30 July 2010

It's All About Me

This morning on the commute to work, I was thinking about ... well, me, actually, and about who I am, what I like, what makes me tick (so-to-speak), and all of that.

My thoughts led me to remember a part of the movie Runaway Bride where Maggie (Julia Roberts) cooks and samples various types of eggs, attempting to finally determine for herself what kind of eggs she likes. It is a profound moment when she begins to know herself and assert her identity, ceasing to rely on others to create an identity for her. She then returns to the man she's truly in love with, Ike (Richard Gere), to share her discovery:
Maggie Carpenter: Benedict.
Ike Graham: Arnold.
Maggie Carpenter: I love Eggs Benedict, I hate every other kind. I hate big weddings with everybody staring. I'd like to get married on a weekday while everybody's at work. And when I ride off into the sunset, I want my own horse.
Ike Graham: Should I be writing this down?
Maggie had become a chameleon--taking on whatever personality and/or desires was around her. For many years, I did the same: I didn't feel that it was "okay" to just be me, so I played the role of whoever people wanted me to be. I, like Maggie, had to test the waters (or the eggs) to finally figure out who *I* was--and to feel comfortable just being me, whoever I was.

Here's who I am, for better or for worse:
  • I like scrambled eggs; don't like runny egg yolk.
  • My favorite city in the United States is Boston.
  • I love Harley Davidson motorcycles.
  • One of my favorite activities is reading greeting cards and finding the "perfect" ones for friends and family.
  • I love camping and hiking but I don't know how to build a good fire (I usually let someone else do that).
  • I collect inspirational quotes, talks, and devotionals.
  • I am (in)famous for food cravings: I have "food phases" where I crave a certain food constantly. E.g. Barbara's Cheese Puffs, Old Wisconsin Beef Jerky, vanilla soft serve ice cream, fish and chips from Arctic Circle, Super Pretzels, etc.
  • Hip hop and hula dancing are my favorite types of dancing. I also love ballroom dancing and want to do more of it, but I don't have a partner.
  • I'm a word nerd: I love to learn and use big words. (I subscribe to Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day).
  • One of my goals is to visit as many LDS temples in the world as possible.
  • Although I can do things on my own (and I usually do them well), I'd prefer to have help--someone I can count on to be there for me.
  • I hate crying. When I cry, I claim that I have "allergies."
  • At a restaurant, I usually order the same thing every time.
  • I am addicted to Orbtiz gum; Strawberry Mint, Mint Mojito, and/or Maui Melon Mint are my preferred flavors.
  • I love to learn.
  • Someday I want to be financially in a position where I can donate the majority of my time and money to serving others and meeting their needs.
  • A well-placed comma makes me happy.
  • I have no interest in going to France. (Sorry, Doug!) When I planned my trip to Germany and Austria last year, I purposely avoided having a layover in Paris.
  • I am not a fan of scrapbooking (primarily because I don't think I'm very creative). I also do not like parades or fireworks (when you've seen one, you've seen them all), raw tomatoes, raw oranges, artifical banana or grape flavors, and diet soda.
  • I want my house to be as temple-like as possible, so I have/am investing a lot of time and money into decorating, including purchasing high-quality, sacred artwork.
  • I am OCD about a dirty house because of the house I grew up in.
  • I hate making the bed.
  • I clean my toilets every week.
  • A "closet" goal I have is to someday be influential among women--to speak, write, and teach--like Sheri Dew, Julie B. Beck, and women like them.
  • I love sheep and collect them (not the actually sheep, but items with their likeness).
  • It is very validating when someone thinks I'm funny, especially if it is someone I respect/admire.
  • I feel loved when I feel understood. When someone knows me well enough to order at a restaurant or pick out a personalized gift for me, I feel validated and important.
  • I don't love animals, although I'm starting to like them more, thanks to Simon Geilman.
  • I am a planner by nature but am trying to become more spontaneous, to "fly by the seat of my pants" (with or without a light, haha). Doing so, however, requires tremendous trust, and I'm struggling to let go of the (albeit false idea of) security I feel in planning ahead.
  • I would love to live abroad and give my children international experience--would love for them to speak one or more foreign languages.
  • I love to cook and create my own recipes...but I hate cooking for one, so I usually end up getting take-out.
  • Although I value emotional/physical/spiritual intimacy, I keep most people at a distance. I want and need to regularly feel the same security I feel when my father hugs me...but I'm afraid to open up, to allow people close enough, and/or to ask those closest to me for what I need.
  • Teasing someone is one way I show love. Another way is by remembering birthdays and other special events.

