Monday, December 26, 2011

He is the Reason for Every Season

It's done. 

The presents are unwrapped.  The parties are over.   The day is past.

But, the reason we celebrate Christmas is still here. 

I often feel blue the day after Christmas.  But not this year. 

This year I really felt close to my Savior as I celebrated His birth.  Maybe it had to with Christmas falling on a Sunday.  Maybe it is because I've tried, as a persona goal, to come closer to Him in my everyday life. Whatever the reason, I have felt a deep sense of gratitude and love for my Savior.

The celebration is over, but the spirit of love and gratitude for me remains.  

As I get back to the reality of life, work, school, chores, etc, I plan on keeping that spirit with me. 

The Christmas season is gone.  But, isn't Jesus Christ the reason for every season?  Don't we owe all we have to Him?

I know I do.

There are so many people in need of our kindness, our help, our understanding, our love, our forgiveness, ourselves. So, for me, the way I'm going to keep celebrating the reason for every season is through being His hands here, serving others, trying to be like him and learn of him. 

Below is a great video that was part of my inspiration to do just that. It's a Christmas video, but it applies to every season.  I hope you enjoy it.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pleasure Write- God's Will

Have you ever gone on a pleasure drive? Where you have no specific destination, but you simply drive for the enjoyment of it.

Well, that's me today.

I love to write, and want to write, but really have nothing profound or inspirational in mind.

So, I thought I'd just write and see what comes out.

Maybe I should be like this in life more: It's ok if I don't always know where I'm going- sometimes I should live just for the enjoyment of it.

That's not always easy to remember.

I like to plan things.  Everything has a purpose and a place (although you wouldn't know it looking at my closet right now!)

So, when my plan changes, sometimes I feel like my purpose does.

This happened to me recently.

As long as I could remember I've loved working with people.  Since I was a newlywed I have wanted to be a family and marriage counselor.

I wasn't smart with my education before marriage, so I had a loooong way to go.

Then the kids came.  Boom- fifteen months, then -Boom.

All of the sudden I had two little kids and my plan changed.  Luckily, so did my purpose.  I was a full-time  mom and loved it.  Although the dream of going to college was still in my heart and mind.  But, I was young, and thought there would always be time later.

Over the years I have taken a few courses here and there as scheduling allowed- but I have yet to get a degree.

Then, the reality hit my like a ton of bricks the other day.  Someone asked me what my plans are with my college/counselor goal.

I realized then that the plan is outdated.  I am 40 now.  My youngest is 8, which doesn't allow for full-time schooling.  Going to school part-time consistently will give me a Masters degree in 12 years.  That means I will be a young 52 when I enter the competitive world of psychology.

Then, when I get a job- IF I get hired above the 20-something prodigies- I would be able to work for 13  years until I retire, with all the money going to pay off all the student loans I took to get my degree.

I realized sitting there that that ship had sailed. All those years I put it off because "I can always do it later." And now it was later.

And now it was too late.

I'll admit, a small part of me died.

But, here's the miracle.

The larger part of me was really OK with it.  In fact, I was at peace- because I knew that my life was just what it should be.   I knew that, despite my personal plans, I had made every major decision with my husband and my Father in Heaven.

I knew that I was right where He wanted me to be.

My plans had changed, but my purpose was never more clear.

What an amazing and unexpected gift that was.

As I sit and think about it, I am grateful for the path I took.  I am grateful for class I traded to hold my kids.  (I could have passed on the toilet-cleaning parts.  I never got warm-fuzzies scrubbing a toilet.)

I always wanted to be a counselor because I enjoyed it, I thought I had some talent, and I wanted to do good in the world.

As I went through this experience (all in the matter if seconds, unbeknownst to the kind woman who asked me the question) I realized and felt a peace knowing that God knows my talents, and He will use me for whatever purpose He has, if I follow Him.

That made me feel good.

At the end of this rambling pleasure write (which I have very much enjoyed writing) I actually arrived at a destination I hadn't intended but am grateful for.

I feel a peace with the direction my life is headed- even though it looks different now than the picture I've had in my head for 16 years.

I understand that His ways, purposes and plans are above mine- and I am happy for it.

Things didn't go my way, my plan won't work.  But I don't care.  I am happy, and it's because I've lived the plan that He set for me.

There is a sense of unexpected freedom and anticipation about my life now.  That makes me smile :)

So, we'll see what happens next, where He would have me be.

Honestly, maybe His plan isn't that I wasn't a counselor, but just that I lived a life with Him as my partner in all things.  I don't think God wants to run our lives like a puppet master.  He simply knows us better than we know ourselves (given our temporary state of ignorance, amnesia and humanity.)

His will isn't to run- or ruin- our lives; but to guide, enhance and complete them.

Even if we aren't what we though we would be, if we listen to Him, we can be even more.

Hm.  Good write.  I should do this pleasure writing thing more often. Lol.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Keep Calm

My youngest daughter is very energetic.  Most times it's endearing :)

But, like all good things, moderation is the key. (Dancing and singing when you're happy=good.  Dancing and singing in the middle of the night=bad.)

I have a favorite word that I started sharing with her: Calm. 

I love that word.  


I even feel calmer just saying, "Calm."

So does she. 

And it makes a difference in her. 

And it makes a difference in me.

As I get older (40 now- what?) I am convinced that the energy I used to spend on singing and dancing like my daughter does has been unwittingly transferred internally.  

Now, rather than having the energy of a child, I have the stress of an adult.  I spend entirely too much energy worrying, second-guessing, doubting and stressing.  

So, when my mind starts racing about the things I need to do, the things I haven't done, the Christmas list that's growing, the chores that are being neglected, the children I am raising, and so on, I've decided to use my favorite word on myself: Calm.

And guess what.  It works.

It takes some deep breaths and reminders (just like my daughter), but it works.

I love calm.

It's when I am calm that I can hear the promptings of the Holy Ghost whisper what is best.

It's when I am calm that I can talk TO my children, not at them.

It's when I am calm that I be grateful for event the difficult things in my life.

It's when I am calm that I can remember to stop, pray and play.

Calm doesn't mean to neglect responsibilities and duties.  Calm just means that I am able to see them in a clearer light. 

Calm means that I can take a moment to prioritize my day.

Calm means that I don't get made over spilled milk (literally- that happens weekly in our home.)

I have found that my trials and circumstances haven't changed tremendously since my attitude has.  

But, my life has changed.

I am happier.

I am more in control.

The spirit in my home is better.

I am more grateful.

I enjoy life more.

I am calm.

I love it!

So, during this upcoming holiday season, I extend the invitation to you to 'Keep Calm'

When you feel your blood rising, your doubts growing, your fears scaring, your stress taking over, your frustration yelling or your tears flowing- remember calm.

Take a deep breath

Then let me know what happens :)


PS- Here are some fun wall-printable I found and/or made.  I've got them around my house.  Love them!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

When Pain Trumps the Pain

I've got a friend who recently had shoulder surgery and wrist surgery on the same day. I was able to visit with her just yesterday and inquired about her recovery.

