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It’s that time of year again where we start to reflect on who we are compared to who we want to be.  Our dreams and aspirations come to the forefront of our mind and we begin to wonder if this will be the year we finally figure it out.

At least that’s how I feel. Will this be the year I finally lose those 10 lbs, write my book, or become super present with my kids?

I am big on goals.  Over the years though I have come to see how goals work and don’t work for me. Saying I want to be skinnier never gets me there. But by coming up with a simple easy plan I am much more likely to achieve that.

Back in March I shared one way to make goals work for you. A system that uses post-it notes. You can find that back here.  Laura shared about the importance of dreaming back here.

Today however I want to focus on unbecoming.

unbecoming small

Maybe the journey really isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about unbecoming everything that isn’t really you, so that you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.

For a long time I have let my fears get the best of me. Fear of failure. Fear that I might make a huge mistake while trying something new, so I fail to even try. I don’t believe this is who I really am, a person filled with fear, Not really. It’s something I picked up along the way, and I have been working to unbecome afraid so that I may become more of who I was meant to be.  I desire to be more ok with failing from time to time because I recognize that is the path to success.

About a month ago Laura and I were talking about this very concept. We were discussing our fears and how they hold us back. I realized it was time I did something about it. Took the bull by the horns as they say. We thought of crazy things that scared us, like skydiving. We laughed and said “if we could do those things I’m sure that would help us overcome other fears” and then my mind latched onto this idea. I had to go skydiving. Not because it’s been on my bucket list (in fact I always thought people were crazy for wanting to do that) but because I really felt conquering one fear would give me the momentum to conquer other fears as well.

I spent the next several days stewing over this idea. I could tell it was a turning point for me. If I decided not to go it was evidence to me that fear was in control. But if I decided to go forward with it I would be given the confidence that I could do the things that scare me. So I decided to jump.

It was kind of surreal and I had no idea what I was missing. I made a real effort to be present and take in every single moment. Skydiving was the funnest thing I have ever done. Had I let my fear win I would have never known that.

When I was getting suited up for the jump my instructor said “the scariest part is simply the unknown” and so I began to wonder what else I could do. What have I been too afraid to do because I didn’t know how to do it or I didn’t know what it would look like or feel like?

I’m now working on a project I hope I can share with you in the next six months. It’s something I was too afraid to do in the past but now I’m looking it straight in the eye.

I don’t think everyone needs to jump out of a plane to start unbecoming all of the things they aren’t. Let me give you a simpler way. Something I have found to be very useful.

First you need to IMAGINE.  I usually began this process with a prayer asking for guidance from a God who knows me and loves me and knows exactly what I need. Get out a piece of paper and write down everything you wish you could do if there were no limits. Every single idea that comes to your mind put it on that paper.  Don’t judge yourself for your aspirations. Don’t worry about how you would make it happen just let your mind dream. Now think of the person you want to become. Do you want to be more patient, more kind? More giving, more faithful?  Again, don’t think of how you are not currently these things and don’t allow whatever self talk in. This is a time for dreaming and hoping.

Now set that piece of paper aside for the rest of the day. Before you go to bed add anything else you might have thought of.

The next day look at your list again. Read it through a few times. Now circle just one thing you want to do and one thing you want to become. The one that screams at you. Either it’s the scariest or the easiest. It could be the one that looks the most fun or the one you know you need the most. Listen to your inner voice and allow God to guide you in this process.  He knows what would be the very best thing for you to work on.

Two goals. If all you did this next year was accomplish those two goals, would it be worth it? I hope you are shouting out ABSOLUTELY!

Write those two goals in statements. For example: I will lose 10 lbs by May 1st. I will take my family to Hawaii by Dec 2016.

Now that you have established your two goals, you get to come up with a next action step. What is the very first step you need to take to become the person you want to be and do the things you have always wanted to do?

