Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Everyone Plays a Piece

"There are times when you might feel aimless
You can't see the places where you belong
But you will find that there is a purpose
It's been there within you all along and when you're near it
You can almost hear it." 

He is Glorious! You are His child! You are a child of God!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Dustin's Testimony and Conversion...

I was sent this amazing conversion story and had to share it with all of you. His testimony has made mine grow. I hope you will read through his experience and reflect on your own testimony and conversion. It made me think of where I am at now and where I'd like to be. I know that each of us can grow and be strengthened by the testimonies of others and I am grateful that he has taken the time to share with all of us.

Unto all who reads,

I am a convert to the Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints. I grew up in a loving family that taught me good morals and supported me from day one. I love them! We were not very religious however, so I really had no solid spiritual foundation. Friends in elementary and high school spoke to me about Jesus and the Bible, but I did not understand Their importance at that time in my life. When I was about 15 years old my kidneys began to fail, and I eventually ended up on dialysis by the age of 18. I was a very miserable teenager during those high school years. It was a difficult challenge having a chronic disease, and I was depressed because of it.

Fumbling through life, I partook of anything and everything the world had to offer. You could say I was quite comfortable in the presidential suite of the "Great and Spacious Building" (what the world has to offer). At the age of 19 I received kidney transplant, selflessly donated by my grandmother. It was like night and day with my health. I had been sick for so long that I had forgotten what it was like to be healthy! I had a new lease on life (or so I thought.) Not only did I have a new kidney, I was now also of legal age and could go to the bars and clubs - involving myself foolishly in them. I began to hang around people whom you could consider modern-day Gadianton Robbers (bikers and gang members). I began to have a chip on my shoulder, thinking the world owed me respect. The false sense of security I had around these "gentlemen" had also puffed up my pride even more.

Then, one morning, my mother woke me up and told me to turn on the television. It was September 11, 2001. My heart sank into my stomach. I was scared, confused and ashamed. Ashamed at how I had been living my life up to that point. Ashamed by my selfish recklessness and utter disregard for the sacrifices my family and friends had made for me over the previous years. Something stirred inside of me. I had a deep yearning to know the TRUTH. What was I doing with my life? Why had I gone through so much? What was the meaning of it all? I had been given a second chance at a healthy life, yet I was literally wasting it away with frivolous living. I was also troubled because those who allegedly crashed the planes said they did so in the name of their God and their religion. This did not sit right with me. From the little I knew about God, I was under the impression that He loved us - or He at least liked us enough to not have us kill each other! From that point on I began a “spiritual binge“. I quit cold turkey all of the substances, places and people that had been a negative influence in my life. I had no desire for ANY of it. I went to the library on many occasions and studied the different religions and beliefs of the world. Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, Sikhism, Hinduism. I LOVED it!! I was soaking it up. I was a sponge. Eventually, I began to learn about Christianity. I cracked open an old bible and began to read.

"In the beginning..." As hard as I tried, I couldn't really understand it. And to make things even MORE confusing, there were many, many different denominations and sects within Christianity itself. Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Seventh-day Adventist, Presbyterian, Evangelical, Episcopalian... You get the idea. I was overwhelmed! And who WAS this Jesus? My answers soon came.

About mid-October I was at a "friend's" house, sitting on a couch. Whilst sitting, I had an unmistakable feeling that I had to leave, NOW!!! - that it was not safe to stay. I abruptly left and got into my car. I began to drive home, wondering if the impression I just had was real. Then, all of a sudden, a thick warm blanket of pure love and light enveloped me from head to toe. To describe this experience with mere mortal words cannot do it justice. The feeling was like having all of the best times of my life wrapped into one joyous, happy moment. The feeling was like having every birthday party, Christmastime and colourful dream coming true - all at once - multiplied by infinity. My heart burned within me. It was so familiar. Someone or Something not of this world knew exactly who I was, and loved me with a love that is indescribable. I began to ball like a baby and wept with sheer joy. I then began to weep with sadness, realizing that the life I had been living was not what I was put on this earth to do. I felt encouraged to continue seeking, searching and I would find the answers I was so desperately yearning for. I experienced peace in my heart, comforting me and urging me to continue to the Light - to continue to fight for good. That moment changed me forever. I know that what I felt and experienced was real and true. I also know that God knew it, and I could not deny it - neither dared I! From that day on I continued my spiritual journey. I learned more about the different denominations and doctrines, but they were more confusing than comforting. I even went to a bible study group. They spoke about God and Jesus, which was good, but something was missing. Where was that feeling that I had previously experienced - that burning within my heart that had filled me full of hope, faith, love and light? I was starting to get frustrated.