She shared how the shoulder has mobility, but still is quite painful.  Lifting is difficult, but a necessary part of mothering a young child.  

When I asked her about her wrist she said something that was interesting.  She said that before the procedure the surgeons explained that, even though wrist surgery is painful, the pain is trumped by the shoulder pain and she most likely would not notice it as much.  

She happily told me it was true.  As bad as the pain from her shoulder was, it had drawn nearly all the attention away from her wrist.  It was a blessing in disguise.

I thought about that concept in a spiritual sense. Afflictions aren't a lone breed.  They usually come in pairs, or even packs.  When when ball drops, so does the next.  When a domino falls, it knocks down the others. 

Sometimes we are so bombarded by trials that we just feel pain.

But, maybe that is wisdom in God's plan.  Part of the purpose of life is be tested and tried.  Salvation has a cost, and it isn't cheap.  If we experienced each affliction, each trial, each pain or discomfort in a string of individual experiences, our lives would probably be filled with a never-ending stream of troubles, problems, adversity and pain. Each individual trial would receive our full attention, and we would experience all the pain and frustration associated with it.

But, God in His infinite wisdom, has taken that string of trials and combined and spaced them into clusters of manageable afflictions. (When I say manageable, I mean that we will never be given more than we can handle.)

As we experience multiple difficulties, the harder, more painful ones, trump the lesser ones.  We can experience them and endure them without the full affect of their pain, and yet still be beneficiaries of the blessings that come from enduring them in faith.

Not that I'm a big fan of pile-up trials   - or any trials for that matter.  But the trials in this life are what allow us the opportunity to learn and grow, to stretch and choose who we will be.

I've had a few in my life- but as I look back at those times, I can see that this principle rings true- at least in my life.  As I am going through something big, smaller trials pop up the seem unimportant, even trivial in comparison. But, if I would have experienced them alone, they might have caused me a great deal of discomfort, even pain.

One of the greatest blessings of these cluster trials is the sweet relief when the healing begins and the trials and pain lessons, and the lessons and blessings of peace and growth take their place.  We have more spiritual strength and mobility, and we are better for the wear.

It just goes to show that, truly, we can see God and His wisdom in nearly every aspect of our lives.  Even a shoulder/wrist surgery.  I'm grateful to my friend for inviting me into her home, sharing a fun afternoon and giving me such great food for thought.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Come What May and Love It

A few years ago a beloved leader of my church shared some inspiring words his mother told him when times were tough.  She said, "Come what may, and love it."

I've thought a lot about that lately. Things don't always turn out like we planned, and life is full of difficulties. Our minds know that is part of the process of growth.  We know the purpose of this life is to reach our potential and be like our Savior.

We cannot think that we can become like Him unless we pass through our own furnace of adversity.

So, how do we make it through the tough times, when our minds know but our hearts might fail? How do we say to ourselves, "Come what may, and love it?"

Elder Wirthland puts it far better than I ever could.

He teaches that "the way we react in adversity can be a major factor in how happy and successful we can be."

The four keys he shares to doing this are:

1. Learn to laugh. It will extend your life, and theirs.

2. Seek for the eternal.  Difficult times are "on the job training" which stretches our understanding, builds our character, and increases our compassion for others.

3. Understand the principle of compensation. "That which is taken away from those who love the Lord will be added unto them in His own way." "Every tear today will eventually be returned a hundred fold with tears of rejoicing and gratitude."

4. Trust in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. They want us to be happy and be successful.  

"The simple secret is this: Put your trust in the Lord, do your best and leave the rest to Him."

Thank you Elder Wirthlin. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Hope and Faith- and a Car.

Faith and hope.

They are talked about a number of times in the scriptures.  Paul speaks of them in various forms and fashions in nearly every book he authored in the New Testament.

I have read much and thought much about faith and hope, the integral nature of their relationship, the very meaning of their words.  It has always been a notion of mine that they were one in the same- a belief in something.

But as I was reading my scriptures this morning I came across this verse,that, when I read it, painted a clear picture (at least in my mind) of the relationship of hope and faith.

"And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this becasue of your faith in him according to the promise." (Moroni 7:41)

I thought about it for a bit, and this is what I came up with. You'll have to forgive me for the somewhat juvenile analogy - but sometimes that is how my brain grasps things the best. :)

Our testimony is a car.  Faith is the engine.  Hope is the steering wheel.

We choose the car we like, then we accessorize it to our taste.   In turn, we choose the church with the doctrine we like, then we fill in our testimony with the things we like: the Atonement, Heavenly Father, healing, tithing, service, Sunday service, miracles, prayer, priesthood etc.

We can be comfortable in our car, even love our car, but without an engine, our car will take us no where. It will just sit there, looking good.

We can be comfortable in our church, even love it, but without faith, we will not be moved to action. Faith is the belief that the elements of our testimony are real and true, even though we cannot or feel immediate proof.      Faith in what we believe moves us to align ourselves with our beliefs, not the other way around.  With faith we move and grow.  Without faith, we will simply sit and go no where.

A car with a with an engine is great- especially if you know where you want to go.  In order to reach your destination, you need to steer the car, so that it moves in the proper direction.  Without a steering wheel you could probably get through Nevada, but you would be lost in the Rocky Mountains.

Hope is the desired destination or outcome.  We hope to live with God again.  We hope we can find peace through prayer. We hope that following the commandments.  Our hope points us in the direction of where we want faith will take us.

Would our faith move us to action that would bring us to a hopeless conclusion? No.  We hope that we will reach our highest potential, be with our families forever and achieve ultimate joy. And we have faith that as we follow the gospel in word and deed we will make it there.

We believe in Jesus (testimony). We have faith that he died for us(so we follow Him.) and it is our hope that, because of our testimony and our faith in action, we will become like Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and have eternal life.

Again here is the verse: And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this becasue of your faith in him according to the promise."

I have read this verse many times in my life, and this morning it took on a whole new meaning. (Personal revelation- a topic worthy of not only a blog post, but volumes of books written about it.)

Testimony is the car.   Faith is the engine.  Hope is the destination.

What do I hope for?  How will I get there?  What will take me there?

What do you hope for?  How are you going to get there? What will take you there?

For me, I know what I hope for.  I have faith that my Savior and Father in Heaven will guide me there.  And I believe that the doctrines I have a testimony of will carry me through.

How about you?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Just One Question

I love teaching my class of 5 and 6-year-olds each Sunday. They say the cutest things.  The lesson was about staying pure and making good choices.  There was a point in the lesson where we talked about Jesus and what He would do in certain situations.

Then I asked them a question: If they could meet Jesus face to face today, what would they ask Him?

I loved the questions they came up with.

"I would ask Him how He got here."

"I would ask Him out He made the earth."

"I would ask Him how He made the scriptures."

"I would ask Him what He likes."

"I would ask Him how I can help Him."

I asked myself the question, too.  If my Savior came to my home today, sat on my couch and said I could ask Him anything- what would I ask? What would I ask?

What would you ask Him?

