Thursday, May 29, 2014

He knows my name

I know that God, as busy as He may seem with everything going on in the universe, knows my name. He knows me personally in a way that no one else ever can or will. He knows what I need and what I want. He knows better than I do that I'm not perfect, and yet He still blesses me because He loves me. I'm His daughter. If there's anything in the world that I know, it's that God knows my name. He's shown me how well He knows me through experiences that He's given me.

Especially since I've been on my mission, Heavenly Father has shown me daily how well He knows me. But there is one particular story that will always stay with me to the day I die. You see, God has His ways of showing me His love and concern, and He usually works through other people.

I was a freshman at Brigham Young University and was living in an apartment with three other roommates. This was the very first time I was living on my own away from home, and up until my birthday, I was loving it. I enjoyed freedom from nagging parents that wanted me to do my homework or clean my room, no real was great! But I missed my family. My birthday's on December 7th and it was on a Friday that year. My roommates had a study group for a final that night, so we couldn't celebrate together. We made plans to go into Salt Lake City the next night when they were all free. I was totally fine with that. I mean, just because it's my birthday doesn't mean that I'm the center of the universe! At least, I really don't think that way. And I knew how important it was for my roommates to go to this study group.

Don't get me wrong- I was NOT alone on my birthday. My mom's family all live pretty close to Provo, Utah and my aunt came and picked me up for lunch on Friday, my grandparents picked me up for lunch on Saturday and another aunt and uncle came with my cousins came and took me to dinner the next week. I felt really spoiled! It was so much fun! I'm pretty sure that was the most partying I had ever done for my birthday in one year! So I really couldn't complain.

Saturday night came, and my roommates and I carpooled into Salt Lake City to see the lights at Temple Square.
We had a great time! We went to Olive Garden for dinner and walked around laughing and talking together all night. It was a lot of fun. Again, I had no reason to complain. I had roommates who loved me and cared enough about me to take me out for my birthday. But walking around Temple Square made me really miss my family. We didn't have a ton of time because we had to get back to our apartment before the snow started really sticking to the roads. Before then, I had only been to Temple Square with my family and I didn't want to leave. I realized that I was homesick!

I pretended to be asleep while I cried silently to myself on the drive back to our apartment. Even though I had people around me who loved me, I felt alone. This was my first birthday away from home and all of a sudden, I just wanted a mom hug. I wanted to be with my family.

When we got home, my roommates all piled out of the car and started getting ready for bed. I took my time and dragged my feet in getting to bed. I didn't feel like doing anything. Then, I felt my phone vibrate. I looked at the small screen to see my brother, Dayle, calling me.

This is Dayle. Dayle is one of my best friends. I never know when to take him seriously and he loves to be adventurous. He's so much fun to be around! It wasn't always like that with us though. Growing up, we always clashed. I'm pretty sure it's because both of us have really strong personalities and we don't really see eye to eye. When I went off to college, I was under the impression that he was glad that I wasn't going to be around any more because all we did was argue. I knew he loved me, and I did what I knew how to make him aware that I loved him, but we weren't always the best of friends.

I picked up that phone and heard, "Hi Julie." That's all I needed to hear. Immediately I ran outside the apartment so my roommates wouldn't see or hear my embarrassing sobs as I tried to communicate with my brother how much he meant to me. We had a simple conversation. He asked me how my day was and if I had a good birthday. I asked him about school and what classes were giving him a hard time. I had never before felt so much love from my younger brother than in that moment. He handed the phone off to my mom, and I broke down even more. I asked her how Dayle knew he should call me in that moment and she replied, "Well honestly, I think he was just trying to get out of going to bed on time." I thought that was hilarious! I realized that he might have been using me as an excuse to get out of the bedtime routine, but his phone call could not have had better timing. However the thought came into his mind to call me, I know it came from God. There was no way that Dayle could have known how homesick and upset I was. My roommates didn't even know. But Heavenly Father knows the inner desires of my heart, and He used my brother, who I had before struggled to get along with, to tell me that I was loved and that I wasn't alone.

I went back home after a few weeks for Christmas break, and I had so much fun spending time with my siblings. We stayed together as we served with the community boy scouts with a program called Toys for Tots. 

