18 October 2010

Telling My Story

Sometimes I get so caught up in seeking to understand others and what their stories are that I forget to tell my own story. I think one of the purposes (though I couldn't identify it as such at the time) of this blog is to tell my story. To share my thoughts and feelings, my fears and desires, my insights and "aha" moments. To share, in essence, me.

Something I read today reminded me of the need to tell our own story. (See Alicia Morga: Telling my Story on Camera, dare to dream blog by Whitney Johnson, posted 14 October 2010.)

Alicia's story could be any of ours (change some of the minor details of course). How many of us yearn to share what's inside--all of the dreams that no one knows about--but, as Alicia did, get stopped cold by someone's comment or attitude. Even life's events can stop us cold. We freeze and forget; our story gets left out in the cold.

Telling My Story

As I thought about Alicia's story, I resolved to be brave and share at least some snippets of my own story. So, here goes.

One thing people don't usually know about me: I am successful but unhappy where I am.

I work in a job very closely aligned with my bachelor's degree (how many people can say that?) and have done so, in various positions, for the last 8+ years. But there's a part of me, which gets more and more vocal, that yearns to do something else. I'm feeling very strongly that the "expiration date" on this opportunity is nearing. Yet...I don't know what else to do. My profession is what I know. The contacts I have in my network are in this field, my resume is filled with qualifications in this field. And it's not that I want to completely abandon this field altogether; I'd just like a change of scenery.

The dream I am currently "dating" is... to write and be published.

We've dated before, me and writing. In fact, before I changed my major in college, I was intent on pursuing a lifetime of bliss with writing. I thought that once I received my creative writing / journalism double major, I would become a professor and live the academic life, complete with tenure, a Pulitzer Prize, and an office with a window. Experiences during my first semester at university changed my professional direction, however, and writing and I "broke up" for a time. Oh, we'd "hang out" occasionally when I'd write an article for a professional publication--it was fun to renew our acquaintance and remember why I loved writing so much--but then I'd leave writing to return to my day job. As much as I loved writing, I just couldn't see how we could make the relationship work long-term.

The profession with whom I've been for the 8+ years has treated me well. Opportunities arose and paths opened that I could never have envisioned. It's been an incredible and blessed time together. I am grateful for the experiences I've had and the people with whom I've associated and from whom I've learned throughout my career thus far. I do not regret changing my major. I do not regret what I have done, where I have worked, or the opportunities I've received.

Yet...there is still that part of me yearning for a permanent reconciliation with writing. I don't want to "cheat" on my current career...but my first love, writing, is still very appealing to me. Don't know how or if it's possible to make a career in writing, especially with no contacts in the industry. It's difficult to even think about leaving a "sure thing" in my professional field to jump into the unknown of another career. Especially with a mortgage!

To be continued....

10 October 2010

The Scriptural Number Ten on 10/10/10

I like to think about the symbolism behind words, cultural phrases, numbers, etc; it helps me understand what I'm reading, especially the scriptures, much better.

Since today is 10/10/10, I searched for information about the number 10 -- and I found a wonderfully insightful article by scholars John W. Welch and James T. Summerhays about the number 10 and its significance in the scriptures.

Here are some of the highlights from the article:

1. Ten is the number of perfection in many cultures
2. Ten signifies full worthiness before God.
3. Consecration and sacrifice involve the giving of a tenth.
4. Testing and trials in the extreme run tenfold.
5. Justice and religious affairs are administered conclusively in tens.
6. Invoking the name of God ten times as a sign of complete reverence.
7. Receiving the Word of the Lord.
8. Penitence and Atonement associated with tens.
9. Supplication and prayer needs to endure ten times over.
10. Sacred cosmology and the tenth heaven.

Read the full article, "The Scriptural Number Ten on October 10, 2010" by John W. Welch and James T. Summerhays by clicking this link: Meridian Magazine - The Scriptural Number Ten on October 10, 2010

"SciFi" Mormon Ad

Very clever ad.

08 October 2010

Gratitude: The Antidote to Pride and a Hard Heart

When Walter asked Trish and me what it meant to have a hard heart, I wasn't certain how to answer his question--or if the words I chose would translate into Italian. Trish and I both offered some explanation...but I didn't feel satisfied that we had answered his question. So, I've continued thinking about this topic.

I listened to a BYU-Idaho devotional that seemed to offer a better explanation that I could offer Walter when I was in Rome.

President Kim B. Clark warned listeners that "we live in a society awash in the poisonous spirit of entitlement. All of us need to be aware of, prepared for, and protected against the awful effects of this deadly poison...[and] gratitude is the great antidote, the great protection against the spirit of entitlement" ("Drenches in Gratitude: Protection Against the Spirit of Entitlement," Brigham Young University-Idaho devotional, 14 September 2010, emphasis added).

Gratitude. That is the antidote.

When we feel entitled--that we "deserve" this or that--or lack appreciation for what we have, that is when the poison of pride begins to seep into our blood. If left unchecked, it will reach our heart and harden it to the point that we will stop feeling the Holy Ghost.

