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perfectionismI’ve really been struggling lately with feelings of anxiety and stress, which I believe are stemming from perfectionism.

I used to think that the term perfectionism was related to someone who works hard and is constantly improving in a quest to reach perfection.

Then a friend called me a perfectionist in front of some strangers, and it forced me to really think about it.

I know that I’m not perfect, and not even close. I thought “I’m so far from perfect, what is she talking about?”

Well I suppose I need to put that statement into context.  We were working on scrap booking, and I couldn’t commit to where I wanted to glue my little cutout, and once I put it down I was upset and wanted to move it.

Perfectionism is NOT a healthy striving for improvement… It is a damaging fear of making any mistake at all in the off-chance that someone will find out and realize that we are not perfect.

Perfectionism makes learning new things difficult, because failure can be a big part of learning something new. If I’m afraid of failure, how will I ever be able to do something new?

Today perfectionism looks like this.

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Pictures and other decor all over the place, because I don’t know where they will look best.  You see I just moved to a new house, and it’s not quite the same as the other homes I have lived in, so I don’t know what to do. So… I did almost nothing.  Just made a big mess until I magically discover the “perfect” place to put everything.  Or I just get over it and hang things up so I can enjoy the memories in the artwork.

I know that because I just moved in, I should cut myself some slack and let it take the time that it takes, but I struggle with the mess… because of the perfectionism. I’m still working full time, still raising kids, and trying to be on top of all their activities, and in the back of my mind, I still want to be working on this blog!!!

When it all gets to be too much, I get overwhelmed… I feel paralyzed…and I feel guilty….

Guilt that I “should” be able to do better than this.  Guilt that I am not further along by now.  Guilt that I am so busy I don’t have time to get out and meet my new neighbors, or be there for my friends, or that I don’t have a vacation planned for my kids this summer yet.

The greater the guilt the greater the paralysis.  As my brain becomes overwhelmed with the thought of all the things that still need to be done, my body responds by feeling tired…

There is too much to do, if I expect it to all be done by tomorrow, and the perfectionist in me can only see what hasn’t been done, not the small victories that I accomplish every day.

I recognize that it is unrealistic expectations that I PUT ON MYSELF that cause me to break down.

The good news is that after several weeks of “breaking down” off and on, I came to a realization that I no longer want to live this way.  I needed to do something about it, and with a little divine intervention, I think I am on the road to finding some real peace amidst the chaos of my life.

Here are some of the things that I learned as I have attempted to climb back out of the hole that I have dug myself into.

  1. “We get credit for trying, even if we don’t always succeed.” – Elder Jeffrey Holland.   I’ve heard this quote several times this month. Every time it was mentioned in a talk at church or online or anywhere, my brain was picking it up and putting it right in front where I couldn’t miss it.  This is so significant to me, because often, I can’t figure out the “right” thing to do next, but sometimes it is more important to do something… anything in fact, to work towards what ever it is that is holding me up. Trying will lead to something good, even if it’s not a perfect outcome, it will be some type of progress. Even a little step in the right direction is progress.
  2. “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” – Maya Angelou.  Mistakes from my past can make me feel like a complete failure, but the truth is that at the time I was most likely doing the best that I could with what I had at the time. It is okay to put those short comings in the past and decide that now that I know better, it is time to step up and do better.
  3.  “Put first things first.”   A young man in church this weekend reminded us of the story of Enos.  Enos had a wonderful spiritual experience that was probably the highlight of his life, in which the Lord told him he was forgiven and that he would be blessed.  The young man who was sharing this story with us pointed out that Enos was hunting at the time of this experience, and that hunting was very important.  In his time, successful hunting meant whether or not the family would be able to eat. What he was doing was very important to his families physical welfare, but at that moment he felt the need to pray for his eternal welfare. He took the time away from his very important earthly tasks to pray, and as a result had an amazing spiritual experience.  What I took away from this story is that in order to feel peace in life amongst all the millions of things that seem to be needing to be done, I need to stop the busyness once in a while and concentrate on the things that are of the most eternal significance. For me that means making time to build my relationship with my God through prayer and scripture study, making time for my family to further develop those crucial relationships, and to take time for myself and do the things that I find bring meaning to my soul, such as reading and writing.

