Friday, January 8, 2016

Do You Know Who You Are...

A few years ago, I was having a conversation with a friend of mine.

It was late at night and we were joking around about the crazy ups and downs of life, dreaming of how WONDERFUL it would be to ditch the roller coaster and take a few spins around the lazy river...



when all of the sudden my friend got VERY serious.

She looked me in the eye and asked,

Do you know who you are?”  

Well, her question COMPLETELY caught me off guard and I think I responded with something really intelligent, like, 

....Huh?”.  

So she asked me again. A little S L O W E R this time (gotta help a sister out, right?); 

Do you K N O W who you are?...Who you were before you came to earth?...Who you were sent here to become?

W.O.W…talk about your heavy questions! 

I think I just SAT there, STARING at her with this BEFUDDLED look on my face, while SHE, no doubt, began to question the level of my intelligence ("Helloooo? Anybody home?"). 

But seriously, I didn’t know how to answer her….I mean, sure, I knew who I was in a "GENERAL" sorta way...

I've known, ever since I was a tutu-twirling, pig-tail wearing Sunbeam, that I was a Child of God. (Romans 8:16) (Hebrews 12:9)(D&C 76:24)

I knew, all through my gangly, awkward teenage years, that I was a daughter of my Heavenly Father who loved me. (Romans 8:35,38-39) (Jeremiah 31:3)(John 13:34)

I knew I lived with Him before I came to this earth and was sent here to receive a body, to learn, to grow, to be tested, to become more like Him...



just like everyone else. (D&C 138:56)(Abraham 3:22-26)(Alma 34:32)(2 Nephi 31:12)

But she wasn’t asking me if I knew who I was in a "GENERAL" sorta way. She was asking me if I knew who I was in a "SPECIFIC" sorta of way. 

And no one had ever asked me that before. 

Well, finally I had to say SOMETHING...

so I decided to save face and play it cool, 

Yeah, I know who I am.” (But on the inside, I was REALLY like, “Eek!”)

Well, when I went to bed that night, I couldn’t sleep.

Her question was HAUNTING me. 


I felt just like Ebenezer Scrooge, being tormented by ghosts from past, present, and future…”DO YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE?? DO YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE??”

And the sad truth was...

I didn't. 

I was 33 years old (descending into the depths of middle age-dom) and I didn’t know who I was. 

I had never asked.

What I DID know, was if ANYONE could help me understand who I was, it was my Heavenly Father. 

He was the ONE person who knew me EVEN BETTER than I knew myself. 

So that very night, I rolled outta bed, got down on my knees, and asked Heavenly Father one of the most important questions I have EVER asked...

“Who Am I?" 

I PLEADED with him to help me understand more about who I was before I came to this earth and who I was sent here to become...

in a "specific" sorta way.

And do you know what’s SO awesome?! 

He ACTUALLY answered me!

The answer didn’t come all at once, but little by little, piece by piece, He answered me. And I began to learn things about myself that I NEVER knew before. 


President. Uchtdorf says,


”Our Heavenly Father sees our REAL potential.  He knows things about us that we do not know ourselves. He prompts us during our lifetime to fulfill the measure of our creation....Let us resolve to follow the Savior and work with diligence to become the person we were designed to become.” 

That ONE question changed my life because I started to see myself, not through the WORLD’S eyes, but through HIS eyes.

Oh, the world will be HAPPY to tell you "who you are" and "what you're worth". 

The world is NOT shy to tell you who you "should" be (or place limits on who you "could" be). 

There’s just ONE little problem with the WORLD'S opinion…the world is CLUELESS about who you were, who you are, and who you were sent here to become.

If you TRULY want to understand who you are, you'll need to turn to the one who knows you better than ANYONE else…

and THAT is your Father in Heaven.



“I testify to you that God has known you individually . . . for a long, long time (see D&C 93:23). He has loved you for a long, long time. He not only knows the names of all the stars (see Psalm 147:4; Isaiah 40:26); He knows your names and all your heartaches and your joys!”

Yes. Heavenly Father knows EXACTLY who you are.

Do you?

Barbara

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Embrace Your Awesomeness...

Have you ever struggled with believing in yourself?

Believing in your ability? In your worth?

If you have, you're in good company.

Elder L. Tom Perry said,

"One of the greatest weaknesses in most of us is our lack of faith in ourselves. One of our common failings is to depreciate our tremendous worth.” 

It's interesting to note that most little kids seem to be immune to this weakness... 

they have no problem believing in themselves... 

no problem loving themselves.

They dream and they dream BIG.


You don't see little kids running around placing limits on their ability! 

They have plans to be Princesses, Secret Agents, Singers, Chefs, Butterflies, Video Game Designers, Ninja Turtles, NBA Stars, Doctors, Veterinarians, Ballerinas, Mermaids, Race Car Drivers, Lego Masters, Teachers, Superheroes, and Elsa. 

