Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Better Me

My grandma had a plane ticket to come to my wedding in Seattle.  She never came.  Just one month before my wedding, she passed away.  The night before she died, a cousin of mine spent the night in her home and later recorded the last known conversation she had had. She mentioned several things but among them, she brought up my upcoming wedding and that I was too young to get married.

Little did anyone know at the time how much this haunted me.   

I didn't want to make a mistake.  I was young.  I had no idea that my grandma felt this way about my getting married.  In fact, she was the very first person I told about our engagement and the first to see my ring.  She had lived through a horrible marriage and knowing that she felt this way made me question whether I was doing the right thing.

I wasn't "looking" to get married at 20.  I had some other plans!  But I was raised in a home where my parents loved each other.  Through example, I was taught that commitment to one another through a marriage covenant was sacred.  I had also been taught that marriage was ordained of God; that it was important.  Although I was not looking to get married so young, I knew what I wanted in life at a young age.  When I married, it would be for good.  I had no interest in a single life full of freedom and flexibility.  I had also decided to live a chaste life and believed in complete fidelity. I had no interest in a casual relationship.  In this world, there are not many who believe the same.  So I was caught by surprise when I met my husband my sophomore year of college.  We had so much in common (beginning with our last name!) and he became my greatest friend.  As our relationship progressed, I realized that I did not want to live my life without him.  But I never expected the opportunity to come around when I was so young. When I think of it now, I can't believe how young I was!  Yikes!! I have a daughter who will be that age in 10 years!

Ultimately, after a couple weeks of some soul searching, I felt total peace and assurance about getting married, despite the way I knew my grandma or anyone else felt. I had had friends telling me this was crazy.  I stand today able to say that it was the best decision I have yet made in my lifetime.  I have no regrets.

From the get go, we decided to pattern our life and our marriage after a document distributed by the President of our Church.  Here are some of the teachings we are trying to follow:

"Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities."  To read the entire document, go here.

Today is our 13th anniversary.  We have learned so much over the course of our marriage.  One of the things many of "the critics" said about marrying so young was that you can't really know you so young; "discover yourself before you find someone to share your life with..." is what I'd hear the experts say.  I specifically remember an episode where Oprah made this point very clear.

Maybe this is good advice, generally speaking. I didn't know everything about myself then and still don't, but at twenty, I knew who I was and what I wanted in this life.  I also know that because of my husband and our last 13 years together, I am a better me.  I wouldn't trade that for any plans I had before we met.  And I am confident that if my grandma could talk to me now, she would tell me that undoubtedly, I made the right choice.

Because I am a Mormon, I believe in marriage.  I believe it endures beyond death. I believe it makes our society better.  It has made me better.  My husband is my very best friend. How lucky am I, to have found someone at such a "young age".

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Symbol of Life

As a child, I could always distinguish between a Mormon church and any other Christian denomination's building.  Our buildings were often constructed with the same red brick, the same architecture and the same well-groomed grounds.  But what clued me in the quickest was to look up.  If there wasn't a cross, most often it was one of ours.

Christians the world over use the cross as a symbol of their Christianity.  I understand and respect the significance of the cross as a symbol of others' outward expression of what is sacred to them.  But I do not use this symbol for the same purpose.  In fact, it is discouraged among members of our church to use the cross as a symbol in any building, temple, home, book or even a necklace!  The cross represents the crucifixion and death of the Savior of the World.  It was a common form of punishment in the day of Christ.  Many people were killed by the cross, not just Jesus. 

We choose to celebrate the Living Christ, not His death.

I love Christmastime.  The whole world seems to be singing songs of faith, family, doing good to others, and Jesus Christ.  We honor His birth by remembering Him through song, story and service.  There isn't another month in the year where so many focus on such good things. 

We've all heard the story a million times...Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, the wise men, the shepherds, the angel...It is good to hear it each year and I love that my children can now tell the story as well.  But I want them to know so much more than the story of His birth.  I want them to know that He lives.  And because He lives, we can overcome sin, sorrow and death.  Because He lives, our lives have more meaning and purpose than we can ever know. Because He lives, we are loved. The prophecies of His birth flood the pages in the Bible.  Historically speaking, because of the prophecies, the Jews were awaiting a King to be born to come and rule them.  They were looking in the wrong places. They did not anticipate Him coming in the humble way He did.  (Likewise, we are often searching and hoping for something and miss it because it doesn't come in the way we expect.)  The Jews ended up killing their long awaited King.  Sadly, they did not recognize who He was.  Even more sadly, so many do not know Him today or recognize His mercy and love. 

