Priesthood Blessings and Joy

I caught a glimpse of my face in the mirror this morning, and my haggard appearance made me want to gag. It also reminded me of how fatigued and achy I am. Most disturbingly, my usual optimistic mood had been already been replaced by something darker and pessimistic.

The last few weeks I’ve been dealing with medical issues. This past weekend it seemed to grow prominently worse. Being one who does not like  to ‘slow down,’ this new change in my life only brings out the worst in me. I don’t like for anything to change my schedule, do not like sympathy, and do not like to be viewed as anything other than capable. So you can imagine that dealing with any type of illness is somewhat of a buzz kill in my life.

Yeah, I know. Pride, much?

After a few freak-outs in my head (only because I was too tired and sick to freak out on anyone in person) it finally dawned on me to ask for a blessing.

It has been over a year since I’ve received any type of blessing. I hate to impose on anyone and whilst my logical mind knows better, this not wanting to ask for help is not in any way helping my situation. (Again! With the pride!)

After a moment of prayer, I received some clearing of the negative debris covering my mind. A sense of peace and clarity filled my soul. It became clear that not only did I want a blessing, but I needed a blessing!

A priesthood blessing is sacred. It can be a holy and inspired statement of our wants and needs. If we are in tune spiritually, we can receive a confirming witness of the truth of the promised blessings. Priesthood blessings can help us in the small and great decisions of our lives. If, through our priesthood blessings, we could perceive only a small part of the person God intends us to be, we would lose our fear and never doubt again. ~President James E. Faust

Priesthood Blessings

Wanting healing through prayer is not in conflict with  the miracles of medical science from one’s life. (It shouldn’t be.)  Brigham Young would ask those who asked for healing through a blessing, “Have you used any remedies?” When the individual would reply no because “we wish the Elders to lay hands upon us,” President Young replied: “That is very inconsistent according to my faith. If we are sick, and ask the Lord to heal us, and to do all for us that is necessary to be done, according to my understanding of the Gospel of salvation, I might as well ask the Lord to cause my wheat and corn to grow, without my plowing the ground and casting in the seed. It appears consistent to me to apply every remedy that comes within the range of my knowledge, and [then] to ask my Father in Heaven … to sanctify that application to the healing of my body.”  (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe (1954), 163.)

D&C 90:24 tells us to pray always and so whilst we are using wisdom and faith simultaneously, we should not deny ourselves the blessings God has bestowed to us, especially when it is because of pride.

The Apostle James taught that we should “pray one for another, that ye may be healed,” adding, “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16). When the woman who touched Jesus was healed, He told her, “Thy faith hath made thee whole” (Matthew 9:22). 3 Similarly, the Book of Mormon teaches that the Lord “worketh by power, according to the faith of the children of men” (Moroni 10:7). ~Dallin H. Oaks

Last night, after 8pm, two members of the Priesthood from my Ward, came to my house and gave me a blessing. It wasn’t earth shattering, the walls didn’t shake, the Heavens did not open, nor did I instantly feel better. What did happen was that I immediately felt at peace, my fear of what is wrong disappeared and the worry I felt about my doctor’s appointment today vanished.

This morning, I feel better. Not 100%, but better, mostly due in part of feeling at peace and some of that negativity I allowed to erode my mind is gone.

My husband also got to witness the experience for the first time. This is a miracle in and of itself.

One of things I’ve learned since my conversion is this: Joy is something vastly different from happiness. It’s different from the surface of physical comfort. In my opinion, joy is divinely inspired and goes with the flow of our emotions. It’s a constant contentment during the most troubling of times. It doesn’t go away when we are facing challenges, yet because we mistake joy for happiness, we may feel we are joyless. My discontent in being sick made me think all the joy in my life had been sucked out of my life, but the truth is, my life is joyful. Before my conversion when things seemed to be the worst that they could be, there was not anything to bring me back to the feeling of love my God has for me. Now, I feel His love, and also the joy of knowing how intense and true that love is. Where there was once a sense of bleakness…there is now joy.

The more we know of our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, the more joy we will have, no matter the circumstance. A friend once told me that life does not have to be easy to be joyful and I took her words for granted, not understanding the depth of truth she spoke.

I understand now.

Advertisements

My Mission

One of the biggest eye-opening moments for me since my conversion was a conversation I had with Elder J before his transfer. This was over two years ago, but I found myself thinking of that particular day this morning as I drove my daughter to seminary.

