Sunday, March 4, 2018

Faith through Hard Times

I found myself reflecting this week on lessons learned about enduring faith through my personal struggles. I write this for myself as a reminder. Instead of just keeping it as a journal entry I decided to also share with the thought that perhaps someone else may find benefit.

It is through acting in faith and experiencing sorrow that I feel these lessons have been impressed upon my heart.

My Hope is in Christ!

Many years ago I felt inspired by the faith of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.1 These men, when threatened to be thrown into a fiery furnace and having their faith questioned, firmly responded that they trusted the Lord could deliver them from the flames, but if not, they would still hold true to their faith in God. I have needed to learn to apply that kind of faith in my prayers as I pray for specific miracles in my life.

"They knew that they could trust God—even if things didn’t turn out the way they hoped." 2

I believe in miracles and that Heavenly Father hears and answers our prayers. I have had countless prayers answered immediately with the miracle or need I was seeking. I have also experienced fervently praying and shedding many tears for years for a desired miracle. As I have acted in faith and followed the guidance I have received I have been learning to not put hope in the outcome of the prayer but instead in the recognition that my hope is in Christ and no matter the outcome I can trust in God. I can trust that my righteous desires will be brought about with the Lord's help and my continued action in faith according to his timing.

"Faith is, quite simply, a confidence in the Lord." 3

How can I put my hope in Christ? I start with what I know.

Heavenly Father Loves Me

Scriptures, Prophets, Apostles, loving parents, and experience have taught me this is a truth I can hold on to. As I hold to this truth I know that the Lord would do all in His power to bless me and help me to return to live with him someday. He will help me to become something that lasts forever.4 

Christ Suffered for my Sins, Pains, and Sorrows

It is okay to grieve and have sorrow. A few years ago I was suffering with a deep heartache. I felt burdened and heavy by the sorrow. I even felt guilty for feeling sorrow. In comparison to some my grief could seem rather insignificant. Nothing was bringing me peace but I was praying for it. On that day I watched the below video and the first words from Christ were "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death."5 The guilt I was feeling washed away as I recognized that my Savior, who understands the joy of eternity, felt a sorrow so deep that he described it as "even unto death." He understood my sorrow and I was not alone.

 Enduring Faith Enlarges our View of Miracles

Miracles come in many different ways. I have found it can be easy to overlook the miracle if we have our mind set on what we think the outcome should be. As I remember that God loves me and desires for my joy and growth, I can turn to him to help me let go of the outcome and help me to open my eyes to what He would have me see, learn, and do. I would not describe this as an easy or one time endeavor. I would consider it more as a wrestle that uses emotional and spiritual efforts. Prophet Russell M Nelson described the effort of drawing the power of Christ into our lives "with the same intensity that a drowning person has when grasping and gasping for air"6 

Spiritual efforts can include a multitude of things:
Learning of God and Christ through scripture study, living prophets, and apostles
Standing in holy places and creating an environment in our home that is inspiring. 
Fervent prayers, opportunities to fellowship with others, service. 

The list could go on. Practicing gratitude has helped to open my eyes to the tender mercies our Lord gives to me. I can then see a grander view of the miracles that the Lord has given me. 

Michelle and any reader, 

Remember the Lord loves you! Remember Heavenly Father's plan makes up for all the injustices, heartbreaks, unfair things that you experience in life because His plan included Jesus Christ. Let Christ be your strength when you are weak and feeling broken. Remember it is Christ who makes us whole. Heavenly Father knows your tears and struggles. He will provide a way through it. You are not alone! Remember to fellowship and serve others. When negative or doubtful thoughts enter in remember to challenge those thoughts with positive and faithful statements. Trust in God! Put forth spiritual efforts to help you remember the things of eternity. Allow God to show you the miracles happening in your life and you will see him in the very details. 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Coming Unto Christ

