Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Final Testimony

As missionaries we are often asked to share our "final testimony" with people as we are departing to go home. Well this is my last day as a full-time missionary serving the Lord Jesus Christ, so I want to share my final testimony with all of you.

When I grew up as a teen I went through all the motions and did everything a good Mormon girl was supposed to do. I attended every Sunday and did all my assignments. But then in college I started to realize I didn't know what I believed. I didn't know if everything I have been told all my life was actually true or if I would get to the other side and God would say "well, you were definitely working hard, but you didn't have to work that hard." It scared me.

My junior year I knew there was a change coming, I could feel some big change coming on the horizon, I just wasn't sure what it would be. I changed majors, and that didn't fulfill it. I dated a few guys, and that didn't fulfill it. But then I started to realize that I did know I believed in God, and that I had never really consulted Him on my life decisions. So I decided to. And boy was I surprised. He told me to serve a Mormon mission. And at the same time, a dear family member was diagnosed with heart failure and given 6 months to live. I realized it was time to decide to know what I did and didn't believe in when it came to religion. So I started praying even harder and begging for answers. And the answer kept coming as Mormon mission. So I went forward on a path I didn't understand. 

And boy has that mission taught me a few things.

Jesus Christ lives. 

God is our Father. He loves us.

The Church of Jesus Christ is the Kingdom of God on the earth.

The Book of Mormon is the most true book on the earth I have ever read and I love it. 

Baptism is the greatest gift God has given all of us to be forgiven of our sins.

There is no place I'd rather be on a Sunday than at the Church.

Jesus Christ lives.

Jesus Christ loves us. 

Jesus Christ suffered and died not just to pay for sin, but to understand our pain when we suffer. 

And this the point I want to leave burned into your hearts like it is in mine. Christ loves you and I more than either of us can ever imagine. He has helped me through the the hardest and darkest hours of my life. I cannot say that my mission has not been a struggle. I have depression and sometimes it's not the easiest. But He has rescued me from every dark moment and showed so much love to me. I know that without a doubt that He will rescue any soul who reaches out to Him. And I know that I am a member of His restored gospel. I want this blessing for all of you. If you are a member, take it a little more serious today. If you aren't, ask the missionaries. I want you to have the joy that this gospel has brought me the past two years as I have served the Lord. I have come to know Him better than I ever thought possible. I have come to understand His love for us more than I ever have and want to spend the rest of eternity in the arms of that love. And I want that for you too. So will you get a Book of Mormon today and read it? Pray about it? Please? I know it will bring you a peace you've never felt and you will be filled with His love for you.

I know it.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Who am I?

"Who am I really?" I stared into the mirror asking this question of a person I didn't recognize. This happened frequently. Then I would try to shake myself out of it and go back to missionary work. The problem was, that question would always somehow find it's way back into my mind. Each time this happened it got scarier and harder to shake the feelings of emptiness. I felt like a hollow shell with no purpose, path, or place.

I had once known the answer. At least I thought I knew. At college I had many nicknames: Business Barbie, Tour guide Barbie, College Barbie, and the list goes on. I had been what some people might title an "It Girl". At least that's the way I felt. I had all the friends in the world, the best job, a great career track. I had worked hard at the gym to have a strong toned body. I was Chrissy.

Yet less than a year later I found myself staring in a mirror asking "Who are you?"
I had gone from this girl. (see below)
 To this girl. (see below again)
I didn't feel like or much look like the old girl. And it hurt. I felt very lost. I didn't know what the point of anything was. I felt like a failure every day. I'm sure you have felt like this at some point. Luckily, I had people who intervened and started me on a track to answer that question. It required a lot of soul searching. After months the picture began to form. I started to get a glimmer and then I was slammed one day by the statement of another person when they said they were a child of God. And then I knew.
I am a daughter of God.
Let me repeat myself.
God is my Father. He is my Creator.
And because of that I mean something! I have value. I may not have the world at my fingertips anymore. I may not be the coolest girl you've ever known. But guess what, God thinks I'm pretty cool. And guess what? He thinks you're pretty cool too.
You are a child of God.
Let me repeat myself.
God is your Father. He is your Creator.
I read a hymn this morning that said this:
Children of our Heav'nly Father
Safely in his bosom gather;
Nestling bird nor star in heaven
Such a refuge e'er was given.
Neither life nor death shall ever
From the Lord his children sever;
Unto them his grace he showeth,
And their sorrows all he knoweth.
Though he giveth or he taketh,
God his children ne'er forsaketh;
His the loving purpose solely
To preserve them pure and holy.
He knows you! He is the Grand Creator of the universe and loves you and me. I had a hard journey before I came to this understanding. I recognized Him as some great and marvelous Being. But not as a Father that I know personally and that knows me inside and out. I didn't realize that I could go to Him in prayer and lay everything on the table. Everything. God and I had a lot of good conversations with tears, laughter, and love. And He can do the same with you! He understands what you are feeling and He knows how to help you through.
When I realized who He is in my life and my relationship with Him, I also began to understand who I am. I began to understand who I can become. Who He wants me to be. And with that power I live every day of my life discovering more of me and more of Him and the success we can have as a team together! It is a grand adventure putting my life in the hands of the Almighty. I learn and grow every moment of every day.
I don't know that I can truly convey the impact those 6 words have on every day of my life. It can for you too. But it's a journey you have to take. And someday you'll be hit by the simple phrase "I am a child of God."

