Monday, July 30, 2012

The Windows of Heaven

This is the talk that I gave in church yesterday:

I grew up in Orem, Utah and one of my fondest memories is of the days of General Conference in April.  I would wake up to General Conference being on every TV and radio in the house.  Usually the weather was just wonderful and I would get up and open my window wide and let the fresh spring air come in as I listened to conference.  As I read the quote that was given to me for my talk today, it made me think about those days.  The quote is from Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin’s conference address from October, 1995.  He said this:

The windows of heaven are open wide to the faithful and righteous; nothing closes them faster than disobedience. . .  Diligent, enduring obedience to God’s laws is the key that opens the windows of heaven.  Obedience enables us to be receptive to the mind and will of the Lord.  ‘The Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind; and the obedient are those who receive the blessings of revelation through the open windows of heaven.

After thinking about opening the windows during spring conference on my first read through of this quote, I thought I had better read it again.  This time the word that stuck out to me was obedience, so I read through it again.  This time the phrase “heart and a willing mind” stuck out to me.  The more I read this quote the more topics I could see and I was confused as to what I was supposed to really talk about.  But my heart kept coming back to the phrase “the windows of heaven” so I decided to settle on that.

“Opening the windows of heaven” means more to me that just opening up windows to fresh air.  It means opening up to receive the light, knowledge and joy that awaits us there.  Elder Wirthlin’s quote mentions several ways to opening up the windows of heaven through obedience, a willing heart and mind, and being receptive to the will of the Lord.  For me though, the best way to open up the windows of heaven is to have direct and constant communication with our Heavenly Father, which, of course, means prayer.  President George Albert Smith shared this thought:

I was trained at the knee of a Latter-day Saint mother. . . .  She taught me my first prayer.  I will never forget it.  I do not want to forget it.  It is one of the loveliest memories that I have in life, an angelic mother sitting down by my bedside and teaching me to pray.  It was such a simple prayer, but . . . that prayer opened for me the windows of heaven.  That prayer extended to me the hand of my Father in Heaven. . . . 

I love it when little children pray, they are so honest, sincere and simple in their prayers.  I remember one of my little sisters saying in a prayer one day, “and bless all the prayers that have been said.”  A prayer for prayers, how amazing is that.  Our prayers do open up heaven to us, so maybe our prayers do need blessings at times when we are struggling in them. 

President Monson had a beautiful thing to say about prayers in a talk to the Priesthood in 2009, he said:

[P]ray fervently.   With God, all things are possible. . . . remember the prayer of the Prophet Joseph, offered in that grove called sacred. Look around you and see the result of that answered prayer.  Adam prayed; Jesus prayed. We know the outcome of their prayers. He who notes the fall of a sparrow surely hears the pleadings of our hearts. Remember the promise: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”8  To those within the sound of my voice who are struggling with challenges and difficulties large and small, prayer is the provider of spiritual strength; it is the passport to peace. Prayer is the means by which we approach our Father in Heaven, who loves us. Speak to Him in prayer and then listen for the answer. Miracles are wrought through prayer.

When I read this is made my heart swell.  I was told once in a blessing to pray to Heavenly Father and communicate with him as if I was having a conversation with my husband.  He wants me to talk to him deeply, intently and conversely and I want Him to talk to me in the same way.  I want to feel like we are having a conversation, not just me speaking to the ceiling and then walking away. 

Our Heavenly Father may not speak directly to me as my husband would, but when I talk to Him I pause to allow time for His response as if we were in a conversation and more often than not, something comes to my mind such as an action to take, a feeling or a thought and I know He is communicating with me.  I have always felt like my Father in Heaven was there listening to me no matter what I was going through.  President Uchtdorf said:

Individual and collective trials may sometimes seem overwhelming. . . .  That is when we need, more than ever, to draw near unto the Lord. As we do, we will come to know what it means to have the Lord draw near unto us. As we seek Him ever more diligently, we will surely find Him. We will see clearly that the Lord does not abandon His Church or His faithful Saints. Our eyes will be opened, and we will see Him open the windows of heaven and shower us with more of His light. We will find the spiritual strength to survive even during the darkest night.

I know that many of us are having “dark nights” these days.  There are a lot of trials and challenges going on with everyone around us.  Sometimes they seem far too hard to bear and we may turn away from our Heavenly Father when we need Him most.  Turning to our Father in Heaven, and others can be very hard, but it is essential in order for us to receive the blessings from heaven.  I had a problem with hiding my feelings and problems from everyone.  I felt like I was protecting them if they didn’t know what I was going through.  Finally, it was my therapist who urged me to quit turning away from others and instead turn towards them for the help that I needed.  It is the same with our Heavenly Father, he is just waiting for us to turn to him instead of turning away.  He is committed to us, let us commit to him. 

