Sunday, December 15, 2013

What Zach Has Taught Me

I have been meaning to write this post for a while in remembrance of Zach's passing two years ago.  I just wanted it to be perfect, so I have been waiting for the right moment.  I hope and pray I can share the message I have been constructing in my mind for this past week.  I wanted Zach to know what he has taught me since he has passed.  I suppose that is what makes it easier for me to go on.  Knowing that his spirit lives on and continues to help myself and others brings me the greatest comfort.  Here is what I have learned from him in the last two years.  (I apologize that some of this I have already shared.  Hope you don't mind the redundancy.)

1. Always say 'I love you.'  You know how you sometimes get those subtle promptings?  A passing thought that could easily be dismissed?  The last time I saw Zach will be forever ingrained in my memory.  I was getting ready to drive back up North after visiting for Thanksgiving, and Zach didn't come to say good-bye.  This kind of hurt my feelings, and my prideful side wanted to just walk away.  However, I had this distinct thought come to my mind: "He needs to know that you love him."  So I went back and gave him a hug, and I told him that I loved him.  That was the last time I even spoke to him.
Every time I get upset with Jeff and feel like storming off, I remember that day.  I may need some time to cool down, but I make sure to tell him that I love him.  I also never leave the house anymore without kissing my family twice, just in case.  I never want them to doubt that I love them.

2. One day, tomorrow will not come.  I know this is kind of a depressing thought, but this became a reality to me when Zach died.  You think you will always have 'tomorrow' to make things better, to right your wrong, or to say 'I love you.'  Someday, that will not be true, so take advantage of having today.  Make sure that when the end of the day comes, you do not go to sleep with any regrets.  I have so many things I wanted to do or say with Zach, and I can only hope that he knows what is in my heart, because those opportunities are lost to me in this life now.

3. Everything I have ever been taught about Heaven is true and real.  My dad has had some incredible dreams and experiences with Zach.  I will not share any of the details, but they have taught me  that our spirits live on beyond the veil.  They have taught me that the spirits of those who have passed on are engaged in an incredible work.  Zach may have not been able to serve a mission here on earth, but he is serving an eternal mission now.  I also learned that he is happy to be where he is at and doing what he is doing.  This thought brings me peace.

4.  We are all entitled to personal revelation.  When Zach died, my dad gave me a blessing that I would receive the answers I was seeking in a way that I needed.  I did not realize how quickly those answers would come.  I had a dream that same night about Zach.  I was in my parents' basement, and Zach suddenly appeared in front of me as an 8 year old.  He told me in this dream that he was happy, and I told him that I loved him.  One thing I distinctly remember is holding onto his hands for dear life.  I would not let him go until I knew that he was happy, and he knew that I loved him.  Once this was accomplished, he left.

5. I know what the power of the Atonement feels like and what it can do for us.  During this time, I felt the power of the Atonement, as well as the power of the prayers being offered in our behalf.  I knew that I should be falling apart, because that is what I always thought would happen should I find myself in this situation.  However, it didn't happen.  I felt peace and reassurance.  I felt hope.  I felt strength I didn't know I had.  I asked myself how this was possible, and the answer came that my Savior was holding me up, helping me to do something I never thought I could do.  I wish it did not take something this tragic for me to feel of this magical, incredible gift, but I am grateful I know firsthand what the Atonement can do for us.  I am also grateful that because of what Jesus suffered for us, this life is not the end.  We have much to look forward to in the next life.

6. Zach loves me.  Zach has miraculously found ways to let me know that he loves me, and the he is still around.  There have been the tender visits from him.  I have never seen him, but I have definitely felt him: A warmth and love that could only be him.  Then there was the time that I opened an old journal one day, and found a note from Zach that simply said "I love you. ZP."  My mom also found an old email, that I still have, where he told me he had fun visiting me, and that I was 'the best sister.'  Last Christmas, we found an old book of Zach's.  A diary, I believe.  He wrote about me several times, and how he missed me (I was at college), and how excited he was for me to visit.  It reminded me of the special relationship we shared growing up, which was something I needed to remember.