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

If I want to lose 10 lbs do I need to join a gym first or look at my eating first?  I believe goals become overwhelming when we think of all that needs to be done before we can achieve them. So just think of the very first step. If you decide to join a gym then commit to when you are going to do that.

Here is the important part. Celebrate your victory and let that momentum move you into your next step. Now that you have joined a gym, are you going to hirer a trainer or look on Pinterest for workout ideas?

You never look farther than your next step. That way you are constantly feeling your progress instead of looking at how far you need to go. I like to use the post-it system I mentioned here because you get to see the progress you have made. If you are visual like I am, it really helps.

Are you ready to unbecome the things you aren’t so that your true self can finally shine through?  It’s as easy as taking one step at a time. Susan

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The best gifts are time & loveIt’s the week before Christmas and all through the town, it seems like there isn’t a soul in their home.  People and cars and traffic and stores, rushing and hustling in one big frantic blur…

We’re down to the wire. Just a few more days to make sure that we spend as much money as necessary to make sure that Christmas is memorable to our family.  But is it really getting that perfect “toy” that makes Christmas special?

I saw this commercial for Ikea, and was truly touched by the sentiment, and honesty of the people in this experiment.

I’m grateful for the fact that we don’t have to go without and we can give gifts to others to let them know we are thinking of them, but what is the most meaningful thing we can give?  It is the thing that is often most precious.  Our time. Time spent together is something we just don’t get enough of in a world filled with so much technology and busyness.

As I’m rushing to finish my Christmas preparations, I have chosen to make time together a bigger priority than shopping.

What are the brightest Christmas memories that you have from your childhood?  Mine were not necessarily the gifts (unless they were unexpected and I knew that a sacrifice was made for them.)  My most memorable Christmases were the things that we did together as a family. Reading the Christmas story and acting it out on Christmas eve. (Susan was Mary and put her cabbage patch doll in her shirt that fell out as she walked) We talked and laughed and enjoyed each other.  There were many Christmases where we included other members of the family, traveling to Grandmas, or having cousins over to celebrate together. There were times we went to sing at a nursing care facility to people who didn’t get to have family with them for Christmas.

My presents to my kids this year were plane tickets to come home for Christmas, and other adventures to do together while they are here.  The best part of Christmas for them is the ability to spend time with each other.

The most meaningful Christmas activity we can all do is attending Church together and take time to have family discussions about Christ, the atonement, and the gift of the Father sending His only begotten son to earth. As the angels sang at the first Noel, celebrating “Now, all is well”, we can welcome the spirit of Christmas into our homes by reading and singing and sharing our feelings and testimony of the greatest gift ever given, our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Our time on this earth is a gift from God, and we don’t know how much of it we will get.  Giving that time to family and friends at this season truly can be the best gift of all.

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The thought that someone we love is doing something special for us—and our excitement about the special thing we are planning to do for them—warms our hearts and fills us with love and anticipation. Add to this the glimmering lights, the delightful decorations, the sublime scenes of Christ’s birth, and it’s no wonder Christmas is such a beloved time of year.” Dieter Ucthdorf

Beloved! Yes, that is the best description and my sentiments exactly.  But what happens when the worry, the stress and the frazzle of it all starts to creep in, trying to strangle the joy and peace, the love and goodwill? Unfortunately as much as I tried, I felt the light of Christmas fading a week or so ago.  As I watched it go I was filled with sadness.  I wanted to cry out don’t go.  Please don’t go. Yet in that moment all I could feel was that I wasn’t measuring up to the expectations I had set for myself.  Why can’t I bake all the things, make all the crafts, be done Christmas shopping and wrapping all the presents, have thought of all the people in need and looked fabulous while doing all of it?

Do you relate to any of those feelings?  Seeing everyone’s best and wondering why you aren’t a little more like you wish you could be?  There is hope, There is peace. I had to be willing to see past what I am not and allow the true gift of Christmas into my heart reminding me of all that I am Because of Him.


In my moment of darkness the Lord sent me this video though a friend. 

