Sunday, December 27, 2015

Two Roads Diverged



This morning, for whatever reason, the poem "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost filled my mind and wouldn't let go until I read through it again.

The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

I first read and memorized it back in middle school for a school assignment. Even then, the meaning behind the words resonated deep within. I've often taken the road less traveled. My choices have yielded both bad and good consequences. For the most part, I have few regrets.

We're often confronted with choices in life. Some seem as similar as the two roads described in the poem, with very little to distinguish them other than a fair bit of grass. Other times, the roads are as different as night and day. There are times the poor road - filled with potholes and detours - is obvious. And other times, it looks just like the good road.

As we follow Christ and listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, signposts are clear to see and our choices are made easy. They are like a spiritual GPS in the road of life, helping us to our final destination.

When we choose to ignore the signs provided, we often find ourselves in dark and dreary places, far from home. However, we can choose to change our direction once again and make our way back to our preferred route. Forgiveness is simply finding a new path.

Be careful in your choices. Look for the signposts and seek for the paths that will lead you back to our Heavenly Father. For the road we take truly makes a difference.

Believe is a verb. A verb is an action. Therefore, to believe is to ACT.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Parable of the Christmas Elf

The Parable of the Christmas Elf - www.Believeisaverb.com
Last Friday, I dressed up like an elf for an assembly at my son's school. I took extra pains to curl my hair, wear extra makeup, and dress in clothing appropriate for one of Santa's elves. It was all so the kids I saw almost every single day during traffic control wouldn't recognize me. I also relied on the fact I wasn't wearing my bright orange vest with "Miss Melissa" on the back to aid in my deception.

During the performance, where I recited "A Visit From St. Nicholas" and read "The True Story of Santa Claus", the kids were riveted, more focused on the words than me. But when I visited each classroom to deliver treats, a few of the children started to call me out.

"I know who you are," a little girl said with a sly grin. I waved her away with a quiet shush, not wanting to ruin it for the other kids.

"Hey, I know you!" a little boy cried out. I ignored him and jingled my way out of the classroom (my shoes and mittens had jingle bells).

The longer I stayed, the more children began to recognize me for who I truly was. The crowning moment was when I stayed to help with traffic control in the afternoon - still decked out in elfish attire. The excited children swarmed me and peppered me with questions. When was Santa coming to pick me up? What time was I going back to the North Pole?

"Wait," an older boy said, peering under my elf hat. "I recognize you! You're Miss Melissa!"

Nothing I said or did could persuade him otherwise. Nor would he stop announcing it for all to hear. I was found out and outed. Not all the glitter and sparkles in the world could hide who I really was.

In life, we often put on disguises for others to see - masquerading as something we're not to fool people we want to impress. Perhaps we're hoping to be seen as 'cooler' than we are. Or smarter. Or more trendy.

No matter what we do, these disguises won't last. First one person will see through your carefully crafted mask. Then another. And another.

Eventually, you, too, will be outed and shown for who you really are.

Christ never pretended to be something He wasn't. He came to earth a newborn babe in the lowliest of circumstances. Many saw Him merely as the son of a carpenter from Nazareth. But those who looked, who truly saw Him for who He was, knew Him to be the Only Begotten Son of the Most High. His glory shall reign forever!

So this Christmas season, remember who you are. You are a son or daughter of God, sent to earth to become something great and amazing. To follow in Christ's footsteps and gain eternal glory.

All you have to do is believe.

Believe is a verb. A verb is an action. Therefore, to believe is to ACT.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Parable of the Crossing Guard

When I began this blog some time ago, I wasn't sure which direction I wanted to take it. I knew it would focus on belief and acting upon that belief, but that was about it. The other day, though, I remembered something I've wanted to do for some time. Something that has been nagging at my subconscious for years.

Parables.

I love parables. My being a writer may have something to do with that. It seems to me a concept taught through a story has a longer lasting impact than one simply stated.

Which is why I'll introduce a new parable each week. Last week was "The Parable of the Bloody Nose". It was a fitting kickoff to this new series of posts. I've received a lot of good feedback on it, reaffirming what I believe to be the Spirit's influence to take my blog in this direction.

Without any further ado, I present this week's parable.


I work as a traffic control volunteer at my son's school - a.k.a. crossing guard. We have some rules we ask parents to follow while dropping off and picking up their children from school. The rules are simple and resonate with common sense.

  • Pull forward.
  • Stay in your vehicle while in the drop-off/pick-up zone.
  • No cell phone use during drop-off/pick-up times.
  • Please buckle up your children before leaving school grounds.
Most parents abide by these rules. They understand the rules are there for their safety and the safety of their children. Occasionally, a parent or grandparent needs a gentle reminder. They're usually repentant and quickly mend their ways.

Sometimes a parent becomes indignant and refuses to comply. Inevitably, these individuals meet with unfortunate consequences - fender bender in the parking lot, interference from school administration or even police, etc. All because of their continued refusal to abide by the simple rules set for them.

In our lives, we are provided with spiritual "crossing guards" who seek to keep us safe. They encourage us to follow simple rules to keep us spiritually sound.
  • Pray always.
  • Study the scriptures.
  • Keep the commandments.
  • Follow the prophets.
Most members of the LDS faith abide by these commandments, for we know they're there to ensure our eternal progression help us achieve eternal life. Occasionally, we need a gentle reminder to get us back on track. We are repentant and quickly mend our ways.

Sometimes, however, we become indignant and refuse to comply. Our spiritual complacency allows for unfortunate consequences - falling away from the church, detrimental influence from the adversary, etc. All because of our continued refusal to abide by the simple commandments set for us.

