Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Being Tossed by the Wind

Some know that I have been hit by an unknown, unplanned storm. Despite the storm, my days have been filled with hope, unlike my reaction to the other storms that have entered my life. I have been blessed with calm, with minor outbursts of anxiety. To still the anxiety, I pray. To calm my fears, I seek validation and inspiration from my sweetheart's unrelenting faith. 

Maintaining peace and calm during the storm has been tough. And every once in a while I find myself in a fetal position, wrapped in covers, not wanting to come out of bed. But I know I must. I know I must gather my strength and hit life head-on. I know I need to consider this time of unemployment as an adventure, a blessing in disguise, an opportunity.

I know I am qualified. I know we will be taken care of. I know that the Lord is aware of our circumstances. I know that everything will be OK. I know that we will be able to put my sweetheart through school, so that he doesn't need to work and so he can concentrate on what he needs in order to be successful. I know we will have enough in our savings to get us through this time, and to prepare us for future financial endeavors. I know it will all be possible through the Lord, Jesus Christ. And that is the energy I am creating - my manifesto. I am sticking by it.

And so, in my humble state, I offer a song that has touched the fiber of my being. It speaks to me. It calms me.



Jesus, Savor Pilot Me Lyrics

Jesus, Savior, pilot me
Over life’s tempestuous sea;
Unknown waves before me roll,
Hiding rock and treacherous shoal.
Chart and compass come from Thee; 

Jesus, Savior, pilot me.

While th’Apostles’ fragile bark
Struggled with the billows dark,
On the stormy Galilee,
Thou didst walk upon the sea;
And when they beheld Thy form,
Safe they glided through the storm.


Though the sea be smooth and bright,
Sparkling with the stars of night,
And my ship’s path be ablaze
With the light of halcyon days,
Still I know my need of Thee; 

Jesus, Savior, pilot me.

When the darkling heavens frown,
And the wrathful winds come down,
And the fierce waves, tossed on high,
Lash themselves against the sky,
Jesus, Savior, pilot me,
 

Over life’s tempestuous sea.
As a mother stills her child,
Thou canst hush the ocean wild;
Boisterous waves obey Thy will,
When Thou sayest to them, “Be still!”
Wondrous Sovereign of the sea,
Jesus, Savior, pilot me.


When at last I near the shore,
And the fearful breakers roar
’Twixt me and the peaceful rest,
Then, while leaning on Thy breast,
May I hear Thee say to me,
“Fear not, I will pilot thee.”

Friday, April 4, 2014

Provoking Articles, Part 2: Are We Creating Risk Adversed Children, Pampering Them Too Much, Taking Away Their Creativity?

The Overprotected Kid, by Hannah Rosin

Interesting Quote(s)

"Actions that would have been considered paranoid in the ’70s—walking third-graders to school, forbidding your kid to play ball in the street, going down the slide with your child in your lap—are now routine. In fact, they are the markers of good, responsible parenting."

"When you ask parents why they are more protective than their parents were, they might answer that the world is more dangerous than it was when they were growing up. But this isn’t true, or at least not in the way that we think. For example, parents now routinely tell their children never to talk to strangers, even though all available evidence suggests that children have about the same (very slim) chance of being abducted by a stranger as they did a generation ago. Maybe the real question is, how did these fears come to have such a hold over us? And what have our children lost—and gained—as we’ve succumbed to them? "

"In recent years, Joe Frost, Sweeney’s old partner in the safety crusade, has become concerned that maybe we have gone too far [in creating safety policies for playgrounds, etc]. In a 2006 paper, he gives the example of two parents who sued when their child fell over a stump in a small redwood forest that was part of a playground. They had a basis for the lawsuit. After all, the latest safety handbook advises designers to “look out for tripping hazards, like exposed concrete footings, tree stumps, and rocks.” But adults have come to the mistaken view “that children must somehow be sheltered from all risks of injury,” Frost writes. “In the real world, life is filled with risks—financial, physical, emotional, social—and reasonable risks are essential for children’s healthy development.”"


"At the core of the safety obsession is a view of children that is..., “an idea that children are too fragile or unintelligent to assess the risk of any given situation,” argues Tim Gill, the author of No Fear, a critique of our risk-averse society. “Now our working assumption is that children cannot be trusted to find their way around tricky physical or social and emotional situations.”"

