We live in a city in China where there are very few foreigners. With our four blondie children, we get a lot of attention, which some of us appreciate more than others. Yesterday we went to play as a family at a nearby plaza in […]
Bear with me as I share three seemingly unrelated stories and then tie them together with my big “ah-ha!” moment at the end. 😉
Story 1: I grew up on the East Coast in a large city with a small LDS population where I was easily known as “The Mormon” to friends, acquaintances and strangers throughout my high school. Looking back I think I held my head high with the name labeling me almost like a missionary tag defining me and influencing every interaction and relationship. However, it was also that invisible name tag that heightened my responsibility to define what “Mormon” meant to the people around me. It pressured me to need to know answers to questions before they asked me. One such experience is engrained in my memory–and not in a good way.
There was a really nice boy in many of my classes that asked me about the church one day. It was one of those scenarios you practice in your head and then it happened and the whole room seemed to stop and words that didn’t make any sense started fumbling out of my unpracticed mouth.
To my defense, his question was: “So you think you’re gonna be like a God one day?”
I remember grabbing a piece of paper which somehow felt absolutely necessary at the time and attempting to draw out the Plan of Salvation.
Needless to say, it didn’t go very well.
However, I will never forget his question. It rang in my head for hours, days and weeks afterwards and here I am years later still recalling it with a perfect memory.
Story 2: Just recently, I heard my 4-year-old daughter tell me “not to freak out.” I don’t think there is anything wrong with those words, but coming from the mouth of my daughter it just sounded strange. Maybe once or twice a week I will hear something come out of her mouth that demands the question, “Where did you hear that?!” Not always because it’s bad, but just because as she is developing her own vocabulary she is a sponge to words and phrases surrounding her ears and it’s funny when I hear her say something that is so clearly my lingo–but often something I don’t even realize I say until I hear my “mini-me” repeat it.
Story 3: These past few months I have been putting forth a significant effort towards spending more time learning about the Savior and striving to make changes in my life to qualify myself to receive His guidance and direction more readily. I feel like I have learned and grown so much! But from an outsider’s perspective I really haven’t changed that much. Our family still has the same challenges, and I haven’t had any huge, life-altering revelation that told us to join the Peace Corp or anything.
However, I have noticed an abundance of little things. They could easily go unnoticed to an onlooker or even myself but in reality it is these seemingly little things that make all the difference. One of them that has made me smirk is that my language has changed. Nope, I didn’t kick a huge swearing habit, but randomly phrases from the temple session or scriptures will somehow come out of my mouth as the best way my brain could find to articulate something. I didn’t do much more than smirk at it until these three stories and pieces fell together for me tonight as I read an article on LDS.org.
The article was defining our relationship with our Heavenly Father and ability to become like Him and said: “Just as a child can develop the attributes of his or her parents over time, the divine nature that humans inherit can be developed to become like their Heavenly Father’s.”
Just as my 4-year-old is developing my language and attributes, by intentionally making time to learn from my Heavenly Father, I can develop His language and attributes to become like Him. The phrases from scripture coming from my mouth were suddenly a quiet witness to my heart that my meager efforts have been making a difference in who I am. If I can unintentionally repeat sacred words as my own, than these small (but sometimes difficult!) changes in my life are able to make a difference and even change my subconscious language pool. Maybe He is molding me more than I know when I put forth the effort to know Him.
Oh, how I would change my response to that high school friend in so many ways if I could replay that scenario now. “Yes,” I would say undoubtedly and unwavering, “I actually do believe that I can become like God one day. I believe that God is not just some unknowable mist up in a mysterious heaven, but a Real and Loving Heavenly Father and that we are His children. I believe that just as a loving father on this earth wants to give everything he has to his children, our Heavenly Father wants to give all that He has to us.”
And after what He has recently taught me, I would add that the really neat and amazing part about Becoming Like God is that it is not something that is reserved for some distant unobtainable future, but that, as we put forth the effort to do our part, we can Become Like Him now. Today.
Life isn’t meant to be one smooth, unbroken elevator to heaven. It’s a wild ride, full of mountaintops as well as valleys.