Although I still have guilt over this being the only blog post I have gotten to this month, I am so grateful for the lessons I was forced to re-learn as I trudge through this transition in my life.

 

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I laid in bed struggling to want to do anything. Today I just felt like a failure, and I was confused by the feeling. Just the day before I felt confident and strong, yet in one swift moment I felt the world crash down on me as if I had been hit by a train. One minute confident, the next insecure and second guessing everything I’m doing.

Does this sound familiar to anyone else?

I have come to know with great confidence two things.

First, God is real. He is close by me even when I don’t recognize it. His ways are greater than mine, and when I trust him my whole world is more peaceful. He is the reason I have all that is good in my life. I believe that with all my heart.

Second, Satan is just as real. For all the good and hope God brings, Satan strives to bring the opposite. Despair, failure, sadness, anger. He doesn’t really care which emotion will bring me down as long as it does. He only has the power that I give him.

What do I do when I believe his lie, the one that says I’m not enough?  How do I rise above and come back to trusting my God who loves and brings peace?

Yesterday my 17-year-old son read this talk to me. I highly recommend reading it when you have the time. Here is an excerpt I thought was especially helpful.

A BYU student once came to me and asked if we could talk. I said, “Of course. How can I help you?”

She said, “I just don’t get grace.”

I responded, “What is it that you don’t understand?”
She said, “I know I need to do my best and then Jesus does the rest, but I can’t even do my best.”
She then went on to tell me all the things she should be doing because she’s a Mormon that she wasn’t doing.

She continued, “I know that I have to do my part and then Jesus makes up the difference and fills the gap that stands between my part and perfection. But who fills the gap that stands between where I am now and my part?”

She then went on to tell me all the things that she shouldn’t be doing because she’s a Mormon, but she was doing them anyway.

Finally I said, “Jesus doesn’t make up the difference. Jesus makes all the difference. Grace is not about filling gaps. It is about filling us.”

Seeing that she was still confused, I took a piece of paper and drew two dots—one at the top representing God and one at the bottom representing us. I then said, “Go ahead. Draw the line. How much is our part? How much is Christ’s part?”
She went right to the center of the page and began to draw a line. Then, considering what we had been speaking about, she went to the bottom of the page and drew a line just above the bottom dot.

I said, “Wrong.”

She said, “I knew it was higher. I should have just drawn it, because I knew it.”

I said, “No. The truth is, there is no line. Jesus filled the whole space. He paid our debt in full. He didn’t pay it all except for a few coins. He paid it all. It is finished.”

She said, “Right! Like I don’t have to do anything?”

“Oh no,” I said, “you have plenty to do, but it is not to fill that gap. We will all be resurrected. We will all go back to God’s presence. What is left to be determined by our obedience is what kind of body we plan on being resurrected with and how comfortable we plan to be in God’s presence and how long we plan to stay there.”

Christ asks us to show faith in Him, repent, make and keep covenants, receive the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end. By complying, we are not paying the demands of justice—not even the smallest part. Instead, we are showing appreciation for what Jesus Christ did by using it to live a life like His. Justice requires immediate perfection or a punishment when we fall short. Because Jesus took that punishment, He can offer us the chance for ultimate perfection (see Matthew 5:48, 3 Nephi 12:48) and help us reach that goal. He can forgive what justice never could, and He can turn to us now with His own set of requirements (see 2 Nephi 2:7; 3 Nephi 9:20).

“So what’s the difference?” the girl asked. “Whether our efforts are required by justice or by Jesus, they are still required.”

“True,” I said, “but they are required for a different purpose. Fulfilling Christ’s requirements is like paying a mortgage instead of rent or like making deposits in a savings account instead of paying off debt. You still have to hand it over every month, but it is for a totally different reason.”
Christ’s Grace Is Sufficient to Transform Us” Brad Wilcox

Satan’s lie is that when we do our best, our very best, (otherwise interpreted to mean when we are perfect) that is when the atonement steps in. But the truth is my Savior atoned for all of my short-comings and failings. All of them. Not just some of them or when I finally feel like I have laid it all on the line. Brad explained that so wonderfully. We keep trying, we fall short, again. And then we get up and keep trying. That’s all He asks of us. So when the lie that you’re not enough comes crawling back in, remember who paid the ultimate sacrifice and strive to hear His voice, the one that tells you you truly are more than enough, better than you think you are.