So, even though I do not get to see him, he has taught me more about Heaven, miracles, and the importance of family than I think I could have learned on my own.  I will always be grateful to him for leaving this legacy and gift behind.  He is my angel.  The song I chose today reflects my feelings about where Zach is, and my gratitude to my Savior for making it all possible.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Choosing the Right brings peace

Today has been a special Sunday.  I really wanted to feel the spirit of the Sabbath, and I realized that, to do this, I needed to make different choices than what I have made in the past.  I love to start my Saturdays (and usually Sundays) watching Disney Junior with my girls.  It's our time together.  However, today, instead of doing that,  I turned on church music when they woke up.  I immediately felt this incredibly peaceful spirit come into our home that I have not felt for a while.  I even found time to read a couple of conference talks before the girls woke up this morning, where I am usually just so lazy on Sunday, I actually don't get to scripture study at all on Sundays, of all days!  Because of these simple choices, our whole day has felt different and special.  I felt more engaged in the talks and lessons today.  I even received an answer to a concern I had voiced to my Heavenly Father just this morning.  From these experiences today, I have learned a few important lessons.
1. Often times, when we are feeling stressed or anxious about something, we probably are not doing something right!  Why do I feel this way?  Well, our Sunday mornings are usually very chaotic, and I can't get Brook to do anything because she would rather sit and watch her show.  So we get into fights trying to get her going.  This morning, when I chose to leave the TV off and invite the spirit in, there was no stress, and there was no fighting.
2. When we give time to the Lord, He gives time back to us.  I took the time to study the words of the apostles this morning, and as a result, we were not rushing out the door.  We had plenty of time to get to church, even though I did something I usually don't take the time to do on Sunday mornings.
3. Preparing ourselves for the Sabbath day, and for church, enhances our experience and opens our hearts to the spirit.  Since I actually came to church with some questions today, and was not distracted by the chaos of life, but calm and open to the spirit, I received an almost immediate answer to my question.  I felt like everything taught could be applied to my life somehow, instead of brushing if off, thinking it was not for me.
4. Small and simple things bring forth great blessings.  In making these choices today, I was again reminded of a promise the Lord made to me a few months ago.  I always have Jeff give me a blessing at the beginning of each school year.  The blessing this year was different.  It started out: "This is going to be your hardest year yet."  I'm not going to lie, I immediately panicked.  This is not what I wanted to hear.  Yet, the Lord was preparing me.  He also followed it with counsel: "As long as you are reading your scriptures daily and saying your prayers, you will be able to do what you need to do, and you will get through it."  He asked such a simple thing of me, and in return, promised I would be able to get through this year.  This has been true today and everyday.
5. Another precious thing that occurred was that, when I was open to the spirit, instead of distracted by worldly things, not only did I feel the spirit of the Lord, but I also felt Zach's spirit.  Some of the songs on my church playlist are sweet songs that remind me of him.  When they came on, I was reminded of him and how much I love him.  I think, in a way, he was with me for those few minutes.
I feel so blessed and so grateful to my Heavenly Father for prompting me to do the things I need to do for myself, an for my family.  I also feel grateful that He is aware of me, and that He finds ways everyday to remind me of His presence in my life.  Isn't it interesting that doing what the Lord has asked us to do opens more doors and gives us more opportunities than choosing the opposite?  Isn't it interesting that inviting the spirit helps us to bear, and sometimes, rid ourselves of our anxieties?  Heavenly Father loves us so much, and He will show us everyday if we simply do the small and simple things He has asked of us.  I am so grateful for this knowledge!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Catching glimpses of heaven

