25 February 2010

A Better Choreographer Than Kenny Oretega

I didn't know anything was wrong; I just went to her desk because...well...I felt like I should. The feeling to do so was nothing spectacular, just a quiet thought to my mind that I heeded before I even realized what I was doing. Even after I arrived at my friend/colleague's office and spent some time with her, I didn't think I was doing anything out of the ordinary: I was simply enjoying time with my friend.

What Heavenly Father knew that I didn't know was that my friend had had a very stressful day. He recognized it and wanted to comfort her. So He sent me (only I didn't realize what He was doing at the time). She was important to Him, and He wanted to bless her.

I feel great joy knowing that Heavenly Father allowed me to (unknowingly) help my friend this evening with what He knew she needed. I feel joy not because I participated but because He helped someone I care about and I was able to see how He works. He was the one who comforted my friend; He was the one who knew what she needed; I just happened to be around to "answer the call" so-to-speak.

If Heavenly Father is mindful of my friend and her feelings, certainly He is mindful of me and what I feel...right?

Fearing to Be Present

I subscribe to a blog written by a marketing guru named Seth Godin. Two of his recent blog posts came together for me in a very unique way.

First, the blog posts. Then read on for the insight I gained.

From Seth Godin:
Your most vivid fears...

are almost certainly not the most important ones.

We pay attention to the loud and the urgent. This can lead us to ignore the important and achievable paths open to us--because we're so busy defending against the overwhelmingly dangerous (but unlikely) outcomes instead.

Phoning it in

This was sort of shocking, at least to me:

I was talking to a religious leader, someone who runs a congregation. She made it clear to me that on many days, it's just a job. A job like any other, you show up, you go through the motions, you get paid.

I guess we find this disturbing because spiritual work should be real, not faked.

But isn't your work spiritual?

I know doctors, lawyers, waiters and insurance brokers who are honestly and truly passionate about what they do. They view it as an art form, a calling, and an important (no, an essential) thing worth doing.

In fact, I don't think there's a relationship between what you do and how important you think the work is. I think there's a relationship between who you are and how important you think the work is.

Life's too short to phone it in.
Now the insight that I gained from thinking about these two posts and relating them to my life. These are questions that I'm trying to honestly answer for myself. And the answers are enabling me to see things at my office and in my life very differently.
  • Am I afraid to be present, to live my own life, to show up when in counts--to the point that I am missing out on blessings (Seth Godin calls them "important and achievable paths open to us") and the direction that God would have me move?
  • Am I focusing too much on urgent, "important" things that aren't really that important in the long run? For example, will God ask me how many emails were in my In Box when I left work that day -- or will He want to know how I treated my colleagues, customers, friends, the waitress at lunch, the attendant at the gas station, etc?
  • Who am I? And how does that knowledge affect how I view my work and perform my daily tasks? If I am not viewing my work as spiritual, what can I do to change that?
  • Do I fear feeling too much, getting too involved with others? Do I hold back compliments that would help someone else feel Heavenly Father's love? (This is an on-going struggle for me. See "Never Suppress A Generous Thought.")

Dreaming of Dreaming

In an earlier post, I lamented about not being able to dream--that fears and the need for logic and empirical evidence usually interrupted any dreams I dared to dream. This is still the case for me, unfortunately. My attempts to learn to dream and to overcome fears have caused me to become almost preoccupied with this. However, I think that I will make progress only if I can keep this topic alive in my mind and heart.

One of the ways I do this is by learning from others. My friend Emily is one to whom I look for insight on dreaming and achieving dreams. We have wonderful conversations about the power of asking Heavenly Father for what we desire, not just for what we think He thinks we might need, and developing a more intimate relationship with Him. Through my conversations with Emily, I have realized that I do not consider myself to be God's work and therefore do not consider my personal needs and desires to be "important" to Him. Perhaps this inhibits my ability to dream?

Whitney Johnson's Dare to Dream blog provides me with constant insight and inspiration; she poses questions that cause me to reflect on my own situations, attitudes, insecurities, and mental blocks that keep me from dreaming. Her guest bloggers post about relevant topics and deepen my desire to dream--to do whatever it takes to dream and then act on those dreams. I am grateful that there are other women who are willing to share their wisdom. There is so much I can learn from them!

Small and Simple Tender Mercies

During the last several months since I last posted, I've experienced some tremendous, overwhelming emotional and spiritual struggles--overwhelming to the point that I, a normally happy and social person, have withdrawn from life in order to survive. I'm not feeling like myself these days, and that is extremely frustrating to me! Most of my days are spent in what I call Project Mode, "going through the motions" of life and feeling as little as humanly possible. The only objective I have these days is to survive.

The implications of this prolonged Project Mode are multi-faceted, and I won't explore all of them in this post; I'll save the discussion for a later post. What I wanted to focus on instead is how the Lord has shown me tender mercies even amidst the intense, harrowing suffering I've endured. I don't think it's a coincidence that even Nephi included a similar insight, demonstrating Nephi's awareness of and gratitude for the Lord's tender mercies through all of the difficult times Nephi and his family were called to endure. Two places in particular stand out to me in Nephi's writings:

1. Before the close of the very first chapter of 1 Nephi, Nephi states his "thesis" as this: "But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance" (1 Nephi 1:20).

2. Nephi saw tender mercies where others (e.g. Laman and Lemuel) saw only difficulties. His faith allowed him to see what the Lord was doing--how the Lord was providing smaller, compensating blessings to make life more endurable. This vision enabled Nephi to continue on to the promised land without murmuring.
And it came to pass that we did again take our journey in the wilderness; and we did travel nearly eastward from that time forth. And we did travel and wade through much affliction in the wilderness; and our women did bear children in the wilderness.

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

And thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled. And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them; wherefore, he did provide means for us while we did sojourn in the wilderness. (1 Nephi 17:1-3)
What small and simple tender mercies has the Lord shown me during this intense trial? Thinking about this now causes me to wonder if I'm paying enough attention to the little things in life, if perhaps I'm overlooking additional blessings. I am resolving now to be more mindful of the little things in my life. At present, these are the tender mercies that come to mind (and obviously this list isn't comprehensive by any means):
  • Patience when things do not work out as I'd expected and/or when I'd expected them to
  • A resilient, patient, loving best friend who consistently tries to help me, especially when I'm ready to give up
  • Finding a kindred spirit at work with whom I can share my innermost thoughts, Collective Soul, yummy broccoli pesto pizza (that she made!), and lots of laughter. (We can't sit next to each other in meetings anymore or we will VEx other people--haha!)
  • Sleep. When I am actually able to get it, I feel a lot better
  • A visiting teacher who cares and checks in on me
  • My friend Kim moving to my city and into my ward
  • Emails and texts from Karen. We laugh a lot together, and I know that she cares about me. When I was sick, she "conjured up" people in my city to check on me. I'm grateful that her friendship is never "out of service"
  • Feeling more settled and "safe" in my job. I remember how paranoid and insecure I felt in my previous employment--always worried that if I made one mistake, I'd get fired. Now, not only is my employer secure and not going anywhere (I'm certain of that!), but I also feel secure in my new leadership responsibilities, my new manager and his up-line, and that my effort at work makes a difference
  • Matt's miraculous work on my spreadsheet! Shift-F9 and I are now best friends
  • NCIS and NCIS: LA. Tuesday nights are good.