WEAKNESS - This is not something I always admit to easily.
I like to be STRONG!
I often probably portray myself strong and confident.
While I am strong and confident in many things, and I must say in great thanks to the Lord that I can be strong and confident in aspects of my life and faith, I have many weaknesses of which I am aware. At times I feel like these weaknesses cut me to the core with the thought:
"What if these weaknesses are the very things that are holding me back from progressing in the ways I desire to progress."
My weaknesses may incorporate the weaknesses and failings that I perceive, along with the perceptions and judgements of others towards weaknesses or failings that I may or may not be blind to.
In those core cutting moments I often find myself in conversation with my Heavenly Father sharing my weakness and my heartache associated with them. I find myself pleading with him for the Grace of his Son to bless my life despite my failings and to help me progress or show me in what ways to progress.
John 8:2–12, Jesus helps the woman accused of adultery
It is in the moments of my prayers that I find myself drawing strength from the Grace of Christ and confidence in my path forward. Those weaknesses are more often than not still a part of me, but I feel a power strengthening me to move forward and to trust that as I come unto Christ I am progressing in a manner that is pleasing to my Heavenly Father and therefore can be pleasing to me.
John 8:2–12, Jesus talks with the woman taken in adultery
It takes time and practice to change our weaknesses.
Sometimes those things that we perceive as weaknesses may in fact be our greatest blessings that help us to recognize our great need for Christ in our lives and his Grace.
I am grateful for the Savior's invitation to 'Come unto Him' for it is through him that I have found my strength and confidence despite my many weaknesses.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Hallelujah! "Praise ye the Lord"

This Easter season I say HALLELUJAH for the promises of eternity

Most imprinted on my heart this week is that love is not just a mortal experience, it is an eternal experience. I have been blessed with peace in this truth and a gratitude that we do not miss out on eternal experiences if our mortal life does not bless us with those things. The promise of love and increase in a family will be mine and I say HALLELUJAH!

I say HALLELUJAH for families as part of the plan of salvation and the opportunity I have to serve mine. The joy and happiness that comes from family life as well as the refinement in my weaknesses are a true blessing. 

I say HALLELUJAH for Temples on this earth where I can commune and covenant with God in a sacred and holy place. Where I can learn of him and provide service to others that have passed on. 

I say HALLELUJAH for one day being united and reunited with family members who have passed on, my grandma and grandpa Clements and Madson.


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A Child of God

My brother Benjamin was in pre-k when his teacher came up to him on the first day of school and asked him, "Who are you?" and his response was, "A Child of God." 

Hearing this story after it had happened I remember always being impressed that he at such a young age knew who he was.

Benjamin was born last into our family. From the start I felt a bond with him as his oldest sister. I loved to care for him and play with him. When he was born I nicknamed him baby - because he would be the baby of the family. All my siblings growing up had called me Shell when they were young because that is what they could say. When Benjamin heard me call him baby he added a Y to the end of Shell and from then on I became Shelly. 

Being 14 years older than him it was only a few short years later that I was off to college in a different city, hours away. I left when I was 17, having graduated a year early, so he had only just turned 3. It was important to me that we still had a relationship, despite being away from home. 

I am so glad that I had opportunities to be part of his life and to know him because he is brave, bold, and full of so much character. He has been there for me in times of heartache. Words cannot describe the love that I have for my brother. 

I am grateful for his choice and desire to serve a mission. While some have thought that he is choosing to serve  because it is what all my other siblings have done, the truth is this was what he wanted to do. He sought for his own testimony, he has done much good through service, he has made mistakes, he has repented, he has worked through trials, he has witnessed the love and power of God in his life and as such wants to help others find what he has found to be true.

My brother has grown into an incredible young man. I will miss our phone conversations but I am happy to share him with Brazil so they too can be blessed by his character and strength.

Serve the Lord well Benjamin! It will be a blessing to you forever!

I am aware of my brother's imperfections as only a sibling knows, but this post is about his strengths and how God will be able to use him to bless the lives of those in Brazil that he serves despite weaknesses. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Called to Serve

I feel very blessed to have the siblings I have. Each with different personalities and different perspectives but all with a desire to serve the Lord. I have learned from each of them as they have overcome different obstacles and moved forward in faith.

My sister Laura is a great example of an individual who is resilient in the face of difficulty and strong because she pulls through tough circumstances in grace. She is one of the kindest and most thoughtful people I know. She is always conscious of how words may effect those around her and tries to be sensitive to their needs. These are qualities that will serve her well as she begins to embark on her mission to Brazil.

In 2011 when my family lost their house and all their belongings in a wildfire my sister lost everything she owned. Her collection of snow globes and other precious material things lost in a moment. Previous to the fire she had been asked to give a talk for church. The Sunday she was asked to give a talk on was the Sunday directly following the Monday that the house burned down. It had been a whirlwind of a week with my family house-less and trying to figure out where they would live. My sisters topic for her talk that she had been given was on gratitude and she gave the most beautiful talk I have ever heard on gratitude especially in the midst of being in unexpected transition and loss. She knew and had an appreciation for what is most important and her faith sustained her. 