Susan

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Spring time is my very favorite. It’s starting to get warm without being hot. The rain is light when it comes and is always appreciated. Excitement about summer plans are beginning to grow. Soft colors are coming out in my wardrobe. And then there is always spring cleaning.

This year however I started to think about the spring cleaning of my emotional life instead.  What beliefs or habits is it time I parted ways with? What should I take to the dump and just leave there?  Are their beliefs that are cluttering up my mind causing chaos?  Are there things I am constantly tripping over that I haven’t been ready to get rid of but now I see it’s simply necessary in order for me to feel a greater sense of calm and peace?

For years and years I have struggled, deeply agonized even, over feelings of being inadequate and not enough. As a recovering perfectionist, I think that’s normal. But the more I talk openly with other women, I see it might just be a common theme among many of us.

My spring cleaning needed to begin right here. It was time for me to let go of the clutter, the trash, the lie, that I was not enough, so that I could fill my spiritual home with peace and purpose.

These feelings had prevented me from feeling peace. They had kept me from doing things I had wanted to do but was too afraid to fail. I would often see my failings above my successes.  I never felt like I was getting closer to who I wanted to be because I was only seeing how far I still had to go.

I could see the damage this was causing. I was “tripping over” it daily, and I knew it was time to move forward and throw this lie out. But how?

Just like cleaning house, the first step is to access what needs attention and then coming up with a plan. For me I knew this was my biggest stumbling block. But I had held onto it for so long, I didn’t even know where to begin.

For months I have been chipping away at this and my story is long (I need to write it in a book).

For me the first step was to go to the Lord and seek His guidance. Asking Him to guide me on my journey and then continue to move forward expecting His help.

One Sunday I sat in church reflecting on my Savior’s Atonement. I thought about His love and sacrifice for me. He was perfect. He is perfect. And like a ray of warm bright sun filling my heart, I understood a little more fully, because my Savior is perfect, with Him I am enough.

Even when I fall short, because of His sacrifice, I am enough.

Even when I mess up and make mistakes, I am enough.

Even when I’m in the middle of learning and growing and haven’t made it as far as I want to go, with Him I truly am enough.

And for the first time I began to actually believe the statement that I am enough right now, in this very moment.

There have been many other experiences where I have seen God’s hand as He has been trying to teach me this principle. Just this morning I came across this scripture “if the desires of their hearts were good, that they should also, at the last day, be restored unto that which is good.”  Notice its doesn’t say if they perfectly accomplish all they desired or if they accomplished everything they wanted to in their hearts then they were restored to good.

It’s based upon our desires for good.

I want to be a better mom, but I fall short more than I desire. I desire to serve more and give more in ways that are just not possible at this time in my life. I want to always be patient and kind and loving towards everyone. I truly desire that. But I mess up,  I make mistakes. And yet my desires are still good.

I am enough when my desires are good. I am enough when I mess up. And all of that is the Plan of God. That we remember what the Savior has done for us that we may eventually be made perfect in Him. And for now, in our sins and weaknesses, we are still enough.

What could use a little spring cleaning in your emotional life?

Susan

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I slept in Saturday. Longer than normal. You see my kids are finally old enough to take care of themselves, and they were content to let me be. When I finally did wake up, all I wanted was to go on a hike with my people. But instead I continued to be lazy and laid in bed even longer. I started to feel really sluggish and just kind of grumpy. It’s weird how too much sleep can have the same effect as not enough sleep.

Then the thoughts of “I’m not a good mom” crept in, and all I wanted to do was eat candy while laying in bed watching a movie.

Sound familiar to anyone?


It’s a battle I fight, wondering if I am failing or not doing enough or becoming enough. I win some days. And I lose others. But I do keep fighting. I am determined to figure this out that I may teach my daughters and one day my granddaughters how to love who they are, in any situation.

So what is a person supposed to do when inadequacies seem to be staring her in the face? How do we overcome such intense negative emotions?

Here are 5 tips that can help you begin to love yourself.

1st-I have found it to be helpful to delay thinking about the negative. When I’m in a funk is the worst time to analyze what I’m doing right and wrong and how I need to change. It’s never productive or actually helpful. I seem to dig a deeper hole that takes longer to get out of. So instead, I try to involve myself in something else. Change the room I’m in, leaving the house if I have to. Read a book. Talk with a friend. Saturday I went on a bike ride by myself. When I came home the negative emotions were gone and the delay tactic seemed to work.

