Sunday, December 15, 2013

When you don't know what to do

This week has been crazy for us. Lots of tests and finals and presentations and projects. I'm glad it will all be over in a few days! I'm very excited that I will be graduating. After this next week, I will never have to do homework again!

While this is super happy for me, I have this fear about what will happen after Christmas break is over. Ben will go back to school and I will not. What will I do? I don't know. I've been doing school work and being told what to do so long that I don't have a clue what to do with myself now that I don't have classes and new subjects to learn. Of course we have talked about me getting a job, but even then, I don't feel that that will fill my time enough. The best I can hope for here in Rexburg is a part time job, and we'll be staying here at least until Ben graduates in 2015. 

I've been wondering a lot lately about what exactly it is that Heavenly Father wants me to do at this time in my life, and so far I've come up empty handed. I haven't the slightest idea what the best thing for me to be doing is. As much as I try to come up with a direction, I feel like I'm walking into this really blind. Of course, I know that God doesn't give us all the answers at once. He will light the path in front of us only a few steps at a time, and we have to have the faith to keep walking.

I have this sneaky feeling that life is always going to feel like this. It will always be a matter of knowing only a few steps at a time what is coming my way, and sometimes I won't even get that much warning. Even though it's frustrating, I'm glad that God leads us that way. I think that if we knew all that He was going to hand us in life, we would probably argue with Him and say that we can't do it.

I remember a few years ago I was helping with a volunteer group on campus here at the University. We did an activity where they blindfolded us and took us to a field and left us there. We weren't allowed to take off the blindfold, but we were told we had to make our way to the meeting place where everyone was supposed to be in the end. At one end of the field we could hear beautiful music playing, and at other parts of the field there were a lot of noises coming out of other speakers. These included popular songs from the radio, radio news reports about politics and other world issues, and sounds of explosions from movies and video games.  They were distracting, and if we walked in the direction of these noises, we would get farther away from the music. However, if we walked in the direction of the music, we would find a strong rope that was strung along the path that would lead us to the meeting place. We had to walk along holding on to that rope, and just trust that it would take us to the right spot, even though we couldn't see it. The path got really hard. It seemed like it was going straight up and that I was rock climbing just to hang on. It seemed like I was on it for at least 2 hours, but I finally reached the top and was told to take off my blindfold. I was shocked at what I saw.

I had just climbed up a hill that really did go straight up. I would never have attempted to climb that path if I could see what I was doing, even though the rope was there. In fact, when we were finished with the activity we had to go back down the hill to get our things and go home, and most people tripped and fell down. It was interesting that people tripped more when they could see what they were doing than when they only had to rely on the rope.

I learned two life changing things from this. #1 is that if we let ourselves get distracted, we will wander aimlessly in this life and never accomplish anything worthwhile (that comes from the noises vs. the music). #2 is that God wants so much more for us than we do. If we trust Him and do things His way, we will be able to accomplish anything that comes our way. If we demand that He does things our way and that He tell us the entire plan before we start our journey, we will never finish the race. We will let our fears get the best of us and we won't be brave enough to try.

So even though I have no idea what is coming next in my life, I know that I'll be able to do it. As much as I would love to see the path in front of me, I'm kind of glad that I don't. I will be able to accomplish so much more by just trusting Him and taking things one day at a time. Prayer is so important to this, because I have to make sure that I'm getting my daily light from God. If I don't make sure that I'm consantly holding on to that rope (my connection to God) then I will get lost by the distractions around me and I'll stop moving forward. By making sure that I keep communicating with God then He will light my path each day. He will do the same for you if you ignore the distractions of the world and keep communicating with Him through prayer and reading His word. I know this is true!

Judge not

As of late I have noticed a most disconcerting habit that I have.  I feel like it is one that most of us have, though I think that we don't realize it.  I have noticed that I am an expert at judging people.  Here is an example to demonstrate my point.

Today in church there was a man that was there visiting.  He was the father of a couple that had just recently had a baby, so he was obviously there for that happy occasion.  However, he did not have the normal appearance of a regular churchgoer.  He had bushy, longish hair, he was unshaven, and was just wearing a colored button up shirt, open at the top, without a tie.  On top of that he wore a windbreaker.  I also noticed that his son (the brother of the woman that had the baby) was there in just a coat, some jeans, and a hoodie.
As I looked at them from my perch at the piano, I began to formulate all of these possible opinions of who they could be.  Let me share with you my thought process.  "Wow, I wonder if they're even members?  They could have gone inactive, maybe they're just here for the baby.  But that's nice of them to come all the way up here from wherever they live.  I can't believe he'd come dressed like that, though!  Couldn't he have told his son to wear something a little more church appropriate?  This could be a really awkward lesson if he has some weird religious views that he's going to share with us..."  And so on...

While it is rather embarrassing, to say the least, to share these thoughts with you, I hope it illustrates a point.  Do we not all do this?  Do we not make judgment calls on people, based solely on their appearance?  It turned out that this man was very spiritual and had some very good insights and testimonies that greatly benefited the lesson.  He is an active member of the church with a great love for his new little grandbaby.  I am quite ashamed to think that I even thought of those things of him.

My point is this: we have no idea who people are.  We cannot fathom even a fraction of what they have gone through in their life that has made them who they are.  So who are we to judge them, to assume that they are "this type of person", just because they look like it, or the circumstance in which we find them implies that that is the kind of person they are?  That is not for us to decide.

Here is how I wish my mind would have reacted to those people: "Wow, how awesome that this brother brought his father-in-law and brother-in-law to church!  I'll have to go introduce myself and make sure they feel welcome."  Nothing else.  I cannot make any judgment call about them because I do not know them at all.

Brothers and Sisters, there is one judgment call you can make, however.  This is the one that God does allow us to make, and it is the one that we should always make.  We should see others not as different than us, with different morals or values or whatever, but we should see them as our spiritual brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of God.  They are no different from you or me in God's eyes.  So why should it be any different from our perspective?

In this time of giving and love and Christmas, I would invite us all to stop judging.  Stop thinking bad thoughts about that person who cut in front of you in line, or getting angry at the person who was 15 minutes late for an appointment you had, or being irritated at the pedestrian who decides to walk slowly across the crosswalk in front of you.  We are all sons and daughters of God, and we all chose to come to this earth for the same reason, to eventually make it back to God.  I promise that as you think of others this way, it will change your attitude towards life and will bring much your happiness into your mortal sojourn on this earth.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

No regrets

This week has been crazy, we are only 2 weeks away from finishing the semester, and it seems like everything is due all at once!!! Even though it gets crazy, we always set aside Friday night for date night. This Friday we went to a performance on campus called "Opera Scenes". They perform scenes from different operas, rather than showing one long one. One of the operas was written by a student in the music department, and it was very emotional.

This opera was about a very dysfunctional family. There was a mom and dad and a son (about 18 years old). The parents were very wealthy and spent their time with their upper-class friends and catching up on all the latest gossip. They are having a birthday party for their son, who neither of them know very well. They are both so caught up in their money and social status that they don't have time for him. The son comes in to ask the dad if he can talk to him about something important, and his father yells at him to not bother him and to ask his mom instead. The son wanted to introduce his fiance to his parents, but because of his father's reaction, he leaves the house without another word. As he is outside telling his fiance that they need to run away and start a new life together, the father comes outside for a smoke. He mistakes his own son for the paper boy, and tells him how much this paper boy reminds him of his own son.  He then proceeds to tell "the paper boy" (who is actually his son) how disappointed he is in his son. After the father goes back inside a thief runs up and tries to steal the fiance's bag. In trying to protect his fiance, the boy gets shot twice and dies. His parents run outside and see that the person shot is their son. In realizing that their little boy is gone they suddenly regret everything they had spent their time doing. They cry about how if they could go back and do things over again, they would do everything so differently.

