A Soul’s Supernova

Last year, a friend I hadn’t seen in a while lost her child in a tragic, unexpected way. She demonstrated this amazing strength and inspiring faith as she posted about what happened.

Person after person wrote a message of love and sympathy, including me. And while I was typing and wondering what I could possibly say to be of any comfort whatsoever, it occurred to me in that very moment that someday too soon the notes of sympathy, the flowers, the tight hugs when words just weren’t enough—they would come to an end.

I can’t pretend for a moment to know what it’s like to lose a child, but I hate to think about how this friend of mine must have felt when the sympathy texts faded out and people no longer checked in with her to see how she was coping. It must have been soul-crushing for her as everyone else snapped back into their regular routines when her world would never be the same again.

I hope no one reading this right now has had to bury a child. It’s in the realm of unimaginable trials. But no matter what it is you have faced before, or currently face, or will face in the future, at one time or another we will encounter that one trial that divides our lives in two:  life before it happened and life after.

I know there are many out there who are, right now in this exact moment, treading the waters of unspeakable grief.

Perhaps for you the grief is so poignant you wonder if any other emotions even exist—and if you’ll ever feel any of them again.

Perhaps you feel frustrated as you watch the rest of the world just move on and keep living when it feels your universe has literally stopped.

Perhaps if feels impossible to exist and simply be when you figuratively see the life you once loved in broken pieces on the floor.  

Occasionally, a star will end its life in a massive explosion called a supernova. This occurs when there is so much pressure on the core of the star that it literally collapses, sending debris and creating an incomparable explosion. In some cases, a once brilliantly bright star becomes but a black hole.

Sometimes the trials we face feel like a “soul’s supernova”—when, in a moment it seems, life as we know it crumbles, when there is so much pressure and shock and grief pressing against your heart that you feel it might literally burst, sending the pieces of your soul into the vast abyss of time and space.

And so, like a star that becomes a black hole, you’re left with the tragic remains of a would-be fairytale.

About a year ago, I had my own soul’s supernova. I’m not ready to blast the details of it into cyberspace just yet, but I will say this:  I never thought I’d bounce back from it. My soul, for a time, became a black hole of hopelessness.

It went on for months, this trial I couldn’t really talk about, this sadness so deep it was nearly impossible to even try to explain to anyone else. There were days and moments when it felt the world was mocking me with the happiness everyone else seemed to claim. Everyone else was still moving forward with life when I felt so stuck.

One night, during the worst of it all, I felt the comforting truth that when my universe stops, so does Christ’s.

That’s true for you too.

When we feel engulfed in our own sorrow, the Savior spends time with us there, in that dark place. He’ll come to us when it seems no one else can. He mourns with us. He sends peace. He offers reassurance that some way, somehow, the pieces of our broken hearts can be put back together.

And since this post is kind of about stars, let me draw attention to one of the many titles given to Christ:

The Bright and Morning Star

The Savior is a star that will never stop emitting the light we so desperately need, a star that shines in darkness.

I look at my life now compared to what it was a year ago and everything has changed. That soul-crushing trial is over. It didn’t just magically disappear overnight and it still affects my spirit in some ways, but I’m able to see just how much the Bright and Morning Star has healed me since then.  

It’s as if, in His infinite goodness, Christ reversed this supernova of my soul. He restored happiness and purpose where there was darkness and pain. He undid my heart’s explosion with healing only He can offer.

Elder L. Whitney Clayton said, “All of us will, at some time or another, have to traverse our own spiritual wilderness and undertake our own emotional journeys. In those moments, however dark or seemingly hopeless they may be, if we search for it, there will always be a spiritual light that beckons to us, giving us the hope of rescue and relief. That light shines from the Savior of all mankind, who is the Light of the World.”

Jesus Christ really is the Light of the World. He is the Bright and Morning Star. He is the glorious Savior sent by a loving Father, and He shines unceasingly for us.