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Sunsets are never permanent

The other day my companion and I were once again discovering how very fallible my gps is out in the country of Georgia. We were completely lost and were just following the road we were on until it got us to a major road or it ended. At one point we broke out of the heavy trees and turned down a road to discover this. A beautiful Georgia sunset. The bright explosion of light was magnificent. The picture does not do justice to the bright and beautifully colored sky we were looking at. The thing that was disappointing to me was that this show of beauty would not last. The sun was setting and soon darkness would set in. 

Long ago there was another sunset that came with much grieving. The death of our Savior Jesus Christ. He was the "light of the world" (John 8:12). And the brilliance and beauty of His ministry truly did light the world. But He was rejected and His ministry had a sunset of its own. The light of the world was put out and for a time the people of the earth experienced the long night of the apostasy. Many searched for the light but could not find it. Many good men and women during this time would speak out and find light in their own way. But it was still not the same. It would be equivalent to me turning on a lamp and saying "see, the sun is up!" Yes, there is light, but it is definitely not the light of the sun. And very similarly the light of the Son was missing. 

But God, our Father, loved all of us far too much to permanently leave us without the light of His Son. And just like a true sunrise, there was a brightness that signified the coming of the return of the light of the Son. In early American history it is recorded to be a great time of religious excitement. Many preachers traveled from city to city asking the big question "Are you saved?" and many people began to wonder if they were. A young boy asked that question for himself. In Ephesians it states "One Lord, one faith, one baptism." (Eph 4:5) As he continued to study he found in the writings of James the path to his answer. It states "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God..." (James 1:5) And so he did. He asked. And of his experience he said "I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me...When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!" The light of the Son was literally and physically reintroduced to the world. 

I testify that this really happened. The Light is back. His church that He established himself 2000 years ago has been restored and this light and truth is available to any who honestly seek with an open heart. And the even greater news is that the Light will never be lost again. The Lord has promised it. And He never breaks His promises. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

He Atoned: The Price Was Paid

Atonement is a word that some of us have heard many times in our life, and a foreign word to others of
us. Today I hope to help us all understand what exactly the word Atonement means when used in the context of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The events that took place in the Garden of Eden are something that I think we have all heard since childhood. Adam and Eve were put in a perfect garden, told they could do anything but eat a specific fruit, and of course, ate that fruit. Because they ate the fruit something happened to all of the family of man. All of us that came after Adam and Eve would die and could sin. Two things that very significantly separate us from God.

This separation could leave many of us resenting Adam and Eve and angry over the situation we are in. But it gives us the possibility for an even greater blessing. And that is the Atonement. When Christ came to earth, He led a perfect and sinless life. He taught the Gospel and taught that He would the pay the price for our sins. And He did. In a very real way. 

In the New Testament Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all write on the events of Christ's life and explain the most key event in human history. The Atonement. The Atonement occured over a series of days. The first  step of the process was the night in the garden of Gethsemane. Christ suffered the most excruciating pain in this experience. Of it He said, "Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death..." Matthew 26:38. Other prophets have said He suffered "according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance..." Alma 7:13. Following that night, He experienced the culmination of this experience when He suffered and then died on the cross. But the Atonement was not complete until three days later when He rose again!

Because of these events we no longer have to mourn that we are separated from God in the body and that sin can separate us in spirit. Christ has overcome the world and has made it possible for us to repent and to live again with Him and the Father. The greatest blessing ever given to man.

I know this is true. This life is not the end. And when we fall, we can get back up.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

He Atoned

I've been thinking a lot recently about something dear to my heart. In the beginning of my mission there was a phrase that drove me crazy. Whenever I had a hard day, felt guilty about something I said or did, felt sick other missionaries would tell me "Study the Atonement." This always made me crazy! I couldn't see how Christ's sacrifice applied to me being sick. It frustrated me that others would think that it applied. I felt that it only applied when we were repenting of sin.