I know that Christ came to the earth as a baby in Bethlehem; He lived on the earth, He was killed (foretold by prophets who lived long before He came), and He was resurrected three days later (also prophesied).  He lives today.  I have read His words in the New Testament, I have read the prophecies in the Old, He is the Savior of all men.  All the songs we sing are in honor and praise of Him as the Redeemer of the World.  He was not just a great man, He is the Son of God.  I do not comprehend all things, and I can't explain most things, but I believe He is real.

When former President of the Church, Gordon B. Hinckley, was asked by a minister of another faith why he didn't see a cross in any of our temples, President Hinckley said, “The lives of our people must become the only meaningful expression of our faith and, in fact, therefore, the symbol of our worship.”

Because I am a Mormon, the symbol of my faith is not the cross.  Hopefully, it is the way I live my life in an effort to emulate the life of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

I hope to wear that around my neck all the days of my life.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

I'll always have a friend.

We were married 6 weeks before Brandon took off for the entire Spring for work!  In a perfect world, I would have gone with him, but I was in the thick of my college courses and was trying to be responsible and finish my degree.  So while he was basking in the sun (ha!) in Palm Springs and Kauai while filming a movie and then enjoying the sights of Wales while shooting a documentary, I was a student at BYU.

And I was alone.

Before we married, I lived with four other girls--some of my favorite people in the world! There was never a dull moment.  There was never "alone" time. There was always something exciting going on and then suddenly, I found myself with a "married" social status and a "single" social life. I didn't have any married friends around me. It is challenging to fit in with other married couples when your significant other is gone for months at a time. A few times, I went back to the old apartment and hung out. Although I loved my friends, I realized I didn't fit in with the single scene.  In my new ward (the congregation I was assigned to based on the location where we lived), each Sunday every pew had a couple sitting together. I sat by myself.  I'm horrible at making new friends, and I just didn't.  I've always been blessed with many friends--many different circles of friends! But I was terribly lonely and I found myself checking off the days on my calendar until my semester ended so I could join Brandon in Hawaii for a couple of weeks before my Spring term began.

Pathetic, I know.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has an organization for women called Relief Society.  It was restored in the the mid-1800's by the Prophet Joseph Smith and today, it stands as the largest organization of women throughout the world.  The purpose of the society is just as its title suggests: to help the poor in spirit and administer relief to those in need.  When I turned 18, I was automatically inducted into this organization because I was a baptized member of the church.  But when I was 18, this meant very little to me.  I didn't ever think of "relieving" anyone's burdens and I certainly didn't recognize I was a member in the organization. Within this organization, there is a program called Visiting Teaching.  A pair of women is assigned to visit a sister or two (or sometimes 3 or 4 depending on the needs of the area) and each month, a visit is arranged so that the women can assess needs and deliver a short message of encouragement and hope. If there is a need, service is rendered, meals are brought in, help is given.  In short, an assignment is made to be a friend.

In this new married ward, I was first assigned to visit teach with a girl who recently moved to the U.S.  She had joined our church, gotten married and left her entire family in Korea.  Her new husband was in graduate school at BYU and she was trying to adjust to marriage, a new language and a new country.  I could not understand a word she said.  Here I was, desperately needing a friend, and they assigned me to someone I couldn't even communicate with? Month after month, she called and arranged the visits with the women we were supposed to visit.  We took turns giving the short message.  I struggled to understand her, but after time, I learned to appreciate her so much. I quickly realized how grateful I was for her! She was an amazing person with an incredible story.  She loved me and always came and found me at church and linked her arm in mine. She made me little gifts that meant so much to me.  She was my friend! Not necessarily one I would've sought out on my own, but exactly who I needed.  One time during one of our visits, she brought her guitar along.  She sang a song and I understood every word she sang. It was beautiful.  I was taking a guitar class at the time and she helped me with some technique.  I found myself better communicating with her and after awhile, I absolutely loved her.  She was my only friend in that ward until my brother and his wife moved in. We only lived there for a couple of years and I have no idea where this woman lives and what her life is like now.  I wish I could remember her last name so I could look her up. 

