Category Archives: Discipleship

Faith to Be Still

We talk about the faith to move mountains, the faith to heal the sick, the faith to make things change. More often though, I think we need to exercise the faith to stay still in a world of constant change, to hold on when things aren’t happening like we want, and to trust God when he seemingly leaves you alone. Faith is not always the grandiose manifestations of God’s power. Sometimes the greatest faith is necessary to simply be.

I recently went through the worst episode of depression that I have ever experienced. Although things were incredibly difficult, this was not a trial of faith for me. It was a trial of body and mind- a physical, emotional, and social trial. I wondered if I would make it through, not because I lacked faith, but because I did not know how much my physical body could endure before I would break. I had suffered so much for so long that the only thing left was my faith. This particular period of depression though was also a reassurance of God’s love and trust in me.

As the depression progressed, I felt like I was stripped down to my core. Layer after layer of the things I thought were important, the things I thought made me me, were stripped away until I found out exactly what I was made of. In the end, it wasn’t my strength or reliability, it wasn’t my knowledge or willpower, it wasn’t my obedience, and it wasn’t the service or the good deeds that made me me. I found that it is faith that makes me who I am.

I was doing a lot of good things. I was helping people. I was productive. I was a positive influence in the world. I recently read a quote I had written in my journal a few months ago that said, “you find your faith when you are doing all the right things, but everything goes wrong.” I was doing all of the right things. I was being an influence for good. I was doing everything I knew how to do to take care of myself. Things just went horribly wrong. But in the breaking and utter despair, I found something beautiful.

When everything else fell away, I found my core was faith. Not just the faith to move mountains, but the faith to stay where I was, to stand alone, and to stay standing when mountains and valleys and rivers moved all around me. I had faith that God could take away my depression. I had faith that I could be healed and made whole. But I felt like God told me that wasn’t the plan. He told me that this was just what I was going to have to live with for a while. I didn’t know how long it would last. I didn’t know when it would be over or if I would ever get better, but I knew that I trusted God anyway. In the midst of my darkest hours, I found the faith to trust God with all of me even when that faith was all I had left to give.

I have had depression for as long as I can remember. It had never been this bad before, and I am not sure I could have made it through if it had been this bad before. But throughout this trial I was so grateful for how I had been prepared for what I was going through. I was grateful for the previous years of depression that taught me resilience and perseverance. I was grateful that I now have friends that could be there for me through it. I was grateful that I have a good, stable job with an understanding boss. And now I am completely grateful, not just that things have gotten better, but that I experienced this so that I could discover the faith already within me to “be still and know that [He] is God.”

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I Will Not Leave You Comfortless

Tonight in my scripture study class someone asked why God sometimes seems to leave us when we need him most. He quoted the scripture, “I will not leave you comfortless” and then asked why that didn’t seem to be true at times.

I thought about this for a minute and my mind rested on the word “leave”. Sometimes we do feel comfortless. Sometimes it feels as though God has abandoned us, that we are hopeless, helpless, and alone. Sometimes in our times of greatest need we will wonder where God is and why he would leave us when we’re doing everything right, when we are doing our best to follow Him and do His will. But that word “leave” is very important. He does not say, “I will not allow you to be comfortless,” or “I will not let you feel alone.” He says that He will not leave us that way.

I struggle with depression, suicidal thoughts, loneliness, anxiety, and more. I do not ask why bad things happen to good people; I simply know that they do. But I have never had something bad happen to me that I wasn’t grateful for eventually. The darkness is sometimes a very lonely place, but I know that if I can just hold on long enough, I will not be left comfortless.

This week and the week before have been incredibly difficult. I have felt like I am trudging through waist-deep mud simply getting up in the morning and doing the day to day necessities of life. Tonight though, I felt okay enough to go to my class. I don’t think that was a coincidence. I don’t think that comment or my comment in response were coincidences.

It may have been a small thing, but reasons like that give me hope in the darkness. Tomorrow, life may feel hard again. I may feel depressed and alone, but if that means I can help someone else see the light, I would go through the darkness over and over.

Hold on.

He will not leave you comfortless.

The Sabbath is a Delight

I have always enjoyed Sundays. Other than having to wear a skirt, it was a day that I looked forward to for learning and relaxation. I did good things on Sunday like spending time with family, listening to music or talks, and watching church produced movies and bible videos.

