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On the First Day of Christmas...

God sent His son. He sent rescue.


This past year has been difficult for all of us. My husband and I wanted to take the opportunity during this Christmas Season to share some of the things we have learned throughout the year. We want you to feel our faith and trust in God. We want all to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God loves us, knows us by name, and is with us always.


My best friend died in July of this year of cancer and I want to share with you the letter and the short story I gave her shortly before she died.


“Dear friend,


More than a year ago I led a discussion in Church Group about how faith is an action word. In preparation for the lesson, while talking to my oldest sister, she shared with me the Russian proverb: Pray to God, but row to shore. I LOVED that concept. As you are well aware, it fits my personality. 😊 It made so much sense to me. It was action-oriented. It was empowering. And I fully embraced it! I could (and do) pray to Heavenly Father regularly for guidance and help – on my knees, in my heart, while driving, while doing dishes, while working, in the shower, etc. – and then row for shore. As you can imagine, I am ALWAYS confident in my ability to overcome, save myself, rescue others, and/or prevail against the storm, knowing my Father in Heaven loves me. Without question, even before I knew the Russian proverb, my instinct, every time a problem came my way, was to pray to my Father in Heaven and then figuratively row to shore.


But recently I have had many experiences that have had me questioning the concrete, unwavering solution of praying to Heavenly Father and then rowing to shore. Sometimes it seemed that no matter how hard I figuratively rowed, I never seemed to get closer to shore, closer to safety. Sometimes no matter how hard I tried, I could not save myself or someone else I loved. My efforts were just not enough. And then in a moment of great heartache, the thought came to me, “Would it really be so bad to be rescued, Elle? Is there really any shame in merely enduring until someone else rescues you?”


I started studying the concept of being rescued in the scriptures and was amazed how many times Heavenly Father let his people suffer and learn to endure before HE rescued THEM. Often, our prophets and the Lord’s people could do nothing but endure the storm and wait for rescue. In the bible, there are stories where Lord’s people were persecuted, imprisoned, and beaten before they were rescued by an act of God – either through a natural calamity like an earthquake, through angels, or through the hands of another mortal person. In every account, the efforts of the Lord’s prophets and people simply were not enough to save themselves. They needed to be rescued.


What had once seemed like a sign of weakness or failure suddenly became a tender mercy from a God who loves me and I was filled with relief and peace. I don’t always have to save myself. Sometimes my efforts will not be enough, and I will have to endure until I am rescued. Apparently, I am a slow learner, because of course I know and believe in Jesus Christ. I know I cannot rescue myself from sin. And now, at my ripe age of, let's just say 40's, I know to the depths of my soul, that sometimes, when I am figuratively in a storm of life, whether through fault of my own or not, my God will rescue me.


In Matthew 18:11 it reads, “For the Son of Man is come to save that which was lost.” Dieter Uchtdorf wrote, “If a man can take the ruins, rubble, and remains of a broken city and rebuild an awe-inspiring structure…, how much more capable is our Almighty Father to restore His children who have fallen, struggled, or become lost? … It matters not how ... broken our hearts may be … there is no life so shattered that it cannot be restored … Got is fully aware of those who are lost, and He will find them … He will reach out to them … He will rescue them … [we] are worthy of divine rescue simply because [we] are loved by the Good Shepherd … Our Savior, the Good Shepherd, knows and loves us. He knows and loves you. He knows when you are lost, and He knows where you are. He knows your grief. Your silent pleadings. Your fears. Your tears … You are His child. And He loves you. He loves His children. Because He loves you, He will find you. He will place you upon His shoulders, rejoicing … He will bring you home … He will rescue you.” (He Will Place You on His Shoulders and Carry You Home, April 2016)


I know He saves us, – our souls from sin, for sure, but He sends out armies – neighbors, friends, family, strangers even, those who are willing to listen to Him– to rescue us from the struggles of life. He will, eventually, save us all Himself from the heartaches, the sorrows, the pain and suffering of mortality. He is saving you, right now, from the sufferings of your body. I know to the depths of my soul, He will step in and save your children and your husband when you cannot do it yourself. He will send armies – one neighbor, friend, family member at a time – to rescue your family. I will save your family for Him. I will be there when you cannot. I want you to take comfort knowing that those of us who love you – and there are so so many – we will rescue your little family. Always.


