Monday, February 27, 2017

Tender Mercies

       I believe that the Lord has a plan for us. His plan is that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ we will be able to live with Him again some day. I don't believe that he navigates every single step of our lives, however. We have our agency and the ability to make decisions that bring us closer or further away from His plan. What has become very clear to me lately, though, is just how present He is when we need Him most. In my church we often talk about the tender mercies of the Lord. In the scriptures you can read a lot about "tender mercies" in the book of Psalms. (Psalms 51:1, Psalms 119:77, Psalms 25:6, Psalms 145:9) I have been so thoroughly blessed recently by the tender mercies of the Lord.

We are taught that our trials and afflictions can strengthen our faith and help us to become more like our Savior, but this is truly a hard pill to swallow when in the midst of something that feels unending or is unlike anything we've ever experienced before. Hope is something that is difficult to keep and even harder to regain once lost. If you have been reading my blog this year then you are aware of the health struggles I have been dealing with for the past 14 months. For a really long time I was able to navigate this hardship with reason, and though it had an affect on my mental state, I was able to keep my head above water; hopeful that one day I would begin to get better. I've been super fortunate, really, all throughout my life that even though I have suffered from anxiety and depression I have always been of sound mind able to recognize that I do have control over my life and separate what I know are feelings produced by these conditions from what I can see are blessings all around me. Until recently, even though my health situation wasn't ideal, I had been able to stay moderately positive and have hope. About a month ago, however, I had a flare up of my condition which causes me to have rashes, blisters, and sores all over my body. This time my face was affected, while previously it had stayed fairly clear. Let me be clear that I know that looks do not define a person, and I know that I should not care what I look like- but y'all, this was and is bad. My vanity has taken a huge hit, and I only have so much humility. I was miserable. I physically felt horrible, my body itched, my face was sore and throbbed from peeling, raw blisters. I didn't want to get out of bed, I didn't want to teach my morning class, or deal with clients, or see anyone. Truth be told, I didn't even want to have to take care of my kids. My mental condition had very quickly escalated to one of the darkest places I'd ever been. In what was one of the most uncomfortable and raw conversations I've ever had to have with my husband I told him how I was feeling and I was able to get to my doctor the next day. This post isn't intended to be about me, or about mental illness, I have done those posts before. I'm feeling a lot better and I'm being taken care of. The reason I'm giving you this back story is so that you can fully understand how grateful I am feeling today, at this moment.

Last night I was texting with a dear friend to check in with her. We don't live close to each other any more and she has been enduring some hardships of her own recently. It had been way too long since I had really checked to see how she was doing. I listened to her as she explained to me what she was going through and how sad she felt. I let her explain how alone she felt in her sadness. I was able to give her some encouragement and consolation. Then she let me fill her in on my current struggles and concerns. She comforted me with a special insight that only she could provide. Toward the end of our conversation she mentioned that having to see others currently without any obstacles in their life left her feeling a jealous, and that she didn't like feeling that way because it wasn't Christlike. At that moment I felt encompassed by the spirit of the Lord's tender mercies as I had a realization and shared it with her. "True, but you're not Jesus Christ, you're only human." I told her "I'm so grateful to know that we don't have to feel alone in that guilt, because Jesus Christ has felt the exact pain and loss and grief and even jealousy that we feel. We will absolutely and unequivocally never be alone in those feelings." It was such a beautiful thought to end the conversation on, one that I didn't think I needed to remind myself of, but one that provided me with an immense amount of comfort, nonetheless. Because of the Atonement, we will never be alone in our grief and pain.

This morning I woke up at the crack of dawn to teach my early morning high school bible study. I glanced over the lesson for the day once more before my students arrived. Reading over instruction on 2 Corinthians chapter 1 I read "Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God." How beholden I am to my Father in heaven that throws me these exquisitely beautiful lifelines when I am in deep water. I appreciate the gravity of the responsibility I have to share that love with others enduring their own adversity and misery.