I have to admit, I bawled my eyes out. It was heart-wrenching to think that someone might be taken suddenly from me. What if I was left regretting the last words I spoke to them, or the way I treated them, or the things that I never said to them? I would be devastated if that happened to me. I think I would spend a lot of time wishing that I could do things over again.

Of course, life doesn't work that way; we don't get to go back in time and do things over again. I think God wants us to recognize that we don't know what will happen, so that we will take advantage of our time.  He wants us to live correctly all the time so that we won't be left with regrets. He knows we will make mistakes, and that is okay. What he doesn't want is for us to procrastinate, thinking "Oh, I'll get to it later." He wants us to show love and kindness to those around us now. He wants us to build family relationships now. He wants us to put our priorities in order now.

Because it's Christmas, I'm sure there will be a lot of time being spent with family. Even if you don't have a good relationship with some of your family members, God can help you mend those bridges. He can help you forgive each other now so that you don't regret later all the time you wasted being upset with each other. I would encourage everyone to express their feelings to those they love most, especially if you aren't the type to say it often. Maybe words aren't the best way for you to communicate, but it's important that others know your feelings.  You need to say it or write it to them. Don't expect them to just "know" by the way you treat them. Tell them that you're proud of them and that you care for them. It doesn't take a lot, but it will mean a lot later.

I know that sometimes it feels like life is just too busy to spend our time chatting with others, or playing pretend with the little kids or going for a walk with a friend. I think we feel this way because of all the responsibilities that hang over us. Go to work, get the car fixed, turn in that report, make dinner, clean the house, do the laundry, walk the dog, etc... And indeed we truly are busy. I would only suggest that you forego some of the business so that you can spend time on things that really matter. =)

There is a great video from the mormonchannel on YouTube that illustrates this. I think you'll like it.

I hope that we all take time to slow down and focus on what matters most. You won't regret it.

Oh, remember, remember

Have you ever had one of those days where you feel like everything went wrong?  You know what I mean.  First you woke up late and didn't have time to prepare for the day like you usually do.  You went to eat breakfast and realized that you're out of milk, so no cereal for you.  You quickly throw together a lunch and head out the door, only to realize it's like -20 degrees outside and you've got to spend a half hour scraping off your car, by the end of which your ears are frozen off, your fingers are completely numb, and you're pretty sure you hurt muscles in your arm you didn't know existed.  

You get in the car and drive off, only to get stuck in traffic because everyone is driving no more than 20 miles an hour due to the snow.  All day nothing seems to be working out and you just have this sick feeling inside all day, feeling like nothing is working.  You get home, manage to eat something, relax for a few hours and then hop into bed, hoping that it all is better tomorrow.

I'm pretty sure we can all empathize with that.  Luckily I haven't had one of those days for a week or so, but it is no fun.  Sometimes the day just doesn't go right.  I can only imagine what it's like to have kids and a family at home to add on to that stress.  

So what do you do?  How can you get through those tough days?  How can we make it through the rough stretch?  This has been something that has been very difficult for me personally.  I remember when I served my mission in Argentina, sometimes days were just like I described above.  Nothing was going right, everyone slammed the door in your face, all of your appointments fell through, and it decided to rain cats and dogs all day.  Those days are tough.  But I learned something, and this is what I want to share with you.

It's a very simple concept, which, when applied, will change your life forever.  I believe that all scripture points to this specific principle, all scripture invites us to practice this principle, and it can be said in just one word, a mere 8 letters, only 3 syllables: remember.  

Now, you might be asking, "remember what?  What are you talking about, Ben?"  

Let me explain using a scripture found in the Book of Mormon:

"And thus we can behold how false, and also the unsteadiness of the hearts of the children of men; yea, we can see that the Lord in his great infinite goodness doth bless and prosper those who put their trust in him.
Yea, and we may see at the very time when he doth prosper his people...yea, then is the time that they do harden their hearts, and do forget the Lord their God, and do trample under their feet the Holy One--yea, and this because of their ease and their exceedingly great prosperity."

Does that make sense?  What is it that we don't remember?  We don't remember all the good things that have already happened to us!  We forget the many times that God has blessed us.  We forget about the time that everything was going wrong and God sent someone to brighten up our day.  We forget about the experience we had in church when we felt how much God loved us.  We forget that we are sons and daughters of a God.  

Instead, what do we do?  We focus on the here and now.  We focus on how everything is going wrong.  We don't think about the fact that this is probably a trial God has given us to see how we will act after he has just blessed us.  Will we act like spoiled children that want everything to be nice and fair and easy?  Or will we step up to the plate and show God how much we love Him and what we are ready to sacrifice for Him?

I promise you that as you keep that eternal perspective, as you choose to search for the positive in the negative, as you remember the many ways in which God has blessed you, the "negative" will not be negative at all.  You will be grateful that you had those extra minutes to sleep, that you had the opportunity to eat something else other than cereal, that you got a workout while scraping your car.  You'll be grateful for the opportunity to learn patience and good driving skills while driving around in the snow with everyone else.  You'll be grateful for a warm home to come back to, for a comfortable bed to fall asleep in.  And you know what?  Your day will not be negative at all.  In fact, you might actually learn something and have a positive spiritual experience that day.  

This is what God wants for us, His children, and I promise you that it is possible.  God is the author of all that is positive, and He cannot produce anything negative.  So if you are feeling negative, remember who that really comes from, and remember instead all of the positive that God has given you.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Grandma taught me about Thanksgiving

This thanksgiving was very different for me. My Grandmother passed away at her home at 6:35am on Thanksgiving day. I had spent all night with my husband and brother and sister-in-law watching over her, and even though we knew her time on this earth was over, it was still a shock when died right before my eyes.

Thanksgiving felt so different. I felt such an overwhelming gratitude for the time that I have with my family, and for having a wonderful and loving husband by my side. I felt so happy for my grandma that she is finally with my grandpa again and that she can rest from this life. I felt so grateful for the blessing to have been at her side when she left us.

We had been with her all week and it was such a blessing to spend that time with her. When we first got there she could talk and laugh with people, but by Tuesday afternoon all she could do was blink or moan to communicate what she needed. The last thing she actually was able to speak (that I'm aware of) was when I told her goodbye on Tuesday morning. I kissed her and told her I was going home but that I would be back later to see her. She smiled and said "I'm going home too". Even though this was such a sad moment for all of our family, I couldn't help but be happy for her. I'm so grateful for her example.

After she passed away we waited until the nurse arrived so that we could give her a report, and then we all went home to sleep. Even though we attended two different Thanksgiving meals later that day - both filled with family and laughter and food and games - I could not feel the same as I normally do on Thanksgiving day.  I didn't feel like stuffing myself or listening to Christmas music or watching football. Its not because I was depressed at my Grandma's passing that I didn't feel like those things, its because I was too busy feeling truly grateful for my family. I don't think I will ever be able to see Thanksgiving the same. I'm not saying that the common Thanksgiving traditions are wrong, because they aren't. I'm just saying that I felt a connection to heaven that day, and I wanted to cherish it rather than focus on other things.

This experience also made me reflect on my own life and to think about how I will be when it is my time to leave this earth. I was reminded of the feelings that I felt on my mission when my trainer went home. I was so sad that she was going away and that I couldn't see her or talk to her anymore. It also made me sad that she was going all the way home to the United States, and I was staying in Argentina. I cried when she left. I was happy for her, and thought about how happy she must be with her family. I thought a lot about how happy I would be when I got to see my family again too. But at the end of the day I had to get my new companion and get back to work. That was bittersweet for me, and I experienced the same feeling every time one of my friends or companions finished their missions. I would miss talking to them and asking them for advice, and I would think about them often and wish I could be home with them. When it finally came my turn to be done and go home I was so shocked that it was the end. I didn't know what to do with myself.  All of those feelings returned to me on Thursday, even though I've been done with my mission for 18 months already. I believe I felt the same way because I got to watch my grandma go home to heaven after finishing her mission here on earth, and while I'm so happy for her, I know that life still goes on for me and I have to keep on going.

