Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Book Bites: Diary of Anne Frank

How it Works: Every Tuesday I’ll be sharing a “bite” of a book I’m currently reading. Just a two or three sentences from a page I’ve already read that I feel gives a little insight to the feel of the book or something I found interesting up to that point along with the page that it comes from and the total number of pages in the book. I’ll also share a quick preview opinion of it as a whole to that point. If you want to join in the fun and share your current reads please leave it in the comments or link to your site.

The Diary of a Young Girl 
The Book: The Diary of a Young Girl: Anne Frank (The Definitive Edition); edited by Otto Frank and Mirjam Pressler, translated by Susan Massotty

Book Bite: “Every night hundreds of planes pass over Holland on their way to German cities, to sew their bombs on German soil. Every hour hundreds, or maybe even thousands, of people are being killed in Russia and Africa. No one can keep out of the conflict, the entire world is at war, and even though the Allies are doing better, the end is nowhere in sight.” pg 80/338

My Thoughts So Far: I picked this up the other day after realizing that I had somehow never read it before. So far I’m only about nine months into the journal and it’s been interesting to see how going into hiding has affected the chatty 13 year old and her family and hearing her perspective on the Germans and war and life in general during that awful time. It’s hard to conceive of such hatred and sadness and what it would have been like to have to live in those conditions.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Lessons I've Learned from Watching Cars

My boys have both loved the Disney movie Cars. Bear was extremely upset when our copy broke a few months ago so we decided to get him a new copy for part of his Christmas presents. He played and had fun on Christmas with everyone but the day after Christmas he was wanting some time to just relax and asked us if he could watch it.

I have to admit that I have a love hate relationship with electronics in general and vegging out in front of the television especially. I realized though that even with entertainment there’s lots that we can be learning.

So in honor of Bear and Tiger here are some things that I’ve learned from watching Cars:
-       True success comes when we slow down to notice the people and things around us. By all the normal standards and appearances Lighting was successful and therefore should have been happy but he wasn’t. He didn’t really find true and lasting success until he took the time to see beyond himself and slow down and appreciate the simple gifts of life like good friends and a beautiful view.
-       One person serving others in simple ways can make a big difference. When Lightning’s attitude changed he didn’t just make a mental note of it and move on – he found ways to serve and help and boosted the spirit of everyone around him and not only helped them by supporting their businesses but really helped them.
-       If you’ve got extra of something make the most of it. The cars of Radiator Springs may have appeared to have been just sitting around but they spent that time helping each other and developing talents. (After all, who can change a tire as fast as Guido!)
-       The best forms of correction are connected with the wrong and involve thinking a step ahead. Sargent didn’t have to worry about Lightning driving off after he limited the gas that would allow him to do so. Doc didn’t have to race Lightning head on to show him that he had a lot to learn still and give him a little dose of needed humility.
-       Be willing to take advice from those older and wiser – even when it doesn’t seem to make sense. Even after Lightning knew who Doc was he still didn’t fully trust him at first when Doc offered some advice and remained frustrated until he decided to.
-       Don’t be afraid to accept help. One of Lightning’s downfalls that we see was his inability to accept help from others – he was so determined to prove it all on his own he didn’t realize just how much we all need each other. When he finally realized that life if a give and take of receiving and giving help he became the hero.
-       Relax and keep a sense of humor. Mater was the king of this – he never took himself too seriously and just was who he was and it’s why everyone loved him and why he was able to reach out to Lightning when no one else really had.
-       Sometimes you have to lose yourself to find yourself. I love the end song. It’s so true of life (and even scripturally based – whoda thunk!) Lightning McQueen had lost his inner direction, a course that lead to him also losing his physical sense of place and being lost in every sense of the word. Sometimes we find ourselves in similar situations where we just don’t know which way is up or what to do. In truth (although yes he’s a cartoon and no real, but people do the exact same thing) he probably never thought beyond the finish line. As he came to grips with being lost though he was finally able to address the problem and find his way and knew there was more than a trophy that he wanted from life.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

What Did Mary Really Know?

