Sunday, March 15, 2015

I stand all amazed.

In Sacrament meeting today we sang "I stand all amazed". As I sat during the sacrament I thought over those words in my head. It really truly is amazing what our Savior, Jesus Christ did for each of us.
I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me,
confused at the grace which so fully he proffers me.
I tremble to know that for me He was crucified,
That for me, a sinner, He suffered He bled and died.
I marvel that He would descend from His throne divine
To rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine, 
That He should extend His great love unto such as I,
Sufficient to own, to redeem, and to justify.
I think of His hands pierced and bleeding to pay the debt!
Such mercy, such love and devotion can I forget?
No, no, I will praise and adore at the mercy seat,
Until at the glorified throne I kneel at His feet.
Oh, it is wonderful that He should care for me
Enough to die for me!
Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me!

I love love love this song so much. Every line of it is amazing. It is so true. 
I am confused at His grace. It is so infinite, so all-encompassing of everything we will ever experience. I can hardly begin to understand the significance and the degree to which his grace affects me and everyone else to live. 
It truly is amazing. Marvelous that He would descend from His exalted throne. That He would descend from His perfection to save someone as imperfect as myself. That He, while being perfect, while otherwise never needing feel the pains of sin, had such great love that He would instead feel the sins of everyone else. He was perfect. He didn't need to feel the pains of heartache, loneliness, disease, or any other afflictions. He wouldn't sin and wouldn't need to feel the pains of those consequences, the pains of turning from his father. Yet while He was perfect he determined to descend below it all in order to save each of us. I can't even comprehend that love, selflessness, and patience that He must have had. "For me He was crucified, that for me, a sinner, He suffered, He bled and died.... that he would descend from His throne divine to rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine."
I can't imagine the pains he bore. Every time I think of those nails driving into his hands I cringe. I cringe at the pain it would have caused Him, and I cringe at the fact that he suffered all of that pain for me. How can I ever forget that mercy, love, and devotion? How could I go a single moment without remembering Him. Remembering that it is only through Him that I will return to my Heavenly Father one day. That the only way I make it through even the smallest trials in this earth life are through the strength and support which he gives to me. Such mercy, such love and devotion can I forget? No I cannot! I will praise and adore Him! All I can do is recognize His hand, be grateful, utilize that wonderful gift, and share it with others so it won't have been in vain. I kneel every day at the mercy seat. I need to remember that and remember to praise and adore Him as I kneel there before Him. As I am healed from my wounds and cleansed from my sins, I must always remember to praise and adore at that mercy seat.
I love Alma 26. Where Ammon simply glories in his God. It could definitely do me good to follow this example and realize the glory of God around me. Verses 11-12:
"...I do not boast in my own strength, nor in my own wisdom; but behold, my joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God. Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength can I do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever."
He is my source of joy and strength. Without Him where would be my source of strength or sustenance or peace? It wouldn't be anywhere. I do have a Savior in whom I will rejoice. In Him and only in Him is my joy made full... so much that "my heart is brim with joy". That is amazing to me.

"Oh, it is wonderful that He should care for me enough to die for me! Oh it is wonderful, wonderful to me!"
It truly is wonderful. He has given me the most wonderful gift I could ever have. A way back to Him. The most selfless, loving act that anyone could ever give. He loved me and everyone else to ever live enough to suffer these tremendous pains. One of the most beautiful, yet difficult scriptures to read in my opinion is D&C 19:15-19. It is Christ's own account of those sufferings in Gethsemane. It is the account of the terrible suffering He endured for me and everyone else out of love and desire for us to return home again. 
"how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bare you know not. For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I; Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit--and would that I might not drink the bitter cup,  and shrink--..."
He suffered these things for us so that we wouldn't have to suffer. If we repent. It's so simple, yet we so often think it to be so complicated. We see repentance as this scary thing. We feel afraid to turn back and recognize our sins? Why?? He suffered so we wouldn't have to suffer. Repentance allows us to return to our Father. It allows us to be made clean. 
Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me! I want to strive to keep Christ in my mind more often. To remember these wonderful things and to remember that I can return to Him again! He has given me all I need to do so. 
Christ lives and the atonement is real. He suffered for us. He loves us. He is my strength, my peace, and my joy. For all of this I am so grateful. Oh, it is wonderful to me!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