Honestly, I would probably want to ask Him all the questions the kids shared today, and then some.  Then I would thank Him for all He has done and will do for me. 

But, what if I could only ask one question?  Out of all the questions in my mind and heart, what one question would I want answered more than anything.

What would your one question be? I'm sure each of our questions would be as different as we are. 

As for me, after much thought, I finally picked on out.  

If my Savior came to me and I could ask Him one question, it would be this: May I hug you?

I know it sounds strange.  I mean, here is Deity that knows everything, that is everything, that could tell me anything, and I ask for a hug.  Why?

I'll tell you why.  I already have a knowledge of the gospel and Plan of Salvation, I already know where I came from and where I am going.  I already know about His life.  True- there are millions of missing details, but I already know everything I need to get me back to my Heavenly Father without ever seeing my Savior facet to face. (Blessings of being a member of His church.)

But, what I have longed for (rightly or not) when I pray is to feel more: to feel Him more, to be comforted by Him more.  I have even been known to plead in prayer for eternal arms to hold me tight and bring me peace. 

So, even though I would love to know exactly how the Atonement works and what that was like for Him, I already know that the Atonement is for me, and that it works in my life.  

And even though I would want to know how He performed healing miracles, I already know that He has healed my heart and my body more than I can count.

Even though there is so much I want to know, there is one thing I want that can't be learned, taught or told: I want to know what it is like to be held in the arms of the One that loves me purely, has sacrificed all, and wants my happiness more than any other (aside our Heavenly Father.)

So, that's my one question.  

I'm curious, what would your one question be? 

Friday, October 7, 2011


Last year at our church's Harvest Festival there were a variety of games we could play.  One of them was the Mummy Game.  You stand still as your partner runs around you, unwinding a large roll of toilet paper.  You race against another team to see who can unroll the toilet paper first. In the end, you look like a wrapped up mummy (albeit a messy one!)

It was a fun game, and not as easy as it sounds.  (I, personally, enjoyed the eating-a-donut-hanging-off-a-string-with-no-hands one.  I pretty much dominated that one!)

My daughter played the mummy game a number times. One particular time she teamed up with an overzealous partner who speedily unwound three rolls of toilet paper all over her. Nearly every part of her was covered, but her feet.

She stood there, looking like a TP mummy. I wouldn't have recognized her if it weren't for her sparkling prices shoes!

I helped unwind her, layer by layer, until I was able to see and recognize my little girl again.  She said, "Whew, now I'm me again!"

Adopting an older child has had it's blessings, but it has also come with its share of challenges.  There are behaviors and habits that were developed long before she came.  Some are positive, but others are foreign and even detrimental. Some are just down-right frustrating.

But, as I've studied, prayed and pondered about it, I realized that she is playing the Mummy game, although this time it was not of her own choice.

Deep inside is my little girl.  She is strong, sweet, intelligent, patient, loving and kind.  She has amazing potential.  But, covering up much of who she really is are her behaviors.

She is wrapped up in fear and anxiety.  She has layers of sadness and anger.  Since she was young she had partners who ran around her with instability, abuse and neglect. So, now she comes to our home, wrapped in layers; and it's my job to unwind them, layer by layer, until I can see her.

I struggle because sometimes I forget that I am not seeing her, but the layers that she is wrapped up in; when she throws a fit, when tells a lie, when she makes other choices that are contrary to what we teach and practice on our home, I need to remind myself not to just stare at the layers, but to look beyond them.  I remind myself that she is under the layers, and it's my job to get to her.

This concept of layers doesn't only apply to adopted children.  They apply to all.

We are all covered in layers to some degree. Some are wrapped so tightly that it is nearly impossible to see who they really are.  They might even know who they are inside.  Others have only a thin layer; perhaps of insecurity or sadness.  But, we all have layers.

When I see someone acting in a negative way, intentional or not, I have to remind myself that behaviors are  layers.  And when I get frustrated with them, and perhaps even develop feelings of dislike for them, I have to remind myself of a saying I once heard "You cannot love behaviors."

It is difficult look at a person or child who is hurting you or attacking you and think warm fuzzies- because you can't love behaviors.

The key is to look beyond the behaviors, beyond the layers to the person wrapped up inside.  Often they cannot find their way out without help.  And almost always, they want deep down inside to feel like themselves again. Deep down we all want to be happy.

So, when I am offended by an adult, or frustrated by a child, I tell myself they are layers, not them.

Underneath we all want the same thing: to be valued, to be loved, to be needed and to be worthy.  In most cases, the people with the most behavioral issues are the ones with the most layers.  They are the ones that want to be freed the most, even if they don't know it.

I know I have my layers.  Sometimes I will say or do something contrary to who I feel I am because I am acting out of insecurity, anger or selfishness.  That isn't easy to admit, but it's true.  And, I would hope that those around me would try to look beyond my layers, too.  That they would try to see me, my righteous desires, and my potential.  And I would hope that they would love me for me, not judge me because of my layers, but see through them.

I love my daughter.  She is a challenge, with many layers.  It will probably be a life-long endeavor to unwrap them, but she is worth it.

PS- For those of you who were wondering, there is the matter of accountability we all have to unwrap our own layers.  Regardless of what has happened to us, we are accountable for how we act and what we do. This post in no way is dismissing personal accountability. (That's a whole different post!)  It is simply a visual that helps me get past the choices that some people make and see them for who they are.  It makes it easier to love them, not their behaviors. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Express Yourself (in a good way!)

I've discovered Subway Art!  I know I'm like a year behind, but I have had a great time this weekend creating some fun things for my wall.  Here's how they turned out.

It looks a lot cuter when you see the whole wall, but there are a lot of family pictures I'd rather not post- so you just get the individuals pics, but trust me, it's adorable!

Below are the documents.  I think you should be able to print them out for yourself if you'd like- although if your last name isn't Wilson, it probably won't do you much good!

The above is based on the 13 Articles of Faith- the foundation doctrines of what my church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is built on.

This one is made from a the things my family chose as our own family values.  I had them posted in more of a mission-statement document, but this is much cuter and easier to read.

Hope you like them!

You Can Save a Life By Watching This Show

Tonight ABC is showing a special episode of Extreme Makeover Home Edition.  I've had the opportunity to preview it and worth watching!

It's an episode featuring a Mormon family. It’s a really powerful episode and Major League Soccer team  and a nation get involved.  The show revolves around a little boy, Jonah Gomez, who has a blood disorder, which have caused him to undergo open-heart surgery.  In this episode, EMHE  team conducts a nation-wide bone marrow drive to find a match for Jonah, signing up thousands of donors to save lives.

I love the story- and I love, love, love the Jessica, the mom!  Her faith and the love she has for her children is moving. It was a tear-jerker for me.

But, not only is it a great show, it's also an opportunity for you to help save a life.

Please watch it tonight!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Love Much?

I was flipping through my scriptures today and came across Luke:47 where there is a story about Jesus that I love.  He was invited to eat at a Pharisee's house. A woman, who was a sinner, heard he was there and came to meet him.  She brought an alabaster box of ointment. Then she proceeded to wash his feet with her tears and hair then anoint them.