We were all snuggled up listening to some Christmas songs on YouTube the other night and Pentatonix’s version of Mary Did You Know came up.  A little bit later Monkey said she wondered how much Mary really did know. It got me thinking and the song has been stuck on replay in my head since.

We know for sure that she knew that by some divine miracle she was going to be the mother of the Son of God. We also know that she must have known her heritage and known that He would also be of her royal bloodline with the right to literally be King of the Jews. Guesses would say that especially as Christ was born and grew and the miracles and testimonies of His divinity continued to multiply she probably felt at various times awe, confusion, excitement, and worry and all range of motherly emotions.  Somedays she likely looked at him as just her child much like any other, sometimes the scriptures tell us there were at least hints of a grand (though probably not completely understood) future yet to come, and other times there was surely overwhelming testimony that she was responsible for mothering the Savior of the World although what that meant exactly was also probably still a bit hazy.

Now I won’t get into all of the deep down questions that could be asked or thought about that, I think there are really lots of interesting questions to ponder in regards to this but I wondered what I could learn from her.

Then it hit me.

I am a modern Mary.

Just hear me out for a minute. We believe that we are all children of God. Not in the same way that Christ was of course, but we each have some of God the Father’s divine nature within us. He is still the Father of our Spirits even if He isn’t the Father of our flesh. He cares about each of us more than we can know and wants us to be like Him.

As such every mother to an extent is just like Mary. We are all given precious little gifts from Heaven that He has entrusted to our care. We, like her, probably have times when understanding who they really are or recognizing their full potential seems hard to grasp. Most of the time we likely look at them with eyes of expected routine and normalcy. Sometimes we get glimpses of their greatness. If we’re lucky every once in a rare while we pause and remember that these are His children with an inner divine power beyond our comprehension.

Most of the time no matter where we are in our thoughts we’re just hoping we don’t mess them up. Here too we can look to Mary. She, like us, was completely human. I’m sure she made mistakes - probably lots of them. Still if we looked to what the scriptures teach us about how she handled it we see that she cherished the moments that came, remained faithful, and kept learning from and loving Christ throughout His life, even as she watched His final minutes of mortality.

We can do the same. We can keep making the most of each moment we have. We can learn from our children and share with them all that we can. Most importantly we can keep loving them through all their ups and downs tests and trials and give them reassurance that come what may we will always by their side to the very best of our abilities.

I’m not sure everything Mary knew or understood but I am thankful for what I can know because of her.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Learning about Marriage from Cindy Lou Who WFL Guest Post

So today I had another fun guest post published on Ramona Zabriskie's Wife for Life Blog. I talk about one of my favorite Christmas movies and the lessons we can learn about love from it and how Cindy Lou Who can help us strengthen our marriages and relationships with those around us. Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Ideas for Santa's Helpers

For most of her life Monkey never really completely trusted Santa, the Easter Bunny, and especially not the Tooth Fairy (she said that someone coming into your room at night to take your teeth aside from your mom and dad was just creepy). Part of this was probably because we’d been hesitant to completely confirm any of these legends due and decided overall to handle it by mostly just avoiding any of the topics of belief. Anyways I still remember the Easter morning she demanded that we fess up the truth about the Easter Bunny and all the rest. We explained that in our house we focus on the spirit of the holidays instead of worrying so much about bunnies and big guys in red. As part of the consolation package that Christmas she got to be Santa’s helper and help fill the stockings.

She did really pretty well with understanding that she wasn’t allowed to ruin the belief of others – until Tiger was about 7. She felt it her big sister obligation to explain everything to him. Thankfully however, whatever she ended up saying he took it well and so that year it was his turn to be Santa’s helper with the stockings.

