04 December 2009

Big Dreams, Little Fears -- Part 2

"Your dream must be bigger than your fear." That's what my fortune read the other night at the Chinese restaurant. I actually thought that the fortune was quite apropos because I'm preparing myself for my Year of NO FEAR. So I've been pondering the message in that fortune: successfully overcoming fear begins, in part, by dreaming big.

Herein we find a problem for me, namely that I don't know how to dream big and mean it. Oh sure, I can use my cognitive skills to "creatively" find solutions, and I as a writer can suspend reality long enough to imagine up stories and fictional situations. But I can't suspend reality to dream big dreams and believe they will come true in my life. I'm too logical. I'm too familiar with how the staus quo has been in my life--and, though I love the concept of Mr. Thornton from BBC's North and South kissing me in a train station (and what girl with a pulse wouldn't?!), the reality is that Mr. Thornton is a fictional character played very splendidly by Richard Armitage, an actor, and the scene in the train station though lovely, is not real.

See the problem?

The logic hinders not only my love life (haha--no kissing hunky British actors in train stations for me!) but everything else in my life as well. I could let myself go and dream a big dream, but the Risk Assessment Team (aka my logic) comes in and analyzes the potential risks of said dream only to determine that because it's a "pie in the sky" dream it's quite illogical to believe that it would work, which means an extremely high level of risk--and ultimately, a high level of potential failure also.

When there is a high level of risk, there is also an equally high level of panic (lest, my logic worries, I would do something stupid like do the very thing that is too risky!). Panic and fear then destroy my dreams--they are essentially dream killers--and I'm back to square one.

Yet... There's got to be a way! There has got to be a way that I could dream a dream and have it come true. Somehow...I just don't know how, though; even thinking about dreaming causes Red Alert Panic. SIGH. I wish I could dream and believe that dreams come true for me. The only way I know how to evaluate something is by logic and evidence--and the very nature of dreams is that they usually start out as generalized feelings or impressions, develop into passions, and become dreams. There usually isn't much logic in that process or "evidence" as my logical mind desires.

Even my approach to my goals for 2010 was a very logical one: I am afraid (problem), therefore I should face my fear by doing things I am afraid of (solution). That is sound logic. (You'd think I was Spock or something!) Do I want to run a half-marathon? No. But it seemed logical for me to set that as a goal to force myself to work harder.

I think Judy is right about this, as she is about so many other things: I just think WAY too much (in general), which means I tend to think myself right out of potentially wonderful situations because I'm too mired in the details. Thinking and logic are great when I'm planning or running an event or when I'm researching family history, but there's got to be a shut-off switch somewhere! Where is my owner's manual? :-)

What would it be like to just jump -- to take reasonable precautions, yes, but to then just jump in, feet first and eyes closed, to some potentially wonderful dream?

30 November 2009

Fears: The Short List

What am I afraid of? As I have been pondering this question, I've enumerated many fears--all of which I couldn't possibly address and/or overcome in a 365-day period of time.

The biggest fear for me has always been the fear of failure: as I said earlier, I often don't do things because I'm afraid that I would fail at them. So, conquering that fear of failure is the focus of 2010. I am focusing my efforts on doing things that I, in the past, haven't done because I was afraid to fail. Sewing, running, applying to grad school, doing algebra, etc are examples of that.

There are also other fears--e.g. fear of heights and fear of spiders/snakes--that I will try to face this year. I will probably not conquer them (Molly, you'll probably still have to kill all of the spiders in the backseat of KShum's car for me!)...but I'm going to face them.


26 November 2009

It's the End of the World As We Know It...And I Feel Fine

To the world, I seem fearless. They see what I've overcome to get where I am today. They see that I do hard things every single day. They see that I can travel across the world on my own and speak in front of hundreds of people with a moment's notice. They see that I am strong, capable, determined, tenacious, and skilled--and I am. I couldn't be where I am today emotionally, financially, spiritually, or otherwise if I hadn't been so strong.

But what people don't see is that while I am strong, I am also incredibly scared. My accomplishments have largely been the product of my own efforts. Until recently, I did not have any sort of healthy support system, so I relied completely and totally on my own best efforts (which at best weren't that great)--and constantly relying on only myself engendered lonliness and fear because I knew my limitations so I was in a continual state of panic that at any moment I would fail.

I have allowed fear to talk me out of too many good things in my life -- and from even attempting to try to do things. When I assess a situation and see that I lack (skills, knowledge, opportunity...whatever it is), Fear tells me that I shouldn't even try, that I should avoid this situation because the risk of "failure" is too high. I have believed that voice because it seemed reasonable; it seemed to have my best good at heart and wanted to prevent additional hurt and pain in my life. However, I realized that that is NOT the case: Fear is from Satan--and Satan NEVER has our best good at heart!

So, even though I'm not good at ignoring the Fear (or the "Yelling Voice" as Judy and I call it) and doing things I'm afraid to do, I am going to do it anyway. I cannot continue to live my life in fear of the unknown, to run away from things that scare me. To combat this fear and create a new way of living, I determined that 2010 will be for me a Year of NO FEAR. I have made a list of things that scare me, and one by one, I will face them and conquer them.

This is my report. Good job, thank you very much, amen.

26 August 2009

It's All about Me

Tonight as we were driving to the movies, my bishop's wife and I had a very thought-provoking conversation about the new social media and its affects on relationships. She asked me if I agreed with the idea that social media was turning this generation into giant narcissists. I thought about myself (haha) and wondered if that could be said about me. Am I becoming narcissistic because I have a blog that no one but Judy, Melea, and Tracy read?

I value the opportunity for personal expression that writing in its various forms provides. And I value social media tools that connect me with family and friends and allow me to know what occurs in their lives. What I see, though, is that in our social media-driven world, we are becoming more self-absorbed; we are too plugged in to a barrage of media outlets, broadcasting what we are doing, instant messaging or texting with people, or tuning out the world with our MP3 players...that I wonder if we've lost the value of a non-media-enabled conversation--i.e. face to face (not on Facebook).

It's ironic for me to say that as I type this message for my blog on my BlackBerry. You can't get much more plugged in than that!

I think I am typing this message for me, as a reminder to unplug sometimes and be social--to remember how good it is to see and hear someone laugh in person. That the worth of a soul is great, and that sometimes what my soul really needs is to connect with another soul. I also need to unplug long enough and frequently enough to allow the Spirit time to teach me.

Understanding Doctrine of Marriage

I was listening to this talk by Elder Bednar and felt impressed to share more from it.

Do we perhaps talk about marriage without adequately teaching the importance of marriage in the Father’s plan? Emphasizing marriage without linking it to the simple and fundamental doctrine of the plan of happiness cannot provide sufficient direction, protection, or hope in a world that grows increasingly confused and wicked. We would all do well to remember the teaching of Alma—that “God gave unto [the children of men] commandments, after having made known unto them the plan of redemption” (Alma 12:32)....