The Pharisee wasn't too happy with it.  He must have thought the woman dirty and beneath him, for he said, "This man, if he were a prophet, would have known the manner of woman this is that touched him; for she is  a sinner."

The Savior's response was beautiful.  He said, When I came to your house, you didn't offer me water or a kiss, you didn't offer to anoint my head with oil- but this woman came here and anointed my feet.

Then he said,  ...Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much.

Then in verse 50 the Savior said to the woman, "Thy faith hath saved thee. Go in peace."

I love formulas.  A + B = C.  Here the Savior teaches us that Faith + Love = Forgiveness.

With courage she came to the Pharisee's house to see the Savior.  Obviously they knew each other and the Pharisee wasn't fond of her. She didn't care that she wasn't invited (the Pharisee didn't seem the type to invite her kind to his home, vs. 39.) She paid no attention to what the men in the room thought of her as she knelt at the Savior's feet and wept.

Her love for Jesus and faith in Him outweighed her fear of men.

Her love for Jesus brought her to His feet, to tears and to forgiveness and peace.

She loved Him much; and because of that she was forgiven much.

Given the chance, I would kneel at His feet and do the same.  That will probably not happen in my lifetime.  But, I can still follow this woman's example still.

I can make my love for the Savior stronger than my fear of men.  I can live boldly.  (My husband calls it being "conspicuously LDS.")  I can sacrifice my time and my possessions for Him. I can follow where He leads. I can go where He goes. I can weep when I kneel down to pray.  I can love Him much.

I am a sinner, like the woman in this story, but there is hope. As I have faith and love Him much, I can be forgiven much.  And then I can find peace.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

More Stairs? Seriously?

I spent the day in Seattle yesterday enjoying the sights and sounds of the city.  I walked through Pike Place Market, saw the ferries in the sound, ate gelato and even saw a political protest in the middle of a busy intersection.  It was quite an eventful day.

But, the highlight of my day was a lunch date with my husband. He wanted to take me somewhere different for lunch, so we grabbed some teryaki from a local deli and headed to the rooftop patio of Rainier Square.

We walked inside the mall and found the flight of stairs that led to the top.  Now, I don't mind a few stairs.  My home is a two-story house and I seem to manage alright. But, you see, I've got Parker Knees.  You won't find it in any medical book- it's a family condition that runs in our family, on the Parker side.  It means I've got crappy knees that creek, crack, pop and ache.  They also hurt like crazy when I walk up and down stairs.

So, when we approached the first flight of stairs, I was ok.  I have become immune to climbing one or two flights. But, the stairs kept coming and coming.  By the time we reached what we thought was the last set of stairs my husband said, "I should have found you an elevator." 

And there were still two more flights.

(Now- before you assume the building is a million stories high, there were only five sets of stairs- but with Parker knees five seems like a million.)

I started up the stairs and felt a shooting pain in my knee.  Instinctively I reached out for my husband's hand and he held it the rest of the way. He didn't pull me up the stairs, he simply held my hand. But it made me feel so much better.

As I stood at the bottom of the last flight of stairs I could see the windows above and the glass door which let to the roof patio (insert angelic choirs singing, Aaaaaaaaa in unison.)

The hike up the stairs was worth it.We had a wonderful lunch together enjoying each others' company and the beautiful elevated view of Seattle.

I thought about my little stair incident this morning. The stairs were not insurmountable, but they were a painful challenge (did I mention that I am still walking on sore pinky toe I broke last month. Poor me!) But, as I held my husband's hand I got the support I needed ease some pain and get to the top. 

It was a small act on his part, and he probably didn't realize the impact it had on me, but it did.

In Hebrews 12:12 Paul exhorts the people to "lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees."

Most of life's most challenging times are not the make-it-or-break-it ones.  They are often those times when we are "enduring to the end."  When the challenges we face are ongoing or repeating: sickness, a challenging child, financial issues, depression, etc.     

It's those times that we might look at the day and think, "More? Seriously?" We may doubt ourselves and feel discouraged. But,  Heavenly Father knows we can make it. He also knows how much a supportive hand can help. 

At times when our hands hang down, or our knees feel feeble, have faith.  God is aware and will send support.  Then there are times when we are the ones that lift another.

He is aware of our trials, but most often He answers prayers by through those around us. So, when you stand in the middle of your trials and see another batch of the same, and think, "More trials? Seriously?" Look around. Someone will be there to lift you up. 

Most likely someone already is-you just have to reach out- keep going and then enjoy the view.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

$3.51 Well Spent

Guess what I'm doing right now.

I'm looking at my Samsung monitor's beautiful, clear picture.

Guess why that's a big deal.

Because three weeks ago my monitor started to die.

It began with a momentary flicker before showing a clear picture when I turned on my computer. Then, each time I turned it on it would flicker on and off  and on and off longer and longer, until last week the picture never came- only the flicker.

It would cost $200 dollars to replace. Not cool.

So, after a bit of sulking, I decided to take matters into my own hands.  I did some research and found a number of message boards with people who had the same problems.  Turns out it was bad capacitors.

So above my pay scale.

I am not a techy person.  When I was younger I would slice the phone lines, and I am the one in our home who hooks up the TV/cable/DVD wires, etc, but I have never taken anything apart. But the thought of not spending $200 for another monitor compelled me to continue.

I did more research, and last Friday night I spent an hour taking my monitor apart, down to the circuit boards and found that, indeed, I had 4 bad capacitors. I found a reputable company online and ordered 4 new ones: $3.51 including shipping.

Got 'em in the mail today.

I spent two more hours pulling out the bad capacitors and putting in the new ones (had a bit of technical trouble and person epiphany- I don't deal well when things don't go my way.)  I didn't have a soldering tool- I don't even know what one looks like.  But, I know it's a hot thing, so I plugged in my curling iron and used the tip to solder (I guess that's what it's called) the capacitors onto the circuit board.

I reassembled my monitor and held my breath as I turned it on.

Viola!  No flickering!  A beautiful picture!

I was so excited I called my husband in, who responded with the appropriate awe and praise.  The most I could get from my teenage son, however, was a monotone "cool."  But, I interpreted that to mean, "Oh, Mom, you are SO amazing!  I hope I marry someone half as cool as you!"  I takes less effort to shorten that all into one word: cool- but I knew that's what he meant.

I'm not telling you all this to toot my own horn (ok- maybe just a little.)  But, there is a principle in it that I love:  We are capable of doing so much more than we realize- if we only try.


If you would have told me at the first flicker that I would be the one to fix my monitor, I would have scoffed.  But, yep- I totally did it!

The principle of doing great things doesn't stop at monitors.  It is an eternal principle.  We are told by Paul that with God all things are possible.  Perhaps God wasn't too concerned with my monitor, but he knew that my family could have used that $200 for something else, and I was prayerful as I tried to fix it.

I don't think we give ourselves enough credit.  I have a brother who is so smart, and has such good things to say, but he doesn't want to start a blog or write because he isn't sure how to do it, or if he even could.  So, without trying he just doesn't.