Last year that left me trying to decide how we would do stockings. I decided that all of the Santa’s helpers would swap and have a set amount of money to fill someone else’s stocking. It was fun and worked out pretty well. It did end up not being so secret by the time Christmas came but overall everyone ended up pretty satisfied on both the giving and receiving end of things.

This year Monkey asked if we could change it up a bit. I gave Monkey and Tiger a small amount of money they could spend on every other person in the family for stocking stuffers. Then we headed off to one of Monkey’s favorite stores – the Dollar Tree. At first Tiger was a little hesitant but even he realized he could handle the task on his own and they each grabbed a basket and to shopping they went. Both kids really enjoyed being able to go out on their own in the store picking out things for everyone.

I know that everyone likes to do things their own way and I’m sure there’s lots of great ways to handle this (I’d love to hear any ideas that people have!) but I just wanted to share both of these ways since they have been so much fun for us. Seeing them take part in being able to pick out presents for each other has been much more fun than just taking care of it all for them. They not only get the chance to serve but get the rewards of growing up and taking on the good parts of responsibility.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Musings on Gratitude

***Please note that these musings are not intended to be a lecture or sermon. They're definitely not intended as a sign of how "good" I am or as evidence that I've got the craziness of life figured out in the least but are often for my own self as I ponder the person I hope to be. I just hope that maybe by sharing them they might help someone else along the way.***

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Life has always had a lot of ups and downs. We all have them. It’s just part of being human. Sometimes we may look around at all the platitudes of perfection that are on social media or the covers of our favorite magazines and wonder why it seems like we’ve unfairly received more than our fair share of the downs though. After all, why can’t we have a fairy godmother come and make everything work out? Wouldn’t that just be so much nicer? I know I’ve spent more than my share of hours wishing for just such a thing.

The thing about wishing for what we don’t have though is that it doesn’t allow us to think of just how blessed we are. One of the memes I saw recently that really struck home said something to the effect of while we’re busy wishing for all the things we wish we had someone else is wishing for the things we have already been blessed with. Definitely something to think about when we start whining about things that really won’t make a difference 5 days from now or even 5 years.

We may never know why things work out the way they do but dwelling on the what might have beens or the way we wish things were only brings us down. If instead we think about the things that we do have to be grateful for we realize that each of us has been given so many amazing gifts that we can’t even really begin to start counting them.

This lesson really hit home for me when someone was discussing how gratitude affects our prayers. They suggested considering how long we usually pray for and then taking that amount of time and trying to write out as many of our blessings as we could think of. When the time was up review the list and then ponder what life would be like if you woke up the next morning with only the things on your list.

I’m definitely not perfect at it, even though I tend to think of myself as a fairly positive person I’ve realized lately just how often I let the bad take control over the good and start in on the whining and complaining and dreamily wishing. Now don’t get me wrong, wishing is fine but we’ve got to be willing to put some action behind it and make it happen. When we start going down those empty negative roads we just end up feeling even more negative and it snowballs on itself but when we stop and intentionally turn ourselves towards gratitude it’s like a whole new world of joy opens up before us.

Like I said, I know we all go through things though and sometimes it really is just ridiculous little stuff but sometimes it’s hard - really hard. As I gain more perspective on life I realize that even in those darkest of moments when I’ve felt like there’s nothing but me and the storm there have been blessings and lots of them– blessings of strength, comfort, friendship, care, and so much more.  I can realize looking back that I really wasn’t as alone as I felt and I know that I wouldn’t change any of those moments because they have taught me so much and helped me become the person I am. If that’s true than when moments of wind and hail come I probably need to focus on the lessons I’m learning and the growth I’m achieving if I want to keep moving forward in the future and trust and have faith that things will continue to work out as I do so. 

