13 May 2010

Reflecting Identity

Friends, family members, revelation, co-workers, scriptures, prophets, teachers, priesthood blessings, strangers, photographs. What do these all have in common? If we allow them to, all can reflect in a way that we can see who we really are.

People who care about us can reflect our true identity to us--that we are a beloved son or daughter of Heavenly Father. They also can bring attention to our gifts, talents, skills, and potential that we cannot see in ourselves. If we listen and explore these possibilities, we can know ourselves--our true selves--better than we did before.

Interactions with others, even those in which we do not act our best, can be enlightening and can reflect areas where we need improvement. These experiences, if we allow them to, can be edifying and "give [us] experience, and be for [our] good" (Doctrine and Covenants 122:7). They are harrowing, that is for sure. Yet it is often when we are at our worst that the Lord does His best teaching. We need to let Him work on us and with us to become who we really are.

Priesthood blessings, the scriptures, revelation we receive--all of these are tools that Heavenly Father uses to reflect our true identity and our true relationship with Him. I love what the Bible Dictionary entry about prayer states regarding our true relationship with Heavenly Father:
As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are his children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part (Matt. 7: 7-11). Many of the so-called difficulties about prayer arise from forgetting this relationship.
Satan wants us to forget who we are. He does everything possible to hide or discredit the 'mirrors' in our lives (e.g. friends, scriptures, revelation, etc) that reflect our true identity. When he is successful, our reflection appears distorted and we question our true identity, value, purpose, and worth. He doesn't want us to approach our Heavenly Father in prayer because he knows we will feel the difference between what he is offering (i.e., darkness, despair, hopelessness) and what we can feel with our Heavenly Father (i.e., love, faith, hope, light, knowledge, peace, safety, security, value).

Moses experienced firsthand this dichotomy.
And it came to pass that Moses looked upon Satan and said: Who art thou? For behold, I am a son of God, in the similitude of his Only Begotten; and where is thy glory, that I should worship thee?

For behold, I could not look upon God, except his glory should come upon me, and I were transfigured before him. But I can look upon thee in the natural man. Is it not so, surely?

Blessed be the name of my God, for his Spirit hath not altogether withdrawn from me, or else where is thy glory, for it is darkness unto me? And I can judge between thee and God; for God said unto me: Worship God, for him only shalt thou.

Get thee hence, Satan; deceive me not; for God said unto me: Thou art after the similitude of mine Only Begotten.

     -- Moses 1:13-16 (emphasis added)
We can, like Moses, cast Satan out of our hearts and minds and not allow him to skew our perception of who we really are. Heavenly Father has provided myriad sources to reflect our true identity. Our opportunity is to optimize what we've been given and trust what we see reflecting back at us. We really are better than we think.

10 May 2010

"Pride in My Ride!"

A colleague showed this video in one of our meetings today. I have laughed out loud every single time I've watched/listened to it! This is a great parody of rap videos.

07 May 2010

Am I Remarkable?

Elder Neal A. Maxwell is/was one of my favorite apostles. I'm not sure that one is supposed to have a 'favorite' apostle...but if we're allowed to, Elder Maxwell would definitely be one of mine. I love the lyricism of his words, especially the plethora of alliterations he uses; I also love how layered his words are (so much meaning can be found in the simple, succinct phrases he employs).

The talk he gave in the April 1978 General Conference, "The Women of God," has profoundly impacted my perspective of womanhood. Seth Adam Smith combined the prolific words of Elder Maxwell with beautiful pictures to create the video (see video below) called "The Remarkable Women of God."

After watching Seth's video and re-reading Elder Maxwell's talk in the May 1978 Ensign magazine, my mind is awash with thoughts about the subject of womanhood/motherhood and the relationship womanhood/motherhood has to the priesthood and to priesthood bearers.

My father is an excellent man who honors his priesthood, is the first on the scene when someone needs help and the last one to leave a function because he stayed to clean up. Though I have not heard him bear his testimony vocally very often (I think I can count the number of times on one hand--and one of those times was at my missionary farewell), I know what he believes and in whom He trusts because of the way he lives his life. Because he is generous, loving, kind, long-suffering, gentle, and patient, I try to emulate his example in the way I live my life.

Yet, there is something lacking, something that my father never taught me: he never taught me that God loved me, that I as a daughter of God had potential to be remarkable and influential, or that I had intrinsic worth. My father valued me (still does); that I know to be true. However, he never taught me about who *I* am or what it means to be a daughter of God. I guess he thought I knew, that I'd figure it out on my own, or that someone else would teach me.