There are no words in the English language that convey all the feelings I have for you and your little family. All I can say is that I love you. You are never alone, not now and not in your final moments. Angels – literal and figurative, on this side and the other, respectively – are present, holding your hand and those of your family. They love you and they eagerly await the wonderful reunion ahead. Until we meet again, my sweet friend…


Love Always,


Elle


My husband and I want you to know that WE know God sends rescue when we simply cannot rescue ourselves. Sometimes we know we are rescued and sometimes we are unaware. Sometimes we are rescued according to OUR plan and sometimes we are rescued in accordance with GOD’s plan. Sometimes we are rescued to live another day and sometimes we are rescued to the other side. Sometimes the rescue, being performed by other humans, is imperfect – but He ALWAYS sends rescue. Because you are His child, on the first day Christmas, God sent His Son. He sent rescue.


The Storm


At the edge of a village, in a small home within sight of a small bay, a young man lives with his father. One day, the young man gets into his skiff on a beautiful, cloudless afternoon for an hour or two of fishing. He rows his boat out a few hundred yards into the bay, baits his hook, casts his line into the ocean, and waits patiently for a fish to bite. Soon, the warm sun and gentle rocking of the boat lulls the man into a relaxed state, and he lowers his hat over his eyes, leans back against the boat seat and falls asleep.


Sometime later, he awakens to the wild rocking of his little boat on the ocean and the spray of salt water to his face. With dawning horror, he realizes a storm has unexpectedly blown in and he has drifted far from the safety of the shore. He can no longer see his little village, or his home, and his situation is dire. The storm is growing in intensity and his skiff is taking on water. With utter certainty, he realizes his options are limited and his time is short. After taking a mere few seconds to process his new reality, he comes to the following conclusion: He can pray to God and wait for his father to send rescue OR he can pray to God for saving grace AND row with all his might to shore.


And so, with faith in his Father, the young man prays fervently for saving grace as he intermittently bails water with his fishing pail and paddles his little craft in the general direction of shore. It doesn’t take long before his body, recently warmed by the blazing sun, is shaking violently from the frigid slap of each ocean wave. Determined to stay the course and make it back to shore, he pushes his weary body to respond to his spirit’s demands to fight, to paddle, to overcome, to survive. Stroke after labored stroke, countless minutes lost in a timeless void of sheer survival, the young man fights the ocean’s seemingly endless power. Finally, muscles aching, fingers numb, and knees weak, he hangs his head, overcome with despair, as he realizes he is no closer to shore than when he began his futile attempts to rescue himself.


Tears mix with the rain and the ocean salt on his face as he sits down in his craft in abject misery. Neither his physical strength nor his indomitable will can get his boat to shore. His exhausted body has no more energy left with which to fight the powerful storm and ocean. He has done all that he can do. He simply cannot rescue himself.


Numb with cold and broken-hearted, he cries out to God, “Father, help me, help me know what to do.” A feeling of reassurance floods his mind as his soul hears, “Rest, my son. Be at peace. For I have sent rescue.”


Time is forgotten as the storm rages around him, and yet somehow the boat stays afloat as waves wash water both in and out of the skiff. And the young man endures. He crouches low in his skiff, tucking his head beneath his arms, and he just endures: The icy wind, the frigid waves, the pelting rains, and the overwhelming sense of aloneness in the vast and unknown ocean.


And then just as quickly as the storm blew in, the winds die down, the rains slows and the ocean calms. The violent rocking settles and peace, so recently threatened by the raging elements, fills the air. The young man tentatively lifts his head to the night sky and marvels at the dimming stars, once veiled by dark and thunderous clouds. His village is behind him but the magnificent morning sky is before him and he can only wonder at its beauty. Off in the distance, at the edge of all he can see, is an unknown land. Faith fills his soul and warms him from the inside out. He will be saved. He will be rescued. Maybe by his father and his villagers. Maybe by strangers. But most certainly by God.


by Elle



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