I’ve been sitting with the tab open for this month’s Visiting Teaching message open since the start of the last week in January with plans of putting the handout together for the very first of the month – quite an exciting goal for me! The message is fantastic, and I think even more fantastic if you let it stew a little bit – like until the 3rd of the month 😉
I decided easily on this part of the message, “We can turn to Him … because He understands. He understands the struggle, and He also understands how to win the struggle…” from Elder D. Todd Christofferson but when it came to putting down a layout I wanted to keep it simple although the message is so glorious it deserves to be flourished and decorated and presented like it’s a treat coming out a pinata!
I gave a talk in church last year over Pioneer Day weekend that has changed my life, or my perspective on life. The talk changed me and gave me an opportunity to really look at certain murky trials I’ve gone through and see them as little gems for the first time. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about them like that since then.
I’ve gone through a lot of dark struggles over the last 10 years of my life especially and I don’t think I ever felt NOT alone during them. Loneliness became comforting at some point. Anyway, the topic of my talk was Divine Heritage. I used a devotional given by Elder Robert C Oaks as my catalyst.
Here is a portion of my own personal experiences that I shared that Sunday,
“As Stuart and I traveled down our path together, pioneering our new life things didn’t take the traditional route. During the first 7 years of our marriage, although we had a great time there was a lot of heartbreak, loneliness, homesickness, depression, and anger. 99% of it was on my part. Life isn’t guaranteed to be easy when you’re making the right choices.
The happiest decisions led to the hardest path I have ever travelled which then led to the biggest, most precious blessings. I think that is something evident in your own life also, maybe you need a few more years to see things a little clearer but eventually you will see it.
Towards the end of those 7 years I decided it was time to stop wandering down the path I was on. I thought I had chosen the path that would naturally lead to what I wanted – a baby, a family, a home, stability. Everyone else had got it, some accidentally. Why not us? We weren’t praying for anything out of the ordinary but it just wasn’t coming. Detours and road works, construction, collisions, repairs and roundabouts, pit stops and potty breaks. We felt lost a lot.
In 2010 I decided to make changes and do the things I’d been putting off due to waiting for things to fall in to place. Due to a severe back injury and infertility my physical health was a reflection of my mental health. I didn’t look so good. I started losing weight and I enrolled in school. I gave up on the idea of ever having children and the biggest burden was lifted from me. Life was enjoyable again once human expectations were removed. Nothing is ever really in our control!
With one month left until I graduated I started getting really sick. I asked Stuart to give me a blessing to help me shrug whatever it was that was making me so sick, so tired, so emotional. I specifically asked to be healed. In the blessing, I remember as clearly as anything the words “you are not forsaken.” After our Amen’s I looked at Stuart and told him quite angrily that I wanted to be healed. What on earth was that all about? All I needed was the words “you will be healed according to your faith.” Those words were not there at all and Stuart didn’t know why he had said what he said…
I was on the path that Heavenly Father intended.
Robert C Oaks also said,
What a sweet blessing it is to come to know—to gain a testimony by the power of the Holy Ghost—that there is a God and that He has a plan with an exalted purpose for each of His children. It is also a very powerful, personal driving factor to be able to accept that we each can have a particular role to play in this plan. You owe it to yourself to make an extra effort to discover, in every detail possible, who you really are—to discover your eternal potential in God’s plan.
Eternal potential. Eternal potential does not mean standing and waiting, or wandering. It means making changes, pointing yourself in a direction and moving. “You owe it to yourself to make an extra effort…”
I was not forsaken. I also didn’t have the flu, like I thought I had. I was where I was supposed to be – what if I had done it all sooner?
There are no changes I would make. That road travelled was the most difficult I have ever experienced. At the end of it was an amazing measure of patience, empathy, sensitivity to the struggles of those around me, a stronger marriage, more faith, a willingness to accept comfort rather than to punish myself, and of course my little Autumn. I likely wouldn’t recognize these precious paths without these specific experiences.
At the end of that particular path I can look back and know for sure that Heavenly Father absolutely has a plan for each of us. We all have a divine heritage to claim, naturally as children of God. We are not forsaken. We’re blessed with struggles to make us stronger, as cliche and comfortless as those words are when you’re wading through it, it is absolutely true. The blessing of a stronger foundation is something we can’t build ourselves. Satan wants us to feel like we’re doing it all alone because that makes us weaker and we literally can’t build a strong foundation if we ourselves don’t have the strength.
Helaman told his sons:
“And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall”
I spent a long time on a path without a sure foundation. I did spent time in that gulf of misery. The only way to move forward is by remembering Helaman’s words – the funny thing about people who are further along their mortal path is that they generally have more to look back on, they can see the patterns of divinity in their lives, they see the stumbling stones and building blocks along their paths, they recognize the what-ifs already and they can relate their experiences to those of us behind on our own paths. They have valuable lessons to share, we all do. Sharing our struggles and especially how we overcome them blesses the lives of others.
You may feel stuck on a path you don’t want to be on. It’s not true. Satan wants you to feel that way – his plan all along was to constrain us. You do have choices. You can choose to stay on or get off, you can choose to share your burden with those around you who are there to help you, you can choose the attitude you travel that path with – your attitude alone can change everything! If you feel stuck, don’t be ashamed. We all struggle. We all need help. Reach out. You are not forsaken.
This is my testimony. These are the stories I want to be passed on by my children, that it’s ok to struggle. We all fight in wars, and we can all overcome because as children of God we are never forsaken. We all have a divine heritage to claim.”
I had a really hard time choosing a couple of parts that stuck out to me in this months message because it all was so perfect. The first talk I gave in Sacrament meeting as a youth was on Obedience. I love how basic a principle it is but how much there really is to it – check out the From The Scriptures section at the bottom of the message. I love it.
Hopefully the little bits of the message that I chose resonate with you too and you’re able to use this.
Part way through the year I decided to make a goal to create handouts to go along with the monthly LDS Visiting Teaching messages mostly as a way for me to remember to study the message and apply it myself. The handouts have been popular and I’ll be continuing with my goal through 2015 🙂
For the links to download these files head over to the Sugar Grenade Designs Facebook page and check out the LDS Visiting Teaching album.