29 July 2010

"I Know in Whom I Have Trusted"

Not surprising, today's Meridian Magazine had an article that discussed exactly what I needed to hear. Meridian has a way of doing that. Not sure how the editors "know" (they don't; Heavenly Father does), but I can almost count on finding an article that fits my needs on the day that I need it.

Today's article about God's love resonated with me. Growing up (and even until recently), I believed that God was a stern, austere judge who wanted to punish me. I am slowly coming to understand that this belief is a fallacy--that God is actually very loving, kind, generous, merciful, and inviting. It is taking time, though, for this new understanding to erase my former misunderstanding.

An excerpt from "God’s Attitude: Pointing in Accusation or Reaching in Invitation?" by Wallace Goddard:
A woman I know was investigating the Church and attended a Gospel Essentials class. The teacher instructed the class that, after our death, each of us will sit across a table from God, the great judge. The teacher said that God would be holding a book listing each of our faults and sins. And we would be accountable before a dissatisfied Lord for each and every sin we committed in mortality. He told the class that it was critical that they always follow the commandments and the counsel of Church leaders perfectly because otherwise they would be adding misdeeds to their judgment books. Those entries would remain there forever and God would someday punish us for every misdeed.

There was no mention of the Savior’s atonement, no discussion of the welcome process of repentance and sanctification. He did not even hint at a loving Father who, desiring us to return to Him, enabled a plan in which the Savior stands with us as our advocate (see D&C 45: 3-5).

Sometime we fear that God only loves us as long as we toe the line. We may harbor—and teach to others—a frightening image of a stern judge who casts us off when we mess up; we may imagine a God who no longer wants us home with Him....

These portrayals of God could make anyone cower. These depictions combined with the reality of our regular and persistent human failing could easily leave anyone feeling desolate and hopeless. (emphasis added)

28 July 2010

How Have *You* Seen the Lord in Your Life?

If the Lord "delights" to bless me and wants to answer my prayers (and I believe that He does)...then am I just not seeing how He blesses me? Am I missing what's right in front of my face?

I know blessings are there; I can even enumerate a lengthy list of what the Lord has done for me recently. But for some reason, I cannot always identify the Lord's blessings--especially for prayers I've prayed for a long time. For example, I have prayed myriad times about my marital status and what I can do to change that. I know the Lord has heard my prayers and has blessed me but not in the way I expected (e.g. blessing me with a new job that requires a lot of travel, which means I have NO TIME to date...not sure how that moves me any closer to what I desire). How can I see that what is occuring in my life is actually moving me toward the ultimate blessing I desire?

How does the Lord manifest Himself in your life?

How do you recognize blessings, tender mercies, miracles? What is His "signature" that enables you to know these things are from Him?

How are you able to recognize the connection between what you prayed for and what the Lord has done, especially when the blessing doesn't seem to be related to your original prayer?

Please post or email me your answers. I'm very interested in learning how the Lord works in your lives; hopefully that will help me better identify His hand in my life.

Inviting Christ into Every Aspect of Our Lives

A few Saturdays ago, I had lunch with one of my favorite people: Leslie. We had business to discuss, but we also shared insights and testimony. (I love to be in the company of people with whom I can share more than just thoughts about the weather, politics, or everyday news--people who naturally share testimony during the course of a normal conversation--and Leslie is one of those people.)