True love... ♥♥

Today was a lovely day... the sunshine was absolute bliss. I am so excited for spring to come for real. It makes Ephraim feel almost like the other side of Heaven ;) Really though. I love the sun. I kept coming up with reasons to go outside. First working on a project at the library. Then going to the store. Bringing a letter to Albanee. Then just going to the park to talk on the phone. I successfully didn't sit in the apartment all day, so I guess it was a success :) 
Well this post was going to talk about something else. But I began with writing about what was going to be tagged onto the end... and it just became a (hopefully not too) rambling post of its own. So here it is: a lovely little message about love. :)
I came across this video on Facebook... It is so sweet. The love of the husband for his wife is amazing.  It's a little long, but watch it. You'll be glad you did :)
Even when she goes blind and can't see what he does for her, he continues to do it out of love for her. That's true love right there! I feel like so many often weigh out love- only willing to do so much as they can get in return. Even with their own spouse- the one they promise to love unconditionally and forever- it seems that people too often are concerned with having an equal load of obligations, and unwilling to put forth more effort or care than the other side. But not this lovely husband... his wife is losing the ability to do so many of the things she could before do. She is determined to do everything in order to maintain that she loves her husband... and she has no idea all that her husband is doing for her. He isn't doing any of it so that she'll know- not so he can gain recognition or anything else from it- but because he loves her! It's just so sweet... Shouldn't we all act with greater love and devotion?
I know I'm not married yet. And don't plan on it for a while longer... but when I see things like this it reminds me of what I want in my future marriage. It reminds me of the love I want my husband to have for me, but even more the selfless love I want to feel for my husband.
In Family Relations we learned about the Social Exchange Theory. Basically the idea that in every relationship we weigh the potential "costs vs. gains", and if an individual must "put in" more than they might "gain" from the relationship, it likely won't endure. Yes I think there's truth to this. Obviously I don't think anyone should be in a relationship where they blindly serve their spouse while being emotionally battered or physically beaten. There are obviously relationships that don't work. But I think that this idea of "social exchange" is often used too much to guide our relationships. It seems that relationships often don't work out because each individual looks at things through their individual eyes- what can I get from this relationship?- rather than what can I give to this relationship? Shouldn't we really ask what we can do for that person? If you love the person, then why not treat them like it? Do you love them for what they give to you? Or for who they are? How they make you want to become? How you can grow together? 
Well I think the husband in this video is an example all of us can look to- whether married or not. I think the world could benefit TONS if everyone put in a little more and became a little less concerned with what they were getting out of relationships. If everyone just loved a little more all around, we'd all receive a little more love as well... win-win, right? :)