Why it’s Okay if your Only New Year’s Resolution is to Just Survive

It’s that time of year again. Gym memberships are purchased. Quotes from the best self-help lit circulate. We vow to ourselves (and sometimes to the public) to make big changes.

“This will be my year,” we say.

I am a goal setter myself—and a HUGE dreamer. I always have been. I love making New Year’s resolutions. I love the metaphorical reset. I thrive on the idea of a fresh start.

But the past six weeks have robbed me of all ambition, motivation, and drive.  

I have been stuck in “survival” mode. It’s like I can barely keep my head above water, like I am doing only the bare minimum, and even that sucks all the life out of me. Tell me I’m not alone.

I think we all find ourselves in a place like that at some point. Usually, it’s emotionally or spiritually. Sometimes it’s physically. For me, during the month of December, it was all three.

I have been more physically sick than ever. Despite the festivities of Christmas time, I can count on one hand the number of times I actually got out of bed. I didn’t make gingerbread houses. I didn’t admire the lights at Temple Square. I didn’t play in the snow with my toddler.  I didn’t make it to holiday parties or deliver gifts to neighbors or attend church on the Sunday before Christmas. All I did was survive.

In fact, my daily to-do list for December consisted of these two items only:

1.) Keep my son alive

2.) Keep myself alive

The physical anguish has also taken a toll on me spiritually and emotionally. I have never felt more like a failure. Weird, right? To feel like a failure for being sick. I know it’s not my fault, but I feel too weak to build the mental dam that can block the self-deprecating thoughts from flooding in.

I am wracked with acute guilt for the mother I want to be, but can’t. I want to take Milo outside and together freeze our buns off while building a snowman. I want to chase him around the living room and barely avoid stubbing my toes on his inconveniently placed monster trucks. I want to engage in our daily fight of teeth-brushing—and of course win. But I’m honestly too fatigued.

Also, the realization that I’m not carrying my load in my marriage hurts. My husband is the most celestial degree of patient, and he has lovingly expressed that none of this is my fault, but I’m a bad listener. I feel burdensome and guilty that I cannot do the grocery shopping and certainly not the cooking. You should see the piles of laundry. And what my two-year-old wears in public with his dad. I haven’t been there for my husband like he has been there for me. I hate that.

I’m frustrated that I can’t contribute more to my church calling. I feel like I’m letting those who matter most to me down.

Social media certainly doesn’t help. We see the highlight reels of others’ lives, the edited, glorified version of everyday moments. Most tuck the bad and the ugly away from the public eye, leaving those of us in “survival mode” wondering why we don’t have it figured out. It’s an easy trap to fall into.

The root of my frustration is that I don’t want to just survive, I want to THRIVE. I wish I could set gargantuan goals that ignite within me a spark of motivation. I want to dream big. But right now, even just surviving feels like too much.  

And so here I am at the start of the new year, face to face with the disheartening truth that this trial of mine will carry over into 2019. It won’t just come to an end simply because 2018 did. No, the internal wrestling match is still in full swing.

For that reason, I am clinging to an experience I had a couple weeks ago, an experience that serves as a powerful reminder that it is okay if my only New Year’s resolution is to just survive.

I think it was a Thursday when it happened. I had, for like the 20th day in a row, been miserably sick all day. My son was with his grandma and my husband was at work. I was alone, thinking too hard about my physical and emotional plight and how much I hated it all. Then my eyes wandered to the Harry Anderson painting of Christ praying in the Garden of Gethsemane hanging in our living room.

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I see this painting every day, but that night the reality of what I was seeing really struck me. Christ really knows what it is like. Every bad, terrible, unfair thing that ever happens to us…He knows. He’s felt it. In the Garden of Gethsemane, He confronted the agony of our every physical pain, the anguish of heartbreak, and the constant ache of wishing you could do more and be more. His atoning sacrifice is infinite and all-encompassing. He knows how draining and even excruciating it sometimes is to just…survive.

