I'm re-taking over my blog
I've had a few requests to receive copies of my homecoming talk, so i'm doing the most logical thing to do which is to post it here on this blog, in correspondence with homecoming pictures of course.
I still think everything is surreal and i feel like a lizard its so dry out here in utah.
But boy, is it good to be home.
I cant thank God enough for the time i was given to spend in Virginia,
for the many, many people who blessed and influenced my life,
and for all the love and support i've been given the past eighteen months.
I'm incredibly blessed.
How do you summarize eighteen months into a fifteen minute talk?
I am so grateful for the lords hand in my life. I'm grateful that God has kept a watchful eye on me my entire life, and has led me, day by day, where he needs me to go. I've been fortunate to have some of the most wise and dedicated people teach and inspire me throughout my life. I'm grateful that the lord has led them and inspired them so they could teach me. The lord works in miraculous ways and I'm grateful for it. That he speaks to each of us individually and according to our own understanding, so that we may ALL come closer to him and partake of the greatest gift that he has to offer.
Two years ago I submitted my papers to serve a full time mission. In August 2013 I got my mission call to serve in the Washington DC South Mission under the direction of President Matthew Riggs. I had just graduated high school and had never planned on serving a mission, but throughout the course of events came to the conclusion that serving a mission is what the lord needed me to be doing at that time in my life.
This was a shock to just about everyone I knew, even myself! I didn't feel prepared or adequate or ready to leave home and teach the gospel for eighteen months. I clung to a quote I found at the end of my senior year that said "when we're in the service of the lord be blesses us and multiplies our efforts. And we receive so much more than what we gave!" Instantly this became my source of comfort every time I questioned whether or not I could really do this whole missionary thing. I continually reminded myself that this wasn't my work, it was the lords. And if it's what he needed me to do I would do it.
This is a lesson that I learned time and time again on my mission. That the lord extends invitations to us to act. And sometimes those invitations are daunting or impossible tasks. But when the lord extends an invitation to us, we should always come running. In other words when we're asked to do something, when God gives us a commandment, or when we feel impressed by the spirit we should act. And act immediately. Don't wait around. Because he will use us as a tool in his hands to bless the lives of others, and make us so much more than what we can imagine.
One of my favorite stories in the New Testament is the story of PETER. In my viewpoint we can learn so much from Peter and his story, especially about accepting invitations from the lord. Like many of us here in this room, Peter was just a normal guy! He lived a simple life as a fisherman for a long while, until the lord extended an invitation to act. He asked Peter to "leave behind your nets, and follow me." (Matt 4:19)
We can each sympathize with Peter as we take an look at the grand perspective of our own lives. How many times has the lord asked you to leave behind your nets and followed him? You may not have literal fishing nets, but maybe a job, a career path, schooling, bad habits, fun hobbies, old friends. Have you ever had to make the choice to leave your old life behind to follow the lord? I know I have. Leaving home for two years and serving a mission is just one example of leaving "nets" behind. What nets do you have right now that you need to leave behind to follow Christ?
The cool thing about Peter, the thing I admire most about this story of Peter, is he wanted what the lord had to offer more than he wanted the things that held him back, even though fishing seemed to be a huge part of his life, not to mention his choice of career! Even though he may have felt inadequate or unprepared, the lord called him, and he followed. Leaving everything behind. He understood the idea that "when we're in the service of the lord be blesses us and multiplies our efforts. And we receive so much more than what we gave!"
Throughout peters journey he wasn't perfect, in fact he wasn't expected to be. But as he was invited continually by the lord, he acted. And he didn't act grudgingly but he learned that when the lord invites us, we should come running.
Recently I was serving in Fort Belvoir. Fort belvoir is an army base located near Alexandria and lorton Virginia. In about mid February my companion knocked on the door of a man named Josh Sims. A few months previous to this date, Josh had been living outside of Fresno California. He had also been an alcoholic for the past fifteen years of his life. He didn't grow up in an ideal home and struggled his entire life with making poor decisions. Josh later told us that he was living in such an awful state of mind at that time, that he often questioned whether he should just take his own life because what was there to live for? He was nearly thirty years old and was ultimately going no where with his goals and ambitions in life.
