Sunday, October 19, 2014

On a Thursday in May, I was sitting at work. It had been extremely slow that day, and I so badly wanted to be outside. The sun was shining, and oh how I wanted to be soakin it up! Usually, on days like this, my mind was drowning in my own thoughts. So much was going on in my life, and my mind was always jumping from thought to thought. this day was different though. My mind was totally clear. I remember thinking to myself how nice it felt to not be overwhelmed with the things in my head. I closed my eyes for just a second to tell myself I could make it to the end of the day, and that's when it happened. the spirit struck me to my core, and I was frozen in shock.

"It's time to serve a mission."

The age change was made in the fall of 2012. I had just graduated high school a few months prior, and was attending my first semester of college. It would have been the prime time for me to serve. I didn't have anything holding me back, my friends were all leaving, and I had always wanted to serve a mission. So, I prayed. I prayed, and I prayed, and I prayed.I never received an answer which was super frustrating. I needed to know so I could know whether or not to register for school the next semester, because that's not something you can just put off. Weeks passed, and I still had not received an answer I talked with my bishop, institute teachers, and tried to relieve the frustration. After months, I realized that I was not supposed to serve a mission at that time. So life went on, and I slowly forgot about serving. And in fact, I didn't want to anymore. The desire was gone, and I was content with how my life was. Every once in a while a fleeting thought would cross my mind, but I would quickly push it aside. It wasn't something I wanted to do anymore.

In the middle of all this, my life got flipped upside down as my family was hit with a life changing trial. I fell into a dark place, and felt like I had lost a little bit of myself. This was another reason that I pushed the thought of a mission away. I felt that there was no way I could leave. I needed to be here with my family. A mission was the last thing I could do.

Have you ever wondered if there was a way to avoid misery? A way to relieve sorrow? Because I did. I wondered it quite often. I'm a very optimistic person, and I always have been. I've always been able to seek out the positive in every situation. But all the sudden I couldn't, and it was really hard for me, because that's not who I was. I couldn't find the strength to find positivity, and it was a difficult thing. It was here, in my darkest time that my Savior became my best friend, and I learned the cure to hopelessness and misery.

Larry Richmond said, "We know that the trials of this life will ultimately lead to joy if we patiently trust in God's plan and discover how to use adversity to grow stronger." So, how do we do that? How do we turn a negative situation, a bad outcome, or an unexpected change into a positive, growing experience? Albert E. Cliffe said to "Stop thinking about how tough life is, stop thinking about the future and the past, think of God's riches and love, and express these thoughts daily. You will become what you think."

So often we take for granted the blessings of life. We fall into a pattern of going to the Lord only in times of need, which is okay to do, but how often do we turn to the Lord in gratitude? Do we take enough time to sincerely thank our Heavenly Father for the things He has given us? I once heard the question "What if what you thanked the Lord for last night was all you were given today?" Think about that... If all you had right now were the things you expressed your gratitude for last night, what would you have? Would you have anything?

Sister Bonnie D. Parkin shared that "Gratitude is a spirit-filled principle. It opens our minds to a universe permeated with the richness of a living God. Through it, we become spiritually aware of the wonder of the smaller things, which gladden our hearts with their messages of God's love. This grateful awareness heightens our sensitivity to divine direction. When we communicate gratitude, we can be filled with the spirit and connected to those around us and the Lord. Gratitude inspires happiness and carries divine influence. "Live in thanksgiving daily," said Amulek, "for the many mercies and blessings come in different forms--sometimes as hard things. yet the Lord said, "Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things--not just some things. He has commanded us to be grateful because He knows being grateful will make us happy.

To me, gratitude is more than just an attribute. It is a lifestyle and a choice of happiness. As I was struggling through the things with my family, I made a conscious decision to be grateful for my trial. I chose to take a step back and recognize that I was not alone, that God had a plan specifically for me. I chose to trust and to find the positive, no matter how hard it was.

It's so easy to lose yourself to pain, to stress, to frustration. And it's easy to let trials pile on top of each other. But if we can change our mindset to find the positive, our trials will become easier to recognize as blessings. If you think about it, being grateful is one of the easiest things to do. If I asked you to think of three things you were grateful for, I'm sure you could quickly list them off. Whether it be your family, your ward, your neighbors, a friend, there is always something to be grateful for.

Marion G. Romney shared that "Gratitude is defined as a feeling of thankful appreciation for favors or benefits received. Gratitude is a sign of a noble soul. It has been said that an ungrateful man is like a hog under a tree, eating acorns but never looking up to see where they come from."

So, as I was sitting alone in the quiet store that Thursday, almost two whole years after the age change was made, you can imagine my shock when that prompting came. Tight smack dab in the middle of the hardest time of my life. i made an appointment with the bishop for that Sunday, and let me tell you. It was the longest few days of my life. I prated the entire drive there that I wouldn't chicken out. How bad is that! But as I sat in the bishop's office, I saw the Savior in his eyes, and every ounce of love, comfort, hope, and motivation that the universe possibly had, had filled the room. And I knew, without a shadow of a doubt that this was what I needed to be doing. I caught a glimpse of the light at the end of the dark tunnel I was in.

In the book Believing Christ by Stephen E. Robinson he says that "Too many of us expend our precious energy worrying about our relative times instead of keeping our eyes on the goal, putting one foot in front of the other, and enduring to the end." That was me. I had been focused on the now instead of the ultimate goal. This was the spiritual push I needed to help me out of that hole. I needed to recognize the Lord's hand in my life. I needed to focus on my spiritual self, and prepare. I turned to the Lord in all things, like Sister Parkins shared. I found happiness once again, my heart became overwhelmed with gratitude as family and friends showed concern, love and support, and when the Lord continued to bless me and carry me through my trials. I openly expressed my gratitude, and strived to do so more often. I made it a goal to say a heartfelt prayer of gratitude each time I felt thankful for something. Sometimes it was the sunny weather, the leaves changing, an unexpected text from a friend. I can truly say that it changed my life for the better.

President Eyring said that "To be happy and to avoid misery, we must have a grateful heart. We have seen in our lives the connection between gratitude and happiness. All of us would like to feel gratitude, yet it is not easy to be consistently grateful in all things in the trials of life. Our sorrows can make it hard to see our blessings and to appreciate the blessings God has in store for us in the future...We all can make the choice to give thanks in prayer and to ask God for direction to serve others for Him. Giving thanks in prayer can allow us to see the magnitude of these blessings and all o four other blessings and to receive the gift of a more grateful heart."

I challenge you to make it a goal to have a more grateful heart, to go out of your way to recognize the things you are grateful for, and I promise you that you will be happier, and be able to better recognize the blessings in your life.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to serve a mission, and to share my gratitude with the people of Florida. I'm excited to teach them, and to help them recognize the blessings in their lives. I'm grateful for the atonement and the healing power it has. I'm grateful for the supportive people that surround me and love me. I wouldn't be who I am today if it wasn't for them! I'm grateful for my family, for pushing me to be my best and for loving me unconditionally. I'm grateful for this gospel, and every aspect of it. The standards, commandments, teachings, and love it provides. I love my Savior, Jesus Christ, and I'm beyond grateful for the blessings that I have.

I say these things, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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