Keep Moving Forward

2013 is gone.

It’s never coming back.

The new year is a time to reflect. What have I done this year? How am I going to change? Am I willing to do what is required in order to get where I want to be?

Whatever happened last year, whatever we did, whatever we were: we can start over. Try a little harder to be a little better.

And that’s what this life is all about: learning, and growing, and moving forward. Mistakes are part of that process. But, we don’t have to be defined by them. We don’t have to dwell in our misfortunes. We can “look ahead and believe“.

In the Disney film, Meet the Robinsons, a young inventor struggles to perfect many of his inventions. As he does so, he is often disappointed when they don’t work quite as he had planned.

One scene in particular stands out to me. At the dinner table, the family encourages Lewis to use his peanut butter and jelly gun to make a sandwich. The gun, much like his other inventions, fails to perform. It sputters, pops, and shoots food matter all over the room.

Lewis is mortified.

To his surprise, the family celebrates.

Big banners and fanfare encourage him to “keep moving forward!”

And with the understanding that mistakes aren’t something to be ashamed of–that they’re simply part of the process–he is much more capable. He works harder. He goes further.

The Lord understands our difficulties. He understands that we’re human. He knows that failure is just part of the process. And that’s why He sent His son. So that when we struggle, we can receive help. When we aren’t enough, we can be. When we fall, we can rise again and keep moving forward.

Visitors Welcome

I remember my first day in the mission field. I’d gotten up that morning at 3:30, done a final weight check on my luggage and gone to the Travel Office to grab my plane ticket and bus passes. I said farewell to the remainder of my district and got on the bus to Salt Lake.

I’d barely sat down when I heard two girls up front talking about their calls: they were going to the Oregon Portland Mission—my reassignment. I yelled up to them that that was my mission as well. And they explained that they were going to be Visitors Center sisters—I didn’t even know Oregon had a Visitors Center!—naturally, I began to wish that I would be lucky enough to serve in the Visitors Center.

I almost, for certain, knew that I wouldn’t.

I was on visa wait.

And they don’t just let any sister serve in a Visitors Center.

But a girl can dream.

After we’d gotten off the plane and met with President and Sister Morby, we loaded our luggage into a couple of vans and headed to the Temple. They took our picture, walked us around the grounds, and then took us all to the Visitors Center.

Immediately I felt the spirit of this place.

I remember that Elder and Sister Johnston called Sister Riley and Sister Quent up to the front because they’d be working in the center—I longed to be up there with them. But I was sure I’d be transferred out to some remote area of the mission and never set foot inside again.

After what felt like only a few moments in the center, they took us to the Lake Oswego Stake Center for transfers. We ate lunch and then they took us down to the Relief Society room to meet our new companions. As I watched the crowd of missionaries around me diminish, I began to get nervous. There weren’t any companions left. And it was just us visa waiters left.

President Morby explained that our companions would be meeting us later at Transfer meeting. He advised me that mine would be Sister Schmutz and Sister Priday.

A little before the meeting started Sister Brandt came up to me. She told me that she knew my companions. And that I’d be in the Visitors Center. I choked, “What?” She said, “Yeah, Sister Schmutz and Sister Priday are in the Visitors Center. They’re really cute. You’ll love them.” I could hardly believe my ears. I didn’t even dare to believe that she was right.

And then, after my name flashed on that screen and I could hardly believe my eyes.

I was going to serve in the visitors center.

And then almost as soon as I’d stood up, out of the pew, Elder and Sister Johnston were right there to welcome me. Sister Johnston gave me a hug and Elder Johnston shook my hand. And then they said something that I will never forget. They said, “We’ll keep you as long as we can, but you’re going to want to stay forever.”

And they were right.

I’ve never been happier than I am now.

Never more productive. And never in a better cause.

An Experiment

This week I tried out something new.

Before I read my scriptures I said a prayer. I asked the Lord to answer a question of mine, and then I opened my scriptures and read.

I’d heard about this approach before.

But I’d never actually done it.

To me, it seemed a little pretentious: opening up and just expecting the Lord to provide answers.

We don’t command the Lord.

But on revisiting the approach, it occurred to me that we call him our Heavenly Father. He wants us to be happy. And He, like any parent, is willing to give us, His children, what we need, if we’ll just open our mouths and ask for it.

So I did like Alma suggests in Alma 32.

I experimented.

I pondered over what question I should bring before the Lord. I said a prayer, and I opened my scriptures.

And there, about a half a page in, was my answer.

Coming up with the question wasn’t hard. I’d been laboring over it for so long. I’d spent hours in prayer just pouring out the thoughts of my heart. I’d asked Him countless times to tell me what to do. But I hadn’t given Him the time to answer.

It wasn’t until I turned to my Heavenly Father and said, “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know where to turn.” And asked Him to show me the way and then took it upon myself to look for the answer that I found it.

And because this was an experiment, I tried it once more.

Just to make sure.

Because that’s the scientific method.

And again, He answered. And then I invited my companion, Sister Harris, to try it, and she found answers. And we became so confident in the process that we invited others to give it a shot as well. And they also found answers. So now I’m inviting you to give it a go.

I know that as we (1) pray to the Lord and (2) ask the questions of our souls and then (3) search the scriptures, He will make known unto us those answers that we are in need of at this time. He gave us the scriptures for our learning and profit. We are meant to “liken” them to our own lives. There are great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures, within the pages of His holy word. And they’re ours for the taking.

So go ahead.

Give it a shot.

Ask your question and find your answer.

Mary

This week I’ve been thinking a lot about Mary and the role that she plays in the story of Christ’s life.

I think about her "go and do" attitude as the Angel Gabriel appeared to her and informed her that she would be the mother of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I think about the fear she must have had, knowing that she could be killed if she were found to be unwed and with child. And despite very real danger, she trusted in the Lord and said, "be it unto me according to thy word" (Luke 1:38).

And then after raising that child to adulthood, she watched him die. Knowing that he too must perform the work He’d accepted before this world was.

I think about the challenges that I face in my life and how small they seem by comparison.

How can I ever complain or think my lot is hard?

The Lord never forsakes us. He never leaves us.

He always provides a way.

Life’s journey is not an easy one. We each have our own individual challenges. We each have trials that bring us to our knees begging for relief. But when we trust in the Lord completely–turn our will over to Him–and then go and do what He has required of us, we can recieve that peace. Not a peace of the world, but a much higher, deeper, all-encompassing peace.

The Lord Answers Prayers

Whether we really need those answers. And whether or not we deserve them. He responds. He doesn’t leave us alone to wonder. And struggle. And anguish. He comes to our rescue.

I’ve had that a few times this week.

And in varying degrees.

But here’s one of the ones that really stuck out to me:

Monday night.

Family night.

We had an appointment. That we didn’t adequately prepare for. We needed a member to go to this appointment with us. Because if we didn’t get a member, then we weren’t going in. And it was particularly cold on this evening. So we NEEDED to go in.

If for nothing more than the fact that it would be extremely rude to make someone stand out on the porch to receive a lesson that we had set up a week ago.

So we did what all missionaries, running low on luck do, we prayed.

And the Lord made it all work out.

He found someone to go to our appointment with us.

And then when that appointment fell through.

He provided someone else for us to meet.

It totally amazes me how the Lord works. How he can–by closing windows–open doors for us that we never realized were there.

It is my hope that we can all have eyes to see those unexpected doors. That we can look for unplanned opportunities to serve and share. Especially now, during the Christmas season when so many more hearts are opened to the Savior.