“I [Didnt] Know What to Do”

Last night as I was driving to meet a friend for dinner, I had an “oh wow” moment.

I was crossing over the James River and I looked over at the sun setting over the river and on all the downtown buildings and all I could think was “wow, I never imagined my life would be like this”.

I’ve had these moments before; just every once in a while, when for a moment everything seems to be just how it should.

One year ago (next month) I drove into this beautiful city of Lynchburg, VA. The rain was pouring down like I had never witnessed in my life and I just kept asking myself if I had made the right decision to come here. But the next morning, the sun came up and everything dried out and I knew that this was going to be an adventure worth having.

My life has changed quite a bit over the last 11 months. Some very big changes have occurred while others have been small and maybe not noticeable to others. A few weeks ago I was going through some of my things in order to begin consolidating so I can move out of my apartment. As I was doing this I found one of my journals. For a few years I was very consistent in writing, but over the past couple of years I have written very seldom. I figured I should go ahead and write about what I have been doing over the past year so I have it to look back on. I decided to read the last entry I had written, which was dated June 18, 2016. This is what some of it said:

I have been really struggling the past few weeks. I don’t know what to do. I know the things I believe are true regarding the gospel but I also know the feelings that I have in other areas of my life. I don’t understand how to feel or what to think and even though those feelings are only a small part of who I am, they are controlling my thoughts. I need God’s help but I don’t feel like I deserve it. It is said that we are not given more than we can bear, but it certainly doesn’t feel like this is something I can bear forever

Holy cow. The person I was one year ago feels like a total stranger to me. I still have struggles and doubts and there are forever going to be days when I don’t know if things are going to be okay. But wow, how things have changed. And for the better! I am now able to wake up everyday and feel good about who I am. I feel so much more balance, and peace and love in my life as I have learned to be honest with myself and with those around me.

But it wasn’t like moving to Lynchburg was the magic key to make everything better. This ability to stand proudly as a person has come from all of the people and places I have encountered along the way. It has come from allowing myself to take risks and to focus on how I can live this life instead of just get through it. I could probably have written a post similar to this every time I have moved or made a change in my life. And I think that is why I am okay with life changing so often. It’s true that a part of my heart is left in each place that I lived. There are parts in Nevada with my family and parts in Utah with my some of my best friends. There are even some parts in the little town of Rexburg, ID and now I prepare to leave some parts behind here in Lynchburg as my life continues to move forward to new things. But even though I have left so many pieces behind, my heart has grown and changed and, hopefully, become better.

I am grateful to no longer be in a state of “I don’t think this is something I can bear forever” but instead be in awe of what I am doing and where I am and what is coming next.  We live in a good world with good people and I am grateful to have woken up this morning to spend another day in it. I promise that things get better.





Rain or Shine

It didn’t snow this week! For the first time in the two months that I have been in Rexburg, we had sunshine for more than one day during the week. In fact, we had sunshine almost every single day! People were wearing T-shirts, going to the park, and enjoying the sunshine. Even though the highs were only in the upper 30’s, it feels like a beautiful spring day when all you have been experiencing are gloomy, 15 degree days for the majority of the time. I believe that the things around us are often a reflection of the things that happen within us.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that because it’s been gloomy for the past two months that my life has been horrible for the past two months. But it does mean that just like the weather, my life has times of gloom and times of sunshine. It also means that the God who created the earth, with all of its seasons and different weather patterns, also created me. And because of that knowledge, I can also be sure that God is aware of me. Sometimes this awareness seems so distant or, for the moment, gone. In fact, I have at certain times felt that God had forever abandoned me. But in those gloomy time, the sunshine always came back.

One of my favorite types of weather is rain. I love the way it makes the earth smell,the fact that it doesn’t stick around forever like snow, and the way that it makes everything clean again. I have seen rain when I have been happy, and sad, and elated, and angry. But I have specifically seen rain on almost every occasion in the last year when I have felt overwhelmingly sad. Now, maybe this is just a coincidence. But maybe it isn’t. Maybe God is saying “Shannon, I know you are sad. But I am here. I haven’t left you, and I never will.” Just like the rain always clears and the sun eventually comes out, those times of tremendous sadness and grief have consistently been replaced with joy and with peace.  I can promise that God is saying this to each and everyone one of us. God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). This means that He loves everyone equally, and doesn’t see one person as greater than the next. If this wasn’t true why would I, a college student in a small town with a lowly job and no high calling in life, be given the aid of a God who had created all the earth? That doesn’t make sense. God knows ME, He loves ME, and He watches out for ME. And He does the same for every single person.

“If our lives and our faith are centered upon Jesus Christ and his restored gospel, nothing can ever go permanently wrong” (Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, p.46). I don’t know how to live a life without gloomy days. And I don’t know how to make the best of those gloomy days. But I do know that they end. That sunshine comes. And that things will always work out.

