Sunday, September 29, 2013

Lord, I believe. Help my Unbelief

In April 2013 during general conference, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave a talk titled, "Lord, I Believe."  I wrote about it on my blog here.  In his talk he speaks about how a man brought his son who was possessed by an evil spirit to Jesus and asked him to heal him.  Jesus in turn asked if he believed he could be healed.  The man said that he did, but to help his unbelief.  The Lord then takes the boy in his arms, and heals him.  The Lord helped his unbelief.

During this conference talk I was struggling with my feelings towards the prophet Joseph Smith, as I had ever since I was a young girl.  I held onto the words that Elder Holland said, and how he said to not focus on my doubt, but to hold strong to the truths that I do know.  Well at that time in my life I knew that the Book of Mormon was the true word of God.  And if the Book of Mormon was the true word of God then Joseph Smith had to be a prophet of God.  

I got on my knees that night and asked my Father in Heaven to strengthen my testimony and teach me that the things that Joseph Smith saw, and witnessed were real.  The answer to my prayer did not come right then.  It didn't come the next day either.  It didn't come the week after or even a month after, but I held firm to the truths that I already knew and I continued to have faith that God would answer my prayers.

Throughout my life, two phrases have resounded within me: "Jill, your Father in Heaven KNOWS you, and LOVES you" and "Whatever you may ask, in faith, from your Father in Heaven, he will give unto you."

These 2 phrases have stuck with me my entire life.  Throughout every step of my life, whether I was doing what the Lord asked of me or not, I remembered that He loved me, and that He would answer me.  I believe that it is because of these 2 things that I always knew I could pray to my Father.  I always knew that he was there, and that he would listen to me.  I always knew that even if I was mad at him, if I was blaming him, if I was yelling at him, that he would indeed listen to me, and answer me.  No matter what I was doing in my life these 2 promises have remained true.  I'm grateful for the knowledge, and the faith, that I had in these 2 phrases.

In April of 2013, after that talk by Elder Holland (which can be found here), I got on my knees and again asked the Lord to teach me about the prophet Joseph Smith, knowing that he would answer me.  Well my dear readers, this past week I got my answer.

My husband came to me last week and said, "Jilly, I think we need to start reading the scriptures together nightly."  I was so touched that he would suggest this, that I hugged him and said, "I would love that Babe."  Then he said, "I'm not going to be the initiator because you know if it's left up to me we won't do it, so I need you to be on top of it."  :)  It made me laugh, but of course I agreed and said that, that was something I could be in charge of doing. 

 So the next night while sitting in bed, I turned to 1st Nephi, and he said, "What are you doing?  If we're going to read the Book of Mormon we're going to start from the VERY BEGINNING."  I thought he was crazy and said, "This is the beginning."  He said, "No Jilly, the title page, and testimonies."  I was a little stunned because this had never crossed my mind.  I had only read the Book of Mormon once in my life up until now, and I had never read the title page, or the testimonies of the witnesses, or of Joseph Smith.  So I said "Okay" and Dave started reading.

Dave read through the testimonies of the witnesses.  Then we got to the testimony of Joseph Smith, and it was my turn to read.  Oh, and just so all of you know we started our reading with a little prayer, and asked our Father to allow us to feel of the spirit, and for him to teach us the things that we each needed to learn that night.  Okay, back to my story.  So I started reading the testimony of Joseph Smith, and his story about Moroni, the Golden Plates, and so on.  As I was reading (and I don't remember exactly where it was) my Father in Heaven did indeed send his spirit to me to teach me what I had been praying for, for 6 months.  The spirit revealed to me that Joseph Smith did indeed see the angel Moroni.  That he did indeed see the Golden Plates.  That he truly did translate the Book of Mormon by the power of our one and only Father in Heaven, that he truly is the prophet that restored the one and only Gospel of Jesus Christ to our time, and that he indeed is a true prophet of God.

Each of us are taught by the spirit in our own individual way.  The spirit speaks to each of us similarly, but each of us are individuals, and the Holy Ghost treats us as such.  I don't know how the Holy Ghost speaks and bears witness to your soul, but for me it is as clear as day.  When I feel the spirit I feel calm, at peace, and I have the most beautiful feeling of love in my heart.  I am filled with deep feelings of happiness and contentment, and my mind is clear.  I mean my mind is PERFECTLY CLEAR.  The spirit clears my head, so that my Father in Heaven can speak with me directly.  When the Holy Ghost is speaking to me through my Father in Heaven, it's as clear as 2 people having a conversation in their native tongue.  I can ask my Father questions and immediately my mind will be filled with the answer.  If what I am asking is true and correct, it comes instantly, and there is no confusion or question.  If it is not the spirit speaking to me through my Father, my mind will wander, many thoughts will come at once and clutter my mind, and I won't be able to focus.  Clarity is how my Father in Heaven speaks to me.  Clarity is what I had that night as I read the testifying witness that Joseph Smith had, and shared with each one of us.  