Let us always be vigilant and abide by the commandments our Lord and Savior has given us, for He has given us a way to safely navigate this life so we may someday return to Him and live eternally in His presence. It may not always be easy. We may not always like it, but He knows what's best for us. He only wants to see us safely home.

We must simply believe.

Believe is a verb. A verb is an action. Therefore, to believe is to ACT.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Parable of the Bloody Nose


My 4yo son is prone to frequent bloody noses, often in the middle of the night. When this happens, my husband and I are aroused from our peaceful slumber by a small knock at our bedroom door and a distressed cry. 

"I have a bloody nose!" 

One or both of us will get up and help our poor son so we can all get back to sleep. Sometimes, all that is needed is a tissue and a little patience. Other times, a full-on shower and change of bedding is in order. But no matter what, we're there for him until the bleeding stops.

Every so often, our son doesn't knock. He screams and cries and pushes us away. He thrashes about as we attempt to hold a tissue to his nose, causing the blood to flow faster and longer, turning a mild issue into a grueling ordeal and leaving behind a bloody mess.

As children of our Heavenly Father, we often have unexpected troubles arise - not unlike my son's bloody noses. As we struggle, we cry out to our Father in Heaven, begging for His help to stem the flow of trials. Sometimes our problems are easily solved with prayer and a little patience and we're able to return to the relative peace of our lives.

Other times, our trials are more difficult and involve greater effort, more "clean up" to make things right. No matter what, our Father is there, helping us until our trials subside.

Every so often, we try to brave our storms alone. We fight our Heavenly Father and push away His efforts, insistent on bemoaning our fate instead of allowing our God in Heaven - all-knowing and all-powerful - to help. Our trials seem to increase and multiply and what could have been a simple fix turns into a drawn-out ordeal, leaving behind a chaotic mess.

Just as my husband and I know whats best for our son, our Heavenly Father knows what's best for us. In His infinite wisdom, He knows how to help us if only we would allow Him to help. All we have to do is go to Him in humble prayer and say, "Father, I have a problem! Please, help me."

Because of the great love He has for us, Heavenly Father will come to our aid. Perhaps not in the way we think or hope he will, but He will come. All we must do is believe.

Believe is a verb. A verb is an action. Therefore, to believe is to act.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Five S's



A few weeks ago, a gentleman spoke in church about an aspect of his job. He's an operations and efficiency manager at a fairly large corporation. His employer expects everyone in the company - from management to the lowliest employee - to utilize what they call "The Five S's" to improve efficiency.

With some thought, the gentleman from church was able to apply that system to believing in God and having His presence in our lives. I loved his viewpoint so much, I took thorough notes so I could share my thoughts with you.

1. Sort

The first step is to sort out what is needed and what's not. We are to remove those things that have no value. Refocus, evaluate, and declutter.

What in your life has no spiritual value? Certain television shows? Music? Books? Games? What about other activities? Shopping on Sunday? Eating or drinking things that aren't good for you? Habits or hobbies that detract from the Spirit?

This can include people who add no spiritual value to your life. Are there those who drag you down rather than lift you up? Those who encourage you to drift further away from where the Lord wishes you to be?

Remove those things that do not bring you closer to your Heavenly Father to allow room for those things that will bring you the most everlasting joy.

2. Straighten

Once you've sorted, you must straighten what's left. Arrange, organize, and set things in order. Set expectations, goals, and guidelines.

Decide where you stand. Know what you're willing to do and what you won't. Make the time to pray, study your scriptures, write in your journal, and spend time with your family. It takes a conscious effort to make these things a habit.

Determine where you want to be spiritually. What do you want to believe, to know? If there's someone you admire and look up to, what steps can you take to be more like him/her? Make a plan. Set it in action.

3. Shine

Clean and maintain your surroundings to enable the ability to identify defects and abnormalities. In other words, repent and forgive. 

Let go of your guilt, make amends. Kneel in fervent prayer and beg forgiveness from our Heavenly Father. Wipe the slate clean. Drop your baggage. Become clean and pure once more.

Forgive others. Give up your hard feelings and resentment. Allow others to become clean in your eyes. Unburden yourself from the heavy load anger carries. 

4. Standardize

Revisit the first three S's on a regular basis. Attend church meetings every Sunday. Partake of the Sacrament to renew your baptismal covenants. Spend time each week, month, and year reviewing your goals and examining your life. Make self-examination a constant in your life.

When you find yourself lacking in one area, set a new goal and start again. The Lord doesn't expect perfection. He wants you to do your best. Keep trying. Don't give up.

5. Sustain

Continue to improve every day. Look for ways to better yourself - not just spiritually, but in all other aspects of your life. Be disciplined and actively engaged. Forward momentum, no matter how small, is better than remaining stagnant or sliding backwards. 

Something I've learned as a writer is to begin with the end in sight. If you do this, everything else will fall into place. Keep the goal of eternal life firmly fixed in your heart. When difficult times descend upon you and choices have to be made, belief in our Savior, Jesus Christ, will help you through and lead you to the other side.

And, as always, remember that believe is a verb. A verb is an action. Therefore, to believe is to act.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Thanksgiving - The Christmas Prelude



For years, I've protested starting anything Christmas related until after Thanksgiving. No tree, no visits to Santa, no Christmas music. Let Thanksgiving have its due!

This year, however, I realized something that changed my outlook and may alter how we celebrate the holiday season in the upcoming years. Thanksgiving and the reason behind it is the perfect prelude to Christmas.

How better to celebrate the birth of our Savior than to express gratitude for all He has given us?

We live in a time when letters to Santa outnumber act of service, retailers open earlier and close later to accommodate holiday shoppers, and people brawl to get this year's hottest items. "I want" and "Give me" are shouted while "Thank you" is murmured or not spoken at all.