The problem was that there was always an element missing from my Sundays, me. Sundays were about tuning out more than tuning in. They were about getting out of the world, taking a break from cares of the week, allowing myself to breathe. They also included service and learning and spiritual growth, but those were side effects rather than results.

I have not been well for a long time. I have fluctuated between health issues and depression for as long as I can remember. If I wasn’t suffering from one, I was struggling with the other. Sundays were a break from the week, but also a reminder that I was not okay. The quietness of a Sunday afternoon accentuated the loudness of my mind and body. I had time to realize just how bad I really felt and to get it out before having to face my week again.

Feeling the mental clarity I am now experiencing was an anomaly if not an impossibility. I needed Sunday to recharge. I needed Sunday to process what I was going through and handle life. I needed Sunday to be my escape. Sunday was a day of rest, but it was not yet “a delight”.

However, now that I am feeling better, I have discovered a whole new level to Sundays that I was unaware of before. I have discovered why Sunday can be called “a delight”. I have learned how to be present in my Sunday rather than a casual observer or catatonic absorber.

Sundays are not simply days of relaxation. They are days of action. There is much to be done. I have a million goals for my life, books I want to read, people I want to get to know, things I want to experience. Sunday has become a day to work towards those good things, to become better, and to form more meaningful relationships with God and others.

Sunday is not simply meant to give us a break from the world. Instead, Sunday should give us a new way to experience the world. Sunday should help us see the beauty in the little things, the brightness of someone’s countenance, the need behind someone’s distance.

Sunday isn’t just a day to rest; it is a day to experience THE rest. It is a day to feel what we don’t feel during the week because we don’t have time to notice or we just don’t think about it. Sunday is a day to experience the rest of the world apart from school or work or other demands. It is a day to be. It is a day to live.

I have read lists of ideas on what to do on Sunday, but I think the key is really what to be on Sunday. Are we being present? Are we experiencing our families in a different light? Are we engaging in a spiritual dialogue with our Savior and using that dialogue to make connections and gain personal insights? Are we being seekers of truth, doers of the word, lights unto the world?

I believe that making Sunday a delight consists of being rather than doing. It is a frame of mind, an attitude and perspective, rather than an adherence to a set of rules and regulations. Sunday is a delight, not because of what the day is, but because of what I am in that day. Insert yourself in your Sunday, engage in everything you do, and be fully present. Then I think you will find that Sunday is indeed a delight.

My Short Service Mission

If you haven’t seen Elder Holland’s pre-Face-to-face video, I highly recommend watching it by clicking here.

I’m grateful that Elder Holland talked about those that can’t go on proselyting missions at all.

I served a seven month service mission. It was not in the plans. I was supposed to go on a fulltime, 18 month proselyting mission. I was supposed to return from that mission and get my doctorate in clinical psychology. None of that happened.

For a long time, I felt inadequate. I felt like I was not enough because I couldn’t go on a regular mission. I wondered if it was because I was unworthy. I wondered if I had made different decisions, if I would have been able to go. I wondered if I was letting someone down somewhere because I wasn’t going on the mission everyone thought I should be on. I wondered if I chose the right service mission. I wondered if I should have pushed myself more or tried harder to step out of my comfort zone. I wondered if my service was adequate and if my efforts made a difference. I wondered why I was given all the challenges that prevented me from serving a fulltime mission.

I don’t wonder anymore.

It has been a year and a half since I ended my service mission early to start fulltime employment with the church. In the past 18 months of employment and the previous 7 months of my service mission, I have grown exponentially. I still feel like I am on a mission. I still have that same spirit with me and the same motivation to serve and to give my best to the Lord, possibly even more so now than while I was a set apart missionary. I am a better person because of my mission and I am continually becoming better because of the effects of it.

My service mission was a miracle, and so many things after it have been miracles. The fact that I chose the Humanitarian Center, and that I even found the Humanitarian Center. That once I found the center that I chose to serve as an office assistant. That after 6 months of service, the admin assistant job opened up and that those 6 months gave me just enough experience to qualify for that job with my previous job experiences. That the week after I got my first paycheck, I found out my best friend was homeless and could afford to help buy her food. That I was able to meet wonderful friends here that have changed my life. That I am now able to help other service missionaries and early returned missionaries at my job. That I have been able to serve in the various positions I have held in the church, including being a temple worker. That I was able to serve as initiatory coordinator for a year during my temple service. That I was able to be present for all of my nieces’ births. That I was able to forgive and love people I never thought I could. That I was able to discover a new career path that I am excited about and that I never would have considered otherwise. That I was able to prove residency for college tuition because I had been employed nearly exactly one year from when I applied for school. The list goes on.