     Lately, I have been pondering the experiences I have had where I have been blessed to feel Zach's presence.  Until he died, I don't think I ever really understood what heaven held in store for us.  Since he has passed, I have caught glimpses of heaven.  I suppose one of the blessings of having a loved one on the other side is the sudden knowledge that heaven is real, and that the spirits of those who have passed on do in fact continue to exist.  I feel like I need to share what it feels like.  I have come to realize what a unique feeling and experience it is.
     The first time I felt Zach near me was at the beach this time last year.  I had been feeling really sad because being at the beach was just not the same without him.  I was standing on the shoreline, enjoying the beauty of the setting sun, when suddenly this incredibly warm feeling came over me, almost like a tangible hug.  I felt love, peace, and comfort.  I felt that someone--Zach--was there.  I could have stayed there forever, relishing this feeling.  Just as surely as I knew he was there, I felt when he was gone.
     The next time this happened to me was when I was driving down to St. George back in April.  The song "I Drive Your Truck" by Lee Brice came on the radio.  The first time I had ever heard this song, I immediately thought of Zach and the ways I tried to remember him.  After all, it is about someone losing their brother.  The moment this song came on, I felt this warmth come over me.  Again, it felt like love, and it was so peaceful.  I felt like the sun was warmer and brighter all of a sudden.  It stayed with me throughout the entire song, and I felt like Zach was telling me that this was 'our song.'  As soon as the song ended, the feeling was gone, and I knew he had left.  But it was so special.  The fact that I felt so different from when it started to when it ended told me that he truly had been there.
     Today I was blessed with another sweet experience.  I briefly shared the fact that Zach had died with a friend, and as usual, it brought the sadness I try to keep buried deep down, up to the surface.  As I was driving home, 'our song' (I Drive Your Truck) came on the radio, and I immediately felt comforted and like I was surrounded by Zach's presence.  Then, almost as another tender mercy, immediately after that song ended, Carrie Underwood's "See You Again" came on the radio.  I felt like Zach was trying to tell me that he was with me and reminding me that we will see each other again someday.
     There is such a unique feeling associated with feeling the presence of someone beyond the veil.  I am so grateful that I have been blessed with these experiences and that I can with confidence say that I know heaven is real, and that our loved ones do live on.  This life is not the end.  I am grateful to Zach for continuing to be a presence in my life as well.  I love you buddy!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Looking up

I am going to piggy back off of a talk that was shared in sacrament meeting today.  It was awesome, to say the least.  His focus was on gratitude.  The way he taught it, though, was by focusing on the idea of "looking up."  This hit me so hard because I realized that once again I had been so caught up in my own problems that I had neglected to express my gratitude to my Heavenly Father.  I wanted to sneak out right then and fix this.  What I learned from this talk is that we are always going to struggle with something in our lives, and if we look down, Satan will pull us down further.  He will blind us from the light that is always surrounding us.  But if we can exercise even a little bit of faith by looking up, looking to the Lord, looking to the light, we will be given the power and strength we need to get through anything.  This brother also said, however, that even if we are looking up, Satan will still try to pull us down with fear.  We have to cast out fear and let faith take over.  I came across an article from this month's Ensign that hit this idea perfectly.  This is by Elder Brent H. Nielson, and it is entitled: "Move Forward with Faith."

"The biggest challenge seems to be fear—fear of the future, fear of failure, fear of not knowing who {we} are or what {we} can become. I have learned a very important lesson. In the gospel of Jesus Christ, fear is the opposite of faith. If you have fear, faith diminishes, but if you have faith, fear diminishes."
This is me!  I constantly fear all of these things.  There was a time in my life when it was so easy to have faith.  I literally never doubted that things would work themselves out.  I am now far removed from that person, and it has been quite the battle to find that conviction again.  I keep thinking about this situation where I desperately needed guidance.  I felt like Heavenly Father wanted me to do something big, but it scared me.  Logically, I could not see how it would work out.  I feared what it would mean for the future.  I feared we would in no way be prepared and we would fail.  I just could not see it working out.  Well, I received one very strong witness that I should listen to what Heavenly Father was telling me.  Then Satan started working on me really hard.  He threw everything he could at me to scare me, and it worked for a while.  So Jeff and I fasted together about this, and we both immediately knew the answer.  When the answer came, all of the fear I had been feeling for the past months were immediately replaced by peace and joy and excitement.  However, it did not take Satan long to start messing with me again.  I prayed for strength to rise above this and see the light that is promised us.  I needed to know without a doubt that we were making the right decision.  My third confirmation came a few days later, when I felt filled with that beautiful light and hope.  This time it stayed!  I knew we needed to listen to what Heavenly Father was telling me, so I finally acted on this loving inspiration.  Now I have to exercise faith in His plan for us as we walk forward into the future.
"In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we need have no fear. We need not fear death, because we have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His gift of the Resurrection. We need not fear what man can do to us, because we know that if God is with us and if we have faith in Jesus Christ, we can accomplish whatsoever thing is expedient to His work (seeMoroni 7:33). We need not fear the future, because we know that as we keep the commandments, the Lord will bless us.
Paul teaches, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). We move forward with faith in God the Father and in His Son, Jesus Christ."
When you read those quotes, don't you just feel like saying "How could I ever fear anything knowing what Heavenly Father has given me and promised me?"  That is how it makes me feel.  We must look up, to the promises and blessing surrounding us.  Life will be hard at times.  It will bring heartbreak and uncertainty.  Burdens will weigh us down at times.  We will probably lose sight of what is important and miss many glorious blessings while we are in that lost state.  However, we need to know that Heavenly Father will never abandon us.  He sacrificed His only begotten Son so that we could have hope in our future, so that we would never truly be alone in this life.  Because of what the Savior did for us, He is able to lift us up and carry us when we need it.  No matter the difficulty we are facing, we will eventually find our way back to the light if we can exercise the faith to look up.  That is what the Atonement is for.  That is why we have the gospel today so that we can have this knowledge, so we MUST use it.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Reaching for the light