It was the reminder I needed to stop focusing on myself and start seeing the Savior more fully in the songs, the lights, the wrapping paper.  For in all of it, if you will slow down and see it, is the reminder that He loves us now just as He did more than 2000 years ago.

Even when the world may appear quite dark—when things aren’t going right, when our hearts are overflowing with disappointment and worry, even in the midst of sadness and sorrow—we sing about “joy to the world” and “good will toward men”2 because of Christ, who came “to give light to them that sit in darkness.” Dieter Ucthdorf

His gift of joy to the world even covers my sorrow and self-doubt.  Joy for what I am instead of what I am not.  Joy for my family who loves me even when I can’t “do it all.” Joy for service given and received.  Joy that I am His daughter and loved without conditions.

This Christmas may you see with new eyes the gift of acceptance and love that our Savior is offering to you. SUSAN

 

 

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I love Christmas… most of the season.  What I don’t like is all of the over planning and stress that leave me just glad that it is over on Christmas day.

I’m always looking for ways to simplify and make it just as special without letting it all get away from me and turning me into the Grinch.

Every year I try and every year there is some part of the season that I just end up grumpy and ready for it to all be over with.

Well, this year I want it to be better.  I’ve decided that I need to simplify in a way that makes sense to me.  I want to keep everything that makes Christmas special, but get rid of the excess.  In the past I’ve tried using Christmas planners, and lists, and I’m always so excited in the beginning, but near the end, I’m discouraged because of all the things that I wanted to do that didn’t get done.  Then I feel like a failure for what didn’t get done, instead of grateful for what we did get to do.

I decided that this year, I’m going to pare it down, and try to keep only the things that are important to me.  As I have analyzed all of the parts of Christmas and the expectations, I have come to one big conclusion.  The only really important part of Christmas… sharing love and testimony of the Savior with others.

That’s it.  That’s all there is too it.

Christmas is the spirit of giving

Of course there are a few details in how this comes about.  Because I have decided that people are the most important part of Christmas, I have divided my plan into 4 different groups of people.  Family… Friends that live nearby… Loved ones that live far away… People I don’t know, who need some Christmas cheer.

Family

Spending time with family is probably the very best part of Christmas.  I want my kids around me.  I want to see them laughing and enjoying each other’s company.  I remember wonderful times that we traveled to Grandma’s house for Christmas when I was little, and when my kids got to go to their grandparents’ homes for Christmas. I remember sledding and hot chocolate, and games and big dinners with all the traditional foods.  Every Christmas may not have all of these things, but time spent enjoying each other as members of a family are really the very most anticipated parts of the Christmas season.

Friends and neighbors that are nearby

Another important set of people to remember during Christmas time is our co-workers, friends, & neighbors. I love going to the many parties and gatherings at work and church and in the neighborhood. By taking the time to be with others, it helps recharge my batteries, and builds relationships with people I feel are a positive influence in my life.   I like taking gifts or baked goods to a few close friends and neighbors. This is the perfect time to tell the people who are in my daily life, that they are important to me and that I care about our friendship.

Distant loved ones

There will always be someone who I care about or have been thinking of who I won’t be able to see at Christmas. This is why Christmas cards are so much fun.  This year I put up a special holder just for Christmas cards that people give to me, so they will be a part of the decoration.  Unfortunately, I don’t always get my Christmas cards mailed out, but I still love the tradition.  Another way to reach out at Christmas is through social media.  When I’m feeling down, I can look at my Facebook or Pinterest pages and someone I am following will leave some type of inspiration for Christmas time that will help bring the Christmas spirit back to my day.  It does seem a little like spying on someone else’s Christmas, but if I leave a comment, it becomes interactive and I’ve made that connection during the Christmas season.  I also love when people leave pictures of the fun things they are doing at Christmas.  Is there anything better than seeing those cute little kids (and sometimes the big ones) really eating up the Christmas spirit, and reminding us that there is such joy to be had in the world?