The sky's the limit! 

You don't see little kids running around viewing themselves with a critical eye...

they recognize their gifts...

they know their super-powers...

they EMBRACE their AWESOMENESS!


Personally, I can not look at a picture of myself without cringing (I just may be one of the LEAST photogenic people on the planet). So I loved hearing about a little girl whose mother snapped a picture of her; the little girl grabbed her mother's phone, eager to see how the picture turned out. She took a good long look at it and said, "Man, I look GOOOOD!"

Isn't that AWESOME?!

Somewhere along the way, we lose the ability to do that... 

to accept ourselves...

to love ourselves...

to believe in ourselves. 

Somewhere along the way, self-love is replaced by self-doubt; self-worth by self-deprecation. 

And the Adversary is a MASTER at preying on this weakness and getting us to "neglect the gifts within us" (1 Timothy 4:14).

Growing up, music was a HUGE part of my life.

As a child, I just KNEW I was going to be a singer (there wasn't a hairbrush I owned that didn't transform into a microphone) and at 10 years old I had my future planned out with ALL the confidence in the world. My little sister and I were going to start a band.

Yep.

I even had a NAME for our band...

wait for it....

wait for it...

“Double Vision.” (Ooooo. Aaaahhhhh.) 

I had written three AWESOME songs that were going to catapult us into stardom and we were going to be JUST LIKE that sister group, Wilson Phillips. ("Hold on for one more day," people! E-hem.)

Much to my siblings dismay, I was ALWAYS singing. I sang in the house. I sang in the car. I sang in the...okay, this is starting to sound Dr. Seuss-y...

I sang in the house. I sang in the car. 
I sang in the churches, both near and both far.
I sang in the schools of the middle and high,
I sang what I knew and I sang on the fly.
I liked it, I liked it, I liked it, you see.
I liked singing songs and believing in me.  

I even came to BYU with the intention of singing and majoring in music. 

Dream big or go home, right?

But.

When I got to BYU, my childhood bubble of confidence BURST. 

I looked around at everyone ELSE who had the intentions of majoring in music and realized JUST how UNTRAINED I actually WAS! 

(POP)

I hadn't HAD years of voice lessons; I hadn't had ANY voice lessons. 

I didn't play an instrument, let alone TWO or THREE instruments! (Well, there WAS the violin in 4th and 5th grade. Oh, and the recorder in 3rd. Did that count?) 

I barely knew how to read MUSIC, for crying out loud. And I had the audacity to believe I was going to be a music major? A singer? A songwriter?

I took one look at "THEM" and seriously started to doubt my own ability; my own worth.

And the Adversary was right there, preying on my weakness, wholeheartedly assenting my fears with whispers of: “you can’t do that," "you’re not good enough," "you're going to make a fool of yourself," "who are you kidding?,” "you don't belong here."

And sadly, I believed him.

I distinctly remember looking around that music orientation room and telling myself I didn't belong there. I still remember the awful sinking feeling as I left there that day and raised the white flag on my childhood dreams. I walked away from music.

Everything I knew about myself, who I thought I was and who I thought I was going to become, became undone.

My hairbrush became a hairbrush.

Now, jump forward 19 years, and here I am on this intense "mission" trying to uncover my personal mission; asking Heavenly Father to help me understand more clearly who I am, who I was before I came to this earth, and who I was sent here to become. (Check out my fireside, Your Unique Mission)

And little by little, stroke by stroke, Heavenly Father is painting a portrait of the girl I was before I came to this earth, the girl I am, and the girl I was sent here to become; highlighting the talents and gifts that I’ve been given.

And wouldn’t you know it, He is painting the portrait of a singer…of a songwriter…of someone sent here to build His kingdom and serve others, through the gift of music.

My first reaction? 

Tears. 

Tears of gratitude. 

Tears of disbelief. 

Tears of hope. 

Could it really be that God was actually encouraging me to set free that part of me that I had locked up and buried away so long ago? 

It seemed too good to be true. 

And almost instantaneously, those hopeful tears turned into fears. 

"I must have misunderstood. There is NO WAY the girl in that portrait could possibly be ME. I've SEEN what "GOOD" looks like, and I am not good."  

And of course, the Adversary was RIGHT there...AGAIN...preying on my weakness: “you can’t do THAT," "there’s nothing special about you," "you’re NOT good enough," "no one’s gonna listen to you," "you’re just gonna embarrass yourself," "you're going to fail," "who are you kidding?” 

It was just SO hard to BELIEVE that I could actually DO what Heavenly Father was asking me to do; that I could actually BECOME who Heavenly Father was asking me to BECOME.

Have you ever felt like that?