Leslie attributed the renewed health of her business to a decision she made a few weeks ago to acknowledge that she was not in control, to submit to whatever the Lord saw fit to do in her life, and to invite Christ into every aspect of her business and her life.

This concept is not a revolutionary idea; in fact, in the scriptures we are constantly invited to do that very thing. Yet, for me, inviting Christ into every aspect of my life is something I want to do but have not. Why? That's a very good question....

The scriptures are clear: we are commanded to pray over ALL things in our lives, not just the "must haves." One of my favorite discourses on this subject is in Alma.

Yea, cry unto him for mercy; for he is mighty to save.
Yea, humble yourselves, and continue in prayer unto him.
Cry unto him when ye are in your fields, yea, over all your flocks.
Cry unto him in your houses, yea, over all your household, both morning, mid-day, and evening.
Yea, cry unto him against the power of your enemies.
Yea, cry unto him against the devil, who is an enemy to all righteousness.
Cry unto him over the crops of your fields, that ye may prosper in them.
Cry over the flocks of your fields, that they may increase.
But this is not all; ye must pour out your souls in your closets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness.
Yea, and when you do not cry unto the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you.
-- Alma 34:18-27
Amulek's words are plain and easy to understand: we should pray continuously and over ALL things in our lives.

My discussion with Leslie reminded me that there are still aspects of my life that I'm still trying to maintain with my own limited strength and abilities. I know Heavenly Father and the Savior are mindful of me and "delight" to bless me. Now I need to open my heart and my life even more and allow them to do exactly that (bless me with what I desire).

Thanks, Leslie, for the reminder!

27 July 2010

*You* Are the Miracle

I can't tell you how many times that I've read Moses 1:39 and wondered how I fit into God's work and glory--or if I fit at all. My best friend Judy has often told me that we, His children, are His work and glory...but I've never been certain what that means either.

On Sunday evening, BYU-TV (my favorite television station!) replayed a March 2010 BYU-H devotional and I heard the answer I needed, that made everything "click" for me: *we*, Heavenly Father's children, are His miracles, we are His work, and e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g He does is for us. The miracles He accomplishes in this life are *for us*, for our benefit, to bring us closer to Him.

Now the scripture in Ether chapter 3 makes more sense to me: "and all this, that this man might know that he was God, because of the many great works which the Lord had showed unto him" (Ether 3:18).

The Lord knows who I am and He knows how I am taught (primarily through hearing the words of others in devotionals and talks). I know He prepared me through experiences and hearing the words of others' testimonies to the point that I could accept the testimony for myself. I am grateful for His patience and how willing He is to teach me--especially when I'm so slow to hearken and understand!

These are the words from the BYU-H devotional:
I had always planned on coming back to BYU–Hawaii after that semester away, but because of my financial situation, coming back became impossible. I could barely afford to stay in school at home, much less in Hawaii. I struggled constantly with the fear that I might never get back, and though I'm ashamed to admit it, I let fear overcome me and sometimes forgot how to use my faith. But through the patience and faith of my beautiful mother and family, fasting, heartfelt prayers, father's blessings, and by turning to stories of great people in the scriptures, especially Abraham, I regained my faith in the Lord's plan and his ability to fulfill the righteous desires of my heart in his own way and time. Only when I regained this faith and trust in the Lord was he able to "stretch forth [his] hand" (Doctrine & Covenants 121:4) and perform miracles in my behalf. I stand here today as proof that the God we worship is a God of miracles. I still don't understand how he made it all work out, but he brought me back here with a job, scholarships, and tremendous support from my extended family.

I realize that my story may be similar to many of yours, that the Lord had a hand in bringing each of us here and that he had to move some pretty huge mountains to make it happen. However, may I submit that the Lord's greatest accomplishment is not moving the mountains of expensive plane tickets or tuition or housing. In my situation, his greatest miracle was me. My changed heart became a tool for him to work with and my faith gave me power to trust in his plan. He says that his work and his glory is "to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39). Do you understand what he is saying? His greatest miracle is you.

