One of my favorite Bible stories is told in the New Testament of Christ feeding the 5,000. In Luke we read that Christ had taken his apostles to the desert near the city Bethsaida and when the people heard where He was they followed Him to the desert. He received them, spent the day teaching them, and as it says in Matthew, had great compassion on them and healed any that had need of healing. As it got late in the day the apostles were worried and asked Christ to send the people away to find food and lodging. But Christ had something else in mind. He asked His apostles to feed the people and the apostles replied that they only had 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, not nearly enough for 5,000 people. Christ had them organize the people into groups and then took the bread and fish and looked to heaven, and blessed it and gave the food to the disciples to set before the multitude. The people ate and were filled, and the remaining bread and fish filled 12 baskets. In the Hands of the Savior miracles happen. And just as Christ took the offered bread and fish and made them more than they were, when we offer to Christ what we have in our time, talents, and abilities He will take them and multiply them and make them more than they were. In all of the aspects of our lives, in our own personal strivings He will take us where we are and the little we have to offer and make it more than enough, with much left over. President Thomas S. Monson said “When we qualify ourselves by our worthiness, when we strive with faith nothing wavering to fulfill the duties appointed to us, when we seek the inspiration of the Almighty in the performance of our responsibilities, we can achieve miracles.” The miracle in this case was the feeding of 5,000 men with their wives and children with only 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. The miracle in us happens when we come to Christ and place our lives in His hands, when we trust that He will take us as we are and make us more than we ever thought possible. The amazing thing is that there will be more to us than we started with! This story teaches me that Christ is a God of miracles, that he is all-knowing and compassionate. It teaches me that He can, through the redemptive powers of the atonement, take me and fit me for the kingdom of God. It teaches me that He can take me, with all of my flaws and inabilities and make me something more.
I have decided to do just one posting a week instead of two. Sometimes I scramble to find something I think people will be interested in reading. Obviously I don’t know as much as I thought I did! This will also free me up to work more on my family history which has taken a backseat to the blog since I started writing it a little over a year ago. When I was younger family history seemed a mystery to me, and expensive. I didn’t understand the process of finding information and knowing for sure it was the right information. It was also expensive to send away for records and there was a lot of wait time. My church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, places a lot of value and emphasis on family, both living and dead. We believe that all need to hear about the gospel of Jesus Christ and that those who have died without the opportunity to hear about the gospel are taught it in the next world after they die. Since they weren’t able to receive saving ordinances while they were alive we perform the ordinances for them as proxies. They have the choice to accept the teachings or not, but we do family history to find family members who need to have their work done giving them the opportunity. While in the past it was difficult to do family history, now it’s very easy. Almost everything is available online and I have yet to need to send away for a record. Since my family is second generation members of my church there’s a lot to be found and I have found many people in which I can have their ordinance work done. I can spend hours and hours doing it, which is interesting to me because I never thought I would like doing it. Sometimes I find so much information that I have to force myself to pull away and go to bed or eat or do necessary tasks of life. One of the things I like about it is finding personal information about a relative. The person becomes real to me and I feel connected to them, and it’s interesting to see patterns in families that are carried out in subsequent generations. I have had many spiritual experiences with family history, sometimes feeling like I have been guided to find certain information which had been so elusive. Recently I have been blessed to find information about my great-grandfather who came to this country from Bulgaria in 1913. Bulgarian records are hard to come by and we now have information that dates back to 1730, but it’s all in Bulgarian which is Cyrillic writing! Studying this information and trying to translate it will take a lot of time. Somehow I feel driven to do it and so now I will have more time by only posting once a week. So, change is good and so is family history.
My daughter with Down Syndrome loves to sing. She sings with the radio, TV shows, at church and in choirs both at church and in school. Sometimes she even has the right tune, notes and words. I think she loves to sing so much that sometimes the correct words or tune get in the way of expressing herself. She truly takes joy in singing. We are fortunate that people around her accept her singing the way it is. She’s always welcomed into the choirs she sings in and even though her school choir teacher consistently produces award-winning choirs, and I’m sure he cringes sometimes at her lack of blending. At church you can hear her sometimes singing in the choir standing out on not quite the right note but the choir directors always express how much they love having her sing with them. She especially loves to sing church music and when she sings, she sings it with her whole heart. I think that when God hears her singing He hears her love of it, sees her joy in it and takes great pleasure in seeing one of His daughters enjoying something so thoroughly. I think her offering is acceptable to Him even though it is not even close to being perfect. This thought gives me hope that in the many things I’m not great at, not close to being perfect in or just sometimes lousy at doing that God sees my efforts with love and acceptance. Sometimes my efforts are pretty feeble too and I fall short of my expectations and His. Then I have to pick myself up and try harder to do and be better. Sometimes the things I fall short on are the same things I have been falling short on for years. It’s taken me a while but I have figured out that as long as I’m honestly trying I’m doing okay. Efforts don’t have to be perfect to be good. God loves me even with all of my imperfections and I don’t have to do things perfectly for Him to accept me. Yes, He wants me to improve and to consistently work at being better but I think I am harder on myself than He is on me. When I don’t measure up I often beat myself up with negative self-talk. Sometimes I tell myself that I will never get better, that I will never conquer a certain problem, and this negative self-talk is actually what keeps me from rising up and doing better. I need to remember my daughter and her love of singing and to remember that God takes joy in my efforts even though they are not perfect.