I was AFRAID.

Afraid of trying. 

Afraid of failing. 

Afraid of looking foolish.

And the fear was paralyzing; it was kryptonite.

I would occasionally dip my toe in the water, from time to time, but I was too afraid to actually jump in.

So what inevitably gave me the power to take the plunge? I thought you'd never ask!

Faith. (Ya know, the opposite of fear.)

Specifically, my faith in GOD. 

I might have struggled with faith in MYSELF, faith in MY ability, faith in MY worth, but I DID have faith in GOD. And God was showing me that THIS was who I was. That THIS was my mission. That THESE were my gifts. He was telling me that I COULD do it. 

He was telling me He believed in me. 

GOD, believed in ME

THAT, my friends, is what FINALLY gave me permission to start believing in MYSELF. 

Heavenly Father BELIEVED in me. He didn't want me to raise the white flag on my dreams. He wanted me to believe in myself...

to work hard...

to develop the talents and gifts that I had been given...

to "neglect not the gift that is in [me]" and USE it to bless and lift others. 

He wanted me to dream and dream big.

And He wants the same for you.

"God is anxiously waiting for the chance to answer your prayers and fulfill your dreams, just as He always has. But He can't if you don't pray, and He can't if you don't dream. In short, He can't if you don't believe.” (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, "This, the Greatest of All Dispensations," July 2007 Ensign.)

I can’t tell you how much TRUST and FAITH it takes to stand up in front of a group of people and call myself a singer-songwriter (because NO ONE is more aware of just how raw and unpolished I am, than ME). But I don’t claim to be one because I think I’m amazing or because the world has recognized me in those areas. I claim to be one, simply because God is showing me that THAT is who I am. 

And I'm choosing to believe Him. 

The AMAZING thing is, as I muster the faith to believe Him about who I am, and work HARD to take steps and BECOME that person, Heavenly Father is showing me that I can do it. 

With HIM, I can do it! 

FEAR is giving way to COURAGE, not because of my OWN ability, but because of GOD’S ability...His ability to help me become who I was sent here to become.

Any perfectionists out there?

Me too. In the beginning, it was VERY hard for me to "get out there" and start sharing my gift; I kind of thought if I wasn’t PERFECT at something, then I had no right sharing it with others. I was wrong. 

Heavenly Father is teaching me to be patient with myself; to ALLOW myself to be a beginner. And in the meantime, while I’m still learning and growing, He can take my humble, imperfect offering, and bless it, and stretch it, and make it what He needs it to be. Even when my delivery is FAR from PERFECT, I'm learning that when I stand with Him, together, we have something worth offering. 

And so do you.

You have been given your own unique set of talents and gifts, your own super-powers.

Embrace your awesomeness.

"Neglect not the gift that is in thee..."

Don't let fear and self-doubt stop you from developing your talents and becoming who you were sent here to become.

“Don’t limit yourself and don’t let others convince you that you are limited in what you can do. Believe in yourself and then live so as to reach your possibilities. You can achieve what you believe you can. Trust and believe and have faith.” (President Thomas S. Monson, "Living the Abundant Life," Liahona, January 2012)

Faith is STRONGER than kryptonite. Heavenly Father will help you develop your gifts and become who you were sent here to become. 

If someone would have told me 15 years ago that I’d be going around, writing songs and sharing them with others, I would not have believed them. But despite how scary and vulnerable it can sometimes feel to share that part of me, I've found that I truly LOVE it! I LOVE sharing my testimony with others, through music. It's my happy place, my super-power. It's who I am. I knew that as a child. I just needed to believe in myself.

And so do you.

You were sent here to do amazing things.

Let God show you who you are, who you can become. Believe Him. Believe in yourself.


Embrace your awesomeness.

Come on in, the water's great!

Barbara

Monday, August 31, 2015

Be Still...

Be still.

I LOVE those two words.

It's amazing how two little words can pack so much power; can penetrate the soul and quiet the storms.

Two words that conquer chaos, summon faith, illuminate hope, and restore peace.


I remember one of my first lessons in learning to be still.

Back in 2009, I had a tumor removed...

FROM MY SPINAL CHORD!

Sounds fun, right?! 

Trust me, of ALL the places you don't want doctors poking around, your SPINAL CHORD is ONE of them. [Shivvvveeeeerrrrr...]

Fortunately, Heavenly Father blessed the hands of those surgeons and they were able to remove my tumor without snipping any nerves; avoiding unwelcome, life changing implications (for which I will FOREVER be grateful). 

Unfortunately, those surgeons couldn’t 100% guarantee my tumor wouldn’t grow back!  

Bummer.  