In Isaiah 55:8-9, the Lord tells us, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways…for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." We know that His knowledge is perfect, that he sees everything with a perfect perspective, including how far we have come and how much further we can go. May I suggest two tools the Lord works with to help us achieve our greatest potential. Or, in other words, two key factors in becoming the Lord's greatest miracle. The first is a heart full of desire and the second is a pair of hands ready to serve....

Many times, we overlook the power of a righteous desire. Elder Sterling W. Sill states, "A consuming desire is the greatest qualification for any success...If our desire is strong enough, accomplishment is assured…. Desire is the quality that makes us want to ‘do many things of [our] own free will' (D&C 58:27). The desire clause is the power clause. God grants to us ‘according to [our] desires' (Alma 29:5)." (Sterling W. Sill, "The Success Formula of Section 4," New Era, Sep 1985, 4)

Oftentimes, we think that we are only allowed to ask for those things that we absolutely need, that praying for what we want is somehow outside the limits of our Father in Heaven's capability or that he has already given us so much that it would be selfish to ask for more. I can testify that, not only is the Lord completely capable, but he aches to satisfy the righteous desires of our hearts. Look at examples in the scriptures. One of them is found in 3 Nephi 28, where Christ is having a final conversation with his apostles in the Americas before returning to His Father.

All twelve of the apostles desire something of the Savior. Nine of them request the following: "We desire that after we have lived unto the age of man that our ministry, wherein thou hast called us, may have an end, that we may speedily come unto thee in thy kingdom." He responds, "Blessed are ye because ye desired this thing of me; therefore, after that ye are seventy and two years old ye shall come unto me in my kingdom; and with me ye shall find rest." He then turns to the three remaining apostles, who stand, like many of us, afraid to voice their desires. But listen to what happens next. "And he said unto them: Behold, I know your thoughts, and ye have desired the thing which John, my beloved, who was with me in my ministry, before that I was lifted up by the Jews, desired of me. Therefore, more blessed are ye, for ye shall never taste of death" (3 Nephi 28:6-7).

All twelve of the apostles had their righteous desires granted; three of them were even granted immortality – talk about miracles! Elder Holland teaches, "God is eagerly waiting for the chance to answer your prayers and fulfill your dreams…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" (Jeffrey R. Holland, "This, the Greatest of All Dispensations," Ensign, Jul 2007, 52–58). The three Nephites were willing to dream and willing to believe and it resulted in a miracle.

Many of us may fear the risk of having our hearts broken by an unmet desire; however, I tend to agree with the alchemist in Paulo Coehlo's book who responds to his young friend's fears with these words: "Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second's encounter with God and with eternity" (The Alchemist). I testify that God is ever-present in our righteous desires and that he performs miracles in order to fulfill them. Those "encounter[s] with God and with eternity" strengthen our faith in him, reassure our hearts of his love and watchfulness, and shape us into our Heavenly Father's greatest miracle. 
-- Emily Judson, BYUHSA presidency, "Reaching Your Greatest Potential," Brigham Young University-Hawaii devotional, 30 March 2010 (emphasis added).

Make a Date with the Lord--He Won't Stand You up!

What a wonderful opportunity we have to learn from one another--to share experiences and be edified and taught true principles.

In March 2010, the BYU-H student association presidency spoke at devotional. Roger Brown, a member of the presidency, shared this marvelous insight about how to improve our communication with the Lord. I am excited to try this and see the blessings that occur because of it.
When I was in the 8th ward here on campus, Bishop Crowell once gave me a piece of sound advice. We were talking about appointments, and how most people are on time or early to their appointment with the bishop. Whether out of respect or fear, he told me to try something, and to see if it improved my relationship with the Lord. He told me to make an appointment with the Lord in prayer, and to set a date, time, and place that I would communicate with him. I tried it; in my night-time prayer, I designated a time and place where I would go the next day. I went there a few minutes early. I prayed, and I read my scriptures, and took some time to ponder. The Lord communicated with me because I went there specifically seeking guidance, and I had the desire to listen, or to hearken to his counsel.