These past few months have been a constant battle of ups and downs.  I hope it is ok to bare my soul a little bit here.  I have battled depression before, but this time around has been so different.  I would go back and forth between feeling peace and happiness, and then feeling so completely sad that I didn't seem to care about anything anymore.  I felt darkness.  I felt extreme anxiety, guilt, and sadness.  Every little mistake I made felt like I had committed some horrible sin.  I tried everything I could think of  to live my life righteously, knowing that if I kept holding onto that, surely I could receive heavenly help to pull out of this funk.  Finally, I realized that I was fighting Satan.  I was having a hard time opening my heart during my prayers.  I often wondered if they ever made it passed the ceiling.  I literally could not feel the spirit anymore.  At church, I felt this wall blocking it out, keeping me from feeling the spirit there.  When I read the scriptures, I felt guilt, instead of their power.  I stopped seeing the blessings I know were surrounding me daily.  It was so hard to fight this.  So hard.  I have never felt this way before.
Finally, I realized what I needed to do.  I poured my heart out to Heavenly Father.  I told him that I was not strong enough to fight this.  I could not carry out my responsibilities as a wife and mother constantly feeling this way.  I needed His help to remove this burden from my heart, that I would not feel it anymore.  I acknowledged that only Satan could make me feel this way, and I needed Heavenly Father's love and support to rise above.  He did answer my prayer almost immediately.  I felt at peace for the first time in months.  I was able to be happy and see clearly.  I was able to enjoy the blessings that were all around me.  I had put off re-reading this conference talk by Elder Uchtdorf, "The Hope of God's Light."  For some reason, I had felt afraid.  But I finally read it when some of this darkness cleared, and I can't help but feel it was meant for me.  I am going to include some of it here:

There may be some among you who feel darkness encroaching upon you. You may feel burdened by worry, fear, or doubt. To you and to all of us, I repeat a wonderful and certain truth: God’s light is real. It is available to all! It gives life to all things.1 It has the power to soften the sting of the deepest wound. It can be a healing balm for the loneliness and sickness of our souls. In the furrows of despair, it can plant the seeds of a brighter hope. It can enlighten the deepest valleys of sorrow. It can illuminate the path before us and lead us through the darkest night into the promise of a new dawn.
This is “the Spirit of Jesus Christ,” which gives “light to every man that cometh into the world.”2