The best part is that now that I have returned from my mission, I get to see all my companions and talk with them and laugh with them. I know that this is also what will happen when I go home to Heavenly Father. I will get to see all of my loved ones who went home first, and talk with them and laugh with them. It will be a glorious reunion.

I hope that I haven't offended anyone by the way I talk about the death of my grandmother. It was a very spiritual experience for me, and it has taught me a great deal about life. I feel so blessed to be a member of her family. I also feel very different toward my family - especially towards my husband. The different is a better different, and I feel blessed for the time that I have with them now. I'm so grateful to know that families can be together forever. I hope that I always have this sacred and reverent feeling during the holidays.

To all my family, I love you (even Ashley on Thursdays) and I hope that you always feel my love for you, even when I don't show it on purpose. To my husband, thank you so much for choosing me to spend forever with. I love you more than anything. To my wonderful Grandma Robinson, I am so proud of you and happy that you have finally made it home.


I apologize for the lack of posts in the past week.  Gauchay and I have had an interesting week, spent mostly watching over Gauchay's maternal grandmother, who passed away on Thanksgiving.  We are happy for her, however, because she has returned to her heavenly home and is with her husband (who passed away 20 years ago).  Gauchay and I have been privy to part of the planning of Grandma's funeral, and we have been able to see the reactions of family members, and it has been interesting, to say the least.

Let me explain.  First off, I do not wish to offend anyone who reads this, especially if what I describe is something that you feel.  But I wish to explain an important doctrine that all those of the LDS faith believe in firmly.  The majority of Grandma's family are active in the LDS faith.  However, there are a few that are not, and they were a bit perplexed and even possibly offended by the attitude of those of us that are "Mormons", concerning the imminent and later actual death of Grandma.  What was our attitude, you ask? We were happy.

In most cultures in the world today, and also in most religions, the time of death is a time of mourning, of sadness, of sorrow, of sackloth and ashes, etc.  It is not a time for frivolity or gaiety.  There are many tears shed, many depressed moments, and overall it is quite gloomy.  Why?  Because we are so saddened to realize that that loved one will never be in our life again.  We feel that we may not see him or her again.  We may feel that their death was unjust, unfair, or even uncalled for.

While some of these are true, as an LDS culture we focus on what we know to be true.  Let me state those truths: 1 - We know that our loved one continues to exist, though not in a physical form.  They have left behind their body, but their spirit lives on, and is awaiting the day of judgment.  2 - We know that we will see our loved one again.  Gauchay and I have no doubt that some day we will see Grandma Robinson again.  Families are an eternal unit, and the bonds that connect them are thick and difficult to break, done only through the unfaithfulness of a family member in living the gospel.  3 - We know that those that have gone on before us are waiting for that loved one, to welcome them and take care of them.  Life after death is not a lonely life.  It does not mean that you are all alone in some vast void.  You are in the Spirit World with all of your ancestors, awaiting God's judgment to come in some future day.

And so while we may mourn the fact that we do not get to be with our loved one for the remainder of our mortal life, we choose to rejoice in the fact that they are not lost from us forever.  We focus on the knowledge that some day we will be reunited with them and be able to hear their laughter, feel their love, and linger in their presence.

This is why we are happy.  Death is not the end, it is merely another step in our eternal progression.

In fact, you may have noticed, I hope, that Latter Day Saints tend to be perpetually happy.  I know I am.  How is that we do not let the weight of the world get us down?  How can we bounce back so quickly from a hardship, from a death in the family, from a difficult trial?  It is because we have an eternal perspective.  We know that what happens to us in this life is part of a greater plan to learn and grow and eventually return back to our Heavenly Father.  We know that all the pain and trials of this mortal life will some day come to an end and we will be able to rest in peace with our families for eternity.

And so we do not focus on the negative or on the difficulties of today.  Instead we focus on the eternal possibilities and endless happiness of tomorrow.

So if you ever see someone looking sad, feeling down, or seeming lost, sit down and share with them this: that all is not lost.  Today is just one day, and tomorrow is full of new opportunities.  God is always there for you, and he wants you to be happy.  He has brought us here to this earth, and he will not leave us alone.  He will comfort us and help us so that we can gain from this mortal experience all the lessons and knowledge needed to be able to return to His presence someday, hand in hand with all those in our family.

We love you, Grandma, and hope you are dancing with Grandpa.  We'll see you soon.  :)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

When bad news comes out of nowhere...

At this time of thanksgiving there have been a lot of people posting something they are grateful for each day as a countdown to thanksgiving. I have not participated in that simply because I don't post on Facebook that often, but I do want to acknowledge publicly my gratitude for some certain things.

First off I want to say that I am grateful that God is in the details. I know that He is aware of everything that happens and that He knows what is in my future. I am especially grateful for that tonight. I received a phone call from home with some bad news about my dear sweet Grandma. She will unfortunately not be with us for more than a few more weeks. This came as a complete surprise to me and Ben because we didn't even know she was in the hospital. We find ourselves suddenly needing to make arrangements to go home this weekend so that we can be with her one last time, which will be difficult because Ben has work, we both have school, and we both volunteer at the Temple on the weekends.

But this was not a surprise to God. As I started making lists of everything I need to prepare or arrange in order to make this trip home, I realized that almost everything had already been taken care of previously.  I had traded some work days in the temple with someone else because they needed thanksgiving weekend off, so I had asked them to work for me this weekend as a trade. That was 2 weeks ago, before my Grandma was even in the hospital.  Another unexpected blessing came when I called my shift supervisor to tell her that Ben couldn't work either and she told me that Ben didn't need to even bother getting a substitute (which would have been very difficult on such short notice) because they already had too many men coming in to work this weekend.  Also, I have several large projects due this week and next week, but for some reason I felt very motivated to get the bulk of the work done yesterday and today.  I found that all I really have to do is type up the reports. So now I know why all these things happened. The moment I received that bad news it all came into focus - God was behind all of these details, and now the idea of suddenly taking 4 days off isn't as nearly as stressful as it would have been had I tried to plan this in advance.

I have also had several of my teachers tell me in the last 2 days that while class is being held Monday and Tuesday, that those days aren't going to be critical to our grade, which allows me to feel less anxious about going home for those days to be with my Grandma. The truth is, Heavenly Father knew that I would go through this, and He has done a lot of preparation to help me be able to go home this weekend. I am so grateful for a loving Father in Heaven who takes care of the details.

I also am so grateful for the knowledge that families can be together forever. I am grateful for the wonderful woman my Grandma is and the example she has been for me. She is truly a saint, and a wonderful example of a Christ-like and selfless person. I feel so blessed to have had her in my life. I am grateful that I will have a few more days with her. I am also very happy for her. She hasn't seen my Grandpa in 20 years, but she has lived faithfully this entire time so that she can be with him in heaven. As a widow she served several years as an ordinance worker in the Boise Idaho Temple, she served a full time mission in Leads, England when she was 82 years old, she gave countless hours of service as a volunteer at the Kuna library reading to children because she believed that books were more valuable than watching the TV is. I don't think a single living soul can walk through her door without her insisting that they stay and let her feed them a meal (this includes complete strangers like door to door salesman). I am grateful for her example. I am grateful that she is my Grandma, and that she will always be my Grandma.

I know that if we live the Gospel of Jesus Christ that we will all be together again. I am so grateful that our family relationships were intended by God to last not just "till death", but for all eternity. I am grateful for the knowledge of God's plan for families, for the knowledge that life does not end with death. I am grateful to know that there is a purpose to life, and I am so glad that I know who I am and why I am here and where I am going.

I testify that Christ is real. He came to this earth and He suffered for our sins and He died on the cross - but most importantly, He rose on the 3rd day, and He lives even now. I know He lives, and because He lives, we will all live again. I know this is true, and this is what I am most grateful for.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

To gain the whole world

I'm sure many of you have heard the song that goes something like this: "One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do."  I looked at the lyrics to the song, and honestly, I don't really understand much of it past that opening line.  But I just want to focus on this first line, anyway.  

