Friday, June 21, 2013

An Eleven Day Journey Took Forty Years

Today I would like to add to my previous post by sharing something that struck me hard in our last stake conference. One of the counselors in our stake presidency was talking about the children of Israel and how the journey from Egypt to the promised land was only about an eleven day journey, yet it took the children of Israel forty years to get there.

I found this startling. I wonder if the children of Israel had any idea that the promised land was so closely within their grasp. I think that if they did, they would have stopped complaining, accepted what the Lord had given them, and moved forward with faith. The Lord provided so many miracles for them, yet time and time again, they complained that it was not enough, or that the Lord did not provide for them exactly what they wanted when they wanted it, in the way they wanted it. Take their food for instance. The Lord provided manna from heaven for them to eat. They did not have to work for it, he fed them freely every day, except for Sundays, for forty years. The children of Israel, however, complained. They did not like the taste of it, they lusted for meat instead of manna, and they were upset that it did not fall on Sunday. Every time God gave them a commandment, or asked them to do something, they fought him on it or complained. If they had just let go and let God lead them, they would have made it to the promised land in the eleven days and they would have saved themselves a lot of trials. They turned an eleven day trip into a forty year journey because of how they chose to react.

I think that more often than we realize, we are much like the children of Israel. I know that Sean and I have been much like them. We have been wanting to be full-time writers for 13 years now. All it took was us making tithing a priority and putting God first. We turned a short trip into a 13 year journey because of our inability to follow a simple commandment. You see, God is willing to grant us the promised land if we just do what he asks. 

I have also learned that not only is God willing to grant us the promised land, but he continually provides for us until we get there despite our disobedience. He just wants us to acknowledge him and all the miracles he is already providing on our behalf. Take the children of Israel for example. Not only did God feed them daily for forty years, but He clothed them by not allow their clothing to wear out, nor did he allow their feet to swell as they walked. He provided water from a rock and healed them if they but looked upon a staff. He was continually providing miracles for them but they were so self-centered that rather than thanking him for those blessings, they constantly murmured that they were not enough.

So here is today's advice:
  • Count your blessings so you will realize what you have.
  • Be grateful for what you have. God has given you more than you know.
  • Evaluate your life and see if you are making an 11 day journey last 40 years.
  • Try to learn the lessons God's trying to teach you so you don't have to keep wandering in the wilderness. The promised land is closer than you know.
I love reading the scriptures and applying them to my life so that I don't have to keep repeating their mistakes. That's what they were given to us for. We don't have to make the same mistakes as the children of Israel because we can read about them, see their mistakes and make better choices than they did. I am so glad for an inspired counselor who helped me understand this simple story of the children of Israel because for me, it has changed the way I look at things. It's amazing how one simple thought can make all the difference. I hope it makes a difference for you, too. :)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

My Simple Testimony

It has been a month since I have last posted and I hope never again to go that long before I share my thoughts with all of you. School is out now, which means my husband, Sean is once again home for the summer. This isn't like every other summer, though. For us, it is a summer of new beginnings, which has also lead to my lack of writing.

My husband and I are both writers. This year marks our 13 year anniversary, and for those 13 years, we have had the desire to be full-time writers. We have looked into so many different ways of making this happen, but we never could find a way to support five children on such a questionable income.

Let me also explain that we have never really had a perfect testimony of tithing either. We paid tithing, but we always paid on our net income and we never made it a priority to pay it first. Often times, we would use what was allotted for tithing as our grocery money with the justification that we would just make it up with the next check. We always made it up, but never put it first.

Last December, Sean and I were both studying and pondering and separately received revelation that we needed to start making tithing a priority. I read something somewhere that said if you wanted the net blessings you should pay on your net income, but if you wanted the most blessings, you should pay on the gross. In December, we made the decision to write a check that would make up the difference between our net income and our gross income and paid it on the last day of the month. We had confidence that God would bless us for our sacrifice.

We also made the decision to put tithing first. It is the first check we write and we do not even question whether or not we should hold on to it "just in case" there won't be enough for everything else. As we continued to pay our tithing, our trust in the Lord increased and again, Sean and I both received revelation separately that he should not renew his contract as a teacher and that we should start looking for writing jobs to fulfill our desire to be full time writers.

Sean was blessed right away with a part-time job writing science and math curriculum while he was still teaching high school. Since February, he has been working both jobs in order to prepare for the transition. I, however, could not find anything. I have a BA in English, I am a published author, yet I could not find a writing job that didn't pay more than pennies a word. I began to get discouraged but kept doing all I could to trust in the Lord.

I continued to write for FamilyShare and I noticed some of my articles were very popular. I then noticed heavier traffic to my blog and I began posting more often. I began to feel the Spirit inspire me with thoughts and ideas as I thought about what to write. Writing those articles and writing on my blog is where I find joy and a greater dose of the Spirit. My only concern was that while I enjoy writing on my blog very much, it was not going to provide for my family and I had to stop and look for real work. That's why I stopped posting.

At the beginning of June, school ended. I could still find nothing by way of work, and to make matters worse, the company Sean had been working for part-time started giving him projects quoting a payment that was so low that there was no way we could ever provide for our family. Even though we had felt the Lord inspire us to move in the direction of full time writers, we had no idea how we were going to provide for our family. I began to be angry and frustrated; angry with my husband for quitting his job, even though I told him I felt the same as he did, and angry at God because we had been paying our tithing faithfully for six months without seeing the promised blessings that come from it. I felt He had abandoned and forsaken us. I began to doubt myself, wondering if what I felt was revelation was just me and not really the Spirit at all.

One of Sean's final checks came from the school and it came time to pay our tithing. It wasn't even a thought in my mind. I may have been frustrated with God, but I was not going to undo everything we had worked towards by doubting now. I paid it, believing that some day, those promised blessings would come. I have always held on to hope. It is what got me through as a child.

Three days after I paid the tithing, those blessings did come and they have changed not only the way I look at tithing, but the way I look at Heavenly Father as well. The company that Sean was writing for came back and raised the price of the projects 2 1/2 times what they were originally going to pay him. Not only will he be able to make more money than he was as a teacher, but he will be able to do it in just a few days a week and he will be able to spend the rest of the week writing the books that he wants to write.

Because we made tithing a priority, I won't have to write for money at all. I can write for me, and for you, and continue to write the things of my heart.

What I learned from this is that God has a plan for all of us. We may not understand what it is, but if we listen to the promptings of the Spirit, and keep the commandments and covenants we make with our Father in Heaven, He will not let us down. He is bound to keep His promises when we do what He asks.

So my testimony is simple and it also serves as my advice to you:

  • Listen to the promptings of the Spirit and follow Him.
  • Do not doubt yourself! This is Satan's way of getting you to stop doing what you ought to be doing.  
  • Keep the Commandments! Do what Heavenly Father asks and you will be blessed.
  • Trust Heavenly Father. He has a plan for you, and His plan is much better than yours.
I know God lives, I know He loves me, I know He watches over me and blesses me. The remarkable thing is that He doesn't just do this for me, He does this for you too! So let Him!