Find rest in Him

Christ has said to us, “Come unto me…and ye shall find rest unto your soul” (Matthew 11;28-29.  How amazing does that sound?!  Not just to find rest but for your SOUL to find rest.  Sign me up for that kind of rest and peace.

But who does this apply to?  The beginning of verse 28 reads, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden” so is it just for those who are REALLY suffering? Those who are really weighed down with burdens?  I know I have been in that situation before where I yearn to feel Him close and to get further guidance but I hesitate to ask for much because what I’m in need of seems so silly compared to others.  How can He be so aware of me and my “minor” problems when there are so many out there that are suffering more than me?  I’m not really heavy laden, I’m just exhausted.  Or lonely.  Or confused.  

Well there is a reason that in the above picture I made I took out the part that said, “all ye that labour and are heavy laden”.  I think sometimes we read that and misinterpret it.  We think we can only ask for rest for our souls when we are REALLY struggling and our burdens are SO heavy that we just can’t possibly do this on our own anymore, otherwise, we should be able to handle things mostly independently and just leave Him to worry about others.  How wrong that train of thought is!  Thomas S. Monson said, “We were not placed on this earth to walk alone”.  None of us are expected to walk alone.  He WANTS to walk with us, to help us, to be near us.  He didn’t suffer for us so that we can come to Him only when we’re desperate, He died for us because of His unconditional love and it is for that same reason that He wants us to always yearn to have Him close.  He wants to help us ALL get back to our heavenly home and He wasn’t just willing to provide a way to make it happen but He’s also willing to continue to stay with us as we take the journey home.  That is how much He loves us.  That is unconditional love.

Unconditional love does not mean that He will force us to allow Him near though.  It means He loves us enough to allow us to choose.  We get to choose to invite Him in.  Dieter F. Uchtdorf taught us, “God is not waiting to love you until you have overcome your weaknesses and bad habits.  He loves you today with a full understanding of your struggles,”  Isn’t that a beautiful reminder?  He already knows our shortcomings and failures and He STILL wants us to ask Him in. He STILL wants to help us, to give us rest, to allow our souls to be at peace and feel Him near.

So we know He wants to help us all and we know that it doesn’t even matter our circumstances, but now what do we DO about it?  HOW do we draw nearer to Him and feel that peace in our souls that we are promised?  Here are 3 things that have helped me draw closer to Him.  All three steps take a little work, practice and diligence but the more you do them, the stronger you feel the spirit and the easier it gets to feel Him near. 

  1. study AND REFLECT the scriptures as often as you can.  Obviously the goal here is daily because it really does make a difference but God knows our intentions and if you are really giving it your best and trying to make time for this as frequently as you can, He knows that and He’s not going to hold missing some days against you.  now I emphasize the “reflect” part because just reading the scriptures is great but it’s during the reflecting on what you’ve read and how it applies to you where you can often times feel the spirit strongest.  Consider being more intentional with what you are studying and how well you are studying it rather than on how quickly you can get through a book or how much time you spend per study session. Also, figure out what works best for you.  Some people do better listening to audio and taking notes as they do.  For some it is reading straight from the scriptures, others it may be doing study groups where possible and for people like me, we do best with a combination of study manuals, scriptures and journaling. Play around with options until you feel like it really “clicks” for you and you notice you feel inspiration coming more frequently doing it that way, then you know you’ve found your ticket!
  2. Meditate frequently.  We “must take time to meditate, to sweep the cobwebs from [our] mind” as Ezra Taft Benson put it so eloquently.  Meditation has the power to do just that, clear the clutter and stress in our mind and help us recenter on what is most important.  Some of the times I feel inspiration and promptings come to me the most clearly are during times of meditation as I take the time to quiet the worlds expectations and consider what MY priorities are, what He would have me do.  This one takes a little more practice and diligence to get the hang of it but once you do, you will realize how easily you can feel closer to the Godhead and angels around you.
  3. Pray and ASK for the spirit to be with you.  Sometimes you just need to ask.  Now, I know Heavenly Father likes to see action and it’s important to not just go live your life however you please and then come to Him and be like, “ok, I’m done partying now give me the Spirit.”  There is a difference between demanding and seeking/asking.  Sometimes we feel like we’re doing the best we can here.  “Heavenly Father, I’m trying to do what I know I should and I’m giving it my all and I’m still struggling to feel you as close as I would like.  Please give me comfort at this time.  I need it.”  It’s ok that sometimes we feel exhausted and that we can’t imagine doing more than we are right now but man do I need to feel some relief right now.  So ask!  Think of your child coming to you and saying, “Mom or Dad, I’m struggling today and I just need a hug.  I”m trying to be good and I’m just feeling so depleted from all the effort and I just want a hug from you and to have you tell me you love me”  Would you be like, “how dare you ask me, do better!”  NOOOOO!  You would run to that child and scoop them up in your arms and assure them that you love them and you see all their effort and you’re so proud of them for it!  He yearns to do that!  He wants us to humble ourselves and ask for help…He’s waiting!  You aren’t weak for asking/needing more, you are faithful.  The part I love about this one is how I have received my answers.  Sometimes I am immediately filled with reassurance, other times I go to bed and have a dream that brings me peace.  Many times I wake the next morning simply with a renewed energy to fulfill the work ahead of me and I know where that bout of energy and courage to face another day has come from. He heard me.