It's not very hard to realize the truth behind the words.  One really is the loneliest number.  To be one, to be alone, you are quite lonely.  There is no interaction with anyone else, there is no fun, no work, no play, no anything.  It's just you.  

But ironically, Satan has got the world convinced that the best way to be is alone.  He's got everyone thinking that they should always be by themselves.  "But Ben", you say, "what are you talking about?  Everyone around the world isn't alone.  Pretty much everyone has a family, or friends, or someone."  And you're right.  But I'm not talking about being one physically, being by yourself.  I'm talking about being alone emotionally.  I'm talking about your mind being focused on only one person: you.  

Does it make sense now?  How do you feel when all you think about is yourself?  When you're so wrapped up in what you "need" that you fail to see the needs of those around you; when you focus so much on your wants that you're oblivious to all that occurs around you.  This is true loneliness.  This way of thinking will only lead to sadness and misery.  

And yet Satan has us all convinced that the only way to happiness is to build yourself up!  It's always about us: get the best education so you can sell yourself, get the best job to make more money to buy things for yourself, etc.  

And yet what does the Savior say? In Matthew Christ says the following: 

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?  or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

Christ teaches us that the only way to gain eternal life, to get eternal happiness, is to forget ourselves, to follow his example of loving and serving others.  I love the logic he uses in the last verse.  What profit do you get if you gain the whole world, and yet lose your soul?

I promise you that there is nothing you are striving for right now that is more important than your salvation.  There is nothing more important than following the Savior and exemplifying him.

That homework project that you've been working on for the past few hours?  It means nothing when compared to living the Gospel.  It is not worth giving up your spiritual time for the day just to finish a project.  
That project you've been meaning to get done around the house?  It is of no consequence when compared to the importance of your family's salvation.  It is not worth giving up the opportunity to teach a child or to love your spouse for a project you need to finish.  

That raise you've been putting in extra hours at work to get?  You will get an even greater reward by focusing first on building up God's kingdom.

I hope you all know that I am just as guilty of all this as you are.  We let the world take over our lives.  We just go with the flow, letting everything that we need to do take precedence over that which really matters.  And when we get to the end of the week, we realize "wow, all those things that I told myself last Sunday that I wanted to do during the week to stay spiritually where I want to be, I didn't do them!"  And so you recommit yourself, and then Monday hits (and we all know it hits hard) and we get lost in the myriad of things we have to do during the week, until we surface on Sunday to realize that we did the same thing all over again.  

And so, what is better?  To focus on ourselves, on the one, and build up our own treasures on earth?  Or to forget ourselves, to realize how lonely and sad it is with just one, and focus on building up everyone we come in contact with?  

My invitation to all of us is that we take just a moment, right now, to stop thinking about everything you have to do tomorrow.  Detach yourself from the world and all your responsibilities, and think about what is most important.  The only way to really gain your life is to lose it in service for the Lord. 

So take the time this week to love your family.  Give your brother that you haven't talked to in a while a call.  Tell your mom how much you appreciate how she raised you.  Sit by that one person in your class that everyone makes fun of, and help them out.  Make friends with that new coworker that just started work, help them to feel welcome.  Make cookies for that new family on the block.

Because, in reality, what does it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Are you a peacegiver?

Gauchay is taking a Family Relations class this semester.  As you can imagine, they talk about the different relationships with the family.  It looks really exciting and thought-provoking.  This week they have been talking about conflict within marriage and whether or not it is normal or even okay to argue or fight in your relationship.  It seems that the majority of couples fight or quarrel to some degree, though there are a few that claim they do not fight or argue at all.  Gauchay and I seem to be one of those odd ones out that do not fight, and her class was rather incredulous and doubtful when they found this out.

For whatever reason, the world seems to think that it is not possible to not disagree to the point of harsh words and raised voices.  I do not agree with this at all.  I believe that there exists within every person the possibility to avoid conflict, to love, and to be open and honest with others.  I call such people peacegivers.  While the more common term is peacemaker, I kind of like the term peacegiver more, so I'm going to stick with it.

Why do we fight with others?  Why do we argue with others?  It is obviously inevitable that at some point you will disagree with someone.  Gauchay and I disagree on a lot of things.  But the act of letting that disagreement escalate to a heated argument and even a yelling match is not a natural thing to do.  That is caused by pride and arrogance.  When we allow our pride to take over, we say things we don't mean, we do things we'll later regret, and we break bonds that will take a long time to reforge.

"But everyone argues", you say.  But does that make it right?  Just because it's the "common" thing that everyone does, does that mean that it is okay to do?  Christ teaches this in the Book of Mormon:

"For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another."

Contention does not come from God.  It comes from the devil himself, because he is the father of contention.  Satan has gained a great victory in making the world think that it is natural and okay to argue as husband and wife, as brother and sister, as friends.

Something else you may be thinking is, "But Ben, if we don't argue or fight, then won't we just be bottling up all those emotions inside of us, until one day we just both explode?"  Now, while the exploding part may be kind of cool, this is not a correct idea.  Just because you don't yell at each other doesn't mean you don't have conflict.  Like I said before, Gauchay and I disagree on a lot of things.  But when we discuss them, we don't argue or yell.  We explain how we feel and listen to one another.  We discuss things until we figure out a solution that we can both live with.  This is definitely more optimal than any kind of argument that ends with us both feeling miserable, unloved, and empty.

I promise you that there is another way.  You can be a peacegiver.  You can exude calmness and clarity, peace and pleasure, happiness and hope.  This is the way of Christ, this is the way of those that take upon them His name.

When you find that you and your friend disagree on something, stop for a second.  Realize that you are both probably right in your own minds, and remember that you can discuss things mildly without coming to blows.  Choose to be calm, to show love and understanding.  I promise you that as you seek to be a peacegiver, as you strive to avoid contention, and as you search for ways to love one another, you will notice a change in your life.  You will notice you feel the Spirit of God more.  You will see how pointless contention is.  You will see how good you feel after you calmly discuss a disagreement with someone else.

You will become more like God, because God himself is the ultimate peacegiver.  It is He that gave us the opportunity to change our very being.  He is rooting for us.  He understands we're not perfect, and I promise you that He is right now inviting you to be an instrument in His hands in giving peace to all those that surround you, so that they in turn will feel God's presence in greater abundance in their life.

How much more enjoyable is life when it is filled with peace.

Faith = Freedom Achieved In Trusting Heaven

In the last couple of days, I've done a lot of thinking about my very near future. I graduate in December, but Ben won't graduate until 2015, so I get to stick around Rexburg for a while. We were hoping that I would be able to transition quickly from student to Mommy, but as always, life happens, and I'm (clearly) not expecting, as much I would love for that to be the case.

So I get to think about what I'm going to do in the next year and a half. That's a lot of time to fill. It's also scary to think about. We talked about a lot of options for me, and the whole time, I just keep thinking "why do I have to do this instead of being a mom, which is what I want to be doing?!"

Sometimes it's hard to let God take the drivers seat (or rather to accept that He's always been the one driving) when we want things to go a specific way, and we just don't see what it is He has planned for us. We like to calculate everything and decide what is best for us, and to a certain degree, God lets us move forward with these plans. But sometimes He has something else in mind for us. This is really hard to accept when you really want what you want.

So back to my current situation: I get to go figure out where I can get a job. Oh joy. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with working; for most of my college career I've worked 1-2 jobs while studying full time in order to keep from having to take out loans. I love feeling that I can contribute monetarily to our family. It's just not my first choice of what I want to be doing right now. So I can't help but ask myself "What could God possibly want me to learn from this?"

What does He want any of us to learn from doing things we don't want to? Well, I'm sure that it's different for everyone, but I also think the basic principle is going to be the same. After praying and studying the scriptures for  days, I'm still not entirely sure what I'm supposed to learn out of this, but I know that it has something to do with faith.