But then it came back Sunday afternoon, and I had no idea why. The voices came back, and I started to really believe I wasn’t enough. Now what you ask?

2nd- Here is the best tactic I have. The one I sometimes forget about and wait too long to do, pray and study my scriptures and other worthy and uplifting material. Asking my Heavenly Father to show me either His love for me or to show me my worth in His eyes.

When I am sincerely asking for His help, He guides me to the words I need to hear, right when I need to hear them. This morning it came quickly. Other times I have to search a little longer, but I have come to trust that He wants to help me but He can’t until I put my faith in Him.

“To lack confidence is to have feelings of low self-worth. We are preoccupied with our weaknesses, and we lack faith in the Lord’s ability to use those weaknesses for our good. We do not understand our inestimable worth in the eyes of God, nor do we appreciate our divine potential. Ironically, both pride and a lack of self-confidence cause us to focus excessively on ourselves and to deny the power of God in our lives.” Glenn L. Pace

I self-righteously can let myself think that I’m not good enough because I’m not trying hard enough. I profess to have faith in God but I forget Him when I am holding a pity party for one. In those moments I’m not trusting that He will teach me how to use my weaknesses. I’m simply feeling sorry for myself that I have weaknesses. I’m not seeing a daughter of God who is full of potential. I am parked in a spot of stubbornness feeling like I’ll never be able to change.

The problem with that line of thinking is that I take God out of the equation. I forget that I am His daughter, capable of more than my finite imagination can comprehend.

We are the children of God, and as His children there is no attribute we ascribe to Him that we do not possess, though they may be dormant or in embryo.” George Q Cannon

3rd- Trust the people who love you. My children are so loving. I have asked them in the past,”What do you think I do well?” Their answers can be funny and often bring me to tears. They remember the things I have forgotten. My husband seems to have blinders to my weaknesses, and if I ask him he is more than willing to tell me why I really am doing not just ok but fantastic.

When I am in a good place emotionally and spiritually I have taken the time to write down the things I believe I am good at. I made a voice memo on my phone where I recorded those statements. That was actually very difficult for me since I don’t love hearing my voice, but it has been more powerful than I even hoped. I made sure I only made statements I truly believed. So when I am feeling down, I can listen to and trust my own voice telling me why I really am doing ok.

4th- Another action I will try at times is to just let it be a bad day. I’ll tell myself, “I am having a bad moment” and then I will let that moment simply be. I won’t try to do anything with it. Just recognize that this one moment stinks and that I won’t always feel this way. The very hardest times for me are when I worry I will feel the way I do forever.

“Most people never fulfill their human promise and potential because they remain perpetually helpless children overwhelmed by a sense of inferiority. The feeling of being okay does not imply that the person has risen above all his faults and emotional problems. It merely implies that he refuses to be paralyzed by them.” Dr. Thomas Harris

What a fantastic statement. Refuse to be paralyzed by your faults. I will be writing that on my mirror later today.

5th- Utilizing my journal is one I am not very good at yet but am determined to get better. Writing down the good experiences so that when I can no longer feel the intensity of those powerful moments I can look back and be reminded that times can be good, so very, very good.

“With the help of the scriptures, words of the prophets, and personal revelation, we gradually come to an awareness of our true nature and destiny. Once we grasp this reality, we can obtain the faith to move forward and overcome any obstacle standing in our way of fulfilling our foreordained destiny–including the obstacle of feelings of low self-worth.” Glen L Pace

I feel the gradual awareness coming into my life of who I am and who I can eventually become. It hasn’t come as quickly as I would hope, but it has come line upon line, teaching me greater empathy for others along the way. Susan

If you loved the quotes as much as I did you can find the full article I took them from here.

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A better method of improving than making resolutions

I got up this morning with the cheerful plan of putting away the Christmas decorations, organizing them all in the garage and cleaning my house.  It felt so good when it was all done, and although I miss the Nativity pieces around my home, reminding us of Christ, I enjoy the feeling of organization and cleanliness that followed.  I’m sure this clean slate feeling and the fact that it is a brand new year is the reason “resolutions” are the next logical thought.

