Wednesday, January 16, 2013


I had this great idea the other day to strap on my shoes with my orthopedic inserts for my bad feet and run a couple miles outside.

I actually didn't feel too bad while I was running, but as soon as I stopped the pain started. My muscles began to yell at me- loudly. I'm pretty sure they said some bad words.

I've never been really good at stretching after exercise because, well, once I'm done exercising, then I'm done. I'm ready to move on. But, this day, I opted to try it.

So, I started doing this hamstring stretch:


(This is SO not me.  Imagine her plus about thirty more pound, a dozen rogue gray hairs and a grimace on her face.  That would be me.)

When I first leaned over I could only reach my ankles. And it hurt. I didn't like it. But, I was told that a stretch isn't a good stretch until you hold it for 30 seconds. So I did. And it still hurt.

Until something amazing happened.

At about 20 seconds into the stretch, I felt the strangest sensation of relief in my hamstrings, and it didn't hurt as much. Great! But weird.

With this new sense of relief, I attempted to reach over a little farther and touched my shoe laces. And it hurt. But, I held it.

Then something amazing happened.

At about 20 seconds into the stretch, I felt the same sense of relief in my hamstrings, and it didn't hurt as much.

Intrigued, I leaned in further- as far as I could go- and barely touched the edge of my toes. And it hurt. But, I held it.

Then something amazing happened.

At about 20 seconds into the stretch, I felt the same sense of relief in my hamstrings, and it didn't hurt as much.

Can you see the pattern?

After about five minutes of doing this, I could reach my fingers past my feet and wrap the around the sole of my shoe.

 Pretty cool, huh?!

My husband pops his head into the room. He's a much better athlete then me.I proudly show him my fingers touching the dirty soles of my shoes.

Me: Did you know that if I hold the stretch like this for a while it doesn't hurt as bad?

Him: Yes.

Me: Well, did you know that when I hold it long enough, then I feel this sense of release and I can stretch farther?

Him:  Yes.

Me (thinking I've tapped into some great physical anomaly): Is there a name for this?

Him. Yeah. Stretching.

Me: No, I mean, is there a name for the sensation you feel when your muscles are stretched to the limit, and you hold it, then you feel relief, the you can stretch even farther?!

Him: Stretchy stretch?

His answer made me chuckle, but it also made me think life.

Sometimes in life we go through trials that hurt. They really do.

Some hurt so bad that we just want to quit. And sometimes we do.

But, here is the great spiritual anomaly I tapped into, that really isn't an anomaly at all:

When we hang on during those times - through our faith, prayers, study, the help of others, and maybe even some tears - God can give us a sense of release, or relief during our trials.

We can find relief from our pain through Him in the middle of our trials.

Oh wait. It gets better.

Along we don't only feel a sense of relief and maybe even peace amidst our trials, but as we hold steady in our stretch- in our faith and testimony - we can gain strength and the flexibility to do more.

We can stretch more. We can fight more. We can run more. We can survive more. We can do more.

We can be more that we imagined when the trial (spiritual stretching)  first began!

It is a spiritual stretchy-stretch!

I think sometimes we get tired under the burdens of our afflictions. Many people ask Why? Why must we go through difficult times like this? Why did this happen to me? I don't want this trial. I don't want to hurt.

The truth of it is this:

  Trials can hurt. But they stretch us. And it is only through stretching our spiritual muscles (enduring in faith and hope) that we can achieve greater things

The key is to trust in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. They knew we are going to hurt. They know it can be for our benefit. And they are there to help assuage any unnecessary pain.

Joel 2:32: "...whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered..."

11:28 the Savior Himself says: "Come unto me, all ye that labour, and are heavy lade, and I will give you rest..."

If any man was stretched- it was Paul, and yet, he said this:

Phillippians 4:13: "I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me."

He understood what the Savior was saying.

Now, I'm not as strong as Paul yet. I don't "glory in tribulations" (Romans 5:3), but what I do know what it feels like to be stretched so thin you can see through yourself to the other side. It's a scary place to be.

But I can tell you that it is not a permanent place, either. It is part of the stretchy-stretch that will make us like Paul, if we just hang in there.

