Sheep & Seas: A Lesson in Abundance

One of my goals this week was to get to bed at a decent hour (the mortal struggle of a chronic night owl with good intentions). It’s now midnight in Connecticut.* But I’m wide awake, and for good reason.

Whoever said the Spirit goes to bed at midnight, I beg to differ tonight.

(But if this is how it feels when He goes to bed, holy cow, I can’t wait til He wakes up in the morning.)

I was studying tonight in John 10 – the chapter where Christ discusses being the Good Shepherd with His disciples. I had been pointed in that direction by a Campfire Devotional email by Rend Collective (I love when I get Jesus emails in my inbox) that referenced John 10:10. The tagline of the email was “God loves us too deeply to smother us with safety.”

Wait.

What?

God loves us too deeply to smother us with safety.

I thought, you know, that’s a pretty mind-blowing idea.

God loves me enough to push me into rough waters, because that’s where you learn to sail properly. Sailing in calm waters is a breeze (midnight Meg has puns for days), but it’s in the middle of a storm, with thunder ringing in your ears and lightning leaving you blinded, salt water soaking your skin and darkness looming overhead that you learn not only who you are, but who He is.

And isn’t that what life’s about – learning who we are and who our Father is? Sailing through those rough waters straight on home to Him?

Back to John 10. Jesus has gathered His disciples around for what I imagine to be a bit of a fireside devotional just for them. Maybe they’re hunkering down for a lesson heavy in doctrine, a bit of fire and brimstone to warm them to repentance. Maybe they were just anticipating a bit of a Q&A with the Master. Who knows what they were anticipating?

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But Christ starts talking about shepherds and thieves. He tells them that those who enter by the gate are to be trusted, those who enter any other way are thieves and robbers, intent on harming the flock. Pretty straightforward. Sheep, He reminds those listening, follow the voice that they know, the voice of their shepherd, the one who guards the door and fends off the wolves and thieves.

The disciples are wondering why in the world He was telling them about the shepherding industry – they were a bunch of fishermen, lawyers, and a physician. What need had they to learn about sheepfolds and shepherds?

Thankfully, Christ is patient and willing to explain.

He is the Shepherd who gave His life for us – as a sacrifice to Heavenly Father in our behalf, and as a gift to us. He declared, “I am the Good Shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).

He never said that the thieves and robbers wouldn’t come, but that the sheep that knew Him would not listen to those ill-intented strangers. That rather than any sheep be carried off, that the Shepherd would give His life in exchange. But he wasn’t about to mollycoddle His sheep – they wouldn’t grow and learn that way, if they were kept in a pen all the time. They’d go out into the countryside to graze and to ramble, with the promise that He’d be there when danger came.

He never said that it would be easy, but promised that He would be there. He never said that there would be no trial, no temptation. But He did say that His yoke was wide and His burden light (note that there’s still a burden to be carried). He said that He’d walk with us. He said He would speak so that we could hear His voice if we listened.

That gave me pause.

Do I know the voice of Christ well enough to hear Him amongst the voices of robbers and thieves? Do I hear the whisper of the Holy Ghost above the hum of society, the call of temptation, and the shouts meant to tear me down? Do I hear Him say “I love you” and “come, follow me” above the storm?

It’s easy to hear Him in the quiet, but can I hear Him when the winds howl and the waves rage?

I’ll be honest, I’ve work to do and a lot to learn.

Good thing that Christ is the Master teacher.

Christ, as he continues teaching, reminds His disciples that “the thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy; but I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

Abundantly.

Life abundant.

Christ meant that He gave His life for us that we could live a life filled with joy and hope and light. So that we could repent and be cleansed. So that when we face trials, we never face them alone. So that when we are in the middle of that raging sea, we know exactly who our Captain is, who is at the helm, who is our Navigator.

It’s not about living a life that’s easy, it’s about living a life that’s full.