And while I'm thinking about love... another thing from my Family Relations class:
The other day in class we were talking about commitment. We talked about it for a while- about some crazy supposed family expert who claims that commitment is futile. Pointless. A waste of time. Well, I personally could not disagree more. And I sure hope a chunk of people would agree with me. This guy also talks about the "Dimensions of a Contemporary Relationship". It was the third "dimension" that kind of boggled my mind- that it necessary to have an "acceptance of contemporary morality". Basically that in a contemporary relationship, it should be acceptable, even expected to cheat on your partner. That you should both be open to "negotiation"- that you should be open to change and diversity in your relationship. So basically commitment is pointless. Love is for your whims. Go with whomever you feel like that day. You face a problem in your current relationship? Things aren't as hunky-dory as you'd planned? Why even try to figure things out? You should be flexible and open to necessary changes. BLEGH! Whatever "family expert" this guy is said to be... I am (needless to say) not in agreement with those views... And thankfully, neither was our professor. 
For the rest of class he played different love songs and we basically analyzed their level of true commitment and the legitimacy of the love described in the song. Pretty great :). One of the songs we listened to surprised me. Not the song itself but because of the way it was introduced by our professor. He told us a story. 
As a single and fairly fresh RM, he was searching far and wide for his would be wife. One day he had a date planned. As he headed to leave, his dad stopped him before driving. 
"So is this the one?", Dad said.
To which prof. said he didn't really know that there was a specific one. That there must be many girls that would be a good wife and mother.
At this point in the story prof. actually started to tear up. This guy is kind of a joke-ster. I really wouldn't expect him to cry. Ever in class. But there he was tearing up as he continued on with his story. His dad had then proceeded to tell of the love he had for his wife. That he knew that she was the one for him. And that he would never and could never forget that. She was the one for him.
At that point my prof. had decided that that is what he needed to find. He had to find the one that was right for him. And find he did... as he's now happily married with a bunch of kids. ;) 
Well, this song is the one that prof. said portrayed the feelings his dad had expressed that day. He cherished that day. He held it above most other memories of his father- and always remembered it as an example of what he would seek in his own marriage. Well here's the song:
It's "Beautiful In My Eyes" by Joshua Kadison.
It's a nice song. But hearing my professors opinion of it makes it stand out to me so much more. 
 If you don't want to watch another video/listen to the song, here are the lyrics which we read over in class:
"You're my peace of mind, in this crazy world.
You're everything I've tried to find, your love is a pearl,
You're my Mona Lisa, you're my rainbow skies
and my only prayer is that you realize
you'll always be beautiful in my eyes.
"The world will turn and the seasons will change
and all the lessons we will learn will be beautiful in strange.
We'll have our fill of tears, our share of sighs.
My only prayer is that you realize
you'll always be beautiful in my eyes.
"You will always be beautiful in my eyes.
And the passing years will show
that you will always grow ever more beautiful in my eyes.
"When there are lines upon my face from a lifetime of smiles,
when the time comes to embrace for one long last while,
we can laugh about how time really flies.
We won't say goodbye, cause true love never dies.
You'll always be beautiful in my eyes.
"You will always be beautiful in my eyes.
And the passing years will show
that you will always grow 
ever more beautiful in my eyes"

I love the words! It just sticks out so much to me in contrast with the ideas of that crazy guy I talked about above... Love isn't just about feeling a rush of passion and it can't be abandoned at the slightest whim to move on to someone else. It's something you have to fight for! As I've taken family and marriage-related classes this year, as well as read people's blogs on relationships I've realized this more than ever... (actually it's got me a little terrified to get married ;)... LOVE. MARRIAGE. FAMILY. It's not easy and I don't think it's intended to be so. It's something you have to fight for. Something you have to keep trying for and strengthening every day. I think it most definitely takes COURAGE. I used to think my struggles would be over once I could get married in the temple to my perfect prince and live happily ever after. But the closer it comes, the more difficult I realize it is. I'm not married. Some of you might scoff at my writing about love and marriage, thinking I have absolutely no experience. Which may be true :) But I'm not trying to give advice or anything... I'm just saying it how I feel it is! Even if I'm not married yet, I do believe that commitment is IMPORTANT. It is NOT futile. And I don't plan on forgetting that once I do get married :)

I love where this song talks about the world turning, seasons changing, and both beautiful and strange lessons to be learned. As with anything there are ups and downs. "We'll have our fill of tears, our share of sighs." Things aren't easy. Life wasn't intended to be easy. Nor was love. But despite those challenges and tears, I love that the lyrics say "YOU'LL ALWAYS BE BEAUTIFUL IN MY EYES". They don't talk of that beauty fading as the wrinkles appear. As trials come up. As the couple grows used to being together. They say that with the passing years, "you will always grow more beautiful in my eyes" It doesn't talk about lines on their faces from growing old or from difficulties- but of the lines "upon my face from a lifetime OF SMILES".

LOVE. Isn't it a lovely thing? Difficult. Courageous. Maybe terrifying. A whole lot of other things I won't pretend to understand until I am married. But oh, so wonderful! I don't think we'd appreciate it as much if we didn't have to fight for it. The best things in life don't come easy... but that is what makes them the best. We wouldn't realize the good if we didn't have to experience the bad alongside it. 
I just hope I remember this when I am facing a marriage and family with changing seasons and strange lessons to learn... the one thing I NEVER want to forget and I hope no one else does is this:

Commitment is not futile!!! 

Yep. So why don't we all just love a little more? Focus less on the gains we can get from our relationships, and more on what we can give to those we love. We do, after all, love them don't we? Why not let it show a bit more? :)

Love more. Smile more. Be happy more. Especially with your spouse/family/roommates/whoever. I think we all could benefit from that.