President Clark continues:
If you and I have the spirit of entitlement, it means we have an attitude and belief that the world owes us what we want. Like Laman and Lemuel, some who harbor the spirit of entitlement believe they have been shortchanged in life or aggrieved in some way and that they deserve more than they are getting. Often those who succumb to the spirit of entitlement feel superior to those around them, or believe certain rules should not apply to them, or that they should not be required to do what everyone else has to do. They believe they are entitled to special treatment and special privileges. They want something for nothing.

The spirit of entitlement has a history that goes back to the War in Heaven. Satan was full of pride and the spirit of entitlement when he rebelled and fought against the Father and the Son. He said to God, “I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.” Jesus, in contrast, said simply, “Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.”

It is the law of heaven that “when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” But the blessing comes in God’s “own time, and in his own way.” Not only was Satan’s proposal contrary to God’s law and plan, but he demanded the blessing of God’s honor. Where Jesus was humble and submissive to the Father’s will, Satan was proud and entitled. Satan embraced the demanding spirit of entitlement in the pre-mortal realm and was “cast down.” Now he seeks to infect us with its deadly poison.

That infection often begins with small and simple feelings we might each encounter under certain circumstances; for example, a brother who was absent for several classes in the semester but claimed he should be treated differently because he was the head of a campus organization; or a sister who felt she had a right to an A in a class just because she had turned in all the assignments; or a brother who believed he had a right to park next to every classroom building.

-- "Drenches in Gratitude: Protection Against the Spirit of Entitlement," Brigham Young University-Idaho devotional, 14 September 2010 (emphasis added)
So, Walter, does that answer your question? If not, read more of President Clark's devotional.

Kiss Kismet Goodbye

Fate is an interesting concept. But does fate or cosmic kismet actually determine our destiny or the final outcome of events? Are we really "destined" to do one thing or another--or can/does individual agency influence what we call fate?

I wonder if sometimes it's too easy to abdicate personal responsibility for our lives and call it "fate." When we claim that the sequence of events was "out of my control," are we actually saying, "It was too difficult for me to keep trying"?

I'm indicting myself by these questions.

When I am pushed beyond my limits, I have a tendency to push back and to give up. I wither like the poor plant in my house that I forget to water, and I retreat to the "safe place" of self-deception--a place where I convince myself that pursuing my desire is a fool's errand and I already have too much on my "to do" list to waste time on something I cannot achieve. (What kind of nonsense is THAT?!)

Then my mantra becomes "why bother." Why bother trying, I ask, if I'm only going to fail? The problem with the "why bother" is that this apathy infects my vision of myself and everything else I'm trying to accomplish in my life, including getting out of bed in the morning. Apathy leads to despair and hopelessness.

There is a cure for apathy and fatalistic thinking: hope and action. There is no kiss of kismet to keep us drowning in the quicksand if we use our agency to try. When all we can do is reach out to God, even if that is simply by admitting we are drowning and can't save ourselves, God will run to us and save us. I've experienced this wonderful miracle time and again--and yet, in the most dire circumstances, I seem to develop spiritual amnesia and forget that the Lord's help is even on the menu of choices. Thankfully, He helps me remember: through a gentle, patient friend; by the peace I feel amidst extreme turmoil; through small and simple words of someone I don't know that lead to the "aha" I need to "come to myself."

I am grateful for the Lord's patience with me as I learn to use my agency well -- and for His forgiveness when I chose to abdicate. He is with me in all choices, good or bad, and helps me remember that I don't have to be perfect, a reminder I need on a daily basis. The only destiny I have is the one I choose...and I choose to follow Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, wherever that path leads me.

07 October 2010

Remembering to Be Grateful

Judy sent this link to me. (Thanks!)

The comedian says, "Everything is amazing and nobody's happy." Intriguing...and very true.

05 October 2010

The Message of the Restoration

Elder L. Tom Perry, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, testifies about the Restoration of the Gospel.

04 October 2010

Love Is Spicy, Love Is Hot

I'm in love.

It's not something that I ever thought I'd say...but it's absolutely true. I'm in love!

Yes, I'm in love...with The Spice House. From the first moment I stepped through the doors of its Old World Third Street store, I knew I would never be the same.

So, here's my declaration to the world: I heart The Spice House!

Good job, thank you very much, amen.

Withholding Answers Allows Us to Confidently Exercise Our Agency

It is vitally important to recognize that the Lord also responds a third way to prayer by withholding an answer when the prayer is offered. Why would He do that?

He is our perfect Father. He loves us beyond our capacity to understand. He knows what is best for us. He sees the end from the beginning. He wants us to act to gain needed experience:

When He answers yes, it is to give us confidence.

When He answers no, it is to prevent error.

When He withholds an answer, it is to have us grow through faith in Him, obedience to His commandments, and a willingness to act on truth. We are expected to assume accountability by acting on a decision that is consistent with His teachings without prior confirmation. We are not to sit passively waiting or to murmur because the Lord has not spoken. We are to act.

-- Elder Richard G. Scott, “Learning to Recognize Answers to Prayer,” Ensign, Nov 1989, 30 (emphasis added)

Simple Desire, Simply Miraculous

I don't believe in coincidence.