My Opinion

I recall hanging out with my bestie and her children. I have always admired her parenting style, and hope I can live up to it one day. She is very relaxed in her parenting style, in that she lets her kids be kids. For example, if her kids are playing outside and one stands on a wall, she will warn that they could fall, but ultimately leaves it up to them whether or not they want to pursue this behavior. Of course if the fall was extremely dangerous, she would - of course - rescue them. The point is, she will warn them and then let them experience what it could be like to 'conquer the wall' or 'fall off.' Sure, the repercussions of falling means tears, potential scrapes, etc., but she doesn't rush over and stop her kids from being adventurous.


As I write this, I can't help but do a quick check on the "political correctness" of my statements. I am not saying that parents shouldn't rescue kids who are doing super dangerous things. All I am saying is by nature we want to protect our children from harm...any harm. Allowing them to fall gives them the experience they need to learn from their mistakes, pick themselves up, enhance creativity, overcome fear, defend themselves, and learn how to be independent.

Another favorite quote from the article: "Children are born with the instinct to take risks in play, because historically, learning to negotiate risk has been crucial to survival; in another era, they would have had to learn to run from some danger, defend themselves from others, be independent. Even today, growing up is a process of managing fears and learning to arrive at sound decisions. By engaging in risky play, children are effectively subjecting themselves to a form of exposure therapy, in which they force themselves to do the thing they’re afraid of in order to overcome their fear. But if they never go through that process, the fear can turn into a phobia."

School Ditches Rules on Bullies, by TV NZ One News

Interesting Quote(s)

"Chaos may reign at Swanson Primary School with children climbing trees, riding skateboards and playing bullrush during playtime, but surprisingly the students don't cause bedlam, the principal says."

"The school is actually seeing a drop in bullying, serious injuries and vandalism, while concentration levels in class are increasing."

"Principal Bruce McLachlan rid the school of playtime rules as part of a successful university experiment."

"We want kids to be safe and to look after them, but we end up wrapping them in cotton wool when in fact they should be able to fall over."

"Mudslides, skateboarding, bullrush and tree climbing kept the children so occupied the school no longer needed a timeout area or as many teachers on patrol."

"Instead of a playground, children used their imagination to play in a "loose parts pit" which contained junk such as wood, tyres and an old fire hose."

"The kids were motivated, busy and engaged. In my experience, the time children get into trouble is when they are not busy, motivated and engaged. It's during that time they bully other kids, graffiti or wreck things around the school."

"The great paradox of cotton-woolling children is it's more dangerous in the long-run."

"Society's obsession with protecting children ignores the benefits of risk-taking."
"Children develop the frontal lobe of their brain when taking risks, meaning they work out consequences. "You can't teach them that. They have to learn risk on their own terms. It doesn't develop by watching TV, they have to get out there." "

My Opinion
 
In my last article post, I discussed letting kids be kids and the risks we take (as parents, teachers, guardians, etc.) when we pamper our kids. By not letting our kids engage in "kid" activities, we are taking away their ability to learn how to work out problems - even social issues.

This experiment demonstrates the psychological benefits of letting kids be kids. Right now, traditional education means sitting for hours inside a classroom with little physical activity. While this may be stimulating for some children, it is not for others. It is not a secret that education experts have been tackling the issue of attention in the classroom. When my parents moved and enrolled my little brother in a new elementary school, I was shocked to hear that they only had 30 minutes of recess and ZERO physical education classes.

It is no wonder I read an article everyday about how students aren't meeting testing scores, and that ADHD is a common diagnoses for hyperactive children expected to sit for hours in non-physically stimulating classrooms. I digress.

I was happy to read in this article that by exposing students to unorthodox playtime, there was evidence of advancement in both physical and mental aspects. This letting kids be kids thing can go a long way, don't you agree?

I'm Done Making My Kid's Childhood Magical, by Bummi Laditan in the Huffington Post 

Interesting Quote(s)

"Today, parents are being fed the idea that it benefits children to constantly be hand in hand, face to face, "What do you need my precious darling? How can I make your childhood amazing?""

"Parents do not make childhood magical. Abuse and gross neglect can mar it, of course, but for the average child, the magic is something inherent to the age. Seeing the world through innocent eyes is magical. Experiencing winter and playing in the snow as a 5-year-old is magical. Getting lost in your toys on the floor of your family room is magical. Collecting rocks and keeping them in your pockets is magical. Walking with a branch is magical."


"It is not our responsibility to manufacture contrived memories on a daily basis."

"None of this negates the importance of time spent as a family, but there is a huge difference between focusing on being together and focusing on the construction of an "activity." One feels forced and is based on a pre-determined goal, while the other is more natural and relaxed. The immense pressure that parents put on themselves to create ethereal experiences is tangible." 

