There's Always A Life Vest

If you are in a bright room, whether bright by sunlight or a light bulb, if you turn on another light it isn't that noticeable.
But if you are in a darkness and light is introduced - it's REALLY noticeable. Today I was thinking alot about how when I'm struggling - when trials seem to come from every direction and they feel very heavy, that is when I see the most tender mercies in my life.The light is really bright in the darkness! I am constantly amazed by the Lord's timing (except in regards to marriage - that's still a tough one for me :P) and how some how, some way, the things you need in your life and the people you need, happen to be there when you need them. Things somehow come together to give you the support that you need if you look for it. It doesn't lessen the difficulty of the trials or take away the often painful emotions but it helps especially when I make a point to notice them, be grateful for them and acknowledge the help and strength they give me.

At some points in my life, I felt like Heavenly Father tossed me out into the middle of a very turbulent ocean. And I didn't want to be in the ocean, especially a turbulent one. And there would always be a life vest available or one of those floaty doughnut things but because I was angry I was even IN the ocean, I would scowl, cross my arms and refuse to grab hold of the life preserver.

Other times I would splash frantically and try and figure out how all by myself I was going to get out of this ocean because I didn't want to be there and if I was there I must need to figure a way out myself. And I would get nowhere trying to swim in choppy water, not even noticing there were life preservers floating nearby to help me.

But life - especially trials - have a way of teaching you, if you will let them. I've recently been reading in Ether in the Book of Mormon. So I've been reading about the Jaredites as they prepared ships to cross the ocean. The Lord let the Brother of Jared know that as they crossed they were going to buried in the water. This was because the Lord was causing the wind to blow towards the promised land. This would result in there being storms, waves, etc. But the wind was necessary - even if it caused the things that would make the crossing more difficult, without they wind they would never make it to the promised land. So the Lord gave them things to help them make it through the rough times.
Ship designs that wouldn't leak. A hole on the top and bottom of the ship so they could have air. And light - He touched the stones the Brother of Jared brought so they could have light during the passage ESPECIALLY when they were buried in the water.

So it is with us - the wind (trials) are a necessary part of us making it to the promised land. In fact, they are a key ingredient that we can't do without. Now, just like a ship, if we don't use the things correctly the wind could push us FURTHER from the promised land, when we follow the "user manual" and make sure to utilize things correctly, it will slowly, but surely move us closer and closer to the promised land.

Now, I still sometimes yell at being in the middle of a choppy ocean. And I still feel angry and frustrated that it is hard, and sometimes ask why it has to be that way. But I try really hard now to notice and use the life preservers that always seem to pop up when I most need them. The Lord doesn't drive us into the middle of the ocean, toss us overboard and speed away wishing us, "Good luck!" He knows when things are hard. He doesn't want to see us suffer needlessly, but He is an all knowing god that understands the role suffering and struggling plays in our personal growth. So He allows it to happen, giving us all the things we need to make it through our swim. So when you feel like you're in the middle of the ocean, struggling to stay afloat, perhaps feeling angry that you're there - take a minute to look around at the life preservers that I know will be floating nearby.

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A Call To LDS Women: Let's Stop Whining And Go To Work

Ladies this post is for you. Let's have a little bit of discussion. I'm going to ask some hard questions. I hope you will take some time to think about them and answer them for yourself. I think it is wonderful to be a woman. We have so much potential to do good and change the world. We can connect, uplift and support each other as well as those around us. But some times I think we get pulled away by things that keep us from accomplishing all that we truly can. I know life can be confusing and it can be confusing to be a woman - so many competing voices stating what it is to be a woman. We want to feel valued, heard and to know we are contributing. These things do matter as do each of you that read this. And I know you may be looking for answers.

So I'm going to be blunt.

Let's first talk equality - especially within The LDS Church. The word equality is very appealing. In some ways it is the catch-word of our society right now. It gets thrown around alot.  But too often the word equality becomes a distraction - we get caught up in saying equality that we don't stop to think about what it really means and what we want it to mean.

"Equality" can be very alluring. So what does it even mean? Too often when the term "equality" is used, especially within The Church it means that women should be able to do and be everything a man is. Can we not see the fallacy in this? We stomp our feet and rage at the patriarchal hierarchy but then demand to become part of that hierarchy? Equality is not and cannot be sameness. That isn't true equality. But that is what we too often are arguing for. That to be equal we must be and do as a man is and does.

But we are not men. We are women. We are unique. We are different from men. Not better or worse, just different. Let us celebrate the differences, embrace them and not consider them as making us less. We can accomplish so much as women with the strengths and characteristics that make us women. Those aren't exactly the same for any of us, but the roles we have within The Church do not stop us from making a difference.