Full of experience, full of joy, full of learning, full of love, full of discipleship. But that also means that it’s full of pain and sorrow, full of mistakes, full of questions.

Those hard times are where we find out what we’re made of and exactly who made us.  It’s when we turn inward and reach upward to find that we are stronger than we thought, that our capacity is beyond our wildest dreams, and that we have purpose.

Abundant purpose.

And what’s incredible and amazing and awe-inspiring is that all of it, all the good and the bad, all the sweet and the sorrowful, all the pain and all the joy, it’s what propels us to our home port. It’s that abundance – every aspect and experience of it – that drives the wind into our sails, and it’s where we learn to become like Jesus Christ, where we learn to hear His voice above the roar of the seas. He’s not just some distant lighthouse that guides us, He’s the Captain that places His arm firmly about our shoulders as we man the wheel through waters of abundance.

Abundance is opening our eyes to see that the blessings we’ve been given far outweigh and outshine the trials that we might find in our path. Abundance is the heart-expanding gratitude that makes place for even more blessings. Abundance is the understanding that even though life isn’t perfect, someday we will be perfected. It is that stillness in the morning, that sound of jubilee and rejoicing in the evening, that tiredness that reaches into your bones that comes from a day full of seeing the hand of God. It is that energy and joy that flows into your soul because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the power that scrubs you clean and wraps you in the warmth of love and mercy.

It’s not stuff or things or worldly possessions.

It’s a state of being.

It’s about more than the seas or the sheep, it’s about the love of God running through our veins, about understanding who we are and who we’re meant to be. It’s about recognizing ourselves in the looking glass of eternity and knowing that life is precious and, as hard and gritty as it can be, that it’s beautiful and wonderful.

It’s about embracing all  of it, the fullness of it, and knowing that we’re better for it.

 

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*this post was written at midnight, but for the sake of people who read it, I waited to post it after a grueling editing session this afternoon. You’re welcome! I wouldn’t subject you to the poor grammar of Midnight Meg. xoxo

Dear America: 15 Years Later

Dear America,

It’s been 15 years to the day since your heart was broken. You’ve had plenty of heartache since that morning. The world has never felt steady since that day, no “normal” has been reestablished. A lot of hard, unfathomable things have come from that day, but a lot of good has come, too.

I was eight years old that day, a week from turning nine. I was anticipating going camping with my dad for my birthday up at Cowan’s Gap. I was in the fourth grade. My days were spent immersed in Little House on the Prairie, youth soccer, Lisa Frank school supplies, and a lot of boy bands who looked identical to each other. My childhood was what many would consider idyllic, tucked away in a small Pennsylvania town, attending a top-notch county school, exploring orchards and fisheries, attending a little church with a big red door on Sundays.

I was home from school that day, when the planes hit. I remember it distinctly, every moment clear as day. I was upstairs watching a kid’s show when I heard my nana gasp and turn the volume up. By the time I went downstairs, I was just in time to see the second plane hit.

It was that day that I understood that humans could do bad things to one another. That horrible things could happen to good people. That the unthinkable could occur. That strangers could hate one another without even knowing each other’s names.

I remember the footage of smoke billowing from the towers, the plumes of ash as concrete and steel collapsed on itself. The hysterical voices. The shell-shocked reporters. The sounds of sirens so loud on the television that it felt as if they were at your door. People being pulled from the wreckage. First responders carefully picking their way through the rubble. Men and women with a lost look in their eyes and their mouths set in a firm, grim line.

But paired with that, I remember flags.

Hundreds of flags.

Overnight, it seemed that every home and storefront became a place for Old Glory to rest. America, that is how I think of you.

Stillness. The silence of a head bowed not in defeat, but in prayer. And above that, the snap of a flag and the clink of hardware on a metal pole as it waves in the wind. And then the sound of hundreds of voices, thousands of faces, millions of hearts filled with compassion. America and her comrades rising from ashes, wounded and hurt and dizzy with shock, but alive. Heart pumping, blood flowing, alive.