My hope is that strengthening these 3 steps/areas will help you draw a little closer to our Savior just as it has helped me.  I promise that as you do these things and work on having a closer relationship with Him that you WILL find peace and rest…even to the extent of your whole body and soul feeling at ease.  You will be able to think clearer, know the best next steps to take and be confident with where you are headed.  He is the anchor of our souls, He is the calm during the storms and He wants to help you as much as you will allow Him to. 

xoxo,

Jenny

PS If you really want to go the extra mile to feel the Spirit so strong in your home, play religious music more frequently in your home.  We used to play “church music” only on Sundays and since we have upped how often we listen to it, we have noticed a difference in the feeling of our home.  Sometimes I will watch my daughter come home from school after a rough day and go in her room and turn some church music on and I can see the transformation by the time she comes out again, her burden has been lightened and she feels peace again.  I know I have experienced this myself many times as well.  It’s beautiful what music can do for us!

Intentions Matter

I’ve realized something lately, gone are the days of just getting by.  No more going through the motions and hoping for the best.  Now more than ever it is imperative that we live with intent, we study with intent, we teach with intent, we make decisions with intent and we never judge others because guess what, we don’t know THEIR intent. Here’s a little more detail in each of those areas:

Live with intent/make decisions with intent – Dieter F. Uchdorf said, “We would do well to slow down a little…focus on the significant…and truly see the things that matter most.”  I love that quote.  The reminder that we need to slow down in order to see what matters most is a reminder I need frequently.  The first step in living with more intent is to first realize what is most important to you, then to take time regularly to check in and make sure your choices are leading you to those things that are of utmost importance to you. Prioritizing your goals is what keeps us centered and focused when making each decision in life.  What to do, where to live, who to spend our time with….if it doesn’t line up with our priorities then it gets a lot easier to make those decisions.

Study with intent – In 2nd Chronicles 19 Jehosphaphat removes all idols (think temptations for us) and prepares his heart DAILY to seek God.  This is clearly not something he is doing lightly, it’s not an approach of “when I get around to it”, he finds time DAILY to seek God and tries to rid himself of all idols that could serve as distractions. I once heard someone say that if you want to really figure out what is important to you try this trick:  anytime you think you don’t have time for something change the wording from “I just don’t have time for personal study” to “personal study is not a priority to me” if that doesn’t feel right to you, if your reaction to that is that you really WANT it to be something you have time for than its time to sit down with your calendar and figure out a way to work that in.  Schedule it in somewhere and MAKE IT HAPPEN.

Teach with intent – So many of us were raised with “because I said so” being something we heard on a regular basis.  And for good reason, following our parents often time was the right answer.  With that being said, I think the time has officially come that we need to slow down with that phrase.  Are there times where it’s needed? Sure.  But there are also so many times when taking the extra time to explain the WHY behind our parenting is beneficial to our kids.  The world around them is going SO far in an opposite direction of how we are teaching them so it’s so important for them to truly understand why we are asking them to be different than the crowd.  Show your kids how to handle diversity, show them how to stand up for what you believe in, show them how to prioritize the gospel.  More than ever we have to be leading by example.

Stop judging  – someone recently said to me that people who voted for a certain presidential candidate were on the “wrong side of history”.  That got me thinking of all the terrible things that have happened in the word where it seems clear what the right and wrong side of history was.  Crucifixion of Christ, Holocaust, slavery…we could go on with many examples.  It’s easy to say that there is clearly a right and wrong side…or so it seems at first.  I can look at all three of those extreme examples and feel SO strongly about my views on them.  I mean, I can’t understand how anyone could think any of those were ever acceptable but here is a new thing that dawned on me recently…how do I know the intentions of someone who thinks the opposite of me?  The people who spat on Jesus, mocked him, killed him….we don’t know why they thought that was acceptable. We don’t have to ever agree with them or even be able to understand how they thought that was ok, but we can acknowledge the fact that we don’t know where they were coming from, how they were raised, what they were taught, what they thought to be true with every fiber of their being.  Know who does?  God.  Which then explains why we are explicitly taught to NOT judge anyone but to leave that to Christ.  So maybe if we did less attempts at trying to convince people why we are right, less judging them for their choices, and more listening to them to try to truly UNDERSTAND them we could learn to have more compassion for others.  And if after doing less talking and more listening we STILL can’t understand where they are possibly coming from we can choose to respect that they have free agency too and God will judge their intentions the same way He will ours and leave it at that.