This year, instead of focusing on the presents and decorations, let's start celebrating with an attitude of gratitude. 

Let's be grateful for what we have; focus on what's in front of us rather than what's on the store shelf. Give rather than receive. Share of our abundance.

Praise the Lord for giving us the ultimate gift - the gift of eternal life. Thank our Heavenly Father for sending His Only Begotten Son to save us from our sins. Give thanks for that glorious morn when Christ was born to a young virgin in the city of Bethlehem. 

For without that first Christmas, there would be very little to be grateful for indeed.
"If thou art merry, praise the Lord with sing, with music, and with dancing, and with a prayer of praise and Thanksgiving." - Doctrine and Covenants 136:28
 "It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto they name, O most High." - Psalm 92:1 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

I Am Strong. And I Am Not Alone

"I Am Strong. And I Am Not Alone." www.BelieveisaVerb.com

I've been struggling lately. 

Over the past few months, I've taken on several new responsibilities - each with a special place in my heart and none of which I care to let go. I was, and still am, juggling it all without too many problems. I was simply feeling low and sluggish.

This morning, I woke up, got ready, and went to church. Instead of coming home feeling edified and uplifted, I felt more weighed down than ever. Even overwhelmed and uneasy. So I went for a drive.

I've been feeling the need to get away by myself for several weeks now. To give myself a chance to renew and refresh. It happens every once in a while and I usually indulge long before I boil over. I was long overdue.

Usually, my drives are random, taking me along back roads or to empty parking lots to clear my head. Today, I felt prompted to go somewhere specific - the Brigham City Temple. I was also prompted to go straight there instead of meandering along like I usually do.

The drive itself was unremarkable. I pulled into a parking spot on the street to the south of the temple. But I felt the need to stay in the car. So I pulled out my journal, intending on writing out my thoughts while it was quiet and still.

My previous journal entry caught my eye. 

"Last night, I had a dream. My home was destroyed by a tornado I had successfully avoided. Toys and other belongings floated down from the sky and littered the yard. I was devastated. My beautiful home had been reduced to a mere framework of splintering timbers and rubble.
"While at the hotel, a nearby volcano exploded, sending a pyroclastic cloud our way. But the strength of the walls and windows kept us safe. As the last of the cloud diminished, the windows failed, but we were not harmed.
"I calmly began cleaning up and putting things in order.
"What struck me most about this dream is my action, not reaction. I've had natural disaster dreams in the past. Running from funnel clouds and not finding a safe haven. Or trying to outrun lava floes that keep emerging from under my feet. It's always a sign of loss of control, a chaotic presence in my life.
"This time, however, I didn't run. I stood my ground. I was prepared. And once the danger passed, I began to work to make things right again. Even the loss of every one of my earthly possessions couldn't stop me.
"I had been feeling disorganized and confused. Even overwhelmed. But now, I feel a peace I haven't felt in some time. A knowledge that no matter what happens, I am strong enough to press on. I will not crumple and fall.
"And, just like in my dream, I am not alone. When all had been lost, my friends and family were there to help me pick up the pieces.
"I am strong. And I am not alone."
Those words, written in July, echoed through my head. Just as in my journal entry, I had been feeling disorganized, confused, and overwhelmed again. I needed a reminder that I am strong. I am not alone.

That simple act, those simple words, buoyed me up and gave me the spiritual cleansing I needed. It renewed my strength so I can stand tall and fulfill my potential.

Thanks to the guiding influence of the Holy Spirit, I was once again reminded.

I am strong because my Heavenly Father guides me. He sends His servants and the Comforter to strengthen me in my weakness

And I am not alone because He, our God and Eternal Father, cares about me and my happiness. He is watching out for me.

"The Lord is my strength and my song, and is become my salvation." - Psalms 118:14

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Trust In the Lord

Trust in the Lord - www.BelieveisaVerb.com

As a parent, I often do things my children don't understand. They question why they must go to bed at 7:30 or brush their teeth every day. Why do I make them eat vegetables when sweets taste so much better?

The older my boys get, the more they understand why I insist they wash their hair at least twice a week and get out of bed at a certain time. They learn the benefit of doing their homework right after school and having a clean room.

But when these things were first introduced, my children questioned and doubted my intentions. Why pick up blocks when they'll be played with later? Why make the bed when they'll just mess it up again? Why do chores at all? Or homework? Or anything?

They can't see the bigger picture - the one where I'm trying to maintain a house of order, to keep them safe, and to give them the tools they'll need to succeed in life.

In the gospel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we're often asked by our Heavenly Father to do and accept things we don't yet understand. We may question our Father's intentions and wonder why we're asked to accept difficult concepts.

In this way, we're much like little children.

Why must we pray and study our scriptures every day? Why should we attend our church meetings every week when other activities are more fun? Why does the gospel seem so strict and unrelenting?

Following God's commandments can be difficult at times. Especially when doing so is unpopular or contrary to what the world believes. But our Heavenly Father sees the bigger picture and, working through His living prophets, guides us as He seeks to build a house of order, to keep us safe, and to give us the tools we need to succeed and return to His presence.

In these times of trial, when our faith and belief can be tested to their limits, we must remember that we are aware of just a small portion of the marvelous Plan of Happiness. Someday, when we've had a chance to spiritually grow and learn, all things required of us will make sense. We, too, will see the bigger picture and know how all the pieces fit together.

But for now, we must be as little children and trust in our Heavenly Father. We must trust that He loves us, His children, and only wants us to be happy on an eternal scale.