I’m so thankful for this time of year when we can all take a little time to ponder our gratitude and allow it to help shape us instead of allowing pride and jealousy destroy the beauty all around us. My wish is that it will help us all find a little more joy and a little more love and realize amidst all the false enticements and notions of "reality" the things that matter most.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Giving Back: Fall Date Night Ideas WFL Guest Post

I am really excited to have the opportunity to guest post on Ramona Zabriskie's WFL Blog today. I love all the seasons and holidays and Thanksgiving always has a special place in my heart. I love that it's the time of year when we think about all the things we're thankful for and for me at least it makes me want to show my gratitude by doing things to help others. Hope you enjoy some of my ideas for planning a date night that is not only fun but allows for gratitude and giving back to others! 

Monday, October 31, 2016

Musings on Symbolism and the Sacrament

Some more quick musings from church yesterday – definitely Gospel according to Deb and more food for thought than anything else. Definitely not thoughts that are intended to represent the church or its doctrine.

While the Sacrament was being blessed and passed I thought of how symbolic it all is at a level I hadn’t appreciated before. The priesthood blessed it and passed it in symbolism of Christ blessing and passing it (which is pretty significant and amazing in itself). In each row though the members passed and shared it among each other.

Isn’t that a beautiful and powerful symbol of how the Lord’s gift of the Atonement works in each of our lives? He is the source of the blessing and sanctifying but we all help share that with each other, sometimes we receive directly from the Holy Spirit but many times that Spirit comes to us through the offerings and service of loved ones, friends, teachers, and others that Heavenly Father has given us. Everyone takes turns receiving and sharing. It’s also done in a very quiet and personal hand to hand and one by one way.

I think that so often it’s too easy to get caught up in the repetition and forget the simple symbolic beauty of so much of our worship. It was a good reminder for me to really think about what’s going on and take some time to ponder what God is trying to teach us.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Coming to Christ As We Are

Some random musings for a rainy/snowy Friday:

Have you ever had someone say something that just made a lot of sense and seems like something you’ve known forever but just never really thought about that way? I’ve had two of those this past week that are kind of connected and it got me thinking so I figured I would write it out before I forget and share with hopes that maybe it would help someone else too.

The first thing I heard someone say was that we shouldn’t wait until we’re perfect to come to Christ but that we come to Christ as we are and He helps perfect us. I think I’ve done a lot of this – thinking that I have to figure something out or be good enough before I can have His blessings. It’s just not true. He loves us as we are right now. Yes, sins will keep us from being able to receive certain blessings but we overcome those sins as we bring them to Him – not on our own. That’s what the Atonement is all about.

The second thought that I heard was just a mental image of our relationship to God that I thought illustrated the first thought beautifully. We’ve all either been or known little children who wake up in the middle of the night and need their parents. Sometimes it’s for a bad dream, sometimes it’s just because, but those little children don’t hesitate to call out or seek out their source of comfort and safety – that place where love makes it all ok again. They don’t worry about if they’ve been good or kind enough that day or if it’ll bother their parents. They just react on an instinctual need to feel that love and comfort. Christ calls us His children. He and Heavenly Father love us more than we can understand, even more than the sublime love of parents who after all is said and done are only human and have to deal with things like sleep deprivation! We shouldn’t hesitate to turn to them when we need that love and comfort or encouragement – they’re going to be there for us with open arms to provide whatever safety and refuge and renewal we need no matter what else may have happened that day. It doesn’t mean that it won’t take time or effort to calm ourselves and find that solace we seek but we don’t give up seeking it.  

3 Nephi 9:14 Yea, verily I say unto you, if ye will come unto me ye shall have eternal life. Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me.”

Matthew 11:28 “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Mark 3:23 (JST) “And blasphemies, wherewith soever they shall blaspheme, shall be forgiven them that come unto me, and do the works which they see me do.”

Moroni 7:34 “And he hath said: Repent all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me, and be baptized in my name, and have faith in me, that ye may be saved.”

Ether 4:14 “Come unto me, O ye house of Israel, and it shall be made manifest unto you how great things the Father hath laid up for you, from the foundation of the world; and it hath not come unto you, because of unbelief.”

Mark 1:17 “And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.”