The miracles that have come because of my service mission are innumerable. But I still believe that the greatest miracle of all has been the change in me. I don’t know if I would have changed so much for the better on a proselyting mission. I don’t know if I would have been humbled as much on a proselyting mission. I don’t know if I would have discovered who I am or become what I am meant to be.

We all serve differently. My service mission is no less noble than any other mission. It may have been short. It may have been relatively small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but it was significant to me and to my family and to those I served and am serving.

There is no small mission. There is no insignificant mission. There is no insufficient mission. There are simply different missions. I served with faith and love and diligence, and I hope to continue to do so. My mission is not over, and neither is yours. We are simply continuing our more significant mission. We do not serve for a couple years or a couple months. We serve our whole lives, we simply wear a name tag for that long.

Spending Time with Christ

We had a lesson in church about Christ-like attributes. The teacher said that we become like the people we spend the most time with, so to imagine what we would be like if the person we spend the most time with is Christ. I have been thinking about that a lot since then.

Naturally, I am not very Christ-like. I believe in justice more than mercy. I do not love very easily or forgive very quickly. I am often selfish and afraid. But, especially recently, I spend a lot of time with Christ. I pray all the time. I listen to music and talks and books about Christ. I read and write about Christ. I try to do what he asks and act as he would. I try to consistently give him all that I am. And slowly, but surely, I have noticed myself becoming more Christ-like.

I want you to know that becoming more like Christ really is as simple as spending time with him. Praying is my favorite thing in the world. Talking to someone I know loves me and wants me to be better and understands everything, is the best feeling I know. God is listening. He is there for you. He loves you. Spend time with him, and I promise you will find yourself becoming more like him.

Becoming Amazing

I went to a retirement party last week for one of my friends from work. It was interesting to me how no one really talked about what she did at work or about her work ethic. Instead, they talked about her Christ-like service and love and the way she kept the spirit with her. I couldn’t help thinking, “I want to be like that someday.”

There are amazing people in my life, and there have been amazing people in my life. I always wondered what it took to be like them. I wondered if I could ever be like them and how I could work towards that goal. What I have realized is that it is the choices people make that make them amazing.

It is my belief that there is nothing inherit about a person that makes them amazing, at least no more so than the rest of us. The fact that we are alive and breathing is in itself an amazing thing, but what is it that makes us look up to and admire others? It is their choices.

The people I admire most have chosen to follow God. They consistently make or have made choices to serve God and those around them. When I see that service and I see their love for those around them, I just think, “I want to be like that.”

The truly amazing thing is that I can be. By consistently choosing to follow Christ, by being observant and responding to people’s needs, by relying on the strengthening and enabling power of the atonement, I can be like the people I most admire. And more importantly, I can become like the person I admire most, Jesus Christ. And you can too.

Praying Always

Prayer is a relationship. Our prayers are not singular events or single moments of getting on our knees. Prayers can and should be a continuation of our daily conversation with God.

I believe that praying always is more of an attitude than an event. Praying always doesn’t mean opening a prayer to God the Father and closing it in the name of Jesus Christ. Praying always is living your life worthy to have Christ’s spirit with you. It is having a friendship so close with God that when we say our prayer at the end of the day, it’s like we never stopped talking.

Praying always means that you have a continuous conversation with God- consistently aligning your will with His. It is following promptings you receive and asking God throughout the day what else you can do. It is being observant of others and their needs and acting as Christ would.

Praying always is creating a two-way relationship with God, showing God that you will stop to listen when He tells you something or gives you an answer you have been searching for. We cannot expect God to be there for us when we need Him if we haven’t put in the time to get to know Him.

God is our father. He is your father. I think He must have become emotional as He gave His final counsel before sending us to Earth. I imagine the conversation to have gone a little like this:

“My dear child, I am sending you to Earth because there are things you need to learn there that you cannot experience here. But the world can be hard and I am afraid you will forget me. Please don’t forget me. Please seek me. Please pray to me, because I will miss you.”

Don’t make God miss you. He loves you and wants to hear from you. He wants to develop a relationship with you. He loves you. Please pray to Him. I promise He will listen.