I got so excited I searched the internet for help.  “How to clean your whole house in one hour.” “How to organize your office to work more efficiently.” “Finally get your finances under control.” “Top tips for your new best body.” “How can I go from couch to 10k?” “Start the new year with intentional mothering.”   The help is endless and the overwhelm starts to set in right…. NOW!

Resolutions are logical and seem like such a good idea. Until they suddenly become my worst enemy. Here are the reasons why they don’t work for me, and why I need a change of plan.

  1. A resolution is a resolve to change, and change rarely happens overnight.  But when I make a new year’s resolution, that is exactly what I expect to happen.  Over night from December 31st to January 1st, I expect my life to change magically to “be better at” all the things that I struggle with.
  2. It becomes overwhelming. My life is busy enough. To suddenly have a long list of more things to add to my plate all at once is just too much to even think about.
  3. Real life comes back and my “resolve” gives way to other demands. I really do want to do these new “good” things in my resolutions, but real-life demands often mean that there may legitimately not be enough time in each day for everything.
  4. When I can’t make the desired changes quickly enough, I quit and feel like a failure. No one should feel like a failure, especially if they are trying to make improvements in their lives, but that “failure” bug just keeps biting me.

So this year I have decided that I am done with New Year’s resolutions…

This year I am making New Year’s Recognitions…. What is a “Recognition” you may ask? This is where I narrow down what I really want for my life.  There are a lot of thoughts that float around in my head about how I might live a little differently, if only…. I had more time, more knowledge, more desire.  Well, they are all just thoughts until I take the time to write them down and come to really recognize what is most important to me. Once I know what I really want for my life, I can start making goals. (See this post for goal planning.)

Here are some examples of my “Recognitions”

  1. I want to be a better friend
  2. I want to be physically stronger
  3. I want a home where friends and family feel comfortable to come spend time with me
  4. I want to enjoy the time I have with my children while they are young

Can you see how these are not really goals, and they are not resolutions?  They are a recognition (or a declaration) of what is important to me and what I want personally for my life. From these recognitions I can begin to make goals that are more meaningful and have a better chance for success.

We all have something we want to change about ourselves, and sometimes it can be daunting, and sometimes it is a change that will take a lot of time, maybe more than we would like.  By keeping in mind what we really want for ourselves, the changing process becomes more manageable. It becomes a matter of doing what I “want to do” and less what I “have to do.”

I’m looking forward to writing down what I want to do, as I start my goal setting process for the year.  I don’t want to set goals based on what I “should” be doing, or what other people are doing, or even what other people think I should do.  I am learning to be true to myself and more intentional with my goal setting by taking the time to first come to the “recognition” of what I really want for my life,

I truly believe that I am setting myself up for more success on the road to making the progress I want.

Doesn’t that sound better than simply “resolving” to make change?

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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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8 years ago I had 5 children under the age of nine. The day’s seemed long then, so very long. I homeschooled my two oldest while trying to keep the three littles entertained. Let’s be honest here. I was also trying to keep them from destroying my house, or each other,  while I tried to teach the other two. My husband was starting a new job and we had just moved across states. It was a crazy time. A good crazy, mostly.

In the midst of all this chaos I heard a talk that changed me. Here is an excerpt from my journal

The talk that meant the most to me, that filled me with what I need to do, that gave me hope for joy and peace, was Henry B  Erying’s. It seemed as though God turned on a light bulb when he spoke. It was as if I was being told that if I can more fully do what he suggested I would find joy I never thought possible.

I was reminded of this talk again last week and have listened to it several times since. One deep pondering worthy question has stood with me through the years. It’s a question he asks himself everyday before writing in his journal.

Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?”

He goes on to say,

As I kept at it, something began to happen. As I would cast my mind over the day, I would see evidence of what God had done for one of us that I had not recognized in the busy moments of the day. As that happened, and it happened often, I realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show me what He had done.”

8 years have brought with it trials unforeseen and joy beyond comprehension. And also a deeper understanding of how to heed this counsel.

Gratitude is more than just recognizing the good in your life. It is seeing that even in the difficult and trying times, God is showing you He is ever present. But all too often we forget to even see it. We get bogged down by life and don’t even say thank you to our loving Father for what He is doing. Recognizing He has something mightier in store for you than what we would settle for.