The missionaries had been recounting their memory of receiving their mission letter which told them where they’d be serving. I was touched as I heard these two young boys share their excitement and some of their concerns about leaving home and traveling to Alaska for their mission. In a state of envy and moved by my eagerness to share the Gospel, I blurted: “Man! I wish I could have went on a mission!”

I’ll never forget the look on Elder J’s face as he stared at me for a moment before replying with: “But Jaime, you are on a mission.”

I was taken aback. No, I’m not on a mission! Are you kidding me? I was only a few days into my being a baptized member of the Church with an angry husband and some confused friends. No one in my circle was happy for me…and certainly had no intention of listening to me share my testimony with them.

Me? On a mission? The only mission I had ever been told I was on was the mission of driving my husband crazy, which he reminds me of this weekly.

Elder J. explained that whilst my mission wasn’t the mission I was envisioning for myself…a letter with family gathered around in excitement as I read outloud where I’d be traveling…my mission was just as important. If anything, I had to be even more diligent, even more resilient in practicing my faith because my husband-whether he believed it or not-depended on me.

Yes, I was on a mission. I still am. And whilst there are days when I lack the demeanor of a missionary, there are those gentle reminders from The Spirit which urge me to always choose the right. I am driven to be a good example to my family and friends and show humility. It isn’t easy…in fact, I probably fail more than I succeed. Yet, I remain steadfast in my faith. It isn’t that I don’t have my days I’m clouded with doubt and disappointment. I’m still very much a human being with the same faults and complexities as anyone…but I never stop trying to be the best person I can be.

My goal each day is to be a humble missionary to all I come in contact with-not just with words-but with my actions. There will be those days in which I stumble into muddy puddles, but if I do not ‘puddle sit’ and whine about the fact I fell-Heavenly Father will extend His hand and allow me to brush myself off and continue down my path. Showing others my human side with my imperfections, is not being vulnerable and weak, but being true to myself. In this way, I believe people are more apt to hearing my testimony and the truths of the Gospel.

As a missionary…I still have to be true to myself but at the same time I must be diligent in keeping the commandments and remain faithful to my God.

Yep, I’m on a mission. It’s been pretty eventful and the cool thing is…it is only the beginning.

You’re Not Helping

Sometimes I find myself thinking: “I do not have anyone helping me!”

Okay, I kid. It isn’t sometimes…it is practically all the time.

The Husband is a neat freak but lacks organizational skills. I’m pretty relaxed with housecleaning chores in the sense I do not see the need to dust the same piece of furniture five times a day. However, I’m a stickler for having things organized. I like things to be in their place…but with six people living in a small house, that’s not always the case.

Yesterday, I found myself in a mood of frustration. The kids and their friends were in and out of the house, dishes were piled in the sink, none of the kids had done their chores and I had a list of things I needed to do before The Husband got home. I was feeling overwhelmed and I started to whine to God: “I need help!”

Immediately, the thought of a conversation I had with my visiting teacher came forth to my mind.

VT: “Jaime, is there anything I can do to help you?”

Me:”Nope! I’m good!”

The same conversation with different people asking the same question came forth like a slide show with my answer always being the same: “Nope! I’m good!”

And there it is.

The truth hit me hard. It wasn’t that I didn’t have help…it was I wasn’t being humble enough to accept the offers of help given.

Pride and being stubborn were the biggest reasons for my declining help. Believe it or not, I’m a private person when it comes to my space. I’m also a tad of a control freak with a dash of laziness. I have a routine and anything that shifts from this routine or has me giving up control makes me want to climb back in bed and pull the covers over my head.

It dawned on me as I was sweeping my living room for the fifteenth time that day...not because of cleaning OCD but because it truly needed it…that my stubborn inability to delegate and my snobbish pride had been blocking me from receiving the blessings of having help AND preventing others from receiving blessings derived from being able to serve.

Who hasn’t enjoyed the feeling of serving someone and knowing in some small way you have made an impact on their lives in their time of need?

I have denied help from people because I didn’t want to admit I was not ‘Super Woman” and couldn’t do everything on my own.There is also this discomfort when I veer off from my routine, even when it is for my own benefit.

Is it just me or are there others who find they have difficulty asking and accepting help? What ways have you found that has helped you get over it?

Why I’m Mormon

Disclaimer: I am asked with increasing frequency why I converted to Mormonism as opposed to one of the other Christian denominations.  I’m apprehensive about sharing my reasons because I’m quite aware the subject could attract a heated debate. This is not my intention…it is my experience, my story.