With this astonishing reminder of what my Savior did for me came an accompanying reminder of His unconditional love. I felt it so powerfully, so undeniably.      

And then I had this epiphany, courtesy of a God who knew I might soon collapse under the weight of the burden I carried.

It was as if I could hear my Father in Heaven say to me, “Jessica, all of this—what you are doing now—is honorable. I have seen great faith from you.”

What? Really? This is faith? This is honorable?

Heavenly Father helped me to feel that my weeks and weeks of just getting by really were a great demonstration of my faith in Him. I felt not just His approval, but that He was proud of me for hanging on. He was proud of me for putting one foot in front of the other, for moving forward even when it felt impossible. He was proud of me for believing that better days were ahead even when all I could see then was darkness. He was proud of me for surviving.

I’ve decided it’s easy to trust God when things are going right. It’s easy to set big goals and accomplish great things when all is well, or mostly well, around us. Is there really any honor in that?

 I have come to truly know that there is no shame in merely surviving—whether that’s physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, or all of the above. It is a noble work to keep trying when we feel taking one more step into the unknown might kill us. I believe it’s when we are simply surviving that we grow the very most, and that growth is permanent. It is in survival mode that we produce unshakable faith and learn just how strong we really are. Surviving means we come to know Christ in a whole new way, at a higher and holier level. Surviving is honorable and admirable and worth celebrating in the eyes of God.  

Let me say that again:  SURVIVING IS HONORABLE AND ADMIRABLE AND WORTH CELEBRATING IN THE EYES OF GOD.

To those feeling like failures amid your goal-setting peers, I am speaking to you.

To those dreading 2019 because your resolutions fall short of your own high expectations for yourself, I am speaking to you.

To those brave enough to continue facing the same trial you have faced for weeks, months, or even years, I am speaking to you.

To those enduring to the end of a trial, I am speaking to you.

To those doing the very best you know how, I am speaking to you.

SURVIVING IS HONORABLE AND ADMIRABLE AND WORTH CELEBRATING IN THE EYES OF GOD.

To my fellow “survivors” out there, I echo these words from Elder Holland:

“Don’t give up…Don’t you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead…You keep your chin up. It will be all right in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come.”

2019 will probably feel like the world’s longest spiritual marathon. I don’t plan to cross the finish line first. I don’t plan on claiming a new personal record. My only goal is to finish the race. And that, according to God, is enough.

 

Lessons from a Sonogram

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I used to think phrases like “stop growing” or “time needs to stand still” were those obligatory statements thrown around by parents of babies and toddlers. Now, as I catch glimpses of my baby, who honestly looks like a mini teenager, I find myself thinking those exact cliches.

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I don’t recommend scrolling through your camera roll if you’re feeling this way because as much as I am loving this toddler phase, I felt a little nostalgic as I revisited pictures of Milo as a newborn. It made me a little baby hungry, in fact.

Now I know there’s never a “good” time to get sick, but the thought of another hellacious pregnancy at this time in my life seems especially overwhelming.

With Milo, the morning sickness was cruel. I remember throwing up an average of fifteen times a day for several weeks. I couldn’t eat. I was dehydrated. I felt so weak that even holding a book in my hands made me shaky.

If you’re one of those people who “loves being pregnant” don’t tell me because I might punch you in the face. No, I’m kidding…but seriously, don’t tell me.

I recognize that I am so, so lucky to have gotten pregnant when so many, including some very close to me, struggle with infertility. But I’m not exaggerating when I say there were days I thought I might literally die.

On top of the morning sickness, I got a really bad infection early on in my pregnancy.

My doctor prescribed an antibiotic, but it seemed to do more harm than good. He concluded that I’d had an allergic reaction to it, and I went in for an emergency visit.