Being the month of gratitude, I thought a little bit differently about this talk then I had 8 years ago.  Back when I had just those 5 cute littles at home, I felt impressed to write down more of what was good in my life. I looked for the positive, knowing I was planning on blogging and I was never disappointed.  I was blessed with a recollection of the joyous times we shared. And my gratitude for motherhood increased.

Today, however, I feel impressed to seek for God in my life. To focus my gratitude towards what He has already given to me. To see more fully how He has been guiding me in the path He has in store for me and my family. To recognize what has been placed before me, even when I have been blind to His mercy and was unwilling to see it.  That I can let go of the fear that holds me back, and I can more fully trust Him and His timing and His sometimes mysterious (to me) ways.

Gratitude is this beautiful thing that does not give you more of what you desire but simply magnifies what is already right before your eyes. What you could not see becomes a huge mountain of hope, joy and peace. The mundane is taken over by contentment. Sorrow is replaced by happiness. Really it’s like magic.

Gratitude is magic.  It changes everything without changing a thing.

Whatever it is you need in your life, more joy, more trust, more patience, ponder how God has already given that to you. Write down the thoughts that come. Find the magic by picking up the magnifying glass of gratitude.

Take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life.” Deuteronomy 4:9

Open your eyes and go make today magical. SUSAN

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“That’s just so perfect”

“Isn’t this perfect?”

“I want to make it just perfect”

Coming from a recovering perfectionist these phrases used to be sprinkled into my daily communications. Always striving to be the best I thought I could be, yet never truly measuring up. There is nothing above perfection. No more growth is needed when you finally reach that goal.

Over the years I have learned a lot about myself and the role perfection truly plays in my life.

One of the most empowering statements I have ever heard was this “I, of myself, am imperfect. I can not grow and progress on my own.” What a splendid relief it is to say that out loud and really believe that I am still a beloved daughter of God.

The beauty of this life is that none of us can move forward towards becoming like our Father in Heaven, or perfect, on our own. In this last general conference for my church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) an old bishop of ours gave a talk titled Remembering in Whom We Have Trusted.

I felt compelled to listen to it again this morning and this is what stood out to me.

When our Father in Heaven announced the need for a Savior, I believe all of us turned and looked at Jesus Christ, the Firstborn in the Spirit, the one who had progressed to the point of becoming like the Father. I believe all of us knew it had to be Him, that none of the rest of us could do it, but that He could and that He would.

We looked to our Savior before the world was, knowing it had to be Him and that we could not do it ourselves.

 We could not perfect ourselves no matter how hard we worked and pushed ourselves. We could not forgive ourselves of sin without the atonement He gave for us. We could not even try.

So why do we try to go this life alone? If we knew we could not endure this life alone even before we came to this earth why do we so often forget this?  We forget to ask for His help and guidance. We forget that He can make us more than we can make of ourselves. When we sin and fall short of our own expectations for ourselves we have a tendency to let it get us down instead of turning to the one who can, in the end, make us perfect.

Matthew 5:46 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

This passage of scripture is not a reminder of your inability to be perfect in this life. It’s intent is not to make you feel poorly about yourself because you have yet to reach such a glorious goal. No, it is a gentle reminder that when we follow the Savior, He will guide is in the direction of perfection. One tiny minuscule step at time, often unperceivable in the moment.

I was talking with my sister-in-law who is about to have her first baby and I remembered how difficult that time of life was for me. I was filled with anxieties and fears that now no longer bother me. The passage of time helped me to see how far My Lord has taken me. Those little tiny steps have added up to miles of accomplishment.

How grateful I am that my Savior suffered for me so that I can make mistakes and fall short. What joy feels my soul to know that His suffering will cover every single sorrow I face if I simply let it. I feel to sing the song of redeeming Joy. Life is meant to be so beautifully messy and I love it.

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No one ever wins in a power struggle. I used to feel like I had to win. I couldn’t back down. But I have painfully learned that even when I win, I don’t feel like I have.

This last week I had a couple of parenting moments that reminded me of this very point.