I continued on in my mission with great frustration trying to understand how the Atonement applied to the situation I was in. But I tried their advice and studied the Atonement. And at first it did not work. I still couldn't see how the Atonement would help me feel better when people reject the message that we share. Then last April I studied the atonement in a new way. I read a talk by David A. Bednar, an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, speaking on the enabling power of the Atonement. It completely changed my understanding. I then read in the book Jesus the Christ and studied the last week of Christ's life to prepare to give a talk in church on Easter Sunday. And my understanding of my Savior and my relationship with Him was revolutionized.

Over the following months as I continued to study the Atonement I came closer and closer to my Savior. In the Fall I had some experiences that brought me closer to Him than I ever thought possible. So I have decided that I need to share my testimony and understanding of the Atonement. I plan to do a series of posts over the coming weeks sharing and teaching on the many different aspects of the Atonement and how it applies to every moment of every day of our lives.

I know that as we come to truly understand the purpose of Christ's love for us and His sacrifice because of that love that we can be blessed immeasurably. I pray that this understanding can help you as it has helped me.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Washed Clean

Today it has been raining. And oh do I love the rain. It is just so refreshing. And it washes all the dirt away. My favorite is having all the pollen washed off our car. Mostly because it gives me a small reprieve from sneezing. 

That silly little moisture does so much to refresh the earth. When I was a child my hometown was in a drought so we frequently prayed to receive rain to nourish our neighboring farmers crops. Prayers would even be said for it over the pulpit at church. I never thought anything of that until I came to live in Florida where moisture is abundant and people are most definitely not praying for more rain. 

More importantly I occasionally consider the spiritual significance and lessons we can learn from the refreshing ability of the rain. It cleanses everything it falls upon and brings new life to things that have lacked. Doesn't this remind us of something else in life? For me, baptism comes to mind. The most sacred covenant, or promise, that we can ever make in our lives. And the ordinance of baptism is the event that brings us new life. We are born into "newness of life" as Paul stated in the Bible. 

We are washed clean of our sins when we are baptized, and if it is preceded by true repentance we can feel as the prophet Alma explains by saying "And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been  born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?" After we have had the mighty change of heart and then are baptized we are spiritually born of God.

We can all be washed clean spiritually just like the earth can be washed clean physically. I know that it's possible for anyone who has the desire. And there is no better feeling than feeling fresh and clean. After rain storms it frequently feels that the world is coming alive and there is an energy of excitement in the air. Being spiritually washed clean can bring us those same feelings. And help us change. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Zebras Can Change Their Stripes

The other day I was thinking about the phrase people use: "zebras can't change their stripes." Most of the time I feel we use this as an excuse for why we don't improve ourselves and work to be a better person. We tell ourselves "well I can't change my stripes, so why even try?" But really, we can!

I have an obsession with zebra stripes. I'm not quite sure where or how it started. I think it was early on in my mission when I saw that one of my teaching companions had zebra striped sheets. And it was all downhill from there. I love the pattern so much and have shoes, scarves, bags, and whatever I can find that has zebra stripes on it.

Recently my mission president said "This is the Gospel of change!" That got me so excited! It really is! Through Jesus Christ we can change! We can become more! And zebras really can change their stripes. The Atonement is for everyone. President David O. McKay said “The purpose of the gospel is … to make bad men good and good men better, and to change human nature.” CHANGE! Oh how I love that word. It sounds so attainable. There is a magic word that is described as so in the Bible Dictionary, "The Greek word of which this is the translation denotes a change of mind, i.e., a fresh view about God, about oneself, and about the world." That sounds so easy! Well that word is Repentance. Something that greatly intimidates many of us. It seems like such an insurmountable task sometimes. Some may feel that they just can't make all the changes necessary. I used to feel that way, it wasn't until I found this explanation of repentance that I realized that I could do it and it wouldn't hurt too much.

A change of heart is a powerful thing. It means more than just quitting whatever we are doing. It means that we come to realize how wrong that thing is. We desire to be more, we desire to change. There is a group of people in the Book of Mormon that show that change. Of their experience it states "And they had viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth. And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God..." (Mosiah 4:2) These people desired to be purified and change. We can all do this!

I know that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ that we really can change! I have personally been changed so much by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It blesses my life every day. I get to be in the business of change helping others see that it is possible for them to be more than they are now. Zebras really can change their stripes.