Trust in the Lord - www.BelieveisaVerb.com
Proverbs 3:5-6

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Little Miracles

Little Miracles - www.BelieveisaVerb.com

I adore baby snuggles. Especially from tiny babies who nestle right in and weigh almost nothing. Sigh...

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to snuggle my cousin's three-week-old baby boy. Oh, my heavens. He was tiny and sweet and so perfect. A true miracle. Just like my own three boys.

Little Miracles - www.BelieveisaVerb.com
Love my snuggles!

I don't say that lightly, either. That little baby spent some time in the NICU before coming home. And before that, his parents waited for him for several years. In a world where so many people wait forever for a little one to join their family, he truly was and is a miracle.

My oldest was a miracle, too. When I was 35 weeks along, my OB/GYN noticed my blood pressure was elevated to a concerning degree. He put me on bed rest. A week later, not only was my blood pressure 160/110, I tested as preeclampsic. I was induced and my first little miracle arrived. He was only 4 lbs, 11 oz. - nothing but skin and bones. But he was healthy. We were able to go home together after spending just one extra day at the hospital.

Little Miracles - www.BelieveisaVerb.com
My tiny little baby is now taller than me.

We waited eight years for our next miracle to come. At that point, we had given up hope ever having a second child. Our oldest was a wonderful kid and if he was going to be our only one, we couldn't have asked for better.

When I learned I was pregnant, I cried for nearly two hours. After years of disappointment and heartache, our dream finally came true. As my due date approached, my darn blood pressure started to protest again and I was induced. My second son made his appearance - a true Gerber baby. Big cheeks, perfect complexion. And 8 lbs, 2 oz, despite having come 2-1/2 weeks early.

Little Miracles - www.BelieveisaVerb.com
He's still ridiculously cute.

His little brother came just two years later. Once more, blood pressure issues required inducement. At 36 weeks, he was 6 lbs. 8 oz and healthy as can be.

Little Miracles - www.BelieveisaVerb.com
My mischief maker. You can see it in his eyes...

Not wanting to tempt fate, we decided our family was complete, which was a good thing. Not long afterwards, I experienced health problems that led to a hysterectomy. During that ordeal, we learned that due to the shape of my uterus, it was a miracle we had any children at all - let alone three healthy boys.

We know we are blessed. Miracles do happen and they happen every day. For Heavenly Father is a God of miracles. He loves each and every one of us and knows our needs and wants. All we have to do is believe.

23. For behold, I am God; and I am a God of miracles; and I will show unto the world that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and I work not among the children of men save it be according to their faith. (2 Nephi 27:23)

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Increase Your Talents



The tagline on my other blog, www.LysandraJames.com, reads, "Chasing dreams and chasing dragons with a laugh and a laptop." Since adopting that mindset, my life has become far better than I ever believed possible.

Last Friday, I reached a milestone in my dream chasing - I completed the first draft of my current work-in-progress. It's a YA urban fantasy about the realms of Shadow and Light and those chosen to maintain the border. While it's far from a finished product, it's the result of hard work and persistence.

Achieving this goal wouldn't have happened if I hadn't taken the time to nurture and increase the talents my Heavenly Father so graciously bestowed upon me. Classes, books, articles, writing groups and conferences - all have helped me to reach this point in my dream chasing.

The Lord encourages us to increase our talents.

In the parable of the talents in the New Testament, a man was preparing for a long journey. Before he left, he called together his servants. To the first, he gave five talents; to the second, he gave two talents; and to the third, he gave one talent. A talent was a measure of currency equal to 3000 shekels of silver or gold - not a small sum.

The man then left on his journey.

While he was gone, the first servant took his five talents and traded with others, increasing his sum by twofold. The second servant did the same.

The third servant, fearful of losing his talent, dug a hole and hid it in the earth.

After some time, the lord of the servants returned and "reckoneth with them". To the servants who increased their talents, the lord said, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord."

The servant who had hidden his talent was rebuked for his sloth and fear. His talent was taken from him and given to the first servant. (Matthew 25:14-30)

The Lord has likewise bestowed upon each of us talents. Some are blessed with many talents, others only a few. These talents are given so we can assist our Heavenly Father in His great work, each according to our predestined role. If we work hard and actively seek to improve ourselves, our talents will increase and multiply.

However, if we allow our talents to lie dormant, they will fade and be taken from us. Just as a pianist must continually practice to preserve her skill, so must we continually practice in our individual talents to move forward.

Talents come in many forms. They can be obvious: music, writing, sports, crafts, leadership. Or they can be subtle: patience, charity, listening ear, belief, endurance. Through introspection and personal prayer, you can uncover your hidden talents and put them to good use.

Our Lord desires for us to multiply our talents, to become the best we can be. He needs us to reach our potential so we can build His kingdom. So let your talents shine. Develop them, grow them, share them. Become the soul your Father in Heaven knows you can be.

I believe I can do it.

I believe you can do it, too.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Let Us Oft Speak Kind Words


A couple of months ago, I was sitting on my front porch waiting for my oldest son to return home from school. His bus pulled up to the stop down the street and let off the kids. A girl rushed ahead of the rest and stopped. She slipped off her shoes and continued to walk barefoot.

Two boys, upon seeing this, yelled out taunts. "What's that smell? Whoo, put your shoes back on!"

The girl ignored them and continued to walk, but I couldn't pretend I hadn't heard those words. I called them out and warned them if I ever saw them do that again, I would have words with their parents.

Even though the situation had been dealt with, I often wonder about that girl. How did those words affect her?

Growing up, there were things said to and about me that still haunt me today. Some were deliberate. Others spoken in the heat of anger or frustration. Sometimes, it was the lack of words that stung the most.