Any time I have moved to a new area, my first friend is my visiting teaching partner.  Shy people like me find it hard to make friends; it takes time.  I'm just not the outgoing type and I'm okay with that. There are 12 million plus members of my church in this world and I know that no matter where I live, I will find a friend through visiting teaching. For some reason, it always seems to be the right person for me at the time.

Because I am a Mormon, I am a Visiting Teacher.  Right now, I am assigned an amazing companion and three women who I love, pray for, learn from and look forward to visiting each month.

And I will always have a friend.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

'A Protective Shield from Economic Distress'

“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it”

This is a verse from the book of Malachi in the Holy Bible.

 To 'tithe' means to give a tenth part of something as a voluntary contribution. We learn in the bible, that tithing was fundamental to the Law of Moses in ancient times. Today in my church, it is fundamental as well. If you've ever seen an LDS temple or church building, it was constructed, operated and paid for by tithing funds. There are 166 temples either operating, under construction or that have been announced. There are other ways tithing funds are used as well. We are commanded to give ten percent of our increase to the Lord through His church.  That is ten percent across the board; no matter if you make millions or live in poverty, the commandment is the same. This is one commandment we can live perfectly.

It might be easy to look at our annual salaries and think of hundreds of other things to spend 10% of our income on.  I'm sure if I thought about it long enough, I could come up with a nice list.  Surely, in these challenging economic times, one might consider tithing as a frivolous expenditure. But lucky for us and our marriage, we agree that tithing is our first financial priority. We cannot pick and choose when it is convenient to pay tithing.  It is never convenient.  Like most newlyweds, when we were first married, we had some years when we could have used that extra 10% income, but we never questioned where that money belonged. We have been blessed because of it. The windows of heaven have definitely poured down upon us--not with wealth, but with whatever is needed.  Brandon's business depends entirely on contract work. There is no bi-monthly paycheck coming in. No annual salary. There is no way of knowing what next year's income will be.  There is never certainty when it comes to finances for anyone, but certainly not us.  On days like today, Brandon wrote out the tithing check with no foreseeable work beyond next week! But we pay in faith, believing that work will come.  And it does. I read a quote today that said "paying tithing is a protective shield from economic distress." (Heber J. Grant) This has been true for us.

A couple of years ago we hired a new accountant.  He looked over our finances and then gave us some advice on how to better invest and manage our money.  One of his suggestions was to pay less tithing. He said we were "overpaying." He told us that because my husband's business had expenses we deducted from our taxable income, we should also deduct that amount from the total we paid tithing on.  When we first heard this we were excited to learn about the extra money we would have each year.  However, my good husband came to me a day or two later and told me he felt we needed to continue to pay tithing the same way we had been paying it.  As soon as he said it, and probably before (but I'm not as good as him), I knew he was right.  To each his own, but for us, we had to do what felt right for us.

I recently heard someone say that it is a lot to ask from people who can't afford to pay tithing.  It is difficult for me not to ask, how can we afford not to?

It is a matter of faith. 

When I drive past a beautiful temple, initially, I do not always think of the grandeur and beauty that emanates from the building.  Instead, I tend to think of the sacrifice of the millions of people who contributed their offerings.  I think of those members who live in India, near my brother's family, who have so little, yet pay in faith with very little likelihood that they will ever set foot in a temple.  I think of those who deserve better living conditions and choose faith and obedience over wealth and prosperity. I think of the sacrifice of my Grandma Cardall who made a meager income after her husband abandoned her to raise five young children on her own. I think of my daughter who counted her coins this morning  so she could also contribute. Then she asked me, "can I pay more or will they only let me pay 10%?"

In short, tithing is a blessing. I believe all I have is from God.  All of it.  He can give at any time, and He can take away at any time.  So really, we must be wise with the other 90% of income we receive each year as well. Since I am a stay at home mom, I can tithe in other ways.  My time. My talents. I can teach my children to do the same.  Tithing has also taught me to not put so much emphasis on accumulating money. I am a direct descendant of the third President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, John Taylor.  A friend of his, also a leader in the church, B.H. Roberts, said that President Taylor's motto was—’Money is of little importance where truth is concerned.’

I hope to live my life the same way.

Because I am a Mormon, I believe in tithing.

