Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year, New Beginnings

This is always an interesting time of year, with the holiday rush still winding down, and the new year looming before us.  It's somewhat intimidating to realize how quickly each year passes by, bringing new adventures and challenges to life.  Many people use this time of year to reflect on the past twelve months, and set goals and resolutions for the upcoming year.  Whether or not those resolutions last beyond the first week or two is often an entirely different story.

So what is it this year that I will focus on?  For me, I look back over the last year, and I'm simply amazed at what has happened.  For the last calendar year, and a little bit more time before, I have been serving as a full-time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  It has been an incredible year of growth and learning for me, and I've come to more fully realize who I am as an individual, and who the Lord wants and needs me to be. 

Has this last year been perfect?  Of course not.  I've had many shortcomings and hard times, and I haven't always responded the way I should have to them.  So one of my resolutions for the upcoming year is to rely more fully on the Lord, and trust that He knows what is best for me, regardless of whether or not I can see it all at the time things are happening.

Another resolution of mine is to continue my daily scripture study and personal prayer.  I never fully understood the importance of those simple actions until I began serving as a missionary.  Before then, I didn't really study my scriptures as often as I should have, and I realize now how much I was holding myself back.  There have been many mornings that I have received answers to my questions as I have prayerfully studied the revealed word of God.  And even when I haven't received as direct of answers, showing Heavenly Father that I'm willing to put Him first in my day has helped me to invite the Spirit into all that I do.

As we face this new year, filled with hope, anticipation, perhaps a little anxiety at times, it is my prayer that we do all we can to be obedient to the Lord and turn our lives over to Him.  In closing, I'd just like to share a statement made by President Henry B. Eyering, First Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church, when he said,
“We cannot see the future with precision, but we can know what the Lord intends and what it will take [for] each of us to qualify personally to participate.”

Thursday, December 9, 2010

'Tis the Season

Now that December is here, snow has finally decided to fall on the ground.  All the students here on campus are busily preparing for the stress of Finals Week, and the following joy of Christmas break.  This time of year always brings a lot of excitement, stress, and hurry into seemingly everyone's lives.

But at the same time, the Christmas season also brings a feeling of peace, and reverence, of closeness with family and loved ones.

President Thomas S. Monson, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said in December 1998, "This is a glorious time of the year, simple in origin, deep in meaning, beautiful in tradition and custom, rich in memories, and charitable in spirit. It has an attraction to which our hearts are readily drawn. This joyful season brings to each of us a measure of happiness that corresponds to the degree in which we have turned our mind, feelings, and actions to the spirit of Christmas."

I've been thinking a lot this season about what Christmas truly means.  I think that everyone starts to think, at least a little bit, about what lies beneath the hustle and bustle, the rush to get the right gifts, about what the true "reason for the season" is.  As I've done so, I've come to a much better understanding of what it means to give.  Sure, it is a lot of fun to give or receive toys, or games, or clothes, or whatever it might be.  Far more meaningful, however, is the gift of ourselves.  This may be given in the form of time spent together, kind words spoken, love or gratitude expressed, and many other forms.  I look back over the many years, and in all honesty, I remember very few of the gifts that I received wrapped in paper.  But I will never forget the times that my family spent with me, the fun memories we share, and the love that is always present this time of year.

Dr. Seuss, in his classic Christmas story, tells of the Grinch who hated Christmas.  The Grinch did everything he could to stop Christmas, but even after he had stolen the gifts and trees and decorations, the Whos down in Whoville still celebrated Christmas.  The story follows:

"And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?"
To me, that little bit more is the love that we feel for those near to us, and most assuredly our love for our Savior, Jesus Christ.  What things can you do this year, to show that love, to truly give of yourself?