Conversion stories can often be interpreted as an implication that ones who have had a different experience and have drawn a different conclusion regarding religion/spirituality/God are wrong. I do not believe this.

____________________________

It all began a few years ago when I became interested about why people chose their religion. I asked the question: “Is God actually leading individuals to their religion?” I couldn’t fathom that the majority of religions had to be wrong in order for one to be right. How could one religion have it perfectly clear and others have it so wrong?

It didn’t make sense to me. It still doesn’t.

I began to quiz my friends.  Each genuine and kind, they offered thought-provoking statements which gave me more food for thought. By then I had been studying different religions for four years and many considered my studies an obsession. Obsessed or not, questions rattled in my brain:

“How does one’s faith be so strong, they do not question their religion or need to seek out other religions? Is this short-sighted? Or is this simply a matter of having a security in one’s faith?”

I had always felt a special bond towards my father when it came to the Catholic Church. I have many beautiful memories of my father taking me to Mass on special holidays. Whether or not, my father was a ‘good’ Catholic is irrelevant in the sense he had some belief the Catholic Church was true. He felt a duty to at least fight for his children to be baptized and felt in good conscience he was saving us from limbo if we were to die as babies.

My grandmother took me to services at the Baptist church every Sunday. The sermons were often the fire and brimstone kind, yet what I remember most was the music. I always felt a certain feeling of goodness with those old southern hymns. Is there anything more moving than hearing Amazing Grace and Just As I Am?

As a child, I remember feeling as if it would be much easier if I could be one or the other: Catholic or Baptist. I felt drawn…in different ways, to both. Yet, couldn’t honestly call myself one or the other. It never seemed honest.

At the age of twenty, I began studying with the Jehovah’s Witnesses and was baptized at the age of twenty-three. I will not go into that part of my life just yet…it will have to be an entirely different post all together. I left the Witnesses in 2005 after certain life changing events. The questions I had found myself asking were difficult to push aside. I knew I was living a lie by claiming to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It wasn’t anything against them as a religion…it was me. I should have never joined to begin with and I joined for the wrong reasons.

The thing about leaving the Witnesses…is you have to give up friendships and relationships. That had been a main reason why I stayed as long as I did. I’m not disfellowshipped, but I may as well be. The friends I considered family do not talk to me. That was and is difficult. I miss them.

 When I left…I wiped out everything I had ever been taught…I started anew. A clean slate, if you will.

I read, I prayed, I talked, I bugged everyone I knew who had a faith in God and everyone I knew who didn’t.

I talked to a friend of mine during this time who is Catholic and believes that the Catholic Church is the original church founded by Jesus Christ. She explained to me that her church and other religions are governed by humans, therefore they are subject to sin. A relationship with God should be more important than the religion. It is the personal responsibility of the person to make this a priority, not the religion.

That statement changed my entire outlook.

“It is the personal responsibility of the person to make their relationship with God the priority…NOT the religion.”

Another friend during this time I spoke with is a member of the LDS Church. We were talking over lunch one afternoon and I began quizzing her about religion, spirituality and God. She told me she believed in free agency and told me basically the same thing as my Catholic friend: “The relationship you have with Heavenly Father is more important to me than my religion. My religion enhances my relationship with my Father in Heaven, but it isn’t more important.”

 I read the book Free At Last by Larry Huch and marked it with so many notes and highlights, I ended up having to purchase a new copy. The book explains how Christians can break free from their past. It delves into great detail on how one can find freedom from depression, anger, abuse, insecurity and addiction through Jesus Christ. Looking back, it was meant for me to read this book. As someone who was still trying to heal from a disturbed and abusive past, was terribly insecure, had bouts of hostility  and felt broken on the inside…there was no way I could move forward in my spiritual journey without some kind of healing. It was a stepping stone…and I was able to skip happily (although a bit dorky) towards my destination.

My days were spent praying with more belief and more passion than I could have ever thought possible to muster. I delved into more spiritual topics, intent on knowing Jesus my Savior and God my Heavenly Father.

I studied Judaism, but from the Christian standpoint. After all, Jesus was Jewish! I read my Bible with the mindset of the traditions Jesus taught as a Jewish man. I asked my Christian friends, “Why do Christians choose not to celebrate the Jewish Holidays? Why don’t we celebrate Yom Kippur and Passover? Jesus did!” (I still haven’t received a clear answer!)

In my studies, I learned Jesus died to take away the curse, but not the blessings!

Growing up I had a fear of the fire-burning Hell. I never felt good enough to go to Heaven, but was I really bad enough to go to Hell? Yet, what were the options? It was one or the other!