One of my favorite stories in the Ensign is one told by President Uchtdorf, it goes like this:

Two young brothers stood atop a small cliff that overlooked the pristine waters of a blue lake. This was a popular diving spot, and the brothers had often talked about making the jump—something they had seen others do.  Although they both wanted to make the jump, neither one wanted to be first. The height of the cliff wasn’t that great, but to the two young boys, it seemed the distance increased whenever they started to lean forward—and their courage was fading fast.  Finally, one brother put one foot at the edge of the cliff and moved decisively forward. At that moment his brother whispered, “Maybe we should wait until next summer.”  The first brother’s momentum, however, was already pulling him forward. “Brother,” he responded, “I’m committed!”  He splashed into the water and surfaced quickly with a victorious shout. The second brother followed instantly. Afterward, they both laughed about the first boy’s final words before plunging into the water: “Brother, I’m committed.”

Later in the same article President Uchtdorf said:

There is a difference between intention and action. Those who only intend to commit may find excuses at every turn. Those who truly commit face their challenges squarely. . . .  They search the scriptures and earnestly seek the guidance of their Father in Heaven.

Our Heavenly Father has already committed to us, He just patiently waits for us to commit to Him.  He promises and gives us so much, why just with tithing alone he promises us this in Malachi 3:10:

Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

There shall not be room enough to receive it, can you imagine that.  The interesting thing about that scripture is that it is not about ourselves, it is about tithing, about giving to others.  Sometimes we might pray and wait, and wait, wondering where our answers are, wondering why heaven is closed to us.  To this question, President Uchtdorf has this response:

Often, the answer to our prayer does not come while we’re on our knees but while we’re on our feet serving the Lord and serving those around us. Selfless acts of service and consecration refine our spirits, remove the scales from our spiritual eyes, and open the windows of heaven. By becoming the answer to someone’s prayer, we often find the answer to our own.

After we pray, we need to go about doing everything that is in our power to do and leave the rest in Heavenly Father’s hands.  We show our commitment to him by trusting Him, by putting complete faith in Him, that we trust that what happens in the end is what He knows is best for us.

How do I know that I can trust my Heavenly Father, because I have and was rewarded in the end.  How do I know that He will answer my prayers, because I have asked and I have received.  How do I know that the windows of heaven will open, because I have seen it.

I sat in the temple chapel one day waiting for the next session.  I sat down and said a prayer to my Heavenly Father telling Him why I was there that day and what I needed.  After my prayer, I picked up the scriptures and flipped them open and read the first thing I laid my eyes on, it was D&C 11:13-14 and it said:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy;

And then shall ye know, or by this shall you know, all things whatsoever you desire of me, which are pertaining unto things of righteousness, in faith believing in me that you shall receive.

I testify to you that during that session, the windows of heaven were opened to me and I received more than what I had asked for.  I testify to you that our Heavenly Father loves each of us.  I testify that He did sacrifice His son and His son sacrificed for us that we might be with them again.  I testify to you that they are both waiting for us behind those windows of Heaven and it is up to us to open them.

I would like to close with the words of President Gordon B. Hinkley as he closed one of his talks:

I leave with you my testimony of the truth of these things, and I invoke the blessings of heaven upon you. May the windows of heaven be opened and blessings showered upon you as the Lord has promised. Never forget that this was His promise and that He has the power and the capacity to see that it is fulfilled. I so pray as I leave my blessing and love with you in the sacred name of our Redeemer, even the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

There's No Such Thing As Normal

Life has been really crazy for me since the beginning of 2012.  The first four months were crazy with all of my daughter's Daffodil Princess events, then the next few months were filled with trying to get her through school which wasn't an easy task.  It was her last few months of high school and she had a severe cash of senioritis, but we made it.  Next was a trip to my daughter's college for a campus tour, then a trip to So. California for a Senior trip with my daughter and some friends and then one last thing, my convention trip to Texas.  Through all of this I kept thinking that I just needed to get through each thing and then I could get back to my life.  Especially after this last trip to Texas, I knew I would be able to get my life back to normal.

During my convention we were able to hear an amazing presentation by Stacy Julian.  She started talking about how we wait for this, that and the other thing (she actually listed a bunch of activities that I can't remember) and then when life gets back to normal we can live our life.  Then she said listen real close and she actually whispered, "there is no such thing as normal." 

