Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Life Giving Words

Something you should know about me is that I love God.

And just like a father watching his son or daughter during their first big basketball game would naturally feel inclined to shout words of encouragement and inspiration when they step up to the foul line, our Heavenly Father does the same for us. Heaven is not shut off from it's children.

His words are written in scripture, preserved and waiting to speak love and encouragement in our lives.

They are parables, laws, warnings, proverbs, fundamentals, wisdom, truths, and triumphs over opposition all meant to be life giving words.

Jesus said He was the living water because in Him you never thirst again. It's in Him you have satisfaction. The scriptures are words that aren't just meant to act as simple cultural idioms. Instead, point the way towards the savior and give evidence to a loving God full of glory and mercy for His children.

It's no shocker that the words we say to one another can uplift or tear down. The message we want to communicate with our lips can provide life giving words of encouragement or a crippling eradication of hope. But whether good or bad, our words ultimately flow from our hearts.

I thoroughly enjoy reading God's word and keeping a journal to write down all the things He's spoken into my mind and heart. Now I feel like it's time to compose them into blogs and express my feelings, grow myself and others, hopefully receive positive feedback, and edit pictures I've taken of fog and trees and place typography on it. 

Proverbs 12:18 speaks of words cutting like swords. We all know the English language with all of it's contradicting it's own rules and pronunciations is ridiculous. Probably a practical joke, never intended for actual use. But God equates swords to our words in the bible? Words with an "S"? Upon my discovery of this, it's now apparent the entire English language is actually crafted around spellings that encompass metaphors. 

Learning about the way people's words can transform a spirit was really powerful for me when I took the time to apply it to my life. Thinking back on all the words, actual specific sentences that have stuck in my mind since I was a kid and tore me down. I remembered who said it, where, why, and how my heart sunk. And the fact that I have ever had the power over someone to cast my swords into them isn't something I can ever remember doing...but I know I have. I know there are people that remember me, what I said, where, why and how much like a piece of crap I made them feel. It really transforms a person through studying their actions into a more humble and empathetic person. 

I wanted to write down in my journal a list of all of those other times though. Every time in my life someone simply wanted to pay me a sincere compliment. There are specific sentences that have stuck in my brain like glue. Jotting down a quick list of friendly encouragements and affirmations from friends and strangers creates a high!...also like glue.

I did this a few weeks ago and here are a few of them:
  • "You are the funniest person in the whole school!" 
  • "She's really lucky to have a friend like you."
  • "I remember your ward's skits from girls camp! You are so funny!" 
  • "You were a red blood cell for Halloween! I remember you! You're so funny!"
And then there are tons of lines that stuck out from when I was a camp counselor back during summer 2008. Which, for the record, is still the BEST. JOB. EVER.
  • "I wish you were my counselor!" 
  • "Are you coming back next year? Will you promise?"
  • "Then my girls were all like, 'You know Carah?!' and I'm all like. 'Pshh, she's like my best friend!'" (That's actually two adorable compliments in one!)

And I think I'll save the best ones for me.

Oh, but also any time someone I highly admire for their spirituality, brains, or insanely funny sense of humor notices little ol' me. Pretty much whenever Maren Costa talks to me.

I thought I had a pretty good list going when I pumped all these memories out without hesitating. And then February 3rd, 2013 came along and something pretty epic went down. It shifted my perspective so all those words were left in the dust.

I was in Provo visiting my friends and family and attended my home ward Sunday morning. (The Edgemont 9th ward, the greatest ward in the world, in my humble opinion.)

I hope by now you can tell I love the gospel of Jesus Christ. I love to dig into scripture, it's context, it's applications. It being fast Sunday, I decided to walk to the pulpit to bare my testimony. It in itself was a unique experience to stand in front of that sea of faces as that girl who was so precocious growing up. I didn't want to use that word just now but that's what my mom calls me. If there was one word to describe never sitting still, smart alec comments, irreverent behavior, and silliness that was little Carah!