Now, maybe for a NORMAL person, this wouldn’t have been the end of the world (every few years, bop-on into the hospital for an MRI, keep an eye on it; no biggie). But for someone like me, who tends to be a little hypochondriacal, it was like opening up a can to a LIFETIME of OBSESSION and WORRY.  

(Any other hypochondriacs out there?) 

So the news that this tumor could "possibly" return, was a BIT overwhelming. I mean, how could I POSSIBLY have a happy, PEACEFUL life with this EVER-PRESENT piece of UNCERTAINTY dangling before me?!?!  

Well, I reached a point where worry began to take center stage. It consumed my thoughts…

Another surgery meant another LONG and PAINFUL two-month recovery! And what if next time I wasn’t so lucky?! What if NEXT time the doctors would have to sacrifice a few nerves?!?! What if I ended up losing the use of my legs or one of the OTHER frightening things that the doctors said I needed to "possibly" prepare myself for?!?!?!

Yup, the storm of uncertainty was raging. 


Master, the tempest is raging!
The billows are tossing high!
The sky is o’ershadowed with blackness.
No shelter or help is nigh.
Carest thou not that we perish?
How canst thou lie asleep
When each moment so madly is threat’ning
A grave in the angry deep?

For me, the UNKNOWN became too overwhelming; so I did what any other hypochondriacal mormon girl would do...

I grabbed my husband and asked for a Priesthood blessing.

I KNEW God knew how this would all shake out, and I wanted to know too!!

I politely explained to my husband that I NEEDED to know if this tumor was coming back. If it was, I could mentally prepare myself and face it like a man woman. If it wasn’t, I could FINALLY put all of this worry behind me and obtain PEACE. I also expressed how WONDERFUL it would be to have the reassurance that this tumor would NOT be coming back.

Have you ever tried to custom order a blessing? You know, the way you would at a fast food drive-through window...

"I'll have a large order of  'tell me what's going to happen' please, and a side order of 'your tumor will not be coming back', SUPER-SIZED." 

Yeah, that didn't work so well.

My husband kindly and patiently listened. Then he put his hands on my head and proceeded to give me a Priesthood blessing. It was the SHORTEST blessing I have EVER received in my life. Direct and to the point. I'm paraphrasing, but it went a little something like this,  

"STOP worrying about your tumor and START serving others."  

I have to admit, at the end of the blessing I felt a little cheated…I had VERY SPECIFICALLY asked for some answers, for some reassurance! What kind of drive-through window was this?! I ordered a super-size, double patty burger and was handed a bun with no meat!

Well, in spite of being a little disappointed, I took Heavenly Father's counsel to heart. I tried my best to STOP worrying about ME and START serving OTHERS. Heavenly Father was kind enough to help out in that regard; shortly after receiving that blessing, I was called to serve as my ward's Relief Society president. (Yes, God has a sense of humor.)

But here's the part I reflect back on with reverent, wondering awe...

I might have sulked a little when I ordered a double patty and Heavenly Father handed me, what appeared to be, an empty bun. 

But it turned out the bun wasn't empty at all. 

Sandwiched between the two pieces of bread was a super-sized portion of "be still."

I'm SO grateful Heavenly Father didn't hand me exactly what I ordered that day, because, in His wisdom, He gave me something A HUNDRED times better.     

He gave me an opportunity to learn how to “be still” in the MIDST of a storm. And he provided me with the tool I needed to accomplish it…service. 

It brought new understanding to the verse,

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27)

I wanted Heavenly Father to give me peace the way THE WORLD gives peace. You know, by taking the problem AWAY; by calming the STORM.  

But he gave me a more POWERFUL peace. 

He gave me HIS peace.

The kind of peace that enables a heart to be still in the FACE of uncertainty; in the MIDST of a storm.

Check out this painting by Howard Lyon...


There are so many things I LOVE about this painting. 

I love how the storm is STILL raging on the outskirts of the painting, but the Savior is there, cutting a peaceful path THROUGH the storm. 

I love the depiction of the man in the back of the boat; too focused on the looming waves and encroaching water to see the peace and calm that COULD be His, if he would just take his eyes off the storm and look to the Savior, TRUST in the Savior. 

That empty bun taught me many lessons, one of which was: Sometimes, when the Savior utters those two powerful words, He isn't speaking to the looming waves. Sometimes, He's speaking to those of us furiously scooping water in the back of the boat.

And if we'll muster the courage and the faith to put down our buckets and turn to Him, we'll find that we are not sailing alone. That He's right there, facing the storm with us, offering peace, bringing hope. We'll find that uncertainty melts away as we realize that HE is in control and HE will not let us sink.

The winds and the waves shall obey thy will:
Peace, be still, peace, be still.
Whether the wrath of the storm-tossed sea
Or demons or men or whatever it be,
No waters can swallow the ship where lies
The Master of ocean and earth and skies.
They all shall sweetly obey thy will:
Peace, be still; peace, be still.
They all shall sweetly obey thy will:
Peace, peace, be still.