November 13, 2001 was my father's birthday. That evening, my family decided to go out for dinner to celebrate. I wasn’t feeling too well so I stayed home, alone. I turned on the television to one of my favourite shows. A woman on the show explained to a man that she was a Mormon. What was a Mormon? Was it another religion I could study? I was getting excited. And while I was pondering this new topic, the doorbell rang. Oh, who could that be?! I was watching my show, just beginning to process this new information about Mormons.

I answered the door...

Two missionaries from The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints stood before me, The Book of Mormon in their hands. These two young men introduced themselves, both curiously named "Elder". They explained to me their message about the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith’s First Vision and the purpose of the Book of Mormon. What touched my heart the most was their invitation to read passages from the Book of Mormon, and then ask God MYSELF to know if it was true. We talked in the doorway for about 20 minutes. They gave me a copy of the book and said they would contact me in a few days. I felt like I was walking on air.

I immediately went upstairs and began to read. I did not understand everything right away, but I knew in my heart that I had to pray to God to know if this was what I had been searching for. Besides, it just couldn't have been a coincidence that the Mormon missionaries showed up at my door at the EXACT same time there was a Mormon on television, right? I got down on my knees, not knowing how to pray, but prayed silently nevertheless. I offered up the sincerest desires of my heart and asked God to show me what was true. I asked Him if it was right to meet with the missionaries. I prayed to know if the Book of Mormon was true. I got up, poured myself a bowl of cereal and opened a magazine to an article in the back. I began to read. The article was about BYU's football team. It explained how players on the team sometimes left football for two years to serve throughout the world as missionaries for The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints. This was NOT a coincidence any more. This was divine intervention. This was an answer to the prayer I had said only minutes before.

I met with the Elders the next day. They taught me many truths - plain and precious truths that had been lost due to the Great Apostasy – that were restored once again to the earth through the Prophet, Joseph Smith. They boldly testified of living Prophets and Apostles upon the earth today, teaching me how I could find out for myself if what they were telling me was really true. How? By sincerely studying, pondering and then praying to my Father in Heaven. I learned about the Holy Ghost. Who is the Holy Ghost and what does He feel like? He is a Personage of Spirit – the third member of the Godhead. He testifies and bears record of God the Father and Jesus Christ. He reveals all truth. He can cause a warm burning within our chest and heart - like purifying fire. He can cause sudden strokes of ideas and quicken our understanding about scripture and doctrine. He can fill us full of hope, faith, love, peace and light - all of the things I had felt that day driving home!! The Holy Ghost is also a still, small Voice. If we are too preoccupied or distracted, we can drown out that Voice. After a couple of meetings, the Elders then asked me to pray aloud for the first time. I had never done that before! Nervously, I bowed my head and crossed my arms. I began to pray to my Heavenly Father. And you know what? My chest burned within me! I felt pure warmth and peace. I had received a witness from the Holy Ghost! I had found what I was looking for! Over the next two weeks I participated in the concluding lessons, and prepared myself to enter the waters of baptism. I was baptized November 29, 2001 and received the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands a week later. The Spirit of the Lord has been my constant companion – my guiding light (so long as I remain worthy of His companionship). Entering into this sacred covenant with God has been the greatest and best decision I have ever made.