Then as she was preparing to leave for her mission and was excited to go in August, unexpectedly just shortly before it was time for her to leave she fell and broke her ankle. This was a devastating blow and heartbreaking for her. She was sad when her date to leave came and went. But she found things to be grateful for and she continued to study Portuguese. It allowed her to be around when our youngest brother got a call to Brazil as well and realized that they could now study Portuguese together. While I know she would have loved to go out when she was originally supposed to, she tried to keep the perspective that God knew her and all would be well.

She inspires me onward to be resilient in circumstances that I wish could be different. I am excited for her to be the 3rd and final sister from our family to go and serve. Laura has desired to serve a mission since she was a young girl. She is probably the first girl in our family who truly desired it before receiving revelation that it is what the Lord would have her do. The rest of us girls needed the Lord to say, "I want you to serve a mission." Then the desire came and we went out and served with all of our hearts and loved every minute of it. 

Laura set apart as a sister missionary for the LDS church to serve in the Sao Paulo North Brazil Mission

She flies out early tomorrow morning to attend the Missionary Training Center where she will study the Portuguese language and continue to grow in her teaching skills. Sister Clements I wish you the best! You have much to give and share and will be a blessing to many just as they will be a blessing to you!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A Letter to My Future Children

My dearest children,

I love you with all of my heart. This can be a difficult and heartbreaking world to live in and yet so full of goodness and beauty if you will seek to be a part of it. My greatest hope is to be able to teach you and lead in example to turn to God, his son Jesus Christ, and to listen to the whispering of the spirit. I know if you do this I have no need to worry. You will make it through your struggles, you will not be alone when I cannot be there, you will be a force for good in the world and help to create beauty.

I wish I could keep you from struggling and pain but I know I cannot, and I also know it is an important part of your journey which will make you stronger if you choose to turn to Christ.

In my life I have had moments of doubts or questions on things that I didn't quite understand. I haven't always received an immediate answer to an uttered prayer while sometimes I do. In those moments as you wait to receive an answer to your sincere prayer, diligently search the scriptures and serve the Lord. I testify to you that as you do these things the answers will come to you through your thoughts, impressions on the heart, or from the word of God. This will be the best way to receive the answer for yourself because then it will be imprinted on your heart and mind through the spirit of God. It won't be a temporary fix that is calmed just for the moment only to arise again in the future because of a different source that you sought after for truth. Remember God and Christ are your ultimate source of truth, seek for confirmation from them through the spirit.

I have experienced heartache and pain in my life. There have been times when I have had others who mourn with me and express compassion and love. Then there are those times in the quiet of the night or early morning hours where tears have wet my pillow and I feel alone in my quiet struggle. I want you to know you are never alone even if you feel you are. You will forever have the prayers of your mother pleading with her father in heaven to watch over you, to lead you, guide you, and comfort you. I know from my own experience that God answers my prayers and he is with you. Reach out to him, cry your tears and heartache to him and allow the Atonement of Christ to heal your pain and provide you with peace that all will be well for you and that he can and will be your strength when you are weak, he will make you strong.

I have made mistakes in my life, moments when I have chosen contrary to what the Lord would have me choose. I want you to know that making a mistake and sinning is a part of life. I would encourage you to choose good and do the best that you can to avoid the consequences of a sinful choice but the truth is you will have imperfect moments in life. In those moments I want you to know that you have a mother who loves you no matter what and always wants you in her heart and home. There will always be consequences because of a sinful choice but my love for you will never be lost or go away. If you need my help I am here. Most importantly know that just as great as my love is for you, God's love is greater. He wants you to come home to him too. He will bring you home through repentance and his son's atonement. Sometimes repentance may be rough, it is definitely humbling. You are not alone as you go through the process of repentance. I promise that Christ will carry you, he will lead you. Your work is simply to learn of him and serve him. His love and compassion will do the rest to cleanse you and change you. As you learn of him and serve him your desire to do good will grow and you will feel of his overwhelming love and you will become so aware of the goodness in your life. Don't let the idea of being perfect and not measuring up hold you back from realizing who you are, a child of God, and progressing towards who you can become through Christ.

My dearest children I hope and yearn for you to come be a part of my life. I haven't found your father yet but I imagine I will choose a handsome man who loves God, serves him, and desires to serve our family and choose to love me every day. He won't be perfect but he is striving to live and act according to gospel values. As I strive to find your father I am doing my best to live a life of purpose. I am not perfect at it but every day is a new day, every moment a new moment to make a better choice. I have been greatly blessed as I have been on this journey so far. While there have been my difficult moments I have been surrounded by so many happy moments. I have been blessed to be a part of miracles in your grandparents and aunts and uncles lives. I have been a part of miracles in the lives of my friends. I have experienced the great love that Heavenly Father has for others and that helps me to better understand the great love he has for me and for you.