I also learned that SERVICE was the key to STILLING my heart in the storm. 

While I was busy serving, my problem didn’t DISAPPER, but it DID fade. Service bumped my problem from center stage, into the background, where it belonged! It was still there, but it was no longer running the show. 

The FEAR of uncertainty gave way to TRUST in Him. I didn't have to worry anymore about how things would shake out, because I knew either way, Heavenly Father would be right there in the boat with me, to comfort, to calm, to strengthen and sustain.



And if I ever find myself sailing through a storm, fixated on the looming waves and encroaching water, I remind myself who's in the boat with me, and I tell myself to...


You know in the movies, when a person is out-of-control panicking, and their loving friend steps in, grabs them by the shoulders, shakes them back and forth and cries, "PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER!"?!?! Well, this is the LDS equivalent...

“An High Priest of Good Things to Come”, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, General Conference, October 1999

Peace, peace, be still.

Barbara

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

All of Me

I feel like I just ran a MARATHON...

Any marathon runners out there?

I can only imagine the feelings of joy and triumph, that must emanate from within, as you cross the finish line; having conquered 26.2 miles of blood, sweat, and tears. Those moments of persevering and pushing through, even when you wanted nothing more than to curl up in a little ball on the pavement and call it quits.

Yeah, writing this new song was kind of like that.

But...

I persevered, pushed through, and FINALLY crossed the finish line.

So to all you music lovers out there, I'd like to take this moment to introduce you to my brand new song...

All of Me.

(A fitting title, is it not?)

Each year, I can't WAIT to hear what the new LDS Mutual Theme is going to be. 

Why, you ask?! (I thought you'd never ask!)

1) The themes are always SO inspiring. SO relevant. And SO...exactly what we need.

(They don't just pull these themes out of thin air, ya know; some SERIOUS prayer, fasting, and pondering goes into them. I know those good brethren and sisters are guided in choosing the themes our youth will study and focus on each year.)

2) I LOVE the youth of the church. And LOVE writing music that will empower them, inspire them to become who they were sent here to be, and keep their testimonies burning bright.

The theme chosen for 2015 was from a scripture found in the Doctrine & Covenants, D&C 4:2...

"O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day."


LOVE this scripture and was so excited to jump in, set sail, and embark on a journey to write a song for this theme.

But the journey didn't go quite as expected. (Does it ever?)

My departure was delayed, the seas were rough, I got sea sick, equipment broke down, I got lost a time or two, and when I FINALLY reached my destination, there was no room at the inn at the dock.

True story.

Suffice it to say, writing this song was a STRU-GGLE.

Over the course of the journey, I wrote SEVERAL different versions of this song, but not one of them felt...right.

I can't tell you HOW many times I was tempted to throw my arms up in the air and abandon ship.

But each time I told myself I was DONE, I could feel the Spirit nudging me along, telling me to keep going.

After all, I had embarked in the serve God. And just because the waters were getting a little rough, I was ready to tear down the sails and abandon ship?

Why, yes. Yes I was. (Sheepish smile.)

I'm SO grateful God told me to STAY IN THE BOAT.

"Please keep your arms and legs (and heart) inside the ride the vessel at all times."

O. KAY.

So. I turned the captain's wheel over to the real captain and prayed HARD to understand what GOD wanted this song to be.

As always, I needed his help. (Because, hey, I don't just pull these songs out of thin air, ya know; some SERIOUS prayer, fasting, and pondering goes into them.)

And, as always...

SPOILER ALERT: His help always comes when we embark in his service.

His help came.

Here's where it led...

There will come a day, when each of us will be called to stand before the Lord. He will lovingly look us in the eye and ask us to report on what we've done for him; what we've given him.

As I contemplated what that moment would be like, I trembled. Imperfect, how would I feel standing before him? Awed, what would I say? Knowing PERFECTLY WELL, all that HE had done for ME, would I be able to lift my head, meet his gaze, and report that I had given him my all, in return?

Talk about your sobering thoughts.

Man, I'd give anything to be able to meet his eyes, in that moment, and stand blameless.

But in spite of my very best efforts to give him my all, I'm still so far from perfect; how can I stand blameless?

Here's the good news...

I LOVE how this scripture teaches that PERFECTION is NOT the prerequisite for standing blameless before God.

Nope.

The prerequisite for standing blameless, is simply to have given him our BEST; to have given him our ALL.

"...see that ye serve him with ALL your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day."

If we want to stand blameless before God, we'll need to have offered him ALL our heart. ALL our might. ALL our mind. And ALL our strength.

Halfway won't do.

Why our ALL?

Because that's what Christ did for US.

He gave us his all.