So this is where I am right now, full of love and unending gratitude for my Father in Heaven and my savior Jesus Christ. I'm hoping that if you are in a place of suffering you will be able to feel those tender mercies, too. They're absolutely priceless.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Oh no he didn't?!?!

I've mentioned before that every weekday morning I teach a bible study to high school students. This morning our lesson ended with a discussion about how we treat people who are different than we are. I've been thinking about that a great deal today and I'm going to share some of my thoughts.

Right now in the world, especially in our country, there has been an outbreak of chaos, confusion, and conflict. People choose a side at every opportunity and it appears that unity is a thing of the past. Every event, every little thing that any person-anywhere does causes a ripple in the puddle that is their immediate circle. This ripple leads to someone deciding that they don't like whatever it is that whoever it was did. The person who doesn't like the thing then feels compelled to tell the world, via social media (of course), that they don't like the thing the person did and why they don't like it. Once it's out there floating around in the precarious space that is the internet it's a thought that is fair game for all of the persons in all of the lands to share, retweet, and fall in love or hate with then causing all of the persons to post and tweet their own thoughts on whatever it was that happened. Soon the ripple is a wave and then before long it's a freaking tsunami. People are screaming and running, and wailing, and drowning, and dying (metaphorically, of course). What I'm trying to say is that one thing that one person has done creates a social effect likened unto a natural disaster.

One of the reasons we all feel so strongly about everything these days is that we're scared. If you ask me, being scared is totally normal and acceptable. Who isn't scared of the unknown or unfamiliar? Sure it could be great, but it could also be horrible, so there's that. When we're faced with ideas and ideals that we don't understand it's human nature for us to put our guards up and go on the offensive. If we're not sure that its safe, we will like it, or if it will benefit us, then we feel the need to fight to get rid of, undo, and destroy it.

At any given time you can find literally millions of people upset and screaming about something. Your gender, race, religion, political affiliation, whether you think the dress is black and blue or white and brown- at any given time you're sure to be pissing someone (or multiple someones) off. Me? I'm a white, female, slightly conservative, stay at home mom, trash tv lover, member of #teamjess, that thought the dress was black and blue. (A thousand people have just decided that I'm the devil for one or more of those things.) What are we to do? How do we stop the madness? How do we make the lambs stop screaming?!?! How do we hold true to our beliefs, whatever they may be, and defend the life we want to live without adding to the noise?

So, back to this morning and the discussion during my class. Here is what we came up with. I can't control what you say. I can't control what you do. I definitely can't control what you believe. I can only control my own actions, more specifically, the way I treat everyone else. One of the most powerful things that I have control over is the way I treat those who are different than I am. How I choose to treat my fellow men and women is my contribution to the condition of life around me. If we can make the choice to stop yelling about why we don't agree with something, why it scares us, or why it's wrong and just be kind to each other it would help turn the volume down on the screaming lambs. It's not a widely accepted notion, but I think it's possible to defend your beliefs without being a total dick about it and hurting someone else in the process. I understand that there are some things that need to be yelled out loud- ideas and ideals to fight for, but I think this can be done in a way that isn't nasty and full of disdain toward your fellow man.

As a Christian I am commanded to love not just my brother, but also my enemy. As a decent human being I'm responsible for being kind to someone even when I disagree with them. Jesus said "This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you." If we could all make a better effort to see each other as a humans all equal in value and importance, then the world will be a better place. Whether you're democrat or republican, Christian or Muslim, gay or straight, I believe that you are a child of a God who loves you and wants me to love you, too. I have not always been able to treat someone I didn't particularly like with kindness, or even tolerance. I have been part of the noise. I have been part of the problem. For a very long time, though, I've made a concerted effort to be a better person. I want to be a good example for my children, as well as anyone I might meet. I can find it in my heart to be nice to just about anyone if I try really hard, even #teamDean people and Yankees. Take it from this former mean girl, there are so many blessings that come from treating people the way you want to be treated, and for shouting love rather than hate. Maybe I'm wrong, if I am then I'm sure you will post about it on facebook, but I'll love you anyway. This is just my two cents. xoxo- Layne