Words are most powerful things, capable of starting wars and destroying relationships. Cruel words can never be erased. I once read a story that illustrates that point beautifully. A teacher had her students hold a piece of paper.

"This is a person," she said. "Look at how pure and perfect it is." She then had them crumple their paper into a ball.


"This is what happens when that person is bullied." She instructed the students to uncrumple the paper and smooth out the wrinkles as best they could. While many made a valiant effort, no one was able to erase the lines completely.


Just as uncrumpling the paper will make it usable again, apologizing and making amends can help repair a situation, but there will always be evidence of the damage inflicted.

Bullying is only one aspect of this. While I never experienced true bullying, I have been hurt by words carelessly spoken. In fact, those the words spoken in a careless moment have been the ones that have hurt the most.

The hymn "Let Us Oft Speak Kind Words" was  composed while Brother Joseph L. Townsend, the composer, was serving in the superintendency of a very large Sunday School.

Let us oft speak kinds words to each other
At home or where'er we may be;
Like the warblings of birds on the heathers,
The tones will be welcome and free.
They'll gladden the heart that's repining,
Give courage and hope from above,
And where the dark clouds hide the shining,
Let in the bright sunlight of love.

Oh, the kind words we give shall in memory live
And sunshine forever impart.
Let us oft speak kind words to each other;
Kind words are sweet tones of the heart.

Like the sunbeams of morn on the mountains,
The soul they awake to good cheer;
Like the murmur of cool, pleasant fountains,
They fall in sweet cadences near,
Let's oft, then, in kindly toned voices,
Our mutual friendship renew,
Till heart meets with heart and rejoices
In friendship that ever is true.

Oh, the kind words we give shall in memory live
And sunshine forever impart.
Let us oft speak kind words to each other;
Kind words are sweet tones of the heart.

In the book Our Latter-Day Hymns: Stories and Messages of the Hymns by Karen Lynn Davidson, it quotes an excerpt from the Juvenile Instructor, published in 1879:
"[Brother Townsend] heard a number of fault-finding remarks among the people. It occurred to him how much finer it would be if he could hear kind words spoken oftener. With this thought in mind he wrote the song which has been translated into many languages. Some have called it his best sermon. It is said that it stopped the gossiping tongues of the people and produced a kindlier feeling in the town where he lived."
Let us oft speak kind words to each other. May we be the good memories in people's lives instead of the bad. For "Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones." (Proverbs 16:24)
 "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." ~ Ephesians 4:29-32

Sunday, October 11, 2015

My Work and My Glory


In the Sunday afternoon session of last week's LDS General Conference, Brother Devin G. Durrant - First Counselor in the Sunday School General Presidency - challenged us to "ponderize" a scripture every week. He went on to explain that to ponderize a scripture meant not only to memorize it, but to ponder its meaning.

This talk came at a most opportune time since I had been wondering how to best follow my late uncle's example of knowing key scriptures by heart. The true challenge was knowing where to start. There are so many wonderful passages to choose from. But at the conclusion of Brother Durrant's talk, I looked at my 14yo son and realized the answer was simple - scripture mastery.

For those of you not familiar with that term, it refers to a collection of scriptures chosen by the leaders of the church for our youth to learn and memorize through the seminary program.

To keep it simple, I chose the first scripture in the list of scripture mastery verses.

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

It seemed the perfect choice - short, sweet, and one I already knew from my days in seminary. I wrote the verse on an index card and hung it on our fridge above the ice dispenser where I was sure to see it often.

The first couple of days, I merely reacquainted myself with the words, committing them to memory. It wasn't until I began to ponder their meaning that my eyes were opened to their majesty and grace.

God, our Heavenly Father - all-knowing and all-powerful - chose for His crowning glory to give us, His spirit sons and daughters, the opportunity to become like Him. Out of everything He could do, He chose us as His work. He chose us to be his glory.

Us.

When I think on that, I find myself awed and humbled that someone so noble and divine cares enough about me to devote His time, His energy, His focus toward bringing me home. I can think of no greater gift, no greater act of service. And because of that, I know I am loved. I am wanted. I matter.

I will never look at another scripture the same way again.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Words of the Prophets

The Words of the Prophets - www.believeisaverb.com

The 185th Semiannual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints took place this weekend and was broadcast throughout the world. For the first time in a very long time, I sat and watched it in my home, surrounded by my family.

At first, I had intended to choose a single talk upon which I would base this week's post. As I listened, though, I realized that choice would be nearly impossible to make. So many things spoken by the apostles and prophets of our church resonated deeply with me. It would be like trying to choose a favorite sunrise. Each illuminated my life and opened my eyes to things the Lord expects of me.

So I choose to share those words that touched me the most - quoted from the church's official website, www.lds.org, in hopes that you will be touched by the holy spirit and find the answers you seek.


General Women's Session

*While part of General Conference, the General Women's Session is traditionally held the weekend prior to the main body of the conference.
"I believe that if we could daily remember and recognize the depth of the love that our Heavenly Father and our Savior have for us, we would be willing to do anything to be back in Their presence again, surrounded by Their love eternally." ~ Linda S. Reeves, Second Counselor, Relief Society General Presidency
In addition to this quote, I found President Uchtdorf's talk from this session especially inspiring and beautiful, which is why I based last week's post on his words.