Oh, and just for viewing pleasure... a picture or two from our lovely evening last night... 

Curlers!!! :)

Until you realize you need to go to the store in order to get avocado for homemade facial... this here is our lovely attempt to cover up the curlers ;) We decided the curlers were better on their own...

And homemade guacamole facial! Consisting of: 1 avocado, 2 tsp plain Greek yogurt, 2 tsp honey, and 2 tsp olive oil...

Preeeeetttty beautiful. If I do say so myself. 
Although a little gross... it was a little clumpy for my liking.. I think I'd recommend the softest avocado you can find. Ours was a little firm for mushing up... oh well! It was still quite the adventure. :)

And then just one final thought on love... :)

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Testimony Tuesday: a whole lot of wonderful

I've been so busy today. But I didn't want to slack off on only the second week of my "Testimony
Tuesday" idea... that would just be lame :) So here I am, trying to hurry and write just a wee bit. Last week was a pretty great week when it came to spiritual study.
I got to teach Relief Society on Sunday, so I spent much of last week preparing for that. I keep getting opportunities like this. Being called as the Preach My Gospel teacher in Sunday School, then being called to the RS presidency, then actually teaching in RS... Sometimes I think, it's like I'm getting cursed for planning to serve a mission! Why? But then I realize that in reality it really is all a blessing. Each of these opportunities is such a blessing- that I can get more comfortable teaching, and become more in tune with the Spirit as I teach, and get better at planning things to teach... because I'll be doing a whole lot of it on my mission. So really, it is quite a blessing. That still won't stop me from complaining though if I get asked to teach any more ;)
I do love the lesson planning process though. I love studying the scriptures, conference talks, watching church videos- I LOVE IT. It's just the standing up in front of lots of people that I don't love quite as much... :) It helps me to grow though, so for that I am grateful. Really. Even if I do complain. Sometimes it's rough knowing this church is true ;) sometimes I almost think life could be easier if it weren't true.... I mean, I wouldn't feel inclined to wake up early for ward council at 8 on Sundays, or for church at 9:30. I wouldn't have to stress about teaching or being nervous, or having any callings at all! I wouldn't be saying goodbye to Carter in a month to leave on a mission, and I wouldn't be stepping outside of my own comfort zone to go on a mission myself. But THE CHURCH IS TRUE! And really, it would be a whole lot harder to face this life if it weren't. It's quite ridiculous I could ever think of thinking that.... if the gospel of Jesus Christ were not true, where would I turn for peace? What would I do when I felt alone or when I needed comfort? When I felt discouraged or depressed? I don't know what I would be doing without the gospel in my life. Some people have lived thus far, some have lived entire lives, without even hearing about the gospel. But honestly, I don't know if I could. THE GOSPEL IS MY STRENGTH. IT IS MY PEACE. IT IS MY SOURCE OF JOY. I like to think of myself as a happy person. But really, if it weren't for the gospel I don't know if I would have that same happiness. The gospel is what gives me the strength to keep on smiling even when the day has been hard. It's what makes me keep on singing even when bad things happen. It is my source of HOPE. The gospel of Jesus Christ is what makes me want to keep on trying. What makes me strive to be better; to constantly put forth the effort to improve myself. It is what gives me the hope to keep trying. The gospel gives me courage. It gives me confidence. It gives me love- it makes me feel loved, but also helps to put love in my heart when I can't do so alone. When I'm angry or frustrated, the love of Christ and my Heavenly Father are what bring love into my own heart.
Where would I be without this gospel? Honestly, I don't know. But I do know that I wouldn't have the same courage and joy as I face each day. Being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has made me who I am today. So really, I could never trade that for the ability to sleep in on Sunday mornings, to lose the stress of teaching the Relief Society, or the heartache of saying goodbye to Carter for 2 years. I'm pretty sure I'd have a lot more sleepless nights, a lot more stress, and probably more heartache as well if I didn't have the gospel in my life. I LOVE being a member of this church. And I am so grateful that I was born into the gospel. It really scares me sometimes to wonder if I would have accepted the gospel, were I taught it as a convert? Would I face it with an open heart? I like to think I would... but I am so grateful that I was raised in the church, that I have such wonderful parents who raised me in the gospel and that I have developed my own testimony of these wonderful things.
The church is true :)