Hong Kong LDS Temple

Draper, UT LDS Temple

Accra, Ghana LDS Temple

Laie, Hawaii LDS Temple

Nauvoo, Illinois LDS Temple

Sunday, October 30, 2011

After All I Can Do

Ninth grade was a rough year for me.  As an honor student, I let my grades slip (of course, when they started to count!)  Basketball was my life and all of a sudden I wasn't keeping up with the competition that a bigger school had to offer.  I had health challenges and back problems. For the first time, my closest friendships were challenged.  I often felt I was letting people down.  Life was getting harder and I don't think I was quite prepared for it!  I had LOVED 8th grade and life seemed so much easier then!!!  But I was sitting in Ms. Wade's 9th grade English class one day and for whatever reason, I remember committing myself to be PERFECT--right then and there. From that minute forward, I was never going to make a mistake. I would play by the book and follow every rule to a T. I would get perfect grades, give my all in everything I did, be perfectly kind and live a perfect life...

As a 14 year old, in my naivety, I believed this was possible.

Sadly, I did not yet understand one of the greatest principles that now governs my life.

Adam and Eve had an opportunity to be perfect. They lived in the Garden of Eden and knew no evil, no temptation, no sorrow. But they also knew no joy, happiness or what it was like to have a family. Because Adam and Eve ate the fruit which they were commanded by the Lord not to eat, they were separated from God's presence and became lost; subject to all the pains and sorrows of this world. This was essential to our Heavenly Father's plan for all of His spirit children. If Adam had not fallen and had remained in their perfect condition, we would not be on this earth today. Equally important to this plan was the need for redemption so that we, His children, would not be lost forever.

We needed a Savior.

As God's children, we are not punished for Adam's transgressions. Yes, we are all subject to the harsh realities of this life, but all is not lost forever!  Jesus Christ redeems us from our shortcomings, weaknesses, sins and heartache. Without Him, none of us would have the opportunity and privilege to return to live with God. We cannot be perfect because we are human! But through our Savior, Jesus Christ, we can. After all we can do, He makes up the difference.

I play the piano. I consider myself an untrained pianist. My mom taught me the basics but around age 9-10, I made it clear that I wanted to play what I wanted to play, when I wanted to play it. Typical! I spent a lot of time at the piano plunking out melodies and gradually, I improved. My technique and form were nothing to be proud of, but my sight-reading skills were pretty good and I loved playing. I spent hours on that squeaky bench in our living room each night and am grateful for that time. It wasn't until college when I received formal instruction that I learned how much I didn't know about the piano! But still, I am forever grateful to my mom for teaching me and for the hours I spent as a teen playing and composing my own music. I can't remember for sure, but I think it was when I was 17, my church was producing a musical presentation commemorating the LDS pioneers. I was asked to play a piano solo. The piece I was to play was too difficult for me and I knew it. But I practiced and practiced and practiced.  On the evening of the performance, I prayed that I would be able to play that song, perfectly. Considering I hadn't mastered it in my own living room, it was quite a stretch to believe that this could be done. But I did have faith in prayer at the age of 17, and I knew it could be done.

I played that song with zero mistakes.

I wish I had a recording of it because I'd like to know now if it sounded as great as I felt! All I knew at the time, and now, was that my fingers had extra help that night. I felt it! I was given extra help, after all I could do on my own.

As a mom, a wife, a friend, a daughter, a sister, a teacher and an individual, I fail everyday.  I disappoint people. I hurt feelings. I am selfish. I let people down. I get tired. I want to give up.  I fear what I'm doing to my children! But I clearly understand the principle of giving all I have, and allowing the grace of God to make up the difference. Admittedly, as a Latter-day Saint woman, there is a high expectation that often times feels so far out of my reach.  Its no wonder that so many LDS women suffer from depression and feelings of inadequacy! But I have learned that those feelings do not come from God! It is not His way. I am sad for those who do not yet understand this principle. I am sad for those who feel that its too late to try, that they aren't worth it or that too much is required of them.  The Lord's mercy is real and available to everyone...always.

Because I am a Mormon, I believe that Jesus Christ is my Savior. He's made it possible for me to be better than I am on my own.  My best effort is enough.

Monday, October 17, 2011

It did or it didn't

I was a teenager when I sat in an office across from a woman who questioned me about my life.  She was searching for answers; clues, to find out if there was anything hidden behind what others could see. This was her trade, her occupation, her gift.  It was her job to uncover something that might help my parents understand me. I admit, I was not an effectively communicative teenager but have since wondered, does such a teenager exist? 

I don't find myself not liking people very often.  This woman was an exception.

