As many of you already know, I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. During the last General Conference in October, many of the talks seemed particularly geared to missionary work. As a stay-at-home-mom, this is sometimes challenging. I have faith and I have a desire to share, but often for one reason or another, the time eludes me. Some of it is that I know I write beautifully. But when I start talking? Yeah, tongue-tied, nervous, all those things start to happen. And so as I listened to seemingly talk after talk about being a better missionary, I found myself asking, "What do you want me to do?" Just so you know, you should always be careful when you ask God a question. He'll answer you!
Elder Dallin H. Oaks talked about using social media and other resources and I knew this blog needed to happen. I put it off for a while. I didn't want to use my regular blog because that is focused on my writing and daily life sort of things. If I was going to blog about my faith, I wanted it to be separate.
The title for the blog came immediately as I remembered as a young seminary student (seminary in the LDS church is a scripture study class high school students take, focusing each year on a different book of scripture) hearing my teacher tell us to always be watching in our study for "God's love notes." She explained that these were passages of scripture that stood out to us in a special way. "It may not mean anything to anyone else in the class, but if it stands out to you, God is trying to tell you two things. One is a lesson and the other is that He loves you." I've tried to do that in my personal study of the scriptures ever since and my seminary scriptures were notoriously colorful with many post-it notes stuck in.
The purpose of the blog is two-fold. One, it allows me the opportunity to share my faith with those of you who are close to me and to some who are far away. Some of you reading this may be people I don't know. Some of you are probably family and close friends. In either case, I hope that in sharing these love notes, that God will be able to touch your life as He has mine. The second purpose is to have a place to record some of these love notes. I have a study journal and more notebooks than I can count with conference notes and bits of scripture that came to mind. Here I plan to focus in a little more and really delve into specific notes that come to mind.
Many of you have probably heard of the one word trend. Rather than making a large list of resolutions, you pick a word to focus your year around. I thought that was a pretty good idea, but I wanted to use it in my scripture study. The question was, which word to choose? I wasn't all the sure until I started looking for a scripture for my family to work on memorizing together for the new year. I wanted it to be something about renewal, so I flipped through my Topical Guide and as I was, I stumbled on this word:
I knew this was another love note from God. Last year was a tough one for me and rather than lingering in a funk, I knew it was time, past time really, to dig myself out. That word rejoice stood out as though the letters were lit from the inside. I put a bookmark there to come back to it as I continued to look for the scripture I wanted, which incidentally was Isaiah 40:31 if you'd like to learn it with us. After finding what I needed, I returned to the page. Rejoice. I scanned the list of scripture references and stopped on this verse in Ecclesiastes:
And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this was my portion of all my labour.
How often do we rejoice in our labor? I read the verse again and again. I knew the message God was sending me. It's easy to be happy when things are going well. But when life is hard and everything seems too challenging, rejoicing can seem impossible. I love my writing and I love my art and my children and all the myriad activities and responsibilities I have. Yet there are times when I forget to rejoice. God has given me so very much. In the midst of every trial, He has been there. In my times of joy, He has been there. God has never abandoned me. Even at the times I felt loneliest, I knew that God was there and He loves me. What greater reason than this have we to rejoice? How precious is the love of our God! It was because He loves us that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to be our Redeemer. It is because He loves us that He gives us the ability to choose for ourselves what we will do. It is because He loves us that we have so much to rejoice in, even when times are hard. Perhaps especially when times are hard.
The photo I chose for the header of this blog is one that my husband took last August when we traveled to Fort Collins, Colorado for the Fort Collins Temple open house. It had started out beautifully in Kansas, overcast but warm. However as we traveled the weather got steadily worse until it was stormy and cold when we reached our destination. We stopped at a Walgreens to buy umbrellas before then going to the temple. It was raining off and on and unseasonably cold. Yet when we went into the building to view the beautiful artistry, the chill faded away. It wasn't just the warmth inside the building. It was something deeper. The pure joy of being in the Lord's house was something even my young children recognized and felt. We walked the grounds, huddled together to keep that warmth and stopped briefly so a friend could take pictures of our family. Then we took our children to the car and Jonathan returned to the temple grounds with the camera to take pictures. At the time, we had no idea of the storm which would hit our family at the end of the month. For that day, all was peace and joy, despite the drizzle and cold. When I learned of my ectopic pregnancy, I latched onto this day and the pictures of this temple. The peace, the love, the joy held there buoyed me up during those difficult days of grief and despair. The way the lights of the temple glow and gleam, no matter what the weather is doing, spoke to my broken heart. For me, this picture, and the others we took that day, symbolize the beauty of rejoicing even when it's hard.
And so, I hope this year as you decide your spiritual goals that you will choose something specific to focus on. This year, I choose to rejoice.
What are Love Notes?
When I was a high school freshman attending LDS seminary, my teacher taught us at the beginning of the year to pay close attention to scriptures and passages that stood out to us. "These," she said, "are God's love notes just for you."