Monday, December 30, 2013

Handing Over the Reigns: Not Taking Over God's Job

Lately, I have been trying to practice handing over the reigns. Most know that I have a hard time letting things happen as they happen, or rather, losing control. I always thought that having control made me more happy. 

Case and point: if I get to the movies 30 minutes before the show starts, I have a better chance of getting the best seats. I avoid crowds and thus avoid trying to find seats for my party amongst all other movie goers. I can get situated, and even go to the bathroom with plenty of time to spare. I don't like feeling rushed, unprepared, and don't want to inconvenience those around me. Having control over the time in which I arrive to the movie guarantees a fantastic movie-watching experience for everyone! Right!? 

Last week, I went to see Frozen with my family. We arrived 2 minutes before the movie started. We sat 2 rows from the screen. I hate sitting that close in movies. But, I decided to put aside the feeling that I was going to be blind by the end of the show, and really  embraced the experience. And you know was fantastic! 

This experience is so minor compared to how I handle other more serious issues. This past Christmas week, I again struggled with handing the reigns over. I wasn't with my immediate family. I was with my new one. Things were different, not bad, just different. I felt out of place. I felt lost and confused. I could have treated this as an opportunity for me and my sweetheart to embrace one another and find out what we want for our future family. But instead, I whined and really struggled to see value in this Christmas experience. I wasn't willing to go with the flow. I fought and fought, and was miserable. There isn't one right way to be with family. I had a hard time handing the reigns over.

Looking at my life, I realize how even my Christmas experience is so minor compared to how I handle handing over the reigns to my Heavenly Father. 

In the book These High Green Hills by Jan Karon, the following passage about 'calling the shots,' was so profound as I struggle with my control issues. Another preacher in the town was up in the hills preaching about sin, and recalls the experience:

"I want this, I want that, and I want it right now. I want to run things, I want to call the shots, I want be in charge...

When we turn from our sin, and have the blessed forgiveness of the Almighty, then we can ask Him to run things, and let Him be in charge. But boys howdy, folks don't want to hear that either.

Nossir, they like to keep control, even if their little boat's pitchin' around in the storm and takin' on water and about to be swamped."

He's right, you know. We don't like to hear it. I don't like to hear it. Even when it is the best thing for me/us. What is it about control? Why do I like it so much? Is it a natural tendency in all mankind, or just some of us blessed few? I feel like the only way to let someone take the reigns is if I am not in the front of the wagon at all. The minute I slow down, I just stop. 

For example: I don't know if I am going to be employed at the end of January. I have applied and interviewed at a couple places in Idaho. Because I am so prone to anxiety, it was suggested to me that I also pray that if the opportunity isn't supposed to be that the door on the opportunity will close completely. There is nothing worse than interviewing somewhere only to wait and wait and wait until I don't hear anything. Heavenly Father has been very gracious at granting this request. I have interviewed at multiple places, and He has moved worlds in order for me to physically make it to these interviews, and the doors have been closed. On the flip side, my sweetheart and I know that making this move is what we need to do. We have prayed and spoken with Heavenly Father that His will and blessings will be revealed. And now, I think I have handed over the reigns, at least I feel like I have. I feel my faith being tested. Fortunately, my sweetheart's faith is strong and is holding me up as I am learning this very valuable and trying lesson. 

I just want to get it right. I find that as I learn these new things, I mumble. Most of my mumblings sound like, "Again, really!? How many times do I heave to learn this lesson? Didn't I get it right the first time?" That is when this passage from These High Green Hills struck me: 

"Must I remind you that your future belongs to God, and not to you?...trying to get it right is a dangerous thing, and He does not like it. I mean that getting it absolutely right is God's job."

It was a good reminder to me that while I am trying to drive the load down this swervy, curvy road of life, if I am open to it, Heavenly Father will drive and guide all along the way. If I did it all right the first time, there would be nothing left for me to do. The only person who did it right the first time was Jesus Christ, period

And while I have made that discovery before, I tend to forget it. And so easily, too. As one who has been knocked over the head with the same discovery over and over, nothing sums it up quite like this quote from the same book: "God spoke to my heart in a way He hadn't spoken before. No. Erase that. He made me able to listen in a way I couldn't listen before.

Not getting the best seat at a movie theater can be tough. Having new Christmas traditions with new family can be tough. Handing over the reigns can be tough. Doing this thing called life alone can be tough. Doing this thing called life in a marriage can be tough. Listening in ways I haven't listened before can be tough. Moving and walking, while letting God do His thing can be tough. 

But guess what!? I know that I was given the opportunity to come and experience this thing called life, and I have the feeling that I knew that it could be tough. And yet, I decided that it would be worth it, because I am here......and for that I am happy.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Gathering It In: Finding Joy in the Journey

I am reading a remarkable book. It is part III of the Mitford Series that I am so keen to write about. This book is called These High Green Hills by Jan Karon. It seems to touch the very fabric of the things that I have been anxious about, or have been thinking about the most.