As men and women, as husbands and wives, and as Church leaders, can we see how the importance of eternal marriage can be understood only within the context of the Father’s plan of happiness? The doctrine of the plan leads men and women to hope and prepare for eternal marriage, and it defeats the fears and overcomes the uncertainties that may cause some individuals to delay or avoid marriage. A correct understanding of the plan also strengthens our resolve to steadfastly honor the covenant of eternal marriage. Our individual learning, our teaching, and our testifying in both the home and at church will be magnified as we ponder and more fully understand this truth....

The Father’s plan is designed to provide direction for His children, to help them become happy, and to bring them safely home to Him. Lucifer’s attacks on the plan are intended to make the sons and daughters of God confused and unhappy and to halt their eternal progression. The overarching intent of the father of lies is that all of us would become “miserable like unto himself” (2 Nephi 2:27), and he works to warp the elements of the Father’s plan he hates the most. Satan does not have a body, he cannot marry, and he will not have a family. And he persistently strives to confuse the divinely appointed purposes of gender, marriage, and family. Throughout the world, we see growing evidence of the effectiveness of Satan’s efforts.

More recently the devil has attempted to combine and legally validate confusion about gender and marriage. As we look beyond mortality and into eternity, it is easy to discern that the counterfeit alternatives the adversary advocates can never lead to the completeness that is made possible through the sealing together of a man and a woman, to the happiness of righteous marriage, to the joy of posterity, or to the blessing of eternal progression.

Given what we know about our enemy’s intent, each of us should be especially vigilant in seeking personal inspiration as to how we can protect and safeguard our own marriages —and how we can learn and teach correct principles in the home and in our Church assignments about the eternal significance of gender and of the role of marriage in the Father’s plan.

Elder David A. Bednar, "Marriage Is Essential to His Eternal Plan," Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting: Supporting the Family, February 2006 (emphasis added).

Ultimate Happiness

It's so interesting to me that in our society today, "happiness" and "fulfillment" are seen as being completely separate from marriage--and actually, marriage and family responsibilties are often characterized as deterents to happiness!

Our Heavenly Father understands best what constitutes happiness. His plan of happiness includes the opportunities for us, as His children, to achieve ultimate happiness--a happiness that is inextricably tied to being married, raising a family, and experiencing the best and worst of what mortality has to offer. He ordained marriage and family life.

President Spencer W. Kimball said that it was "normal" for us to want to be married and live as families.

Honorable, happy, and successful marriage is surely the principal goal of every normal person. Marriage is perhaps the most vital of all the decisions and has the most far-reaching effects, for it has to do not only with immediate happiness, but also with eternal joys. It affects not only the two people involved, but also their families and particularly their children and their children’s children down through the many generations.

President Spencer W. Kimball, “Oneness in Marriage,” Ensign, Mar 1977, 3.
And Elder David A. Bednar speaks of the ultimate happiness that we can achieve through marriage:

As a husband and wife are each drawn to the Lord (see 3 Nephi 27:14), as they learn to serve and cherish one another, as they share life experiences and grow together and become one, and as they are blessed through the uniting of their distinctive natures, they begin to realize the fulfillment that our Heavenly Father desires for His children. Ultimate happiness, which is the very object of the Father's plan, is received through the making and honoring of eternal marriage covenants.

Elder David A. Bednar, "Marriage Is Essential to His Eternal Plan," Ensign, June 2006, 86 (emphasis added).

25 August 2009

Music to My Ears

Some thoughts on music, particularly as a form of worship.

"We are able to feel and learn very quickly through music, through art, through poetry some spiritual things that we would otherwise learn very slowly."
--President Boyd K. Packer, 1976 Devotional Speeches of the Year (1977), 267.

"The most effective preaching of the gospel is when it is accompanied by beautiful, appropriate music."
-- President Harold B. Lee, in Conference Report, Apr. 1973, 181.

"We are in a position, as musicians, to touch the souls of those who listen."
-- President Spencer W. Kimball, Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball (1982), 520.

"Inspiring music may fill the soul with heavenly thoughts, move one to righteous action, or speak peace to the soul."
-- President Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, Nov. 1974, 67.

Temples Build Families

Over the weekend, President Monson dedicated the 130th operating temple, the Oquirrh Mountain Utah temple. This occasion caused me to think about the importance of temples to Heavenly Father's plan for His children. At its essence, temples are for building eternal families--and that is an endeavor I wholeheartedly support.

Said Elder Hartman Rector, Jr. back in 1973 (his words are still efficacious today):
"Exaltation is a family affair, and so we build temples (houses dedicated to the Lord), but temples are family houses. They are set apart to create families for eternity. The sealing room in the temple is a family room and the altar of the temple is a family altar."

Elder Hartman Rector, Jr., "Prepare Yourself to Raise a Family in the Lord," BYU fireside, 7 January 1973 (italics in original quote, bold emphasis added).

23 August 2009

Happy Birthday, Poppy!

Today is my step grandfather's birthday. You don't know him, but I wanted to dedicate a post to him anyway.

Poppy (that's what I call him) married my maternal grandmother when I was barely two years old, and he has been the only grandfather I've ever known. (My grandmother's previous husband, my mom's father, was a recluse who remained aloof from his family to his death.) I am grateful for Poppy's influence in my life. He "walks with the Lord" and has a very charitable heart. Even now when he is has vision problems, has had several heart surgeries, and is 83 years old, he still volunteers at the baptist church he attends; until recently, he volunteered regularly with Habitat for Humanity!

He has been very supportive of me and my endeavors in life. While I was on my mission, he started to allow the sister missionaries over for dinner with the hope that someone in my area would extend the same kindness to me and my missionary companion. Every month while I was in college, he sent me a one-page letter and some "mad money" to treat myself and my roommates.

I love to spend time with him and learn about his history. He's also a wonderful cook and a great companion to have when watching a spaghetti western (his favorite) or going on "cemetery" adventures looking for my grandmother's ancestors. His hearty laugh is also comforting, especially when whilst at the cemetery, I trip over a grave, imagine that I've fallen INto it, and scream like I was in some horror movie. (We still laugh about this.)

I've learned so much from Poppy, and I'm very grateful that I've had so many wonderful years of memories with him. Happy Birthday, Poppy!

Sugar-coated Lies

Satan is very tricky. He packages lies carefully and ties them up with a big bow...and sometimes we blindly accept--even treasure--these "gifts" when all they really contain are brown-sugar-covered dung.

That point became clear for me as I watched what used to be one of my favorite movies, a romantic comedy that is punctuated with funny, very quotable lines. As I watched it again with some friends this weekend, however, I saw the movie in a different light. Yes, the movie still has those delicious "brown-sugar-coated," quotable moments...but the storyline itself is made of disgusting elements that I used to gloss over--i.e. adultery, fornication, language, not cleaving to one's spouse, etc. I used to think those were "minor" parts of the storyline, but actually, they ARE the storyline! Why should I be cheering on the main characters--wanting them to get together--when what they are teaching me is that it's okay to commit adultery when "it's true love" (and when it is known that your spouse has already commited adultery) and it's okay to abandon one's marriage vows--to not even TRY to make it work by going to counseling--because that man was "meant to be" with someone else, someone with whom he was emotionally unfaithful to his wife from the very beginning (told his best friend everything before his wife).