Saturday Morning Session

"God will take you as you are at this very moment and begin to work with you. All you need is really a willing heart, a desire to believe, and trust in the Lord." ~ President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency
"God will help you become something greater than you ever thought possible. And you will discover that the gospel of Jesus Christ is indeed working in your life." ~ President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency
"The world in which we live is similar to the potter’s spinning wheel, and the speed of that wheel is increasing. Like the clay on the potter’s wheel, we must be centered as well. Our core, the center of our lives, must be Jesus Christ and His gospel. Living a Christ-centered life means we learn about Jesus Christ and His gospel and then we follow His example and keep His commandments with exactness." ~ Elder Richard J. Maynes of the Presidency of the Seventy
"If our lives are centered in Jesus Christ, He can successfully mold us into who we need to be in order to return to His and Heavenly Father’s presence in the celestial kingdom. The joy we experience in this life will be in direct proportion to how well our lives are centered on the teachings, example, and atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ." ~ Elder Richard J. Maynes of the Presidency of the Seventy

Saturday Afternoon Session

"Remember, no one can reach upward for you. Only your faith and prayers will cause you to lift yourself and have a mighty change of heart. Only your resolve to be obedient can change your life." ~ Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
"No love in mortality comes closer to approximating the pure love of Jesus Christ than the selfless love a devoted mother has for her child." ~ Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
 "Brothers and sisters, we are engaged in a battle with the world. In the past, the world competed for our children’s energy and their time. Today it fights for their identity and their mind. Many loud and prominent voices are trying to define who our children are and what they should believe. We cannot let society give our family a makeover in the image of the world. We must win this battle. Everything depends on it." ~ Elder Bradley D. Foster of the Seventy
 "Sometimes His power heals an infirmity, but the scriptures and our experiences teach that sometimes He succors or helps by giving us the strength or patience to endure our infirmities." ~ Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Priesthood Session

"Faith does not fall upon us by chance nor stay with us by birthright. … The future of your faith is not by chance, but by choice." ~ Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostle
"Heavenly Father has prepared for His children a spiritual feast, offering every kind of exquisite food imaginable—and yet, instead of enjoying these spiritual gifts, the cynics content themselves with observing from a distance, sipping from their cups of skepticism, doubt, and disrespect." ~ President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency
"Brethren, let me be clear: there is nothing noble or impressive about being cynical. Skepticism is easy—anyone can do it. It is the faithful life that requires moral strength, dedication, and courage." ~ President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency
 "We are surrounded by persuasive voices, beguiling voices, belittling voices, sophisticated voices, and confusing voices. I might add that these are loud voices. I admonish you to turn the volume down and to be influenced instead by that still, small voice which will guide you to safety. Remember that one with authority placed his hands on your head after you were baptized, confirming you a member of the Church and saying, “Receive the Holy Ghost.” Open your hearts, even your very souls, to the sound of that special voice which testifies of truth. … May we ever be in tune, that we might hear this comforting, guiding voice which will keep us safe." ~ President Thomas S. Monson 

Sunday Morning Session 

Before I present quotes from this session, I must preface them with my own testimony of our blessed prophet and president of our church. Today, as I watched him speak, I was filled with a certainty beyond which doubt could ever reach, that he truly is a prophet of God. My soul sang with the words he spake and as he desperately struggled to bear his glorious testimony of Christ, I felt my spirit cry out to give him the strength to continue just a bit longer. For he truly is the mouthpiece of Christ and I yearn to hear what our Lord has to say through his trusted servant.

That said, as I listened to President Nelson speak, my soul once again felt the stirrings of the Comforter and I know the Lord's plan is sure. When the time comes for President Monson to join the righteous men who have gone before, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints will be in good hands.

"As we make Christ the center of our lives, our fears will be replaced by the courage of our convictions." ~ President Thomas S. Monson
"Sisters, do you realize the breadth and scope of your influence when you speak those things that come to your heart and mind as directed by the Spirit?" ~ President Russell M. Nelson, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
"My dear sisters, whatever your calling, whatever your circumstances, we need your impressions, your insights, and your inspiration. We need you to speak up and speak out in ward and stake councils. We need each married sister to speak as “a contributing and full partner” as you unite with your husband in governing your family. Married or single, you sisters possess distinctive capabilities and special intuition you have received as gifts from God. We brethren cannot duplicate your unique influence." ~ President Russell M. Nelson, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
"We need women who have a bedrock understanding of the doctrine of Christ and who will use that understanding to teach and help raise a sin-resistant generation. We need women who can detect deception in all of its forms. We need women who know how to access the power that God makes available to covenant keepers and who express their beliefs with confidence and charity." ~  President Russell M. Nelson, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
"True disciples of Christ are not looking to make excuses for the doctrine when it doesn’t fit the world’s current concepts. … True disciples represent the Lord when it may not be convenient to do so. True disciples desire to inspire the hearts of men, not just impress them." ~ Elder Gregory A. Schwitzer of the Seventy

 Sunday Afternoon Session

"A major reason the Lord has a church is to create a community of Saints that will sustain one another." ~ Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
"I invite you to 'ponderize' one verse of scripture each week. The word ponderize is not found in the dictionary, but it has found a place in my heart. So what does it mean to ponderize? I like to say it’s a combination of 80 percent extended pondering and 20 percent memorization." ~ Brother Devin G. Durrant, First Counselor in the Sunday School General Presidency
"However, the purpose of our lives is not merely to endure trials. Heavenly Father sent His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, as our Savior and Redeemer so we could overcome the trials we face on this earth; in other words, He makes our weak things become strong, He atones for our sins and our imperfections, and He makes it possible for us to obtain immortality and eternal life." ~ Elder Koichi Aoyagi of the Seventy
"These men [speaking of the presidency and apostles] have had a sustained season of tutoring by the Lord, whom they represent, serve, and love. They have learned to understand the divine language of the Holy Spirit and the Lord’s patterns for receiving revelation. These ordinary men have undergone a most extraordinary developmental process that has sharpened their vision, informed their insight, engendered love for people from all nations and circumstances, and affirmed the reality of the Restoration." ~ Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

 Final Thoughts

When the scriptures tell us to 'feast upon the words of Christ', it is through the words of our prophets at this spiritually filling conference we are blessed to have twice a year. My heart is full and my soul must take time to digest all that has been taught and shared. I am truly grateful to have such worthy men and women at the head of this amazing organization. They lead us through the storms of life and aid us in our times of need. And for this, I must raise my voice in praise and joy. 