"When we make life a grand production, our children become audience members and their appetite for entertainment grows. Are we creating a generation of people who cannot find the beauty in the mundane?"

"Do we want to teach our children that the magic of life is something that comes beautifully gift-wrapped -- or that magic is something you discover on your own?
Planning elaborate events, daily crafts, and expensive vacations isn't harmful for children. But if the desire to do so comes from a place of pressure or even a belief that the aforementioned are a necessary part of one's youth, it's time to reevaluate."

My Opinion

In DC I had the awesome opportunity to know several peer nanny's. I asked some of them the question: do the kids expect you to entertain them all day? I have also asked several of my mom friends if their children demand their attention, or if they are keen on playing by themselves? I had various responses to this question, but the majority told me that the children expected their undivided attention. 

In Virginia, we had three little girls who lived in our building. They would often stop by to say hello, and ask if we could come play. We loved their parents and told them that one day we would love to have them over to play. So, we set a play date. The goal was to paint nails, do hair and make-up and watch a movie of their choice equaling up to 2 hours of fun. 

Not even 10 minutes through, all the girls' nails were done, they didn't want to do make-up, and the movie was in. No lie, within 20 minutes, they said, "what are we going to do now?" You mean the activity I planned that was supposed to take 2 hours isn't adequate enough? I had run out of ideas. 40 minutes into our play date, they all went home. They were starved for more entertainment - I just couldn't deliver.

In my babysitting experience, I am used to watching several children at once. I find the most satisfaction watching children who use their imaginations to create festive tea parties, create entire populaces full of princesses, build a city that could be destroyed and re-built for hours and hours, and enjoy the children who didn't demand my entire attention - especially when there is more than one child. When there is more than one child demanding my attention, which I truly want to give because I love all the kids I watch, it is tough. 

I agree that families should have fun, productive time together. However, becoming a constant entertainer is overwhelming. What do you do to let your child discover their independence in play?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Provoking Articles, Part 1: Lies that Destroy Marriage and Other Little Tidbits

I have had a lot of different ideas flowing through my mind lately. I decided to a round-up of the top articles that I have been reading and researching that have inspired some deep thoughts and enabled me to develop my own opinions. I love that there are so many people out there dedicated to learning and sharing, just like me. Here is the first of many posts of things that have been on my mind.

The question I have for my readers: What are the lies that you have had to discover in your marriage, and how have you defeated them?

Feel free to share your thoughts and opinions on anything that you may read. I would love to know what you have to say. In fact, argue with me if you want to...it is good to have perspectives from all sides.

The Lie that Almost Destroyed My Marriage, by Scissortail Silk Becky Thompson

Interesting Quote(s):

"I married the wrong guy.
 
It was the lie that played over and over in my mind for years.

It was the base of every fight. It plagued our disagreements. It promised destruction.

But I couldn’t make it go away, and it almost cost us everything."

{Lindsey's musings}: By divine inspiration and guidance, the author knew there were certain things she needed to accomplish and be a part of, and struggled to understand how this would fit in with this marriage. Her expectation for 'how' her marriage and dreams were supposed to happen were unrealized, and she worked hard to figure out 'how.'

She writes "The more I pushed, and the more he resisted, the deeper the roots grew of a little lie that I didn’t even know I had planted…
 
"I married the wrong guy, Lord. How I am I supposed to complete this work that you’ve placed in my heart? How am I supposed to change a generation by myself?”

And instead of listening for the Lord’s response, I began to listen to the lie.

“You can’t,” It sneered. “You’re finished. Your dream is dead. You picked him over the plans God had for you. You’re done, and God’s done with you.”

I believed it.

And the lie grew into fear. I was scared that I had missed it. I was scared that the more my husband followed his dreams, the more it meant I had given up my own.

I blamed my husband. I blamed a perfectly innocent man who had only loved me and trusted God and followed the passions of his own heart."

My Opinion

I too have struggled with the 'how,' particularly in my marriage. From my youth, I knew I had a greater calling to be a wife and mother, and I wanted it - I strove for it, because I chose it and it chose me. It is no secret that I had a hard time being single for so long (just read my posts Ready for Love, Another Blog About Dating). In a culture that marries younger than average, I struggled with the fact I didn't get married until I was significantly older than any of my friends. 

