Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Seeking Light in the Darkness

I apologize once again for missing my usual day to blog. We were in attendance yesterday at a funeral for a loved one. These events are never easy things—hearts are tender, and grief descends. Even so, there is always hope. I will strive to explain why in today’s attempt at a blog post:

Years ago during my high school days, I was part of an advanced English class. We all thought the world of our teacher, a rather tall man who taught us the importance of imagery in compositions. For several weeks, we studied poetry, and how to interpret the meaning behind complicated words. One day, our teacher shared a dark poem about death. Since most of his classes were upbeat and filled with humor, this was a very different experience. After he recited this very dark poem that spoke volumes about hopelessness, he told us how it felt to stare down into the small grave for his young daughter, knowing there was nothing more—in his opinion, it all ended with the last breath of life.

Our hearts felt shredded on his behalf as he tearfully shared the greatest heartache of his mortal journey. I remember sitting there, feeling so torn. I had only recently gained a testimony about the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is filled with light and hope. Having lost a handful of loved ones myself by this point in time, my heart yearned to share the knowledge I had fought hard to gain about the reality of eternal life. I knew this life wasn’t the end. That witness burned within, and yet I felt so inadequate to share what I was beginning to understand. I left class that day feeling sad and conflicted. 

In time, death would strike our family again with my father's tragic suicide. I was 22 years old when this event occurred and the heartache was so intense, it nearly consumed me. I found myself bombarded with dark messages of doubt and fear. One person told me how sad it was that I would never see my father again since he would be residing in hell for his actions. Though I tried to consider the source of this negative information, it still plagued my tender heart. All of the “What ifs” descended and I fought daily to work through a pain I still can’t put into words.

Eventually, with God’s help, I sorted through the mixed messages, and I came to realize that hope is a very real thing. To find it, I discovered it was crucial to cling to prayer, scripture study, and doing acts of service for others to survive. Each time I did something for someone else, it chipped away at the pain I carried in my heart. Studying the scriptures helped me comprehend the purpose of mortal life and it strengthened my testimony. Daily prayer filled my heart with peace, something I desperately needed. 

I learned, again, that true peace comes from the knowledge that this life is not the end, nor was it the beginning. It is all explained in the plan of happiness known also as the plan of salvation—doctrine given to us by a loving Father in heaven, who knew we would need this information to survive the trials of mortal life.(See 2 Nephi 9:13) In a nutshell: we lived before this life as the spirit sons and daughters of God. We desired to be more like Him and a plan was formed that would provide this opportunity. It was explained that we would be sent to a mortal world where we would receive a body to house our spirit. It would be up to us to decide how we would live, and tests would surface that would challenge and strengthen us. Through these trials, we would grow and prove our willingness to obey our Father in heaven. 
(See: Abraham 3:24-25. Also: D. & C. 121:7-9; &; D. & C. 122:5, 7-9).

Since none of us are perfect, mistakes would occur, and an atonement would be provided by our Elder Brother, Jesus Christ. If we sincerely repented, His sacrifice would atone for our sins. (See: Alma 11:40) And because Jesus broke the bands of death ( See Alma 7:11-12, also: Mosiah 15:7-9) we would all live again. Eternal life is indeed the greatest of all gifts bestowed upon us by our Savior, and our Father in heaven. To quote a favorite passage of scripture: “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” (Moses 1:39) 

This life is not the end, and because of that fact, there is always hope. “And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal . . .” (Moroni 7:41)

The choices we make in this world matter—but all things will be taken into consideration and thank heavens, we are not the ones to judge each other concerning our state in the eternal realm. “ . . . for the Lord seeth not as a man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.”
 (1 Sam. 16:7)

So we live each day as best we can, doing as much good as we possibly can, knowing that in the end, we all possess the potential to become as our Heavenly Father, and that we can see our loved ones again who have passed on before us. It hinges on what we do with this mortal life we’ve been given. There are difficult trials, but we’re never as alone as we sometimes think we are. Clinging to hope when all seems lost is one of the most difficult things we will do—and also one of the most important.