In  Acts 14:22 Paul speaks of his great mission, where he taught this principle. He went about "...exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God."

Much tribulation = major stretchy stretch.

But, in the end (and even in the middle) it will be worth it.

God is aware. He knows our pain. He also knows stretching is the only way. Have faith in Him that relief, strength, growth, and even blessings will come. Because they will.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Perfection in Progress

Perfect. Perfection. Perfectionist.

These are words that raise the stress level of most women I know.  They seem to be haunted (me included) by the expectation of perfection.  Keep the perfect house, raise the perfect children, say the perfect thing, etc.

Many have seen the fatal flaw in this way of thinking. They have taken it upon themselves to crusade for the right to be imperfect with sayings like:

"A beautiful thing is never perfect." 

"Strive for progress, not perfection."

And though this gives me some sense of relief- it creates a new problem of lowered expectations and complacency. A longing creeps up through the layers of thought- a longing that yes, I do want to be more, I do want to be perfect.

The I wonder where that comes from. Why do I feel this desire, this need to be perfect. 

Then it hit me like a ton of bricks the other day. I was teaching a Sunday School class about Heavenly Father. We were discussing His divine attributes, perfection being one of them. A question popped into my head and out my mouth:

Can a Perfect Being create something imperfect?

I've thought a lot about that in the past few days- even prayed about it. We are created in His image. He is perfect, yet we are not. And the world tells us we aren't supposed to be. And I long for it.

Then a light went on in my head, and in my heart.

God created us perfectly to be perfect. But- we are not finished being made. 

The reason we aren't perfect now, isn't because we are a flawed creation and ever will be. We aren't perfect now because he isn't finished creating us, molding us, teaching us, and raising us.

God isn't finished with me.  I am, in essence, perfection in progress

My perfection doesn't lie in my performance, but my potential. This explains my innate desire to strive, to improve, to grow, to be perfect.  This desire is in my heavenly DNA. It's as though my spirit knows something my mind has forgotten:  I was made to reach perfection.  I just haven't gotten there yet.

As I rejoiced in this new perspective, another thought came to my mind:

God's view of perfection has nothing to do with how well I take photographs, or cook, or clean, or exercise, or homeschool my kids (which I don't), scrapbook, blog, Pinterest,  write, dress, or whatever. The perfection God intends for me is perfection in my character and glory and joy.

No where in the scriptures does it say, "Be ye therefore perfect like the skinny, well-dressed  PTA president whose kids always look adorable. Yeah, be like her."

No, the Savior Himself says, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect."

This is what He wants for me...someday- to be perfect like Him, when He is finished with me.

I know I wont' be for a long time. My whole life and then some. That's the way He intended it.

He doesn't expect a finished product when I'm still going through the production line.  I still have missing pieces and experiences. I am still unfinished.

He doesn't suggest, nor expect, perfection now- He only asks that we look to Him for help to realize our perfect potential, and let Him help us get there.

Our struggles and imperfections are not a surprise nor a disappointment to God or the Savior. They knew we would have difficulties and doubts, sadness and frustration, weaknesses and shortcomings. They also  knew at times we would be weighed down by unhealthy expectations and guilt. These things just get in the way of our progression. They want us to turn to them- to hand our weaknesses and sorrows over to them.

In Matthew 11:28 the Savior says, "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Then in John 14:1 he says, "Let your heart not be troubled, ye believe in God, believe also in me."

They want us to be happy now in the knowledge that we will be perfect later. They want to help us now, so we can reach our perfection later. 

That's the beauty of our progression: we don't - can't - do it alone. 

God will be there, if we let Him, to mold us, to guide us, to strengthen us and to cheer us on. He is our creator, and we are His creations in progress. He is actively working with us and through us to help us reach out greatest potential. He celebrates our steps- even the smallest of them - every day. 

He applauds the way we love, serve, repent and forgive. He has given us our innate longing to do better, to be better- not so we will feel sadness in our perfections, but so that we will seek Him out in them. And together, someday, we will be made perfect.

Until then, I know for me, I will find joy in each step I take, knowing that perfection isn't expected of me, but waiting for me someday. 

I'm perfection in progress, and proud of it.