My perspective of the movie changed because of what I've been learning about lately: how important it is in any relationship to be trustworthy and to be committed to that relationship, turning to that person first to work out problems (instead of turning to others first). These lessons have come primarily as I've been developing my relationship with Heavenly Father. I previously thought that the only problem was my inability to trust Him fulfilly; He has shown me that I am not as consistent, committed, and trustworthy as I thought I was to our relationship (a very humbling lesson!). For example, when I don't understand what He's doing in my life or when I feel confused/hurt by something that has happened, I often shut Him out and turn first to others to help me figure out what to do, instead of praying to Heavenly Father and working things out between us.

I've turned to others first before Heavenly Father because I thought that He didn't care, that it was my own fault that I was hurt and shouldn't involve Him (the one I felt had hurt me) in resolving my hurt. The truth is that Heavenly Father DOES care about my feelings and WANTS to be involved in the resolution because He IS the resolution! He is the One who can heal my wounds. When I turn away from Him, I increase the distance between us and the liklihood that I will accept one of those sugar-coated lies as truth. And as I do so, the lie I was believing (that He doesn't care) is reinforced because I don't allow Him to demonstrate anything different. Then the "story" I continue to write in my head is that He doesn't care, so I feel justified in repeating this...until I've written Heavenly Father off completely as some uncaring, unfeeling being who delights to see His children suffer -- and that is NOT who Heavenly Father is!!!

By small and simple things are great things brought to pass, even the great destruction of our relationship with Heavenly Father!

I think "cleaving" is important not only in marriage relationships but in our relationship with Heavenly Father (see Genesis 2:24); we should be just as committed to Him as we are to a spouse. Actually, we should be even more loyal to God; He should be our primary priority and we should make any sacrifice necessary to esteem Him as such.

22 August 2009


I love to write (as you can tell from all of my blog posts). Writing is often the way that I "study out" a situation and determine what I know and what I don't know. And it is also a way that I solidify my feelings / testimony of a subject.

When thinking about how I feel when the Lord is with me versus when I handle life's challenges alone, I realized what a stark contrast there was to how I felt. This poem is an attempt to illustrate that.


In the harried ubiquity of
Screaming in my ears like a
Drill sergeant
Forcing myself to inch forward
Gasping for breath
Every movement arduous,
Moments away from
Expiring all strength--


In the certain embrace of
Divine Love.
You tenderly whisper
"I am here"
And that is
The most delicious melody--
Caresses my ears
Replenishes strength
Relaxes every sinew.
I submit
Relinquishing the solo quest.
We will face
Tomorrow's climb.
But for now

Big Dreams, Little Fears

Normally, I do not usually take counsel from a fortune cookie, but the one I received last night at dinner seemed very applicable to my current situation: "Your dreams should be bigger than your fears." That fortune reminded me of what Elder Holland had said about God anxiously wanting to fulfill our dreams, but He can't if we don't allow ourselves to dream (see my earlier post for the complete quotation).

When was the last time you allowed yourself to dream without pragmatic parameters (e.g. dreaming about what you genuinely desire instead of what you, in your current situation, think you can obtain)?

For me, it's been a very long time. If there was a grade given out for dreaming (and thankfully there is not), I would have consistently received at least a D (if not lower) from age 7 through the present day. Oh, sure, I can daydream with the best of them and can imagine for a moment that life was different...but the practical side always reminds me why those daydreams could not come true. This logical side also makes it difficult to watch fairy tales and other movies like that because I can't suspend reality long enough to enjoy them.

(Same thing goes for the song "Before he cheats" by Carrie Underwood: Why would you carve your name into his leather seats? I get the concept, but, really? You want to leave clear evidence that YOU were the perpetrator? That sounds like jail time to me.)

The concept of having dreams bigger than fears relates to suspending "reality"--to believe, especially when all of the empiracal evidence concludes that a situation is "impossible," that God can and WILL provide the way for your dreams to be fulfilled. Some might even call this concept (believing in things that you cannot see) faith. Our faith cannot be based soley in an outcome or a desired result, not matter how much we desire it; our faith must be centered in Jesus Christ and in His ability and willingness to help us achieve our dreams. (See the Bible Dictionary entry "faith" for more enlightenment about this concept.) Our dreams become powerfully able to diminish our fears when we allow Jesus' perfect love to cast out any and all fear in our hearts.

Further, Christ's love will enable us to dream bigger and better dreams. We will not worry about the practical "how" of the dream (the part that usually classifies a dream as "impossible") because we will know that He will provide the way. Feeling Christ's love will enable us to see our divine potential, causing us to desire what He wants for us to become. We rise to the expectations, however low or high we establish for ourselves; Jesus' love raises our expectations for ourselves (what we can achieve) and for others (how He can advocate with others on our behalf to secure their help in obtaining our desire--e.g. the Lord softening the heart of Ishmael before Nephi and his brethren arrived [1 Nephi 7:1-5]).

In sum, when we feel the Savior's love, we feel safe to dream big dreams because we do not fear the outcome because we know He is with us.

21 August 2009

If Life Were A Musical...

I'd choreograph some killer dance numbers like the one below.

Thoughts on the Word of Wisdom

I had a very engaging conversation about the Word of Wisdom with someone yesterday. He was very adamant that we, as Latter-day Saints, focus too much on the "don'ts" of the Word of Wisdom--not partaking of coffee, alcohol, tobacco, tea--but that we don't focus enough on the rest of the commandment, of what we should be doing--i.e. eating meat sparingly (v. 12), eating "wholesome herbs" (v. 10), etc.

Obeying this commandment is such a personal matter; I do not feel comfortable to judge how others interpret what is best for them. For me, however, I can see areas that I need to improve.

In this light, I've collected some quotes about the Word of Wisdom -- food for thought.

You can go straight to the source and read the entire 89th section of the Doctrine & Covenants here.

Some recent General Conference addresses:

From President Brigham Young:

The constitution that a person has should be nourished and cherished; and whenever we take anything into the system to force and stimulate it beyond its natural capacity, it shortens life. I am physician enough to know that. … If you will follow this counsel, you will be full of life and health, and you will increase your intelligence, your joy, and comfort (DBY, 183)….

The Americans, as a nation, are killing themselves with their vices and high living. As much as a man ought to eat in half an hour they swallow in three minutes, gulping down their food like the [dog] under the table, which, when a chunk of meat is thrown down to it, swallows it before you can say “twice.” If you want a reform, carry out the advice I have just given you. Dispense with your multitudinous dishes, and, depend upon it, you will do much towards preserving your families from sickness, disease and death (DBY, 189).

Do you know that it is your privilege so to live that your minds may all the time be perfectly within your control? Study to preserve your bodies in life and health, and you will be able to control your minds (DBY, 190)….

It is a piece of good counsel which the Lord desires his people to observe, that they may live on the earth until the measure of their creation is full. This is the object the Lord had in view in giving that Word of Wisdom. To those who observe it he will give great wisdom and understanding, increasing their health, giving strength and endurance to the faculties of their bodies and minds until they shall be full of years upon the earth. This will be their blessing if they will observe his word with a good and willing heart and in faithfulness before the Lord (DBY, 184).

