Mark Twain once said something to the effect of, “I’ve never wished anyone dead. But I have read some obituaries that make me smile.”
This quote couldn’t ring truer to me at any other time than right now. After years and years of hunting down the man behind the mass murder of over three-thousand people in the September 11th attack, Osama Bin Laden has been killed by a successful CIA operation, and I’m one of the people celebrating.
I remember the day like it was yesterday, although I was only 11 at the time. I saw the two tall buildings crumble into a heap of debris, taking innocent lives in its wake. I remember the TV screen sending images into my home of people covered in ash, crying out in fear, dodging falling cement blocks and choking on the thick air. I remember seeing the Firefighters carrying bodies from the rubble, tears staining their faces. And I remember thinking to myself- whoever did this HAS to pay.
And last night he did. Although I am Mormon and love to live my life as Christ would, I am not one of the people saying that there should be no rejoicing over a death. Thousands of innocent lives have been taken because of this Al Quaida leader- not just within the borders of this nation, but within his own. He doesn’t stand as the head of a Muslim religion I don’t believe in- he stands at the head of an organized murder group that I believe NEEDS to be taken down. So many people have refuted my argument saying that we need to show love and compassion, even for someone like Bin Laden. My argument? Even within the scriptures it states that it is better for one man to perish than a multitude.
Justice, my friends, has been served.
I celebrate the U.S.A. today. I celebrate that we have rid ourselves of an enemy that was viciously after all that we hold dear.
I’m proud to be an American.
After a long conversation with my best friend, I realized that I had just been spoon-fed the topic for my next blog. So here it goes.
He’s going through lots of changes in life, and he’s not alone. So am I, and so is almost everyone else I know of right now. And it’s not just a personal battle for each of us, it’s the world’s battle. All across the face of this earth we see signs of the struggle- we hear about the earthquakes that devastate Japan, the radiation and nuclear waste seeping into the oceans…we turn on the news and see the protests in the street, the handful of wars tearing across the middle east, and the government within our very borders struggling with a national debt that could stretch to the moon and back 3,000 times if it were represented by dollar bills place tip to tip. We see the hunger, the raids, the moral decay that has come with new generations and deaths of preceding ones…and lately, none of us can argue against the fact that it’s gotten worse.
While talking to my friend he emphasized that it’s getting worse and that it’s not going to get better. Just as the scriptures point out, in the latter days disasters will occur, wars will break out, men will turn against each other, and the economy will become so horrible and paper-thin that jobs will first become scarce, and then impossible, to find. He said he’s fearful, that he feels he’s living on borrowed time, and that looking ahead down the road, even a few years, seems hard to do since he feels that the savior will come before that. I heard the note of panic in his voice, and the edge of fear as he outlined what he saw happening and how he felt that life for him wouldn’t get much better in a world that seems to wobble on its very axis.
While I too get nervous at the state of this world and I too know that the Savior will return once these prophecies are fulfilled and at a time when the world isn’t in a very good condition, I happen to look at it differently because I’m not of this world….No, I’m not saying I’m extra-terrestrial or anything far-fetched like that. And no, I’m not saying I’m any better than everyone else trying to make it in this world. All I’m saying is my perspective is a bit different. Yes, my feet are planted on this ground, but my spirit is able to soar far past this galaxy. I’m bigger than the world in which I live. And so are you.
I know that things will only get worse, and truth is, it’s going to get scary. But at the same time, how exciting it is to live within a time, to be CHOSEN to live during a time, when we are ultimately tested to stand apart, to be tried and to be proven. We were literally chosen before the dawn of time to take part in this very time on earth- he trusted us enough to know that we’d see the news, the tear-stained faces, the shattered and flooded countries, the violent protests and dying soldiers as well as our personal battles- the grief that comes from those we love leaving us or dying, divorce, job losses, illnesses, moral decay within our very homes, sacrifice. He trusted us enough to place our feet upon this very earth for this very time. So why be afraid? We were instilled with greater strength, greater courage, a wider expanse of knowledge, and a deeper love and devotion for all we stand true to, because the framework and the foundation has already been laid for thousands of years.
Just as I encouraged my friend on the phone, we don’t know the hour of Christ’s return. We don’t know if it’ll be 2012 like every website and Hollywood movie is saying, or if it’ll be in fifty years. So why worry about that? Christ and Heavenly Father wants us to live our lives with joy, plan for a future, try our best, and continue on without being discouraged about potential roadblocks or figurative or literal “Armageddons”. We’ll waste our “now” if we worry about our “what-ifs”.