I have another friend who is so crafty and wants to start her own business, but isn't sure if she is capable of doing it. So she doesn't.

There have been many things in my life that I have been unsure of- and even more that I was sure I couldn't do, so I didn't do them.

But, not this day.  I fixed my monitor.  I didn't think I could, but I totally did.  I'm looking at it right now, and it's cool!

I guess my monitor isn't a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but the principle is: I am capable of doing so much more than I realize- if I only try. And from now on, I'm going to be trying a lot more.

That's $3.51 well-spent.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Did it Get Into You?

I have another blog, a daily scripture reading blog, where I read a chapter and share my thoughts, welcoming the thoughts and comments of others. At the end of each post I usually write, "What did you get out of this chapter today?"

It's a common term: "What did you get out of it?" You have probably said it yourself.  But, today at church we had a speaker, a young man, that added a bit more to it.

He asked not only what we "got out of" the gospel and scriptures, but what part "got into" our hearts.

That make a connection within me.  I have always imagined "getting something" out of life- but how much of what I've gotten out of it has gotten into me.

I thought of orange juice.  You can squeeze an orange and get juice.  One might ask, "How much have you gotten out of if?"  and get an answer from a teaspoon to a full cup.  But, if you don't drink the juice, if you don't let it get into you, the effort is in vain. You benefit somewhat from the effort, but you do not receive any nourishment.

We can go through the motions of obedience, faith, reading scriptures and even praying.  We might think we are getting something out of those things.  But, how much of those things getting into us? Are any of those things changing our character, our heart, our soul? Does partaking of any of those things make us better, more full people?

It caused me to take a break and look at my life and my decisions, to look at what I believe in, how I worship and how I act.  I know what I get out of it, but how much of it is getting into me?

I'm pleased to say the answer is: a lot.  But, I am the first to admit that I could do better, open myself up more so that more gets into me, changes me.  So, that's my goal: to not only look at my faith, my family, my life and not only ask, "What do I get out of these things?" but to also ask myself, "What from these things is getting into me."

So, tell me, what did you get out of this post? Did some of this post get into you?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Moment of Truth

I write a lot on my blog about the power that we have withing ourselves to make the right choice.  I write often of faith, strength, perspective and enduring.

Those are all easy things to write about when the sea is calm.  But what about when the storm comes? Is it as easy to say, "Thy will be done?" or "The Lord qualifies those He calls" when the the sea is no longer still?

One day, not too long ago, a storm came into my life.  A big one. All the things that I knew were put to the test: God's will is the best for me; He will give me the strength to do hard things; I can be happy in the middle of struggles; I willingly carry my cross because that is how I become like my Savior.

In the first moments I faltered.  The realization of the terrible storm brought tears of frustration, anger and even resentment. I didn't not want this trial.  I did not sign up for it.  I did not think I could endure it. It was too much to ask.  Can He make it go away?

The moments turned to hours. The tears came and went, then came again. The doubts, frustrations and anger went sent through prayer to heaven with no answer in return.

Then, soon after I had the chance to hear the answer given to me through my good husband: This is our burden to bear, our load to carry. And we are asked to carry it because we can, and we will.  Heavenly Father will give us the knowledge, the patience and the understanding we need to get through it.  There is wisdom in all things- even the painful ones.

I hated that he was right, so I cried a little more. I wanted to fight, I wasn't willing to accept just yet.

Then he bought me chocolate cookies and I stopped crying.

He reminded me of something I would often say, "Just because life is easy doesn't mean it's good, and just because life is hard doesn't mean it's bad." He smiled and said, "We can do hard things, Michelle.  And we can do this."

Then came the moment of truth: the moment where I had to make a choice: The moment I decided how I will respond to the storm.  Will I continue to scream at the wind and the waves as they thrash me about? Or will I put on the protective gear and do my best to steer the boat through the storm? Do I let anger, resentment and frustration take control? Or do I make the choice to believe and do?

In that moment I chose to stop yelling at the waves, and to steer the boat.  Almost immediately I began to feel a little better, a little lighter and a little hopeful.

He bought me a chocolate shake and I began to smile.

I am still in the middle of the storm.  The waves are so tall that I cannot seem to see past them. My boat has been rocked and I feel seasick. I have done an inventory of my abilities and found that I am seemingly unqualified to steer the boat.  But, I know who can see the entire sea, and He is telling me things will be alright.  I choose to believe Him (and my husband.)

And, for the first time, even in the middle of the storm, I feel peace.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Turning it Over To Him

The worst feeling in the world is the feeling of helplessness. I find great peace and strength in my power to choose the direction of my life and the people in it. But, when things beyond my control rob me of that power, and I realize there are certain things that I have no say in, I feel helpless.

As I study the situation out in my mind, I see no amount of change that I have control over. The outcome is not up to me, no matter the depths of my desire.

It is a precarious place to be. How helpless, how frustrating, how angry I can feel if I let myself. It is challenging, letting go of the desire to control, and the anger I feel because that control has been taken. Anger is so easy, and sometimes even empowering and in a strange way, comforting. It means there is someone or something else to blame.

When I have done all I can (which isn't much) I have only one thing left to do: turn it over to God. If anyone is capable of helping, it is Him. If anyone is qualified to understand, it is Him. If anyone can make a difference it is Him.

I may not be able to control the situation, but I can control how I respond and who I will become.

So, I turn it over to Him: the feelings of helplessness, anger, frustration and fear. I ask for strength, understanding, love and acceptance. It is hard to give up that final degree of control to Him. But I have. Now all that is left to do is pray and accept the outcome. Easier said than done- but I will try nonetheless.

So, I turn it over to Him.

I realize I cannot control the situation, or even how I feel, but I can control how I respond. I can control who I become through the helplessness. So, that is what I will do. I will hand it over to Him. That act of faith is just that: an act, a motion, a choice. It means I am not truly helpless. It means I change from being powerless to faithful, hopeless to cautiously optimistic, angry to open. It means even without the ability to control or influence the situation, I have learned I have complete control over me.

So, I turn it over to Him with faith and gratitude (and perhaps a short list of "okay, I know You are in charge but is is what I would like to see happen if you can swing it.") and pray for the strength and ability to accept the outcome, come what may.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Do As I'm Doing

There is a song that the children in my church learn. It's sung on Sundays to help get their wiggles out.  It's called, "Do As I'm Doing."  The song leader stands in front of the class and does a motion, like rolling hands, clapping or marching and sings the song.  The children stand up and sing with the music leader and mimics what she does as she sings:

Do as I'm doing, follow follow me,
Do as I'm doing, follow follow me.

I can do it high or low,
I can do it fast or slow,

Do as I'm doing, follow follow me,
Do as I'm doing, follow follow me.

It gets really fun, especially when we let the kids choose the action.

I am amazed at how eager the children are to follow someone else's example.  They love this song.

