Thoughts on Creation

Guest Post by Beffy, one of our counselors:

This semester I am taking a ceramics class. My teacher had us read an article by Elder Neal A. Maxwell called, “Start Making Chips.” It is all about the things we gain from creating something. In it he says:

There is so much to see and so much to celebrate righteously. Indeed, appreciation for the world (and all in it) which God has given us is but a prelude to adoration of the God who has so gloriously displayed His creativity for us. Creativity permits us to see the wondrous order of things, their infinite beauty, their scope, but also their incredible detail. To use the words of Moses, we then see and feel things which we “never had supposed” (Moses 1:10). I pray that each of us may truly see the wonder of all that our Father and His Son have created for us. And one of the best ways for you, or anyone, to begin that process, is by being creative yourself. If you don’t know quite where to begin, start making some chips. In your righteous desires, the Spirit will guide you.

This paragraph confused me. Could me being in a ceramics class really bring me to understand and appreciate The Savior’s creations better? I create bad art and he created worlds without number. That didn’t make sense to me. But then one day, it came true. 

Last week we had a project due. I hadn’t been able to spend much time on it because I had gone to Boston for a graduate school interview. I got to the ceramics lab five hours before class to finish it. I kept running into problems. The lid wasn’t fitting over the body, the arm kept falling off, the leg kept collapsing. Every time a problem came up, I wanted to get frustrated and start over. But that just couldn’t happen. Heavenly Father helped me to be calm and finish the project. Slowly but surely, the project went from looking like a flour container to a minion. During this time the thought came to me: I am spending all of this time on this minion and it is finally coming together. I have made some mistakes that I don’t know how to fix but it’s a minion, it’s supposed to look like this. Heavenly Father spent time creating me and body. He didn’t make any mistakes. He purposely made me this way. He said, “It’s Beffy, she is supposed to look this way. She is my daughter and she is beautiful.”

When I was in middle and high school, I spent a lot of time picking out the things wrong with me. It didn’t matter if what something physical, spiritual, or mental. If there was a flaw to be seen, I would find it and beat myself up over it. Then I decided to find my own testimony. As I got to know Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, I stopped worrying about the things wrong with me. Instead of beating myself up over it, I learned to fix the things I could and not worry about the things I couldn’t fix. Don't get me wrong, there are still times that I pick at my flaws. But I have to remind myself that it is Satan getting to me. I am a daughter of the Most High God, and he loves me.

I recently read an article where Elder Oaks addresses how we can be happy even if we don’t feel we are attractive. He says:

I will not say that looks are not important… We teach that true beauty is founded on righteousness, virtue, and gospel living. All one has to do is look around an old folks home to see how transparent skin-deep beauty is. Or compare the attractiveness of some people before twenty and after fifty. The long-term beautiful people of the world are people of generosity, thoughtfulness, and all the other basic Christian values. Further, when you look at the skin-deep beautiful people of movie stardom and see how often they move in and out of marriage, it is apparent that attractiveness is not synonymous with happiness… Even in the life of Christ himself, physical beauty was not important; and consequently, we should not let it come too important to us.

That day when I spent many hours working on my minion, I realized something. Heavenly Father created each of us with a special look, personality and mission in mind. He knew exactly what he was doing, and spent special time following his designs. Our bodies are incredible creations. But the more important and amazing creation is what the body houses - our spirits. And he is still working on them. Molding them with his hands, shaving away the bumps, and firing out the imperfections. When we focus on improving our spirits, that is when the beauty of our bodies truly shines. I have taken that habit of finding my flaws and beating myself up over them, and turned it into asking the Lord what I need to work on to become better. The answer always comes out of love, and my life improves when I act upon it.

That is when I see myself as the most beautiful.

Truly Grateful

At this time of year, we are all reminded of what we are truly thankful for.  This month, like many of you, I have spent a lot of time thinking about the many things that I am thankful for and I realized that I can sum up everything I am thankful for in three very important words: My Heavenly Father.  I am a daughter of a Heavenly Father who loves me and I love him.  This statement defines me and is what carries me through everything in my life.  Because I have a loving Heavenly Father, I have EVERYTHING to be thankful for in my life.