Our Father in Heaven loves us, and wants to speak to us. We must make time for Him, and leave a space for Him in our lives. As we draw closer to Him, He will draw closer to us.

Brothers and Sisters I invite you all to make an appointment with the Lord this week, and find ways that you can better listen to the Lord, hearken unto his word, and strive to live by those things that he teaches you.

-- Roger Brown, BYUHSA presidency, "Reaching Your Greatest Potential," Brigham Young University-Hawaii devotional, 30 March 2010 (emphasis added).

Example of Righteous Marriage: A Quiet Service to Mankind

From Elder Shirley D. Christensen:
A few weeks ago there appeared in our local newspaper the account of a woman who while reading a magazine in her doctor’s office waiting room read of an “Exemplary Husband “ contest being sponsored by the magazine and inviting entries to be submitted for the contest. The woman returned home, wrote a description of the admirable traits of her thoughtful husband and without informing him she mailed it and immediately forgot about her entry.
Several weeks later she was notified that her entry had been selected as a finalist in the contest. Her husband was embarrassed and she was justifiably pleased and proud. Listen to her description of her husband written in her entry.

“My husband is so [wonderful] to me because he rushes home from a long day at work to spend time with us. He always walks in the house ready to give us hugs and kisses and is ready to play with the kids. He’s always thinking about helping me. Our relationship works very well. He always compliments me and is always giving me hugs. He’s so cute.”
As I read the account of this wonderful couple I was thrilled as I’m certain others were also. I don’t know that they are members of the Church, but the power of their example is so desperately needed and appreciated regardless of religious affiliation. O how this world that lacks so much kindness and civility in marriage is blessed by the example of that couple and so many others like them.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell wrote of the influence of couples who marry in the temple, honor their covenants and are examples of righteous marriage to the rest of the world,
“Such righteous individuals perform another vital but quiet service to mankind: they become part of the critical mass which can evoke God’s much-needed blessings on all humanity.” (Liahona, May 2003)
-- Elder Shirley D. Christensen, "Who Call Evil Good, and Good Evil," Brigham Young University-Idaho devotional, 29 June 2010 (emphasis added).

Faith and Family

A reminder to me about what's really important in life: having powerful faith in the Lord Jesus Christ so that I can accomplish the "impossible" and to live a life that will reflect that faith, so that those around me as well as my posterity will know Jesus Christ also.
Moses and Joshua would have found their task impossible had they not known with certainty that the great Jehovah was continually guiding their efforts. Samuel, the future prophet of such a tender age, would not have heard nor understood the voice of the Lord had he not had the instruction and the faith to say “speak Lord, for Thy servant heareth”. Lehi’s family would not have obtained nor benefited from the Brass Plates had the Spirit not shown him their value to his family. The construction of a ship by unskilled shipbuilders would not have been successful without Nephi’s faith to go into the mount oft to seek direction from the Lord. The arrival in the Promised Land would have been more improbable without humble prayers that the Lord would guide their remarkable ship.
The accomplishment of their tasks became possible only when motivated by faith; a faith that burned deep in their souls and cast away any doubts as to what the Lord expected of them. So it is with each of us. Our lives can be an example of personal strength to ourselves and others around us. When we have such faith, nothing will be impossible and such achievement will be sweet and long lasting....

Your posterity is depending on you to be powerful examples of goodness so that when they hear or remember your name, they will also remember your worthy endeavors. Every choice you make in your lives will reflect upon you and them. Many who may never know you personally will honor your name because of what they have heard or read about you.

-- Elder Shirley D. Christensen, "Who Call Evil Good, and Good Evil," Brigham Young University-Idaho devotional, 29 June 2010 (emphasis added).