Chapter 29: Living the Word of Wisdom,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 211.

From President David O. McKay:

The Church urges men to have self-mastery to control their appetites, their tempers, and their speech. A man is not at his best when he is a slave to some habit. A man is not his best who lives merely to gratify his passions. That is one reason why the Lord has given the Church the revelation of the Word of Wisdom so that, even from boyhood and girlhood, young men and young women may learn to control themselves. That is not always easy. The youth today face enemies—false ideologies and immoral practices. … Sound preparation is necessary to meet and conquer these enemies….

Neither the Church nor the world at large can hear too much about the Word of Wisdom. It is a doctrine given to man for man’s happiness and benefit. It is part of the philosophy of living. … He who fails to live it robs himself of strength of body and strength of character to which he is entitled. Truth is loyalty to the right as we see it; it is courageous living of our lives in harmony with our ideals; it is always power.

Chapter 11: Living the Word of Wisdom,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay, 103.

From President Joseph F. Smith:

Now, I do wish with all my heart—not because I say it, but because it is written in the word of the Lord—that you would give heed to this Word of Wisdom. It was given unto us … for our guidance, for our happiness and advancement in every principle that pertains to the kingdom of God, in time and throughout eternity, and I pray you to observe it. It will do you good; it will ennoble your souls; it will free your thoughts and your hearts from the spirit of destruction; it will make you feel like God, who sustains even the sparrow, that it does not fall to the ground without his notice; it will bring you nearer to the similitude of the Son of God, the Savior of the world, who healed the sick, who made the lame to leap for joy, who restored hearing to the deaf and sight to the blind, who distributed peace, joy, and comfort to all with whom he came in contact.

Chapter 36: The Word of Wisdom: A Law for the Physical and Spiritual Health of the Saints,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 323.

Blessed Hope Is Possible

Hope is oft times very fragile, especially during prolonged trials of faith.

We often use the word hope to convey “a hint of uncertainty. For example we say we hope for a change of the weather"; however, "[i]n the language of the gospel...the word hope is sure, unwavering, active” (True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference, 85). Hope should be a "confident expectation of and longing for the promised blessings of righteousness" (Guide to the Scriptures, "Hope").

Dr. John S. Tanner presented a beautiful discourse on hope to a Brigham Young University-Idaho devotional audience. I commend the entire devotional to you to read, study, and ponder. (I think I've read / listened to this devotional at least 5 times and still feel the need to continue to study it!). I wanted to quote a bit from it...but couldn't trim down what I wanted to share to less than what is below, so please forgive the long quotation. My desire is for it to help you as much as it has helped me.

Although hope often seems dwarfed by the towering theological terms that frame it, hope is not a whit less important than its big sisters faith and charity, and in some respects is even more demanding than its near twin, faith. Many Latter-day Saints find it comparatively easy to express faith in the foundational truths of the gospel–that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, that Joseph was a prophet, and so forth. But to feel hope. . . . Well, here the Lord seems to be expecting something rather more personal of us. For hope is more than belief in propositional truths. Hope bids us not only believe but feel. It is an attitude of the heart more than of the mind. It is telling that in English “hope” functions not only as a noun, like “faith,” but as a verb. Hope is the act of a soul expectantly reaching out toward the future. Belief can attach itself to the past, the present, or the future. Hope, by contrast, is oriented emphatically toward the future.

And not just to the future in general but to our own futures. Hope focuses on deeply personal possibilities about our own lives rather than on impersonal facts. As we all know, it is possible to believe wholeheartedly that God’s purposes will prevail and yet lack what the scriptures call a “lively hope” that the Lord’s purposes will prevail in our own lives or in the lives of our loved ones (1 Peter 1:3). To summon up this bright and blessed hope for our own lives can test the capacity of even the faithful, like Abraham, who according to scripture “against hope believed in hope”–that is he hoped even when things seemed hopeless (Romans 4:18). In dark nights of the soul, such blessed hope can be oh so hard to hold on to…..

Think how hope readies your heart to feel love–for yourself and for others. When we are full of hope, which remember is future-oriented, we are prepared to forget ourselves and reach out to others, as the pure love of Christ requires. By contrast, when we feel hopeless, we tend to be self-critical and self-preoccupied and therefore incapable of giving love. It is hard for the hopeless to get outside themselves and approach others with pure love, or to accept possibility in themselves and others for change, as Christ does. Without hope, we feel unloveable and unloving. Hope makes us receptive to the pure love of Christ.

By the same token, charity, or the pure love of Christ, readies the heart for hope. Charity causes us to look with hope upon ourselves and others. Perfect love leads us to be expectant about the future, to have hope for change. As the scriptures affirm, “Perfect love casteth out all fear” (Moroni 8:16; cf. 1 John 4:18. Note that Mormon is even more categorical than John: love casts out all fear). By casting out fear, perfect love makes room in the heart for hope. Truly, as the scriptures testify, the soul possessed of charity “hopeth all things.”

I know about the intimate relation between hope and charity from personal experience. When I feel hope, I am better able to love. Similarly, when I feel the pure love of Christ, I am better able to hope. The world brightens. Blessed hope is kindled in my heart. And I am reminded of the old truth that the night is darkest just before dawn.

John S. Tanner, “Blessed Hope,” BYU–Idaho Devotional, 16 May 2006 (italics in original text, bold emphasis added).

20 August 2009

Lynn Truss Would Be So Proud

I admit it: I am a nerd. I appreciate a well-placed semi-colon, and I rejoice in selecting the best possible font for a document. One of my favorite books is "Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation." When its author, Lynn Truss, spoke at a conference, I arrived at the meeting at least an hour in advance so I could get a good seat--and then I waited in line for her to autograph the book.

You might not be as obsessive about sentence structure or document design as I am (and yes, obsessive might be the best word to use...), but I hope you can appreciate the humor in the clip below. It is entitled "Font Conference." (My favorite part is what Wingdings says. LOL.)

DON'T Laugh Too Hard At This

Although this song approaches the topic in a humourous way (it makes me laugh out loud every time I watch it), there are some important nuggets of advice applicable to both husbands and wives.

Mindfully Leading Us Along

This morning as I was walking to work, I thought about how the Lord had prepared the way for me to be ready and available to accept the employment I have now. The situation was (is) quite miraculous. Until this experience occurred, I wasn't quite sure that the Lord was mindful of me and what was going on in my life.

