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.