Looking back, there were lessons I needed to learn - obviously, because isn't that what married people are always telling single people to tell themselves when they are frustrated with being single? I digress. Here's the deal - I thought I learned my lessons, or at least learned them enough. I thought I learned patience. I thought I learned how to better control my expectations. I thought I knew enough about how to have long-lasting meaningful relationships

Fact is - what I thought I knew has been tested and tried to the extreme! What I thought I mastered is only just a little bump on this highway of married life. It is a guarantee that I will continue to learn. There will also be days where I come up short - that is just reality. I am grateful to know though, that when I put God at the helm, through my faith, I will be able to recognize my weaknesses and know what I need to do to make those weaknesses become strengths.

I loved the article mentioned above and respect that Becky re-evaluated the situation and opened herself up to God's divine counsel and wisdom. Later in the article she said,

{Quote}
"God didn’t change my husband’s heart. He didn’t give Him new desires to become a pastor. No. He simply took my broken heart, and gave me a new one. He exposed the lie. He spoke Truth over me again, and pulled up every last tendril of that untruth. He wrapped me in the security of His love and whispered, “You didn’t miss it. I’m not done with you. Your husband has given his life for you, and now I’m going to teach you what it means to love him… because he is the one that I have chosen for you. Together, you will complete the plans that I have for you both.”


"I saw God come and bring restoration. We experienced unity and trust for the first time in years. I didn’t only trust my husband; I trusted God and His voice of Truth. I believed again that I knew what His voice sounded like, and I began to hear it more clearly. New life began to grow in our marriage as we learned what it meant to be one with each other and with the Lord. And we experienced peace and felt hope for the first time in years."

The lie I found myself believing is that there is someone out there better suited for me and my needs - how selfish. Another lie I found myself combating is how much easier life would be if I were single again - how selfish. Thank you Becky, for exposing exactly what the adversary would have us think about this amazing gift, and for exposing something I have struggled with since the beginning of my marriage - pride.

Instead of thinking about all the things my sweetheart needs to do to be a better husband, lover, future father of my children, spiritual mentor, etc., I renewed my commitment to open myself up to understand what I can do to improve myself in this marriage. I renewed my commitment to find God so that instead of worrying so much about the 'how' I could focus on the here and now, and enjoy this journey - because it is meant to be joyful!


More on the Marriage Learning Curve

Marriage Learning Curve, Lesson 1: Choose Your Battles
Marriage Learning Curve, Lesson 2: Speak Well of and to Your Spouse
Marriage Learning Curve, Lesson 3: Love The Person You Found  
Marriage Learning Curve, Lesson 4: There is Timing for Two 
Marriage Learning Curve, Lesson 5: Confess Your Expenses, Even if You Feel They are Justified
Marriage Learning Curve, Lesson 6: Opportunity to Grow 
Marriage Learning Curve, Lesson 7: Compliment Each Other Daily 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Book Review March 2014

There have been some fantastic articles out there about reading, re-reading, and some inspirational people who have tackled some of the hardest literature out there. Shout-out to all you amazing readers. I wanted to highlight some of my favorites and then give you my latest book review.

BBC Article, Reading the World in 196 books: A woman named Anne Morgan started a blog called A Year of Reading the World, in hopes that she would be able to fill her shelves with various publications from nearly 200 nations. The article states "One by one, the country names on the list that had begun as an intellectual exercise at the start of the year transformed into vital, vibrant places filled with laughter, love, anger, hope and fear. Lands that had once seemed exotic and remote became close and familiar to me – places I could identify with. At its best, I learned, fiction makes the world real." 

The full list is on the website, and her experience is inspiring!

BBC article, The Joy of Binge Reading: The trend for books has been, write one book quickly and write another one, quickly - so that the readership doesn't die down, because reader's are bingeing. The author argues that this addiction is actually quite healthy stating, "it’s an experience in which you suspend critical judgment and allow pure joy to take over" and "Of course, go too crazy too fast with binge reading and you can feel as awful as you do after traditional bingeing on food and drink: overfilled, dazed and in need of sunlight and exercise. The good news? Even the worst binge reading has got to be among the most productive of binge behaviours." I would like to argue that binge reading supply and demand may make the 'literacy' part of reading fall by the wayside in order to meet the demand. However, I am not quite set in my theory yet. 

I notice that at the end of my novel, I am not quite ready to give up the book. It makes me angry that I don't know what else happened during the novel, especially as Fanny and Edmond end up together at the end of one of my favorite Jane Austen novels. I guess I am the classic binge reader - always wanting more. I see the author's point.