Thank you, dear Father! Thank you now and forevermore! Glory to God in the highest!

In the beloved name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer, amen.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Men Are That They Might Have Joy

"Men are, that they might have joy" - www.believeisaverb.com

Twice a year, the prophets and apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints speak directly to the members of the church, giving much needed counsel and wisdom to help buoy us in these turbulent times.

Last night was the first session of October 2015 - the General Women's Conference. While I was unable to watch it when it originally broadcast, I became intrigued by the memes and comments others posted on social media. Most especially from President Uchtdorf's talk entitled, "A Summer with Great-Aunt Rose".

Today, while sitting quietly in the foyer at church as I waited for choir practice to start, I listened to his talk. In his beautifully accented voice, he told a simple, yet profound story about a girl who went to live with her great-aunt Rose for the summer and the lessons she learned there. I found myself wholeheartedly agreeing with his words, for I've learned those same lessons in my own life.

"Men are, that they might have joy" - www.believeisaverb.com

There was a time when I found myself miserable and depressed, when nothing seemed to go right for me and I lamented my poor, pathetic existence. I didn't realize how much that attitude of self-pity and victimization affected every aspect of my life until one day, as I was reading back through past Facebook posts, I noticed how negative most of them were. It was no wonder no one cared to spend time with me! I wouldn't want to be around someone so dark and depressing, either.

"Men are, that they might have joy" - www.believeisaverb.com

It was at that time that I decided to make a change. No more negative posts. Nothing sad and depressing. No more complaining or whining when things went wrong. At least, not without putting a positive spin on it. Every post had to be uplifting and happy.

I made that change simply to change how I came across to others online, however, a curious thing happened - I changed. I became happier. My life became better. I became the person I had always dreamed of being.

"Men are, that they might have joy" - www.believeisaverb.com

Life became brighter and full of a joy and contentment I had never before experienced. No longer did I believe true happiness could happen only once I had passed through the veil. It is possible now.

My heavy burdens lifted. The doubts and resentment I had toward God, which had kept me from fully embracing His truths, eventually dissipated and I found an intense desire to return to his fold.

Not only that, but once I stopped obsessing over my own problems, my eyes were opened to the needs of those around me. Service stopped being a burden and instead became a joy.

"Men are, that they might have joy" - www.believeisaverb.com

For the first time since I was a child, the pure love of Christ filled my soul and I felt a burning desire to share that love.

"Men are, that they might have joy" - www.believeisaverb.com

My dear friends, I do believe we are that we may have joy. When our Father in Heaven presented the glorious plan of salvation, we shouted for joy. He gave us this amazing opportunity because He loves us. He wants us to be happy. He wants us to rejoice! 

So go out. Find your happiness. Share it with others. Praise God, thanking Him for all that is good and wonderful. Be joyful, for that is what He desires most of all!

"Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy." (2 Nephi 2:25)

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Comforter, My Friend


Once again, the post for today is not the one I originally planned. The Holy Spirit speaks and so I listen.

Being an emotionally sensitive being, when the Spirit fills me, I am often overwhelmed and am unable to keep the tears at bay. For several years, this was the reason I had distanced myself from all things spiritual, keeping them at arm's length. Yet, I know one day, when I was able to face the onslaught of feeling, I would return. I believed in God, I believed in the power of prayer, and I believed in eternal families.

However, I did not act. I feared I would lose control of my delicate emotions when the Spirit beckoned. More than anything, I did not want that. I feared man more than I feared God.

Despite my fear, I never stopped believing. My heart knew the truth which could not be denied. Bit by bit, I allowed myself to move closer to the gospel. As my confidence grew, so did my desire to become what God wanted me to be.

But those bothersome tears! They sprung up at the most inopportune moments, the latest during the last verse of my favorite hymn - "I Know That My Redeemer Lives" - as I sang for the congregation of my ward. I searched for a solution to keep the tears at bay. The only option I could find was to once again distance myself from the church and all I believed. That solution was and is unacceptable. How could I again deny what I've come to know as truth?

Then my uncle died and with his death came further spiritual enlightenment. Not only was my belief in eternal life strengthened tenfold, my desire to follow my uncle's inspiring example of service and Christlike fears pushed my doubts aside.

In the aftermath of my grief, as my life returned to a semblance of normal and I accepted the truth of my uncle's passing, an inkling of a thought tickled my mind. I pushed it away, dismissing it as nothing more than a passing fancy. Days later, it returned, stronger and more insistent and I knew it was the answer to my prayer.

Just as my tears over the loss of my uncle had decreased and eventually subsided, the same would happen the more I embraced the constant presence of the Holy Spirit in my life.

There's a reason the Holy Ghost is called the Comforter, for his continued influence in my life will bring peace to my soul and I will become attuned to the emotions such a hallowed presence invokes. The tears that escape and run down my cheeks will not be anything to fear, but will bear witness of the depth of my love for Christ and His gospel. Those things I feared most will become my greatest testament of God's word.

For I know that my Redeemer lives. By accepting His Holy Spirit's presence, I will become a beson of His everlasting light; for a candle set upon a hill cannot be hid.