During my many talks with  friends, visiting churches and attending spiritual lectures, I always felt a strong connection. In every single circumstance. BUT, what I wanted was to have that contentment my friends had in their religion. I could feel the Spirit…but not the contentment in joining another religion. Nothing ‘clicked.’ I couldn’t tell you that the pieces of the puzzle were coming together for me.

Not then, anyway.

One afternoon, I was reading the Bible and I was trying to decide which church the kids and I would attend that Sunday. Something prompted me to go  lds.org and before I knew it…I was studying with two missionaries that same week.

As I’m writing this, I texted Jeff, the missionary who studied and baptized me (you can read more about how he is part of my story here) if he could share his thoughts on teaching/studying with me.

This is what he had to say: “You contacted the church the day I got in the area. I really felt the hand of the Lord in it from the beginning…We [his companion, Elder B.] were excited to teach you and shocked a little bit that you had read The Book of Mormon and bought your own quad.”

(To add to his text…not only did I contact the church when he arrived in our area…he was only in our area one transfer. Six weeks…long enough to teach me the Gospel and see me baptized…which he did.)

It was during one of our studies in which something clicked. I can’t even remember what we were talking about, but I clearly remember where we were and how I felt. We were at the church, studying in the Relief Society room. During the conversation, I had this amazing feeling that I had found what I had been looking for. It was this sense of peace…a feeling of exhalation. I wanted to be baptized which shocked the missionaries because they hadn’t even broached the subject of baptism with me yet. I may have been out of their teaching element…but I went with my heart. Everything made sense to me and I knew…without a shadow of a doubt…even with the discord between my husband and I about my joining the church…it was the right thing to do.

I’ve never regretted it.

When I started living my life according to the teachings of the LDS Church…everything seemed to fall into place. Things just worked. Do not misunderstand me… life didn’t get easier. After my baptism, I had a really tough road ahead of me…but there was and still is this powerful contentment that has never left me.

My life has changed profoundly and I can’t imagine not having this gift in my heart, in my soul.

When I enter Church, read my Scriptures, or close my eyes in prayer…I feel content.

I feel at home.

To follow up: Today, my husband is supportive of my being LDS and has close friends who are Mormon. This past Sunday, for no reason at all…he decided to attend church with me. Whilst he still maintains he’s ‘doubtful’ about there being a God…I have seen small miracles taking place in our home and in his heart.

Faith

There is a thin line I cross when it comes to encouraging my children to attend church and forcing them (with bribery, threats, and evil glares) to attend church. I walk this line each week, cautiously, trying not to sway to the art of force. It’s not easy. It’s frustrating. There are many times I want to throw my hands up in the air and give up. Is my being  Mormon worth the headache?  The Husband doesn’t even believe in God! How am I supposed to be a good example and prove the truth of the Gospel when he doesn’t believe God exists? And how do I be a spiritual leader to our children without causing friction between The Husband and I?

It’s difficult. It’s very, very difficult.

I have always had a strong faith in God, but when it came to religion, I couldn’t grasp why there were so many religions out there all claiming to be true. How do we know which one is right? How could I be right?

I believe God exists and I believe what the LDS Church teaches is true. (You can read my testimony here.) It took many incarnations and lifetimes for me to get to where I am today. During my moments in prayer, I have begun to understand why I converted and accepted what I know to be true two years ago verses ten years ago. There is a season for everything and when I find myself feeling frustrated about where my husband is on his spiritual journey, I force myself to remember that I wasn’t always in this place. I wasn’t always content in my faith.

However, today...this moment…what keeps me going…what keeps me coming back to church every Sunday… what has me continuing to pursue spiritual knowledge… is simply: faith. I feel the presence of God in my life. I know His existence is real and I know the Scriptures to be true. I’ve prayed for a contentment like this my entire life and in His time and in His wisdom and grace…He gave it to me.

Now I pray for the same contentment for my husband. For my children. And I know it will never be in the way I think it should be…in the manner of how it should be given…it isn’t my call. Yet, I have faith my prayers will be answered.

God shows Himself to those who are ready and want to receive Him. I pray my husband and children experience His love and grace. When we  experience the grace of God’s light…big or small…our lives will change drastically. Things are not magically easier, but we develop a wisdom we didn’t have before. Faith is funny like that…we don’t have to prove or explain…we are content within our hearts that what we know to be true… just is.

When we’re ready…God is there. Our eyes and heart are opened to the fact that He never left us. Ever.