My dear children seek to live with purpose, serve the Lord and be a witness of Christ's love. I promise you will live a blessed and happy life no matter your circumstances. Remember to count your blessings and be full of gratitude because this will open your eyes and heart to the beauty in your world.

With all my love,

Your mother

Monday, April 13, 2015

Rich Blessings are in Store!

Growing up I always imagined that my life would follow a similar pattern as my own mothers as far as marriage was concerned; getting married around 21-22. I went to college choosing a degree that I thought was a good mother friendly degree. There was never a doubt that I would further my education, it wasn't about getting an MRS. degree, I just wanted something that could allow me to be a mom. While I didn't end up sticking with my original choice I feel I chose well with something that I can really enjoy now that will also allow for flexibility in the future and build skills that are also useful with a family.

Around 19 just before I turned 20 I was talking to my dad and he mentioned to me that he thought I should think about going on a mission. I for one did not have that in my plans and was not really interested in serving a mission. Along with that I had never heard good things about sister missionaries (drama, drama, drama), so why would I want to be one. But I respected my father so I would at least pray about it and see what God thought of the idea. As I prayed part of that thought process was that I wanted to get married and I would prefer that opportunity. I knew that being a wife and mother was such a great calling and service and I was happy to serve in that capacity. Ultimately though my greatest desire was to serve him in the capacity that he would desire me to serve, so I was open to hear what opportunity he would open up for me. The Lord heard and answered my prayers and I may have cried a little when I received the answer; he wanted me to go on a mission. With that decision I was determined to not be a sister missionary that created drama. I can say wholeheartedly that the Lord knows what is best for us and that was one of the best choices I have made in my life thus far.

Returning from my mission the Lord let me know that I would need to be patient in my marriage desires. I thought this meant a few short years, ha ha. Because of this knowledge I took to studying patience and trying to learn from those in the scriptures who exemplified patience. I must say these last several years have taught me some valuable lessons and changed my very character. That is an aspect of the gospel that I am so grateful for: I have the ability to change and progress.

Living a single life has taught me some very valuable things and the Lord has been able to utilize me in ways that he would not have been able to had I been married so young. It has been a struggle, heartbreaking and lonely. It has also been a refining process in which the Lord has taught me to serve at a time when I could easily be selfish. I have seen his purposes fulfilled and been a part of beautiful moments. I have had to struggle for answers, be patient for desired blessings, learn to really trust in the Lord and his promises. When I think of what the Lord is teaching my character and helping me to become I am filled with gratitude for where he has brought me from in just the last 10-15 years. Through my struggles my testimony has been strengthened in God. He has not left me alone. He is always there to remind me in my despair that I have reason to hope, that he has not forgotten me. He provides me the reason and the strength to endure well. I can think of far harder things to endure than my loneliness and heartache for something that I have wanted so much for so long. But as simple as my struggle is, it is mine, and he has not left me alone in it.

I recently joined a family ward after leaving the singles ward and this can be a daunting experience for many. I felt prepared and ready as I had many friends whose examples had paved the way before me and had myself chosen to be in a family ward for a little over a year during my singles ward years which was a great experience. A year before I changed wards I visited to check out the ward I would be a part of since I had recently moved to a new city. I quietly slipped in and sat on the back row, hoping to meet the Bishop after the 1st hour of church but not feeling brave enough to go up and introduce myself to him. As the sacrament hour ended and I stood up I saw the Bishop exiting the chapel quite quickly and thought "oh no". I turned to the door to exit and there was the Bishop opening the door, extending his hand to me to introduce himself and ask me about myself. Needless to say I felt this was going to be a great ward to be a part of. A year later when I started attending the ward full time I was welcomed with open arms. I wish every single adult and member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints could have the experience that I have had over the last year as I came into a new ward. They opened their arms to me and invited me in. They quickly learned my name and I quickly had women that I could call my friends and sit with at church. Everyone was so genuine and loving and wanted me to feel and know that I was a part of their ward family. They truly exemplify Christ's love.

I am grateful for the hands on this earth that have acted as God's hands to lift me up when I have been down. I am grateful for the experiences that I have had and the faith that has grown as a result. I am grateful for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and for those who have taught me how to live it. I am grateful for the Lord's sure promises and the hope I can continue to have in them. I have been blessed greatly in my life and I know that rich blessings are in store. He does not forget us, we just need to look to him so we can see.