We are studying faith in my religion class right now, and we are learning that faith is a real power. We learned that the pattern in the scriptures shows that accessing the power of faith requires that we #1 have confidence, #2 know we are doing the will of God, and #3 act (do something). For a lot of people, #3 is hard, because it requires that we step into the dark. My problem is #1. If I know that I'm supposed to do something, I will act on it with complete confidence in God, but with almost no confidence in myself. I always let Satan convince me that even though I'm acting and doing God's will, that things just wont work out for me. I always let him convince me that there is something (although I'm still not sure what that something exactly is...) about me that makes me the exception to Gods rules. When I say exception, I mean that He won't bless me like He blesses everyone else, simply because I'm me.

Now writing this, I have to admit, that sounds pretty dumb, huh? But I've struggled with it my entire life, from school to mission to jobs, and currently with my unfulfilled desire to be a mom. It has caused me to sink into depression at one time or another, and to constantly stress and feel apprehensive about my life, even though I'm doing my very best to do all God has asked of me (and all He requires is our very best, He doesn't expect us to be perfect!).  And in all honesty, He always takes care of me and blesses me with what I need, but I still find myself doubting that my efforts will warrant His blessings and approval. This has made my relationship with God very unhealthy, and it's something I know I need to fix.

So even though I have no idea what exactly I'm supposed to do for the next year and a half, I know that I will need to have confidence in God and in myself no matter what it is. I need to be courageous enough to put myself out there and take risks; apply for that job that I think I would never get hired for (even though I've been through all the training and qualifications), plan that service project that I assume no one would want to participate in, try out for that choir that I always tell myself I would never get into, write more on my blog that I'm afraid no one will benefit from reading...the list goes on. I need to do these things because I strongly believe that God wants me to be a confident mom one day. He wants me to be able to face all the opposition to His plan in such a way that my children aren't afraid of it. He wants me to be the best example of faith.

The truth is, we need to stop being afraid of ourselves and the great things we can do and become. We need to stop being afraid by having confidence in ourselves, and confidence that God won't leave us hanging out to dry.  Fear is the opposite of faith. Fear is what Satan uses to scare us into passiveness so that we don't do something amazing.  Fear is actually just a False Expectation About Risk. Faith however is the power that God uses to create and govern the universe. Faith is what we should exercise in order overcome any trial in our path. Faith is actually Freedom Achieved In Trusting Heaven. It is a gift from God, and we need to use it or lose it.

PS. In case anyone is wondering, the acronym for fear came from a rappelling program I did while I was traveling in Europe in 2007. The acronym for faith came from Ben =)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

It's not about me

Today was great! We went to church this morning, and then went to Ben's parents house to see his family the rest of the day. It was filled with good food and fun games and conversations with family we hadn't seen in a while. Church was also wonderful. I especially loved a talk about the way we think of church attendance. It completely changed the way I thought of it.

I've been going to church ever since I was little; my family went together, sat together, and came home together. Sunday School was okay because I could sit with my friends and there was usually a really good teacher with a treat as incentive to participate. I was usually never bored with our classes. Sacrament Meeting however (the portion where the entire congregation sits together in one large room and listens to a speaker) was probably the most boring thing of my life growing up. No one really explained the purpose of it to me, and I always just thought it was another way for them to talk to us about the scriptures and what we should be doing, but in lecture form instead of classroom form. I remember one winter day it was especially cold and snowy and the power was out in the church building. All we did that day for church was the Sacrament (taking the bread and water) and then we went home. They cancelled the singing, the classes, the sermons...everything but the blessing and passing of the bread and water. I remember that it really stood out to me.

Today in church what the speaker (Betsy Armstrong, for anyone who knows her) pointed out was that we often come to church with the idea that we need to receive something, and that's not the worst way to look at it, but it's not the best either. The purpose of church - and especially the part where we take the sacrament - is to worship God; to give praise to Him and remember all that He has done for us. We are told we should think about Christ as they pass the sacrament around the room, but how often do we do that? Are we instead thinking about how much we have to do when we go home? Are we thinking about what a hypocrite that sister 3 rows in front of us is, because maybe we saw her on her not-so-best-behavior a few days earlier? Or maybe we're texting on our phones, or playing games on our other devices.  Or how many times are we thinking about the lesson we have to give in Sunday School in an hour and we are skimming over our notes one last time?

When we do that, are we thinking about all that Christ has sacrificed for us? I struggle to think about it. Mostly because its painful to think of all the imperfect things I've done and think that He had to suffer because of my stupidity or insensitivity. Maybe its hard for me to think about because I try to avoid crying as much as I can. Any way you put it, I'm usually thinking about anything but what I should be thinking about when they pass the bread and water tray. Its sad, I know. The purpose of Betsy's talk was basically to help us imagine if the Savior Himself walked into our meeting, and to think about how the way we treat it would make Him feel. You see, we aren't supposed to go in order to be entertained, we are supposed to attend to worship Him. Would my actions make Him feel worshiped, loved, and appreciated?

When I think of all He has done for me, I get overwhelmed with emotion (maybe that's why I've previously avoided it). Every time I've said something rude, or thought something unkind, or done something selfish, He was there to take my punishment. In fact, He loves me (and you!) so much that He even took the punishment in advance, on the off-chance that I would accept His invitation to change and repent. He loves me so much that even though I fall down every day, He accepts and forgives me as soon as I get back up to try again. That is all that He asks of me, that I try my very best. So is it so hard to ask that I focus on Him for a small portion of one day during the week? And when you think about, focusing on the Savior is meant to help us identify ways we can avoid falling down, so it's actually for our benefit.

Maybe this doesn't touch you as much as it did me, but I really feel a need to re-focus on all the He has done for me, especially when I'm in church. I shouldn't go to church thinking "What can I get out of this" - although that isn't a bad thought to have when one goes to church. At least for me personally, I need to go with the thought in mind of "how can I use this time to best show the Savior my gratitude and love?" Maybe it's through serving someone else, or resolving to change a bad habit, or writing thoughts of Him in my study journal throughout the meeting. Either way, my view of the purpose of attending church on Sunday has changed.

I hope for anyone reading this that regardless of your religion, you will spend more time focusing on the Savior during your worship service. He loves you more than anyone else ever could, and He completely understands anything and everything that you have been through. He chose to walk every mile in your shoes, because He wants to be your best friend. Please spend the time that should be devoted to Him actually devoting yourself to Him.

Am I my brother's keeper?

I love my family.  I really do love them, more than anything in the world, except Gauchay.  :)  I am who I am today because of the experiences I had with my brothers and sisters and with my parents.  I'm going to assume that the majority of those that read this blog have probably already moved out of the house and started a family of their own.  So my question to you is, "Did your responsibility to love and cherish your family end when you moved out of the house?  Or are there still things that you should be doing?"

I find it so very, very sad that so many people today in the world don't have a relationship with their siblings anymore.  It may have been years since you last saw one of your brothers or sisters.  It may have been years since you've even talked to each other.  

Why?  Does it matter how you treat your brothers and sisters after you move out?  Do you need to treat them differently than you treat any other person?  

I would say yes.  I have no doubt in my mind that you were born into your family for a reason.  God does not work with "coincidences".  That's not how He does His work.  God knows everything, from the beginning to the end, and He knows exactly what situations you need to be placed in so that you can grow and become what you need to be.  That is why He put you in your family, because there are things you can learn from them that you can't learn anywhere else.

And not only that.  He knows exactly which traits you have that will be a blessing to your siblings so that they can become what they need to be.  It is not coincidence.  

And so I would ask, "What have you done for your brother or sister today?"  "How have you helped him or her?"  

Sometimes we may feel insignificant.  We may feel like we have nothing to contribute, that we're just a nobody in our family.  I promise you that that is not true.  You, as a member of your family, can have a more profound impact on the members of your family than anyone else in this world.  