I wasn’t expecting to do an ultrasound that day, but my doctor figured What the heck?! I was there already and my first scheduled ultrasound was only a week away anyway.  Before the ultrasound, he looked at me and said, “You know, they’ve conducted studies about ultrasounds and morning sickness. Women who see their baby for the first time have reported a significant decrease in nausea in the days that follow.”

I was beyond excited to see my baby, but I felt cynical about that “fact.”

When I saw those wiggling limbs and that tiny profile shot on the monitor, I melted. Motherhood became real to me then. There really was something in there—someone—and that little person was mine.

I’ll never forget how I felt that day. That image of my baby literally showed me that there was a grand purpose to all of my suffering. The end result of a long 40 weeks would be human life!

I left that doctor’s appointment with a renewed sense of optimism. I immediately hung the sonogram on my fridge, and it served as a tangible reminder that all the puking and fatigue and discomfort would be worth it. It was like a blueprint of a future joy.  

And guess what? My doctor was right. I really did start to feel a little better after that first ultrasound.

Throughout my pregnancy, I’d often think about how nice it would be to have a “sonogram” so to speak for every trial we face—-some image or glimpse into the future that would shed light on our current suffering. I’d be a lot more patient and accepting of my hardships if I could just know the “why” behind the strife and how I would be blessed in the end.

But I guess that’s where faith comes in.

We’re taught that after much tribulation come the blessings. That is reassuring and hopeful.

I wonder, though, is it so outrageous to ask God for some spoilers? Am I lacking in faith if I plead for a figurative sonogram regarding my trials?

Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught, “To those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, it is clear that the Father and the Son are giving away the secrets of the universe!”

Sometimes I think we need to be content with answers like Just trust me or everything will work out in the end, but I also think there are times when it is appropriate to ask God for “eyes to see” what sacred blessings our current trials will yield.

I acted on this thought just a few months ago when I felt like misery was swallowing me up. I couldn’t understand how the trial I faced would ever work out for my good, and frankly, I thought it would destroy me.

I remember kneeling on the bathroom floor with swollen eyes, pleading for some understanding about my suffering. I boldly asked my Heavenly Father to just let me see why this trial was happening and where it would lead if I endured it well.

I felt so acutely aware that He loved me then and that a happy future was in store. That comfort eased my “spiritual nausea” the same way that my first ultrasound lessened my morning sickness.

The revelation didn’t stop there. The Spirit communicated some very clear answers after that night. God unrolled the blueprints “line upon line” until I refused to abandon my faith and trust in Him.

When we suffer so deeply and so intensely, it’s easy to feel like God has unrealistic expectations of us. But He doesn’t expect us to do it alone. Christ will take our hand and lead us from point A (the trial) to point Z (the blessing) with grace and compassion and empathy until that metaphorical sonogram becomes our reality.

I think we’d also do well to remember that the most magnificent blessings in life often come after a lot of grief and anger and frustration and waiting. They often come after much sorrow and self-pity, and tears—sometimes endless tears. But when they do come, they come gloriously.

No matter how Heavenly Father chooses to intervene or how vivid the revelation, we can embrace our Savior and know that that these words of the beloved President Monson ring true:

“The future is as bright as your faith.”

“They that Be with Us are More”

This is something that has been on my mind for a while now, but I just haven’t known how to put it all into words. I feel like it’s important, so I’m going to do my best to articulate the craziness that is my brain.

Life can feel overwhelmingly discouraging. I feel safe inside my little world, but beyond my bubble there is severe political unrest, women and children who are victims of sex trafficking, countries at war, murder, drug abuse, pornography, daily tragedies that make the news, and countless diabolical plots-in-the-making. Sometimes the world just feels so…dark.  

Striking a healthy balance between being informed about current events, but also maintaining my faith in humanity feels, well, impossible.

To add to that, those voices that oppose the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints aren’t getting quieter; they are louder than ever. I can’t even get on the internet these days without feeling bombarded by such voices that criticize, mock, and belittle the core of my beliefs.