God continually is calling us to Him. He knows that we will only find the comfort and peace and love and encouragement we need to grow and improve and overcome our sins as we are humble enough to answer the call and allow His Spirit to work within us.

Monday, August 1, 2016

How God Helps Us Best

So yesterday I was asked to give a talk in church and thought I would share my thoughts:

My thoughts today are on the universal need of all mankind for help. It’s a fact of life that each of us has, at some point in time, faced a challenge that was too difficult to bear on our own and have needed the assistance of someone else. Also that we all surely will face many more such challenges in the days and years to come.

So what do we do when those struggles and challenges, tests and trials come? Who can we turn to for help? Obviously those who know us and love us most and those who are the wisest are probably our surest and safest sources for guidance and support.

Isn’t it natural then to believe that Heavenly Father is our best source of help. He knows us better than anyone else. He loves us more than anyone else. He is the only one who understands all the laws that govern life here and in the hereafter.

In Primary we learn that if we have a problem we can pray to Heavenly Father and he will hear and answer us. This seems to come easy to children who naturally trust in their parents and other loved ones to come to their aid in times of need.

Something happens as we grow older though, we think we have it all figured out. I’m sure I’m not the only parent who has tried to help their child with a seemingly simple task like putting on their pajamas only to be told, quite sternly, that I wasn’t needed because they were big now and could do it on their own – despite having switched the holes in their shirt for their arm and head and having it inside out or both legs stubbornly stuck upside down in one side of the pants.

But in one way or another, don’t we all do the exact same thing? We try to do things our way and find ourselves uncomfortable and stuck and we’re not really sure what happened or how to fix it but we’re also not quite ready to admit that we need help because that would mean that we don’t know absolutely everything yet?

Like the loving parent He is though, Heavenly Father stays right by our side in those moments, allowing us to deal with those crazy uncomfortable pajamas until we are willing to let him give us the assistance we need.

In fact the scriptures are full of promises that God has made to always be there with the help we need so long as we can humble ourselves to trust and ask.

D&C 1:28 “And inasmuch as they were humble they might be made strong, and blessed from on high, and receive knowledge from time to time.”

D&C 78:18-19 “And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours. And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more.”

James 1:5 “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally , and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”

1 Corinthians 2:9 “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.”

Psalms 5:11-12 “But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee. For thou, Lord, wilt bless the righteous; with favor wilt though compass him as with a shield.”

And one of my personal favorites because I think it helps to put it all in perspective. 

Moses 1:39 “For behold, this is my work and my glory -- to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”

God wants us to succeed, he wants us to learn, this promise is repeated throughout the scriptures - He wants us to grow and become like Him and because his entire work and glory centers around each of us gaining eternal life He’s there with us every step of the way.

There are a few key things to note here though:

First, Heavenly Father will never force us to do it His way. Our agency is too precious to Him and too essential to us. He gives us the commandments and warns us of the consequences for good and for bad, but to step in and take away our ability to choose would also mean taking away our growth and understanding that is a necessary part of His plan for our ultimate happiness. Satan would try to have us believe that allowing us moments of failure and forcing us to figure things out means that Heavenly Father doesn’t love us. Any of us who have watched a child learning to walk know that this isn’t true, although we try to teach and train and help prepare them to walk on their own, stumbles and falls are part of the learning process and we have to just do our best to help minimize the possibilities for danger without interfering in the learning process. I think to some degree that’s what Heavenly Father does for us as well and I know He cheers as louder than anyone when we get back up and try again and find we can succeed.

Second, we have to know that obstacles and challenges are there for a reason. Satan tries to convince us that this is also evidence that God doesn’t really love us. Because of the Gospel we know that it’s simply not true. True agency requires that there be opposition. We have to have a choice to make if we want the blessings of choosing it. When we overcome those obstacles and challenges, when we face adversity and carry on we learn that all things are possible through the Lord. Our faith in His help and the blessings that He has given us is increased and we find we have grown to become more like Him. Even Christ was faced with opposition and challenges but when we look at his life we can see how he handled those situations and was able to take every one of those would be stumbling blocks and turn it around into a positive stepping stone. Your attitude in facing those obstacles can make all the difference. I have noticed though that complaining about them rarely makes them any easier.