Whoa, I felt like I was being called on the carpet right then and there.  That is exactly what I had been doing for many months, waiting for things to get back to normal.  How many times have I heard the quote about waiting until you get a better job, until you have kids, until the kids are grown, and so on about living your life.  I know this, I know that you can't wait for things to live and yet, here I was doing it.  I just let myself get sucked up into that belief even though I know better.  My son is in Brazil on a mission for our church, my daughter is leaving in 6 weeks for college, then I will be an empty nester.  There is definitely no normal in that.  We will have a few months then my daughter will be home for a few months, then a few more months and my son will be home from Brazil, then it will be summer and then they will both be off to college again.  Definitely no normal in that!

What have I been waiting for?  Nope, there is no such thing as normal, you just have to claim your life each day and live it the best you can and quick waiting for things to settle down, be what it was, it never is.  There is no such thing as normal, only living.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Tipping Point

I started a project several years ago that I call "The Tipping Point" named after a section in the book The Power, by Rhonda Byrne, with the same title of "The Tipping Point."  This is what it says:

If you give more that 50 percent positive thoughts and feelings instead of negative, you have reached a tipping point.  Even if you just give 51 percent good thoughts and good feelings, you have tipped the scales of your life!  . . .  To change your life, all you have to do is tip the scales by giving 51 percent love through your good thoughts and good feelings.  Once you reach the tipping point of giving more love than negativity, the love that comes back to you then multiplies itself by attracting more love through the law of attraction.  Suddenly you experience an acceleration and multiplication of good things! . . .  When you wake up each morning, you are standing at the tipping point of your day.  One way tips you into a wonderful day filled with good things, and the other way tips you into a day filled with problems. . . .  Every day is an opportunity for a new life, because every single day you stand at the tipping point of your life.  And on any one day you can change the future - through the way that you feel.  When you tip the balance to good feelings, the force of love will change your life so fast that you will scarcely believe it.

At the time I read this I was having a really hard time feeling any love for myself.  So I decided that every day when I wrote in my journal I was going to write down the number of how much I liked myself on a scale of 1-100.  It seemed more realistic to me to aim for The Tipping Point of 51 than to try to aim for 100.  I just really didn't like myself and didn't see ever getting to 100 was a reality, but aiming for 51, the tipping point, I could do that.  I was telling a friend about this process recently and told her that I started out at a zero, that really was how I felt about myself, a big zero, I didn't like myself at all.  My friend said that this made her sad and I had to agree, it is sad that I felt that way.

Every day I would close my eyes and ask myself how much I liked myself and then would write down the first number that popped into my head.  By paying attention to this number each day I was able to start focusing on ways to increase the number.  It has been a slow process and sometimes I would even get stuck at a number for a long time.  To move up I would try different things, sometimes I would use affirmations, sometimes I would just make more of an effort in how I looked, but mostly just by trying to be kinder to myself.

So this last week when I got back from a week with my friend, her son, my daughter and two more of their friends on a Senior Trip to Southern California, I was catching up on my journaling and as I did my usual question of "how much do I love myself today?"  I was so surprised when the first thought in my head was 51.  51, really?  I questioned myself, yes, really 51, but 51 is the Tipping Point, how did I get to 51?  I had been stuck at 49 for such a long time, many, many months and now I had moved up, and moved up to the Tipping Point.  I was so excited.

As I pondered how I got to 51 I thought about my friend and our trip.  My kids and I like to get silly hats when we are in Disneyland and wear them each day we are there.  I found the one I loved and then got one for my friend.  As we walked around the park we would see our reflection and she would say things like, "we are so cute," "look how adorable we are" and so on.  Before I knew it I was saying those things too.  I don't remember the last time I looked at my reflection and commented on how cute or adorable I was, but the more we said it, the more it stuck in my head.  Just these positive, seemingly silly comments made a huge difference in how I felt about myself.  So lesson learned, say it and you will believe it!

I'm now at the Tipping Point of 51, I know I need to keep working at it, but for the first time in years I like myself more than I dislike myself, even if it is only by 1 point, it is so much more than when I first started this project!  I'm just believing in myself more and more, and it now seems more realistic to aim for 100.  Now that I'm at the Tipping Point I wonder if the process will go faster, it will be interesting to see.  At least I can look at myself now and not hate what I see, I actually like what I see, and, as you can see in this picture, we really were adorable in our silly hats!