Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Foundation

Today I gave a talk at church and was assigned the topic of the plan of salvation. For those of you unfamiliar with the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints let me paraphrase what the plan of salvation is to give clarity to the talk that I will post below. The plan of salvation is the knowledge that we know that before we came to earth we lived with Heavenly Father and to gain knowledge and experience He created a world for us to come to truly exercise our freedom to choose. Part of the plan is also knowing where we are going and that we are here to learn and grow and return to our Father in Heaven.

Now with that knowledge I hope you enjoy some of the words that I shared today, this is not an exact account of what I said because in public speaking one tends to elaborate in certain spots and shorten others.

Here is where my talk begins:

I want to start out by reading a scripture that bears significant importance in all of our lives,

“And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall” (Helaman 5:12).

I feel it is important to share my testimony with you of how I have built my foundation upon Christ, and how that foundation has stood its test and blessed my life greatly.

Just this past July we were celebrating the birthday of our two-year old Max while expectantly awaiting the arrival of his sibling, I was 39 weeks along and realized I hadn't felt a kick in awhile, the worst of our fears were met when arriving to the hospital to hear no heartbeat. We were faced with the task of rearranging our lives, hopes, and future after the world split open and we entered a whole new dimension of loss. James was born perfect and whole, not a problem to be seen, but he was still stillborn. But a midst all of the ever pressing darkness was the beam of light that I had learned and studied for so many years, it was the glorious plan of salvation, the plan of mercy, of happiness which centers around and balances upon the redemption of our Savior, Jesus Christ. There was so much sadness but also so much peace. As I labored and James was placed in my arms, we were encircle but what can only be described as a heavenly cloud of peace. We knew where he had come from and where he was now. There was so much comfort in that knowledge and we felt his spirit in that room though it did not inhabit the body we held.

I look back on those moments and realize how incredibly blessed I was to have such a foundation to rely upon during such a sudden crisis.

I did not always posses such knowledge of the plan of salvation and the true gift of our Savior. I was baptized Catholic as an infant, attended mass sporadically and when I met my husband as a 16 going on 17 young girl, I saw within him a happiness and a reassurance that while life was hard (and his had been much harder than mine) it was a time to be happy. I was intrigued and after dating for a year, he left on a mission, only then did I take the lessons. The running joke is that I couldn't let him know he was right, but in actuality I wanted to make sure that I wasn't just intrigued because of some handsome boy. I remember first learning about the Plan of Salvation, it was like hearing an old family story. One that hadn't been told to me in a long time, but it felt familiar and made sense to me. The Plan of Salvation teaches us that we once lived with God and in Hebrews 12:9 we learn He is the Father of our Spirits, I accepted that truth readily. I was glad to know that a Heavenly Father was and is aware of me, loves me, and wants what is best for me.

After joining the Church I immersed myself in a game of “catch-up” and soaked myself in institute classes taught by two men who I now consider family. I was soaking in as much as I could and my foundation was being built as I was constantly reminded of where I came from, why I was here, and where I was going. In one particular lesson, my teacher Brother Knowles asked us what the three basic reasons we came to earth were; like a wonderful teacher he led me to discover the plan of salvation in a simple but profound manner.

We are here
1) to gain bodies, this is necessary for us to be able to truly feel and experience what life has to offer, we bleed, we ache, our minds race, and we also experience elation and joy! Our bodies are a gift, one to be treasure and reflected upon for their unique abilities and perspectives
2) we are here to create, we create in so many capacities, we create art and music, novel and experiments, we build things with our hands and minds exploring the great capacities we have been given. But one of the greatest abilities is to create life where there was none before. Many, but not all, of us are given the opportunity to have children and that is something that we should hold deep respect and gratitude for. I loved what my husband told me as I was writing this talk, that to create is to also make something better, to create good where there wasn't and that leads me into the third reason we are here
3) we are here to develop divine attributes, to become as our Father in Heaven is. We do this through fighting for compassion, for striving for diligence, for mastering obedience, for seeking humility. Some things come easy and some things we struggle with. Each of our experiences is unique to us.

Through this all we can develop faith, trust in our Savior and in his power to provide grace, or divine help when we fall short. We strive to do our best and he fills in where we lack. Often trials come our way and threaten to cut us down completely. To leave us bitter and filled with hate towards God, towards others. I can tell you by personal experience after James passed  and I was comforted in that cloud of peace that Satan was very quick to rush in and tell me that it is just not worth it anymore to strive for those divine attributes. They are too hard, and there is never any real recognition. He said, "Gina you have tried so hard to be obedient and good, He must not love you very much if this is what He gives you in return..." He has tried to convince me that I would be better of “free” from so much hardship that comes through trying to stay true. I am glad that I didn't listen to him.

I am glad because the “ending” of the plan of salvation is that if we stay true, true to the knowledge that we know, true the covenants we have made, that we can return and live with our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and that through the power of being sealed in the temple our family is together forever. How grateful I am for the reassurance of those covenants I have made. There is no doubt that James is sealed to us because of our being sealed in the temple. There is no doubt that I will see him again and that he is mine.