There was anger. There was hate.

But if you looked, America, you saw infinite compassion. We clung to each other, reached for a hand. Men and women stepped up to the plate, heroes were forged that day in a hundred different ways.

Many wore uniforms and answered the calls.

Some were ‘regular people’ who became extraordinary.

Bravery conquered fear.

Compassion trumped hatred.

Walls were broken, bridges were built.

Hands were clasped.

We lost many. The world lost many beautiful souls that day in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington. 15 years later, we still mourn them. We will always mourn them. Their names are engraved in stone, immortalized in light.

But we will live on for them, too. Because 15 years, America, and we still remember. We still a jolted back to the memories of that day. We do not say, “remember when?” Instead, we say “where were you?” because we do remember.

My youngest sister never knew America before that day.

But I remember it.

My childhood is split: before September 11, 2001 and after. Before the military jets flying low over our house and after. It is never too far from my mind or heart. The memory startles me to wakefulness, and all of a sudden I am eight years old again, staring at a television screen, searching for answers to questions I had not asked.

We cannot turn back the clock. We can’t change what happened. But we rose from the dust, clinging to the memories of those we lost. We pulled each other up, imperfectly. We are trying yet to rebuild, to recenter, even 15 years on. Five thousand, four hundred, and seventy-seven days later, we are America, stronger, more resilient, more aware.

Dear America, the day the country veiled itself in red, white, and blue was the day that I realized that people were capable of great evil, but also of even greater good. That my neighbors extended far beyond those men and women who lived beside us on Catherine Street, that blood bound us together into a great web of humanity, where life was precious beyond compare and that forgiveness is a daily effort.

Dear America, 15 years later, today is still hard. The heartache of reflection is painful. But we rose. We united. Our brethren across the seas and at our borders stood with us. We hugged our loved ones tighter, we worked a little harder, we stood a little taller. Tears were shed, but shoulders were broadened and arms were linked.

Dear America, we are imperfect, but beneath your banner we still stand, remembering.We stand as your heart, memories enshrined in our own.

15 years, and we still remember.

Love,

A Peculiar Girl

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Belief: Faith on Fire

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a believer recently, to be a person of faith, and what it entails. At first, I got caught up in the semantics of the differences between ‘knowing’ and ‘believing.’ I looked up dozens of definitions for both the words, comparing them side by side and in context as an English major does. I wrote the beginnings to half a dozen blog posts. I scrawled in three different notebooks as I tried to organize my thoughts. I sat in silence, cross-legged on my bed with a slice of pie (made with the last blueberries of the season and not be taken for granted) staring at my computer, trying to string the words together in a way that would express the thoughts of my heart.

In current Christian culture, we tend to use the word ‘know’ as we testify of Christ. It’s a stronger word semantically, and when you take into account the social connotations of the word, it is authoritative and strong. It rings with assurance and gives you the feeling that it can withstand any scrutiny thrown at it.

I hear people in meetings and in homes say “I know” as they talk about the Gospel, and it brings this timbre to their voice, and you get the feeling that their knowing goes deep into their bones as they talk of truths that have been witnessed to them. There is no question, no doubt in their bright eyes. Some lean forward, as if by that simple movement they can impress upon you the depth of their knowing and share it with you. Others clasp their hands together or grip the pulpit to steady themselves as they try to contain their emotions. It’s all at once wonderful, admirable, beautiful, and inspiring.

But the word believe.

That is the word of testimony that strikes a chord in my heart. I love it.

It starts small, a whisper. A match struck in the darkness that sputters and flares, gaining strength in night.

Believe.

Given the right fuel, it sparks and catches, growing into a roar as it chases the darkness away, sparks spiraling upward into the sky as it cracks and rumbles.