He gave us his best.

He put God, and us, before himself.

And that's what he asks of us in return.

Our best.

Our all.

And in that moment we're called to stand before him, our chance to place more on his altar will have passed.

The time to decide what our offering will be is NOW.

Everyday, we decide how much of us we're willing to place on his altar; what we'll give him; how much we'll serve him.

Are we giving him our BEST?

Are we giving him our ALL?

I love this quote by Marjorie Pay Hinckley about pulling up to the pearly gates in a dirty station wagon...



“I don't want to drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautifully, tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed, and with long, perfectly manicured fingernails. I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels from taking kids to scout camp. I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbor's children. I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping to weed someone's garden. I want to be there with children's sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of a friend on my shoulder. I want the Lord to know I was really here and that I really lived.”

Amen, Marjorie. (How can you NOT love this woman?)

She gets it.

When I stand before the Lord, I want to stand before him with calloused hands.

I may not be perfect, but I CAN live my life in such a way that he knows me, because I have spent my life in his service; because I have been an instrument in his hands.

I don't want to stand before him with my head hanging low, WONDERING if I have done enough. WISHING I had done more.

No. When I stand before the Lord, I want to be ready. I want to know my offering is complete.

I, alone, shape what my offering will be.

Everyday, I decide how much of me I'm willing to place on his altar.

"O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day."

When I contemplate everything HE's done for ME, nothing less than my everything will be enough.

I'm giving him all of me.


Love,
Barbara

P.S. You can download this mp3 on my website, barbaradoylemusic.com. Instrumental track is also available. (Sheet music will be here, March 2015)

Firesides

It's been such a joy, this past year, traveling around, meeting so many of you, and getting the chance to share my testimony through music. Below are two firesides I'll be offering throughout 2015 (you can click each image for more information)! If you feel these messages are needed in your particular ward/stake, I'd love to come share them with you.



Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Song for James...

A few months ago, I was asked by my stake to write a song for them to use on TREK!!!  

I was SO excited to to have the opportunity to write another trek song, and was even MORE excited that THIS year I was actually invited to GO (by default, hehe)!!!  

Do you even KNOW how long I've been wanting to go to Wyoming and walk the sacred trails of the Willie & Martin Handcart Companies?!?!

EIGHT YEARS, I tell ya!!!  EIGHT YEARS!!!  And it was absolutely an AMAZING experience (but that's a whole other blog post)!

In preparation for writing this song, I spent months pouring through pioneer story after pioneer story. 

(In fact, it was not uncommon during that time for my husband to find me quarantined in my bedroom, curled up on my bed, tissue in hand, SOBBING...and just as he would begin to ask me what in the world was wrong, he'd notice the "pioneer book" in my lap, shake his head, and close the door.)

I admit, I tend to be an overactive cryer anyhow (hallmark commercials, mormon messages, etc), but whose heart would not be touched by these faithful saints who sacrificed and endured so much?  

When I came across the story of James and Joseph Kirkwood, I knew without a doubt I had found my song. 

Once again, I could not stop the tears from flowing as I read their beautiful story of love, courage, determination, and sacrifice. Those two young boys have forever left an imprint on my heart. 

I like to have some sort of visual inspiration, if possible, when I'm writing a song. As I was researching everything I could get my hands on regarding James and Joseph Kirkwood, I stumbled upon a beautiful painting done by Julie Rogers, entitled Determination. I absolutely LOVED it and attached it to my keyboard, referring to it often as the words and melody formed.

 Art by Julie RogersDetermination

Last week, as I had the opportunity to visit the Willie site and place my feet on that holy ground, James and Joseph filled my heart and mind. 

Although I did not get the opportunity to actually climb Rocky Ridge, I found myself facing that direction and offering a prayer in my heart; thanking God for those two young boys and their powerful example of sacrifice, faith, determination, and love. And promising Him that it would not be lost on me.

In honor of Pioneer Day, I'd like to share their story with you now...

James Kirkwood

 Art by Julie RogersDetermination
James and his family were among the first converts in Scotland in 1840. James was baptized by Elder James MacGregor on April 28, 1856, just prior to sailing for America. James’s father and two sisters had died in 1852, but his determined mother (Margaret) gathered her four sons and set her sights on Zion. 
James Kirkwood was 11 years old when traveling with the Willie Handcart Company.  He traveled with his mother Margaret , and his three brothers, Robert (age 21), Thomas (age 19), and Joseph (age 4). 
Robert and his mother pulled Thomas in the handcart as Thomas was crippled and could not walk. The task of looking over and caring for young Joseph, fell upon James.
One night Margaret put their only loaf of bread in bed with them to protect it from freezing. Joseph knew not to touch it, but was so hungry he began to pinch off small pieces. “The temptation was too great for such a hungry four year-old and by morning, Margaret and her sons’ day’s rations had disappeared.”
The most tragic and difficult day for the Kirkwood family and the Willie company was October 23rd. Joseph Elder described it as "an awful day...Men, women, and children were weakened down by cold and hunger, weeping, crying, and some even dying by the roadside. It was very late before we all got into camp" 