Fortunately his older brother Chris who was in the military in Virginia called him up and begged Josh to just come live with them for a little while. Just to get away for a bit. Josh figured he had not much to lose. So he packed up what he had in his golden oldsmobile and began to drive across the United States, drunk, might I add. The first night he stayed at an old run down motel in Arizona. He woke up the next morning to pack up and leave for another long and lonely day of driving solo across the desert. As he opened his motel room door he had a distinct thought to turn around and to pray. His immediate reaction was "but I haven't prayed in years!" The thought came to him again to turn around, kneel down and pray. This was a completely foreign idea he hadn't prayed in who knows how long. But again he had nothing to lose. So he decided to accept this invitation and act.
Josh knelt down at the bedside of an old motel room and prayed a simple, humble prayer to whatever God was out there. And immediately he felt as if there was a warm presence there in he room with him. Somehow he felt as if somebody was in the room with him, somebody who loves him. And he wasn't alone. He couldn't even describe the feelings he had. And from that moment he decided he was going to follow wherever God led him,mhe was going act and he was going to change.
He continued driving across the states and arrived in lorton Virginia. Josh began going to daily Alcoholics Anonymous meetings to get sober. IT WAS HARD. but he trusted that this was where God wanted him to be. One day in February as he was reading the third step in the aa program he read the title "Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to God as we understand him" unfortunately Josh didn't completely understand God, or this higher power that was directing him and guiding him. But miraculously enough, at three in the afternoon on a weekday, two sister missionaries knocked on his door. He set up a return appointment to meet with them at great harvest bread and learn more about God. Another invitation accepted
It didn't take him long to understand that same feeling he felt in the motel room that day was the Holy Spirit, that God wanted to help us and to guide us. Quickly Josh gained a profound testimony of the gospel as he acted upon commitments that we extended to him to help him change and learn and grow. As he read from the Book of Mormon he found answers to questions he had always had, and developed a greater understanding of the savior and his sacrifice for us.
When he accepted the invitation to attend church he received revelation perfectly fitted to him and his questions. When he accepted the invitation to keep the sabbath day holy, he was offered the job that he had been trying to get for months despite setbacks with licensing. When he didn't accept the invitation to quit chewing tobacco he ended up in the hospital! But he accepted the invitation to have a priesthood blessing according to his faith and was out in no time at all.
He gained a testimony of the Book of Mormon, of a modern day prophet, of priesthood authority. He learned to overcome addictions and to receive revelation from God. All through acting on invitations extended.
We saw miracles, both temporally and spiritually as Josh came running to follow invitations from the lord.. I think most importantly he learned to overcome his past. He learned about Christs atonement and his infinite grace which can free us from past guild and shame and enable us to change and become something more.
Not only did accepting these invitations effect Josh but the lord used him as a tool to teach others. Josh's brother and family saw the changes in him daily and were shocked. I remember his sister in law telling us "when Josh came to Virginia we told him he needed to make some good friends. We had no idea he would make friends with a bunch of Mormons!" He was able to be a part of his children's lives and to work towards becoming a strong leader, friend, brothers ether and advocate of Jesus Christ.
Josh was baptized on APRIL twenty fifth. Even though there were trials and setbacks and anxiety and stress somehow God opened doors for him every step of the way. I remember the day after his baptism seeing him at church all dressed up and ready to go. To worship. He was a completely different person. He was a changed person. His entire conversion story reminded me of the same lesson that I have repeatedly learned over the past two years. When Christ extends an navigation, come running.
Come running. The lord makes it possible to leave behind old nets like Peter and like Josh. And to receive all that he has in store for us.
What invitations has the lord extended to you recently?
I've learned that were constantly being invited to act. Whether it's by our leaders or the spirit or the scriptures. By coming to church. We're constantly learning and constantly being invited. The question is are we acting? Are we applying? Are we living the way God intends us to live?
My mission president always told us "When obedience ceases to become an irritant and becomes a quest that's when God endows us with power from on high." And how accurate that is!
God doesn't need our money or worldly sacrifices, he needs our hearts. That is why he asks us to do so much. That is why we're commanded to follow him, to give, to sacrifice, to leave things behind. Because God needs our hearts. And when we are obedient to him, and devote our whole heart to God, we are blessed immeasurably.
Like peters story we should come running when extended an invitation to act. We should leave behind our nets and follow him.
Like Josh. He didn't know the road ahead of him, he had no idea! But the lord extended an invitation to act. He felt prompted and led from moment to moment until he finally found what the lord had in store for him. Now he's an entirely different person. He's happy, he's following gods law. He feels comfort and at peace. The lord bless us us and makes us more when we act.