I’ve built my little camp around those “I believe” flames of faith. Sometimes the doubt creeps in when I’m not mindful, and I have to rush to add more fuel, to carefully tend the flames of belief. At times I must step out into the darkness with my questions to find that wood to build it up. Sometimes the process to stoke the sparks back into a blaze is longer than others. A few times, I’ve had to re-light it entirely, gathering the glowing embers and rebuilding the bonfire back up.

My faith isn’t perfect. I battle doubts on a regular basis. I’m still growing as a child of God and have a long way to go in terms of my journey of faith. What I don’t know at times tends to tower over what I do know. Sometimes I honestly have a hard time even saying “I know.” And that’s really hard for me to admit. I’ve felt like a lesser disciple on more than one occasion over the years for my inability at times to say “I know.”

But I’ve learned that “I believe” is just as powerful a testimony as “I know.”

As I’ve pondered belief these past several weeks, I’ve felt the words of the Savior fill my mind and heart concerning belief. I think of people who were not just converts, but devoted disciples of Jesus Christ – kingdom builders who took that little spark of belief and built it into a blazing and undeniable fire of sacrifice, devotion, love, and faith.

I think first of Thomas. There is a special place in my heart for him. He was surrounded by men with mighty names – Peter the Rock, James and John the Sons of Thunder, John the Beloved. But what have we come to call Thomas?

Doubting Thomas.

Not exactly a title that inspires the confidence of men, is it?

But of all the apostles, he is the one I identify with the most. (In kindom come, we’ll have to sit down to supper and have a nice long chat, Thomas and I)

He was a man who was so filled with the fire of the Gospel and of discipleship that when Christ was preparing to enter a hostile land, he rallied his brethren by saying “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16).

That we may die with him.

Yet we define him by the one doubt he had voiced after Christ’s resurrection. The words he uttered after receiving his witness of the resurrected Messiah?

“My Lord and my God.”

Those five words swell with testimony and faith.

However, I find it hard to swallow that Thomas never again doubted after that personal invitation from the Master to believe more fully because he wasn’t perfect.

But I do imagine he built that campfire of his own up so high that he burned brightly for all to see as he ministered to all who came within the circle of its light. What doubts he may have faced after Christ’s departure were pushed back by the flames of faith. He was a believer who ventured to ask question after question during Christ’s mortal ministry and used those answers he found to become a more consecrated disciple.

I think, too, of the man who came to Christ seeking a blessing of healing for his only child. I imagine the compassion with which Jesus must have replied, saying, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.”

Believe. Not ‘know’ or ‘all things are possible to him without doubt.’

The words the father cried next are written on my heart. “Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief.” (Mark 9:14-24)

Not “lack of knowledge,” but unbelief.

Christ didn’t expect his belief to be perfect – He knew that tired father sought a more perfect faith. A progressing faith. A faith that still had room to grow in a heart willing to learn. And Christ still promised him that all things were possible for a man that believed. The prophet Alma taught that even the desire to believe holds great power. Believers, regardless of where they are at in their journey, are destined to witness miracles.

Belief is about asking Jesus Christ to be not only our Author, but the Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), to help us overcome our doubts and our inhibitions, our fears and our weaknesses. To help us amplify our little acts of faithfulness. To help us to be a little better, to burn a little brighter.

Belief is about taking a leap of faith, about looking into the darkness and gathering strength to face it. It’s not so much trusting the Lord when it’s light as it is trusting Him when the darkness looms, when fear laps at your feet like waves at high tide. Charles Spurgeon, a British preacher in the 1800s, said it better than I could: “To trust in God in the light is nothing, but to trust Him in the dark – that is faith.” It’s not about a lack of fear, it’s about becoming brave with His help.

But let’s be honest.

Being a believer is hard.

Especially in a world that is growing more secular by the day, and where openly professing to believe in a higher power (regardless of religion or denomination) is becoming less accepted. It is seen as a sign of weakness. But we’re given this incredible opportunity to follow the counsel of the Savior and let our lights “so shine before men that they may see” (Matthew 5:16) and to be an example to the believers (1 Timothy 4:12). When we rely on Him, we burn brighter and more steadily.