So I've been left to wander on my own and wonder about who I am. My dad taught me to be a hard worker and to be responsible...but is my identity only related to how much I work I offer or how responsible I am? What about the times when I can't give my normal 250%--when I'm ill, struggling, or weak and can only muster 180% (or even 'worse,' 100%!)? Am I capable of being 'remarkable' if I can only give less than 250%? Does my worth diminish if I give a lower percentage of effort?

I want to be remarkable. I want to be known as a woman of God. But am I? Am I 'remarkable' at all? Am I a woman of God--that kind about which Elder Maxwell lauded? I don't know if I am or if I am even capable of this greatness. When I look into the mirror, all I see is a janitor's daughter who has been lucky to make it this far in life and to have what she has in life. I don't see a daughter of God; I don't even know what it would mean to be such a thing.

And yet I want to be and personify a daughter of God. I want to know what that identity feels like and to be authorized to be about my Father's business. I want to know Heavenly Father trusts me to act for Him and to serve His other children for Him. Most importantly, I want to feel the warmth of His love and acceptance enveloping me safely and securely like a down comforter.

When I hear men praise their wives, I am moved and the desire grows within me to be the kind of woman for whom such praise would be deserving. But will any man ever feel that way about me, a janitor's daughter who has no guarantee that I won't turn out 'crazy' like other women in my maternal line? Am I capable of being this kind of remarkable woman--or am I deceiving myself with 'thoughts of grandeur'?

I believe the words Elder Maxwell speaks are true--I know they are true. But can they ever be true for me or about me
I, along with my brethren of the priesthood, express undying gratitude to our eternal partners. We know that we can go no place that matters without you, nor would we have it otherwise. When we kneel to pray, we kneel together. When we kneel at the altar of the holy temple, we kneel together. When we approach the final gate where Jesus Himself is the gatekeeper, we will, if faithful, pass through that gate together.

The prophet who sits with us today could tell us of such togetherness, when at the time of his overwhelming apostolic calling he was consoled by his Camilla, who met his anguished, sobbing sense of inadequacy and, running her fingers through his hair, said, “You can do it, you can do it.” He surely has done it, but with her at his side.

Notice, brethren, how all the prophets treat their wives and honor women, and let us do likewise!
-- Elder Neal A. Maxwell, "The Women of God," Ensign, May 1978, 10.
My deepest desire in life is not to climb the corporate ladder, to have a spacious house with the finest furnishings, to travel the world as a tourist, or to become a political force. All I want--all I desire with the deepest longings of my soul--is to be a wife who supports, sustains, encourages, and consoles her husband (as Sister Camilla Kimball did) and a mother who teaches her children that they are loved, what it means to be a child of God, and that "God will always be their friend" (see the additional intro lyrics from "A Child's Prayer" that Janice Kapp Perry wrote for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir). I want to be a remarkable woman.

But am I? Am I really capable of anything remotely 'remarkable'? Is there anything remarkable about me? I feel that there is divine potential in me, even if only divine desires. But are divine desires enough? Am *I* enough? Will I ever be a 'remarkable' woman, a woman of God, and a woman who God trusts?

06 May 2010

"Uncle!"

Today has been one of those days--the kind of harried day that seems to continue indefinitely (and yet I feel like I didn't accomplish anything on my "to do" list). The kind of day that didn't have horribly, devastatingly bad things...but didn't really have much good in it either. The kind of day where Survival Mode was the *only* option and The Wall came up, even around my close friends. The kind of day that ends in tears of frustration and a sense of hopelessness. (I'm drowning in tears of hopelessness.)

That's the kind of day I've had.

So, I give up. I. Give. Up. I'm done. Finished. I call "Uncle!" and surrender. I don't have anything left. Nothing. The camel's back has long been broken by the weight of the straw. I can't give anymore or try anymore. My faith feels non-existent, my fears are overtaking me--choking me, suffocating me--and I've used up every last ounce of trust, faith, hope, and belief. I'm empty.

SIGH.

03 May 2010

God's Gift: A 'Do-over'

"Our task is to become our best selves. One of God's greatest gifts to us is the joy of trying again, for no failure ever need be final."
     --President Thomas S. Monson, "The Will Within," Ensign, May 1987, 67.