Looking UP and Learning from Elder Hammond

I am incredibly grateful for the technology today that allows me such a plethora of learning opportunities available with a few mouse clicks. This morning I listened to a recent BYU-I devotional given by Elder F. Melvin Hammond. The following is an excerpt from his address. I've highlighted some of the most impactful statements from Elder Hammond. To read the entire devotional, click here. Or you can download the devotional to iTunes (which I did).
We, everyone of us, must simply raise our eyes upward to the One perfect source of infinite help, the Savior, Jesus Christ, He who was lifted up upon the cross to relieve us of our pain, our suffering, and bring us all to Him (3 Nephi 27:14). “For it is by grace that we are saved,” Nephi said, and then to emphasize our own feeble nature, our complete reliance on His grace, he added the telling phrase, “after all we can do.” (2 Nephi 25: 23)

As you look UP to the Savior to heal you, here are a few things I would suggest you do:

1.Turn off your television at the least hint of sensuality. Don’t just close your eyes for a moment. And if there is vulgarity or profanity, don’t just plug your ears, but act decisively and turn off the TV.

2.When you date, and please date, go together with the intent of having a good time. Also, get to know each other. Discuss your plans and your aspirations. Strictly maintain the Law of Chastity. Then the time will surely come that you will experience a surge of pure love that will carry you into the Holy Temple and forever UPWARD to Eternal Life.

3.Put down your I-pod or your Blackberry and stop your continual texting. Get together and have a real conversation. There are some young people who do not feel comfortable around a real person, because they only know how to communicate with texting.

4.We live in a casual society where dress, beautiful language and cleanliness have been replaced with sloppiness, crudeness, and filthiness. I will never forget the great line from the film “My Fair Lady”, use by Professor Higgins to describe the language of Eliza Doolittle; said he, “she should be taken out and hung for the cold-blooded murder of the English tongue.” (1964 Film directed by George Cukor and starring Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn) Will you please remember that the old adage “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” does not just apply to morality, but to everything that related to mortality as well (hair, face, body, clothes, apartment, etc.).

5.Remember, remember that when you consider life with all its pitfalls, heartaches, setbacks, confusions and calamities you will still remain firm and resolute in your efforts to be courageous and true. I know it seems so difficult at times, but lift up your head. Keep your physical and your spiritual eyes open. Stay awake. LOOK UP, MOVE FORWARD and see how easy it is to find the healing balm of Jesus Christ.

6.The Lord condemned the people for being ‘stiff necked.’ There must be a correlation between bowing our heads in prayer and being so proud that we neglect to call on the Lord. We should pray with all the fervor of our souls. In the scriptures, Enos wrestled “before God” before he received an answer to his prayer (Enos 1:2). And Alma “labored much in spirit, wrestling with God in mighty prayer,” but the proud people of the great city of Ammonihah would not repent and humble themselves before God (Alma 8:10). You must never refuse to bow your head and pray!
The story is told that on one occasion the Prophet Joseph Smith saw in a vision at least nine of the Twelve Apostles in a foreign land.
He saw them gathered in a circle, without shoes, beaten, tattered, discouraged. Standing above them in the air was the Lord Jesus Christ. And it was made known to the Prophet that Christ yearned to show himself to them, to reach down and lift them. But they did not see him.” (Truman Madsen, The Highest in Us, Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, Inc., 1978, p. 85)
The Prophet could never speak of this vision without weeping for the awful tragedy of those that he loved so much being in such a terrible condition, and only have to look up to see the Lord to receive his tender mercies. But they would not! I believe that it is easy to LOOK UP to the Savior. As you do, you will see Him standing with His arms out-stretched trying to help you with all of your earthly challenges. He wants you to be happy whatever your situation in life!

-- Elder F. Melvin Hammond, "Move Forward and Look Up," Brigham Young University-Idaho devotional, 6 July 2010 (emphasis added).

20 July 2010

Like a Child at Home

I love music, especially sacred music. One of the greatest joys in life is to hear music that uplifts, inspires, and teaches. How joyful I feel when I hear someone sing the very words my soul wants to express.