I think of the pillar of fire that led Moses and the Israelites through the wilderness after their exodus (Exodus 13:21-22) and the promise in Isaiah that “the Lord will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defence. And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain” (Isaiah 4:5-6).

If God our Father and Jesus our Brother are to be our examples in everything, is this not what we aspire to be? A shining fire of belief, even in the dark of the night? A refuge in the storm?

We often forget that we build fires against darkness, but that the darkness is what makes the fires stand out and fulfill their purpose. So in the darkness of your own night, remember that your belief, whether a spark or a bonfire, is powerful.

It doesn’t mean that we know everything. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have doubts or questions or hesitation. What it does mean is that we are slowly but surely building up a fire of faith that lights up the darkness, that puts the doubts into perspective, that helps us to learn and grow and to draw closer to an infinitely loving Father. It’s in those flames of faith that we forge a lasting relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, a relationship that gets us through the trials, doubts, and weaknesses that come with mortality. It is in the light of that fire of belief that we come to see the Savior, truly see Him, for who He is to us, and how He has poured out His blessings and love upon us.

And what’s best is that He helps us to believe! That’s what Christ’s Atonement is all about! He shows us the tools and  gives us the opportunities to build our faith into something incredible, something bigger and brighter than we could have ever imagined for ourselves. That analogous fire of belief becomes not only our own safe haven, but a beacon to others – an invitation to come and to learn and to grow and to ask questions of their own.  He is simply asking us to trust Him. To trust in who He is. To trust in what He has done and what He has promised to do. To believe.

Because belief – at its very core – is about learning to trust in the Lord, learning to develop the kind of faith that allows us to stand with Thomas and say “Let us also go.

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My “Why” of Missionary Work

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Dear APG Readers,

Today’s Sunday school lesson was on missionary work.

It was surprisingly hard to teach.

I struggled, standing there trying to keep the tears at bay, my heart full as I talked with my little Gospel Principles class about sharing the Gospel. There were so many thoughts and emotions and memories going on in my heart and head that I had trouble wading through them to articulate the points of the lesson outlined in the manual, to direct a focused discussion, to not bore people to death with stories of my mission and the people I love and miss so dearly that at times it hurts.

But it’s not about the full-time mission I served, that badge I wore for five hundred and sixty precious, incredible, unforgettable days. It’s more than that. That’s part of it, but not nearly the whole of it.

I try to challenge my class each week to do something different. To act on what we learned in that room for that one hour during Church. The week the lesson was on charity, we set out to love people a little better, to love ourselves a little better. The week we learned about service, we set out to serve someone who we might otherwise pass by. Today we left class at the end of the hour with the charge to share the gospel, to spread the love of Christ a little further, and to see the people the Lord puts in our paths.

The elders beamed at me from their seats.

As I prepared the lesson, going through the gospel principles manual, searching the scriptures and Preach My Gospel, rereading entries in my mission journals and planners, I began to think about why I love sharing the Gospel.

There’s a lot of little reasons why. So many that I can’t count them – I find new ones each day. But my “why” really comes down to a few things:

It’s because of what Christ did for me. My finite mind can’t even comprehend the enormity the Atonement, but those glimpses I do catch drive me. They push me to be better. They provide light in the midst of sometimes overwhelming darkness that comes with my depression. Those glimpses, those little moments of clarity, provide me with stillness in the middle of chaos, peace in the midst of turmoil, confidence even as I am baraged by people who seek to destroy truth.

It’s because the Gospel changes lives. A fisherman became a prophet, rabble rousers became the greatest of men, the prodigals returned, all because the Savior saw more in them than they saw in themselves.