If you can imagine how much I like to read and write about the gospel, I like to talk about it even more. I like to speak very intentionally. Very concise and get right to the heart of it all. I personally just believe it's a disservice to give a thank-amony when *guuuulp deep breath* there is an omnipotent God who gave us His beloved son and affords us the opportunity to stop carrying our sins and burdens but place them on a miraculous and spotless Savior who was crucified on my behalf but arose from the dead as the resurrected Christ and serves as the beacon for all humanity.

I said a lot more. And took more breaths. But that's the gist of it.

After I finished my remarks and walked back down it was like there was an energy shift in the room....whoa. I was also sitting in the front row by the priests. The second the meeting was over, before I even had time to look up, my bishop hurried down the stairs, wrapped his arms around me and gave me a giant hug.

Bishop Rick Svendsen (Bishop-Rick as he's affectionately called) has already been one of my favorite people on planet earth for quite a while. He never ever smiles in pictures, has a dry sarcastic wit, and is known and loved as the only bishop who will endearingly walk by you and push you down until you hit the floor. He's just that cool. Oh, and he's also a spiritual rock and an awesome hard working bishop. Bishop Rick's words of encouragement, it's pretty safe to say, mean a lot to me.

It can be tough to know if I'm on the right track, if all my studying has affected, not only my countenance, but resonated with other people.

After Bishop Rick released his tight embrace he looked at me and said some new life giving words. Simply put, with tears in his eyes he said,

"Carah, that was the best testimony I have ever heard."

Okay, okay, okay....whoa.

Like I stated above, there are a lot of times people have encouraged, affirmed, or validated me. But it's easy to take a compliment and keep on truckin'...but when it's a testimony it's something different. I am so humbled by the kind words spoken to me after I bore my testimony. But it's not about me. It's about Him. That's the coolest part.

Speaking in front of hundreds of people your most sacred and personal beliefs isn't something we do. Our body, mind, and spirit were created to recognize and give glory to God. Me in my wickedness, impatience, and worldly desires can't possibly deliver a message from God without being made whole in Christ first and being fed through the Holy Ghost. When we try to, not only speak on behalf of Jesus without the Holy Ghost, but work our way back into the arms of our Father without the Holy Ghost, we'll be left exhausted. Because the truth is, God cares more about authenticity than much else. My testimony was already written on my heart long before the spirit gave me the words and courage to speak it.

"Following the spirit" shouldn't be just a nice idea, an ethereal take away from scripture. It needs to have literal illustrations. What can you say "By the power of the Holy Ghost I was able to...." Forgive? Endure? Finish reading this forever long blog post?  Power through, champ!

"By the power of the Holy Ghost I was able to express my testimony and touch people's hearts."

But that's mine. Dibs.

Just like our words have the power to build up or tear down the people around us, the way we see God's words do as well.

"You are forgiven." Ephesians 1. "You have been set free." John 8. "I love you with an everlasting love." Jeremiah 31.

These are the life giving words God makes readily available when we let Him speak into our hearts through scripture study and confirmation of truth from the Holy Ghost.

But too often God's message of love for His children is lost in translation. Sometimes people feel burned and rejected by religious leaders. It happened with the Pharisees and it happens now. For anyone who believes it's time to give up, your marriage is too broken, your sin is too bad, you're too young, too old, too poor, too late, too guilty....those words were never spoken by God. 

"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." Cut out all the noise, and those are the words God wants us to hear. It sounds like an open invitation. "If anyone"...sounds like anyone. In fact, God not only wants us to hear His word. He loved his children, the ones who ever lived or ever will live on earth, enough to hold back the powers of Heaven for His only begotten son to be sent to die in our place. This, all for the chance we would comprehend our worth in His eyes and accept His son as our savior. A path was forged, the debt was paid, all for us to return to our Father's arms where He can hear our words from our lips but this time it will be in His Heavenly embraces. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The In Between

Hi blog, it's been a while. You look good. I really like what you've done with yourself.