I didn't like her.

She asked me basic questions about my life...where I went to school, who my friends were, what I liked to do, what I was good at...those were the questions leading up to what she really wanted to know.

I distinctly remember her asking me if I ever used drugs or alcohol. If I had had sex. If anyone had sexually abused me. If I had ever been in a fight at school--(this one was downright laughable).

To each question, I answered:




Not even once?


Long pause. She jotted down some notes. Then finally looked up at me and said, "I'm going to need you to give me a name of a teacher who I can call so that I confirm that all you've told me is true."

This was humiliating!  Surely, I knew I had never been in a fight at school, that I was often teased because I stayed far away from what most kids were doing in high school, that there was nothing wrong with me, that I wanted nothing more than to get out of her office!  The last thing I wanted was for her to call one of my teachers and ask these questions.  My word meant nothing.  I left her office feeling horrible.

I've thought back on that time and realize now that the reason I felt so awful then was because this woman saw me as someone other than who I knew I was.

Joseph Smith was just a boy of 14 years when he began to question his life.  Like today, there were many different voices and he wanted to know which one was Truth.  How could all of them be right when they contradicted each other?  At 14, he prayed to know which religion he should join.  In 1820, he had a vision where Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him and told him not to join any of them.  From that day on, Joseph was instrumental in establishing Christ's church upon the earth once again.

In his own words, Joseph said, "I saw two personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air.  One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other -- This is my Beloved Son, Hear Him!"

As most people know, this started a lot of controversy in the religious world.  Controversy that remains today.  Joseph Smith was hated, persecuted, tortured and eventually, he was unjustly killed. 

I have heard this story my entire life.

Does it seem preposterous that he had seen a vision? Yes it does.  Was I there to witness it?  No, I was not.

Yet, he said it happened. His life is a witness that it did. He went on to be a great leader and the church has grown exponentially since its early beginnings. His life was given in service to the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  His life was taken by men who conspired against him because they saw him as someone other than who he knew he was.

Here are Joseph's own words in response to the accusations he had to bear:

"Why persecute me for telling the truth?  I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen?  For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation."

This personal example I've shared is nothing compared to the frustration that Joseph Smith must have felt. I tasted a tiny bit of what it felt like to have someone see me as someone I was not; where her doubt was more important than belief; where a need for confirmation from another witness was more important than my word alone.

Put yourself in his shoes. If Joseph did see God, how could he have denied it?  

I do not worship Joseph Smith.  Jesus Christ is the head of the LDS church.  Joseph was a great instrument in restoring truth to the earth.  Because of him, I have many blessings. I will forever be grateful to him; yet he is not, and never will be my God.

Either Joseph saw God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, or he didn't.

Because I am a Mormon, I believe he did.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Words I Never Said

I saw a headline this week of an article that read:

"Mitt Romney: part of Mormon cult".

Politics aside, let me just say, Mitt and I have something in common.

It was my junior year in high school and I was sitting in my English class. There were two girls who sat in front of me talking to a boy who sat next to them. The girls were trying to explain to this young man that, surely, he would never go to heaven. The boy asked one of the girls why not? and she told him that he hadn't found Jesus. The boy then turned to me and asked if I believed in Jesus. I said yes. One of the girls quickly turned to him, not to me, and said that, in fact, I did not believe in Jesus, but that I belonged to a cult.

What was a cult anyway? I had no idea.

In my 16 year old insecure way, I let it be. But it bothered me on many different levels; that she would tell this young boy he would never go to heaven, that she didn't even know me and told of my beliefs--which were false; and that she had made assumptions about me based on my religion alone, which she obviously knew very little about.

Jesus Christ was crucified for being who He was. He went about doing good yet was despised for it. He never made an apology for who He was or what His life was about. His life didn't begin in Bethlehem when he was born or end on Calvary when He was crucified. He was foreordained before the earth was created to be the Redeemer of the world and to save us from our sins. And He will forever be the Living Christ.

I wish I could rewind back to that day and say this to that girl:

I do believe in Jesus.

I wish I could tell her I know that God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to the earth to be a perfect example for all of mankind; that He wasn't just a man, but a God and that He was the only one who could accomplish this because he was God's only begotten Son. I would tell her that every day of my life I wake up and pray that I can be more like Him, that the qualities He taught while He lived on the earth are the very principles I am trying to instill in myself and my children; that I also know that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. I would want her to know that I feel His love when I am sad, lonely or hurt. He is my friend.