In this book, one of the characters is thinking about his insight into his newlywed life. Side note: sometimes it is hard for me to read all the schmoopsy poo stuff that this man is feeling toward his wife. My schmoopsy poo moment didn't last very long before my sweetheart and I had to make some hard decisions, and I still crave what people call "the Honeymoon period." Did I have that? Maybe for a day.....but I want it back. I think that is why the next quote touched me deeply as this man reflected on his marriage:

"Every day, with what seemed to be no effort at all on his part, he received God's extraordinary provision of contentment - there it was, waiting for him at every dawn; all he had to do was gather it in."

The active part of this thought was that all I need to do is "gather it in". It really gets me thinking. Was I gathering it in? Was I being proactive in letting contentment in? Why do I have such a hard time feeling content?

This week I interviewed for a position in Idaho. During my conversation with the interview panel, I noticed a theme that digs far deeper than my professional disposition, and something I have referred to again and again in this blog. In both aspects of my life, I feel that there is always room for improvement, and if I am not constantly seeking it, then I am selling myself short on additional opportunities and growth experiences. For example, whenever I cook, I always look for ways I could improve the dish for next time. My sweetheart tells me to knock it off and enjoy it, but I always feel the need to think of what I could do to make it better. There have only been a couple of times where I thoroughly enjoyed my cooked meal and thought it was just....PERFECT.

But isn't this what progress is all about? I venture to say 'yes,' but at the same time, just because there are areas that can improve, doesn't mean that I can't be content in the process - the whole 'enjoy the journey' thing.

Progression for me is a fight. When I have a trial, I fight to the top. I can't wait until I can gracefully walk and be content with the journey.

My sweetheart pointed this out to me once without coming outright and saying it. One day, we went hiking with our friends. Before we began our journey, we planned on doing two hikes before the end of the day knowing our light on the mountain was limited. During our hike, we only stopped a couple of times because we set this expectation of doing two hikes.

As we began our way back to the car and on our way to the second hike, my sweetheart said, "Oh, just rush through because you want to do two hikes. Oh, just keep on going without looking around you," which essentially meant, "Why are we treating this like a marathon? We are missing out on how amazing it is out here! I am going to take this slow, and you should too!" Maybe trying to complete two hikes was too ambitious to be content during the journey. Regardless, we were missing out on on everything else just to beat the sun and meet our demands. I know that I typically run faster than I have strength and don't enjoy the journey along the way. 

I always feel the most content during the holidays with my family. During this time though, I get super, super lazy. I don't help out around the house, I laze around for hours on end. I only help when asked. Because for me, I am trying to gather strength to run fast when the holidays are over. I am realizing that this mentality is not very healthy. This is absolutely a repercussion of running faster than I have strength. The truth of the matter is, I still have responsibilities to my family and to myself. I don't know how to effectively spread out tasks of the things I am trying to accomplish in life. In the end, I wind up sleeping and being lazy for days, which actually makes me feel guilty, so I am not even content with that. WHAT AN INSIGHT!

At the end of the day, I need to remember my first commandment: It is what it is, embrace it, be grateful for it. There is a need for me to 'gather it in,' not only in my marriage, but in my life. I know in order for me to be happy, I need to set down the cooking and take in the better part (story of Martha and Mary). And I know that in order for me to be happy, I need to find joy in the journey, and realize it is still proactive, but shouldn't make me so exhausted at the end of the day.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Hope and Love: Revisited

I know I have highlighted this before, but it brings such comfort to me. And so, I revisit some of my favorite speeches and talks.

The Infinite Power of Hope: Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Hope is not knowledge, but rather the abiding trust that the Lord will fulfill His promise to us. It is confidence that if we live according to God’s laws and the words of His prophets now, we will receive desired blessings in the future. It is believing and expecting that our prayers will be answered. It is manifest in confidence, optimism, enthusiasm, and patient perseverance.

The things we hope in sustain us during our daily walk. They uphold us through trials, temptations, and sorrow. Everyone has experienced discouragement and difficulty. Indeed, there are times when the darkness may seem unbearable. It is in these times that the divine principles of the restored gospel we hope in can uphold us and carry us until, once again, we walk in the light.

An High Priest of Good Things to Come: Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

Even if you cannot always see that silver lining on your clouds, God can, for He is the very source of the light you seek. He does love you, and He knows your fears. He hears your prayers. He is your Heavenly Father, and surely He matches with His own the tears His children shed.

In spite of this counsel, I know some of you do truly feel at sea, in the most frightening sense of that term. Out in troubled waters, you may even now be crying with the poet:

It darkens. I have lost the ford.
There is a change on all things made.
The rocks have evil faces, Lord,
And I am [sore] afraid. 
No, it is not without a recognition of life’s tempests but fully and directly because of them that I testify of God’s love and the Savior’s power to calm the storm. Always remember in that biblical story that He was out there on the water also, that He faced the worst of it right along with the newest and youngest and most fearful. Only one who has fought against those ominous waves is justified in telling us—as well as the sea—to “be still.”  Only one who has taken the full brunt of such adversity could ever be justified in telling us in such times to “be of good cheer.” Such counsel is not a jaunty pep talk about the power of positive thinking, though positive thinking is much needed in the world. 

No, Christ knows better than all others that the trials of life can be very deep and we are not shallow people if we struggle with them. But even as the Lord avoids sugary rhetoric, He rebukes faithlessness and He deplores pessimism. He expects us to believe!


And now, I lightly tread.