BBC article, Re-Reading; The Ultimate Guilty Pleasure: I love the premise, "As parents learn with frustration, as small children we love immersing ourselves in the same story over and over. But in adulthood that joy tends to become a forgotten pleasure." 

The article poses some fantastic points, even including some scientific data, like 1. The first time we read something, we are so pre-occupied by the what, and 2. The second time we read something, we can allow ourselves to get caught up with the emotions of the book. The article concludes, "Perhaps what’s really strange is that we don’t re-read more often. After all, we watch our favourite films again and we wouldn’t think of listening to an album only once. We treasure tatty old paperbacks as objects, yet of all art forms, literature alone is a largely one-time delight. A book, of course, takes up more time, but as Mead and Ellis confirm, the rewards make it amply worthwhile."

I hope you enjoyed those articles as much as I did!

Book Review 

Little Women, Louisa May Alcott - 5*

I have written a review on this before. This was a fantastic re-read. A little while back, I decided that I would begin re-reading this book every November. It makes me happy. We all need a little more happy in our lives. The characters are so well-written and developed - the personalities of the characters so unique, the story is beautiful, and the script is captivating. I identify with more than one character in more than one season. It is worth the read and re-read!

The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis - Unfinished, but loving it!

My mom and I listened to this while we drove across the country. It was hard for me to listen to because there were so many good and deep points. It got to the point where weather and listening did not mix, so I haven't completed this yet. However, from what I was able to listen to, my mind was blown away. It exposed me to so many insights and theories about the after-life and what is really important in life. I can't wait to find out what happens to the main character after all his experiences!

Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, Judy Blume - 5*

How could I not give 5*'s to these classic children's books? I started reading more children's literature. This classic made me wonder if children take away that it is ok to lie, lol. But, in all honesty, I think it is just a good story about defeating odds and finding joy in the journey of being young. I enjoyed it because it kept a smile on my face.

Running Out of Time, Margaret Peterson Haddix - 5*

This author is awesome! I read the Shadow Children series written by her several years ago, and remember really liking the series just as much as I liked the book I just finished. These are fast reads - and I finished this book in one day's time. I like that her books always have a political underlying theme. I can't say too much about the book itself for fear of spoiling it, but can say it is about a teenage girl who grew up in an environment and within a matter of hours, her world turns upside down as some truths about her life, community, and family are exposed. The tone is fast and very much portrayed like a 14 year old girl. Love this author.

The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B, Sandra Gulland - 5*

I could not put this book down, and finished it in a week's time. Ask my sweetheart. This book is the first book of a three-part series. A fantastic account of Mrs. Bonaparte recounting her life experiences in journal style, based on accurate information of the time. It is well researched, and strikes several of my emotions. I am already reading the sequel. Highly recommended.

Tales of Passion, Tales of Woe, Sandra Gulland - currently reading

This is the sequel to the Bonaparte series. Again, I am almost halfway through the book, and have only had it for three days. 

1776, David McCullough - currently reading

This is a fantastic research paper written in a novelistic documentary-style, highlighting the Revolutionary War. So far, I like that McCullough tackles both sides of the story. He creates a fantastic view behind the scenes by referencing writings including, journals, newspapers, personal letters, and other historical documents to back up this incredible time in history. I highly recommend this to anyone questioning the intentions of government during that time, or wanting to know more about the art of war. There is no doubt in my mind that the creation of this nation was Providential - this book backs my theory.

My Other Book Reviews 

Children's Literature....How I Love Thee
Book Review - Some Classics
Little Women: Keeping Busy, Best for Happiness
The Same Kind of Different As Me
Thoughts From These High Green Hills: Finding Joy in the Journey
The Curious Incident of the Dog at Nighttime: October Happiness Project Updates
A Home at Mitford: Getting Rid of My Trash
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

Friday, March 14, 2014

Is the "Search for Happiness" Counterintuitive?

It was not a coincidence that I have had several opportunities to talk about happiness. As some may be aware, I found that I was lacking happiness and really starting doing some deep introspection about what I needed to do, what attitudes I needed to change, what habits I needed to break, where I may be lacking in the spiritual aspect of my life in order to find happiness.

I took a rather methodical approach to happiness (adopted from The Happiness Project) and began measuring my success by my accomplishments, acknowledging my failures, and reporting my endeavors on this blog. I still feel it is a worthwhile, and so I will keep on keepin' on. However, I made some discoveries and have had some discussions which have altered my approach, slightly. 