Until Seventy Times Seven

It is such a blessing that the gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of second chances. And of third chances and fourth chances and so on. When Jesus suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane, He knew all too well that I would repeatedly make the same mistakes. That despite my desire to “be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect” (Matt 5:48), I still fall short of that goal each and every day. Yet He still suffered for me. He still bled at every poor and He still was beaten and bruised and He still hung on the cross for me. And for all of us. Sometimes life seems like such a daunting task. We are commanded to become perfect, to obey the commandments with exactness (Alma 57:1). But as imperfect humans, how is it fair to ask this of us? In one of my previous posts, I focused on the story of the rich man who was unwilling to give up his riches in order to inherit eternal life. Unfortunately the rest of the man’s story is left untold and I am not sure what happened to him during the rest of his life. But what I do know is that his response to that question from Christ wasn’t the last chance he had. His entire life was likely filled with opportunities and chances to change his mind, to give up his riches and return to live with God. What a dreary world it would be if we were all judged off of our first response to everything. But what a glorious world it is because we get a second and third and fourth and however many chances it takes. Certainly we can’t purposefully disobey the commandments of God and then turn around and repent and expect to be made clean. But as we earnestly try to become better, our Savior will be right along side us to buoy us up when we start to sink again. Because He has commanded us to forgive others “not until seven times but until seventy times seven” I can only believe that He would forgive us even more than that (Matt 18). I testify that God, and His son, Jesus Christ, love us. That They know us individually and personally. That They knew we would need a Savior and that Christ came to this earth in order to save us. I know that He gives us the chances that we need, and the help that we need. I have felt the redeeming power of God in my life. I know that we are not alone in this fight. “For I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up” (Doctrine and Covenants 84:88).

One Time Savior

During this time of year, people are more drawn to the story of Christ’s birth. Similarly, during Easter people are drawn to the death and resurrection of Christ. While these two moments in history are clearly very defining and instrumental to the plan of God, isn’t Christ so much more than just His birth and death? The atonement of Jesus Christ, most often associated along with His death and resurrection, was perhaps the most important act in all of history, for it gave me and everyone of us the chance to return to live with God despite our shortcomings. Yet, there is still so much more to Christ. He had a whole life filled with miracles and teachings. Perhaps a few of these moments from His life can help us better understand what Jesus was really all about. For after all, “he that saith he abideth in him ought himself also to walk, even as he walked” (1 John 2:6).
Because of the state of the world in which we live in, there are certain aspects I want to focus on in relation to the life of Jesus. First, He taught about peace. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). The peace that is available through Jesus Christ is unlike anything else. Surely we may have moments of peace when our children stop screaming, our homework is finally complete, or we see a beautiful sunset. Yet these moments of peace are so fleeting. The peace of Jesus is everlasting. Although there may be turmoil throughout the world that surrounds each of us, we can feel peace inside our hearts as we continually hold to Christ and to his gospel.
Second, Jesus taught us to endure to the end. At first sight, this phrase seems very daunting and gives the implication that life isn’t anything enjoyable if we simply have to endure the whole time. However, that is the opposite of the truth. The plan of salvation, the plan that God has for each of us, is often referred to as the plan of happiness. This happiness is not only achieved once we return to live with God, but is available yesterday, today and forever. 2 Timothy 2:3 says “thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ”. Then in James, it is said that “we count them happy which endure” (5:11). Surely there will be days, weeks, or years of our lives where we must endure through times of sadness, anger, loneliness, and other trials. Yet as we endure, with the trust that God is by our side and will not forsake us, we shall be saved from our afflictions (Matthew 24:13).
Third, Jesus taught us how to love. He gave us the commandment to love one another in John 15:12. Perhaps this is one of the most controversial subjects today between religious and secular groups. However, I believe we must remember that loving people doesn’t always mean we love what they do or how they act. Jesus Christ was the perfect example of love and dedication and everything else, but he wasn’t accepting of sin and he wasn’t going to condone that which was contrary to the will of God. In our minds we like to make Jesus to be what we want him to be, yet we have to know Him as He truly was in order to walk in his footsteps. In Matthew 21 He finds many people selling and buying in the temple of God,  place that is sacred and holy. Yes He loves these people, but He also has to stand for what is right and he “went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves”. Just two verses later in that same chapter in Matthew, Christ heals the blind and the lame. We must be loving towards our fellow men, whether or not we agree with what they do. But we must also stand for what is right. Surely the grace and mercy of God is available for all to use, but we were sent to this earth in order to prove ourselves. We were sent here to show that despite the temptations and trials that beset us we are willing to live a life of righteousness in order to return back and live with God. “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever” (Isaiah 40:8). Our lives must align with the word of God, not the other way around.
I know that Jesus Christ lives today. I am grateful for His birth and I am grateful for His death and resurrection. But I am grateful that He woke up everyday and went forth among the people teaching and healing and acting in the name of God. I love Jesus Christ for everything He has done for me, but I also love Him specifically for the reason that He was a Savior every single day, He was a Redeemer every single day, and He continues to do so even so many years later. Because He wasn’t a one time Savior, I know I can’t be a one time Christian, or a Christmas season Christian. It has to be a choice that is made everyday. Daily effort to walk as Jesus walked will make the difference in my life and in others’ lives. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).