I know that God will take care of me. I know that while the world gets worse, He’s still unchanging and He wants me to keep living and pressing forward. We’re given the gift of time- if we put ourselves on pause, that doesn’t mean time will stop or the end won’t creep any closer. We’ll just stop ourselves.
God says “Be Not Afraid” in Matthew 10 as well as various places within the scriptures, and I trust those words.
Why would we be afraid? Sure, we’re in a battle. But the war has already been won.
It’s been a long time since I last posted- almost a month, in fact. And I can’t say much different for my journal. I always write a whole lot during the rough patches in my life, but not where I should write. Instead of taking the opportunity to write hundreds of blog entries, fill the pages of my journal, or maybe write letters or thank-you’s that I’ve been putting off, I instead focus all my efforts on to the pages of my fiction novels that I write. Somehow the stories, the characters, the falsified worlds and plots, are my greatest escape from the kingdom I really live in. Lately life has been hard- I don’t really have the makings of a fairytale princess in a dream land with white horses, gallant knights, water color sunsets, or friendly forest animals that make me a dress for the ball. But even better, I suppose, is the fact that as a writer I can create those worlds and somehow live vicariously through them. That was my thinking until the other night, when I learned that there is no need to live vicariously through anything.
I took my younger sister to a Young Women’s activity at our church.
They were putting on a special “Once Upon a Time” themed night where several people in our church talked about different fairytale princesses and related them to principles found within our scriptures. Belle, for example, had to exercise great patience and compassion while facing her beastly captor, and with the knowledge and love she possessed, she saw something in him that no one else could see. Snow White was a hard worker- she served 7 little men she didn’t even know and cleaned their house til it was spotless, all because her heart was in the right place. But in turn, they trusted her and ended up helping to save her life. Cinderella had the virtue of endurance and long-suffering, smiling and humming while she endured tireless hours of chores and nagging from a heartless family. With dreams in her heart she never let herself harden, and in turn, she was given help and the man of her dreams spotted her out of a sea of people.
These stories, while being told, were also referenced to President Uchtdorf’s talk entitled, “Your Happily Ever After”, a talk he gave at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint’s General Conference in April of 2010. In that talk he spoke of the fairytales, the “Once Upon a Time’s” that are the beginning of a young woman’s journey, adventure, setbacks, trials, and eventually, her “Happily Ever After”. As he so eloquently states in his talk, “It is your reaction to adversity, not the adversity itself, that determines how your life’s story will develop.” Each of these princesses had their misfortunes- an evil step mother, a rebellious attitude to overcome, a poor social status, or a roadblock to move around. But what each of these princesses have in common is the fact that they didn’t begin with the crown- they worked through the trials and eventually earned it with their faith, patience, love, loyalty, and bravery.
I couldn’t help but become a little girl again as I listened intently. What little girl doesn’t dream of being that princess? The girl who sings and all the world stills to listen, the one who loses the glass slipper? But for all little girls, reality hits as we grow. The world dulls from gold to gray as it whispers in our ears a story- a story that says that we aren’t princesses, that we’re no one special, that the chaos we’re surrounded by, the pain and suffering we’ve been dealt, is something that is going to stay. That the pages of our fairytale won’t be anything golden or worth reading. We deserve nothing else, we begin to believe. We want to shut the book. But if we listen to our Heavenly Father, he whispers a different story.
"Once Upon a Time," he says to each of us if we listen, "I had a beautiful daughter. I sent her down to earth and watched as she overcame great trials and proved her courage and bravery and strength time and time again. I watched as she was tested and proven. I cried with her as she cried and rejoiced with her as she succeeded. I loved her throughout her journey and knew she was a divine princess, as I am the King of all."
And that is just the beginning of the story. He’s still letting us write our stories- each of us have our own. And just like these princesses, we’ll be crowned with great glory if we endure the trials, enjoy each moment that is given to us, love unconditionally, stay virtuous and pure, and realize our divine worth. Let us so live so that when the clock strikes and it’s time for us to go home, Heavenly Father can grant us our eternal Happily Ever After and we will wear the crowns we’ve earned.
"We all search for happiness, and we all try to find our own ‘happily ever after,’" Elder Uchtdorf stated in his talk. "The truth is, God knows how to get there! And He has created a map for you; He knows the way."
Let us remember these words. You’re a princess. I’m a princess. We’re daughters of a King.