Because I have a Heavenly Father that loves me, I have wonderful parents who raised me in this wonderful gospel.  I have an amazing husband who loves me and my children.  I have an eternal marriage, which is what I cherish most in this life.

I have three beautiful children that I love with all of my heart.  I get to be a mother – the thing I wanted most in life.  I am reminded how lucky I am to be a mother daily.  We struggled with infertility issues and I cherish my children more because of this trial.  I would have never thought I would be thankful for that trial in my life, but it taught me how much everyone should cherish these little miracles that bless our homes.

Because I have a Heavenly Father that loves me, I have beauty all around me.  The pictures that I posted with this post are from my flower garden and views from my windows.  I took these photos in November!  How lucky am I to have such pretty flowers so late in the season? I love flowers!  The day I took these photos, I looked at those flowers and was completely filled with gratitude.  My Heavenly Father loves me, he gave me beautiful flowers – in November. I love seeing all of the beautiful creations around me. 

Because I have a Heavenly Father that loves me, I have been blessed with modern medicine that can help me.  It is never going to take away the disease that I deal with, but there is medicine that can help to slow the progression and lessen the symptoms. For this I am grateful.

Because I have a Heavenly Father that loves me, I have a Savior who died for me and who loves me and gives me and everyone else the opportunity to return back to live with Him again.  Because I have Heavenly Father that loves me, I have everything. For this I am grateful.  I will do my best every day to show my Heavenly Father how much I love Him and just how grateful I truly am.

Courage to Stand

Every year there is a lot of thought, study, and prayer that goes into our yearly theme.  We try to find a theme that is relevant and helpful for the girls that will be participating each year.  With that being said, we are very excited about our 2015 theme: “Courage to Stand.”   I want to briefly share how we decided on this theme. 

The first part of the theme is courage.   The word courage comes from one of my favorite scriptures that is found in Joshua 1:9 “be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee withersoever thou goest.”  In this chapter the prophet Moses has just died and the Lord is talking to his servant Joshua.  The Lord commands him to be of a good courage 3 different times in the first 9 verses.  What amazing counsel this is for all of us!  We need courage to make it through so many situations in life.  Satan is strong, but when we have a “good courage” we are so much stronger.  When we have courage, we are able to withstand the fiery darts of the adversary. We are able to be better examples and better follow the Lord’s commandments. We are able to live as he would have us live.

In the article “Becoming Children of Light” found in the August 2014 Ensign, we read a paragraph that really stood out to us, “And what is our living prophet saying to us today?  In the past few sessions of general conference, President Thomas S. Monson has given several powerful and closely related messages on topics such as “Stand in Holy Places,” “Dare to Stand Alone,” and “See Others as They May Become.” In these messages he invites us to strengthen our commitment to live the gospel and to reach out to, rescue, and strengthen those around us.  He has taught that in order to be strong “in a world which has moved so far from that which is spiritual,” we must develop strong testimonies. He has promised that “absolutely nothing in this world… will provide more comfort and happiness than a testimony of the truth.”  After reading and discussing this we realized that if our Prophet finds this topic so important, then we each should as well.  It is important for all of us to be willing to STAND for what we know, even if we stand alone and in order to do this, we have to be “strong and of a good courage”.  So that is how our 2015 Theme came to be.

President Monson counsels us, “We will all face fear, experience ridicule, and meet opposition.  Let us – all of us – have courage to stand for principle.  Courage, not compromise, brings the smile of God’s approval.  Courage becomes a living and attractive virtue when it is regarded not only as willingness to die manfully but also as the determination to live decently.”    When we are strong and of a good courage, we will have greater ability to “stand strong as we live by His words.” (From “Be Strong and of a Good Courage” by Elder Choi)   We can think of no more important and relevant message that could strengthen the young women who will participate with us at Retreat this coming year.