Several years ago a man from a store called and left a message with me for my husband. He wanted me to let him know the pig hooks my husband had ordered had come in. So dutifully when my husband got home from work I passed the message on. My husband was very puzzled. He didn’t know what I was talking about and he didn’t know what pig hooks were. He kept asking questions and shaking his head in total confusion. After a few more questions and he finally figured out what I was talking about. The man had the hog rings that my husband had ordered. I said “pig hooks, hog rings-sounds like the same thing.” It seems that in my mind I had inadvertently translated hog rings (a type of fastener for fencing) to pig hooks (which it turns out there no such thing). It lent for a lot of laughs for several days but it really illustrated some of the problems with communication. People say something they think is accurate but it turns out not to be accurate at all. I honestly thought it was pig hooks. Sometimes this miscommunication leads to frustration and even anger. And there’s been lots of times I thought my husband and I were talking about the same thing only to find out later he had something totally different in mind. We’ve even had conversations where I thought we decided something only at some point to figure out he thought we decided something completely different. I would get really mad at him and tell him he was only half listening-again. Of course getting mad never solves any problems, and it usually creates even more problems. Over time he and I have learned to ask a few questions, and then when it’s an important conversation to sum up what we decided and who’s doing what. Sometimes I even write it down (I have thought about having him sign it but…). Occasionally in summing up what I think was decided he will correct me and then we find we have more to talk about. But that’s what communication is for-to come to a clear consensus and to know what each other is thinking and what the outcome is we each want. Learning to communicate clearly has been a long process that for the most part we now do well at. It took assuming each other wanted to communicate clearly, was committed to the relationship and really wanted to be united on an issue. It basically took a lot of patience and love.
In our church, on the first Sunday of each month, we fast for 24 hours from food. There are two main reasons for fasting. One is that the money we would have spent on the meals is given to the church to help those in need, and we are encouraged to be very generous with our donation. Another reason for fasting is to learn to have our spirits in control over our bodies, because going without food for 24 hours can be very difficult. Since I have migraines I have had difficulty in fasting. When I don’t eat I get migraines, sometimes very severe ones, which can last for days. They not only affect me but also my family. I tried eating lightly to still obey the essence of the fast but I still got migraines. One time a friend told me that she got headaches too from not eating but found that when she started and ended her fast with a prayer she did fine. So I tried that and got a huge migraine. Obviously what works for one person does not always work for another person. I struggled for many years with how to fast and be obedient to the principle. I felt like I was missing out on the blessings that come from obedience, even though I felt good that we were at least doing the donation part. One day a friend suggested there are many things I could fast from besides food, which hadn’t occurred to me before. I started thinking about this and decided I could fast from technology-no games on my phone or iPad, no reading newspapers on my laptop, no TV and no radio programs. I decided I could still do family history and my journal on my laptop, because they were not entertainment based. Basically nothing that is entertainment oriented involving technology. I have been doing this for many years now and believe it or not, it’s very difficult to do. It’s amazing how hard it is to not get my iPad out and play a game, or to watch a TV program. In some ways it helps me realize how much time I actually spend playing games. Because it is hard to do it is actually a fast and something that my spirit has to be in charge of. I have to remind myself what I hope to gain from fasting, which in part is to show my love for my Savior, Jesus Christ. I would like to say that it has gotten easier over the years but it hasn’t. Every Fast Sunday I still struggle with the no technology fast but I think that’s what makes it a true fast. If it was easy it wouldn’t really be a fast. I do believe that when I make an honest effort to be obedient to a principle, especially when it’s hard, the Lord blesses me for my efforts. As I learn to master myself I gain greater strength to help me in other areas of my life. Fasting is another example of a commandment that is really designed to bless those who follow it.