I testify that God lives, and that the Heavens are open. He is the Father of our spirits and Jesus Christ is His Only Begotten Son - the Redeemer and Saviour of the world - our Advocate with the Father. Through His Infinite Atonement, He has made it possible for us to return to the Father’s presence by obedience to the Gospel principles of faith in Jesus Christ, repentance and the ordinances of baptism and confirmation (receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands) by proper Priesthood Authority. God the Father and His Beloved Son have ALL power. Their timing is perfect. Jesus Christ is the Light and the Life of the world. My greatest of joys is knowing exactly who I am, where I came from and where I am going – that there is a plan for each and every one of us. I testify that Joseph Smith truly was a Prophet called of God, and that angels ministered to him (and to us) continuously. Joseph was an instrument in the hands of the Almighty in restoring the Fullness of the Everlasting Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints is the only true living church upon the face of the whole earth - God Himself bearing witness of it. This knowledge has opened and softened my heart. I love and care for EVERY human being upon the face of the earth. We are ALL God’s children – each and every one of us! It’s magnificent! The Bible AND the Book of Mormon are true. They are the Words of God – both witnessing and testifying of the glory of Christ. I invite all to exercise faith by reading these scriptures, (especially The Book of Mormon) and you will come to know that they are true for yourself. Come; humbly learn what The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints has to offer. God is faithful, and will not leave us alone in the dark - if we but reach out and seek Him. This humble testimony I leave before the entire world, in the most sacred name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

My warmest regards,
Dustin Lee Burnham

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Wishing a Happy (Not Guilty) Mother's Day to You!

You feel like you are the only one who is snapping at your kids and the only one with goldfish crackers smashed into your carpet. You feel like you are the only one with kids who don’t listen or who seem to be bickering non-stop and the only one who forgot about a meeting that you should’ve been at or something for your kid’s school project. Sometimes you feel like a lousy Mom and everyone else has it all together. You’re the one with a kid screaming as your dragging them out of the store. You’re the one who always has more laundry in the basket, whether clean or dirty, than you do in the dresser drawers. You’re the one with a to-do list the size of Texas and only a few things crossed off. Sometimes you feel alone and cumbered with the so many roles you carry and sometimes downright stressed, overwhelmed, and frankly not like the Mom you thought you’d be. You may feel that way at times. I know I do. I have felt like the only one and yet time and time again I am reminded that I am not. Maybe all of the descriptions above don’t fit you to a tee but you could take away a few and add a few others and still another slew of women would join you in the battle.

 I recently had a conversation with a good friend and neighbor about how we often forget that others are real and we are determined that they have it all together. She said that she would think that our home was pristine. Well, she was wrong. :) As we type, behind me sits a room waiting for me or someone to come a long and bring it back into order and a similar scenario rings true for almost every room in the house. On another occasion I discovered that someone thought that I listened to Church music and only church music every day of the week. When they found out I rocked out to the radio while doing dishes they were surprised. I too was surprised at how I am perceived. Church music every day would be great but that is not the real me. We like dance parties at our house. If we think we know the kind of Mom that lies behind the doors of each and every home, we are mistaken. We are all real and we are all trying but none of us is the perfect wife, or mother, or woman.

Today, I had the opportunity to sit in Relief Society and listen to a lovely lesson. I am in primary and it was nice to have a spirit-filled adult driven lesson (I do love primary but it was nice today:). I ended up making a comment about how today, Mother’s Day, can be a day full of guilt and we can be too hard on ourselves. I talked about how we are not the only one and we need to recognize that everyone else is real, we are all human, and no one has everything all together and perfectly in order. We are all trying and we all fall short sometimes. I shared portions of the conversation that my friend and I had had. As I expounded on this idea I felt how much it resonated with so many other sisters in the room. There were tears and there was no question that many had felt the way I described. We need to be real with ourselves. We need to realize that we are doing just fine. And that so-and-so down the street is just as real as you and sometimes they feel lousy and frustrated and completely behind and rundown just like you do.

 Elder Jeffrey R. Holland ( “Because She Is a Mother”) gave this encouragement, “Do the best you can through these years, but whatever else you do, cherish that role that is so uniquely yours and for which heaven itself sends angels to watch over you and your little ones. Yours is the work of salvation, and therefore you will be magnified, compensated, made more than you are and better than you have ever been as you try to make honest effort, however feeble you may sometimes feel that to be.”