My husband and I have started waking up together at 6am so that we could get a good 30-45 minutes of study in before our kids wake up. This specific Sunday morning we were both feeling excited but stressed as we were in the middle […]
It wasn’t so much a lot of tears and sobbing. It was more a general sense of dread, like nothing could ever be good or worthwhile. Maybe it was a little like how Ron Weasley describes the all-encompassing chill of dementors in the Harry Potter series: like he’ll never feel cheerful again. And despite the fact that my brain knew I was depressed, I still couldn’t shake it.
We’d arrived back at our city apartment after over six weeks of intense, joyful visiting with family and friends for the summer. Parties, walks, a wedding, beach time, dates, swimming, everything, even simple lazy days together. And then it was just us again, alone in a giant city, surrounded by concrete and iron and foreign words. Just us. Much as I love my sweet little family, the void was too empty, too deep. The realization that I was committed to this life for at least the next year was even more disheartening. It was like my recurring childhood nightmare of knowing I’d have to do a horrible task for eternity. I tried to get into the swing of things, to go grocery shopping, to go for a run, to just get ice cream with the kids. For a few days, I couldn’t do even that. I stayed inside. Doing what? I don’t know. I unpacked. I cleaned a lot. I do that when I’m unhappy (which is why you can hope my house is always cluttered!). My husband worried and suggested things and rubbed my feet, sweet man that he is. But he was back to work, his busy time of year. So I kept sighing, brooding, questioning how I was going to survive a whole year here, much less how I was going to be a mother and homeschool my kids!
Now, I don’t know what it’s like to have depression. Fortunately, my episode lasted only a week. But while I was inside that dark bubble, it was sure hard to see any hope for the future.
I’ve been thinking about it in the weeks since, wondering why it would hit me so hard on my fourth year in foreign cities. It’s not like I haven’t been away [i.e. insanely homesick] before… But today I realized some of the reasons why.
First, gratitude. Life is pretty great for this woman. I have so many blessings, too many to enumerate! So should I really be surprised that I get to have a trial?? Rather, I should be grateful I get THIS trial and not a bundle of other ones.
Second, empathy. My husband is currently out of town picking up a new group of teachers who will be here for the semester teaching English. He left me a voice message tonight informing me that he’d had a long conversation with one of the girls who happened to be part of my Young Women stewardship for almost six years. She was a brand-new, 12-year-old Beehive when I met her. Now she’s a college girl, moving away from home for the first time after a year at the university. This first week while they’ve been training, she’s experienced a blast of homesickness. She expressed to my husband how grateful she was for the relationship she and I had and how much she learned from it all. He then told me that she would probably need a huge hug from me when she arrives, and that I could definitely benefit as well. Maybe the Lord gave me a week of home/family/familiarity-sickness to remind me what it’s like to be in a foreign country and away from home for the first time. I will be giving her a HUGE hug. And most likely some chocolate chip cookies.
Third, endurance. I love to read good books, I participate in church, I appreciate great music, I enjoy pondering deeper meanings–I learn a lot. But I also forget a lot. Perhaps it was time to see if I would retain my best self through a trial. That best self has been a long time in the making; it’s taken me nearly 35 years so far to build this edifice, which includes a fair amount of demolition and remodeling. The Lord must have seen a need for an earthquake (or maybe it was a vapor of darkness?) to test the strength, tenacity, flexibility, and endurance of that structure. Would I really hold true to my testimony and hope for the future when all I could see was hopelessness? Would I be able to trust my faith and the love of my family when I couldn’t feel love, only fear?
Looking back on those depressing days now, after all these realizations, it seems trivial, almost silly, although I know it was very real. How could I not see the hope and joy and love in my life? How could I not recognize the Lord preparing me and teaching me? For Alma 34:32 teaches, “…this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God.” Could I–or any of us–ever meet Him and be like Him after having an easy, carefree life? No way! I assure you, the very elect of God’s children are not exempt from fiery trials. I’m heartened by God’s gentle chastisement and subsequent assurance of hope to one of His faithful children; imagine this is written for you:
If thou art called to pass through tribulation,…if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son [or daughter], that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.
The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?
Therefore, hold on thy way…. Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever. (See D&C 122:5-9)
The reasons for our trials are not always evident. Maybe we get to figure them out in the “someday,” maybe we’re left to wonder why. But always, always, if we trust in the Lord and remain faithful to our covenants, we will know that it is for our good, for our best self that perhaps only the Lord can fully envision.
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