This was taken in the Toys for Tots parking lot. Dayle's goofy guy, and I love him so much. God knew that Dayle wanted to get out of going to bed, or maybe he really just felt like he needed to call me, and He also knew that I needed to hear from my family at the exact same time. Heavenly Father brought me and my brother closer together. This experience might seem silly, but it really means a lot to me.

Because God knows me, I know that He knows you too! He is in the very details of our lives. We are His children, and He is our Father who loves us all more than we can comprehend.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Two words.

Yesterday we had a lesson with a man named Stephen.

We showed up at his door at 1:30 in the afternoon to teach him about the Restoration. It was the hottest day of the year so far with a flaming 90+ degrees. PLUS the Virginia humidity. (I'm a baby when it comes to heat. Summer isn't even here yet.... I am going to melt.) We sat around his dinner table and told him about how God uses prophets to teach his children the gospel all throughout time. We taught him about apostasy and how it is a period of time when people reject the prophets and their teachings and how the people EVEN rejected Jesus Christ! We told him the story of Joseph Smith, who was called to be the next prophet to restore Christ's church. He silently took notes the entire time, giving an occasional nod or an "uh-huh" every now and then. 

This lesson was a toughie because I was hot and sticky and I kept messing up. To add to that... Stephen was going on about what it meant to be saved. He talked about how through Jesus Christ, we can all be saved and that faith without works is dead. Yes yes yes! I believe that too! But no matter how many times I tried to explain that to him, he wasn't having it.

He asked me what I would say to Jesus Christ if I were to die right in that moment.

I’ve never thought about that question before. What would I tell Christ? After giving it a good amount of thought, I told him I would tell Christ that I love Him, I did my very best to follow Him and to become like Him, and I did what I knew how to serve Him and His children.

After discussing the differences that he saw between Mormonism and his own personal faith, we said a prayer, thanked him for his precious time and left.

I was exhausted. I felt like I had just run a spiritual marathon. Thanks to the heat and humidity, I was probably sweating just as much if I had ran an actual marathon. The one thing that stayed with me after that lesson was, "What would I say to Christ if I were to die today?" I thought about the answer that I gave Stephen and how he tore my answer to pieces. What I said had come from the bottom of my heart. I honestly feel like if I were to meet my maker in this moment, I'd be able to fall down at his feet and pour my heart out, just as I had earlier.

After giving it a good amount of thought, I was able to narrow my answer down to two words...

I’m home.
So simple. I always think of just the right thing to say after the moment is gone. If I were to die right now, I am confident that I would know Him. Thank goodness I don't think I will die today. But I feel like I am doing everything I can to become like Him. I feel like I would be comfortable enough in his presence to tell him that I am finally home. I want to live my life in such a way that I will always be in a place to be able to tell him that. We never know when it will be our time to meet our Maker. By all means, I'm not perfect! I know I have a long way to go. I learn more about my savior and His atonement every single day. I know that because I am on the path that He wants me to be on, someday He’ll look at me with a big smile on His face and his arms outstretched saying, “Welcome home my friend.”

Thursday, May 8, 2014

With all my mite!

Being a missionary is hard work. There are days that seem to drag on. Rejection is inevitable. Some days my feet hurt from walking, while other days I can't wait to get out of the car.

So why would I want to be a Mormon missionary?

Because this kind of work makes me happier than anything else this world has to offer.

You might think I'm crazy. Maybe I am.

 It's just that there is something about serving God and his children that brings me an unexplainable amount of pure joy. I want to serve because I love my savior, Jesus Christ. I want to serve Him with all my might! Sometimes I feel like what I have to offer isn't good enough. But then Christ teaches us about a woman who didn't have much, but gave everything she had...

41 And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much.
 42 And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.
 43 And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury:
 44 For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.

This widow helped me to put things into perspective a little bit. I may only be a 20 year old girl who laughs all the time and doesn't feel like she ever knows what she's doing, but I can give what I have and who I am to the Lord. I've been blessed with the talents that He has given me, and I can use them to help serve His children.
So when I start thinking about how hard life is as a missionary, I can remind myself about this widow's example and work hard to serve God with all my mite!