And you know what? It really bothers me. It bothers me that those who haven’t honestly researched the doctrines of the Gospel in the right places (The Book of Mormon, LDS.org, etc.) feel they have the right to declare it false. It bothers me that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints often get accused of being closed-minded, when our adversaries are too close-minded to really listen to what we have to say. It bothers me that some who have left the Church for whatever reason have made it their life mission to likewise draw as many away from the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. It bothers me that anti-Mormon literature is so ignorantly read and valued as truth. It bothers me that stereotypes are assigned to members of the Church with no regard to diversity that exists within this great organization. It bothers me that our missionaries are sometimes treated like they aren’t even human. It bothers me that our prophet can be regarded as anything but charitable and accepting. It even bothers me that all this bothers me at all!

There’s just this constant opposing force, and unfortunately, it’s not going away. In fact, it’s only going to get worse.

This seems to be going in a pretty dismal direction, huh? Don’t worry, here comes the hopeful part…..

My mom teaches Gospel Doctrine and she recently taught about the prophet Elisha and his terrified servant. They were surrounded by the entire Syrian army. Can you imagine more depressing odds?

That young servant of Elisha’s felt understandably terrified. He cried out as he digested the number of soldiers they were up against, wondering what on earth they were going to do.

To his frightened and discouraged servant, Elisha responded, “Fear not:  for they that be with us are more than they that be with them” (2 Kings 6:16).

Then He prayed that the Lord might open his servant’s eyes “that he may see.”

As the scriptures say, “the Lord opened the eyes of the young man;
 and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about
 Elisha (2 Kings 6:17).

That terrified servant beheld the divine means of support and protection. He literally saw this grand heavenly army that would save him and the dear prophet.    

This story is a good reminder that we are likewise supported and protected as we face our own modern-day “Syrian armies.”

Sister Sharon G. Larsen said, “When we are on the Lord’s side, regardless of numbers or worldly power, we are in the majority.”

So to anyone who feels helpless in this ongoing war against evil, to anyone who feels their testimony is too vulnerable to withstand the opposing voices, just remember:  “They that be with us are more than they that be with them.”

The armies of heaven are truly with us every single day. Angels on both sides of the veil run to our rescue. Because of that, we can feel hopeful instead of helpless.

I’ve been praying for my own eyes to be opened so that I, like Elisha’s servant, can truly “see” my heavenly advocates.

Let me end with this:  The Gospel is true, Jesus Christ is the Savior of the World, and God always wins.  

Said God, “I have Something Better for You.”

I once heard the profound thought that God answers our prayers in one of three ways:

  1. Yes.
  2. Not right now.
  3. I have something better for you.

When we pray and beg and plead for the deepest longings of our hearts, we just want a solid “yes” from above. It’s hard to recognize #3–I have something better for you—as an actual answer in the moment because it doesn’t feel like an answer at all; it feels like a disappointment.

We can usually only recognize this type of answer in retrospect.

One of the most monumental blessings I have ever received began as a monumental disappointment.

To share this disappointment-turned-miracle, I must take you back to the not-so-glamorous classroom setting of my high school nutrition class.  

I sat a few seats behind a very attractive, Greek god-esque, quiet and mysterious and heart-throbbingly intelligent boy by the name of Brad. During our joint high school experience, we had a total of one class together, one real instance of eye contact, and one conversation.

It was about potassium. I’ll remember it always.

So while daily interactions did not transpire, I did stare at the back of Brad’s head for an entire trimester. I guess that thick head of dark hair was enough to convince me that someday I would very much like to marry him.

This is the closest thing I could find to the high school version of the back of Brad’s head. See what I mean about the Greek god thing? 

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High school graduation took us on separate paths, and they didn’t cross again until six years later.

I was wrapping up my student teaching experience, figuratively sprinting toward the finish line actually, because I was beyond ready to be a real teacher. It just so happened that the school where I did my internship was hiring, and I felt I was the perfect candidate.