The more I learn about Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, the more I begin to see Their Hands in my life. In daily life. In small, seemingly inconsequential aspects. In "why would anyone else care about this but me" desires. In short, in the minutia of who I am and what is in my heart.

So, it was not surprising to me that as I've been pondering about some changes in my life and praying about which path to pursue, "coincidences" keep occurring.
  • Conversations with a colleague when in Italy enabled me to recognize what I already had--and what I genuinely wanted out of life.
  • A comment on my Facebook page made by my beautiful, insightful cousin Claire encouraging me to do what I'd been afraid to do.
  • A phrase someone used during a business dinner that seemed to be a personal confirmation directly from Heavenly Father saying, "Yes, my beautiful daughter, you have chosen the right thing."
  • A text from someone with whom I don't regularly communicate had Heavenly Father's name written all over it (I knew He had inspired it to occur).
  • "Stumbling upon" blog posts and tweets that led to the "aha" I needed
  • Finding "kindred spirits" among other bloggers who are able to put into words what I've been thinking/feeling.
  • Listening to General Conference and hearing the Holy Ghost teach me small and simple truths about who I am, how God feels about me, and what He wants me to do.
Historically, I could/would write these simple things off as...well, coincidences really. Experiences that were nice "one offs" but had nothing to do with the answers I needed from Heavenly Father, overlooking the "small" because I was expecting the "great" all at once.

Now I understand what I've been missing: the answers I desired were there all along, but I just didn't recognize them wearing such "plain clothes."

Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught a similar principle, indicating that these "coincidences" are a confirmation from Heavenly Father that we are on the right path:
Most often what we have chosen to do is right. He will confirm the correctness of our choices His way. That confirmation generally comes through packets of help found along the way. We discover them by being spiritually sensitive. They are like notes from a loving Father as evidence of His approval. If, in trust, we begin something which is not right, He will let us know before we have gone too far. We sense that help by recognizing troubled or uneasy feelings.
-- Elder Richard G. Scott, “Learning to Recognize Answers to Prayer,” Ensign, Nov 1989, 30 (emphasis added)
I love that image: "notes from a loving Father as evidence of His approval." Like going on a treasure hunt, following clue after clue--and knowing that you are on the right path because you find the next clue.

These seemingly simple "notes from a loving Father" truly lead to wonderous, great things that I sometimes (too often) take for granted. As the prophet Alma taught his son Helaman:
Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.

And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls.
-- Alma 37:6-7 (emphasis added)
It should not surprise me then in the economy of heaven, that Heavenly Father is aware of not only my grand desires but also of the "small and simple" personal desires I have each day: for a parking spot so I won't be late to an important meeting...for, well, whatever righteous desire I have in my heart that would enable me to feel a portion of His love and care for me.

Fulfilling these "small," daily desires is a more difficult task, I think, because these are the ones I wouldn't necessarily pray about. These are the "freebies" that God gives just because He can and because He loves me.

Another blogger insightfully shared it this way:
I am amazed that I am much like the sparrow, and that the hand of God is in my life for so simple a desire....

It seems so simple, yet so unbelievable to a grown up, so believable to a child.

We become so knowledgeable, educated, and dependent on scientific research when we “grow up” that we lose our simple ability to believe in the unseen hand of God. It’s not Santa Clause, it's the unseen world that we left when we were born as helpless infants into the space we call earth.

-- Deila, "When the Sparrow Falls on the Ground," published online 1 October 2010, Mormon Mommy Blogs (emphasis added)
Too simple. Too unbelieveable to a grown up. Too wonderous. Too amazing. Too much what I want.

Why should I deny the Lord from blessing me with what I want--even if what I want at this moment isn't some monumental, philanthropic desire to bring about world peace but is rather a "small," personal desire for what I need, what would be good for me, right here, right now for my personal growth and happiness?

Why should I stand in His way from demonstrating His love for me and His power in my life because something seems "too good to be true"? He IS good and He IS true. That should be enough reason to throw out all of the scientific calculations and dare to dream that the unseen hand of God will bring to pass a few moments of bliss for me, the daughter He loves so much.

Simple moments I desire that will be simply miraculous because I know from whence they came: from the Father who loves me, who knows me, and who knows how vital those moments of bliss are for me.

World peace, like other monumental goals, begins with "small and simple" steps. Like Heavenly Father blessing me with a few moments of peace in my world.

03 October 2010

Shout out!

I love General Conference for a multitude of reasons. But one of them is because I can see Aunt Rosemary singing her heart out in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Every time the camera pans across her section, I wait anxiously to see her. And then...there she is!

Seeing her makes me so happy because she is wonderful and so full of light and goodness. It is especially wonderful for me this weekend since I am on a business trip and watching General Conference alone via the Internet in my hotel room: when I see her familiar face, I feel less alone.

So, here's a "shout out" to marvelous Aunt Rosemary. Love you!

Why Mormons Build Temples

02 October 2010

How Do I Love Thee?

A wonderful reminder from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland.

"Think the best of each other, especially of those you say you love. Assume the good and doubt the bad."