Third, We have to follow His path if we want to succeed. Like a trail up a mountain made by guides who know the way, Christ has shown us how to return to Heavenly Father. In the early part of the Book of Mormon, the prophet Lehi talked about the importance of this. Aside from having a firm grasp on the iron rod there wasn’t a safe path that led to the tree of eternal life. Christ said Himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Some would argue that it doesn’t seem fair, with so many paths to explore why should only one path lead to God. We have to trust that God knows more than we do though and no matter how much we may wish it differently because He governs in fairness and order that in the end things work out the way that they should. Thankfully repentance is part of that great path and we can always find the trail again with Christ’s help.

The rod of iron that led safely through the path was symbolic of the word of God. One of the biggest blessings that Heavenly Father has given us to help us find and stay on the path are the lives and testimonies of His children.

I love that the scriptures are full of people who were just people like us who lived their lives, did what they could and even messed up sometimes – in some cases a lot of times. We can see what happened when they trusted in God and followed His plan and what happened when they didn’t. We can see how God works with each of us in our own imperfections and can do amazing things through us despite ourselves. We can see the courage and faith of Ester, the obedience and sorrows of Nephi. From David we learn that we can slay giants as well as the need for all of us to beware of pride and coveting and when we mess up we should humble ourselves in repentance. Each person’s story helps us because, like us, they were simply trying to figure life out and had moments of failure and moments where they were able to be worthy of God’s highest blessings.

Heavenly Father has also blessed us with prophets, seers, and revelators in our own time. I know that President Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of God. I know that he and those who work with him in the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have been called by God to a sacred work and that they receive revelation that will help lead and guide the church. Over 2,000 years ago, Paul explained to the Ephesians why God gives us prophets and leaders and told the people the things that God’s true servants would do, he said, “And [the Lord] gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up unto him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.” In the midst of everything we see and hear today it’s easy to feel tossed and fro and feel uncertain of where to go or what to do or how to follow Christ. Not too long ago we were able to hear in person from Elder Rasband – an Apostle and servant of the Lord who exemplified the kind of teaching Paul described. We are also blessed through technology and media to hear from President Monson and our other leaders not only every six months in General Conference but continually through the resources that are online and available in Church Magazines. He’s also blessed us all with Stake and Ward leaders and teachers who love us and do their best to magnify the callings that the Lord has given them.

These are not the only sources that we can learn from though. We can learn from the examples of our own family and friends. Since it’s July I’d like to share with you a family pioneer story that I just learned somewhat recently.

Jacob Nesser was born in 1810 in Switzerland. He was baptized and served a mission there. In 1862 he left Switzerland and was part of the William H. Dane Handcart company. He traveled across the ocean and set out across the plains with his wife, Regula Lobbey Nesser and about 7 children to answer the call of the prophet to gather. They traveled with friends and family. The journey seems to have been difficult for both of them in their early 50’s however, which apparently for the time period was considered advanced in age. Regula died and was buried at Winter Quarters. It seems as though shortly after that one of his sons died along the way as well. Family records tell the rest of his tale. Jacob continued on the trail with his children and reached the Salt Lake Valley. He decided to settle down in the town of Providence, Utah. He married again and had 7 more children. Life in the valley wasn’t easy for Jacob and his family. He found the changes from his homeland in addition to the complications of advancing age and probably the loss of his wife and child extremely difficult. He had been a shoemaker by trade in Switzerland and tried to continue on in that trade but had limited resources and success.  It seems as though he loved his family and children but poverty and poor health took their toll.  He grew bitter towards the church. Just about 10 years after reaching Utah he died. The children from his first marriage left Utah and moved to Jackson County Missouri. His second wife Elizabeth, and her children ended up leaving Utah to join an apostate group that had promised to take care of them but did not. According to the records that I’ve been able to find so far only one of his children – his oldest daughter from his second marriage remained in the Church.