So what should you do?  Maybe I'll answer this by asking some more questions:

When was the last time you told your sibling that you loved him or her?
What is your sibling's favorite hobby right now?
What is your sibling's biggest worry right now in his or her life?
When was the last time you spoke with your sibling?
What is your favorite memory of your sibling?
When asked to list the top 10 people that your sibling loves the most, would you be in that list?
What makes your sibling laugh?
If you could describe your sibling in one word, what would it be?

I testify that you are your brother's keeper.  Some day we will stand before God and answer for how we have treated our brothers and sisters.  We can have a great impact on them.

 I love my brothers and sister more than anything else.  The relationship I have with them is unlike any other relationship I have with anyone else in the world.  I know that they can teach me things that no one else can teach me, and I know that I can influence them in ways that no one else could.

Some of your richest blessings will come as you continue to develop your relationships with your siblings.  But those blessings are lost if you do not make the effort to keep that relationship alive.  I promise that God will bless you as you strive to reach out and bless those whose souls are intimately connected with yours, whether you may like it or not: your brothers and sisters.

I love you Dillon, Linzy, and Jake.  :)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Husbands, love your wives.

The other day I was watching this YouTube video, and it really moved me.  Before you continue reading, I would invite you to watch it, it will only take a few minutes.

As I watched it, I couldn't help but imagine 40 years down the road, when that situation could possibly be me and Gauchay.  At that instant, I was filled with such a love and such an appreciation for my wife that I actually came kind of close to crying.  Gauchay is my soul mate, my other half, the love of my life.  I cannot imagine life without her, and I cannot comprehend how she can love me so much.

To all of you husbands out there, you need to know something: you have no idea how much your wife loves you.  You may think that you get it, that you understand.  "Yeah, she washes my dirty clothes for me and does the dishes.  She loves me."  Uh-uh.  That doesn't even begin to explain the love your wife has for you.

She puts aside so many of her own personal wants and wishes, to make you happy.  Do you remember that time that you came home from school or work and were just super frustrated?  Do you remember how she helped you and loved you?  How she massaged your neck and helped you calm down and relax?

Did you know that that specific day was also one of her hardest days ever, too?  But did she tell you?  No.  Did she act like it?  No.  She loved you.  That's how you know that she loves you.

Do you remember the time that you were lying in bed getting ready to sleep and she cuddled up next to you?  Do you remember how she whispered in your ear that she loved you and put her head on your shoulder?  Did you realize just how much she needed your comfort right then?  Did you comfort her?  Or just enjoy the moment for yourself?

Husbands, do you remember the date you got engaged?  The date of your first kiss?  Do you remember what you were wearing the day you met your wife?  Do you remember the date when your wife first conceived?  I know I don't.

But somehow this wonderful being named "wife" does.

Brethren, do you know why this is?  It's because you didn't marry a woman.  You married a daughter of God, with a bit more godly qualities than yourself.  You married someone that has more capacity to love than you may ever get in your life.  You married someone that is willing to sacrifice at any given moment her own personal priorities to make you happy.  You married someone that loves you for who you are and wants to show it to you all the time.

This is a wife, husbands.  This is a daughter of God.  And He has entrusted her to you.  So husbands, love your wives.

When she comes up to you when you get home from work and wants a hug, don't just half-heartedly hug her and keep walking.  Embrace her, pick her up and twirl her around.  Kiss her soundly.
When she cuddles up next to you at night, put your arm around her, kiss her on her forehead and express your love to her while massaging her back.
When she cleans the house and you finally notice it, don't just say "Thanks, hon."  Sincerely thank her, grab her in your arms, bend her over and kiss her till she can't breathe.  Then make her something delicious for dinner.
Marriage isn't just about getting, husbands, though wives seem to be quite content to give, and that's what makes them amazing.

Brethren, you have been entrusted with an angel.  Show her that that is what she is.

Husbands, love your wives.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Resolutions don't only have to happen in January

So even though New Years isn't for a couple months, I'm starting my resolution now.

Today in church we talked about ways we can show our love for God. Among many good things that we discussed, someone mentioned that "love" is actually spelled T-I-M-E. This is true of all our relationships. If we want to show our family that we love them we spend time with them. We eat dinner together, or go visit each other. We go to each other's games or performances, or we just sit and talk to each other. This concept is a little harder when it comes to God - our most important relationship of all. We can't see Him or pick up a telephone and call Him. We can't go visit His house when we miss Him, or write a note on His facebook wall. That makes it really hard to show our love to Him, but the principles of how to show love are the same.

So I thought a lot about how I spend my time. I go to school, I work out, I do homework, I clean the house, I cook the food, I do the shopping and the laundry, the list seems like it is never-ending. It's easy to rationalize that I just don't have time to spend on doing things for God. I'm just way too busy.

But... I always seem to have time to browse Facebook, or watch funny youtube videos, or laugh at hilarious photobombs, or play Candy Crush do I really not have the time for God, or do I just not want to spend my time with him?

If my friends invite Ben and I over for dinner and games, I make time for them, because I want to be with them. They are worth my time. If my mom calls me when I'm doing homework, I'll answer and chat for a good hour, because I want to talk to her. If my husband says "let's take a break from cleaning the house and have some hot chocolate", I'll do it in a heartbeat, because I want to take that time to connect with him. Is it the same with my relationship with God?

When He urges me to take a break from homework and go visit the neighbor next door because she's sick, I'm sad to say that I don't...because I don't want to do it. When He wants to talk to me by helping me find something inspirational in my scriptures, I usually just breeze through them because I want to hurry up and get done so that I can move on to something else, like that funny video my friend showed me, or Facebook. The truth is, I rationalize that the time I spend on doing things for God isn't as important, because I don't want to do them. I'm ashamed of feeling that way, so I'm resolving to change that.

I have realized that when I spend my time goofing around (facebooking, watching youtube videos, playing games on my phone, etc...) I feel completely empty and unaccomplished afterwards. All I've done is waste a few minutes (which turn into hours) that I'll never get back again, and on what? Pressing buttons on a keyboard or a touchscreen? What value does that hold in comparison to my relationships or my goals for who I want to become? Instead of spending my time doing things of zero importance, I want to do something better with my time.

I went through and deleted all my games off my computer, phone, and facebook today. Why? Because I spend so much time on them that it distracts me from becoming what I want to be.  I'm also making rules for myself as to how much time I spend on the internet everyday, because the majority of the things I do on it really aren't important. They are fun, but they aren't helping me be the person I actually want to be.

I'm in the process of making a list of things I want to accomplish. There is no expiration date on it. It includes things like learning new talents, becoming more familiar with the word of God, developing relationships with friends and family, and serving others. My resolution is to use the time that I normally spend on the computer/phone to work on the things on my list. I won't post my list here, because it's deeply personal and will change as I learn new things. It includes what kind of mother I want to be, what kind of example I want to be for others, what I want people to associate with me when they think of me and so forth. I think this list will be never ending, which is awesome, because that means I will always be getting better at things that really matter.

Obviously it's going to be hard, but I'm resolved. God put me on this earth to make something of myself.  By resolving to spend my time becoming the greatest I can be, I am showing my love to Him. My greatest gift to Him is what I make of myself. There are plenty of things that can distract me from that, but if I put those distractions as far from me as possible, I will be able to focus on my goals. I want to spend my time showing God that I love Him by being the best wife and (one day) mother that I can to my family. I want to show Him that I love Him by serving others and spending time with them. I want to develop the talents He gave me so that I can use them to bless the lives of others. This is my resolution.

There are lots of things out there that can distract us - I've named only a few here (the ones that I struggle with), but others include pinterest, netflix, watching T.V., x-box, wii, keeping tabs on celebrities, etc... I encourage anyone reading this to stop and think about how you use your time. What are you becoming through the use of your time? Is it what you want to be? If not, make adjustments. Your time is so valuable, don't waste it on things that don't matter in the end! God will help you. He wants you to be the very best you can be.

Why am I here?