All we need to do is make an honest effort. Sometimes I think that things are too hard to get done with 3 demanding little ones but I don’t give it my best effort and some things fall short. In saying that we are all real and we all struggle I am not saying we should justify our behavior as mothers or let things slide that really matter because so-and-so struggles with that too. We do need to try our best. We shouldn’t join in the comparing that sometimes goes on among women but we can recognize that no one is perfect and not beat ourselves up over our imperfectness.

 President Gordon B. Hinckley continually counseled, “Do your best.” And then he added: “But I want to emphasize that it be the very best. We are too prone to be satisfied with mediocre performance. We are capable of doing so much better” (“Standing Strong and Immovable,” World Leadership Training Meeting, 10 January 2004 [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2004], 21).

So on this Mother’s Day, recognize the good that you do. Recognize the good that others do. Recognize that you’re not perfect and that is okay, just try your very best and you will be “made more than you are and better than you have ever been”.

This is just as much counsel to me as it is to anyone else. My hope this week as I am down on my knees picking up the goldfish smashed into the carpet, and trying to hold my tongue when I feel close to snapping, and dragging my 3 year old out of the store screaming, and trying to make our dressers fuller than our baskets, that I can remember that I may not be perfect but if I am trying my very best that angels will be watching over me and my little ones. I hope they feel invited because I need them and so does so-and-so down the street. Happy Mother’s Day!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

To every woman...

...for every woman is a Mother.

Thank you to all of the wonderful women in my life!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

We're All In This Together!

Although we all go through different experiences and trials and we all live in different circumstances we are all living on the same world with chaos going on all around us just trying to do our best.  We really are all in this together, or at least we should be. 

It can be easy to get caught up in our own little worlds, with our own troubles, and our own agendas.  It is easy to only see the long list of to-dos that we have or the sometimes blinding trials, whether big or small.  At least it is for me.  But in one way or another I am always reminded of how much we all really need each other. 

I recently randomly fell upon a post of someone who had just had a house full of kiddos with a stomach bug that just wouldn't go away.  She too was hit with the yuck and thus her home had become a bit of a mess.  When finally the sickness seemed to be leaving them and she was ready to tackle her neglected house she had a feeling that there was someone who needed her that day. She felt like she was supposed to make someone dinner that very night and she was directed to who it was to be.  Her house was left for another day and someone who needed it was blessed that night with a nice dinner.  (You can read the whole post here.)  But sometimes for me it is all too easy to direct my attention back at my own struggles and push those promptings aside.

A day or two after reading this post I read a post by one of my roommates from college.  She wrote about how one of her best friends had just found out that her 5 year old son has cancer.  My roommate currently lives in Australia and her good friend in Utah.  Through some amazing promptings and a very long flight she was able to come home to be with her friend during this difficult time.  (You can read the whole post here.)

And here is where my connection comes in.  As I followed the link in that post to her friend's blog that details the journey of this last month's battle with cancer I was struck with great emotion. She took her 5 year old son to the doctor on the very day that I took my 6 year old to the doctor.  She headed to the hospital for blood tests and a CT scan that very day, as did we.  The following day I received news that our son did not have a brain tumor and she heard the devastating news that her son did have cancer.  As I read these similarities and thought about how her situation could so easily have been ours I couldn't help but feel a connection with their family.  While we were feeling relief, they were feeling heartache.  I prayed for them, I cried for them, and I felt that the least I could do was to donate a little bit in their behalf. If you are willing you can head here and donate, even $5 will help them along their way. :)

Behind closed doors and inside hearts everyone has something that wears at them. Sometimes big and sometimes small.  Sometimes it is for a moment and sometimes it is for a lifetime.  My hope is that we will look beyond ourselves and see that we need each other. That we will see that in the walls of each and every home and in the chambers of each individuals heart their is a need for love, compassion, understanding, and the following of promptings of the Holy Ghost.  Let us pray for, see, and act on the promptings that will allow us to be the person that someone else is longing for.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Life's Journey

I just recently past the year mark of my last post.  Time and time again I have thought that maybe I'd add a few words and the timing never felt right and I never had something I felt needed to be said.  The year long break started at a transitional time when our third child had recently been added to the bunch.  Sleepless nights, adjusting to life with three little ones, and helping three little ones adjust to life with each other, sending my oldest child off to his first day of school (adding many trips to and from), and other numerous tasks and experiences and trials have filled the time.