Some of you may be wondering why I would tell such a tragic story when talking about how God helps us best. Where was God during all those times of struggle? Outwardly Jacob had done all he could, I don’t know his heart but I think I could easily imagine his feelings and frustrations, his disappointment and even some of his bitterness. I don’t have all the answers about why he was asked to endure what he did even as he had tried to be faithful, but thankfully I know that’s not where Jacob’s story ends. Not quite 40 years after Jacob’s death, his great grandson James Burlington decided to join the church but about the same time he married a woman who was not a member and lost interest. Heavenly Father still wasn’t done with them yet though and thankfully his 5th great-grandson, my father was introduced to the church yet again when his roommate at college decided to share the gospel. Like I said, I don’t have all the answers but what happened with Jacob and Regula and their family and to me it is a testimony even though Regula died on the journey and Jacob struggled and became bitter that Heavenly Father loved them and was grateful for the faith that they had shown and that He never forgot them and wanted their children to have the blessings of the gospel. We may give up on Heavenly Father, but He never gives up on us.

Jacob’s story has also helped me put in perspective the concept that President Monson has taught so often. Our decisions determine our destiny and sometimes little choices we make can have a great impact on our future.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson said, “The beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that it pours knowledge into our souls and shows things in their true light. With that enhanced perspective, we can discern more clearly the choices before us and their consequences. We can, therefore, make more intelligent use of our agency. Many of God’s children fall into unanticipated traps and unhappiness because they either lack or ignore gospel light. They are unaware of their options or are confused about the outcomes of their choices. Ignorance effectively limits their agency.”

We have been blessed by Heavenly Father with the gift of the gospel, with the blessings of covenants, with the power of the priesthood, with scriptures, with prophets, with teachers, leaders, family, friends, with our own talents and wisdom and the ability to receive revelation through the Gift of the Holy Ghost. He has surrounded us with everything we might need to be successful and face our challenges if we can only be humble and teachable.

So why does it still seem so hard? What can we do if we’re still struggling and in need of help?

Sometimes when I feel myself facing a particularly difficult challenge I try and take some time for honest personal reflection. I try to remind myself -

  • I don’t have to do it all, I just have to do my best and leave the rest to God.
  • Great things don’t happen overnight, they happen bit by bit, line upon line.
  • God has given me so many blessings that are all around me if only I take the time to look.
  • I may not be able to choose my circumstance but I can choose what I do about it.
  • It doesn't do any good to worry about things that are out of my control, I can only work to make right what is within my sphere of influence.

I also ask myself the hard questions. Please understand that these questions might be different for each of us based on our struggles or personal tendencies.  These are just some that I have found helpful and hopefully can help get you thinking-

  • Am I focusing on the most important and essential things, the things of eternity or am I focusing on the things that are just nice or not important at all?
  • Will this matter 5 minutes or 5 days from now? 5 years or 50?
  • Am I too busy trying to figure it out on my own and relying on Google that I’ve stopped trying to listen for the still small voice and seeking answers through study and prayer?
  • What am I doing that’s getting in the way of God being able to bless me?
  • Am I following the plan that God has laid out for my life or am I trying to follow the plan of the world and hoping for God’s blessings?
  • What idols am I letting come between me and God?
  • Am I letting someone else’s lack of faith alter my eternity?
  • Am I trying to carry the worries and burdens of tomorrow with only today’s strength?
  • Are my actions consistent with my faith in a loving Heavenly Father?

I know that as we seek Heavenly Father’s help that He will show us the way to safety. He wants each of us to return to Him. He loves each of us because we are all His children. Struggles and challenges come to each of us but He’s given us all we need to make it through, and not only make it through but to feel joy and success as we journey. Whenever we’re struggling all we have to do is turn to Him and follow the path He gives us.