First, one night my sweetheart and I were talking about contentment. He said he was reading an article that said something along the lines of, if you are constantly in search of happiness you will not find it, because you are creating a delta where it may never exist because you are in constant search of it. Something like that.

This idea reminded me of a conversation I had with someone who was depressed who said that he would rather not talk about his depression, not because he was in denial, but because the more he would talk about it, the deeper in his depression he became. He felt like if he kept talking about it, because he was still deep in it, it made him believe that he was so depressed that he couldn't get out of it. This idea makes sense to me. 

I often hear that what we tell ourselves in our minds becomes reality, like saying "I'm not tired," after 24 hours of no sleep can actually help someone capitalize on what energy they do have, and how these people - at the end of the day - testify that they really aren't tired. Perhaps it is a philosophy of The Secret, I assume, having personally not listened to it. It is the same with what we tell ourselves too. If we keep saying, "I'm not good enough" so many times, we may begin to believe it.

Regardless of the research that may or may not back up this theory, I was intrigued by this idea of searching for happiness. Automatically, I came up with the following questions:
  • Is it still possible to progress if we are not seeking happiness? 
  • Is it possible to remain in a state of contentment and yet still have the motivation to hope for betterment, peace, understanding, or happiness?
  • If I was happy, would I be trying to figure out what the Lord needed me to do to obtain it fully? 
  • Is this type of introspection, the search for happiness, bad or wrong? 
Perhaps what the article was trying to say is that if we worry so much about tomorrow, we will miss out on a lot of joy we could have today. I agree with that sentiment at least. 

I have included several excerpts from the talk Finding Joy in the Journey by President Thomas S. Monson, who said: 

"This is our one and only chance at mortal life—here and now. The longer we live, the greater is our realization that it is brief. Opportunities come, and then they are gone. I believe that among the greatest lessons we are to learn in this short sojourn upon the earth are lessons that help us distinguish between what is important and what is not. I plead with you not to let those most important things pass you by as you plan for that illusive and nonexistent future when you will have time to do all that you want to do. Instead, find joy in the journey—now."

"Said one well-known author: “Both abundance and lack [of abundance] exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities. It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we will tend … when we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that’s present—love, health, family, friends, work, the joys of nature, and personal pursuits that bring us [happiness]—the wasteland of illusion falls away and we experience heaven on earth.”"

"The ancient Roman philosopher Horace admonished, “Whatever hour God has blessed you with, take it with grateful hand, nor postpone your joys from year to year, so that in whatever place you have been, you may say that you have lived happily.”"

Second, some of you also know that it is hard for me to be content in the moment. I am always trying to do better, be better, thinking about tomorrow, and am generally a tightly-wound sort of person who always have to have a list and a plan.

This week, I attended a wonderful ladies night activity dinner, where we also had small discussion groups talking about the Plan of Happiness. The more we discussed happiness, the more I realized, I am just not getting it! After all those talks I read about praying, serving other people, living in the moment, being present, reading scriptures, going to the temple, learning about patience and timing, developing faith, etc., I still don't feel like I get what I need to do. Sad, really. 

During the conversation, we talked about having faith enough to live in the now. Having faith allows us to live in the now, stop thinking about our past, hope for the future, but don't obsess about living for the future. Then the question was asked: What are you doing to empower your faith? 

I sat there stumped. What am I doing to empower my faith. Other than direct obedience, am I really feeding my faith the way I need to learn this valuable lesson of 'finding joy in the journey?'

I pose these questions to you, my readers. 
  1. How do you feel/find joy in your journey? 
  2. Is finding joy in the journey something you have to work at - one that you have to concentrate on everyday? If so, what techniques do you employ?
  3. What do you do to empower your faith?
  4. Do you feel that searching for happiness is counterintuitive?
I would love to hear from you.

Acknowledgements

The painting above is by Mike Vollmer from Houston. For me, the brilliant colors bring to light the idea that I am surrounded by magnificence everyday, and I could be a part of that if only I would open my eyes. For me, the light that seems to be streaming from the top, depicting the hope that this thing called 'happiness' can be found today...the search is over. Thank you for this wonderful painting.

