and incorporate them into my being in an effort to better understand life, creativity and the Creator.   These becoming years seem like a good place to breathe for a minute and reflect on that.

 

Image Courtesy of Veg Plotting

This I know. One year later.

Sunrise

A year ago I shared some thoughts with my local congregation and close friends and family after suffering the loss of a briefly held but long-cherished and promised pregnancy.  In my anguish and confusion, I testified of my faith in the love of God and of His patience with my growth and understanding.  In the throes of that grief, tinted with hope, we entered a year where our little family, my body and my spirit have been challenged in ways that have required more of us than I could’ve imagined.  Sustained by a beautiful tapestry of heavenly grace, personal strength and loving support, I can stand here today with a different kind of faith and knowing. There is something about being nearly undone that makes one realize where true sources of strength can be found.  I would like to testify of these true things.

I know that because I chose to follow the Savior in the pre-existence that He has blessed me with a body.  This body is mortal and is subject to all sorts of influences in mortality, some self-imposed and some beyond my control.  Cultivating attunement between my spirit and body has given me beautiful insight regarding my work on earth and the specific things I can learn and offer.  I know that Satan does not have a body and that many of the ways he tries to influence me have to do with the use and care of my body.  I believe if he can thwart, interrupt or distract me from my connection to my body or put my in a position of opposition to my body that He can disrupt a measure of my growth.  I know that whatever gifts I have been given or whatever talents I have cultivated can be used for good, unifying, growth-promoting things or for destructive purposes.  If Satan can offer the primary influence in my life, those gifts, talents and skills are put to use for his destructive and divisive purposes, whereas if I am constantly and humbly seeking to obediently follow the Savior, I am in a position to grow and my growth is multiplied exponentially, along with the peace that I have access to.  I can also serve as a resource to other souls who are seeking growth.

I know that the Savior Jesus Christ is the author of peace which passeth all understanding and that He offers us that peace in the very moments we sincerely chose to follow Him or at the very least hope to believe in Him regardless of where we have been in the moments before.  I know that through His atonement, the ashes that we either find ourselves in or create in our lives can be transformed into unimaginable strength and opportunities for growth. However, the ashes have to be recognized as such in order for the cleansing relief of the atonement to be truly felt.  I know that the Book of Mormon, the Bible, the Doctrine & Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price all have powerful and true insights regarding the atonement, the Savior and the ways to integrate those two things into our personal lives.  Through study of the scriptures and my efforts to see the hand of God here on earth, I know that Heavenly Father is mindful of me and each of you.  I know that there is incredible strength that can be derived from our collective faith and our unity.  Like one of my local leaders taught a few weeks ago, I know that the roots of our faith are intertwined and in the midst of fierce storms, the strength that we can draw from each other can literally be life-saving.  I reiterate that I know this.

I know that the strength, goodness and truth that I enjoy today in my life, my home, my chapel and our local temple was set in motion by a 14-year-old boy who was confused and wanted to communicate with Heaven.  I have been in the grove where he offered that first prayer, and I know that Joseph Smith was graced with a view of heaven, particularly of God the Father and His son Jesus Christ, that few people experience in this life.  I know that he received further revelation and that that revelation led to the re-establishment of a beautiful religion with Jesus Christ’s robust doctrine, merciful and insightful answers to mortality’s questions and a clear authority to teach from heaven.  I believe in the power and efficacy of that priesthood authority from Joseph Smith to our prophet Thomas S. Monson today.   I know that my local bishop is a man who receives revelation for our little group of believers here and I am profoundly grateful to be led by someone who seeks the guidance of the Spirit as much as he does.  I testify of the grace and mercy of a God who wants to continually reach out to His people to offer them glimpses of heaven in this life.  It is hard for me that these glimpses aren’t permanent but that they come and go and that there are times of wandering and confusion that naturally result from trying to access heaven from a fallen world but that doesn’t change the veracity of those true moments when we experience them.  These are things I know.  And while the path to this knowledge has been at times seemingly unbearable, I am so grateful for the knowing because that’s why I’m here.

Practicing Compassionate Patience

Since last fall our household has been navigating a substantial disappointment.  In the aftermath of our experience, amidst the agony of confusion, self-doubt, and just plain hurt, I feel unsettled about my ability to trust myself and anyone else, including God.  As I acquaint myself with this rift that has torn my spirituality to shreds, I comfort my soul with the assurance that there is no animosity directed at me.  There is no condescension or judgement aimed my way and this moment I speak of didn’t represent a “lesson” or a “trial” that I had to endure.  Rather, it’s an experience and it will be what I make it of it.  And it doesn’t have to be all sorted out right now.  I believe someday I will I look back on this stretch of my life and really respect the substantial work that I’m attempting to do in settling my spirit so that it can begin to heal.  Even now, with a small amount of space, a bit more heartbreak and further introspection, I can sometimes see these months as maybe as a prodding, a gentle nudge.  It’s surprising, even to me, that moments have the potential to move from ‘near death blow’ status to ‘gentle nudge’ in the space of a few months.  In addition to simple time, I think a lot of that has to do with not berating myself or forcing meaning but rather trying to wait compassionately with an eye towards recognizing the hand of God while the rest of my story unfolds.

 

 

Parented by Heaven

Last week I watched the beautiful daughter of one of my dearest friends.  This sweet little thing has been a gift in my life in so many ways so our family was enthusiastic to welcome her into our fold for several days.  Throughout the week, I watched her closely for any signs of missing her parents, feeling distress at the separation or other indicators that she may be questioning her well-being.  But her darling smiles and happy play made it clear that she was comfortable in our home.  During one of our evening conversations, I expressed to my friend that her parenting must’ve instilled in her daughter a trust that she would be well-cared for, listened to and watched over because she expected as much from us and received it without batting an eye.  I found so much beauty in the work that had been done to assure this child that she was cherished and important because I recognize that represents a lot of intentional parenting.

Several days later I was relating this story to another friend as we watched this same babe jump with enthusiasm into our neighborhood pool.  She mentioned that it was an interesting observation to consider given the scriptural admonition to “become as a child.”   My usual interpretation of that scripture leaves me feeling a bit powerless and desperate to cultivate that kind of “submissive humility” that seems to be desired by the author.   As I looked at it with fresh eyes, though, I felt the beauty of that new meaning wash over me.  Perhaps that’s what divine parenting can look like, a simple trust and regard built over time with experiences and mutual exchanges, to the point that eventually the mortal child can rest assured that heaven hasn’t forgotten him/her, despite physical and sometimes spiritual distance.  Remembering that the Savior is the same yesterday, today and forever, and knowing Him to love me dearly and care for me exquisitely at times in my life, this interpretation didn’t seem so far off.

Fixed Worth

I’d like to give a shout out to Brene Brown for her contributions to today’s thought.   Among many life-changing ideas, she writes about the difference between guilt and shame.  Guilt has the potential to be productive, it’s behavior-oriented and capable of inducing change.  Shame is debilitating, soul-crushing and ALWAYS destructive.  Guilt says I made a mistake and I can change.  Shame says I am a mistake and there’s nothing I can do about it.

Although we all pack around far more guilt than necessary, it is important to make sure that it’s guilt we’re carrying as opposed to shame.  This distinction is vital when it comes to matters of the soul.  The adversary relentlessly uses shame to make us doubt our worthiness to approach God, ask forgiveness, change, grow, serve Him and be loved by Him.  This argument, made even easier by our  mortal distance from our Father,  would have us believe that we are not worthy to approach or be seen as we are by God.  Satan works tirelessly to have us to believe this.  Do you?