Monday, April 4, 2016

My Baby Sister

I recognize that it has been quite some time since I’ve blogged. I am half sorry for that, but let's face it I will most likely not be getting more consistent anytime soon. I decided to write today because I feel that I have something worth writing for.

I’m in a class called foundations of the restoration (if you are a BYU/Institute student I suggest you take it). This being the last full week of school we’re getting pretty close to the end of the restoration. Over the weekend President Haws (my teacher) had us read Doctrine and Covenants 137, 138 and some associating articles. I feel like it is a very appropriate time to be reminded of these doctrines (Easter/Conference/Karna).

I recognize that a few who stumble onto this blog may not know who Karna is so I’ll explain myself. Karna is my baby sister. She lived four days. I was young when it happened and there aren’t many memories that I can claim as my own. Mostly I remember from pictures and feelings. I have many things to thank her for even though life was short. I have always felt a strong connection towards her. I stand out when it comes to my family. My first grade teacher asked if I was really my father’s child. Apparently not many dark eyed brunettes come from freckled redheads. Anyways my mother often told me that Karna and I looked alike. When I was younger I liked to imagine the things that we would have done together. My favorite pass time was swinging or climbing trees because I felt like I was closer to Heaven when I was in the air.

My mother called me a question box when I was younger, can’t help it I like answers. Many of these questions stemmed back to the gospel. Why wasn’t Karna here? Would I see her again? Was God really there? I have a vivid memory of one night asking these questions and wondering if God could hear my prayer. I was laying in bed trying to have a conversation with Him. I couldn’t have been much more than eight. Anyways I was getting pretty frustrated because I felt like I was talking to a wall. In my final desperation I promised Him I would stop sinning if He would let me know He was there. About a week later I got my answer. I don’t know much but I do know that God is real and that He listened to a little girl’s prayer. He did make me wait for His timing. He has a habit of doing that.

With that background I return to my starting thought, Foundations of the Restoration. In class we were asked how would our view on God and the next life change if we did not know that those who have died can learn about and accept Christ in the spirit world. This question really hit home. My first thought is He wouldn’t be the God I know and love. He wouldn’t be the God that answered a little girl's prayer reassuring her that she would see her sister again. The next was that I was sure I didn’t wanted to be in Heaven without my family. What is Heaven if there isn’t family. For me it would be a life that is eternally unsatisfying. I feel that I have this constant longing to be with my family and for them to be happy. To me when we are all together laughing that is Heaven.

Right now my family is separated. We are all over the place (Ohio, Cambodia, Utah, and Oregon then don’t get me started on extended family). I miss them a great deal, but I have God’s promise that I will be reunited with them and because of that I can handle our good-byes. One of my favorite stories comes from Alma 17 when he was reunited with the sons of Mosiah. Oh the Joy I will feel when my family is reunited. I hope that we can sing with that same Joy, because we have been united by Christ.

I know Karna is doing the work of God. She may be out of reach right now, but because of Temple covenants, and the promise of God (D&C 137:10) I will see her again. Yesterday, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints had their semi-annual general conference. One of the speakers told a story of a family that didn’t understand that they would see their child again. The mother was unable to be comforted, because she feared for her child. She did not yet understand who God is. God is love. He is a Father. He is a listener. He is a friend. He is many more things I could not name them all.

I know that because Jesus Christ suffered for my sins and died on the cross that I will live again. I know that my family will be together forever because of God’s plan. He is my peace and for that my gratitude is beyond expression.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Sometimes He saves us by Fire

This last week a traveling sales man came to our home in Oregon. I answered and having been a missionary during hot and humid summers I cannot bring myself to turn someone away without a drink of water and a few minutes in an air conditioned room. I ushered him into the hallway and as I was obtaining water he started reading the living Christ that mom put up in the hallway. He commented on it but then started into his spiel. I left for this because he was really giving it to mom. I found where dad keeps all the extra copies of the Book of Mormon and before he left I bore my testimony to him and gave it to him. He seemed pretty excited and interested. I should have given him a card or at least a chapter to read but I'm a little out of practice and I hope that this meager offering to the Lord can be accepted. 

Two fun thoughts came from my adventurous drive home. 
First on my way traveling though k falls there was a cloud of bugs that I drove through that lasted a good five minutes. All the fires has caused everyone to be hording water so the lake is extra full this year, despite the drought, which makes a wonderful breading ground for these bugs. Many bugs lost their lives on the windshield of my car which made it extremely difficult to see. To add to that it was getting late and was fairly dark outside. As cars flew by me in the opposite direction I couldn't see the road. I remembered the council that dad gave me in these situations (well it was meant for heavy rain). Look to the white line and don't take your eyes off of it. As long as the line stays in the middle of the dashboard you will be safe. This is just like the gospel of Christ. As long as we are keeping our covenants we will be safe and make it home safely like I did :)

Second thought was while I was playing the piano at home. It was the first night I was back and I had a lot of things on my mind so I was playing to sooth myself and prepare for bed. As I was thinking about some of the hard things I've been going though lately I had a feeling of gratitude. We are given wonderful talents and blessing because of the hard things we go through and because of those gifts we are able to bless the lives of many of God's children. The example that was most pressing on my mind that night was the one I shared with Emily. I remember many nights crying myself to sleep feeling worthless and a failure, however as I learned to trust God and I put my worth and confidence in Him I have gained great power. Because of this trial I can play the piano and uplift others with beautiful music. Though I do not condone the things that she said and did to Emily and I, I am grateful that I had this experience because it has brought Emily and I closer together. It has also given me strength and experience to overcome other trials I have had. I welcome trials and I am grateful when I am in trusted by God to do hard things. 