Courage

Lately, I have been reading several stories from President Monson. Something that has really impacted me is what he says about promptings. Many of his stories related times when responding immediately to promptings saved someone’s life. And he said that he learned to never postpone a prompting and that he wants God to know that if he needs something done, he can count on him to do it.

I have thought about that a lot over the last few months. It’s really hard to commit to following all the promptings God gives you right away. It’s hard partly because it’s super scary and partly because I don’t know for sure when thoughts are promptings or just me. It says in the scriptures though that anything that persuades people to do good is from God. So to be safe, I just assume all of my good thoughts are promptings. That leaves the second part, that promptings are super scary.

I have never felt scared more often than I do now. Every time I get a prompting, I just think, “oh, man… What do I do now?” It’s scary doing good things for people. It’s scary talking to people or making comments. Every time I do, it causes extreme anxiety and discomfort. I worry about what I’m doing from the time I get the prompting until long after I’ve done whatever I was prompted to do. But courage isn’t the absence of fear; it’s the decision to act despite being afraid.

Yes, I feel more scared than ever before. But I am listening to those fears less than I ever have before. It’s still scary. I still worry about having a panic attack or things going horribly wrong. But I would rather be anxious and afraid by doing good than comfortable in my complacency by failing to act to improve someone’s life. Following promptings doesn’t usually mean saving people’s lives, but I just think that maybe it will make someone less sad just a little faster, and that is worth all the anxiety I go through to do it.

But if Not

Live freely. Live joyfully. Live like you know the plan God has for you.
But… Don’t be afraid to hurt. Don’t be afraid to break. Don’t be afraid to be lonely.

One of my favorite passages of scripture is where Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednigo say that the Lord is able to deliver them, but if not, they will still only worship God.

I think about that over and over with my trials. Sometimes, the answer is a pure and simple no. Sometimes God says something like, “No, you need this more than you need me to take it away.”

I know it’s hard to believe. I get it. How can something this hard or this painful possibly mean that God loves you? But I believe it. Yes, God could take away all my problems, but the fact that He doesn’t is not an indication that He doesn’t care or that He isn’t there.

I have asked for God to take away my autism, depression, gender identity issues, and health problems. So far, the answer has been no. I can’t explain how grateful I am for that though. I don’t know who I would be without all of these problems, or the good that I could do if I didn’t struggle with these things. However, I do have a glimpse of the good I have done because of my problems.

I know I have saved lives, changed people, given hope, been an example, and made a difference- all because I suffered. So, when I get a no answer, or when I ask for a yes, I’ll continue to say, “but if not, I’ll still believe,” because I know that God has a much bigger plan for me.

Life isn’t always easy. It gets hard and you forget how to breathe sometimes. But there is a God who loves you, and He can carry you through and lift your burdens so you can hardly feel them, but if not, know this… it will be for the good. Maybe not necessarily your good, at least not at first… but someone’s good.

Perfect Love Casteth Out Fear

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
1 John 4:18

This is one of my favorite scriptures. I have a lot of fear in my head. I fear people. I fear what they can do. I fear being rejected or hurt or yelled at or ignored by others. When I want to do good, my mind tells me that I should not because I fear being hurt.

I love this scripture so much though because it is the reason I keep doing good anyway. Even though my mind tells me all of the reasons I am not good enough and all of the reasons I have to fear, my heart tells me to love anyway. I keep doing good because I know “perfect love casteth out fear.”

I do not love perfectly. I do not love even close to perfectly. And I pray constantly and consistently to love more and to love better. Today in church we talked about this chapter and one of my favorite people commented about how she can understand God because she understands love. I thought about how I don’t understand love. I understand a glimpse of love. I understand the surface of love, but I struggle to understand what it means to love and be loved.

However, I have also been learning about compassion. “In the scriptures, compassion means literally to suffer with. I understand suffering. I understand what it feels like to suffer with someone. I am not sure if that is the same thing as love, but I know that I feel love when I show compassion. And because I feel love when I show compassion, I tell my fears to be quiet for the moment while I do something good.

I am still afraid of doing good. I still fear the consequences of being kind. But I remember to love anyway and that love casts out fear, even if just for a minute while I do something good. I cannot love perfectly right now, but I can love right now. I can do good right now despite the fear, and I can let that love cast out fear for a moment until the day where the fear will be dispelled with perfect love.