First, start where you are.
Isn’t it wonderful to know that we don’t have to be perfect to experience the blessings and gifts of our Heavenly Father? We don’t have to wait to cross the finish line to receive God’s blessings. In fact, the heavens begin to part and the blessings of heaven begin to distill upon us with the very first steps we take toward the light.
The perfect place to begin is exactly where you are right now. It doesn’t matter how unqualified you may think you are or how far behind others you may feel. The very moment you begin to seek your Heavenly Father, in that moment, the hope of His light will begin to awaken, enliven, and ennoble your soul.5 The darkness may not dissipate all at once, but as surely as night always gives way to dawn, the light will come.
Second, turn your heart toward the Lord.
Lift up your soul in prayer and explain to your Heavenly Father what you are feeling. Acknowledge your shortcomings. Pour out your heart and express your gratitude. Let Him know of the trials you are facing. Plead with Him in Christ’s name for strength and support. Ask that your ears may be opened, that you may hear His voice. Ask that your eyes may be opened, that you may see His light.
Third, walk in the light.
Your Heavenly Father knows that you will make mistakes. He knows that you will stumble—perhaps many times. This saddens Him, but He loves you. He does not wish to break your spirit. On the contrary, He desires that you rise up and become the person you were designed to be.
To that end, He sent His Son to this earth to illuminate the way and show us how to safely cross the stumbling blocks placed in our path. He has given us the gospel, which teaches the way of the disciple. It teaches us the things we must know, do, and be to walk in His light, following in the footsteps of His Beloved Son, our Savior."

This talk made me feel like I wasn't alone.  Surely there were others out there struggling with this.  And the answer to my problem is so simple.  Turn to the Savior.  He is the true Light of the world.  I can't believe I had forgotten it, and how the Savior had carried me so many times before.  Why would this time be any different?  And as soon as I asked for Him to remove this burden, He took it.  He carried it for me.  We are so blessed to have the knowledge of the Gospel.  I can't imagine facing my trials without this knowledge.  I would be lost without it.  I am so grateful to my Heavenly Father for not giving up on me while I struggled to find my way.  I am so grateful to my Savior for lifting me when I couldn't stand on my own.  I hope that this can help someone else who may feel this way at times too.  And of course, here is my token song to go along with my post.  Click on the link below:

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Recognizing the voice of the Lord

"The Lord always answers the humble prayer of faith.  {The scriptures} and our personal experience teach us how to recognize those answers and accept them in faith, whether they be direction, confirmation of truth, or a warning. I pray that we always will listen for and recognize the loving voice of the Lord."  (President Henry B. Eyring "The Voice of the Lord.")

I want to write about this while it is fresh in my heart.  I have had some neat experiences this week, in listening to the voice of the Lord.  My mom gave Jeff and I a bunch of names to take to the temple for their endowments.  We have a hard time finding time to go to the temple, so I was a little nervous about this task she had given us.  However, it provided me with a sweet experience that I feel has opened my heart to the voice of the Spirit of the Lord.  The name that was at the top of my pile, Catherine, kept leaping out at me.  Every time I looked at it, I could feel her urgency and desire to have her temple work done.  Finally, I couldn't ignore it anymore.  Jeff and I went to the temple on Friday, and I took her name through the Endowment session.  I could feel her excitement the whole time, and I think I was more personally invested in the work than I ever have been.  When the ordinance was complete, I heard a voice say "We did it!" and I knew she was happy to finally have her work done.  

Today in Relief Society, I had this incredibly joyful feeling come over me.  I knew it was the Lord communicating a message to me.  The more I pondered His message, the more I felt He was directing me down a new path, and as I thought of accepting His will in this matter, I had a hard time containing the pure joy that I felt at being willing to accept His call.  

Then I came across this talk from Elder Eyring on recognizing the voice of the Lord in your life.  It was another confirmation that He had been speaking to me this past week, and what I had been experiencing was Divine.  I feel so blessed to have had these experiences.  It is moments like this that really help to life me up, and then to pick me up again when I have doubts.  I always think back to this scripture: “Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?” (D&C 6:23).  

We are so blessed to have open lines of communication with the Lord.  We need to be making good choices, that will allow us to remain close to Him.  We need to be doing our daily scripture study and having daily prayer.  These things seem so small, but in our busy lives, they are our anchor.  They allow the spirit to be in our lives.  They allow our hearts to be open to communication from above.  I know I could not have had these experiences without doing these things.  I have been on the other side, where I felt trapped behind a wall, afraid to let Him in.  To know that I have been able to overcome that at this time is such a blessing.  I am so grateful to the Lord for loving me and trusting me.  I am grateful for His counsel in my life and His reassurances that all things are possible through Him.