Saturday, November 27, 2010

Daughters in the Wilderness

When I am at my worst, I find strength through reading the scriptures.  I feel stronger at the core, and similar to the sensation of Tylenol after a fever, that strength spreads to the rest of me, and things seem easier.  Much of this is because spiritual feelings affect us physically.  Physically one can feel lighter, less lonely, and peaceful after reading the words of God and his prophets.

It is also no secret that blessings come from study and learning.  While studying biology, a better understanding of life is gained, as well as an appreciation for the world, it's beauty, creation, and our place in it's vast existence.  The mind is opened as the function of organisms is broken down to a cellular level.  Wonderment of the intricacy of a tiny plant, and all that goes on for it to survive, broadens how we view everything else.  New knowledge changes us, and how we think. 

The same phenomenon occurs through studying and searching the scriptures.  We gain a clearer understanding of God, and his will for us.  The scriptures provide examples of people who had trials, sorrow, and pain of their own.  Some of these people through their trials turned cold, bitter, and set a legacy of hatred, killing, and ignorance for generations of posterity.  Others faithfully and steadfastly turned to God throughout their trials.  They were hungry, and prayed for where to find food.  In danger from enemies, they prayed for where to flee to safety, or how to fight and save their families and freedom.  They made boats, crossed oceans and vast wildernesses, started new civilizations, created new governments, and built temples.

I study the scriptures, and feel physical blessings from the spiritual connection I feel with God.  I also feel the knowledge from the scriptures change how I think.  Compassion replaces frustration, as I think on experiences with my children during the day.  Patience replaces weariness when I look at the examples of other steadfast saints, with trials much greater than mine.

Such was the case as I stumbled upon a poster online, of a group of women who knew real trials, much greater than what I've had to bear.

Ancient prophet, Lehi, was warned by God of the impending destruction of his home city, Jerusalem.  God told him to take his family, and flee into the wilderness.  Lehi was a wealthy man, and years of travel without what were his "modern conveniences" that came with city living, I imagine was no small difficulty.  However he unquestioningly heeded God's warning.  His family left, and had a long and difficult journey.  That family included Lehi's sons and their families.  Children were conceived and born on that trek, yet they carried on.  Lehi had a copy of the scriptures.  He read to his family, and I know it gave them strength and direction.

The poster I found online is of the women of Lehi's family.  Daughters and wives, with babies on their hips, walking forward, steadfast with faith in their God shining in their eyes.  In the corner of the poster is a scripture, describing the experience of these women.

1 Nephi 17:1-3

1 ... And we did travel and wade through much affliction in the wilderness; and our women did bear children in the wilderness.

2 And so great were the blessings of the Lord upon us, that while we did live upon raw meat in the wilderness, our women did give plenty of suck for their children, and were strong, yea, even like unto the men; and they began to bear their journeyings without murmurings.

3 And thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled. And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them; wherefore, he did provide means for us while we did sojourn in the wilderness.

I read of these women, look in their eyes in the poster, and feel some of their strength pass to me.  These women loved their families.  They needed strength beyond what they were born with, so they could complete the great task before them.  Turning to God blessed them with what I know they desperately prayed for.  When we are on our knees with our most desperate prayers, aren't those prayers always about our families?  I imagine those women on their knees and in tears, pleading with God saying, "Please, help me feed my babies.  Help me wake up tomorrow, and keep moving.  Please give me strength to carry on, when on my own, I have none left".

God answered their prayers.  He gave them strength like men.  These city women, with soft, unchallenged bodies used to easy living and wealth, discovered they could live off of raw meat, travel while pregnant, give birth in the wilderness, and feed their children.

If God answered their prayers, is he not even more capable of helping me?  When I come to him through prayer, knowing my own strength has left, I know he can help me, just as he helped these women.  I do not need the same blessings.  Thankfully I do not need to learn to survive on raw meat, and live for years in a wilderness.  My trials are different, and the blessings personal to me.  I see them everyday.  After a long tiring day, I find I still have the energy to stay up with a sick baby.  A friend will call or stop by, and give me support I didn't even realize I so desperately needed.  A broken internet connection will fix itself, so we can still talk to Daddy.  I have hot water, plenty of food, a working car, good health, a washing machine, air conditioner, and internet camera.  I can talk to and see my husband who is on the other side of the world.  I am blessed and made stronger, by being able to see my many blessings, and appreciate and focus on them.  Reading the scriptures changes the way I think, and better allows me to find happiness at a difficult time. 

The women of Lehi's family didn't pray, and wake up in the comfort of their homes in Jerusalem.  I'm sure on weaker days they noticed they were still in the dirty wilderness, still tired, still had to live off raw meat, and had little ones who always needed them.  I have no doubt there were mornings where they looked around and thought, "I really hate this."

If I'm not careful it's too easy to hate my circumstances too.  I notice my dirty house I never seem to keep up with, the large stack of calendar days my husband is still away, how yucky and tired I feel, and how early my children wake up every day, not to mention that never ending list of tasks I need to complete no matter how I'm feeling.  I wouldn't trade with the women of Lehi's family though!  They found strength in God, and so can I.  They eventually reached a promised land.  They set a legacy of faith, and their posterity turned to their examples again and again, as do I.

Granted, the poster is romanticized a bit.  The girl in the front is beautiful, and they're in formation doing a "power walk" like in the movies.  I don't think it's necessarily meant to be realistic, but more to paint a feeling of strength and inner beauty I'm sure they had.  So what would my romantic poster look like?  If I could paint it myself, my hair would be gracefully swept back, blowing in the breeze perhaps, with Merrylee on my hip, and Anny standing by holding my hand and looking trustingly up at me.  I'd be gazing towards the sky, watching airplanes, and seeing beyond the clouds with thoughtful determination, and hope glowing from my eyes. 

We all should have motivating posters of ourselves, don't you think?  Posters that through their artwork speak the words, "I am a daughter of God.  I am daily blessed with divine strength, and can conquer any trial, just as those before me."

Nephi, son of Lehi, probably said it best when describing how God helped his family:
"...And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them..."


  1. I really needed this blog Liz. I have been struggling myself lately & having a hard time reading my scriptures...Last night I sat down after the kids were asleep & "made" myself read, I felt so much better after. It was something I really needed. The scriptures really are our source of strength. Thank you so much for this blog...I needed it more than you know. Stay strong Liz, we are thinking of you always & Love you dearly!

  2. You are such a great writer Liz! Thanks for sharing such personal thoughts and feelings. Hope you are doing well.

  3. What a beautiful testimony, Liz. You are such a strength to me. You remind me & encourage me to be better, to try harder.

    And wonderfully written too. You should hold on to this in case you have a talk sometime soon.

  4. What I want to know is, when did your mother pose for the poster?

  5. You should know that I draw a lot of strength from your example, Lizzy. This "new-mom" stuff takes a lot of work and getting used to, and I look to you and Mom to know what to do. I love you, and am so proud of your strength.