Margaret and Robert had struggled about 16 miles that day, pulling Thomas across Rocky Ridge in a fierce storm of wind and snow. Some families became separated in the struggle, including the Kirkwood family. James and Joseph were exhausted and fell behind the company.
They walked in the freezing snow all night and did not reach camp until the early hours of the morning. Joseph was so young that James carried him on his back. When the pair finally arrived at the campfire, James set his brother down, whom he had carried most of the way up Rocky Ridge, and collapsed from exhaustion and exposure.
Margaret was up waiting for her sons, keeping a small fire burning, but the warmth of the fire was not enough to revive James. Young James had faithfully carried out his task, literally giving his life for his brother. Later that morning, he was buried on the banks of the Sweetwater, in a common grave with three other children and nine adults.

Margaret wept at the loss of her precious son. Perhaps her tears, combined with the cold and strong wind, contributed to her subsequent blindness. On October 25th, Margaret Kirkwood wrapped her woolen shawl around her shoulders, bade farewell to the final resting place of her son James, and continued her trek to Zion. 

May we never forget the brave pioneers who crossed those plains, so long ago. 

We are all trekking. As we exemplify their courage, faith, determination, and love in our own lives, on our own personal treks, their sacrifice will not have been in vain.

James, this song is for you.


Happy Pioneer Day,

Barbara

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Yoked

This past Easter Sunday, I was asked to speak in church (thank you, in advance, for your condolences, LOL)!

After lots of studying...and praying my GUTS out to understand what it was I was suppose to share...I felt prompted to focus on the Savior's invitation, "Come Unto Me," and to share a very personal experience I had with being "yoked" to the Savior.

After my talk, I was asked by a member of my ward if I could put it in writing so that they could share it with someone. To be honest, I get so nervous at the pulpit, when I speak, that I'm not quite sure what actually comes out of my mouth! But I will try to recapture some of what I said, here, and put the blubbering emotions I shared at the pulpit, into organized words.

The night before my talk,  I was running some thoughts past my hubby about how we actually "come unto Christ" and he asked me a really good question.

He asked, "What do you think Christ MEANS when he says, "come unto me."?"
(Grammar Side Note: For all you English gu-roos out there, I have NO IDEA how to punctuate a quote within a quote. Nor do I know how to spell "gu-roos." Gurus?!?! Okay, moving on.)

Naturally, I had a SLEW of ideas as to what I think the Savior means when he says "come unto me" and how each of us can put that invitation into action and actually come unto Christ.

He listened.

He liked my ideas.

(Or at least I THINK he liked my ideas. He's smart enough to tell me that the clothes that really DO make my bottom look big, don't. And that my hair, on bad hair days, looks just fine. So, it's hard to say if he was telling the truth, or just...being smart.)

Then the hub shared with me HIS thoughts as to what he thinks the Savior means when he says, "come unto me." He thinks the Savior is saying, "come and partake of my atonement"; that He is inviting us to come and actually USE his atonement in our daily lives.

I felt the spirit as he shared his insights with me and it was just what I needed to pull all of my thoughts together. (I knew I kept him around for a reason, wink!)

As I was thinking about his words, my mind went to, probably the most popular "come unto me" verse found in the scriptures, Matthew 11:28-30,



So comforting, right?!  Filled with power.  Filled with hope.

I mean, who DOESN'T get weighed down with life from time to time, and would give ANYTHING to find rest.  

Keeping my husband's comment in mind, I was curious to see what would happen, if I substituted the word "yoke" for "atonement".

It would read something like this,

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
"Take my [atonement] upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: 
and ye shall find rest unto your souls."
"For [with my atonement it] is easy, and [the] burden is light."

I REALLY liked that.

And I really LOVE that the Lord uses the analogy of a YOKE, to describe the enabling and strengthening power of His ATONEMENT.

We all know that a "yoke" is a wooden beam, usually used between a pair of oxen, that enables the oxen to pull together on a heavy load.  The animals pull, side by side, and the yoke helps to evenly distribute the weight of the load, between the two.

Now, I grew up in N.Y...in the 1980's (not to be confused with the 1880's....ehem...Ashley!!) So obviously, I didn't have a lot of exposure to oxen and yokes. I just assumed that ALL yokes, were DOUBLE yokes...built for two animals, like so...




But it was interesting to learn that in addition to double yokes, there are also single yokes as well, fitted for just ONE animal...