Longing to Leave Leah

In the biblical story of sisters Rachel and Leah, I always empathized with Leah; I could understand from my own experiences how it felt to be passed over, considered 'unwanted' or the penultimate choice (if that high on the list...). My heart breaks for Leah as I read her story. Certainly I applaud the "happily ever after" resolution for Rachel and Jacob as any romantic would. I don't know what it's like to experience that "happily ever after" though--to have my heart's desire fulfilled. Rachel's barrenness--that I can relate to. But her joy and her dreams coming true? I have no idea how that feels.

This morning as I struggled with harrowing sorrow and hopelessness about situations in my life, I again thought of Leah--especially after serendipitously discovering that Whitney Johnson had posted several thoughts on her Dare to Dream blog about this very subject.

Whitney profoundly states:
The more I thought about this story, the more I realized that Rachel and Leah are archetypes for women today. Do we as women believe we are Rachel, the favored one, the one who gets to dream and see those dreams come true, or do we more often believe we are Leah, the sister who must settle for whatever is handed to her by circumstance or chance. Unfortunately, I think most of us see ourselves as Leah, and this attitude of acquiescence I have dubbed “the Leah complex.” "Rachel vs. Leah: Reclaiming our power to dream," posted 26 October 2006 (bold in the original post).
After reading this, I wanted to scream, "YES! Yes, Whitney, I understand! *I* believe I am a Leah--and *that* is what is keeping me from acting on my dreams (or allowing myself to dream at all)." I have been letting life dictate what happens to me; I thought that there was no other choice than to settle for whatever I received "by circumstance or chance." I have "the Leah complex"!

Now that I have a diagnosis, what can I do? Therefore...what? How do I rewire my brain to receive Rachel-like hope instead of the Satanic messages of inferiority, mediocrity, and worthlessness that bombard me everyday? How can I embrace what is good about Leah and combine that with the hope, assurance, confidence, and expectation of Rachel?

I don't have any answers yet.

However, I have identified the origin of the fear, thanks to more insight from Whitney:
By this time I’ve peeled back so many onion layers of excuses, I’m on the verge of tears, but ready to get to the real why. Which is: I don’t think it’s okay to ask for what I want. Asking for what I want can be almost unbearably uncomfortable; the more I want something, the greater the discomfort....Maybe it’s also because no matter how successful I become, I just can’t quite believe that I'm Rachel and that I can ask for what I want. No matter how far I’ve come, Leah’s still lurking inside me." "Leah leaves the building," posted 13 February 2007 (bold emphasis added).
I, too, "just can't quite believe that I'm Rachel and that I can ask for what I want." I want to be Rachel. When I allow myself moments to dream without limiting my thoughts with "reality," I dream like Rachel, I feel like Rachel, I believe like Rachel. But then the doubt returns...and I return to longing to leave Leah behind.  

Will I ever be liberated? Will I ever believe I can ask Heavenly Father (and others) for what I want, what I need, what will contribute to my happiness? Or will I continue to shudder in the corner, afraid to open my mouth, afraid of rejection, afraid of asking "too much"?

A 'Two-fer' on Miracles

It's difficult for me to wrap my mind around the idea that Heavenly Father would be willing to perform a tiny, needed miracle (e.g. helping me get through a difficult meeting, enabling me to do my visiting teaching when I have a migraine, etc). Anything bigger than that...well, I know He is capable of much, much more than I allow Him to do in my life (unfortunately). In an earlier post about impossible miracles I lamented about this topic; shortly after writing that post, I read this idea postulated by Leslie Householder that started to change my idea of miracles and their possibilities.
Think big! Create a new idea for your life that is so big that it scares you! A big miracle is no more difficult for God to perform than a small one.... And the beautiful thing is that it doesn't take twice as long to accomplish twice as much. If a woman is pregnant with twins, she does not have to wait eighteen months, in fact she will probably deliver a month sooner than a mother carrying one child.
Stop and consider the possible lesson in that law of nature! Could God be telling you that you can do more than you ever thought possible? It doesn't take twice as much effort to accomplish twice as much....

DON'T limit your results by deciding how long something should take. Just be at peace knowing it is truly coming....
Leslie Householder, Hidden Treasures: Heaven's Astonishing Help With Your Money Matters (Mesa, Arizona: ThoughtsAlive Books, 2007) 155. Purple text added for emphasis; bold in the original text.