Sunday, December 19, 2010

Understanding the Gifts of our Savior

The Christmas season seems to stir within our minds and hearts increased feelings and thoughts of compassion, joy, love, and cherished memories.  But for some it can also be a time of intensified feelings of loneliness, sadness, guilt, and hopelessness.

As I have taken time to reflect upon this past year, I've been reminded of many things that have transpired throughout the year.  My husband through the course of the year, worked on and finally completed, his final courses for his Master of Health Administration degree. He graduated on December 10th, and we all celebrated the excitement of this accomplishment and new milestone for our family.

Another life changing event in our family happened in June of this year.  My husband and I felt like it was time for our family to move from the home we had previously bought seven years ago.  This was not an easy decision for us, as we had grown to know and love so many dear friends and neighbors, so when our house sold in only one week, it took us for an emotional spin.

After a lot of pondering and searching, we finally settled on a neighborhood where we began the process of building a new home.  While our new home is under construction we have been renting a house, where we have had many memorable (more than I care to remember) experiences involving rats, broken appliances, and a lot of spiders.  We are very excited and feel very grateful for the blessing we have of being able to move into a new home, which we are anxiously anticipating within the next few weeks.

As I have taken a trip down memory lane of 2010 I have imprinted upon my mind additional experiences that tug at my heart and vividly remind me of the reality of adversity and trials.  I understand through my own personal trials, the feelings of despair and hopelessness as I have fought the battle of mental illness.  These vivid reminders have taught me to better recognize and empathize with those around me; to more fully understand the difficult feelings that accompany many of life's trials.

Although I have made significant improvements throughout the year, my family and I are still experiencing some ramifications of my struggles with mental illness.  It is difficult to maintain a household and family structure when mom isn't capable of functioning at a normal level.  As I battled with many days of hopelessness and despair it became a struggle for me at times just to get myself out bed to take care of the basic needs of my family.  Today we are still dealing with the affects of my illness as we now are trying to regain some normalcy within our home and family.

However, considering that the purpose and reason for many of our trials is for us to become better, stronger, and more faithful, I can't fail to mention the blessings that I've gained as a result of my trials.  As we celebrate at this time of year the birth and life of Jesus Christ, I have taken time to reflect upon the wonderful blessing that this knowledge has brought to my life.

Through my personal adversities I have come to realize a deeper understanding of the Savior's love and sacrifice for each and everyone of us.  I've come to more fully recognize the Lord's awareness of all of us and the reality that He knows each of us personally.

My husband's aunt once shared with him her favorite adult Christmas memory, which I believe solidifies  the knowledge of our own personal worth in the sight of our Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ.  In her words she related the following experience:
"We took our Young Men and Young Women to feed the homeless at the homeless shelter the week of Christmas, but first we had to make 450 sandwiches.  We counted sandwiches after we had them made and came up 100 short. So we ran to the store and grabbed more bread and meat and made the 100 more.  We got to the shelter in Salt Lake and were overwhelmed by how many people were there, it was such a good experience for not only me but for the kids (they still talk about it to this day).  When we were done handing out the food, the director came to thank us and told us we had fed a record number of people that night (600), and we had only made 450 sandwiches. But wait a minute that's not the end of the story.  After we were done taking kids home me and another leader decided to go Christmas shopping at Toys R US.  When we got done shopping we went to put the packages in the back of my Explorer, and lo and behold I let out a scream, there were two big garbage bags full of sandwiches. I scared the woman to death that was with me.  We couldn’t believe it, and we fed 600.  We went home and decided to call the Road Home overflow shelter which is not too far away from my home and told them we had 100 sandwiches we needed to find a home for. The woman on the other end of the phone just started crying and said she couldn’t believe it, she had just gotten word that a bus load of 100 were coming and needed to eat.  They had a few things for them to eat but nothing to make up the main part of a meal until we had called.  The miracle of the loaves of bread and fishes does still happen."
Does the Lord know me personally, and you personally?  The answer is yes!  The Lord was very aware of the personal needs of these individuals without a home or food, and He is very aware of  each of us and our personal needs.  Sometimes it takes faith, time, and trials to be able to see and recognize this blessing in our lives.  But He has given us the assurance that He is always there.
"I will not leave you comfortless:  I will come to you....Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."  -John 14:18&27
As I have contemplated all of the events of the past year, I can most fully express with overwhelming gratitude my strenghtened knowledge of the most precious gift we have been given.  Only through my trials have I come to more fully appreciate the sacred nature that the understanding of the love and example of our Savior Jesus Christ has given to me.  It is my hope that through my strengthened understanding and knowledge that I too will share this gift with others as a token of my gratitude and expression of my love to our Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ.  How grateful I am for this Christmas season, in which we commemorate the birth and life of our Savior.  And, how blessed I am to have the knowledge that our Father in Heaven knows me, and all of us personally, and that through His Son we may all find happiness and healing.