As I was thinking about the two kinds of yokes, my thoughts turned to an experience I had, almost nine years ago, when I found myself yoked to a heavy load.  

I was expecting our 2nd baby and was about four months along.  Everything was going great.  Since I had already passed "the danger zone" (aka, the 3 month mark), my husband and I were excited to share the good news with all of our friends and family!  

Well, wouldn't you know, just a few days after we had told everyone that we were expecting, I started having some bleeding.

Not good.

I ran to my doctor and an ultrasound confirmed the worst...the baby had died.  The doctor advised that my body was preparing to get rid of the fetus. I was suppose to go home and let nature take it's course. (And if nature did not take it's course by the end of the week, I was suppose to come in that following Monday for a D&C.)

Needless to say, I was heart broken. Emotional. And knowing the baby's condition, the thought of having to just sit around and wait for my body to dispose of it, seemed almost cruel.  But the thought of having to go in for a D&C on Monday was equally frightening.  

Sunday night rolled around and it was clear that nature was starting to take it's course.  I tried to tough it out as best I could, but after several hours of severe cramping, I finally asked my husband to call the doctor and see if he could get me something for the pain.  

The closest pharmacy, open on a Sunday night, was a 30 minute drive away.  So my husband packed up my two year old and hopped in the car to retrieve the medicine.  

Shortly after he left, the physical and emotional pain intensified.

I was afraid.  And I was alone.

I kept thinking that I just had to grit my teeth and bare it. What other choice did I have?

Finally, I reached a point where the physical pain was unbearable.  Which, consequently, made the emotional pain unbearable.  

As the silent, helpless tears rolled down my cheeks, the Lyrics of a song I knew came into my mind,

"There's no place you can go, that He hasn't been below."

It was like the spirit was reminding me, "Why are you pulling this heavy load in a SINGLE yoke, all by yourself, when the Savior, who has already suffered this for you, is ready and willing to help you pull.  Yoke up with Him.  You do not have to pull this alone."

I offered a prayer to my Heavenly Father, and told him that I was alone.  And I was afraid.  I told him the pain was too much for me to bear, and that I needed help pulling this load. I asked for the comfort, peace, and enabling power of the atonement.

As childish as it sounds, I closed my eyes and imagined myself stepping out of a SINGLE yoke, and stepping into a DOUBLE yoke.  His yoke. I pictured myself side by side with the Savior. Pulling with Him.

And as soon as I did this, it was as if someone had taken a knife and cut the heavy load in HALF. 

I kid you not. 

I could scarcely believe it.  The relief was instantaneous.  It was real.  

The trial wasn't gone; I still had to pull the load.  But now I only had to pull HALF of it.  And what was unbearable, just moments before, was now bearable.  

I could not stop the tears of gratitude and relief from overflowing.  I was not alone after all.  

I LOVED LOVED LOVED Elder Bednar's talk, "Bear Up Their Burden's With Ease", from this past General Conference, where he talked about hauling loads.  If you haven't heard it, it's a MUST read!!! 

We know that here on earth, ALL of us will have to pull loads.  It's an essential part of God's plan for us to learn and grow and become like Him.  But I believe that before we came to earth, God (in his infinite goodness) prepared us for the loads that we would have to pull.  And I believe we were instructed on HOW to pull them.  

God knew we would have two choices....the SINGLE yoke (where we could go it alone)....or the DOUBLE yoke (where we could pull with the Savior).  We were instructed to pull with the Savior, "for his yoke is easy and his burden is light."  

The adversary will try his best to pitch us the single yoke.  He WANTS us to curse God for our heavy loads and go it alone.  The Savior, on the other hand, is pleading with us over and over and over again to, "come unto me and take my yoke upon you."

In his talk noted above, Elder Bednar says,

"...the Savior is beckoning us to rely upon, and pull together with Him, even though our best efforts are not equal to and cannot be compared with His. As we trust in and pull our load with Him during the journey of mortality, truly His yoke is easy and His burden is light...We are not and never need be alone. We can press forward in our daily lives with heavenly help. Through the Savior's Atonement we can receive capacity and strength beyond our own."

A few years after my miscarriage, I wrote a song about my experience and the prayer I offered in the midst of that trial, "Cradle Me with Peace."



And a few years after THAT, I felt the pressing need to write a song that answered that plea; that bore witness of the help that came that night. I entitled the answer, "He's There."


I bear testimony that we are not suppose to pull our loads alone.  I bear testimony that the Savior really LIVES and that His invitation to "come unto me" is REAL.  Because of his infinite atonement, He stands ready to ease our burdens and lighten our loads, whatever they may be.  He's there. We only need to yoke ourselves to Him.  

I am forever grateful for God's plan, for Christ's atonement, and for the opportunity I have everyday, to come unto Him, and be yoked.

Barbara