God’s other children He wants us to be aware of.

There are so many opportunities for giving to others that are in need during Christmas.  I could give money, time, presents, or even just a smile and friendly hello.  I saw a small group of people gathered around tables at the Starbucks inside Target, with juice boxes, granola bars and various other items all spread out on the tables with Christmas ribbons and packaging. I could only imagine where these items were going. As they were dividing them up into individual containers, these people were so happy and really seemed to be genuinely enjoying themselves.  This year I took the easy way out, and just donated money to our church for a special project that they are working on for Christmas.  In years past, we made little goodie bags to keep in our car to hand out to homeless people who we pass on the street.  Another way to spread cheer to others is to be aware of them, and see if someone needs help with groceries, or shoveling the snow, or simply waiting a few extra seconds and holding a door for someone.  A little extra patience this time of year, could go a long way in helping another of Gods children from becoming burned out at this time of year.

There are a million little things that can be done at Christmas to make the season special, but that doesn’t mean that we have to do them all.

The reason we celebrate Christmas is to recognize the one most important gift we could ever have… Jesus Christ. God loved us enough to send His only son down to us.  To teach us, and love us, and to eventually die for us.  He gives us the gift of being able to repent and become all that He wants us to be… even all that we possibly can be. And ultimately that gift of being able to return to Him.  In return, He wants us to watch out for and love each other, and help His other children to find their way back to Him also.

I think if we can remember this important part of Christmas, loving others, then all of the other hustle and bustle can just fall into place, or fall away as needed.

Here’s to hoping this Christmas will be “simply” wonderful.

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The tree is up in all its simplistic splendor. For as long as I can remember Christmas never really felt real until the tree was up. There is magic at work while we put the ornaments on. Each one telling a story of a time long passed while simultaneously creating new memories of joy and togetherness.

However, the two years we almost didn’t have a tree hold their own sweet reminders for me of what Christmas is all about. Sacrifice and giving.

When I was in the 5th or 6th grade times were hard for our family. We couldn’t get a Christmas tree because my parents only car wasn’t working. I remember the sadness I felt looking at the empty spot where it should have gone. I didn’t understand the difficult times my parents were going through, I just knew it didn’t feel like Christmas. I must have been talking about how upset I was while at my best friend’s house and her mom offered to go buy us a tree. My parents didn’t let her but to my young mind I thought that was the nicest thing a person could over do.

I don’t remember the details of how my dad pulled it off, but shortly before the gift giving day he came home with the perfect tree. I can still picture it in my mind and the feeling of joy I had in my young heart was so big. He was a hero in that moment. He brought the magic of Christmas with a sacrifice I’m sure I’ll never understand.

Shortly after we were married, I was pregnant with our second child while Ryan went to school full-time and worked nights to provide for us. We had very little that year but we didn’t need much. My oldest was a little over a year and so his expectations were easily met. A tree would have been a huge extravagance we could not afford.

One evening after I had put my boy to bed, an unexpected knock came at our door. Tears came quickly to my eyes as I opened the door to find a huge tree siting in the doorway. But that was not all. We were given ornaments and presents as well. I felt an abundance of love and kindness that has stayed with me each year I bring out the decorations.

Because of one family’s thoughtfulness, we were given a desire to give back. To share that feeling of the true meaning of Christmas. The Christmas tree symbolizes to me the spirit of giving. Of thinking of others needs above my own. Of charity which is the pure love of Christ. The magic of the Christmas tree is so much more than my young heart could comprehend. For now I see it as the perfect reminder of Christ’s love for each one of us. He cared enough to send my family a tree so many years ago, and He cares enough today to show me how I can be more like Him.

“When we keep the spirit of Christmas, we keep the Spirit of Christ, for the Christmas spirit is the Christ Spirit. It will block out all the distractions around us which can diminish Christmas and swallow up its true meaning.” Thomas S Monson

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