It’s because His love can’t be contained or confined to a single person. It presses forward into hearts, surrounds and fills us like the sun bursting over the hill on a foggy morning – burning away the gloom with light and warmth. It’s an infinite sunrise. It’s peaceful stillness even as it feels like the world is crashing around us into a cacophony of violence and temptation.

Father asked us to go out and share the good news. He asked us to open our mouths, knowing He would give us the words. He asked us to get to work, knowing He would give us the tools. He asked us to walk, knowing that He would put people in our path. He asked us to take a leap of faith, knowing that He would be the one to catch us. He asked us to keep pressing forward until the whole world hears, knowing that He wasn’t waiting for us at the end of the road, but that He was with us every step of the way.

That’s what missionary work is about for me. That’s what motivates me. That’s why I write this blog. It’s not perfect, but it’s me trying. Because at the end of the day, I want to sit down with all my brothers and sisters and reflect on how much our Father and our Brother love us.

It’s because I love Him so much I want to be like Him. God sent one Son. And that Son was a missionary.

We all have a different why, but that’s mine.

Love,

A Peculiar Girl

Identity Crisis

So if you know me personally, you’ll know that I’m a bit of a closet sports fanatic. I’m that leaping off the couch and screaming at the television sort of person. I realize I should never be a coach of any sort – I’ve threatened the US Olympic team loudly in my living room so many times and it’s not even been a week in Rio (“we will trade you! I don’t care if it’s an international competition – we will transfer your citizenship so fast!”). I get invested in the athletes, in the team. But it’s not just about the Americans. It’s those athletes from the world over that come to compete with an incredible story, who have defied the odds, who have fought to get to that opening ceremony. I love the underdog, I love the champion. They all have different stories, different things that define them and make them who they are. They’re all driven to compete by different things. And they give it their all.

One of the American divers this past week said something to the effect of “my identity doesn’t come from a medal. My identity is rooted in Christ.”

I love that. My identity is rooted in Christ.

In the span of thirty seconds, I heard that and realized I was in the middle of a massive identity crisis.

So often we identify ourselves by mortal and societal means – “I am ___.” That blank is sometimes filled in by a nationality, a religion, a profession, a defining attribute. And that is a big part of who we are. More often than not, however, that blank is filled by our shortcomings or our mistakes. It is filled by the trivial because our finite-for-now minds can’t even fathom being rooted in something bigger, something so vast that it transcends the daily struggle that is mortality.

Why? What is it that keeps us in this identity crisis, that keeps us from recognizing and declaring who we truly are? That’s something I believe to be intensely personal, part of our own individual journeys of faith and of understanding. It takes a lifetime.

We regularly say, “I am a child of God.”

This is truer and more powerful than I think we often realize. We say it, and it doesn’t sink in. We see it on Pinterest, and rather than thinking, “I am a child of an eternal and loving Heavenly Father,” we think, “oh, what cute typography” or “that would look great framed in the nursery.” We hear it, and our minds immediately go to the opening notes of the Primary song, then drift off into the recess of who-knows-where in the mind.

But what if it did hit us? If it sank into our hearts in such a way that we knew, without any doubt, hesitation, or justification that we are children of God? That Christ is our brother, and that we as men and women are rooted in who He is? What power would blossom within our souls? How would our outlook change? How would we see our victories, and more importantly, our trials? Rather than lamenting who we aren’t, who would we become?

Carl Sagan once said, “we are all made of star stuff.” What if we realized that we were not just made up of star stuff, but also of the stuff that created that stardust,  that drop in the ocean, that perfect little infant, that ray of sunshine, that blade of grass, that giant boulder, that comet streaking through the sky, that grain of sand, that vast universe, that made that exquisite person who is reading this obscure blog post right this very moment?