And our Once Upon a Time is right now.
If I had a magic remote, I’d be pressing fast forward about right…..now.
February 14th is the day when I open my eyes and reach for that invisible remote. It’s the day where I always seem to be reminded of how things SHOULD be in my life, but aren’t. The roses, the candy, the paper Valentines, the school children with heart shaped cookies and crushes, the endless amounts of commercials where the guy whips out a diamond necklace—it all makes me want to crawl in a hole.
I guess you can say I’ve never been quite lucky in relationships, and Valentine’s Day, which comes along in its disguise of red and pink and naked babies with arrows, is a taunting little creature that laughs at me. Honestly, deep inside, I’m a hopeless romantic. I think the commercials should be real life. I think the school-boy or school-girl crush should carry on into adulthood. I think heart shaped cookies should still be planted into every husband’s lunch box and a rose should be tucked into every wife’s hand. But I have to realize that this real world I live in doesn’t exactly match up to the dream world I create in my mind.
Last night that was kind of proven to me. After going to bed at around midnight, I got a text from my childhood best friend, Cody Land. We grew up together and he had moved away to Texas when we were about 11 or 12. We had kept in contact ever since, and are still close, despite the distance. But around midnight he texted and asked me to be his Valentine. We talked for hours, sharing details on why we hate the heart-shaped holiday, and he sweetly told me he’ll make this day great for me by not letting me forget how beautiful I am. Suffice it to say, he made my night. After falling asleep after three in the morning, I woke up to a Facebook page and an inbox filled with sweet messages from guy friends wanting me to have a good day- one even said if he lived closer he’d make me a heart-shaped cheesecake. Another said he already sent a package in the mail and it should arrive to me anytime. Sweet gestures, and all the while Valentine’s Day still proved how pathetic it is because my love, who lives a distance away for the time being, the one I plan on marrying and whose plans are the same as mine, didn’t even acknowledge that the holiday exists. Not one text or call. Not a card. Nothing. Yet, everyone else, people I haven’t even talked to for a while, chose to make me feel special. It’s sad that once again, Valentine’s Day proves what it really is. An ugly, mean reminder.
So Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone- to the sweethearts, to the singles, to the girls who have big dreams and empty arms, to the guys who are trying their best to pick out the perfect card, and even to the ones who forgot. But in the meantime I’ll be trudging past paper hearts and candy chocolates, trying to reach tomorrow as quickly as possible.
Once there was a girl who just couldn’t find the strength until she found it on her knees.
Shortly before I was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints,back when I was dating a member but still never saw myself stepping into the baptismal font, I wrote this in my journal: “I’ve learned a lot about the Mormon religion: 1) They believe in 3 levels of Heaven. 2) They believe in a pre-existence 3) They believe in marrying in the temple to seal their marriage, which will last for eternity. 4) I don’t belong.” That journal entry was dated June 19th, 2008, shortly after I had graduated high school.
And now, here I am in 2011, just leaving the temple, a member for almost three years now. It’s amazing to see how life can change. How despite the fact that our eyes and ears and understanding are constantly evolving and improving, truth remains the same. I’m so proud to be a Latter-day Saint..to be chosen in this day and age to be here on the earth and accept the gospel- to have learned of the truthfulness in the Bible and the Book of Mormon at the age of 18, right before I took on life alone. What a blessing. I had just graduated high school, ready to set out for college, when Heavenly Father decided that it was time for me to know the truth; that it was time for me to become all that he wanted me to be after years of preparing me for it.
I’ve been compared to Brigham Young before, the prophet who was known for his stubbornness, his wit, his ways of never taking something at anyone’s word before praying about it first and knowing with absolute assurance that it’s right. And anyone who says that about me is right. For three years I resisted the church- hated it even, without even knowing about it. I refused to take anyone’s word for it, refused to swallow down any doctrine that was told to me without solid evidence. And Heavenly Father, being the loving parent he is who knows my character and my weaknesses, knew exactly how to teach me. First, a life of preparation. Struggles, trials, pain, and adult struggles carried by a small child- a life that made me rely on God, even though I didn’t know which church he tarried in quite yet. Second, a friend who was an example to me for three years, an example that radiated goodness and happiness. Thirdly, a Book of Mormon set into my hands with a simple testimony written on it’s last page. And fourthly, time. He knew I would read it, he didn’t have to force me. Every night I’d read it, careful not to let my Pentecostal parents see it, and then I’d shove it under the bed. And every night I’d pray. Finally, I decided to go to church again. And again. And again. And after a while I realized that God had already answered my prayers of asking if it was right. During one of my nightly prayers after reading about Ammon he responded to my heart very clearly. “You already know,” he said. And he was right.