We all want to feel valued, wanted and that we contribute. I know that feeling. I have that feeling regularly. So lets talk about what that can mean within The Church.

Women and the priesthood. This has become quite a point of difficulty and even contention for many women (I'm not saying it isn't for men as well, but I'm focusing on talking to women in this post :). It can be hard to understand why women aren't given the priesthood as men are. But a question to ask yourself - why do you want to hold the priesthood? I don't know your answer but I want to share some thoughts on possible responses I see.

"I want to have the priesthood because men have the priesthood."
What good does wanting something just for the sake of having it really do for us? Often when we want something just for the sake of having it, without thought for why we want it and/or what we will do with it, then there is always something to want. It is difficult to ever be satisfied.

"I want to have the priesthood because I feel lesser without it."
We might be a little amused if someone said to us, "God doesn't love me as much because He gave so and so this talent or blessing, or ability but I don't have it." We don't expect to have exactly the same make up as someone else because we are different people. And that is alright. Neither of us is better than another because of those differences. It simply is a part of life and this growing experience to have differences. Having the priesthood wouldn't suddenly change how we felt about ourselves, our roles or our responsibilities. When we feel that we are lesser or lacking because we don't have something someone else has, there is always something someone else has that we don't so typically, the feelings don't go away, they shift to something else.

"I want to be able to bless people's lives by having the priesthood."
There isn't anything magical that we could suddenly do by having the priesthood that we can't do now. We could give blessings by the laying on of hands, but we have just as much ability to call on the powers of heaven through faithful prayer, RIGHT NOW. We can minister to others, RIGHT NOW. We can serve in and magnify our callings, RIGHT NOW. Who in your neighborhood or ward could you reach out to, RIGHT NOW?

"I want the priesthood so I can serve in any capacity, i.e Bishop, Stake President, Prophet." I've heard many women say they want to be able to visit and confess to a women - that it would be easier and should be an option. I can understand that. Most of the time when talking about really personal things I prefer talking to other women. However, hard things aren't easy to talk about to anyone - male or female when we don't have a close relationship with them. And yes, there are Bishops and Stake Presidents who don't act as they should. But that wouldn't change if some of them were women. We are not perfect - neither are Bishops or Stake Presidents. Does it make our life harder and some times scar us and cause difficulties? Yes. But having a woman as a Bishop or Stake President wouldn't magically fix that. Women don't always listen. Women let their own issues and personal feelings influence their responses.

 The organization of The Church is as it is for a reason - we are all learning and growing together and some times someone else's poor choices or wrong choices effect us. Talk to the people from the city of Ammonihah in the Book of Mormon that were burned because they believed in the preaching of Alma and Amulek. Amulek wanted to stretch forth his hand and stop them because they didn't deserve it. But the Lord forbid it - agency allows that some times we are adversely effected by other's choices. So what we can do is focus on doing the best we can, repenting of our mistakes and yes striving to build a relationship with our Bishops and Stake Presidents.

And we can support each other now without being Bishops or Stake Presidents. We can listen, offer empathy and compassion, not judge each other, and seek for opportunities to serve. We can do all of this NOW.

The other thing I wanted to discuss is marriage and/or motherhood. There are those of use who are single who wish to be married and have families and we wonder why it isn't happening for us. There are those of us who are married but can't have children or don't have children yet and we wonder why. There are those of us married with children that wonder if this is all there is supposed to be to life - cleaning, laundry, cooking, running children around, etc.

So we all spend time and energy thinking about what we don't have or thinking that life would be more fulfilling "IF" only something else. So we don't enjoy the now. We don't look for the good, the opportunities for growth, those small moments of joy. We can all feel unfulfilled no matter our current situation in life. I talked to a friend recently and asked about her day. She jokingly said her days were made up of picking up the same books her daughter would pull onto the floor about 12 times a day. Definitely not very exciting or fulfilling. But I thought how right now in my situation I would love to have kids to need to do that. But as the saying goes, the grass is always greener elsewhere. I know I suffer from that syndrome at times and whine about why things aren't as I want them to be. But we can focus on what we don't have or focus on all the good I can do right now in my own circle of influence. And we all have circles of influence and yes our actions do matter therein.

Sisters, we have so many opportunities for good right now. Our energy can be put to such good use in learning, growing, serving and building the Lord's kingdom right now in our current roles and capacities. Let us put our energy and focus into how we can serve those in our neighborhoods and wards. How we can magnify our callings. How we can teach our children to respect and love others, to understand repentance and to love the Lord. Our roles as women, mothers, daughters, sisters, etc. do not make us less. Are they different than men? Yes but that is ok! Let us do all that lies in our power now to bless the lives of others and continue to learn and grow and we will be fulfilled and find joy!

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