(That exquisite person is you, by the way)

Having our identities rooted in Christ means rooting ourselves in eternity. It means we are embracing His Atonement at every opportunity. We humble ourselves. We forgive and are forgiven. We are never alone.We find peace in the midst of chaos and hardship. We fight – we aren’t passive about what we believe and what we know. We understand that we call God our Father because He made us as His children, as His sons and daughters. We understand that every day we have the opportunity to start fresh and to build on a foundation that is immoveable – Jesus Christ. We begin to seek not just the hand of God, but the face of God. We walk hand in hand with His Son out of the bondage of our own minds and temptations, are washed clean, and stride into a path that is straight and narrow. We work beside Them, we seek Their example and Their direction as we go about our Father’s business. We learn to love our brothers and sisters regardless of who they are, what they have done, or what they believe. We bind up those broken hearts and lift up those hands that hang down. We step from mortality to eternity.

Why do we need to know Christ, and strive to root our identities in Him? President Ezra Taft Benson said it best, in my opinion. He was talking about parents teaching their children about divine nature and celestial origin, but I think the title “children” is even more important when we’re talking about people who might not be considered children by society’s standard. Because that’s who we are to God and we need that reminder. This is what He wants us to know.

“Children need to know who they are in the eternal sense of their identity. They need to know that they have an eternal Heavenly Father on whom they can rely, to whom they can pray, and from whom they can receive guidance. They need to know from whence they came so that their lives will have meaning and purpose.” (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, pg. 187).

God wants us to know that because we are of Him, we can always rely on Him. We walk beside Christ, and when we mess up, fall down, strike out, or just can’t move any further, They are right there, hands outstretched, arms open wide.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not easy, trying to root ourselves in Christ and forge our identity out of eternity rather than mortality. It’s exactly the opposite of what the world tells us to do. Discouragement comes. Trials appear. Setbacks occur. Sometimes we can’t get out of our own heads to see where we are and how far we’ve come.

It’s a process. A daily one, at that. I’d even go so far as it’s a minute-by-minute, stroke-by-stroke, step-by-step venture that requires more heart than we think we have.

But we can do it.

Because when push comes to shove, being rooted in Christ means that we understand that while we might be imperfect today that we are, with the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the love of an eternal and merciful God, perfectable in eternity.

rd_image (3)When we root our identities in Christ, our hearts expand. Our view is opened. Our capacity is expanded. We are bold. Love and peace become our battle cry. Obedience becomes nearly effortless. Our weakness is overwhelmed by the strength of the Atonement. We become unwavering in the face of adversity. We are steadfast as the waves of mortality crash around us. We work hard and rest easy. We are not bowed by fear, but built by hope. We hold our heads high knowing that because of Christ, we have won the victory – over death, over pain, over sin and temptation. We see the hand of the Lord more clearly. He is our first thought and our last thought. Our sights are heaven-bound as our knees are bent to the earth. We become more confident, more joyous, more humble, more Christ-like. We are unified. Things come together.

Instead, we tend to get caught up in the dust of the world, in those fill-in-the-blanks that get us distracted. We forget that we truly are wonderfully and fearfully made for something bigger than this earth. That forgetting gets us down, it keeps us from our potential and from assuming the role that we were made for. It keeps us smaller than we are.

That’s our identity crisis. It’s a great big one. Forgetting who we are meant to be in favor of who the world tells us we ought to be.

Figuring out how we root ourselves in Christ is a personal thing. We can learn from each other and support each other, but we have to do it on our own, with just God, Christ, and the Holy Ghost beside us.

Ofa, the sister-of-my-soul and fellow passenger  on the struggle bus of mortality (we’re both full-fledged RM members), posted this quote on Instagram the other day by Howard W. Hunter: “There is within each of us a giant struggling with celestial homesickness.”

Within each of us.

Celestial homesickness.

We are each a giant who gets caught up in thinking it’s small, struggling because we are homesick, because somewhere deep down, we know this isn’t the world we are meant to be in forever. Each of us.

In short, when we root our identities in Christ and in eternity rather than the things of this earth and of mortality, we become the very people that God created us to be.

Eternity.

That’s where our identity really lies.