Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Parable of the Mirror

 *** A late night conversation between a 12 year old girl and her father*** 
"Daddy, I don't feel like I amount to anything. No matter what I do, it's not good enough. How can I possibly succeed?"
                                                                 ...Ponders deeply...
"You know those fun house mirrors at the fair or circus? You know how when you look at them, you're shorter, or skinnier, or fatter, or taller. But you're NEVER you. That is how the world will see you. But it's not fair. It's not right. It's not you."
                                            ...Points at a full length mirror across the room...
"Now, when you look at that mirror, you are EXACTLY who you are. It's your true reflection. And that is how your Heavenly Father sees you. And if he's sees you the way that you are, and you are doing all that you can for him, you WON'T fail."


Dad would say a lot of profound statements without realizing it. Who would have thought that a decade later, that conversation would still stand out in my mind? A conversation that applied to a little 12 year old insecure girl in middle school, can also apply to 22 year old return missionary, trying to figure out her life? 

Life is unfigureoutable. 

For some reason, when I woke up this morning, this particular memory slipped into my mind. I've been thinking about it all day. 

I think Dad was trying to remind me something.

A question for you. Rhetorical, you don't have to answer. But think to yourself. Are you ready?

If you were given the opportunity to have just one minute to see yourself the way that Heavenly Father and the Savior sees you, to know everything that you were capable of, to see everything that you had the potential of achieving, everything you had the potential of becoming, would you do it? 

Just a thought for you as you go throughout your day making your daily choices. 

But, WHAT IF? 

What if, for just a moment, we could see ourselves the way the Savior did? What if, for just a moment, we were able to understand exactly why we have the trials that we have, and how it is molding us? What if, for just a moment, we could understand things clearly? What if, for just a moment, we could love ourselves the way Jesus Christ loves us? 
Would we do things differently?
Would we embrace the trials, knowing our strengths?
How would we treat others, if we truly understood our divine individual worth? 

The conversation has become a parable for me. And what I love about parables, is that it can always change. 

Today, it was a parable about us as children of God. How we have potential. We are beautiful. We just need the reminder.

In our imperfect natural man state, we view ourselves, as well as others, in a way that we probably shouldn't. We can't remember how we were before, and we don't know exactly what it will be in the future. We can always speculate, but we don't really KNOW. We only know the now. And now, times are hard. It's difficult. It's messy at times. It's not perfect. 

Which leads to feeling like we failed.

But, here's the cool thing. We have a father and a brother, who have been through it all. They remember it all. 

They remember YOU. They remember ME. 

They knew how noble we were before. They know how magnificent we can become later. They will help us with the now. 

This scripture came to me this morning when I was thinking about this. Alma 5:15:
"Do ye exercise faith in the redemption of him who created you? Do you LOOK FORWARD with an eye of faith, and VIEW this MORTAL body raised in IMMORTALITY, and this CORRUPTION raised in INCORRUPTION, to stand before God to be judged according to the deeds which have been done in the mortal body?"    

MODERN DAY TRANSLATION: Can you view your potential? Do you have faith that you can reach that potential? Not just here on earth, but I'm talking about in the eternities? In the grand spectrum of things?

I have no doubts that the Savior would have done what he did, regardless. He loves us that much. But if you dig a little deeper... I personally think that the Savior didn't just do it for us for this time. I think he did it because he was thinking about our potential. That potential of being with our families forever. That potential of living with him and the father again. 

That's what I'm looking forward to. What a great day that will be! 

Right now, our minds may not be clear. We may have a skewed perceptions of things. We don't see ourselves the way that we TRULY ARE. Like a fun house mirror.

But, the Savior was thinking of our perfect selves. Our perfect potential. He knows. He's sees clearly. 

That doesn't mean life will be easy. It's not suppose to be. That doesn't mean that we won't have our moments. That does mean that we, like Abraham, will be tried, where we will ask, "Why me? Why this? Why now, when I've done everything that you've asked of me?"

But, it does mean that it will all be worth it. Because in the eternal scheme of things, he knows what's better. And he knows what we are capable of. The puzzle come together.