Today in my class (I teach the 5 and 6 year olds) we had a visitor, Jack, a 4-year-old cousin of one of the children. He sat next to another boy, we'll call him Ben, who is 6 six years old.  

Ben is pretty active, and completely hilarious.  Jack watched Ben as much as he watched me.  When Jack's attention was on me, he mimicked how I sat, and sat reverently as I taught about accountability and making good choices. But, when he focused his attention on Ben, he mimicked Ben's behavior, making faces and giggling and so on. (I had to give them both a few warnings, lol.)  The moment, though, that Jack turned his attention back to me, he again sat very still and was reverent.

What we focus our attention has a powerful influence on how we behave ourselves.  When we are focused on ourselves and our personal desires, are we more prone to act selfish and not give as freely to those around us?  When we are focused on our careers, does that change how much time we spend with our family?  If we are too focused the women (and men) we see on in the media, do we become more concerned with our appearance and less than on our substance?

What, or who, are you following?  What, or who, has your attention? What, or who, do you act like?

If you are doing things, or thinking things, that you do not like, or are damaging, it's easy to change.  Look to the perfect example of joy and peace: The Savior.  Do as He is doing, follow, follow Him.  Follow his example of kindness and love, service and charity.  Follow his gospel and his commandments.  Mimic his behavior as he teaches the gospel, prays, is baptized, and follows the will of Heavenly Father. 

When Jack followed me, he was calm and he learned.  When he followed Ben, he was having fun, but he wasn't learning.  When we follow the Savior, we will find peace and we will learn. When we choose to follow other things, we night be having fun, but we will not learn...and we might even get in trouble.

So, do a self-check: Who or what are you following.  If it's not the Savior, turn your attention, your head and your heart to Him.  Do as He is doing, follow, follow Him.


And just for the record- Ben is not a bad kid! (Don't worry Steph!)  He is just very happy and animated :)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

It's Hard to Find Good Help These Days

It was my junior year.  Prom.  I asked Kevin to be my date.  He said no, that he was going to ask Cynthia.  I found out the day of the prom that he asked her and she said no. He decided if he couldn't go with her, he would not go at all. Not only was I not his first choice, but I wasn't his second or third. I wasn't even a choice!  He would rather NOT go to the dance than go with me. I was crushed and humiliated.

So, I did what any teenage girl would do under that circumstance: I cried.  I cried and cried and cried.  I felt embarrassed  I felt sorry for myself, I felt angry, I felt hurt.  And I felt them all very loudly.

My older brother, Jim(the not-sensitive one), came into my room (I left my door open, just in case anyone heard and wanted to come give me some attention- even though I denied it) to see what the commotion was all about.  I looked up at him through swollen, wet eyes.  He just stood there, staring.  After a few seconds, he simply said, "Hmmmm."  Then he turned around and left!  Now I was rejected by my brother, too!  My cries grew louder and more pitiful.

A few moments later, my oldest brother, Bob (the sensitive one) came into my room.  How did you ever know I was crying, I asked. Jim had told him (although I think everyone within a 5-mile radius probably were wondering what that pitiful sound was.)  Bob sat with me and said all the right things: Kevin was an idiot, and someday he would regret not choosing me, and so on.  I really didn't believe him, but it was just what I wanted, and needed to hear.

For a long time after that I felt upset that Jim didn't help me that night.  He just stood there like an idiot and left to get the one who could really help- Bob.  But, the older I got the more I began to understand Jim.  He is not a touchy-feely guy.  He was not sensitive in the least.  So, when he came into my room and saw the sad condition I was in, he was not equipped nor prepared to give me the assistance he knew I needed.  His way of helping me was getting me the help I needed. If Jim hadn't gone to get Bob, who knows how long I would have kept crying and feeling miserable.

Often times God sends people into our lives to help.  It is difficult to recognize their assistance, because their help doesn't come in the way we feel we need and/or want it.  So, often it goes unnoticed, and unappreciated 

Sometimes we can get so caught up in what WE are feeling or experiencing, that we miss what others are doing for us.  Our little Grace has been in our family for a year now.  For the longest time I kept trying to figure out her needs, and how I can help her.  I began to feel tremendous pressure to figure her out, to have all the answers.  I finally broke down one evening.  As I was praying about the heavy load of expectations and effort,the Spirit spoke softly but unmistakably clearly to me: You have not been given her to help her, she has been sent to you to help you.

I had not expected that.  And, to be honest, I was taken back and a little disappointed.  I am the one that is supposed to teach her. Not vice-versa. As I silently protested and  questioned (bad girl!) But, the Spirit helped me understand that Grace was sent to me to help me become a better person. Just as I hadn't recognized the help Jim had been to me,  I also had not recognized Grace's help to me.

My brother Bob fell from the coveted position of favorite brother, however, a few years later.  I had begun to make some not-so-hot choices.  He caught me and said he was going to tell my parents if I didn't.  I called his bluff. He told my parents. I was grounded for the rest of my life (translated into parent vernacular- grounded for the summer.)  I was furious with Bob for the longest time.  But, after a while I began to see that he had actually helped me.  I began to see that even though his actions were not what I considered helping at the time, they really did help me get back on the better path and become happier.

Jim, Grace, Bob- I know that God placed them in my family - and more specifically- in that particular time, to help me.  It strengthens my testimony that God really is the Great Choreographer. He knows me and what I need better than I know myself. And thank goodness for that!  I'm still trying to figure me out!

We've all heard someone at on point or another say,  "It's hard to find good help these days." Maybe that's true.  But, perhaps are more appropriate sentiment would be, "It's hard to recognize good help these days."

God has placed people in your life, right now, to help you feel better, grow, repent, or just be happy.  They might not look and act like you want them to, or expect them too. But, the fact is that they are here for you. It may be someone that gets you to the one who helps.  It might be someone you struggle with, that causes you to learn and grow.  It might be someone who is brave enough to have you upset with them, as they lovingly (and sometimes not so lovingly) redirect your life.

You may recognize them, you might not.  You may appreciate them, you might not.  You may want them in your life, you might not. No matter what your will is, God tends to stick with His.  And His will is that you learn and grow, with all the help He can give you.

Be open, be prayerful,  be grateful. You might be surprised to find that the neighbor you can't stand has helped you become more tolerant, or the unruly child has helped you say more sincere prayers, and so on.  

Maybe, just maybe, you might find that somewhere in Washington a blogger was prompted to write this to help you see God's hand in your life.  Hmmmm.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Make the Call

For some reason, this was a tough one to write.  Not sure why- but here goes anyway.

While out on my jog yesterday morning I found a wallet on the ground.  I looked in the wallet to find a way to get a hold of the owner.  There was a drivers license with a PO Box. The picture on the drivers' license was one of a tough-looking, non-smiling twenty something muscled-up guy.  I also found a library card and a registration card for a sexual deviancy in-patient program.  Up to that point, I was ready and willing to find the person and return the wallet personally, but after I found the registration card,  I questioned whether it was it the best decision? He could be a sexual offender or he could be an employee there. I didn't want to judge him. But...... after a lot of thought, I decided I needed to go a different route. My dad ended up taking the lost wallet to the local police station. 

