Sunday, November 28, 2010

Gratitude for Family

Several weeks ago, I was asked to speak in church on gratitude for family. Of course, my gratitude for family goes hand in hand with my gratitude for adoption. Here is what I shared...

It is at this time of year that we are filled with thanksgiving, gratitude and love. I remember as a child, wishing that Christmas went all year round and as I have become an adult, I still feel that way, not because of the gifts exchanged, lavish decorations or holiday parties but because of the spirit and joy that fills the air.

That very joy and happiness is the product of our gratitude. In 1968, Elder Richard L. Evans once said, “Gratefully we acknowledge the infinite mind of our Maker, and gratefully ought to offer our tithes and offerings, and earnestly consistent service, in thanks for all that God has given, and keep his commandments in remembrance of the love and providence and purpose of the Creator, the God and Father of us all, the organizer and operator of heaven and earth, without whom all these things would not be so. Thank God for all this: for life and what sustains it, for loved ones that make it meaningful, for faith and purpose and continuance, always and forever. Thank God for all of this—and much, much more.”

When I think about gratitude, I am reminded of the story of the Ten Lepers. In Luke 17: 11 – 18, we read:

11 And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.

12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were alepers, which stood afar off:

13 And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.

14 And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the apriests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.

15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God,

16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him athanks: and he was a Samaritan.

17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten acleansed? but where are the bnine?

There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.

It is in Psalms 100:3 & 4, we are told:

3 Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath amade us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the bsheep of his pasture

4 Enter into his gates with athanksgiving, and into his bcourts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

Just as gratitude is central to our faith, so is the family. No family is perfect and even my family takes a ride on the crazy train every once and a while, but it is without gratitude for our families that we could not follow in the divine plan of eternal happiness.

Two days after I was born in Seoul, South Korea, I was placed in an orphanage and then with a foster family, shortly thereafter. At only three months of age, I flew to San Francisco, California to meet my adoptive family. Of course, it was love at first sight for my parents and lucky for them, the feeling was mutual. I was blessed with two of the most loving and supportive individuals as parents and the best older brothers and sister that anyone could be given. Almost two years later, I was sealed to my family for time and all eternity in the LDS temple.

I have never had a desire to find or meet my birth family, until I gave birth to my daughter. This disinterest was never out of spite or resentment, but out of the peace that I felt with the life and family that I had been given. After having Londyn, I felt a very strong absence and when I prayed to my Father in Heaven about this strange void, I had a prompting that I should begin a search for my birth family. At first I was hesitant because I knew it would be a difficult and emotional task. I asked myself if I was prepared to not find them and then I asked myself if I was prepared to find them. I thought and prayed over this decision for several weeks and finally started looking into how to begin an international birth family search.

This process has slowly progressed over the last 6 months. So far, I now know that at the time of my placement, my birth parents had been married for 13 years and had 6 daughters, including myself. I learned that the 5th daughter was also placed for adoption. My birth father was described as cheerful, active and slightly inconsiderate, while my birth mother was described as patient. From these few characteristics, I have a feeling I am more like my birth father. At the time I was admitted to the orphanage, my birth family of six was living in a one bedroom space and both of my birth parents were unemployed.

Although I know very little about my biological roots, I am filled with so much joy when I think about the seven individuals that walk this earth and share my genes. Without their eternal sacrifice, I might not have had the opportunity to know of the Gospel and raise my own family with the truth that I hold dear. Someday, I hope to personally thank them for the wonderful life they gave me.

I am filled with gratitude when I think about the individuals that sacrificed so much for me to live a full and richly blessed life. It was my birth mother and birth father that put my needs and care before their own. And then there is the man and woman that will always be my parents. My mother went through a great deal of pain and loss for many years before they decided to adopt. It is because of their strength and faith in Heavenly Father that I was able to come to a family that could provide a life filled with more unconditional love than any individual could ever need.

From The Proclamation to the Family, we read “In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshiped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize his or her divine destiny as an heir of eternal life.” It is because of this doctrine that I came to this earth and family in a special way. I am grateful that families can come in all different ways, shapes, sizes and colors. Every family is unique, because it is each individual that makes them complete.

The examples of love and sacrifice that I have from my birth parents and parents have led me through life with a knowledge and testimony of eternal families. Two years ago, when Andrew and I were married in the Portland Temple, we were sealed together for time and all eternity. This was our first step in the direction towards everlasting happiness. Elder Robert D. Hales said “an eternal bond doesn’t just happen as a result of sealing covenants we make in the temple. How we conduct ourselves in this life will determine what we will be in all the eternities to come. To receive the blessings of the sealing that our Heavenly Father has given to us, we have to keep the commandments and conduct ourselves in such a way that our families will want to live with us in the eternities. The family relationships we have here on this earth are important, but they are much more important for their effect on our families for generations in mortality and throughout all eternity.”

I am so blessed to have these teachings to share with my own family. Without the gospel, I would not be the wife, mother and person that I am today. The gospel is the foundation of the family and I am thankful for its presence as I am discovering where I came from. If I did not have the knowledge of my Heavenly family, I might not have the appreciation that I do for my families here on earth.

As I continue to search for my birth family, I know that there is a possibility that I may never meet them. This doesn’t make me sad because I know that I am not alone. I have my loving Heavenly Father and an eternal family of my own.

In closing, I would like to share the first verse from the hymn, Families Can Be Together Forever:

I have a family here on earth.
They are so good to me.
I want to share my life with them through all eternity.
Families can be together forever
Through Heavenly Father’s plan.
I always want to be with my own family,
And the Lord has shown me how I can.

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