The Second Painting is by Rassouli. I was trying to find a painting that depicted how it would feel to find a way out of the storm, happiness in a confusing world, and light in a whirlwind of darkness. This painting spoke to me of what it would feel like to experience joy again, if not for the first time. This artist has captured my heart and soul. All the other paintings also exude this conquering spirit.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Overcoming Trials - A Gift of the Atonement of Jesus Christ

My sweetheart and I had the opportunity to speak at church yesterday. We were both so profoundly affected by our time prepping our talks, and so blessed to experience some wonderful confirmations that I felt prompted to share what I spoke about. I hope you find solace in the trials you are going through, and hope you lean on Jesus Christ to help you through them. There is hope for a brighter future.

Here is the Talk  

This past week both Adam and I have had divinely inspired opportunities that gave us insight into what we have been asked to speak about today. I am humbled by this opportunity to speak of something so sacred and invite the Spirit to testify of the truth of the things I am going to share today about how I have used the Atonement to overcome trials.

To start my talk, I felt it was best to present some every day life scenarios that we may relate to. I invite you to think about similar experiences in your lives and deeply contemplate what you have done to feel peace.

Scenario #1*: A family returns from a funeral of their young child. A father is struggling with his testimony of the plan of salvation and eternal families. He is wondering “Why? Why did this happen to our family?” He is experiencing feelings of doubt, despair, fear that he will never see his child again, and unfairness.

Scenario #2*: A single mother of four children sits at a table struggling to pay her bills. She wonders how in the world she is going to make it this month with all those mouths to feed. She plays the role of both mother and father to her kids, and works several jobs to keep food on the table and maintain a happy home. She is experiencing feelings of hopelessness, doubt, loneliness, and stress.

Scenario #3*: A once marathon runner sits in his wheelchair watching old videos of his glory days. He is now paralyzed with limited ability to do anything, including brushing his own teeth. His wife has become a caretaker and struggles to lift him physically and spiritually. This small family is struggling with feelings of depression, anger, guilt, and maybe even resentment.

Scenario #4: A youth attends middle or high school where they feel out of place.  They have tried fitting in, but to no avail.  Maybe they are being mocked, but maybe they are just coasting by, not really feeling like they belong. They tend to think, I am not good enough, I am not pretty enough, I am not sporty enough, I am not confident enough. They are experiencing feelings of self-doubt, loss of individual worth and self-esteem, and loneliness.

Scenario #5: An elderly couple struggles to get out bed everyday, quite literally. They are having a hard time knowing that at one point they used to be able to do everything, like pour a bowl of cereal without any aches or pains, and even when they can their cereal doesn’t taste the same. They struggle to remember and their recall seems to be failing. They can’t hear as well and their eyesight only allows them to see fuzzy shapes but their inner HD is limited. They are struggling to know if they have accomplished everything they have wanted to and struggle to understand why all of a sudden they are limited because their bodies won’t let them do what they want them to do.

Scenario #6: A person is struggling with addiction. What used to be something that was a momentary fix has become an obsession. They have tried to wean themselves, but end up needing that momentary satisfaction that doesn’t seem to last. They are experiencing feelings of being trapped, sometimes physical pain, anxiety, guilt, and depression depending on the addiction, false sense of security, and powerlessness.

Scenario #7: A newly married couple is struggling to figure out how to set aside individual needs, learn how to communicate, and determine the best course of action for this newly formed family. In trying to overcome stubbornness and pride, they are struggling in their testimonies of what it means to hone this new relationship and bond together and with the Lord, therefore struggling with the concept of eternal marriage. They are experiencing feelings of resentment, uncertainty, panic, disorientation, and desperation.

I have had my own scenarios, and I can tell you that I often felt like I was fighting against the storm and was doing everything in my power to stay afloat. It was a struggle getting up everyday knowing that when I went to sleep my circumstances didn’t go away. These situations seem daunting when speaking about them in the same setting, and talking about them is kind of depressing.

I am here to tell you something amazing. I am here to tell you that even in the most dire of circumstances, I was able to beat the storms of life. I was given a life raft and able to swim to safety. I have been able to find peace again, and I was able to do this not by myself. For all those experiencing any related feelings described in the scenarios, there is hope that you too can find joy; a joy that comes as we seek to understand and allow the Atonement of Jesus Christ to buoy us through the storm.

In a talk Mountains to Climb, President Henry B. Eyring said: “Many of you are now passing through physical, mental, and emotional trials that could cause you to cry out as did one great and faithful servant of God I knew well. His nurse heard him exclaim from his bed of pain, “When I have tried all my life to be good, why has this happened to me?

The way to rise through and above trials is to believe that there is a “balm in Gilead” and that the Lord has promised, “I will not … forsake thee.” 

In Doctrine and Covenants 122:7-9 it reads:  “And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.

The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?”