I knew that school inside and out. I’d walked those halls for months, tutored those kids, interacted with the administration. I was well-versed in the district curriculum, I understood the school policies, I knew the faculty. How could they not give me the job?

*SPOILER ALERT:  I didn’t get the job.

I was confused and crushed and even a bit hysterical. I locked myself in my room and questioned God and asked why and cried tears of the Amazon rainfall intensity. Not only was I denied my dream job (I know, I’m quite dramatic sometimes), but I felt suddenly insecure about my performance as a teacher, or at the very least, my effectiveness as an interviewee.

After about 72 hours straight of feeling sorry for myself, I decided I needed to take some action. I needed to get my life on some alternate course and do something.

Handsome pants Brad was on my mind because I had run into his friends a week earlier at a grocery store of all places, and they mentioned in our quick chat that Brad was their roommate.

I also had this Cafe Rio gift card. It was given to me as a graduation gift, but it came with a challenge scribbled on the accompanying note:  “Find a nice boy to help you use this.”

So I did the only real BOLD thing I’ve ever done and I asked Brad out. The message I sent went as follows:

“Brad, I ran into your roommates the other day. It got me thinking about how I haven’t seen lots of cool people since high school…including you. And let me just preface this by saying that I NEVER do stuff like this. Like, ever.

“I recently received a gift card to Cafe Rio for graduation. It came with a challenge:  Find a nice boy to help me use it. So I pick you.

“Because this is totally out of the blue, I’ve provided some simple options for you to choose from.

“Option 1: ignore this message. I’ll totally understand.

“Option 2: Reject my offer and I’ll move on with my life.

“Option 3: Meet me at Cafe Rio so we can order $30 worth of food and discuss all that post high school life has offered us.

“Talk to you soon . . . Maybe . . . . . “

 

I’ll be forever grateful he picked option 3!

We sat at that table in a nearly deserted Cafe Rio for five hours. He told me his life story, and I told him mine. He described that one time he ate 13 mangoes all at once and I confessed my insecurity over my alarmingly long toes. We talked about the Gospel and what we wanted in life and our families and everything from Tom Petty to joshua trees. While I can’t necessarily claim I loved him on that first date, I knew I was going to fall in love with him.

And I did. Like lightning-speed fast.

In hindsight, I am overwhelmingly grateful I didn’t get that first teaching job for which I applied. I’m not sure what would have happened if I did.

Would I have been too content to even desire to be in a relationship at that time? Would I have hit rock bottom in an alternate way, enough so to finally act on my feelings for Brad? I simply don’t know. But this I do know:  

That initial disappointment became the catalyst to my own personal happiness, to the literal fulfillment of my ultimate dream.

Sometimes life can feel like a series of disappointments that happen upon our life haphazardly with no purpose, but let us remember these words from Steve Jobs: “You cannot connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward.”

That means that we have to TRUST. Heavenly Father sees the whole picture, and He can orchestrate something beautiful that will lead to unimaginable happiness.

He really did have something better for me and that something—that someone—was Brad.

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I am so unapologetically in love with this man. Our marriage isn’t perfect, but I believe we’re perfect for each other. He is patient and understanding and kind and every other noble adjective I can summon. He strives each day to make me happy.

And happy I am. I’m thankful for an all-knowing Father in Heaven who didn’t give me exactly what I thought I wanted. I’m eternally grateful for my #3, that He had something better for me in mind.

 

Today Begins at 3 PM

B3225FEC-99DC-4AAA-868E-F121CA8628C1.jpegI am a sucker for young adult fiction novels. I read one recently where the main character said something totally thoughtless and stupid to this girl he loved.

He was kicking himself for the hurtful comment and wished desperately he had fallen out of heaven with some sort of “do-over card” that he could use in that very moment. He’d rewind those 30 seconds, obviously say the right thing, and their relationship would continue moving upward.  But no.