As I am learning, that is not the case at all. The Lord is exceedingly mindful of us. Too often, however, we don't stop and recognize the intricacy of the Lord's plan for us--how He leads us here because we need to learn this, and then He allows this to happen so we can be prepared for something else to occur, etc.
President Eyring taught about this concept and suggested that we trust the Lord will prepare us and lead us where He needs us to be:
Your life is carefully watched over, as was mine. The Lord knows both what He will need you to do and what you will need to know. He is kind and He is all-knowing. So you can with confidence expect that He has prepared opportunities for you to learn in preparation for the service you will give. You will not recognize those opportunities perfectly, as I did not. But when you put the spiritual things first in your life, you will be blessed to feel directed toward certain learning, and you will be motivated to work harder. You will recognize later that your power to serve was increased, and you will be grateful.
-- President [then Elder] Henry B. Eyring, "Education for Real Life," Ensign, Oct. 2002, 18-19 (emphasis added).
The Lord knew years ago (and even before then) that I needed employment and educational experiences to prepare me for this job to become available (during the middle of a hiring freeze, I might add--talk about nothing being impossible with the Lord!). And He knows at this moment what experiences I need to prepare me for future blessings and opportunities. I hope I can remember what He has done for me and have the courage to trust that He knows where we are going--and just let Him do the driving!

Spiritual Lids Block Our Potential for Good

My first mission president often discussed "spiritual lids." He used the analogy of putting fruit flies (I think that's what it was; sorry, President, I don't remember this detail!) in a mason jar with a lid: The fruit flies will try to escape but then will, essentially, give up; after that point, even if you take the lid off the mason jar, the fruit flies won't try to go higher than the lid. Then my mission president likened that to our lives, how too often our fight to overcome obstacles stops short of where we "hit the lid" so-to-speak, or how far we succeeded the last time we tried. Those are our spiritual lids.

This morning I thought about the spiritual lid concept as I found myself doubting my ability to reach certain goals in my life, particularly in the aspects of my life where I have previously "failed." It was (still is) extremely difficult for me to overcome this discouragement and believe that where I "failed" in the past, I could with the Lord's help escape from these doubts to conquer.

President Thomas S. Monson offered this encouragement to face our fears:

Should there be anyone who feels he is too weak to do better because of that greatest of fears, the fear of failure, there is no more comforting assurance to be had than the words of the Lord: “My grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27).

President Thomas S. Monson, "Our Sacred Priesthood Trust," Ensign, May 2006, 57.

What spiritual lids are preventing you from reaching your goals?

19 August 2009

Serious Discipleship

Elder Neal A. Maxwell explained Gospel topics in such a succinct, thought-provoking way. His words were always aligned in alliteration. I loved listening to him (still do).

Discipleship was often the subject, whether stated or implied, in many of Elder Maxwell's talks. One idea he shared about the requirements of discipleships has stayed with me; I re-read this quote often.

If we are serious about our discipleship, Jesus will eventually request each of us to do those very things which are most difficult for us to do. Sometimes the best people have the worst experiences, because they are the most ready to learn.

Color(ing) Therapy

I've decided that coloring in coloring books should be a mandatory part of the workday. Coloring is extremely theraputic. I mean, think about it: How many stressed out 4-year-olds do you know? I rest my case.

Are you stressed? Would you like to color? Here are some coloring pages available to print out and color all of your stress away. Crayons not included.

I Am a Child of God
Family Members Have Important Responsibilities
Family Praying
Temple Blessings Unite Families
President Monson
Stripling Warriors
And a list of others...

Avoid Headaches, Laugh Instead

Sister Marjorie Pay Hinckley once said, "The only way to get through life is to laugh your way through it. You either have to laugh or cry. I prefer to laugh. Crying gives me a headache."

I think she was on to something.

Ask for More Than Day-old Bread

It's difficult to know what to pray for sometimes.

The Bible Dictionary entry for "prayer" says that "[p]rayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other" and that "[t]he object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them." How do we know what blessings "God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them"?

As we study the scriptures, invite the Holy Ghost to be with us, and heed the feelings and thoughts we have, I believe we can know the right questions to ask; the Spirit can enlighten us as to what the Lord's will is for us generally and in particular situations, and then prompt us to know for what we should ask.

We also need to have faith and believe that God "is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Hebrews 11:6).

This last part (faith in God's willingness to bless me) is something I am new to believing, and therefore I still have moments when I pray and wonder if anything will happen. I have the intellectual knowledge gained by seeing the Lord work in others' lives, especially in the scriptures, but I have yet to build up enough "heart knowledge" to match what I know in my head. At times this lack of trust has led me to pray for only the minimum of what I needed because I wasn't even sure the Lord would be willing to grant that, so why bother asking for more?

Stephen H. Peterson, a church service missionary serving at BYU-Hawaii, presented a devotional that addressed the topic of praying for the desires of our hearts--to not just pray for the minimum, but to pray for what we most desire and then expect the Lord to help us. He shared several examples from his own life, particularly in his professional life, where he prayed for what he desired and the Lord actually prepared the way for Brother Peterson to receive an even greater blessing than the one originally prayed for.

Hearing of Brother Peterson's experiences was very instructive to me. Since then, I have devoted time to examining my life and how the Lord has done that for me; with new eyes, I have noted many examples of that in my life, e.g. the new employment opportunity I have which is far and away greater than what I ever prayed for.

Brother Peterson summarized his thoughts on praying for the desires of our hearts by saying:

In one of Sheri Dew’s talks to the missionaries on Temple Square in Salt Lake City she taught a great principle. When you pray, ask for what you want or something better. I remember my grandmother saying aim high, you can always land in the gutter. The Lord knows your needs better than you and as a loving Father he will meet them or give you something better.

Elder Stephen H. Peterson, “Desires of the Heart,” BYU-Hawaii Devotional, 28 April 2009 (emphasis added).
In the scriptures, the Lord tells us how willing He is to bless us with what we desire.

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?
Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

Matthew 7:7-11 (see also 3 Nephi 14:7-11 and Luke 11:9-13)

The "take away" from these scriptures and the devotional given by Brother Peterson is this: God is willing to bless us with more than we think He will--we just need to ask!

Kindergarten Worries

I don't think we ever grow out of the worries we had as children before we started our first day of school (Will the teacher be nice to me? Will the other kids talk to me? Will I have someone to play with at recess?, etc). In every situation as adults, I think we face these same kindergarten worries to some degree or another, although we may not always recognize it.

This idea came to me yesterday as I was sitting at lunch with three of my new colleagues. I remembered how I felt on my first day of work: I worried if my boss would be nice to me, if my new colleagues would talk to me, and if I would have anyone with whom I could eat my lunch (or if I'd be the "loser" girl who sat alone at the lunch table). The new work environment was dramatically different from the one in which I'd previously worked, and I was quite intimiated by the breadth of knowledge and experience my new colleagues had. (They were experts in their fields and I was just a young upstart with revolutionary ideas who had worked for the competitor, aka The Evil Empire.) I remember going for days at a time when the only contact I had with anyone in our department (aside from my manager) was at our weekly staff meeting.

One would think that a business woman like me, someone capable, independent, and progressive, would not worry what the "other kids at school thought"--but I did and I do. I want to belong just like everyone else does. I want to be liked; I want to have friends; I want the validation that my ideas are acceptable.

During many of my previous "new kid" times (e.g. attending a new ward, moving into a new house, starting a new job), I've usually had someone to go with me. When I started employment at my previous company, I joined a team that my roommate and friend was on. She showed me around and introduced me to her friends...and soon her friends were my friends...and then I branched out on and made friends of my own. There was no built-in social network when I started my new job here; I was completely on my own to make friends--and I wasn't certain that I remembered how to do that.