One child had his feelings hurt and another was overly stressed out. I did not respond my best. When it’s my will against theirs, I find myself feeling frustrated, and occasionally a little bit angry. My voice will raise and then theirs will match it. The more I struggle to maintain control of the situation the harder they fight to maintain ground. When I am in this parenting mode and I get them to do what I think is right I see defeat on their faces. And a tinge of sadness. Which usually means I will feel regret for the poor way I handled things.

But I also recognize I cannot give my children whatever they want just because they put up a fight. Then what? What I really want for my children is to learn to become amazing adults who can handle the challenges of adulthood. Who can love and be loved. Adults that can allow God into their hearts so that everyday challenge become more manageable. Fighting with them doesn’t show them any of that.

This morning as I sat outside in the beautiful city of Nauvoo reading my scriptures I came across a simple passage that states

 Trust in the Lord

If my will is not the way and letting the kids have their will is not the way, that only leaves me with the Lord’s will. When I trust that He will guide me in my parenting I am calm. When I remember they are His children before they are mine I am kinder. When I know what He would have me do I am more confident.

Laura told me this last week that when I don’t know what to do in my parenting I should tell the kids such and step away for a minute. Now after reading this scripture with parenting in mind I see the NEED of prayer and supplication to God to understand His will. Maybe I won’t have a long time to do that because of life demands but God knows that. I’m sure I can certainly retreat to the bathroom for a couple of minutes and strive to be right with God so that I can be right by my children. To give Him freely my will and let Him guide me to His will.

There are moments I have done this and experienced the parenting joys that come as the reward. Peace follows instead of guilt, even when the child doesn’t love what I’m saying or doing.

I imagine this will take practice, lots of trying before I have this down. But my children are worth all of my efforts. God loved them before I ever did, and I know He is just waiting for me to ask so that He may intervene on their behalf.  His will is the only will that can win every time.

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worrying doesn't take away troublesIt has been brought to my attention that I am a worrier.  And I know that I’m not the only one, because I have conversations with my friends and family members, and they worry about the same stuff I worry about.

This got me thinking about the difference between stress and worry.  Some stress is important because it can be a motivation to take action.  Having a deadline can create stress, but it gets me working harder to complete whatever the project is.  And once it is done, I feel a sense of accomplishment and relief at having something done.

But too much stress can have the opposite effect. When I become so concerned with too many things, I feel overwhelmed, and becoming overwhelmed can cause a shut down in the organizational places in my brain.

We know that excessive stress is bad for the body. It weakens the immune system, can cause headaches, sleep problems, stomach irritation, and a bunch of other disorders.  Controlling stress is important, which also can make it hard.  Stress can just seem like a part of life. It comes with all the responsibilities that I can’t really just get rid of.  My family is important, my job is important, my service in church is important.  Controlling that stress seems just too hard.

Worry, however…. seems like something I might be able to control a little more realistically.

Worry is being distraught about things I may not be able to control. I can’t change the past. I can’t control how other people react to me. I can’t control or even predict what will happen in the future. I can’t control these things, but I get to be in charge of how I choose to react to them.

I think it is natural to have some concern over these things, but worry can interfere with the ability to move forward, to make good decisions.

President Gordon B. Hinckley shared these feelings on the funeral program for his wife, Marjorie Pay Hinckley

It isn’t as bad as you sometimes think it is. It all works out. Don’t worry. I say that to myself every morning. It will all work out. Put your trust in God, and move forward with faith and confidence in the future. The Lord will not forsake us. He will not forsake us. If we will put our trust in Him, if we will pray to Him, if we will live worthy of His blessings, He will hear our prayers.

After reading Pres. Hinckley’s feelings, I think that putting our trust in God is the best way to let go of worry.

Trust that God knows who you are and what you are going through.

Trust that God put you into this situation, and He knows you are strong enough to come through it. And if He knows that we can overcome the trials that are put in our path, we need to have enough faith in God and ourselves to take action, make a plan, get help from the people in our lives who love us.

Ernest Hemingway gave this advice.

Worrying never fixes anything

We can choose to let go of worry by taking action when we can and by letting go of the things we can’t change.  We can put our trust in God, and stay close to him through prayer, pleading to Him for guidance, and asking for His watchful care over people and situations that we can’t control.  If it’s important to us, it will be important to Him.

Choose today to let go of stress and worry. It can be done, with some hard work, a desire to feel better and with TRUST in God and ourselves, through His guidance.