Yet again, the promise I had been given so many times was answered.  The question that I was asking of my Father in Heaven through prayer, and with faith, was answered that night.  For I now KNOW without any doubt that Joseph Smith is prophet of God that he saw my Father in Heaven and his only begotten son, Jesus Christ.  I know that he translated the Book of Mormon that is another story of our Savior and the love that he has for us.  I know that if we read that book with the intent to find out if it is the truth, that Heavenly Father will answer our prayer.  He will fill our heart with love, peace, and calmness, and testify to us that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God who gave us the keystone to our religion.  

If we will read and follow the teachings found in the Book of Mormon, we will not fail.  Satan will not have the power to overcome us, and we will not be tempted beyond what we can bear.  I know that if we ask our Father in Heaven the desires of our hearts, and questions that we so desperately want answered, that he will answer us.  It may not be that moment, that day, or even that year.  But if we remain steadfast to his Gospel, and hold tight to the truths we already know, and don't focus on our doubts; those answers will come.  We will not fail.  We cannot fail.  We will succeed every time with the guidance and love of our Father in Heaven, and in his son, Jesus Christ.

I know that my Savior died for my sins.  I know that he is the only person in this world, and in heaven, that understands every pain, physical, mental, or emotional, that I go through.  I know that when I am in need, I can ask for his strength and he will send it.  He will not leave me comfortless.  He will come to me.  Christ didn't die so that we would never cry, he died so that he could be there to wipe away our tears, and turn our weaknesses into strengths.

I can't imagine the pain, suffering, and anguish that Joseph Smith went through while translating the Book of Mormon, but I know that he did because that is what God asked him to do.  I know he did it for our time.  He did it for me.  He did so that each one of us can return to live with our Father in Heaven again one day.  I'm so thankful for him, and his testimony, and for his willingness to share it with people like me.   People that question, and people that have doubts; imperfect people.  I'm thankful that he shared his testimony so that it can build mine.  

I know that Joseph Smith is a TRUE and RIGHTEOUS prophet of God.  I know that he restored the one and only true church to this earth today.  And I know that it is the Gospel that will save my soul in the next life.  I'm so grateful for this knowledge.  I'm grateful that my Father in Heaven loves me enough to send me this knowledge.  I'm thankful that this week I was taught a little more about my religion and why I do the things I do.  I know that you can have all this knowledge as well, if you will simply ask in Faith KNOWING that he will answer your prayers, because he answered mine.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Be Happy with Your Life

I have a dear friend that is constantly complaining about how much she has to do, and all of the different ways she is being pulled.  As I was talking with her today she was almost in tears because she felt like she never had any time to do the things that she wanted for herself.  After she had told me everything that was going on, I was prompted to tell her something.  I simply said, "Your life is how it is because of you. You choose what to put in your life, therefore you are in control of your life. It's up to you to be Happy with you Life."

As women we put it on ourselves that we need to do everything that everyone asks of us.  It's difficult for us to tell anyone no.  It is actually innately inside of us to have feelings of charity.  I can't remember which apostle said this (so don't quote me) but he said that "Women naturally have feelings of charity towards others."  You don't need to beat yourself up because you want to naturally help others in this world, or make other people happy.  You do need to decide how much you can do though, and leave time for you.  Only you can choose to have a happy life.

When I was younger (and not ill), I went constantly.  There were days that I didn't sleep because I was constantly doing things for others (it probably also had something to do with my bipolar, but that's besides the point.)  I never told anyone no, and therefore never had anytime for myself.  I always over committed to everyone, and in the end I felt like I wasn't in control of my life.  I was constantly consumed with my real estate customers, and if they were happy.  I sent out hundreds of Thank You cards a week to people, and I put hundreds of miles on my car go, go, going.  I was exhausted all the time, and never felt rested or at peace.  I never knew that I was doing it to myself.  I thought that this was just adulthood, so I should suck it up and do it.  Little did I know that EVERYTHING would change once I got sick.

When I became ill in 2009 I was working a full time job, being a full time wife, going to school, and had a calling in my church.  I got sick literally overnight.  One day I was at work, came home and made dinner, and 30 minutes later ended up in the emergency room, and had surgery later that night.  I didn't get better after either.  I ended up living in the Hospital for months.  I remember going crazy inside because "Who was going to do my job?"  "Who is going to make Dave's lunches?"  "Who is going to teach for me at church?"  No one could possibly do the things that I did.  It was all up to me.  Guess what?  The world didn't stop when Jill couldn't get out of a Hospital bed.  My job found a new agent to take my place, the church found a new person to teach, and Dave learned how to cook.  I was forced to take a step back and allow my life to stop.  I had to focus on Jill for the 1st time in years, and it was hard.  I learned what happiness was, and trust me, it wasn't selling houses, making money, making sure my house was spotless for whomever to come over, and it wasn't in making sure I had baked cookies for the neighborhood.  True happiness was found in lying in a Hospital bed talking to my husband.  Happiness was calm, peaceful, and slow.