"My Shepherd Will Supply My Need" is one of these joyful tender mercies for me. All of the words are the testimony I wish to sing of my Savior. However, the last stanza encapsulates the deepest desire of my heart: to feel safe, secure, comfortable, wanted, and loved, like a child at home would feel.

My Shepherd will supply my need,
Jehovah is His name.
In pastures fresh He makes me feed,
Beside the living stream.

He brings my wand’ring spirit back,
When I forsake His ways.
And leads me for His mercy’s sake
In paths of truth and grace.

When I walk through the shades of death
Thy presence is my stay.
One word of Thy supporting breath
Drives all my fears away.

Thy hand in sight of all my foes,
Doth still my table spread.
My cup with blessings overflows,
Thine oil anoints my head.

The sure provisions of my God
Attend me all my days.
O may Thy house be my abode,
And all my work be praise.

There would I find a settled rest,
While others go and come.
No more a stranger nor a guest,
But like a child at home.
These words echo in my heart and cause it to yearn to feel that "settled rest" with Heavenly Father and the Savior. To this point in my life, I have never felt settled; I've always had to take care of myself and to struggle just to survive. My weary soul rejoices at the very idea of resting, of securing a place where I belong, a place where I am not treated as a stranger or a guest but "like a child at home."

What would that look like (feeling safe "like a child at home")? I can only imagine....

Prone to Leave the God I Love

The lyrics of "Come, thou fount" continue to resonate in my mind. I am especially fixed on the phrase "prone to leave the God I love." How very accurate those words are to describe my actions, especially right now.

I love Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I have a deep, solid testimony of the Gospel and of Them. However, as was recently evidenced, when I am feeling keenly vulnerable and the fear/panic begins to escalate, my tendency is to abandon the Savior instead of running to Him--which is terribly ironic because my fear is to be abandoned, yet that is exactly what I am doing to Him!

19 July 2010

Prone to Wander

Yesterday after church, I spent an hour just sitting on the temple grounds. (I am grateful that that is an option for me!) As I pondered, to my mind came the words of one of my favorite hymns, "Come, thou Fount of every blessing." The words ring true for me, especially the part about how I am "prone to wander" and "leave the God I love."

Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it,
mount of thy redeeming love.

Here I raise mine Ebenezer;
hither by thy help I'm come;
and I hope, by thy good pleasure,
safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
wandering from the fold of God;
he, to rescue me from danger,
interposed his precious blood.

O to grace how great a debtor
daily I'm constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here's my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.

Thought of the Day

How much more do I know that I don't *think* that I know?

That was the takeaway from my morning commute with Emily. After expressing concern to her that I didn't *feel* hope and a testimony of myself, she postulated that perhaps I knew more than I recognized that I knew. Her insight is giving me much to think about.

15 July 2010

Our True Identity by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

I can relate to the Ugly Duckling -- especially this week. I'm feeling like the Ugliest Duckling of all. Running away is a very, very tempting idea....

However, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf (einer meiner Lieblings-Apostel, weil er aus Deutschland kommt) lovingly reminds us, including all of those who feel they too are ugly ducklings, that we are beautiful, gracious swans and children of our Heavenly Father--not ugly ducklings.

This video is an excerpt from a Church Educational System fireside President Uchtdorf gave in November 2009. To read, listen, or watch the entire fireside, "The Reflection in the Water," click here.

Someone with "No Talent" Can Do So Much

An article in Meridian Magazine today by prolific songwriter Janice Kapp Perry explores the idea of increasing our talents--and how many of us who think we have "no talent" are not recognizing or celebrating the wonderful gifts we have to offer.

Here's the article by Janice Kapp Perry: Anatmony of a Talent.