"Look, sometimes things don't make sense in this life. They just don't. If you look at the events of your life from point A to point B and it's all birth to death, then most of it won't make sense. You won't understand the trials that you had, and you won't understand why you had to learn certain lessons. But if you look at it in the realms of eternity, it makes sense. Nothing is pointless." -Elder David A. Bednar 

Whenever I look in a mirror, I think of a conversation shared between a 12 year old insecure girl and a loving father. 

And I smile.   

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Load

I remember the night of the viewing. Hundreds of people were there. Maybe even a thousand at some points. The crowd was overwhelming. The condolences were slightly overbearing. I remember feeling so claustrophobic, wanting outside air to breathe. But there was no way out.

I left the gym.

I found a table where they were serving food in the room across the hall. My friends were there. The ones that I actually wanted to see. They were sitting there, waiting patiently, talking among themselves, smiling. They greeted me, although I could see that they were not really sure how they were suppose to. Smile? Frown? Grieve? What does she want?

I smiled as much as I could. I shared missionary stories. I tried to forget why I was there. Tried to treat it like a normal everyday church activity. Not as a funeral...

For a little while, things were a little normal. Like how things were before.

But, the crowd still found me. And I had to face the reality again. Why I was really there.

I remember 2 specific people came to me. A husband and wife, expecting their first baby. I've known them for years. Childhood friends. I wanted to talk about how they were excited about their baby. I focused it on them as much as I could. 

But you can only do that for so long. There was no pretense. Face it, Jense. You know they want to talk about you.

The husband asked me a a question, one that sort of caught me off guard. I've heard it all night, and really, I've heard it all week. But most of the time, it was a statement. An assumption. This time, it was a genuine curiosity. An inquiry. For once, someone wanted to know how I felt. How I did it. As a normal person, not some hero. 

"How do you do it? This? How are you being so strong?"
Like I said, caught me little off guard. Most people skipped the question, and assumed the answer. "You are so strong! You are so great! You are inspiring!" ... And I hated it. Not because of them, I know they were just trying to comfort me. But because, I didn't FEEL strong. I didn't FEEL inspirational. And people just ASSUMED like it was no big deal. Like I was some kind of hero. And I wasn't.

But here was someone who didn't assume. To me, it was a genuine question. "How are you being so strong?" 

"How are you being so strong?" 

I don't remember what I said. Probably something cheesy, or not really how I felt. Something that I could say to end the conversation, or make myself feel better, or give people the impression that I was fan-dandy. 

But, I've often reflected back to that night, and that question.

It's been about 6 or 7 weeks. And I'm still here. I'm still breathing. I'm still working. I'm still functioning.

"How are you being so strong?" 

There are days when I don't feel like I can breathe. Where I can't work. I can barely function. I will take literally one moment at a time. 

"How are you being so strong?"


I've pondered. 

I've realized the answer.

The answer is... it's not me. I'm not the one that's strong. 

The answer is the Savior. 

He once told us, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)

I used to be so confused about that scripture, but it became very clear one day. You know how when oxen are working together, with a yoke on their shoulders? Together, they can pull a handcart. The burden is lighter, because they are working together.

That is what the Savior is saying. He doesn't want me to do this by myself. Heck, I don't want to do this by myself!  It's so heavy... And the nice thing is, the Savior can pull ANY load. Big or small. Heavy or light. Physical or emotional. Temporal or spiritual. 

Last Sunday, at General Conference, Elder Bednar, an apostle of the Lord, said something so interesting. He said, "Sometimes, we mistakenly believe that happiness comes from the absence of a load." 

The way I saw it, is that if we want TRUE happiness, we need to know what it feels like to have a load. We need to have those moments. 

But the amazing thing is, we are not alone with our loads. Luckily for us, we have Christ, who have already had to carry that load by himself once. That's why he can stand next to us, carry it with us. And sometimes, we can even hand him the load for a little while. And he will take it. 

It's not always easy. There are moments where we feel that load. But we become stronger. We are able to bear more. He takes it when he needs to. He allows us the opportunity when we need to. 

And that is how we become stronger. 