Some other ways to be intentional: who you follow on social media, how you are spending your free time, looking for God’s hands in the details of your life.  Being intentional is a muscle, it takes time and consistency to grow into something strong and beneficial so keep at it, “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ” (2 Nephi 31:20) and remember that energy flows where your intention goes so keep being intentional and don’t give up!

xoxo,
Jenny

Ps. a great podcast to follow is Life Performance, episode 6 is a great one that goes with a lot of this.  Episode 1 is my all time favorite.

faith to move forward

In my scripture study this week I used the TOFW study guide: Take Courage My Heart, where I was studying the story of the 2,000 stripling warriors.  I had so many incredible insights come to me that I had never really thought of before and I want to share them with you.

i’m a sucker for study guides, they are so helpful to me and this is a fantastic one

So first off, I have read this story so many times and we’ve talked about it in so many lessons over the years but I don’t think I have ever really thought of it from the angle of the parents before.  Here are these boys, many who are just becoming men, and they have been raised to know the importance of keeping the commandments and that doing so would help them prosper in the land.  So they weren’t raised around war and contention because their parents had long before buried their weapons and made a covenant with God to put their days of war, fighting and contention behind them.  Fast forward 15 years (roughly) and their freedoms are being threatened, they know they must fight and defend themselves but the parents promised not to fight and these young men were not raised to be warriors. So this amazing group of young men and young adults say that in order for their parents to keep their covenant, therefore assuring God will uphold His end of the covenant, they agree to be the ones to go fight.  Now, that is very courageous and must have taken a lot of faith for these boys to agree to go fight in a battle when they knew very little about war but lets also consider the amount of faith that it took for the parents to agree to this!  They agreed to send their sons off to war knowing that their sons were not prepared for war in the traditional sense.  They were not skilled in fighting, they were not well educated on how to use these weapons, but they agreed none the less to send their boys off to war because of their faith in the covenant that they had made.  They knew that if they upheld their end of the deal, God would uphold His and He would watch over their sons and protect their freedoms. 

photo cred: Arnold Friberg

In Alma 53:21 it says, “Yea, they were men of truth and soberness, for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him”.  In the study guide it points out, “None of these words are typical for what you would expect from a description of a soldier.  Can they handle a sword? How are they with a spear?  These are the questions Helaman should have been asking.  Instead, Helaman would lead a group that was exceptional because of their faith in God.  They were true, sober, valiant, and loyal to Him.  And THAT is what gave them courage.”  If what made these men so great at war was their FAITH and not their SKILL, then what does that mean for us?  How can we take that concept and apply it to our life?

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, “Sometimes we feel discouraged because we are not ‘more’ of something – more spiritual, respected, intelligent, healthy, rich, friendly or capable.  We don’t need to be ‘more’ of anything to start to become the person God intended us to become.  God will take you as you are at this very moment and begin to work with you.”  I LOVE this quote!  The way I interpret that is this, if I can increase my faith a little and believe that God is willing to work with me starting NOW then I can say:

If I feel prompted to ______(fill in this blank with whatever you feel your next step should be. go back to school, start a new job, focus on home life, homeschool your kids…whatever it is) then I don’t need to know how I’m going to get there, I don’t need to understand how He could possibly think I could achieve this, I just need to start taking steps to get that done and trust that He will make up the rest. 

How many times do we hold ourselves back because we doubt ourselves?  We think things like, ‘Surely He can’t think I can do that’ or ‘I can’t make a difference I’m too old/young/inexperienced/ordinary/not smart enough/uneducated/poor’ etc and we set all these limitations on ourself. Instead we should be trusting that God has a plan so much greater than we can imagine, so much greater than we think is possible, but we can’t get there if we are standing in our own way.  We can’t get there if we are holding ourselves back.  We can’t get there if we are doubting.  Us doubting in ourselves is to a certain extent us doubting in God as well.  “Well you can work miracles God but not that big of a miracle, I can’t do that!”.  I mean, when we think it that way it sounds absurd!  Of course He can!  He can do whatever He sees fit and only we can stand in His way.  His work will never stop, He’ll just move on and use someone else to do it. Don’t sell yourself short!  You deserve this next step in your life.  You deserve to have the righteous desires of your heart and our loving Heavenly Father will help you get there.  He’ll meet you halfway, He’ll make up the rest where you fall short.  He has a plan to help you, you just have to let Him.

In the story of the 2,000 stripling warriors they didn’t go to battle KNOWING that they would all be saved.  They didn’t know how it was going to turn out.  They did have faith that it would work out as God saw fit though and that was enough for them.  They moved forward with faith and let God take care of the rest.

I hope this helps hit home for someone else.  It left such an impression on me and motivated me to move forward more courageously, more confidently, and with more conviction than ever before.  I trust God has a plan for me, just as He does you, and that it is so much greater than what I could plan for myself. I have believe that if I move forward with faith He will help me know what the next steps are, He will guide me, He will help me where I fall short so that I can make it to where I’m meant to be. 

What have you learned throughout your personal study of the story of the Stripling Warriors?  Let me know in the comments!

xoxo,
Jenny