As I read that, I was screaming in my mind, “That is exactly what the Atonement of Jesus Christ is all about!!!” Except, because of the Savior, we fall from heaven with infinite do-over cards.

The reason I am thinking about the do-over card right now is because, well, I need one for this day. I woke up this morning from a few hours of low quality sleep. My head was pounding. My baby was screaming. The thought of facing the day just felt so impossible, so I pulled the covers over my head and told my husband I needed to be unconscious for a few hours before I could even bring myself to try.

By the time I finally forced myself to get out of bed, I felt I had wasted the entire morning. I went downstairs to an Everest of dishes in the sink, unsorted piles of laundry, an overflowing trash can, and an obstacle course of toys.

The overwhelming tasks before me triggered frustration. I neglected to thank my husband for feeding and bathing our son while I slept, and saw him off to work with hard feelings between us. I impatiently addressed my son’s fussiness, ate everything in my sight, and mostly just wasted a few more hours being mad at myself (and the world).

I sometimes tell myself on those crappy days that I just need a new day. I need a fresh start. I need the sun to set on this one horrible day,

and for the sunrise to usher in a new, hopefully better one. I’m so grateful that Heavenly Father has divided time into night and day, darkness and light. I love the symbolism behind that.

I had somewhat of an epiphany though: I don’t have to wait for tomorrow to come! I can have my do-over right this very second.

My favorite German man of all time (I.e. Elder Uchtdorf) said:

“God will take you as you are at this very moment and begin to work with you. All you need is a willing heart, a desire to believe, and trust in the Lord.”

I choose to embrace these words. It is about 14 minutes to 3 PM, and I have every intention of wrapping this up before then, getting off the couch, finally brushing my teeth, and saying a meaningful prayer. Then I’ll take my son to do something extraordinarily fun. I’ll send my husband a text of gratitude for putting up with me today. I’ll finally deliver that baby gift to my neighbor. I’ll brave the aisles of Walmart so that we no longer have to eat cereal for every meal. And heck, I might even exercise for the first time in forever. Most importantly, I’ll make Christ the center of my life for the rest of the day even though, so far, I’ve made myself the center of my life.

Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, here I am at 2:57 redeeming yet another one of my do-over cards. I don’t have to wait for a literal sunrise to start over. “Today” begins at 3 PM.

So, if you’re having a day like mine, or if one comes in the near future, remember that you can start over RIGHT NOW by hitting that metaphorical reset button. Even if your bedtime is 60 minutes away, make that last waking hour of yours something stellar.

 

What Daily Faith in Jesus Christ Looks Like

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My first (and hopefully last) near-death experience occurred three winters ago. While driving home from a close friend’s wedding reception in the middle of the night, I found myself in the midst of a relentless snowstorm.  I reached the canyon that separated me from my warm bed around 2 AM. The threatening snowfall and slick roads before me foreshadowed disaster, but I was too exhausted to notice.

About halfway through the canyon, the blizzard blocked my view of the road, and I suddenly lost all control of the car. I completed two 360s across both slick lanes, and skidded about 100 feet along the side of the road until I crashed into a tightly packed, towering snowbank.

It took me a few seconds to register that

a.) I had crashed

AND

b.) I had just experienced a series of miracles.

For one, no other cars occupied the road when my car decided to clumsily figure skate across it. Two, I barely missed the steep drop that would have sent my car rolling into a dark abyss below—and probably my death. And three, I hadn’t suffered any injuries.

But I was stuck. Very stuck. And alone.

Apparently, the rear of the car struck the snowbank with so much force that it completely wedged itself against it. No matter how hard I pressed the gas, the car wouldn’t budge.

I knew I couldn’t get out of there alone, so I called my dad (the fact that I had service was yet another miracle) and prefaced my dilemma with, “I’m okay, but…”

He said he’d be there right away.