I read a passage of scripture earlier this morning that pretty well sums things up: “Wherefore, fear not even unto death; for in this world your joy is not full, but in me, your joy is full. Therefore, care not for the body, neither the life of the body; but care for the soul, and for the life of the soul. And seek the face of the Lord always, that in patience ye may possess your souls, and ye shall have eternal life . . . And all they who have mourned shall be comforted 
. . . Therefore, let your hearts be comforted . . . for all flesh is in mine hands; be still and know that I am God.” (D. & C. 101:36-38; 14, 16)

And that, I suppose is the message I'm trying to share--on difficult days we must hope for better times, knowing we are always watched over by a loving Father in heaven who understands the entire picture, even if we do not. We must place our hand inside of His and trust that eventually, all will be well, whether it's on this side, or the other side of the veil that separates mortal life from eternity.

Monday, April 13, 2015

"Let It Go!"

I'm later writing this blog post than normal. I usually strive to compose these items in the morning when I'm freshest and tend to do my best writing. However, today has been a busy one and this is the first chance I've had to grab my laptop. =)

That being said, I'm actually grateful for some insights I've gained today. It's a theory I've pondered before, but today I saw a few more examples of what keeps seeping inside my little grey cells.

Have you ever thought about how often we're told about the importance of forgiving and letting go of hurtful things? It's an item mentioned repeatedly in the scriptures, and by mental health experts, doctors, scientists, etc. and so forth. We're told that forgiving others benefits us the most--that very often, those who have hurt us in whatever manner either don't care about what they've done or said, or they have already forgotten about what has taken place. They have moved on--leaving us behind to stew and agonize over whatever it was that happened.

Here's my theory: I suspect that part of why we're told to let go of things--to forgive others and move on, is so that we don't become miserable, bitter, and consumed by the past. Today I had a birds' eye view of people who are still so angry over past wounds that they can't see the beauty of the day. They are melancholy, disconsolate, and at times, angry. Their focus becomes centered on themselves, their pain, and they lash out at those around them, unaware of how unbalanced they've become.

It was frightening, today, especially in the case of one individual who followed me through a care center, sharing items from their past that I really didn't enjoy hearing. I had come to provide entertainment, and left feeling slightly shaken by what I had observed.

Bottom line, no one is perfect. We are all hurt in some way by others, either intentionally, or unintentionally. I'm just grateful that we don't have to judge--though we often do. ;) Someday, all things will be sorted out. Those who weren't in their right minds when trespasses occurred will be made whole. Those who were wounded as a result will be healed. But I suspect that our frame of mind will determine how happy we'll be both on this side, or the other side of the veil.

The happiest people I have ever known are those who constantly look for the good, and who try to keep things positive. Despite heartaches and hardships, they push on to help other people, and in serving others, they find the peace of heart they are seeking.

My maternal grandfather was a wonderful example of this. He suffered through numerous trials that included the death of his father while he was in the 8th grade, the tragic death of his own, 7-year-old son years later in a freak accident, not to mention a horrible car accident where he and my grandmother were seriously hurt by a drunk driver. Despite all of that, my grandfather loved life. He loved to laugh and he looked for the good in people, instead of dwelling on the bad. He reached out to others and he was always willing to lend a hand when there was a need.

He loved spending time with children, and some of my fondest memories are of the adventures we enjoyed  while fishing with our grandfather, or "helping" him with varied chores on his dairy farm. He was never too busy to spend time teaching us fun card games and always made us feel like we were important.

Though we were saddened when he passed from this mortal realm, I'll never forget the feeling of joy that was present during his funeral--it was more like a graduation ceremony. My grandfather left us quite a legacy to maintain. It has become one of my goals to emulate his example. I don't always succeed, but it's something I continuously strive to accomplish.

So here's my challenge today--stop dwelling on past wounds. Find a way to work through whatever has happened, and begin looking for the good things that still exist. On days when you're hurting, do something for someone else. Don't fall into the trap of focusing only on your pain--it will come back to haunt you. I suspect that if we don't take of things before our declining years, those negative emotions will eventually tear us apart.

To borrow from one of my favorite scriptures: " . . . all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things . . . and men are that they might have joy." (2 Nephi 2:24-25)

And to once again utilize a favorite quote: "Keep your face toward the sunshine and all shadows fall behind."
(Helen Keller)