There are days where I feel nothing but happiness. Nothing but peace. Serenity. Tranquility. There are days where I experience little bits of what heaven must feel like. Where I feel protected. Watched over.

"How are you being so strong?" 

It's because I'm not alone. 

I'm being carried.  

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

How to live

Mom and Dad and Keegs and Lemur left behind a lot of stuff. Trophies from basketball and football tournaments, home decor, a new kitchen aide that Dad just got Mom for Christmas, clothes, movies, cars, books...

Just lots of, now, pointless stuff. Sitting around, waiting to be held, worn, used, loved. Waiting to feel that sense of belonging. Years of memories, almost mocking me each time I enter my home, which, regardless of the fullness of it, is completely empty.

It's funny. When I went there today, I called out as a habit, "Hello! Anyone home?"


"oh..... right...."

As humans, we exist.

That's inevitable. Obvious. Clear. I hope that's not a surprise.

As humans, we naturally have a routine of some sort. Most of them may be something like this: wake up, get dress, eat, work, school, home, dinner, sleep. We do this all the time. We survive. We exist.

Existence is interesting, if you really think about it. We can all do it. Every single one of us. Easy enough. We can do what we need to survive. We can get the best job. Provide for ourselves and our families, as well as we very well should.  We can get the fanciest car, or the nicest clothes, lots of decor, and lots of... just stuff.


As humans, we should live.

LIVING, in my eyes, is NOT the same as EXISTING. It is to give something more. It is to give the world a bit of YOU. To MAKE YOUR MARK.

I was bored just now, so I decided to look up the word "live." Check this out.

                         LIVE: to continue in operation, existence, memory; to remain ALIVE.

Death can do interesting things. It opens your eyes a lot more at how you're living your life. It's been a little bit of time. I've been doing a lot of thinking about this. Don't ask me why. Just happens.

My parents and brothers LIVED their lives. They made every moment count. They told the people that they loved that, well, they loved them! They were there for their family. Family was always first. They served with all their might, mind, and strength, not only those around them, but also in their callings in the church. They shared the gospel with their friends. They invited.

They were prepared when they were called home...

(Now, I may be a little biased, but I think all 2,000+ people that attended their funeral would agree with me on that...)

Here's the interesting thing, though. They didn't take ANY of that pointless stuff. It was left behind. The only few things that they took with them were the following:

*Their memories
*Their service rendered
*Their developed character
*The knowledge that they learned, both temporally and spiritually
*Their testimonies of the gospel

... Am I prepared?? 

What am I doing now to prepare me for that time? Am I LIVING or am I just EXISTING? Do I tell the people that I love that I, well, love them? Do I serve? Do I put in all my time and effort to make a difference?

Well, maybe not to the FULLEST... not as much as I would like.

I think that when a trial happens, Heavenly Father understands that we are heartbroken. I think that when a trial happens, he understand that we will struggle. I think that when a trial happens, he's going to allow us to hurt and cry and question.

I also think that when a trial happens, Heavenly Father does NOT expect us to crumble completely. I don't think he wants us to shut up, shut down.

In fact, I have a firm testimony that he expects the opposite. He expects us to lift each other up. He expects us to look for the blessings, no matter how hard. He expects us to look at our lives just a little bit differently...

He wants us to live.

Life is all about the little daily things that makes us FEEL. It's not just about the happy times, it's also about the angry times. It's about the sad times. It's about the confusing times.

And we feel the most, when we LIVE.

So, here are some things I am going to do to live.

Take a picture of moments in your day. Laugh when something is funny. Tell someone that you love them. Tell someone when you're upset. Help someone. Serve someone. Go on an adventure! Dream big, and go for it! Shoot for the moon, because even if you don't land there, you will land in the stars! Develop your talents. Find something beautiful. Admire someone for their attributes. Be grateful for your own attributes. Allow someone into your life. Allow yourself to feel love. Allow yourself to love. Make a friend. Be a friend. Learn something new. Exercise. Admire the beautiful world that you live in. Testify of something that you know to be true. Teach something. Let your personality shine.

"Life isn't about seeking out who you are. It's about seeking out who you want to become." - Bill Parrish 

In the end, that's what it's all about.

Today is precious. Live it.