While I waited for my dad to arrive, three different parties stopped to help. The first couple confirmed that I was OK and that help was coming. The second man tried to push my car awkwardly from its back corner while I hit the gas, but no luck. When a police officer stopped and pulled a towing rope from his car, I felt a speck of hope, but that hope diminished when we realized his small police car lacked the strength to pull my mom’s giant SUV out of there.

These kind people wished to help, but none could offer the very thing necessary to rescue me—my dad and his massive truck.

As he came rolling into view in that dark canyon, relief swept over me. We attached the police officer’s towing rope to both vehicles and my dad successfully pulled me from the snowbank.

I’ve reflected on this experience a lot. I found myself literally stuck on that cold, snowy, lonely night, but so many times since I’ve found myself spiritually stuck.

Have you ever felt spiritually stuck? Helpless? Powerless? Desperate?

For me, feelings like this usually come when I cannot foresee an end to an ongoing trial, or when I feel powerless in my circumstances. I often feel stuck when I’m torn about a major life decision and feel unsure about which road to take. Sometimes I feel spiritually stuck as I helplessly watch those I love most suffer intensely and I have no idea how to help. I feel stuck after I resolve to kick a bad habit, but fail. Again and again and again. And sometimes I just feel stuck in a spiritual rut, as though my efforts to live the Gospel yield little spiritual fruit.

Just as my dad rescued me from my predicament, so too can Christ come to our rescue when all other solutions fail.  

But He should never be our last resort. I’ve learned (sometimes the hard way) to bypass worldly solutions to my problems and to go straight to He who said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). My own grit, tenacity, confidence and abilities alone can’t save me, yet Christ always can.

The answer is simple. When you feel stuck, beckon the Son of God, He who is “mighty to save” (2 Nephi 31:19). Have faith in Him.

Sometimes the invitation to “have faith” feels too broad for me, too unspecific, but I can wrap my head around having daily faith in the Savior.

So, what does daily faith in Jesus Christ look like? For me, it looks like this:

It is getting out of bed in the morning even though I’d rather pull the covers over my head and not face the demands of life.

It is saying a kneeling prayer and pleading with God to grant me the strength, through His Son, to face any hardships that come my way.

It is opening my scriptures and finding Him there.

It is pleading for divine help to conquer the temptations that intermittently creep into my life.

It is seeing the Sacrament for the sacred ordinance it is.

It is asking for patience while promised blessings pend.

It is accepting my difficult circumstances and trusting that it “will be but a small moment” and ultimately be for my good (Doctrine & Covenants 121:7).

It is muting my complaints when I don’t get my way and expressing my gratitude when I do.

It is relying on heavenly answers instead of the logic of men.

It is repenting every day. It is trying a little harder every day.

It is attending the temple when I really just want to take a nap.

It is stepping out of my self-centered box to find and help “the one.”

It is attending church even though I spend 90% of it chasing a very energetic toddler around.

It is teaching that same toddler, in the simplest of ways, about Jesus.

It is doing my best to magnify my church calling, no matter how insignificant that calling is in my eyes.

It is loyally living those commandments most difficult for me.

It is eliminating from my life anything and everything that does not invite the Spirit.

It is making time for family history and praying with my husband and feeding the missionaries.

It is living and doing with sincerity, because that’s the only way Christ knew how.

It is making Christ the center of my life and tuning out worldly distractions by learning of Him and living like Him.

These are the culminating acts of a faith-filled life, and as I review this list, I realize I have a long way to go. But I definitely know that deliberate acts of faith—proactive discipleship—merit heavenly help.

No matter why we feel stuck—or how we got there in the first place, as we consistently demonstrate faith in Jesus Christ, He promises us a noble rescue. From sin. From sorrow. From weakness. From the trials that are not our fault—and all the ones that are. His outstretched arms and scarred hands will pull us from the mire of doubt, despair, and helplessness.

Alma testified to his son Shiblon—and to you and me and all of us—that “there is no other way or means whereby man can be saved, only in and through Christ” (Alma 38:9).

He is the way. He will come to your rescue.