Don't Be a Game Hunter's Trophy

Last night whilst re-reading one of my favorite talks by Sister Bonnie D. Parkin (Remember Who You Are!), one of the paragraphs seemed to leap off the page for me, calling to remembrance why there is "opposition in all things" and why we must, must, MUST keep fighting to overcome the adversary. The idea is this: Satan wants to destroy us and employs EVERY means possible to accomplish his goal. We must, must, MUST not allow him to. What Sister Parkin describes below is a chilling yet valuable idea to remember:
Again, you are a choice group of Heavenly Father's children; your attendance at this fireside further demonstrates your desire for righteousness. But, like Moses, this also makes you a larger target for the adversary. Every righteous soul that Satan seduces from the truth becomes a game hunter's trophy, prominently mounted and displayed on the walls of hell.

-- Sister Bonnie D. Parkin, "Remember Who You Are!", Church Educational System fireside, 7 March 2004 (emphasis added).

14 July 2010

Getting to the Heart of It

I am a walking dichotomy: I know that I am fabulous and I can enumerate my prolific list of accomplishments, strengths, talents, God-given gifts, blessings, and abilities...yet at the same time, I am not confident that I have worth--that if I could not do anything any longer, Heavenly Father (or anyone else) would want me.

How did this happen?

I'll save you the dramatic narrative and summarize it for you (you can read the full-length version when I publish my memoirs, haha). In essence, throughout my life I've confused self-esteem (confidence in oneself and one's abilities) with self-worth (overall feeling of inherent value, goodness, and deservedness)--i.e. I believed that I garnered worth by doing not by just being. Hence, I have become a human doing instead of a human being.

I did not fully realize that this was the heart of my problem until a well-meaning friend recently encouraged me to introspect and identify my strengths. When I read his request, my first thought was, "What the...? Does he not know me at all?! He's acting like I have low self-esteem and don't have confidence. I *know* I'm fabulous and can do [insert long list strengths]!"

However, after much prayer and pondering, I sadly discovered that his suggestion was completely warranted. (Guess I deserve an "F" instead of a "C" on that assignment after all, Matt.)

Correcting the issue, though, is another matter. In order to alter my personal paradigm, I need to gain a testimony of my inherent worth--to feel that I am loved, of value, and wanted. That task is in itself a Catch-22 (or a Catch-32, right Julie?). I am incapable of allowing myself to feel for very long because what I usually end up feeling is a Pandora's box of hurt, pain, disappointment, and fear--yet I must clear out these painful emotions in order to have room for feeling loved, valued, wanted, and deserving of joy...but in order to allow myself to feel these painful emotions, I need to feel that there is hope for feeling loved, valued, wanted, and deserving of joy.

Dizzying, I know.

What prevents me from allowing myself to feel? Feeling hurts. Feeling is something that I am not good at (I would definitely not list it on my lengthy "Reasons I am awesome" list--not even close!). Feeling is "unsafe" because I cannot control it; often I cannot even understand *what* I'm feeling or what to do about the feelings. Feelings are not always reliable either; they can change with circumstances or events--the way someone feels about me can change or the way I feel about an event could change. Because feeling is one of my weaknesses, when I *do* allow myself to feel, I become vulnerable and defensive and expect myself to "fail" at feeling and ruin things (e.g. relationships) by acknowledging how I feel. To me, feelings are volatile and condemning.

Logic...now there's something I'm a master at. Logic is "safe." With logic, I do not have to feel; I can reason myself into and out of any situation and control (to some degree) the outcome. Logic is constant: A+B=C. The variables of what A, B, and C symbolize may change, but the formula is reliable. I feel confident in my ability to analyze and reason, and when I utilize these skills, my confidence is renewed.

Notwithstanding logic's obvious appeal, I know that somehow I need to embrace feeling and find a balance between reason and feeling. I don't know how to do that, though. Whenever I attempt to feel, something horrific occurs, reaffirming my fear that feeling is my Achilles' heel and that I should avoid doing it. I'm not brave enough to continue trying and failing, ruining things and hurting people in the process.

As Sophie Schultz would say, "ravernah no." Wise words from a four-year-old who often likes to pretend she's a baby hummingbird.