We are very excited about this theme and look forward to preparing and studying this subject even further.  We will continue to share more information about our theme as we prepare for Retreat for Girls 2015.  So what do you think? Please let us know.

Filling Your Spiritual Bucket

We are ready to start a couple of new adventures here at Retreat for Girls.  The first adventure is that we are opening a third session at RFG this year and we will be heading to Virginia! Our third session will be held at Southern Virginia University in Buena Vista, Virginia and we are very excited for all of the wonderful girls that we will get to meet in Virginia.  We will have lots of new information available about this session as well as our other sessions held at USU in the future.  Our second adventure is THIS - we are starting a blog.  We are very excited about this.  We have wanted to find a way to keep all of the RFG alumni connected after their weeks at RFG ends and we felt that, perhaps, this was the best way to do it.

Over the years I have been asked, “Why do girls need to go to Retreat for Girls?”  You may be surprised by my answer, which is, “They don’t”.  No one needs to come to RFG, but I can promise you that if they do come they will benefit from it.  I like to compare it to my own type of parable which rings true to everyone.  We live on a miniature farm we have named, Too Little Acres.  We raise horses, show lambs, chickens, one loyal dog and we are just getting into the dairy goat business.   My husband grew up on a dairy farm and is used to this life, I however, am learning as I go.  While feeding animals we often have to bring water to them.  We do this by filling up a bucket up with water and walking it towards the animal’s pen.  This is where the parable begins.  Even with the best effort water will begin to drip and sometimes slosh out of the bucket on the way to the pen, resulting unfortunately in a bucket that was once full being no longer completely full.

In life, we are very similar to this bucket.  I like to compare the bucket in my parable to our spiritual reservoir or our spiritual bucket.  We run best when our reservoir (or bucket) is full.   I think all of us know the feelings that indicate our spiritual bucket feels full.  Life feels a little easier, we are less easily irritated, more compassionate, quicker to serve, and our gratitude is more abundant.  Many of us feel this way after General Conference, Girls Camp, or even after a simple lesson has touched our heart at church.  This has always been my hope for Retreat for Girls.  I have always hoped that the bucket of those who attend will be a little fuller when they go home.  When carrying a real bucket of water we lose some of that water as we go.  This is also true in life, as life happens we lose little drops from our spiritual bucket.  It may be from an ongoing trial, a hard day, or a small doubt.  This is ok, and normal.  What isn’t ok is letting the drops continue to slosh out without trying to replenish our supply.

We know that throughout our life tests are going to come our way.  During trying times it will be necessary for us to draw from our spiritual reservoir.  This is what will get us through these hard times.  In a talk given by President Eyring entitled “Spiritual Preparedness: Start Early and Be Steady”, he refers to the calamities that take place all over the world.  During such times we also see people rushing to be prepared.  President Eyring then relates this to the fact that there is another more important preparation that we must make for “tests that are certain to come to each of us.  That preparation (meaning spiritual preparation) must be started far in advance because it takes time.  What we will need then can’t be bought.  It can’t be borrowed.  It doesn’t store well.  And it has to have been used regularly and recently.”  This teaches us the importance of always trying to keep our spiritual bucket or reservoir full.  We are always drawing from it and for this reason we constantly need to be refilling it.

You may ask, “How does one fill their bucket?” The answer, “One drop at a time.”  Each time we read our scriptures drops are added.  With each talk or lesson that touches our heart another drop is added.  Each act of service that we do also adds drops.  After this weekend of viewing general conference there were many drops added to my bucket of which I am so thankful. Finally, this brings me to the point of this new blog. My hope with this blog is that it will be one more resource to add a drop to your bucket. I hope it will be a way for all Retreat for Girls participants and staff, past and present, to stay connected throughout the year, as well as, provide a way to bless and enrich each other’s lives.  My hope is that I will not be the only person writing this blog, I would love to draw from the insights of past counselors, participants, and hopefully past speakers.  I would love to hear from you throughout this journey.  So ready, set, here we go blogging!