When I am experiencing trials, I don’t like to hear that my trial will give me experience and I will grow from it. For me this advice seems to undermine how I am feeling when I am going through a trial. Especially when I feel like I am drowning. 

I can tell you though that knowing that there is someone who understands my trial so completely the way the Savior does because of His Atonement, helps me to find the desire and motivation to overcome it.

In the talk Adversity, President Henry B. Eyring taught: “It will comfort us when we must wait in distress for the Savior’s promised relief that He knows, from experience, how to heal and help us. … And faith in that power will give us patience as we pray and work and wait for help. He could have known how to succor us simply by revelation, but He chose to learn by His own personal experience.

Yes, there are things we have to do to fully grasp how the Atonement can help us with our trials, and we have the opportunity to learn about them every Sunday. 

As Elder Dallin H. Oaks in the talk He Heals the Heavy Laden, he taught: “Healing blessings come in many ways, each suited to our individual needs, as known to Him who loves us best. Sometimes a ‘healing’ cures our illness or lifts our burden. But sometimes we are ‘healed’ by being given strength or understanding or patience to bear the burdens placed upon us.”All that will come may be “clasped in the arms of Jesus.” All souls can be healed by His power. All pain can be soothed. In Him, we can “find rest unto [our] souls.” Our mortal circumstances may not immediately change, but our pain, worry, suffering, and fear can be swallowed up in His peace and healing balm.” 

For those that feel like they are drowning and just need a hand to grab them, the most important thing I can tell you is that Jesus Christ is there with you in the storm. He has a crew equipped with all manner of life saving devices to help you. He is at the helm, and is reaching out to grab your hand. Don’t give up reaching for His hand. There is hope you can overcome these scenarios in your own life.

One last quote from Elder David A. Bednar in the talk The Atonement and the Journey of Mortality, said: “The Savior has suffered not just for our iniquities but also for the inequality, the unfairness, the pain, the anguish, and the emotional distresses that so frequently beset us. There is no physical pain, no anguish of soul, no suffering of spirit, no infirmity or weakness that you or I ever experience during our mortal journey that the Savior did not experience first. You and I in a moment of weakness may cry out, “No one understands. No one knows.” No human being, perhaps, knows. But the Son of God perfectly knows and understands, for He felt and bore our burdens before we ever did. And because He paid the ultimate price and bore that burden, He has perfect empathy and can extend to us His arm of mercy in so many phases of our life. He can reach out, touch, succor—literally run to us—and strengthen us to be more than we could ever be and help us to do that which we could never do through relying upon only our own power.”

I testify that He will nurse you back to health. He will help you overcome whatever challenges you face. He will lead you in the direction you need to go. He will let you feel love again. I testify of these things because I know them from my own experience. I know because when I let Him in, He healed my broken spirit. AND I know that this is all possible because of the amazing Atonement, which covers all conditions and purposes of mortality.

These truths I leave with you in gratitude for the Spirit that guided me through how to deliver this message, in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, AMEN.

****

NOTE: Some of these scenarios were borrowed from the following video, Mountains to Climb by President Henry B. Eyring, which I have also posted below.

Friday, February 21, 2014

One year!


It was one year ago today that I was sealed to my sweetheart for time and all eternity. Without a doubt that day will forever be engrained in my memory. I remember the feeling I had when I saw him in the Washington DC temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I, of course, arrived several minutes early and had time to contemplate what we were about to do. My heart was full of peace and light. Then, he walked in with a huge smile on his face. We embraced and held each other for a long time. We were then escorted to the room where we made promises to God and to each other. 

The ordinance was short and sweet. It was perfect. We looked around our sealing room, and though some of our family was missing, we were surrounded by people who love us, all with tears in their eyes. We did it. We were married....FOREVER. The Spirit of our decision was confirmed. We were at peace, together.

As we entered the temple lobby, we both held our breaths as we saw our amazing family members and friends who came to support us. Having them there mean a lot to us. We choked back tears, well, he did at least. And I let mine flow. We went around hugging everyone with big smiles. It was amazing to feel that what we had done was right. It was confirmed to us again and again.

I will forever cherish the day Adam and I were sealed. Yes, times have been rough this past year. But, there is no one I would rather do this with. It is amazing to think it has only been one year. I heave learned so much in such a short amount of time. I hesitate to say I am excited for what the future holds, because you know how I am about 'not knowing.' Regardless, I am glad I am with someone who, while still 'getting to know me,' is willing to share this adventure called life.