Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Messages of Peace

In the early afternoon, my house is bathed in light.  It is a singular time of day for me as the brightness floods in, bringing out the honey grain in the wood, the rich colors.  The brilliance of it seems to draw my attention, calling me at the same time to bask in it and reflect, commanding an immediate sense of quiet from somewhere inside.

Years ago, as a little girl, my family traveled to the cabin for a week in the summer.  The cabin wasn't plumbed and when we had to go to the bathroom in the night, we depended on having each other and a flashlight.  You could get to the outhouse just fine without the light, but who would want to face the dark woods alone?  We were young, the woods were deep and dark and quiet, and it felt good to hold something that could pierce that and give you a direct, clear line of view.

I've thought about that as a metaphor for the Holy Ghost.  We are, as it were, away from home for a time, in a world that while stunning and beautiful and full of remarkable blessings, is becoming increasingly darkened by unbelief, skepticism, injustice, and disregard for moral standards and behavior.  In a discussion on Sunday this talk was referenced, comparing light to revelation.  Sometimes it comes so pressingly, as though, in one step, you've walked from a dark room into a light one.  Other times, the light seems to distill gradually, like a morning sunrise.  Both are ways that the Holy Ghost communicates with us. 

One of the roles of the Holy Ghost is to bring peace, REAL peace, the kind that money cannot buy, the kind that success and prestige of any kind cannot replicate.

I was asked on Sunday if I would share an experience where I had felt the influence of the Holy Ghost, and after doing so, I challenged myself and the women I was with to start looking more earnestly and try to recognize the Holy Ghost in the day-to-day-ness of life.

  Last night I burrowed into my bed late, spooning up to Mr. C. to warm my body and my forever-and-always cold feet (thank you, I love this).  I found myself thinking about the messages of peace I've recognized and felt lately, even just over the weekend.

I remembered Saturday morning, lazy, lazy, waking up late.  Scott and the children were gone on their Saturday morning outing.  I ate a bowl of cereal in the quiet and started into a book.  Moving the couch into direct sunlight, I wrapped a cozy blanket around me and sat in that warmth, reading, for almost three hours.  Quiet, peaceful, time to think and process and engage.
Later that evening, Mr. C. and I knelt in prayer to begin fasting together, discussing beforehand the things we were pondering in our hearts and minds, things we desperately feel we need direction on.  As he was voice for our prayer, I felt the power of uniting in faith, trusting that this road is possible because we're on it together, and because God hears and answers prayers.

Sunday morning was beautiful and crisp out.  Blue sky, morning rays of sun kissing lawn and curtains and carpet.  Light like that is contagious.  
All the children came into our bed, and we began our new book, reading the first chapter of Summer of the Monkeys.  Peace, my friends.  It was there.

In church I sat listening to a young man in our ward talking about faith amid the questions of science and those questioning belief in something greater.  He finished and I was up on my feet, so touched and motivated by his remarks.  I kept thinking I was going to be able to hold it together but his words touched me so deeply, my emotions literally spilled out, too.  I was so proud of him for saying that choosing faith can be hard.  I wanted him to know that we continue to have to choose that.  Life, as I've contemplated so much in the past several months, is about choosing faith.  I feel as though I've had to surrender, in so many aspects of my life, to choosing faith and forging ahead in trust.  We are here to see if through all the battles, we will continue to choose what we chose before we came: the freedom to believe and exercise faith in Jesus Christ.  That is the answer, and it is a lesson I continue to learn again and again. 

Before going to bed on Sunday night I wrote love notes and tucked them into boxes, feeling love within my heart as I wrote to each of my children and my husband.  It was so real and so calming and filled me with gratitude.

And last evening, the kids and I listened to Scott's lesson for us in our family home evening.  He told the story of Enos, and had taken the time to draw pictures for the children.  Every once in a great while it seems like there is a lot of extra quiet in family home evening, and we're dialed in more than other nights.  That was last night.  He had told the kids that he wanted them to think about things they could learn from this story before he began.  

  (Enos goes into the forest to hunt.)
 (Scott realized, too late, that he should have drawn a bow and arrow instead of a rifle.  Love it.  He goes to hunt wild beasts, and while there, remembers the words his father often spoke about Jesus Christ.)
(Because of his reflections, he prays seeking a renewal of the Lord's spirit in his life and to receive forgiveness.  That forgiveness comes and he wonders how that can possibly have happened, and is answered that it was because of his faith.)

I found myself pondering implications of that story for me.  In the end, the Spirit whispered to me that choosing to exercise faith in Jesus Christ is also choosing to change, to repent, to want continual progress, not stagnant hope without any working on our part.  If you truly pick up one end of that stick, you automatically pick up the other end, too.  As Elder D. Todd Christofferson said, 

"Repentance means striving to change.  It would mock the Savior's suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross for us to expect that He should transform us into angelic beings with no real effort on our part.  Rather, we seek His grace to complement and reward our most diligent efforts.  Perhaps as much as praying for mercy, we should pray for time and opportunity to work and strive and overcome.  Surely the Lord smiles upon one who desires to come to judgment worthily, who resolutely labors day by day to replace weakness with strength.  Real repentance, real change may require repeated attempts, but there is something refining and holy in such striving." 

 Sometimes it seems as though the version of myself that I hope to be and what I actually am are disparagingly far apart.  But I am grateful for a God who, through the Holy Ghost, helps me recognize His beauty and power working, even for one as simple as me.  I am grateful for the challenge and for the journey and for opportunities, great and small, to reflect and try to tune in.  The Holy Ghost fills me with hope and joy, urges me forward, and calms, at times, my troubled heart.  He helps me to see the holiness in striving, confirming the next step, that small flashlight beam penetrating the darkness and fear of the unknown, bringing clarity, insight, and peace in His wake.

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