We are told never to judge people.  That's not our job.  We cannot possibly know all there is to know about a person to come up with a completely accurate assessment of their worth. So, did I judge this man without ever meeting him, based on a blank registration card?  Some might say yes, but I disagree. I did not judge him, I made a judgement call regarding the situation.

What is the difference?  I did not deem this man a bad man, who is condemned to a life of crime and deviancy.  I simply looked at the situation - not the man himself- and decided it was not safe. 

If I am walking down the street and I turn into a dark alley and see a large man dressed in black holding a knife, will I continue on because I am taught I should not judge others? No way!  I make a judgement call, and run for my life. If there is a grizzled hitchhiker by the side of the road holding duct tap and a rope, do I still pull over and give him a ride? I'd say a hearty NO to that one, too.

These seem like no-brainers, but about the situations where it is not so easy to differentiate between judging and making a judgment call?  What about the homeless man on the street holding a sign for money, or the stranger who asks for a few bucks to spare as you walk through the mall.  

What about the situations that hit closer to home? An acquaintance who makes you feel uncomfortable asks for a ride home. A coworker who has a reputation for being back-stabbing wants to team up with you on a project. A flaky family member wants to borrow a large amount of money. Where do we draw the line between judging someone, and making a judgement call?  

When you judge someone you place a value on their person as a whole  (she is a good person, he is bad person) and you attached a label to them (i.e. loser, greedy, materialistic, lazy, shallow, etc).  When you judge someone you take it upon yourself to be the expert on this persons past, present and future, and their ability to contribute to the world we share. 

When making a judgment call, you look at the situation. The focus isn't the other person, but how your interaction with them will affect you.   You look at a snapshot of the person (dark clothes, knife in hand) and how things appear at the moment (dark ally, all alone)  and decide what kind of potential impact their presence will have in your life.

Judging is focused on the person.  A judgement call is focused the situation and it's affect in your life.

Here I make a confession that only a handful of people have ever heard.  (Mom, Dad, I hope you are sitting down.) When I was around 19 years old I picked up a hitchhiker.  He was a young man, not much older than me. He was clean-cut and harmless looking.   It was late at night and his friends left him without a ride home.  We talked as I drove.  He seemed nice enough.  In fact, he was very nice- and very cute. We stopped at a park on the side of the road and swung on the swings in the moonlight while we continued to talk. (When people ask what is the dumbest thing I've ever done, this is what I think of, but never share!)

After about 20- minutes he stopped swinging and looked at me.  His face was long and grim.  He said something I have never forgotten.  "Picking me up was a stupid thing to do.  You are too trusting." He said. "You don't know me. I could be crazy.  I could really hurt you."

I froze on the swing and said a prayer in my heart.

He continued,  "But, I'm not crazy, and I won't hurt you. But the next guy could."

He then made me promise to never, EVER, pick up another hitchhiker again- even if they looked harmless.  He told me to leave him there in the park and go home.  I did just that.

Afterwards I was very shaken and embarrassed.  I still am 20 years later as I think of all the the what-ifs. I thought I was being a good Samaritan. I thought that God would protect me since I was trying to do the right thing by giving him a ride.  I do believe I was protected but not because I had good intentions, but because I needed to learn a powerful lesson. I am grateful for the protection and the lesson.

He was first hitchhiker I had ever picked up, and the last.  I have often felt bad as I drive by hitchhikers. Many have looked harmless, even kind.  But, the experience so long ago has been etched in my mind forever. I cannot imagine putting myself in that position ever again. This is where it is important to understand the difference between judging a person and making a judgment call.  I am not judging the hitchhikers by my choice to not pick them up.  I am making a judgement call. 

Should you judge people? No.

Can you say no to someone without judging them? Yes.

Would saying no to certain people be a good judgment call? Yes.

Should we feel badly about saying no? No. (Although I still do sometimes- but that's a post for another time)

It can be difficult, especially for us women, to say no when someone needs help. We want to rescue the stray dogs, feed the poor, take troubled peopled under our wings.  We don't want to judge others, so we open our hearts, our homes, our wallets and our lives to even the most unsavory characters. We want to save the world.

But, often times those that we try to help hurt us.  We put ourselves in dangerous situations for the sake of being kind.  We don't want say no.  We end up being taken advantage of and wondering if this is our reward for trying to do good.

God has given us hearts that want to help and serve. But He has also given us minds to analyze the situation and decide if extending that help will be detrimental to us and the ones we love.  It is our responsibility, and our right, to make judgement calls for ourselves and our family. He trusts you to make the choices that are best for you and the ones you love.

Making the right call isnt't always easy.  It might hurt or offend others.  It might even make them mad. But, I know one thing, I never want to feel like I did that dark night 20 years ago.  I made a terrible judgement call, all in the name of doing good.  I could have paid dearly for it. I am grateful the He saw fit to let it be a lesson taught, rather than a trauma to overcome.

Turn to God in faith. He can bless you with clarity and courage to make the judgment calls that are best for you in your life. Doling out righteous judgment is His job.  Making good judgement calls is yours. It's up to you.  You make the call.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Room to Grow

My mother passed down many wonderful things to me.  But she did not pass down a green thumb. I wish she did.  I tried to have indoor plants, but despite my best efforts, I killed them all. (I am convinced that at least half of them were suicide.) So, I stopped trying and went a different route. My home now has a array of beautiful plants- all still very much green and very much fake.

In my mothers home is a beautiful spider plant.  It started out small, a shoot from another plant.  Over the years she has watered it, gave it sunlight, nurtured it and loved it.  It grew to a lovely medium size and began to produce shoots of its own.  For years this spider plant sat in the same spot, in between two chairs by the window in her sun room.

Then, last March, I came to visit my parents.  My mother and I sat down in the chairs in her sun room to chat. There I noticed a new spider plant.  It was twice as big as the old one, and was overflowing with shoots.  I asked her where she got it.  She explained that this was the same plant that has been sitting there for years.  When I asked how it got so big, she shrugged her shoulders and said, "I just put it in a bigger pot and gave it room to grow. It did the rest."

In many ways we are all like this beautiful plant. 

If you look at the bottom of the spider plant, you will see nearly a hundred shoots.  One plant has the power to create more.  If left alone, these shoots will continue to grow in size. But, if moved into their own pots, they have the potential to become as big as their mother plant.  

We are all offspring of our Father in Heaven.  He created us.  When we lived with Him before this life we learned and grew. But, there came a time when He knew that to reach our greatest potential, we had to be moved to our own pots. That is why we are here now.  We have been given this earthly life to continue to grow, to become our own plants, to reach our potential.

Throughout life, each of us are different sizes and at different stages in our growth.  Each of us has similar needs as the plant: to be fed, to be nurtured, to be loved.  When these needs are met, we are happy.  We are content.

But, Heavenly Father knows that contentment is not the purpose of life.  Growth is. We have a greater potential than the creatures we are now. And our loving Father knows that in order for us to continue grow, He needs to give us more room.  We need to be moved to a bigger pot.