I am very grateful that Heavenly Father has helped me be brave enough to talk to the "cool kids at school" because it turns out that they are really nice and want to be my friends. And now I have people to sit by in meetings and with whom I can "play" during "recess" (aka lunch).

Being the "new girl" has been a stretching experience. I hope my heart has stretched enough to more quickly embrace the "new kids" in my life (at work, in my ward, etc) and include them in my circle of friendship.

18 August 2009

God Wants to Answer Our Prayers

A thought from Elder Holland that I needed to hear today:
God expects you to have enough faith and determination and enough trust in Him to keep moving, keep living, keep rejoicing. In fact, He expects you not simply to face the future (that sounds pretty grim and stoic); He expects you to embrace and shape the future—to love it and rejoice in it and delight in your opportunities.

God is anxiously waiting for the chance to answer your prayers and fulfill your dreams, just as He always has. But He can’t if you don’t pray, and He can’t if you don’t dream. In short, He can’t if you don’t believe.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, "Terror, Triumph, and a Wedding Feast," CES Fireside, 12 September 2004 (emphasis added).

Impossible Miracles

Have you ever thought, "No, this (what I desire) can't plausibly happen; I'm asking too much of the Lord"?

I have. In fact, I've been thinking that frequently lately: what I am praying for is huge--we're talking on par with moving heaven and mountains, parting the Red Sea, and Sarah giving birth to a child when she was past 90 years old combined! In my mind I know that the Lord has ALL power and "can do whatsoever [He] wilt for the benefit of man" (Ether 3:4)...but I wonder, "Will He really go to all of that trouble (all that the miracle I need requires) just for me? Maybe I should be asking for something smaller, something that wouldn't require so much effort?"

A few sentences from the Bible Dictionary entry on "miracles" came to mind: "Christianity is founded on the greatest of all miracles, the resurrection of our Lord. If that be admitted, other miracles cease to be improbable....Miracles were and are a response to faith, and its best encouragement" -- which translated to me as "Seriously, Maddy, you just gotta let go and let me do this for you! I can do it and I will do it!"

Sometimes I just need to relax and trust that the Lord will do what He said He would do.

Never Suppress a Generous Thought

Understanding and acting upon promptings from the Holy Ghost is sometimes difficult for me; I have such a tendency to talk myself out of doing something for someone because I think, "Who am I to do something like this?" or "This person probably doesn't even need my help; I'm just forcing myself into his/her life." Or I think that someone else is probably "better qualified" to help, so I convince myself that my effort would be futile.

In her BYU Devotional entitled "Personal Ministry: Sacred and Precious," Sister Bonnie D. Parkin shared a story about her daughter-in-law's mother who faced this same mental battle.

My daughter-in-law’s mother, Susan, was a wonderful seamstress. President Kimball lived in their ward. One Sunday, Susan noticed that he had a new suit. Her father had recently returned from a trip to New York and had brought her some exquisite silk fabric. Susan thought that fabric would make a handsome tie to go with President Kimball’s new suit. So on Monday she made the tie. She wrapped it in tissue paper and walked up the block to President Kimball’s home.

On her way to the front door, she suddenly stopped and thought, “Who am I to make a tie for the prophet? He probably has plenty of them.” Deciding she had made a mistake, she turned to leave.

Just then Sister Kimball opened the front door and said, “Oh, Susan!”

Stumbling all over herself, Susan said, “I saw President Kimball in his new suit on Sunday. Dad just brought me some silk from New York . . . and so I made him a tie.”

Before Susan could continue, Sister Kimball stopped her, took hold of her shoulders, and said: “Susan, never suppress a generous thought.”

Susan didn’t have an assignment to make that tie. She wasn’t hired to do so. Despite feeling a bit hesitant, she did it because it felt right. Susan had a quiet sense of mission to serve others. I was also the beneficiary of such service. Her service went beyond any calling because it lasted throughout her life. Never suppressing a generous thought became a part of her personal ministry.

-- Sister Bonnie D. Parkin, "Personal Ministry: Sacred and Precious," BYU Devotionl, 13 February 2007 (emphasis added).

In another BYU Devotional, Professor James D. Stice taught that small and simple things (lending a listening ear, looking for small things, and erring on the side of action) can enable us to serve others and fulfill our personal ministry.

First, lend a listening ear…. Listening is a shady spot on the trail of life. I don't need you to take my burdens. After all, how I handle my burdens is going to help develop celestial qualities within me. What I need is for you to, on occasion, hold them for me for just a moment while I rest and gather my strength.

Second, look for small things. Too often we look for huge things to do to lighten someone's load. Then, not finding big things to do, we often do nothing, thinking that the little things won't make a difference. But for me it is often the multitude of little things that gets me down. If someone would help me with those little things, I could then harness my energies for the big challenges….Look for small things. To you they may not seem a big deal. But to the recipient your small deed may make a difference.

Here is my final suggestion: Err on the side of action. Have you ever found yourself face-to-face with an opportunity to help someone and said something like, "Surely someone else will help" or "I don't have the time right now" or "I have my own problems to worry about"? When it comes to helping others, when in doubt, get in the game. If there is help that needs to be given, give it. If you can make a difference for good, make it. Don't wait for an engraved invitation. Don't worry about what others might think. If the Spirit whispers to you that something needs to be done, do it.
-- Professor James D. Stice, "The Weight of the World," BYU Devotional, 2 October 2001 (emphasis added).

Personal Ministry = Charity

I was impressed by a thought given by Sister Bonnie D. Parkin, former General Relief Society President, in a BYU devotional given in 2007 called "Personal Ministry: Sacred and Precious." Sister Parkin teaches about personal ministry--that each of us has one--and how we can minister to one another.
We often speak about the Savior’s ministry. But have you ever wondered if you have a personal ministry? I have....

“To minister” is defined as attending to the needs and wants of others. The Bible Dictionary adds, “The work of the ministry is to do the work of the Lord on the earth—to represent the Lord among the people.”

Ministering involves extending charity—that pure love of Christ—to others, one person at a time. By doing so, we offer a kind, generous, peaceful, and pure heart. Opportunities to minister may come within the formal stewardship of a calling or assignment, or they may come as we spontaneously extend ourselves to someone in need....

We can often learn more about our personal ministry through our callings. I hope all of you are visiting teachers or home teachers. Look at these assignments with new eyes. They are great opportunities to minister to each other. Do you know the hearts of those you visit? Do you spend time with them? Do you listen and give them the great gift of knowing they have been heard and understood? It takes time and energy, but it is so important! I testify that as you seek for inspiration, you will not only know how best to serve others but will better understand your own personal ministry....

Love and relationships—simply and profoundly—are what personal ministry is all about.

Sister Bonnie D. Parkin, "Personal Ministry: Sacred and Precious," BYU Devotional, 13 February 2007 (emphasis added).
It has been a great challenge for me to be in a new ward--something I haven't experienced in quite a few years! I don't know anyone and have found it too "comfortable" to just attend church and activities without really extending myself to others. In my previous ward, I was part of the "inner circle" of long-time members. Extending service--ministering--to those around me wasn't a challenge because they were my friends and I knew they loved me. In this new ward, I have gone weeks without anyone but the Relief Society president or the bishop's wife (the aunt of one of my good friends from my previous ward) saying hello to me. Ministering in this ward has seemed nigh unto impossible--especially because I don't know anyone's needs!

