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.  :)