Now, 4 years later a lot has changed and a lot has stayed the same.  I haven't been able to go back to work because I'm not well enough.  I have learned to say no to people. I have learned to accept help instead of always feeling like I have to give it.  I have learned that people will love me even in the slow moments of life.  I have learned that Dave can cook sometimes, that my visiting teaching might not get done every month, that my house is not spotless everyday, and that loads of laundry waiting to be folded can sit for weeks, and it's all okay.  The world is not going to fall a part or stop turning.  I have learned to enjoy the calm, and slow moments in my life.  Even though I was forced to slow down, I'm grateful I did; because I have learned what true happiness is.

Last night my husband and I were sitting in bed together just talking.  I enjoyed the peaceful feeling of his love, and the power of his faithful priesthood.  This was happiness.  Being with the person I love most in this world, and enjoying doing nothing at all.  I was at peace, things were calm, and I was with my best friend.  There was no other place in the whole world that I would've rather been.  No real estate deal could ever be better then sitting there talking to Dave.  To have moments like last night, I would trade every single house I've ever sold.  Money, dishes, cleaning, lessons, home teaching, church, school, none of it mattered last night.  The only thing that was important was sitting there with my sweetheart.  Something I would've never been able to do 5 years ago.  I'm so thankful that my Father in Heaven made me slow down and enjoy life the way it was meant to be.

When I told my friend what I told her, she sat there and tried to make excuses.  She tried to tell me that it had to be done. If she didn't do it nobody would, and you know what?  She may be right.  It might not get done if she doesn't do it, but it doesn't matter. The only things that matter in this life are our Father in Heaven, his plan for us, our families, and how we treat others.  

The Gospel teaches us to love one another.  Sometimes we take this to mean that we have to cure every one's problems, do every one's chores, and make everything all better.  That couldn't be farther from the truth.  It doesn't matter how many people we have taken dinner to, or if my yard looks better than my neighbors.  It doesn't matter if someone knows that I spent $900 or $10 on my shoes.  It doesn't matter if my house is cleaner than yours, or if I have dinner done every night for my family.  None of these things matter, even though we place value on them.  In the big scheme of things God doesn't care if our flowers are watered, or if our grass is greener than the Jones family next door.  God cares about how we treat the Jones family.  God cares about how we treat our own family.  And most important, God cares about how we treat ourselves, and if we never leave anytime for "us" then we're not living the life that God wants us to live.

Now I'm not saying that if your day is jam packed that you can't be happy, or that you're in the wrong.  If you choose to live that way and it brings you happiness and peace, then that is all that matters.  As long as you are happy, and living the way that your Father in Heaven wants you to, than you are going to have happiness.  What I'm saying is, that if your day is jam packed with things that you don't want to do, or that cause you anxiety, stress, depression, or sorrow, then only you can change that. You're the only one that can choose to be Happy with your Life.  

God has a unique plan for each one of us.  He knows each one of us so perfectly.  He knows that I'm not capable of working everyday 9 to 5.  He knows that I'm not capable of having the responsibility of holding the priesthood.  Just like he knows that I am capable of all the beautiful and wonderful powers that being a woman holds.  He designed a life specifically for me; as a beautiful, talented, thoughtful, and faithful, Daughter of God.  He put me on this earth for a reason, and it isn't to see how many casseroles I can deliver.  It's to love others as he would, to teach people about the Gospel and how much their Savior loves them, and to be an ambassador of Christ. 

He put me on this earth to love and support my husband in his priesthood, family, and work callings.  He put me on this earth to honor my husband, therefore having him honor me as the beautiful Woman that I am.  He put me on this earth to be a wife to Dave, and to love him more than any other person on this earth.  He wants me to stand by his side and be his equal, not his helper.  Dave and I are together for a reason, and the main one is to find happiness, peace, comfort, and joy in the love that we have for one another.  That is why I am on this earth.

I don't know why you're here, only you can ask God to direct you in your life.  He's the only one that can teach you what you are here to do, and to allow you to have all the happiness that each Child of God deserves.  It is up to you, and you alone to be Happy with Your Life.  The way to find it is through our Father in Heaven and our Savior Jesus Christ.  We must choose his path, and choose to be Happy.