This year has been one of great reflection and learning for me. I have always been a religious person but to be honest with you, I have NEVER in my life gone to the depth of spirituality that I have in this last year. As many of you may know I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and have been my whole life. I even was a full time missionary in 1995-1996 where I served in the Pocatello Mission. I have attended church weekly, even graduated from seminary. Even through all those years of being religious thinking it was complicated, I have come to realize just how incredibly SIMPLE God's love is for me.
I think I had this idea in my head that if I was perfect enough by checking off my "TO DO" list that I would be worthy of His love and acceptance. So I served my mission to the best of my ability and the very last day, when I found out my father had died in a car accident and I was being sent home the following day, I remember questioning if I had really done my best. Little did I know, I was an incredible missionary. Someone who served diligently with her heart and influenced many lives. At the time though if you asked me, I would tell you all the things I did wrong that made it not so. I couldn't accept that my imperfections were enough. I remember very clearly, the day I got released as a missionary and the man who released me said... "You were a great missionary." He didn't know I was questioning if I had done enough, he didn't even know me personally and let alone understand what it felt like to have just lost my father to a tragic accident. Again, I didn't accept that truth of me being enough just the way I was.
So this was a common theme throughout my life... am I enough? ... will I ever be enough? Is there more that I can "DO" to be acceptable in God's eyes? I have discovered for the first time in my life.... NO. I am already enough. I am already worthy of His love and acceptance just the way I am. There are things I choose to do on a daily basis that draw me closer to Him.. and further away from Him. God's Love, Mercy and Grace are exquisite. I now understand and continue to understand just how AMAZING this love is He has for me and for each one of you.
As for the Savior, since I have experienced a total transformation from the inside out, I have come to discover the incredible power of the atonement. I used to think the atonement was for people who had done horrible things, now I understand that the atonement is a GIFT for me to utilize each day to bring me closer to my Heavenly Father.
I was in church the other day and made a comment about how I have been reading a lot in the scriptures about Repentance. The scriptures counsel us OVER and OVER again.. "If they would only repent and keep the commandments.. then they shall have ALL that God has and more." So I have been on this journey to understand and ask what it is that I need to repent of so I may become more like the Savior and closer to God. Another comment from someone in the room was we needed to stop beating ourselves up. Although I agree 100% with that, I don't see repentance as a way to beat myself up, I see it as an incredible blessing and opportunity to draw closer to my Savior and to learn to accept His Sacrifice and service He rendered for ME.
My Savior.. My friend! I have learned and developed this amazing trust with my Savior. Our relationship is like any other relationship, I had to learn first who my Savior was then through many experiences, I learned to trust. As I trusted more my respect and love grew. My understanding of how he communicates with me expanded. This picture below is the picture I have up in my bedroom and I look at it each morning when I wake up. I spend time meditating to it. I see it as the Savior with His arms stretched forth towards me encouraging me to come to Him. It also reminds me that I need to be open to receiving. I struggle with that at times. As with many of you, we are so good at giving .. giving.. and giving more to others but when it comes to having to receive, it's hard. I have been on the receiving side many times this year and I am grateful for those in my life that have carried me and lifted my own soul as I have struggled. Isn't that what this life is all about anyway. The Savior has lifted me... I lift others.. others lift me. It's all one eternal circle of service.
So during this time of the year, I can't help but give thanks to the very one who gave me life, God. He also provided me with the most incredible gift my brother, my Savior, my friend who is teaching me by His example who I must become. I am grateful for this journey I have been on and for the knowledge I have now.
I KNOW that my Savior died for me and most importantly, lives today so that I may be forgiven for those choices I make that draw me further away from God. I know that God lives and knows me intimately.. my heart .. my soul.. my desires. He loves me and guides me each and every single day. I know when I am inspired to make a call, connect with a certain person or to serve that all that comes from Him. I know the Atonement of Jesus Christ is REAL. I know that because I have experienced the mighty change of heart in my own life and continue to feel it's power as I learn to turn my life over to Him. I know there is a living Prophet Thomas S. Monson that stands as the mouth piece for the Lord. I am grateful for His guidance and counsel He gives me. I know that the scriptures were written for OUR day and to help me understand how God works and His love for me. I live in such an incredible time where I have been given soo much.
I pray that each one of you finds peace in your heart.. and healing. I will say, even though my life is not perfect and there are days I still struggle, I feel because I have learned better to rely on the Lord it makes those challenging times easier. I pray for the same to be for you as well. God bless and always remember that you are important, you have a purpose here on earth and that you are LOVED.