It's been one year since I've had anything to say on my blog. I really like writing but I pretty much keep it to myself. But now that I've been let go from two nanny jobs since July, I'm one TV marathon away from cat adoption so I realized...it's time.

I was suddenly let go from my 50 hour a week nanny job with a 14 month-old named Benny when his parents got off a daycare wait-list last week. A job I've only had since July when the Horn family with their hilarious troop of boys and insanely adorable baby Lola also quite suddenly moved down to Orange County. That's two families gone in 7 months. While I've been pretty blindsided, I get that feeling that God is preparing me. Something's coming. Pocahontas always does a better job expressing my feelings.

Measles are coming. Sorry, girl. 

Whether good or bad outcomes, it's the time we spend in between where we are and where we want to be that God works on us. Between the seemingly big events. When it appears quiet, He's still at work.

Between telling Abraham he'd have a son and making good on His promise was 40 years of refinement and substantiation. Joseph being thrown in prison for 13 years before his dream of his brothers kneeling before him manifested as he saved nations from famine and collapse.

The Israelites weren't led on the direct root to the promised land. God could have if he wanted to.

And the time between you reading this and me confirming that I have indeed been studying the Old Testament, maybe a lot, has only made you more keenly perceptive.

I think that's where God does his work. In the in between places.

In between dating and marriage. Marriage and childbirth. Job loss and new employment.

Stopping blogging and starting blogging. I can assure you, a lot of work has been done on this lil lady behind the keyboard in the past year.

Our primary purpose during a journey is to get it over with. But God is more concerned with who we're becoming, than where we're going.

Just like the Israelites needed time to be refined wandering in the desert or else they wouldn't have been sanctified properly to understand and receive God's promised land. But God has a way of preparing us now for what will be required later.

If it were up to me, I would have been married at eighteen and had hundred babies by now. All this wandering sure seems pointless in the moment, but every time I see a pregnancy test appear negative and get ready to groan I remember back to the years I thought I was so ready to be a mom.

I was a baby. Just a wee little girl mad because her dad wouldn't take off her training wheels. But as years go on I see the places I'm meant to be, the people I'm meant to help, and the lessons and foundation I'm going to need to raise those hundred babes. And not just raised well by society's standards, but by God's standards.

It's too easy to wander in the space between and lose sight of who we're meant to be. Too busy waiting for things to get better. "If only I had this, then I'd be set." "I just know if it were this way I'd never need anything again!" Being too fixated looking for deliverance when deliverance already came 2,000 years ago. He should be our rock.

I fall into the trap. It's easy to complain that things aren't the way I want them and fail to see the God who is holding up the walls of the Red Sea because I'm looking down at my toes touching the mud.

This week one of the ways I've seen God work on me while I'm in this "in between" stage is through humbling my spirit and giving me a heart for service. Yesterday I had a fulfilling day helping a woman I go to church with.

While I know this is a totally obscure reference...my head kept singing one line from Legally Blonde: The Musical.

No, not that song.  But good. It fits.

Actually it was the scene where Elle first uses her new lawyerly skills to help her friend Paulette successfully recover her beloved dog from her common-law husband's trailer.

This one...

But instead I feel like, "Service! Is this the point of service! I'm feeling kind of high!..." I think God has grown my heart a lot this year towards following Jesus Christ. Convicting me to say yes to Jesus and no to myself over and over.

God knows who is in need of help and knows whose name to place on my mind. Who is looking for help. He provides me with the time to accomplish things I wouldn't otherwise have been able to do if I were still working that 50 hours a week.

Being let go leaves a person pretty blindsided. But learning how to be used by God is more important to Him than the state of my bank account right now. It is the authenticity of my heart to choose Him over any comfort zones He is tapping into. So, no worries because it's been the "in between being single and being a mother" stage that He taught me how to be a great nanny which allows me to have full assurance....