Each time we are "repotted" we are given room to grow. For some that bigger pot might be a new addition to the family. For others, it might be the inability to add to the family.  For some, a bigger pot might take the form of a trial: a wayward child, a physical disease, a loved one gone astray. And for others the pot might be more positive: a new job, a new talent, a new move, or even just meeting a new friend.

Being "repotted" can be a scary thing. Sometimes we fight it. We long for the smaller, comfortable, familiar pot.  The one where our feet touched the bottom, we could see all around us, and we felt safe. When introduced to the new space, we might question ourselves, and God : "Why must I grow? Why must things be this hard? I can't do this. Why would God do this to me?"  So, we continue to live as we did in our smaller pot.  We do not stretch.  We do not reach. Living this way seems safe, but it isn't.  It creates fear, frustration, regret, and even resentment. We curl up in a ball.  We do not grow.  

But, when faced with new experiences, with faith and courage we thrive like my mom's beautiful plant.  We can stretch ourselves to fill the space. We can find strength we did not know we had.  We may find talents that had been hidden.  We will develop faith stronger than we once had.  We will learn, grow, and even surprise ourselves.  If not for the new pot, we would have stayed the same ol' us, content and still.  But, when given the room and the opportunity, we can become more than who we were. We can become like Him.

So, when things get tough, when new challenges come, when new opportunities are presented, know that all is not lost, it is only a new pot.  Trust the Master Gardner who repotted you. Trust yourself and your abilities as He does. Have faith and courage. Reach and stretch and grow. Fill your new pot. And reach your potential.  

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Well, my class on the Basics of Happiness was tonight.  There was a good turn out, and I loved the feedback from the women.  This is a bare-bones outline of the class:

Happiness comes from 4 main sources:
    1. Our sense of worth/value
    2. A feeling of accomplishment and/or success
    3. Love- giving and receiving
    4. Selfless service


That is why a person who values money and fame can feel an honest sense of happiness and satisfaction when he reaches his goal.  Without qualifying or quantifying that happiness- it is happiness to them all the same.

There are 3 ways to gain/increase happiness:

1. Genetics: There are optimists and there are pessimists.  The cup is seen as either half full or half empty.  We all perceive a certain level of happiness in our lives because that's how we are wired. Our innate perception, no matter how positive or negative, doesn't change the amount of water in it.

2. Created: No matter what level of happiness we are genetically disposed to, we were all born with the capacity to create additional happiness based on our choices and efforts.

 We can look at the main sources of happiness and ask ourselves: How is the definer of my value and the author of my expectations and goals? Hollywood says my size 12 is fat- so does that lower my feeling of value or worth? Society says that I should have a spotless home and career and have my children involved in all kinds of sports and music - so are those my expectations for myself, too?

If happiness comes when our expectations are met, then it is our responsibility to make sure our values and goals are of God's, not the worlds.

With the power of PERSPECTIVE and our purposeful CHOICES, we can find happiness.  As we align our will with Gods, as we begin to see ourselves and our lives through His eye, our goals will change, our expectations will change, the way we love and allow ourselves to be love change, and the way we serve others will change.

I love the Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity 
to accept the things I cannot change; 
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Prayer is the key to creating happiness.  We can pray for perspective, and courage to make choices that will ultimately brings us the greatest happiness- living God's will. My brother put it perfectly in his comment on the last post: For the Baptist preacher, the key to happiness is converting a soul to God. For the teenager living in Southern California the key to happiness is "making it big" as an actor. For an African, the key to happiness is having pure, disease free drinking water for her children. The key to happiness can be defined by several different desires and passions, so I would suggest context is a profound qualifier for the lesson, which I am sure you have prepared!! For me, as a father of four, an unemployed recovering addict, the key to happiness for is twofold. First is knowing through personal prayer what the will of the Father is for me, second, being brave enough to do what He expects of me. It is only when I have successfully accomplished matching both understanding coupled with action that I feel happy. Otherwise, life sucks. 

Aristotle said: "Happiness is an activity of the soul in accordance with virtue." As we choose to live our lives in accordance with virtue, or God's will for us, we create happiness for ourselves.

3. The third source of happiness is that happiness which is Given: Even after all I can do, my cup is not full.

George Q Cannon said: It is not given to men and women on the earth to be entirely satisfied, if they seek for satisfaction and happiness in worldly things. There is only one way in which perfect happiness can be obtained, and that is by having the Spirit of God.”

Perfect happiness, or complete happiness, can come only as a gift from God through the Spirit.  You may have felt it in your life already.  There are moments when I look at my children and I see them as He does, and I am overwhelmed with joy.  That is a gift.

There are moments when I am driving and saying a prayer of gratitude, and I feel an added measure of peace and happiness.  That is a gift.

There are even moments when I am in tears, on my knees, just praying for something, and I have felt the calming and reassurance rest of happiness and love.  That is a gift.

After all we can do, we are still deficient.  But, through the tender love of a Heavenly Father and the miracle of our elder brother's Atonement, we can be made whole and perfect.  Even in something as simple as happiness.

One last thing we talked about along with Perspective and Choice was Gratitude.  Gordon B Hinckley said: "Gratitude is of the very essence of worship. … When you walk with gratitude, you do not walk with arrogance and conceit and egotism, you walk with a spirit of thanksgiving that is becoming to you and will bless your lives". Sincerely giving thanks not only helps us recognize our blessings, it also unlocks the doors of heaven and helps us feel God's love.” 
The question was asked: Can you feel happiness when things are hard or you are sad? The answer is a resounding, YES!

Life wasn't meant to be continuous moments of happiness and glee.  There are trials, there are troubles, there are pains and sadness. But, if we can be grateful for all the moments in our lives, and see them for what they are - all opportunities to grow- then we can still feel a sense of happiness even in our darkest moments.  Especially when those darkest moments are what bring us closest to God.

Happiness isn't all joy, laughing and giggles.  Perfect happiness is peace, strength, perspective, faith, courage and action.  Happiness is living a life tandem to God's will, taking full advantage of the blessings of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and loving them, yourself and those around you.

We have the power, and the obligation, to create happiness within ourselves.  Joshua said, "Choose you this day whom you will serve."  WE have a choice- who will we look to to define our worth and set our goals and standards.  

As we make honest and concerted efforts to choose His ways, He will bless us with an added measure of happiness and joy, until our happiness is full, complete and perfect.

The irony of it all is that today was a really tough day for me. I started out the day in tears of frustration and sorrow, and ended it with tears of gratitude and happiness.  My circumstances didn't change, but my perspective did.  I made the choice to see things differently.  And when I did, I was rewarded with a peace and comfort and happiness that I know did not come from me. What a blessing this has been for me in my life.

Gordon B Hinckley also said: "Cultivate an attitude of happiness. Cultivate a spirit of optimism. Walk with faith, rejoicing in the beauties of nature, in the goodness of those you love, in the testimony which you carry in your heart concerning things divine."

I hope you have success in finding and creating and receiving happiness in your lives.