Shortly after my heart’s conversion, my family followed. I asked them to also read and pray and we were baptized on the same day. I was scheduled to go to college shortly after, but I decided against WSU and focused on getting into Brigham Young University- Idaho. That’s where I am now, just a testament to the ways in which God can certainly curve any path, whether it be made of rigid stone or loose sand.
A year after converting my family learned more about that #3 from my list above. We were sealed in the temple as a family, bound for eternity under the laws of Heaven. For the first time in my life death didn’t scare me. It didn’t make me sad. Because finally I had a promise to me that whispered to my heart that we are all just passing through, and we will all pass through together and remain together throughout eternity if we are sealed and remain righteous. Finally it all made senses. Finally the pieces that everyone tries to sort through seemed to all fit right and Heavenly Father’s love for me was more than apparent, it was felt by every fiber of my being.
Today, I felt a little bit of that again. After walking out of my home temple here in Seattle after doing baptisms and walking past a couple of excited brides, I felt peace take hold of my heart and whisper to me once again that it’s true. Everything is true. The work done in the temple for those who have gone before, the church leaders and the inspiration they receive, the scriptures that I held in my hands for the first time nearly three years ago, and the love and promises of my Savior, who built his kingdom again upon this earth and upon the foundation of my heart.
He never makes a mistake. He knew I needed 18 years of wandering, of learning, of searching, before the gospel could touch my life. He knew I needed to learn for myself, read for myself, and know for myself before I’d ever accept it. And as I walked toward my car earlier today, the temple behind me, the sun shouldering past the morning clouds as noon awakened, I realized with a smile that he knew I’d be here soon enough, serving him with all my heart. After all, as John Taylor once said, “It’s the Kingdom of God or nothing”, and he certainly would never leave me with nothing.
So now I’ll turn through dozens and dozens of pages in my journal and start a new page. “I’ve learned a lot about my faith in my Mormon religion,” I’ll write. “1) I believe in the three levels of Heaven- the Celestial level of Heaven will be where me and my family resides. 2) I believe that in the pre-existence I was a special daughter of a King, just like I am now. 3) I believe that someday soon, just like I’m sealed to my present family, I’ll be sealed to the man of my dreams and my children and all the generations that come after us for all eternity.
And then lastly, 4) I will always belong.
Betrayal. Dishonesty. Judgment. Distrust. Heartbreak.
If you really think about it, all of these things stem from our relationships with other people. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately- how in my life, the relationships I have and the relationships I nourish are most important to me, but there’s something I keep in mind that so many fail to do- and that’s when the heartbreak occurs…the feelings of betrayal, the fears. When counting the many types of relationships we have we also need to keep track of what those relationships are doing for us. Are they lifting us up? Are they dragging us down? Are they serving to enrich and add joy, or to go against our every belief and make us question ourselves? And lastly, is our relationship with the Savior the platform upon which we stand, or is he just an ideal image that sits on a bookshelf collecting dust, or in a painting in a dining room? THAT is what causes the fall. We have the responsibility to decide which foundation we build ourselves, and our lives, upon. And if it is anything or anyone other than Christ, we will most certainly fall.
So many times in my life I’ve seen the strongest of people crumble. I’ve seen the happiest of people become depressed. And I’ve seen the most successful people fail and stay there. Looking back, the reasons were always rooted in where they put their trust. Is it a job? A best friend? A family member? Is it pride?
But always, in every situation, the answer was clear. Christ wasn’t the foundation. It was someone else or something else, and because of that, as soon as one of the other faulty foundations shifted or moved or broke, as soon as a friend betrayed their trust, as soon as a church congregation turned their backs, as soon as the house got repossessed or a husband cheated, they turn to ashes. Why? Because Christ wasn’t there to hold them up. He wanted to be a pillar, but instead, he was a mere decoration on a house that stood on sand.
I want everyone to know that relationships are important and they are the fabric of our hearts, but the most important relationship, the one we hold with Jesus Christ, is the one that needs to be underfoot so that when hard times come or people leave us, we won’t fall. With him as our foundation, we will never fall because he will never move.
"Christ the mighty rock I stand. All around is sinking sand."
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