More importantly, to that boy in my English class, I would say that I believe there is hope for him to go to heaven!

I have often wondered how many others viewed me as being part of a cult, or even a non-Christian. Probably more than I would like to think. This story I share was not a single incident that happened in my life where my eyes were opened to the way others viewed me. There have been many. Maybe someone is reading this right now who still sees me this way. But, like my Savior, I will not make an apology for what I believe or who I believe in. I am grateful for the different religions throughout the world who talk of Christ, rejoice in Christ, preach of Christ and point their children to Him that they might know what source to look for a remission of their sins. This is the gospel of Jesus Christ that provides hope, happiness and peace. I'm not sure why there are so many people who do not include me in the circle of Christian denominations, or who are derogatory in their comments toward my faith, but that's okay.

Because I am a Mormon, I am a Christian. And I believe in Jesus Christ.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

I know I am His Daughter

As a Mormon, I believe that I am literally the offspring (spirit child) of a loving Father in Heaven. A spirit is who we are, inside our bodies, and it is the spirit that makes us alive. God is the Father of my spirit. This God who I pray to, and whole-heartedly rely on for everything I have, is my literal Father. He has a tangible form and image; meaning, he has a body of flesh and bones as all of us do. Before we were born, we lived in heaven with our Father. I don't remember this, none of us do, but I know it is true. Psalm 82:6 says "all of you are children of the Most High." Heavenly Father knows who I am, inside and out, because I am His daughter. I am a child of God.

Because I know I am God's daughter, I know I inherited divine qualities I am striving to uncover and improve. I've never been the most confident kid on the block, but deep down, I've known I am worth more than I can see, or know. I also want to please Him. I look to Him for acceptance, for self-worth and for guidance only a father can give.

When I was a kid, I learned to love baseball.  Particularly, the Seattle Mariners. When I met my husband as a sophomore in college, a poster of Ken Griffey, Jr. hung over my bed and he still teases me about that. Growing up, my family regularly went to the Kingdome to catch a game. After a stop at Dick's Burgers, we'd pull up to the enormous concrete edifice, encircled by its long, winding ramps. I can still see and hear the smells of Seattle while walking up that ramp, usually to the highest entrance.  I'd feel giddy inside when I walked into the stadium and saw nothing but a vast green field. We arrived early for batting practice. We'd sit in right field (the cheap seats, but where Griffey hit his homeruns) with our little league gloves on. We waited for Griffey, Jay Buhner, Edgar Martinez, Alvin Davis to find our gloves with a swing of their bat.  I loved Harold Reynolds, Randy Johnson and Omar Visquel.  I held my score card in hand, with my chocolate malt in the other, and kept track of every pitch. After the game, sometimes we'd wait around for an autograph or two. It was pretty exciting.

But why? Why did I love baseball so much? Well, it is a great game, the best game; but I have a theory.

I loved baseball because my dad did.

In fact, I can't think of anything he loved more, other than his family. I played from age 4 (t-ball) up until I tried out for the fastpitch softball team at BYU and made it. I always wanted to make him so proud of me. He was always my biggest fan. When I wasn't playing well, he was always there helping me to get back up and work harder. I'd pitch to him out in the front yard until my arm was too sore. He never doubted that I could be great. I never was great, but because he believed I was, I felt that I could be. When I did well, he was proud. When I stunk, he was still proud. When I struggled, he gently tried to help me correct my form. He encouraged me to work hard, and I worked so hard. When I decided to quit, I never remember feeling like I let him down; like I was a failure. I knew that he didn't love me because I played softball. He loved me because he was my dad.

Heavenly Father doesn't love me because of what I do with my life or what I don't do. He never doubts that I can be great and because He is my Father, I know I can be. He sees my potential and sees past my weaknesses because of my potential. When I struggle, He will gently correct my path. He encourages me to work hard. And I am working harder than I've ever worked at anything before. No, God doesn't love me because of what I do or what I am good at or not good at. He loves me simply because I am His.

Because I am a Mormon, I believe that just as my dad loves me with an unconditional love, so does my Heavenly Father, with an even greater love.  I was fortunate to have a living dad while on this earth and how grateful I am for his love.  However, each of us have a loving Father in Heaven and how grateful I am for Him.

Each of us is a child of God. Each of us has a loving Father.