I hope the title of this post got you thinking.  I think that this is an important question that we all ask ourselves at some point.  And even if you feel like you have an answer to this question, I want you to answer it again in your head right now.  The knowledge of why is a very powerful thing.  If you were to ask anybody that knows me well, they would tell you that I ask a lot of questions.  For whatever reason, my mind is not satisfied with knowing that something "just is".  I want to know why that something exists, why it works, etc.  Many of my teachers I'm sure have gotten fed up with answering my multitude of questions.

But I am grateful for my constant desire to learn.  Because, as I said, the knowledge of why is a powerful thing.  If you didn't know why you went to work, would you go?  If you didn't know why you were going to school, would you go?  It's something to ponder.  "But Ben," you're thinking, "most people don't even care why, they just do it. They don't give a hoot one way or the other.  They just let life happen to them."

And that brings me to my point.  I believe there are three kinds of people in the world: those that know why, those that don't know why but want to know, and those that don't care one bit.

Most of you that read this, including myself, pretty much live in the third category.  We are what is affectionately called the blissfully ignorant, the reactive instead of proactive people.  We let the flow of life carry us on.  We go to school as a kid because that's the way it is.  We go to college because we have to get a job.  We get married because we want to.  We have kids and have a family because we feel it's important.  How many of us live life, just letting it pass us by, not wondering why on earth we are doing what we are doing?

But then there are the few that stop.  They stop in the middle of the rat race, look up, and say "why am I here?"  "What is the purpose of all of this?"  "If I knew why I am doing what I'm doing, I might be able to get a lot more done, to actually be something."

So, if you haven't already asked yourself, or haven't seriously thought about this until now, I ask you: "What is life all about?"  Why do you go to school, to work, why do you care so much about your family?  What purpose does it all have?

Let me tell you.

You existed before you were born.  You can't remember it, but at some past point, you jumped for joy at the thought of being able to be born into your family with your siblings and parents.  You chose, that's right: chose, to come to earth.  You're not here by accident.  You're not here because of some one in a trillion chance that life "materialized" on this planet.  You are here by divine design.

And when you're done here, you're going to back to where you came from.  You'll report on how you changed, what you learned, what you became.  There are many purposes in this life, but I think one of the main ones is that we need to learn who we are.  What makes you you.  You are here to learn how to love, how to make choices, how to serve, how to put others before yourself.  You are here to bless others' lives.  You are here to make the right choices when you can't see back before your birth to know they're the right choices.  You are here to gain faith and to exercise it.

And all of these purposes center on one figure: Jesus Christ.  He is the One that makes it possible for us to change who we are, to progress.  He showed us the perfect example of how to live life, of how to be a blessing to others, and He then paid the price for all of our mistakes in this life, thereby allowing us to return back from whence we came.

So again, what is life all about?  It's to learn, to progress, to not let life change you, but to change your life.  Christ stands with His arms outstretched, inviting us all to look up from our day-to-day drudgeries and realize why you do what you do, because once you know why, there's nothing that can stop you from reaching your goal.

-Ben Merrill

p.s.- I have not even shared the tip of the iceberg of what I know to be true about our purpose here on Earth.  If you have more questions, please feel free to comment below or send me a private email or Facebook message.  Ben Merrill -

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Does God care?

I feel the need to publicly acknowledge the blessings I have received this past week.  I feel that sometimes we think that God may not care about us as much as we'd like Him to.  We may feel that He cares about some aspects of our lives, but other things just aren't that important to Him.  He may care about our families or our health or our church attendance, but when it comes to the grades on our tests, the problem with the dishwasher, or the annoying dog next door, we may think He really doesn't notice it.

I guess that when I think of these things, something inside me whispers, "have you given Him the chance?".  And you know what?  I think I oftentimes don't.  I don't ask him to care about my test grades, to care about helping me figure out how to get the dishwasher working, or if somehow he can help me ignore the incessant yapping next door. I don't ask him to perfect my prayers, to adjust my attitude, to streamline my studying.  I just don't think it's important enough.

Now I'm not a parent, but I have no doubt that for all you parents out there, if your child comes to you, no matter how small or insignificant his or her need, you will do whatever it takes to help your son or daughter.  Why?  Because you love them more than anything else and that is what motivates you.

I have seen for myself in these past few days that God truly loves me and cares for me more than I could ever comprehend.  God is in the details of my life.  He wants to bless me and help me in everything I ask Him.

These past few days have been really rough.  I am an applied math major here at college (and I can hear the inward groaning as any of you think about doing math for the rest of your life).  And it's true, it's hard.  But I love it.  It is very important to me.  These past few days have seen a barrage of big assignments and burdensome projects that have overwhelmed me.  But that same voice inside has whispered, "Have you given Him the chance to help?"  And so I tried.  I asked God in sincere prayer to please make it possible for me to finish my homework.  I prayed with faith and with hope and a desire to see His hand manifested in my life.  And you know what?  He does care.

Though I work two jobs, am taking 15 credits, and am active in my family and church, God made the time in my schedule to give me the adequate time and knowledge to finish this homework.  It has been a relief and a blessing in so many ways.  Though we may think that to God these things may seem trivial, tiny, and trite, because they are important to us, they are important to Him.

I know that God loves us.  He is in the details of our lives and He is waiting, literally, just waiting to bless us beyond what we can imagine.  The question is, "Have you given Him the chance?"

Matthew 21:22
3 Nephi 18:20

-Ben Merrill
P.S.- If this touched you, please let it touch others by reposting.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The things I'm just too afraid to say

Well, this is my first time posting, so if after reading this you have any advice for me on how to be better at it, PLEASE comment or message me and let me know =) Feedback is welcome!

So lately I've been reading "The Power of Everyday Missionaries" by Clay Christensen - great book! The author points out something interesting about common fears that most religious people share. He asserts that many people who are religious are afraid to talk about religion at work and/or school because they think that others will be offended. It is "politically incorrect" - or at least that is what we think those around us believe. The truth is that the majority of people believe in God, but are afraid to raise their voice on the issue, even if it is just in a passive way. The atheist groups are very vocal and assertive in making their opinions known, and sometimes its hard to be non-confrontational while sharing our opinions as well, so we just go silent on the issue. The truth is, it doesn't have to be that way. If you believe in God and you have seen His hand in your life, speak up about it! I love hearing others share how God has helped them through hard times, because it strengthens me and encourages me to trust in Him.

I have learned that being offended is a choice, so if you offend someone by talking about God in front of them, that is not your fault. Of course, you should always try to be tactful and respectful, but not simply silent for fear of offending someone. Sometimes it is better to state something you know is true, even if you know it will be hard for the person to hear. I say this because of my personal experience being on the end of the one who was hearing something hard. When I was in my last year of high school I started hanging around with a boy who did not respect my religious beliefs and was consumed in about every bad habit I can think of, but because I liked him, I put up with it. Slowly I began to be more and more distant from my friends, family, and God. A lot of my friends didn't say much about it to me, in fact they just started not talking to me, or they would go silent when I would talk about the boy I was dating. After a few months of this, I was talking with one of my friends and I started to bring up the topic of my boyfriend again. To my surprise he started to give me what for. He told me that I was being selfish, setting a very poor example, and that I had shut out those who had really cared about me, including God. He was very straight-forward and didn't try to play the politically correct game; he didn't worry about offending me, because he was standing up for what he knew was right.

At first I was a upset that he thought negatively about me, but as I thought about it I realized that he didn't think poorly of me, he thought poorly of my behavior. The more I thought about it, the more I knew he was right. It took me a while, but I was able to remove myself from that situation and come back to my family, friends, and God. I remember distinctly the moment I started to feel close to God again, and I was grateful that someone had the courage to stand up for what was right, even if I didn't like hearing it at the time.