I am working to change this, however; I want to be available to the Lord to minister to His children whenever He needs me to--and I know that I can't be very effective in doing that if I sit mutely on the back row and wait for others to speak to me first.

This is what Heavenly Father needs me to do -- but what does He need you to do? I encourage each of you to find out from Him. Often the answers are uncomfortable (like mine is/was), but the Lord will enable us to do His will. Two people can do anything if one of them is the Lord.

Creating Happiness

The topic of happiness has been in my thoughts lately. As I was studying, I remembered the talk President Dieter F. Uchtdorf gave at last year's General Relief Society meeting and decided to refresh my memory of what he said.

What is God’s happiness? President Uchtdorf explains:

Creating and being compassionate are two objectives that contribute to our Heavenly Father’s perfect happiness. Creating and being compassionate are two activities that we as His spirit children can and should emulate….

The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul. No matter our talents, education, backgrounds, or abilities, we each have an inherent wish to create something that did not exist before….

The more you trust and rely upon the Spirit, the greater your capacity to create. That is your opportunity in this life and your destiny in the life to come. Sisters, trust and rely on the Spirit. As you take the normal opportunities of your daily life and create something of beauty and helpfulness, you improve not only the world around you but also the world within you….

My dear sisters, I have a simple faith. I believe that as you are faithful and diligent in keeping the commandments of God, as you draw closer to Him in faith, hope, and charity, things will work together for your good. I believe that as you immerse yourselves in the work of our Father—as you create beauty and as you are compassionate to others—God will encircle you in the arms of His love. Discouragement, inadequacy, and weariness will give way to a life of meaning, grace, and fulfillment.

As spirit daughters of our Heavenly Father, happiness is your heritage.

You are choice daughters of our Heavenly Father, and through the things you create and by your compassionate service, you are a great power for good. You will make the world a better place. Lift up your chin; walk tall. God loves you. We love and admire you.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Happiness, Your Heritage,” General Relief Society Meeting, 27 September 2008.

Below is a video that I received in an email from a friend. The original is available on YouTube on the MormonMessages channel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RhLlnq5yY7k.

17 August 2009

Swishing Obsession

If I learned anything from my best friend's mother, it is this: every toilet in the house needs to be cleaned before any company comes over. This idea of toilet cleanliness has been taught consistently by my best friend's mother--almost as much as the need to wear socks in the winter and proper shoes (i.e. not flip flops) when you go walking (see, I was listening!)--that I have become almost as obsessed about it as she is, and I'm not even her daughter!

Case in point: Yesterday I knew my visiting teachers were coming at 4:30 p.m.; as I was leaving church at 4 p.m., my first thought was, "Oh! When was the last time I cleaned my toilets?" Because I'm somewhat OCD about this, the answer was of course on Saturday when I was cleaning the house, so I could relax and wait for my visiting teachers to arrive.

I might not make the bed (and I don't because I think it's a waste of time...but that's another topic for a later post), but boy, my toilets are clean!

Becoming Irresistibly Attractive

I thought that being a size 0 with a perfect complexion would make me more attractive. But President Faust has a better idea:
One of your particular gifts is your feminine intuition. Do not limit yourselves. As you seek to know the will of our Heavenly Father in your life and become more spiritual, you will be far more attractive, even irresistible. You can use your smiling loveliness to bless those you love and all you meet, and spread great joy….

President James E. Faust, "Womanhood: The Highest Place of Honor," Ensign, May 2000, 96 (emphasis added)

15 August 2009

Saturday Mornings

I don't know who invented the concept of sleeping in on Saturday but he/she was a genius. That's how I love to spend my Saturday mornings: sleeping in until at least 8 a.m. Sleeping in on Saturday became a rare treasure a few years ago when I was working for a company that required travel (I worked a lot of weekends); since starting a new job, however, I have been able to resurrect sleeping in (although usually only until 7 a.m.) on most Saturdays.

There are those, especially those mothers, who do not get the option of sleeping in on Saturday. My sister-in-law has seven children (six of them are very active boys!) and is awake every morning by 5 a.m. *at the latest*, including on Saturday. By 6 a.m., the entire family will be dressed, fed (pancakes on Saturdays), and reading scriptures. Within an hour or so, they will be engaged in one of many activities for the day; most of these activities are "work projects"--i.e. helping someone move, paint, fix, lay sod, etc. I'm always amazed at how much they are able to accomplish in a Saturday.

Maybe there's something to this getting up early on Saturday business?

Sleeping in on Saturday has often been my "reward" for enduring an especially difficult work week. But in the future when I have children, the "work week" will not be Monday at 8 a.m. to Friday at 5 p.m.: it will last 24 hours a day, 7 days a week--no paid holidays, no sick leave...none of the benefits I now enjoy. And sleeping in on Saturday will become very rare indeed. Am I ready to commit to that--to give up my office, the paycheck, the professional recognition, the days off, etc?

A few years ago I would've answered with a resounding "NO!" and could've enumerated a long list of reasons why me having children was definitely NOT a good idea. However, "one thing led to another" (those of you who know Brian Regan's comedy will get the joke there), and I find myself contemplating what it would look and feel like if I were a mother. Imaging this once "impossible" scenario is still a bit surreal; sometimes I still wonder if me and motherhood would actually get along as I imagine in my head that we might. The reality of motherhood, especially for those moms who spent a significant amount of time working full-time prior to motherhood, is quite drastic. One of my best friends spent a lot of her maternity leave crying and feeling frustrated because she wasn't prepared for what it actually meant to take care of a baby (lack of sleep only exacerbated the situation).

Watching my friend cope with her stark new reality was instructive for me: I knew that I would likely react the same way because I've been working full-time as long as she has. I've been trying to apply these learnings to my own anticipated motherhood (no, I'm not pregnant; I'm just a planner and always think ahead). While I know that no one could ever prepare enough to become a mother, perhaps there are things that I could do to "ease" myself into it? I don't want to be changing *another* diaper and think about the opportunity cost of what I'm doing. And I don't want to think about the ROI on anything related to my child.

Can a business woman become a mother and not only be successful at it ("success" defined as not injuring the child due to the mother's ignorance) but *enjoy* it as well?

Almost the Best, Second Only to the Best

If I had to rate my best friend Judy on a scale of one to ten, she'd probably be a thirteen (extra credit points for having great hair). Judy is the kind of person you want to have around for any time in your life:
  • If you are sad, she is a "good-job" listener and she looks for ways to help you feel happy
  • If you are happy, she rejoices with you and makes that happiness feel even sweeter
  • If you are confused, she supports your efforts to find the answers and shares her faith that Heavenly Father *will* come through
  • If you are afraid, she knows how to "talk you off the ledge" and bring you back to rational ground
  • If you are stressed, she knows the magic formula for stress relief--i.e., BYU chocolate milk, Barbara's cheese puffs, and a massage from Janet, the most amazing massage therapist ever.
And Judy thinks I'm funny, which makes me feel better about myself; she should probably get another extra credit point for that.

