but from somewhere deep inside it needs to be written.
When I was a young mom, I found a scripture smack dab in the middle of the war chapters in the Book of Mormon. I read it often and told myself that it was probably the most important scripture I would ever read and understand. It pertained to Moroni's extensive fortification of cities, but to me, it was speaking of families and children.
In Alma 59:9, Moroni says that "it was easier to keep a city from falling into the hands of the Lamanites than to retake it from them..." I always read it as: it is easier to keep your children from falling into the hands of the adversary than to retake them from him..."
I promised myself that I would never forget that lesson. And I haven't. Now, I am kind of in the business of trying to take back cities.
For a LONG time I beat myself up over that early warning scripture. I just wasn't diligent enough, good enough, righteous enough etc. etc. I know better now. In the end, after all of Moroni's fortifications and seriously, notwithstanding the greatest example of a man of God to follow, the people still made their own choices. Choices that were really hard on Moroni, and on moms. But--agency is the plan. HIS plan. It's just how it works. It can be hard and painful but when you truly catch the vision, it is glorious beyond words. So I have stopped beating myself up (most of the time). I'm still doing my best to fortify. And I'm holding on to my faith with both hands. Because really, it always goes back to Jesus. Nothing in my life is a surprise to Him. He knows my end from my beginning- which means He knows just how to ease my burdens, fill me with hope, and increase my joy. All I have to do is partner with Him and keep my covenants.
Kept covenants are truly the best fortifications. Just ask Moroni. :)
One of the many things that my RT (religion teacher) has taught me by word and by example is: "Don't be a lazy spiritual learner." In fact he has said those exact words a few times :) This applies especially to the most current scripture we have: General Conference. He suggested that as we read and study the General Conference talks, we continually ask Heavenly Father, "Is this what you want me to learn from this talk?" When we finally feel that we received the intended messages for us personally, move on to the next one. It's been a game changer for me. Right after last October's General Conference, I listened to an old talk by Sheri Dew where she challenged herself to listen to at least one talk a day from the previous General Conference, until the next one. Doing that means you really do listen to talks over and over and over. But doing that prayerfully, has made it impossible for me to not receive the spiritual help that the Spirit has personalized just for me.
I love the brethren. I love the sisters. As I watch, listen, read, and study their messages, I am overwhelmed that I get to be a part of them. I feel such a kinship. It's kind of like how I feel at the temple. As I take in all of the heavenly helpers and patrons, I sometimes think, "These are my people. This is who I am and I love it." I just feel a huge envelopment of love and truth and holiness--a divine connection of Spirit to spirit.
All that to say that I hope I never take General Conference for granted. I'm holding fast to the messengers and messages from God in a world that is spinning further and further away from Him.
Last Tuesday I worked my temple shift- (and I hate saying "worked" and "shift" when I talk about the temple because it's sooo not work)-
however, I was there and it felt good to be back. It's not shocking to know that I have been praying a lot about joy lately. About finding it, and giving it. I definitely had a week of joy in Texas with the little family. And I don't mean just happiness, I mean joy. The kind of joy that comes from wanting to do everything you can to help and love and create happiness. And it is always so hard to leave. As I flew back, I felt the ever looming clouds of my own problems and concerns returning to my mind...I tried to banish them with positive thinking, Korean music (not joking), uplifting podcasts and talks. I fought them hard. In Texas, after my scripture study, I read my patriarchal blessing every night. I picked and pulled at it. I rewrote it. I categorized it. I did everything I could to try and comprehend it's overarching message that I was struggling to believe. The message that told me that joy and happiness would reign supreme in my life. Supreme. At this time in my life that almost seems laughable. But because I believe and trust God with my whole soul, I know that it is truth. With that promise of joy he also gave me ways to feel it and share it. So I am on a mission. A mission to find and feel and give joy. And in the temple last Tuesday, as I was walking back from the bride's room after having dropped off an elated grandmother to be with her almost married grand-daughter, I had the biggest smile on my face and in my heart. The spirit whispered "This is joy Brenda. True joy." IT WAS. God is good.
Last year this time I was painting walls.
And packing up bedrooms.
And living rooms.
I spent 3 weeks in Florida helping my friend and her girls get a rental house ready to exit.
It was fun, hard, exhausting and satisfying as we plowed through job after job.
But those walls.
Life with four little girls and a dog had left it's mark. Everywhere.
We patched and sanded and painted, and patched and sanded and painted.
Sometimes just an area, and sometimes an entire room.
But one wall in particular was determined to break us.
It was THE main wall you saw as you walked into the home and it was at least 12 feet high.
It had the most work to be done and it had to be beautiful.
We tackled it last.
It would not cooperate.
The paint had faded and so our spare paint didn't match.
We chipped a piece off and took it to Home Depot and had them recreate it.
It didn't match.
It had to match perfectly because we just couldn't reach the entire 12 feet.
With each failure we would look at each other and try not to cry-ha!
Finally, someone told us to take it to a specialty store that matched paint as close to perfect as possible.
We were skeptical but we chipped off one more piece and took it in.
It was almost perfect. We painted as high as we could-- it looked amazing. I think we might have really cried that time.
We were soooo happy.
From then on, no one was allowed to walk by that wall without saying some sort of "holy hallelujah" in praise of its beauty--every single time and it never got old.
At the end of a really long 3 weeks, it was the pinnacle of our efforts.
It symbolized everything we had done.
It was a beautiful reminder that we could do hard things.
Yesterday, I had my friend send me a picture of that wall.
I just needed to see it.
I needed to remember thatI can do hard things.
Oh yes, true beauty right there. I did that.