Sorry, this is kind of rambling... it took a direction I wasn't really planning on, but I guess that's fine :)
I also wanted to share a scripture really quick... or maybe a few :)

2 Nephi 4-
Basically this entire chapter. It just makes me HAPPY. Nephi's example of faith is amazing to me... I want to be more like him. I love verse 19, and 20 and 21... Well, I love the whole thing, but ESPECIALLY those three..
"... I KNOW IN WHOM I HAVE TRUSTED. My God HATH BEEN MY SUPPORT; he hath LED ME THROUGH MINE AFFLICTIONS in the wilderness; and he hath PRESERVED ME upon the waters of the great deep. He hath FILLED ME WITH HIS LOVE..."

I love 28-30: "NO LONGER DROOP IN SIN!... give place no more for the enemy of my soul..."

And verse 34: "Oh Lord, I have trusted in thee and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I KNOW that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yeah, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm."

I do know in whom I have trusted! It is my savior Jesus Christ who suffered the atonement and died for me. It is my loving and eternal Father in Heaven. Why would I trust in the things of this world when I have this wonderful knowledge that there is a God? When I know that I have this loving Heavenly Father, and this wonderful savior who suffered for my sins and sorrows? The gospel is true, and I will trust in my God. Just like Nephi- He is my support, he LEADS me through my afflictions. He helps me grow because of them and helps me to remain strong throughout. He has preserved me amidst my trials. And he has FILLED ME WITH HIS LOVE. I know I can't even comprehend the love my Father in Heaven has for me and for each of us. But I do know that he loves us all. Unconditionally. Individually. With this knowledge, how can I not TRUST IN HIM?

And a few more random scriptures from last night's scripture study....
Alma 22:15-
I love this verse. Aaron has been teaching the king, who now realizes the truth of Aaron's words. He realizes the light and the JOY that come from the gospel. He says" What shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast, and receive His Spirit, that I may BE FILLED WITH JOY, that I may not be cast off at the last day?... I will give up ALL THAT I POSSESS, yeah I will FORSAKE ALL my kingdom, that I may RECEIVE THIS GREAT JOY."

This just really makes me realize. ANY SACRIFICE is worth the presence of God in my life. Any sacrifice is worth that ETERNAL JOY and HOPE that come from living righteously and with obedience to Heavenly Father. It makes me wonder: what more can I sacrifice to become closer to Him? What things in my life are keeping me from receiving that joy and hope? What more can I do to draw closer to Him?

And just one more...
Alma 23:7
"For they became a righteous people; they did lay down the weapons of their rebellion, that they did not fight against God any more, neither against any of their brethren."
Am I fighting against God in any way? I guess my thoughts kind of go along with that last scripture of wondering WHAT MORE CAN I DO to turn towards him? What "weapons" are keeping me from turning to my savior? What is keeping me from greater humility, greater obedience, greater joy? What temptations? What pride? What trials are keeping me from turning to my savior? Whatever they are... go and lay down the "weapons" of my rebellion! Bury them as did the "Anti-Nephi-Lehies". Is there really anything that should keep me from that?
When these humble people put away their weapons of war it was a risk to their lives. The Lamanites could come and kill them while they had no defense. So many might have justified that they needed their weapons- that they literally needed them to survive. But these people placed even their own lives below their desire to turn to God. What amazing examples. Sometimes it seems too difficult to put certain things away; it can be hard to see from God's view that the things on this world don't really matter. It can be hard to realize what is really important. That the "treasures" we can lay up in Heaven would be so much greater than anything given worldly importance. I need to remember this. I need to remember to "put away those weapons"- whatever they may be- that may block the spirit in my life.

Well, I think that's all. Hopefully not too long. Kind of a bunch of rambling, but I just wanted to let out a few of my thoughts from the week :) Hopefully it's not too long to read!

Oh, and if anyone wants even more reading, feel free to read Elder Hamula's talk from last General Conference, called The Sacrament and the Atonement. It's what I did my lesson on :) Maybe I'll talk more about that later... but yes. Happy reading and happy Tuesday! :D)