Relatively speaking, Judy and I haven't been friends for very long (we've known each other 5-ish years and have been best friends for 4 of those), but we've been through more in the few years than most people endure in a lifetime. I couldn't have survived what's happened during the last 4 years if she hadn't been my BFF (best friend forever). I feel tremendously grateful to Heavenly Father for anticipating my needs and bringing Judy into my life. Judy, I keep you!

Sometimes I imagine that Judy and I will someday be as cool, as spiritual, as funny, as wise, and as close as are best friends Sheri Dew and WendyWatsonNelson (aka Wendy Watson Nelson, wife of Elder Russell M. Nelson). When I listen to "The Savior Heals without a Scar" and hear WendyWatsonNelson's story about injuring herself in Albany and of Sheri's calm collectedness and invaluable help...I imagine that a similar story could be told of me and Judy. (Judy, who is definitely more calm, collected, and compassionate than I am, would be the Sheri.) But more than that, I hope that my friendship with Judy will continue to grow as life changes come our way and we aren't "identical twins" in our life situations. Based on the events/changes over the last few months, there is great hope that Judy and I will be just fine.

14 August 2009

Seriously Fun

As I was reading the first few blog posts I thought, "important to share...but setting a very serious tone to the blog." You will learn a few things about me if you read this blog enough: 1) I see life through a spiritual lens (what I can learn about myself, the Gospel, the Savior, how I can improve, etc)--hence the genesis of the first two blog posts; and 2) I am the funniest person you will know (seriously...not kidding about that). I'm a great combination of spiritual and sassy.

I loved to hear the anecdotes from the late President Gordon B. Hinckley; he knew how to balance the serious with having a sense of good humor.

We need to have a little humor in our lives. We better take seriously that which should be taken seriously, but at the same time we can bring in a touch of humor now and again. If the time ever comes when we can't smile at ourselves, it will be a sad time.

President Gordon B. Hinckley, Church News interview with Mike Cannon, in Dublin, Ireland, Sept. 1, 1995

Wounding the Wounded

One of my goals as a missionary was to be the sister that President didn't have to worry about (he had plenty of elders and sisters who kept him up at night and caused him to lose his hair -- or was the hair loss a pre-mission condition?). I focused on the work and helping my struggling companions and kept silent about personal struggles. If asked how I was doing, I had a rehearsed answer to recite.

This is how I was with Heavenly Father and the Savior as well. My goal was to be the daughter that They didn't have to worry about--the one who could take care of herself. In my quest for self-sufficiency, however, I did not realize that my reluctance actually wounded the Savior. That was certainly not my intent!

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles brought this to my attention in a Church Educational System Young Adult fireside given on 2 March 1997 at Brigham Young University. In that address entitled "Come Unto Me," Elder Holland taught:

Consider, for example, the Savior’s benediction upon his disciples even as he moved toward the pain and agony of Gethsemane and Calvary. On that very night, the night of the greatest suffering that has ever taken place in the world or that ever will take place, the Savior said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. … Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).

I submit to you, that may be one of the Savior’s commandments that is, even in the hearts of otherwise faithful Latter-day Saints, almost universally disobeyed; and yet I wonder whether our resistance to this invitation could be any more grievous to the Lord’s merciful heart. I can tell you this as a parent: as concerned as I would be if somewhere in their lives one of my children were seriously troubled or unhappy or disobedient, nevertheless I would be infinitely more devastated if I felt that at such a time that child could not trust me to help or thought his or her interest was unimportant to me or unsafe in my care. In that same spirit, I am convinced that none of us can appreciate how deeply it wounds the loving heart of the Savior of the world when he finds that his people do not feel confident in his care or secure in his hands or trust in his commandments. [emphasis added]

I love the Savior and do not wish to grieve Him. This insight from Elder Holland gives me further motivation to allow the Savior fully into my heart and into my life, and to turn to Him when I need help.

Being Perfectly Imperfect

This week brought me a greater understanding of the Savior and His Atonement. Most of what occurred is too sacred to share, but the overarching theme was this: as humans, we often mistakenly believe that we have to be perfect before Heavenly Father and / or Jesus Christ will help us. That is a fallacy.

That is a fallacy that I have unknowingly accepted as "truth" for most of my life, and it has negatively affected the way I perceive myself...to the point that I couldn't even allow myself to believe that Heavenly Father/Jesus Christ could possibly love me--and if They couldn't love me, then certainly no human could love me either. For years, whenever Heavenly Father attempted to bless me with what I desired, I wouldn't accept them because I felt that I wasn't "good enough." He still blessed me of course (that's simply the way He is) but with the minimal blessings I would allow in my life.

My primary focus of my scripture study, fasting, and prayers during the last five years has been a plea for the Savior to enable me to allow Him to bless me beyond the minimal. There is so much--so very much!--that could be mine if I could but accept the blessings.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye are little children, and ye have not as yet understood how great blessings the Father hath in his own hands and prepared for you. (D&C 78:17)

The experiences of this week have, for me, been years in the making. I am grateful for the new insight I have into the Atonement and its accessibility to me. Before this week, I did not realize how willing Jesus is to help us. I knew He wrought the Atonement for us...and because I knew how high a price He paid for us, I was reluctant to "add to His burden" by asking for additional help. So I trudged through life, relying primarily on my own obviously limited capacity. Occasionally, when in deepest distress, I would plead for assistance--but only after I knew I had completely exhausted my own supply and had no other option.

Now I see this differently. It is because Jesus paid such a high price for us that we should turn to Him for help. He willingly suffered because He loved us and knew we wouldn't be able to make it through this earth life on our own abilities. By condescending to come to earth, completely submitting to His Father's will, and subjecting Himself to all of our pains, afflictions, sins, infirmities, etc, Jesus Christ descended below all things and triumphed over them all--thus giving Him power over all things. Because He loves us so completely and has all power at His disposal, He therefore is the perfect One to help us. And He, perfectly acquainted with our sufferings and our inability to overcome, is ever willing to assist us. Anytime. Anywhere. With anything.

Until this week, I thought this was "too good to be true." What makes this truth so glorious is that it IS good and it IS true!

There are many in my acquaintance--and certainly many more who I do not know--who suffer like I did, so needlessly alone and with such skewed perceptions of self and of Jesus' willingness to help. Sister Bonnie D. Parkin teaches us how we can be "perfectly imperfect":

Do we frequently reject the Lord's love that He pours out upon us in much more abundance than we are willing to receive? Do we think we have to be perfect in order to deserve His love? When we allow ourselves to feel 'encircled about eternally in the arms of his love' (2 Nephi 1:15), we feel safe, and we realize that we don't need to be immediately perfect. We must acknowledge that perfection is a process. This is a gospel of eternal progress, and we must remember to appreciate the journey.

"Eternally Encircled in His Love," Ensign, Nov. 2006, 108 (emphasis added).