I choose to focus upon the foundation that was built, for to me the reassurance of being able to see my child again is worth how hard it can be to endure to the end, to strive to return to our Heavenly Father.

I want to return to the scripture that I started with and read it one more time and I hope this time you will look for “why we need that foundation and what it can do for us”:

“And now, my sons [and daughters], remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall” (Helaman 5:12).

The plan of salvation offered comfort and peace to me when the devil sent a personal storm my way and because of foundation that I had built upon that plan, upon that knowledge, I can testify to you that this scripture is true. It had no power over me and my family, I shook and trembled but I did not fall. I am grateful for this gospel, for the reassurance it has given me and the great blessings it has led me to and helps me see everyday. I know that the plan of salvation is true and that as we strive to fulfill the measure of our creation, our own unique and divine purpose, that we “might have joy”.

Friday, February 14, 2014

My Gilbert Blythe

Gilbert Blythe is the often overshadowed dreamboat of the literary world (I blame Mr. Darcy), but after making my way through the Anne of Green Gables series (still need to finish Anne's House of Dreams and Ingleside), I came to realize that Gilbert and Anne's love story is so incredibly realistic and NEEDED in this idealistic world of love we live in.

Hopefully we are all familiar with Gilbert's "carrot" introduction, insulting Anne's hair and making the worst sort of first impressions but through the rest of the series Gilbert is nothing but loyal, patient, down-to-earth, humble, and supportive of Anne. He waits and waits for her, even after she turns down his proposal! It takes Anne forever to realize that while she was swept up in all of the romantic notions put in her head by all the novels she read, she never realized that love actually looked quite different and was there with her all the while. He loved her even when she was ridiculous and moody. He loved her for pursuing her dreams and made sacrifices for her (often without her realizing or noticing). He loved Anne because of her dreams, because of her silliness, because of her depth. He gave her the space she needed when she needed it, he understood her and ultimately when Anne realizes her love for him you cannot help but jump up and down on the couch because of course you are rooting for Gilbert and you realize all of his qualities that compliment Anne's far before she does and you root for them not because he is the most romantic, charismatic, sparkling catch but because he can make her happy and she can make him happy.

All of this is to say that I am blessed with my very own Gilbert Blythe. I completely adore the man that I married. He is loyal, honest, compassionate, and loving. He is supportive and understanding and in the hardest of times these past months his love has reminded me again and again of how blessed I am. Our love story reminds me so much of Anne and Gilbert's and then some because our love story will have far more pages and chapters and books.

How grateful I am for a loving partner who never ceases to try to make me laugh, who supports me in my all of my thoughts, ideas, and dreams, and who challenges me to consider five more sides to a story when we are already discussing ten. I love his consistency, his faith, his lack of fashion sense. I love that he is willing to learn, to explore, to do what is hard. I love that he can never sit still but compromises when I constantly crave to snuggle up and watch a movie (or three). He is inspiring to watch as a husband and father, he breaks so many of the unnecessary gender stereotypes and I am so proud of how our relationship has evolved from a summer camp romance to where we are today. We are a team, continuing communication as we grow and change individually and as a family, our strength lies in our ability to hear each other and to seek forgiveness when we don't and try again.

He is my Gilbert Blythe and I discover over and over again each day how much I truly love him.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Let's Be Honest

I have sunk into my burrow for a little while, sorry for my absence. January 20th was the 6th month anniversary of James' stillbirth and I saw it approaching and my mind started racing and starting filling with darkness all over again and it didn't help that I was in a new place with few people who knew my circumstance and I was literally sick and I felt overwhelmed with moving and overwhelmed with a complete climate shift.

While many of you were suffering climate inversions, mentally I was with you. It was beautiful and sunny outside and there I was, lying on the couch trying to keep my toddler entertained enough to let me lie down. I felt cold and dark and I entered into a whole new form of bitterness. Slowly I crawled and grasped and fought my way back up that mountain to where I knew my internal sunshine was. So no worries, I am feeling better now.

I am learning to be honest with myself. To recognize my needs and to make sure that I am not putting undue pressure on myself. Usually this involves social or familial situations. At my best I talk it over with Kyle and we make a game plan for the events of the next day and I make sure that if it will cause unnecessary stress then I figure out another option that leaves me feeling like I have an escape.

 I am being honest with my needs, when I need rest, when I need pampering, when I need space, when I need takeout. It has felt good and I have felt a sort of euphoric freedom from just saying, Nope actually that doesn't work for me.

The flip side of course is that honesty also involves not knowing when you are taking advantage of the need to self-serve. I mean of course I pretty much always prefer to eat out rather than cook and you cannot always avoid what is hard simply because it doesn't work for you. So included in this honesty vow to myself (completely informal and making it up as a I go), I make sure that I am honest about when I actually do need to stretch myself and when I do need to suck it up. Basically it requires taking in where I am at mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually for every unique situation. Sometimes I opt out and sometimes I put one foot in front of the other and promise myself ice cream as a reward (incentives!).

So in this path to healing, I am being honest and focusing on what my body needs to grow. Sometimes it is burrowing and sometimes it is saying yes to go to the park or to join a preschool group when I know ONE person there. It is recognizing selfishness for what it is and leaning away from it while still taking care of myself.