As I was reading today I came accross a scripture in first Nephi that says, "Wherefore, the righteous need not fear; for thus saith the prophet, they shall be saved, even if it so be as by fire." I know that we are all given hard things but these are the experiances that link us to our saviour. They are the reason we need Him in our lives. I know that my Father in Heaven is watching over me and is present in my life. It is His purpose to bring about my exaltation and eternal life. I will trust in Him and walk with Him through the fire.  

Friday, June 5, 2015

The best two years

Today is the day. Two years ago I boarded a plane to start what has been the most influential period of my life. Was it anything like expected, no but it was exactly what I needed. When I was preparing for a mission I quizzed everyone I knew for what it would be like. Everyone without fail told me it would be hard but were never able to explain to me why or what it was really like. That is because a mission is a trial and has been designed perfectly for you. Father gives us the experiences that we need. Everyone's mission is so different and I'm not just talking about geographic area I am to referring to the personal battle everyday to follow Christ. Some are given physical difficulties others must struggle emotionally others spiritually and some have a little of each. We really have no right to judge another because they sin differently than us or even that their trial is different. It is so easy to look at someone else and wish for their struggles because they look "easy" to us. This is not true each person has inner workings and if we were to receive someone else's trial we would send it back as quickly as possible. So in words I can never adequately explain what my mission was like or what it meant to me. All that I know how to say is that this was one choice that I will never regret because it brought me to my Savior, and it is the relationship I have with him that I hold to be my most valuable and sacred possession. But who really wants to hear me rant so I thought I'd give you some lovely photos that I never did end up emailing home.

sorry this isn't from the mission but I did find sisters  in provo :)

Also here is an excerpt from Zach's letter,

"There is a less active member we have been working with who has gotten really worn out and tired. He always talks about how he has to provide for his children physically and enable them to be well off in the future. We talked with him about how the greatest legacy we can leave is one of faith. I talked about Grandma Lake and how she wanted to help her kids. She saw the church was good, so she started having her kids attend church actives. That influenced my mom who has impacted me in that I have a testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel. That is worth more to me than any amount of money. That has a greater impact on my future happiness than any amount of money as well. I want to leave those I teach here in Cambodia and my future family a heritage of faith.

Keep the flame of your faith burning bright. This is one fire we do want to spread."

Here is to the best year and a half!! Now lets go spread this fire :)
Sister Olsen

Ps sorry there are so many but there is a great story behind each one. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Obedience Brings Blessings

Why is obedience so important?

We were studying about agency today during relief society and I had a very tender moment with the spirit. One of those times when he's teaching you something new and it has nothing to do with what the instructor is actually saying. The lesson was one of the standard regurgitation of Sunday school answers, and I have to admit that I occasionally become frustrated with these sort of discussions. I justify it because the gospel can go much deeper than we often allow it to, but I know that this is not right because it is by these simple things that we understand the mysteries of God. So as I recognized my pride at work I forced myself to pay attention so that I would be able to receive revelation. As she was talking she mentioned briefly obedience and my mind stuck onto it, experiences I've had and quotes started running through my head. I love it when this happens because it's that moment when you fit a puzzle peace in and then suddenly you are able to see the big picture of how everything relates.

Anyways enough about puzzles. I am so grateful for a Father that understands that we need to choose to be like Him. If you read my last post you will know that our opinions will never change the will of God, at least I could never get Him to budge, but instead as we pray our will becomes God's will. It is a beautiful process and I am thankful for my experiences with it, because they reassure me and help me understand on a different level why Satan's plan never would have worked. Our life is about becoming and being obedient to the laws of God prepare us to be like Him, a being who is completely obedient to the laws of heaven. I believe that it is not only His knowledge of the laws of heaven but His dedication to obedience to these laws that gives Him the power to create.

One of the quotes that I was referencing earlier was something my MTC teachers had told me while I was there. "Obedience brings blessings, and exact obedience brings miracles." I lived by that while on the mission, and it was also the cause of much frustration during the first 9 months. I remember many times feeling that because of how things were turning out that I was not being obedient enough and God was punishing me for it. It hasn't been until recently that I have recognized that the miracle was a change in heart. God works in mysterious ways and we shouldn't limit Him to what we think He should do. I know that what I think of as success is different than Fathers, because I can only see things short term. While Father can see into the eternities and allowing us to fall now can give us the strength and wisdom for something much more important in the future.