The past month has felt personally transitional.  It has felt transformational. I have felt taught.  My heart has been stirred and learning has taken place.

Several weeks back I sat in a doctor's appointment with my 6 year old son.  He had been experiencing shooting pains in his head, through his eyes, and sometimes down to his toes.  He mentioned that his hands felt "itchy" on the inside and I wondered if he meant that were fuzzy, asleep.  Some things were bothering his tummy and he was extra emotional, among a few other ailments. In this case, Google is not your friend.  I searched and of course came up with some scary options.  Namely one, one really scary one.

Brain tumor.

I often blow things up to a level that is not necessary and I hoped that this was the case this time, more so than ever before because this time it wasn't about me it was about him, my son.  As we sat in the office and rattled off symptom after symptom to the doctor it became apparent that my ideas weren't so far fetched.  It was an option.  The doctor explained that he didn't think it was a brain tumor but with all of his symptoms it needed to be ruled out.  An appointment was made for that night to get a CT scan and some blood tests at the hospital.

In the car on the way home, I explained that we would be going to the hospital that night and what would take place.  He, of course, did not like the idea.  His scope was small. He was worried about the blood tests and I was terrified about the potential outcome. The nurses who were drawing his blood were amazed at how he carried himself.  They held his arm but they didn't need to.  Not a tear was shed.  The CT scan was easy and kind of entertaining to him. I held his hand and he tried to hold still. He was so brave. I was seriously a Mommy kind of impressed.  I expected more drama but he was a amazing.

We were told we would probably hear the results back about the CT scan the next day and if we hadn't that we should call in the day after.  Of course, I called the next day because I just couldn't wait any longer.  I prayed and prayed and prayed. I tried to prepare myself mentally, and emotionally, and spiritually for what could be some major changes in our lives.  I thought both about the things that would take place immediately if the results were not in our favor but I also thought about the possible end result. I paced.  I waited.  I tried not to let my whole world be consumed by not knowing but my day was a day of hoping, praying, and waiting.

I received a phone call from the doctor's office with some of the blood results but no word about the CT scan that the doctor hadn't had a chance to look at yet.  I felt like the nurse was TOO nice on the phone and thus the results must not be good.  I worried that the reason the nurse didn't tell me the results of the CT scan was because the doctor wanted to talk to me personally.  Again, I started to blow things up.  The day was long. Definitely the longest day I've had as a Mother and maybe my longest day ever.

Finally nearing the closing hours of the doctor's office I received a phone call and headed to a room to hear the results away from little voices.  I was glad to hear a women's voice on the line and not the male voice of the physician and even more glad to hear these words, "He was able to look over the CT scan results and everything was perfectly normal."

Perfectly normal. 

I can't even begin to tell you the feelings of relief and pure happiness that came over me as those words were processed.  Although this all happened over a 36 hour span between doctor visit, to hospital visit, to results I felt like I had been on an emotional and spiritual journey.  Amidst my prayers of hope that everything would be fine with my son I also prayed for faith to face whatever happened.  The reminder of what is most important was all so real and the encouragement to be a better Mother, a Mother of children of God was needed and accepted. 

Has everything been perfect since. No.  Have I immediately become the Mother that I hope to be, of course not.  I will continue on my journey.  A journey that continued as prophets and apostles spoke to me personally at General Conference and as local leaders the following week shared their insights with me at our Stake Conference.  I am trying to remember that that is what life is, a journey and that I need to start where I am. In my journey I hope to fill my life with things that matter most.