When I received my mission call I was petrified. I did not feel qualified or able! It was not in my plans to serve a mission. But the lord invited me, and I acted. I can't begin to recount the blessings and even miracles I witnessed. I can't begin to credit the person I've become and the things I've learned, to the many instances and people I met or was a part of while in Virginia. The lord he blesses us and makes us more when we act. I've learned this over and over again. And it has changed my perspective on life and what is most important.
D Todd christofferson once said "Our God is a God of high expectations. We can meet those high expectations." We have been blessed with the gift of the spirit to invite us to act always
We have also been blessed with the grace of Jesus Christ to enable us to act without fear!
I often wonder to myself why I was so blessed to have these gifts. Why I was given so much. We each have a great responsibility to share. We each have a great responsibility to act. To serve. To live as an example. To act to invite to inspire.
When we come running at opportunities the lord gives us to act we change lives
We move mountains.
We become something more.
Each of us is on our own spiritual journey. Everyone one of us, gods children.
The goal now is to everything in our power to make it possible for each one of gods children to make their journey home. I learned quickly that Josh and I were on very different journeys, or routes of s journey. But both of us were simply trying to get home.
We all are.
We're all on the same path home.
When we see this we will understand why it's so important to act.
When extended an invitation to come running,
To help and lift another
To carry one more person home.
One more Peter story before I end. In the New Testament there is a story where the lord invites Peter to act, by walking on water. Peter, a simple fisherman, walking on water. And he does. Peter gets out of the boat in a wind tossed ocean and he begins to stand on water. But he began to doubt, after all he was just a simple guy like you and me. And he began to sink. A favorite quote of mine from a book written by David butler references this story by saying,
"Do you know what it is to doubt?
Have you ever felt afraid?
Unequal to the task, inexperienced, not good enough
Destined to fail?
Are you familiar with the great storms of life?
Have you ever approached the lord soaking wet and wind Blown?
In the sinking moments of life have you ever wondered if you might drown?
Have you ever cried out
Lord, save me?
In those sinking moments of life you must remember what happened to Peter
Immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand and caught him.
Where was the lord?
He was within reach.
Not on the shore shouting instructions
Or in the safety of the boat.
He was in the water, with Peter
Reminding him not to doubt."
"Don't let your doubt keep you from reaching your potential
When the lord extends an invitation to act he will not lead you into a situation that will destroy you. He will reach your reaching, he will make sure you don't drown, as the storm rages around you he will speak of little faith and remind you not to doubt. He will whisper words of confidence. Trust me. Focus on me. And then he will calm the wind."
The lord carries us
Because of the infinite grace of our savior Jesus Christ we can overcome anything. We can change. We can start over. We can reach our potential when our eyes are fixed on our lord and savior, Jesus Christ. He is there. He's been through it all. He gets it. He understands.
Peter wouldn't have become the influence and advocate he was if it wasn't for accepting invitations of the lord.
Josh wouldn't have changed his life around and become the man he wanted to be if it wasn't for the grace of our lord.
I have truly felt and experienced Christs mercy and grace as he has carried me not only throughout my mission but my entire life. We are a blessed people. We have been given so much. Jesus Christ is always standing, beckoning, calling, us to accept invitations to act to change and to become.
Our goal now is to recognize him.
To follow him.
And to carry each other home.
The lord tells us in first nephi..
"...they may forget, yet will I not forget thee,
Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands;
thy walls are continually before me."
I've had an incredible past eighteen months. And the definition of incredible to me is not butterflies and rainbows, it's not perfect serenity, or 24/hour happiness and smiles and pure joy....
But as is life.
In fact the websters dicrionary definition is..
Incredible; impossible to believe.
To me It's impossible to believe that so many trials and so called failures and drops and hard work and sweat and tears could bring such lasting joy and peace and miracles and relief and friendship and love throughout my mission.
It's also impossible to believe a wild 19 year old high school kid just spent a year and a half preaching the gospel of Christ in a skirt, practice teaching gospel principles to another woman everyday.
It's impossible to believe that a fourteen year old boy saw God the father and Jesus Christ after praying for divine help and guidance.
It's impossible to believe that the son of God felt every pain hurt and sorrow we feel today and died for us. It's i possible to believe that that same man rose again to redeem us from being forever cut off from the presence of our God.
It's impossible to believe that these kinds of events could completely turn my life around and change me into a different being.
It's impossible to believe it.
Which is why I say it's incredible.
Because it's real.
And I've seen it.
And I know it's true.
I am beyond grateful for my savior.
For the one who walks with me
The one who never forgets
I'm grateful for a Father in Heaven
who makes all things possible.