And if I cry, so be it. For God knows my heart and that's what matters most.

26. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
27. 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 14:26-27)

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Families Can Be Together Forever

Families Can Be Together Forever - www.believeisaverb.com
My husband, me, my parents, and my sisters

My uncle's funeral was yesterday.

My uncles, aunts, and cousins came from hundreds of miles away to attend. Several drove through the night so they wouldn't miss saying goodbye.

At the viewing Friday night, the line went out the door and the service yesterday was standing room only. The funeral procession stretched longer than I could see. Hundreds, if not thousands, of tears were shed for the loss of so great a man.

Families Can Be Together Forever - www.believeisaverb.com
One of my many cousins. Seriously, I have a LOT.

My uncle was an amazing man - one I greatly admire. He was the epitome of dream chasers and touched the lives of so many people. His drive and ambition coupled with his true love of others has always been an inspiration to me. And any who knew him, even briefly, knew of his deep and everlasting love of Christ and His gospel. He bore witness of it through his every word and deed.

His death hit me harder than I thought it would, invading every waking moment and even into my dreams. It took three days for me to stop crying at random times. I struggled with wanting to go to the viewing. Seeing him lying in the casket would make it real and I didn't want to deal with the resulting emotions. It was almost more than I could bear. But knowing I would regret not going, I went.

As we stood in line at the funeral home, I both wanted the line to move more quickly so I could get it over with and prayed it would never end. What would he look like? How would I feel? And more importantly, how could I keep from completely losing it?

When it was finally our turn, I forced myself to look at his lifeless body and a thought - more crystal clear and vivid than any - came to my mind.

That was not my uncle.

Families Can Be Together Forever - www.believeisaverb.com
Sister and cousin!

The pale, still shell lying there did not resemble the man I knew and loved. And as I looked again, another thought - even more real and true - shouted, "He is not here, for his spirit has departed. He lives on!"

Families Can Be Together Forever - www.believeisaverb.com
Aunt and cousin (in-law, but it counts)!
That realization kept the tears at bay and as I turned away, my eyes were instead filled with a room full of love and laughter. My family - more than I had seen in one place in many years - surrounded me. It was the ultimate family reunion, one my uncle would be overjoyed to see for he was the glue that held our extended family together. It was he who emphasized the importance of family. He loved and supported and encouraged each and every one of us in our endeavors to better ourselves and grow our faith.

Families Can Be Together Forever - www.believeisaverb.com
Uncle and aunt!
And I found comfort knowing that while we are parted for a time, in the grand scheme of the eternities, it will be but a moment. For families are forever through God's eternal plan. By staying true to the faith and fulfilling the covenants made in the holy temple, we can be together once again.

Families Can Be Together Forever - www.believeisaverb.com
Cousin!
"The end of all activity in the Church is to see that a man and woman with their children are happy at home, sealed together for time and for all eternity." ~ President Boyd K. Packer, April 2015 General Conference
 "'And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.' (Helaman 5:12) It is the gospel of Jesus Christ that provides this foundation upon which we can find lasting peace and build eternal family units." ~ Elder L. Tom Perry, October 2014 General Conference
This is what my uncle taught. This is what he lived.

This everlasting truth...

This is his legacy.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Believe is a Verb

Note: This post was originally posted on my sister blog - LysandraJames.com - to introduce this blog. That is why the title photo has that web address on it. I promise I'll be better about keeping the two web addresses straight. :)

"Believe is a Verb" - www.lysandrajames.com, www.believeisaverb.com

Believe is a verb.
A verb is an action.
Therefore, to believe is to ACT.

Sunday was the debut of my faith-inspired blog, "Believe is a Verb". Its focus is on the spiritual side of things with an emphasis on acting upon your beliefs. And yet, believing in something or someone isn't exclusive to spiritual matters.

Belief is universal.

What does it mean to believe?

"Believe is a Verb" - www.lysandrajames.com, www.believeisaverb.com
Definition courtesy of Merriam-Webster Dictionary app for iPhone.

To believe is to accept something as truth; to have a firm religious faith; to have a firm conviction as to the goodness or ability of something.

But it's so much more than that.

When you believe something, your actions are the evidence of your belief. 

If you believe in God, you pray and attend church.
If you believe one person can make a difference, you help others whether you receive recognition or not.
If you believe in your personal potential, you seek to improve your skills and talents.

On the flip side, negative beliefs are evidenced by our actions as well.

"Believe is a Verb" - www.lysandrajames.com, www.believeisaverb.com

If you believe you're worthless, you hide yourself away and lose yourself in meaningless activities.
If you believe you have no talents, you don't seek to try new things.
If you believe you're alone, you don't reach out to others when things go wrong.

Belief is a choice.

Believing in something doesn't just happen. You don't wake up one morning suddenly believing. You must choose to believe.

Choose to believe you are worth the effort. Get up, get dressed, and get out of the house. Stand tall and look others in the eye. Discover what is great about who you are.

Choose to believe in something greater than yourself. If you're not inclined to believe in God, find something else to believe in - science, the greater good, whatever feels right. Seek out information through books, blogs, or talking to others. Learn everything you can and put what you learn to use.

"Believe is a Verb" - www.lysandrajames.com, www.believeisaverb.com
Add caption

Choose to believe in your dreams. Take steps to make your dreams happen. They can be baby steps or even a slow shuffle, but always move forward. 

Never give up.

Belief takes time. Just as the smallest seed only grows when watered and cared for, so does your belief. There will be days when you will be challenged - days where you want nothing more than to hide under the covers and wait for the storm to pass. 

But don't give up. If you want to believe, truly believe, then act. Move forward. Do what it takes. You can do it.

I believe in you.