Sharing our beliefs doesn't always have to be that dramatic. You don't have to search for a person with views opposite yours in order to talk about God. All you need to do is include your views on God in every day conversations. Did you do really well on a test for school? Think about how God influenced that outcome, and when you share your score with your roommates, tell them how God helped you. Was someone especially nice to you? Maybe they stopped in order to let you merge during heavy traffic, or let you go ahead in the line at the grocery store. Share that with others, and while doing so, point out how Christ-like it was of them or how it helped you feel God's love for you. It's really simple, and yet so hard because we forget that God is in the details.

When you open up and share with others what you believe about God they will respect you more, and start opening up about their beliefs too. Even if the beliefs aren't the same, it doesn't have to be a competition. Focus on the similarities and how you can strengthen each other. My best friend does not share the same religion that I do, but we love to talk about God and His influence in our lives, and it's never competitive. It's actually very fulfilling and satisfying to be able to talk about God just as we talk about work, school, families, or other events in our lives that are common and normal.

If God has taken the time to manifest Himself in our lives, we shouldn't be afraid to share our testimony of Him with others. Maybe your experiences with prayer, faith, or church are exactly what someone else needs to hear in order to make the resolve to come closer to God. Perhaps God has placed you in the situation with that person so that they can hear what you have to say. You never know if He is counting on you to help bring someone closer to Him through opening your mouth and sharing what you know is true. Even if it's just "I believe that God is real", it is something valuable that can be shared. Share the light you have! That's why God gave it to you!

Let me tell you about procrastination...but not right now...

It has been some time since we posted, hasn't it?  As you can see, we are definitely human and oftentimes have troubles with procrastination and putting things off.  Why do you think we do that?  What is it about our natures that almost drives us to put things off, to procrastinate, to be "lazy"?  I definitely will appreciate comments and ideas on this question.  But I will share a few thoughts of my own and will put special emphasis on how this question affects the family.
We are taught in the scriptures of the Plan of Salvation, the Plan of Happiness, the Plan of Redemption, etc.  It has many names.  But essentially it is God's plan for us to return to Him.  Part of this plan requires us to come here to earth and be tested, be tried.  We lived with God before we were born, and we chose to come here to this earth.  We passed through a veil of forgetfulness that doesn't allow us in this life to remember what we knew before.  Can you see the importance of that?  How easy would it be if we knew why we were here, where we were going, and where we came from?  How easy would it be if we knew with a complete certainty our purpose and destination?  
But we don't.  At least, we don't remember.  But God loves His children more than we can imagine, and because of this He has called men in all ages to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to His children, to invite them to come unto Christ, to be saved, and to ultimately return to His presence.
But, you're asking, what does this have to do with procrastination?  Well, you see, it all kind of boils down to this scripture taught by a servant of God, and recorded in a sacred volume called the Book of Mormon:
"For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.
And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness, wherein there can be no labor performed." (Alma 32:32-33)
Does that make sense?  There's a lot in there.  Essentially, we first learn that this life is the time we are given to prepare.  It's a life where we learn and progress and sin and are tried and fall down and get up. Over and over.  So it is today, the day of this life, that we need to perform our labors.  But what happens?  We get that "drive" to procrastinate.  What is the problem with procrastinating?  Amulek (the speaker here in these verses) tells us quite clearly: if we do not "improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness, wherein there can be no labor performed."  
So if we procrastinate the good things, eventually it will be too late.  Now, who would want that to happen?  Satan.  He does not want us to progress and learn.  He wants us to put other, less important things in front of that which we really should be doing.  And so that's why we have that tendency.  As fallen men, we have that fallen, innate "desire" to put off the hard things and to do the easy things.  In this way, Satan can distract us so that we don't do that which we need to do in this life in order to return to God.
How does this look in a family?  
It may sound like this: "I am so tired.  It's been a long day at work.  I know that I need to take time with my kids, but I'm just so tired!  I just want to relax, watch TV, read a book, and go to bed.  I can play with them tomorrow."  
Or it may sound like this: "It sounds like Julie is having a really hard time.  I know that she's been having a rough time at college, but I'm sure that she'll be fine.  She is our daughter after all.  She's made of tough stuff.  I won't worry about bothering her by calling her today.  I'll call her tomorrow to check on her."  
It may feel like this: "I feel that these kinds of shows our kids are watching just aren't helping them at all.  They've got foul language, not the best dressed actresses, and way too much violence.  But the kids and my husband love them so much!  What can I do?  Well, I'll let them watch it tonight and then maybe I'll talk to them tomorrow before they watch the next one..."
We all know how each of these situations ends.  It never gets done.  Why?  Because the next day, when the same situation comes up, you rationalize and put it off another day.  Why do we let ourselves do it?  Because we get rid of that nagging feeling of "oh, I should do this now" by "committing" ourselves to do it the next day.  We've "solved" the problem and can have a "clear" conscience.
Can we see how this is a tool of Satan?  How he is trying with everything he's got to get us to not forget eternal relationships.  To not help and serve our brother or sister.  To not change someone's life for the better by showing them a better way.
Brothers and Sisters (and I call you that because you all are my spiritual brothers and sisters), I invite us all to stop procrastinating.  Recognize who it's coming from.  Recognize the tainted tauntings of the evil one, the hollow hopes given by Satan, and above all, the incorrect ideas that he puts in your head to appease your natural man.
Let us take the opportunity to lift our brother.  Let us choose to do what is best right now.  Let us be what God knows that we can be.  And I promise that as we do so, we will finally reach a part of our potential and will finally be moving, unchecked, down the path of eternal life that will ultimately land us and our families at the right hand of God.

Additional reading:

Monday, April 8, 2013

Why we started our blog...

Hi, my name is Ben Merrill, and as you can see, my beautiful wife, Gauchay, is also a contributor to this blog.  She and I contribute together as equal partners, so you may see some blogs written by me and some by her.  We feel that first you should know a little bit about us and why we decided to create this blog.
I am a 22 year old college student, currently attending Brigham Young University-Idaho in Rexburg, ID. Gauchay is 23 years old and also attends BYU-I.  She and I met here last year and were married just a few months ago on February 16th.  We have both served as missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Buenos Aires, Argentina, though we did not know each other there. 
We are both devout members of our church and believe strongly in the divinity and sanctity of the family.  It is because of this belief that we decided to start this blog. 
We have a firm belief that our family will perpetuate beyond the grave and that our marriage will not only be "till death do us part." We know that our marriage has been sealed by the hand of God and that we have the opportunity to be together forever.  We want everyone to be able to have this blessing and feel the joy that we feel.  But not only that, we want families around the world to feel the safety and security within their homes that comes from following and living the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 
We by no means consider ourselves experts on marriage and families (for heaven's sakes, we've been married less than 3 months!) but we know that the values that Christ taught will save the family, if applied.  For this reason we pray that the contents of this blog will reach those that are struggling in their family relationships and searching for a solution.
We know that Christ is our Savior and Redeemer, and that His gospel blesses families.  He came to this earth not just to save individuals, but to save the family. He can strengthen them so that in these trying times, as the world grows evermore wicked and dangerous, the family will remain strong and steadfast, firmly rooted in His eternal gospel.
As we have observed families in many parts of the world, we have recognized that many of them are destroyed because of divorce, financial burdens, abuse, infidelity, addictions (such as drugs, alcohol, pornography etc.)...and the list goes on.  We know that basing the family on the values and virtues that Christ taught is the solution to saving the family. 
Though our views will be influenced by the specific teachings of the LDS Church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church), these same principles are shared by Christians throughout the world.  We invite you to sincerely consider applying these values in order to bring your family closer together through Christ. 
By no means are we official representatives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  However, we do believe that what we will say reflects its teachings. We believe that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is Christ's church.  Gauchay and I have both prayed to know that this is true and God has answered our prayers.  We post and we comment what we believe to be the true word of God.  We hope that nothing we say will be misconstrued.
It is our intent and desire that you will be uplifted and edified as you read and we invite you to post your comments, ideas, and beliefs. We will do our best to answer questions and comments.  We invite you to keep your comments appropriate and respectful. May God bless you all!