On a less serious note here's a fun video that features yours truly :) Valentines day may be my favorite holiday because everyone is celebrating my birthday by sending love notes to one another. What more can I ask for!?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Giving up something good for something better

Today in Relief Society we had our first lesson about President Benson. The gospel principle was about the first commandment, loving God. There are many reasons that I can think of for why this is the great commandment. I feel like it sets the stage of how we keep the other commandments. For example we will keep them willingly and not because someone is looking over our shoulder. It teaches me that keeping the commandments is an act of love and that by being obedient we are expressing our love for Father in a much deeper way than words are capable.

As we talked about how loving God leads us to obedience the Prophet Abraham came up. The story of how he loved God enough that he was willing to sacrifice his son. I believe that we all have a similar moment in our life where we have to face ourselves in the mirror and honestly answer this question, "am I willing to give everything up for God." I know that for me a mission was a form of answering this question. I would like to explain to you three of the things I gave up for God. I am in no way saying my giving is finished. No, I believe that this is only the beginning. I know that my experiences on my mission prepared me for my life and I expect many more times when I have to look into myself and see if I really am willing to give what He asks for.

My first sacrifice was my family. Saying good-bye to my sister at the airport was perhaps the hardest thing I had done in my life thus far (marathons included). I am grateful that He did not require me to separate myself from them completely, but He did require that I stop relying on them so heavily. The blessings I saw from this was an increased closeness with God. He is who I turn to first. He is my rock. Another blessing was a love for the people I served with. I did not think I would be able to say this at the airport 18 months ago, but coming home was one hundred times harder than leaving. Each of the people I met and worked with on my mission has a piece of my heart, and because of this sacrifice my capacity to love has expanded.

My second sacrifice was who I was. I was first asked to give up my name (who knew how hard it would be!!) Then my habits that distracted me from God, and then habits that kept me from working in harmony with my companion. The one I wanted to mention today was running. Looking back I never understood how much running was a part of who I was. If you looked me up in the dictionary most of the entry would be about running. It is not something bad and not something I had to give up but I know that I was blessed because I did. This too brought me closer to God because he became my stress reliever. I am also thankful that now I am able to define myself for more than the things I do. Don't worry now that I am home I will be returning to this hobby, but I am thankful to know that God is more important.

Lastly and perhaps the most public sacrifice I made on my mission was staying in Virginia. This was the sacrifice that unlike Abraham I was asked to fulfill completely. It's hard for many to understand why this was required of me, and I have given up for the most part trying to explain it. I imagine that it is because it's difficult to understand something you have not experienced yourself. I know I would not feel the way I do now if it was not for the many hours I spent on my knees talking to God about this very thing. It is something sacred to me that I hope others can see this experience for its goodness. To express my gratitude I will try one more time to share the beauty of this trial.

Two years ago I would not have appreciated my wait in Virginia. I recall talking to someone about the difficulties of obtaining a visa to Brazil and me bursting out how mad I would be if I had to report to the Provo MTC. Having this background it might surprise you to know that I chose to stay in my reassignment even after my visa came.When I became aware of the reality of my reporting to Provo I knew that I had two choices. I can either drag my feet or I can smile. I chose to be loyal to my faith and trust that God would take care of me, but that does not mean it was easy.

I remember looking down at a purple piece of paper and reading for the first time Richmond Virginia. I had spent 6 weeks at the Provo MTC learning the Portuguese language and now because my Brazilian visa had still not been approved I was asked to serve somewhere in the United States temporarily. I do not believe there are words in the English language that can properly capture my emotions at that moment. I managed a smile and then reminded myself that the gospel is the same no matter where I am. With that I knew my purpose and continued forward. In the beginning my cheerful attitude about being reassigned were just words: inwardly I was confused, frustrated and scared. For a long time my prayers consisted of my pleading for the visa and I admit my first transfer most of my thoughts were about Brazil. Looking back now I am so grateful for these months, because this is when I learned first hand how God answers prayers, but more importantly that I cannot change the will of God.

These months passed quickly after I buried myself in the work of a missionary. Each morning instead of worrying about how my Portuguese was rusting I thought about the men and women that we would be teaching that day. Everything a missionary does is to prepare themselves to serve others, and if what we are doing isn't serving someone it becomes very easy to forget to do it. This is what happened to the time I spent studying Portuguese. I remember talking to my Mission President one day about how difficult it was for us to find time for me to study Portuguese. I remember him chuckling but I do not remember what he told me. I do know that this is when I first realized that I could stay in Virginia. It was something foreign to me, and a thought that I know was not my own.

It took me three more months after this moment for me to recognize that this was the will of God. I will never forget the peace that came to me after I finally acted and obeyed His will. I felt free for the first time in months and I knew that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I would go through this experience a hundred times over, because I know that I am closer to God because of it. I have always had a thick skull and I am grateful for a Father that knows how to get through to me.

This is my word to others that have gone through similar experiences, don't doubt your ability to receive revelation. Hard things bring us to our knees but they do not take away our ability to communicate with God. Also know that this trial didn't come because you did something wrong and it is not meant to be a punishment. Honestly hard things come because Father knows that he can trust you with this assignment. And always know that you are loved and watched over by seen and unseen forces.

I know that Christ lives. I know that His work is to bring about the eternal life and happiness of man. He is the redeemer of the world! This knowledge is my most prized possession and I am thankful for this gift God has given me.